The tart’s guide to tarts

The last six months of my life have been pretty tarty. In the dessert sense–unlike my twenties. And not an insignificant amount of my thirties…

In this case, I’ve been working at a small local bakery, Alimentaire, learning under a rad baking woman boss and practicing my own baking skills at a more professional level. Somehow along the way, I became the tart woman, and, though unplanned, it’s honestly been a joy to be able to explore this dessert at such a thorough level.

But, oh man, the tart jokes.

The jokes don’t really bother me, but they have caused me to reflect on my gendered relationship with baking.

Like many bakers, I started baking as a creative outlet, a way to connect. Baking has helped me through some of my most difficult anxious and depressive episodes, providing a way for me to manifest sweetness externally when I didn’t believe I possessed it within. It has helped me bridge loneliness and find a sense of self worth for just long enough to believe that I could maybe be better. When I couldn’t do anything else right, I could turn out a fucking perfect chocolate ganache.

Despite all of that unequivocal positivity, my gendered thoughts around baking have not always been so kind in turn.

When I was a kid, I once said that, “‘Shelby’ is what you name your daughter if you just want her to bake cookies all day.” If that line of thinking sounds familiar, please note that, yes, Hillary was my state’s first lady when I was born. Please also note that I now get paid to bake cookies all day, so… psychic?

Looking back, I find these feelings super disappointing if not quite unsurprising. Traditionally female-dominated fields, pink-collar work, earn less in salary (*coughs* and respect *coughs*) than fields and roles commonly accepted as masculine, and pastry may be the one area of the culinary world that squarely belongs to women, for better or worse, not to mention how much that gap grows for minority women and trans/nonbinary people. Outside of the professional realm, just think about who comes to mind when think about bakers in your life. Odds are that it’s either your mother or grandmother or great-great-grandmother. (I know men bake–my dad makes an excellent cheesecake, but let’s be real about the stereotype, which is unfair to both sexes.)

Even when I started recognizing that baking was a highly skilled art that takes years of practice and patience to develop, I still thought it wasn’t something I could take seriously for myself as a business. Where I grew up, pretty much all women bake, so who was I to think my gift was so special?

Well fuck that.

Here’s the thing, one reason so many women don’t recognize their hobbies as earning potential is because we have been socialized to think of our hobbies as commonplace–work we do for free out of the goodness of our hearts for our family and friends to have a good time. It’s totally fine if that is reward enough for you, but it’s also okay to want your talents to be recognized as a legitimate revenue stream.

Despite common perception, baking is generally not a cheap hobby, especially if you’re picky about your ingredients and bake often. I can’t tell you how much I’ve spent on pans and mixers and specialty tools, and it’s been worth it because I love it. Now I want more. Am I asking too much? Damn right, and I’m gonna keep pushing.

I’m so thrilled with the amount of conversation women are now having, both privately and in the media (podcast list at bottom of page), about all the bullshit we have to be angry about. When I was growing up, I constantly felt like I was in crazy town with feelings and opinions and observations that seemingly nobody else was having. Moving to San Francisco helped with so much of that, but it’s been really exciting over the last few months to see that same kind of feminist outspokenness in the small rural community where I currently reside. Yes, these women have always been around, but it’s become so much easier to find one another everywhere. I am so grateful.

So without further ado, here is your recipe for baking a tart like a goddam tart. (Because you know we’re reclaiming that word, right?)

Step one

Measure out all the fucks you have to give. Set aside.

Step two

In a heat-resistant pan, whisk together a cynicism for capitalism and patriarchy. Once well incorporated, stir over high heat, slowly adding in media that doesn’t hate you.

Step three

Remove pan from heat, and fold in all your fucks until no longer visible. Pour into shell and let cool for 2 hours to 20 years. Serve at room temperature, and if your friends don’t like it, find new friends.

Now that you’ve done the prep work, here is an actual recipe for a tarty, make-your-mouth-pucker lemon tart, from Smitten Kitchen. This is the recipe I use at the bakery, and the town has gone nuts over it. It’s a winner!

To make the vagina design, you will need about 4-5 medium/large strawberries, cut vertically into slivers, and one strawberry with the tip cut off. I like to sprinkle the strawberries with a little sugar before baking for look and to make a little sweeter.

Like a compass, place one slice of strawberry pointing due North and one pointing due South, and then layer slivers making two bowed lines from your North and South arrows, about three slices deep. They should meet on either side like so: <>. Now place one strawberry sliver facing East and one West over the middle seam. If there is a gap in your vag, you can either fill in with smaller horizontal slivers facing East and West or leave wide open–your tart, your choice. At one of your North or South ends, place the little tip button of the strawberry for your clitoris. Bake as usual.

Note: This is a puffy filling, so there may be some distortion in your design when coming out of the oven. Don’t panic, the filling will deflate as it cools, and all vaginas are unique and beautiful.

For this filling, I use the sweet tart crust recipe below, which I’ve developed using recipes and techniques from Smitten Kitchen, “The Art of French Pastry” by Jacquy Pfeiffer, and trial and error.


Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Tart Crust)

  • Servings: 3 9
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print


Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ sticks (290 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature or slightly chilled
  • 1 ½ cups (150 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup (70 grams) almond flour or almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 ½ cups (490 grams) all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Mix flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer or food processor, blend butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the ground almonds and blend, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary. Whisk eggs and vanilla together and add to mixture, using a medium setting to incorporate. On low setting, add in ⅓ flour mix at a time until just blended, continuing to scrape down sides. Stop as soon as all flour is incorporated; the dough will be very soft.
  2. Lay out plastic wrap and spoon the dough out in a ball. Make three equal-sized balls, gently rounding the edges, and press down into as flat a disk as you can get, working quickly (this dough does not like to be handled). Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or refrigerator for at least two hours. The dough will keep in refrigerator for two days or the freezer for 3 months.
  3. To roll out the dough, place a silpat or plastic wrap on your counter or a large cutting board and lightly dust with flour. From freezer, allow dough to thaw for 30-40 minutes and roll out while still somewhat stiff. Roll out immediately from refrigerator. Dust each side of the dough with flour and then gently roll your rolling pin over the dough until you feel it giving. From center apply even and firm but light pressure in one direction for three rolls, turn rolling pin 90 degrees and repeat until dough has widened by about ½ inch in diameter. Lightly flip the dough, flouring each side. If the dough begins to feel sticky at any point, place back in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before proceeding further. Continue rolling from center in each direction until dough is around 1 inch wider than pan diameter. You can make a circle in the flour with your finger ahead of time to know when to stop rolling.
  4. You can move the dough by either picking up the plastic wrap and flipping it over the center of the pan or rolling it onto your rolling pin or forearm and then rolling it back over the pan. I also sometimes fold the dough over into an envelope shape and fold back out within the pan; however, this method does cause creasing (which can be patted down and baked out). Press the dough against the bottom edges of the pan and up the sides, folding over or cutting off any excess dough. Use a fork to dock the bottom of the dough, and place back in the refrigerator for at least 15 more minutes before baking.
  5. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325-350°F (160-180°C) and line a tray with parchment paper. To par-bake or blind bake, line the dough with parchment paper or foil and weight with beans, rice, sugar, or anything a similar consistency, making a small valley in the center.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes to par-bake. To fully bake, bake for 20-22 minutes, remove the parchment and beans, and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes. The bottom of the crust should be dry–not shiny, a consistent color, and the edges will be pulling away slightly from the pan. Let cool on rack completely before de-panning and filling. Baked crusts will keep for one day unrefrigerated and two days refrigerated. To extend the life of your crust by another 1-2 days, brush the insides with egg wash (egg and milk) once cooled and bake for another 5-7 minutes until egg wash is hard and shiny.

Podcasts that don’t hate you:

This is a very small list, so please feel free to share your favorite empowering podcasts or other media in the comments!

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