I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year, I quietly promised myself that I would learn as many new skills as I can. This vow came in an effort to better myself as a teacher and an artist… and may also have been slightly backed by my desire to add some pretty pictures to my portfolio. So far, I have explored watercolour painting (frustrating, yet so pretty when it’s done right), charcoal drawing (tried once before, but the mess has always kept me away), metal embossing (time-consuming but relaxing), and most recently, knitting (just because it makes me feel so crafty). My artistic explorations have also extended into the culinary realm: until recently, I hadn’t expanded my baking repertoire further than simple cakes, cookies and muffins, always sticking to traditional, simple recipes. I’ve decided that it’s time to change that. I’ve decided that I am going to eventually learn to bake all of the basics as described Michel Roux’s “Pastry: Savory & Sweet”
I am not doing this Julie & Juila style, though the book may have inspired me somewhat, but I am doing this because of my friend Lisa, who has recently commenced pastry school, of which I am quite envious. I’ve therefore decided that Michel Roux will be my teacher, and “Pastry” will be my textbook. I will be assessed by my partner, who has no qualms telling me if something is dog-gone awful – though, let’s be honest, it rarely is – and will be evaluated by my brother, who is perhaps the world’s pickiest eater. I will share my explorations with you, dear readers (hi mom!), and perhaps you’ll get to learn a thing or two along the way!
I have started with the most basic pastry, and, according to Roux, a sturdy one – Tart Dough, or Pate Foncee in France. I filled it with a homemade custard – a massive, chunky flop the first time around – and a delicious wild blueberry filling with a hint of cranberry (definitely a keeper.) So, without further adieu… I present to you a delectable, buttery, custard and blueberry tart. Savourez!
Tart Dough (Pate Foncée)
Note: it may look like a lot of instruction, but don’t let this intimidate you – the actual dough making is rather easy!
what you’ll need
• 1 ¾ cups flour
• ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
• 1 egg at room temperature
• 1 tsp sugar
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 ½ tbsp cold water
how to do it
Make a heap with the flour on the counter and create a well in the centre. Add everything except for water into the well, and work in with your fingers until dough begins to hold together. Add water, little at a time, until dough is even. Pat into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour, or until ready to use. The dough will harden in the fridge, but will soften quickly once it is taken back out (as butter does), so remove it from fridge a few minutes before rolling it out. Roll out evenly and place dough sheet into tart pan. TIPS: to transfer your dough from counter to pan: roll your dough onto your rolling pin (I used a marble rolling pin and I highly recommend it), and then roll out into the pan. Do not press down with your fingers – instead, take some extra dough, roll into a ball, and press the tart down into the pan and into the side crevaces. Roll the pin over the top to cut off the remaining edges. Poke fork holes into the dough once it is down in the pan. This will allow the dough to breathe in the oven so it does not bubble and crack.
Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking. When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375F. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the pan that reaches long enough over the edges. Because you are baking this dough sans filling (also known as blind baking, thank you Michel!) Fill with dried beans (or dough weights) in order to weigh down the dough when baking. This is important because if you do not weigh it down, the dough might shrink and deform. The weights will ensure that the tart keeps it’s shape. Bake for 35 minutes, remove weights and paper, and return to oven for 5 more minutes in order to brown and dry the shell.
what you’ll need:
2 cups frozen wild blueberries
1/4 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp unflavoured gelatine
how to do it:
Dissolve cornstarch and gelatine in water. Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until berries begin to soften and sugar dissolves. Stir intermittently. Mixture will begin to thicken. Tip: to speed up the thickening process, add an extra 1/4 tsp gelatin powder dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Remove from stovetop, cover and cool. Sauce will thicken even more upon standing. Pour into prepared pie crust, over custard if desired.