Be.Baking has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in a few seconds. If not, visit and update your bookmarks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ups and Downs in Tartville

Monday night’s Pastry Class was a haze of heat, butter, and emotional turmoil.  Not only was it was the first 80+ degree day of the year in San Francisco, but we made Tarts…more specifically, Tart dough.  Tart dough is mostly made of butter and needs to be kept chilled…or else the butter melts…excessively.    Case in point, our teacher Christa couldn’t even convince her dough to cooperate during the demo.  Instead, the dough just started sticking to everything it could attack and oozed around the counter.  This is the point we all should have fled the scene screaming.  But instead, we stuck around to be TARTured (sorry, when it comes to food puns, I just can’t help myself). 

The basic formula for the Tart au Citron  (-aka- Lemon Tart) with a Pate Sucree crust (a sweet and flaky crust) I was assigned:

1.        1. Make the tart dough (8 oz. butter, ½ cups sugar, 2 egg yolks, pinch of salt, 3 cups flour, 2 tablespoons heavy cream) and divide it in half to make two tart shells.

2.        2. CHILL

3.       3. Roll dough out and cut into the exact circle size of the tart pan

4.       4. CHILL

5.       5. Put dough in your tart pan perfectly (which is harder than it sounds)

6.       6. CHILL

7.       7. “Blind-bake” the dough, meaning you need to cover your dough with parchment and dried beans (to weigh it down) which allows the crust to bake a little so it won’t be soggy when you add the filling

8.       8. Fill the tart with a beautiful home-made lemon curd

9.       9. Bake the whole tart (the filling needs to be baked too).

The recipe seemed so straightforward, but proved difficult as an 80 degree day led to a 90 degree kitchen…with ovens blasting at 375 and chefcoat-clad students involuntarily playing slip and slide on buttery tart dough. I felt like a drunken hyena suffering from a mild case of heat stroke…and I was somehow supposed to be coordinated enough to create a delicate Lemon Tart?

As I was verbally abusing my tart dough, things were awry around me.   One tart shell plunged to an untimely death as it was being removed from the oven…its flaky remains a perfect symbol for the evening. 

Simultaneously, an oven started expelling smoke and the dried beans (being used to "Blind-Bake" the filling-less tart shells) began fumigating the room with an unpleasant, too-earthy odor. The overall kitchen vibe was laughably spastic. 

It was about 9:15pm when I realized that there was no way I was going to have everything done in time for plating and presenting (at 9:30).  I was heading high speed towards a perfect tart pan ZERO of an evening.  By nothing short of a small miracle, I did manage to finish one lousy tart pan of baked dough (which Christa pointed out was slightly under-baked)…not exactly a brag-worthy evening.  I had to leave the remaining tart components I had partially finished in the fridge for next class.

Update:  It is now Thursday evening, and I am happy to report that I have made a full recovery from the Tart Disaster of 2009. Christa, feeling sorry for her defeated students, held a Tart Re-Do Class.  It effectively restored the Pastry Morale, and gave everyone a second chance to create an elegant, beautiful, and impressive tart. The combination of intense cravings for tarts, and the fear of second failure proved beneficial.  I found myself baffled by how wonderful all the tarts looked and tasted…it leaves me daydreaming (and drooling) over what delicious creations are up next.

No comments: