Yesterday was a rainy day – and what better thing to do on a cloudy afternoon than to bake? Another nice thing to do on such a day is of course to settle down with a good book, but I’d been doing that and my eyes were getting tired, so a change of pace was called for.
I decided to experiment using olive oil for a pastry crust. It seemed like a simple substitution of butter with oil. I blithely followed the instructions: in a bowl mix 2 cups whole wheat flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 egg, 4 tablespoons cold water until they come together. The dough came out rather soft. Off to the fridge it went to rest for half an hour. When I rolled it out, it was still quite soft so I sprinkled the work surface generously with flour, and fitted the pastry to a rectangular tart pan, 28.5 x 20.5 cm.
What to fill the pastry with? Hmmm… I wasn’t following a recipe here. Just going by my instincts. I had some milk, eggs, ground almonds, and some nectarines that needed eating very quickly. In the heat these ripen very fast, unless they are stored in the fridge. And with melons and watermelons taking up all the space, the nectarines had to be left out. So I quickly sliced three of the nectarines.
Next I made a quick crème patissiere, to which I added a 200 gm packet of ground almonds once it was done. You can search the web for a crème patissiere recipe if you like. For my version of crème patissiere, I infused 1 cup milk with a cinnamon stick in a small pan over medium heat, just until bubbles rose on the surface, took the pan off the heat, and left the milk to cool. In another thicker-bottomed pan, I blended until smooth 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 egg and 1 yolk. I whisked the cooled milk little little into the flour mixture until all was smooth. Then the pan went over medium heat while I continued to whisk until the mixture started to thicken. I turned off the heat, then added the grated zest of 1 lemon and left the cream to cool completely.
I spread the cooled crème patissiere with the almonds quickly on the rolled out tart crust (poked first at the bottom with a fork so the crust won’t buckle up while baking), laid the nectarine slices on top, sprinkled the top with brown sugar and about 2 tablespoons diced butter, and off to the middle shelf of the oven it went. Ten minutes at 200°C, then 25 minutes at 180°C.
Now it’s not as simple as turning on the oven like normal people do when you live off-grid. To bake on a cloudy day when the solar panels are not charging, the diesel-operated generator has to be turned on first. Rather noisy, but it works. The other alternative is to use one of these old-fashioned ovens.
They work very well — you put your cake batter into the greased pan, set the flame diffuser (the funnel-shaped ring below the pan) on your gas ring at low heat, and there’s your energy-saving stove-top oven. I think I might just order one of this, just in case the generator goes on the blink on another cloudy day when I feel like baking. The downside to this kind of oven is that it only bakes tube-shaped cakes –- if you want to make tarts, it just won’t do.
So what’s my verdict on the olive oil pastry crust? For my taste, it needs a bit of tinkering. I might use milk instead of water, just to make the pastry a bit less dry and brittle. I would also add a teaspoon or more of sugar for a sweet tart.
The filling was lovely. I always love crème patissiere in tarts, and the ground almonds went very well with the nectarines. Just for perfection’s sake – the nectarines could have benefitted from a squeeze or two of lemon juice to enhance their flavour, and maybe a more generous sprinkling of brown sugar to get a good amount of caramelized topping on them. Although the pastry did not turn out as I had expected, it was still a yummy fruit tart.
Have you tried making an olive oil pastry crust? If you’ve had more success than I’ve had getting flaky results, I’d be interested to learn a few tips.