Archive for the ‘book club’ Category

TWD #1: French Pear Tart

January 6, 2009

French Pear Tart 4\"And now for something completely different….

My dear friend SS and I signed up for “Tuesday’s with Dorie,” (TWD) a bi-weekly food blogger challange in which you make an assigned Dorie Greenspan recipe from the book “Baking: From My Home to Yours.”

I’d never actually made a tart (other than of the “Pop” variety) so I was especially excited about this recipe. I view TWD much like I view my book club, a chance to try something new, that I might not normally pick myself. In baking I have a tendency to choose recipes that are chocolate and portable (cookies). For book club I apparently pick out books with a recurring theme: “multigenerational family curses.”

Okay, back to the tart. I faced a few obstacles in making this recipe. First, the recipe requires a food processor; I own a very nice one, (Thanks, Mom!) but I dropped the work bowl at just the right (wrong) angle and broke the handle. This was more than an inconvenience, as the handle must latch for the processor to run. I called Kitchen Aid, and the new one is on the way (and cost $50!)

Too late for my tart, though!

My second obstacle was the lack of a tart pan. The recipe specifies a 9″ one. I do own a 9″ springform pan but I was afraid the tart would not brown as well due to the higher sides. Thus, my epic search for a tart pan began. (Again, not enough time to order one online!)

SS and I met “in town” on New Year’s Day evening to search for the appropriate pan. Despite living in a metropolitan area of over a 350,000 people, we have no kitchen supply store. Thus we decided to search TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Target, Walmart and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Guess what? A holiday, after six p.m. is not the best time to go shopping. We traversed the town but only Target and Walmart were still open. And NO tart pans at either place.

Saturday, after spin torture class, we went to BB and B, dragging along my teenage son and our non-cooking friend L. (They were really amused by our cries of “OMG, look at these cute cookie cutters!” and our lustful looks at baking implements.)


Sort of.

They had an 11″ tart pan. They had a set of six 4″ tart pans.

I opted for the smaller tart pans, figuring I could use them for other desserts and quiches for my family.

Plus they are super cute.

I had most of the supplies in hand for the recipe but had to make a quick stop at the grocery store for blanched almonds. Next time I’ll make my own as SS sent me a link with directions.

Feeling energetic I decided to make the tart that night. Unfortunately, I decided to work on the tart at the same time I made a dinner of roasted chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and sauteed garlicy broccoli.

Unfortunately for my dinner, not the tarts.

Luckily no one ended up with salmonella.

I made the poached pears first; I happened to have three perfectly ripe pears on hand. I combined the pears with water, sugar and lemon juice and simmered them gently for fifteen minutes.

While the pears cooled, I made the tart dough. I whirred the flour and sugar in my blender, dumped it in a bowl, and used my metal potato masher to mix in the cold butter; then I kneaded the dough very briefly on a silpat mat, pressed the dough into the tiny tart pans and popped them in the freezer. (And I mashed the potatoes and put the broccoli in the microwave.)

My blender (Motto “Now for more than just smoothies!”) was useful in grinding the almonds for the almond cream. I pulsed them until finely ground and then mixed them with butter, corn starch, vanilla, sugar and egg yolk. I refrigerated the almond cream while I cut the pears into slices. (And cut up garlic for the broccoli and took the chicken out of the oven. Too early.)

Have I mentioned that I’m uncoordinated? And that I have a hard time following directions?

My pear slices, well, they were “special.” (But delicious!)

Now I had all the components ready but had to decide on baking times. The pastry dough had to be partially baked and cooled before assembly. I feared the time in the directions, for a 9″ tart pan, would result in overcooked crusts. I halved the blind baking time and that seemed just about right. (And made gravy.)

Setting the tart crusts to cool on a wire cookie rack, I ate dinner with my family.

And (barely) lived to tell the tale.

After dinner I put the almond cream on the cooled pastry crusts, topped them with mutilated pear slices and put them in the oven to bake. Again, I worried about the baking time, but decided to set my timer for 30 minutes and to check them at that point.

I joined my daughter in watching “Little Miss Sunshine.”

I love that movie!

About 25 minutes later Reagan said “It smells like your tarts are done.”
She was right and “bravo!” to Reagan for trusting her instincts.
(Seriously, that is a lesson it took me many years to learn and she already gets it at fourteen! Plus she knows how to temper egg yolks. My daughter is a wondrous creature.)

The tarts cooled until after little Olive “kicked ass” and they were fragrant and lovely and tasted wonderful.

Even my normally chocolate-dessert loving son and husband really liked the tart.
[Much, much more than the (literally!) bloody chicken.]


Book selection #1

August 17, 2007

Hi. Hopefully everyone that wanted to join the book club received an email from either Laura or myself.
The first book is “The Devil in the Details” by Jennifer Traig.
The first meeting will be in September, possibly the 21st.

Last night Reagan and I went into Peoria to run errands. She wanted to purchase food and a ouija board for a slumber party she is throwing tonight.
The conversation we had about it is classic Reagan:
Me: Why do you want a ouija board?
Reagan: Well, we want to talk to Elvis. Oh, and Ashley’s grandpa. He’s either dead or in Florida.

August 13, 2007

Friday night we went to Red Zin, unfortunately, Carl Bopp, piano player extraordinaire was not in residence.

At Martini’s I asked the “band” (two guys named Kevin and Dean?) to play “Short People” in lieu of “Happy Birthday” to my dear friend Laura. Now when anyone asks I can say we are both “in our thirties.”

Saturday we bought a new dining room table and chairs. YES! No more the “outdoors is indoors” look, defined by replacing our old, broken dining room chairs with lawn chairs. I feel like a “real” grown up. I mean, we actually bought furniture. New furniture, from an actual store.

Sunday life decided to bite us in the ass with the advent of a now leaking water heater. Why does this always happen? Any major purchase must be accompanied by an unexpected expense…

Oh, and my aforementioned friend, Laura, is wanting to start a book club. So far we have 7-8 members and hope to get around 10. The current members are all women (mainly 30-somethings) from the Peoria area. The books will mainly be modern fiction novels, with a few possible non-fiction books and we will meet once a month. If anyone would like to join please send me an email at: jenjw4 at