Overall, it’s has been a pretty good start to the New Year. We finally managed to buy our house after nine months of grueling negotiation and waiting. Work has been pretty kind so far allowing me to stick to a relatively ‘normal’ schedule (read no hundred hour weeks yet – touching wood, of course!). And I managed to run for an unprecedented forty minutes on the treadmill yesterday!
But I have to admit that baking has been a bit on the back burner these last two weeks. Partially due to house-related tasks, but also because it’s actually taken me this long to clear my home of the sweet offerings remaining from Christmas. By “clear”, of course I mean “eat”. So even looking at a stick of butter has just been a bit too much lately.
Too much, that is, until today. Spurred on by the good tidings of 2013 and the suggestion of a dear friend from the UK, I have decided to take the plunge, to finally come to grips with my namesake: The Yorkshire Tart.
A traditional Yorkshire tart is essentially a baked cheesecake. Crisp pastry gives way to a creamy filling, with hints of nutmeg and lemon, and dotted with plump currants. Curd cheese is needed here and so I began this escapade by Google-ing sellers of curd cheese in the New York area. Rapidly realizing I would be down twenty dollars if I went the ready-made route, I quickly discovered that it’s actually pretty simple (and ridiculously economical) to make your own. In fact, you only need two ingredients: milk and lemon juice.
So out I went to purchase two pints of full fat milk and a nice organic lemon (the zest is also needed for the tart). First, I needed to bring the milk to a gentle simmer. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually found this the hardest part. Making sure the milk is hot enough without scorching is a bit of a challenge. I decided to take the milk off the heat when I could just see small bubbles rising under the ‘skin’ of the milk. Once simmering to my satisfaction, I added four tablespoons of lemon juice and – hey presto – lots of satisfying curdling happened. Take that, Little Miss Muffet!
After an hour or so of cooling, I drained the curds through some cheesecloth over a bowl and, with a bit of amateur engineering, rigged up a system by which I could continue to drain the curds in the fridge overnight. The next day I had a good amount of curd, which really did taste just like cheesecake, and a pint of two of liquid whey, which can apparently be used just like buttermilk in scones, pancakes or soda bread.
Making the tart itself is very simple and I promise that you will get an extra kick out of eating it knowing that you performed a little bit of cooking magic along the way!
Adapted from a recipe by the Hairy Bikers
Make the curd cheese the day before:
To make the curd cheese, heat 2 pints/1.2 liters whole milk in a saucepan over a low heat until it very gentle simmers. Remove from the heat and pour in 4 tbsp lemon juice, stirring twice as the curds form. Set aside and cool for 1 hour.
Line a sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl (if you’re using a bouillon strainer like me, you may fine it helpful to balance the bottom of the strainer on an upturned ramekin placed in the bottom of the bowl). Pour the curds and whey into the sieve and allow to drain in the fridge overnight.
The next day, make the tart:
To make the pastry, add 2 tsp caster sugar to 6 oz/175 g all-purpose flour, and rub in 3.5 oz/100 g cold butter. Combine to a dough with 1 beaten egg. Roll out and line a pie dish, pricking the bottom with a fork. The filling will sit quite low in the pie, and so you may wish to trim off any excess pastry to the inner edge of the dish.
Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
Cream 2.5 oz/65 g caster sugar and 2.5 oz/65 g butter together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 beaten egg. Stir in all of your curd cheese, the zest of half a lemon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 2 oz/50 g currants. Mix well until combined.
Spoon the curd into the pastry base and spread to the sides. Bake for 30-35 mins, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling sets. When I baked my tart, the filling wasn’t browned after 35 mins. It is normal to see Yorkshire tarts that are both browned and pale, so don’t worry if yours looks like either of these.
Leave to cool for at least 30 mins before serving. It is best enjoyed at room temperature or chilled.