Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Mini Jam Tarts with Homemade Strawberry Jam

I have to say, I find it quite surprising that this blog is nearly 4 years old.  I started it back in 2012 when I was home alone with very little to do.  It's grown a fair bit since then and so have I.  Jam tarts was one of the earliest things I attempted when I started.  Egged on my nostalgia after visiting my family I had a go at recreating a favourite of my Dad's.  Whilst the final product wasn't too bad, the tarts were more like Jammie Dodgers because I had them in the oven half an hour longer than I was supposed to (the pastry just would not change colour!!).   4 years later I decided to make them again.  I've gained quite a bit of experience by this point so it shouldn't be too hard.  In fact, I needed to give myself an additional challenge.  Not only was I going to make jam tarts, I was also going to make the jam to go in them!

I've never made jam before but have wanted to try it.  The thought of all that boiling sugar makes me a little nervous though.  But I decided, if I make a small batch that's not too scary.  It can't be too hard.  The Hubby's sister makes lovely jam after all.  I'm sure I can so the same.  Turns out, I can (thankfully).  Finding a recipe was easy enough (good old Nigella) and it was a lovely simple one too.  No worrying about sugar thermometers.  All you needed for testing was a plate that's been in the deep freeze.  I was a little concerned that I wouldn't find preserving sugar and initially grabbed jam sugar, but turns out even the tiny village supermarket sold it so I got that too.  Of course, it figures that I chose to use a fruit that is low in pectin and therefore not the easiest to make jam with.  However, lemon juice was going to provide the required pectin so once I had my fruit I was all set.  

The jam was the easiest part of the bake.  It really is a 'put-everything-in-the-pan' kind of recipe.  I used my biggest saucepan (3L) because I wanted to make sure it had enough space to boil.  I did also stick in my sugar thermometer so I had a second reference for 'done-ness' to go along with the saucer.  After about an hour on Friday I had a delicious jar of jam that I made all by myself.  I was very pleased.

But then came the tarts.  Oh the tarts.  I thought they would be so easy.  Make shortcrust pastry, fill with jam, bake.  I even got some Flower Cutters to make little flower tarts, inspired by images I'd seen on Pinterest..  I had...issues with my first batch that I made Saturday.  There was jam everywhere.  I admit, I read the recipe and thought '6 tbsp of jam doesn't seem like a lot for even large jam tarts' so I disregarded it completely.  I filled my pastry flower cups 2/3 full and popped them in the oven.  When I pulled them back out again, the jam had erupted up and over the sides and then down underneath the pastry.  They were not pretty.  They did still taste good so we've been eating them anyway but they weren't blog worthy.  Luckily I had enough jam left over for a do-over on Sunday.

So Sunday came and I whipped up a new batch of pastry.  I made sure to roll it thinner this time because after it had baked last time it puffed out quite a bit.  I then put a tiny amount of jam in each one.  1/2 tsp, which barely covered the base.  Turns out this is plenty though because when this batch came out the oven the jam had risen up (with some spilling over) and the pastry had shrunk.  Much prettier.  The ratio of jam to pastry when we ate it was also much more appealing and manageable.

All in all, I was quite pleased, particularly with my jam.  It all got used up over the weekend between making tarts and being used on scones.  It's something I hope to make more of in the future.  As for the tarts, now I have a better idea of how all the parts work (seriously, such a pastry noob) they're actually pretty easy and as delicious as I remember from being a kid.  Definitely going to make these again (though I'm still making my way through the two batches I already made) and maybe I'll get to make them for my Dad next time I visit my family. 


Strawberry Jam - adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess  
Makes 400ml (which is more than enough for at least 2 batches of tarts)
  • 335g/11.8oz strawberries (get slightly more as you'll be chopping tops of the strawberries)
  • 350g/12oz preserving sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Put a saucer in the deep freeze before you start.
  2. Put a clean 400ml jam jar or two 200ml jars into an oven on its lowest setting.
  3. Cut the tops off the strawberries, chop into quarters and add them to a very large saucepan, along with the sugar and lemon juice.  Set over a low heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  4. Allow the mixture to boil for about 5 minutes.
  5. Take your saucer out of the freezer.  Remove jam from heat and put a scant teaspoon of it onto the saucer.  Let it cool for a minute or so then push it with your finger.  If it wrinkles up, you're done.  Otherwise put the jam back on the heat for another minute before testing again.
  6. Once jam is done, remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes to cool before removing the jars from the oven and decanting the jam into them.  Seal and let cool completely. 
Jam Tarts - adapted from The Great British Book of Baking  
Makes 18-20 mini tarts
  • 200g/7oz plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 125g/4.5oz unsalted butter   
  • 2 tbsp ice cold water
  • Jam  
  1. Sieve the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl.
  2. Dice up the butter and add rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Using a rounded knife, stir in the water until it forms into a firm ball of dough. (If the mixture remains dry and crumbly, add an additional teaspoon of water at a time).   
  4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and grease a two 12 hole mini muffin pans (or use silicone ones like I did).
  5.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 3mm thick.  Using a pastry cutter that is slightly bigger than the holes in your tin, cut out shapes (I used a flower cookie cutter for mine) and place one in each hole, pushing down gently so that it forms a cupKeep gathering up trimmings, rerolling and cutting until you have used up the pastry.
  6. Put 1/2 tsp of jam into each pastry cup (that may not seem like much but trust me, it's plenty.  The jam expands and the pastry shrinks.  Any more and it will overflow).
  7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until pastry is a light, golden brown.
  8. Allow to sit in the tins for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.  Do not eat straight from the oven. The jam is HOT.  

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