Easy Bake cOven – Traditional French Desserts

This month’s recipes were chosen by Rebecca, who I’m sure would pack up at any moment and move to France if she thought it at all possible. That said, French desserts are at the top of her list (especially since she has an abnormal disorder… not liking cake) and she chose two to try this month. 



The first, a Clafoutis, which is kind of similar to a dense sponge cake with a layer of berries on the bottom. I made it for a group of friends we were having dinner with this week. I had not planned on making both of the desserts but I had everything on hand to make this the night before our dinner. 


The Clafoutis is very simple to throw together. Thanks to the food processor (or blender) all you really have to do is some measuring and press a button. I’m pretty sure this dessert might be great for all of those people who say repeatedly, “I can’t bake…” so if this sounds like you, give it a try. Your friends will enjoy it. We enjoyed it topped with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. yum. 





I’m not sure how, but this week ended up being incredibly busy. Except for Monday and Friday, we had something planned. I wanted to make the Fruit Tart for Rebecca’s birthday (since she hates cake remember) and I had a time crisis. I sat on the couch Monday night feeling like I might not have time for the tart after our dinner Tuesday night. Something about baking for purpose – for someone – must send me into overdrive because I was able to make a bunch of little Tartlettes for her happy hour celebration. Yes, it would have been much easier for me to make one large tart, but bringing a tart to a bar and slicing it up… and serving it on flimsy paper plates did not sound appealing. Two bite morsels were more appropriate for the situation. 



They turned out incredibly cute (the tiny tarts with two blueberries and one strawberry looked a lot like duck faces) and increased my biceps. So much whisking… my arm… and wrist… almost fell off. It may have been better if they had. All wimpy-ness aside, the pastry cream turned out like it should. Much better than my first attempt at lemon pastry cream about a year ago that killed my food processor. These tartlettes are perfect for a party, and if you have the time you can make everything in advance and assemble just before serving. 


Thanks for choosing a few great recipes Rebecca. Looking forward to next months recipes. Check out the cOven monthly post for the recipes and other posts this month. 


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Daring Bakers – Grapefruit Tian with Vanilla Bean Grapefruit Marmalade

I don’t usually make a dessert solely for me… but selfishly, for this challenge I couldn’t resist. I wanted to make a Grapefruit version of the Orange Tian recipe we were given to use and am happy I did. All morning I nibbled on extra segments of grapefruit, and consumed way too much juice, but it made me happy and what could be better than a happy baker?


The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.


There are a lot of steps to this dessert – even though the final product is fairly simple. A Tian is a layered dish, it can be savory or sweet, but most commonly it is made with vegetables. I chose grapefruit instead of orange because I like it more. I wanted to experiment with the marmalade, so I did some research and decided Vanilla Bean would pair well. I like the way it turned out – a little bitter – a little vanilla-y but mostly good.


The Tian is built with a layer of Pate Sablee (similar to a sweet pastry dough), a layer of marmalade, a thick layer of whipped cream with a little marmalade mixed in, and a layer of fresh fruit. The fruit was supposed to be covered in a caramel made with fruit juice, but I decided to use it only on the top. I may not make this again assembled as a dessert, but combining the marmalade with multiple ingredients is a great idea that I will try again. At least it is pretty and pink.



Here is the recipe if you want to try it… I recommend multiple days of preparation.


For the Pate Sablee:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams


Directions:
Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.



For the Marmalade:

Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams
1 large orange used to make orange slices
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.


Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.


I added the seeds of half a vanilla bean and used 1/3 honey instead of all sugar. You can adjust the sweetness of the marmalade as you go, just make sure to bring it to a boil before you add anything, then lower the heat to maintain the simmer.


For the Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges. (I used 2 grapefruits and sliced the segments in half)

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

[See YouTube video in the References section below for additional information on segmenting oranges.]



For the Caramel:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]



For the Whipped Cream:

Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 tsp Gelatine
1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.

[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]



Assembling the Dessert:

Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Daring Bakers – Tirimisu


Groan…. I have to make it entirely from scratch? Yes, that is what the challenge says, so I read it again and it said the same thing. At the beginning of the month, I was pretty pumped up. I thought making this dessert from scratch (a 2-3 day process) sounded like a really intense challenge I was up for. Towards the end of the month when I actually started the recipe… and realized how long it was going to take… I lost a little of that adrenaline (if you could call it that).


The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.


I started with the Mascarpone Cheese. I have been interested in making a cheese at home since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Animal Vegetable Miracle where she describes this process in detail (and makes you believe you can do it too). The directions for the Mascarpone were not the most descriptive. Maybe I expected too much since making cheese seems so much more scientific than heating heavy cream with lemon juice until it becomes thick like custard. Apparently not. I did struggle to get the cream to a high enough temperature (I later learned that many DBers had the same problem and that you should use stainless steel in the double boiler) and although it was a good thing to try once, I think I would rather just buy it from the store.


Night numero dos, I made the Zabaglione. I didn’t feel like buying a bottle of Marsala (sweet wine kind of like port) and used coffee instead. Again, it took a lot longer than the suggest 8 minute time frame to get this to custard consistency. [insert grumbling about making this from scratch].


Day three. I need a break. Hosting dinner for a small group. Stare into the fridge and check on the Zabaglione and cheese. looks good. I’ve only eaten Tiramisu about three times in my life (never while I was living in Italy) and each of those times, it was so so. Maybe I lost my ambition, maybe I remembered how uninteresting Tiramisu was, mostly I just started running out of nights. I bought store bought Savoiarde. They are imported from Italia (justification) and I would have been late with the challenge if I hadn’t. I was supposed to make the cookies from scratch, but this challenge was really about getting back in the swing of things. It had been a long time since participating in a DB challenge, so cheating a little on this one is good – or else I may have given up.


Day Four. Pastry Cream, Whipped Cream, Assembly. Pastry cream is another of the finicky stove top heating procedures that can make or break a delicate cream. If you heat it too fast, the egg yolk will curdle, too slow, and you’re standing over the stove entirely too long. Mine turned out fine. Whipping cream is always a fun event. The mixer gets to do all the work while you monitor for consistency. Stiff peaks. I prepared the cookie dunking liquid and folded the cream together with my home made Mascarpone (which is actually good) and Zabaglione.

I decided using glasses as my vessel was prettier than the blob that might have happened if I tried it free form. 1 1/2 cookies for each layer with a bit of the cream on top. Dusted with cocoa powder they look so magnificent. I really enjoyed this recipe after tasting it. It was not overpowered by coffee, and I omitted the rum extract, so the mild vanilla/lemon flavors came through nicely. I’m not sure I would go to the trouble of making this again unless I met someone who absolutely adored Tiramisu (and needed one for their birthday).


Mascarpone Cheese

Click the link above for the recipe!

Recipe from Cordon Bleu at Home

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients:
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar,

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the shee

ts and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


Tiramisu

(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post)
This recipe makes 6 servings


For the Zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a stainless bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water. In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the Tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. (If you use store bought cookies dip as fast as you can and let a little of the liquid drain out before placing them in the dish). Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight. To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Thanks M for snapping some of these lovely shots!

Easy Bake cOven – Lemon Bars by Tartine

I have a recipe for lemon bars that I really like. I like to think it was I who brought them back into fashion here in san francisco, but more realistically it was Tartine Bakery. They definitely serve more people in one day than I have possibly my whole “baking career”. Every now and then I thumb through their cookbook when I’m at Therapy (one of the best stores ever) and never quite bring myself to buy a copy. Maybe it’s because I know they are making a killing at their bakery (and newer restaurant) and feel no need to add to their success. But that might be a little harsh…. More likely, a flash of the overstuffed shelf of cookbooks I own enters my mind and I can’t seem to find a place for it. I’m glad Angela chose this recipe for January. Even though I tend to think of lemon bars as a summery dessert – I brought them to life in our kitchen on this sunny Sunday (if only we hadn’t eaten giant souffles for dinner we may have been able to enjoy them).
I was quite intrigued by this recipe. The shortcrust contains pine nuts – which sounded delicious and weird all at the same time. It also said you could use orange zest of a particular variety if available which was also interesting. Lemon bars with pine nuts and orange zest. I did not go searching for this specific orange but did opt to try the pine nuts. I wanted to do the crust a little different though and rather than leaving the nuts whole, I processed them until they resembled fine crumbs and mixed them in to the dough. I also wanted to make them into little tarts so I could experiment with different toppings. My lemon bars were more like mini lemon pies serving 4-6 people. Can’t forget to thank the landlord for having my oven fixed on Friday! I actually thought I might miss the January recipe because of it.
Do I like these more than my own recipe? I can tell you they are different enough to make an easy choose. I like my very simple crunchy crust with just enough lemon to satisfy a craving – but these are a good change. Thick crust and a almost double the amount of filling I would normally use – they were nice with the hint of nuts. The filling was also a little bit creamier than the normal. Very tart with a nice nutty depth of flavor. I might try serving one with chopped toasted pine nuts.
If you would like to try out the recipe from Tartine, find the original post here. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the lemon bars at the cOven blog.

lemon tart


I am first going to apologize for the not so pretty pictures. It was late and the light was not good enough for the point-and-shoot. I don’t have my fancy camera at the moment (and won’t for the whole month!) because my dearest love took it with him to Hawaii for work. Ahh, if only I had to work in Hawaii for a month too…. I know it won’t be all fun and games but it must feel more like summer than San Francisco. The quote is true you know, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” ~ Mark Twain.

Since I am lonesome and it is cold winter here, I invited some girls over for dinner the other night. We had some good bread, good soup, and a fine dessert. I do recommend you visit Sass & Veracity for a wonderful Asparagus soup recipe. (I’ve had some frozen for a while now since I am the only one who eats it). The only things I did differently than the recipe is add a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans and only add 1/4 C (maybe just less) cream vs cream and creme fraiche (what I had on hand). Very good.
I have come to terms with the fact that I am no Pierre Herme. I have not yet learned the fine art of pastry cream but am a willing student. This is my second attempt at this dessert. The first time my food processor broke just before I was able to blend in the butter… needless to say it wasn’t a hit. This one though was rather good. The cream was not as stiff as I think it should be but definitely had a delicate flavor and texture. I should also mention that it is unsafe to hold your pastry crust in one hand while unwrapping it with foil as it is likely to break into pieces, which it did. Luckily we averted disaster because the tart shell broke off in a large chunk. Oh my. Thankfully, I was not being judged on looks! It is nice to have a disaster every now and then. It helps put things in perspective and keep a level head for my perfectionism.
Like I said before, it wasn’t perfect. A little soupier than expected but good. Maybe I’ll try something other than lemon next time to break the curse.

Daring Bakers – Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits.


Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling. The version we made was a combination of the two, shortcrust almond pastry with frangipane and jam.



I was inspired by some photos on the Tartlette blog and decided to make a trip to our own San Francisco Farmer’s Market for fresh blackberries. I wanted to make my own jam for the tart and found the market berries deliciously ripe and ready to become jam. I have never made jam from scratch and found it fairly easy (even though I really didn’t have much of a recipe to follow). No matter the process, the jam turned out well and maybe a little more soupy than jam in a jar.


The Shortcrust pastry is a basic sweet pie crust only it uses eggs and the Frangipane is an almond-sponge. All together the textures form a wonderful dessert. Very interesting – and I believe “Dessert” is key for name here. I served it with unsweetened whipped cream and fresh blackberries. I will definitely be making this a regular dessert because I have a feeling it will very easily change flavors based on seasonal fruit available.



Recipes


Blackberry Jam

1 pint fresh blackberries

2 T Sugar (more to taste)

Squeeze of lime (lemon or orange may substitute)


Combine berries and sugar in a saucepan over medium until berries ‘give up their juice’. This takes between 5-10 minutes. Add citrus juice, continue to cook and stir for an additional 10-15 minutes. At this point the sauce will coat the back of a spoon and the liquid should have cooked down into something that resembles a jam. You may need to add a little cornstarch but is not completely necessary. Set aside to cool. Store excess in the fridge for one week.


Shortcrust Pastry

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water


Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes


Frangipane

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour


Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.



To Assemble

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Lemon Tart… almost


For my friend Rebecca’s Birthday I decided to make her a Tart. She dislikes cake (which I just can’t understand) and has a fondness for tarts that might beat the french. I have never attempted a tart before and was pretty anxious about it – especially since I was
baking for the connoisseur of tarts. I put my faith in Dorie Greenspan and her cookbook to help me through it.

There were a lot of recipes to choose from, but I thought starting with Lemon made sense (don’t ask why). The crust is a basic tart dough – which I can handle – and the filling is a finicky temperature driven, whisking nightmare…. well, maybe not a nightmare but easy enough to mess up. I also don’t have a blender and had to use my food processor for the butter emulsifying step. If only the plumber had not come to fix the slow drain, the tart filling might have turned out…. To sum up a long story, the plumber plugged in his tools in our ancient outlets and blew a fuse (which zapped my food processor and shocked my finger). Unfortunately, I could not complete the last step with the butter. And my food processor is dead. Thankfully our landlord will replace it.

In order not to waste an interesting lemon creme I decided to try and make it into something a little sweeter and lighter. I whipped up some cream and added just a little bit of powdered sugar and vanilla. Raspberries are also a good addition to most lemon dessert so I added some of those too. I made a graham cracker crust and broke it into pieces for the base, added lemon creme, and topped with whipped cream and berries. Result: a very tart and sweet dessert… the kind that makes you shake your head a few times because of the sweetness. Maybe not a successful stand alone dish, but something that you might spread thinly on a slab of pound cake, toast, or really any other similar use for lemon curd. I make a coconut cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese coconut frosting that this would be delicious with.

For now, Rebecca’s dessert will have to wait (she was gracious and understanding with the food processor error). Luckily I have a tart dough waiting in the freezer for the right moment. Maybe after our vacation!