Tarts/Pies Archive

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

apple tarte tatin, anew

apple tarte tatin, anew

My brain is currently in Paris, idling in a cafe after a bike ride along the Seine. It may not come home. It started a few weeks ago, when an obsession with getting to the bottom of a baked spinach dish mentioned in a letter by Julia Child allowed me to, once again, dive deeply into the pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What I didn’t have was an exit strategy, which is especially dangerous when day to day life lately has been a bit more about double ear infections, sleep deprivation, cookbooking in a tiny, overheated kitchen, oh, and then we paid taxes things nobody needs to hear me complain about. In short: I choose Paris, instead. So the last few weeks have brought to our table weeknight roasted chicken, tiny gold potatoes, simple green salads, skinny green beans, white wine, weepingly delicious onion soup and a spate of apple tarte tatins.

apples, cored, with a little bevel
foamy butter
a light caramel that looks dark

The tarte tatin is one of my favorite apple desserts, but also one of my most consistent failures. Again and again over the years, I’ve tried to get it right but rarely did. Some were too sweet. Often, the apples didn’t cook through. I burnt the caramel more times than I’ll admit to, even in the last week. I’ve cut the apples all wrong. I’ve used puff pastry that didn’t want to puff and short crusts that crumbled under the caramelized apple juices. And a good lot of the time, the caramel just never came together, and remained a toasty syrup with a puddle of butter floating on top. Not that anyone complains about such things. More or less, if there’s a place where you can mess up a tarte tatin, I’ve done it. Multiple times.

don't worry, they'll shrink

Continued after the jump »

Friday, October 1, 2010

single-crust plum and apple pie

apple and plum pie

Early fall is a ridiculous time to get cooking block. Inspiration is everywhere as nearly everything that could possibly be in season currently is. The markets are flooded with great stuff; summer tomatoes, eggplant, corn and peppers fight for space on tables with apples, pears, greens and winter squash. But somehow — when I’m not playing SuperMom or Good Football Wife or gushing over tiny fall outfits — I’ve been at an impasse. The summer stuff is waning; the last tomatoes I brought home were… rough, to put it nicely. And given that the butternut squash and collards are the last bits of fresh produce we’ll see until asparagus spears pop up in May 2011, seven very long months from now, I’m sure you understand why I put off cooking with them for as long as possible.

prune plums
big yellow apples

So I was spending an unhealthy amount of time contemplating my First World Problem — What should I cook next? — when a reader (Hi, Janet!) sent me a link to Nigel Slater’s single-crust plum pie in The Guardian two weeks ago and, obviously, that was it as plum season is almost over. Slater argues that some fruits are too wet for a double-crusted pie and plums are one of them. To make up for getting stiffed by the absence of a bottom crust, he makes the top crust very thick and, look, these aren’t his words but let’s be frank: It’s a cookie. And it’s awesome.

apples and sad, old prune plums

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, July 1, 2010

sour cherry pie with almond crumble

sour cherry pie with almond streusel

If there can be no clearer indication that this will be the Summer of Pie at the Smitten Kitchen — as if a 6-week onslaught of galette after pie smackdowns after savory tart built on a platform of tartlets crusted bettys and free-form pretties did not already lead us to that conclusion — my pastry blender broke this week after putting in five very good years. First, one side of it became unglued from the handle and because I am both stubborn and cheap, I’d just hold it in with my thumb while I cut butter into flour. But then the other side came unglued and I ran out of thumbs. So RIP little pastry blender, and Amazon, hurry and bring that new one along, okay?*

sour cherries
pitting and pitting the cherries

If it could have a fitting final act, this would be a fine one, a sour cherry pie I’ve been angling to make for more than three years and have, without fail, missed the painfully short window that sour cherries are available. Not this year. This year the season seems to be stretching on and on, and I couldn’t be more pleased as while sweet cherries make some fine snacking, sour cherries win all prizes in baking.

pitted cherries

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, June 24, 2010

strawberry-rhubarb pie, improved

strawberry rhubarb pie slice

Do you have a favorite pie? I always think of pies falling in two categories, the prom queens, the blue ribbon prize winners, the ones that the president can’t keep out of his thoughts, and the rest of them. In the latter category there are the soggy bottoms, the overly-gelled fillings, the mortarboard crusts, the treacly sweet and those flawlessly latticed, magazine-ready specimen that turn out to have [insert your least favorite pie filling here] under their pretty lids.

all butter crust
last gasp strawberries and rhubarb

I was invited to participate in a “cooking smackdown” yesterday on The Takeaway, a morning radio show (produced by WNYC, The New York Times, BBC, WGBH and Public Radio International) in which a pie of my choice would go up against a cherry pie from New York Times columnist and collaborator on more cookbooks than I can count on two hands and all of my toes, Melissa Clark and my first reaction was: nope, no way. Because as far as I’m concerned, cherry pie is at the top of the pie heap; it’s epic, it’s iconic and it even has a metal song this kid likes to watch me head bang to dedicated to it. Strawberry-rhubarb pie? Not so much.

chopped rhubarb, sliced strawberries

Continued after the jump »

Monday, June 7, 2010

strawberry-ricotta graham tartlets

strawberry ricotta grahams

I know what you’re thinking, “Really, Deb? Tarts again?” And I realize that it might seem that I’m in a tart rut, what with those rustic rhubarb tarts and the distinctly tart-looking strawberry brown butter bettys and now these strawberry ricotta tarts. But you see, they’re all very different animals parading under the guise of tart-dom and really — because I am allowed to choose favorites, did you know that? — these are the best ones yet.

to bake
graham tartlets

Because they’re fake tarts. There’s no agonizing crust or shell to deal with, no tart rings or fluted removable-bottom pans, no fillings that need to be whipped just so and crossing your fingers that it doesn’t leak, explode or turn to mush in the oven. In fact, the bases aren’t tart shells at all, they’re essentially graham crackers, which means that they’re essentially cookies, which means that they’re essentially brilliant.

graham stack

Continued after the jump »


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