Traditional British Jam Tarts are a classic, simple, fun, bake and completely delicious. Jam tarts are perfect for vegan afternoon tea parties, picnics, pack lunches, and parties.
Although a sweet jammy crispy tart is a tasty treat anytime of the day with your coffee, tea or a glass of refreshing chilled oat milk.
This jam tart recipe can be easily adapted to be fine for gluten-free diets and is the perfect recipe for kids to have a go in the kitchen.
Origin of jam tarts
The 14th century word tart means 'small pie' and it stems from the French word tarte.
Sweet fruit tarts, similar to jam tarts, have been enjoyed in Britain since at least the medieval times.
However, as sugar was not available in Britain until its introduction by the West Indian trade during the 11th Century, fruit jam prepared with sugar was not available.
Although there are Roman recipes from the 4th Century AD that feature fruits, spices and honey boiled together, cooled and then bottled into jars for future use. Which sounds pretty much like a tasty jam! Also this kind of sweet honey mixture was a common filling added to pastry so technically a sweet fruit jammy tart of sorts!
By the 19 Century jam making was a popular way to preserve fruits using the technique of boiling the fruit in sugar.
There are also many recipes for traditional jam tarts that were prepared during the British Victorian era [early 1800s to the early 1900s].
A particularly common Victorian jam tart called the Epiphany Tart features a large pastry crust [about 8-9 inch possibly bigger] with a large pastry star molded into the pastry base, and different types of jam filling in the star and sides.
The end result is quite impressive with its stained glass window appearance.
The Epiphany Jam Tart is traditionally enjoyed during Epiphany [6th January] which is a Christian feast day.
How to prepare traditional British jam tarts
Any fruit jam can be used for jam tarts including strawberry, raspberry, black currant, black berry, orange, apricot, blueberry, gooseberry, lemon or lime marmalade, ginger or pineapple preserve, etc. During the Victorian era jam was even made with bananas!
Or if your in the US fruit jelly can be used, which is similar to a fruit jam but with the pieces of fruit sieved out to create a much smoother consistency.
Also if a special type of jam is required such as diabetic jam, no-sugar jam, etc., this is fine to use for this recipe.
For the following jam tart batch we used half strawberry jam and half orange marmalade.
Sieve the flour and icing [powdered] sugar into a mixing bowl.
Add the margarine breaking it up into small pieces.
Using your fingertips rub the margarine into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add enough water to bring the pastry together.
Gently knead on a floured surface into a smooth ball.
Wrap the pastry in cling film/Seram wrap or similar and place into the refrigerator for 25-30 minutes, or until required, to chill.
Grease the fairy cake baking tray with margarine.
Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place onto a floured surface. Roll out to about ¼ to ½ cm thick.
Prepare the jam filling by scooping into a dish and stirring it quickly to loosen it up.
Using a cookie cutter stamp out rounds and pop each one into the fairy cake tray. Gently press the pastry case into the tray.
Using a teaspoon scoop up the jam filling and pop it into each pastry shell. Don't fill the pastry up completely or it will bubble and spill over as it bakes.
Leave some room for the jam to spread.
Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the pastry is firm and has golden patches on the edges.
Leave to cool for a few minutes in the baking tray before popping out and placing onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Storage and freezing
Jam tarts are best enjoyed on the day of baking but will keep for up to 2-3 days. Or store in the refrigerator for a few more days.
Jam tarts are best stored within an airtight container, if stacking the tarts then add a layer of parchment paper between the tarts so that they do not become sticky.
Jam tarts can be frozen for up to 3-4 months. Either place in an airtight container with parchment paper between the layers, or first freeze the tarts on a baking tray and once frozen, place the tarts into a freezer bag.
Time saving tips
To save time prepare the sweet shortcrust pastry a day or two in advance and store in the refrigerator. Or even a few weeks or months in advance and store the pastry in the freezer.
Alternatively use a vegan friendly shop-bought shortcrust pastry. Have a look at the popular and supermarket own brands as many are accidently vegan.
Some pastry even comes pre-rolled which is perfect for those who have difficulties preparing or rolling out pastry.
Yes, however the plain flour will need to be replaced with a gluten-free flour such as Dove's Farm [Freee] gluten-free plain flour.
Also add about ¼ teaspoon of xantham gum to the flour as this will help prevent the pastry from being too crumbly.
Finally you may require more water to bring the ingredients together into a pastry dough as gluten-free flour generally is more thirsty compared to wheat flour!
Of course not. The icing sugar provides a lovely crisp and buttery texture to the pastry but it can be replaced with caster or granulated sugar.
Or your preferred powdered or granulated sugar substitute, such as date or coconut sugar.
Alternatively, the sugar can be omitted and a few pinches of salt added to the pastry which would provide a less sweet jam tart.
* pastry works better when chilled, so chill before rolling and using for the recipe
* use chilled vegan margarine, butter or baking fat so that the pastry is cold
* if you have naturally cold hands then this will work in your favour for pastry making!
* if your really dedicated then place your mixing bowl into the refrigerator to chill before adding the pastry ingredients!
* don't over knead the pastry as this may activate the gluten
* if your pastry is too sticky it just needs some more flour sprinkled over and worked in
* if your pastry is too dry and crumbly, work in some more liquid
* add small amounts of water at a time while bringing the pastry mixture together into a dough, and use a metal cutlery knife to stir until the dough starts to clump together, then use your hands to press the dough together, the margarine content will allow the pastry to come together
* if your pastry is not too smooth before it goes into the refrigerator to chill, wrap it up in cling film/Seram wrap and smooth and gently knead the pastry with your hands through the wrap. It does work amazingly.
Planning a vegan afternoon tea party?
These light and soft Buttermilk Scones are ideal filled with whipped cream and a dollop of jam, and this Traditional Fruit Loaf Cake is a must at any delicious tea party. Finally don't forget the iconic Victoria Sponge Cake which is always a family favourite.
For savoury delights bake these classic British Cheese Scones and enjoy this delicious Coronation 'chicken' Chickpeas and Kidney Beans as a tortilla wrap or sandwich filler. Crusts removed is traditional but definitely optional and retaining the crusts is preferred for the sake of frugality!
Traditional Jam Tarts
- Fairy cake baking trays or similar, such as a shallow bun/cup cake sheet pan, mince pie pan, or mini tart pan
- Biscuit/cookie cutter about 2-2½ inch diameter [or use one that is slightly bigger than the diameter of your fairy cake pan holes]
- Rolling pin
- wire rack optional, can just use a chopping board, etc
Sweet shortcrust pastry
- 225 grams plain flour all-purpose flour/ [or replace with gluten-free flour plus ¼ teaspoon xantham gum]
- 115 grams vegan margarine or vegan butter/baking fat
- 30 grams icing sugar powdered sugar [or use caster/granulated sugar]
- 20 teaspoons strawberry jam use heaped teaspoon measurements, and use more if required. [can use a selection of different fruits jams including marmalade]
Prepare the sweet shortcrust pastry: [or use a vegan friendly shop bought shortcrust pastry]
- Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl and give it a stir.
- Add the margarine sliced or scooped into small pieces. Using your finger tips sub the margarine into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add a tablespoon of cold water and stir into the flour mixture. Add an extra few teaspoons of cold water and stir well until the mixture begins to clump together.[Don't use too much liquid just add a little at a time and stir well each time.]Using your hands press the mixture together into a pastry ball.
- Flour your surface and gently knead the dough for a few seconds. If the dough is too sticky work in some extra flour and if the dough is too dry and cracking work in some extra water.
- Wrap the dough in cling film or Seram wrap. Smooth the dough with your hands through the wrap as this can help get the dough into a smoother texture.Alternatively wrap the pastry in some greaseproof/baking paper.
- Place the pastry into a refrigerator to chill for at least 25-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180C / 356 Fahrenheit / Gas 4.
Prepare the jam tarts:
- Grease the fairy cake pans with margarine.
- Sprinkle flour over the work surface.
- Unwrap the pastry and place onto the floured surface. Using a rolling pin roll the pastry out to roughly about ¼-1/2 cm thick.
- Using a biscuit/cookie cutter that is about the same size or slightly bigger as the diameter of your fairy cake pan holes, stamp out circles of pastry.
- Press the pastry into each fairy cake hole. Fill each pastry shell with enough jam or marmalade to fill each tart to about ¾ full.[Wipe away any jam that may have been spilled onto the baking pan especially if its beside or on the pastry shell tops as this can bubble during baking and stick the pastry to the pan.]
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry has light golden bits around the side. Fan ovens may take quicker to bake so check after 15 minutes. Our electric oven took 20 minutes to bake the tarts. Another way to check the tarts are baked is if the bottom of the tarts are firm and lightly golden, but be careful checking as the jam will be very hot.
- [If your oven is small and only one tray of jam tarts can be baked at once, the next set of tarts can be baked soon after.]
- Leave to cool for a few minutes within the baking pan but do transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, as this will avoid any tarts sticking to the tray as they cool.
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Jam tarts are best enjoyed on the day of baking or the next day. But will be fine for 2-3 days, or for a few days longer if stored within the refrigerator.
- Store leftover jam tarts within an airtight container. If stacking the jam tarts into a container then add a layer of greaseproof/baking paper between the layers to avoid the jam sticking to other tarts.
- Jam tarts can be frozen for 3-4 months, cover with food wrap and tin foil or place into an airtight covered freezer container.
- Unwrap the jam tarts and defrost to room temperature.
- Fairy cake baking trays are common in the UK, but for other parts of the world use a shallow bun tray/cup cake tray/mince pie trays, etc.
- For this recipe the fairy cake tray was about 2 inch diameter at the top of each hole, and at the bottom about 1 ½ inch diameter, with the depth being around ½ inch.
- Muffin trays are usually deeper than the shallower fairy cake trays, but could technically still be used, although do adjust the cooking times if more pastry is used per tart.
- If using a larger baking pan compared to the small fairy cake baking pan, the recipe may yield less jam tarts as the tarts produced will be a little larger.
- Jam tarts can also be prepared as one or two large tarts using apple pie/flan baking dishes or similar. Bake until the pastry is lightly golden and cooked.
- Short of time? Prep the pastry a few days in advance or prepare and freeze until required. Or simply use a vegan-friendly shop bought shortcrust pastry. Many brands are accidently vegan so its worth checking the ingredients even if its not labelled vegan.
- For a change vegan puff pastry can be used.
- Icing or powdered sugar gives the pastry a crisper sweet texture, but can be replaced with caster or granulated sugar.
- If preferred use coconut or date sugar, or omit the sugar for a less sweet pastry if desired, and add a pinch of salt.
- Any variety of fruit jam is perfect for jam tarts, including marmalade, ginger or pineapple preserve. As well as home-made jams.
- Use a diabetic or sugar-free jam if necessary.
- For gluten-free jam tarts replace the plain/all-purpose flour for a gluten-free plain flour blend, such as Doves Farm [Freee] gluten-free plain flour. And include a ¼ teaspoon of xantham gum powder as this will help prevent the pastry being too crumbly.
Prepared these tasty vegan British jam tarts?
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All the best Jacq x