Monday, 1 March 2010

The sad story of the broken tart.

This is my lemon tart. This is my lemon tart before I put it in the fridge over night and it developed a terrible fissure right down the middle, spoiling its pretty lemony face like a scar. The pastry is a bit mental too, as I'm quite ham-fisted. What else disappointed me about this tart? Let me count the ways: pastry too thin, resulting in custard leaking through a hole somewhere after it went soggy. If you look closely at the picture you can see that there's a weird jammy sludge around the bottom of the tin where some of the filling seeped out. I've worked out where I went wrong though, and I won't be discouraged. Next time I will roll my pastry out a bit thicker, blind bake it for longer and trim it before I bake it to avoid the raggy edges you see before you.

I'm very much a bought-pastry kind of girl. If it's good enough for Delia and all that. But this weekend as I mentioned before, I was determined to do everything by hand, from scratch with much sweating and swearing and disappointment when things you make yourself are not, in fact, as good as the packet ones.

Imagine my delight then, when shortcrust pastry is such a doddle! You just bung everything in the mixer and whizz it until it makes a ball. There's a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with chilling and rolling and chilling again etc, but it's quite therapeutic in a perverse sort of way. This is my fat little disc of pastry, fresh from the mixer. The work of about 30 seconds:
The next bit is the chilling and rolling part. Obviously this is where I started going a bit wonky, as I rolled it too thin. I thought this would make it crispier when I eventually baked it, I really hate thick slabby pastry, however all it achieved was the creation of structural weaknesses in my little tart. My next job was blind-baking it. Using baking beans made me feel very capable, a feeling which resonated throughout the whole pastry and tart making business (until the soggy miserable end obviously.) I think there is something about the kit you need for baking that makes you feel like a grown up. Wielding a rolling pin makes me feel a bit Deliaesque, which can only be a good thing?

I made a really lemony custard filling with the juice of six lemons and a really worrying quantity of double cream (400ml!) and seven eggs (SEVEN!) and tipped it into my blind-baked pastry shell. So far, so good, feeling pretty smug. I even sent an email to a friend about my pastry skills. What a fool I was. The tart turned out like many of the things I create at home; very tasty but looking like they were borne of a floury clash between a child and a performing dog. They never look like they do in the book, and I'm not sure why. I follow the instructions, I'm careful and delicate of hand, but somehow things always end up a bit smushed up and dishevelled. I think that's why I like making things that don't mind looking smushy and crap, like roast chicken, or pasta. Baking needs a bit more finesse than I'm blessed with.

The recipe I used was from Ruth Watson's Something for the Weekend which is a very fine book indeed.


  1. I think the tart looks great. And if it tastes great, that's all that matters.

    Nothing ever looks like it does in books and you know why? Because they make them out of plastic and cover them in hairspray and prop them up with cocktail sticks and THEN take a photo. xx

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