Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tarts, tarts and more tarts

There's little that's more disappointing than failure. Especially when you pour time and effort into something that results in a complete waste of both. This is what happened with my first attempt at mini tarts.

My first mistake, probably, was believing I could splice a couple recipes together without having adequate knowledge of the procedure in the first place. Without specific instructions on how thick to roll the dough, I did it TOO thick. The mini crusts weren't weighed down with beans or pie weights and they came out thick, pale and barely cooked. The custard was a disaster: cooked too long and turning into a glob of rubbery goo. If ever there was a time to describe a baking attempt as a TOTAL failure, this was it.

And yet, as a perfectionist, I can't leave something done wrong. It has to be right. So, in classic cliché form (yes, I DID say to myself, "If at first you don't succeed..."), I tossed the failure in the garbage and started again with a new recipe and some determination. I'd learned a few things so maybe screwing up is necessary every now and then. I made the crust thinner, weighed it down (as the hasn't-failed-me-yet Ina instructed), baked it until I felt it was done. I was WAY more cautious with the custard, took it off the heat the moment it came together enough for me and added the last bit of butter and vanilla while still in the pan. It was so good, I was licking the spoon. And the bowl. ...and the pan a little after it cooled.

In the end, I guess my comically bad first attempt was a good learning experience because it made this success all the more satisfying. It felt much more like an accomplishment than it otherwise would have.

Oh and they taste really good. :)

Adapted from Ina Garten

Tart Shells:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons cold shortening (recommended: Crisco)
1/4 cup ice water

Pastry Cream:
5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream

1–2 cups mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)
1/3 cup apricot jelly

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the dough to roughly 1/4-inch thick and use round cutters (or small bowls) to cut shapes to fit into 5 (3-inch) tart pans (or your preferred size mini tins). Don't stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don't be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.

Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts.


Ale chuchis said...

Aaaah, stop teasing me with the baking goodness. ;____; This past few entries all look incredibly good, though. Especially the tarts and the cinammon mini muffins, which look just so so delicious. I think I'll try the later as soon as I can, actually. Also, I laughed at your experience with habaneros, haha. They are hard core stuff, habaneros XDD

Question! What do you use for background on your photos? Is that just blue and pink paper, or something? Or tablemats?


Patricia Scarpin said...

I have some pastry on my freezer and this would be a lovely way to use it!