I'm finally finished filming for the new series of Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less! After some fairly full-on days in the kitchen recording back-to-back recipes, we spent a rather enjoyable week filming out and about. One of my highlights was a visit to the Brown Hound Bakery in Drogheda, Co. Louth. A totally unique and incredibly inspirational spot in the most unlikely location, the bakery is the brainchild of owner Jeni who, with her husband Reuven Diaz, runs the fantastic restaurant Eastern Seaboard and Mo's, a rather unusual takeaway which blows other fast food joints out of the water!
Jeni worked in events in New York, where she met Craig Thompson who created many of the signature baked goods sold at the Brown Hound. In fact, Craig came to Ireland to help train the team of bakers who work behind the scenes. He told me that all the cakes and breads featured have distinct memories and people associated with them.... unless they have "the magic", he says, they aren't worth baking! The custom-made display cases add to the drama of the produce, particularly the Brown Hound Cake, which is covered in chocolate ganache and topped with a mouthwateringly high mountain of maple meringue.
The one thing that was most apparent was the love and passion both Jeni and Craig had for the bakery, down to the hand written signs; the beautifully chosen quirky vintage pieces; the caramelised sugar crust on the chocolate banana bread. This passion and attention to detail became even more apparent when we were invited upstairs to the kitchen where Craig gave me a pastry masterclass and we made this wonderful rhubarb tart. If you do nothing else this weekend, I beg you to try this recipe; it will change the way you think about pastry.
Craig is the owner of Shandaken Bakery in NYC. The secret is all in the pastry, which nuzzles itself somewhere between puff and shortcrust and has a rather unique almost sourdough taste thanks to the addition of apple cider vinegar. The pastry is extremely easy to work with and makes a wonderful base to both savoury and sweet fillings. Craig uses rhubarb here but you can use whatever filling you want.
Remember to keep everything COLD and avoid over working the dough.
In a medium sized bowl, mix together:
250g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon flakey salt (Maldon is great)
Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until crumb is the size of little peas:
170g very cold, unsalted butter(cut into small cubes)
Transfer the flour and butter crumb to a large bowl and make a well in the center of the crumb.
In a separate small bowl, lightly beat together to incorporate:
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
80ml ice cold water
Pour the cold egg mixture into the well of the flour mixture.
Using two large forks, gently toss the flour mixture into the egg mixture (treat the mixture as though it is a salad of delicate greens, being careful to not over work the dough).
Add a little more water, a drizzle at a time, until the mixture just holds together.
Turn the dough out onto greaseproof paper, wrap, and chill for a good 30 minutes before rolling out.
Dough will make one large tart, two medium tarts, or many small ones.
Toss rhubarb, caster sugar and flour in a medium sized bowl, then set aside:
4-6 large stalks of rhubarb (greens removed and discarded, stalks cleaned, and chopped into medium sized hunks)
75g caster sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
Portion chilled dough into varing sizes (1 large, 2 medium or many small), depending on how many tarts you would like to make.
On a generously floured work surface, roll out individual dough portions into rounds about 1/8" thick.
Transfer dough rounds onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
Pile prepared rhubarb into the center of each pastry round, distributing all of the rhubarb between rounds.
Fold the edges of the pastry inward, over the rhubard, leaving the center of the rhubarb exposed, and creating a barrier so the juice can not escape as the tart cooks.
Brush the outside edges of the pastry with egg yolk.
Bake the tart in a hot oven, 210C for 25-35 minutes (or until the sugar and juices bubble in the center of the tarts)
Remove the tarts from the oven and alow them to cool until warm before enjoying.
Tart can be dusted with icing sugar before serving.
Yum! Devour and enjoy!