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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Three Tarts: Fresh Fruit with Vanilla Cream, Warm Bittersweet Chocolate, and Lemon-Lime Meringue

I am fantastically amused by Food Challenge/Competitions TV shows…I get quite involved (some might say too involved)… commenting incessantly, getting overjoyed when my favorite Chef wins, and flustered when a contestant does something I deem foolish (who in their right mind would attempt a Crème Brulee in 15 minutes?!?).

My amusement towards these shows is wrapped with curiosity….how would I fare in such competitions? Well, during Saturday’s Pastry Class, I got a little taste (I can’t resist throwing in a food pun now and again). Christa divided the students into teams, which were our “Bakeries”. One person on each team was assigned as the Pastry Chef, and the others were their assistants.

I got to be the Pastry Chef, which was energizing. First item of business, our bakery needed a name. It turned out that the first name initials of my teammates and I were P, B and J. How perfect! We decided to pay homage to that cozy little sandwich and be the “PB&J Bakery”.

Our fairy tale bakery was given a list of orders to complete, which included three tarts (each with a listed time for pick up by the customer) and multiple batches of Croissant dough which we would bake during the next class. [*Aside* I will write a post on Croissants in the near future. They are butterly magnificent, and a lesson in food science as well.]

Back to PB&J Bakery….our first order was for a Fruit Tart with a Dark Chocolate lined crust, a Vanilla Bean Custard filling and fresh Fruit decorating the top. When we were an hour away from the supposed “pick-up” time, we were told that the client had called and would be coming half an hour early. We had to scramble a bit, but we got our Fruit Tart done just in time. The dark chocolate lining on the crust is an excellent twist…it brings more balance and elegance to the flavor. The vanilla custard is comforting and rich, with the lightness of fresh fruit on top. It’s really outstanding.

Next, we had an order for a Warm Bittersweet Chocolate Tart, which makes me weak in the knees just thinking about…it is just THAT delicious. The filling is intense, not overly sweet, but incredibly rich and smooth. The crust has nuttiness from the almonds in the dough, and a delightful crunch that works perfectly with the creamy filling. We had to expedite this tart too for another hurried customer who showed up ahead of schedule. We got the tart done on time, but we wanted to do more with the decoration on top…I will admit that the flower petals are hiding a less than perfect design.

Our third order was for a Lemon-Lime Meringue Tart. I like the Lemon-Lime combination…the lime gives the filling an extra zing, and the meringue is light and marshmallow-like. After baking off the filling and topping it with meringue, we got out the blow torch to brown the top (please note that the browning can be done in the oven if you don’t have a blow torch laying around…). The blow torch is quite touchy and can do a LOT of damage in a small about of time if you aren’t careful…I ended up scorching some parts of the meringue (I even created a small fizzling almost-fire at one point)….but in the end, it turned out to be lovely. We successfully got the tart out in time, thus completing all orders for the day. I was happily exhausted in the end…I wonder what will come next.

I'm including the recipe of the Fruit Tart, which I've adapted below. If you are interested in any of the other tart recipes, email me and I'll send them along.

Fruit Tart
1 2/3 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
9 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 1” cubes
1 egg yolk
3-5 Tbsp ice water (depending on dough consistency)

Dark Chocolate (62%), melted over a water bath (this is for painting the baked and cooled tart shell...I didn’t measure this when I did it. Just use your best guess and if you have leftover chocolate, dip some fruit or cookies in it for later)

Vanilla Custard filling:
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups scalded milk (which means the milk is heated up until it is right below a boil, then use it)
1 Tbsp butter
1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract, or ½ Vanilla Bean (If you are using the vanilla bean, use a paring knife to cut a full vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Then, using the dull side of the knife, scrape out the seeds to use. You can put the unused vanilla bean pod with the seeds removed into a bag of sugar and *presto* Vanilla Sugar at your service!)
2 Tbsp Kirsch or Cognac (if desired)

1 cup red currant jelly or apricot preserves
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Kirsh or Cognac (if desired)
Fresh Fruit (berries, kiwis, mango, grapes, cherries, etc.)

Make the dough:
Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the butter globs are the size of peas and crushed crackers (don’t over-mix or crust will be tough). Mix the egg yolk with 3-5 Tbsp cold water in a small bowl. Stir this into flour mixture with a fork. Bring the dough together with your fingers (very gently) and turn onto a counter. Using the heel of your hand, smear parts of the dough across the counter once (this is called “fraisage”). Mound the dough back together with a bench scraper. Do this 3 times to bring the dough together with minimal handling. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and press into a disc shape. Chill for ~30 minutes.

Line tart pan with dough:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Roll dough to 1/8” think and lay carefully over a 9” tart pan. Cut off excess dough, leaving a 1” border. Reinforce the edges with the extra dough and pinch off any extra that you don’t use. Prick the base with a fork. Chill again for 10 minutes. Fill unbaked tart shell with parchment paper and pie weights, then blind bake the shell for 15-18 minutes. Remove pie weights and bake another 10-12 minutes until golden and fully cooked. Cool completely.

Make the Vanilla Custard filling:
In a bowl, beat (using a whisk) the egg yolks until sticky, gradually add the sugar and beat until thick. Beat in the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Then gradually pour in the scalded milk, still beating. Pour this mixture into the saucepan (add the ½ vanilla bean if using) and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Keep mixture at boil for 1 minute (still stirring constantly) as it thickens. Then, remove from heat, beat in the butter and the vanilla extract (if not using the vanilla bean) and Kirsch or Cognac. Strain into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (so that the wrap is touching the top of the custard) and chill.

Brush melted chocolate onto baked and cooled tart shell and let harden (only cover the bottom and internal sides of the tart shell with chocolate, but leave the top edge as is).

Make Glaze (to brush on top of fruit once tart is compiled):
Heat jelly or preserves the sugar and Kirsch or Cognac.

Once chocolate is set, fill the tart with the Vanilla Custard and top it with fresh fruit (making sure to crowd the fruit on in whatever design pleases you). Then, using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the fruit (do this for all fruit except for raspberries…which repels the glaze and makes it look beady).

1 comment:

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