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Archive for the ‘Pies and tarts’ Category

Summer's best

Berry delicious

I’m trying to enjoy as much as the city has to offer me at night before I officially sign my soul away to the restaurant, so one humid night this week, the bf and I walked to Tartine in the West Village for dinner al fresco. One block away at Magnolia Bakery, throngs of people were gathered inside going coo-coo for media-hyped cupcakes with cloying icing—it looked like a wedding dress sample sale in there. It smelled really good from across the street, but we ignored the waft of enticing vanilla cake batter, turned the corner, and in the end were rewarded with a dessert case full of treats like the berry tart above.

Don’t get me wrong. Surely, cupcakes have their place: they’re cute, they feel special, and when made well, they quell the sweet tooth properly. But there are so many better, even more special treats to be had. No cupcake will do the job of a mixed berry tart right now and pay homage to the season, and no cupcake will taste as refreshing, creamy and buttery. See, that’s the difference between pastry and baking. Pastry takes mastery of a skills-set, an eye for detail, artistry. (The pastry chef Francois Payard said it best in an article I once read in Edible Manhattan about his eponymous Payard Patisserie: “I am not a fucking bakery.”) Cupcakes? Unless you’re making awesome accompanying buttercreams or doing crazy decorations, meh. Please, I will not comment on icing shots.

Of course, there’s something to be said about simple pleasures and good marketing. I’m not a hater, I just love pastries more.

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Sour cherry clafoutis, cooling

Sour cherry clafoutis, cooling

I’d been itching to make a tart of some sort with seasonal fruit, and a barbeque gave me a good excuse to actually make something. I bought some sour cherries, got out some pastry dough that had been sitting in the freezer, and set my heart upon clafoutis (cla-FOO-tee). As far as tarts go, clafoutis sounds fancier than it is: pastry dough, a custard, some fruit, and there you have a simple, tasty dessert that makes the most out of any cherries that are available. (Traditionally, unpitted black cherries were used, but you can use blueberries, too.)

Blind-baked sucree tart shell

Blind-baked sucree tart shell

The only real hurdle is rolling out the tart shell and blind-baking it, and that doesn’t take long. Then you just add the fruit, pour in the custard, and bake at a low temperature until the custard is set.

Scatter cherries

You will have cherries in every bite

A helpful tip I read in Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef cookbook is to place the tart or shell without the custard onto the oven rack first, then pour in the custard, so it minimizes any potential spillage. But then again, if you have a small oven like mine and the sheet pan lifts up at a slight tilt every time you close the oven door, you will have spilled custard nonetheless.

Pour in custard, place in oven

Looks sloshy but promising

It turned out as they usually turn out: creamy and subtly sweet with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, with a tart zing of the sour cherries. In hindsight, though, my seasonal fruit ambition got the best of me and I suffered from clafoutis-tunnel vision, when I should’ve brought something else. It was the wrong occasion—it’s perfect with tea, not so much with beer—for the wrong crowd, with four toddlers in the mix. It was an edible wallflower, forlorn and lost in the dessert spread. I should’ve brought something more punchy and American, like chocolate-cherry brownies if I really wanted to use those cherries, or key lime bars. Key lime bars! My next project. I will find a way to make it go with tea and beer.

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