Bravery in the Kitchen

If there’s anything I’ve learned in cooking, it’s to be brave.

Sometimes, it means being reckless.

Sometime it means planning things out very very carefully, to the letter, every detail covered.

You have to be willing to learn, and to open your mind to the fact that you may prefer something cooked and seasoned a certain way, but there are other options out there. You don’t have to always make Apple Pie with cinnamon (Why not Cardamom? Why not a dash of Curry?)

While it is important to come to know your ingredients well enough so as not to waste them, know that there IS a learning curve, and if you really want to push the boundaries and expand your mind, accept that maybe you’re going to ruin an item or two of food. Be willing to either throw things out when they burn, are over-salted, or the sugar in the cake was forgotten (I’ve done this as work before, and it was painful to dump 9 cake’s worth of batter into the garbage because of such a simple human error).

It could be a simple mistake, like my cake story above, or it could be that you were just winging it with a recipe and it didn’t work out like you hoped. If you’re willing to eat your mistakes, like I usually am, then it isn’t really wasted at all.

So, having finally gotten this lesson into my head, I feel capable much more brave because I’m willing to be a bit reckless.

For instance, I decided to spend a lot of money on very good European butter (or Cultured butter), just so I could master the art of making Croissants. It’s a long journey, many more blocks will be bought, but so far every batch is getting better and better, and the butter is never wasted.

But this past weekend, I made a real jump. I made my own Almond Cream from some leftover blanched almonds, and then-

wait for it-

I made a Golden Almond Beet Tart.

There is nothing normal about this. And I can see your face now- puzzlement, maybe even a little disgust. Just be open for a moment.

See, I had made up some croissant dough, but I wanted to have a bit of fun. I had this massive golden beet I wanted to munch on, and I wanted to bend it a little. So I sliced it into 2mm medallions, grated some fresh ginger into a simple syrup in a pot, and set it all to simmer. When the Beet was cooked through, I turned off the heat and let it sit to marinate (The beet was cooked in less than five minutes, and I didn’t want mush. I also wanted the syrup to get some more of the earthiness from the beet, and the beet to get more of the ginger)

So, what about that almond cream?

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Before baking

First, I made a square of the croissant dough and I traced out a boundary within it for the fillings. This was probably the only thing I would change if I made this again- instead I would just add another layer of dough along the edges to frame it all in.

Onto this, I piped on some almond cream (careful, not too much!), layered the beets on top as pretty as I could, and let it proof for a couple hours before baking it off.

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Layers, after baking

While it baked, I boiled down the syrup a bit to thicken it up. It was going to be a delicious topping, and I hoped it would help balance the earthiness of the Beet that I anticipated would be present.

When I watched this tart puff up, it was startling. I knew I was getting my lamination down, and I knew that my simple tracing wasn’t the best choice, as I mentioned before. But when it came out and everything settled down again, the beets had only slightly shifted over in their presentation.

I drizzled some of the ginger syrup on top, made a slice, and bit in.

First off, This was not a beet-y, meaty tasting sweet tart. There was no awkward juxtaposition between the opposing flavours. In fact, I found the almond complemented the beet, and vice versa. The ginger syrup wasn’t very gingery, but you could tell there was another component to the flavours at work, softening the other two.

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I would call it a mature tasting dessert. Kids wouldn’t go for this, I imagine, but for something different that doesn’t necessarily punch you in the face, this is a subtle hit. it’s different, It’s striking in appearance, and you never really know what you’re getting until you finally give it a shot. By marinating the Beet in the syrup as long as I did, the syrup got a beautiful golden colour to it, giving the almond cream an almost custard appearance to it.

This was a complete experiment. In my mind, I said “F*** it!” and started puttering around the kitchen and putting it all together, not too clear of a plan in mind, just playing around. I think it paid off. I would make this again, though I dream of doing a red beet and chocolate tart (I think those flavours are a bit more acceptable), something reminiscent of a beet chocolate pie I made years ago that even my father enjoyed.

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