Benjamin Franklin, during the late 17th century, coined the phrase, “A watched pot never boils.” I am sure each of us has uttered that phrase at least once in our lifetime. I know I have, more than once this last month during our, let’s call them “the storms of January 2023.”
Just a few days ago I was in the throes of preparing to bake food for a cooking class I was teaching at the Highlands Park Senior Center when the electricity in my home was shut off. My electric stove no longer worked, and I did not want to open the door to my refrigerator, letting the cold air out.
Fortunately, I had prepped the food the day prior; all I needed was my oven and stovetop to work. For the rest of that day, I watched the clock, counting the hours I had left to bake the beautiful Pear Frangipane tarts I had prepared.
Finally, PG&E restored the power, but alas, my stove had blown out the back control panel. Once again, I watched the clock, waiting for a repairman to return my call; my call was never returned. Never had old Ben been more right…a watched pot never boils.
Standing in the middle of my kitchen, my eyes rested on my little toaster oven that I have used before, but only to reheat a small casserole dish or two. I have always referred to it as my “Easy Bake Oven”…you know the one our kids played with in the 1970s that was heated by a 40-watt light bulb. Could this little oven be my savior?
By now it was 8 o’clock in the evening, and with no other solution available, I powered up my little easy bake oven to 375 degrees for a test run.
In the oven went a small four-inch tartlet shell. I set the timer for 10 minutes. I stood, looking through the glass window and waited for what seemed much longer than 10 minutes. I watched that little tartlet as though it were my baby, as the crust reached a light golden-brown color. Perfection was achieved. I opened a bottle of Storrs chardonnay to celebrate my success.
Pulling the tartlet from the oven I thought how clever I had been, but now I had 18 more to go, with six of them being full-sized tarts, from nine to 10-inch ones, and requiring 30 minutes of baking time each.
My little easy bake oven could only handle three small tarts at a time, and the large ones, only one at a time. I did the baking time calculations; undaunted, I poured myself another glass of wine.
It was 4 o’clock in the morning when my little Easy Bake and I finished the baking and the bottle of Storrs chardonnay. I went to bed.
I have a repairman scheduled for some time between 12 and 1 o’clock today. I’ve decided to NOT watch the time…for as old Ben reminds us…A Watched Pot Never Boils.
A Pear Frangipane Tart
Tart Shell Pastry (Two 9-in. Tart shells):
2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
2 sticks of ice-cold butter (1 cup) cut into ½ in. cubes.
¼ cup confectionery sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 –1/2 cup of ice-cold water
In a Cuisinart or using a pastry cutter, add flour and butter. Pulse or with a pie cutter, cut butter into pea-shaped sizes. Add water in small amounts until dough comes together.
Dump mixture onto a piece of Saranwrap and using the wrap, push the dough together and form a 5-inch round. Using this method keeps the dough cold. Refrigerate for two hours.
When ready, sprinkle flour onto a bread board and roll dough into a 11 in. circle. Place dough into the tart pan and press dough into the pan sides and cut off overhanging dough.
With a fork, prick bottom of dough all over to release steam while cooking or cover bottom of dough with parchment paper and baking beads. Prebake in a 400-deg. oven for 10 minutes.
Remove and set aside while preparing filling.
Peel, core and slice 4 Anjou or Bartlett Pears in half. Poach pears, cut-side down in a pan of 1 cup white wine, ¼ cup sugar brought to a high simmer. Remove pears and cool. Slice pears lengthwise into ½ inch slices.
Pear Frangipane Filling:
½ cup room temp. butter
½ cup gran sugar
Beat together until light and fluffy.
Add one egg and beat in well.
1 cup ground almonds (skins removed)
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. Gold Rum (this makes all the difference in taste)
1 tsp almond extract
In prebaked tart shell, spread frangipane filling and on top, in a concentric circle, place pears.
Bake in a 375-deg. oven for 30 minutes.
Cool 20 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream.
Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].