I’ve gone a-tart-ing

Strawcloset

I have a confession to make. I did not know how to hull a strawberry until I made this dacquoise. I am one who has no knife skills when it comes to a paring knife (now the chef knife is a different matter and I think I have pretty decent skills with that.) The “hungry” hubby always pared my apples, pears and other fruits for me and with the availability of peelers – a godsend in the kitchen utility world — I never found it necessary to learn this skill.

But this particular afternoon, the hubby was running errands and I had a pound and a half of strawberries to prepare. So I started by cutting the crown off, splitting it in half and digging the pulpy core out with a little spoon. After about my 10th strawberry, the hubby came home from one of his errands. I asked him forlornly if he knew a better way to core strawberries. He carefully stated  (so as not to make me feel like a dork, I presume) that it would be better if I did not halve the strawberries first but just cut off the crown, and insert the paring knife through it and then twist the core out (if you noticed the instructions said hull then halve…strike three for me.) Oh. Can I say I felt like the biggest dork?!

Anyway, let’s not dwell on my questionable knife skills but on my new passion in the food arena. Tarts. During my blogging break I just fell in love with this particular pastry and I have been reading up on them and have just been plain excited. I have tried three recipes for sweet tart dough all with very positive results but have not quite decided yet on my go-to crust. Aside from recipes, there are techniques to consider. Do I use a food processor, the cut-in method, or do I use my fingers? I also find myself torn between so many books: Tartine, Mes Tartes , Eric Kayser’s Sweet and Savory Tarts and SO many more.

With summer bearing down on us with its bounty of delicious fruits, the mission of finding the perfect tart crust has become more pressing. Unfortunately, with summer there are also trips to take that interfere with my time in the kitchen.

Anyway, with the season of strawberries still going strong, let me leave you with this truly tasty tart.   

Strawberries on Pistachio Dacquoise

            From Eric Kayser’s Sweet and Savoury Tarts"

Equipment: 12×8 inch tart pan

Ingredients:

·         Butter for the mold

·         ½ lb (240 g) pistachio dacquoise pastry (see recipe below)

·         1 oz (30 g) unsalted chopped pistachios

·         1 ½ lb (700 g) strawberries

·         3 egg yolks

·         ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar

·         ¼ cup (25 g) flour plus a little for the baking pan

·         1 ½ tbs (15 g) cornstarch

·         ½ cup (100 ml) whipping cream

Directions:

1.      Wash, hull, and dry the strawberries. Cut them in half lengthwise.

2.      In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar, the flour, and the cornstarch.

3.      Pour a little boiling milk into this mixture, beat, and return it all into the saucepan.

4.      Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

5.      Butter the mold and dust it with flour. Line the pan with the dacquoise pastry.

6.      Sprinkle the pastry with chopped pistachios, setting aside some for decoration. Bake for 25 minutes. Set aside and cool.

7.      Whip the cream, and fold it into the cooled milk mixture. Spoon it over the dacquoise.

8.      Arrange the strawberries, and garnish with the remaining chopped pistachios.

Pistachio Dacquoise Pastry

Ingredients:

·         6 egg whites

·         1 ¼ cup (160 g) confectioner’s sugar

·         1 oz (24 g) pistachio paste

·         1 2/3 cup (140 g) ground almonds

·         1/3 cup (60 g) superfine sugar

·         1 oz (32 g) unsalted pistachios, ground

·         Butter for the mold

Directions:

1.      Beat the egg whites stiffly with the confectioner’s sugar. Add 1 tablespoon beaten egg whites to the pistachio paste to soften it, and then incorporate the rest of the egg whites.

2.      Mix together the ground almonds, the superfine sugar, and the ground unsalted pistachios. Fold these ingredients gently into the beaten egg whites.

3.      Butter the mold and spoon the pastry into it. Bake at 325 °F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool before garnishing.

Strawpist

Cooking Notes:

            Eric Kayser’s book is full of inspiring tarts both of a sweet and savory nature – but a word of warning; this book is not for the inexperienced baker. Though my tart turned out surprisingly good, the succinct instructions were lacking in some important information I felt was needed for someone who has never made a dacquoise or meringue before. For example, when it said to bake for 25 minutes, for me that was not clear enough. We all know that ovens cook in varying degrees so a visual description or a firmness cue would have helped determine when the dacquoise was done. For me, I decided it was done when it started to pull from the sides, turned brown, and was firm to the touch.

Also, I took it literally when it said to mix the yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch together – well that ended up in clumps which then curdled my eggs when I added the hot milk.

That batch went straight to the garbage disposal.

On my next attempt, I tried to use more common sense and mix the sugar and yolk first, mix the flour and the cornstarch second and then slowly whisk the flour mixture into the yolk-sugar mixture. This worked out better and the resulting pastry cream was perfect. The cream should be thick enough to coat a spoon…though I think it was even thicker than that. Remember this will eventually be lightened by whipped cream.

Despite all these small frustrations, the tart was totally worth it. The dacquoise pastry was unlike anything I have ever tasted. I was really pleased with the pistachio flavor coming through in the crust. It complemented the lightly sweetened cream and the taste of the strawberries perfectly.