Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When Bloggers Lose Their Fizz

Orange & Date Tart

What happens when you don't feel like blogging?

Well, you don't.

eggs eggs eggs

I needed to be fair on this magnificent orange and date tart, so I thought that I would wait until I was in a blogging frame of mind, lest I give it a foul review just because I wasn't feeling all too generous with my words. I don't know exactly what it was; a culinary funk, blogger's PMS, just lazy? But what I do know is that although I kept eating and baking, I just wasn't in the mood for documenting it with the sheer enthusiasm and veracity that I normally possess. Let's just call it a pause in the culinary freight train that has become my life since the inception of this blog.

I know for the past year and a half, I have been relentless in baking, cooking and chronicling my every move in the kitchen and the market. I must admit, I got a little tired of it all. I just wanted to make something, and eat it straight away and not have to wait until it has been adequately captured and recorded for the purposes of blogging. I just wanted to make something and not have to worry about its plating, its appearance, its colour scheme, what accessories to use, what background, what shots?

Orange & Date Tart with Cardamom Orange Syrup

As much as I would like you to think that I just plonk a plate in front of the camera and the pictures practically take themselves, well that is quite the contrary. And while I don't go into as much detail and aren't as meticulous as other bloggers who create magnificently flawless images that I covet, I do put some thought into the images. And now,my brain hurts. I think I have reached a creative brick wall and I need some time to climb over it, or to somehow tear it down.

So now here I am, a few days later, when I've shaken the cobwebs off my dusty brain that I bring to you this tart. I'm still feeing a little rusty, a little creatively dry, and I'm still waiting for that new eureka moment but I cannot keep shut about this tart. I made it about a week ago, but I just couldn't shake off the thought of not sharing this with you. I might be in a bit of a blah stage right now, but this tart is nowhere in the vicinity of blah-dom.

Orange & Date Tart with Cardamom Orange Syrup

I don't know what it is exactly about a tart that makes me swoon. Is it the lovely melt in your mouth pastry? The dainty filling inside? How it always manages to look so innocently wicked? I don't know what it is but this tart has it all, a rustic elegance that is luxurious yet still modest and austere. It isn't overreaching, but it's got enough good to get you to love it.

I have never paired dates and oranges before, and it simply wasn't a flavour combination that I would think up off the top of my head. But what I do know now is that it works. I now cannot fathom how citrus flavour cannot go with anything. It seems like their flavours perfectly meld with whatever it is paired with and this tart is no different. The citrus breaks up the inherent sweetness of the dates and provides a little tang to go with all that sugar.

A tart in the making

Dates can be incredibly sweet, but the great thing is that their sweetness is natural and with it comes the goodness of fibre and lots of vitamins. Who doesn't want a little helping of fibre and potassium when eating their dessert? Add little glob of thick double cream and there you have a little slice of bliss.

The cardamom syrup also adds a little bit of sugar and spice to the mix, but if you find the tart by itself sweet enough then I don't think the syrup is all too necessary. The tart might get a little dry the next day without the syrup, but I really don't think that it will last that long.

Orange & Date Tart with Cardamom Orange Syrup

Like I said, I might have run into a brick wall creatively, but I hope this doesn't steer you away from trying this tart. You never know it might just be the thing to jolt me back into the creative groove. Sugar has all sorts of effects on me.

And don't fret, I will still be writing posts. I just thought I should warn you that I'm not feeling all that inspired right now, you know, just in case I let out a half hearted rendition that will leave you all befuddled in the same way that opening of the VMA's have. Need I say any more, here is the recipe for Orange and Date Tart.

Orange & Date Tart
recipe from Delicious Magazine 2002
serves 6

Orange & Date Tart with Cardamom Orange Syrup

250g plain flour
110g pure icing sugar
110g unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg
16 fresh dates, pitted, halved
5 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
450ml cream
1 orange, zested
thick double cream, to serve

Cardamom syrup
10 green cardamom pods
1 orange, zested
6 oranges, juiced
225g caster sugar
2-3 tbs brandy

Preheat oven to 190°C.
Place flour and icing sugar in a food processor and process to combine.
Add butter and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add egg and process until a smooth ball.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out pastry on a floured surface and use to line a rectangular tart pan with removable base.
Line pastry with baking paper and fill with rice or pastry weights.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights and return to oven for 10 minutes until crisp and golden.
Place halved dates in pastry case.
Reduce oven temperature to 160°C.

Beat egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl until combined.
Stir in cream, then strain.
Stir in zest and pour over dates.
Bake for 30 minutes or until just set. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, to make the syrup, use a mortar and pestle or rolling pin to lightly crush cardamom pods.
Remove seeds and discard pod.
Place seeds in a pan with remaining ingredients and cook over low heat, stirring, to dissolve sugar.
Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Set aside to cool before serving with the tart.
Serve with a dollop of double cream.


Pat said...

That tart looks really lovely!!!! I think I will have to give it a try!! YUM!!

Andreea said...

hey a mental/ creative break is aways needed. which is why i just posted on simply pears :)

plus it feels good to just eat without all the fuss of blog/ not blog worthy.

yet your photos and cake look so delicious. thought dates would be too sweet used like this but i might be converted :)

Pip said...

I know what you mean when you talk about the lack of creativity, it also happens to me. Sometimes you just don't feel like taking pictures and eat your dish cold, or leave you're guests because you... have to take pictures! ;) We just need a break now and then...
By the way, this tart looks really delicious, I love dates! :P

monica said...

thanks for the inspiring post! i feel that way sometimes, too, and just want to skip the whole photo part...but then i somehow manage to do it, and am pleasantly surprised by the results.

your tart is beautiful! i love dates, but have not really tried them in many applications, and this tart is a great variation!

Anonymous said...

even though I don't like dates so much, this cake seems so good!! need to try!

daphne said...

Oh dear. I hope your creative juices will continue juicing. It's an absolute pleasure reading your food adventures and looking at thoughtful photographs.

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

this tart is beyond gorgeous!! I love the pairing of oranges and dates.

don't worry about not blogging as often - we all get busy, or juts don't have anything to really blog about; however, I hope that you won't disappear from the "blogging world" - I love your blog and your writing!! :0)

Anonymous said...

Geeze louise - your post created with 'a lack of inspiration' puts even my inspired ones to shame!! Not that I ever put as much care into my entries as you do, but I know how it feels to just be a bit burnt out and over the blogging thing - they are content hungry critters and it gets tiring :/

Having said that, I hope that you feel better soon and that your inspiration comes back to you - not because the posts need it, but because feeling drained is no fun!

Abby said...

Well you certainly found your muse! (I took a month off so I understand where you're coming from, but my blog doesn't rival yours AT ALL!) The tart looks beautiful, and I can taste that crumbly pastry. YUM.

Anita said...

I always thought you had some of the best food photography on the net, so don't sell yourself short! I know what you mean about getting burned out on the whole baking/styling/photographing process though...it's good to take a break and refresh the creative juices! btw, even you claim it isn't your best effort I still think your photos look awesome!

Aimée said...

Ha ha, like the part about the VMA's.
Be encouraged! You are not alone. After all, creating great food is really about eating it, right? Not documenting it. So get cooking and eating! That always works to get me out of a funk.

Blue Zebra said...

How totally beautiful!!! I have it on my holiday list! :D

Anonymous said...

This is a great way to come back! Beautiful Tart JenJen! A break is always a good thing, just go with the flow.

Dolores said...

I'm sorry you're feeling uninspired, but I'm glad you broke through the blahs to share this tart. Dates and figs are two of my favorite fall fruits, and I can't wait to try this interpretation of them.

And I agree with Anita, your photography is stunning.

Anonymous said...

You must keep blogging! I so enjoy your posts. Inspired by your penguin waffles Elliott (3 months) and I gave his daddy a "Woddles" waffle iron for Fathers' Day. It was a monster hit, as was your recipe. Penguin waffles have usurped Nigella's American-style pancakes as Sunday morning breakfast at our place. Have been meaning to email you a photo with thanks.

Warda said...

Jen, you are not th only one who feels this way. Sometimes you need to rest a bit to jump higher. Even when it is something you love doing, the redundancy of the thing: pictures, thinking about an appropriate post, writing...can be brain freezing.
No worries and take your time. You are a very talented woman and we don't want another VMA opening, trust me!
Thanks for the tip about date and orange alliance. My mother is sending me two kilos of dates all the way from Algeria and I can't wait to try it. At least if there are some left.
Take care Jen.

Mallow said...

What an interesting combination! It looks beautiful!

Mari said...

I totally know what you mean...I also get apathetic about photographing everything I eat or make, and agree that it can take away the immediate gratification of just popping something into your mouth when it's just out of the oven.
Blogging is supposed to be fun at the end of the day, and when it isn't or you're not inspired, then you should take it easy until the food fairies whisper inspiration in your ear again.
Having said that, your post is beautiful (as always), for someone who's experiencing a blogger's funk. Well done.

Graeme said...

All those dates and the syrup - It's almost like Baklava.

It looks absolutely delicious.

Hilda said...

I was just on vacation and kept forgetting to take my camera with me because "I was on vacation." Everyone needs a break once in a while.
I just wanted to say that for an uninspired post, it's beautiful, and that I'd heard about your blog but only just came to visit it today and I'm blown away by how similar our tastes seem to be (from the things you've made). I heart your blog.

Sylvia said...

I understand your feelings ,and i exactly know what you means. Sometimes my husband ates cold,but,in this moments I think that I m getting crazy,but over wise I enjoy take the photos. Is just like people like you that I start to blog and take pictures of my dishes.I hope you came back soon

Ange said...

e sold me, I have printed out the recipe & cant wait to try it. As for the break, I know how youy feel, I suffered the same a few weeks back & am just getting back into it though not posting as much as I used to. By the way your pics are fabulous & nowhere near the standard of mine which are just plonked on a plate & photographed.

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Hi Jenni,

Wonderful pictures like always.

I just want to let you know that I nominated you to "Inspiring Food Photography" event that I'm hosting on my blog.

Greetings, Margot

Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work! I've been following your blog for a couple of months now, and every new post brings me a little joy and colour in this fluorescent-lit finance office. Not to mention makes me hungry...

Anonymous said...

Well it certainly makes me swoon. I wish I could dig in with a fork.

Jenni, I really identified with the thoughts in your post. After about a year or so that I'd been blogging, I found that I was running out of steam. It's true. You do get tired of having to photograph everything and then think of something really witty to write.

I think it's nice to take a break every once and awhile and remember that this is supposed to be for fun!

Well written!

Amy said...

Everyone needs a break sometimes. My goodness this tart looks superb, I love dates and orange!

Helene said...

Hey Jen! A mental break is always needed from blogging and necessary I believe to regenerate those creative juices. The tart looks smashing!

Rhonda Jean said...

hello milk and cookies, I've just found you, so have a rest but come back!

What a magnificent tart the date and orange is. Who knew dates and orange would combine so well in pastry! I'm going to make this.

Oh, you're using lovely fresh eggs there too. Those yokes are so fresh. Do you keep chooks?

Kelli said...

worth the wait, great pics as always.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about your funk. We all have them. Your pictures are worth the wait.

Kristin said...

i'm just coming out of a non-blog bit. it's weird when you find yourself procrastinating over something you thought you enjoyed!

anyway, I made a rhubarb tart tonight, and just like your's, my tart inspired me.

happy blogging!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jen, Yet another great dish, photos and description. I guess we all have some down in the dump days. Looking forward to lots more from you. In your own time o.k. Regards John

Pearl said...

It looks lovely. I bet it does take a lot of mental space to set up as much as you do. A break's good.

Steph said...

I have a question. How do you load your images without Blogger reorienting them? I can't load vertical photos.

Jorth said...

Whoa ho ho! I can completely relate to the blogging fuzz!

Anonymous said...

Hey I think the tart looks great, hopefully you post another soon. Also a blog to check out, http://www.lovemyphilly.com it has lots of fun recipes.

Anonymous said...

It's definetly worth taking a break. Blogging is supposed to be fun not a chore. I always say quality is much better than quantity. Totally know how much work goes into taking pictures. Mine sometimes take forever to get right and sometimes I don't succeed. Well done and keep up the good work, but only when you feel like it ;-)

Sona - quick picks/pick quicks said...

ooh my..these snaps are excellent!!..the foodies luk sooo yummm...

Rachael Narins said...

I know exactly how you feel...it can wear a girl out sometimes...
that said, this is glorious. Glad you made it, and shared.


Rachael Narins said...

I know exactly how you feel...

But I am glad you posted this...it is so glam!


Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen said...

I totally understand what you mean about the brick wall, but your photos are always so incredible! This tart looks so good and I absolutely love dates! Thanks for the great post! It is always nice to know that there are others out there that feel like I do sometimes!

Anonymous said...

You have a lovely blog here! I hope to try this tart recipe soon!

Anonymous said...

I love anything cardamom-related; thanks for sharing! Any suggestions on subbing ground cardamom (how much?) for the steeped-and-removed pods?