. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Diamond in the Rough, or Dough

Time to get out the rolling pin and wreak some havoc. We haven't done any serious pastry baking for weeks. I know this because when I look at my rings I can't see any bits of hard pastry dough stuck in the prongs.

Disgusted? Well, my mother told me never to remove them. Ever. She should know the value of this advice, because we have a "diamond garden" courtesy of her engagement ring, which vanished in a mass of greenery after she lost a battle with a patch of morning glory.

So with jewels intact and rolling pins at the ready, I introduce two fabulous desserts. The first is a version of princesse aux pruneaux by Rowley Leigh of the Kensington Place in London, and the other is by me (with a bit of help from Elizabeth David).

Apple and Prune Tart

6 Antonov apples

(or Golden Delicious)

18 prunes

1 large Granny Smith apple

250 grams puff pastry

3 egg yolks

A dab of butter

Juice of one lemon

A teapot of hot tea

2 tsp sugar

Pinch of nutmeg

One clove

Armagnac,calvados or cider


Swell the prunes in hot tea, then halve and stone them. Peel and core the Granny Smith, grate it and put it in a pan with a teaspoon of water, two teaspoons of sugar, the clove and a pinch of nutmeg. Cook it gently until it's turned into a smooth puree.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Peel the Antonovs, cut them into six segments and cut out the cores. Toss the apples in a little lemon juice, and then fry them in hot butter with a teaspoon of sugar. You'll need a very hot flame to color the apples without cooking them. Drain them quickly and reserve.

If the pastry is frozen, allow it to defrost. Roll the pastry out thinly, cut out six 14-centimeter discs and place them on a baking tray. Spoon the puree onto these rounds, taking care to leave a good 1-centimeter border. Arrange alternating pieces of apple and prune in a circle on top of the puree, taking care to retain the border. Brush the border with a wash consisting of one egg yolk diluted with a little milk. Bake the tartlets in the hot oven for 15 minutes.

Beat three egg yolks with a tablespoon of prune tea, a tablespoon of liqueur and 75 grams of sugar. Beat this until it is white and frothy, and pour in 50 grams of cool but melted butter. Spoon this mixture over tarts and return them to the oven for another six minutes. Serve warm or hot with cream.

Juicy Orange Tart

175 grams short-crust pastry

2 large juicy oranges, rind-grated and juice-squeezed

3 eggs

175 grams superfine sugar

150 milliliters smetana or creme fraiche

For the short-crust pastry:

450 grams plain flour

125 grams butter

100 grams shortening (lard or Crisco)

4 tablespoons (approximately) cold water pinch of salt

Sift together the flour and the salt into a large bowl. Roughly chop the cold butter and shortening and add to the flour. Lightly rub in with the fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over some of the cold water and mix together with a fork until you can gather the dough into a ball. (For those with little time and plenty of toys, process all together in a food processor until the dough forms a ball.)

Keep in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, then roll out onto a floured board until large enough to roll onto the flan tin.

Preheat oven to 220 C.

Line a 20-centimeter flan tin with the pastry, cover with large uncooked beans or pastry weights and cook blind for 15 minutes in the hot oven. Remove and allow to cool. Turn the oven down to 150 C.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar, smetana, orange juice and finely grated orange rind. Pour into the warm pastry case and cook in a low oven for about 45 minutes or until the center of the filling has set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

This tart can be served warm or cool. Better yet, cool it completely and freeze.

To serve from its frozen state, allow to thaw at room temperature or in a warm oven (170 C) for about 30 minutes before serving.