I remember the first Cookbook I ever bought, “Dessert Circus with Jacques Torres”. I remember seeing the book in the book store with its outstanding pictures. I remember quickly flipping through it, and then realizing that I really could afford it as it came out of the discount bin. I was 12.
My mother’s cookbook collection consisted mainly of Lutheran Church Ladies Aid Cookbooks from the upper Midwest and a lot of stained recipe cards. They were great and still are; I use a lot of those recipes to this day. However, the majority of the books consist of practical hot dishes, bars, canning recipes and more recipes for Potato Lefse than any one person needs. “Dessert Circus” consisted of recipes that were colorful, creative, and very French. This is how I fell in love with the Fruit Tart.
I think I have read through every recipe in that book at least twice. Jacques Torres is excellent because he explains how food works, and the science behind baking. I first tried to make a strawberry tart, because it was one of the easier recipes, and also because it didn’t require any special tools. (I didn’t have any fluted tart pans at the time). Fortunately it turned out very well, and I’ve never stopped making tarts.
I think I like the tart because it is so pure. It’s creamy, flaky and not too sweet. I started making my own Pâte Brisée and Pastry Cream and got pretty good at cutting fruit for display. One of the first times I served a fruit tart for a crowd was for my brother’s 13th birthday. Who serves a bunch of 13 year old boys a slice of a Tart in lieu of cake?! … Me.
These are the most basic tarts, with a hand fluted edge and an apricot glaze on top.
During High School, on field trip to Pikes Place Market, I stopped in the store Sur la Table and bought my first 9 inch fluted tart pan. It was very exciting, and I have put that pan to good use.
Overtime, I have acquired many different tart pans, different sized circles, squares and rectangles. Without a doubt, my favorite tart shape and size has to be the small round bite-sized tartlet. I find these are much easier to bring to a party and serve, but they also are easy to dress up and look fabulous. People often don’t even believe they were made from scratch. They must assume that no one would spend the time and effort to form each tart shell and decorate them individually.
During College, I would make tartlets for birthdays and special occasions. Every once in a while, I would bring them to a friend and leave them in thier fridge. It’s fun to be an outrageous and sporadic friend.
For the Rehearsal Dinner before my brother’s wedding, I made a few tarts to serve for dessert. Because it was in the summmer, and we wanted something easy and delicious, (and because my brother really likes tarts) a variety of Tartes aux Fruits were perfect.
I’m still making tartlets for everything from a Baby Shower to a Friday night.
Nearly everything we do reflects our lives in some way. I make and like food. But the food I make usually has a story behind it. People probably would never know why I make tartlets unless I shared my life with them. The tarts don’t just represent a delicious dessert. They represent a young kid trying something new. They represent things working out, the fact that I was good at something, and people loving it. The compliments I gained from the tarts gave me the confidence to try and try again in many different areas of my life.