I made this tart with the idea that I’d write a post about how simple it is to make this beautiful and delicious dessert. It is, though it does take a bit of time. Just look up a recipe for a pâte sablée dough and pastry cream, use perfectly ripe fruit and it is going to be good.
But making it really got me thinking about two other things:
- why I’m not cut out to be a pastry chef
- what it takes to make something great, not merely good
Let me tell you all the things wrong with that tart:
- a little tough – the all-purpose flour I used is probably a bit high in gluten, or I might have overworked the dough.
- not laying evenly in the pan, pulling away in spots because I stretched it
- Pastry cream:
- slightly grainy – I let the heat get too high, and then I forced it through the strainer making tiny grains instead of settling for just what would pour through.
- too much vanilla extract, really should have been made with a vanilla bean, and could have taken a touch of another flavor – like rosemary or lemon verbena or lemon zest.
- a little too sweet
- could have been just a touch thicker – kinda oozing more than ideal
- nectarines should have been cut more thinly and evenly.
- fruit should have been tightly overlapped – when I cut into it, the fruit all moved apart and didn’t look pretty on the slices.
Now I’m not saying all this because I want you to write in and say “don’t be so hard on yourself”. It was tasty and we ate every bite. I’m saying it because:
(A) I have the utmost respect for pastry chefs. There is a lot less margin for error in their execution of their dishes than on the savory side, where you have a lot of opportunity to adjust flavors and platings at the last minute. With pastry, your mistakes are usually made much earlier in the game and you can’t hide them. I prefer the slightly more improvisational nature of savory, though I think we can all learn from pastry precision.
(B) Sweet or savory, I need to be this picky about the food I made if I eventually want to be serving it to the public. These details are the difference between ok and wow, between that was nice and gotta-tell-my-friends. More fundamentally, it is the difference between how good I am now, working off the cuff, and how high my internal standards are. If I’m not going to cook really, really well, then what is the point?