Nectarine and Blueberry Tart – Why I Am Not A Pastry Chef

Nectarine and Blueberry Tart
Nectarine and Blueberry Tart

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:

  • Crust:
    • 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
  • Fruit:
    • 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?



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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, August 4th, 2008 in Desserts, Kid Friendly, Recipes.

One Response to “Nectarine and Blueberry Tart – Why I Am Not A Pastry Chef”

  1. Reply
    August 8, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    This is beautiful!! I had a similar idea last week wanting to make a “simple” blueberry tart with pastry cream. I chickened out when I realized the effort involved and made this instead: link to
    But your tart looks gorgeous – I love the pretty design 🙂

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