Learning how to use my fancy new Koblenz oven in my brand-new apartment here in San Miguel de Allende has been a lesson in adaptation and stubborn perseverance – a lot like adapting to expat life in general.
My first two attempts at baking tarts for friends’ recent visits to my new place were embarrassing disasters – pastry like charred cardboard with fillings like molten rubber.
Had I lost my mojo? Become irretrievably rusty in these many months of living like an oven-less Bedouin? After all, tart baking had been my specialty of sorts for many years. I even wrote a book about it (Sweet Tarts for My Sweethearts, Nighthawk Press, 2020). Clearly, baking is not like riding a bicycle, but could I have lost the knack altogether?
Ever since childhood, after watching my mother deftly making pastry for her famous pies, I’ve loved working with pastry dough: pinching the butter bits into the flour with cool fingertips, adding the ice water and forming the rough dough, then rolling it smooth on a floured kitchen table. The silky-fabric feel of it. The alchemy of it – that so few and disparate ingredients could create such light and golden crusts capable of supporting whatever filling you choose.
I couldn’t let these recent failures discourage or dishearten me for long. Yes, it would be quicker and easier just to go to one of the many excellent bakeries here in San Miguel and buy a tart to serve my visiting friends with tea. Panio, for one, makes Parisian-patisserie-quality sweet tarts that are far more beautiful than anything I could do.
But it’s the doing that gives me joy – the idea that I made this little creation (whatever type of tart it is) with these two workman-like hands as a labor of love to serve to those I care enough about to have invited into my new home. It’s my idea of hospitality.
So I tried again this week. I invited my old friend Suzanne (we’re from the same hometown in northern New Jersey and went all through school together) and her friend Palma for Tart-and-Tea on Tuesday at three – something I hope to make a tradition.
But this time I paid more attention than before to the differences between Celsius and Fahrenheit and cups and grams. I had a lot to learn, a lot of adapting to do. I couldn’t just rely on my years of experience and what I liked to think of as well earned self-confidence. This new oven (in this new apartment in this, my adopted country) and its Celsius temperature gauge were new to me; I had to humble myself to learn how to use them, just like a beginner.
Similarly, a stick of butter here is 90 grams, which is less than the “stick of butter” called for in U.S. pastry recipes. So I had to come up with a new and revised recipe for my pastry dough this week (see below).
I followed the basic recipe in my Sweet Tarts book for Plum Galette, a free-form tart (p. 53); but this time I combined black plums with nectarines. Why? Because Mexico, too, teaches flexibility. When you can’t find enough decent plums, reach for the nearby nectarines.
Happily – no, JOYFULLY! – I can say the result was a success this time. Suzanne and Palma called the galette “perfection.” I’m back in business again as a labor-of-love tart baker. I can now see more Tart-and-Tea-on-Tuesday-at-Three tea parties in my future.
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For those intrepid bakers who enjoy making their own pastry dough, here is my newly revised version for galettes:
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted into a medium-size bowl
1 stick (90 g.) cold, unsalted butter, grated into the same bowl
1 egg yolk, whisked together in a small bowl with 2-3 tablespoons ice water, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar
With your fingertips, pinch the bits of butter into the flour until the mixture looks like course cornmeal. Make a well in the center and pour in the liquid ingredients. Form dough quickly and roll out onto a generously floured board, with a floured rolling pin, turning frequently to prevent sticking. Proceed with galette recipe as given.
Sweet Tarts for My Sweethearts is available from Amazon.com or from the publisher, Nighthawk Press — http://nighthawkpress.com/titles/sweet-tarts-sweethearts/ .
24 thoughts on “New Oven Lessons”
Bonnie, loooove this! Wish I could come to a T/T/T/T!
Thanks, Debbie! Just make sure your next visit to SMA includes a free Tuesday afternoon! 🙂
Your tart looks divine, Bonnie, and you both take a good photo! Adapting to new ovens appears to be a rite of passage for great cooks. Well done on your perseverance and “thinking creatively”!
Thanks so much, dear Loula!
Now why didn’t I think of that? A stick of butter in a metric-based system would be different from one in a not-metric-based system. No wonder I never gain weight when I eat my homemade apple cake. LOL.
That’s the only reason, querida Kim! 🙂
Bonnie, I love the photo of your tart; it looks and sounds delicious and well worth, the adaptations you had to make with your new oven in San Miguel. I look forward to joining you when next in San Miguel for tart-and-tea-on Tuesday–I’ll bring the tea! I always love your stories! The photo of you and your tarts is lovely!
Thank you, dear Sher! Let’s make sure to carve out well in advance a free Tuesday afternoon next time you’re in town. 🙂
Bonnie, hi i waved to you on thursday morning and now I’m reading your blog.
The tart does look scrumptious.
I enjoy reading your blogs, especially the one regarding the building. Have enjoyed watching those apartments go up. I would be interested in seeing the inside.
Thanks, Valerie! Yes, I saw you out there. I work (write) in the mornings, but some afternoon maybe I could show you my hermosa refugio. 🙂
I am honored!! If last Tues tart was a prediction for future such gatherings, don’t hesitate to accept an invitation. Not only is the tart a tasty treat but the views from Bonnie’s new ‘refugio’ is estupendo.
Muchísimo gracias, querida Suzanne! Now I’m afraid there won’t be enough Tuesdays in the year to accommodate all my friends! 🙂
Yummy! I want to be there for the Tart-and-Tea-on-Tuesday-at-Three 🙂 Que bonita, la Bonnie!
Well, then you must come and visit me, querida Te! — xoxox
What a delightful peek into your life, this week! Thank you.
Thanks so much, Marie!
Tenacity- a skill you consistently demonstrate! Oh, and what a lovely top you are wearing in the photo of you .
Yes, it’s a lovely top — thank you very much for it! I wear it all the time and get compliments. 🙂
wow! i love this! not only did it bring out your baking skills, it also showcased your writing! you are the best, Bon!
Ah, thank you, dear Melody! You’re the best too! — BB xx
Yum! Can wait to make one of your tarts! Thanks for sharing Bonnie!
You’re so welcome, dear Cynthia. Do try making the galette. They’re so much fun to do — and to eat! 🙂 Best wishes, BB
That galette is a work of art. You will have to write a new cookbook, so you can put that on the cover! I’m very impressed that you were able to navigate grams as quickly as you did. I doubt that I could do it. But I am delighted that you are settling in well in your new home. Seeing that makes me so happy.
Thank you, dearest Paul! Yes, gracias a dios, I’m about 98% settled in and loving my new home. You must come for a visit and experience it in person. Love to you, BB xx