Summer is a time to cram sugar-laced fruits into butter-laden dough, bake until golden and bubbly, and then eat straight from the dish with a spoon. Or share it with others. Years ago, a friend of mine gifted me a magnet that says, “Love people. Cook them tasty food.” I’m not an emotionally expressive person, so this rang true to my core. It’s what I do. Instead of giving hugs or stuttering over sappy sentiments, I make food for those I care about.
After an almost two week vacation on the road visiting friends and family, I realized near the end of last week that I hadn’t made anything in a while. Whether it’s cooking, baking, gardening, writing, or some sort of craft, I can’t go too long without putting my hands to work. And it shows. My hands look about 20 years older than I am. Even so, they’re one of my favorite parts of me.
One not so favorite part is my brain and its exacting inability to follow directions. I thought I had beat this. I had gotten so consistent at reading through entire recipes before doing anything else. Then I’d gather ingredients and read through it again. Yeah, so I must not have done that enough times to make it an actual habit.
On Thursday afternoon, I asked a coworker if I should make a blueberry tart to bring into work the next day. Of course, the answer was yes, so I stopped at the store on the way home and picked up four pints of blueberries that were on sale. I always prefer using produce that is in season for cooking and baking, and since we’re coming to the end of the blueberry season here, I knew I wanted to do one more dessert with them.
I also thought I knew which recipe I wanted to use for the tart. Another one from Kate Lebo’s book, Pie School: a blueberry and lemon verbena galatte. Except as a tart. So I glanced over the recipe, mainly looking at the ingredients for the filling since I wasn’t doing a galatte dough. I planted lemon verbena in my garden this spring and was pumped to be able to use it.
This is where things got funky. I googled tart dough recipes and saw the classic French pastry dough recipe in which you bring the butter to a boil in the oven and I got all sorts of frazzled with excitement at the idea of that. And then it was all downhill from there.
I mixed the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt in a pyrex bowl and put it in the oven. Forced to read those directions multiple times because of conversions, I then looked over the other recipe for time and temps. If you’re keeping up, I was working with two different recipes at that point–one for the dough, one for the filling ingredients. What else could I need, you ask? I am not the one that can answer that for you, but I do know that I started following a third recipe.
No clue why, but I started using the ingredient list on the third recipe and mixing said ingredients, minus the lemon zest and opting for lemon verbena instead. Are you confused yet? I’m confused just remembering the ordeal. I have no idea how my brain made all of it seem okay at the time. After mixing, I check the third recipe for a baking time and there wasn’t one…um, what? Only then did I read the actual recipe and realized they were cooking the blueberries ahead of time and then just adding to a pre-baked dough.
Wow. I’d really outdone myself. It was too late to fix the fact I had tossed corn starch straight in with lemon juice and sugar and blueberries and I wasn’t going to cook them because screw that, my dough was ready to go. The one thing I did correctly. It sure was a purty dough and smelled like straight browned butter of gloriousness. I was a bit concerned that there wasn’t really enough to fill out the tart pan, but with some heal-of-the-hand work, I stretched out it to cover. Yes, I could have baked the dough and pre-cooked the blueberries at this point to bring my mess closer to that third recipe, but did I do that?
I did not. I piled those little blue pellets of sweetness into the tart dough and moved ahead with my version. Put that possible disaster into the oven at 375 for 45 minutes. I checked it around 35 minutes, but the fruit wasn’t quite to the consistency I wanted to see. It was just where I wanted it to be at the 45 min. mark, knowing it would still cook down some after coming out of the oven. It looked a bit soupy when I set it on a cooling rack–I was nervous.
Once again, my inability to follow directions did not an atrocity make. The blueberry tart ended up turning out quite well. It didn’t hold together as much as I would have liked, but the flavor was a perfect balance of sweet and tart. It went very well with morning coffee. The people seemed pleased.
Another success despite myself!
French Pastry Dough Recipe
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 rounded cup flour
Preheat the oven to 410º F
1. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.
2. Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.
3. When done, remove the bowl from oven, pour in flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula.
5. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.
Blueberry Tart Filling
3 pints of blueberries, plus one cup set aside to top before serving
12-15 leaves of lemon verbena, finely chopped
2 tablespoons corn starch (I may use 5 tablespoons of flour next time instead)
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
lemon zest for topping
Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes. Check at 35. Refrigerate 45 minutes to cool or up to overnight. Top with fresh blueberries and lemon zest before cutting.