Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Follow instructions, stay on the path

Hi'ya, Friends,

Whoa. Do I have a lot to tell you. Firstly, you will notice a few new links posted to the right, (that's over ===> there), with some of my favorite internet reads. You will notice (and no doubt read) Carol, over at French Laundry at Home has her hands full (ick.) and I would be less of a blog community member not to mention her sacrifice for our genre. Judy Rodgers, the author of the Zuni Cookbook (who claims she can taste whether a pig's head has been used in the making of a stock or not) has a bit in her book about a pigs head being stolen from the restaurant's stock pot late one night. I thought it was an unparalleled moment of home-cooking book writing.
Up until we arrived at Carol's pigs head moment in the sun, that is, complete with photos. Ah, the glamour of the work! Anyway, take a drive by over there and cheer her on for me, okay?

Secondly, I was fresh off a momentous high caused by my huge, glowing pile of white peaches.

They were beautiful and ever so fragrant. I took a million pictures of them then decided I would like a peach tart. Here is another picture of my peaches. Get the picture?

But after that there was a desperate low, caused by the Peach Tart Experiment '08 that ensued and all the internal strife and ugliness which has followed since. I have been wearing my "I'm a Wreck" cute shirred cap sleeve baby tee-shirt around the house ever since. This helps me to work it out. Thank you, Urban Outfitters.

I want you to understand, it was not without some reference on the subject that I decided pastry cream, or some version thereof, could indeed be made with cottage cheese (Anthony Bourdain already detests home cooks, doesn't he? So I will no longer be deterred by the goal that I might one day impress him on the pages before you. But, Mr. Bourdain, I did make the demi glace and it is that you should cling to now.).

I had the peaches, and I needed a tart. I wanted the Peach and Marscapone Tart in Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis Hermann but I had no marscapone and the baby was sleeping. Even if she had not been, I did not feel like going to the store, I am always over there, it is like a museum for me and I need to cut back on my time and receipts there. Ms. Hermann made mention of processing cottage cheese (which I did have, yippee!) into a soft potion to replace Fromage Blanc (a pain-in-my-tail ingredient if ever there was one). She did not so much say you could buzz the cottage cheese and then replace the marscapone with whipped heavy cream. I got that idea from a montage of other reference sources I consulted in the 3 minute planning stage involved in this project. I also did not deign to make her Pate Sablee because it used 4 egg yolks and I have no use for the whites at the moment, freezing them is culinary bunk, and I hate wastage (I was in manufacturing once, you know). Instead, I used another sweet pastry dough recipe from who-knows-where that was a disaster all on it's own merits, even without my harebrained pastry-cream ideas.

You know very well by now how much I love Ms. Hermann's book, how I am not paid to give positive mention, and how well her guidance has worked for me in the past: (Syrian Chicken, anyone?)Magnificently. If I am on any path as she defined it, I have noticed that all goes swimmingly. Divergence from her book became a fool's errand this morning, which stretched into afternoon and eventually became, without any warning, now. So you see, the tart meltdown has absorbed nothing less than a day of my life. And that fact alone will mark Peach Tart in my memory from here on.

It went like this: The pastry dough came together in the processor just fine. It was not too sticky, pretty perfect in feel for what I know of pastry dough, which is some. I balled it up and tossed it in the fridge to concentrate on my cottage cheese pastry cream theory:

Exhibit A: Cottage cheese, extracts, freshly ground nutmeg before pulsing.

The truth is, I knew then it was too liquid in form to be safe for a pastry dough shell that cracked at rolling,

at blind baking, and at cooling, all in different places. See?

But I have to try a thing from start to finish to understand why it does not work and how to improve it. So, I finished it. Knowing full well what would come of it. The situation was not helped by the extreme juicy wateriness of the peaches in question, which I noted when I peeled them in the traditional manner, not in boiling water, because I did not want to make a juicy thing more juicy.

Then I spread my liquidy cottage cheese and heavy cream pastry cream into the shell. That was in the moments before I changed into my t-shirt and prepared for my fate.

Is this any surprise to you, Sparky?

Oh, but wait, I can fix it!:

All better!

Make a note, Pals, this is soooooo not over. Here is the part where I eat my Peach Tart Cottage Cheese soup with faux pastry-dough croutons in spite of itself. This might be why people go to pastry school, I'm not sure. Goodnight, Mr. Bourdain, wherever you are.


Anonymous said...

at least we can all laugh about it. Dame

Anonymous said...

This has happened to me too. I will read along and wait for your comeback.