I was a bad girl this week. I deviated significantly from the original recipe for Peach Gem Pie, which is, as you can probably tell from the old photo, just orange Jell-O with peach slices in it, in a pie crust. Oh, yes, and there’s a little almond extract in the Jell-O. Because of my Orange Boycott, I was planning on substituting peach Jell-O for orange anyway, but then after the week we’ve had here in the U.S. and abroad, I just couldn’t face Jell-O in a pie shell. I just couldn’t.
So it occurred to me that I could do what the U.S. Congress failed to do this week – I could take a not-so-good thing and make it better. Following on the success of Easy Fruit Tarts, I decided to turn Peach Gem Pie into a Peach Gem Tart.
I started with Julia Child’s sweet short crust recipe and made a nine-inch tart shell. I spread a layer of French vanilla Jell-O instant pudding in the bottom of the tart shell, arranged Del Monte canned peach slices (so sue me, peaches are well out of season right now) in a pretty pattern on the pudding, and spooned thickened peach Jell-O over the peaches to form a glaze. I forgot to add the almond extract to the Jell-O (rather than listening to music while I worked, I was listening to NPR programming and got distracted) but remedied that somewhat by serving the tart with almond-flavored whipped cream.
The end result was not bad at all. It certainly looks prettier than the pie shown in the book. Orange Jell-O has a garish hue, but peach Jell-O is actually a rather pretty color. The flavor is subtler, too, and I wonder whether it would have made a difference if I’d remembered to add the almond extract. Probably not. These Jell-O recipes tend to be pretty timid about the added flavors. I was a little dubious about whether the almond flavor would go with the peaches, but in the whipped cream it worked much better than I expected.
I did make a few mistakes. The main one is that the crust turned out tough; most likely I overworked it, got a little cocky after it turned out so well last time. Another is that I added too much almond extract to the whipped cream. A teaspoon of vanilla extract to a half-pint of whipping cream works well; a teaspoon of almond extract is, I’m thinking, about twice as much as you want. (The aftertaste, it burns…) Finally, one three-ounce package each of pudding and Jell-O is way too much for a single nine-inch tart. It was fine because I ate the leftovers, but if anyone wants to try to recreate this, I recommend planning on making two tarts. Seriously, this turned out to be a decent dessert. Bring them to Easter dinner. The colors are seasonal, and I could see this working well after a main course of ham. Ham from a can. Oh, the memories… Did I mention it was a rough week?
It’s been one of those days. We’re having our second (or are we now on the third?) snowstorm in less than a week. This after an exceptionally mild and mostly snow-free winter, so it seems churlish to feel oppressed by this, but from about 10:00 this morning, every time I’ve looked out the windows I’ve seen snow falling. It’s been a winter’s worth in a few days. So much for the hope that we might be spared dealing with ice dams this year.
February is the time of year when I most keenly regret moving from the San Francisco Bay Area, where I lived for about two and a half years, back to the northeast. In San Francisco, after a brief, rainy winter made endurable by the many evergreens and palm trees, springtime begins to emerge in February as though it never really ended. In that temperate climate, you don’t get the barren branches and brown grasses of a new England winter. Here in the northeast, the leaves have mostly fallen by Halloween, and when it starts snowing in November or December it feels like a mercy because you’re still willing to believe that everything is prettier under that blanket of white. By February, it’s just cold and wet, and a nuisance to walk or drive through.
On the other hand, I just got an email from MIT announcing that the Institute is closed tomorrow. That’s two snow days in less than a week. So there’s that.
Anyway. Pastel Dessert. It sounds dull, and mostly it was, but I vaguely remember it because it turned into kind of a goof.
The recipe is pretty simple, starting with Jell-O vanilla pudding mix, the kind you cook rather than the instant kind. It’s cooked together with a packet of Jell-O, any flavor – “Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil and is thickened and clear.” That’s right, thickened and clear, and according to my notes, it looked as weird as that sounds. Then it’s chilled until it’s, er, more thickened, I guess, and mixed together with a prepared packet of Dream Whip.
Now, the goofy thing is, I made this around Chanukah, so I thought it’d be nice if I made this with the Berry Blue flavor so I’d have blue Pastel Dessert. As you might be able to see in the photo, I failed to account for yellow dye in the pudding mix, and I ended up with a dessert that was a not-unpleasant pistachio green. It looks rather festive with its Dream Whip garnish and bright red maraschino cherries on top.
Unfortunately, it had an odd flavor and texture. Berry Blue is a good flavor for visual effects, but it doesn’t taste all that good. I probably would have done better with a red flavor. Live and learn…