Recipe: Perfect jam tarts

How to get the ultimate picnic treat just right

I find it impossible to think of jam tarts and not be reminded of Alice in Wonderland, that silly scene where a trial is held to determine who stole the Queen of Hearts’ jam tarts, and Alice must give evidence. As Alice grows larger and larger, the rule of law is turned on its head with the Queen declaring, ‘Sentence first, verdict afterwards’.

Maybe it’s the fact it is so strongly connected with a children’s book that means jam tarts feel firmly located in childhood for me, or just that they’re a particularly satisfying picnic food and no matter how old I get, picnics bring out the child in me. Either way, there’s something joyously nostalgic in eating this simple bake. And they couldn’t be much simpler: a not-too-sweet pastry, and a tablespoon of jam are baked for fifteen minutes, until the pastry is tender and golden, and the jam has smoothed in a glassy, glossy glaze. Adding a little water to the jam before you bake will ensure that the jam doesn’t caramelise too much in the oven, but settles into that irresistible sticky finish.

Jam tarts are pretty quick and easy to make, and as long as you supervise the hot bits, this is a great bake for little hands. Although the jam pours more easily when heated, it only needs to be very slightly warm. I used a combination of blackberry, raspberry and apricot jams, but anything will work here – your favourite, or simply what you have that needs using up.

Jam tarts

Makes: 6 little tarts
Takes: 20 minutes
Bakes: 15 minutes

200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons jam

1. To make the pastry, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles sand. Mix the egg with the water and add this, bringing the mixture together first with a knife, and then with your hands. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
2. Butter a muffin pan, and roll the pastry out, and stamp out circles about 10cm in diameter. Place each circle into a buttered muffin pan recess, and using your fingers, make sure it is flush against the sides and bottom of the pan. Pop in the fridge, just to allow the pastry to relax while you do the next step.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Warm the jam or jams of your choice in a small pan with a teaspoon or so of water, stirring until smooth. Remove the pastry from the fridge and then spoon a tablespoon of jam into each of the tart cases.
4. Bake the tarts for 15 minutes or until the edge of the pastry is golden. Leave to cool completely and then remove from the tins; I find this is easiest by gently twisting the top of the jam tarts until they release.


Close