Tarted Up

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Picture: Nada Bakery

Maybe it was the Kiwi hedgehogs a while ago (now there’s an interesting mixture of animals... perhaps it is something that falls in your swimming pool but you can never see it... In any case, it would be likely to be full of spikes and claws. It sounds a bit like a flightless jub-jub bird), but I got to thinking about neenish tarts*. Just about any line of thinking ends up coming back to food.

I try to avoid thinking about neenish tarts, as it almost always leads to disappointment. The first ones I ever had appear to have ruined me for all that came after. They were small and neat, with a thick layer of glossy icing and a filling of crème patissiere. And they had the perfect surface-to-filling ratio – not too much pastry, and not too much filling compared to the icing. That, as far as I was concerned, was what neenish tarts were.

Subsequent tarts have been about as appealing as that mysterious Kiwi-hedgehog-hybrid. They are enormous (who started this never-mind-the-quality-feel-the-width approach to baking?). They have acres of thin, insubstantial icing. Some of them even have pink icing. And, worst of all, they are filled with cream. Mock cream. Real cream. Cream with raspberry jam. All well and good, but not, surely not, a neenish tart.

Picture: My Sweet Little House (I know it looks beautiful. With lovely thick icing. I just wish it had custard inside!)

The terrible thing is, you don’t know what’s in them until it’s too late, and the eagerly anticipated tart becomes a sticky disappointment**. And yet so many recipes online seem to be for the proper sort – it’s a bit of a mystery what has happened with the bought ones. I would love to find somewhere that makes the kind I like***.
Picture: From A Sow's Ear (via The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry)... and even though they have pink icing, they are just so cute!

An article I came across while looking for neenish tarts was highly rewarding after all the cream-filled goo. Relating said tarts to the Hunting Of The Snark is a juxtaposition I can only wish I was capable of. The neenish tarts I’ve been finding are definitely more of the boojum variety. Nevertheless, I will continue to pursue them with forks and hope.

Picture: Inapond on Flickr (in a pond? Ina Pond?)... snark-hunting implements*

This is because the best ones I’ve had are from New Zealand. Where the hedgehogs come from. Neenish tarts appear to be up there with pavlova (and occasionally Russell Crowe) for arguments over whether the Australians or the New Zealanders have the original claim and the best version (including disowning Russell when he throws a wobbly).
** Some people I know could take that concept far beyond its actual intentions, and they should know better...
*** Preferably somewhere local; half the time I find baking I like the look of, it comes from New York. Not sure if New York has an unfair number of fabulous bakeries, but it appears that way. I’m looking forward to finding out.

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