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I finally tried a Gypsy Tart and can’t believe it was a school dinner staple

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Original article from Kent Live

If Kent schoolchildren are fed Gypsy Tart at lunch, I can only feel for whichever poor teacher has them in the afternoon.

Looking back at the ingredients for the much-loved sweet treat, I should have known it could only taste good.

The filling for a Gypsy Tart is merely condensed milk and heaps of dark muscovado sugar.

There simply isn't anything in the tart that could make it taste bad, even with my sometimes misfiring baking skills.

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Nonetheless, when I set off on my quest to try a Gypsy Tart I was a little hesitant.

Despite watching the occasional series of The Great British Bake Off and spending a couple of years of my university life living with an avid baker, I had never heard of the Kentish delicacy.

It wasn't until I started working in Kent that I came across the pudding.

Here at KentLive we recently asked our Facebook followers to name something quintessentially Kentish.

Many of the responses were, of course, the Gypsy Tart and, as a sweet tooth, I decided I had to give it a try.

Seeing as the pudding is a little out of fashion these days, I decided to set about making one from scratch rather than hunting in supermarket bakerys.

I read various websites which warned of the difficult nature of the task with cooking times varying from two minutes to half an hour.

I opted for the BBC Good Food recipe as what seemed like the safest bet.

First I tackled the pastry, which I made from scratch to fully immerse myself in the experience.

The recipe insisted on using a food processor, which I did not have to hand, so it was a bit of a battle.

A few expletives and a fight with a rolling pin later and the first hurdle was out the way.

Serious whisking

Next was to make the filling.

Mixing the filling by hand was an uphill battle

The recipe asked me to use an electric whisk to beat the evaporated milk and sugar for 20 minutes.

That seemed an incredibly long time and when I realised I was not in possession of an electric whisk, I imagined I'd be there for nearly an hour to get the 'light and fluffy' texture required.

I whisked and whisked and whisked until my bicep had doubled in size.

Still, I was nowhere near the required texture.

Luckily at that moment, my prayers were answered.

A housemate produced an electric whisk from her cupboard, snapped in the metal ends and I was off.

My newfound power initially caused a sugary explosion of filling across the kitchen but, once the mixture was transferred into a vessel with higher sides, we were soon at the right consistency. Into the oven the filling went.

I took it out after 15 minutes, stumped by what the recipe meant in saying that its texture should be 'tacky'.

I sent a photo to my editor, a born and bred Kent local, for some advice.

Deserving of a Paul Hollywood handshake?

She ominously reassured me it didn't look "far off" which I took as good enough reason to let it set.

All plans were set to enjoy the tart after dinner, giving it time to set.

Disaster

However, disaster struck as my housemate was dishing up the lasagne he had made that evening.

He was recklessly carrying the meal over the Gypsy Tart and inevitably a few rogue drops of tomato sauce dripped down onto my baked masterpiece.

That proved to be the first moment I really understood the texture of the tart. When trying to dab off the sauce, the filling just disappeared and left a crater where we had tried to resurrect it.

When I did eventually have my first mouthful of the dessert, it was that texture I first noticed.

The filling was incredibly soft and contrasted well with the firm pasty base.

It's maybe a good thing you don't eat with your eyes

The taste was incredibly sweet, but that didn't surprise me having seen all the ingredients which had gone in.

The cream which the recipe encouraged me to serve it with worked well with the sugary taste.

Overall it was an enjoyable experience but I couldn't have more than a small slice at any one time.

Whether it beats other desserts out there, I'm not sure.

The humbleness of the Gypsy Tart is where its strength lies, I understood how its simplicity could lead it to be a local classic.

That said, I'm not sure I'll be rushing for another slice until I've fully come down from my sugar high.

I can't believe this was a school dinner staple.

Original Article