One of the things I greatly appreciate about Nagano here is a bounty of fresh local produce. It is particularly gratifying that certain kinds of fruits, such as apricots, nectarines, Italian plums, and rhubarb (technically not a fruit, but still) that would be hard to come by or pretty expensive when I was in Tokyo, are abundant over here. I have always been big on fruits ever since I was little, but I've come to bake a lot more with fresh fruits these last years being in here.
And it was in that summer when I suddenly found myself in the mood for baking fruit tarts, among other things, for some reason. In fact, it was most likely because of the small tart pans I'd bought in Paris a little earlier.
And it actually does involve a little more than what I would get when making my usual suspects, such as scones and crumbles. But in spite of it all, I was suddenly ready to roll.
And the more you make them, the better you get at it, right? That, I'm afraid to say, doesn't seem to be the case with my tart-making skills - or at least not where rolling the dough and lining a pan with it is concerned. But I quickly learned to be forgiving of all the uneven, cracked, and/or flimsy-edged tart shells I bake, and not to let my less-than-perfect pastry get me down too much.
Now, what exactly is it that makes a tart, well, a tart? How is it different from a pie? You can google it away, but there seems to be no definitive, I mean DEFINITIVE, definition of a tart, or a line that sets a tart apart from things like a pie, or even a cake. Not all tarts have a crusty crust; some are like a thinly-baked cake, and others have a yeast-raised dough. It would seem that you can basically call anything a tart if it is thin-ish. And I'm perfectly alright with that.
As a curious baker, I've always been game for baking with different ingredients and recipes, and am always drawn to healthier options. I've enjoyed baking from some macrobiotic books, and vegan and gluten free recipe books, among other things, and the latest addition to my collection of those lines of the baking books is a Japanese title called かんたんお菓子 ('Simple Treats') (Wave Publishers, 2012) written by Hiroko Shirasaki, a cooking instructor and author who runs organic (and egg- and dairy-free, mostly vegetarian) cooking school called Shirasaki Chakai.
So there are already so many recipes for tarts out there, and when you are playing around with the ingredients, the possibilities are endless.
So I decided to do a separate post focusing on the tarts, and it's been a very long time coming but it's finally here, dedicated to tarts and tarlets starring fresh fruits of the season: autumn.
So what follows a rundown on most of the fruit tarts I made in the falls of 2012, 13, and 14. As I mentioned earlier, a tart can take many forms; I took a liberty of using the term 'tart' in a very broad sense.
Now with your permission, let me take you back to the beginning of autumn...