Friday, 12 November 2010

Tired, Tart, Thursday

This posting was delayed as a second storm hit last evening and took out the broadband connection

The storm that hit us a couple of days ago returned with a vengeance last night. As winds and rain lashed us the inadequacies of my double glazing were revealed again, this time with devastating effect. Between 12:30 and 6am I managed just two hours sleep. Not exactly ideal preparations for the grudge match of the century in Man v Pastry IV.
A Normandy Pear Tart would provide the battleground and, as P day crept closer through the small hours, my windy noisy room took on the atmosphere of a landing craft approaching the beach for the invasion. This time the pastry would be very tricky a 7-4 mix of flour to butter where a 6-3 mix would be usual. This meant a very short pastry which had every possibility of tearing or just generally misbehaving.
But it had to be done. So around 7:20 left the house determined to get to school and maximise the resting and chilling time for the pastry to make it more manageable. But first there was the matter of making the Lemonade which would refresh students over lunch. A stock syrup would be joined by the freshly squeezed juices of four lemons and two oranges and some plain old water before being chilled down and ice added at the last minute.

That done, a quick trip to the office to log the problems with the sealing of the double glazing and then, rubbed down and warmed up I made my way to the ring. Music blared as I passed through the door to Kitchen 1- not the triumphalism of the Rocky theme or Simply the best but some weird hip hop, trance, jungle electro crap. None the less I was on a roll. Butter was chilled, flour and salt sifted, my hands plunged into ice cold water and the rubbing in began. 5 minutes later a small ball of dough lay in the bottom of a large bowl before being wrapped in plastic film and then consigned to the Siberian wastes of the ice box of the fridge. Whilst it entered suspended animation I began the days other dishes and the poached Pears that would eventually decorate the pastry.

After an hour in the chiller the pastry was brought out, pushed flat and rolled out on the work surface. Not for me the safety net of Clingfilm, nor the property altering lubricant of flour. No this was rolling-pin on pastry, Mano i mano, my only weapon being a palette knife to ensure that the pastry could not cling onto the surface in desperation. Rolled to a near perfect 1/8 inch thick it did not protest as it was folded in half and then quarters, laid over the tin (ungreased), eased into the ridges of the flan tin, the lip was made and the excess removed. After just five minutes the now acquiescent pastry was sent back to the arctic wastes of the freezer to chill before blind baking.
Meantime the pears were poaching in the left over stock syrup from the Lemonade duty and onions were sliced into rings and luxuriating a la Cleopatra in a bath of Milk, not Asses but Kerry Cow. Later dipped in seasoned flour they would be fried crisp and used to accompany the Steak that was another element of Lunch – the starter would be a plate of assorted smoked fish with suitable dressings, garnishes and sauces.

A quick trip to the 180 degree warmth of the oven turned the pastry into a thin crisp and golden pleasure and, filled with Frangipane (flavoured with Kirsch) and the poached Pear, it returned to the oven to complete. 45 minutes later it re-emerged as the finished article and the centrepiece of my tasting plates for today.

Deemed delicious by the teacher I felt it only right to do a lap of honour around the kitchen before running and diving to slide on my stomach the length of the corridor as ticker tape rained down and fireworks rent the midday air.
Actually I tidied up, cleaned down the Weigh Up area, ate my steak and a generous slice of tart before going off to Demo to see what I would cook tomorrow.

Terrines and souffl├ęs dominated the three hour demo. But as they say “Pride goes before a fall” and today was no exception. “Now, we have finished with shortcrust pastrys both sweet and savoury” announced Ms Allen “so tomorrow it’s Flaky Pastry and next week Puff!” Oh deep joy, but I am on a run at the moment so I look forward with interest to taking it to the next level. The tricky bit will be keeping it straight I think. Progress report as and when.
Two other things, firstly Declan (the sourdough starter) was outgrowing his current accommodation so he traded up to a 2 litre apartment this evening where he can spread out and grow up properly.  

And secondly, I had a number of emails asking for the melting biscuit recipe. Dead easy so here goes: Weigh up any scraps and nub ends of cheese, (hard, soft, Mature mild whatever – but not too much blue). Put them in a food processor with equal amounts of plain flour and butter i.e.6 oz cheese gets 6 of flour and 6 of butter. Process into a ball then roll up into a sausage shape.  Chill for an hour to hour and a half. Cut about 1/3 inch rounds and bake in an oven at 250 for 5 minutes, remove from oven and cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Eat as soon as you like but within a day or so in any event.

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