Pierre Hermé’s Tarte Ispahan
My first encounters with anything overpoweringly “rosy” is probably “Rose Floral Water ” 玫瑰花露水, which was the “SK-II Esssence” in my grandma’s era. The wafts of familiar yet deathly pungency of rose water brought back memories of my grandma’s dressing table, and the macabre scent of rose water can only be less dreadful when compared to something even more ghastly, 夏士莲雪花膏 Hazeline Snow Moisturising Cream.
I attempted Pierre Hermé ‘s Macaron Ispahan about half a year ago and I must say, its a pinnacle to this hobby for me . Looking back, it is not without problems and fears. I remembered being really skeptical about the use of rose water and rose essence as I’d associated them with the “unpleasant”. Curious on how Pierre Hermé ‘s Ispahan would turned out, I restrained all that cynicism on these “condiments” which reminded me of sickly old women (no offence ladies!) and forged on. Thankfully I did, literally blown away by the flavours when I took the first bite. Not sure if my scent receptors have “matured” over the years or the impressions of these “fragrances” have waned over time, I grew to enjoy the intricate subtlety these flavours impart, yet deepening the complexity of the work by so much.
This month’s Aspiring Bakers’ theme is Tarts and Pies, and needless to say, the perfect opportunity to reprise those flavours which I’d grown to like, in this case, Pierre Hermé’s Tarte Ispahan.
The recipe comes from Pierre Hermé’s “Infinitement” which I had criticised on several occasions to several people. The book is minimalistic in detail, void of photos for most recipes and presumptous that you have already gotten the basics worked out. Many a times, the instructions are vague, making you run in circles to cross-reference it with his other books and online resources. In other words, quite a nightmare in all culinary and literary sense. My first encounter with “Infinitement” was around the time I’d made Macaron Ispahan. I had greater things in mind then, namely Tarte Infinitement Vanille whose greatness has been sworn by very many, even Adam from Paris Patisseries. From a man whose level of cynicism runs so high that its almost on par with his platelet count, being bitchy definitely runs in his blood, albeit usually in a jokingly manner. And I must say this man really deserves respect, to be in the midst of painstakingly eating his way through the patissieries along the streets of Paris and documenting the process, leaving the rest of us jealous, hungry and frustrated. Hence, to see him endorse Tarte Infinitement Vanille and rave about it in an almost unbashful manner is saying a lot about this tart. When I turned to “Inifinitement” for the recipe, naturally I was disappointed. The instructions barely covered 2 pages and mind you, the font size is so big I swear I’d gotten the “large print” version for the visually challenged. This bears such sharp contrast to what Veronica from Kitchen Musings had published in her blog some time back on the same tart which she’d learned at the masterclass by Pierre Hermé, organised by the French Pastry School in Chicago. Now this gal really got stuff and her writing was really helpful in allowing me to thrash out the workflow for the vanilla tart, in my mind that is. Alas, all this still remains in the head as I’ve yet mustered enough courage to run it through in practice. But I definitely will in due time.
I’d browsed the copy of “Infinitment” which had been on the shelves at a local bookstore no less than half a dozen times since I made Macaron Ispahan and judging by how worn out the book was, I’m guessing others have done so as well. The book was replaced on the shelf religiously after every read as I silently tell myself that the book is not worth the money, especially given how dilapitated it looked and how shabbily organised the content was. Alas, during a recent visit to the bookstore 2 weeks back, I saw the old copy gone and another one being put out, all mint and pristine, still in wraps. “Damn!” I thought to myself, seems like I’ve run out of excuses. “Why get it when its supposedly bad?” you might think. For one, it contain some recipes not found in his other published works, and secondly, its largely the “to complete the collection”
vanity mentality as I’d most of his other books already. I didnt bother to ask to have it unwrapped to check out the contents as I’d already known it from my previous reads. So I guess its to the cashier’s then. What a hoard of mixed feelings…
So here it is, Tarte Ispahan from Pierre Hermé’s “Infinitement“, finally resting on the shelves with the others.
250g cake flour
150g butter at room temperature
95g icing sugar
30g ground almond
2 pinches of fleur de sel
¼ tsp vanilla powder
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
Pierre Herme’s recipe for pate sucree provided two methods of prepartion, one using an mixer and another using sheer elbow grease. I used the latter which I’ve provided here.
In a bowl, mix vanilla pod+powder with sugar.
Sift flour over the work surface and sprinkle it with salt and butter cut into pieces.
Rub butter and flour between the palms of your hands until it becomes crumbly and has no more visible pieces of butter.
Form a well in the middle, break the egg into it. Pour in sugar, anilla and ground almond.
Using the fingertips, mix all the ingredients without too much kneading.
85g icing sugar
85g ground almond
10g custard powder
170g single cream
2g rose essence/xtract
15g rose syrup
Beat the butter in the bowl of food processor. Continue to mix at low speed, adding in the order, icing sugar, ground almond, egg, custard powder, cream, the essence/extract and rose syrup
to bake the tart base, preheat the oven to 180C convection fan oven. roll out crust pastry and place inside tart rings. chill to firm. Fill the pastry with rose almond cream and bake for 30-40 minutes until brown.
“Infinitement” does not have a recipe for the raspberry confiture so I turned to Sugino’s recipe which I’d attempted last month, which I personally feel is very good.
Lychees and raspberries
Drain the lychees. Cut them in half. Drain on several layers of paper towels
These were the instructions in “Infinitement” which uses canned lychee but I didnt follow them. In fact, neither did Pierre Herme himself. Instead, he makes lychee gelee for the tarts sold in his stores, or at least during the masterclass Veronica attended. See my point now? The bit of information on lychee gelee is missing in the recipe so I had to modify the recipe “Litchi Gelee” component for “Emotion Ispahan” in ph10 for this. Components exactly the same as in ph10 except for the gelatine which was doubled for a firmer texture.
la gelee de letchi
200g lychee puree
24g caster sugar
20g lemon juice
8g gelatine (4 sheets)
Reconstitute gelatine in cold water for 20 min
Mix sugar, lychee puree and lemon juice and warm carefully
Add gelatine and pour into mould/container
Garnish with alternating morsels of
canned lychee lychee gelee and fresh raspberries.
Wait a minute, is that it?? Of course not! The recipe conveniently left out the component for the macaron coque which crowns everything. Thankfully his macaron recipe is well published and there’s always “Macarons” and “ph10” to fall back on. However this does not quite redeem the fact that the book is packed with shortcomings, some almost inconceivable!
Reflections and modifications
Making Tarte Ispahan is both exciting and infuriating. While I always look forward with glee to re-create a Pierre Herme piece, this tart hasn’t been the easiest with information for a few components missing or incomplete.
The creme d’amandes a la rose was incredibly fragrant and a boutique of floral tones permeated the kitchen as the cream-filled base was baked. Very nice indeed.
The odd thing in the recipe is custard powder in the creme d’amandes a la rose. I mean, the pastry god asking us to use custard powder instead of making a creme patisserie or creme anglaise? Oh well, surely he has his reasons and our sole duty is to obey and revere. LOL
I recall reading on Mitzy’s blog (she attended PH’s masterclass together with Veronica, lucky gals!!!) that PH commented that the tart base should be really brown unless “you want to taste flour” . PH’s tart base is really more scrumptous than the previous ones I’d done. So this one’s definitely a keeper. One key point is really to just coax the ingredients to amalgamate together and not knead at all if possible.
Here’s a photo which Mitzy from Yummy in the Tummy took at the masterclass. Its the real thing!!!
I didnt have lychee puree at hand in my freezer, owing to precious and limited real estate in the “penthouse” already taken up by Sevarome, Ravifruit and Boiron occupants. Instead, I blitz canned lychee in some of the soaking syrup and then strained the concoction to remove large pieces of pulp which would have affected the texture of the gelee. It worked pretty well as a puree substitute. The gelee, despite having doubled in quantity is still a tad too soft to hold on its own and looks kinda wobbly as you can probably detect in some closeups. Should I add more gelatine? Or change to agar agar completely? Or simply puree the flesh more finely and reduce the amount of syrup? That leaves with more experimentation I reckon.
Another modification I’d made to the recipe is to incorporate small morsels of chopped canned lychee and fresh raspberries into the filling. Since I had excess of these ingredients, I thought why not? But one has to squeeze out most of the liquids in the lychees before laying them over the base of the shells. Too much moisture and the shell might become soggy and/or the batter texture become affected. Not gonna take any risks there. The results are quite satisfactory with little bits of creamy white and bright red peeking out of the tan hue of the baked creme d’ amandes.
The tarts were prepared across two days. On the first day, much of the mise en place was done with the lychee gelee and pate sucree being prepared and chilled. I also baked the macaron shells the night before. The rest follow suit on the second day with (1) preparing rose almond cream, (2) rolling out pate sucree, moulding and baking with filling, (3) unmoulding and cutting of lychee gelee, (4) assemblage. One thing to note was, I applied framboise pepins twice, first time was over the freshly baked creme d’ amande a la rose, following the instructions of Hidemi Sugino for his Tartlette aux Figues. According to my macaron instructor, Chef Lynn Chen, this allows the absorption of the confiture to take place more readily. True enough, the hot baked filling absorbed the home-made raspberry jam like a sponge, except for the seeds of course. The second layer was applied when the tart base had cooled down to room temperature for that “extra oomph” but this can be a blessing and a curse. It made the surface rather slippery for the lychee cubes and raspberries to adhere. I had to press down the filling gingerly to make small indentations on the filling surface for the lychee gelee and raspberry to “sit on” . Also, the underside of the macaon shells were indented slightly to allow the top of the gelee and berries to hold on better.
PS: What a month is has been working through five different pastry crust based recipe, each having their own set of idiosyncracies and character. It create the opportunity for me to refine skills in working with crust pastry and each of them have their own temperaments and requirements.
Overall it has been a really fun experience I thought. Can’t wait for the next theme! Are you guys ready? 🙂