A Tartlet and The Decline of Summer (Almost)
I've noticed her soft decline these past few days and evenings. The sun resets earlier than the day before, the warm late evenings have been replaced with a soft chill, perfect for a warm tea and bite of dessert. Even the mornings are different, better. Her wardrobe has changed, her appearance altered. This is the end of summer. Almost.
This morning we woke up and stared at the light fog outside. Even from the confines of our house we could feel the difference without stepping outside. It was grey and muted. Nothing vibrant left, albeit a splash of green that weaves its way through the neighbourhood. This was the moment we've been waiting for. Out favourite moment, the best of seasons.
We embark on new traditions, a slight alteration of old traditions, when this season and weather take flight. A walk through the trails behind our house. Sometimes we ride our bicycles through the parks and paths, and we do so in the height of the evening, because it's cooler (No need to put it off until the hot sun withdraws). We spend more time outside. Together. As we want to do.
The photo shoots that seem to rule our weekend lives change in appearance and time. No longer can we start the session after 7pm. We now wake up early and start early. The photographs change because the background has. And maybe, just maybe, we throw on a light sweater as the evening closes with our cameras flashing away.
The best part of the (almost) end of summer is feeling no guilt when we stay inside, either editing photos or working away with delight in the kitchen. A new haul from the farmers in town makes its way to our kitchen and then our table. We linger a bit longer at the table inside, enjoying a meaningful, deep conversation while watching nature unfold outside, as if a curtain was pulled back to unveil the real beauty hidden all these months.
While we sit at the table I talk of brewing a pot of tea. And I sneak out this dessert. I know W isn't the biggest lover of desserts, but I keep persisting. I'm like a fall rain that never lets up when you want it to let up. I guess I hope deep down inside that she'll take that one bite that changes everything.
That's why I keep trying. I try a new spin on an old trick, or something altogether different. This time I make my tartlet with a fresh shortcrust pastry shell filled with custard and fruits picked at the market: yellow plums, blueberries, concord grapes and raspberries. And she smiles at my attempt. Which is all I ever want.
This summer has been very kind to me, to us. The weather, for the first time in forever it seems, was without fail, brilliant. I kept doing this blog, which my amazing readers so generously continue to read. My wife's photography business took off from a leap of faith and continues to soar to new levels. And our family grew stronger. Love deeper.
This may be it. A new beginning, which is an old beginning. The breeze may be softer and cooler, her appearance may be different and summer may be ushering out. But as I sit here writing this with the window now pushed wide open, I marvel at everything in front of me. And the people beside me. And it's beautiful.
From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!
Fruit Tartlet with Shortcrust Shell
- 250 grams or 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 150 grams cold unsalted butter, diced
- 6 tbsp. cold water
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 400 grams of mixed fruit (berries, plums, etc.)
- 250ml whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 50 grams superfine sugar
- 20 grams cornstarch
- 3 large egg yolks
- 200ml heavy cream
- Process flour, butter and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk egg with chilled water in a bowl and then, with the food processor running, add to flour mixture. Process until it forms large clumps and stop.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, if it seems to dry, add another tablespoon of water, but don't make too wet. Knead into a smooth ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the chilled pastry onto a lightly floured surface and into a thick log. Cut into six pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and flatten with your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out into a thin circle and softly press into a tartlet pan and trim excess. Repeat.
- Put the tartlets on a baking pan and chill for another 30 minutes.
- To make custard, add the milk and vanilla to a medium saucepan and add in a tablespoon of superfine sugar. Over high heat, bring to a boil. While the heat is coming to a boil, mix the rest of the sugar with the cornstarch in a mixing bowl and then beat in the yolks until smooth.
- Preheat oven to 390 degrees. Line each tartlet with foil and fill with baking beans and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and remove baking beans and foil and return to the oven for another 5 minutes, or until base lightly browns. Cool for 12 minutes and then remove from tartlet shell.
- Beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Beat the cooled custard and then fold in the soft peaks. Chill.
- Fill each tartlet shell with custard cream and top with fresh fruit.