This recipe is brand new to me–I made it, and ate it, for the very first time last week. It may be new to many of my British readers as well, as gypsy tart is a recipe specific to the County of Kent, where I live, and most Brits (so I’m told) who live outside the county won’t have heard of it.
Before I get into the story behind gypsy tart, let me just say this: if you are at all worried about your intake of sugar, calories, fat or carbohydrates, this would be the appropriate time for you to find a website dedicated to healthy food. This is not the recipe for you.
With that disclaimer aside, let me tell you all I know about gypsy tart–which, admittedly, isn’t much. The story goes that at the beginning of the 20th century, or perhaps during World War II, a lady on the Isle of Sheppey, a small island off the northern coast of Kent, saw either some gypsy children or some children who’d been evacuated from London, playing outside. The children looked malnourished, and this dear woman wanted to find a way to feed them cheaply and fatten them up a bit. She looked around her kitchen and found she had the necessary flour, sugar and butter to make a pie crust, as well as a can of evaporated milk and some dark brown sugar, and the gypsy tart was born. Eventually, the tart became a staple dessert in the institutional school kitchens of Kent, to either the delight or dismay of pupils.
It’s simple to make, needs very few ingredients, and has a lovely coffee/toffee/caramel-y flavor to it. And you don’t need–or want–to eat a big piece. A little goes a long way.
My first attempt at gypsy tart didn’t look particularly photogenic but tasted just fine–I’ll be making this again. Let me know if you’ll be giving this a try too.
For the base:
175 grams/6 ounces unsalted butter
240 grams/8.5 ounces plain flour
30 ml/4 Tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
1 400 gram/14 ounce tin evaporated milk
350 grams/12 ounces dark muscovado sugar/dark brown sugar
1. Rub the butter into the flour until crumbly. Add the water and fold in very lightly until the pastry is only just beginning to form and bind. Press the pastry between two sheets of cling film (plastic wrap). The pastry will have a marbled look; this indicates how “short” the pastry is going to be.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Roll out the pastry and use to line a 25cm/10 inch flan ring or pie plate. (I used a 9-inch pie plate and it was just a bit too small to hold all the filling and I had to pour some away.) Line with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked. Leave to cool.
3. Whisk the evaporated milk and sugar together for 10 minutes until light and fluffy. The mix should be coffee colored (a pale, milky coffee). Pour the mix into the pastry case and bake in the oven for 10 minutes until set. The tart should now be left to cool and served cold.
Serve with cream, if you like, and enjoy!