Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Shanghai is currently moving into fall and the temperature is now hovering around 19-24°C. As cars and offices stop utilizing air conditioning and it's now pleasant to go for long walks outside, I look forward to even cooler weather in the coming months and possible forays to places away from the typical concrete jungle of the city. I need to discover the heart and soul of people in China who are yet to be affected by the craziness of its government and unfazed by the speed of its pseudo-socialist capitalism. While it disturbs me that I feel so disconnected with the land of my ancestors, I think all is not lost but some effort is needed to search for the beauty and cultural spirit of what remains to be one of the greatest civilizations in the world.
From the remnants of last summer's seasonal abundance, I managed to transport a few Chinese peaches back to Singapore, not really knowing what exactly to do with them until I unpacked the July issue of my favorite in-flight reading material from the bottom of my suitcase. After spending quite a bit of time admiring these tartlets between mouthfuls of airplane food, wishing I'm eating them instead of some packaged 'pineapple tart', I thought it would be fitting to replace the pears with my loot, some of which were already very ripe and threatening to rot on me under the mercy of the island's tropical humidity.
With the inviting promise of tender, Muscat-scented peaches buried in mounds of bitter chocolate ganache encased in sweet, crunchy pâte sucrée shells; I excitedly set out to look for 4-inch tart tins, only to find them out of stock from not one, but all three baking supply shops at Holland Village. What an irony considering I've always thought of getting them during my previous visits, deterred only by the gradually disappearing cabinet space of my shoebox kitchen. Luckily after I let out a tart tin sigh on Twitter, Shirley came to my rescue and lent me hers.
So on the morning I was supposed to bring the wonderful and vacationing Xiaolu out to dinner, I started on project ganache tartlets, got to work on making pâte sucrée for the first time and hoped it would not drive me nuts. Drove me nuts it did. Not owning a food processor, I prepared the dough with a pastry cutter but wasn't light handed enough. It took more than two hours to firm up and only three of my six cuts of pastry rolled out onto the tins in one piece. The rest were more of a tear and patch job but I managed to get them all almost descent looking. Because of the softer texture, they also took longer to crisp up when baking.
Despite the warm-weather-pastry-making drama and my messed up schedule, I somehow managed to assemble the tarts, shoot them, jump into the shower and get to dinner with Vijay, Xiaolu and Shirley half-an-hour late. There wasn't enough time for me to test out one of the tarts before rushing out of our flat in a frenzy, though I did taste the individual components separately and went 'yum' at every one of them. I only got to dig my fork in the next day when the shells had turned slightly soft, though thankfully after approvals from the ladies that they were indeed not only pretty but pretty darn delicious.
Note: Now if you've clicked through Gourmet Traveller’s recipe and then blinked a few times at my photos, my apologies for taking the styling right smack off their cover. In the madness of things I really didn't have many hours reserved to explore any photography creativity. It was a miracle the tarts made it to dinner at all.
Chocolate Ganache Tartlets with Muscat-Poached Peaches
Adapted barely from the July 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
Yields 8 10.5cm or 6 11.5cm individual tartlets
Cooking Time Prep time 25 minutes, cook 1 hour (plus resting, cooling, standing)
Note: Nothing compares with homemade pastry, especially when it produces such delicate crisp tart shells as these. Brushing the baked pastry cases with egg wash before baking them again seals the pastry and ensures it remains crisp after the filling has been added. In hot and humid Asian weather, refrigerate the pâte sucrée dough for an extra hour.
- 330 milliliters pouring cream
- 30 milliliters Muscat
- 250 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
- 200 grams/1 1/3 cups plain flour
- 60 grams pure icing sugar
- 120 grams cold butter, coarsely chopped
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon iced water
- egg wash for brushing
- 500 milliliters water
- 400 milliliters Muscat
- 440 grams/2 cups caster sugar
- Thinly peeled rind and juice of 1 large orange
- 2 cinnamon quills
- 6 small peaches, halved, cores removed
For pâte sucrée, process flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor to combine, add butter and 1 tbsp iced water, process until mixture resembles fine crumbs. You can also do this quickly with a pastry cutter. Add yolk, process to combine, turn onto a work surface and bring together with the heel of your hand. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours (see recipe note).
Meanwhile, for the Muscat-poached peaches, bring Muscat, sugar, orange rind and juice, cinnamon and water to the simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add peaches, cover closely with a piece of baking paper, weight with a plate and simmer until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer 500ml of the poaching liquid to a saucepan, simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to a light syrup, about 10-15 minutes, cool to room temperature. Cool peaches in remaining poaching liquid.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Divide the pastry into 6, roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface to 2mm thick and line eight 11.5cm-diameter, 2cm-deep fluted tart tins. Trim edges and refrigerate to rest, for about 30 minutes. Blind bake tarts until light golden (15-20 minutes), remove paper and weights, brush with egg wash, bake again until crisp and golden, about 4-5 minutes - mine took about 10 minutes so eyeball it. Remove from tart tins and cool on a wire rack.
Bring cream and Muscat to the simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add chocolate, remove from heat, stir until smooth, refrigerate until slightly thick, about 30 minutes. Drain peaches and pat dry with absorbent paper. Thinly slice 4 peach halves, arrange in tart cases, pour over ganache and refrigerate until set. Serve with Muscat-poached peaches, reduced syrup and candied orange rind.
Tarts are best served immediately to maintain the crispiness of the tart cases.
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