Friday, 10 February 2017

Bleeding heart tarts (Lupercalia cakes!)




Like Christmas, Easter and Halloween, St Valentine's day is another occasion where the church piggybacked an existing pagan festival. In this case the very ancient Lupercalia. Young men would 'whip' willing young women with the pelts of recently sacricfed goats and dogs - to aid their fertility, naturally - before everyone drew lots to secure a night with not Mr Right but Mr Random, presumably to test said fertility. Sounds much more entertaining than staring vacantly at your betrothed over a Nando's doesn't it? Bring it all back I say. Apart from the dog slaughtering. Don't all shout at me at once.

But mainly through the efforts of American greeting card giant Hallmark this fun festival descended into a day where we can make manifest our adoration with the purchase of pre-sloganised cards, pre packaged chocolates or plastic wrapped petrol pump roses. Nothing says "I love you" like commerce does it? I know. Colour me cynical. If you must indulge, at least make an effort; something that isn't delivered on a supermarket pallet. Love is action, as they say. At least, as I say.

My mate Brian wanted these for an alternative valentine's party; French almond friand cakes made soppy by shape. I normally make blueberry, lemon or chocolate orange but these are raspberry and vanilla. In fact they are frozen raspberry. I think you get a better result with frozen fruit (which is handy). Fresh fruit turn to mush. Being frozen, you can also break the fruit up into small pieces and make patterns if that turns you on. It doesn't me, hence the abstracts above.


Melt 100g of unsalted butter in a small pan. Once melted, continue to heat until the butter turns a golden brown. You'll know it's close to ready because it stops fizzing as all the moisture is burnt off. 
It will also smells fantastic. Trust your nose. Cool the pan, to prevent the butter from burning, by placing it in cold water. This is beurre noisette and it adds a wonderful flavour. Allow the butter to cool.

Whisk three large egg whites to a floppy foam. We're not making meringues but you do want some air fixed in the mix as this is the only leavening agent. 

Sift 25g plain flour with 125g icing sugar and 85g ground almonds and a teaspoon of vanilla paste/extract


Fold this into the egg whites, making as few folds as possible. Keep the mixture aerated. Gently stir in the butter. 


You should now have a light, floppy batter. Divide this up into eight well buttered moulds. About halfway up the sides. Moulds? I have these silicon things which I bought years ago. Amazon do something similar. But usually I use a friand tin. You can use a cupcake or mini-muffin tin. Just keep an eye on the timing. You might need a minute more or less, depending on the size. 


Push some fruit into the top of each cake. Not more than five or the cakes will be too moist and fall apart. Bake for 18 minutes at 180°C until just golden and gently firm to the touch. Leave to cool before turning them out. These are delicate creatures. Best eaten when just warm with a sprinkle of icing sugar, for the eye.


I was in a bad mood when I wrote this. Does it show? I'm sure I'll be cheerful in March.



In the more traditional shape





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