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A Manchester tart is a dessert that is made up of a pastry crust topped with a layer of raspberry jam, spread with custard, and garnished with sprinkled coconut. It is a traditional dessert in British cuisine, which tends to historically consist of simple dishes with few ingredients. The tart is thought to have originated in the late 1800s in Manchester, England and is often served to children at English schools as part of their lunchtime meals.
The base of a traditional Manchester tart is generally a shortbread pastry. Shortbread pastry has a thicker, more crumbly texture and richer flavor than other types of pastry crust due to the high amount of butter in comparison to flour. It also does not contain as high of an amount of sugar as other types of pastry. The shortbread crust for the tart is traditionally homemade, but more modern recipes often allow for a store-bought shortbread dough. Once the dough is prepared, it is placed into the bottom of a tart pan, a flat pan similar to a pie pan but deeper and with straight sides rather than the sloped slides of a pie pan.
The process of making a Manchester tart usually begins with baking the shortbread pastry crust for about 15 minutes or until it is slightly golden brown in order to allow it to become firm enough to withstand the additional filling ingredients without becoming soggy. Raspberry jam is then spread across the crust after it cools, then topped with chilled custard, a mixture made from eggs, milk, vanilla, and sugar that are cooked together until thickened. The dessert is generally garnished with toasted, shredded coconut, which also may be added into the jam and custard layers for additional flavor and texture.
Aside from baking the pastry crust, a Manchester tart does not require baking time. It can be served right away or chilled after it is assembled in order to allow for the custard to firm. Chilling also gives time for the flavors of the other ingredients to meld together. The exact chilling time may vary, but a commonly recommended time in many recipes is about one hour.
Although the traditional Manchester tart consists of shortbread pastry, raspberry jam, custard, and coconut, there are also variations on the recipe. Different flavors of jam, such as strawberry or apricot, may be used in place of the raspberry. Fresh fruit pieces may also be incorporated into the custard and jam layers to add more texture and flavor. Some tart recipes also call for finishing the dessert by topping it with whipped cream.