This jam tart recipe reminds me of my grandma. My grandma on my mom's side of the family had a reputation for being more of a globetrotting traveler than that of a cook. She was widowed very young and I supposed cooking for one didn't really excite her. I remember a few things about the house she lived in - the smell of rose water in her bathrooms, a collection of tiny, hardback, Beatrix Potter books on her coffee table, and her oatmeal raisin cookies. Other than the cookies I don't remember much about her culinary skills. There is one story my dad loves to tell about the night she accidently baked a rubberband into his breaded porkchop. He still gets a good hearty chuckle out of this one - thirty years later. So given her reputation, you can imagine my surprise when my mom handed me a thread-barren, well-worn cookbook on Christmas morning and told me it was a favorite of my grandmas, given to her when she got married in 1932.
The book is titled Any one can Bake. It was published around 1927 by the Royal Baking Powder Company, it is one hundred pages in length, and the price on the cover is listed as $1.50. This book was clearly well-loved, and well used. There are a few spreads it in that have seen some heavy kitchen action. The recipes are kissed with smears and spatters, and some pages needed to be coaxed apart after years of being stuck together. It appears that muffins, waffles, and griddle cakes were in high rotation in her house.
Detail: School Lunch Illustration
One of my favorite sections is the one where they write about school lunches for kids. The chapter starts off with an illustration of three doll-faced little girls peering into a lunch pail, eager to see what sort of goodies mom had packed them. Delighted, one of the girls exclaims "Oh, look what mother gave me!"
I don't know about you, I mean maybe you were one of the lucky ones, but I don't remember ever having that reaction looking at my own lunch in grade school (sorry mom/dad). My late-1970's era California brown bag lunch consisted of peanut butter and honey on whole wheat, an apple, a single, small, red box of Sun-Maid raisins, and a Capri-Sun (if I was lucky). I still feel small pangs of guilt for throwing away all those apples and raisins over the years.
Towards the end of the School Lunch chapter the book suggests a short list of "recipes appropriate for children"....Butterscotch Curls, Easter Bunny Cakes, Merry-go Round Cake, and Jam Tarts. The Jam Tarts piqued my interest because they were made from a biscuit base rather than a traditional tart dough.
You roll out your biscuit dough and use a cutter to cut out circular shapes. Then go in and use a smaller cookie cutter on half of those. Look at the picture at the top of the page. Can you see how the shape cut with the small cutter is removed? You then stack the doughnut shape on top of one of the solid shapes and fill the center with jam. Cute, delicious, and easy.
Muffins + Waffles
I decided to adapt one of my favorite cornmeal biscuit dough recipes from my book and use that as the base for this recipe. Play around with different shapes and sizes - these are delicious and buttery straight from the oven or at room temperature hours later. These are definitely not shy on the butter front...maybe not the best way to kick of the new year, but they sure are tasty.
Vintage Jam Tarts Recipe
1 cup finely-ground cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 1/2+ cups milk
1 egg, just the egg white
1/3 cup jam (any flavor(s) you like)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Into a large bowl, or preferably, a food processor add the cornmeal, flours, salt, baking powder, sugar. To the dry ingredients add the butter. Using a pastry cutter or 30-35 quick pulses of the food processor, blend the mixture until it resembles tiny, sandy pebbles.
Dump the mixture into a medium bowl, add 1 1/2 cups of milk and with a fork stir just until everything is combined. You are going to roll out the dough, so if it is too wet, stir in a couple extra tablespoons of flour, if it is too dry stir in an extra tablespoon or two of milk. You don't want to overwork the dough, or your tarts will be tough, so stir only as much as you have to.
Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface, pull it together into one large mound, and roll out until it is about 1/3-inch thick. Pat with more flour if things get sticky - sticky dough is your enemy in this recipe. Cut the biscuit dough with a medium cutter (the one I used was about 2-inches across), then cut half the rounds with a slightly smaller cutter.
Brush the large rounds with a bit of egg white - this will give the tarts that nice golden color. Place the outer rings on top, brush those with the egg white, and fill with a bit of jam.
Place the tarts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes - larger tarts will need to bake longer. The rimmed baking sheet is important to use because these tarts tend to have a bit of runoff, and you want to prevent a mess in your oven.
Makes about 1 - 2 dozen tarts, depending on the size of your cutters.