Tart and Soul
Big Sur Bakery chef/new mom Michelle Rizzolo shares some sweet secrets for Mothers Day.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Michelle Rizzolo is glowing. Her porcelain complexion radiates warmth – not just because of the ovens and stoves ablaze in the Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant kitchen but also from the flush of recent motherhood. In short, she’s a reflection of the sunny marmalade tart she is about to prepare.
This tart itself was born out of a necessity of sorts. Rizzolo has been cultivating relationships with local backyard growers since she and husband Philip Wojtowicz moved to Big Sur in 2001. Every winter, the citrus supply is overflowing. “A lot of people bring citrus in and we buy it, otherwise the fruit gets wasted,” she explains. Her opportunistic recipe is adapted from a formula in her forthcoming Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year in the Life of a Restaurant (William Morrow, June 23, 2009).
Brushing wisps away from her face, the petite brunette rolls out the dough for the tart base. It’s basically a short crust pastry dough, she says, and if you don’t want to make it from scratch, use store-bought. After trimming the dough down to size, Rizzolo smoothes a thick layer of marmalade over it.
“The key is to use really good marmalade. If it’s not homemade, buy a high-quality, store-bought marmalade like June Taylor’s.” Rizzolo makes her own marmalade using tips she learned from the Berkley-based jam-maker extraordinaire herself.
Next, Rizzolo spreads the chunky almond-studded pastry cream. “Almond cream makes anything taste good!” she says.
That done, she starts to maneuver a serrated knife around a blood orange, stripping it of its peel before slicing it into pinwheels. She cushions each slice in the almond cream. “You can use cava, blood or any combo on hand – the more combinations, the more color,” she says. “But take time with the citrus and slice them paper thin, thin enough that a fork can easily slice through.”
Just as mothers sneak good-for-you broccoli into mac and cheese, the citrus slices and almond cream are part of a covert operation. Personal taste aside, Rizzolo admits that marmalade is not an easy sell in this country. As an added measure, she serves the tart with butterscotch ice cream to help whet appetites.
The good news is, if you really don’t like marmalade, this recipe can be altered to suit the season. Use raspberry or peach jam as a base and arrange sliced fresh peaches or nectarines on top of the almond cream, but not raspberries or blackberries as they will burn. In the fall, pair apple butter with apples slices.
For the final touch, Rizzolo sprinkles sugar over the tart. She smiles with a mother’s pride and declares, “It’s like a gigantic marmalade-filled cookie. It’s so pretty.”
Big Sur Bakery Highway 1 just south of Big Sur Station • 8am-8:30pm Tue-Sat; 8am-2:45pm Sun-Mon. • 667-0520.
MICHELLE RIZZOLO’S TART DOUGH
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup sugar
Zest from 1 orange
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons orange juice
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, zest, salt and butter and put in the freezer for 30 minutes. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix at medium speed until very crumbly. Add the orange juice and continue to mix until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic film and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.