Nov 27 2012

Kitchen Exhaustion

If anyone had walked through my kitchen the Monday after Thanksgiving, they would have stopped in alarm. Whenever I cook or bake, I strive to stay ahead of the mess, cleaning as I go and using as few dishes as possible. Yesterday, a kitchen visitor might have assumed that my goal was the opposite: to use every bowl and square inch of counter-space in the kitchen, and to get flour all over the floor (and myself).

I felt unsettled as soon as I started cooking this lunch, part of me aware of the impending mess I was about to create. Instead of one bowl to measure out dry ingredients, I used four. Instead of cleaning up my cutting boards as I went along, I sullied all of them immediately, forcing a hasty washing. And the biggest mess of all? When I began pressing the tart dough into the pan, I somehow managed to flip the tart pan onto the floor, scattering dough everywhere.

I chalk these messy mishaps up to kitchen exhaustion. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I spent numerous hours cooking... and prepping... and cleaning the same dishes over and over. And though I craved a home-cooked lunch on Monday, my self-created mess indicated that I should have considered sitting on my couch, eating leftover pizza, and watching Homeland.

Luckily, I’ve made enough tarts to know how to rescue one from the compost bin – including one that’s partially fallen all over the floor. When I pulled the tart from the oven, after stepping not-so-nimbly over the flour-coated floor, it was like it had come from another, cleaner, kitchen: the mushroom tart was perfectly caramelized on top, hearty in the middle, and featured a dough that was able to support the heavy interior.

I paired this tart with a refreshing early winter salad showcasing a few leftover oranges and carrots. To make the salad, slice the oranges away from their pith, cut the carrots into matchsticks, throw in some pumpkin seeds, and then toss the salad with a tablespoon of cider vinegar, a tablespoon of sunflower oil, 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a few grinds of salt and pepper.

If you find that you’re struggling to roll the dough, try pressing it into your tart pan. This dough is dryer than usual, and every time I attempted to roll it, it broke apart. When I changed directions and pressed it evenly into the pan, I was able to achieve the desired goal. And instead of cold pizza on the couch, I enjoyed a warm savory tart and simple salad, which proved to be the perfect remedy for my kitchen exhaustion. (It helped that Justin cleaned the dishes!)

Pastry with Cheddar

Recipe Source: The Nordic Bakery Cookbook

Makes enough pastry for one tart pan


  • 100 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 50 g creme fraiche
  • 50 g grated cheddar
  • 150 g whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt


  1. Put the butter and creme fraiche in a mixing bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
  2. In a separated bowl, mix the cheddar, flour, baking powder and salt together. Tip into the mixing bowl and mix until a dough forms.
  3. Roll into a ball and then flatten into a disc. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Mixed Mushroom Tart

Recipe Source: The Nordic Bakery Cookbook

Special Equipment: a loosed bottomed, fluted tart tin

Serves 6


  • Pastry with Cheddar
  • 30 g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 300 g mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced (shitake and chanterelles work well here)
  • 250 g creme fraiche
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 g grated cheddar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F
  2. Put the dried porcinis in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes, before draining, rinsing, and chopping.
  3. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, and fresh mushrooms for around 5 minutes, until the onions turned golden and soften and the mushrooms have lost much of their moisture. Set aside to cool.
  4. Put the creme fraiche, eggs, cheddar, and some salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and use a whisk to mix well. Add the cooked mushrooms and chopped porcinis to mixture, stir well.
  5. Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until it is slightly larger than the tart tin. (If you deem this impossible, transfer the dough to the tart tin and press it in.) Transfer the dough to the tart tin and press into the fluted edges, cutting off any excess.
  6. Pour the mushroom mixture into the tin and spread evenly across the surface. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is firm and the top golden brown. Enjoy!