Get a taste for autumn with these simple blackberry tarts

The sweet shortcrust pastry is a cinch and can be made well in advance and chilled

Blackberry Bakewell tarts

Blackberry Bakewell tarts

 

As a child, I thought of blackberries as enigmatic little jewels; tangled in thorns, plump and shiny and waiting to be plucked. My grandparents used to live behind a woodland, and come September my grandmother would send my siblings and me out to the hedgerows, armed with 1970s Tupperware, to collect a hoard of these beautiful berries to be transformed into one of her many wondrous jammy preserves.

I remember the arrival of these sweet little nuggets was one of the first signs that autumn was here. Our little fuchsia-stained fingers carried back less than half of what we had originally picked. The temptation was too much, and we couldn’t resist gobbling up most of our juicy little treasures, a treat after enduring countless scratches from the brambles.

Autumn calls for warm desserts, a soothing remedy for when then the air is a little cooler. Blackberries need minimal treatment. They are gorgeous baked into pies or crumbles and are perfect in these Bakewell tarts; a simple spin on a classic teatime treat. Roasting brings out their natural sweetness, and once baked, they bleed and blister, their crimson juices bursting through the almond frangipane filling.

The sweet shortcrust pastry is a cinch and can be made well in advance and chilled in the fridge, or frozen for another bake. I often double up and have one ready-made in the freezer for when the tart munchies strike.

You can use any jam here, home-made if you have it. This recipe makes six small tarts, but you can use a larger tin to make one big family-sized tart if you prefer. The almond frangipane has all of the notes of aromatic marzipan, which combines beautifully with the sweet fruit and added orange zest to give it a slight citrus note. Serve with creme fraiche, cream or ice-cream.  

BLACKBERRY BAKEWELL TARTS

Makes six

Ingredients
For the sweet pastry:
225g plain flour
150g unsalted butter, cubed
25g icing sugar
1 egg
Pinch salt

For the filling:
125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g ground almonds
2 eggs
Zest 1 orange
½tsp almond extract
2tbs blackberry jam, or jam of your choice
25g flaked almonds
200g blackberries
Icing sugar, for dusting  

Method
1 For the sweet pastry, rub together the flour, butter and salt with the tips of your fingers until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Ensure your butter is cold. Add the icing sugar and continue to rub together until all of the ingredients are combined.

2 Add the egg, and gently bring the dough together using your hands. Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer with a beater attachment, or a food processor to make the dough. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

3 Preheat the oven to 175 degrees and grease six small tart tins (10cm in diameter) or one large tart tin (24cm in diameter) with butter or a little flavourless oil.

4 Divide the dough into six (if making individual tarts), and roll out on a lightly floured surface until you have a disc that is slightly larger than your tart tin. Press the pastry into the tart tin, leaving a little pastry hanging over the edge. Prick the base of each tart with a fork and place the tins in the fridge while rolling out the remaining pastry. Leave the lined tins in the fridge to chill for about 15 minutes, until they are firm to the touch.

5 Bake the tarts blind by placing a square of parchment paper in each and filling with baking beans or rice and placing in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and bake for a further five minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees. 

6 For the filing, cream the butter and sugar together using an electric beater, stand mixer, or by hand. Once pale and creamy, add the ground almonds and continue to mix until well combined. 

7 Add the eggs one by one, followed by the orange zest and almond extract and continue to mix until well incorporated.

8 When ready to fill the tart, spoon a teaspoon of jam into each cooked tart and spread out evenly. Spoon the almond frangipane into each tin, and press a few blackberries into each.

9 Place the tarts back in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and cooked in the centre. Sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top, and return to the oven for two to three minutes, to lightly toast. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before dusting with icing sugar. Serve.