Apricot Almond Tart


Fruit tarts are one of my favorite desserts because there are so many variations and wonderful ways to prepare them.  For me though, it seems they almost always go something like: basic tart dough, creamy filling, and fruit layered on top.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all those variations and I have a long list with many more I’d like to try, but this apricot almond tart was a nice step away from the ordinary.  It’s also very simple.  You still use a basic tart dough, add the fruit, top with an almond cream, and bake.

Personally I would have preferred a slightly sweeter tart dough, but Ben loved this one the way it was.  What I really did love was the almond cream, and the juicy baked apricots, and the combination of the two was delightful.  Warm out of the oven, this was a wonderful treat.  Ben said this was a very French dessert and I couldn’t help but laugh because this is a family recipe of Helene’s and she, in fact, is French!   Another small perk of this tart is the convenience of apricots.  They don’t require peeling and the pits are so easily removed – a definite benefit compared to baking with some other stone fruits.

Apricot Almond Tart
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Ingredients:
For the crust:
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2-4 tbsp. ice water, if needed

For the filling:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
1 cup ground almonds (blanched or slivered)
2 large eggs
¼ cup heavy cream

8-10 apricots, halved and pitted

Directions:
To make the crust, in the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the salt.  Mix in the flour just until incorporated.  Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on low speed, just until the dough comes together.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the center.  Once the dough is well chilled, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and roll out to fit your preferred tart pan.  Transfer the dough to the tart pan and line the pan, pushing the dough into the fluted edges.  Trim off the excess dough and patch any holes as needed.  Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper or foil and fill with baking beads (rice or dried beans will also work).  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is almost completely baked.  Carefully remove the parchment or foil and baking beads.

To make the almond cream, combine the butter, honey, ground almonds, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together until well blended and smooth.  (This can also be done in a food processor.)  Gently fold in the heavy cream with a spatula.  Arrange the apricot halves in the partially baked tart dough.  Pour the almond cream over the fruit so it fills the tart pan evenly.  Bake 25-30 minutes until the almond filling is a light golden brown.  Serve warm with a drizzle of honey, if desired.

Source: barely adapted from Tarlette

Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart


It may not be true of everyone, but most people eat with their eyes first.  This is why I prefer cookbooks that have a picture for every recipe.  Despite my best efforts, I sometimes skip over perfectly lovely recipes because there is no picture to make me realize their potential.  Thankfully this recipe was a recent choice for Tuesdays With Dorie, and after seeing it on blog after blog I couldn’t wait to try it.  I’ve made several desserts combining chocolate and raspberries before, but I don’t think you can ever have too many.  This tart is wonderful for many reasons – rich and chocolatey studded with gorgeous ruby red berries, simple to make yet impressive to look at even without a garnish.  I’m very glad to have it in my repertoire because it is suitable for so many occasions.  Enjoy!

Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
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Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

For the filling:
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2½ tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup (6 oz.) fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried

Directions:
To make the crust, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas.  Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface.  Roll it out evenly until it is large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan and is about 1/8-inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.

Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and baking beads and using a fork, gently poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust.  Bake until the crust is golden, 5-10 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚ F.  Place the tart pan on a baking sheet.

Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Add the chocolate to the bowl and heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted.  Remove from the heat.  Meanwhile, bring the cream and the butter just to a boil.

Pour the cream-butter mixture over the chocolate and let stand 30 seconds.  Whisk together gently until smooth and well combined.  Then stir in the sugar, eggs and egg yolk.  Rap the bowl against the counter gently to break any bubbles that might have formed.

Scatter the berries over the bottom of the crust, then pour the chocolate mixture over the berries.  Bake for about 30 minutes, so that the filling does not jiggle if you tap the pan.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Source: crust from Williams Sonoma, filling from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Chocolate Mousse and Caramel Tart

Are you drooling yet?  Because you should be.  I know anything with the words “chocolate mousse” induce the ol’ Pavlovian response in me, and add caramel to the mix – someone help!  It’s just a no-brainer that this will be good.  The crust is a chocolate tart dough, filled with a layer of homemade caramel and then topped with light and fluffy chocolate mousse.  This is an impressive dessert that truly wasn’t all that difficult to make, and it went over very well with the guests who got to eat it!

The tart dough includes cinnamon which contributes an interesting flavor, but I thought it was a bit overpowering so I have reduced the amount in my version below.   I have also increased the quantity of crust as a whole, because the amount I had to work with just barely fit my standard size tart pan.  The caramel layer has just the right consistency – smooth and thick, but not so hard that you can barely cut into it.  I’ll definitely use this caramel next time I make the chocolate crunched caramel tart.  The recipe is for a milk chocolate mousse so that is what I made, and while I have nothing against milk chocolate, I just think it would be far better with dark chocolate.  I’ve reflected that change below as well, but feel free to use whatever chocolate you would like.  Making the caramel pieces for decoration was fun and easy (though my brother kept calling them “caramel glass pieces” and seemed afraid to eat them!)  Next time I might try making it into fun shapes to make the decorations even more eye-catching.   I recommend making this a day before you plan to serve it, because I thought it tasted better the second day after the flavors had melded.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Mousse and Caramel Tart
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Ingredients:
For the crust:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large egg
2¼ cups cake flour
1¼ tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp. heavy cream

For the caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2½ tbsp. flour

For the chocolate mousse:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1¼ cups heavy cream

For the caramel decoration:
½ cup granulated sugar

Directions:
To make the tart dough, add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Cream on medium speed until smooth.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon.  Blend in the egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Sift in the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt.  Mix just until the dough comes together.  If the dough seems crumbly, mix in 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream until it comes together more easily.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Roll the chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to line a 9-inch round tart pan.  Line the pan, pressing the dough into the fluted edges and trimming off the excess.  Cover with foil and fill with baking beads.  Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven without turning the oven off.

While the crust is baking, make the caramel.  Add the sugar to a medium nonstick saucepan or skillet and heat over medium heat, not stirring, until the sugar begins to melt.  Continue to cook, stirring only occasionally, until the sugar melts completely turns a golden caramel color (test a drop on a white plate to be sure of the color.)  Stir in the cream and butter and mix until smooth.  (If the sugar seizes up when you add the liquid, just keep cooking and stirring until the hardened sugar melts again.  It can take a while.)  Set the mixture aside to cool down a bit.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk and flour.  Add a small amount of the caramel mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs.  Whisk in the remainder of the caramel mixture.  Pour the mixture into the partially baked crust and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Once it has cooled to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

To make the chocolate mousse, melt the chocolate in a double boiler until smooth.  Set aside to cool.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat!)  Gently fold the melted chocolate into the whipped cream until smooth and well incorporated.  Pipe the chocolate mousse over the caramel layer, covering it completely.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

To make the caramel decoration, add the sugar to a small nonstick skillet or saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, not stirring, until the sugar begins to melt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, just until all the sugar is melted and has reached an amber color.  Pour the caramel onto a piece of wax paper laid out on a flat surface in a thin layer.  Once the caramel has hardened completely, break into pieces and use them to garnish the tart.

Source: adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, originally from Sweet and Savory Tarts

Strawberry Tartlettes

These sweet little strawberry tarlettes are the perfect dessert if you are looking for something quick yet impressive.  The buttery crust combined with the fresh berries is a match made in heaven.  These were inspired by Dorie’s recipe for La Palette’s strawberry tart but instead I used my favorite basic tart dough and made them into mini tarts.  Beyond making the tart dough, there is very little other work required – just cutting up some strawberries and mixing them with a bit of sugar.  Making the tart dough is a breeze as well if you use your stand mixer like I do!  I got five tartlettes out of one batch, but I’m sure you could get six if you rolled your dough a bit thinner.  This is a wonderful light and summery dessert, and while they are fantastic on their own, they are also wonderful topped with a bit of freshly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

Strawberry Tarlettes
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Ingredients:
For the tart dough:
For the crust:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

For the filling:
Fresh strawberries, halved or quartered (1 quart would be plenty)
Sugar (optional)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Good quality strawberry jam 

Directions:
To make the tart dough, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas.  Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 ° F.  When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface.  Roll it out evenly, about 1/8-inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the tartlette pans, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.  Reroll any excess dough to line the remaining pans.

Place the tartlette pans on a baking sheet.  Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill each pan with baking beads.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400° F.  Remove the foil and baking beads and return to the oven to bake until the shells are golden and completely baked, 5-10 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the filling, toss the strawberries in a bowl with sugar, if needed.  Add a small squeeze of lemon juice and toss to mix.  In the cooled tart shells, add a tablespoon or two of strawberry jam – just enough to cover the bottom of the shell with a thin layer.  Top with the fresh strawberry mixture to completely fill the shells.  Serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.  

Source: inspired by Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, tart dough from Williams Sonoma

Fresh Fruit Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

A week ago I went on vacation with my family to our favorite spot in South Carolina.  We had a truly wonderful trip and Andrew got to experience the ocean for the first time.  We had quite a large group along with us, and though the island had many options for dining out, most nights I made dinner for the whole crowd (10 people!)  This was a great arrangement for several reasons – one, I probably would have gone crazy not cooking for a week, two – it was a nice way for us to all reconnect at the end of the day, and three – it was much, much cheaper than eating out.  One of the evenings I made this dessert as a sweet end to our evening.  And oh, how sweet it was.  I’ve made fruit tarts before and they have always been good, but this was just incredible.  I have a basic recipe for tart dough that I use all the time, but since I normally make it in my stand mixer which was not available to me, I decided to give this version a try.  It was fabulous – great texture and deliciously sweet.  But the show-stopper was the pastry cream.  Oh.My.Gosh.  It was so so so amazing.  It took all of my will power to not just eat the whole batch and pretend that I had planned no dessert for that evening.  Combined with the beautiful fresh fruit, this was a wonderful light summer dessert and it was devoured in a matter of minutes. 


Cooking or baking in an unequipped kitchen can be quite difficult when you have become accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of certain appliances or gadgets.  Though trying, I think it can also be good to get back to the basics and remind yourself of alternate techniques (such as cutting together a pastry dough using a fork and knife rather than a food processor or mixer, separating eggs with the shell, etc.)  It can also remind you that even simple desserts such as a fruit tart can be just as elegant and scrumptious as something more complex.  This would be great with just about any combination of fruit, but I loved this particular variation because of the gorgeous colors.  Normally I glaze the fruit with a bit of jam as recommended, but I wasn’t going to buy a jar on vacation just for that, so I skipped it.  Wouldn’t change a thing about this, and definitely can’t wait to make it again!

Fresh Fruit Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream
Ingredients:
For the tart dough:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
2 large kiwis, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
6-9 oz. raspberries
1/2-1 cup blueberries
Apple jelly, for glazing

Directions:
To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.  Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Process briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses.  With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours. 

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)  Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan.  Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.  

Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a  fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To assemble the tart, spread the cold pastry cream evenly over the bottom of the tart shell.  Arrange the fruit on top of the pastry cream as desired.  Heat the jelly in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, just until slightly melted and easy to stir.  Using a pastry brush, paint a light layer of jelly over the fresh fruit.  Serve.

Source: adapted from Baking Illustrated

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

Last week was a very busy week for us.  We had commitments almost every single evening so I did not do much cooking of actual meals, but I did make a LOT of desserts!  So, for a few days, my blog is going to be full of all things sweet – yay!  One evening we had dinner at Ben’s grandmother’s house.  She provided dinner so I offered to bring dessert.  I had several ideas and I just could not decide which thing to make, so I asked Ben what he would prefer.  As I read the titles off to him, as soon as I said, “Chocolate caramel…” he said, “That one!”  Consisting of a short crust pastry base, a layer of homemade caramel mixed with honey roasted peanuts, topped by a thick layer of chocolate ganache, I should have known this would be his choice since he absolutely loves anything with caramel.  

 

I was surprised by how quickly this all came together.  I have been wanting to make this tart for quite some time but kept putting it off because it seemed complicated or time-intensive.  It is certainly more complicated than a fruit and cream tart, but not terribly so.  I was nervous about making the caramel, but Dorie’s clear instructions helped it go smoothly.  This is another recipe where an instant-read thermometer was very helpful, because it took all the guesswork out of cooking the caramel.  As soon as I stirred in the chopped peanuts, the caramel seemed to harden a bit.  Several very brief bursts in the microwave got it back to spreading consistency and I was able to get it into the tart shell with no problem.  The rest of the assembly was without incident and I stored it at room temperature as indicated.  However, when it came time to serve the tart, the caramel layer seemed very hard and I was worried it would be inedible.  It took a bit of elbow grease (and a good sharp knife) to cut, but it actually ended up cutting quite nice slices.  The caramel makes it essentially impossible to eat with a fork, so we just picked it up and ate it like slices of pizza…and it was really good!  It was definitely a hit all around and I had multiple requests for the recipe.  Sounds like a winner to me!

Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
Ingredients:
For the tart shell:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

For the caramel layer:
Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
Pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter) 

3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped 

For the ganache:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

Directions:
To make the tart shell, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas.  Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface.  Roll it out evenly until it is large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan and is about 1/8-inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.  

Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Remove the foil and baking beads and using a fork, gently poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust.  Bake until the crust is golden, 15-20 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Before making the caramel, make sure that you have all the ingredients measured out and ready to go because you have to work quickly once the sugar caramelizes.  Also have a medium heatproof bowl at hand to hold the hot caramel.  

To make the caramel, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, to medium heat and sprinkle in about 3 tablespoons of the sugar.  When it melts, stir it with a wooden spatula or a fork and sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons.  When that sugar is melted, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  The sugar in the pan may already have started to color and that is fine.  Stir in the corn syrup and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep caramel color – it will probably begin to smoke, and that is normal.

Bring the simmering cream to a full boil.  Stand back from the skillet and stir in the butter and salt, if you’re using it.  The caramel will bubble furiously and may spatter, so be careful.  When the butter is in, add the warm cream – the caramel will bubble furiously again.  Lower the temperature just a tad and let the caramel boil for just 2 minutes.  (If you check the temperature with a thermometer, the caramel should be at 226 degrees F.)  Pour the seething caramel into the heatproof bowl and set it aside while you make the ganache.

To make the ganache, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or rubber spatula at hand.  Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds.  Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles.  Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion.  When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don’t stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients – the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be.

Cover the ganache with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the chocolate to create an airtight seal.  Set aside at room temperature for the moment.  To assemble the tart, stir the peanuts into the caramel using a rubber spatula.  If the caramel is too thick to stir or spread easily, gently warm it in the microwave in 3-second spurts.  (You can also hold the heatproof bowl about 10 inches above the burner on your range.  Check the consistency after a couple of seconds and repeat if necessary.)  Spread the caramel over the bottom of the tart shell in a thin layer.  Refrigerate the tart for 15 minutes to set the caramel.

Check the ganache.  If it has thickened and is no longer pourable, warm it in the same way as instructed for the caramel above.  Pour the ganache over the caramel and jiggle the tart pan to even it.  Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes but no longer, and then keep it at room temperature until serving time. 

Source: adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Blackberry Tart with Honey Mascarpone Filling

Each week when I do the grocery shopping, I make a routine stop in the berry section and check to see if there are any good sales going on.  I just love berries and can’t get enough of them, so if I find them on sale I grab them up as fast as I can.  Last week I gave the signs my customary glance and saw “Blackberries – $1.00”.  I did a double-take – wait, really?  $1.00??  Yes, please!  I grabbed several containers and immediately knew I would be making this tart.  I headed straight over to the specialty cheese section to pick up the mascarpone, and shortly thereafter the tart was ready to be eaten.

This tart really exceeded my expectations.  I figured it would be like any other berry tart I’ve ever had.  Which definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I was hoping for a new twist and this definitely delivered.  I used my standard tart dough recipe, which was delicious as always.  The filling was wonderful – the mascarpone and sour cream gave it a more interesting flavor that regular cream cheese, and the honey really came through.  If you are scared of the sour cream in the filling, don’t be.  I love sour cream on Mexican food but in baking it always makes me a bit leery, particularly in this context where the only sweetener is honey.  It was great though, and you definitely could not identify the taste of the sour cream itself.  I used honey from a local honey farm because I think it can make a big difference in the flavor, but I’m sure this would be great no matter what kind of honey you have on hand.  Of course the berries were still the star of the show, as they should be.  If we had less discipline, this would have been devoured in one night.

Blackberry Tart with Honey Mascarpone Filling
Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes 

For the filling:
2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch ground nutmeg

For the topping:
Fresh blackberries (I used about 12 oz.)

Directions:
To make the crust, in a small bowl stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas.  Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  When you are ready to roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll out with a floured rolling pin, lifting and turning the dough occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the work surface.  Roll it out evenly until it is large enough to line a 9-inch tart pan and is about 1/8-inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it into the sides, and trim to remove the excess.  

Cover the dough with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Remove the foil and baking beads and using a fork, gently poke holes in the bottom and sides of the crust.  Bake until the crust is golden, 15-20 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the filling, combine the mascarpone, sour cream, and honey in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until smooth.  Mix in the vanilla extract and nutmeg.

Spread the filling into the cooled tart shell and smooth the top with a spatula.  Top with fresh blackberries.  Transfer to a serving platter.  Store in the refrigerator.

Source: tart dough adapted from Williams Sonoma, filling adapted from Good Egg

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: We’re Almost Doctors! Celebratory Dinner

I decorated the table with our school colors, cream and crimson.  Go IU!

I decorated the table with our school colors, cream and crimson. Go IU!

 

Last week on March 19, senior medical students all around the country learned where we would be going for our residency training.  It was an exciting day for myself as well as my friends!  Amazingly, in my group of close friends, every single one of us ended up matching here in Indianapolis.  We have a wide range of specialties represented within our group – psychiatry, OB/GYN, pathology, ENT, anesthesia, family medicine and neurosurgery!  I am so proud of us all for making it through medical school and getting our first jobs as M.D.s, so a celebration was clearly in order.  

For a formal yet fun touch, I made Doctor place cards for each person.

For a formal yet fun touch, I made "Doctor" place cards for each person.

Since reaching this milestone is a huge accomplishment for us, I decided to make the event accordingly fancy.  And, since champagne is the signature drink of celebratory affairs, I created a menu with lots of delicious food including a few items incorporating the bubbly beverage.  

The menu was as follows:
Blackberry Champagne Cocktails
Chicken-Stuffed Mushrooms
Caprese Tarts
Spinach Salad with Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette
Lobster Ravioli in a Champagne Cream Sauce
Chocolate Raspberry Tarlettes

It is safe to say, everyone thoroughly enjoyed this meal.  From the champagne cocktails to the last bite of dessert, everything turned out very well and went together nicely.  This dinner felt like a real achievement for me because I came up with several of the recipes on my own with no real recipe to go by.  A lack of recipe used to terrify me to the core, but now I am a much more confident cook and it turns out I do pretty well coming up with things myself.  I did take careful notes while I cooked though, so that I could share the recipes with you!   It wasn’t easy to get good photos before the food was gobbled up, but I did my best.

Blackberry Champagne Cocktails

These champagne cocktails were a perfect specialty drink for the evening.  Some sugar cubes, a touch of blackberry puree and a few fresh berries made for a delicious and pretty beverage.

Blackberry Champagne Cocktails
Ingredients:
Sugar cubes
Blackberries (fresh or frozen), for puree
Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
Fresh blackberries, for garnish

Directions:
Place 1-2 sugar cubes in the bottom of each champagne flute.  Puree fresh or frozen blackberries in a blender or food processor.  Strain through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds.  Fill flutes with chilled champagne.  Top each glass with a tablespoon or so of the blackberry puree and garnish with two fresh blackberries. 

Source: inspired by Williams Sonoma
 

Chicken-Stuffed Mushrooms

A few weeks ago Ben and I had dinner at a local winery and had chicken-stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer.  They were fantastic and so I decided to try to recreate them at home.  My regular stuffed mushrooms are a favorite among my friends, and these are now a favorite as well.   (I apologize for the poor photo, but these were almost completely gone before I could even get a shot of them!)

Chicken-Stuffed Mushrooms
Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic
2 chicken breasts, cooked (I poached them)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Black pepper
Stuffing mushrooms (I used about 30)

Directions:
Place garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until finely minced.  Cut chicken breasts into large cubes and add to the food processor.  Add cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to the bowl as well.  Process in pulses until the chicken is cut to very small pieces.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Clean the mushrooms gently.  Remove the stems from the caps, and chop the stems finely.  Add some of the chopped stems to the chicken mixture, if desired.  Fill each mushroom cap with the chicken mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Serve warm.

Source: me! (Annie’s Eats) 
 

Caprese Tarts

I am of the mind that basically anything with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil can’t be bad.  So I took some squares of puff pastry and added the three magical ingredients for a quick, easy and delicious appetizer.  These went quickly as well, so quickly that I didn’t even get to taste one myself.  I heard they were very good though! 

Caprese Tarts
Ingredients:
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly
Fresh mozzarella cheese, diced 
Fresh basil, minced 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Using a round biscuit cutter, cut rounds of puff pastry.  Transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush the puff pastry rounds lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Top each round with sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.  Serve warm.

Source: me! (Annie’s Eats) 

Spinach Salad with Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette

I love spinach salads, but traditionally I am not a huge fan of sweet salad dressing.  I have had strawberry spinach salads in the past and enjoyed them, but this salad was in a class of its own.  I LOVED it!  I think that the strawberry puree as the dressing rather than strawberry slices really makes it perfect because there is strawberry in every bite.  The dried cranberries and apple slices on top were excellent as well.  I will be making this again and again!

Spinach Salad with Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
For the vinaigrette:
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
2 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. Champagne
1 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt

For the salad:
Baby spinach leaves

For topping:
Chopped walnuts, toasted
Dried cranberries
Green apples, thinly sliced 

Directions:
To make the vinaigrette, combine the strawberries, apple cider vinegar, champagne, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Store in an airtight container.

To make the salad, place some baby spinach in a bowl.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Add more dressing if needed.  

Transfer individual serving portions of the spinach to salad plates.  Top each portion with a few chopped toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and a few slices of green apple.

Source: inspired by Epicurious 

Lobster Ravioli in Champagne Cream Sauce

Lobster Ravioli in Champagne Cream Sauce

Since this was such a special occasion, I wanted an entree that was worthy.  Lobster immediately came to mind, but I’m not made of money so serving whole lobster to 10 guests was just not an option.  This lobster ravioli with champagne cream sauce seemed the perfect solution.  I used four lobster tails and wanted to make sure that the filling would go far enough to make ravioli for 10 people, yet I also wanted to be sure that the lobster flavor was prominent and not overshadowed by the other filling components.  I think I really achieved the right balance with these and will definitely make them again.

I made the ravioli a couple days in advance of the party and froze them.  Then just before dinner all I had to do was toss them in the boiling water and cook for a few minutes.  This really helped free up the day of the party so I could focus on other tasks.  The sauce was excellent as well.  Unfortunately my recipe for the sauce is not very exact because dinner was stalled by a couple late arrivals, and I kept having to make alterations and additions to ensure that the sauce came out okay.  I will give the best description I can, hopefully it will do! 

Lobster Ravioli in a Champagne Cream Sauce
Yield: about 70 ravioli

Ingredients:
4 lobster tails
4 tbsp. butter
3-4 shallots, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 oz. cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2 1/2-3 batches homemade pasta

For the sauce:
6 tbsp. butter, divided
2 shallots, finely minced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. tomato puree
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup Champagne
3 tbsp. flour
Heavy cream

Directions:
Remove the meat from the lobster tails.  Roughly chop and set aside.  In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and saute for a few minutes.   Add the chopped mushrooms and saute a few minutes more.  Once the shallots are tender, add the lobster meat to the skillet and cook, stirring, just until cooked through (this only takes a few minutes).  When the lobster is cooked, transfer the mixture to a cutting board and chop fine with a large knife.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add the ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Roll out pasta into long sheets.   Scoop a couple teaspoons of the lobster filling and roll into a ball.  Place on one sheet of the pasta.  Continue topping with filling balls every few inches.  Once the sheet is covered with filling balls, lay another long sheet of pasta over the top.  Press the top sheet down and mold around the filling balls (if the sheets don’t stick together easily, wet your finger with water or egg and brush lightly between the two sheets).  Cut the ravioli into desired shapes with a pastry or ravioli cutter.  Repeat this process until the remaining filling and/or pasta is used up.  

(At this point, you can cook the ravioli in boiling water or freeze them.)

If freezing, transfer finished ravioli to a lightly floured surface and allow to dry for 30-60 minutes.  Place in a plastic freezer bag and freeze until ready to cook.  To cook, drop frozen ravioli into boiling water and boil until cooked to your liking (about 7-9 minutes).  

To make the sauce, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  Add the shallots and carrots and saute until the shallots are tender.  Add the tomato puree to the skillet, stir, and cook until the tomato has begun to caramelize a bit, 2-3 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock and champagne and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to reduce to about 1/3.  Once the sauce has reduced, in small saucepan melt the 3 tablespoons of remaining butter.  Add the flour and whisk, cooking 2-3 minutes to form a roux.  Add the roux to the skillet and mix well.  Whisk in heavy cream until sauce has reached the desired consistency (I also added in more champagne at this point).  Pass the sauce through a strainer to remove the carrots and shallots.  Serve warm atop the ravioli. 

Source: inspired by Fotocuisine 
 

Chocolate Raspberry Tartlettes

I originally had a completely different dessert planned for this party, but after I started making it I quickly realized it wasn’t going to work out.  I decided to cut my losses and make something else.  These little cuties have been on my list to try forever, and they fit all the requirements of what I was looking for – something chocolate, personalized, and something I already had all the ingredients for.  Honestly, I am kind of glad that my original plan did not work out because these were phenomenal.  The crust was light and buttery, the chocolate filling was smooth and perfectly accompanied by the raspberries.  I considered skipping the raspberry jam underneath the chocolate filling but it was a delicious addition so I would recommend using it.  What a great way to finish off a great meal!

Chocolate Raspberry Tartlettes
Yield: 10 (3 1/2 to 4 inch) tartlettes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 recipes basic tart dough
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
Fresh raspberries, for topping

Directions:
Roll out the tart dough and use it to line 10 mini-tart pans (yield may vary depending on the size of pans you use – mine were 4 inches).  Trim off any excess dough.  Refrigerate the shells until firm, about 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Place the mini tart pans on a baking sheet for easy transfer.  Line each shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with baking weights.  Bake until the shells are pale gold, about 15 minutes.  Remove the weights and the foil and continue to bake until the shells are golden, about 5 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

In the top pan of a double boiler over simmering water, combine the butter, chocolate, and corn syrup.  Melt and stir until smooth.  Remove from the heat. 

Spread a few teaspoons of raspberry jam in the bottom of each shell.  Fill as full as possible with the chocolate mixture.  Let the filled tartlettes stand at room temperature until set, 1 to 2 hours.  Before serving, top each tarlette with fresh raspberries.  

Source: adapted from Williams Sonoma

French Pear Tart

french-pear-tart

The second birthday honoree in our celebration of birthday month (in chronological order) is my friend Rob.  Rob is quite the foodie himself – a fantastic cook and a wine connoisseur.  Any time he invites us over for dinner I am very excited to taste whatever wonderful dish he has decided to prepare.  In particular, Rob enjoys French food and cooking, so I wanted to make a French dessert as his birthday treat.  Many ideas crossed my mind but too many of them required special equipment, last minute finishing, or just weren’t quite special enough.  I decided on this tart since it is the season for pears, and I am glad I did.  The almond cream was a fantastic accompaniment for the pears, and everyone commented on how much they enjoyed this.  I made the sweet tart dough that Dorie recommends and while it was good, I still prefer my usual go-to tart dough recipe more, so next time I will use that instead.  I used fresh poached pears, but you can use fresh unpoached or canned as you desire.  My pears were a bit misshapen, preventing me from making the beautiful spoked design with the fruit as I imagined, but it ended up looking alright.

French Pear Tart
Ingredients:
For the pears:
6 canned pear halves, drained, or 3 ripe but firm medium pears (such as Bartlett or Anjou)

For poaching the fresh pears (optional):
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

For the almond cream:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 egg
2 tsp. dark rum or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 9-inch tart shell, partially baked and cooled

Directions:
To poach the fresh pears, peel the pears and leave them whole.  Combine the water, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat to a simmer and gently poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool to room temperature in the syrup.  When you are ready to use the pears, discard the syrup.

To make the almond cream, combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the mixture is smooth and satiny.  Add the ground almonds and process until well blended.  Add the flour and cornstarch and process to blend, then add the egg.  Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is homogeneous.  Add the rum and process just to blend.  Use the cream immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  If using fresh unpoached pears, peel them now.  Cut the poached or unpoached fresh pears in half from blossom to stem and core them.  Rub the unpoached pears with lemon juice.  Pat the fresh or canned pears dry so that their liquid won’t keep the almond cream from setting.

Fill the partially baked tart shell with the almond cream, spreading it in an even layer.  thinly slice each pear half crosswise.  Lay the slices in an overlapping, fanned pattern on top of the almond cream, covering the top completely.  Put the tart pan on a baking sheet.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the almond cream puffs up around the pears and browns.  Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool.  Just before serving, dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar.

Source: adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Nectarine, Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart

This recipe immediately caught my eye when I saw it in my Google Reader.  I love it because it is a creative spin on the traditional fruit tart with a slightly different filling and crust.  And this was the perfect time to make it, as nectarines were $0.88/lb at the grocery store!  We had Ben’s family over for dinner last weekend.  After a delicious summery meal of chicken and veggie subs on the grill, grilled corn on the cob and fresh watermelon, this was the perfect dessert.  Everyone really enjoyed it (and Ben and I really enjoyed the leftovers!)  I thought all the flavors really complemented each other well, and I especially liked the hint of lemon in the filling.  Delicious!

Nectarine, Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart

Ingredients:

For the crust:

37 gingersnap cookies, coarsely broken (about 9 oz. or 3 ¼ cups plus 2 tbsp. pieces)

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

 

For the filling:

1 8-oz. container mascarpone cheese

6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp. lemon zest

¼ tsp. vanilla extract

 

For the topping:

4 to 5 small nectarines, halved, pitted, and cut into thin slices

¼ cup peach jam, warmed

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Finely grind gingersnaps in the food processor.  Add butter and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened.  Press mixture over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch diameter tart pan with a removable bottom.  Bake crust until color darkens, pressing sides with back of a spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes.  Cool completely.

 

Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.  Spread filling in the prepared crust.  Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

 

Overlap nectarine slices on top of the filling in concentric circles.  Brush with jam.  Serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours. 

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen