What is a neenish tart?
A neenish tart is an incredibly sweet little round tart, filled with jam, a gelatinous cream made from butter, which Australians call “fake cream”, and topped with two-color icing.
The base is a crisp, buttered shortcrust pastry shell that is just deep enough to hold a little filling. The colors used for the icing are usually a combination of brown, white and pink.
Neenish tarts are exclusively prepared in individual sizes, about 3 inches in diameter.
The different origins of the neenish tart
No one can be sure about the origin of the neenish tart.
The first record of this tart is in an advertisement for the New South Wales Fresh Food & Ice Company in 1895, an Australian factory based in Sydney, specialized in the manufacture of frozen products.
In 1901, a columnist calling herself “housewife” published a neenish tart recipe in The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, the weekly edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. Her recipe was new because she said she didn’t have time to test it.
Her recipe included almonds and a pastry cream filling enriched with lots of butter. Half was topped with coffee-flavored icing and the other half was plain white icing.
Naturally, many variations of this recipe then emerged and evolved over the last century.
Over the years, the recipe for the neenish tart gradually changed. In 1929, a combination of pink and white icing was introduced, while brown icing became chocolate instead of coffee. The pastry cream filling was replaced by a mixture of cream, milk, gelatin, sugar and vanilla extract.
In 1953, the combination of pink and brown colors appeared in the recipes. In 1956, a recipe appeared where almonds completely disappeared from the crust.
Very few Australian pastry chefs still produce this recipe based on pastry cream unfortunately forgotten, the modern commercial version having become the most traditional and consisting of this crispy shortcrust shell filled with jam, a gelatinous cream made from butter, and topped with a two-color icing.
Another recipe was printed in Miranda’s cookbook, Miranda’s recipes in 1932, and differed somewhat from the above two versions.
But the most enduring and popular legend surrounding the invention of the neenish tart, involves a woman named Ruby Neenish in the Australian city of Grong Grong in New South Wales.
The story goes that when preparing for a party in 1913, she would have run out of chocolate icing for her tarts, and then would have used chocolate for half and white icing for the other half.
That said, since this episode took place in 1913, Mrs. Neenish is therefore clearly disqualified as being the inventor of this tart but they were still named in her honor.
The icing of the neenish tart
Icing sugar (powdered sugar or confectioners’ sugar) is an essential ingredient in most icing recipes. The reason is that, thanks to its extremely fine and dusty consistency, it easily mixes with other ingredients.
It is quite possible to prepare icing sugar at home by pulsing standard sugar using a blender or food processor.
In any case, it is also possible to obtain different varieties of excellent icing even without icing sugar.
To obtain 8 oz. of icing sugar, simply mix 7 oz. of regular sugar until dust forms and then add 1 tablespoon of corn starch.
Icing sugar and water (or milk) icing is perhaps one of the oldest pastry recipes, which has remained unchanged over the years, with the exception of one detail, the color. If our grandmothers used it naturally, just white, it can now be enriched with food colors and other powders.
The recipe is very simple, just mix the right amount of icing sugar and liquid to get the desired consistency and then optionally, as in the case of the neenish tart, add some coloring.
How to make the perfect icing
- The icing sugar based icing, whatever the doses of the recipe, can reach different consistencies. You just need to adjust the quantity of liquid to make it more or less fluid.
- The basic white color allows the use of food coloring gel or powder.
- It is possible to use it directly on the surface to be decorated or to prepare the decorations separately and glue them. If you have decided to prepare them separately, choose the pattern that you wish to reproduce, trace it on parchment paper and let it dry.
- How to store it? Water-based icing can be stored for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator, as it tends to harden easily. Before reusing it, just add a little hot water and mix it.
- How to best use this type of icing? Water-based icing is used for example to decorate cookies, as a coating for cakes, or to coat donuts.
So try these little neenish tarts and don’t be fooled by their small size. A single neenish tart, while delicious, is often more than enough due to their extreme sweetness.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour , sifted
- 6 tablespoons cold butter , cut in small cubes
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1½ tablespoon very cold water
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- ½ teaspoon gelatin powder
- 2 tablespoons milk
- ⅓ cup caster sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 tablespoons raspberry jam
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 3 teaspoons milk (or water)
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (100% cocoa)
- Pink food coloring
- Add the flour, butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and. Mix until forming a moist, sandy texture.
- Add the egg yolk and mix until everything is well combined. Finally, add the ice water (½ tablespoon at a time) and pulse between each addition of water until the dough begins to come together.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead very quickly until obtaining a smooth consistency (not long).
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
Spread the dough out about ⅛ inch thick and use a round cookie cutter (about 3 to 4 inches) to cut circles of dough.
- Place each circle in an individual tart pan (greased and floured).
- Place the tartlet pans for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 390F / 200C.
Prick the dough of each tartlet with a fork, and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes until the dough begins to turn golden.
- Then transfer the tarts to a cooling rack until completely cooled.
- Add the boiling water into a small bowl and add the gelatin. Mix and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar and milk into a small saucepan and heat over very low heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir the gelatin, then add it into the hot milk and stir until completely dissolved.
- Allow the milk mixture to cool to room temperature before continuing.
- Beat the butter and vanilla until they are light and creamy. Slowly add the milk mixture, constantly beating.
- Add a layer of raspberry jam into the cooked and cooled tartlets.
- Using a small spatula, spread the cream over the raspberry jam and scrape with the spatula so that the cream is straight and even.
- Mix the sifted icing sugar and the milk until obtaining a smooth spread (add a little water or milk if necessary).
- Transfer half to a separate bowl and add the cocoa, then mix well.
- In the other half, add a small amount of pink food coloring and mix.
- Using a small offset icing spatula, spread the pink icing over half of each tart and let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.
- Repeat with the chocolate icing on the other half of the tartlets.