Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fruit Tart Giggles

 Fresh Fruit Tart

Fruit Tart Giggles
by Victoria Challancin

As much as I enjoy teaching cooking classes in English, the utter satisfaction and gratification I get from working with Mexican cooks is something else altogether.  Over the years, I have taught over a thousand Mexican students here in San Miguel de Allende and for each one I have taught, she or the occasional "he" has taught me even more in return.  They have taught me about life, cuisine, medicinal plants, folklore, traditions, the process of the education of the palate, language, and above all, about the enormous generosity of spirit that Mexicans possess in spades.

As an educated foreigner who has chosen to spend her life living as a permanent ex-pat, I have taken much for granted.  I have traveled the world, lived in various cultures, tasted food far removed from my roots--as have you, the readers of my blog.  But imagine if you had never traveled over 50 miles from your birth home, from your community, from all that you hold dear.  And imagine if you are making your way in the world cooking for people who have, for people who have traveled the world and who have sophisticated palates.  These are the incredible women who make up the bulk of my students in my classes for Mexican cooks.  Some are traveled and more sophisticated, of course, but most are not.  Yet here they are, completely proficient in the preparation of Mexican cuisine understanding it at some visceral level, yet trying to make sense of international dishes such harissa, chermoula, ravioli, dukkah, boeuf bourguignon, sushi or even what to most of us are common ingredients like horseradish, blue cheese, ginger, eggplant, quinoa, couscous, and many more.  They come to me eager to learn, ready to improve their skills, thrilled to learn and try new dishes and all the while they reflect life back to me in the most wondrous ways.  Yes, I teach them cooking and they teach me about life.  I am lucky indeed.

 Esther, decorating the tart

Last Wednesday, one of the patrons who had sent her cook to my class requested a fruit tart.  Fruit tarts are usually easy enough to make and impressively pretty as well.  They yield high dividends in the kitchen.  Because her patron had requested the tart, I chose Esther to decorate it, first showing her and the rest of the class a page of fruit tart images off the Web to inspire and to encourage their own creativity as well.  Oohs and ahhas abounded.  "Pick that one!"  "No, that one!"  "Oh, look at that one..." 

Esther smiled and quietly pointed to the one that caught her eye.  I suggested she use it as a guide, but let her own creativity shine through.  And that is exactly what she did. Working with fresh kiwis, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and even mangoes, she was indeed inspired to put the final touches on the tart we had thus far made together as a group.

No sooner had she started from the center of the tart with a whole strawberry, working out in concentric circles, she added kiwis, and then blueberries.  And then the fun began.  The giggle fest.  The suggestions.  I stood back and let the cooks do their things, with Esther at the helm.  "Alternate blueberries and raspberries."  "No, add some cubes of mango for the color!"  "Better to make two rows of strawberries."  "I love raspberries--use more of those."  And so it went, all the while with Esther quietly ignoring them all.  I could see in each face the eagerness to create, the desire to make her own mark.  I knew we had a hit and that each cook would soon make her own unique tart at home or at work.  Success.  I love it.  And with little thanks to me.

 Fresh Fruit Tart and a platter with Mexican humor

We chose to make the crust by hand using a pastry blender as some of the cooks didn't have access to a food processor.  Either method works fine, although it is much faster with the machine!  

Recipe:  Fresh Fruit Tart
(Recipe by Ina Garten for Oprah Magazine)
Cook's Note: In Ina Garten's recipe, the fruit is shown in clusters, creating a casual, accidental-looking style, rather in the precise rows we chose to make.  Both are beautiful in their own ways.

Toppings:  (choose 4 or 5):  Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, mango, papaya, kiwi, bananas, pineapple, plums, starfruit, or whatever is in season

Pastry:  
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons/1 stick/113g unsalted butter, very cold
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Pastry Cream:  
3 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cognac or brandy

1/2 cup apricot jelly or jam

For the pastry:
Combine flour, sugar, and salt and place in freezer 30 minutes.  Cut butter into 1/4-inch pieces.  Put flour mixture in bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add butter and pulse about 10 times until butter forms small bits.  Add ice water and process until dough comes together.  Place on a well-floured board and form into a disc.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit 5 minutes.  Roll dough into 1/16-inch-tick circle, large enough to hang slightly over the sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Place dough in pan.  Cut off excess dough with a sharp knife or your thumb.  Line tart shell with aluminum foil, then fill with dried beans, rice, or ceramic pie weights.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove beans and foil; prick bottom of shell with a fork to allow steam to escape.  Bake another 20 minutes until browned.  Cool to room temperature.

For the pastry cream:  
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using an electric hand mixer), beat egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed about 3 minutes, until mixture is light yellow and falls back into bowl in a ribbon.  On low speed, beat in cornstarch.  In a large saucepan, bring milk to a simmer.  Slowly pour milk into egg mixture, whisking steadily, then pour back into saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until mixture is thick, about 4 minutes.  Bring to a boil and cook on low heat 2 to 3 more minutes.  (Taste to be sure cornstarch is cooked).  Remove from heat; mix in butter, vanilla, cream, and cognac.  Pour through a strainer into a bowl if very smooth texture is desired.  Place plastic wrap directly onto custard and refrigerate until cold.  Place
plastic wrap directly onto custard and refrigerate until cold.  Place baked tart shell on a serving plaste and spread pastry cream over bottom of shell.  Slice and group fruit in desired design.  

For glaze:
In a small saucepan (or microwave-safe bowl), melt jelly with 1 tablespoon water.  Brush glaze over fruit and serve as soon as possible to avoid soggy pastry.

Enjoy!

I will submit this post to the lovely Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for her weekly Magazine Monday roundup.  And also at the end of the month I will send this to Nancy of Spicie Foodie for her YBR (Your Best Recipe) monthly blog event.  Thank you both for your efforts!




©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.s

12 comments:

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love being around people that are eager to learn about things too-it's inspiring! :) And this is a heart stoppingly beautiful tart! A work of art really! :o

Hotly Spiced said...

What a beautiful tart Victoria. That is incredible. Well done to Bertha. It is so pretty and has so many wonderful colours. It sounds like you really love your cooking classes. I'm sure your students get as much out of them as you do. Great post!

Ben said...

It looks like you always have a great time with your students. I'd love to take one of your classes :)

Yvette ~ Muy Bueno Cookbook said...

WOW! What a fun class! I want to be there! I can only imagine the beautiful stories you hear. I feel the love and I can see how beautiful and proud your student is making her mouth watering tart. Loved this post! Absolutely beautiful!

FOODalogue said...

What a lovely post...in storytelling, sentiment and tart-decorating!

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, that's amazing.. it's so beautiful, I'm bookmarking it to come back to later! :D


--fatisrecipes.wordpress.com

Platanos, Mangoes and Me! said...

I know about the Mexican people..hard working, generous, lively...I can go on and on...Many moons ago I was the personal secretary for Miguel Aleman's tourism offices here in New York and I had the great pleasure of visitng Mexico many, many times...Now I am singing "memories"...

Kiri W. said...

What a truly gorgeous tart :) I tip my hat to you just for the patience in decorating!

Spicie Foodie said...

Hola Victoria,

I loved your story! I was born in Mexico but have been an expat for a long time. Your classes sound like great fun. The tart looks perfect. Thanks for participating in the YBR. Have a great weekend :)

Gold On Runescape said...

We liked your own story! I used to be born in The philipines but happen to be a good expatriate for a long period. Your instructional classes could be seen as very exciting. The sour seems perfect. Thanks for taking part in the YBR. Use a wonderful weekend :)

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http://platanosmangoes.com said...

This post touched me and you made one of my favorite deserts.

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