Thursday, October 30, 2014

Plum Almond Tartlets

My 35 degree bike ride to work this morning has finally convinced me that it is in fact fall. Pumpkins and apples are everywhere, my freezer is being stocked with chili and german goulash, and I finally had to turn the heat on. I supposed that it was time to share these late summer tarts with you before the weather turned to

full on winter. That would just be cruel to tout these stone fruit beauties when snow is falling, no? These are such a staple in my dessert arsenal, some puff pastry, either homemade (recipe below) or store bought, almond frangipane, some ripe fruit and a sprinkle of sugar are all you need to make a decadent, yet light and crispy tartlet.

For a fall spin, change out the fruit to apples or pears, or even persimmon if you can find it.

Plum Frangipane Tartlets

Blitz Puff Pastry
adapted from Saus - Advanced Bread and Pastry

16 oz ap flour
16 oz unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
8 oz cold water
1/4 oz salt

Dissolve the salt into the water. In a food processor, pulse the butter and the flour together until combined, leaving the butter chunks fairly large. Add the water-salt mixture and pulse just until moistened. Flatten dough into a rectangular disc, wrap in plastic and let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out dough to a large rectangle the long side should be horizontal to you. Take the left edge and fold it so it reaches the center. Take the right edge and fold it into the center. Now take the left side and fold the entire thing in half, meeting the right edge, like a book. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. You will repeat this two more times, letting it rest for 30 minutes between each fold. After the last fold, let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight or freeze for future use.

adapted from Martha Stewart

7 TBL unsalted butter
1/3 cup almond paste
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup AP flour

In a food processor, cream together the butter, sugar, and almond paste until very smooth. Add the eggs, one a a time, blend until smooth. Add the flour and pulse just until combined. Chill until ready to use.


1 Book puff pastry
2-3 Ripe but firm plums, sliced thinly
turbinado sugar
almond slices (optional)
1 egg yolk + 1 TBL water

Preheat oven to 400 F. Take one book of puff pastry and roll it out on a floured surface to 1/8-1/4 thickness. Cut as many 4 inch rounds as you can fit. With half of the rounds, cut out the center with the next smallest round cutter, this will be the border for your tart. Swipe a bit of water around the edge of one of the whole circles and place the cut circle on top, lining up the edges. With a fork, dock the bottom surface of the tart shell, but do not dock the cut circle edge. This will allow just the edge to puff up around the filling, keeping the bottom of the tart flat to hold the filling in. Arrange tart shells on a sil-pat or parchment lined baking sheet. Chill completely. When ready to bake, place 1-2 tablespoons of frangipane in the inner circle, do not overfill. Arrange a few slices of plum on top of the frangipane. Whisk together the yolk and water and brush the edges of the puff pastry. Sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar around the edges and on top of the plums. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown and the frangipane has set. Let cool completely. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar prior to serving.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Ups and Downs of Cake Design

Managing expectations. That is what it all comes down to. Making sure you (the cake designer) and the client are on the same page. Making sure they know that they brought you pictures of an $800.00 cake but only want to spend $200.00, and that they will not be getting what is in the picture. Making sure that when the customer doesn't give you any pictures at all, and say they trust you to make their vision a reality, that you know exactly what their vision is. Making sure that you ask every single question you can possibly think of to make sure the customer will be happy with their cake.

A few weeks ago, I had my first unhappy customer. It has taken me a little while to stop stewing over it, but now I realize that the customer wasn't unhappy because I made an ugly cake. The customer was unhappy because I (and by 'I', I mean the bakery I work at) couldn't read her mind. She had trouble putting into words what she actually wanted, and we failed in response by not laying out an exact plan prior to making her cake. We were not on the same page, and as a result, we lost money and, more importantly, we lost a customer. As a team, we learned a lot from this cake. We learned we need to manage our customers expectations better. We need to ask more questions, provide clear sketches, gather pictures, and there needs to be more communication between the sales team and the design team.

This is all a new adjustment for me. Up until now, I have been making cakes directly for clients as a freelancer. Mostly for people I know, or through people I know. Even at the restaurant, I was dealing directly with the clients for consults and was not only able to hear what they wanted and discuss options, but to read their facial cues and hear the emotion in their voices. Now, I am detached a bit from the process since the cake consults go through our sales team. I realize that it would be impossible for myself or my fellow cake designer to meet with every client that we have at the bakery, that is a full time job, but it adds a whole new aspect to the execution of a cake.

So, when I get a chance to design a cake for someone I know and someone who trusts me, I jump at it. For this cake, I got a color scheme and no expectations. I was free to do whatever I wanted, and that is something I find I will miss working for someone else. I had been wanting to try making dahlias out of gum paste for a while now, so that is what I did. Maybe I need to learn how to manage my own expectations as well. Until I have my own shop, my own business, this is how the game goes. I don't want this to sound like I am complaining, because I am not. I get to make cakes all day, every day. Some of them I get to help design, some of them I don't, but either way it is definitely where I want to be.

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