Wednesday, July 16, 1997

Dear Chef Lannan,
   I am something of a serious cook and baker at
home and one of the things that I make is fresh fruit
tarts. I like to make them for company and
sometimes just for my family. One of the problems
I have is that after a while the shell of the tart
becomes soggy and some of the fruit discolors and
turns brownish. How can I solve these problems?

Dear Sarah,
   It is a pleasure to hear that you enjoy making
fresh fruit tarts at home. This tells me you are
indeed a serious home baker. The problems you
speak of are quite common and occur in bakeries
and restaurants far more often than bakers care to
admit. Fortunately, they are fairly simple to solve.
   First, let's address the problem of the soggy
bottom crust. I assume you make your own crust for
the shells. If not, that is OK, too, because many
bakeries now purchase premade tart shells.
Sometimes there just isn't enough time for bakers to
produce everything they would like and premade
tart shells are relatively inexpensive items to
purchase. Whether the crust is premade or prepared
by you, the solution to the problem will be the
   To prevent a soggy crust, start by simply melting
a small amount of chocolate in a microwave; be
very careful to use short, 30- to 40-second cycles
when melting chocolate this way. Chocolate burns
very easily and once it burns it is ruined and cannot
be used again. If you are unsure of what chocolate
to use, a good quality chocolate bar will do nicely,
and that can be found in the special chocolate
section of your supermarket. Choose either a milk
chocolate or, if you prefer, a semisweet chocolate
but don't use baking chocolate since it has no sugar
in it and will be bitter to your taste. Use a pastry
brush to spread the melted chocolate over the
bottom of the shell. This will seal the shell and will
prevent the soggy crust caused by the moisture from
the vanilla cream used to fill the shell.
   As for preventing the fruit from turning brown,
you will need to begin by purchasing a small jar of
apricot jelly or jam. Heat this in your microwave
until it flows. Then, using a pastry brush, coast the
fresh fruit with the melted apricot jelly/jam. Pastry
shops use a special coating called apricot glaze, but
the jam/jelly should approximate the glaze very
closely, and it is easily found in the supermarket.
Be sure to coat the fruit completely, especially
bananas and apples as they discolor quickly once
exposed to the air. You will find that the apricot
jam/jelly will give your tart a very professional,
finished look. If you like, sprinkle toasted, sliced
almonds on top of the tart while the glaze is still
wet. This will add another nice touch to the tart.
   Good luck, I hope these professional tips help you
become a better baker.
Chef Tom Lannan,

   Responses to Chefs' Corner are composed by
members of the Culinary Management staff at
GCCC. Questions should be directed to the culinary
program at the college or to The News Herald.

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