The Making of Things…like a Chocolate Frangipane Tart

IMG_1105On Sunday, I made this tart. And it was, ahem, not one of the prettiest things to ever come out my kitchen. I had the best of intentions. I discovered an actual tart pan in the kitchen of the Lama House, so that my tart could actually resemble a tart, rather than whatever would ensue from the tart ring I had planned to fabricate out of tin foil. I successfully adapted my frangipane in the direction of a pastry cream to account for a slight deficit of almond meal. I had exactly the right amount of chocolate for the ganache. It was going to be gorgeous enough to impress the natives of France, which is truly the land of tarts.

But then I started the actual process of making it. The dough baked much faster than I anticipated, so that it was dark at the edges but still quite blond at the base. The frangipane bubbled up one side, and even after I remedied that by covering it with ganache, the ganache got all ripply while I was transferring the tart to the fridge. Not to mention that half the crust shattered while I was unmolding the darn thing. I ate the shards of pate sucree as consolation. One must get through these things somehow.

After all that, I wasn’t exactly, totally looking forward to presenting it to my cohort. They’d found out that I worked as the pastry chef at a restaurant in California, and I aspired to live up to what the term “patissière” signifies, though in truth my experience brings me nowhere close to the true pastry chefs of either France or the US. I cached the thing in the fridge and somewhat ruefully brought it out after lunch, hoping it would at least be tasty enough to overcome its aesthetic shortcomings.

cuttingtartAlex snapped this pic of me deliberating over portioning. 🙂

We cut it into thin slivers to share it among the many of us that there were, and everyone hurrahed as we dug in. I feared that the frangipane was maybe a teeny bit overdone and that the salt wasn’t evenly distributed, but no one remarked it. In fact, every one was thrilled. It’s amazing how even such a small thing as a slightly unsightly pastry can bring about a collective joy that is quite out of proportion with the sum of its parts.

The next day, some one stopped me in the stairwell to thank me again. She said, “It was a moment of perfection, like I haven’t had in ages: the crust was tender, the frangipane was just sweet enough, the chocolate was soft, and the temperature was – ah, just right! So thank you for that.”

And I thought, this is the reason why we make things. Because even though, every time you start, uncertainty nips at your heels, and during each step along the way, unforeseen obstacles may befall you, when it’s all done, you may have something to give, something that extends beyond the borders of what you thought possible to bring something meaningful into the lives of others. Even if it’s just a single moment of gastronomic joy, it matters. What we share and what we can exchange far outweighs the doubts and struggles that go along with bringing anything into this world, be it a pastry, a painting, a song, or an idea.

Recipe after the jump… Continue reading

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Apricot Tart and Art Interims

Look…food! I know, it’s been a while since I posted any recipes. It’s not because I’ve stopped eating, hehe; it’s just that I’ve been doing a lot more arting than cooking lately.

What with the show coming up in September and a cousin of mine getting married in August, I feel like I have just maybe enough time to do everything I want to between now and then. Lately, my life’s been like this: I paint, and when I’m not painting, I work on my installation piece, and when I’m not working on my installation, I revise my artist statement, and when I’m not revising my artist statement, I build my website (more on that soon!), and when I’m not doing that, I try to breathe.

But once in awhile, I just can’t art anymore, and so I bake. Okay fine, so I occasionally sneak off to the beach– but I read art books when I’m there! In fact, I highly recommend The Diaries of Paul Klee and Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art. Back to my original point: this apricot tart will blow your mind and temporarily float all your worries away with its perfect blend of tangy fruit, creamy interior and crumbly, nutty crust. Apricot season is in full swing here in Southern California; I got these off my generous friends Brian and Carol’s tree. There’s really no comparing imported, grocery store apricots to farm-fresh ones. I highly recommend heading to your local farmer’s market or making a new friend when you drive past a house with an apricot tree in the yard. What better way to seal a friendship than with a gorgeous, scrumptious, home-made dessert?

Recipe after the jump…

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