Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lemon and Almond Tart (Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks)

I learned two things today when I started making this tart.
The first was that if you are lazy in the kitchen it inevitably leads to more work.

The second was that sometimes things aren’t as difficult as they seem (but then again, sometimes they are just as difficult as you expect them to be.)

This is how my tart turned out... it tasted a lot better than it looked

We were heading to the ubiquitous summer BBQ at a friend’s house and I had volunteered to make dessert for the grown ups.  Notice how I said ‘for the grown-ups’?

I have learned through bitter experience if you try to make a dessert that please kids and adults either a) everyone ends up in tears or b) you all end up eating frogs-in-ponds.
Not that there is anything wrong with that.

This is how it was supposed to look (image courtesy Jason Thomas)

But bugger the kids, I was making lemon and almond tart. This is the sort of dish that you can buy in nice cake shops for $20+ so I was hoping it would be a big success. The sort of dessert where you bring it out on a fancy tray and everyone oohs and aaahs.

It seemed like a simple enough recipe – a sweet pastry base that is blind baked first, and then a lemon filling made with fresh lemon juice, icing sugar, eggs and almond meal.

Thing is (and I am almost ashamed to admit this, but since I don’t have to look any of you in the eye, I will say it anyway): I have never made pastry from scratch before.

Oh the shame.

Yes, I am a pull-a-frozen-sheet-out-of-the-freezer type gal and this was my first foray into the world of pastry.

But if I am doing this project properly (and there may be some debate about that) I need to follow the recipe as best as I am able, and damn it, I was going to make my own pastry.

God it was easy. Except for the part when I thought it would be easier to tip the icing sugar into the measuring cup right over the food processer, rather than take two steps to the left and get a spoon, which would have prevented this.

And I couldn't even blame the kids for the mess

 Lesson number one: laziness in the kitchen leads to more work.

So after I cleaned up all the icing sugar (side note, don’t use baby wipes to clean icing sugar, because the moisture just makes the sugar dissolve and leads to even more cursing and mess) I checked the recipe which said ‘pulse until it forms a ball’.

So I stood there, madly pushing the button and all the flour and sugar and chunks of butter were whizzing around, but nothing was happening. Where was my ball? Did I leave out an ingredient?

So I did what any self-respecting cook would have done. I pressed the ‘on’ button, walked away and made myself a cuppa (too early for wine, it was only 9am). When I came back, presto! A ball!

A ball... sort of

‘Roll the pastry out until it is 3mm thick and line a 23cm removable-bottom tart tin’.

It sounded so easy, but it’s really really not. I couldn’t keep the pastry from collapsing and tearing so I ended up pushing it into the tin and using the leftovers to patch the holes, figuring that all my (cough) handiwork would be covered up by the filling.

I bet Adrian's Zumbo doesn't have these issues...

The filling was more straight forward: eggs, icing sugar, lemons, butter and ground almonds. The recipe called for (optional) limocello, which I didn’t have. I substituted Triple Sec. It’s all citrus, right?

When I went to pour the filling into the tart case, I discovered there was too much and it started to drip over the sides when I went to put it in the oven. Oh well, it was a generous looking tart, with filling right up to the (slightly uneven) sides.

Later that night.

I did get my ooh and ahhhs and a barrage of compliments. Admittedly, quite a few were for finally growing a pair and making my own pastry rather than resorting to the frozen sort, but most were for the tart itself.

The fact that it was dark by the time we ate also helped. Even one of the kids wanted to try it (although I suspect she mistook it for a savoury quiche).

My thoughts

To all of you who have been telling me for years, yes I totally agree making my own pastry is very easy and tastes a thousand times better than the shop stuff.

But actually managing to put the stuff in a tin without it tearing and swearing is an entirely different matter…

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