Tuesday, March 14, 2006

One Truly Terrible Tart

So I don't really know who Damon Lee Fowler is but I can tell ya he ain't the King of Tarts. Not that he ever claimed to be.....

I bought his book "New Southern Kitchen" at a discount book store we have here in Huntsville. Lord, I love that place. I am constantly going in there to see what new they have.... they have good titles and fabulous prices. So when I saw the title of this book I had to have it. I mean come on... there is a biscuit on the COVER! That is serious food porn for us southern breed. ANYHOW... I am one of those people who likes to judge a book by it's cover...Literally. I don't like to look thru the book to see if there are any recipes that I might like.... oh no, I take it a face value and anticipate getting it home and devouring it like a sensational novel. I like to be surprised. Most of the time I am rewarded for my shallowness but sometimes it slaps me in the face and I close a book knowing I just wasted 12.99. So.... this was one of those books. After I went through the book I was left wondering what exactly was "new" and in some cases what was "southern". Of course I studied the dessert chapter like I was about to take a test on it and didn't really find anything interesting. Baked Peaches with Pecans, Baked Apples with Pecans, Banana Pudding (seriously), Chocolate Charlotte, and several variations on Shortcake and Macerated Strawberries. And this recipe for an Apple Tart with Shortbread Crust.

Gingered Apple Tart with Shortbread Crust

10 ounces (about 2 cups) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons extra fine white cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
2 lemons
6 large or 8 small tart apples (I used Granny Smith)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 to 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 cup bourbon

Preheat your oven to 375. Make shortbread crust in food processor by combining dry ingredients and giving it a quick whirl to sift. Start adding in cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Turn out into 12 inch tart pan and press firmly. Prick lightly with a fork and pop into oven for about 10 minutes. Get on with the apple mixture.

Using a zester, cut the skin off both lemons into long strands. Cut lemon zests in half. Halve lemons and juice both into a non reactive bowl. Peel and core apples. Cut apples into 1/4 inch thick slices, adding them to the lemon juice to avoid discoloration. Arrange the drained apple slices in cooled tart case and add chopped ginger in as you go. Top apples with bourbon, sugar, lemon zest and nutmeg. Bake for about 40 minutes until apples are tender and golden brown on top. Serve warm with ice cream on the side.

Sounds simple, right? And it really was. Too simple. It was so simple that I was thinking to myself.. " There is no way this is going to come out well....." The problems started right away.... the bourbon and juices from the apples began to seep out the bottom of the tart pan causing a hellacious spot on the bottom of my stove that caused an insane amount of smoke. I swear, it was like a fog machine was on in there! Then the sugar and lemon zest on top didn't reach a golden brown.... it turned black, immediately. So that was lovely. And it seemed mushy, but who am I to judge while it is still in the oven. The timer dinged and out came the tart. With a hefty amount of liquid spilling out onto the floor, it was a mess. I let the thing cool for about an hour then *tried* to remove it from the tart pan in one piece. It did okay coming out, but the crust was too mushy to hold all the apples and their respective juice in and one of the sides collapsed. It was like a dam had broken.... apple juice and bourbon went flooding out onto my stove and I just sighed. "Screw it.....Kathryn, come on, let's get in the bathtub!" After Kat's bath I dished out some of this pitiful excuse for a tart to Art and myself with a side of Duce de Leche ice cream. The ice cream was good. The tart was terrible. The sugar did nothing to sweeten the apples and they were sour from the lemon juice. Every now and again a blackened piece of lemon zest would get stuck in our teeth and the chunks of ginger were completely out of place. The "crust" was pathetic. Not even a crust... more like a gritty, mushy, uneventful, soggy piece of cornbread. We both took a bite and agreed that it was indeed terrible. So.....Me and Damon Lee Fowler are not on speaking terms. God love that poor tart.

Comments on "One Truly Terrible Tart"


Anonymous emily said ... (March 14, 2006 4:44 PM) : 

Don't you hate it when a recipe is a total flop!


Anonymous Andree said ... (March 15, 2006 7:14 AM) : 

oh man, that was one funny! That sounds like me and deserts alomost everytime... hmmm, maybe it ISN'T me, maybe it IS the recipes... ;)


Blogger Culinarily Obsessed said ... (March 16, 2006 12:44 PM) : 

Oooh he's the guy that does that show Homeplate! He's got his own restaurant in Orlando too.

I have never been able to get into his show because he's always gotta put this super gourmet twist on his "southern" cooking. And honestly, either I was southern food true to my roots or I want gourmet..don't screw up my fried squash by adding shaved truffles to it or something yanno?

Better luck next time! Maybe you can return the book & say it was a gift? lol


Blogger Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said ... (March 17, 2006 5:15 AM) : 

I had a similar experience. Someone gave me the Mayberry Cookbook. It had a lovely picture of Anut Bee with Andy and Opie on the cover and touted that it contained all of Aunt Bee's best recipes.

Yea, right. If this was the best Aunt Bee could do, Andy would have gotten rid of her after one meal.

I tried several recipes thinking the first one had to be a fluke......then the second one and finally after the third one flopped I tossed the book in the trash.


Blogger Cate said ... (March 19, 2006 6:56 PM) : 

Well ... at least you got a good picture out of it. :)


Blogger Ruth said ... (March 25, 2006 7:33 PM) : 

Too bad, but not only a good picture, it was a great story to read. It's always good to hear of someone's mishaps, so we don't feel alone in the screw up department.

Thanks for sharing.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (April 28, 2006 3:08 PM) : 

I've been cooking professionally for about ten years now, and I love your insights and tidbits! We should all get so much enjoyment out of what we do! But I hate trying new things if I'm not sure they are going to turn out, so I always adjust the recipe if it doesn't seem right at first glance. Like, if the crust is pre-baked, then you should take it out when it is beginning to change color. Don't always go by the timer. All ovens are different! Also, it seems strange to layer the ingredients into the shell. If you pour liquid (bourbon) on top of the filling, chances are that it's not gonna combine on it's own. I would eliminate some of the lemon juice, then add the liquor to the apples before placing in the shell (along with something to bind it, like cornstarch or flour). And sugar won't brown evenly on its own unless it's something like a brulee, so I would mix the spices and sugar with a little butter to allow for some crumbly brown topping. Probably would be a totally different tart, but hopefully a more sucessful one! Keep up the humor & fun!


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