Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry

Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This fruit tart with homemade puff pastry is made with nothing more than ripe pluots (apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, any other stone fruit or berries will also do), lemon zested sugar and a sheet of puff pastry. Super elegant in its simplicity. The tart is from Rory O’Connell’s new book, Cook Well Eat Well. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him during my epic tour of Ireland last week, hosted by Kerrygold butter. More to come about that trip, but let me back up a minute to 1998, when I was working at an Irish restaurant in Minneapolis, The Local. It was an Irish pub on one side and fine dining on the other, with a kitchen run by the James Beard Nominated chef, Steven Brown. I was the pastry chef and knew a lot about baking, but nothing of Irish food. I went to the book store and bought The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen, published in 1977. That cookbook was by my salvation and influenced nearly every dessert I created in the kitchen that year. Last week I went to Ballymaloe and met Myrtle Allen’s children, Fern and Darina, who took over the restaurant and created a cookery school with Darina’s brother, Rory. I am not typically one to fan-girl over celebrities, but being in the presence of these folks was a dream come true. You can see pictures from my visit to the Ballymaloe cookery school, where Darina gave us a spirited and brisk (meaning I couldn’t keep up with her) tour of the exquisite gardens, farm and school. Darina is like the Alice Waters of Ireland and has created the Irish food scene, by educating just about every chef in the country and beyond. If you are at all interested in taking cooking classes as an enthusiast of home cooking or potential professional, I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly. Here is a link to the school!

After our tour of Ballymaloe, we settled in for a cooking class with Rory. Not only is he an accomplished chef, a TV personality and a terrific teacher, but he is one of the most charming and lovely people I have ever met. This happens to be true for everyone we met on our journey through the countryside of Ireland and in Dublin. What a welcoming and generous people. Rory made us several dishes, all quite simple, made with local, fresh ingredients and absolutely delicious. He also gave us a copy of his new book, which is where I found this Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry. I don’t always make my own puff pastry, but it really is worlds above the store bought and not difficult to make, if you have a decent amount of time to devote to it. I will show you how in my Instagram video or you can attend the cookery school in Ballymaloe! Rory would have walked through the gorgeous gardens to pick perfectly ripe fruit, but I had to settle for what’s available in my local farmers market or at the grocery. I went with pluots, because they were beautiful and ripe. They are a combination of plums and apricots; the flavor is sweet, but also tangy, and they are JUICY. Depending on the fruit you use, you can increase or decrease the sugar.

The puff pastry was made with Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. This is a recipe that is four ingredients, flour, salt, water and lots of butter, so use a butter you’re in love with. I walked in the emerald fields, over looking the sea with the cows who produce the milk that goes into Kerrygold. The grass and the dairy cows are revered above all else in Ireland. I heard this from the farmers, but also the taxi driver who took me to the airport. I commented about how lucky we were it didn’t rain the entire time we were there and he said, “but we need the rain for our grasses. Without it we wouldn’t have the beautiful green lands and the milk wouldn’t taste so good.” Seriously, it couldn’t have been better scripted. The cows grazing on those green fields produces a golden butter that tastes good enough to eat alone. The butter in Ireland (and all of Europe) has a higher fat content than the butter made here in the states, so the texture is creamy and luscious. It truly makes for a superior puff pastry, so I highly recommend you find some. This is one of those recipes where it will make a big impact. 

You can watch me make this tart in my Instagram video. (more…)

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Canning Fresh Blueberries at Masala Farm with Suvir Saran

canning blueberries with Suvir Saran at Masala Farm | photo by Zoë François

Canning seems to be one of those skills that you are born into. Most canners can’t remember the first time they saw their mom or granny doing it, it was just always there. I imagine them sitting in a bouncy seat on the kitchen counter watching as jars got filled with the season’s crops. Next thing they knew they were in the process of washing fruit, brewing simple syrup and dunking jars in caldrons of hot water. Then there are folks like me, who are completely enamored with the notion of “putting up” food, but find it a daunting mystery, too big to take on as an adult. Either your born with it, or you’re not, was how I thought. I imagine it is similar to how many folks feel about baking bread. Too time consuming, difficult and rife with stories of disaster. Knowing full well that this doesn’t have to be the case with bread, doesn’t it stand to reason that I could have faced canning as well? It took a visit to Suvir Saran’s American Masala Farm to show me the way. He gave me the gift of canning!

In the amount of time it took me to make a cup of coffee he’d set himself up to preserve a batch of fresh berries he’d bought at a local farmer’s stand. He was so nonchalant about it all. I grabbed my camera and in the following 45 minutes he rocked my world. I asked Suvir how he learned this art and he confirmed my suspicions…“I first saw canning when watching my mother can jams, jellies, ketchup and squash in Nagpur, India. My mom sowed the seeds when I was in 1st grade.” Those of you born into canning families may think my discovery is as obvious as breathing air, but for those of you who have avoided it, I hope you, like me, will be inspired to “put up” everything you can get your hands on*. My only issue now is getting enough jars. (more…)

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