My very first post (second one really, but the first of my baking chronicles!)
Big deal – for me. I have been thinking about blogging for ever, and now this is more a sign of permanence and quietude for me. When I feel like the time is right.
“Anyone can cook!” – is Chef Gusteau’s motto in that most beautiful of animation movies, ‘Ratatouille’ (Pixar, 2007). The story is set in Paris, where the recently deceased Gusteau appears as a spirit in the mind of a young, determined rat, Rémy, who is also a culinary genius. Says Rémy, “Anyone can, doesn’t mean that anyone should”! :-D
The ambitious rat goes on to be labelled by a leading French food critic as ‘Nothing less than the finest chef in France’.
Inspiring? Sure. Stuff that dreams are made of, and stuff that keeps your feet on the ground. How? Because it’s such a marvellously humorous take at French culinary snobbery, while at the same time being a gentle ode to French cuisine.
So, dreams aside and off to a kick-start, feet firmly on the ground with a seasonal fruit tart. I think the best dishes are created with fresh produce, not with packaged fruits, and frozen meats. Primitive thinking probably, in this day of all-year round crops and imported, ‘fresh’ frozen products.
That’s the way I look at it though. Use what you get locally, what’s in season and work your way backwards from there, rather than going digging for things you will only find in hyper-markets. That’s not to say, I wait for the earth to come around the sun till I bake my favourite apple pie, but I use it as a general thumb-rule in my baking, and when the apple pie must be had and autumn is still a distant dream, I simply apologize to my finer senses and give in … ;-)
So the mangoes in this tart are just co-incidental. You could use any seasonal fruit that you like – strawberries, kiwis and berries work especially well.
The most important thing in a tart is, well of course, the tart base. You conquer the base and you’ve won half the battle and all else seems like a ‘piece of pie’ ;-)
So, the base.
Choose carefully the size and quantity of tarts that you will need. No point making a six-inch tart for a family of four, or a single nine-inch one when you are hosting a dinner for friends. And when it comes to the base, the good news is – you can make it ahead and store any left-over dough to make tiny lemon curd tartlets when the craving hits! ;) SO, I would say err on the side of caution and make a larger-than-you-think-you-will-need amount.
Here are the ingredients for a couple of six-inch tarts. Depending upon how thin you like them, you may be able to squeeze out a couple of tartlets in the end :-)
|Sugar (powder)||3 tablespoons|
|Cold water||2 tablespoons (and a little more)|
Work with your hand mixer, or the food processor. First soften the cold butter in the bowl of your mixer. Sieve together the flour, salt and sugar. Add this to the softened butter and pulse only till it resembles breadcrumbs (I do this by hand, but then not everyone likes to get their hands sticky and messy).
Add a beaten egg and beat very shortly till the flour just about starts to come together. Take it out of the mixer bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of water (you may need a wee bit more) till the dough has just clung together to form a ball. Wrap with a cling wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
Meanwhile, get your fillings ready or better still (if you are making the shell a day ahead) make yourself some lemonade, put your feet up and watch Ratatouille, again! ;-)
Pause the movie after an hour or so, take out your dough from the refrigerator, and if it is too firm, let it soften a little at room temperature till you are able to roll with a rolling pin. Roll the dough out as thin as you like it (but not so thin that the shell cracks because of being too brittle when you take it out, if that happens, your battle of the base is lost L. So I would say it should be at least ¼ inch thick), then cut out a circle a couple of inches larger than the circumference of your chosen tart pan.
Gently place the rolled dough circle on the tart pan, and using your thumb and fingers press it in to fill in the scalloped sides of the tart pan. Once done stand still a moment and admire the beauty of this!
Now, return this to the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, and pre-heat your oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Go back to Rémy, as he sees his reflection in a puddle on the streets of Paris and is hit by an existentialist, “I was reminded how fragile it all was. How the world really saw me.”. Pause for a few seconds.
Take your dough out again. With a fork poke some holes in it, but not all the way down. Blind bake (use any dry beans) your tart shell for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Ego the critic is at Gusteau’s restaurant, ready to rip the chef apart with his scathing words, that is until he is served the ratatouille, made by Rémy.
Take the shell out from the oven and remove the beans used for blind baking. Put it back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes till your tart base appears dry, and has started to brown. Take it out and cool on a wire rack. Once it has cooled down completely, you could seal it with an egg white or some melted jam or preserve (a neutral flavoured one). I skipped this since I wasn’t gonna wait to eat my tart!
Proceed to the tart assembly step, once all the components are ready. Before that perhaps, watch the movie end in the bistro ‘La Ratatouille’ run by Rémy, Linguini and Colette, and funded by Anton Ego. They leave us happy in their new world, with many customers enjoying Rémy’s creations and the rats (Rémy’s family and friends) enjoying a delectable meal in the attic of the bistro. Lovely.
- Crème pâtissière (Pastry cream). This really is a form of home-made custard thickened with eggs.
- Sliced or scooped fruits, in this case, Mangoes!
Filling 1: Pastry Cream (Recipe adapted from Raymond Blanc – Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets)
|Whole or toned (reduced milk)||175 ml|
|Caster sugar||35 gms|
|Flour||1 ¼ tablespoons|
|Cornflour||1 ¼ tablespoons|
|Vanilla extract||¼ tablespoons|
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar, till the colour pales. Sieve together the flour and cornflour and add this to the egg mixture and set aside.
Place the milk on the burner and bring it to a point when it just about starts simmering. Do not allow it to boil. Now, very slowly (or else the eggs WILL curdle), add half the hot milk to the egg mixture, all the while whisking it.
Then return this mixture to the remaining half of the milk and put it back on the burner till it boils. Whisk continuously through this process. Let the mixture simmer another minute. Remove from the heat, and immediately cover it with a cling wrap to prevent a film from forming. Cool it at room temperature and refrigerate if not using immediately.
Filling 2: Fruits
|Mangoes (any variety, preferably a ripe, juicy deep coloured one)||2|
|Kiwi (optional, for garnishing)|
|Sweet or fresh cherries (optional, for garnishing)|
Cut very thin slices or scoop out pieces of mango (using a fruit corer, or whatever this piece of apparatus is called where you live).
Cut small pieces of kiwi, if using.
Leave the cherries whole, if using.
Assembling the mango tart:
Take the baked tart crust. Pour pastry cream into it (if your pastry cream was in the refrigerature, just give it a little twirl with a wire whisk before doing this) and smoothen it out evenly into the tart shell. You could do this easily with a palette knife or an icing spatula.
Now, carefully place the mango pieces on the pastry cream starting from the outer ring working your way inwards. (If you are using slices, then just arrange them in concentric circles inside the tart shell).
Now, garnish with very small slices of kiwis, and a few whole cherries. Remember this is a mango tart, I wouldn’t want to taste a pre-dominant taste of kiwi or even cream. The mango must make its presence felt on the palette! J Imperative.
Enjoy it fresh or glaze it with some apricot jelly or jam if you are refrigerating it for a while (the cut fruits will loose moisture, and look unappealing).
I commend your persistence if you’ve reached the end of this post, and really made your tart from scratch. And on days when you just don’t feel like it, or you don’t have any eggs in the refrigerator, you could make a simple custard (the packaged powder mix-with-milk variety. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t taste bad at all, even though the overpowering sweetness of packaged custard does take away totally from the natural sweet of the mango. Just make sure to call it a ‘Custard tart’ though, and you’re covered).
Till next time, adieu!
Bon courage with your endeavour and of course, Bon appétit.