Thursday, January 04, 2007

I Got A New Rack...

Almond Berry Tart

Get your minds out of the gutter! What were you thinking, I meant a spice rack.

After cluttering our cabinets with countless jars and sachets of herbs and spices, I have finally found a new home for all my spices to live in. They proudly hang on the wall in small clear bottles marked with handmade labels, an arm’s length away from the stove. No longer do I have to stoop down on the floor, flashlight in hand, searching for rosemary and cinnamon in a dusty cavernous cupboard like some sort of geologist. No one should have to go through all that trouble just to get to some rosemary.

Also, most of you will probably be glad to know that I did receive my very own ice cream maker this Christmas. I can just make out the sound of a collective “woohoo!” resonating throughout the blogosphere. It seems that my insistent pleading proved convincing enough. I think if I hadn’t pestered everyone with the most obvious of hints to the verge of possible collapse, I would have just gone out and bought the darn thing myself.

I am determined to make all things iced this summer. That said, I still haven’t found enough time to make ice cream as yet; I’ve been caught up doing absolutely nothing during my holidays. I think I was born for the holiday, if this could be an occupation, I would be at the top of my game. Jen is my name, and lounging is my game. Although when I do go back to my “normal” routine, not that my life is ever routine or normal, ice-cream-making will be high on my list of things to do.

spice rack ice cream maker
My new spice rack still needs new bottles and my brand new Krups ice cream maker

Well, now that the New Year has been appropriately rung in and the vestiges of severe party-going has all been done away with (except for the bags under my eyes); all there is to do is look at what’s ahead. There’s an excitement that I get at the advent of every New Year, perhaps it’s just the post-Christmas sales, but there is something about the start of the year that I find thrilling. I suppose that it is the opportunity for a new beginning, another clean slate, no matter how well or how dreadful the year 2006 was for you, there is the chance to start over and do it all again, perhaps this time better.

One thing that I intend on doing better this year is pastry. After being knocked back several times from the Bourke St Bakery pastry course because there were no vacancies, I have decided to work on my pastry skills myself. I just don’t think I have the dexterity and finesse that most people do when it comes to pastry. Most times I am at the thing like a 3 year-old with play-dough, kneading, moulding and pressing the dough as if I was making bread. Sometimes I just don’t have the patience for it, and since I lack this virtue so imperative to making pastry, I am forced to take shortcuts that defeats its whole art.

But this year it's different. This time around, I followed the recipe to the letter, abiding strictly to all the instructions stated. The sheer beauty of this pastry recipe is that there is no need to roll the dough out, unless you are so inclined. But why would you go through all that rolling, dusting, and lifting, risking the likelihood of tearing the thing when all this pastry requires is to be pressed into the tart tin.

Almond Berry Tarts

This recipe and this method disguises my clumsiness with pastry and you wouldn’t even suppose that I fumbled my way through the recipe. And although I have come to the stark recognition that I have a long way to go at becoming one poised and self-assured patissier, I always have this recipe to fall back on.

These Almond Berry Tartlets were made using Dorie Greenspan’s pâte sablée recipe and Donna Hay’s almond berry filling. It seems that the theme of berries and summer cannot escape me and I am again posting another recipe including berries. If you are from the northern hemisphere where berries are long gone, I’m sorry, I know that all this talk of summer and berries might be deflating just going into your winter, but bear with me while I go ga-ga over berries. All this public display of affection towards berries might be making some uncomfortable; I probably look like those maudlin lovers kissing and cuddling in a crowded train, oblivious to the prying eyes stealing glances at them. But I just cannot conceal my affections, and all you will probably hear for the next two months are berry this and berry that.

But I hope you will still stop by and say hello, this berry thing is probably just a phase.

Pâte Sablée
adapted from
this book

1¼ cups plain all-purpose flour
½ cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
¼ tsp salt
110g unsalted butter, frozen and cut into small cubes
1 large egg yolk

Place flour confectioner’s sugar and salt in a dry bowl and whisk to combine.
Place frozen butter and the flour mixture into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mix resembles pea-sized grains.
Slowly pour in the egg yolk a little at a time, through the spout of the food processor while pulsing one or two times in between pouring.
When all of the egg yolk is in, pulse a few more times for longer until the dough forms larger clumps.
Using a spatula, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead the dough just to incorporate any remaining dry ingredients.
Shape dough into a ball and wrap in plastic, refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

The beauty of this dough is that it doesn’t need to be rolled, it can simply be pressed into your tart pan.
Cut the dough into 6 portions and work with one portion at a time keeping the other portions wrapped in plastic and in the refrigerator.
Press the dough evenly over the base and sides of the tart pan, making sure that there are no cracks and holes.
Repeat for the remaining pieces of dough for all the tart pans.
Freeze the crust for up to 1 hour before making.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Remove the crusts from the freezer and prick with a fork two or three times.
Line the crusts with little pieces of parchment paper and place pie weights on top.
Bake the crusts for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool the crusts without removing them from their tins.

Almond Berry Tartlets
this book
makes 6

Almond Berry Tarts

6 pre-made pâte sable crusts (see recipe above)
90g unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup almond meal
1 tbsp plain all-purpose flour
½ cup berries
icing (confectioner’s) sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 150°C.
Place butter and sugar in a bowl and bet until pale and fluffy.
Add the egg, almond meal and flour, and beat until smooth.
Spoon the mixture into prepared tart crusts and smooth over the tops.
Press 5-6 berries in each tart just enough so that their tops can still be seen.
Dust with icing sugar and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the tops are golden.
Remove from oven and cool before serving.


Anonymous said...

gorgeous tarts! I'm also loving the berries and cherries we have at the moment, though the cherry season is on it's way out :(

Anonymous said...

Wow, rack and ice cream maker AND those tarts are divine!!!
Very well done.

wheresmymind said...

That's quite a nice rack you've got there! ;)

Marce said...

I´m with you regarding berries. And no one can complain since those of us in the Southern hemisphere have to "make do" with the seasonal ingredients. Oh, the sacrifices! hahaa

Berries seem to be gone here though (the prime for strawberries seems to be in Sep-Oct). The top fruits are cherries, peaches, apricots, melon and watermelon. Mmm I should make something with cherries, like a pie or something, the color would just pop.

Anyway, I love your posts, keep up the good work. And enjoy that Dorie Greenspan book... I´m trying to find it here in Argentina, but to no avail.

Anonymous said...

Tout a l'air tellement bon !! Très heureuse année nouvelle de Paris !

Caty said...

Those tarts look absolutely devine!

Anonymous said...

Oh - those are too cute and beautiful at the same time. You did a great job.

I love your spice rack as well (and of course, the ice cream maker!)

Patricia Scarpin said...


Even though fresh berries are not so easy to find here in Brazil (at least we find some of them frozen) I love to come here and see you berry recipes - they look good and taste good, I'm sure!

I think you are doing great towards becoming a very talented patissier!

ChrisB said...

yummy looking tarts

Anonymous said...

Those look fantastic!

Anonymous said...

In exchange for ice-cream, I'd happily come over to your place and show you how to make pastry.
(Just don't mention the berries!)

Unknown said...

That's a lovely array of tarts, if you asked me. =) I would love to try the recipe out.

Joanne said...

May I ask where you brought the spice rack?

Anonymous said...

nice knockers! and by knockers i of course mean rack. spice rack. those buttery little tarts look fantastic. and by buttery little tarts i of course mean the pastry. perverts.