I know absolutely nothing about building things.
You can tell me to pipe meringue on 350 individual tarts in a specific pattern, I'll do it. You can tell me to make 5 litres of lemon curd, I'll do it. But you tell me to find the right kind of nails to nail two wooden boards together, I can't do that. I don't know, normal nails? There's different kinds of nails? Big nails?
I've got my mind set of making a nice wooden background so I can finally stop using the back of a painting for my photos. Yep, the wood that has been in the recent photos? Back of a painting. I gotta take it off the wall every time I want to photograph something. It's weird.
So, I thought I'd just make my own! Get some boards, nail them together, stain it, paint it, distress it. Easy, right? That's what I thought. Easy enough, even though I don't know the first thing about anything handyman-esque, I can nail some boards together.
I looked up this special kind of paint that will give me that nice distressed look without too much hassle and ordered it. Mat and I went to Rona to get the other stuff.
So, on my list, I wrote "wood". What aisle would wood be under? I started walking and looking at what was in each isle. All these words I had never heard of and didn't know what in the world they meant. A whole isle dedicated to light switches, man.... What kind of place was I in?
Wood was under "Building Materials" but it wasn't called wood, it was called S4S, which I still have no idea what it means. After much humming and hawing and Mat wandering into every other aisle to see if there was more wood, I decided on some Douglas Fir...planks? Boards? Whatever. But, they were like 20 feet long. I wanted something like 4 and a half feet. There was a little station with a saw, but could I saw it myself? Did I have to get an employee to do it for me?
Keep in mind, this was at about 7:30pm on a Wednesday and the place was empty. Like, so empty. It didn't close until 9, but I felt like I was holding people up from going home cause there was just no one in there!
I sheepishly asked an employee, "Can... Can I just... cut my own wood? In that aisle? With the saw?". It turned out that, yes, they did trust me enough with a saw to let me handle it without supervision. I've never sawed anything in my life, but I think I did an alright job of it. The key words for the wooden background was "antique" and "distressed" and "worn", so if the planks were uneven, that just adds to the feel. Right?
Found the wood stain easily enough, same with the sandpaper. But then the nails. Mat asked me what kind of nails I needed. I said, "I dunno, big nails?" Real helpful, I am. We ended up measuring the thickness of the wood and figuring out what length we needed to nail the crossboards to the other boards without the nails coming out the other side. Is that right? I hope it is, cause by this point, I've already nailed everything together.
I can't remember the last time I felt that lost and unknowledgeable. I know a little about a lot of things, even if it's just basics, so I usually have some idea of what I'm doing. In Rona, it was like everything I had ever learned was useless. An employee could've told me that I needed a flare-nut wrench and I would've just nodded and gone along with it (I looked up wrenches on Wikipedia to get that name). Mat was just as clueless as I was, so what a pair we made, wandering around Rona looking for "big nails".
I've nailed the boards together and given two coats of stain so far. I'm waiting on the special paint to arrive so I can start the next step. I really hope everything turns out well because I've put a bit of money into this and my hopes are high. I'll keep you guys posted on any further successes or hilarious failures.
Lemon Lavender Tarts with Honey Meringue
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery
375 g all-purpose flour
46 g powdered sugar
94 g powdered sugar
47 g almond flour/meal
225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
56 g eggs
Lemon Lavender Curd
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery
3.6 g silver leaf gelatin (1 1/4 sheets)
216 g eggs
216 g granulated sugar
216 g freshly squeezed lemon juice
280 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch dice, at room temperature
Zest of 1/2 lemon
3-4 drops lavender oil (taste dependent)
150 g good quality honey
100 g egg whites
Lavender flowers to finish (optional)
To start, make the pate sucrée. Place the all-purpose flour in a medium bowl. Sift the 46 g powdered sugar and the almond flour into the bowl; break up any lumps of almond flour remaining in the sieve, add them to the bowl, and whisk to combine.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment an cream on medium-low speed, until the butter is the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the paddle is lifted. Sift in the remaining 94 g powdered sugar and pulse to begin to incorporate the sugar, then increase the speed to medium-low and mix for about 1 minute, until the mixture is fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, add them to the butter mixture, and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute the seeds evenly.
Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing for 15 to 30 seconds after each, or until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there. Add the eggs and mix on low speed until just combined, 15 to 30 seconds.
Transfer the dough to the work surface. Use the heel of your hand to smear the dough and work it together. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 4-by-6 inch rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick.
Wrap each piece in a double layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, but preferably overnight. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to one month.
Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick, refrigerating the dough if needed. Line your tart shells, trim the excess, and freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Use a crumpled piece of parchment paper to line the tart shells, then fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights, gently guiding it into the corners of the shells. Place the tart shells on a baking sheet.
Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the sheet and bake for a further 8 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, then bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
For the lemon lavender curd, place the gelatin in a bath of ice water to soften.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk slowly, until the mixture begins to simmer. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk gently for 1 to 2 minutes to release steam and cool the curd slightly.
Remove the gelatin from the water, squeeze out excess water, and whisk it into the hot curd. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer. Using a Vitamix or an immersion blender, blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 to 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Add the zest and blend to incorporate. Start by adding a drop or two of the lavender oil to the curd and taste. Continue adding a drop or two at a time, then tasting, until the desired taste is achieved. Different lavender oils have different strengths, so it is better to add a little at first, rather than add too much. Let the curd cool to room temperature.
The curd can be used at this point or transferred to a covered container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
For the honey meringue, heat the honey in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn the mixer onto medium speed and whip the egg whites to medium peaks. When the honey reaches 120 C/248 F, slowly add the honey, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.
To assemble, transfer the honey meringue to a piping bag with a 3/4 inch tip. Gently spoon the lemon curd into the shells. Pipe the meringue onto the curd in any pattern your wish. I chose to do a simple "beehive", then created peaks with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle a few lavender flowers on the top.