Sunday, February 15, 2004

Just desserts or just a waste of time?

I remember being a little younger and actually believing that having some skill or prowess in the kitchen might make me more attractive to men. Can you believe that I had such an antediluvian notion? I'm a little redfaced and I'm very embarrassed to actually admit it, but at least I'm doing so. I've seen a number of young women who convince themselves that they don't believe in the trappings of early modern values and yet they drag themselves over figurative coals because they don't have a boyfriend or in the case of many people my age, because they aren't married yet.

I don't want to get into any debates on gender archetypes and how we should or shouldn't smash them. I was just going to explain a ridiculous incident in which I spent a great deal of my time... cooking to impress a guy (this was several years ago) and it all ended up being a waste of time.

Instead I'll share a little fop I made after a break up. I had been seeing this guy for about two and a half years. We broke up. Again, I won't go into the embarrassing details or rationalize why it was such a bad idea to date him in the first place- for two and a half years (oops). The particular group of common friends we had often held a number of barbeques and parties. Again, I won't go into why it is a bad idea to share a common group of friends with someone after a break up. DUH. On one particular event, in late spring and early summer we'd all been invited to someone's house for the first cookout of the year. I decided that I would make a dessert to put all other desserts to shame. It took about a eight hours to cook and construct a french fruit tart with five different fruit and a creme anglais filling and hazelnut butter crust. I painstakingly dipped each piece of fruit in a kirshwasser apricot glaze. I spent all this time making the darned thing as a show off piece and the bastard never showed up to the party.

I've reconstructed the recipe and simplified it... because after all who has the time to spend to make someone envious. Especially when they suffer from anosmia of the heart and head.

Fruit Tart

Glazed Fruit
Strawberries, halved
Kiwis, sliced
Mandarin oranges
1 container of apricot jelly
1 tsp. framboise (raspberry liquor)

Tart crust
From I added the lemon zest.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tsp. lemon zest (I added this)

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, salt and lemon zest, beat until just coming together but still crumbly. Divide dough in half. Use immediately, or wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Roll dough out and place in a tart pan. Shape the tart and cover with foil. Place pie-weights (I usually use kidney beans) in the tart shell and pre-bake it (in a 375 degree oven) for 25 minutes with the weights and foil. Remove from the oven and remove foil and weights. Return to the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Creme Anglais (Got this recipe from all, but I refuse to link to that page because viewers are plagued with pop ups)
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 cup white sugar,
divided 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine half-and-half, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla bean. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. When cream mixture comes just to a boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Whisk a small amount of hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, then pour egg yolk mixture into remaining hot cream and whisk until smooth. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring, until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Let the custard cool. Then spoon into the tart crust and spread evenly. Arrange the fruit on top of the custard as you please. If you'd like you can even arrange them to spell out a particularly rude message. If I'd thought of this at the moment, I would have done it even though it may have been disconcerting to a few guests.

In a small saucepan melt the jelly on low heat and add the framboise. Combine well and let cool slightly. Carefully and sparingly spoon the glaze over the fruit. Screw dipping each piece one by one.

Writing this has brought back that scene from Heartburn with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. She's just discovered that her husband's been cheating on her and she goes through all the trouble to make a keylime pie just to pie his face before she makes her final exit. And I'm reminded that exacting revenge on anyone may be worthwhile for a few moments, but as lazy as I've become with age, I really don't want to bother making the effort anymore.

Kirshwasser (Kirsch´was`ser)
n. 1. An alcoholic liquor, obtained by distilling the fermented juice of the small black cherry.

Anosmia (A´nos`mia)
anosmia is the absence of the sense of smell. It can be partial or complete, and can be a result of an injury, illness, or can be congenital. People with a normal sense of smell confuse the sensations given to them by their tongue (sweet, salty, etc.) with those they detect using their nose. So, people with anosmia also have a limited sense of what many people would regard as taste.

Aguesia (A-gue-sia)
Inability to taste


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