January 26, 2008

Imperfect pear-lemon tart

Last night I was invited to a dinner party and asked to bring a dessert. My day was busy and I did not have time to think about a complicated recipe, nor did I feel right bringing a store-bought dessert as everyone at the party knows I bake for a living! (It's one of my part-time jobs). So, at 5:00 I had less than two hours to get something together and get myself ready to go. I had three d'anjou pears lying around ripening which immediately came to mind. Thinking of a pear tart, I happily discovered I had some pie dough left in the freezer from the last time I made a pie about a month ago. I pulled that out and set it on the hot stove where I had been cooking down some homemade chicken stock all afternoon. That did the job and the dough was ready to roll out in almost no time. It wasn't enough dough to use my 10 inch tart shell, so I put the unevenly shaped dough in a flat-sided springform, the smallest one I had. It came up the the sides and there was enough to fold in, gallette style,  which would have been nice, but I forgot to fold it in, and ended up with a high ringed tart resembling a queen's crown. Cute. I filled it with the pear slices and sprinkled some sugar and cinnamon over them. Then I added the lemon curd I had left in the fridge from last weekend's dinner party. Yum! I placed a few more pear slices in a fan around the top, and in a frenzy of creativity, added a cut-out piece of dough in the shape of a pear in the middle. Now I really was getting carried away. I popped it in my 400 degree oven, and waited. 45 minutes later, it came out perfectly browned on the edges and a lovely yellow and golden color on top from the cinnamon and egg wash.  (Egg wash, a pastry chef's trick, makes everything look perfectly browned).  I was so proud of my last-minute, recipe-less pear and lemon tart. Now here's where things went wrong--pride cometh before the fall. I left it on the counter to cool while I got dressed. When I came back to the kitchen my dog, Olive (you can see her cute face at the bottom of my page) was up on her hind legs her paws on the counter looking like she'd just done something very bad. I ran to the tart to find it with a hole in one side, looking more like the crumbled colisseum than the perfect golden crown it had once been. At least she didn't eat the whole thing! That was all I could think about, that and something I'd recently read in Julia Child's biography, My Life in France. My normal reaction would have been to hurl curse words at the dog, screaming at my bad luck and cursing the fates for allowing me to stupidly leave a tart unsupervised on the kitchen counter. But I remembered what Julia had written about a bad meal she once cooked for a friend. At times things would fail, she said, and a meal would not turn out well. If this happened "then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile--and learn from her mistakes." Imagine Daniel's surprise when I said nothing and walked away from my fallen masterpiece in silence. I took it to the party and instead of apologizing, made light of the imperfect "rustic" pear tart as they devoured it with pleasure and compliments.

(note: I forgot to take a picture! Next time I'll remember...) 

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