01 May 2007

Dinner Munching (Part III) - Fruit Tart

In making this tart, I was stepping way out of my comfort zone. This is not just the mud-is-seeping-into-my-shoe kind of discomfort, but more like the rolling-around-in-mud-with-worms-swimming-in-my-hair (which I had to do once in primary school at a nasty camp) kind of discomfort.

I never liked the rubbing-in method that I had first learnt about in secondary school. When Miss Amy Goh demonstrated it, I thought it incredibly unhygienic that our fingers had to muck around in the dough for such extended periods of time. This also sort of explains why I bake few breads, and when I do, I use my bread machine that relieves me of any contact with the dough. Before any rubbing-in or kneading, I never fail to sanitise my hands as much as I can, short of exfoliating the entire outer layer of my skin.

Being an extremely tactile person (which explains my fascination with all things furry), one would think I would take to rubbing-in like a (daffy)duckling to water. Still, I find myself skipping recipes that call for any hands-on work, literally.

During dinner, I told Jac that the last time I made a tart was in secondary school, but it had slipped my mind that I did actually make an apple tart more recently (2 years ago) in Paris. However, unlike many tart/pie recipes, that recipe did not call for too much direct contact with the dough except for the part where we have to roll out the dough and line the tart pan. Also, my aunt had a beautiful and huge wooden table, absolutely conducive for rolling or kneading, but that is unfortunately something I lack at home.

However I figure that there's no running away from tarts or pies all my life. Instead of running away from it, I decided to face my fear. This is also how I came to decide upon the politics part of my degree, and I'm glad I did it.

Similary, I'm glad I made the fruit tart. I am also glad that I left plenty of time to prepare for it during the day. While the pastry cream used to fill the tart up could be made, cooled and refrigerated beforehand, and the fruits could be added just before serving, the tart cases needed a fair bit of work.

You'd need to rub the butter into the flour, lifting your hands as high as you can manage without coating your kitchen with a fine layer (if you are lucky) of flour, mix the water and egg yolk into the flour mixture with a knife until a dough comes together, turn the dough out onto cling film, refrigerate or freeze (depending on your needs) it, roll it out between two pieces of baking paper, line your tart pans (I used 4 small individual tart pans), place some crumpled baking paper on top and fill with pie weights (or rice), then bake, and remove to cool.

And to think I took the recipe from a dessert book that is more tailored for the busy cook, with little time to spare. They did not have to tell me not to overwork the dough since the last thing I wanted was more playing with the dough, which got more tricky to work with the longer it was out of the fridge and under my irritatingly warm fingertips.

But the final result was truly rewarding, and can be attested by my girlfriends' praises. Not just for the pastry cream, which I had made before and loved for its taste and easy preparation method, but also for the crispy and crumbly tart base.

These individual tarts were more elegant and easy to serve compared to big 8-10 inch tarts. But this is definitely something I would make only if other parts of the dinner are much less involved.

Sweet, Rich Shortcrust Pastry (for fruit tarts)

From Sweet Food (Murdoch Books)

Makes 375 g worth of shortcrust pastry, enough to line the base of a 23 cm pie dish or 5 small round individual tart pans


250g plain flour, 125 g chilled butter (chopped into small pieces), 2 tbspns caster/icing sugar, 2-3 tbspns iced water, 1 beated egg yolk


Sift flour and 1/4 tsp salt into a large bowl.

Add chopped butter and rub it into flour using fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in sugar.

Make a well in the centre, add in egg yolk with iced water, and mix with a flat-bladed knife, using a cutting rather than stirring action. The mixture will come together in small beads of dough.

Add more water if necessary, a tsp at a time, until dough comes together. Test the dough by pinching a little piece between your fingers - if it doesn't hold together, it needs more water. Use just enough to hold the pastry together - if it is too wet it will toughen and may shrink on baking; if too dry, it will be crumbly.

Gently gather the dough together and lift out onto a lightly floured surface.

Press dough into a ball and flatten slightly - don't knead or handle the dough too much.

Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until large enough to cover the base and side of the 5 tart pans. Remove the top sheet and invert the pastry into the tins, allowing any excess to hang over. Trim with knife and prick the base several times with a fork.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes, place crumpled baking paper over and fill with pie weights or beans. Then bake for 15 minutes in a 200 degrees celcius preheated oven, or until crisp, dry and lightly golden. Allow to cool.

For Fruit Tart: Fill with pastry cream, decorate with raspberries or other mildly sour fruits. I thinly sliced apples, fanned them out, sprinkled sugar over them and caramelised the sugar with a blow torch. Let your creativity loose with this tart.


faith said...

wow, this looks good. cld i have the recipe? quite determined to give it a go next week. :) also, do u happen to have a good tiramisu recipe to share?
mail to: mystiquefaith@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Emailed you!