"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fruit Tart

I found this wonderful recipe on the joy of baking website last summer. Kent and I went to a local market and got the fruit that we wanted to use. I will say that it takes A LOT of work to make homemade tarts, but it is definitely worth the hard work! This is a great recipe for a dinner party, brunch, or shower since it makes such a great presentation. We decided to make mini tarts instead of one large tart, and they turned out wonderfully! The crust takes time to make, and it needs to be made ahead of time. I think it would taste as good if you used a frozen crust from the grocery store - it would definitely save you time. Enjoy!

Fruit Tart
Sweet Pastry Crust:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/8 cup (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)
3/4 tablespoon (10 ml) liqueur (Grand Marnier Brandy, Kirsch) (optional)

Apricot Glaze: (optional)
1/2 cup (125 grams) apricot jam or preserves
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or water or combination of the two (can also use other liqueurs)

2 - 3 cups mixed fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, kiwifruit, bananas, plums, pineapple, melon, etc.

Sweet Pastry Crust: In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside. Place the butter in your mixer and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Don't over mix or the butter will separate and lighten in color. Add flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Don't overwork or pastry will be hard when baked.

Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.
Have ready an 8 - 9 inch (20 - 23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 11 - 12 inch (28 - 30 cm) circle that is about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry. The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.

When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll. Unroll onto top of tart pan. Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan). Gently lay in pan and with a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. With a thumb up movement, again press dough into pan. Roll rolling pin over top again to get rid of any extra pastry. Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and cool crust on wire rack before filling.

Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. (Never let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch (corn flour) together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine the milk and split vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. (The milk will foam up to the top of pan when done, so watch carefully.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The vanilla bean can be dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavor. This sugar can then be used in baking where you would like a vanilla-flavored sugar, e.g. pies, cakes, cookies.)

Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Apricot Glaze: Heat the apricot jam or preserves and water (if using) in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid (melted). Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps. (If using, add the liqueur at this point.) Let cool until it is only slightly warm.

Variation: If glazing stawberries, raspberries or any other red fruit you can make a red currant glaze. Gently whisk 1/2 cup (125 grams) of red currant jelly over medium heat until melted. Let cool slightly and then lightly glaze the fruit using a pastry brush.

To Assemble Tart: To remove the tart from the fluted sides of the pan, place your hand under the pan, touching only the removable bottom not the sides. Gently push the tart straight up, away from the sides. The fluted tart ring will fall away and slide down your arm. If you want to remove the bottom of the pan, run a knife or thin metal spatula between the crust and metal bottom, then slide the tart onto a cardboard cake round.

Spread a thin layer of apricot glaze or melted chocolate over the bottom and sides of tart to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry between 20 - 30 minutes. Spread the Pastry Cream into the tart, filling about 3/4 full. Level with an offset spatula.
To decorate the tart you will need 2 to 3 cups (480 - 620 ml) of mixed fresh fruit (such as berries, bananas, oranges, kiwifruit, plums, pineapple, and melon). Prepare the fruit by gently washing and drying. Peel and slice the bananas, plums and kiwifruit. The strawberries will need to be sliced also. Arranging the fruit on the tart can be done either randomly or in concentric overlapping circles, starting at the outside edge. Try to cover all the pastry cream with fruit so that no pastry cream is showing through.

After arranging the fruit, rewarm the glaze, if using, and gently brush a light coat on the fruit. Do not put it on too thick or it will look like Jell-O. Try not to get any glaze on the tart shell. The idea is to make the fruit look shiny. If not serving immediately, refrigerate. Take out about 30 minutes before serving to give the fruit and cream a chance to warm to room temperature.
This fruit tart is best eaten the same day as it is assembled. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
Serves about 8 - 10 people.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I know I haven't been blogging as much lately. Let me introduce the reason.... Jack. He's so sweet (most of the time) - but he's completely taking over our lives! Usually when I try to type, he jumps on the keyboard! Since he's sleeping right now, I decided to take the opportunity to explain my lack of posts lately! Thanks for reading and keep checking back for new posts soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chocolate, Almond, and Banana Parfaits - From Katie

Katie sent me this recipe from Epicurious today. It looks amazing! She says, "You'll find yourself just making them for an afternoon snack for yourself."

Chocolate, Almond, and Banana Parfaits
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons amaretto
2 tablespoons sugar
8 1/2-inch-thick angel food cake slices
24 1/3-inch-thick diagonal banana slices (from about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup (about) sliced almonds, toasted

Heat chocolate chips and 4 tablespoons cream in microwave in 1-cup glass measuring cup at 50 percent power just until chocolate is melted, about 30 to 35 seconds. Stir to blend; cool chocolate sauce to lukewarm. Whisk mascarpone, amaretto, sugar, and remaining 2 tablespoons cream in medium bowl until blended and mixture just starts to thicken.
Using 2 1/2-inch-diameter cookie cutter, cut out round from each angel food cake slice. Place 1 cake round in each of 4 wine goblets or old-fashioned glasses. Top each cake round with 3 banana slices, 1 heaping tablespoon mascarpone mixture, bittersweet chocolate sauce, and sprinkling of almonds. Repeat parfait layering 1 more time and serve.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

This is a great Spring and Summer salad. I made it last weekend for Easter and was very pleased with how it turned out! It is so fresh-tasting and really easy to put together. Because you can go ahead and put the dressing on it before it is served, it works well for cookouts or buffet-styled meals. It is best if you make it ahead and store it in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad
1 bag fresh baby spinach, washed
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
½ cup sliced walnuts
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely

Poppy Seed Dressing
½ cup good olive oil
¼ cup cider vinegar (white distilled vinegar will work if you don’t have cider vinegar)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 ½ tablespoons grated onion
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon paprika

Place the spinach, strawberries, walnuts, mozzarella, and basil in a large bowl – mix all ingredients. Then, mix together all of the ingredients of the dressing in a separate bowl with a whisk. Once the dressing ingredients are combined, drizzle the mixture over the salad and stir the salad (you may not need all of the dressing.) Store the salad in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to combine before serving.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Frittata

This is a recipe published by a wonderful restaurant in Birmingham, Trattoria Centrale, as a suggested item for Easter Brunch. We made it last weekend when we had friends over after church. We liked it so much that we made it again tonight! If you tried Katie's frittata that I posted a few weeks ago, you should definitely give this one a try. I was a little intimidated by it at first, but it was actually really easy to make. We served it with steak and a spinich salad, so there would have definitely been enough for six people. But if you cut down the ingredients some, it would be a perfect dish for one or two people. The cheese and tarragon give it a really deep flavor.

(Makes 4 servings)
7 whole farm eggs
2-1/2 ounces heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, if desired
1/2 bunch standard asparagus
1 cup cremini mushrooms, quartered (we used baby bellas)
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese

Turn oven on, set to 350 degrees.

Combine together eggs, cream and chopped tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. (Tip: Taste raw egg mixture to ensure proper seasoning of the baked omelet. You cannot add salt after the frittata is cooked.) (Anna's Tip: You probably will not need salt if you use pecorino cheese - it's very salty.)

Chop the lower third of each asparagus stalk off, and discard. Cut the remaining asparagus into ½-inch pieces.

Heat a pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon canola oil (or use butter), then add asparagus and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for three to four minutes until asparagus have softened slightly.

Remove the pan from the heat, then add egg mixture. Add grated cheese, then gently stir the egg, cheese, mushroom and asparagus mixture until all ingredients are distributed well.
Place entire pan in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the eggs do not jiggle in the center of the pan. When cooked through, remove pan from oven, and let cool five minutes. With a rubber spatula, gently remove the frittata from the pan.

Cut into four wedges, and serve with grits and fresh fruit, if desired
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