I had one last item to make on my Christmas baking list, before piling up trays with Christmas goodies to take to work. I'd acquired some appropriate adhesive and glued the clips of my oven seal in place, and though it had had only a few short hours to dry, I was hoping it'd hold long enough to make some neenish tarts (p84).
Before starting on the tarts, I used the half-can of condensed milk not needed for the tarts to whip up some lolly cake, one recipe that is strangely absent from the Edmonds book. I've wondered why such a simple and popular Kiwi recipe would be omitted, and have decided it must be because it uses products (Eskimos and malt biscuits) that are not affiliated with the Edmonds brand.
Anyway, it only took a few minutes to throw together a lolly cake, giving me something to fall back on and pad out the goodie trays if the tarts didn't work. This done, I started on the tarts, creaming butter and sugar, beating in egg and mixing in dry ingredients to make the pastry. After 15 minutes' chilling time, I rolled out the pastry and cut out rounds to line mini muffin tins, pricking the bottoms to stop them from rising too much.
Neenish tarts are generally made in patty tins, but I chose to make mine smaller. I've mentioned before that I prefer to make things bite-sized - especially at Christmas - and neenish tarts are the perfect example of something that tastes good at the first bite, but becomes overpoweringly sickly before you manage to finish it all. By turning it into a one-bite item, you only experience the pleasant part. After all, you can always have a second one if you want more!
I hadn't rolled the pastry quite as thin as I intended, and some of the pastry cases I turned out were overly puffed up. In later trays I amended this somewhat, but I mostly ended up with tart cases that didn't have all that much space for the filling.
When all the tart cases were baked and cooling on racks, I mixed up the filling. It's a mixture of softened butter, condensed milk, icing sugar and lemon juice. My butter wasn't really soft enough, and I had to beat it quite thoroughly to get all the lumps out, but eventually I had a nice smooth filling.
The tart cases did not take long to cool, and I began spooning filling into them as soon as it was ready. A few short minutes later, and I had a tray of filled tarts chilling in the fridge.
I left them chilling while I arranged almond biscuits, lolly cake, apricot balls, chocolate truffles, slices of cathedral loaf and florentines (cut into shards to make them easier to fit on the trays) on my goodie trays, leaving space for some neenish tarts on each. I'd tried to avoid going overboard with my baking this year, but as always, I had more than enough.
The neenish tarts were not quite set as I took them out to ice them, but I was short on time, so I went ahead with the icing anyway. Neenish tarts are easily recognised by the half-white, half-chocolate icing. I've always thought it looks like a nuisance to do the icing like that, but actually I found it wasn't that difficult.
I mixed up a bowl of white icing (p77), and went right through my tray of tarts, icing one half only. It wasn't difficult, but quite time-consuming: it took quite a while to get right through the tray - and then I had to start on the chocolate!
I'd decided to use melted chocolate instead of chocolate icing, partly because I had heaps of cooking chocolate left over from the florentines, but also because I thought it would be less sickly than actual icing. I melted the chocolate and went through the tray of tarts again, icing the other side of each. It was getting late and I was getting impatient, so the icing was a bit messily done in places, but at a glance, they looked pretty good.
I added my completed tarts to the trays, which I dispersed around the various sites at work the following day. I think the most popular item was the lolly cake - the one non-Edmonds item on the trays - but the rest was well received too.
I've never liked neenish tarts much; I've always found them sickly and unappealing. Not everyone shares this opinion: I was surprised at how many people were pleased to see them on the trays. It was also a surprise how tasty my mini versions were - a burst of sweet creamy filling in a shortbready case. You might prefer the traditional size, but for me, the little ones were just the right size.
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