Thursday, March 13, 2008

Maple Syrup & Pecan Tart #1

My first real baking entry… yeah! I guess I need to explain a few things first. I love to bake, I love to experiment and try new recipes. Trouble is, I also like to eat those experiments. However, I don’t like wearing those recipes on my thighs and/or backside so I don’t bake as much as I’d like to. But every now and then I find an excuse to bake and share the goods with others, as is the case with this first entry. Event: monthly cake decorating club meeting. Recipe: Maple Syrup and Pecan Tart from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Dinners”.

It looks scrumptious in the full page color photo from the book; dark and moist with a slightly crispy looking top and succulent center. Almost like pecan pie but with more substance to the filling. The substance, I soon found out, was due to the addition of bread crumbs. A bit unusual, but as I said earlier I like to try new things and I was game. I imagined this recipe as a cross between pecan pie and bread pudding, both of which I’m quite fond.

All went well with my shortcrust pastry. I was nervous because the one time I tried making pie dough previously, it was a disaster. Not enough liquid in the dough made it crumbly, dry, and impossible-to-roll-out.

I cut the butter into the flour using both my pastry cutter and my fingers. I really liked how soft and silky the mixture felt.

After adding the eggs, lemon zest and two splashes of milk, I had what I thought to be a decent, not-overworked dough. I could still see little bits of butter in the dough.

While the dough chilled in the fridge, I assembled my filling ingredients. There were a couple of things that stood out. One, the pure maple syrup tasted slightly bitter to me. I’ve never tasted the “real thing” before, being a longtime fan of Mrs. Butterworth's, so I’m not sure how pure maple syrup is supposed to taste. Two, it seemed like a lot of bread crumbs. The recipe called for 3 cups, half fine and half coarse. Well, I only know of one kind of purchased bread crumbs and that’s what I had. Upon inspection, I was guessing they were fine. (A quick internet search for breadcrumbs shows only a difference in flavor, such as “plain” or “Italian”.) Maybe British bakers make their own breadcrumbs? Lastly, the zest from two oranges seemed like a LOT, but, I had no basis for comparison so I forged ahead.

While the crust was baking, I made my filling. Once I dumped the bread crumbs in and started mixing I had a sneaking suspicion something was wrong. The filling was dry and thick. I could have formed it into balls with my hands if I wanted. Plus it had an overwhelming orange flavor, a bitter orange flavor at that. I honestly couldn’t taste the maple at all. But, I continued on, spreading it into the cooled crust. I spread the handful of pecans over top. (I had dough and filling left over so made some individual desserts.)

I was hoping the oven would perform a small miracle, but alas, it was not to be. The baked tart was much the same as unbaked, just more “set”.

Once I got used to the idea that it was more orange flavored than pecan or maple, plus got over the fact that it wasn’t moist, well, it wasn’t too bad. I could take it or leave it, really. And the folks at cake club ate it, so, I got credit for bringing refreshments.

Now, I did go back and do some investigating, and guess what? Three cups of bread crumbs is WAY too much. I found the recipe online HERE and it calls for 6 oz. of bread crumbs rather than 3 cups. I just happened to have another container of Progresso plain bread crumbs so I measured out 3 cups to see how much it weighs. It was 13 ounces!! More than double what’s called for. Mystery solved!

I don’t know, I may try this again. If I do, I’ll use the weight measurement for the bread crumbs and I’ll cut way back on the orange zest; maybe a teaspoon. (I’m guessing I got 1-1/2 to 2 TABLESPOONS from the 2 oranges called for.)

But then, I might not try it again. I’ve got so many other recipes I want to try. I’m a tough recipe critic. For the most part, they’ve got one chance. If they’re not delish the first time, I’m moving on, baby.

Until next time…

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