No one ever claimed that moving was easy. Many find it a trial, both physically and emotionally draining, painful and sad. We leave a cozy nest we have created to fit us just so; each piece of art or photograph removed from the wall leaves the ghost of a memory marked indelibly on the paint, tracing our passage through time. We discover long-forgotten toys hidden behind furniture, childhoods left long ago. We run our fingers down the doorframe, counting fine, faded pencil lines recording the growth of our sons, sons now grown. We glance out the window at a view that will no longer be ours in too short a time, drinking it in, savoring every mouthful. The sentimental among us feel our heart pulling towards what is being quit, feel the poignancy of change, the growing older, that passage of time that we can never recapture.
And then there are those of us who find moving exhilarating! A fresh start, a new beginning! We shed ourselves of the weight of years of collecting nonsense like an old skin, feeling that much lighter, a tiny bit freer with each object tossed or given away. We sit among our belongings and pick eeny-meeny-miny-mo which can stay and which must go! We tick off each thing we did not like about our current home, item by item, small, badly organized kitchen, the noisy upstairs neighbors, the distance from our favorite shops, the drafty windows and smile contentedly to ourselves. And months before we actually have to, before the moving date is even known for sure, we pull out paper bags and cartons and begin the sorting.
Moving is an adventure, an escape, a second (or third, or fourth) chance, whatever you make of it. Moving is a valiant exploit worthy of a great explorer or conqueror, taking vision and courage, patience and fortitude. One must make that fearless decision about the purchase of a new place, sign your savings away with the flourish of the pen, pack up the old and unpack upon arrival. One must take on the phone company, the electric company, the water company; changing addresses and parking garages, forwarding magazine subscriptions, bracing oneself for a month without internet while the service screws up the switchover. But once the decision is made, we brave all of the rest for the joy and thrills of the move!
And this time around, on top of simply moving house we are downsizing. As one son packs his own things to move into his own apartment and the other son returns home and settles in, we have come to the decision to move from a grand 200 square meters to a mere 100. Lose a little weight, lose a lot of the earthly belongings! Three of us, and a very small dog, will squeeze into a tiny three-bedroom apartment, but an apartment that we fell in love with at first sight, as soon as we stepped over the threshold. The sunshine pours into this fifth-floor beauty making it feel airy and light, warm and cozy. The opportunity to create our own kitchen is thrilling, creating it from nothing, en empty space. The move will carry us back to our old neighborhood with center city at our feet. One glance out the window and from our towering vantage point now own a stunning view, Nantes spread out in front of us in all of her glory.
We move once every five years or so, just pick up and change our surroundings: new home, new city, new country if we are so lucky. And with each move comes a cleansing, purging ourselves of each unnecessary encumbrance. And I’ve already begun! Shopping bags filled with books to be sold – any that survived the last cut when we moved two years ago – stacks of fabric to be given to Mathilde and a list drawn up of furniture that must go, that will find no place in the new apartment. But first things first. I yank open the freezer drawers and am greeted by a puff of ice cold haze and too many packages for my own good. It is time to start using up these items that cannot be moved, will not survive the time between refrigerator shut down and brand spanking new kitchen. Bags of frozen fruit glare up at me waiting for the signal and thanks to Abby Dodge it is full speed ahead!
This month’s BakeTogether couldn’t have come at a better time: Abby proposes her Very Berry Mini Pies with Streusel Topping. I love this kind of treat, the perfect dessert and my frozen berries are clamoring to be included! Abby’s sweet pastry dough is tucked into the individual cups of a muffin tin, filled with a mixed berry filling and topped with a wonderful, cinnamon-kissed streusel topping and baked. And voilà the perfect dessert or snack! Abby encourages us to go our own way, take her own recipe as simply a starting point and change it up to our own taste and creativity. I rarely stray very far from Abby’s recipes as I think they are just perfect and just the way my family loves them. This time around, I simply placed a dollop of Sunchowder’s Emporia Black Forest Jam – a fabulous, decadent blend of blackberries, chocolate and Chambord liqueur – into the bottom of each pastry cup, topped it with my blend of frozen wild blueberries, frozen wild blackberries and frozen and fresh raspberries. I then added a few chocolate Palets Bretons, a dry crumbly cookie, to the streusel mixture.
And nibbling on an individual Very Berry Tartlet while packing up books makes the job that much more enjoyable.
INDIVIDUAL VERY BERRY CHOCOLATE TARTLETS
Recipe from Abby Dodge (with my own changes)
Makes 10-11 mini tarts
For the dough
1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 6 slices, well chilled
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon very cold water
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the streusel topping
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (5/8 ounce) quick cooking oats
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of table salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) sliced almonds, lightly toasted
2 or 3 crumbly chocolate cookies, type Palet Breton, optional
For the filling
1/3 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of table salt
2 cups (10 ounces) fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried *
1 cup (5 ounces) fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried *
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* Or 3 cups of a mix of your favourite berries, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen); I used 1 cup each blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
For Abby’s food processor technique, see her instructions.
Prepare the dough:
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss together. Add the butter and, using only your fingertips, rub the butter and the flour together until the texture of damp sand and there are no more large chunks of butter. Drizzle the water and lemon juice evenly over the flour mixture. Using a fork, vigorously stir the liquid into the flour/butter mixture until all the crumbs are damp and the moist crumbs begin to clump together into a dough.
Dump the moist crumbs onto a large piece of plastic wrap and gather into a pile. With the heel of your hand, push and gently smear the dough away from you until the crumbs come together. (For photos, see here), this completely blends in the butter. Shape into a 5-inch disc and wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
Prepare the streusel:
Put the flour, oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and stir until well blended. Add the butter and, using a fork (or your fingers), mix and mash until the ingredients are well blended and form small crumbs. Stir in the almonds. Transfer the streusel mixture to a small robot blender with the cookies and give it a few spins until the cookies are crushed and blended into the streusel; this will also break up the last of the clumps of butter. Pop in the fridge while you make the filling and assemble the tarts.
Line the tart pans:
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease ten regular-sized (2 3/4- 3 inch diameter) muffin cups (I filled 11).
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and discard the plastic wrap. Place on a lightly floured work surface. If the dough is too firm to roll out easily, simply allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until pliable although too soft and it risks sticking to the work surface and rolling pin.
Keeping the work surface floured as well as the surface of the dough, roll out the dough to about 1/8- inch thickness, turning, lifting and repositioning the dough and lightly flouring throughout the rolling. Using a 3 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 8 or 9 rounds. Gather up the scraps, reroll to a 1/8-inch thickness, and cut another round or two for a total of 10/11 rounds of dough.
Working with one round at a time, use your fingers to gently press the dough into a prepared muffin cup, making sure there are no air bubbles in the bottom and the dough is pressed firmly and evenly up the side to within 1/8 inch of the top of the cup. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds. If your kitchen is hot, slide the muffin tins into the fridge while you make the filling.
Prepare the filling and bake the tarts:
Put the sugar, flour, and salt in a medium bowl and, using a table fork, mix until well blended. Add 1 cup of the berries and, using the table fork, crush the berries while stirring them into the sugar-flour mixture. Add the remaining berries and the vanilla and toss to coat evenly. Evenly spoon the filling into the lined muffin cups (they will be completely full). Scatter the streusel evenly over the filling – don’t be shy.
Bake until the crusts and streusel are golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 27 to 30 minutes. Move the muffin tin to a wire rack. Using a paring knife, run the blade between the crust and the pan to loosen the tarts from any sticky berry juices and let cool for 10 minutes. Using a thin, metal spatula or the paring knife, carefully remove the tarts from the muffin cups and set them on a wire rack. If you find that the pastry crust is too soft to easily move, simply let the tartlets cool completely in the muffin tins before removing them from the cups.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Fabulous with whipped cream or ice cream and more, fresh berries.