Monday, 10 February 2014

Gypsy Tart

I have always been intrigued by this tart and just couldn’t get my head around the fact that the filling only included two ingredients. I just didn’t think that it was possible that the tart would set as they were no eggs or thickening agents such as cornflour or even plain flour to help it along.

As far as I was concerned it couldn’t possibly work! But….it DOES! The only thing that I can put this down to is the fact that the muscovado sugar and evaporated milk have to be beaten together for a considerable time before being poured into the pastry case to be baked. I presume some manner of chemical reaction takes place after all that beating, which results in a stabilisation of the two ingredients allowing it to “set” when baked in the oven.

Tradition has it, that the tart gets its name from the fact that it was first served to some hungry gipsy children during the First World War, by a woman who only had very basic ingredients in her house due to food rationing that was introduced because of the War. As with the origins of so many recipes, we cannot be absolutely certain of the accuracy of the stories that build up, but there is no disputing the fact that despite the richness of this tart it has remained popular over the years.

It is really important to ensure that you use dark brown muscovado sugar as substitutes will not create the same effect.

This is sweet… VERY sweet and I recommend serving it in thin enough slivers, but it does taste delicious and looks very beautiful when it comes out of the oven; with its gilt like surface which gives way to a dark brown fudgy centre when you cut in to it.
Some recipes that I came across when researching this particular tart, use sweetened condensed milk instead of the evaporated milk. I imagine that the finished tart must be shockingly sweet. The recipe I give here is for the version using evaporated milk.


200g plain flour
1tblsp icing sugar
120g butter, chilled and diced
1 large egg yolk
1-2tblsp water
200g dark brown muscovado sugar
200g evaporated milk



1. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and sprinkle in the water and using a fork, or your hands mix until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
2. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work-surface and knead briefly and shape into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling-film and place in the fridge for about half an hour to rest.
Blind-bake pastry:
3. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 5cm deep, 23cm round fluted tart tin (with a removable base) with a little butter. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry dough in a circle large enough to fit into the prepared tart tin and to a thickness of about 4mm. Use to line the bottom and sides of the prepared tin. Cover the pastry with a sheet of crumple non-stick baking parchment and then fill with baking beans. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and baking beans and then bake for a further 5 minutes. Any pastry off-cuts can be used to cut out shapes to decorate the pie or, as would traditionally be the case to make a lattice pastry topping for the tart.
4. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down slightly while you make the filling.
5. Put the muscovado sugar and evaporated milk into a large bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together for 10 minutes at a high speed until the mixture has slightly increased in volume and is a creamy caramel colour. Carefully pour into the prepared pastry case and bake in the pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes until the surface is set. Remove from the oven… It may still have a slight wobble, but the tart will continue cooking as it cools, so this is perfectly normal. Allow to cool in the tin. Serve at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraîche if liked.

Serves 6-8.