Your life in a pie: Where Women Cook’s Pieography Contest

by piecurious

Where Women Cook, one of my sources of food writing inspiration, has launched a contest asking you to tell the story of your life through an original pie recipe accompanied by a short 300 word essay.  I knew immediately what my ‘pie’ would be–a winter soup inspired curried carrot tart that I’ve made often but never really developed sufficiently into a recipe.  Needless to say, I immediately took to the kitchen, musing at how this tart, in more ways than I could explain in 300 words, reflects my search for stability in spite of my ever-fluctuating interests.  You’ll notice it’s a bit of a variation of my original introductory post, but hey, while life is always changing, the past remains the same.  So here’s what I cooked up for my entry in the Where Women Cook Pieography Contest:

Some people start out knowing exactly what they want from life.  Others start out as a blank slate, slowly discovering their niche in the world.  Then there are people like me, who start out thinking they know what they want only to undergo numerous, often unpredictable transformations, each one taking them right back to the beginning again.  As a headstrong music-loving teenager, I was convinced music production was my life’s calling.  But upon finishing college, my introspective and philosophical side carried me off to university instead. An undergraduate degree later and I was certain research and teaching was my raison d’être.  Fast-forward through a Master’s Degree and I’m now ready to pursue my true passion—one that developed inconspicuously during my time in school as a destressing activity—a passion for baking.  Now, I spend the early hours of the morning working in a professional bakery and my afternoons spent experimenting at home, all while trying to dodge the alluring call of culinary school.

For those of us seemingly caught in a perpetual identity crisis, change is the only constant; instability is a norm.  The good news is we’re continuous learners and often boast a diverse skill set, making us adaptable and flexible, not unlike this curried carrot tart, which suffers its own identity crisis.

Indian-inspired in flavor but French-inspired in presentation, this sweet but savory curried carrot tart is boldly unique, breaking from tradition but finding stability in a fragrant toasted cashew crust.  The spongy filling, warmly spiced and enriched with coconut milk and honey, offers up comfort, while the buttery nut-infused crust gives it a decadent edge.  Serve it in small wedges as an appetizer, with a side of greens as a main, or with a dollop of Greek yogurt as a savory dessert.  It’s flexible—ready for any occasion.

Curried Carrot Tart
(makes one 9″ tart or pie)

For the crust:
5 oz (approx. 1 cup) all-purpose flour
5 oz (1 cup) cashews
6.5 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1.5 oz (1/4 cup) water, chilled

For the filling:
15 oz (2 cups) carrot purée (*see directions below)
4 oz (1/2 cup) coconut milk
3 large eggs
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp sea salt

*To make the carrot purée:
In a lightly oiled roasting pan, add one small diced onion, two cloves of unpeeled garlic, and 5-6 medium carrots.  Drizzle with vegetable oil and roast at 375F for 45 minutes or until the carrots are soft.  Squeeze the roasted garlic from their peels and place in the bowl of a food processor along with the roasted carrots and onion.  Purée until smooth.  Measure out 15 oz (or 2 cups) of purée for the pie filling.  Any remaining purée makes a delicious snack!

To make the filling:
In the bowl of a food processor, mix together the carrot purée, eggs, coconut milk, honey, salt and spices.  Refrigerate until ready to be poured into the tart pan.

To make the crust:
First, measure out the butter and cut into 1″ cubes.  Place in a bowl and chill in the freezer or fridge until ready to use. Measure out the water and chill in the freezer or fridge as well (depending on when you plan to use the ingredients–don’t freeze the water!)  Preheat the oven to 375F and place 5 oz (or 1 cup) of cashews on a baking sheet.  Toast until fragrant, 5-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and grind in a food processor until fine.  In a bowl, mix together the ground cashews and flour.   Chill the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes, or until the flour is no longer warm from the cashews.  When ready to make the crust, process the butter and flour in a food processor until a mealy dough forms–the flour should come together when you squeeze it, but otherwise remain grainy.  Add the water until the flour comes together into a dough.  Press into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes if the butter is melting or the dough feels sticky.  Lightly oil a 9″ tart or pie pan.  Roll the chilled dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap until it is about 1/8″ thick.  Place into the pan and press down with your fingers.  This dough is highly forgiving and makes more than enough for the pan.  If you tear the dough, just press it together or use the extra pieces to fix the tear.  Save the extra dough if you’d like by freezing it.  Refrigerate the lined tart pan until ready to use.

To bake the tart:

Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Place the tart on a baking tray to catch run-off from the crust.  If using a pie pan this is unnecessary.  Bake for 10 minutes at 400F, turning down the oven to 325F and baking for another 45-55 minutes until the filling is set.  It should feel springy to the touch and not jiggly when you shake the pan.

Serve hot, warm, or cold.  Or all three, depending on the day, time or year.