Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Nectarine Tart, Part Two: Rising from the ashes.

If at first you don't succeed...

The time had come. June was here, the sun was shining, nectarines were in full supply. My son, still scarred from the original experiment, kept saying "mommy, now you can make your nectarine tart!". Does he know what a tart is? No, but he was trying his best to be supportive. Round two, tart, it's just you and me, and only one of us is going to prevail.
After the oven was cleaned of all remaining beans and tart dough, I was ready to roll. On a side note, it is never a bad idea to clean your oven, as a dirty one will generally yield poor results to whatever you are cooking/baking. You wouldn't want your tart or pie smelling like burnt mozzarella from the pizza that overflowed the week before. Also, my pizza stone lives in the bottom of my oven, never to be removed, as it aids in the cooking of pastries, bread, and everything else imaginable. Just leave it in there.

This time, I started off by buying the nectarines first. Note to self: Perhaps I should try that with all of my recipes, gathering the essential ingredients to make sure they are available before buying the hardware. I also did a quick search to find the best tart dough recipe, and came across a wonderful blog with an equally wonderful tart dough recipe - The Smitten Kitchen. It was going to work this time, I could feel it! The beauty of this tart dough is that it is creamy and easy to work with, as well as impossibly simple to make. It also does not involve pie weights (or beans as I use), so there was no risk of having to once again fish in the bottom of the oven with tweezers in search of lost beans. I was sold.
On to the nectarines, which needed to be sliced super thin and formed into roses. While the slicing wasn't a problem, the forming into roses was even more labor intensive than I prefer, and I could not get them to stay together. Realizing that this could take hours, I took the cheap way out and decided to do one rose in the center and fan the rest of the slices into a large flower.

I filled the tart with a chambord mixture per the recipe, and popped it into the oven, to be greeted 40 minutes later by this beauty:
Note: if you do a quick search of this tart, you will find many bloggers who have tried it, I will tell you it is a pain, but it is so worth it.

The Nectarine Tart Disaster (a two part series)

Part One, The Disaster
Those who know me know that I tend to gravitate towards labor intensive recipes. There is something that draws me in to spending hours composing appetizers and desserts that have that "wow" factor and make people wonder "how did she do that?" Self serving? Perhaps, but I show love through food, and let's face it: love and life can be labor intensive. Needless to say, when I was perusing the be all end all of baking, Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook and came across a recipe for a nectarine tart in which the nectarine slices were made into multiple roses, I thought "Yahtzee!" I waited for the perfect occasion to make this massively impressive dessert, and settled on Easter Sunday. This set into motion a sequence of events that while comical, were disastrous.

Having never made a tart before (and of course, wanting to start with the most difficult one I could find), I had no tart pan. I did; however, have a gift card to Williams-Sonoma with $11.00 left on it, more than enough for a shiny new addition to my kitchen. When I failed to locate said gift card (as clutter abounds in my house), I should have taken it as a sign and given up. Undeterred, I pressed on, and on Good Friday I made my pilgrimage to W.S. to buy the pan with my own money, since the gift card never appeared.
While checking out, the friendly clerk asked what I would be making, and I told her of the tart, at which point she innocently asked "Where are you going to find the nectarines?" Well, this thought hadn't occurred to me. Although it was only April, I was certain I had seen nectarines in the stores only a few weeks prior. Sign #2, walk away while you are still ahead. Signs be damned, off I went with my four year old in tow to the grocery store.

No nectarines. No nectarines anywhere. "Yes", the produce manager told me, "we had them a few weeks ago, but they were of poor quality so we are waiting until they are in season". My mind raced, still bent on making this stupid tart as I was now referring to it. I had also made a cake as a backup, but I wanted this tart! I searched, eagerly, desperate for a substitute fruit that could be made into roses and came across pears. $15.00 worth of pears later, I headed home.

I made the tart dough, which, by the way, is quite different than a pie dough, and set it in the fridge for the requisite 2 hours as the recipe called for. I put the boy to bed and took the dough out, oven preheated and ready to go, and unwrapped it. Disaster. Working with the dough was akin to a child trying to make a sandcastle out of dry sand. It was a crumbly useless waste of time and money sand dough. So I turned to old faithful, the red plaid cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens for a new tart dough recipe, began the process again, chilled for another 2 hours (at this point it was around midnight the Saturday before Easter, thank heavens I had baked a nice cake as back-up). This one worked, so I began the blind baking process, using dried beans as my pie weights. I was on my way! The tart shell was baking, I was happy, and when it was done I gleefully went to remove it from the oven. Note to new bakers: tart pans have two pieces, a removable bottom and the side part. It is a good idea to place the tart pan on a sheet pan while baking, since it is incredibly difficult to lift a two piece piping hot pan from the oven. Let me tell you what will happen from unfortunate personal experience. The bottom will raise, breaking the crust, the beans will spill all over your oven, and if you are really lucky, like I am, you will burn the inside of your wrist in two symmetrical places, one from the bottom and one from the side part. The tart will fall to the bottom, sides, and door of your oven, beans jumping ship every step of the way, until all you have to show for it are scars and a messy oven. Yes, this is precisely what happened to me. In fact, just this week, a couple of months later, I was asked "Did you have carpal tunnel surgery?" "no, that's from the nectarine tart". Sad. I also had the joy of dismantling the oven to find the lost beans that had fallen (with tweezers, mind you, for the ones in hard to reach places) some of which had been incinerated, and cleaning the whole thing out. I gave up the dream at this point, but only temporarily. I already had my eye on June, when nectarines would be plentiful and I could try again.

Part two of the nectarine tart disaster is Here.