It’s the little community events that make a town thrive. It’s about getting a big deal into a tiny town and exposing lucky locals (like myself) to something wonderful. Like a painting workshop.
Five weeks ago, renowned portrait artist Laurie McGaw visited Norman Wells. Alongside her childrens’ holiday art classes, she hosted a 5-week portrait painting workshop for adults. Eager to get involved in as many community events as possible (and attempt to scratch up my art skills!), I was one of the first to sign up.
The time spent with Laurie, both inside the class and outside, was priceless. Her art is incredible, but her personality even more so. Outside of the classes, Laurie spent hours sitting with locals, chatting over tea or sitting quietly, meanwhile recreating their faces with charcoal.
Nothing like stepping into the makeshift studio and recognising the neighbour, the boss, the town mayor and numerous friends, sketched onto brown paper, hanging around the room.
We held a wine and cheese do at the studio to gather the community and share art by Laurie and by the locals, like me. I couldn’t resist
spending the whole morning whipping up some little fruit tarts, because finally we had fruit (and fresh, ripe plums at that!), finally I had a whole morning to spend in the kitchen, and finally an event that called for some special wee tarts.
Little Fruit Tarts
Makes about 20
Recipes from the Little & Friday Cookbook
Normally made using pastry, these tarts work just as well with a biscuit base. The biscuit dough is far easier to work with and can simply be moulded into muffin tins.
Bring out 1/2 cup frozen raspberries (or desired berries) to slowly thaw. Slice 3 plums (or nectarines, peaches or apricots) into thin wedges. Marinate in a mix of orange juice, a dash of sugar and a little Cointreau while preparing the following elements.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate egg, then flour. Pinch off balls of dough and place into each muffin hole of a 12-hole muffin pan. Form crust around sides with your fingertips – the thinner the better, but patch any holes. Set aside.
Frangipane (makes 1 cup):
75g butter, softened
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 Tbsp flour
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl frequently. Add egg and beat well. Stir in ground almonds and flour to form a paste. Unused frangipane will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Créme Pâtissiére (makes 1 cup):
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp cornflour
In a saucepan combine milk, vanilla and 1/2 the sugar and bring to the boil. In a separate bowl, beat together remaining sugar and egg yolks until pale and thick. Sift in the cornflour and mix to a paste.
Slowly pour half the mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return remaining milk to the heat. When it has reached boiling point, quickly add egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. As you add the egg mixture to milk it will cool slightly. Keep whisking over heat until it returns to the boil then remove from the heat.
Pour into a bowl and lay a circle of baking paper of it to prevent a film forming on the surface. Unused créme pâtissiére will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Beat cooled créme until smooth before using as it will form a solid mass once chilled.
Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Place a baking tray into the oven to heat (placing muffin pans on a hot tray will help the bottoms of the tarts to cook).
Spread a spoonful of Frangipane into each tart shell. Dollop on a spoonful of Créme Pâtissiére on top and spread to the edges. Arrange fruit on top. For half of the tarts I started with a blueberry in the centre with plum wedges ‘tented’ on top. For the other half I just scattered a mix of berries and plums.
Place in oven and cook for 30 – 35 minutes until tarts are golden.
Prepare a glaze of 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp orange juice and a dash of boiling water. Brush over the fruit with a pastry brush while still hot.