The holidays are over. The boys are back to school. It's the first morning that I've been alone since mid-December. I forgot that I had wanted to wash their snow pants before today, until late last night. And packing lunches took more concentration than usual. Somehow the winter re-entry to the regular routine is always rough one, jarring and rocky, and with that deep-inside-felt frenzy of scrambling to keep pace.

Even in September, after that long, lazy stupor of summer, the return to routine is smoother. You ease into it. Maybe it's because with the sunshine and warmth in the evenings, that summer feeling hangs on.

Now, instead of another tour around the neighbourhood before dinner, and twilight lounging on the back deck after, the night comes sudden and shivering — before Sean gets home, and before the table is even laid. The Christmas tree has an appointment with the curb for pickup, and the strings of lights are packed away with all the sparkles.

A friend said yesterday that it is in our nature to hibernate, an instinct we spend these months fighting against, and I think she's right. 

But, we've rounded a corner. Now we can check off the start of winter term to the list with the winter solstice and a new calendar year. We marked that last one with particular fanfare, with sleeping in, followed by kougin-amann. 

Started the night before, the year before actually, the cakes rose overnight in the fridge. There's a magic in recipes that take care of themselves, as if the shoemaker's elves were sent to ease the arrival of this fresh set of days. One batch satisfied our needs, with enough to spare to pack up for pals who were passing through town on New Year's Day.

kouign-amann | Tara O'Brady

I don't think I'm unique in the mixed reaction to the new year. If I'm honest, when I consider the year that passed, I'm not sure where I stand on the subject. It was a lot of things, the year that one of my sons fell in love with swimming and roller coasters, and the other discovered an affinity for building things (his fingers went from chubby-little-guy-glorious to nimble, kid fingers overnight). It is the year my husband and I found out movies that don't make our kids cry might make us cry instead (ahem).  It will always be the year I finished my first book. Then one when we ripped out the carpets and we travelled more. It was a year of good news, and beginning, and discoveries. Of dance parties, Qwirkle, and a really excellent summer for tomatoes. Of friends getting engaged, others married, and others having children. Of them opening shows, publishing work, and starting businesses. But was also a year of waiting rooms. And stitches. There were long talks, then longer nights. Goodbyes. And some months when the losses outweighed any gains. 

It was a year of choosing and doing; of at times retreating, and others making it through.

Another friend remarked, last spring maybe, as he was experiencing his own stress-filled run, that maybe more and more days are like this because we are getting to be of a certain age. I think he might be right. 

And so, I know there's a melancholy for what has passed, along with a nervousness for what is ahead. I imagine the feeling as music box with the key wound too tight, bundled beneath my ribs somewhere.

There's an inherent energy in the coil of the mechanism. That vital potential momentum. That which has us moving forward towards those brighter days.

We're getting almost a full minute more sunlight in with each evening, and starting January 7th, we'll start making some gains in the morning on top of that. (By the way, all that solstice and equinox and sunrise and sunset time stuff is rather fascinating. Never have I thought so much about the angle of the Earth on its axis.)

kouign amann | Tara O'Brady

Fascinating in its own way, and a beacon on the 1st, was the kouign-amann. It is a Breton pastry whose name translates to "butter cake", and the only way I think to give a sense of it is as a croissant crossed with brioche, under the influence of a sugar bun. The dough is laminated, which is to say, stacked upon itself with a cushion of butter in between each layer. On the last fold a generous amount of sugar is incorporated into the pattern, then a final coat is added to each side. A kougin-amann can be baked as a single round, or cut into squares and tucked into ring moulds or muffin tin (tucking the points of the squares to the centre of the round creates that fluted edge and crenelated pattern on top). From the oven, a kougin-amann will emerge bubbling and burnished, and while the impulse is to feast immediately, they require a rest.

After a few minutes, what had been molten butterscotch where the pastry meets the pan cools to encrust the cake, and the fluffy, steaming interior sets into delineated strata. So, upon eating, that sugar outside fractures crunchily, giving way to a tender, delicate centre. 

Thus you have the story of how our year started with butter and sugar. But also with cooking and sharing a meal with some of those I love most. While there is an uncertainty in how the year will end, I'm holding on to how we started. That, I'd like to keep going all the way through. 

I wish you all golden days ahead. xo

 

KOUIGN-AMANN

Recipe by Claire Saffitz, as published in Bon Appétit, April 2014. (Mostly written as published, with a few changes to suit this site's formatting.) Making a laminated dough isn't exactly difficult — it's all about rolling and folding —  but it does require attention and care. And time. Lots of time, most of which is spent waiting for the dough to chill. What I recommend is start making the dough in the late afternoon. By bedtime, you should be ready to form the kouign-amann. Pop them in the fridge, covered, and then come back in the morning for baking.

Makes 12

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) European-style butter (at least 82% fat), melted, slightly cooled, plus more for bowl
  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (40 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) kosher salt
  • 3 cups (400 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

FOR THE BUTTER BLOCK

  • 12 oz. (340 g) chilled unsalted European-style butter (at least 82% fat), cut into pieces
  • ½ cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) kosher salt

TO ASSEMBLE

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • ¾ cup (150 g) sugar, divided
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray or some more melted butter for brushing the tin

 

METHOD

Make the dough. Brush a large bowl with butter. Whisk yeast and ¼ cup very warm water (110°–115°) in another large bowl to dissolve. Let stand until yeast starts to foam, about 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, 3 cups flour, 2 Tbsp. butter, and ¾ cup cold water. Mix until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed, until dough is supple, soft, and slightly tacky, about 5 minutes.

Place dough in prepared bowl and turn to coat with butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, place in a warm, draft-free spot, and let dough rise until doubled in size, 1–1½ hours. (This process of resting and rising is known as proofing.) Punch down dough and knead lightly a few times inside bowl. Cover again with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until dough is again doubled in size, 45–60 minutes.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 6x6” square. Wrap in plastic and chill in freezer until dough is very firm but not frozen, 30–35 minutes. (Heads up: You’ll want it to be about as firm as the chilled butter block.)

Now make the butter block. Beat butter, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer on low speed just until homogeneous and waxy-looking, about 3 minutes. Scrape butter mixture onto a large sheet of parchment. Shape into a 12x6” rectangle ¼” thick.

Neatly wrap up butter, pressing out air. Roll packet gently with a rolling pin to push butter into corners and create an evenly thick rectangle. Chill in refrigerator until firm but pliable, 25–30 minutes.

To assemble the pastries, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 19x7” rectangle (a bit wider and about 50 percent longer than the butter block). Place butter block on upper two-thirds of dough, leaving a thin border along top and sides. Fold dough like a letter: Bring lower third of dough up and over lower half of butter. Then fold exposed upper half of butter and dough over lower half (butter should bend, not break). Press edges of dough to seal, enclosing butter.

Rotate dough package 90° counterclockwise so flap opening is on your right. Roll out dough, dusting with flour as needed, to a 24x8” rectangle about ⅜” thick.

Fold rectangle into thirds like a letter (same as before), bringing lower third up, then upper third down (this completes the first turn).

Dust dough lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and chill in freezer until firm but not frozen, about 30 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator; continue to chill until very firm, about 1 hour longer. (Freezing dough first cuts down on chilling time.)

Place dough on surface so flap opening is on your right. Roll out dough, dusting with flour as needed, to a 24x8” rectangle, about ⅜” thick. Fold into thirds (same way as before), rotate 90° counterclockwise so flap opening is on your right, and roll out again to a 24x8” rectangle.

Sprinkle surface of dough with 2 Tbsp. sugar; fold into thirds. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and chill in freezer until firm but not frozen, about 30 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator; continue to chill until very firm, about 1 hour longer.

Place dough on surface so flap opening is on your right. Roll out dough, dusting with flour as needed, to a rectangle slightly larger than 16x12”. Trim to 16x12”. Cut into 12 squares (you’ll want a 4x3 grid). Brush excess flour from dough and surface.

Lightly coat muffin cups with nonstick spray. Sprinkle squares with a total of ¼ cup sugar, dividing evenly, and press gently to adhere. Turn over and repeat with another ¼ cup sugar, pressing gently to adhere. Shake off excess. Lift corners of each square and press into the center. Place each in a muffin cup. Wrap pans with plastic and chill in refrigerator at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours (dough will be puffed with slightly separated layers).

Preheat oven to 375°. Unwrap pans and sprinkle kouign-amann with remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar, dividing evenly. Bake until pastry is golden brown all over and sugar is deeply caramelized, 25–30 minutes (make sure to bake pastries while dough is still cold). Immediately remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack; let cool. 

NOTE (FROM TARA): 

  • As seen in the pictures, I chose to make slightly smaller pastries and used a standard muffin tin. I rolled the dough larger than suggested and then cut it into roughly 3-inch squares, yielding 18. Since my measurement and timing hasn't been tested more than once, I'd advise following the recipe as written rather than my example. 
  • Placing the pans on parchment-lined baking sheets will catch any butter overflow while baking.
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I went back and forth on whether or not I should write about these rhubarb Danishes. The trouble is, they're fussy. The dough requires a start the night before you want to bake, and so does macerating the rhubarb, and that's still only two of the three components done. And that dough, one that usually accepts a boost of whole wheat, demands all-white flour for truly gratifying puff and flake in this free-standing rendition. What's more, the quantities are awkward; in regards to the volume of rhubarb, there is the need for a certain surface area, not really weight, making it difficult to pin down a specific amount. A batch of the almond cream  (the last piece to this puzzle) yields more than needed; in light of which, there's the option of making only a half recipe with clumsy math, or doubling the pastry and rhubarb, or accepting that there will be leftover and making almond croissants with what remains.

After the details and wait, these Danishes are frustratingly good. The pastry is crisp at the edge but tender still. The almond cream is fragrant and ever-so-slightly-gritty, providing delineation between the smooth layers of the pastry below and the yielding rhubarb above; rhubarb which, only lightly sweetened, retains a glinting sharpness, cutting back the richness of the overall bite. 

WIthout naming names, there's a few folks who have made habit of putting away two (two!) per sitting, with no crumb neglected on the plate. By all accounts these Danishes are worth the trouble. 

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Scratch that. It's not trouble to make these, it's work. Not even difficult work, only an involved process. 

There was a reason behind the endeavour, besides really liking the idea of rhubarb Danishes, and that was the rhubarb itself. Sean brought bunches from a farm stand, two big bundles of stalks a few feet in length with leaves attached. He laid them in my arms in much the way a bouquet is handed to a crowned beauty queen, cradled in the crook of the elbow. These hot pink lookers, firmly pliant and none wider than my index finger, they called for similar pageantry. 

They needed a proper stage, not hidden under a crust or crumble, but left as they were for the most part and shown off. Danish dough as backdrop to neatly rowed rhubarb would do exactly that.

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I also know myself well enough to admit that I made these Danishes because I was avoiding another job I should have been doing. As I have a tendency to do when I'm daunted. I look for a different challenge to skirt around the one that really scares me.

I finally got around to listening to the audio copy of "The War of Art" (Warner Books, 2002) by Steven Pressfield that Sean put on my phone. When I've been playing it for a while and stop, I feel as though I've broken the surface after being underwater. It's an immersive listen, as Pressfield accounts the process and pitfalls of a creative life. I've been thinking of getting a hard copy, wanting to have the words laid out before me instead of rewinding and replaying the recording as often as I do. 

The first chapters of the book are about resistance, about what it means to commit yourself to work. In talking about the difficulties in getting started and the dangerous fear of coming to the end of a project, I thought about aiming for the middle. That comfortable place when momentum is behind you and you're not thinking yet about the sprint to the finish. It's when we fall into stride. Infuriatingly, despite anxiety of beginning, the only way to get there is by putting your head down, setting your shoulders, and simply do the work. 

There's no way around it; the following recipe reads long and boring and far too much effort to be worth it. It's doable. Promise. I've made them once a week for the last three.  As Pressfield says: 

"Set one foot in front of the other and keep climbing."

(I keep repeating that part.) 

OBDanish.jpg

RHUBARB DANISHES WITH ALMOND CREAM

A collection of recipes. The ingredients for the almond cream (with added vanilla bean) come from Bouchon Bakery (Artisan, 2012) by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. It is a book you want on your shelf when it comes to anything baked, full of insights and tricks, and essential recipes. With great respect to the authors, I've rewritten their instructions — with larger capacity stand mixers, I find the small batch of almond cream (as this amount is called in the book) easier to make by hand, especially if you chose to halve the recipe. What's below reflects that.

FOR THE RHUBARB

  • Approximately 1 1/2 pounds (700g) fresh rhubarb, trimmed of leaves but left whole
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean, plus the pod

FOR THE PASTRY

  • One recipe quick Danish dough, with white bread flour used to replace the same quantity of whole wheat

FOR THE ALMOND CREAM (makes approximately 1 1/2 cups, more than needed)

  • 1/2 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons (73 grams) almond meal
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 ounces (73 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (73 grams) powdered sugar
  • Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (44 grams) lightly-beaten eggs, see note

TO ASSEMBLE

  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash, see note
  • Granulated or sanding sugar for sprinkling


METHOD

Up to 24 hours before you want to bake, trim the rhubarb stalks to fit in a 9x13-inch dish. Combine the sugar, water, vanilla bean and pod in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Pour the hot syrup over the prepared rhubarb, turning the stalks to coat. Leave at room temperature to cool, then cover and place in the fridge at least overnight and as much as a full day, shuffling the rhubarb around in the syrup now and again.

The night before you want to bake, start the Danish dough. (You will complete the folds and finishing in the morning.)

The next day, about 2 hours before you want to bake, make the almond cream. Sift the almond flour into a medium bowl; break up any lumps in the sieve, and add to the bowl. Sift in the all-purpose flour and whisk together. 

Place the butter in a medium bowl and beat with a silicone spatula or a hand mixer until the butter lightens to about the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the spatula is lifted. Sift in the powdered sugar, stir to incorporate. Once blended, beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy, around 3 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the almond mixture in 2 additions, stirring to combine, then stir in the vanilla. Pour in the eggs and mix until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container, pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. (The cream can be made up to 4 days ahead of time.)

30 or so minutes before you want to bake, finish the Danish dough by completing 5 turns (folds). Chill for 20 minutes. (Dough can be made ahead and frozen, then defrosted in the fridge before using.)

To assemble, preheat an oven to 375°F / 190°C. Line a baking sheet or half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

On a lightly-floured work surface, roll the Danish dough to a 11x22-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into eight 5 1/2-inch squares. Refer to this diagram, and decide which shape you want to make. If making the vol-au-vent or envelope as I did, working one at a time, fold each square diagonally onto itself (forming a triangle, with corners lined up neatly). Leaving a thin border, cut a thin line starting from the bottom right corner of the triangle, parallel to the edge, almost up to the top. Repeat on the other side, leaving the tip attached. Unfold the package, brush with egg wash, then pull one of the cut edges over the other, lining it up with the interior edge of the square. Do the same with the other side, pressing lightly to seal, then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining squares.

Spread the well of each shaped Danish with about 1 tablespoon of almond cream. Remove rhubarb from the sugar syrup, draining any excess liquid back into the dish. Trim the rhubarb to fit the pastries and line them up to cover the almond cream. (There may be rhubarb left over, do not discard.) Sprinkle entire Danish with sugar. Set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free area for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, pour the rhubarb sugar macerating liquid into a saucepan along with any remaining rhubarb, cut to into chunks. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring, but not breaking up the rhubarb, until the liquid has thickened to a light syrup. With a slotted spoon, remove the rhubarb from the syrup. Turn off the heat but leave the syrup on the stove to keep warm.

Bake pastries in the preheated oven until puffed and golden, around 20 minutes. With a pastry brush, glaze the rhubarb and almond filling with the syrup. Remove the pastries to a baking rack to set for a few minutes, then serve warm. 

The Danishes are best eaten the day they are made. 

 

Notes: 

  • You may have egg left over from making the almond paste.  This can be kept aside and used for the egg wash. (If amount looks scant, you can bulk it up with a bit of heavy cream.)
  • The rhubarb removed from the syrup can be recombined with any extra glaze and served over ice cream or yogurt.  
  • If process shots will be of some aid, here is one, and another
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crust

This was the leftover. The stand in, the understudy that usually never gets the spotlight. I made two tarts, one with a pretty, fluted edge, the other roughly, haphazardly patched together with the remaining scraps of dough.

This was, to reiterate, the latter. The afterthought.

Yet, I'm fond of it. I'd even say that its imperfection is its charm. Its saved grace is really through no talent of mine, but rather owed to the recipe for the crust. It's the Whole Wheat Pastry Dough from the book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread(Wiley, 2008), and it's one to keep handy. My quiche thanks my friend for sending it in my direction.

I'll interrupt myself for a moment, as I can't make, eat, or even consider quiches without mention of her remembrance, that the introduction of quiches and tarts into my life is something I want to attribute to an aunt of mine. The instinct is possibly incorrect, but she has the nostalgic credit.

She wasn't an aunt by blood, but by friendship, one of those people in your life that was simply there, from the very beginning. A thought of her brings the smell of Yardley's English Rose perfume, the particular accent of her voice, and the time she let me dictate from memory a recipe for double chocolate cookies. By that I mean, I was five years old and most assuredly making it up as I went along, but she made the biscuits just as I said, and even pretended them a triumph, even though they were stuck irrevocably to the pan.

That aunt, she made quiches. Sausage rolls too, and we'll get there someday. Her quiches were always the same, or at least in my memory they were, eggs and cream with bacon. Nothing fancy. We'd eat them cold, straight out of the fridge or soon after. Then there would be tea, and maybe a butter biscuit from the navy tin she kept on the kitchen table.

So when I made our lunch, there was bacon involved, with thin rounds of squash and a sweet tangle of shallot, some grated Parmesan for resonant salinity to balance the lull of cream and egg, all poured into a whole wheat crust. We're back to that.

This pastry, unlike those cookies, is an actual triumph; heavy with butter, granted a freshness from cream cheese well matched to the whole wheat flour's gentle nuttiness. The dough goes supple and is quite forgiving as it's worked, which was, beyond my frugality, one of the reasons I thought to cobble together the scraps and use every last bit I could. 

I'm glad I did, because after lunch I found myself chasing the last of the crumbs off my plate with the tines of my fork. Plucking up those evasive fragments with the tips of my fingers as needed. The pastry is afternoon-nap-dream-worthy, the kind I think the best of dreams, as this is one of the best of pastries. I liked it for its subtlety and substance, for its structure of alternating tender and crisp. I liked how it baked up golden with speckles of brown still visible. 

It's a good dough to know. 

******

A few newsy things to pass along, while we're chatting:

A piece I did for Saveur.com, on cakes and decorating. It was such fun to do, and I hope you enjoy it.

I'm rather lucky to have collaborated with someone pretty darn special for the inaugral issue of Kinfolk Magazine. It launches July 15.

UPPERCASE's summer issue will be out soon; Janine put together a slideshow of some of the content, including a glimpse of my contribution - a story on Peach Melba Ice Pops

Here's to happy days, friends!

*******

WHOLE WHEAT PASTRY CRUST

From the book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (Wiley, 2008). Though I've only talked about the pastry today, the book is a wealth of homey, welcoming recipes. The Pecan Sticky Buns are already famous around here.

From the authors: The whole wheat flour and cream cheese give this pastry a special flavour and texture that areaperfect complement to our Spinach and Mushroom Quiche filling. This crust is surprisingly light, rich, and tender, so you might want to use the remaining dough scraps to make savory turnovers with any meat and/or vegetable scraps that are hiding in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

  • 146 g / 5.15 oz / 2/3 cup Unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 112 g / 4.0 oz / 3/8 cup + 1 tablespoon Cream Cheese, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 52 g / 1.83 oz / 4 tablespoons Ice Water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Apple cider vinegar
  • 158 g / 5.60 oz / 1 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 86 g / 3.0 oz / 1/2 cup Whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Baking powder

Method

Freeze the diced butter and cream cheese for at least 30 minutes. In a small cup or bowl, combine the ice water and the vinegar.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the 2 flours, salt and baking powder and process them until they are just combined. Add the frozen chunks of cream cheese and process again for 15 seconds or until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add the butter chunks and process again for 10 to 15 seconds, until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and sprinkle it with the ice water mixture. (If you don't have a food processor, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a wire whisk and rub very cold, not frozen, cream cheese into the flour with your fingers until it looks like coarse meal. Repeat the process with the very cold, not frozen, butter chunks until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas. If the butter starts to feel soft, freeze the mixture for 10 minutes before continuing. Sprinkle the ice water mixture over the flour.) Using your hands, stir the mixture, pressing it together firmly until it becomes a cohesive ball of dough. There shout not be any pockets of dry crumbs remaining. If necessary sprinkle in another 1 or 2 teaspoons of ice water. Place the ball of dough on a large piece of plastic wrap, seal the wrap around the dough, and flatten the ball to make a round 3/4-inch disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This dough may be kept refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 6 months.

Yield: pastry for six 4 1/2-inch quiches or one 9- or 10-inch quiche.

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This past weekend, I was going to do a lot of things. I was going to deal with that pile of laundry. I was going to read a bit more of that book on my nightstand. I was going to wax rhapsodic, again, about the gorgeousness of the season. I was even going to make tremblingly pretty Gewurztraminer gelées, studded with plump blackberries.

You will note, I was going to do those things. In fact, I did not end up checking any of those tasks off my list. The weekend turned out to be a fabulous one, and I was taken with other diversions. Come Monday my mood was so bright that I felt the need to celebrate the weekend's end; it was that good.

The aforementioned berries were glorious specimens of Loch Ness blackerries from the kind folks at Schouwenaar Orchard and Vineyard. Large and glossy black, the pine cone shaped bundles were simply addicting. Starting out with a full flat of these babies, we'd munched our way through the majority by Sunday evening.

Too perfect to mar with cooking, too pretty to hide under mounds of cream, the crowning glory of a fruit tart seemed destiny for the last of the tempting fruits. Wanting something as special as the weekend had been, I decided upon Martha Stewart's pistachio pastry crust for my base. More of a shortbread than a traditional pie crust, butter is even more enriched by the addition of ground nuts. The pistachios in turn tint the pasty a delicate chartreuse. My buoyant mood was not one that allowed for the patient stirring required for a pastry cream, so I turned to a simple alternative; thick mascarpone whipped to luxurious lightness, barely sweetened and scented with vanilla.

The perfect backdrop to the blackberries, the perfect end to the perfect weekend. No agenda needed.

Blackberry tart with pistachio crust

Ingredients
Pistachio crust
1/4 cup heavy (35%, whipping) cream
All purpose flour, for dusting
3 ounces (85 grams) white chocolate
2 tablespoons icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces (275 grams) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 pints blackberries
1 tablespoon black currant jelly or blackberry jam
1 tablespoon unsalted, hulled pistachios

Prepare pistachio pastry dough as per recipe. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out chilled dough to a 1/4" thick, 12" round. Lightly press dough into a 9" fluted, removable bottom tart pan, then chill for 10 minutes. Using a paring knife, trim excess dough. Scraps and leftover dough can be rerolled once and then baked as shortbread cookies.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Prick (dock) pastry all over to prevent puffing during baking. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang over all edges. Weigh down with pie weights, uncooked rice or dried beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove parchment and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shell is lightly browned all over.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove tart ring to cool completely.

Melt chocolate using a double boiler or microwave, then set aside to cool slightly. Once cool, use a pastry brush to thinly coat the inside of the cooled shell with chocolate. Chill for 10 minutes or until set.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form. Remove from mixer and set aside. Switching to the paddle attachment, cream the mascarpone until light and fluffy. On low speed, gently stir in half the whipped cream until just combined. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining cream.

Fill the prepared shell with the mascarpone mixture. Chill the tart for 20 minutes to firm up the filling or prepare to this point up to 3 hours ahead of time.

Melt the jam, with a scant 1/2 teaspoon water, using low heat in the microwave. Remove from oven and stir. Set aside to cook slightly. Top the filled tart with blackberries, then lightly brush lightly with glaze. Scatter with pistachios and serve immediately.

Makes one 9" tart.

Notes:

• This filling is not particularly sweet; you may want to adjust the sugar to best suit your tastes.
• Neufchâtel, blended ricotta or cream cheese can be substituted for the mascarpone. In these cases, amount of heavy cream may need to be adjusted accordingly.
• The pistachio crust I used is not available online, but I would think that Martha Stewart's Pistachio Graham-Cracker Crust would be a fine substitution, as would a classic pâte sucrée.
• It hardly needs saying, but this pastry and filling can be used as a basis for almost any fruit tart.

Epilogue: It has just come to my attention that the lovely Béa
had similar notions this week; two tastes of the same theme!