Non-scary mini blackberry and star anise almond tarts

I tend not to get on-board with themed cooking.  I’m just not that organised (or very good at it for that matter).  I planned to make Hallowe’en gingerbread cookies one year but my icing was truly horrific.  I may pick up a cookie cutter again in time for next Hallowe’en but I’m not making any promises.  I don’t do pancakes for Shrove Tuesday.  The rage which accompanies failed pancakes (because I do insist on flipping them) just doesn’t suit me.  And don’t even get me started on Valentine’s.  The one theme I’m quite happy with is Christmas.  I do love a Yule Log with the little plastic Christmas tree and Father Christmas.  It reminds me of many happy family Christmas’ of past.  So, this Hallowe’en I’ve made very non-scary (unless you consider the mess the star anise made of my spice grinder) mini blackberry and star anise tarts.   

They are tarts bourne out of a missed opportunity.  It all started with damsons.  I saw the plump purple beauties on Monday and I hesitated.  I should have got them straight away because when I went back to get them later they had all gone.  It’s a strategy that can also be applied to other aspects of life beyond food shopping.  Live without uncertainty and doubt otherwise many opportunities will be lost.  Anyway, enough philosophy, lets get back to the food.

In the interim period between seeing the damsons and going back to get them I decided what I was going to make.  I found this plum and almond tart with start anise and vanilla recipe online (see below for the link).  I made a couple of changes.  First, I switched the plums to the damsons (which subsequently didn’t materialise) and then blackberries.  Second, as I don’t have a 28 cm tart tin I decided to make 8 individual 10 cm x 2 cm tarts which suited me because I like small food.  If you want a savoury mini tart idea check out the Tomato, pea and cheese mini tarts I made in the summer.

As I’ve no idea where to get ground star anise I thought I’d have a go at making my own.  After a couple of ineffectual bashes with the pestle and mortar (and a realisation, that if I was to continue down that route I would need safety goggles) I turned to the spice grinder.  This option worked a treat.  I ended up with perfect finely ground start anise.  Unfortunately, the grinder did not come out of this unscathed.  On a positive note, as I also use the grinder for grinding coffee beans, the star anise added a not unpleasant quality to the coffee.

You can find my inspiration here.  And in the meantime, here is my version for mini tarts:

Mini blackberry and star anise almond tarts

Makes 8 tarts

For the pastry

90g icing sugar

340g plain flour

170g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 egg

1 – 2 tbsp cold water

For the filling

110g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

110g caster sugar

½ vanilla pod, seeds scrapped

2 finely ground star anise

3 eggs, beaten

110g ground almonds

16 – 24 blackberries

8 tsp blackberry jam or jelly

Small handful of flaked almonds

Make the pastry: whisk together the icing sugar and plain flour in a large bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour and sugar until you have fine crumbs.  Add the egg and water and mix with your hand to combine.  Bring the mixture together and knead very briefly to achieve a smooth dough.  Flatten then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

Make the pastry cases: Preheat the oven to 180ºC.  Divide the dough into 8 even pieces.  You’ll probably need to weight them.  On a lightly floured surface roll each piece out to 3 mm thick and line 8 10cm x 2cm tart tins.  Make sure the pastry is pushed right into the corners and let the excess hang over the edge of the tins.  Place all the lined tart tins on a large baking tray, line the tarts with baking paper and baking beans and blind bake for 15 – 20 mins until the pastry edges are golden.  Remove from the oven and remove the baking beans.  Return to the oven for 10 minutes until the base is starting to colour. Remove from the oven, trim the overhang and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the tart filling:  Cream the softened butter, sugar, vanilla seeds and star anise together until pale in colour, light and fluffy.  Mix in the eggs and ground almond until well combined.

Fill the tarts: Spread a scant teaspoon of jam or jelly on the bottom of each tart case.  Divide the filling between the cases then push the blackberries lightly into it.  I put two blackberries in each tart but could have fit in three.  Scatter over the flaked almonds.

Bake the tarts: Bake for 20 – 25 mins or until golden and the filling has set.  Allow to cool and serve with clotted cream.

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