I have to be completely honest with you, dear readers. This post is being written nearly a full week after the bake was done. It may be brief this time. And the details may be glossed over.
Really, I hate to say it, but this process of baking and then blogging is becoming tedious. But I shall soldier on and hope the joy of writing comes back!*
Since I did the Victoria sandwich cake before, it means it’s time for a sweet pastry and/or patisserie. I’m still not entirely sure what the difference is between pastry and patisserie. I assume pastry is the material and patisserie is the end result? That’s a complete guess, by the way. Please do not deem me an expert on terms.
So a week ago, I poured out some flour, salt and sugar into a bowl.
Then I went into my fridge to grab the butter and dice it up, and found half the amount in my fridge, which meant I had to go into my freezer to get my frozen blocks.
And then I tried with a lot of effort to slice off chunks of frozen butter.
Just an FYI for you, it’s really difficult.
And it wasn’t until after I had exerted an embarrassing amount of energy trying to cut up butter that I remembered a frozen butter trick from the internets: grate the butter.
Instead of doing that, though, I threw the partially chilled, partially frozen chunks of butter into the flour and started to rub it into a fine crumb mixture.
Another FYI for you: it’s nearly impossible to rub frozen butter chunks with your fingers.
So I called for backup.
And even then, things took a while.
In future, I really need to look at my fridge butter stock before getting started on recipes.
After about three hours of freezing my fingertips rubbing frozen butter into flour, I ended up with something workable.
At this point, Mary and Paul told me to add an egg yolk and a bit of water and “stir into the crumbs with a round-bladed knife to make a firm dough.”
First, the egg yolk. I managed to separate the egg without breaking the yolk and wanted photographic evidence that proves I can in fact do this!
And then I started stirring with a knife.
And then I asked Mary and Paul, “What?”
A firm dough this is not.
They did add a caveat that if the dough is still crumby, to work in more cold water a teaspoon at a time. So I did. I added about three teaspoons to get rid of the dry crumbs.
And then I shaped it into a disk and chilled it in plastic wrap.
*20 minutes later*
Once chilled, I rolled out the pastry, very carefully, onto a floured work surface.
There were a couple moments when the dough started separating from itself and when it then stuck to the one part of the counter that wasn’t floured, but ultimately I think I managed it.
And then I pricked it with a fork and chilled it again.
*15 minutes later*
Once thoroughly chilled, I trimmed the excess, patched some holes and patted myself on the back.
Then I brushed the dust off my shoulder (because I couldn’t reach my back), and filled the thing with baking beads.
And then proceeded to bake it blind and hoped the crust wouldn’t shrink back.
*12 to 15 minutes*
To be completely honest, I stuck more to the 15 minutes end of that spectrum for fear of a soggy bottom.
I removed the baking beads very carefully and let it bake a little longer until it was “crisp and lightly coloured.”
*5 to 7 to 8 minutes later*
While that was baking, I got started on the apples even though I was supposed to get started on the apples while the pastry cooled.
(I did, however, add a bunch of lemon juice to avoid brown apples.)
The recipe calls for Braeburn apples and I’m not sure if you’ve ever stumbled upon a Braeburn but I have not. I usually go straight for the Gala and head home. Sometimes I’ll opt for a Fuji and I haven’t enjoyed a Granny Smith since middle school (not sure why), so I wasn’t sure what kind of apple to choose.
I just assumed Braeburn was a British thing that we don’t have here.
But then I went to the grocery store and found them! As directed, I loaded up on 6 apples and went to pay only to find Braeburn are much more expensive.
But I wanted authenticity so I paid for them and then practiced my best evil-witch-enticing-Snow-White impression:
Then I got to slicing. I cut and sliced, peeled and cut and eventually ended up using four apples that filled a massive bowl. By this point, I had taken the crust out of the oven to cool and I had no idea how that many apples would even begin to start fitting into the piddly crust I had.
So I stopped.
If you need two Braeburn apples, let me know.
With the crust nearly cool enough, I got to making the filling by combining an egg, single cream, sugar and brandy.
Two things about that. First: I don’t know what single cream is, but I did have a coworker with British heritage tell me you can make single cream by adding water to heavy cream. So that’s what I did. Second: I don’t have brandy. I keep telling myself that I don’t want to buy an alcohol that I’ll only use for one recipe, but so far these Brits have added brandy to an alarming number of bakes. Still, I went with extract instead of the real stuff.
With the crust cool enough, I started arranging the apples and then rearranged and then stopped caring too much about it.
I don’t make pretty things.
I make tasty things.
Mary and Paul told me to overlap them, starting from the edge and going into the middle, making sure to fill them to the top with no gaps.
Technically there are gaps in between the apples. And it is to the top of the crust, but then I started getting worried about adding the filling.
Some of my fork pricks in the uncooked pastry dough stuck around in the cooked dough and I didn’t want a leakage situation.
So I decided to put the tart on the baking sheet in the oven and pour the filling whilst there.
But this gave me pause.
“Slowly pour this mixture evenly over the apples,” they tell me, “letting it seep through the layers.”
I did that, but the filling also doesn’t cover the apples. Shouldn’t it cover the apples? Isn’t that what the photo at the beginning showed? And are my Braeburn apples bigger than the ones suggested? Because I only sliced up four and I used maybe two-thirds of the slices. Should this be a deeper tin? But if it was, the filling would be even less.
So many questions.
But only one option.
*35 minutes later*
I checked the tart and the apples were supposed to be golden in colour and the custard was supposed to jiggle, but the apples were still their normal colour and the custard was watery.
So I baked it more.
And found the same issues.
This went on for probably 10 more minutes than the recipe’s required 35 minutes, so eventually I called a truce with the pale apples and watery custard and pulled it out.
If I had used actual single cream instead of watered down heavy cream, maybe I wouldn’t have this issue.
Add to that the additional complication of brushing on apricot glaze (Brits love their apricots, don’t they?) and finding that every time I brushed an apple slice, it moved the apple slice. So I had to essentially dab the top of this less-than-filled, less-than-golden apple tart disaster.
I also wasn’t sure how to store it. Mary and Paul say to serve it warm or at room temperature, but obviously I couldn’t do that. With a custard filling, though, I thought I should refrigerate it, but then it’s not room temperature when I serve it.
This bake made me a bundle of insecurities.
I was prepared to tell everyone they could dump it if they wanted to.
*the next day*
I transported it to work, revealed it to the crowd and immediately started apologizing for it.
I shared every moment of my uncertainty, from the watered down cream to the pale apples to the fact that I took the excess apple slices, threw them in some coconut oil and cinnamon and fried them. That was scrumptious, I told my coworkers, but what you’re about to eat may not be.
But then imagine my surprise to see people actually happy and, when I ate one myself, was pleasantly surprised by a tasty, not-too-sweet, fruity dessert.
So maybe it wasn’t such a disaster after all.
But, if I did make it again, I’d definitely do a few things differently.
*Turns out I had no problem writing this one.