Two Bit Tarts

Tarts

Red plum, Almond and peach tarts

No, I haven’t hung up my tart pans and chef’s knife, but my bill-paying career has lately taken up all of my time – traveling, traveling, traveling from Miami to Chicago with a stop in Denver, island hopping from Nassau to Aruba to Grand Cayman and most recently, Napa, Phoenix and San Diego. It’s no wonder when the last trip wrapped on Thursday, my immune system plummeted on Friday, allowing a cold (or is it flu?) to lay me low.

I haven’t been completely negligent in my baking, just my baking blogging. This weekend, with a fever and stuffed nose, it’s the perfect time to catch up. After whipping up an utterly unhealthy banana bread studded with peanut butter baking chips and smothered with cream cheese frosting*, I returned to my tart troubles.

After a few more imperfect iterations, I settled on my Culinary School pate sucree with a portion of the flour substituted with almond flour to give it some crumble. The resulting crust is sturdier than Hesser’s yet not as rock hard as the original sucree. It works for cream and custard fillings (lemon, key lime, coconut and almond), but becomes soggy overnight when filled with stone fruit. We’ll call that a ½ win.

The Crust
7.5 oz. softened butter
3 oz. sugar
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. lemon zest
1/2 t. vanilla
3 oz. egg, beaten
8 oz. All Purpose flour**
2 oz. almond flour

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream butter and sugar. Add salt, zest, vanilla and egg and beat until fully incorporated. Combine flours and mix until incorporated. Weigh out 2.75 oz. for each tartlet and press into sides and bottom of tartlet pans***. Blind bake as needed.

*Future trial – substitute pastry flour
**Future trial especially for my personal trainer – banana bread with Reese’s minis and crispy bacon covered in cream cheese frosting. God bless a girl with 12% body fat that still understands food porn.
***I’ve found a tortilla press works wonders for mass production. I pressed a 2.75 oz. ball of dough flat between two pieces of plastic wrap in the press, then fit the dough into the pans, pushing the overhang back in the sides as reinforcement.

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Hesser vs. Sucrée

I better figure out this tart crust dilemma quickly. I’ve volunteered to bake 24 tarts for our neighborhood bake sale next Saturday. Last night, regrettably, the Hesser and Sucrée battle ended, as I was afraid it would, without a clear victor.

The Hesser tart crumbled next to the very durable pate sucrée, but the sweet-savory taste and distinctive texture were far superior. The sucrée was overly sweet, yet bland and insipid – it could be any crust from any tart, but I’m convinced it could weather a 5” drop unscathed. Am I overreaching? I’ve scraped and eaten too many fillings, leaving the lackluster crust behind – and I don’t want my tarts to endure the same fate. I’m vainly searching for a formidable shell that can withstand the rigors of restaurant plating (and neighborhood bake sales) with a flavor worth devouring to the very last crumb.

Almond Tart Comparison

Almond Tart Comparison

Late last night, after the failed attempts above, I made another batch of Hesser’s with an added egg and pate sucrée with 1 oz of oil substituted for some of the butter, combining a little of each in the other. Both were better, but a winner is still eluding me. Maybe my best route is to make one of each and mash ‘em together.

I must find the ideal crust. Not yet defeated, but feeling the results of my quandary in the tightening waistband of my shorts, I recall my Culinary School sucrée recipe, substituting sugar for powdered sugar. That recipe – along with another ideation of Hesser’s – is my homework for tonight. Wish me luck – or a mash-up, it may have to be.

Where is my pastry fairy godmother to save me?