Photo by Jeniffer Paxton
The Lone Baker
After the Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes, which some people adored, but others abhorred, it was nice to get to a recipe that was uniformly well received.
As Raymond put it, "There is just something so elegantly French about a tart. Chic, understated and totally sophisticated. On the other hand, citrus in a dessert (especially lemon or orange) just screams Italy to me. For me, this is as good as it gets. The two places I love most in the world combined into one simple, elegant dessert."
Faithy was similarly enthusiastic: "This orange tart is amazing! So intense orangey flavor! I can't get enough of it. This is my favorite tart so far. The tart shell is awesome. Usually a tart base will not be as crispy, but this was very crisp, even the base.... So good! I didn't want to share this tart... I kept this tart at home so I can eat as many slices as I can."
For all the times Jen said "Screw that," during the course of making this recipe, you'd think she hated it, or at least was exasperated by it. Not at all. She just enjoyed flouting the rules, especially the "use your food processor rule," because Jen has a Magic Bullet, which does look like a handy gadget (although the web site is annoying). She and Mark seem poised to finish the whole thing.
I think this is the first bruleed recipe we've had from The Baking Bible, and maybe the only one we've had from Rose. Vicki conducted a scientific survey of which blow torch to purchase for the top of the tart, but, sadly, she never got a chance to use it because the male members of the Vicki Granny household decided that using a torch is a man's job. But everyone was equally enthusiastic about the tart, and there was equal opportunity to eat it, if not to torch it.
On the other hand, Mendy "forgot all about the flame thrower part," and, even though he didn't bother with the manly blow torch, he still thought it was "truly a fabulous dessert."
And Orin went one better than the blow-torchers. She not only bruleed the top (or half of it anyway), she also topped it with spun sugar from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I remember making that spun sugar. It took two people, a stepladder, and a broom handle, and there's no way that I'd willingly make it on a lovely spring day. But Orin also recommends eating the tart with a bottle of champagne. Now that I can get behind.
A lot of people opted not to share this tart with anyone. But those who did got happy tasters. Milatritos said she knew she'd made a "fantastic tart" when the first comment from one of her friends wasn't "really fit for this blog." Then... silence. "All I could hear from people a few seconds into digging into this tart was absolutely nothing. Not a word. Complete silence. Isn't that the best compliment?"
There were, to be sure, a few problems. Nancy, distracted by a conversation with a neighbor, overbaked her crust, which she had made in tartlet shells, rather than in one large tart. Oh Nancy, I feel your pain! Even so, she found it a "very nice flavor combination," but just a little sweet for her taste. Next time, she thought she'd use limes or key limes for more tartness.
Patricia's crust didn't get too brown (check the photo of her decorated tart crust if you want to see the difference that taking that one extra step can make--it's so pretty!), but she thought that the filling itself got a little too brown. The upside to that was there was no need to use the blowtorch to get that pretty brown top. Patricia thought it was "very tasty, but not spectacular." She liked it better the second day and suggested making it ahead if possible. She was expecting it to be like an orange Creamsicle, so was a little disappointed that it didn't.
But wait! Just to prove that our taste buds are, like snowflakes, all a little different, Kristina said she loved this tart because "it's like an orange creamsicle without the frozen, and in a crust." She loved it--"the combination of orange and caramelized sugar is fantastic. The little bit of lemon juice adds to the citrus punch without making it lemony."
And some of us had a little trouble with the dough. Kim said that no matter what recipe she used for pate sucree, "the pastry cracks as I roll it, even with plastic wrap. It seems to hold together when I press the dough together, but after resting and rolling, it [cracks]. Anyone know why?
As a matter of fact, Raymond knows why. Or at least he knows that it does, even if the answer to the question "why" is just "because." Raymond said that he once was invited into the kitchen of Chez Panisse, and headed right to the pastry station, where he saw a chef patching a pate sucree dough. Raymond asked him why. The chef said "It was the nature of these types of doughs to crack and break and there was nothing you could do to avoid it." Now Raymond doesn't even try to avoid it; he just knows he'll be patching the dough. Despite the cracking and patching, Kim thought the tart was just about "perfect." "Rich yet light, citrusy yet creamy.... The two of us ate through this pie in one day, and lamented its disappearance."
All in all, though, the problems were minor and the results were very good. And it was pretty easy, too, although as Catherine noted, it "did take a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing and multiple fridge and oven openings and closings. But when you're baking on a weekend anything that makes you get off the couch can seem like a lot of work." Not too much work for such "orange deliciousness," however.
Nicola was pretty much in the same frame of mind as Catherine. She "dragged herself into the kitchen" on Sunday, having no expectations of a great result. But she ended up comparing eating the last forkful of this wonderful tart with "reading the last chapter of a great book. You don't want it to end, but you want to enjoy every last bit of it." Nicola foresees a "long and meaningful relationship" with this recipe.
Finally, Jeniffer is not only responsible for the picture of the week, with her mouth-watering photo of a perfect sliver of tart, she might also get the award (if such an award existed) for the best opening line in a blog post. "Dad is running wild: always look forward to the 10 pm phone call from the nursing home saying, "your Dad is using his walker as a weapon." Somehow she managed to get from the nursing home to the oven, where she made the tart that she plans to showcase next Christmas, sans torching and instead decorated with "snow sugar and red currants."