When deciding what to contribute to our traditional July 4th potluck dinner, I decided to go all out. Inspired by the July Avid Baker’s Challenge, Abby Dodge’s Classic Fruit Tart, I figured that a red-white-and-blue tart would be grand. Then I couldn’t leave well enough alone and morphed the concept from one large tart to 2-dozen tartlets.
Despite the storm last weekend and the triple digit temperatures that continue even as I write this, I was determined to follow through with my plan. Luckily we didn’t lose power in the storm (for which I am grateful beyond words) and I could work in an air-conditioned kitchen.
This plan and my initial efforts violated at least 3 of my own basic rules:
- Don’t make food that is difficult to transport for a meal that is not being held at your house – sitting in a car with several large, covered containers that cannot be tilted is no fun;
- Don’t make a tart (or tartlets) with pastry cream on a blistering hot day - keeping tarts with pastry cream filling from getting soggy on such a day is close to impossible; and
- Don’t start making a dessert at 11 pm, especially if it has multiple steps - even a night owl like me can only be courting disaster with that start time.
The tale of how these tarts got made includes too many expletives for this mostly PG-13 blog. But all’s well that ends well – with a bonus of last minute/no recipe/semi-successful cross between French macarons and Jewish-style macaroons because I had leftover egg whites from the dough, which uses one yolk, and the pastry cream, which uses several.
First the dough - I was impatient, but I've learned to trust Abby. It did come together in the food processor and made nice round disc to refrigerate until chilled.
I didn't need to roll out the dough. Instead, I pressed it into the shells, which was good because I definitely was not in the mood to roll out multiple small circles. Although the tiny tarlet pans do not have removable sides like the big ones do, if you tap them after the tartlets are baked and cooled, the baked shells pop out.
The pastry cream is a bit tricky in the cooking stage. You have to cook it slowly and according to the directions in order to avoid lumps and other problems with the texture. Almost miraculously, considering the late hour and the way I was rushing around, the pastry cream worked out beautifully. I chilled it overnight.
The next afternoon (on July 4th), I added vanilla and a bit of whipping cream to the pastry cream (per the directions) and filled the tartlets. In the category of can't-leave-well-enough-alone changes, I also added a bit of Grand Marnier, an orange-flavored liqueuer.
Pitting the cherries and arranging the fruit was tedious, but rewarding. I started by putting a pitted cherry in the middle, then added 4 blueberries in a cross or star pattern, and ended by filling in the empty spaces with more blueberries, so that there were 8 blueberries on each tartlet. Who would do such a thing? If you like 2,000 piece crossword puzzles, needlepoint, or glueing small model airplane parts together, you understand and this is your type of endeavor. Otherwise, go for the one big tart with fruit-piled-high.
The macarons/macaroons were made with egg whites, sugar, Amaretto, and sliced almonds. Although their construction was less than ideal, mini cupcake molds and liners helped keep them reasonably uniform. The only picture I have of them is a last minute shot as the July 4th party goers were about to dig into dessert tray. Oh well. Happy Friday!