Pastry 6: More tarts

2005-07-22

Lime tartFor the last class, we began by rolling out a batch of sweet dough that we had prepared and frozen last week. Again, the warmth of the lab made the task more difficult, but I managed to fit the dough into 15 mini tart molds, with plenty left over. Chef demonstrated the crème brûlée filling, a rich egg custard very similar to the one for crème caramel that we made in Basic. She showed us how to temper the yolks before combining it with the heated milk. We also put in a real vanilla bean, after scraping out the seeds as well! Our instructor told us that the leftover bean can be rinsed and placed in a container of sugar for a few weeks to make vanilla sugar.
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This is going to look Irish now.
While we waited for the filling to cool, we made a crust for the key lime tart. Chef didn't like the one in the course notes, which was made with oats and coconut; instead, she had us make a simple graham cracker crust. We baked off the crust (since the lime tart is uncooked), filled the crème brûlée tarts and put those in the oven as well. For the key lime tart filling, we soaked gelatin sheets in cold water, then dissolved it in warm bottled lime juice and the juice and zest of two limes. Next, we whisked in condensed milk and stiff whipped cream. While Chef was demonstrating the lime tart filling, she put in too much green food colouring, prompting her to remark, "This is going to look Irish now." The very runny filling was poured into the cooled graham crusts.

Crème brûlée tartWhile waiting for those to set in the freezer, our instructor showed us how to caramelize the tops of the tarts using a blowtorch. After sprinkling a generous amount of sugar on the tops, she moved the flame steadily until the sugar melted. The flame was hot enough to scorch the pastry and the parchment paper, but it still took a bit of time to caramelize it. Over a dozen students times a dozen tarts each meant a lot of people had to wait around; having a few torches would have sped things up. Chef said that in restaurants, crème brûlée is made ahead of time and the sugar is caramelized when it is ordered, so that you get to enjoy the nice crackly topping. After a night in the fridge, the caramel dissolved into the custard and was no longer crunchy.

That's the end of Art of Pastry. I enjoyed it for the most part, but didn't find it all that challenging aside from the puff pastry work. There aren't very many baking classes for the rest of the summer; they'll start up again in the fall.

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