In the past week, I have baked five tarts. Or tahhhts, as my friends from New England like to say. I love tahhhts. My Godmother, aka Aunt Judith, taught me how to bake her mother’s fruit tart (with wild Maine blueberries, of course) and it changed my life. I have literally been baking them every chance I get, ever since. I bake them for brunches, for parties, for stone fruit season — they even helped me ingratiate myself into an ex-boyfriend’s family (Finnerty tart of choice: blackberry). Aunt Judith’s mother uses a simple crust of flour, sugar, butter and vinegar, all mixed by hand with a fork and pressed into a tart tin. The fruit of choice (and there are infinite options — blueberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, pears, cherries; she told me once that when her son was living in India he even made one with kiwi fruit!) is then tossed in flour, sugar and cinnamon and either scattered across the pastry shell playfully or carefully placed into an organized pattern (the German side of me loves the organized pattern bit). It is my go to, and always will be.
But now I have more tahts to add to my arsenal.
Last week I learned “flaky pastry.” Essentially, it’s a pastry dough that’s rolled about three million times with butter in between each of the three million layers. And it takes two days to make. And it’s amazing. I have never been so thankful for my yoga arms in my entire life.
The Ballymaloe Apple Tart involves said flaky pastry, as well as shortcrust pastry, as well as a sh-t ton of apples, as well as patience. You need to rest the dough overnight and then roll it again some more the next day. The trick is to make sure the yellow bits of butter are all nice and evenly smoothed out between the layers of dough. Otherwise, bad things will happen. But it’s magically versatile — mile-high apple tart one day, apple tartlets or rustic pizza dough the next.
All this to say, I realized today as the steam was flooding out of my Tart Tatin and the caramel sauce was trying to control itself from running all over the place (or maybe it secretly wanted to go rogue and escape from the plate) that I want to bake for real. Not just in my kitchen station at school or in my back-to-reality kitchen at home, but for realz. How I will do this, I have no idea. For now, it’s just a love that I’ll run with and hopefully it will not lead me astray.
But all roads lead back to Aunt Judith’s mother’s tart, and as they say, your first love is always your greatest.