Entries from July 24th, 2009

Key Lime Meringue Tarts

July 24th, 2009 · 31 Comments · Recipes, Tarts

Tarttriobyanitachudessertfirst

You know what I just realized? I don't think I've ever done a post on pie crust! Not that I have anything against pies – one of my most vivid memories of childhood summers was my mom bringing home fresh strawberry pies from the local bakery – but I'm afraid the French pastry-centric schooling I got, as well as my personal obsession with pâte sucrée and tart crust, has led to pies getting less attention than they deserve in my kitchen.

It seems like I'll need to rectify this omission in the future – sorry to say, it won't be in this post. I'm sure you can tell from looking at the photo that this is another tart post – but it's a really delicious tart post, I assure you!

These little tartlets are my take on another treasured pastry memory – Miette's key lime meringue tart. Miette is a fixture of the San Francisco pastry scene; their retro-chic, French-inspired confections have been the sweet ending to many a soiree, and, of course, I love their pastel color scheme!

Although Miette is famed for their princess cakes and French macarons, one of my favorite discoveries from their shop is their key lime meringue tart, a sophisticated version on key lime pie (I guess they are tart-over-pie fans, as well?)

Limezestbyanitachudessertfirst

I've made traditional key lime pie before, with the crumbled graham cracker crust, and the filling of eggs, condensed milk, and key lime juice. Miette's take features a lime cream, which seems like a lime curd to me, in a crisp graham cracker tart crust, topped with a dollop of meringue frosting.

What I really liked was how cleanly and intensely all the elements played off each other, each bite of the super-tart key lime filling mellowed with the sugary, pillowy meringue, the not-too-sweet base grounding all it with a touch of spice.

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I was finally inspired to come up with my own home version, which I'm happy to say has become a favorite of the boyfriend – and, I'm pretty sure, anyone who enjoys tangy, zesty desserts. The lime curd is basically a modified version of my favorite lemon curd recipe, and is spoon-licking good all on its own. The brown sugar, honey, and cinnamon crust is very similar to making graham crackers – in fact, if you just roll out the dough and cut it into rectangles, it will bake into wonderful crackers, ready for S'mores or anything else. The topping is made similar to many 7-minute frostings and results in a nice, marshmallowy mass that pipes into beautiful little dollops; with a little bit of browning from the kitchen torch, you've got yourself some nicely topped tartlets!

As a final note, I think another reason I like these little guys so much is that they're a perfect fusion of European and American – while the pastry techniques may be French, the flavors are definitely American, giving this dessert a very fresh and modern feel. Enjoy!

Tartsonplatebyanitachudessertfirst 


Graham Cracker Tart Shells

makes about 16 3-in square tart shells

1 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup honey

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream the butter in an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the sugars and continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and light colored, about 3 minutes.

Add the honey and beat until combined.

Combine the flours, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl, and add to the butter mixture in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

Mix until the dough is well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and form into a disk – the flatter the better. Chill until firm, at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to be 1/8 inch thick. Cut out squares of dough to fit your desired tins.

Press the dough gently into the tins, prick dough with a fork all over, and let chill for 5-10 minutes or until the dough is firm enough to trim off the excess easily.

Bake tart shells until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. You can store them in an airtight container for about a day or freeze them for up to 3 months.

Key Lime Curd

adapted from Pierre Hermé's Desserts

makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup key lime juice

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces, softened but not melting

Create a water bath by placing a saucepan of water over heat to simmer.

Whisk together the sugar and eggs in a metal bowl. Whisk in the key lime juice.

Place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom does not touch the water. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until the curd reaches 180 degrees and thickens. Keep whisking while the mixture is heating up to prevent the eggs from cooking.

Take the curd off the heat and strain it into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Let the curd rest for a bit until it cools to about 140 degrees.

Add in the butter pieces a few at the time and combine on high speed. Once all of the butter has been added, let the mixture combine for a few minutes longer to ensure the mixture is perfectly smooth.

Pour curd into a container and let it chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour before assembly.

Swiss Meringue Frosting

1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.

Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.

Beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about another 5 to 10 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to combine.

You can now scrape the frosting into a piping bag to pipe, or simply dollop onto cupcakes. Use a brulee torch to brown the meringue.

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Making the Most of Mistakes: Strawberry, Rose, and Coconut Sorbet Sandwiches

July 17th, 2009 · 17 Comments · Cookies, Ice Cream, Recipes

Strawberryrosesandwichesbyanitachudessertfirst

Ok, I have a confession to make. Actually, two. Remember when I made these mango coconut verrines a few weeks ago? Well, they were supposed to have these little discs of coconut dacquoise nestled inside the layers as a crunchy surprise. So I made these dacquoise discs a day in advance, and kept them in a nice dry place so they wouldn’t go all soggy.

However, (first confession) it turned out the new dessert glasses I got were even itty-bittier than I thought they would be – way too small to fit the dacquoise in. So I set them aside, thinking maybe I could cut them down to fit. I went to finish making the coconut cream, and – here’s the second confession – I forgot all about the dacquoise. I got all caught up in carefully the coconut and mango into the shiny new glasses, and decorating the tops just so, and it wasn’t until I was getting ready to take photos, that I saw the plate of dacquoise sitting, quietly neglected, off in the corner.

Well, nothing to be done at that point but to keep going with the verrines. But, you know in the pastry world (and culinary world) there’s a mantra that nothing gets wasted. You always find a way to use up some leftover ganache, extra fruit, bit of pastry cream – sometimes the best inspiration comes out of pulling stray components out of the refrigerator, leftovers-style, and letting your imagination roam free.

So I put my little dacquoise discs into a container, set it prominently on my kitchen table and left them alone for a day (the great thing about these dacquoise is that they can last quite a while, stored properly). I came back the following morning, looked in the refrigerator, saw a bunch of strawberries I hadn’t eaten yet, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted to make a strawberry sorbet, and I wanted to use the coconut dacquoise as end-pieces to make little sorbet sandwiches. And then I decided to throw some rosewater in, just to tie all the flavors together. It feels so good when inspiration strikes, you know?

Strawberryrosesorbet2byanitachudessertfirst

Back to the titular characters of this story, the coconut dacquoise: They are adapted from a recipe that originally had the dacquoise piped out into full side circles, to use as a base for fresh fruit. I really like dacquoise as a alternative to the traditional pâte sucrée tart crust; the flavor possibilities are boundless and the ability to pipe it into various shapes give it a lot of versatility. This coconut-infused version reminds me of a lighter, crispier version of a coconut macaroon: the important thing with dacquoise, as with all meringue-based recipes, is to be sure to bake it enough that it thoroughly dries out, to prevent it from turning soggy and sticky later. I live in California, where it’s fairly dry, so I have a pretty easy time of it: if you live in more humid climes, keep these in a airtight container to preserve their freshness longer.

The strawberry rose sorbet is a new creation for me that I’m quite enamoured with: strawberry sorbet has always been a summertime pleasure for me, and I wanted to up a complexity a tad by adding a hint of rose. The scientist in me couldn’t resist experimenting, and I actually made two batches, one with rosewater, and one with rose syrup, since the two are often called out interchangeably in recipes these days.

My preference was the strawberry and rosewater sorbet: Just about a tablespoon of rosewater gave a subtle, enchanting floral note to the strawberry – I could even smell it in the sorbet. Rose syrup, while equally rosey in scent, has a heavier, sweeter taste, since it’s basically a rose-infused sugar syrup. It made my sorbet a little too one-dimensionally sweet, and the rose flavor didn’t stand out as much. If I used it again, I’d probably dial back on the sugar added to compensate for the sweetness of the syrup. The syrup did make the sorbet an almost preternatural shade of red, though; I wondered if it would leave my mouth stained like the rocket pops from the ice cream truck did. (The answer is no, by the way).

Like most homemade sorbets, this one is best eaten fresh out of the ice cream maker, when it’s so soft and lushly textured it’s like spreadable summer. Most sorbets tend to freeze rather hard in a couple of days, since they are mostly water and there isn’t much fat to keep the sorbet soft and creamy. I can’t imagine this lasting long, anyways: to me, sorbets seem so much more ephemeral than ice creams; they’re meant to be enjoyed, fleetingly, dripping down your chin and then gone.

Cocooned between coconut dacquoise, the sorbet turns into a sweet little after-dinner nibble. They almost look like macarons, don’t they? Who says that good things can’t come out of mistakes?

 

:Bittensorbetsandwichbyanitachudessertfirst

Coconut Daqcuoise

1 ounce ground blanched almonds

4 ounces confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 1/2 ounces grated coconut

5 ounces egg whites

1 3/4 ounces sugar

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line several baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Combine ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar together in a medium bowl.

Add in coconut and stir to combine.

Place egg whites in a stand mixer and whisk on medium speed until they become foamy.

Add in half the sugar and the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form.

Add in the rest of the sugar and whisk until peaks are stiff.

Scrape out meringue into a large bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold the coconut mixture a bit at a time into the meringue until combined.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry tip fitted with a round tip. Pipe small rounds onto the prepared sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes until dacquoise are golden and firm and dry to the touch.

Let cool before using.

 

Strawberry Rose Sorbet

Makes 1 quart

1 pint fresh strawberries

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

Wash and hull the strawberries. Place in a food processor and puree until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Combine the pureed strawberries in a bowl with the sugar and 1/4 cup water. Stir in the rosewater, lemon juice, and salt.

Refrigerate the mixture overnight.

Freeze in an ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions.

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Apricot, Orange, and Almond Mini Cakes

July 10th, 2009 · 17 Comments · Books, Cakes, Cookbooks, Recipes

Miniapricotalmondcakes1

Remember the chocolate salon I mentioned attending a couple of months ago? Not only was it a great place to meet chocolatiers both celebrated and up-and-coming, but also of course to meet fellow chocoholics.

One person I was extremely excited to meet was esteemed pastry chef and cookbook author Carole Bloom. The "Carole Bloom section" on my bookshelf has grown steadily over the years: The International Dictionary of Desserts, Pastries, and Confections is indispensable for deciphering the complexities of pastry terminology, while The Essential Baker is a fantastic resource for ingredient-specific baking inspirations.

Carole was a speaker at the salon; when she learned I was also speaking, she very sweetly contacted me and suggested we meet up beforehand. How exciting to get the opportunity to meet someone whose work I'd admired!

In person, Carole is warm and personable, generous with sharing stories and tips. It's easy to tell that she's experienced in baking and in explaining it to the curious beginner. I'd love to take a class from her sometime, or just watch her in action!

Carole mentioned her new book which was about to come out, Bite-Size Desserts: Creating Mini Sweet Treats, from Cupcakes and Cobblers to Custards and Cookies, and very kindly offered to send me a review copy. A few weeks after the salon, I found a shiny new copy of her book in my mailbox – thanks so much, Carole!

Bite-Size Desserts is an adorably named, very attractively produced book with some seriously scrumptious recipes. Any reader who goes through my site will quickly realize I have a predilection of miniature desserts; individual portions can be fun to put together, easier to photograph, and of course people love them! In her cookbook Carole has created mini versions of all the classics, from cakes to cobblers to custards, and shows how to plate and present them beautifully. From tiny cupcakes with rose-like swirls of chocolate frosting to espresso cups of mousse, it's a spread of dollhouse-sized delights. As a side note, all the measurements are in both volume and weight -  LOVE!

Apricotsandcake1byanitachudessertfirst copy

I finally got the chance to try out one of the recipes in the book last week: Apricot-Orange Loaf Cakes. Made with brown sugar and vanilla, studded with Grand Marnier-soaked apricots, these little lovelies fall somewhere between pound cake and coffee cake – moist, fluffy, and rich. The recipe also calls for adding in chopped walnuts, but I decided for a lighter touch and sprinkled the top of the cakes with sliced almonds and some sugar. The gave the baked cakes a crackly, crunchy top that went very well with the velvety texture of the cake beneath. The combination of flavors is subtly sophisticated – while apricots make it summery, I could see substituting different ingredients for the changing seasons and the cake would retain its satisfying appeal.

The recipe calls for baking them in mini 4" x 2 1/4 " loaf pans. However, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to use some paper bakers I picked up in Japan last winter. Talk about tiny, Japan has been associating small with "kawaii" (cute) for ages and somehow, everything there does seem twice as adorable with their petite proportions.

These wax-lined bakers seem to be a common item in Japanese houseware stores – I wish them sold more of these items here, as they are perfect for gift-giving – you simply give your cake to the lucky recipient in the same pan it was baked in. They also come in a multitide of designs and colors, making a pretty presentation a snap. I really liked the scalloped edges on these papers. I found similar bake-and-serve papers on King Arthur Flour, for those not making a trip to Asia in the near future.

Back to the topic of tiny, these bakers were a scant – did my little loaf cakes ever look precious when they came out of the oven, but practically speaking, they really are single-serving size. No sharing here -and you probably won't want to, given how delicious the cake is! I baked some of the batter in the recommended pan size and it does a produce a more slice-friendly loaf – see last photo. It keeps very well and the flavors seem to deepen over time.

I'm now eager to try out some of the other recipes in Carole's book – it's fanned the flames of my miniature mania for sure! Thanks for writing such a lovely book, Carole!

Apricotalmondloaf1byanitachudessertfirst

Apricot, Orange, and Almond Loaf Cakes

adapted from Carole Bloom's Bite-Size Desserts

makes 12 4"x 2 1/4" loaves

2/3 cup (4 ounces) dried apricots, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

2 cups (9 ounces) flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup (5 ounces) sugar plus extra for sprinkling

3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar

2 extra-large eggs, room temperature (I used large and it turned out fine)

1 extra-large egg yolk, room temperature (same as above)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon orange extract

zest of 1 orange

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray twelve mini loaf pans with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet.

Combine apricots and Grand Marnier in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let marinate for 15 minutes.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat until well combined.

Combine eggs, egg yolk, extracts, and orange peel in a small bowl. Add to mixture and beat until well combined.

Add the flour mixture and buttermilk in three alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined.

Add in the apricots and mix until combined.

Divide mixture among prepared pans, filling about 3/4 full. Sprinkle almonds and sugar over the tops.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool on wire racks before serving.

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