pear tartlet domes

pear tartlet

dough rolled in thirds, this done four times

dough rolled flat, final rolling

pear in cups

tart bottoms placed on top of batter

baked tartlets

inverted tartlets cooling

Not shown, the batter in the bowl and in the little cups. It's just thick brown sludge. It tastes fantastic straight by the spoonful. That's how I knew I was on the right track.

Why is it so often said one must certainly measure while baking? They say it's like chemistry and therefore specific measurements are critical.

I say to that, "Poppycock!" "Balderdash!" "Tommy rot!" "Nonsense." If that were true, then why are there 29,000,000 recipes for cakes? Huh? Why? WHY?

I say to use your cake batter-fu and do whatever you wish. However your mess turns out, say, "I meant that," then give it a name.

I hereby name these things Chip's Pear Tartlet Domes. The idea was to use up a few ripe pears before they turned.

Here's the deal-io: get yourself a box of cake mix and learn from that what's going on. Observe the viscosity of the batter then use that awareness for all future batters. Note that vegetable oil is used in place of butter. Observe the ratio of oil to liquid. Consider the amount of eggs by approximate weight. Consider using low-protein flour like the boxed cakes kits do. If your cakes come out too dry then poke holes in them and make them soak up some kind of liquid, like syrup or your favorite alcohol. If they come out too flat then pile up the icing or use them for layers, slice them and pretend they're tiny layer cakes. If all fails, break them into bits and use them as chunks for a whole new invention.

In my case, learn from failure how to counter the effect of altitude.

You know the batter is probably going to need vanilla. And it will definitely need sugar, possibly brown sugar, and salt. Consider a spice or some other flavoring agent to make it different, like grated citrus peel, candied ginger, some odd spice not regularly associated with cakes, whatever appeals to you.

One last thing; baking soda leavens batter and dough by that marvelous chemical reaction that we all learn early in science class having to do with mixing acid and base, which is actually two reactions -- acid/base reaction followed by a decomposition reaction. Remember? The volcano? Baking soda and vinegar? Hooray for outrageous foam! That's what cakes do. It's unlikely you'll want vinegar in your cake batter but lime juice wouldn't hurt or some other innocuous acid. Baking soda, when not leavening batter and dough, also tends to keep dough products soft, like cookies. Baking powder contains baking soda along with its own acid, usually two, one that reacts at room temperature when made wet and another that is activated by heat. So BAM! double action. Baking powder also contains corn starch to keep the ingredients separate, dry and fluffy, and to extend its shelf-life. Understand then, that using both baking soda and baking powder (which I almost always do for the drama!) together is in fact doubling up on the baking soda, and you want to consider that when adding salt. Wouldn't do to have an excess of soda because then your batter will be GAH. Also if adding baking soda and baking powder without some kind of additional acid throws off the balance of the two components in the baking powder and will affect how the product rises or fails. So do keep that in mind and make adjustments where necessary, a little sour cream or buttermilk will do the trick.

I say all this as a service to enhance your cake batter-intuition.

My intuition initially instructed me to use that rum in there that I'd like to see gone. But when I opened the liquor cabinet and saw the Southern Comfort sticking right out in its giant bottle, it suddenly seemed like a better choice. Southern Comfort substituted for over half the water that would ordinarily moisten the batter and I'm afraid that was over doing it a little. But la la la, I don't care. Plus I used three large eggs because I wanted to see what would happen.

Because the bottoms are made separately from the tops I kept out the baking soda and baking powder from the batter until it was time to put the the batter in the little cups because I didn't want the chemical reaction to start off early and risk being petered out by the time they went into the oven.

I used low-protein flour for the batter and A/P flour for the little circle puff crusts.

Conclusion: I erred initially. The bottoms take longer to cook than the tops so I would have to bake the bottoms half-way first, then put them on top of the batter in the cups and let the little cakes lift them as they expanded. They're upside down domes so all this is eventually inverted, thus the apparent confusion here about bottoms and tops. That undercooked puff tart shell wasn't all that bad but it wouldn't win any contests, the problem was corrected the second batch. Also, these things needed some kind of icing, which I didn't anticipate, so I mixed powdered sugar with Southern Comfort for a delicious if slightly boozy topping that hit the spot. It was a great way to use the pears before they turned.

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