Thursday, 13 June 2013

Gypsy tart

I love a bit of kitchen alchemy but this has me absolutely stumped. How is it that evaporated milk and sugar can set to a frothy but stable mousse without any eggs or gelatine or anything? Baffling.

Ever since I first started reading the BBC Food Boards (RIP) about 12 years ago, I have seen people begging for foolproof gypsy tart recipes. Apparently gypsy tart is a regional specialty from Kent which for many people is the one element of school dinners that is fondly remembered. And the filling is just evaporated milk and dark muscovado sugar.

Finally the curiosity became unbearable and I had to make it. I read a lot of recipes. Consensus seemed to be that the evaporated milk needed to be chilled, the sugar had to be dark muscovado and the two had to be whipped together for 15 minutes before pouring the froth into a blind-baked pastry case, and finished in the oven for a few minutes.

Because the tart itself was going to be so sweet, I made a little not-very-sweet compote of peaches with vanilla bean and a dash of rum to serve on the side.

Then I embarked on the tart itself. I decided to use Mark Sargeant's recipe. A Kentish boy who grew up to be a much-lauded chef had to know what he was about, surely? Although his proportions were a bit different to the other recipes I looked at...

I did leave the sugar out of the pastry because I felt that there was more than enough sugar in the dish without it. And maybe that was why the pastry turned out to be absolutely unworkable. Even chilled for 45 minutes it was still too soft to handle and I ended up having to just press it into the pie dish in a rather thicker layer than I wanted, and then chill it again before blind baking.

I don't have a 21cm tart tin, so I used a 23cm pie plate. So you'd think the filling would be a more sparse layer. No. The filling made twice as much as necessary. I poured the rest into a little glass baking dish and baked it in a bain marie.
Everything else went according to plan. The filling puffed up beautifully, sinking back again as it cooled, leaving a small rim of the caramelly insides revealed. The pastry wasn't as leathery as I had feared, given the way I treated it, although it certainly wasn't an epic bake.

And it tasted good! The very dark sugar gave some interesting caramel notes so it wasn't just unrelieved sweetness and the light, moussey texture was lovely. If you do try to make this recipe I would use the full 500g of pastry in a 28cm dish OR make half the amount of filling for a 21cm pie. Personally, my curiosity has been sated. It was really delicious (especially with the peaches) but I will not make it again unless specially requested. For some reason, it gave me absolutely shocking heartburn. But don't let that put you off...


10 comments:

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

I've never heard of gypsy tart, but it does sound intriguing! The compote you made looks so lovely too.

Suelle said...

It looks interesting, but I'm still of the opinion that it would be too sweet for my tastes to be enjoyable! Still, you never know until you try.

Angie Schneider said...

My husband will love this dessert, esp. when served with peach compote.

Foodycat said...

Leaf - even British people from outside Kent haven't heard of it!

Suelle - Paul refused to taste it, but one of my other tasters, without a sweet tooth, said he would eat it again.

Angie - it's a good store-cupboard one!

Mary Bergfeld said...

This is an interesting dessert for those with a sweet tooth. I would have a bite, but the Silver Fox could eat the whole thing. I hope your weekend is off to a great start. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

grace said...

neat! i don't know about gypsy tarts, but i'm automatically intrigued and determined to master them myself!

Foodycat said...

Mary - I hope one day you get to taste it!

Grace - Alchemy!

Choclette said...

Oh, I enjoyed reading this, but I'm finding it very difficult to imagine how this can be a tasty pud. I guess having an aversion to evaporated milk is not a good start.

Couscous & Consciousness said...

Utterly intrigued. I've never heard of Gypsy Tart, which I guess is not surprising Though I do remember as a kid my grandmother used to make a dessert called Pineapple Surprise Pudding, which was kind of mousse- like and I think was mostly just evaporated milk and pineapple juice. We loved it and never questioned, as kids, how it got its name - now it occurs that perhaps the surprise is that it works. Alchemy at its finest - who knows how these things work.

Simona said...

I always enjoy reading about your experiments: this looks very interesting. And I like your choice of accompaniment.

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