photo (71)I am looking down at my brand new purchase (a tart maison tin) and wondering whether I’m really going to be able to successfully line this with shortcrust pastry in one go – it’s quite long and thin, with angular corners, and me thinks it might be a challenge?

Today the Smiths (family friends as opposed to Morrissey et al) are coming to dinner  and I’ve decided to make a Chocolate and Pear Tart from John Whaite Bakes for dessert.  This is my second recipe from this book in under a week (have I already mentioned how much I love it?)  It’s quite a ‘simple’ recipe – or so I thought – for what is quite a visually stunning dessert.  Unfortunately though, it appears that today my baking mojo has decided to vacate the building for a few hours.

The first indication of this was whilst rolling out the shortcrust pastry – I began to realise pretty quickly (as the pastry cracked around the edges with each roll) that I had made it a tad on the dry side.  Nonetheless, I soldiered on.  My previous assessment was confirmed whilst undertaking the aforementioned lining of the tin.  This became more of a mosaic as  I patched up the numerous rips, tears and holes with blobs of pastry.  I tried to smooth out the joins as best I could with a lump of waste pastry wrapped in clingfilm.  Once patched up, I put the pasty case in the oven to blind bake.

IMG_0812 (1)I then started to make the frangipane filling.  I beat together the sugar and butter before adding the eggs – the eggs which I had just taken straight out of the fridge.  I know better than this, because adding cold eggs will cause cake batter to curdle, big time.  I’m experiencing one of those head scratching moments.  Do I ditch it, or try and resurrect it and carry on?  (What’s the saying?  Less haste, more speed!)  I’m snapped out of my dilema by the oven alarm going off as it’s time to get the pastry out.

It was on removing the baking parchment and baking beans that I was horrified to find that a Cheddar Gorge-esque crack had appeared across the bottom of the pastry case.  It seems that I hadn’t done as good a repair job as I had thought, and as the pastry had shrunk during baking, the two sides of one of the big tears had just pulled apart from each other.  There was no way this could be made good.  My only option was to bin it and start again.  Guests are due to arrive in 45 mins – aaaaarrrrggghh!

I whipped up another batch of shortcrust pastry, this time adding four as opposed to one teaspoon of water.  This time the dough felt soft and pliable.  After leaving to rest in the fridge for just 20 mins (rather than the requisite 30 mins) I was able to successfully line the tin in one go – no patchwork (whoop!) – and I stick it in the oven.

In the meantime, the curdled frangipane had been gradually coming up to room temp.  I crossed my fingers and gave it a high-speed blitz with the mixer.   It wasn’t perfect, but it came together sufficiently to be usable.  I folded in the ground almonds and cocoa, and then spooned carefully into the pastry case. It started melting immediately, and I started to panic and spoon it out again.  Then I realised that it was about to go in a hot oven, so maybe the melting wasn’t an issue.  I started putting it back again.  I had already drained and dried the halved pears which I then placed onto the frangipane and put the whole thing in the oven for 25 mins.

We’re on the home straight. The frangipane fluffed up around the pears and the pastry went nice and crispy – no soggy bottoms here.  After leaving to cool I sprinkled with icing sugar and served with a choice of pouring and clotted cream – I had both 🙂