Sunday, 13 December 2015

Stars in Your Pies

Crostata "Stella di Natale" 2015
"Christmas Star" Tarte- 2015 
(with Persimmon, Pistachio, Jam & Spice)

Fruit, pastry, jam, spice and pistachio. Questions? No, I didn't think so! Or should I say, I should hope not! This is super-simple to make, looks as pretty as can be and will brighten up any Christmas afternoon!

This little beauty will take up 1 hour of your time in all- at the very most. It will cost you next-to-nothing to make, it will make people (including yourselves) very happy and it will do it with only that touch of jam and not with loads of sugar... so do you want to see how to make it?

Good! Read on!

If you have all of those ingredients... and a roll of puff-pastry... and a frying pan, you can make this tart! That's right- you read that correctly- a frying pan!

Of course, you can make this without a pan, but I guarantee it will not work as well and you will wish you had listened to me! On the other hand... if you are familiar with my craziness in the kitchen, you will already be accustomed to my method... but if not... again... carry on reading!

It was a small pie, ok, at just 6" in diameter, and so it really didn't take much to make it- and yet it made for 4 good-sized slices, or 6 more dainty ones- and this is all I needed to make it. 

1 roll of puff pastry, 1 large persimmon, 1 tablespoon of jam- raspberry in this case, but any will do, 1 tablespoon approx. of ground pistachio, 3 cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds, 1 segment of a star anise and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Not too sweet, tasting wonderfully seasonal with all of that wonderful spice and with that lovely, flaky, puff-pastry- who could possibly resist this gorgeous little creation? And more's to the point... why?!?!

Start off by grinding the spices together, either using a mortar and pestle, like I did, or a new-fangled gadget- like most of you probably have- hehe! I simply added cinnamon powder to mine rather than grinding it- no need to make life unnecessarily difficult, eh?

Peel the persimmon, halve it, remove the core, cut it into quarters and then cut those quarters into slices. Pop these into a bowl, add your spices and a tablespoon of jam, stir together well- and voila! That is your pie filling- no need for any more sugar, fuss... or anything! You're done!

Now- turn on the oven to get it nice and hot... and carry on having fun preparing your little star!

Cut out 2 circles of pastry using a very sharp knife- this is important, because only a nice, sharp cut will ensure that the pastry puffs-up nicely. If your knife is blunt, you will squash the pastry together and seal all of those layers and the air will not be able to escape as it bakes later. 

Once you have your 2 circles ready, make 4 cuts into one of them, as you can see in the photo, leaving about 1 1/2" of clearance towards the outer edge. I simply used a saucer as a template for cutting my circles btw.

Now you can spoon your filling onto the full circle that will serve as the base- and again, leave a good area uncovered around the outer edge so that you can seal the 2 layers together when you cover it.

Fold back the tips of the pastry until they almost reach the outside edge and press them down rather firmly. You will find that as the pastry bakes later on, these will try to unfold anyway- so a little more gentle pressure at the beginning is a good thing. Otherwise they will lift up and become brown before the rest of the pie is baked through and possibly even burn... so- do as you're told!

Now you can set the lid carefully on top and then, simply using a fork, press down and seal the top to the bottom all the way around... just like in the old days!

And now you can pop your little creation into a non-stick pan and heat this up on your stove top for 2-3 minutes, at a high heat, until the butter in the pastry begins to melt, the pastry begins to look soft and doughy and you feel like panicking- haha!

Nope- after 2-3 minutes, simply transfer the pan to the oven and continue baking as normal for 20-30 minutes at 200°C until the pastry if puffed up and gloriously golden brown. 

If you don't have a heat-proof handle on your pan- you can simply cover the handle with foil, which is what I do.

If you look at your pastry after 10 minutes or so, you may begin crying and feeling miserable, because of course, it will become very moist and soggy and will be droopy and sorry looking. In any case- that is how it was for me! haha! But, have faith, give it time, and as soon as the pastry begins to bake proper, it will indeed puff-up and rise and look lovely!

And because you "baked" your pastry on the stove top first and gave it a blast of heat from below, the base will have enough of a head-start to make it firm and crisp and not soggy.

We only added 1 tablespoon of jam, and still, as you can see here, that will produce plenty of juice which will still find a way to ooze out. So- listen to me- remember that less is more when it comes to the jam- and use that pan!

Whilst you have taken the tart out of the oven and it is piping hot, sprinkle the outer edges of the opening of that star-shape with ground pistachio- this will also help to absorb any excess juice. Then return for a final 5 minutes, just so that the pistachio gets toasted too, without losing its color.

There you go- you are all done... you have done it by yourself- and you have every right to feel proud!

Use a sharp knife, use the frying pan trick... and be sure to get results like this!

And yes indeed- this tastes like Christmas!

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