I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a little while. It seemed like one that I should try to do in the summer, and even though it’s September, I thought it still counted as summer.
That is until I went shopping for apricots and found zero. Unfortunately my zero apricot result was after purchasing a one-litre carton of homogenized milk for this recipe (more on that later), so I had a choice: try to find other recipes that called for creamy milk or just go ahead with the tin of apricots I still have from the walnut torte recipe. Do I keep this recipe for next summer when apricots are in season? Or do I go ahead with fake apricots?
I decided that I would decide later and didn’t bake after grocery shopping.
Cut to the next day when I told myself I 100% had to bake otherwise I’d never bake again (I tend to put some pressure on myself) so I decided to go with the fake apricots.
According to Mary and Paul, this recipe is made “the French way,” because what’s more British than the French? (So much for the “Great British Bake Off.”)
What does that mean, you ask? Well instead of British shortcrust pastry, you make pâte brisée. And instead of pastry cream you make crème pâtissière. What’s the difference other than basic translation from English to French? I don’t know the answer to that.
First up, put the cold butter between two sheets of clingfilm and pound with a rolling pin.
This may be as or more therapeutic than kneading bread.
After that, I’m to sift the flour and salt right onto the counter. Actually, to be completely honest with you, I switched those last two steps. I was supposed to sift and then pound the butter, but I was worried about hitting butter on the counter right beside a pile of flour. I don’t have enough counter space to do both, so I did one before the other. There. Now you know the truth.
Flour and sea salt gets measured.
Then I sift these two together directly onto a clean work surface.
Thank you, Ikea sifter.
This looks odd. I’ve never seen Scarface, but I assume this looks like something in Scarface:
I should really get under-cabinet lighting, eh? That would take this blog to the next level.
Now, I’m supposed to get one medium egg yolk, which means separating an egg and usually this is something I’m great at. Key word: usually.
Fun fact: I had some scrambled eggs as part of my dinner.
Now, this is where this recipe gets French (presumably). The piled-up flour gets welled (is that a verb?) and in goes all of the other ingredients. First up, that egg yolk I finally managed to free from its shell.
Next up, add the sugar and icy-cold water.
This is when things start to get volcanic. The well wasn’t big enough so the icy-water made an icy escape.
Then I added the butter, except that I was supposed put the butter in first. However, since the water was overflowing, I used the butter to make a little dam structure.
Here’s where things get weird.
“Put the fingertips of one of your hands together to form a beak shape and use to mash together the ingredients in the well.”
A beak shape, guys. A beak shape.
Also I’m only just noticing now as I write this that I was only supposed to use one hand. I used both hands and pecked away at those well ingredients as if the well ingredients were seeds and my hands were chickens—because that’s a thing that happens with baking, right?
After combining the well ingredients, I got the rest of the flour involved and made this beautiful thing:
Blurry and beautiful. Like Sasquatch.
Then, to make the pâte brisée, I basically knead the mixture until it’s a silky smooth dough. The directions made it seem a lot more like bread dough than what it actually is, which is pie crust. I didn’t need to use the scraper (metal spatula) as much as Paul and Mary suggested. I didn’t really need to use it at all.
Not bad, right?
Time to shape into a disc and chill. (Both the pie crust and myself will chill.)
*a little over half an hour later*
It was at this point I started to read ahead and realized what I had gotten myself into. This was not a quick bake. Makes sense since there are three spoons. Why do I do this? It’s like every time I choose to paint my nails and lose several hours of my life and extend my normal bedtime.
Since I didn’t want another chocolate tart disaster, I left the pie crust in for a little longer than 30 minutes, which made rolling it out very difficult.
I got a real workout with this one, and had to remove the sweater I had buried myself in when I was shivering earlier.
Eventually what you see above became what you see below.
A baking Rorschach test.
But it all held together (much better than the chocolate tart) and transferred easily to the deep, loose-based fluted flan tin.
Not too shabby! It’s like I’m getting the hang of this or something.
Mary and Paul want me to prick the bottom and put it in the fridge to chill once again, this time for 20 minutes.
I preheated the oven (which took less than 20 minutes) and pulled the tin out of the fridge, trimmed the edges and came up with this beauty:
Time to put those baking beads to good use again and get this thing in the oven.
While that bakes, I started to get other things together. Like my fake apricots. Okay, they’re not fake apricots. They’re real but they’re not “good, well-flavoured apricots” like the recipe calls for. They’re fine, they’re just not fresh.
In a way, though, it’s kind of nice. I didn’t have to try cutting these in half and removing the stones. I could just open the tin, rinse off the syrup and use them. No hassle!
Also I feel like these scraps are a waste. I thought I could save them and maybe bake another pie.
I still have leftover cream cheese crust in my freezer, too.
Also this is what happens when you need 600 ml of creamy milk but the largest measuring cup you have goes up to 500 ml.
Now’s the time to talk about the milk. The recipe calls for a “creamy milk (such as Jersey or Guernsey)” but alas I am nowhere near Jersey or Guernsey (a fact I am sad about 80% of the time). I don’t even know where Canadians keep their Jersey cows. I know that’s a thing. I feel like I’ve heard tell of Jersey cows before. Do only Jersey cows make Jersey milk or do only cows in Jersey make Jersey milk?
I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m not sure what creamy milk is, so I went with homogenized milk (the fattiest milk in the milk section).
With that all ready for the custard process to begin, I pulled the pie crust out of the oven and was heartbroken.
Shrinkage! Did I need more baking beads? Was I supposed to leave it in the fridge for longer? What did I do wrong? It looks ridiculous now. I have no idea if the custard will all fit, but there’s nothing I can do about it now but accept the imperfection.
Time for the custard.
Now, here’s another thing about this recipe. The same way I’m using an apricot shortcut, I’m also doing a vanilla shortcut. The recipe calls for a vanilla pod to be emptied and infused into the milk, but with the current vanilla crisis in the world, I didn’t even really bother looking for a vanilla pod (not only because it’s hard to find, but also because it’d be about a million dollars). So I cheated. Vanilla extract. At least it’s real and not fake!
While that heats up, I mixed together the eggs, egg yolks, cornflour (yay! a reason to use it again!) and sugar.
The milk was to get steaming hot, but not yet boiling, and fun fact: it’s really hard to take photos of steam.
Then, impossible to take a photo of, I poured the hot milk into the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream whilst whisking constantly. I got a workout with the one arm holding the very large pan of milk and the second arm whisking constantly.
The result was this:
To custardize this situation, I poured the mixture back into the pan, put it on medium heat and then whisked constantly once again until it boiled and thickened.
It took some time.
I was worried it would be a lemon curd situation all over again.
But thankfully it was not a lemon curd situation. It went a lot quicker.
I’m pretty sure this is what custard is supposed to look like. I’m not overly familiar. It’s thick? It’s gelatinous? That seems like something that’s supposed to happen.
Once it became lukewarm, I spooned a third of it into the pie crust.
Followed by a truly beautiful arrangement of apricot halves. Honestly. It was like a work of art. And then I covered up the apricots with the rest of the custard and realized, much too late, that I forgot to take a photo of the prettiness.
I’m quite upset about this. I guess I’ll have to make this again next summer with fresh apricots, try to avoid shrinkage and actually take a photo of the apricots.
Time to go in the oven!
*half an hour later*
I’m still surprised the custard all fit into the shrunken pie crust.
Mary and Paul told me to dust a thick layer of icing sugar onto the custard top and put it back in the oven.
I almost forgot to take another photo, so I had to take one mid-oven.
*another half hour (plus ten minutes) later*
Now, Mary and Paul told me that I had to wait “until the filling is slightly puffed and (under the icing sugar) has dark brown patches.”
Now, it’s definitely puffed, but I see zero dark patches.
The filling has puffed so much the apricots are showing. I’m also not entirely sure what the sugar is supposed to do. But I left it in for longer than the recommended 30 minutes and told myself, out loud, that this must be done.
Also it was nearly 11 p.m. and I wanted it to cool enough to put into the fridge so I could go to bed.
So I put it out on the wire rack, set an alarm for midnight and fell asleep on my couch while watching Friends season one. (There’s so much I don’t remember about that season.)
Eventually I covered it loosely with clingfilm and tucked it into the fridge.
*the next day*
So here’s the thing. The next morning I was getting ready for work and told myself I could probably just take the covered flan tin in with me, no container required. I covered the top with foil and walked to my car, doing my best to dodge spider webs (as is my usual morning routine). I kept feeling something on my hand, but just hoped it wasn’t a spider and walked to my car. By the time I got to my car, I realized it wasn’t a spider. It was apricot custard tart juice that had leaked out of the loose bottom of the tin.
Cut to me putting it on my car, going back to my house to get a container, wash my hands and grab soapy paper towel to clean what would presumably be a large ring on the trunk of my car.
Eventually I made it to work in one piece, even though I kept hearing the tart sliding back and forth in the container with every turn I took.
At about 10:30, I went to get the tart out of the fridge and cut it up as people came running. I was fully expecting to put leftovers in the fridge, but within half an hour, the entire thing had disappeared.
One person said it was her favourite bake yet. Another person was beyond excited because his favourite thing in life is custard (apparently). I would say it was a hit!
I was happy to hear all of this because the most I could eat was a bite of my friend’s. It was really good, from what I could tell. The crust was perfect (no soggy bottom) and the custard was a good creaminess, but I’m not really supposed to have dairy and custard is just pure dairy. Not great when I can’t actually eat what I make, but maybe I could adapt this recipe with coconut milk one day.
Until next time when I find another recipe to use up the rest of that creamy milk.