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#16 : Carrot Tarte Tatin

A colossal disaster!

It has been nearly a month since I last posted a pie; some of you may have forgotten about this blog or wondered if I was the forgetful one. It's a total coincidence that the last pie I made was nothing short of a total mess; I planned this blog to be a warts-and-all look at the sixty pies and was ready this time to show the warts. But it's been a busy time - Jeff was busy practicing for his piano recital and couldn't play with me banging around in the kitchen (a mere 20 feet away from the piano). In addition, we've been working together on a choral concert, 100 Years of Broadway, set for this Sunday after a "trial performance" at the local retirement community, which was almost as disastrous as my pie was. (Awkward performance space and the chorus's lack of attention to musical entrances and exits were the main culprits there and the upcoming concert should be a vast improvement.)

I'm also juggling preliminary work on the musical Paint Your Wagon, which — as I mentioned last time — I'll be directing, and starring in, this fall. We've made great strides in pre-production meetings, and I'm happy to report that my production team of friends is strong and supportive, and they have asked me all the right questions (that I hadn't yet asked myself) and provided me with many solutions (to problems I didn't know about yet.) So that show is in good hands and the production "work", along with spring gardening, has been delightful. Jeff's solo piano recital was superbly played, and his introductions to the pieces (by Haydn, Brahms, and Debussy) were charming and informative. Those local friends may be interested to know that he'll be repeating that recital on June 4th at 4 PM, at the First Congregational Church in Riverhead, and those folks lucky enough to have caught the Shelter Island concert last week will be happy to know that he is already digging up fresh material for a possible new recital next year.

But enough about may be wondering...what went wrong with the pie? Well, I decided to experiment with making my own 'rough' puff pastry, an "easier" version of actual puff pastry, which requires lots of butter and frequent rolling, folding and chilling.

I used my "first attempt" at the dough to make jalapeño poppers. That was what we call "an interesting failure," as the pastry was crispy rather than properly flaky - not terrible but not exactly right. I tried a second pastry variation from Claire Saffitz, and the jury is out as to whether I made a mistake somewhere, or the recipe simply doesn't work - maybe both?

The recipe, seen below, from Dessert Person, mixes frozen grated butter into the flour and requires a lot of rolling and folding - almost as much as an actual puff pastry. (In case you're wondering why I don't just use store-bought puff pastry, all the brands I find out here contain palm oil. "Yeah, so?" you may ask...but take a look at the caveat below.)

Palm oil is a very productive crop. It offers a far greater yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils. Global production of and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly. Plantations are spreading across Asia, Africa and Latin America. But such expansion comes at the expense of tropical forests—which form critical habitats for many endangered species and a lifeline for some human communities.

I know there are all-butter versions of puff pastry out there; Dufour and Trader Joe's, for instance, are supposed to be very good, but neither can be found out here and I thought it would be 'an interesting challenge' to make my own. Challenging indeed.

The main issue seemed to be that my rough puff pastry didn't distribute the butter evenly, and there were some very dry spots and some with very thick, sticky butter. I could have asked for help from Jeff, but he was busy practicing, and I felt it was my decision to try this, so it was my obstacle to overcome. I thought I was being brave, but perhaps "foolhardy" and "headstrong" are better adjectives here.

You can see here much unevenness in the dough as I attempted to roll it out into a square, fold it and then chill it some more. Nevertheless, I persisted.....

Even here you can see very thick lumps of butter that should have been smoothed out more evenly. I know that now, but at the time thought it would be okay to proceed with the rolling, folding and filling. The butter remained so thick in spots that I had to fold and chill the dough a half a dozen times - as much as (or more than) an actual puff pastry - which should have alerted me that something was...a little off.

I was somewhat fooled by the dough when it worked its way easily into a circle, atop the rainbow carrots, which had been roasted in the oven and topped with some goat cheese. The tart was then baked and came out looked pretty good, I thought.

The Verdict: What the heck happened?

Initially I thought this looked good when it was baked, but if you look carefully at the edge of dough that has pulled away from the side, you can see that not all the dough is baked all the way through. I flipped the tart over and cut a slice. The first bite was quite nice...until we realized that only the bottom part of the crust had baked, and the center layers were still pretty raw.

We managed one slice, and that was it. I was pretty annoyed. (A few weeks later Jeff tried yet a third recipe for rough puff, and his came out pretty well, so I may try that again in the future...I'm not ready to give up yet!) The tart sat in the fridge for a few days, and finally I picked off the carrots and goat cheese, heated them in the microwave, and they made a pleasant lunch.

So that was the botched tart that would have had me tossed out of the tent for sure. Since then I have gone back and made my meyer lemon tart (already featured in this blog so I'm not counting it as another pie. That would be cheating.)

So, until the next time, remember that even Haydn, Brahms and Debussy probably had their mistakes to correct, take some time to listen to great music (see composers listed above) and enjoy the spring flowers...

...and surround yourself with a great support team when embarking on a new adventure!

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