Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Taking a Step Back from the Chaos

When I decided that I wanted to really try to incorporate new things into my life and my kitchen I jumped into it head-first, and a couple of weeks later I'm feeling more than a little overwhelmed. In the span of 2 days I tried to make a couple of flatbread pizzas, try out 2 new pie/tart doughs, create a hazelnut chocolate ganache filling for the tarts, whip up a batch of salsa, bake shortbread cookies, make another batch of udon noodles with almond sauce and try out a new fried rice recipe. The pizza was great but the tart dough was dry, the ganache wasn't as thick or smooth as I wanted it to be and only about 1/3 of the cookie dough got baked (the rest is in my fridge). While I love spending time in my kitchen experimenting with doughs and trying new recipes, trying to do too many things at once isn't working for me.

With that in mind, I'm going to take a deep breath and a step back. Instead of trying to do 6 things a day, I'll keep it to maybe 2, and do one thing at a time. Hopefully this will let me enjoy what I'm doing, and make a tart shell that isn't so dry.

On that note, I'll share my first experience with making tart shells from scratch. I tried two different doughs, one based on the information in Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio, the other a French pastry dough that David Lebovitz adapted from a recipe by Paule Caillatof.

The French pastry dough was first, and I'll admit that I deviated from the directions a bit. David (and Paule) instruct you to put the wet ingredients in an oven-safe bowl and put it in the oven for a bit to let the ingredients cook. Now, I know myself reasonably well. I know that, no matter how many warnings David gives to be careful and not touch the bowl once it's on the counter, I'm going to forget that it's hot and touch it. So rather than add burns to the cuts already on my hands, I just heated the butter, etc. in a saucepan on the stove until I thought it was the correct temperature and color.

In retrospect I can't help but wonder if the deviation is why my tart shells came out a bit dry. Perhaps the wet mixture wasn't hot enough? Or was there too much flour (since I measured the ingredients by volume instead of weight)? When I try this again (and I will be trying this again soon) perhaps I'll just follow the instructions, risk the burns and use a kitchen scale. If it still comes out dry, I'll have to ask him what I'm doing wrong.

Michael Ruhlman's ratio for pie dough is just 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water, plus a pinch of salt. Easy enough.

While making the dough was easy, and (with the addition of 2 T of sugar) tasted pretty good, the shells didn't hold together all that well when removed from the molds. I tried to hand mold them like I did with the French pastry dough and I think that was the error here. Luckily I had already filled a few of the shells and the filling had cooled before removing them from the molds, so I do have some tarts to try this week: salted caramel with milk chocolate ganache, milk chocolate-hazelnut with milk chocolate ganache and dark chocolate orange.


As you can see, the caramel didn't really set and started leaking through the pastry shell, which would actually be fine in a bite-sized tart (the liquid-ness, not the leaking part) but this tart was too big for that to really work. The chocolate-hazelnut tart was firm enough even at room temperature, and it actually tasted good. It was a little on the rich side. Though neither tart shell recipe came out all that well, the experience did remind me that not everything comes out perfectly the first time and I shouldn't let it get to me. I'll just have to keep at it until I can make a great-tasting tart shell that doesn't fall apart on me. Then I'll tackle that chocolate-hazelnut ganache again...


  1. Your making me hungry. I have never personally made flat bread pizza but would love to learn.

    1. Hi there! It was actually surprisingly easy! I've made honey wheat crusts with a more traditional texture and this was super simple in comparison. I'll be posting on it in the next couple of weeks since I forgot to take pictures of the process the first time around.