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What is a Neenish Tart?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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A neenish tart or neinich tart is a popular dessert in Australia, and may have been invented in New South Wales, Australia, possibly around the beginning of the 20th century. There are only suggestions on what the origin of the neenish tart may be, but it is known that a recipe for neenish tarts was printed for the first time in the 1929 Miss Drake’s Home Cookery. A second recipe printed in the 1932 Miranda’s Cookbook and differs somewhat from the 1929 version. The tarts may have been named after a woman named Ruby Neenish. In such accounts, Ms. Neenish didn’t create the tarts, but they were instead named in her honor. Another suggestion is that the alternate spelling suggests invention in Germany, yet this has not been proven.

The neenish tart is a round pastry, made in individual servings. They’re usually approximately 4 inches (10.16 cm) in diameter. The bottom of the tart is made of pastry, somewhat close to piecrust pastry but with a little added sugar. The bottom crust is placed in small pie tins. This is where recipes and ingredients begin to differ. In some recipes, custard is added to the tins and both pastry and custard bake together. In other recipes for neenish tarts, the pastry is baked and filled with mock cream or butter cream.

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Both recipes may then recommend adding a small amount of jam before the entire tart is frosted in two contrasting colors. In early recipes the two frostings were usually vanilla and chocolate. Today, the vanilla frosting may be given a dash of red food coloring so that the two colors are pink and brown.

Other differences may exist from recipe to recipe. For instance, lemon mock cream and jam may be suggested, or the baked tart shell may be filled with premade custard. Since so much variance exists, it’s fine to be free with how you fill the tarts, either pudding or mock cream are fine, and any type of jam would be acceptable, except perhaps grape. The main thing that makes this tart a neenish tart, and which most recipes agree upon, is making sure to have contrasting frosting on the top of chocolate and vanilla, or even chocolate and lemon.

The tarts can make a pretty dessert to serve. If you use a light custard or pudding filling with jam, the frosting top won’t make the dessert too sweet. Otherwise, in a sense, the neenish tart is like a small pastry bowl of frosting, and may be overly sweet to some people’s palates. Yet in the many forms they come, the neenish tart is greatly enjoyed.

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