I’m jinxed. I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow, I got jinxed. Maybe I unknowingly looked the wrong way at a gypsy woman, perhaps I ticked off a black cat somewhere along the way. The only thing I can be sure of is that it sure is a potent jinx: not one thing I’ve baked recently has come out well.
Alright, I’ll admit I have very high standards. But my losing streak in the baking department (oven 14: baker 0) has lowered my standards somewhat: I’m not even striving for Zagat perfection anymore. These days, edible-and-does-not-look-like-slop will do. And some days, even that’s asking a lot. I’ve only been scraping by (and barely so) by serving ice cream sandwiches as dessert. Praise be to my new holy trinity: Ben, Jerry and Mr. Christie.
Today of all days – the due date for my SHF entry – the jinx kicks into overdrive. All within the span of 2 hours, my pineapple tart pastry crumbles into superfine dust, my custard liquefies and leaks out of my tart shells, my banana-mango crumble turns into a very unattractive mulch in the oven, and my butter tart filling enthusiastically bubbles itself right out of the tart shells and all over the muffin tin.
My tart lineup may sound impressive: “four different tarts?” you may ask. In actuality, tarts number 2,3 and 4 were really just backup plans created when their predecessor failed. Failure usually has quite a sobering effect on people: they become self-reflective, evaluating themselves and their situation in an attempt to find out, logically, what went wrong. I, on the other hand, completely lost it. By failed tart #4, I was checking behind furniture for voodoo dolls of myself and contemplating hiring an exorcist.
A., ever cautious, watched from a safe distance, and called out, “Want some help?” extremely half-heartedly every now and then, more out of politeness than true desire to interfere with his now clearly-insane girlfriend.
He needn’t have worried: my temporary psychosis had created a rather zen state of mind for me. My mind switched off and my body took over, hands deftly slicing, stirring, kneading – all without any thought or measurement. It wasn’t until I had popped the tarts into the oven that I even felt myself draw a breath; I had been on baking autopilot. Anyone who gets stressed out doing something they love will understand this: sometimes you get so stressed out that you crack and become the other extreme – very laid back – and everything miraculously falls into place from that point on. Your instincts kick in and take over, and you stop doubting yourself and stop caring, and you are suddenly very sure that it will all be ok.
And it was all ok. My blueberry-peach tarts turned out beautifully, so much so that they almost made up for all the failed attempts that came before them.
Super Zen Blueberry-Peach Tarts
Note: I made this recipe with leftovers from various botched tarts, so I’m sorry if the measurements are not precise. Just relax and wing it like I did! I made my tarts in miniature tart pans, but this recipe should make a full-sized tart. (It’s good enough to want one that big, trust me.)
Crust: Pate Sable
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
Filling: Blueberry Jam and Slice Peaches
1 jar good quality blueberry jam (I recommend making your own)*
3-4 firm peaches, pitted and sliced thinly into half-moon looking slices
3 tbs sugar
1. Mix all the crust ingredients in a bowl till combined
2. Pat into a ball and chill for 30 minutes
3. Roll out pastry between two sheets of waxed paper
4. Line tart pan with pastry, cover with sheet of waxed paper, and bake (weighted) at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes till crust is firm but not completely cooked/browned.
5. Remove from oven and fill with blueberry jam
6. Arrange peach slices on top of jam and sprinkle with sugar
7. Bake for another 30 minutes
8. Remove from oven, cool, and chill till jam is set again.
9. Serve with vanilla ice cream
4 1/2 cups crushed wild blueberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 cups sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin
1. Remove leaves or stems from blueberries, and crush them.
2. Put blueberry mulch into a heavy pot and add sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and stir for a minute.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in pectin. Skim off the foamy layer.
4. Spoon into sterilized mason jars and seal them tightly.
5.Ta-daa! Blueberry jam!