It seems like every other day I’m reminded that something in my bits and bytes world requires updating or upgrading. One day I look at the blue apps icon on my phone, and it’s content and happy; the next brings a bright red 5, or 8, or 16, telling me that many apps require update and installation. It's the same with my computer. I can be busily typing or surfing along and all of a sudden everything comes to a grinding halt as the “software update” screen pops up, barging into my otherwise peaceful computer world. At least it’s polite when it interrupts, providing me with a few options so I can see details, or “not now,” or move forward to install and reboot.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the same screen popped up in life? Choose “show details” and up pops a neat list of the things in your life that will change. No surprises to have to cope with, no rugs pulled out from under feet, and you even get to tick off the things you want to happen and not select the things you don't. Or choose “not now,” and it all goes away until you feel like it dealing with it. Ready to make the change? Just click “install and reboot.” Then your new life software installs, your life reboots, and everything you’ll need to operate in the new upgraded world is there, easy peasy. Yeah, that would be sweet, but unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. You don’t get the neat list of all the things that will change, nor the choice to tick off the ones you’d like and those you don’t. And while avoidance has its charms, eventually “not now” catches up and becomes yes, NOW, regardless of whether you're ready or not. Major changes will always require you to install new "software" and reboot. The good news is if you are open to it, you might just get a pretty cool upgrade in the process.
Being one who loves to cook and bake (and tell you all about it), I’m constantly reading recipes. Usually I’ll take something I’ve made before or have set aside to try, and figure out how to do it with what I’ve got on hand or what’s in season in my market. Since Passover and Easter were recently on the calendar, ground almonds were available on sale and became my recipe reboot muse. I opened my well-worn copy of Patricia Well’s Bistro Cooking, and her version of pate sablee or sweet pastry dough served as inspiration for this Almond Pastry Dough. It's more cookie-like than traditional flaky pastry, but that makes it easier to use too because it requires no rolling out. You just press it into the tart pan, chill it and blind bake it. It's a perfect base for the red wine poached pear and coffee cream tarts I made with it.
Almond Pate Sablee
Inspired by the pate sablee recipe in Patricia Well’sBistro Cooking, Workman Publishing, 1989
Makes enough dough for six 4-inch tartlet shells (or one 10” tart pan)
1 ¼ cups flour
1/3 cup + 2 TBSP ground almonds (also called almond meal)
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
zest of an orange (about 1 TBSP)
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten
Add the first 6 ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until just until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, about 10-15 seconds. Add the egg and pulse until the pastry begins to hold together, about another 20 seconds. Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment or wax paper and flatten into a disk. If you are making tartlets, divide the disk into 6 equal pieces. (At this point you could wrap everything well in cling wrap, put into a zippered freezer bag and freeze for up to a month.)
Press the dough out quickly into the tartlet pans, making sure to go up the sides too. I find it easier to press the dough out with a piece of plastic wrap on top of it, but you could also use well floured fingers if you like. Cover well and chill for at least 2-3 hours.
Once the dough is well chilled, preheat oven to 375°F. Prick the dough with a fork, and line with buttered foil (butter facing dough). Then fill the shell with pie weights, dry beans or rice, place on a cookie sheet (makes it easier to get them in and out of oven), and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake uncovered for another 5 minutes until lightly browned.
Transfer to a rack to cool. Once cooled these can be filled immediately or frozen up to a month.
When I made these, I filled them with an espresso pastry cream and topped them with slices of the most wonderful red wine poached pears, and a drizzle of the poaching liquid reduced down until it was very syrupy. I've included the recipe for the pears (also from Bistro Cooking), and a link to the pastry cream recipe on epicurious.com.
Poires Au Vin Rouge (Pears in Red Wine)
From Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells
These could stand alone as a lovely dessert, but when added to the cream and tarts, well... let’s just say the rebootwas a definitely a worthwhile upgrade!
4 large pears, peeled with stems intact
½ cup sugar (or vanilla sugar if you are lucky enough to have it)
1 bottle fruity red wine
½ cup crème de cassis
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 sprig rosemary
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
In a deep non-reactive saucepan that will hold the pears snugly, combine all of the ingredients. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the pears from time to time, so they are evenly coated. Simmer until the pears are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat; allow to cool. Transfer the pears and liquid to a serving dish. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. If you are using them for the tarts, halve, core and cut into thin slices lengthwise, then lay them out on a paper towel and pat dry so they don't weep into the pastry cream.
Here’s a link to the pastry cream I used for my tartlets:
[So what do you do with the leftover poaching liquid? Well, you could use it again to poach more pears, or do what I did. I reduced it down until it was thick and drizzled a little over the tarts, and the rest over vanilla ice cream a few days later!]