I’m A Failure! Everyone Hates Me! I Can’t Roll A Tart Pastry!

Break out the violin, here comes another sad story of Adam failing in the kitchen. It’s happened before—the last time I made a tart, in fact. But when I follow that link and look at those pictures, my trouble then is NOTHING compared to my trouble now. Oh woe is me!

You see, tomorrow night my Forms of Drama teacher, Carol R., is having us to her apartment for a dinner party. We’re each supposed to bring something. I volunteered dessert and people expect things of me. I am a food icon, at least in my school. For the past few months, I’ve fed my classmates rugelach, pecan bars, mudslide cookies and much much more. This was my chance to really knock their socks off. Maybe I still will…

See, my tart’s not ruined. It’s just not what it’s supposed to be. I got the recipe from the Bouchon Cookbook. The dough contains butter (11 Tbs), confectioners sugar (3/4 a cup plus a few Tbs), salt and flour. I combined it, as directed, in my electric free-standing mixer. Then, as directed, I dumped the dough out and formed a disc. I wrapped it in plastic and refrigerated for one hour.

Even here, I knew I was in trouble. When I made the disc, the dough began to crumble. It was a crumbly dough! I said to myself, right then and there: “This will never roll out.”

But I had faith. I believed in Thomas Keller. I believed that when I put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything. I believed I can fly… I believed I can touch the sky…

So anyway, one hour later… the dough comes out. I’m ready to roll. As per someone’s suggestion way back when, I sandwiched the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap. I whacked it with my rolling pin to begin the flattening process. I did everything I could to ensure no cracks and this is what resulted:

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Now from your vantage point in the safety of your office, living room or bathroom, this may look a-ok. It looks like it held together, but look closer. There are cracks, my friends. These are the cracks that cause earthquakes, that end marriages, that make plumbers a household nuisance. And this is what happens when you transfer cracked dough to your tart tin:

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Oh ha ha, very funny…I hear your derisive laughter echoing across the internet. THEY’RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU!!!! No no no!!! Make it stop, mama, make it stop!

Where did I go wrong? How did this happen? Am I cursed when it comes to pastry? Was I born to microwave hot dogs for the elderly? Where do I go from here?

Dejected, I almost gave up, but then I remembered those lyrics—I believe I can fly—and they reminded me of some other lyrics—I believe the children are our future—and that reminded me of Disney world and Futureland and this ride they used to have called Delta Dreamflight. My stream of consciousness was drowning me, so I scrunched up the dough, made another disc, tried to roll it out again, it didn’t work, i sprinkled some water on it, that was dumb, I rolled it out some more and then plopped it in to the tin and pushed it all around until it looked halfway decent, I baked it and this is what resulted:

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No bad, hm? I mean, ok, sure, I’d get fired from The French Laundry, no question, if I presented this to Tommy K., but for the purposes of this dinner party tomorrow, I’m sure it will pass. And looks don’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts, right? RIGHT?

Speaking of which, what’s inside? It’s a pastry cream and it came out really nice. I simmered milk, sugar, and a vanilla bean, then added an egg, 4 egg yolks, and corn starch and whisked and whisked until it firmed up. Then I added 4 Tbs of butter and 2 Tbs of Grand Marnier (which I just purchased for the first time). I poured it all (as directed) into a baking pan and let it cool to room temperature. Here’s what it looked like:

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Custardy, pastry cream goodness. It’s refrigerating now and the flavors are melding. JEALOUS?

So the pastry cream will be good. Did I tell you what kind of tart this is? It’s supposed to be a strawberry tart, but I’m using raspberries. Tommy says not to assemble until 4 hours before serving so I’ll assemble it tomorrow night before the party. I purchased piping tips the other day at Williams Sonoma so maybe I will pipe this pastry cream into the tart shell. Then I’ll arrange the raspberries (which, I must tell you, I won’t wash because The Barefoot Contessa says not to wash raspberries–they trap water and it’s not worth it–so if I die and the guests die, you’ll know why) and, finally, sprinkle it all with powdered sugar. Powdered sugar makes everything ok. In fact, I’m going to sprinkle myself with some powdered sugar and go to bed. Sweet dreams…unless I have another pastry dough nightmare!

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