Since all the food related reading and baking I have to do at school stirs my creative juices, I did some extracurricular activity yesterday afternoon. Tuesday night, I took most of the boxes of peaches from the kitchen floor, where it was dispersing a lovely aroma throughout the house. After rinsing the fuzz off, I cut them into eighths and peeled the slices. The skins were eager to separate from the flesh and the peaches were tender and juicy. I sampled a few slice, to be certain they were of good quality, then placed them in a bowl with some lemon juice and refrigerated them overnight. Wednesday afternoon, I got out the peach pie recipe … and discovered that it called for tapioca or potato starch. Knowing that these ingredients were not present in the apartment, I tried looking through a few other cookbooks, but couldn’t find a recipe to suit myself. I decided to put the pie off indefinately. However, when I opened the fridge to look for dinner, the pre-sliced container of peaches revealed itself to me. I was unwilling to leave them in the fridge in that state, so I reevaluated and decided to try to substitute cornstartch, despite my cookbook’s dire warning about it spoiling the flavor of the pie. Piecrusts ought to be easy enough to make, but they seem to take on a new level of difficulty, when you are living in fear of overworking the dough. Bakery lab can make you feel like that, yes. I did successfully deposit two rounds of dough in the freezer, to firm up before rolling. I don’t think they were overworked at that point. While they chilled, I washed dishes … again. I must be preparing for life in my own house, because it has started to seem like I wash dishes all day. First at school, where the first two weeks I was a baker, responsible not only for my own dishes, but any unclaimed, unwashed dishes as well. Also, I was not supposed to leave school until all the dishes in the bakery were clean, meaning that helping out with other people’s dishes was fairly necessary. Then, at home, where we don’t have time to wash breakfast or dinner dishes much of the time. Thus, they pile up in the sink, making the kitchen non-functional. This week, and next week, as a boulanger (bread baker) the dish load seems like it will be lighter. But don’t tell my roommate, she might ask me to do more at home.
Once the kitchen was cleaned, the dough had been in the freezer for nearly an hour. I removed it, found the rolling pin and began to work it into a circle. After the first few motions of the rolling pin, I paused. I checked the cupboard, I looked through my baking supplies box, I checked under the stove and on the counter, I asked my roommate. There was no pie plate in the house. Having got this far, however, I did not intend to be stopped by such an insignificant problem. I pulled my six tartlet pans out of my baking supplies box and borrowed a small glass casserole dish from the kitchen counter. Rolling the pie dough didn’t work out very well, but it never seems to to me. As I told my sister/roommate ‘if the pie dough is easy to work with, you’ve done something wrong’. The first try, I was working so hard to not dry out the dough that it stuck to the counter and tore in ten places. I gathered it all back together, floured the counter, and began again. The shape was not circular, but that was alright, as the casserole was not circular either. I laid the dough in the dish, crimped and trimmed the edges and began with the second round. One would think I could learn from my mistakes, but apparently, I hadn’t been paying enough attention, for the same procedure of tearing, regathering, and rerolling took place with the second half of the dough. This I pressed into the tart pans, then rolled the rolling pin over their edges to cut the dough to the right shape. Leftover dough scraps, I rolled out, cut into kangaroo and sausage dog shapes with my cookie cutters and set aside to be baked later, with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled over the whole. Next, I began on the tarts. Each tart was filled with peach slices, laid out in various patterns. Then, for the remaining peaches, I dumped in about as much sugar as I deemed necessary, added some cinnamon and nutmeg and stirred it all together. As I mixed in the sugar, I sprinkled some over each tart. The cinnamon and nutmeg, I only brushed over three of the tarts, wishing to do further flavor experimentation on the others. I avoided adding any additional lemon juice, as I was already worried that what I had put in the day before was excessive. Once it was mixed, I poured some of the liquid into a small bowl, mixed it into a paste with cornstarch and returned it to the mixing bowl. As I did not measure any of the ingredients, I don’t suppose I actually needed a recipe after all, but I found it useful for knowing which ingredients I wanted to use, even if not for amounts of ingredients. Once this was poured into the casserole crust, I placed it in the oven and moved on to my remaining tarts. For the first, I placed frozen Ranier cherry halves over the peaches. I would have used almond extract, but found none available, so I sprinkled on a drop or two of lemon extract and set that tart aside. On the next, I laid some fresh plum slices over the peaches. To this tart, I added a bit of additional sugar, to counter the tartness of the plums. While rummaging in the freezer, I also came across some chopped hazelnuts, which I added to the plum tartlet. The last tart, I sprinkled with frozen orange juice concentrate. This done, I place them in the oven and waited.
They all came out of the oven cute and properly done, no burnt spots. Some of the tarts appeared a bit dry, but there was no crust shrinkage, either on them, or on the larger dish. The larger dish seemed to be somewhat soupy, but as I had merely made a rough guess as to how much thickener would be proper, I wasn’t overly surprised. Pleased with my work, I set them out to cool and left them.
This morning, I sampled the orange/peach tart and found it quite yummy, with the crust better done than I expected and not as dry as I had feared, from its appearance. The orange flavor was a bit too strong, but not overpowering as flavors go, it just squashed the peach flavors too much.
None of the other tartlets or the large pie have yet been sampled, but I will keep you up to date on how they turn out.