rustic tart

Making shortcrust pastry has to be amongst the easiest and the best skills to have in the kitchen. For providing the perfect backdrop to an endless variation in fillings, from savoury, like the leek and dorset blue tart I made at River Cottage, to a sweet seasonal fruit tart, shortcrust pastry is perfect. The glorious days of blueberries are imminent, so let’s make a rustic tart, the one I baked for the folks at Heart Home, when they came out to visit the old cottage.


I like to make a large recipe, and bake two. Start with 500 grams of flour (I used a mix of white and whole spelt), 250 grams of cold unsalted butter, a couple of egg yolks, a pinch of salt, and 100 ml of cold milk, though we may not use it all. For the filling, cook five or six cups of blueberries until their liquid reduces a bit, then remove from heat and toss with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of light flour. Squeeze half a lemon in, too.

shortcrust tart © elisa rathje 2012

Cut the butter into the flour til it’s in tiny pieces, and then start rubbing the butter into the flour. (I like to wash my hands in cold water, as you don’t want to melt the butter in!) You’re looking for the moment when the flour turns yellow, and resembles breadcrumbs.

shortcrust tart © elisa rathje 2012

Yellow? Excellent. Mix in the two egg yolks.

shortcrust tart © elisa rathje 2012

Add some milk in splashes, just until the dough comes together and no more. Knead it for a minute. You could break the dough in half and form two balls. I wrap mine in parchment, then toss it in a bag to chill in the fridge for a half hour. Heat your oven to 375F/180C. On a very lightly floured surface, roll the dough out thinly, and lift it onto a flat, parchment lined tray.

shortcrust tart © elisa rathje 2012

Dollop the blueberry filling into the middle, fold the pastry in, and sprinkle with some coarse sugar if you’ve got some around. Bake it for close to an hour! And serve, cooled, with some whipped cream. It looks
incredibly gorgeous when it’s baked
, especially if you’ve got a professional photographer and a pair of magazine editors to document the event.

baking apple-turnovers

To celebrate a year of homemade stories, I bring you appleturnover‘s original homemade story.

A dozen years ago, when I was pregnant with our first child, I made up a little song to hum to my sweetheart when I very much wanted him to visit Fratelli Bakery and bring me one of their glorious apple turnovers. It is a small but effective song. I may hum it for you sometime. When we collected the family together to tell them we were having a baby, we brought a box of those apple turnovers to have with tea. When I began to think about writing homemade stories, our little child would sing my appleturnover song and it seemed to fit my project ever so well. So appleturnover began.

I was beside myself with joy when Fratelli‘s delightful owner, Marco Cornale, welcomed me into his family bakery this summer to teach me how to make the apple turnovers I’d fallen in love with. Beside myself! Dancing! Singing!

baking with marco © janis nicolay 2011

I brought along my friend, the talented photographer Janis Nicolay, who shares a passion for baking. We were both in heaven.

baker © janis nicolay 2011

We made two kinds of turnovers. Yes, these are cherry turnovers, however they are gorgeous, and will demonstrate the traditional turnover. Fratelli makes so many turnovers, they had someone build a pastry cutter in the perfect shape, but you could achieve the same effect by pressing a large, clean tin can.

eggwash © janis nicolay 2011

Marco showed me how to paint a half-circle of beaten egg along the edge of the turnovers.

eggwash  © janis nicolay 2011

Simple pleasures.

cherry fold © janis nicolay 2011

Then we folded the pastry over to meet the opposite edge, tucking up the filling.

cherry © janis nicolay 2011

Press with a couple of fingertips starting at the middle and working each hand out toward the fold, the index finger pressing firmly into the spot the middle finger was last in, then work back down to the center again. That’s good.

snip the turnover © janis nicolay 2011

Now, the scissors.

fratelli snipping © janis nicolay 2011

Make a vent, as you would for a pie, with a couple of snips, to allow the heat to escape without blowing up your turnover. That would be tragic.

roller © janis nicolay 2011

Next we made the apple cream turnover, a slightly different style, the one I fell for. I’ll be rolling out my pastry with my best pin at home, as the family used to at Fratelli. Now they use a wonderful, simple hand-operated machine that rolls their dough out perfectly, back and forth til it’s the right thickness.

floured © janis nicolay 2011

The pastry chef showed us how she flours the dough a little,

rolled © janis nicolay 2011

And rolls it onto a baton, amazing. Then she simply lifts it onto their beautiful work table and unrolls it like a scroll.

cutter © janis nicolay 2011

We needed squares, and lots of them, so first Marco cut one way, setting the blade into the last cut edge to align it,

cutter © janis nicolay 2011

Then sliced again at a right angle. I’ve been eyeing my pizza cutter to see if it will be up for the job.

custard © janis nicolay 2011

Now you need the custard. I really must acquire a pastry bag like this. It looks easy but it takes some practice. Make a diagonal stripe of custard. (At home I’ll use a spoon! Or snip off the corner of a bag, perhaps.)

apple © janis nicolay 2011

On top of the custard, add a stripe of the apple filling. Oh yes.

appleturnovers © janis nicolay 2011

So wonderful, a dream, to see how these are made. The bakers are so much fun.

egg © janis nicolay 2011

Find the egg and brush again, but this time just paint a bit across a corner.

pinch © janis nicolay 2011

Fold a bit of one corner over the other, and give it a great firm pinch. That’s right.

turnovers © janis nicolay 2011

There they are, apple cream turnovers all in a row, ready to bake, magnificent.

chef © janis nicolay 2011

The pastry chef was so sweet to us. It’s absolutely enchanting to be in that bakery. Marco’s wonderful mother and one of his daughters were there helping out, everyone is ever so friendly and received us with astonishing warmth.

teatime © janis nicolay 2011

Marco sent us home with turnovers to bake fresh for our families. Rapture! Then my little girls did a happy dance of their own!

marco © janis nicolay 2011

If you happen to be in Vancouver, it’s best to get over to Fratelli Bakery
early in the day for an apple turnover. If you’re not, you can bake them yourself! Send me a note and I’ll send you the recipe! Thank you to Marco and everyone at Fratelli, for such an experience, and to Janis, for the beautiful photographs. You can follow her over at Pinecone Camp.

Thanks ever so much to my sweetheart and our family for such devoted support this year, all my love and gratitude. I’m so looking forward to learning more about traditional skills in the kitchen garden, good old fashioned handcrafted ways of making things, and tried & true objects.