30
Aug

Tartine Baking Project: #70 Fresh Fruit Tart

First of all, did you know honey turned into beautiful dew drops when you drizzle it on fruit?!  DID YOU KNOW THAT?  Life changing stuff.

Second of all, it’s happening.  I should say it happened, for the most part – there are just two recipes left after this!  The onslaught of wild and crazy emotions are heavy, and somewhat surprising, as the final recipe approaches.  I felt quite like I did as a senior in high school as I was graduating, “This is the last time I will walk in this hallway.  This is the last time I will eat lunch with my friends.  This is the last paper I will turn in.”  Of course, since graduating high school I’ve walked down hallways, turned in countless papers since then, and have enjoyed many lunches with amazing friends.  I felt the same dramatic tendencies as I made this tart – “This is the last tart shell, the final batch of pastry cream, the final time I’ll need a rolling pin.”  I know I will do all of that so many more times, it’s not like when I spent months training then ran a half marathon and then stopped running for seven months after I finished the race.  Thinking in terms of lasts just seems to be the way I’ve begun to process the end of this project.

Now, let’s chat about the best tart I’ve ever made.  I had so much fun gathering up the necessities for this one.  Produce from Michigan is some high quality stuff.  Seriously, and I’ve lived in California!  We’ve got such amazing fruit, well, usually.  This year we were hit with really early heat.  In March, so much pale winter skin was exposed when we had a string of days that were warm!  The norm is to be bundled up, sometimes well into April.  It didn’t stick, and another freeze came.  The heat wave did stick long enough to trick fruit trees though, which meant a season with no fruit.  And for some, it killed entire trees permanently.  Apple orchards, the idol of fall in Michigan, will have weak crops and will likely have to ship in apples from out of state.  Sheesh!  So sad!  But, I did mention that this tart was the best tart I’ve ever made – I found some really good peaches at the farmers’ market.  Very exciting stuff, folks.

Pastry cream is probably my favorite thing to make, certainly my favorite thing to eat.  I know I’ve said this before, but if I could marry pastry cream I would, I just love it so much.  I’d like to ask Obama and Romney what their thoughts on that would be – I’m assuming neither party could get behind that.  I guess that’s a good thing.  This tart is one of the simplest recipes in the cookbook – sweet tart shell, pastry cream, and fresh fruit.  I added some mint from my backyard, and that magical drizzle of honey.  Dan wants me to add a disclaimer: “It’s really not simple.  I saw you make it, but then eating it – yes, so simple and one of my favorite things you’ve made.”  I’ve made so many tart shells and batches of pastry cream, and it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say it’s simple stuff to make, but to someone who’s never spent time baking I would venture to say it’s not the simplest thing ever.  Simply judging from eating it, such a simple, unfussy dessert.  Perfection, really.

I shared this with a handful of friends, and it’s definitely a crowd pleaser.  I keep just staring at the photos and smiling, the same way I look at baby photos of Jack.  It was fun to share with many friends, one of which is pregnant.  She liked it, like really liked it.  She was so excited, it actually made her blush the brightest shade of red I’ve ever seen a person as she let us know just how it made her feel.  Some people say burping after a meal is a compliment, I vote that her response is the highest compliment that ever has been or ever will be.

A giveaway comes along with the final three recipes of the Tartine cookbook!  You could win!!!  Leave a comment here letting me know the best dessert you’ve ever eaten.  All comments need to be left on this post by midnight on September 4th, and I will announce the winner on September 5th here!

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UPDATE!  And the winner is…#19!

Craig says:

Beautiful looking fresh fruit tart…. Elegant…
The best dessert I’ve ever eaten is one I can still see how ever far it is from her in Australia and that is simply the Bread (Brioche) Pudding at Tartine…

Congrats!  Please send your mailing address to kastner (dot) emily (at) gmail (dot) com!  So excited for you!  Now you can make that bread pudding you love!

 

16
Aug

Tartine Baking Project: #68 Blackberry Tart with Rosewater Cream

Let’s just start out being completely honest here.  This lovely blackberry tart was supposed to have a cream infused with Rose Geranium leaves.  I spent a ridiculous amount of time calling around to find such a plant.  I started with greenhouses and nurseries, moved on to specialty food stores, a bee farmer who makes flavored honey and also soaps, then on to fellow bakers who pointed me in the direction of a tea house.  Most people had no idea what the plant was, and even after I described it and let them know that I needed it for baking that very day, I received many suggestions to order seeds online.  I didn’t have that kind of time!  Every failed attempt made me want to keep searching even more.  Someone in Kalamazoo had to have a secret little potted rose geranium plant sitting on some window sill somewhere.  Right?!  With more sleuthing (which means more Google searches), I decided to call around to some Middle Eastern restaurants and grocers.  I felt like I was onto something here.  NO. LUCK. The recipe did suggest using rosewater as an alternative, but it felt like the easy way out.

Like many a tart I’ve made before, the process for this tart was pretty simple.  Whipping up sweet tart dough and pastry cream has become second nature.  This go round, it involved folding whipped cream and rosewater into the pastry cream.  (I bet that lady on the rosewater bottle would know where I could find rose geranium leaves…)  Since I now have a bottle of rosewater, I’m excited to look up some uses for the stuff.  It smells amazing.

Here’s a little behind the scenes tidbit: I was excited to wear a skirt I recently thrifted for these photos.  It’s a lovely high-waisted tea length skirt, covered in roses.  I was all set to take photos of me holding the tart, and realized Dan and Jack were gone and no one could take my photo.  Off went the skirt, and it became a lovely tablecloth.

After picking through and finding the ripest blackberries in the bunch, I topped off the tart with a tiny dusting of confectioners’ sugar.  The ripe berries and the rosewater are such a nice pair.  With nearly every bite, it’s difficult to not think of how amazing it would have been with those dumb rose geranium leaves though.  Some day I will find that elusive plant.  I feel like that crazy explorer guy from the movie UP – you know the one with all the dogs hunting for that bird and people think he’s nuts and he made up the bird?  That’s how I feel!  THE BIRD EXISTS AND SO DOES THIS PLANT!

Okay, enough of all that.  This tart is delicious, and rosewater is lovely.  It’s quite the sensory experience, eating this tart.  Even on a gray, drizzly day like we’ve been having enjoying this tart fills you up with summer.

p.s. This is the last day to enter to win the Tartine Bread cookbook!  It’s so lovely, worth the few moments it takes to leave a comment!

5
Apr

Tartine Baking Project: #53 Frangipane Tart with Raspberries and Kumquat Glaze

There are some things in life that I would pay a lot of money for.  Good shoes.  Good jeans.  Good shampoo.  And, anything involving really good pastry cream.  I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to any dessert with that stuff.  Doughtnuts, éclairs, tarts, etc.  Once I even spit out an éclair because the filling was so off.  I mean that’s not the norm.  Usually, I’d just eat something like that begrudgingly and complain a lot to Dan.  If I’m around anyone else, I’d just have a very whiny inner monologue.  ALL THIS BEING SAID, THIS TART DOESN’T EVEN INCLUDE PASTRY CREAM!  But it could.  And that’s my point.  There is the frangipane cream that uses the pastry cream, and then there’s the frangipane variation.  Since I’m baking every single recipe in this cookbook, I found it necessary to use the variation (that doesn’t involve first making pastry cream) in order to check that off the list.  I kept thinking, “This is going to be good…but it probably could even be better if…”  Even as I served it up, I completely had that weird adolescent self-loathing attitude.  “Here’s the frangipane tart guys.  I mean, it’s probably going to be good.  I guess.  Like, maybe.  It could totally be better though.”

Winter fresh local raspberries!  What the what?!  How have I not stumbled on these earlier, like in the real winter?!  Yet another reason I love our local co-op.  Wow.  I was so excited to include these in this tart, it’s unreal.  I was also excited to include some of the kumquat marmalade my friend Lee had made for me as a thank you for some mini chocolate hazelnut tarts I shared.  How sweet!  This recipe called for apricot jam, but I couldn’t resist using what I had available.  Raspberries, kumquats and almonds seemed like a perfect trio.  Now I need to give Lee some of this tart and we’ll just have this amazing cycle of sharing food with each other!

I was so excited to see how it puffed up like it did.  I had no idea what to expect, and this was a perfect goldeny surprise.  You brush the glaze on when it’s still warm from the oven.  Our house was filled with such a brilliant aroma.  I need to find a way to bottle that up and make a candle.  But that’s probably a bad idea.  Those specific candles, like Apple Cinnamon Christmas Pie or Cherry Strudel Baking In The Oven,  are only good for one or two uses, and then you’re like, “I GET IT!”

The finished product was amazing.  Once I took a bite, I totally forgot about the lack of pastry cream.  It was so incredibly good!  As was my day in the kitchen.  My friend’s daughter is on Spring Break, so I convinced her that babysitting Jack  was the best way to spend a precious school-free afternoon.  It was actually so nice that I am in the process of convincing both her and her parents that skipping school one afternoon a week is a good idea.  Not really, but at least summer vacation is a few months away!

23
Feb

Tartine Baking Project: #43* Mango Cream Tart

So, you see that asterisk? Yeah, Mango Cream Tart is not a recipe in the Tartine cookbook.  I started out with the intent to make Lemon Cream Tarts.  I had a round of pastry dough in the freezer, so I thought I’d saved myself a step.  Then I realized that recipe called for the sweet tart dough, not the flaky tart dough I had on hand.  I switched it up and decided on making Frangipane Tart.  I was so excited to make tiny tarts (I’ve only made 9 and 10 inch pies and tarts thus far), so I rolled them out and baked them up!

As I held a cooling shell in my hand early this morning, I realized I wasn’t supposed to fully bake the shells for the Frangipane Tarts.  Ah!!!!  I was still thinking about those Lemon Cream Tarts!  So, I decided today was the day to improvise!  I’m counting it in the recipe tally, but there is a little asterisk by the number just because it’s not entirely from the cookbook.

I decided to toast the rest of the slivered almonds I had from the toffee I made the other day.

I absolutely love pastry cream, and any excuse to make it (and inevitably eat a lot of it!) is always a top priority.  Those little flecks of vanilla bean make my heart skip a beat, so I had to include it today. 

On the hunt for the best looking fruit at the grocery store today, I settled on mangoes.  And, perfect timing because I read this article over on The Kitchn blog about how to cut a mango.  I’ve actually cried cutting mangoes before.  I think it was the stress of exams and a bad break-up, but the difficulty of cutting the mango probably pushed me over the edge and brought the waterworks.  So thanks, The Kitchn, no more tears and there’s now a moment of a beautiful bloomin’ mango thing.

Once I assembled these little guys they looked like they were missing something.  They would’ve had heaping piles of mango, but one of the mangoes I grabbed today was bad.  Figures.  So, I opted to make some softly whipped cream to top it off.

I’ve never been so calm when everything seemed to be going awry.  I can be such a perfectionist, and honestly pretty hard on myself when things don’t turn out exactly how I’d envisioned them.  If I was more technologically savvy I would cue up that sappy “Full House” music when you reach this point in the post.  (And I’d have Danny Tanner read the rest of this aloud for you.)  I’m just learned a great deal about baking and myself as I move through this book.  That nervousness and anxiety is fading as I am becoming more of a confident baker.  So that’s pretty great.

These tarts ended up being a real favorite around here.  The little dude was dancing around as we split one, and Dan proclaimed, “This is the best thing you’ve ever made.”  I don’t know about that, but these were definitely worth making again some time.  And, most certainly worth the three miles I will run today.

24
Oct

Recipe #9: Wild Mushroom Tart

I’d planned this Sunday dinner about a week ago, and was completely excited for the last-minute prospect of dinner guests to join in on the fun!  Turns out that I loved this creation so much I was bummed that people came over because there are no wild mushroom tart leftovers!  No, I shouldn’t say that.  I should just think it. 

Many of the recipes I’ve tackled thus far have involved this flaky tart shell.  It’s amazing to me that every single recipe is so very different and unique, when the base is exactly the same.  You know what else is amazing?  The fact that I get to the same point in the recipe that calls for pie weights to ensure the crust doesn’t rise, and I am never prepared!  Still!  There’s usually a minor scrambling, but today even involved a quick trip to the store.  I’ve dabbled in a few rice varieties, but beans seemed heavier, so I went with some Great Northern beans. 

It’s also crazy how I’ve read this recipe more than a dozen times (lots of re-reading when I’m baking), and I read new things each time.  Today I read the about the fork trick.  I had the inclination to do this before, but I was concerned I would ruin it.  The directions give permission for the fork trick, poking the crust with a fork if it rises a bit once it’s in the oven after you take out the pie weights, or Great Northern beans in my case. 

I kind of overdid it on the fork poking trick.

My first rendezvous with shallots, which seems strange because I’m no stranger to the kitchen.

The recipe calls for a variety of mushrooms, which was very exciting to me.  I was ready and eager to find the most exotic mushrooms this wonderful town has to offer!  The cookbook mentions porcini and black trumpets, and a friend made great suggestions of king oyster and chanterelles.  All of these gourmet recommendations were wonderful, but I guess this town o’ mine is hiding these fungi treasures.  I found none of these.  I could make a million wild mushroom tarts from button mushrooms though seeing how Kalamazoo has button mushrooms coming out of its ears.  Sounds crazy plain and boring, right?  I ended up scavenging four different varieties so that this wild mushroom tart would live up to its name: Baby bellas, button, shitake, and Enoki mushrooms which are tiny and look like the ones you’re not supposed to eat in the woods because you’ll die.  I just used a few of those.

If you stepped through the gates of heaven I’m pretty sure it would smell like sauteing shallots in butter. 

Then, you’d start walking around in heaven and you’d be all “What???  It smells even better?!”  That’s when you’d start smelling the mushrooms in the sauté mix.

De-glazing the pan with a little bit of lemon juice and water, to ensure all the little bits are off the bottom.  Those bits are très important.

More separating egg whites and yolks!  This time I need the yolks, which were to be mixed in with crème fraiche.  (Oh yeah, more crème fraiche!  Fancy!)  When I was at the grocery store this morning I actually saw a little plastic contraption in the shape of a dumb cartoony chicken.  I was tempted to get it because it promised to perfectly separate eggs!  I just stood there, staring at it, having a WWJCMSOEPD? moment.  I walked away, concluding you’d never see Julia Child, Martha Stewart, or Elisabeth Prueitt use such a device.  And, what kind of chicken would want to help separate egg yolks from the whites?  It seemed like a trap.

I don’t know though, I’m still on fence.  Maybe I need one of those!

This probably looks like death in a pie dish to those sad people in the world who have a distaste for mushrooms.  To those people I say, I’m sorry for your lot in life that you may never experience the joy and supernatural power of this wild mushroom tart.  I don’t know, if there was ever something that could sway you I think this would win you over.  That’s probably just my blind optimism. 

This right here warms my l’il baking heart.  There’s nothing quite like a completely empty dish at the end of a meal.  Catching up with old friends over a meal, (as well as friends that are frequent guests at the dinner table), is one of my favorite things in the entire world.  My true goal is for a fistfight to break out for the last piece of something I make.  I’d be happier with a verbal altercation actually.  It didn’t happen tonight, but we’ve still got lots of time for that. 

13
Oct

My first flaky tart shell…of many!  The sides are a bit wonky…more on this later!

My first flaky tart shell…of many! The sides are a bit wonky…more on this later!