Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Tart of Prunes

[Annother post from the draft archive. I was waiting to add a picture, but I've admitted defeat and will post this instead for you to enjoy]

This tarts tends to divide people into love it or hate it. The brown colour either resembles a turd (off-putting) or chocolate (disappointing when it isn't). Slice it thinly to serve as it can be rich and overwhelming in a large serving. This is better served hot, but is fine served cold.

A Tarte of Prunes

from A Book of Cookrye, 1591
To make a Tarte of Prunes. Take Prunes and wash them, then boile them with faire water, cut in halfe a penny loaf of white bread, and take them out and straine them with Claret wine, season it with sinamon, Ginger and Sugar, and a little Rosewater, make the paste as fine as you can, and dry it, and fill it, and let it drie in the oven, take it out and cast on it Biskets and Carawaies.

My reconstruction:

 I don't measure ingredients, so these are approximations:

breadcrumbs (about 1 cups)
prunes (about 2 cups)
spices: cinnamon, ginger, (caster or other) sugar in about equal quantities (2 teaspooons?)
red wine (about 1/2 cup)
1 pastry case

Make a pastry case in your favourite way for a sweet pie (I made a basic shortcrust pastry). Blind bake the case.

Cook whole pitted prunes in water, boiling gently until soft, but still whole. Remove and strain prunes to remove water.  Put prunes back in the pot with wine and breadcrumbs. Stir occasionally unless you want to scrub the pot (talking from experience), and boil off remove liquid until moderately dry. Stir thoroughly until a puree. Remove from heat. Add rosewater and spices.

Pour prune mixture into the blind baked tart case and cook until prune mixture dehydrates and darkens on surface. I cooked at 180C. Cooking time will vary according to moisture content and thickness of prune layer (I suggest not more than 1.5cm thick), but seems to be in the realm of 20-60 minutes.  It's very difficult to damage this tart by extended cooking.

Optionally, decorate surface of tart before serving with caraway seeds and/or crumbled/small biscuits.

Notes on the reconstruction

I was most interested to see this recipie blind bakes it's tart case.  I have no clue what kind of "fair paste" (pastry) it might have used, a variety of pastry types were in use, however a sweet pastry is more likely than a fat based one given the sweet ingredients, and shortcrust pastry was in use.

The second time I made this I cheated rather on the prune puree. I actually cooked it in water and boiled it off then added the other ingredients. No straining, and no wine (I've developed an allergy) This worked fine. There is some question regarding exactly what is happening to the mixture. The wine could be simply washing the prunes in a strainer, but that seems a waste. More likely the strainer is used to essentially puree the breadcrumbs and prunes by forcing it through a strainer with wine used to keep it mushy while forcing it.  I consider pureeing an equivalent action. My breadcrumbs were made in a food processor, so are possibly much smaller than period ones, so perhaps less likely to need pureeing (using a strainer or other method) than period ones. If I'd had time to puree the end result might be a bit smoother and more elegant.

The second time I made this I had too many breadcrumbs and the spices were imperceptible despite my normal generous servings, the result was still good, but could have been better. I've adjusted quantities above to fix this problem.

Decoration of the tart would make it look more appealing and less skungy. Unfortunately I didn't do this.  I'm not sure exactly what it means by "biskets" but I assume something light and crumbly like prinz biskets or bisket bread. I'm only assuming the biskets are crumbled because caraway is small and the biskets I've seen are easy to crumble.

I made this a few years ago, and have successfully rewarmed it in a dutch oven, and recently made it again for a potluck feast.It's not a lot of work to make this tart, and it can be quite interesting.I'm not sure I'd serve a controversial dish like this at a feast with few dishes though. It might be better suited to a supper buffet with many varieties of sweets, where it will probably give a slight acidic contrast to the sickly sweet dishes.