What is Fika?

What is Fika?

In Swedish tradition, Fika is a break - a pause - in your day to indulge in the simple pleasures of a good cup of coffee or tea, some sweets or pastries, and time shared with friends and loved ones.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Gluten-free Tarts

What's wrong with this tart? Find out below. (And no, it's not moldy).

Alternative blog post title: "When You Like to Bake But Live Alone."

For a duration of approximately six years of my life, I have worked on-and-off at a little French bakery in Ottawa. This spanned both high school and university years (summers during university). At university, even though I was away from the bakery, there was always an occasion to bring out pastry bag, electric mixer and cake pans: birthdays, holidays, potlucks, or any other casual social happenstance. Spontaneously saying, "Let's bake!" was reason enough, if there were enough witness present.

Now that I've graduated, I'm now pursuing my professional career, living out on my own, away from home; all things proper for a young adult. On the flip side, I'm no longer a short walk or bus ride away from the fabulous and fantastic friends I've made in the past four years, or from my family or friends back at home.

What this has done, other than simply curtail my social life for the time being, has taken a toll on my motivation to cook more than minimally required. The sense of occasion is harder to come by, and thus the impetus to put in that little bit of additional craft to make something extra-ordinary, in the most basic sense of the term.

There is also the other logistical issue of the excess of food produced by a cooking spree. Time and time again, people have said that my weight is incongruous with the apparently prodigal amount of baked goods and sweets I make.

The fact of the matter is that I rarely, rarely, hardly ever bake for myself. This is only accounting for non-bakery associated baking. The vast majority of what I bake I don't eat. It's always for a birthday, for a potluck, for a dinner with friends. It is as simple as this: the true value of food comes from sharing it, not from eating it (although the two usually overlap. Usually).

No matter how delicious it is, I always have a hard time consuming something entirely by myself if I'd made it myself. It seems narcissistic and self-indulgent, like working out just to admire your reflection in all reflective surfaces you pass. Not that I do that.

Lavishly-illustrated and beautifully-photographed cookbooks are so appealing to look through, even if you'll never stuff a sea cucumber or stack a Lane Cake. Like an escapist novel, or interior design magazines, they sell a fantasy of graceful living frequented with masterfully-prepared meals.

Similarly, cooking blogs are not just about the food. They have all the appeal of the static cookbook with an added social element that is infinitely evolving. You don't just read the recipes and look at the pictures - you join the author and are invited into his or her life for a brief moment in time. This intimacy and baking is a potent emotional combination, like romantic comedies. Even when there's a sad moment, there's always something saccharine to pick it up.

When you live alone, in a new city, in the suburbs, it's a little more difficult to achieve this dynamic. When I bake something, it usually ends up like this:

Exhibit A: Tart, frozen, unloved, and ready to be wrapped and put back into the depths of the freezer.

However, I am not just here to bemoan my lack of a social life and woe is Audric etc. etc. I'm here for some serious eats! The tart in question is a gluten-free peach and frangipan with cardamom, adapted from Helene's fantastic blog, Tartelette.

Frozen = clean cuts!

There are several people in my life who have Celiac disease and cannot have gluten. It is found in wheat, which rules out a lot of typical baked goods that call for all-purpose flour. However, for those unfamiliar with the gluten intolerance, gluten is everywhere. Literally. In potato chips. In dressings and sauces. In almost every processed food product available.

My housemate of two years often talked about the pure torture of going to grocery stores and walking through the bakery section, tempted by the smell of bread baking. Which would made me feel terrible, since I would probably be baking a batch of muffins or a cake at the time. Living with her got me interested in gluten-free baking for the first time. When I found the blog Tartelette, I was thrilled, and I had to try some.

My recent attempt at a Peach and Frangipan tart turned out pretty well... except that the frangipan did not cook through as it was too thick. The intended recipient was actually out of town as well. Faced with the alternative option of eating the semi-failed tart, I opted to freeze it instead.

Onto attempt number two, keeping in mind that frangipan should not be set too thick or it won't set, period. This time, not with peaches, but with Gala Apples. A proper Frangipan and Apple Tart, just like at the bakery from Ottawa (but gluten-free!).

Gluten-free tart shell, rolled and ready to go!

Success! And yes, that is a random wheel/caster you see in the background.

Gauging from where this post ended up, the response to the query of "When You Like to Bake But Live Alone," is that you write rambling posts that really don't follow any predetermined, concise logical path. I don't think that sentence makes much sense, either.

Gluten-free tart, ready to be delivered!

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