A few days ago I expected the title of this post to be ‘Raspberry Tart with Lemon Crème Brulee’, simply because that’s the name of the recipe I followed. Alllllways the optimist.
My friends Chris and Michelle came over for dinner on Friday night and like usual, I picked out a savoury dish to make (practically at random) while saving all my mental and physical energy for an impressive dessert. After poring through Viola Goren’s Pies, Pies and More Pies during my lunch break, I selected the Raspberry Tart with Lemon Crème Brûlée because it looked deliciously wintery but not too stodgy. Plus who doesn’t enjoy a good tart? (Hardy har har).
I got a head start by blind-baking the shell the night before. The pastry was a dream to make, even though my kitchen looked like a coke lab by the time I shoved the pastry into the tart pan. The recipe reminded me to give the pastry a quick stint in the freezer before baking it – something I usually forget – and that made a big difference in keeping the sides from shrinking down like Ewan MacGregor pushed into a cold corridor after a big night.
The next day I managed to make the raspberry and crème brulee filling and whack it in the oven and out again before Chris and Michelle arrived. This gave it enough time in the fridge to cool down before dinner was finished and it became time to add the sugar and caramelise the top.
This is the part where I admit I’ve never made crème brûlée before, and in the absence of a blow torch or a ‘preheated broiler’, which I’d never heard of, I thought… well… how about I just put it under the grill?
My logic went a bit like this: “Crème Brûlée needs top cooked. What else needs top cooked? Toasted cheesies. What do I use for that? Grill!”
The 1/3 cup sugar looked like… a lot. But that’s what the recipe called for, so we (that’s right, ‘we’, I am now making Chris and Michelle share the responsibility for this) sprinkled it on merrily and placed the whole caboodle into the grill. I tried to shut the little door but Chris, quite rightly, stopped me. That’s when I probably should have twigged that a) I Have No Clue About Most Things, and b) This Was Doomed To Fail.
I swear we kept an eye on it but when we took it out, it looked like this.
At least the caramel was hard. Very hard, and very inedible. But fuelled by wine and a never-say-die attitude reminiscent of Rebecca Black’s singing career, we picked the burnt top off, sprinkled some more sugar on, turned the heat down, and vowed to watch it closer.
The traumatised tart sobbed quietly as we tortured it under the grill for the second time, and it was reluctant to harden up as much as before. Still, we shoved it into the fridge to cool, then started sawing it into pieces.
Wow-wee, it was sugary. And I don’t use that sort of grandpa-worthy exclamation often. I can eat caramel by the spoonful, much to my dentist’s horror, so it’s quite a feat to put me off by too much sweetness. We neutralised it a bit with some ice cream, but the combination of raspberries and sickly-sweet sugar was still a lot to handle and put me in such an energy spin that I cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom after my guests left.
But I didn’t want to leave it as a failed dessert and I knew it had potential if I could incorporate some creaminess into the dish, so the next day I whipped up some cream with some vanilla extract and spread it on the top, then topped it off with a few raspberries. I wasn’t expecting a massive change, but to my surprise it tasted lovely! I think the original recipe was a great concept, but for me the combination of sweet pastry, sugar, cooked raspberries and more sugar is just a little too much to take without a contrasting element like the cream.
I sat in my backyard by myself and ate the piece I’d just photographed. I felt naughty. It felt good.
Recipe: Lemony Custard Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Cream