I’ve told you about my book club before – the one where we get together and read the classics a few chapters at a time. We’re working our way through the novels of the Bronte sisters and have just finished reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
All I can say about that is what a ride! My Goodreads review is below:
I’m struggling for words to describe this one. My bookclub is working our way through the Bronte sisters novels and this was our 4th – and the 2nd by Anne. To say it’s an early feminist work is to undersell it. To say it’s irrelevant in today’s world is to misunderstand it. In fact, that’s what I found so powerful and what has stayed with me – the way in which this story is so completely relevant. Even now 173 years after it was first published. Plus ça change and all of that. There are scenes in the book that I can’t get out of my head, that play behind my eyes like a movie I can’t look away from even though I want to. Did I enjoy it? No. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely. Will it stay with me? Absolutely. Reading this book has raised so many emotions. I can completely understand why it was deemed so shocking back then. The message is no less shocking today.
At the end of each of our novels we get together (virtually, given that we’re spread across two hemispheres) and bake something inspired by the novel.
This time around it’s Bakewell Slice. It was going to be Bakewell Tart but someone didn’t have a loose-bottomed tart tin…no names. Anyways, it was easy enough to adapt the recipe for a slice tin and my husband said it made it easier to have with coffee. More on that in a bit.
I’ve taken a few liberties in choosing this slice for this book. Food doesn’t play much of a role in this book. While Jane Eyre had the seed cake (the treat offered to Jane and her friend Helen Burns by their teacher Miss Temple) or the “cake” she was craving while wandering the moors after leaving Rochester, there’s nothing quite so obvious in Tenant.
We assume that the novel is set in West Yorkshire, although there is a scene where a picnic is taken by the sea – which would indicate somewhere on the Lancastrian or Cumbrian coast as opposed to the East Yorkshire coast.
Also, the area of West Yorkshire butts into Derbyshire and the Peak District to the south and Lancashire to the west, so I ventured there for my inspiration and chose something that would be lovely to take on a picnic to the seaside.
Besides, the bake only needs to have been inspired by the book – and not necessarily historically or regionally correct. Yep, my bake, my rules.
Anyways, here’s the recipe. I’ve taken some short cuts to make it able to be prepared and baked in the time we have available so instead of making our own pastry, we’re using frozen pastry. I also didn’t blind bake it as shrinkage in the slice tin would have caused issues.
I used fresh raspberries and raspberry jam, but feel free to use frozen berries or, indeed, no berries at all. Also, I used almond extract, but if you don’t have it in the pantry, don’t worry yourself about it.
Before you begin make sure that your ingredients have been allowed to come to room temperature – this is especially important when it comes to the eggs as they should be the same sort of temperature as the butter in order to avoid it splitting.
Finally, I didn’t top mine with anything, but you can scatter over some flaked almonds if you like – although I’d pop the almonds on when the slice has about 10-15 minutes left to bake rather than from the start. Alternatively you can ice it with a drizzly lemon icing. Your call.
Okay, without further palaver, here’s the recipe…
What you need:
- a couple of sheets of frozen shortcrust pastry or 500g sweet shortcrust pastry
- 6 tbsp raspberry jam
- about 300g raspberries
- 200g butter, softened
- 200g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
What you do with it:
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C (fan 180C) and grease and line a 30cm x 20cm slice tin with baking paper, leaving some overhang which will make it easier for you to lift the slice out of the tin.
- If you’re using frozen sheet pastry, cut out the pastry to fit the base of the tin. If you need to fill in any gaps, overlap it slightly and press the pieces of pastry together lightly with the back of a spoon. If you’re using a pre-made slab of pastry, roll it out to fit the base and the sides of the tray.
- Spread the jam across the pastry base and scatter over the berries (if using).
- Place the butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth and creamy – an electric hand whisk is fine for this.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Adding 1 tablespoon of ground almonds after each addition will help bring the mix together. Add the flour, the rest of the ground almonds, the almond extract and stir well. Spoon the mixture over the jammy pastry and spread to make an even-ish layer, taking care not to squash your berries.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until well-risen, firm and golden.
- Resist the urge to dive into it and let it cool in the tin. If youre intending on icing it, mix together 300g (sifted) icing sugar and 3 tablespoons water to make a thick icing. Using a knife that has been dipped into hot water, spread it across the top of the cooled slice, decorate with some glace cherries and leave to set.