Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bountiful backlog

Lots of you have probably heard of Bountiful Baskets by now.  For the uninitiated, Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op where you pay $16.50 to get about $40-50 worth of produce.  Everyone gets the same stuff and you dont get to pick what is in the basket but its all seasonal and usually in really good shape. You order about 5 days in advance and pick up your basket Saturday morning.  In our case, we pick it up at Udall Park at 6:30 in the morning.  We just recently switched to that location after some drama (scroll to the bottom, in italics) went down at our usual pick up of Lincoln Park.

So if you are a person who already gets a basket every week, you know how it can be.  As my friend Leia put it: "What am i going to do with 10 lbs of mangos?!" followed by "oh no, more mangos" the next week.  

For the last few weeks there has been no shortage of stone fruits and berries in the baskets.  and after a while, you can only eat so many raw peaches.  So whats a girl to do?  Well, in part one of an [as yet undetermined number] part series, I will given you something to do with your basket backlog! this week: fruit.

So, as you can see i have 7 peaches, 7 plums *one is behind the blackberries, a thing of black berries, a thing of strawberries and two mangos (we ate two of them raw).

i felt the most expeditious way to eat them all was, you guessed it, a fruit tart.  So here we go:

-3/4 c butter
-2/3 c sugar
-2 c flour
-1 tsp almond extract (pretty much optional...)

Mix all that together into a course meal.  This is best done in a food processor or standing mixer.  In case you arent much of a baker and "course meal" doesnt sound like anything to you, it should look like this:

So then in theory, if you grabbed a bunch it you could shape it (at least vaguely) but then if threw it back into a bowl it would break apart again.   That's what you want.  If you find yourself with big huge chunks of butter, you need to mix more. 

Ok so you dump all of that into your tart pan.  If you dont know what a tart pan is, its a short 1 inch tall pan with fluted edges where the bottom can be popped away from the sides.  unlike a spring form pan, it doesnt lock in.  This is important to know when you are working with a non-cooked tart shell and you try to hold it like a waiter holds a tray.  thats a good way to have a tart ring around your elbow and a broken pile of uncooked shell on your floor.  If you've never done this, that last sentence will mean nothing to you.  If you have, you probably chuckled to yourself.  ten points to you and me for getting the joke.

This makes an 11" tart which is pretty big.  Tart pans are like loaf pans where the recipes dont usually match the standard sizes available at Target.  Most tart recipes are for a 9" tart and most available pans are 11".  Likewise, most bread recipes assume a loaf of 8"x4" but the most common size in a regular store is 9"x5".  Its ridiculous.  

So this is what it looks like when you first dump it.  You will think to yourself: "where will i put fruit? or custard?"  

I'm sure youre smart enough to work out that you need to press this stuff down to make a shell.  Most recipes will tell you to do this with a measuring cup.  That's all well and good, unless your sister in law sells Pampered Chef and so all of you measuring cups look like this:  Super great for measuring out of a canister of flour, not so great for pushing down sides of a tart. (If you dont get why, its cause of the angled side there.)  Hopefully, like me, you have an old crappy measuring cup relic laying around that looks more like this:

This one will work perfectly for the sides.  However, i find that it takes a bit of force to get the bottom of your shell to flatten evenly.  So i use the measuring cup only for the sides.  For the bottom, i use a meat tenderizer.  The way God intended it to be used: on Pastries.

See? look with their powers combined, they are the perfect tart shell making pair!  

Its hard to tell here, but use your thumb to hold down the part of the edge that you are pressing with your measuring cup.  when you press it into the side this whole "physics" thing happens where it pushes up also.  push back against it and you'll get a nice compacted crust rather than a mess on your counter. Or both, as you can see here.

Now prick the bottom with a fork.  Bake the thing at 375 for about 15 min.  Keep an eye on it.  This is one of those times where golden brown means "over done" not "delicious".

When its done, i like to melt chocolate chips and spread a thin layer of chocolate along the inside bottom and sides of the tart.  This is not because chocolate is delicious (it is, but thats not why) This seals the tart, so the custard wont make your shell go all soggy if you keep it overnight.  If you wanna eat it right away do whatever.  Heck do whatever anyway, its your party.  Either way set it aside to cool.

-2 C half and half (or one cup milk, one cup heavy cream.  Unless you are my friend Nikki, who is freaked out by that idea)
-1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract if you dont have a bean handy)
-3/4 c sugar
-1/4 c flour
- pinch salt
-6 egg yolks
-1 tbs butter

Pour the half and half into a sauce pan and heat over med high heat.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk, then throw the pod in after it.   you'll take the pod out later, dont panic. 

You might be surprised by how many people dont know what i mean when i say "vanilla bean" so there is a photo for ya,just to be safe. I use a butter knife to scrape out the seeds because too often i accidentally shave my pod and end up with weird woody bits floating in my custard.  They dont bother anyone but me, but really i'm the one who matters here, its my tart.

While the milk comes to a simmer, mix the yolks with the sugar flour and salt

Once the milk is simmering (bubbles along the outside of the pan) remove it from the heat, take out the pod and poor it into the yolk mixture in a very very thin stream, while continuing to whisk furiously.  You are looking to gradually raise the temperature of the eggs, or else you will get scrambled egg custard.  Which is gross.  so steady as she goes there mates.

Fun science fact: the flour is what thickens it in this recipe.  Some custards call for corn starch which can be substituted for your gluten free friends.  but then they'd not be able to eat the tart shell so.... you'd need to come up with something else there...

If you've never seen my kitchen, its tiny and cluttered. Sorry. And my computer cooks with me.
Ok after you have about half of the hot milk into the yolks you can switch and dump the eggs into the milk in the pot.  Then put the whole thing back on the stove over medium heat and whisk until it thickens.  It will be obvious when it has thickened.

If you are like me, you will think this thickening takes FOREVER. you will find yourself thinking "well this is thicker but not OBVIOUSLY thicker like shes saying... soooo do i keep going?" yes you do.  You keep whisking (which means you keep standing next to that hot burner) until you fear that the Rapture will happen before this thing thickens up.  You keep whisking even when you swear you hear the four horsemen.  And just before you nearly stop stirring to let Kirk Cameron in to give you some "how to survive the next seven years" religious tracts, it will thicken.  Very suddenly.  Remove it from heat, throw in a tablespoon of butter whisk it til it melts.

Put the custard into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap touching the custard.  This prevents the weird skin from forming.  If you happened to have brought your plastic wrap to work and never remembered to bring it home (Who does that?), i've learned wax paper works just fine also.  Put the custard in the fridge until its cool-cold.

Once the custard is cool its really easy.  Dump your custard into your chocolate lined tart (or non-chocolate lined. whatever, im not here to judge).  Then you just slice up your weird fruits and throw them on top.  There is really no way to screw that up.  You could put pretty much any fruit on here and it would be fine*.

As you can see, i added some blueberries that i had laying around** and i sprinkled sweet basil from my garden since i didnt have any kiwi in there to break up the colors a bit.  You might think that is weird but seriously it was delicious.  It will be a permanent fixture in all future tarts.  

*Bananas would not be fine.
**"laying around" is a relative term.  I made Luis go grab them at Trader Joe's.


  1. Katie, you are so talented. You have content that I'm sure is worthy of monetizing the site eventually. Your blog is always interesting and the information is useful.

  2. omg, that tart is a work of art!