“Is there anything special you want to do this weekend?” my husband asked. It was Friday night, sometime after our dinner out with the kids at the neighborhood pizza place.
“Just bake. I just want time to bake,” I said. “And maybe do some writing.”
I think this is my request nearly every weekend. Other than spending time with Sam and the kids – even if all we do is go on walks or read or watch a movie together – having a couple of hours in the kitchen and some time at my computer is all I require to have a smile on my face when Sunday evening rolls around.
My wish was granted this weekend.
I’ve had tarts on my mind for the last few months. It started when I baked Dorie Greenspan’s whole lemon tart (from my favorite baking reference, Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours) for a dinner party around Christmas. I tweaked and adapted a spin-off of that lemon tart back in early February, this citrus tart. I thought that would quiet my tart-baking obsession, at least for a while, but it didn’t.
Last week I read Nikole Herriott’s post about Tim Robison’s french silk pie, and the first photo of the miniature tin tart pans and baked tart shells won’t leave my mind. I’ve been searching for tiny tart pans — not just any tart pans, perfect ones – online since. (And thanks to Nikole, I think I’ve found them.)
My Saturday started with baking, first the shortbread crust for this tart, and later, the tart itself. I love the flavors of this blueberry buttermilk tart, but since my husband balks when I suggest using blueberries in a dish, I opted for nectarines. Raspberries would work here, too, but I wasn’t willing to pay $5 for 6-ounces of raspberries, knowing I wanted 2 full cups of fruit in the tart.
On Sunday, I experimented with yeast bread. I made an enriched dough using one of Peter Reinhart’s recipes. With half, I shaped and baked a loaf of sandwich bread. With the other half, I practiced making rolls of various sizes. Using my digital kitchen scale to weigh out bits of dough, I rolled little 1-ounce silver dollar rolls, 3-ounce knotted rolls, and larger rolls destined to be hamburger buns. Not wanting to be left out of a cooking activity, Oliver got in on the action, using his tiny hands to shape and mold the small dough balls.
And, in case you wondered, six-year-olds have the perfect size hands to create small dinner rolls. They are also great as taste-testers. They are not reliable, however, at cleaning up.
In between all the baking, there were play dates for each kid, filled with games of tag and hide-and-go-seek and ghost stories. We did a bit of shopping – the grocery and Target shopping list kind, and the wandering-the-mall kind. Madeline debated the merits of various earrings at Claire’s and finally picked out her first pairs of non-starter earrings. She selected, as I would have at age 9, a pair of sparkly turquoise dolphins, some tiny silver hearts, and a pair of tiny black-and-white panda bears. We all sat outside together on the front porch, rocking in the rocking chairs, and we took turns using the leaf blower to scatter the leaves and the thick layer of pollen off the back patio. We read books and magazines.
I wrote a little. Not enough, but it never is.
And if it’s not asking too much, I’d like a similar weekend next weekend. And the next. And the one after that. (You get the idea.)
Nectarine Buttermilk Tart
You might think that buttermilk doesn't have a place in a dessert, but you'd be wrong. The flavors of the custard are delicate and light, and the chunks of sweet nectarine are wonderful surprises to bite into.
I used a 9.5-inch nonstick, deep fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, such as this one. If you use a wider, more shallow tart pan, decrease the baking time by 10 minutes and check carefully for doneness.
For the Tart Crust:
1-3/4 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon cold water
For the Filling:
1 cup buttermilk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 cups roughly chopped nectarine (from about 2 nectarines)
Prepare Tart Crust:
Butter a 9.5-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom; set aside.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt; add these dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely incorporated. Stir the yolk and water together; add the yolk mixture to the food processor. Process in long pulses of about 10 seconds each. The dough will start coming together after about 4 to 6 of pulses; just before, the sound of the food processor will change. Turn the dough out onto work surface and knead together a few times to capture any dry ingredients that have escaped.
Tear bits of the dough ball off and scatter over the bottom of the tart pan. Press dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides. Freeze the tart crust for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.
Partially bake the tart crust: Heat the oven to 375 degrees and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Press a piece of nonstick foil down tightly against chilled tart crust, nonstick side down. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. If crust has puffed up, press these areas down gently with back of a spoon. Transfer crust to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.
Prepare the Filling and Tart:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a blender, combine the buttermilk, egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon zest and juice, butter, vanilla, salt, and tapioca. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Spread the nectarine pieces over the cooled tart shell, and pour the buttermilk mixture over the fruit. *Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is just set.
*Note: If you use a wider, more shallow tart pan, your baking time will be closer to 35 minutes.