How do I loathe baking? Let me count the ways…
To be clear it’s not that I don’t enjoy baked goods. Nor is it that I detest the general act of baking itself. Rather, it is the process of baking combined with my general culinary clumsiness that stirs a sort of primal fear and rage within. It stems from the precise instructions and measurements. It’s unsettling to my very core. Where can we trace the origin of these intense feelings?
There was the time I tried to make empanadas using Bon Appétit’s All Butter Pie Dough recipe and I over-handled it. I just couldn’t get it to behave the way it was supposed to! What resulted were these horrific, malformed little mounds that tasted fine but Simon and I could not stop laughing at. They were hideous.
There are the countless times I have attempted to make biscuits and have yielded, without fail, golden hockey pucks better suited for paper weights than consumption. Or there’s the time I tried to make a peach pie when I was about thirteen and the filling was so juicy that the entire thing turned to a soggy pile mush in the oven. There have also been countless dry cakes and cupcakes, destroyed pie crusts, and a very unfortunate incident with a loaf of bread.
I just don’t have much luck when it comes to baking. I get overwhelmed; I second-guess myself, constantly checking and rechecking recipes, which leads to simple errors that can easily destroy a dish. As you might know by now my cooking style is anything but precise. It’s carefree and inventive. I don’t like to be boxed in by rules.
Baking is full of rules and often vague instructions that can only be clarified by practice…meaning more baking. Knead until the dough feels slightly elastic, being careful not to overwork. The mixture should look wet but not too wet. These are actual things I’ve read in recipes. I’m sorry. Could you please be less specific? No really? Let’s pretend I never bake—oh wait we aren’t pretending—how am I supposed to discern the accurate amount of elasticity if I’ve never felt it before? What is wet, but not wet? Is this a riddle? Some inside joke that I’ve been left out of?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the bakers of the world laugh at my general clueless-ness and discomfort. Maybe there is something inherently wrong with me. I see baking as an art form, a medium that I will never master. I would love to improve my execution, but until I get some more guidance, my attempts at baking only arise when the stars align.
First I have to be desperately craving some sort of baked good, which isn’t often because I don’t have a sweet tooth. Second I must establish the proper amount of distance from my last baking attempt, in order to build the necessary amount of courage needed to try, try again. Third I have to be in a wildly optimistic mood—since I tend towards delightfully cynical. And finally I must have a clear and planned vision of what I hope to accomplish.
All these things coincided the other day when I got it in my head that I just had to make some sort of a tart. I also desperately want to channel fall—see my previous post where I rant about hot weather. I thought some sort of a spiced dessert would be just the thing to create an autumnal illusion. Thus, this Spiced Plum Tart was born! I have been on a honey kick lately—specifically Bee in You Bonnet Cinnamon Infused Honey
Ok. Press Play! The tart dough recipe is absolutely not mine. I found an intriguing one on David Lebovitz’s site—a French recipe that he adapted from Paule Caillat of Promenades Gourmandes. This recipe requires you to heat the ingredients in the oven then add the flour. Now even I know that typically cold butter is cut into flour to achieve a flaky pie crust or tart shell. This was so out of the ordinary that I thought it just might work for my cooking style—and baking skill level. I made only a few slight tweaks and as you can see I pulled it off. I made a buttery, flaky, delicious French tart that looked good and tasted even better! Thank you David! Thank you Paule! Thank you food gods!
- For the Tart
- 3 oz. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 Tbsp. Vegetable oil (I only had coconut)
- 3 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/8 tsp. salt (I used a vanilla bean infused salt)
- 5oz, (or 1 slightly-rounded cup) flour
- For the Filling
- 2 lbs. plums (about 7-8) pitted and sliced however you like (I used a mandolin to slice my plums about 1/8 inch thick).
- ¼ cup Bee in Your Bonnet Cinnamon Infused honey
- ¼ tsp. garam masala
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- Make the Tart Shell
- Link to original recipe below.
- Preheat the oven to 410º F.
- In a medium oven proof dish or bowl add in butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.
- Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes or until butter is completely melted, bubbling, and just turning brown at the edges.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the oven and add in flour. It can sizzle and splatter so be careful.
- Stir mixture quickly until a ball of dough is formed and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. PLEASE RESIST THE URGE TO GRAB THE BOWL WITH YOUR BARE HANDS! I did this twice. David recommends reserving a small piece of dough (about the size of a raspberry) to patch any cracks after the tart bakes.
- When the dough is cool enough to handle place it in a 9 inch tart mold (the kind with the removable bottom) and spread and pat it into place with your fingers.
- Use a fork to prick the dough all over before placing in the oven and baking for about 15 minutes until the tart is golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely before adding the filling.
- Make the Filling
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Place plums in a large bowl and add in honey, garam masala, sugar, and lemon juice.
- Carefully mix with hands until well-combined.
- Add mixture to cooled tart shell (arranging as you please). I tried to get all fancy, carefully laying out one slice of plum after the other, adjusting and readjusting along the way. It came out beautiful, but was a pain and took forever. If this is not something you've done before, just remember to breath and take out your frustrations verbally on the tart. I find this helps.
- Bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove and let cool before very carefully removing tart from mold and serving.