I heard what they said. I didn't believe them.
They said once you make food your profession, you will no longer have the passion/desire/need to cook or bake in your free time. You will lose a hobby. I thought they were crazy. They may have been right...but now I am fighting back.
I forgot for a minute that free time spent in the kitchen behind the stove stirring lemon curd, or at the counter kneading bread dough, is soothing for my soul, and good for my sanity. After long hours in a restaurant kitchen, I thought that curling up on the couch and ordering Thai food was the only cure for my exhaustion and my restlessness. I was so, so wrong.
Wednesdays are one of my days off, and this week I decided I wasn't going to waste it by "relaxing" or cleaning, or sleeping. Instead, I spent the day where I feel most at home (second only to my real home), in my little apartment kitchen, baking up a storm. At the end of the day, when I sat down to enjoy a creamy almond mascarpone tart with tangy apricots and crunchy almond brittle, I felt better than I have in a long while.
So when my mind plays tricks on me and makes me think that the last thing on earth I want to do is bake some more, I will remind myself that it's all lies. My career in the this field is dependent on trying new things, tasting new combinations, testing out new techniques, and if I ever lose the desire to do that, then I am in trouble. I don't like being in trouble.
Honey Mascarpone Tart with Almond Crust, Apricot Compote, and Almond Glass
adapted heavily from bourke street bakery and epicurious
makes 1-9inch round, or 12 inch rectangular tart
Almond Pate Brisee Crust
400 grams (14 oz) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
100 grams (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup water, chilled
665 grams (1 lb 7 1/2 oz) all purpose flour1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
Remove butter from fridge 20 minutes before mixing.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, water, and vinegar, stir to aid the dissolving of the sugar. Set aside in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then, stir again to completely dissolve sugar.
In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together a few times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse in one second bursts about 3-4 times until butter is cut in and evenly dispersed. You should have visible chunks of butter in your flour mixture, this is where the flakiness comes from.
Pour mixture into a large bowl and make a little well in the middle of the flour. Pour the vinegar water mixture into the well, along with the almond extract, and gently mix liquids into the flour with a fork. When liquid is evenly dispersed, dump dough out onto a clean surface and knead gently a few times, just until dough comes together in one cohesive ball. It may be a bit shaggy or falling apart, but that's okay, while it is resting the moisture will bind everything together.
Cut ball of dough in half and shape each half into a disc about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. (use one for this tart, and you can freeze the other half for later use) Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours, or overnight. Take dough out of fridge about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Place one of your discs of dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out to a 1/8 inch flat disc. Always start in the center of the disc and roll outward, turning the disc 30 degrees after each roll to get an even thickness throughout. If you are using a rectangular pan, you will want to roll out your dough into a longer strip instead of a round circle. Carefully move the dough to your tart pan and press evenly into all corners, pinching off the excess.
Dock with a fork (meaning poke a bunch of tiny holes in the bottom of the tart crust with a fork) and freeze for twenty minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Place a piece of tin foil over your tart shell, pressing it down to fit the form of your tart, and fill with beans or rice or pie weights. Blind bake your tart for 20 minutes, flipping the pan front to back halfway through. Remove the pie weights and tin foil and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let cool completely.
8 oz mascarpone cheese
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sour cream, the sugar, and the honey and mix until incorporated. Add the mascarpone, lemon zest, and vanilla and whip until smooth. Spread evenly into cooled tart shell and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
4-5 apricots, pitted and cut into eighths
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or use a vanilla bean if you have one on hand)
Place the apricots, honey, water, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer just until apricots are softened and starting to break down. Let cool for a few minutes then stir in the vanilla, or if you are using a bean scrape the seeds into the compote and stir in. You can use this slightly warm, or chilled.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a pile of sliced almonds on a silpat lined baking sheet and spread them out into a single thin layer. drizzle corn syrup over the almonds, making sure to cover them all. This should be a light coating, it will spread and fill in any gaps while it is baking. Place in the oven and bake until the syrup caramelizes to a amber brown color. Let cool completely, then break into shards. Store in an airtight container.