A Lesson in Humility: The Soggybottom Tart

Dear Adoring Fans,

soggy bottom tart Thanks to the magic of selective publishing, you, the reader, are shielded from the occasional culinary misstep here at Scot’s test kitchen. However, I decided that in the name of honesty (and learning from mistakes) I would share this story with you.

This tale begins, as do most good stories, at Whole Foods. I was shopping for a dinner party that night and planning an elaborate menu. For dessert, I wanted to make guava-filled puff pastry pillows. Unfortunately, the grocery store had no guava in any form. So, I decided to make a pear tart instead. Now, I’m not much of a baker (this will become obvious soon). In an attempt to reduce the already day-long prep time for the meal, I chose to buy a pre-made, frozen pie crust for my tart. I grabbed a few pears along with the rest of my groceries and headed home.

I poached the pears in a delicious orange soda, brandy and vanilla bean broth. I pureed some almonds, butter and sugar and spread a creamy layer of the nutt-butter over the crust. I topped the whole thing with the pear slices, meticulously arranged in a sunburst pattern. I par-baked the tart for 15 minutes and let it sit in the oven until we had finished dinner. Then, I turned the heat up to 400 and gave it another 5 minutes to rewarm. It sure looked good, and cooked too!

I presented the tart to my guests with pride, proclaiming in a usually ironic way “You know, I don’t bake much so we’ll see how this turns out,” thinking confidently that it would be a masterpiece. One cut into the tart and I knew something was wrong. The bottom of the crust was wet and doughy! The entire dessert was totally undercooked – a lot. Luckily, my guests were very polite and ate their puddle of tart with a smile on their faces. Meanwhile, I wanted to crawl into the oven and finish my baking.

I learned a few lessons from this evening. First, it never hurts to practice a dish before serving it to guests. Second, if you are going to wing it for company, make sure they’re really good company. And finally, always make sure your tart is baked before serving!


Brandy Black Cherry Ice Cream

black cherry ice cream Black cherry ice cream was my favorite flavor as a kid. Plus, it’s a great way to sneak fruit into your diet. Mmmmm…. that’s the sweet taste of deception.

Total kitchen time: 40 minutes, plus freezing time
Makes: 1 healthy, fruit-filled quart

Shopping list:

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp peach preserves
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 dz ripe cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  1. Place the cherry halves in a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle on the brown sugar and stir to coat. Add the brandy, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. By getting the cherries as drunk as a freshman, they’ll stay soft when we freeze them into the ice cream.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and stir to combine. Over medium heat, raise the temperature to 160 F. Once it hits 160, remove the pan from the heat and put it directly into the fridge. Chill the mixture until cold, probably 8 hours.
  3. Freeze the cream mixture following the instructions on your ice cream maker. Just at the end of the churning, add the cherries, discarding the remaining brandy. Freeze the ice cream overnight to let it set up.

If you are feeling adventurous, this is exactly the type of dessert for which waffle cones were invented.

Guava Coconut Sorbet

guava coconut sorbet This recipe is embarrassingly easy, but nobody needs to know that. This sorbet makes an excellent summer dessert and can be served with fresh tropical fruit. I like to serve sorbets in martini glasses with a small, colorful garnish. If you want to be less subtle, a coconut shell works, too.

Makes: about 1 qt
Total kitchen time: 30 mins

Shopping List:

  • 2 cans of Kerns Guava Nectar (in the juice section of your grocery store)
  • 1/2 can of cream of coconut
  1. Combine all ingredients (yes, all 2) in a blender or food processor until smooth and airy.
  2. Freeze. If you’re using an ice cream maker, ensure that the mixture is cold beforehand. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture in a wide, shallow baking dish and still-freeze. After 4 hours (or when ice crystals start to form throughout) scrape with a fork to break them up. You’ll end up with more of a granita than a sorbet, but it will still be delicious.