Lemon Tart

Next to chocolate, lemons are my favorite dessert category. A very close second. I love their refreshing, tangy, citrusy, acidic flavor that completely transforms any dish that they are added to. So when I was going to bake something for a friend’s baby shower on a beautiful spring day, a lemon dessert seemed like a no-brainer.  This tart has a buttery, sweet, flaky crust – one of the best I’ve actually had – and it is definitely making its way into my go-to crust recipes. It also comes together really quickly in the food processor, making clean up real easy.

I used normal eureka lemons in this tart, but feel free to use Meyer lemons in case you prefer their sweeter taste, over the taste of the slightly bitter and acidic Eureka lemons. I also found that this tart tasted much better on the second day after being refrigerated. So this is a great dessert to make in advance because it just gets better after cooling.

Lemon Tart

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Tart

Filling

  • 1 large lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces; 130 grams), rinsed and dried
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

Directions

Tart

I followed Smitten Kitchen’s great unshrinkable tart shell directions to a tee and it turned out perfect! Some minor differences:

  1.  I used pie weights so didn’t need to pierce the shell with a fork
  2. The tops and sides of the pie crust start getting brown significantly sooner, so I use this pie crust shield

Filling

  1. First, zest the entire lemon. Then slice the lemon, remove any seeds, and toss all the insides of the lemon flesh and juice along with the lemon zest, sugar, and chunks of butter into the container of a food processor.
  2. Process, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the lemon is thoroughly pureed. Add the eggs, cornstarch and salt and pulse until the batter is smooth. My filling was initially mealy and I had to process the entire mixture for at least a good two minutes before it came out as having a smooth consistency. If your feeling is still looking mealy, I would suggested processing it for a little bit longer.

Assembling the tart

  1. Pour the lemon filling into prepared tart shell. If you have too much, do not pour it past the top of of your crust or it will become difficult to unmold later (if the filling does not bubble over while baking!)
  2. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. The point at which the filling is set is also when it starts to get very light brown on top.
  3. Let cool on rack, unmold tart pan and serve. I actually prefer this tart completely chilled. Dust with some confectioner’s sugar before serving!

Lemon Tart

Chocolate-Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart

It’s hard to believe how the last few weeks have flown so fast – Christmas and New Year’s looks like a really long time away. The semester’s started in full swing, and as I settle back into my normal work routine, I can’t believe there are still so many recipes and foods from over the holiday season that I want to blog about! I miss all the wonderful food I had in Seattle and Portland and I can’t wait to write a blog post about the wonderful (and fattening, haha) food that I had in Portland, and what a great food truck culture that city has, but that will have to wait for another day.

Over Christmas, one of the gifts that I got was a tart pan, so I decided to make this tart whose recipe I’d been eyeing since last Christmas actually. So far an indulgent New Year’s day dinner, we decided to make this chocolate caramel macadamia nut tart – I didn’t have the requisite amount of macadamia nuts, so I used a mixture of pecans and macadamia nuts. This tart is actually on the heavier side, so I’d recommend cutting it into really small pieces while serving – one can easily serve at least 8 helpings from this 9-inch tart. The macadamia nuts combined with the salt in the caramel give it more of a salty flavor, which goes really well with the bittersweet chocolate. If you’re looking for a less salty flavor, I’d recommend scaling down the salt in the pie crust. My main word of caution before setting out to make this – read through the entire recipe once! It’s quite time-consuming, and will probably be hard to complete if you just start a few hours before you intend to serve it.

tart300

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2009

INGREDIENTS

Crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) ice water

Ganache:

  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt 70% cocoa dark chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted macadamia nuts (about 7 1/2 ounces), toasted , coarsely chopped

Caramel filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS

For crust:

  • Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in processor.
  • Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 tablespoon ice water and blend just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry.
  • Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Using lightly floured fingers, press dough firmly and evenly onto bottom and up sides of pan.
  • Chill crust 1 hour.
  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights.
  • Bake crust until pale golden around edges and sides are set, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove foil and beans; bake until crust is golden and cooked through, about 14 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool crust completely in pan.

For ganache: 

  • Bring cream to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth. tart2
  • Spoon 3 tablespoons ganache into 1 corner of small resealable plastic bag and seal; set aside at room temperature for piping. Spread remaining ganache evenly over bottom of crust. Sprinkle chopped macadamia nuts evenly over ganache layer in crust. Freeze crust while preparing caramel filling.tart3

For caramel filling:

  • Combine sugar and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. tart4
  • Add cream and butter; stir until any caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth.
  • Attach candy thermometer to side of pan and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Boil without stirring until thermometer registers 210°F, . Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and salt.

Assembling the tart

  • Remove crust from freezer. Working quickly, pour caramel filling into crust. Gently shake tart pan to allow filling to settle evenly in crust. Cool completely at room temperature, about 3 hours. Remove crust from freezer. Working quickly, pour caramel filling into crust. Gently shake tart pan to allow filling to settle evenly in crust. Cool completely at room temperature, about 3 hours.

    Let the caramel cool completely before piping the chocolate ganache on top

    Let the caramel cool completely before piping the chocolate ganache on top

  • Place reserved resealable plastic bag with chocolate ganache in microwave and heat in 5-second intervals just until smooth and pourable. Using scissors, cut off very small tip from corner of bag with ganache. Pipe ganache decoratively over caramel filling in crosshatch pattern. Chill until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled. Bring tart to room temperature before serving.
  • Remove sides from tart pan. Place tart on platter. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

How to Make Pie Crust

The holiday season is synonymous with all kinds of pies – pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, apples, pears and cranberry-raisin. While it is really easy to just buy crust, making your own pie crust from scratch means that you can customize it according to the kind of pie you want to make – add some bourbon for a crust for a pecan pie, or grind some nuts for a pumpkin or sweet potato pie, add some vodka for a fruity pie, or just add some spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg for that extra flavor. You can also make plenty of pie crust and freeze it (unbaked) for later use.

I made the crust given here for a pecan pie, so I added two tablespoons of bourbon to it. In case you  don’t want it, just substitute it with 2 tablespoons of icy cold water. When adding liquid to the flour and fat mixture, it should always be ice-cold in order to keep the pieces of fat cool and separate. Liquid can include any of the following –  fruit juices, egg yolks, sour cream, milk or cream, and not just water.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • Ice water

Directions

  • In a food processor, pulse flour with salt and sugar. Add butter.
  • Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces remaining.
  • Add 2 tablespoons ice water and 2 tablespoons bourbon; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. (If needed, add up to 4 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Do not overmix.
The dough should be crumbly but should hold when squeezed.

The dough should be crumbly and should hold when squeezed.

  • Turn out onto a work surface; knead once or twice, until dough comes together.
  • Divide dough in half, and flatten into disks. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate one disk at least one hour or up to three days. To freeze dough, put tightly wrapped disks in a resealable plastic bag. Label with the date, and freeze for up to three months. Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.

piecrustroll2

  • Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This lets the flour absorb the liquid and helps to prevent stickiness when rolling out the dough. It also allows the gluten (the protein structure) to relax, making it more elastic and less likely to shrink back as you roll it.
  • Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour; remove and unwrap one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. If you’re a beginning pie-maker–or prefer easier cleanup–you can roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.
  • The dough round should be two to four inches wider in diameter than your pie pan. Use a dry pastry brush to sweep away any excess flour. Gently fold the dough in half, and then into quarters. If it seems too brittle to fold, try another bakers’ trick: roll up the pie crust around the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie plate.

piecrustroll

  • Carefully pick it up and place it into the pie plate so the center point of dough is in the center of the pan. Unfold the dough, letting the weight of the dough settle it in the bottom and edges of the pan. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry into the pan with your fingertips.

piecrustunfold

You can store unbaked pie crusts in the freezer and then prebake them at your convenience (Don’t store partially baked crusts in the fridge though!). On the question of whether to pre-bake a pie crust and how, see here.

A flour pie crust (left) and a graham cracker crust (right)

A flour pie crust (left) and a graham cracker crust (right)

And click here to learn how to make a fluted pie crust. Enjoy!

Spiced Pecan Pie

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving, Christmas and generally, during this time of the year is having the warm and inviting smell of ingredients such as apple, cinnamon, pumpkin and nutmeg fill your house when you are baking, and pie seems like one of the obvious choices. While my other favorite food smells are that of basil and berries, I’m just never in a mood to get near an oven long enough in the summer for some sort of a berry pie, preferring to have them in their original light and refreshing form.

My original plan this Thanksgiving was to bake a pumpkin pie and an apple dessert – but given that two people specifically requested pecan, I decided to give up my apple plans until later and make a pecan pie instead. I followed Alton Brown’s recipe because the idea of spiced pecans appealed to me – I love cumin and cayenne, and I wondered what they would taste like in a dessert. Answer – a great combination along with dark brown sugar. The other reason I liked this recipe was because it used golden syrup, made of natural cane sugar, which tastes so much better than the corn syrup that most pecan pies have, which gives them that sickeningly sweet flavor (I’ve been in this country for 4 years now, and I still detest corn syrup as much as I did when I first came here). Finally, there’s just a splash of bourbon in this recipe, which you can increase either by adding more in the filling or in the pie crust in place of icy cold water.

I did however, use a different pie crust recipe, but for those who are interested, click on the link below as Alton Brown also offers a recipe for the pie crust that itself has ground pecans in it. Maybe something to try next time!

Spiced Pecan Pie

Source – Modified from Alton Brown on Food Network

Ingredients

Spiced Pecans (enough for 2 fillings):

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 6 ounces golden syrup (such as Lyle’s)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces Spiced Pecans, recipe bellow, coarsely chop 6 ounces and leave the remaining 2 ounces whole

Directions

For making spiced pecans:

  1. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix the salt, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and orange peel together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Place the nuts in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes until they just start to brown and smell toasted. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Add the spice mixture and stir to combine. Once combined, add both sugars and water, stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the nuts, 2 to 3 minutes.

    Combining the spice mixture with the sugar and butter

    Combining the spice mixture with the sugar and butter

  4. Transfer the nuts to the prepared sheet pan and separate them with a fork or spatula. Allow the nuts to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container for storage. Can be stored for up to 3 weeks.

    Separate the spiced pecans and allow them to cool down before storing them

    Separate the spiced pecans and allow them to cool down before storing them

For making the pie:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, golden syrup, butter, bourbon, vanilla and salt together until combined. Set aside.
  3. Evenly sprinkle the 6 ounces of chopped pecans in the crust and pour the filling on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Place the remaining 2 ounces of whole pecans in a border on the edge of the filling. Bake 10 minutes, until the center of the pie should reach 200 degrees F, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack to room temperature before serving, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

pecan pie 4

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel Glaze

I’m watching beef ice-cream being made on Iron Chef America (Battle Ground Meat between Bobby Flay and Viet Pham) right now and I think I might be scarred for life. Before I get put off from desserts and ice-creams entirely, I decided to just post this quickly. Nothing spells warm and winter like apples and caramel. I know most people wouldn’t think that way when they’ve just made their new year’s resolutions and are on a healthy-eating streak. But this dessert can be easily cut into small squares, so portion control is really easy.

After this summer got over, and I realized that my neighborhood Italian grocery store stopped selling fresh dulce de leche gelato, I was constantly on the lookout for incorporating some form of caramel into my desserts. I made this for Christmas, but really, I can have it throughout the fall and winter.

atart5

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

Tart base

  • 14-ounce package puff pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
  • 3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits

Salted caramel glaze

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or half as much table salt)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Ideally you would use a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan. A smaller pan will make a thicker tart (and you might need fewer apples). In a larger pan, you can still fit a 10×15-inch tart.
  2. Lightly flour your counter and lay out your pastry. Flour the top and gently roll it until it fits inside your baking sheet, and transfer it there.
  3. Peel the apples and cut them in half top-to-bottom. Remove the cores and stems. Slice the apples halves crosswise as thinly as you can with a knife. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, fan the apples around the tart in slightly overlapping concentric rectangles — each apple should overlap the one before so that only about 3/4-inch of the previous apple will be visible — until you reach the middle. Sprinkle the apples evenly with the first two tablespoons of sugar then dot with the first two tablespoons butter.

    Lay out the apple slices on the dought in slightly overlapping concentric rectangles

    Lay out the apple slices on the dought in slightly overlapping concentric rectangles

  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are brown and the edges of the apples begin to take on some color. If you sliced your apples by hand and they were on the thicker side, you might need a little more baking time to cook them through. The apples should feel soft, but dry to the touch. If you puffed pastry bubbles dramatically in any place during the baking time, simply poke it with a knife or skewer so that it deflates.
  5. Meanwhile, about 10 minutes into the baking time, make your glaze. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your last 1/4 cup sugar; this will take about 5-10 minutes. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice copper color, another minute or two. Off the heat, add the sea salt and butter and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until you have a lovely, bronzed caramel syrup, just another minute, two, tops. Set aside until needed. You may need to briefly rewarm it to thin the caramel before brushing it over the tart.

    Making the salted caramel glaze

    Making the salted caramel glaze

  6. After the tart has baked, transfer it to a cooling rack, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes, and brushing in the direction that the apples fan to mess up their design as little as possible, brush the entire tart, including the exposed pastry, with the salted caramel glaze.

    With a pastry brush, put the salted caramel glaze on to the baked apples

    With a pastry brush, put the salted caramel glaze on to the baked apples

  7. Return the apple tart to the oven for approximately 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles. Let tart cool complete before cutting into 12 squares. Serve plain, or if you’re in a decadent mood, with some ice-cream and leftover caramel glaze.

    Warm from the oven! Cup up into squares and serve with ice-cream!

    Warm from the oven! Cup up into squares and serve with ice-cream!

French Apple Tart

I’m not big into French pastries, but this seemed like a perfect solution to use Granny Smith apples (the green ones), which I’m not too fond of eating anyway. The other two reasons I liked this dessert was – 1. The crust was really easy to make. If you’ve made an apple pie or some other similar pie, you would know that making the crust can be a pain. However, the crust for this pastry is amazingly easy, even easier than making cookie dough. 2. It is quite a light dessert, which is unlike most pies.

Ingredients

Crust

1 and a 1/4 cups flour

6 tablespoons butter, cut into tiny bits (refrigerate it after you cut it up, taking it out only when you’re going to use it)

2 tablespoons lard

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons cold water

Filling

3-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into thin slices

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup cream

1 egg

1 teaspoon kirsch

Getting the ingredients ready

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Place all the ingredients for the crust, except for the cold water, into a large bowl. Mash the mixture with both hands until it has mixed and it is lumpy. Add the water and mix. Remember, the water must be cold. If it is warm, it might melt the butter in the mixture which would ruin the consistency of the crust. Same goes for the butter – you should only take it out of the refrigerator right before you are going to use it.

Once you get a solid mass, knead this mixture over your pie pan, so that a mildly thin crust is formed.

3. Arrange apple slices on the top of this crust so that it is covered entirely and bake for 15 minutes.

Putting the apple slices on the crust, ready for baking round 1

4. For the custard: Mix together the sugar, cream, egg and kirsch. Pour it over the half-baked pie so that most of the apples are covered.

5. Put the pie back in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the custard is set and is golden brown.

Serve immediately or you can store it in the refrigerator and reheat it when you wish to have it.

Ready to eat!