Saffron Nectarine and Co.
As much as I love barking orders at people, I understand that part of a chef's responsibility is to inspire and push their cooks to think, grow and create. If I could, I would shout from a mountain top to tell the world how great my pastry crew is!! I'm hoping this camaraderie is not just a honeymoon phase of an intense restaurant/bakery opening, but more so because all of our personalities, work ethic, and career goals are moving in the same direction. And I hope I'm not jinxing my team by writing this!
In one such effort to extract a little sparkle from a cook, I gave her the assignment to come up with a couple of tart ideas. Jumping at the chance, I found a concise list of ambitious flavor and presentation options in my inbox very quickly. Her idea for a saffron tart caught my eye immediately. Not having worked with this rare and pungent spice very often, here arose a challenge for the both of us.
I knew the earthy minerality of saffron would have to be balanced by some kind of fruit. My first push was for figs, thinking that these eastern Mediterranean cousins would make an elegant match. The saffron mousse turned out beautifully, but the fig pairing ended up falling a little flat and I yearned for some acid to balance the cream. She suggested nectarine since they were coming into season and we already had a case in house. Et voila! A nectarine compote with chunks of the fresh flesh folded in rests in a bevelled rectangular tart shell, and stands as support for the saffron mousse. A thread flecked glaze and crushed cashew along the seam keep the tart clean yet adorned enough to catch the eyes of bakery goers.
The result is not only a delicious tart, but is a testament to team work and paving the way for future creativity in young chefs.