Saturday, 7 September 2013

Lemon Tarts

In my second year of university, a good friend and I took on the roles of co-presidents for the University of Auckland Dessert Club. We were off to a shaky start as we were appointed these roles by the ex-president, rather than by vote of the members and committee. Initially were were reluctant to step into these heavy shoes as we had close to no experience of running events, let alone running a waning club with 500 members. But after knowing all but one of the members from the previous committee planned to stay on, with merely a few short weeks to get ourselves sorted, we decided to accept our roles. 

So off we went to recruit people from amongst our friends who we thought had potential and would assist us in building up the club. We borrowed money from my dad, worked day and night in getting membership cards designed and printed, hunted down the Auckland University Student Association people day after day to get the logistics and accounts sorted, we held many meetings to plan out events that we wanted to hold throughout the year and finally, we debut as a revived club during Orientation Week. O' week was a chance for us to regain the club's reputation. Everyday, rain or shine (and back then we didn't have enough funds to get a gazebo yet), we were one of the first clubs to set up and one of the last to pack up. We talked to almost every single person that walked past the stall, selling to them the plans we had for the club, listing them the sponsors we have and bribing them with chocolate frogs and Chupa Chups (unlike other clubs who only gave out yucky cheap artificially coloured lollies!)to get people to sign up. At the end of the two weeks, we managed to recruit a record number of members - about 600 people! You can imagine how exhilarated we were, and how dry our mouths must've been, talking to so many people. 

We ran many events that year. We started off with the Dessert Club orientation, pulling strings from friends to get us cheap Dunkin Donuts. Then there was Gelato night which was a success. Who doesn't love cheap gelato? And the new sponsor that we got, then known as Paradiso, now known as iStorm were incredibly generous, giving us half priced gelato and free hiring of their store space! Easter hunt got members running around campus solving clues and puzzles. But then there was movie day, which flopped like a hot air balloon punched with holes. We over estimated the numbers that were coming and ordered about 500 custard puffs and swiss rolls. We even hired a cotton candy machine. About 10 people turned up to that event. We gave away as many custard puffs and swiss rolls as we could, which were of course received with big smiles. We even bribed the security guard because apparently it is against the rules to eat in lecture theaters (which we hired out for movie screening). But we were still left with 400 puffs and rolls. In the end we resolved to selling them cheap around campus. We made a huge loss that day but thank goodness for kind-hearted people! Because we only used up a meager handful of candy, the cotton candy guy told us we didn't need to pay for it. But after that event, we learned something new - always have sign ups and sell tickets to confirm the numbers coming and always check the calendar when planning events. That weekend was bad timing as most people had tests! 

It was always difficult getting sign ups to events. Once we had to postpone our soiree because we didn't have enough sign ups. But then at the end of the year, we managed to tick off a whole list of cool events we did, such as pie eating competition, amazing race, chocolate give away, etc. And we finished off with a successful end of year party - the food was amazing, the venue was great (free pool! As in like billiards pool, not swimming pool, although that would've been awesome too) and people had loads of fun. 

I decided to stay on Dessert Club for the following two years, gaining more members and experience each year. The last year of being in the club, I stepped down into the role of web manager. It was the most successful year for Dessert Club. We had great events like Maid Cafe, Kapiti Quiz Night, Easter amazing race, the annual Gelato Night, annual eating competition, cupcake fundraising, cupcake decoration class, etc. We built our relationship with other clubs like Photosoc, the Cosplay Club and Auckland University Snow Club by having collaboration events and supplying desserts. We were even asked by the University of Auckland to feature as one of the clubs showcasing extra-curricular life on Courses and Careers Day. It was great. But these three years on Dessert Club, I've gained much more than just experience. Many friendships were forged. And it was these years that really cemented my passion for baking, food and catering. Boy all those days and nights baking and preparing food for events, they were incredibly difficult at times, having to juggle both studies and club responsibilities, but I loved every minute of it. There were moments when we were thinking why did we take on such a huge task, for example when we were sitting outside at our stall trying to sell tickets to events, with the cold brittle wind blasting on our backs and the IC people refused to let us set up inside. Or when committee members pulled out and we were left with 3 people to run the whole club. There were really stressful nights when I had very little sleep, with my mind like a roll of film running through everything that still needed to be done. But even in those moments, the thought of regret or quitting never crossed my mind. In fact, if you asked me what was the single best thing that happened to me in university, I would've told you, Dessert Club. 

After three years of running the club, I decided to move on. I felt as though I was ripping my baby from myself. A baby that I nurtured, cared, built. But it was time to venture on other journeys. This past year without Dessert Club, I felt both liberated and lost. It felt so weird having free time! Though I was thankful I could use that time to develop other skills. Occasionally though, I missed the planning and brainstorming of events, and our ritual of debriefing at Momotea after events. I suppose that's one of the reasons I started this blog - to fill that void, to have something to look forward to and to develop my skills. But several weeks ago, the committee this year asked if Peter and I would help them cater for their soiree. Without even a second's hesitation, we agreed. So, off we went again to plan the menu. We spent a day buying and sourcing ingredients, utensils, cutlery and plates. Then we spent another two days baking and cooking. It was so nostalgic! Peter and I laboured away, making five types of dessert - tiramisu, apple crumble pie, lemon tarts, chocolate mousse and salted caramel drizzled cronuts, and Peter prepped all the dishes for the mains. Everything was made from scratch, except for the Savoiardi. We were exhausted! But it was so satisfying for me. It felt great, making food for people, seeing their reactions when they saw how amazing the dessert platters looked and hearing great feedback. My only regret was that I didn't have time to snap some photos of the finished products, but here are a few snapshots of the dessert that I managed to take.

Mini lemon tarts with cream cheese icing (scroll down for recipe)

Cinnamony apple crumble tart

Cronuts, proofing!

As promised, here is the lemon tart recipe! 

[Lemon Tart]
Recipe makes 12 tarts

Same as the one I used to make the apple, rhubarb and strawberry galette

Zest from 3 lemons
1/2 cup of lemon juice 
1/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup raw sugar, blended 
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
Splash of milk

Icing (optional)
200g cream cheese, softened, room temperature 
50ml cream
3 tbsp raw sugar, blended
1 tsp vanilla essence
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
  1. Prepare pastry as instructed. 
  2. Line 12 tart cases with pastry. Prick bottom of pastry with fork. Blind bake at 180C for about 8-10 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine lemon, flour and sugar together and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Whisk together eggs, vanilla and salt. 
  5. Combine the egg mixture, lemon mixture and splash of milk. 
  6. Pour into the baked tart cases and bake at 150C for about 10 minutes. 
  7. Remove tart from oven and cool.
  8. For the icing, beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add cream and beat on slow initially, then increase speed and beat until well combined and light. Add the lemon and beat until combined. Pipe onto the cooled lemon tarts. Chill.
  9. Serve cold. 

Filling recipe adapted from Butter Baking.

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