Monday, 1 May 2017

the art of the tart - cookery calendar challenge - May

All throughout April, I felt uninspired in the kitchen and we fell back to our tried and trusted method of cooking for the family, which involves scratching our heads in front of a full fridge that contains nothing to make a proper dish and then cobble something together.


It was only last week when I finally decided what cookery book I wanted to use for this month's challenge: The Art of the Tart by Tamasin Drew-Lewis. We were given this book many years ago by our friend Amy and I have used it once in a while but not that often. It is full of really delicious recipes but the kids are not keen on savoury tarts, quiches and pies so the book has been underused. The book itself is well laid out, the recipes are clear although I prefer a slightly more structured style to the methods of cooking, rather than a narrative. It is easier to zoom into a clearly defined paragraph when you are waving spoons and pans around and generally feel the heat of cooking.

Two of the tarts I made in the past were smoked haddock & water cress tart and spinach & anchovy tart. The first was was delicious, the second not so much. The filling was had no texture and the flavour combination didn't work for me. It tasted a bit like anchovy paste with an afterthought of green.






I have a bucket list of sorts in my head of things I want to do and make at one point in my life. It is rather vague and subject to frequent change but mastering puff pastry is one of the things. Actually, what I really want to make are croissants but puff pastry is a good practice on the path to making a croissant that any French baker would be envious of.

Making the pastry was easy but it took a whole day. Mind you, all in all I spent less than 20 minutes on it. First I made a rubbed dough with all the flour and a small proportion of butter, and water to combine it all. I'd probably use less water next time than indicated in the recipe, it was too sticky to handle. After the dough has rested for a while, it is rolled out into a rectangle, as is the remaining butter. The butter pad should be about a third of the size. Yes, it is a lot of butter. It is placed in the centre of the dough rectangle and the ends are folded over to seal it in. The assembly is turned a quarter clockwise, rolled out to the original size, folded into thirds again. This is repeated twice more before it is placed in the fridge for another rest. The entire turning/rolling/folding process as just described is repeated twice more before the puff pastry is ready. I wasn't really that bothered what to use the puff pastry for, I just wanted to make it. Since a dinner was required, I made a potato, garlic & parsley tourte with the pastry. I lined a reasonably sized dish with half the pastry and filled it with a mix of very finely sliced potatoes, lots of finely chopped garlic and parsley and seasoning. Then I place our vintage pie funnel in the middle and closed it all with the other half of the puff. The tourte is baked for 50 minutes, then a vulgar amount of double cream is poured through the pie funnel (this was rather tricky, I couldn't find my small necked funnel). After another 10 minutes in the oven, it was ready to eat. Richard and I loved it. The kids not so much. I hope you don't mind me saying so but my puff pastry was far better than any of the puffs I have ever bought. I also loved the creamy, garlicky potato gratin. I'll make this again for a more appreciative audience.



My second recipe was a lemon meringue tart. I rarely make pudding, I have never made lemon curd and I tend to overwork my short crust pastry so it was a challenging recipe for a Sunday afternoon. This particular lemon curd is made with egg yolks only, the whites are used for the meringue. I followed the recipe to the dot and it turned out well. The pastry is blind baked first. I am not convinced blind baking is great or even necessary. The tart bottom was not baked to my satisfaction and it was a bit soggy despite sealing of the the blind baked crust with egg white. I made other tarts without blind baking  and with runny fillings. The result was invariably better. I noticed that my Swiss recipe book bakes all tarts at a highish heat in the bottom half of the oven. This is what I usually do and this is what I'll do with my lemon meringue tart next time. Should have gone with my instinct. Apart from the slightly soggy bottom, it was absolutely delicious. The lemon meringue tart had high approval ratings by all and there wasn't a crumb left. This particular recipe balances the acidity of the curd and the sweetness of the meringue very well. I love it when the palate almost shudders a little when the acidity hits it!

Have you made puff pastry before? I highly recommend it, if you can fit it in your day, maybe on a slow rainy weekend day. It is a perfect activity to stretch your legs in between reading a book and loafing on the sofa.

As every month, I am linking up with Penny at the Homemade Heart. It is a pleasure to do so and I am glad to have the opportunity to share my kitchen stories on her blog.

Have a lovely week! xx

17 comments:

  1. They both sound so good! I've never made puff pastry myself. I would really like to but it seems so difficult. I buy it frozen when I need it, which is not very often. I think more puff pastry in my life would be a good idea either way. :)

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  2. You've encouraged me to restart baking again - unlike your children, I love savoury pies and it shows! Your lemon M looks delicious - I generally don't bake blind either - baking in a metal dish on a hot metal tray rather than the open oven rack seems to concentrate the heat and thereby, avoid the soggy bottom. I'm enjoying your cookery experiences. Keep 'em coming!

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  3. The potato pie and lemon meringue sound absolutely delicious. I am all for obscene amounts of cream. And I absolutely adore anything lemon. I've not made puff pastry myself, but I can imagine how scrumptious it is. Well done with all of your baking, you are inspiring me! CJ xx

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  4. Ooh your lemon meringue tart does look yummy. Many, many years ago we made some puff pastry, it took ages. I tend to make short crust or ruff puff (see Delia) for sausage rolls (sometimes- as it's very oily). I usually buy puff pastry. I really need to try making the meringue. Cathy x

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  5. Have never made puff pastry, feel a bit intimidated by the idea of it Both your recipes sound and look delicious, though as a kid I probably wouldn't have liked or even tried the first.

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  6. mmm it all looks delicious. I always tend to favor sweet over savory. So I am loving the lemon tart. I very regularly use ready made frozen puff pastry dough, it's one of those things i always have in my freezer. But have never nor do I think I ever would have the courage to make it from scratch.
    Kudos to you.

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  7. If I have ever tried to make puff pastry, the experience was not memorable, so I suspect I never tried, because the process you described is definitely memorable! The results of your efforts look so delicious, and I would enjoy both had I not figured out that my system objects to both gluten and dairy. Well done, You, even if your kids were not keen on the puff potatoes. xx

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  8. I really enjoyed seeing your cooking experiences.. the lemon tart especially.. my mom was famous for her pies.. and made lemon meringue pie that was extraordinary. Made me remember and miss her. Your kids are lucky that you experiment and make nice things for them. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  9. Your pastry looks so delicious that I might have a go at making puff from scratch.

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  10. My daughter and I make puff pastry once a year when we get together at Christmas to make a turkey, ham and leek pie for Boxing day. Otherwise I only ever make shortcrust. Your lemon meringue looks delicious, I could just eat some but if I were a gambling woman I would put money on there not been any left.

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  11. Hey Christina,
    I don't think Mary Berry makes her own puff pastry, so bravery you. Both pie and pud looks so good. I haven't had lemon meringue in a long time. Perhaps I'll make one for Marc's birthday on Sunday.
    Leanne xx

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  12. I've always wondered about making puff pastry because I don't like the ingredients in the packaged kind. I'm impressed you made your own. The potato and garlic mixture sounds delicious!

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  13. Some delicious sounding recipes this month. I have a little ceramic bird which I have used to let steam out but I haven't ever used it as a funnel before, great idea. I think I possibly made my own puff pastry when I was doing the bake off challenge, I definitely did a day of folding and turning, but I think my results were less successful than yours! x

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  14. Both recipes sound delicious. I have made puff pastry before and yes it is an awful faff but does taste so much better than anything you can buy.... It's all that butter!

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  15. Good on you - I am an absolutely disinterested cook and therefore pretty useless chef. I can't say I've ever made puff pastry, but loved the look of yours and your lemon meringue tart. Tomorrow we are off for a cookery lesson which starts at the local market, will let you know how that goes!
    Wren x

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  16. That pie looks totally amazing but I saw how many calories were in one the other day and nearly fainted!! Hope everyone enjoyed it, I know I would have. Jo x

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  17. Oooh, lemon meringue pie is one of my favourite puddings ever, it's just so perfectly balanced. I adore lemon curd and as a treat bought myself a jar this weekend to eat on crumpets for breakfast. A-mazing. Your savoury tarts look and sound completely divine, especially the potato version. Good to know that homemade puff is actually worth the hassle too!

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Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx