Along side the famed lamington, the neenish tart is an Australian invention. This lesser known fact was a revelation to me as apart from the ownership dispute with New Zealand about the pavlova, there are few real Aussie inventions in the cake department.
I could come up with chocolate crackles, hedgehog slice and chocolate ripple cake. Can you think of many others? Oh how I loved chocolate ripple cake…. Arnotts chocolate ripple biscuits sandwiched together with whipped Kahlua spiked cream…sigh..
Anyhow, I digress.
A neenish tart is a small tart made with a pastry base and a filling consisting of sweet mock cream or custard with icing on the top in two colours. Traditionally the colours are usually some combination of brown, white, and pink and are flavoured in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or lemon. Coffee has even made an appearance and I think this would work quite well. Some have jam in the bottom and some have not.
The origin of the name “neenish” is unknown, though a column in the Sydney Morning Herald in the 1920’s, attributed the name to a Mrs Ruby Neenish. Alternative names such as nenische and nienich suggest a German origin, although this was after the fact which suggests these names were given in an effort to “continentalise” the tart.
A New Zealand version can be found across the Tasman with a lemon-flavoured version being more popular. It includes a filling made from butter, icing sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice in a pastry base, topped with half standard white icing and half chocolate icing. Sometimes you may find a neenish biscuit – the concept being the same but with 2 shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with butter cream.
I hated neenish tarts as a kid. I perceived the “butter” cream to be waxy and the thick neon pink icing unappealing. Now that I have come up with this less cloying, less sweet rendition, I have a new founded respect for the humble neenish tart.
This recipe came about as I was experimenting with mock cream recipes after my failed disappointment with whipped coconut cream. All of a sudden I had a stack of mock cream to use up and there’s only so much beater licking
my dog and I can do!
ONLY JOKING – I do not let my dog lick the beaters..!!
As usual, one thing leads to another and somehow from whipping coconut cream I was making endless renditions of neenish tarts, gluten-free and sugar-free, to boot! Even my husband showed me the hand and said “ENOUGH – I cannot be your taste tester ANYMORE!!!”
As with many little cakes and petit fours, these are fiddly – well by my standards, that is, being an instant gratification kinda girl!
The pastry shells are cooked separately. The mock cream is made in the stand mixer (sorry Thermomix) and I made a simple pomegranate jelly to use in the filling but you could just use any old jam that you have on hand*. I glazed these in plain cacao butter to keep the sugar down but feel free to use white chocolate or just plain icing. I like the “crack” of the cacao butter when you bite into them, revealing the soft silky butter cream. Yum.
Ideally the tart shells need to be blind baked, which call for pastry weights. If you don’t weight the pastry it will slip down the tin and/or puff up, giving you uneven shell. Rather than fiddle with beans or rice in these tiny things my trick for blind baking individual tart shells is to have identical 2 tins. Nest one on top of the other with the pastry in between to cook and as long as you grease the underside of the top tin well, you will get a perfect result.
Initially I started with another gluten-free pastry recipe with almond meal to keep this low carb but it was just too rich. That recipe will turn into a biscuit recipe in the future, no doubt. I kept it simple by using a gluten-free mix from Orgran (it has no soy – yayy!) and it turned out beautifully: buttery and crispy, yet stable and resilient to rolling out. And not crumbly when cooked.
I have used brown rice syrup and xylitol for the cream to keep this low sugar. Feel free to substitute with your own sweetener. You may wish to add more to taste.
Do you want the recipe?
Here it is!Pastry 150g butter, cold 2 tabs sugar or stevia to taste (I used erythritol) 250g GF flour (I used this one) 1 teas xanthum gum 1 egg 1 egg white Mill the sugar in the TM for 5 seconds on SP 9. Add the flour and gum and pulse to combine. Add the butter and mix on SP 4 for 5 seconds to cut in. Add the eggs and mix on SP 4 until JUST incorporated. Don’t over mix. Tip out and flatten into a disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes. The resting is not so much for the gluten to relax as there is no gluten but for the dough to get really cold to make rolling out easier. Meanwhile soak your gelatine for your jelly and cream.
Roll out the dough between to sheets of baking paper using extra flour if required. Roll out to 2mm thick and cut out in rounds to fit your patty tin. Prick and place a small square of baking paper in each tart. Nest another identical tin on top (grease the underside first) and bake in a 170ºC oven for 15 minutes. Remove the tin and paper squares and continue to bake for another 5 minutes until lightly golden. Set aside to cool.Pomegranate Jelly 70g pomegranate juice 1 teas gelatine Dissolve the gelatine in the warmed juice and set aside in the fridge to firm up. Mock Cream 50g cold water 75g hot water 2 1/2 teas gelatine 3 tabs sugar (I used xylitol) 1 tab rice syrup or maple syrup vanilla seeds from 1 pod 140g unsalted butter, room temperature pinch salt 1 egg yolk (acts as an emulsifier) Float the gelatine on the cold water and set aside for 5 minutes to bloom. Dissolve the sugar and syrup in the hot water and then combine with the gelatine mixture. Set aside to cool. Beat the butter with a whisk attachment on a stand mixer until light in colour – at least 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue to beat for a further 5 minutes. Add the gelatine mixture, spoonful at a time, incorporating well after each addition. The process should take at least 7 minutes with the beaters on full speed. You may need to scrape down the bowl a few times. You will end up with a light and fluffy marshmallow textured cream. Taste for sweetness adding a little extra syrup if required. To assemble White chocolate, melted at room temperature (or plain raw cacao) Milk chocolate, melted at room temperature or Royal Icing (vanilla or lemon + chocolate or coffee) In a cold tart shell, place a 1/2 teas of pomegranate jelly. Top with a tablespoon of butter cream and smooth over to get a flat surface. Place into the fridge to set for 10 minutes. Have the chocolate or icing a smooth consistency and dip the tops of the tarts in the white colour. If your tarts are cold it will set straight away. Using a pastry brush, brush some chocolate over half of the cake and put aside to set. Tip: A little liqueur like Galliano in the butter cream would be yummy! *Really, the pomegranate jelly is so simple its worth doing for the sharp contrast in flavour.