Seventy Five

A roasted pistachio and rose tartlet to celebrate my Dad's 75th

It was Dad's 75th Birthday this weekend; he's more than double my age, but still insists on balancing ladders on the top of ironing boards, just so he can pick an apple off a tree or destroy a wasps nest. I can only hope to be that able (though perhaps a little less insane) when I get there myself.

When I was young, some of my earliest memories are of my Mum roasting pistachio nuts in the oven, and Dad sitting down eating entire bags of them in one sitting - while somehow managing to stay under 10 stone in weight.

This recipe is a dedication to that memory; a roasted pistachio butter used to flavour sweetened cream, rose crème pâtissière, topped with meringues and another of his favourites - pistachio nougat.

You'll also get some bonus left over pistachio butter for your toast (just add salt or sugar), some meringues and some nougat to have later on.

Ingredients (makes 4 individual tartlets)

For the roasted pistachio butter

  • 150g green pistachios (the proper Iranian ones if you can; I get mine from Sous Chef)

For the roasted pistachio cream

  • 400g Whipping Cream
  • 50g Icing sugar

For the rose crème pâtissière

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 25g plain or type 45 flour
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of rose flavouring
  • Powdered red food colouring (optional - you won't see it until you cut the tart open)

For the tart cases

  • 250g type 45 flour [Buy] (or just plain if you don't have any)
  • 140g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 1/2tsp almond essence

For the rose meringues

  • 2 Large Egg Whites
  • 65g Icing Sugar
  • 65g Caster Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of rose flavouring
  • Some crushed pistachio nuts and rose petals for decoration

For the pistachio nougat

  • 210g Caster Sugar
  • 50g Liquid Glucose
  • 60g Honey
  • 35g Egg Whites
  • 50g Green Pistachio nuts

To finish

  • Crushed green pistachios
  • Reserved pistachio butter
  • Rose petals

Equipment required

  • 10cm tart rings
  • 9cm circular cutter
  • Stand mixer
  • Thermometer
  • Food processor
  • Silicone mat
  • Baking beans
  • 30cm metal baking tray
  • Plastic piping bag and large piping head

Make the roasted pistachio butter

Turn your oven on to 170°C.

Weigh out the pistachio nuts onto a baking tray and, when up to temperature, place in the oven for 8 minutes.

When time's up, remove from the oven and pour into a food processor. Leave to blend for 10 minutes while still hot. You'll see the nuts crush, then get oily, solidify and finally blend into liquid. Stop and scrape down the bowl of your machine when it's liquid to make sure everything has been turned into a delicious pistachio paste.

Decant from the bowl and reserve. Once it's cool, place in the fridge. You can taste it if you like - but I promise it'll be so claggy you won't be able to speak; so maybe don't do that. Protip: If you're having the leftovers on toast, mix in some sugar or salt and that will reduce the sticky mouthfeel.

Make the pistachio cream discs

When the pistachio butter has cooled, line a high-sided (at least 1/2 inch) baking tray with some greaseproof paper and give it a quick spritz of baking or 1 cal spray.

Take the cream and whip with an electric whisk until soft peaks have formed. Shower in the icing sugar and whip again until almost firm.

Next, pour in about 2/3 of the pistachio butter. Whip for a couple of seconds more to blend - just don't overdo it and whip the cream too much; it should hold a shape and not be pourable. If you're nervous about over whipping, fold the pistachio in with a spatula instead.

Spoon the lot into a baking tray, then level off with an angled spatula. Try to get it as level as possible, then place in the freezer to solidify for about an hour.

The rose crème pâtissière

While the cream is freezing, make the creme pat.

Place the eggs and caster sugar in a bowl and whisk until pale. Whisk in the flour until a smooth paste is formed. Add the colour at this stage if you're using it.

Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed pan, and heat until it nearly boils. Temper the eggs by pouring a small amount of the hot milk over them while whisking constantly to remove any possible lumps. Keep pouring more and more until all the milk and eggs are combined - then, return the mixture to the pan the lower the heat.

You can use a wooden spoon to continually mix until it's thick - but when making a heavy custard like this I prefer to whisk so that the flour has no chance of getting lumpy. When it looks thick enough to spoon, remove from the heat and pour through a sieve into a clean bowl. You'll need to push the custard through the sieve with the back of a spoon. Add the rose flavouring, and mix thoroughly.

Place cling film directly on top of the custard and leave to cool to room temp - then transfer to the fridge.

Make, bake and fill the tart cases

This recipe uses pâte sucrée.

Attach a whisk to your stand mixer, and add the butter. Whip until the butter has been creamed, then add the almond extract, icing sugar, ground almond and eggs. When completely combined (i.e. no butter lumps), tip about 1/3 of the flour in. It should be combined in a few seconds, so repeat with the next 1/3 and then the final amount of flour. Stop the mixer when the mixture looks combined and a bit like wet sand, making sure you don't overwork it.

Turn this out onto your work surface and press it all into a smooth ball. Place the ball on some cling film, then flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Wrap it in the cling and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

When the pastry has rested, take your baking mat and place it on a tray. Give the mat and rings a quick spritz with baking, 1 cal spray or just grease with butter.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, and unwrap from the cling. Stretch the cling film out, dust the pastry with icing sugar, then place back in the middle. Working really quickly while it's cold, roll the pastry on the cling film to a thickness of about 3mm. Check the width by putting the 4 flan rings on top - you'll need some excess around the edges of each. Cut the pastry into 4 equal pieces.

Remove all but one of the 4 pieces, then use the cling film under the pastry to pick it up, invert and place over one flan ring. Push the pastry into the corners - again, now that the cling is on top, you should be able to do this all by hand without further dusting. When you're happy, carefully peel the cling film off. Make sure any excess pastry is bent and folded over the edges of the case, and that no metal is visible on the upper rim. If it is, cut off some excess dough and push it into place. Sugar pastry is more forgiving than many other types, mainly because you can quite neatly blend any holes with extra pastry.

Repeat with the other four pieces, placing each one back onto the cling, inverting, then pressing in.

Turn your oven on to 170°C.

To help stop shrinkage, freeze the tart cases instead of just putting them in the fridge. Leave it in there for about 30 minutes (not much more - you don't want it to completely solidify) until nice and cold. When you're ready to blind bake, remove the cases from the freezer and place some silver foil (matte side down) into each one. Scrunch it down over the top edges so they are completely covered in foil, then gently pour in your baking beans into each one.

You need to add a bit of extra cooking time due to how cold they are; so bake for about 20 minutes. After this time they should look anaemic but be solid - so carefully remove the foil and beans, then brush with a beaten egg and return to the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes until golden inside.

Remove and leave to cool to near room temperature, then use a sharp paring knife to trim the outer edge of each one. Carefully remove the rings, then brush out any pastry crumbs.

Make the meringues

Turn your oven on to 110°C.

Beat the egg whites in your stand mixer until soft peaks form - normally less than a minute on a Kitchen Aid up at full whack. Slowly shower in the caster sugar, then leave it running on high for about 5 minutes until you have stiff peaks.

Turn the mixer down to low. Shower in the icing sugar and add the rose flavouring. Give it a quick 30 seconds on high, then turn off and transfer to a piping bag.

Take a baking tray, and place a silicone mat on top. Pipe tall-ish meringues by applying pressure to the bag and pulling upwards. Sprinkle half with crushed pistachio, and half with rose petals.

Place in the pre-heated oven, then cook for 60 minutes.

Make the nougat

Weigh the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and attach the whisk. Line your high sided baking tray with cling film and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Place the sugar and liquid glucose in a heavy bottomed pan with a thermometer, and heat to 135°C. At this point, spin up the stand mixer to full and whip the egg whites.

Carefully pour the honey in and heat to 145°C on your thermometer.

When reached, and with the mixer still running, pour the sugar mix onto the egg whites and whip until the mixer bowl feels just warm to the touch. Pour in the pistachios and mix for a moment.

Working quickly before it sets too much, scoop or pour the mix into your tray, sprinkle over some more icing sugar then let set. It will probably only take another 15 minutes.

When set, remove from the cling film and chop into small squares.

Put it all together

Take a tart case, and fill it with rose crème pâtissière right to the edge. Flatten with a spatula.

Remove the pistachio cream from the freezer and cut a piece out with your circular cutter. Roll in the crushed nuts, then place on top of the tart case.

Take two pieces of nougat and place those on top of the pistachio disk. Dot over some pistachio butter, then add two or three of each type of meringue. Finally, sprinkle over a few more crushed nuts and some rose petals.

Serve when the cream has thawed - during the summer it will only take about 20 mins at room temp.

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