Tag Archives: tart

Riding the Tide of the Season

A green brush stroke at its base the last remnant of the life force that thrust into being its violaceous stalk, each tip pricked a muted gold…

The idea of local-seasonal food choices as a component of food ethics has been under my skin since it was first discussed in a food ethics class at the Oregon Culinary Institute.

Now that the seasonal tide has turned in favor of the freshest, most beautiful and most flavorful produce, the choices become easier.

Hoods!
Hoods!

Each week for the past month I’ve bought flats of tiny, early berries for strawberry-rhubarb compote, fresh strawberry sauce for strawberry-Moscato torte and as garnish for strawberry

Baba au Rhum
Baba au Rhum

shortcake and Baba au Rhum.

If I back this season up up by 45-60 days, my fruit choices are limited to Central Valley California, Mexico and Chile, a completely different depth of flavor and tenderness, and a whole lot of food miles.

I look at the issue professionally and personally. While baking and pastry is my profession, the Nicoletta’s Table pastry department also IMAG1059bakes daily savory tarts for the customer. Easy access to out-of-season zucchini, IMAG1054asparagus and onions, although convenient, does not equate to the baby zucchini, lithe IMAG1055asparagus and spring onions (particularly cipollini) currently in the market.

 

To me, choosing fruit and vegetables in season means not choosing them when they’re out of season.

Asparagus-Chevre Tart
Asparagus-Chevre Tart

If I’ve made a personal commitment to eat seasonally, I then must extend that commitment to my profession.

Let the sweetness of the season begin…

 

 

Autumnal Pastry Wedding

Fleeting ripeness portends kisses of chewy, jammy wine… 

A year, a seeming heartbeat, has passed since Oregon’s plum and grape bounty first revealed its intensely sweet succulence to me.

Now, with a Baking & Pastry Management degree from the Oregon Culinary Institute in my back pocket and as pastry chef at Nicoletta’s Table in Lake Oswego, I’m interested in ways the local bounty can be translated into fall desserts.

Enter Spiced Plum and Grape Tart. I felt the puritanical feature of IMAG0277my personality that surfaces as a love of intensely singular flavors falling away as I considered how best to enhance plums and grapes. The barest pinch of cloves, a few grindings of nutmeg, orange zest and a blush of cardamom. Vanilla bean-seeded sugar… just enough to support the flavor profile.

The Santa Rosa plum, Damson, the culinary plum, and Jupiter IMAG0279seedless Muscat grapes with a mildly tart skin. Amazing natural sweetness and depth of flavor.

As a new pastry chef, learning the keys to successful pastry feel linear and are, hopefully, cumulative. Use ingredients of similar temperature. Aerate the butter for crustier tart dough. Don’t overwork the dough after the flour is added.  

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The finished tart, teased quickly to room temperature in the blast chiller. Thin, tender, flavorful crust juxtaposed wit the rich, married flavors of plums and grapes. Cream whipped to soft peaks adorned with gems of candied orange.

A happy marriage, indeed.

 

The Plum of My Eye

Glorious fall fruit soldiers, attendant of the inalterably communal market…

Like a middle-aged adult, my fall market bag has steadily gained weight through spring and summer. Bags of Crimson Red potatoes tasting of chestnut, huge celeriac and fennel bulbs, enormous Italian kale and the perkiest, most vivid Dancing Chicken eggs, their color and firmness a result of the chickens foraging for food.

Among the fall bounty are plums… an amazing variety in size, shape and color. I love the education the market brings, and this weekend the teaching was from one of my favorite market vendors on type and growth and taste. Taste before you purchase, he says…

I had more of a rustic, free-form tart in mind when I left market, then one of Joel Robuchon’s recipes caught my eye. Pate brisee with a pastry cream of ground almonds, butter, sugar and egg. I used three types of plums: German/Croatian, Coe’s Golden and little orbed Mirabelle. The Jupiter celebate grapes were so sweet I couldn’t resist adding them.

I also noticed a suggestion in Wayne Gisslen’s Professional Baking that made sense. Gisslen suggested sprinkling a thin layer of cake crumbs, cookie crumbs or bread crumbs in the unbaked shell before adding the filling and fruit. The benefit is absorption of the inevitable juices produced by seasonal fruit such as plums, apricots, cherries or peaches. I had two great slices of cinnamon-raisin bread that I toasted and ground. The cinnamon in the bread and the touch I added in the crust were a nice complement to the plums.

This is simple luxury, a seductive pleasure.

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If you have wonderful plums in your local market, I encourage you. Their flavor is brought fully forward in this recipe. Whipped cream would be an intoxicant but, what the hell…

Fresh Plum Tart with Fragrant Almond Cream

(from Simply French, Patricia Wells presents the cuisine of Joel Robuchon)  [my editing in brackets]

Almond Cream

Scant 1/2 C whole blanched almonds

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1/3 C granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 large egg white, at room temperature

One 9″ partially baked puff pastry, shortbread pastry, or sweet pastry shell

About 20 purple plums (1-3/4 pounds), cut in half, seeded

[If you’re adding small, purple grapes with tiny seeds, they need not be seeded.]

Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

[Whipped cream, optional]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the almond cream: In a food processor, process the almonds to a fine powder. Add the butter and sugar, and process until blended. Add the egg and egg white, and process until blended. [Note: I used an 11″ tart pan; it required  a second recipe of almond cream.]

[Sprinkle the layer of crumbs in the partially baked shell at this point.] Pour the almond cream into the prepared shell. Arrange the fruit, cut side up, on top of the cream.

Place the tart in the center of the oven, and bake until the almond cream is golden brown and mounds up around the fruit, about 30 minutes.

Transfer to a rack to cool. When cool, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve at room temperature.

A Personal Pastry Hierarchy

In my own personal pastry hierarchy one category actually ranks higher than chocolate. Berries.  In-season, eyes closed, hands stained, stuff-them-in-your-mouth berries.

I’d only punish myself if I tried to rank my faves so I won’t, because dessert is the opposite of punishment.  I will say that blueberry pie is one of the grand dames for me, a pie so full of itself in flavor and voluptuousness, that I would fight for the last piece of it.  Cold.  Right out of the refrigerator.  Eaten from the pie plate.  Without a fork.

I mastered the minor art of pie dough many years ago when Martha told me I could do it. Actually, my grandmother influenced this process at a somewhat earlier time as I stood in the kitchen watching her literally sling pie dough around without fear.  A German lady with an unacknowledged French gene, she dominated the Crisco dough as she flipped it into the pie pan, slid in the fruit and sugar and willed it into the oven.  The way I knew she was German was that she always gathered the dough scraps and threw them together to make a little pie she called a Dutcher.  No one else in her family knew that.

Martha held dough court using butter as did Julia before her and, to be honest, her basic pie crust recipe never failed.  As a result, my Pie Lady confidence rose like a buoy.  Deep dish pies. Jam tarts.  I searched out any opportunity to find subtle ways to enhance the single berry flavors I loved.

Fast forward to today.  A pastry cook’s interests merge with her training and the guidance she receives in the professional world, which then evolves into her style as a chef. Promoting simple, deep flavor in every dessert is a driver for me.

So, pies are a simple category of desserts.  They actually require little technical skill to do well, and certainly not the skill set a trained pastry cook possesses.  Yet, pies represent what fundamentally attracts us to dessert: a satisfying taste and a connection to that which sustains us.

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Simply, fruit flavors pop when sweetened and when complemented by certain other flavors.  Raspberry with almond.  Black raspberry with anise.  Blueberry with lemon.

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This is all to say I feel a grounding in the quality of flavors which I wish to communicate to readers and, in the future, guests or customers.

Enough said.

Deep Dish Blueberry Pie (from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts) [my editing]

Pate Brisee for an 11″ double-crusted pie, chilled

3 pints fresh blueberries, washed, drained, sorted [I’ve used 7 cups successfully]

Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon [my addition]

1/3 to 1/2 C sifted AP flour

1 C plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Glaze: 1 egg beaten with 1/2 C heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out half the pastry dough into a circle large enough to fit a 2″ deep 11″ tart pan or deep dish glass pie plate. Line and refrigerate.

Roll out remaining dough to a thickness of 1/8″ and cut out leave shapes using a sharp knife. Make the veins of the leaves by pressing the back of the knife into the leaf. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix the blueberries and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the flour, 1 C sugar and the butter. Gently toss berries to cover.

Brush the entire pastry crust (edges and bottom) with the egg glaze and pour the blueberries into the shell. Dot the berries with small butter pieces. Decoratively arrange the leaves on top of the fruit [or roll to lattice-work, if you prefer] , covering it almost completely. Brush the leaves with the egg glaze and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar. Bake for 50 min or until the blueberry juices have bubbled and thickened in the middle of the pie. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Pate Brisee

2-1/2 C AP flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp granulated sugar (optional)

1 C (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 – 1/2 C ice water

Combine flour, salt and sugar in processor. Add butter and process for 10 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add ice water a few drops at a time through the feed tube with machine running just until the dough holds together in a ball, about 30 seconds.

Turn the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, and press the dough into a flat disk. Chill for an hour before rolling.