Hey, you know what we haven’t had around here in a while? (Besides a blog post – oops! sorry about that). A blog post about a failure! We promised to share with you our successes and our failures, but it’s so tempting to post only the successes, especially when some of the failures are just so awful (srsly. I have a lace dress I’ll show you eventually, but I’m just not emotionally prepared enough for that yet).
You know what, keep that in mind whenever you come across a blog by someone who seems to be unbelievably organized and productive and creative. They might really have their act that well together – but they might also be doing a lot of editing and selective posting. There’s nothing wrong with that – bloggers are the narrators of these first-person narratives, after all – but now that I am blogging I feel better about my own attempts at new projects knowing that even pro-bloggers probably have some horrific projects they’re hiding.
So, to keep myself grounded but still give you something sweet to bake, I’m going to give you a double update featuring a still-mostly-edible failure (slab apple pie!) and a tasty success (rustic plum tart! mmmm).
Both of these start with one simple fact: I love pie crust. You know how there are people who eat pies just for the filling? I eat pies just for the crust. I’ve baked plain pie crust (or pie crust sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar!) just to eat as-is. My favorite pies are pies with a high crust-to-filling ratio, so slab pies and tarts rank really high with me.
We had a picnic at work a while back and I signed up to bring an apple pie, fully intent on subjecting my coworkers to a more-crust-than-filling slab apple pie. I’ve made it successfully before, so naturally this time I decided to switch things up.
If you have the time for it, I’m all for making pie crust from scratch. I’m also in favor making that whole process easier, so when I found out that you can make pie crust in a food processor, I couldn’t wait to try it out. That was probably the only good decision I made during this baking venture.
Mistake No. 1 – not paying attention to the type of butter I was using. Salted butter + more salt in the recipe = almost a gross salty pie. Almost. I evened it out a bit by dumping some sugar on the pie before I baked it.
Mistake No. 2 – Not going with my gut feeling on how long to process the butter. It was still usable, but the bonus of a homemade crust is that you can leave the butter chunks bigger, which keeps the crust flakier.
Mistake No. 3 – Not going with my gut feeling on how much water to use. Too much water will make the crust sticky, and this stuff was a mess. You want enough water so that the flour and butter are just coming together, and you have to press it together the rest of the way by hand.
Mistake No. 4 – Not being extra careful while cleaning the food processor. If you’ve ever wondered if those blades are sharp, they are.
Mistake No. 5 – Not double-checking the temperature on the oven. I couldn’t figure out why this wasn’t baking, and then I noticed that the oven was about 50 degrees too low. Rats.
By this point I didn’t care what it all looked or tasted like, I dumped the mess on a plate and ran out the door so I wouldn’t be late for work.
I was disappointed by the pie, but I was glad I could at least identify all of my mistakes. When my mother-in-law’s plum tree was working overtime a few weeks later, I had much more confidence in using the food processor to help me pull together this lovely little rustic plum tart.
Rustic Plum Tart (crust from Better Homes and Gardens plain pastry recipe. Tart filling from ‘Favorite brand Name, 3 Books in 1 cookbook’. No really, that’s the only name I could find on the cookbook.)
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 4 to 5 tablespoons very cold water. I put mine in the freezer until I was ready to use it.
Whiz together the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until flour is mealy with pea-sized chunks of butter throughout.
Add the water a tablespoon at a time. After 2 or 3 tablespoons, check the pastry dough by pressing your fingers into it – it should hold the indentation as the dough starts to come together, but not be sticky. Add more water if necessary. I used 4 tablespoons this time.
Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, and use the plastic to pull it all together. Chill while you work on your tart filling. You can even do this a day ahead.
For the fillings:
- 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon butter, divided
- 3 cups plum wedges – I was about a half cup short so I added a nectarine
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup uncooked oats
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon water
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and line a baking pan with parchment.
In a skillet, melt the 1 tablespoon of butter on high heat and add the plums. Cook the plums for about three minutes, stirring constantly, until the plums break down a bit.
Then stir in the 1/4 cup of sugar and cook for another minute until the juices thicken. Remove from heat and set aside.
Toss your flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt into a food processor. Pulse to start, then turn on low until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
Assemble the tart:
Transfer the dough to your baking pan. Beat the egg and water together and brush over the crust (and don’t get rid of it yet!).
Sprinkle half of the oat mixture over the crust, leaving about 2 inches around the edge.
(The original recipe called for less of the oats on the bottom layer and more dumped on top, which I did, but I think putting more of it below the plums helps to keep the crust from getting soggy.)
Scoop the plums out of the pan, leaving the juices behind, and spread them over the oats.
Sprinkle the remaining oats over the plums. Then fold the edge of the crust up over everything. Brush the edge of the crust with the leftover egg and water.
Bake for about 25 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Eat a slice for every meal.