I have a love-hate relationship with Martha Stewart. Her magazines and her website are filled with beautiful things and truly delicious and gorgeous food. Although I could never (would never?) aspire to be Martha, with all her perfection and knowledge about the 'right' way to clean a windowsill, collect glass jelly jars, when to plant your hyacinths, or make a gigantic centerpiece just in case some random friend drops by, I do envy the food that her food editors come up with every month. And I also envy the way they somehow "discover" a person having a party in a beautiful barn, old dock, family cabin, or other perfect setting for each story. Oh, and that person just happens to collect antique farm tools, boats, tea sets, etc. Yeah, like normal people living in small or perhaps, say, rental homes have gorgeous places where they can have 14 of their gorgeous friends over to eat their gorgeous food that was prepared and displayed, gorgeously, by Martha's food editors.
I do admit, though, that I've started to buy her magazine. And every month, the food makes me drool. Some of it is easy. Some of it is not so easy. And some of it looks easy, but leaves you wanting to yank your hair out and throw it at the old girl herself! Take this cake for example. Some of you may remember this post: I wanted to decorate a cake. I liked Meyer lemons and seeing a recipe for "Meyer Lemon Cake," I wanted to make a cake from them. I thought, sure, a cake takes an hour or two to make. I can spare that! I didn't know it would take 10 hours to make all the parts of the cake and another 10 just to put it together. Or how about how they make their pretty little sugared lemon leaves look so perfect (which I, consequently, had to steal from my boss's lemon tree - shhhh - because they are impossible to find unless you know someone with a tree!). Sure, the cake tasted good, but I should have learned my lesson.
Oh, but I didn't. When I saw a recipe for gooseberry tarts, I stepped right up to the plate...er, tart pan. Oh! I just found gooseberries at the Farmer's Market! Hi ho Hi ho, it's off to work on a Martha recipe I go! Don't let me fool you either. I did actually browse through the recipe, seeing what I needed to buy, about how much cooking it would take. I think I just may have missed a few lines....
First, I had to purchase myself a few tart pans. At $1.95/each, this was affordable...but even though the recipe called for 8, I only bought 4. Four tart pans with removeable bottoms are plenty tart pans enough for a woman of my meager cooking abilities, so I just halved the recipe.
Then, I had de-stem the gooseberries. Here's where I started realizing I had made a mistake in choosing this recipe. Have you ever de-stemmed a gooseberry? The little buggers have a "stem" of sorts on both the top and the bottom. This 40 minute excursion equaled only a little tiny line in the ingredient list: "gooseberries, destemmed."
Next, make the pastry. Right-O. I can do that. Here, she calls for a pate brisee. You can find a basic recipe here. I made the dough. What I didn't notice (one of those lines I must have missed) is that you have to bake it first. Filled with stuff. Stuff like dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Which I had to scrounge around for. But, I did that too. Oh, I forgot to mention it has to cool in the fridge for an hour before you roll it out, fill it with your weights, and then bake it for 25 minutes.
Finally, you take your pretty little tarts out and then you have to let them cool. Completely.
Uh huh. Then, it's time to make the custard. Here, you mix up your basic custard; this part wasn't so bad. Then you get to mix those de-stemmed gooseberries (just thinking of picking off those stems made some of my hair fall out) with some sugar, put them in the cooled pastry crusts, then pour the custard over the top. Sprinkle a bit more sugar, and in the oven you go, for 30 more minutes.
Take out your little custard tarts when their set, allow them to cool slightly, and then, finally, you can eat your heart out.
So, let me break that down for you:
Running to the cooking store to buy tart pans. Time = 20 minutes;
strands of hair pulled out = 0.
Destemming 1/2 pint of gooseberries. Time = 40 minutes; strands of hair pulled out = 100.
Making the pastry, letting it cool for an hour, weighting the pastry, and baking it. Time = 2 hours; strands of hair pulled out = 200, or somewhere around 2 large handfuls.
Letting your tarts cool. Completely. Time = 1 hour; strands of hair pulled out = 100.
Making the custards, Time = 30 minutes; loss of hair = 50.
Assembling the tarts, and baking them. Time = 35 minutes; strands of hair pulled out = 15.
(+ just thinking of destemming gooseberries = another 100 strands of hair...)
Taking them out, letting them cool and finally getting to eat your deliciously cute little tarts. Time = 15 minutes; strands of hair pulled out = 10, while waiting for them to cool...it's sort of like torture.
Finding out you still have hair left after 12 hours spent on a Martha Stewart recipe you thought would take "a little over an hour:" Priceless.