Here in South Africa they have just finished showing the first series of Junior Masterchef Australia. Now Masterchef Australia probably has to be my favourite cookery show EVER but initially I was unsure about the Junior version. Don’t get me wrong, I think cookery shows aimed at kids are a fabulous idea. However, they don’t necessarily make scintillating viewing for us adults.
I remember watching the first series of Junior Masterchef UK and it was kids cooking …well… very kiddie orientated things. And it wore a bit thin that John Torode was contractually obliged to remind them about the dangers of hot ovens and sharp knives every 30 seconds.
Obviously those laid back Aussies don’t share the UK’s freakish obsession with health and safety. ‘Cos their Junior Masterchef contestants were given free rein in the kitchen with nary a word of caution from amiable hosts, George and Gary. And, boy, did those kids blow us whinging poms out of the water. Their talent and skill was phenomenal!
It says a lot about Aussie food culture that the country is capable of producing kids like that. I mean how the heck do those kids know how to cook sous vide, temper chocolate and make beef wellington and homemade pasta? This is not normal behaviour. And certainly not in the UK where if Jamie Oliver is to be believed, most Brit kids struggle to distinguish a courgette from a carrot, a cabbage from a cauliflower. But these fresh-faced Aussies, confronted with a challenge involving lobster, rabbit or (I kid you not) snails, barely batted an eye-lid and handled every ingredient like seasoned pros.
So it comes as no surprise that I actually wanted to cook some of the dishes from this series (although not the rabbit or the snails, I am way too immature for that). And one of the recipes that caught my eye was for these little florentine tartlets which were the subject of one of the elimination challenges.
The tarts are quite simple in concept – thin, buttery pastry filled with an almond frangipane and topped with a crunchy mixture of cornflakes, almonds and cherries – but there is a cat in hell’s chance I could have made these when I was 10 years old. I must admit I struggled a little even now as the pastry is very soft and tricky to handle. Worth the effort though if only because they look so pretty.
Two words of advice. I have adapted the quantities to fit four of my 10cm tartlet tins but if you do have smaller tins then use them – these tarts are quite rich. Also the honey comes through strongly so it is worth using as good a quality one as you can afford.
Makes four 10cm tartlets
For the pastry:
- 110g plain flour
- 40g icing sugar
- 75g butter, chilled, diced
- 1 egg yolk
For the frangipane:
- 55g unsalted butter, softened
- 55g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
- 80g ground almonds
For the florentine topping:
- 50g honey
- 50g caster sugar
- 50g butter
- 50g flaked almonds
- 60g glaced cherries
- 20g cornflakes
- 25g dark chocolate, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Mix the flour and icing sugar in a bowl and add the cubed butter, then rub together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg yolk until the mixture just forms a soft dough.
2. Place the pastry in between two sheets of baking paper and roll out as thinly as possible (no more than 3mm thick.) Chill until required.
3. For the frangipane, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and creamy. Add the egg and egg white and whisk until combined. Fold in the ground almonds.
4. Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge, cut discs from the pastry slightly larger than the diameter of your tins (about 12cm in this case) and use to line the tartlet tins.
5. Spoon the frangipane mixture evenly between the tart shells and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through and golden. Remove the tartlets from the oven and leave to cool slightly whilst you make the topping.
6. For the florentine topping, combine the honey, sugar and butter in a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes foamy. Add the almonds, cherries and cornflakes and stir gently until combined.
7. Spoon the topping on to the tarts, then drizzle with the melted chocolate. Best served whilst still slightly warm.