Grab your coat and purse, we're off to buy a new frock for Whitsuntide.
Wikipedia tells us that Whitsuntide is the week which follows Whitsun, the 7th Sunday following Easter Sunday, and this year it falls on the 15th May, and is a Christian festival.
Food, in all of its delicious forms, often plays a part in religious holidays. Just think of Easter and Christmas and all of the delicious goodies which are shared at that time. Whitsuntide is no-different, though perhaps it was celebrated on a smaller scale. Flavours of Yorkshire recipe book tells us that Yorkshire Curd Tarts were often made at this time of year in and around Yorkshire. It's a delicious bake which sadly is infrequently seen in bakeries these days. Like most tarts, they can be made individual or family sized. The tart tin is lined with a sweet pastry (technically called pate sucree by patisserie chefs) which is filled with a mixture of curds, lemon, sugar, eggs, butter, spice and dried fruit.
Many old recipes morph and change over the decades and end up being made as families prefer them. I learnt this when I made our Pikeltes a little while ago, not one recipe on the internet was the same; some included yeast in their mixture, others not and so on. The same is true for the Yorkshire Curd Tart. I made my first Yorkshire Curd Tart last year largely following the recipe in Flavours of....Yorkshire Recipes, compiled by Julia Skinner which includes many fascinating historic photographs of the area by Francis Frith. (Having done a little search on google, I'm sure there will be a Flavours of recipe book compliled by Julia Skinner for your county.) The preamble of that recipe suggests that allspice is the distinguishing characteristic flavour of Yorkshire Curd Tart, but suggests that mixed spice may be more suited to modern tastes. It also listed raisins or sultanas as the dried fruit. The Foodie Bugle, however, writes of different spice and dried fruit which was traditionally included in the humble Yorkshire Curd tart. Although she mentioned that finding an authentic recipe was difficult she makes reference to a home cook, Mrs Tasker, who lived in Brayton, near Selby, way back in 1741. The recipe which Evie, the author of The Foodie Bugle, ultimately shared was made with nutmeg and currants, so really quite different to the one which Julia Skinner compiled. Deciding to mark Whitsuntide again this year, I chose to try the nutmeg and currant version. It's worth noting that Betty's Tea Room, here in Yorkshire, also uses the very same spice and dried fruit.
The name Yorkshire Curd Tart clearly tells us that the tart is traditionally made with curds. Left over curds from the cheese-making process were traditionally used. Having been unfamiliar with how easy it is to make curds at home, the tart I made last year controversially included cottage cheese. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious (I wouldn't have shared it had it not been ? ), but this year I decided to make it more authentic. I imagined curd making would be difficult, labour intensive and requiring specific equipment, but I was very wrong. It really is simple to make, in fact it's probably easier to make your own curd than trying to work out which cottage cheese to buy (as a good quality one is needed if you're going down that route.) Put simply, the milk is heated almost to the boil before lemon juice is added. The milk soon begins to separate into the curds (white solids) and whey (yellowy coloured liquid). This is then passed through a muslin lined sieve to separate the two components before the curd is used in the tart's mixture. It really is such a quick process, having only taken around 20 minutes from having cold milk to curds which can be used in the recipe! For those of us who don't like to waste food, the whey by product can in fact be captured and used in a number of baked goods, such as bread or even included in smoothies!
Now, the milk used in the curd making process is important. Many sites suggest using 'real' milk (raw or unpasteurised) but this can be difficult to get hold of for many people and having watched Rip-Off Britain: Food with Angela Ripon et al the other day I learnt that real milk is actually banned from being sold in Scotland. I therefore decided to use pasteurised milk which is easily available. Other sites advised to avoid using UHT milk for making curds. They explained that this process alters the protein structure of the milk preventing it from separating when the acid is added. The other consideration when purchasing the milk for making homemade curds is the milk's fat content. Clearly a whole milk will yield more curd than that of a semi skimmed or even skimmed milk.
And the verdict? It was really was delicious. Mr E commented that he preferred this tart over last year's less
authentic cottage cheese version due to its comparatively smoother feel
in the mouth. Served with a little double cream, this tart is easy to make and would make a perfect treat this Whitsntide weekend.
So, do we have a date for clothes shopping rounded off with a generous slice of Yorkshire Curd Tart?
So let's get to it and bake!
Yorkshire Curd Tart.
Yield: 1 x 22cm tart
Time: hands on time about 35 - 40 minutes; plus about 35 minutes bake time; cooling time.
Storage: Airtight container for 2 or 3 days.
You will need:
1 x large Pan
1 x medium Bowl
Pallet Knife, or similar
1 x 22cm Tart Case, loose bottomed
Small Sharp Knife
Tray, large enough for the tart tin to sit within
For the sweet pastry (Pate Sucree)
50g unsalted Butter, cold, cubed
little milk / Water
For the curds
4 tbsp Lemon Juice (from approximately 2 lemons)
For the Filling
30g Caster Sugar
35g Golden Caster Sugar
½ Nutmeg, finely grated
2 large Eggs
1 Lemon, juice & zest of
35g unsalted Butter, melted
280g Curds (or good quality Cottage Cheese)
butter into a good sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar between
your thumb and finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre of the breadcrumbs and add the beaten egg. Using a rounded pallet knife, or similar, cut through the
mixture to make a dough. Add a teaspoon of cold water or milk if the dough hasn't fully come together. Shape the pastry into a
ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in cling film and place into the
fridge for 30 minutes to rest and chill.3. Line the tart tin.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and unwrap. Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin, but avoid adding too much as this will toughen the pastry. Roll the pastry out until it is nice and thin,
about 2 - 3mm. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin and carefully
place it over the tin and gently lay it inside. Use the pad of
your thumb and fingers to ensure it sits in the tin well. Avoid
stretching the pastry. Use a pair of scissors to cut off some of the excess pastry. Place the lined tin into the fridge whilst the filling is made.4. Preheat the oven to 190c / Fan 170 / Gas 5. Place a tray into the oven which is large enough to hold the flan tin.
Make the tart filling. Place the sugars and finely grated nutmeg into a good sized bowl bowl.
Add the lemon zest and juice, beaten eggs and melted butter. Mix. Crumble the curds into the bowl (or add the cottage cheese) and mix well. Add the raisins and mix
6. Fill the tart. Remove the lined tart case from the fridge. Use a small sharp knife to trim the excess pastry from the flan tin. Remove the heated tray from the oven and place the flan tin onto it Stir the mixture again. Carefully decant
the filling into the pastry cases, trying to avoid spilling the filling
down the back of the pastry.
7. Bake. Place the hot tray and flan into the oven and allow to bake for
about 35 minutes. You may need to rotate the tart after 20 - 25 minutes.
Enjoy with a dollop of cream and a pot of tea.
a) I found it easier to prepare the curds in two batches due to the weight and volume of the milk.
b) Avoid buying UHT milk for the curd making process. Also, choose a milk which is comparatively high in fat.
c) If dusting with icing sugar, do this just before serving to avoid the sugar dissolving into the tart.