baking sweet memories with my daughters, part 1: chocolate pecan tart, pie #42 of 52

it has always been a hope of mine that my two daughters will embrace the art of home made food.  to me, a well made meal is an event and when shared with family, there isn’t much out there that can top it. over the years, both of my girls have shown a desire to bake, mostly cookies with the occasional cake thrown in.  but with all of these pies i have been baking, i have wanted to spend an afternoon baking a pie with each of them.  this last week, i finally got that wish.  alix was home for a visit and to help her sister get packed for the big move west and i took advantage of the time to bake a tart with alix.  when asked what kind of pie she would like to make, she chose chocolate pecan-you can’t go wrong with chocolate and when you add pecans, it’s even better!

we quickly mixed up a batch of tart dough using the food processor and alix pressed it into the pan with her fingers-no rolling pin required!  be sure to use a tart pan with a removable bottom to make cutting serving the easy.

using my foolproof method for partially baking a tart/pie shell, alix lined the shell with a large coffee filter and filled it full of marbles-my choice of pie weights.

while the tart shell baked, we mixed up the filling.  for a smooth filling every time, it is important that the ingredients are combined in the proper order.  otherwise, the custard separates in the oven and it the chocolate will float to the top.  to emulsify the filling, the brown sugar is whisked with the melted butter and chocolate mixture, the cinnamon and vanilla.  then the eggs are whisked in one at a time.  the final addition is the corn syrup.  be sure to scrape that bowl as you go.

alix whisking in the corn syrup-gotta love the action shots!

toast the pecans if you like and then chop them up and fill the shell with them.

pour the custard over the chopped nuts
decorate it with pecan halves

baked to fudgy perfection!  let it cool completely before removing it from the pan or it may crumble

chocolate pecan tart
serves 8
for the tart shell, use half of the recipe for tart dough from pie #39.  freeze the second half for another time and partially bake the tart shell at 325 for 20-25 minutes.  the dough should no longer look glossy and it will not have begun to color.  remove the weights and proceed with the recipe.
1 cup pecan pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
3/4 cup corn syrup
pecan halves to decorate the tart, at least 1 cup
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the pecan pieces on a baking tray until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  place the pecans in the partially baked tart shell.  melt the butter and the chocolate together by placing them in a microwave safe bowl and using the lowest power setting.  place the brown sugar in a mixing bowl with the vanilla and cinnamon.  whisk in the melted chocolate and butter.  whisk in the eggs, one at a time.  be sure to scrape the bowl between additions.  finally, whisk in the corn syrup and pour the custard into the prepared tart shell.  carefully arrange the pecan halves on the top of the tart.  bake until it puffs up and is almost set in the center, about 30-35 minutes.  allow the tart to cool completely before removing it from the pan or cutting.
as always, if you bake one, send me a photo and i will post it here.  may the power of pecans be with you…

a taste of fall: pear frangipane tart, pie #41 of 52

while i am sad to see summer come to a close, i am looking forward to the arrival of fall produce.  as much as i love visiting the farmers market in summer, i find the trips downtown in the fall almost magical.  the sight of so many apples and hard squashes…the thoughts of applesauce and butters and pies…mmmmmm, that’s all i can say about it.  while it is still very warm, with many days still 80+, it is no longer too hot to make baking impossible.  the arrival of pears from colder climates made a pear tart irresistible.
not all pears make nice tarts.  the best ones are those with a slightly soft texture that hold their shape when baked.  for this reason, i generally use d’anjou pears that are a tad under ripe.  for this tart, i had to choose between bartlett and bosc-neither being a favorite of mine.  i went with firm, under ripe bartletts so that they would not turn to mush when i poached them.  poaching is important for this type of tart-it prevents discoloration and ensures that the pears are soft when the tart filling is completely baked.  it also prevents the pears from releasing excessive amounts of juices onto the top of the filling and that enables the filling to bake properly.  the poaching liquid includes wine and the beauty of this tart is that you could use any type of wine and alter the taste of the pears to your liking.  i used marsala because that is what was convenient but you could easily use chardonnay, sauternes, port, champagne or any other white  wine.  however, there is no reason that you couldn’t use a mild, fruity red and give the pears a pink tint. 
freshly poached and ready to be sliced. after removing the pears, place the pot of liquid back on the stove over low heat.  the poaching liquid is reduced down to 1 cup and used as a syrup to drizzle over the slices as you serve them.

the tart shell must be prebaked first.  then, mix up the frangipane filling, spread it into the tart shell and layer the sliced pears around the top in a spiral.

once the tart has been baked and allowed to cool completely, remove it from the pan and cut it into wedges.  drizzle it with the syrup and you have an elegant fall dessert.

pear frangipane tart
serves 8-10
tart dough
half batch of tart dough from pie #39, second piece can be frozen for future use.  place the dough into a greased tart pan with a removable bottom.  with your fingers, carefully distribute the dough around the bottom and sides by pressing it and pushing it into place so that it is an even thickness throughout (no rolling pin required!!!).   place the shell on a sturdy baking pan.  line the shell with a coffee filter or parchment paper, fill with weights and prebake it at 325 degrees until the dough no longer looks shiny and appears opaque when you lift up the paper/weights, about 25-30 minutes.
poached pears
3-4 pears, peeled, halved with cores removed
3 cups water
1 cup wine
1/2 vanilla bean
1 star anise pod
3 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon, squeezed-juice and fruit both added to the mix
1/2 cup sugar
combine the ingredients in a large pot.  over medium low heat, simmer the pears until they are soft but not yet mushy, about 20 minutes.  remove the pears to a dish to cool.  remove all of the aromatic ingredients from the liquid and return the pot to the stove over medium low heat.  allow the syrup to reduce and concentrate to just 1 cup.  chill the syrup
frangipane filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces almond paste
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup all purpose flour
in a mixing bowl, cream the butter, almond paste and the sugar until light and fluffy.  add the egg and mix to incorporate.  sift the flour into the batter and mix just to incorporate.  
assembling and baking the tart
remove the weights from the tart shell and spread the frangipane filling evenly in the shell.  cut the pears into 1/4″ thick slices and using the photo above for reference, carefully arrange them in a spiral around the top of the filling.  bake in an oven preheated to 350 until the filling sets, approximately 50-55 minutes.  brush a small amount of the syrup over the tart while it is still hot to give it a shine and allow it to cool completely before removing it from the pan.  cut into wedges and serve it with a drizzle of the syrup.  if you would like to really indulge yourself and those you are serving this too,  serve it with some vanilla or buttermilk ice cream.
as always, bake one and send me a photo, i promise to post it here.

plum galette, pie #39 of 52

what a dreary day-we needed the rain and i am happy it has finally arrived but does it have to be so dark and grey too?  enough of the whining, this pie can brighten your rainy day without a lot of work.  galettes are a quick and easy pie because they aren’t supposed to look perfect.  it is a great go to recipe when you need a dessert that seems a little more elegant than usual without the hassle of classically prepared pastries.

plums bake up quick too but this can be made with peaches, apples, berries or pears.  make the dough from scratch using the recipe below but freeze half of it for another day and use it to make a tart or more galettes.

plum galette
serves 4
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold milk
Place the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl and blend to combine.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  In a food processor this will be accomplished by pulsing the mixture.  Add the egg yolks and the milk and mix until the dough combines and forms a smooth dough.  Divide the dough in two pieces, shape into 4” disks, freeze one for later and chill the other before using.
plum filling
4 black plums
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 of a vanilla bean-seeds only, pod reserved for another use
halve the plums, remove the pit and cut into thin wedges.  in a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and rub them together with your fingers until completely mixed.  toss the plums with the sugar mix and allow them to macerate while you roll out the dough.
preheat the oven to 350.  cut one disk of dough into 4 equal pieces.  shape each piece into a round disk and roll them out to 7-1/2 inch circles.  place the dough circles onto sheet pans lined with parchment 
paper.  arrange the pears in a circle on top of each round of dough leaving a 1″ border around the edge.  fold the edges up over the top of the plums to form a loose and free formed pie.  drizzle a spoonful of the collected juices over the center of each galette.  if desired, brush the edges with some water and sprinkle with additional sugar, but you can leave it plain as i did too.  bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden around the top and the juices are bubbly.  allow them to rest on the pan for 10-15 minutes before serving and if you want to really go all out, serve them with some vanilla ice cream.
as always, bake one and send me a photo, i will post it here.  now if you will excuse me, i am going to go and find some other song to play incessantly in my head-the carpenter’s(rainy days and mondays) are killing me…

lavender-vanilla panna cotta tart, pie # 35 of 52

my life has been such a blur lately.  days pass by in what feels like minutes.  we watched both of our daughters cross the stage this summer, one from high school and the other from college.  we hosted celebrations with family members.  the carport never looked so festive.  there was a trash can turkey at one party and a barbecue at the other.  the girls beat a pinata to death and we all ate way too much!  somewhere in there, i went off to new york city and phili for media training and suddenly, my book has landed in nashville.  so, knowing very well that i am going to only get busier, i am even more determined to finish this 52 week challenge.  to prove the point, the 4 pies that needed to be made, are all done and have been for some time, all i need to do is get them posted here.  damn, blinked and lost another hour…

panna cotta has never been something that i just had to try.  but in an effort to keep this challenge interesting and varied, i decided to try it in a tart.  then i needed to make it different from every recipe i saw out there-that was the challenge.  a walk through my garden fixed that-with a hand full of lavender blooms and a fig tree full of ripe fruit, i had my inspiration; infuse the panna cotta with lavender and vanilla bean and serve it with fresh figs…

i decided to use buttermilk in the filling as well.  since it isn’t a good idea to heat buttermilk for long periods of time, i infused some heavy cream with lavender blossoms and vanilla beans.

 to make the crust, i toasted some almonds and chopped them finely and added them to a buttery crust dough.

 my absolute favorite trick for prebaking crusts-use large coffee filters.  if you can get them from a coffee shop or restaurant, you will not have to buy a huge quantity of them.  however, you can used several smaller ones to do the same job.  the filters are so strong that you can actually lift them out with your weights in them and not have to worry about it tearing.  but if you use marbles like i do, spoon them out just to be safe.

lavender-vanilla panna cotta tart
1 (6″) tart serving 4-6
tart dough
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons almonds, sliced or slivered
2 tablespoons water
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the almonds until lightly golden, about 5 minutes, cool them completely before proceeding with the recipe.  place all the ingredients except the water into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine and cut in the butter.  when it resembles a coarse meal with bits of almonds in it, add the water and pulse it until it comes together.  press the dough into a greased 6″ cake pan so that it is 3/4 of the way up the sides.  make sure the dough is distributed evenly around the pan.  line with a coffee filter, add pie weights and bake it until it is completely baked and lightly golden, about 30 minutes.  cool completely before making the filling.
panna cotta filling
1/4 of a vanilla bean
1 tablespoon lavender blooms-dried
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
fresh fruit for garnish
place the vanilla bean, lavender and cream in a very small sauce pan and heat until it almost simmers.  remove from heat and allow to steep for at least 5 minutes (can also be done in the microwave but be careful since it is quick to boil).  soften the gelatin in the water while the cream steeps.  strain the cream into a bowl and add the gelatin, stir to melt it-if needed, gently heat the mixture in the microwave to melt it.  with a whisk, gently whisk in the buttermilk and the sugar and then pour the filling into the prepared crust.  refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.  serve with your favorite fresh fruit, berries work best with the flavors in this recipe but you can also use figs or peaches.  if a sauce is desired, sweeten an extra cup of fruit and puree in a blender for a quick coulis.

celebrate the solstice with a summer berry tart; #29 of 52 pies

the first day of summer, or summer solstice as some call it, usually means hot weather and in that respect, we have had plenty.  since it is so hot, i decided to make a fruit tart rather than heat the house up by using the oven to bake a pie.  right now, markets are brimming with fresh berries of all types.  for some reason, summer holidays mean truckloads of berries at almost affordable prices.  why is that?  in the summers of my childhood, picnics in honor of summer holidays always meant popsicles and watermelon slices-berries were for special occasions.  on my last trek through the grocery store, i stocked up on strawberries and raspberries and luckily, enough survived to decorate the tart!

first step is to make a classic pastry cream.  while it cools down in the fridge, you can make the tart shell.  milk is heated with a vanilla bean and some sugar until it just begins to boil.

 cornstarch is mixed with some milk to dissolve it and then the eggs  are whisked in.  classically referred to as a liason, this combination will thicken the custard filling.

while the milk heats/steeps, set a heat proof bowl, a mesh strainer and a spatula nearby to strain the custard.

 once the milk reaches a slow boil, whisk a portion of the hot milk into the liason and then return the remaining milk in the pot to the heat.  while whisking the boiling milk, the liason is carefully added. and whisked continually until it boils and thickens.

whisk the custard filling continually until it boils and thickens.  be sure to let it boil for a full minute to cook out the starch.

 once finished, pour the custard into the strainer and use the spatula to force it through the mesh into the bowl.

 the reason for the strainer, all the little rubbery bits and the vanilla bean need to be removed or you will not have a creamy filling for your tart.

 the simplest dough in the world!!!  flour, powdered sugar and butter are pulsed in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal.  an egg yolk is added and the dough is pulsed until it comes together.

this buttery dough is so easy to work with that you can immediately press it into your tart pan-no chilling is necessary.

 make sure it is evenly spread out-thin spots could cause the shell to crumble later on.

 my favorite baking trick-line the shell with a large coffee filter (bribe a barista for some if you can or just use several home sized ones) and use beans or marbles as weights to prebake the crust.  why a coffee filter?  simple, they are designed to hold lots of weight-think about wet coffee grounds in a filter, they do not rip easily.  parchment paper crumbles when it is baked, foil can cause breakage when removed from the tart and waxed paper is waxed and who wants that in the tart?

 a perfect tart shell ready to be filled and decorated.

 my next big secret;  melt 2-3 ounces of white chocolate (or dark if you prefer) and carefully coat the bottom and the sides of the tart shell with it.  this will help prevent the crust from becoming soggy.  allow it to set by freezing it for 5-10 minutes then fill with the custard and decorate with the fruit.

 slice the strawberries and arrange them around the edge of the tart.  save the small end pieces that you cannot use and place them in the center of the tart before adding the raspberries.  it’s a shame to waste the end pieces and no one will know they are there!  if you must, you can seal the tart using a prepared tart glaze.  in the summer months, supermarkets by me sell small tubs of fruit glaze in the produce section but stick to the peach one and dilute it-the strawberry one has too much added color.  personally, i like mine naked!

solstice berry tart
1 (9″) tart serving 6-8
there are lots of hints above, be sure to read them!
custard filling
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 vanilla bean, split
place the cornstarch in a heat proof bowl and whisk in a small amount of milk to make a smooth paste.  whisk in the eggs and set aside.  place the remaining milk in a sauce pot with the sugar.  scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add both the pod and the seeds to the milk.  over medium heat, bring to a slow boil.  temper the egg mixture with about half of the hot milk.  return the remaining milk to the stove and return to the boil.  while whisking the milk, add the hot egg mixture and while whisking, bring to a boil.  allow the custard to boil for a full minute then pour through a mesh strainer into a clean heat proof bowl.  press plastic wrap to the surface and chill completely.
easy tart shell
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
preheat the oven to 350.  place the flour and sugar into the bowl of a food processor.  sprinkle the butter cubes over the top and pulse to cut the butter in.  continue pulsing until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.  add the egg yolk and pulse until a smooth dough is formed.  press the dough evenly into a tart pan, place it on a baking sheet (catches any oily drips that may leak from the pan) and line with a coffee filter and weights.  bake until done, about 25-30 minutes.  remove from the oven and carefully lift out the weights and paper.  cool completely before assembling.
2-3 ounces chocolate (white or dark), melted
2 pints of strawberries
1 half pint raspberries
carefully remove the tart shell from the pan and place on a flat serving tray.  brush the inside of the tart with the melted chocolate and place in the freezer to set.  spread the custard filling evenly in the tart shell and arrange the fruit over the top of the custard as directed in the photos above.
happy solstice, y’all!  make one and send me a photo, i will post it here,

that’s just nuts! chewy nut tart-#20 of 52

bake one original pie each week for 52 weeks.  sounds easy.  actually, it’s more work than you might think.  even for me, a person who bakes pies, lots of pies, almost every day of the week.  after the pop tarts, it was tough to come up with an idea.  i wanted something fruity and fitting for spring.  but to be honest, around here, there isn’t much fresh fruit to choose from in spring.  it is either shipped in from far away and very expensive or it’s frozen and we won’t even mention the stuff in the cans…so there i was, wandering the aisles of my local supermarket searching for inspiration at an affordable price.  and then i spied the little packets of nuts-recipe helpers or something like that.  each packet has about a half cup of  nuts in it.  i thought about it for a moment, i had some hazelnuts at home and if i added pecans, walnuts and almonds, i could make a mixed nut tart.

i tossed them together and toasted them in the oven

a cooked syrup of honey, brown sugar and butter makes a gooey tart.  the comb in front of the jar is from our hive-i can’t wait to get some of the honey from our bees.  until then, it’s honey from the store.

after cooking the syrup, it gets tossed with the nuts and poured into a prebaked tart shell.  then after a bit in the oven, it gets bubbly and later it gets chewy and gooey!

the finished tart, make sure it is completely cooled or it will not cut nicely!
chewy nut tart
1 (9″) tart that serves about 8
1 prebaked (9″) tart shell-use a rich, short dough rather than a flaky pastry crust
2 cups nuts-any combination of nuts you like, i used equal parts of walnuts, almonds pecans and hazelnuts
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar-light or dark
1/3 cup honey-any light variety
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or coconut milk if you have some open)
1 teaspoon vanilla 
preheat the oven to 350.  completely bake the tart shell making sure that it is just beginning to turn a light golden brown.  if the dough is sweetened, take care not to allow it to color too much or it will gain a burned flavor during the second bake.  do not remove the crust from the pan at this point or it could collapse.  mix the nuts and place them on an oven proof pan.  toast the nuts until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  allow them to cool while you make the syrup.  in a sauce pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and the honey.  stir it occasionally to prevent hot spots and scorching.  bring the mixture to a gentle boil and allow it to boil for 5 minutes.  stir in the cream and the vanilla and bring it back to the boil for a minute.  remove from the heat and combine with the nuts.  scrape the filling into the tart shell and bake it until it is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.  cool completely, remove the tart from the pan and cut into wedges with a sharp knife.
and as always, bake one and send me a photo-i will post it here!  come on, i dare ya!  double dare ya!!!

pie #19-homemade blueberry toastries

a day late and a dollar short-the summary of my life lately.  no matter how hard i try, i am perpetually scrambling to meet a deadline and not always successfully.  it is spring and that means i have work to do in the garden; at home we have a vegetable garden, an herb garden and many other separate beds of flowers, plants, shrubs and trees.  then there is the demo garden where i do my volunteer hours for the master gardeners-too much to type, just look at it here.  did i mention the bees?  we have one colony and they need our attention on occasion.  then there is the house, the girls-they both graduate this year, the herd (too many cats and a dog) and did i mention my full time job?  at a busy restaurant? which makes coming home and baking seem like too much some days?  oh and there was that big birthday for my husband last week-he’s 39 again…

is it any wonder that i decided to make pop tarts for last week’s pie?  comfort food, a return to carefree childhood days and nothing more important than the lunch menu in the middle school cafeteria or maybe this week’s spelling test on my mind.  i tell both of my girls regularly that they will long for the days of high school-no worries more importantly, no bills, just school.  they don’t believe me now, but we all know that someday, they will and i doubt they will ever tell me so.

i experimented with two different doughs and settled on the second one.  it is more like a tart dough and has sugar, egg and buttermilk in it.  in the end, it was easy to work with-even the scraps.  it held the jam without bursting and after almost a week, the toastrie dough was still tasty with a nice texture.  they never had the cardboard snap of the commercially produced tarts and remained a little on the softer side but even so, everyone who ate one, reached for a second.

one thing to keep in mind, you can use any flavor filling you like.  i happen to like blueberry and made a quick batch of jam with just a one pound bag of frozen blueberries from the grocery store.  you could use raspberry, blackberry, rhubarb or pineapple-all of those are available frozen which makes them a little more affordable than fresh fruit.  if you have a surplus of apples or pears-try those.  and while i did not experiment with things like nutella or lemon curd, i am pretty sure that either one would be pretty tasty.

i didn’t need any special equipment either.  armed with a set of square cutters that range in size from 1 3/8″ to 2 5/8″, i chose the largest cutter but you could do this just as easily with a ruler and a pizza cutter.   to make the fluted edges and to prick the tarts (to allow the steam to escape during baking) i reached into the silverware drawer and used a regular fork.

lined up on a tray, they baked up quickly.  this was a quick treat to make and one of those things i hope to add to my list of things to make at home myself from now on.  just as soon as we move to a 36 hour day and my new clone arrives.  i really need to simplify my life-eliminate and reorganize the excess-now, to find the time to do that…

homemade blueberry toastries

yields 16 small treats-each one is about 2 1/2″ square
toastrie dough
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons buttermilk
egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon water)
jam filling-recipe follows
in a mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients to combine them.  cut in the butter until it is in small pieces and is beginning to resemble a coarse meal.  add the egg and 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk and mix gently to combine and only until it comes together.   add the additional tablespoon of buttermilk only if the dough seems a bit dry or crumbly.  you want a soft and pliable dough but not a wet and sticky one.  wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for 30 minutes to make it easier to work with.
preheat the oven to 350.  on a large, floured surface, roll the dough 1/8″ thick.  i did this in two batches to keep the dough from getting too soft as i worked.  cut the squares and place half of them on a lined baking pan-paper or silpat will make it easier to work with if any of the jam leaks out.  brush the edges with a light coating of egg wash and place a dollop (about 2 teaspoons) of jam in the center of the square.  add the top square and gently press the edges with your fingertips to seal.  using a regular fork, press the edges to make a decorative seal and prick the center of the toastrie several times to make steam vents.  do not egg wash the tops or you will seal the vents and the toastries may burst.  
homemade blueberry jam filling
makes about 1 2/3 cup
1 pound blueberries-i used frozen
1 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
piece of vanilla bean pod (i always save the scraped out pods to use for things like this)
1-2 tablespoons all purpose flour
thaw the berries and place them and the juices into a blender.  with the lid securely fastened (does this sound like experience talking???) blend them lightly just to chop them coarsely-do not puree them!  place the berries into a pot with the remaining ingredients and bring them to a slow boil.  allow this mixture to boil gently for about 15 minutes.  remove the vanilla pod and pour into a heat proof bowl.  chill completely before using-several hours or overnight.
when you are ready to make the toastries, measure out 1 cup of jam and reserve the rest for another use (homemade scones, anyone?).  if the jam seems thin and a little runny, stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour.  otherwise, if you were able to release lots of pectin and your jam is thick and gelled while it is cold from the fridge, just stir in 1 tablespoon.  mine was a little on the thin side so i used the full amount.
and look for me to have this weeks pie up soon-i am working on that today along with another loaf of salt rising bread.  and as always, bake it and send me a photo-i will post it here!  happy baking!!!

join me for a tea party

this is a first for me.  generally, i do not use this blog to generate support for causes or charity but today, i am changing that.  as a woman, i know how important it is to go for the dreaded yearly pap smear.  i also know just how scary it can be to hear that the results were not normal.  thankfully for me, the news was just a higher level of abnormal cells than is acceptable and the only treatment needed was to freeze my cervix.  years later i can say all is well and part of that is due to my diligence and my husbands wonderful(thanks to his employer!) health plan.  even though i go for that test each year, the risk for ovarian cancer still exists for me and every other woman on the planet.   even more frightening than that revelation is the fact no matter how many general exams women have, ovarian cancer most likely is not diagnosed until it has spread beyond the ovaries since there is no test available to detect it.  the worst part is that many women never have anything more than mild symptoms and when it is discovered, it is in an advanced stage and often comes with a 50% or less survival rate.  but before you think that i am all doom and gloom, know this, there are tests available to screen women for their risk factor and best of all, we have organizations like the ovarian cancer research fund helping us find early detection tests, better methods of treatment and ultimately,  a cure.

so by now you must be asking yourself, why is she prattling on about this and what does it have to do with a tea party?  it’s simple, as a featured publisher on foodbuzz, i am participating in a challenge and helping to raise funds for the ocrf and at the same time helping myself and all women out there. the fact that they also turned this into a contest of sorts does not hurt.  foodbuzz will donate $50 to the fund just because i entered a recipe into the tea party contest and i have a chance to see my blog chosen as part of their top 9 takeover. the top 9 takeover is a partnership between foodbuzz and electrolux to help raise funds as well as awareness for ovarian cancer and research.  so join me, and my good friend kelly ripa(no i don’t really know her but it sounds good) as well as the folks at foodbuzz and electrolux for a tea party with a cause and let’s get the word out there.  so, let’s get this tea party started!

when i am not working, i spend a lot of time in the garden.  each week, i volunteer my time for the master gardeners of davidson county and i work in a research and demonstration garden-demo garden for short.  since i am always baking something, i bring a cake with me each week.  but since this week i was baking for the tea party, i decided on little pineapple jam tarts.  made in a mini pan, these dainty little treats were perfect for the garden as well as any tea party since they could be eaten out of hand.  they also look rather elegant when arranged on a fancy cake pedestal.  keep your eye on them as they tend to disappear quickly-i saw that with my own eyes.  when my fellow gardeners heard what was in my cake box, they abandoned the garden to sample the tarts.  so began our typical work day tea party in the garden; a little weeding, a little chatting and a little snacking among friends.

pineapple jam tarts

24 miniature tarts
adapted from david lebovitz
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1  egg yolk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal-i used blue cornmeal since i had some
2 teaspoons baking powder
jam or preserves in any flavor, about 1 3/4 cups-jelly is too thin for this so only jam or preserves should be used.           

preheat the oven to 375.  lightly grease a mini muffin pan or enough pans to get 24 tarts.  cream the butter with the sugar, salt and vanilla until light.  add the egg and yolk and mix well.  add the flour, cornmeal and baking powder and mix until it comes together.  using a small scoop-size #70, portion the dough by making 24 scoops.  reserve the rest of the dough-roll it into a 6″ log and chill until needed.  shape the tart shells with your fingers by pressing the dough evenly around the inside of the cups of the tin.

using the same scoop, place one scoop of jam into each tart shell.  i made some pineapple jam using about 4 cups of pineapple chunks, 2 cups pineapple juice, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 vanilla bean and 4 thick slices of fresh ginger.  pulse the fruit in the food processor and then combine all ingredients and cook until golden and thickened.

using a ruler, score the dough log into 1/4″ segments.  use a knife to carefully cut the slices of dough.

place one slice of dough on top of each tart and sprinkle with sugar if desired.

bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes.  allow the tarts to rest in the pans for 10-15 minutes.

carefully lift each tart out and place on a rack to cool completely.

thanks to foodbuzz, kelly ripa and electrolux for taking women’s health so seriously by supporting the ovarian cancer research fund.  and ladies, remember to schedule that yearly exam.

something new for #16-homemade marshmallows and a parve s’more tart

like many of you foodies out there, i also look at many other websites and blogs dedicated to food.  in a recent post on food52, i saw an invitation to members of the website to test tart recipes that they are featuring in an editors pick challenge.  since i knew i would be making a pie this week, i quickly committed myself to testing the s’more tart on the list.  little did i know that it was a parve tart.  for those of you who do not know what this means, it is a jewish dietary law that does not allow the mixing of meat and dairy.  anyone who has come from a home with a kosher kitchen understands this-i did not but have had enough exposure to it to know that this was going to be interesting.  how can you make marshmallows without egg whites?  since i have promised an original recipe each week, i am including the link to the recipe from the food52 as well as my nonparve interpretation.

no homemade s’more tart is complete without homemade marshmallows.  i made a small batch using a recipe i found on an interesting website called cooking for engineers.  the recipe is a good reference for someone who has never tackled the task of making fresh marshmallows-like me.  the only suggestion i have to the recipe is to cut the vanilla extract in half.  for my pie, i piped them out into little kisses so that i could arrange them on the top of the pie.  they came out nice with a good texture.  they were a little sticky but i will attribute that to the fact that i did not make them into a slab dusted with cornstarch as suggested in the recipe.
now, for the parve version.  if you follow the link above, you will find yourself looking at a recipe that just might be missing something-especially if you are not familiar with the term parve or the practice of eating a kosher diet.  the recipe is mainly water, sugar and gelatin.   while it looks improbable that the two steps could combine to form a marshmallow like topping, they do and for what it’s worth, it’s pretty close in flavor and texture to the commercially produced stuff available.  keep in mind that most of them are not made with egg whites either-just lots of sugar and gelatin.

i made two small tarts, the parve version is in the rear while the nonparve version is in the forefront.

both were placed under the broiler for a little color-its not a s’more without a toasted marshmallows…

the parve version was made with cookie crumbs (should be non dairy/egg cookies like graham crackers to be truly parve-i did not have any so i pretended) as well as sugar and margarine.  the chocolate ganache filling was a combination of bittersweet chocolate and coconut milk.  it worked out well but it was a little firmer than i prefer for a ganache.  the topping formed a crispy crust under the broiler and was very sticky to cut through-must use a wet knife to do so.  all in all, the flavor was good and the topping was surprisingly like a marshmallow.  would i make this again-not sure.  honestly, we do not have the need to follow a parve diet and since none of us suffer from food allergies to dairy or egg whites(albumen), it is not likely that i would do this.  however, it is nice to know that this can be done just as easily as the non parve version and i am glad to have had the chance to try it out.  at the end of the day, i learned a new technique and that in itself made it worth the effort.

s’more tart
adapted from shoshana of couldn’t be parve and michael chu of cooking for engineers
1 (9″) tart serving 8
1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs-i used a combination of non-dipped biscotti pieces
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, unsalted and melted
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin, about 1 package
2 1/2 tablespoons water
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
in a mixing bowl, combine the cookie crumbs with the 1/3 cup sugar.  add the melted butter and mix well.  press it into a tart pan with a removable bottom.  it is possible to bake this crust to make it crispy but i skipped that step.   heat the coconut milk and heavy cream until it is almost simmering.  place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl, pour the milk/cream over it and let it sit for 5 minutes.  stir until smooth and then scrape it into the tart shell.  place in the fridge to set while you prepare the marshmallows.  
pour the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it.  set aside and proceed with the recipe.  place the sugar, corn syrup, salt and water into a small sauce pan.  bring to a boil, washing down the sides of the pot if necessary and cook to 248 on a thermometer.  remove from the heat, add the gelatin and stir until smooth.  pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and with the whip, whip until fluffy and no longer hot.  add the vanilla and mix well.  using a piping bag, pipe little mounds onto a pan that has been dusted with cornstarch.  let the marshmallows set and when they are no longer soft and sticky, arrange them on top of the tart.  using the broiler or a torch, carefully toast the marshmallows.  use a wet knife to cut the tart.

14 and counting; banana creme brulee tart

what a week it has been…construction, or rather reconstruction, of my house is well underway.  despite the torrential rain of last week, they are almost finished.  the repair of the small section of the foundation required jacking up that part of the house.  luckily, it is an addition and the rest of the house was not affected.  they warned me that walls could crack and that windows could pop out and shater the glass.  no windows shattered but the cracking was unbelievable-every wall is cracked and will need patching.  in the wall just above the repair, it will need new sheetrock since it looks like a road map now.  the good thing, mr. kenmore has recovered and i am baking again-happily!

faced with an ugly bunch of bananas, i decided to try something new.  first i pureed them and then i mixed them into a rich and creamy custard filling. 

the filling was poured into a partially baked tart shell and then it was baked until set.  the results-banana creme brulee tart.

since creme brulee means burned custard, i needed to burn the top of mine.  a thin layer of sugar was sprinkled over the top of the tart.

mr. kenmore assisted by burning the sugar to make a thin and crispy caramelized crust on the top

banana creme brulee tart
1 (9″) tart to serve 8

1 partially baked (9″) tart shell, use any type of crust except one made from crumbs.  my suggestion is to use a dough specifically formulated for tarts.  they usually contain some egg and sugar to make them easier to work with.  for hints on partially baking tart and pie shells, read this previous post.

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chinese five spice powder (or cinnamon)

3/4 cup banana puree, about 2-3 bananas-make sure they are ripe for the best flavor
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup sugar

preheat the oven to 325.  place the tart shell, still in the tart pan, on a sturdy baking tray that will not warp in the oven.  whisk the yolks with the dark brown sugar and the spices.  whisk in the puree and the half and half.  only mix to incorporate, the more you whisk, the more air you incorporate and the less creamy the final texture of the custard will be.  pour into the tart shell and  bake until set, about 20 minutes.  leave the tart in the pan and cool completely.

to make the caramel crust, spread the sugar evenly over the top of the tart so that it is almost a single layer of crystals.  using the broiler or a propane torch (if you have one, which i do not) and carefully melt the sugar.  it will bubble as it gets hot and then will quickly begin to burn.  be careful not to let it burn black or it will be very bitter tasting.  serve immediately, once it sits, for a while, especially in the fridge, the sugar crust melts. 

by the way garrett, i seem to have lost my marbles again…really, i did.  they hit the counter and bounced around the kitchen.  a couple landed in the living room and the cat got at least one.  i also found one in the basement, never a dull moment!

and as always, bake one, take a photo and send it to, and you will see it here.  happy baking!