I hate Martha.

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.

28 comments from you:

Julie said...

Thanks for the laugh.

I've also been down that road and know exactly what you mean about those innocuous sounding directions (gooseberries, destemmed) that will completely send your timetable off the rails.

It may have taken hours, but you got a funny post and a beautiful tart out of the whole thing. And that tart really is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

your so cute


Natalia said...

Hehehe, great post. I know exactly what you mean and have done it plenty of times myself. They should put some kind of warning on those things. "WARNING: Do not attempt without plenty of time and patience."

Anonymous said...

I am a sucker for Martha and just ordered her magazine because i was beginning to think i was capable in the kitchen. Well i think i will stick to your blog and reading the magazine when it comes. Thanks for the lesson learned.

Dawn said...

I know what you mean about Martha! I subscribed to her magazine until I realized that, heck, I don't have the time to DO any of this stuff. Sure it's fun to look at, but holy cow, I don't think that I need to shred four (or was it five?) different kinds of cheeses to make macaroni and cheese. Not to mention the price! No problem, I'll just spend $25 on a humble bowl of macaroni and cheese. Sure. And let's just try to find the RIGHT English white cheddar to add!

Dianne said...

Hilarious! Been there, done that!
As probably have half of your readers!


Jen said...

Your tart looks delicious though, so I'm sure it was all worth it in the end (maybe!?). I am intrigued to see that it is red though, as I have only ever seen green gooseberries (I didn't even know red ones existed until I just had a quick look on Wikipedia!) Every day's a school day....

Julia said...

LOL hahaha, o my god - very nice to hear you've got some hair left - otherwise it's time for wig shopping instead of tart pans :)
I’ve got Martha's Baking Handbook and I know exactly what you're talking about, real torture + the most beautiful result...
That tart look truly priceless :)

Nerissa said...

LOL... what a funny post. Been there, done that. Like, for example, don't you just love recipes that give you suggested times of prep, cooking, etc and they are SO not right. At least not right for me ;-)
It looks like it turned out well. Some of the best things in the world take forever to make. Sushi is a prime example.

michelle said...

Hi Julie, Thanks! Happy to offer a smile as often as possible. The tarts were worth it in the end; especially because I had planned on cooking all day (which isn't something I normally can do)...except that every time I sprinkle sugar over the top of something I get those "wet" looking spots - why does it do that??!

Hi LB, no, you are...that's why I said YES. ;)

Hi Natalia, I agree! That should be a law...like ingredient lists!

Hi Anonymous, Oh, I'm definitely a sucker for her magazine - it's just so darn pretty! And SOME of her food is easy as well as delicious...you just have to be a bit more of a discriminating reader than I am! I see it and I'm like: "Oh, I'm SO making that!!"

Hi Dawn, Exactly! Every word! Especially about finding the RIGHT kind of English white cheddar!

Hi Diane, ha, we're all alike!

Hi Jen, it was worth it, only because I had actually planned on cooking all day. They were definitely delicious. The recipe did actually call for green gooseberries, but the ones I had happened upon were either red or purple; they were a bit more sour so I added more sugar, but they were still excellent. Why do her hard recipes have to be so tasty??

Hi Julia, I want that baking handbook too...I think I'm just a glutton for punishment!!

Hi Nerissa, You're right on, as always. Especially about the sushi! And these tarts were so tasty, that although I probably won't make them again (I don't have that much hair to spare!) I'll still probably make more Martha recipes...



Tanna said...

Did you pull all that hair from one spot and put a ball cap over it or were the pulls evenly around your head? I mean how do you look - priceless.
Thanks for the fun writing!

BNA said...

What a great post and story. Hope you still have some hair left!!

extramsg said...

I own a couple of Martha Stewart's books and they're amazingly encyclopedic and always have interesting recipes. When I'm looking for a standard template recipe, I look in The Best Recipe, but when I'm looking for something a bit more interesting, I look in Martha Stewart. I also like that she doesn't hold back with flavor, fat, and the like.

michelle said...

NYC Taxi: ?!

Tanna: Ha ha ha! All the way around my head evenly, of course. A woman must keep up appearances!!

ExtraMSG: Believe me, there are several Martha Books I would love to own and I completely agree with you. That's why I can't stay away from her recipes hard as I try. I'm just on a cookbook buying hiatus since we're moving (which is like torture). How are you, anyway?

Anonymous said...

scissors...for destemming the gooseberries

chrispy said...

Great post. I used to get MSL but then realized I never used anything but the good things which are all available online. But I used to take each magazine and pull out recipes to try when i had time or something special and then for my bday I got the Baking Handbook and was about ready to toss some recipes and discovered that there is no consitency between book and magazine for the recipes even with humble chocolate chip cookies. Oh well I will continue to use her for special occasions.

Marilyn said...

I've had problems with Martha recipes too, so I can sympathize. One of the first things I made for my blog was her version of the crepe cake, which not only took forever, but caused me a lot of grief with the pastry cream. Although it was laborious and decidedly un-pretty I quasi-salvaged the finished form. My heart goes out to you :)

Alanna said...

Verrrry funny!!

Emma said...

Brilliant! I have one thing to say - peeling chestnuts.

Rachael said...

Oh That Martha, she'll get you every time!


Harvey said...

So classical French. Biggest time waster is blind-baking the pastry but I'm sure the reward was divine.


michelle said...

Hi everyone...I apologize it's taken me so long to respond to your comments...life is busy here right now!

Anonymous, Great idea!

Chrispy, Oh no! That stinks about the cookbook! I've found that the website is very inconsistent with the magazine too, which makes me hang on to them. I always seem to aspire to use more of the information in the magazine, but again, I still end up sticking to the food!

Marilyn, my heart goes out to YOU - that crepe cake looked incredible. Yout get lots of kudos just for trying it (and the end result? I hope it tasted incredible after all that pain!

AK - thanks!

Emma - ARG! Sounds like torture!

Racheal - yes, and yet curiously, I keep going back for more...

Harvey - is there a way to get around blind baking the pastry? Do share if there is! And yes, it did taste wonderful (lucky for HER)!

Nerissa said...

*hugs* to Michelle. Poor busy girl. Hope there is a let-up soon!

Kate said...

i just hope you're not bald by the end of this post...=) the picture is beautiful!

michelle said...

Nerissa, HUGS right back to you!! Thank you, dear. I've missed seeing what you're up to.

Kate, He he...almost!

Scott said...

As a fellow Scientist (OK, Computer Scientist) I was intrigued by your hairs-pullied-metric. Alas, I am of little hair aka palatial pate myself, and cannot accurately reproduce your experiment. Not that I would want to, given your sacrifice.

However, a good dose of humor is also an important -- key -- ingredient, and you've plenty of that. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle said...

Hi Scott, Well, after cooking enough of Martha's recipes, I'm lucky to have any hair left at all!
Thanks for the compliment, and for stopping by my blog!