“Oh, pâte sucrée!”
People often ask me what it’s like to have moved back into the family home. On the one hand, it’s a deeply luxurious experience. Rather than an against-college-regulations electric camping hob (it lived in the wardrobe) and a combi-oven (more microwave than oven), I have access to four whole rings of induction-y goodness, and not one, but two ovens. So ok, technically the shiny new steam oven doesn’t work yet – but one day it will. Some of my hard-earned knowledge has become completely redundant, yet this is almost comforting: never again will I need to know that a can of hairspray makes a perfectly adequate substitute rolling pin, or that you can cook ravioli in a kettle. Like everything in life though, it’s the little things that trip you up.
It started with celeriac. Specifically a rather sizable head (bulb?) of celeraic which had been eying me from the fridge for a while. Now to me celeriac says soup, but the weather was unseasonably warm so I wanted something appropriately summery. Never one to disappoint, BBC Good Food suggested Celeriac and Pear Soup. With a hint of ginger? I was sold. So down to the shop it was, for a punnet of pears. Yet when I opened the fridge and reached to that familiar spot where the celeriac had been (second drawer at the back), there was a celeriac-shaped void. I know I didn’t eat it, but who did?
Now I had a punnet of pears to contend with. Pears don’t really say soup to me though: they say dessert. As luck would have it though, pears say dessert to someone else too: Smitten Kitchen. Did I want Pear Bread? Or Vanilla Roasted Pears? Or Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake? Well, yes, of course, but not in the immediate sense of the word. But the moment my eyes set upon the French Pear and Almond Tart I was convinced. Specifically, I started imagining myself as a chic and sophisticated Parisienne, with a stylishly knotted scarf at my neck and a penchant for baking.
The baking I managed. After a fashion. The eggs and flour I clearly remembered buying were no longer with us. It’s the little things, remember? The Mammy whistled innocently. Incidentally, never overly burdened by maternal instinct, The Mammy strenuously objects to being referred to as The Mammy. Guess she should have thought about that before using all my eggs.
The tart, you’ll be glad to know, was an unqualified success. Both the making of it and the eating of it were deeply and fundamentally satisfying. The finished product would have been prettier if I’d had a fluted 9 inch tart dish, but I don’t think anything could have tasted better. The Parisian dream lives on.
And also, the little things work both ways: The Mammy bought me rice flour when she did the weekly shop. So I could try the pancakes from the yummy aubergine curry dish as they were intended to be made.
And then she broke my juicer.
I hummed and hawed about posting the recipes and eventually decided against: I took them unashamedly from Dorie Greenspan, and changed nothing. I would change nothing. Well, my pastry needed a little extra water. That’s it.* Honestly though, you should read her post, even if you just skip to the recipe, which is explained more comprehensively than I could ever manage.
In short though, you make the pâte sucrée, you line the tart dish with it and freeze it for half an hour. Meanwhile, you poach your pears in a sugar syrup, and make the frangipan. You blind bake the pastry, then fill it with the frangipan and pears and bake it again. You eat too much and feel very full.
*Oh, and one stupid mistake I made was that got distracted by the Farenheight to Celcius conversion and I neglected to notice Dorie’s times/temperatures weren’t for a fan oven. Consequently my pastry was a little more browned than strictly necessary by the time I’d blind baked it.