So I recently signed up for a local, organic produce delivery system called Full Circle Farm (http://www.fullcirclefarm.com/ It's fantastic-check it out!) and included in this week's bundle was four deliciously ripe pears (poires, you'll see why my tart has pommes later) which immediately inspired me to make a French tarte. Beautiful fruit are best displayed in a tart. The only problem was I have never made a tart of any kind, let alone pastry dough.....cakes are my thing, not pies....yet.
Pastry dough, I quickly learned is a huge pain. Like all things in my life I jump right in and try it out. It comes from having little to no patience. Things went pretty well once I combined the ingredients but soon after that things began to crumble, much like my dough, pretty rapidly. Julia (Who else would I use for making a French tart) tells me that the dough should just stick together but not be sticky. Ok? So I added just enough cold water for the dough to bind but once I started to blend the fat by kneading it with the heel of my hand, the dough didn't stick together at all but just fell apart. I added more water and more water and still it never really was a cohesive mass. I think it went too far in the sticky realm, but what could be done? I refrigerated the dough and in a couple days went to finish my tart but the pears had gone bad and Collin had eaten a couple so I switched to apples......
I attempted to roll out my dough and somehow was surprised that it still wasn't sticking together even though I had done nothing to magically transform it and had to add yet more water. I was able to roll it out to about 8 inches in an oblong shape an decided to forgo my plan of using an 8in springform pan and used my oval Le Creuset caserole dish instead. Couldn't bear the frustration of rolling it out any longer. Like I said, pastry dough is not my thing. I don't even like to eat it so it is decidedly not my friend.
I put it in the pan, attempted to make some decoration around the edge with a fork but some of it just crumbled off and some of it stayed with the fork marks. Whatever. I moved on.
I decided to kind of combine Julia's Tarte Normande with her Tarte aux Pommes. I wanted the fruit to be on top so I used the basic tart part for that and I wanted it to have custard, but under the fruit, so I used the Normande part for that. It was a bit confusing but I managed it. I cooked the apples in their sugar and cinnamon (I evidently decreased the amount of apples called for and used the same amount of sugar....not a problem for me) seperately and cooked the custard in the partially baked shell and then layered the apples on top and baked for a bit longer. Covered it with powered sugar at then end. It turned out rather pretty and I was pleased.
However, the custard either cooked too long and became a bit thick or it soaked in completely to the crust because it was nearly impossible to distinguish crust from custard. The apples were delicious though, but Honeycrips always are (my favorite apples). The custard/crust was nice and vanilla-y because I added vanilla instead of apply brandy (didn't have it....who does?). It was tasty and pretty which I guess is all that matters in baking. At some point here I've got to learn how to make a decent pastry dough. Mom? Sasha? Anybody? Julia is far too confusing.
Photo by Collin Monda