Thomas and I went walking through Bruges this weekend. The sun was out, the sky was blue and the air was frosty ... the perfect day for wandering feet and a meandering mind. One that couldn't help but wonder how this came to be my city, and if it would ever really feel that way.
I remember the speech the mayor gave to new inhabitants the year I moved here. I remember how he boasted about the city's charm and how he ensured us that maintaining that picturesque character was his number one priority. I remember how appalled I was. How I started to doubt the decision to move here, no matter how natural it had felt when I made it. This concept of Bruges, this city that people come to visit, the cobblestones, the quaintness, the history that is not quite spectacularized but at least theatricalized ... it's always made me feel awkward and out of place. Annoyed, even. And it still does.
But this is not the city that I experience day to day. My Bruges is a different one. It's the one that contains the house of my dreams and the love of my life. The city that allows me to walk everywhere, that offers me the most delicious food and that houses my favorite summer festival. The one that may have only a small number of hot spots, but where you can have meaningful conversations and build relationships with those who own them. In contrast to the historical obsession I abhor so much, I have found modesty and authenticity in the people here. An openness. A community.
While I will always feel a little hesitant about the idea of this city, I think it's safe to say that I like it here. It's my home now. A strange, totally uncool and sometimes detested home, but a home nonetheless. One I will gladly fill with baked goods and the scent of spice.
• I strongly recommend the use of tartlet tins with a removable bottom. I used regular tartlet tins and while it wasn't impossible to unmold them, it was quite a pain and the crust didn't come out entirely unscathed. You could probably also make one large tart, but I haven't tested it. Bear in mind that it'll need longer to bake.
• The dough for the crust is best made the night before and, in my opinion, is easiest to make by hand. It's a little messy, but it will lead to the best results and almost no clean up.
• Please, do not omit the cloves. They are what make these tarts so good. If you can't find ground cloves anywhere, use a spice grinder to grind your own.
cranberry curd tartlets w/ pecan crust
cranberry curd adapted from The Kitchn
makes 6 8cm/3inch tartlets
for the pecan crust
30 g pecans
120 g all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
75 g unsalted butter
75 g granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
for the cranberry curd
170 g fresh cranberries
60 ml water
100 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
45 g unsalted butter, cubed
for the pecan crust
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Toast pecans for 6 to 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool.
2. In a food processor, pulse pecans until finely ground but not yet oily. Add flour, salt and cinnamon and pulse once or twice to combine.
3. On a clean work surface, or in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon, knead/stir butter to soften. Add sugar and continue kneading/stirring until most of the sugar is incorporated. Add the egg yolk, followed by the flour-pecan mixture and knead just until the flour is incorporated. Shape into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
4. When you're ready to start baking, preheat oven to 180°C and grease 6 tartlet tins (preferably with a removable bottom). Remove dough from the fridge and leave to rest for about 5 minutes.
5. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to a thickness of ca. 2 mm. Line the tartlet tins with the dough, making sure to press it into all the corners, and use a knife to remove any overhang. If the dough happens to tear, simply patch up any holes with an additional piece of dough. Use a fork to punch a few holes in the bottom, then line each tin with a piece of parchment paper and fill with baking beans, rice or dried lentils.
6. Blind bake the tartlets for 10 minutes, until the edges are set, then carefully remove beans and parchment paper and return to the oven for 3 more minutes, until the crust just starts to crisp up. Let cool on a wire rack while you prepare the cranberry curd.
for the cranberry curd
1. In a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, heat cranberries and water over low-medium heat until all the cranberries have popped and become mushy. Push the cranberries through a medium-mesh sieve, reserving the puree and discarding the skins. Allow the puree to cool to room temperature.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberry puree, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cloves. Whisk until the mixture is even. Stirring continuously, heat the mixture over low heat until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers about 65°C. Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until fully incorporated.
3. Divide the cranberry curd over the prepared, pastry-lined tart tins and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the curd is puffed and set, but still jiggly in the center. Let cool on a wire rack and refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. Serve with mascarpone whipped cream or meringue.