First, a confession.
I find making pastry a real ball-ache.
Whenever I see a chef or food writer telling me how easy it all is I want to scream because for me it's completely hit or miss. I use established, brilliant recipes that Mother passed onto me, and she is a pastry supremo. In her hands it always ends up crumbly, crispy, perfection. In mine, invariably a disaster.
I find pastry so frustrating that I buy ready-made almost constantly; the only exception is when I have to make gluten free.
The worst bit is always blind baking. I don't know why but it's always too thin, too thick, too holey, too brittle, too soft, ARGH. My fists clench just thinking about it.
But today I had no choice than to make some gluten free pastry, all by myself, ready for my garden party tomorrow because of my sister's allergies.
So to the lemon tart...
The recipe I use for shortcrust is a basic half flour, half fat; to make enough to line a flan tin I use 8oz of flour, 2oz of butter, and 2oz of margarine. For the gluten free mix I always use Doves Farm Gluten Free Self-Raising flour; yes, yes I know it should be made with plain, but I find self-raising always works better. Either rub the fat into the flour or use a food processor, then add a little water to make into a lovely soft doughy lump. Then chill in the fridge for an hour or two.
It'll look something like (or better than) this:
Now a warning; this mix will be *short*, very *short*. So short you won't be able to roll it out and line a tin with it in a normal manner. I find it best to roll it out between two bits of clingfilm (one top, one bottom) to roughly the size you need, then tip it onto the tin. Then you have to use your fingers to mould it into the tin and up the sides, like playdough. Appetising.
Just make sure you get it roughly the same thickness all the way round and when the filling's in no one will notice you haven't rolled it! And always keep a bit of pastry aside for hole patching...
Take a square of baking paper and scrunch it up a couple of times, this will make it soft enough to use to put into the pastry case without damaging it. Then pour in some ceramic baking beans, if you have them. I would recommend these as in my copious poor pastry experience they do make a difference; I've tried using odd bits of rice or pulses instead and it's just not as good because of the weight and shape. Bake the case blind in the oven at 180c/160c fan for about 20 minutes (remove the paper and beans for the last 5 minutes to crisp up the bottom).
When it's done leave it to cool while you make the filling.
For the filling I use a Mary Berry recipe as it's light and sharp, just how I like it. Put 9 whole eggs, 300ml of double cream, 350g of caster sugar, and the zest and juice of 6 lemons into a bowl and whisk to combine until smooth. Then pour into the base, but please be careful when transferring to the oven in case it spills!
Cook in the oven at 180c/160c fan for about 40-45 minutes; until the filling has a bit of a healthy jiggle but is set. When done leave to cool before removing from the tin.
And it should end up looking something like this:
Alright, so it's not going to win any beauty contests but it's completely tasty.