When I was in college, I was fearless about crust. That was back in the days when people didn’t snap a photograph every time you turned around. I was absolutely enamored with Anna Thomas’ cookbooks: The Vegetarian Epicure, and The Vegetarian Epicure, book two. There are lots of wonderful recipes in those books, many of which require crusts, for both sweet and savory tarts, quiches, pies, etc.
At that time in my life, I would just open up one of those cookbooks and pick something. I would follow the instructions, and whatever I ended up with was good enough. I would bring things to dinner parties, or throw one of my own. There may have been moments of frustration with crusts cracking while rolling out, or not being nice and round, or any number of other crust difficulties, but I don’t recall letting that get in the way of making food and having fun with friends. Funny that I don’t have a single picture of any of my culinary exploits from back then.
Somewhere along the line, things changed. Life got busy, and I stopped making my own crusts. And then, when I finally went back to it, making my own crust seemed suddenly very daunting. Those same cracks and imperfections that never bothered me before seemed to be a deal breaker. Was it because I was older, and wanted things to be perfect? Was I less patient? Was I doing something wrong?
Then came all of the trials and errors, as I tried to find the perfect crust recipe. One that was flaky and tender every time, one that was easy to roll out and didn’t crack in a million ways, one that would behave the same way each time I made it. And here is what I discovered. Well, first of all, I did find a recipe that I loved. It is pretty much fail-proof as far as I’m concerned. And that is great. But what happens if I come across a recipe that calls for a different kind of crust?
I want to be fearless again. I want to make any crust that a recipe calls for and not be afraid. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want epic failures. But I do want to be flexible in the kitchen. I am thinking about all of this because just a couple of days ago I made a flan patissier, a vanilla pastry cream baked in a flaky pastry crust. I used to love getting a slice in the late afternoon from a little corner bakery when I lived in France. I have never attempted making this before, but when I discovered that David Lebovitz had posted a recipe for one, I just had to do it.
I considered using my own crust recipe, but then decided I would follow the recipe exactly as written, crust and all. And I did have some issues with the crust. It seemed a little dry when I made it. It cracked when I rolled it out. Oh, did it crack. And it was a crazy, falling apart mess when I ever-so-carefully put it into the 9 inch spring form cake pan. But David says in his post: “Use your hands to patch and smooth any wrinkles or cracks. (The dough is quite forgiving once baked and filled so don’t worry if it’s not perfect.)” And it’s just that simple. His attitude is so relaxed. Really, this is baking 101. And here is the crust after I followed David’s directions, all patched and smoothed out.
“… so don’t worry if it’s not perfect.” Somewhere inside of me I know this. But it’s always good to have kind and gentle reminders. There is so much that I would miss out on if I waited for things to be perfect. So, after making this gorgeous flan patissier, I did not do my usual making-the-recipe-a-million-times-until-it-was-absolutely-perfect. Here is what I did do. I invited some friends over, friends who love pastries and custards, friends who love to talk about good food, and enjoy eating good food with friends. And we had an impromptu late afternoon tea party. And it was perfect.
It was perfect. Because YOU are perfect.
Oh Jill, everyone should be so lucky to have a dear friend like you!
C0uld say the same about you, friend!
It looks perfectly delicious!
Thank you Dorothy! It was super yummy!!
Beautiful post brimming with wisdom. So helpful!
Thank you, sweet Olivia! Love you!
I loved your impromptu tea party on every level, Angela!
Thank you Linda! I will have a lavish tea party for you the next time you visit :).