Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a incurable urge to meddle

I think I may have a problem.

As I may have said before, I tend to think that cooks can be divided into two groups: those who follow recipes to the letter, and those who think that recipes are a good starting point.

Anyone who has ever seen me cook knows that I fall into the second category. If someone else is in charge and I'm just along for the ride, I can follow a recipe perfectly. But leave me to my own devices, and I'll probably start tinkering, even if I fully intend to leave the recipe untouched.

The latest victim of my meddling was a brown butter raspberry tart I read about over at Hungry Bruno. A melted-butter crust is filled with raspberries, covered in a sticky mixture of eggs, sugar, flour, brown butter and vanilla, and baked until the filling is a light custard dotted with pockets of soft raspberry. Quick, simple, and absolutely irresistible.

The first time around, I followed the recipe exactly - or exactly as I could, given that I only had an eight-inch tart pan and had to tweak the quantities a little bit to compensate. It was fragrant. It was delicious. My dinner guests had seconds. (I sent them home with the leftovers, too.) But the base was very, very firm and crisp, and I sent little pieces flying everywhere when I tried to take a fork to it.

I still had a punnet of raspberries, so I decided I'd make it again the next day with a regular shortbread crust. And all went well until I was preparing the filling. The recipe calls for white sugar, but I couldn't resist the verbal symmetry of brown butter and brown sugar, so I switched out some of the white for brown instead. Nothing major; just enough to give the filling a slightly deeper flavor.

So now it's a brown butter raspberry tart with a crumbly shortbread base, and a filling that's a bit more caramelly, but it's still pretty much the same recipe. Really. And if I use the concept as a starting point when autumn comes around again, for an apple tart with brown sugar and Calvados, it's nothing serious. Nothing to worry about at all.

But if anyone has the number for Recipe Meddlers' Anonymous, I'll take it, just in case.

Meddler's Brown Butter Raspberry Tart

With apologies to Bon Appetit.

(Recipe not for one. Just because you can eat the whole thing by yourself doesn't mean you should. )

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Tart shell first. Get out a mixing bowl, and put in five tablespoons of softened butter, three tablespoons of white sugar, a pinch of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon of vanilla. Cream everything together with a fork until well-blended. Add three-quarters of a cup of flour, a quarter-cup at a time, working it in with the fork until you have a sandy dough.

Press the dough into an eight-inch false-bottomed tart pan. Set the pan on a baking tray and transfer the tray to the oven. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes, or until the very edges are just starting to color.

Remove the tray from the oven; bump up the heat to 375F and leave the oven on.

Set the tart shell aside to cool.

While you're waiting, prepare the filling. Take half a stick of butter, cut into chunks, and place it in a small, light-colored saucepan (avoid cast iron) over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns light caramel in color. Transfer the butter to a glass measuring cup or other heatproof container; set aside.

Get out another mixing bowl (or use the one you had for the pastry, that's fine), and beat together one egg, four tablespoons of white sugar, two tablespoons (packed) of brown sugar, a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and a half-teaspoon of vanilla until well-combined. Whisk in a quarter-cup of flour, followed by the brown butter. The resulting batter will be thick and sticky.

Take six ounces of raspberries (one standard-size punnet), and arrange them in rings in the tart shell. Pour (or drizzle) the batter over, and give the tart pan a shake to get the mixture to settle evenly. Transfer to the oven and bake for thirty to forty minutes, or until the filling is puffed and golden. Allow to cool before serving.

Note: Tart can be made the day before and kept covered at room temperature overnight. It may even taste better that way.


Photon said...

That crust looks *beautiful*. I can't tell you how much I miss pie.

Joh said...

I am making this this weekend. Deb's raspberry cake be damned. It sticks. This may be because my pan is 8-inches instead of 9.... but whatever. TART TIME! :)

adele said...

Photon - We'll figure out gluten-free pie crust. I still think it should be possible to do shortbread using rice flour.

Joh - It makes the kitchen smell amazing. :)

Googie Baba said...

I respect the fact that you are in the second group. I am terrified to depart from a recipe. I only do it if I go for an ingredient and come to find out that I am out.

adele said...

Googie - Come to the dark side. You can do it in baby steps. ;P

Cakelaw said...

Yum! I love the fact that you like to mess around and still come up with something fabulous. I get too lazy to do anything except follow the recipe - except when I find out half way through that I don't have all the ingredients and there is no way I am going to the shops to get them/it's midnight and the shops are shut etc.

adele said...

Cakelaw - I think some of the most interesting recipes come about when people run out of ingredients and make substitutions. :)

Ms. Hotpants said...

i too am a recipe meddler... i'm not sure i've actually EVER followed one to the letter all the way through!
it's nice to hear someone else come clean as well :)

adele said...

Ms. Hotpants - We should start a club. :)

Holly said...

I always think it's great when people are able to tweak a recipe to their liking. You don't need a support group - meddle on!

adele said...

Holly - I don't have a problem? Okay then. Less time spent at support groups = more baking. :)

Joh said...

Results: The tart with shortcrust and blackberries was fantastic. I'm thinking once I can find some raspberries, of adding some lemon zest to the crust and the custard. Thoughts?

Here I am, meddling with the meddler's recipe. The vicious cycle continues. :)

adele said...

Joh - I'll bet it would be delicious with lemon zest. I was thinking blackberries and candied ginger, myself. And it might work using cranberries for Thanksgiving, too!

Anonymous said...

Should I comment here under my name? In any case, you were right about the crust, it was just a bit too hard to do the tart much good. But, I look forward to trying this before raspberries go out of season.

adele said...

Anonymous - That depends who you are, and how unusual your name is. :) But do try this; it's a wonderful tart.