Childhood Tart Memories
I first fell in love with the art of the tart as a child. My Grannie, was well-known for her amazing Mince Tarts and in many ways the love of that tart, is well reflected in our offer at Dello Mano today. My Grannie was born and bred in the Begonia famous, Ballarat which is a lovely regional city about 90 minutes from Melbourne. If you’ve paid visit to Ballarat in winter you’ll know that it can get very cold. As the locals will tell you it is at the top of the Divide, so the wind can come in strong and drop the feeling of the temperature quite considerably.
As a child the draw of my Great Grandmothers warm kitchen was strong not only for the reprieve from the icy cold wind but also for the her freshly baked Mince Tarts. There was no central heating of course, so the rooms were closed and we each had to open the door only enough to squeeze into the kitchen. It stikes me that this is a feeling we mostly no longer know with our penchant for open living spaces in contemporary homes. Opening the door to a snug and warm kitchen, wood stove burning and the room filled with the captured aroma of fresh-baked tarts is a sensation like no other. Our contemporary kitchens offer so much more in terms of rightfully centralising and opening up the home’s meeting point, the kitchen, though, it wasn’t until writing this that I recall the excitement of actually opening up the kitchen door. The air in Granny’s kitchen was always literally thick with warmth.
I recall slipping into the kitchen briefly noticing that the kettle was always on the stove top with water spattering slightly out of control. My focus though was always on the baking and those tarts. Sitting across from the door on the long timber table in front of the window was always a pretty pattern of tarts stacked on a glass high stand.
The sight of the table laden with fresh hand baked food and the warm baked aroma was a heady concoction for any child.
Set on the table too, there were also real napkins and tea cups with saucers. A huge tea-pot, lid off and pot cover beside, always sat waiting for the steaming hot water to be poured over the pile of fresh leaf tea that Granny had added earlier. As a small child, I recall so many choices of freshly baked home-made goods on that table, though there was only one clear choice for me. I never understood why good manners would have my parents let us make only one choice from that tempting array of goodies.
The Art of the Tart
My choice in that beautiful warm kitchen was needless to say always the tart. My Granny had the art of the tart down to precision. Her own buttery recipe and of course her “mince” were both constructed lovingly by hand. I recall knowing and being able to taste the difference. Pastry crafted by her own hands, using eggs collected earlier that morning from the chickens in her garden. Of course the eggs were great, she knew the chickens by name and always thanked them each day for their generosity. So too the butter, fresh real butter and flour that she sifted thrice as was required in those days contributed to the difference. I feel just as strongly now that handmade food is something gifted to us and should never be taken for granted.
The first bite of the Mince tart was always so exciting. The pastry like soft slightly brown butter cookie, a little sprinkle of glistening sugar crystals making the pastry top almost sparkle and then the first bite cracking open the casing and releasing an oozing of rich marinated fruits. The tart pastry I recall was good enough to eat by itself – though not to say that I was not entirely grateful for the rich, fruit magic that lay within its precious walls.
All of these gorgeous ingredients plus one that was extra special. The care and love she put into every tart batch, just like all handmade food, forged even more of a deep connection with us, allowed her to express her love and for some of us, set the course for our own life path of cooking.
Tarts were first developed in the middle ages. They were not intended back then for fruit fillings or Quiche but rather to encase meat preparations as a form of preservative. The likes of the Cornish Pastie actually came about as a result of this technique. As with so many food products, the art of the tart evolved and has thankfully led to a cornucopia of tart offerings. Everything from savoury tarts to lemon tarts and even Portuguese Tarts – the world of tarts is broad and boundless.
Of course there are a number of pastries that can be used for tarts. Most pastries are a combination of flour, fat, salt and a liquid of sorts. What makes for the different functionality is really the differing ration of the ingredients. Some pastries include sugar, eggs and an acid like lemon juice and may even contain a baking powder or soda. The flour is generally plain and the butter must always be cold to use.
Pastry success is dependent on keeping the ingredients cold and also working the gluten in the flour. Too much or too little mixing will change the outcome of your pasty. Pastry can be flaky and light or compact and crumbly. It is always baked to a light golden brown.
Variations of pastry abound these days with gluten-free and vegan pastry options however, for the purposes of just explaining the basic forms:
Pâte Brisée (compact and crumbly) is a popular and useful pastry when fluted tart edges are required. It is used often for savoury fillings. It is a classic French pastry and is made without sugar. It is perfect for encasing wet fillings like custard as the fat particles are evenly distributed in the pastry and able to hold the liquid centre.
Pàte Sucrée (compact and crumbly) and is otherwise known as short crust or short dough. It translates from French to English as “sugar dough” and of course contains sugar. Its texture is more cookie like and is the typical french tart dough for sweet offerings.
Pàte Sablée (compact and crumbly) is another delicate tart dough that is often used in French Desserts. The word Sablée means sand and this is reflected in a texture that bears strong resemblance to its namesake.
Dello Mano Tarts
My grandmother handmade her own version of rich, crumbly, short crust pastry which with slight variation, she also made savoury tarts. Today at Dello Mano, we use a similar short crust pastry style to prepare our handmade tart casings which are then used to encase our eggy Quiche fillings of truffle sauteed field mushrooms or gently roasted root vegetables.
So many of our products at Dello Mano are a wonderful reflection of a childhood fantasy with food. The art of the tart, etched in my mind is today found in many of the handmade goods we lovingly create at Dello Mano. You might like to visit and try our savoury range of Quiches for a light meal at Dello Mano and then follow it with a memorable Lemon Curd Tart that truly express the art of the tart.
The memory of Grannie’s tarts is vivid to this day. I still think they were the best I’d ever tasted though I am happy that at Dello Mano we keep the memory and the art of the tart alive with a number of sweet and savoury options.
Eat in at Dello Mano or take home options available. Dello Mano offers a range of Tarts
Dello Mano trades 7 days. We have 2 stores at:
New Farm – 83 Merthyr Rd. New Farm ( Merthyr Village, just beside the New Farm Coles)
Brisbane CBD – Tattersalls Arcade, Brisbane Mall ( Edward St end)
Both Dello Mano stores are closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday. The New Farm store trades on through public holidays however Tattersalls trading hours may vary. If it is a public holiday and you are interested to visit the city Tattersalls store then please give us a call for more information.
Call 1300 661 682 to ask us any questions, make an order for pick up at the store or ask us to set aside a table for a light lunch at Dello Mano.