Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Favorite Lemon Tart

It's been called a lemon tart and a lemon pie, it is by far the most requested recipe or the most requested dessert that I get. 
I've made this version of lemon tart for over ten years.  I've made it into a large 10 inch tart. I've made it into small bite size tarts.  I've made it into a 4 inch individual tart.  I've topped it with blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries or combinations.  

The base of the tart is basically a sugar cookie crust.  Again, I've tried it with different crusts and I always come back to the sugar cookie crust or as the French would call it pate sucree.  The sweet and sandy texture counters nicely the smooth tart curd.

Now the pastry arts are my passion but I am not a fan of making tart/pie dough.  I find my desire and obsession to perfect it even before baking causes a lot of stress and mental anxiety.  I've really had some melt downs making the crust.  I admit it.  :-) Don't even get me started about blind baking.  Well, this year, I've found the perfect, easiest recipe and technique for making this sugar crust dough.  It comes from Alice Medrich's Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts cookbook.  Thank you Alice!  Here it is. 

Tart Crust
5 oz or 10 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 1/4 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl.  
Mix the flour and baking powder together thoroughly, add the butter mixture , and mix just until well blended.  
If the dough seems too soft and gooey, let it stand for a few minutes to firm up.
Using a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom or four 4 inch smaller tart pans, press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pans to make a thin, even layer.
Put the pan on a baking sheet. 
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is fully golden brown all over.  The dough will puff up.
Take it out of the oven and using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, press down on the dough firmly to remove the puffins and shape the tart back to it's original form.  Let it cool completely. It will be much easier to handle cooled.

It always amazes me that this luscious curd is basically, lemons, butter, egg, and sugar.  

This is Ina Garten's ratio of the ingredients, but I've tweaked and simplified the recipe.  You don't need fancy equipment, and you only need one pot.  I find that when you use a food processor, unless you have a very fine mesh, the lemon peel  falls through and adds a undesired texture to the curd.

It's also easy to remember this recipe because there are a lot of four or 4s.

Lemon Curd
4 organic lemons
1.5 cup of sugar
4 oz or 1 stick of butter soften and cut into dice pieces
4 organic eggs
1/4 tsp of salt

Using a vegetable peeler, peel all the lemon zest into strips.  Cut the strips into quarter inch pieces. 
Cut the lemons in half and squeeze all the juice to make about 1/2 cup of lemon juice.  Strain out all the seeds and pulp.  Set aside.
In a 2 quart sauce plan, place the sugar and the lemon zest.  Using a wood spoon, pound the lemon zest into the sugar, stir and keep blending the lemon zest into the sugar.  You are trying to release the lemon oils and flavor into the sugar.  The sugar will be a bit dingy yellow and lemony fragrant.
Add the butter pieces into the sugar mixture and cream until fully combined.
Add one egg at a time until fully incorporated, repeat the next egg until all 4 are fully mixed in.
Stir in the lemon juice.
Put the sauce plan over medium heat for about 10 min and cook the mixture until thick or until it reaches 175 degrees. Stir continuously so that the egg does cook to the side or bottom of the pan.  
Immediately poor over a strainer and set side until cooled.
Spoon the lemon curd into the tart crust until it's slightly less than the tart's rim.  
Top it with your favorite berries.  Serve immediately or place covered in the refrigerator.  

This tart is for lemon lovers! Definitely!

Cambozola & Apples

I am loving this recipe.  I've made this recently with brie and peaches.  With the changing of the season and great apples out there, this is a good one for an early afternoon happy hour.  It is so easy to make!  

Today, I served this for some friends for what I called High Tea.  We had sweets, little finger foods, and this cheese plate that I served with crackers.

1 wedge of Cambozola cheese
1 apple (I used Jonagold) cored, peeled, and cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tsp of fresh thyme, plus a sprig to garnish
1 tablespoon of honey (I used this peach flavored one that I picked up in Colorado.  It's adding that salmon color on the plate.)

Heat over to 300 degrees
Put the cheese on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes until soft but not melting and runny.
Put olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.
When hot, toss in the thyme and it will pop and fry.
Toss in apple pieces and let apples cook and caramelize.  Don't stir too much, let the apples get brown nicely.
Put warm cheese on a serving platter.
Top the cheese with the honey and spread evenly until cheese covered.
Spoon and top the cheese with the cooked apples.
Place a sprig of thyme on top and serve.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

I'm my best when I am baking.  My soul has been a little sad these days.  Perhaps it's just the crazy busyness, perhaps it's the fall creeping up on us, the loss of light...I don't know but there is a little blue.

I didn't realize it so much but it's reflected in my baking.  I don't know why but I realized it looking at this coffee cake.  This is my favorite coffee cake of all time.  I can make it anytime since the recipe calls for canned pumpkin but I love to make it in the fall.

I had a little brunch get together this past weekend and it's there I served it.  Please enjoy.

This recipe comes blog.  I tweaked it a little bit by adding cardamon and a tip from America's Best Kitchen.  They recommend when using canned pumpkin, to cook it a bit with the spices of the recipe.  It suppose to get rid of the slight metallic taste.  Not sure if I noticed the difference but the cake was good.

1/3 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp of cold unsalted butter cut into dice size
1 cup of toasted pecans salted

In a bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Toss in the butter and using a pastry cutter, cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like course crumbs.  Stir in pecans. Set aside.

1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar sifted
1 tsp of whole milk
1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, milk, and vanilla.  Add drops of more milk if too thick.  Let it sit covered while making the cake.

1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of cardamon
1 tsp of ginger
1/4 tsp of nutmeg

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of kosher salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degree and position the rack in the middle of the oven.  
Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan with 3-inch sides or a bundt pan with straight sides.
In a small sauce pan over low heat, place the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, and nutmeg and cook over medium heat until it thickens and most of the moisture is cooked away, about 10 min.  Set aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  
In a different bowl or your stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar on medium-high speed until well combined.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the pumpkin mixture and the sour cream with a spatula. Stir in the flour mixture.  The batter will be thick.
Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter.  Dollop the remaining batter over the streusel and even out the batter.  Top with remaining streusel.  Put in oven and bake for about 50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  
Cool about 15 minutes and remove from pan. 
Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake. 

Must eat with hot coffee or tea!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Warm Brie with Peaches & Thyme

A first!  A cooking session.   A good friend wanted to learn how to cook more veggie dishes for his wife.  How fun was this?  We cooked in the afternoon, his wife and our other friends joined us for dinner.

This was the appetizer...

1 Brie cheese, I like the ones in rounds
2 Peaches, cut in slices
1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 Tsp of fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp of honey, we used a peach flavored
2 Tbsp of balsamic, we used blueberry
1 Tbsp of really good, grassy olive oil

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Place brie on cookie sheet or foil and bake for about 10 min until soft.
  3. While brie is baking, place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sautee plan over medium heat, ad thyme.  Let pan heat up and thyme flavor the oil.  
  4. Add peaches and sautee until caramelized and with some nice brown spots, set pan aside.
  5. Take brie out of oven and place on a large plate.
  6. Place the honey over the top of warm brie.
  7. Arrange peaches around and over the brie
  8. Drizzle the balsamic evenly over the peaches and brie.
  9. Drizzle olive oil over to finish.
  10. Serve immediately.

I had originally planned to use figs or pears but when I was at the grocery store, the aroma of peaches in the produce department was undeniable. Feel free to substitute different produce for the fruit component of this dish.  You can even add some toasted nuts like walnuts or pecan.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lemon Tarts

I've been making the same lemon tart for years, mini ones, large ones, and all kinds but lately, I've been trying different recipes and toppings... and for some reason just not much success as before.

The one above is beautiful but it was too overloaded.  It was brought to a dinner at my friend Kris house for a loverly Italian dinner she prepared.  I was sad my dessert didn't quite meet it.

I also made one with brown sugar and figs for my lemon lover friends Mike and Bia, and even they said they preferred old one with blueberries.

I'll have to work on it a bit and will wait to post recipe until perfected.

Fig & Brown Sugar Coffee Cake - Gluten Free

Oh man, this is my favorite flavors this time of the year! Figs!  Brown Sugar! It's so warm and cozy to eat with coffee or tea in the cold fall Seattle weather.  Look at that loveliness!

This is right out of the oven, pre-glaze...

I made this with the Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour.  Can't tell the difference from the regular flour.  Really!

For the cake:
1 C Brown Sugar (packed)
1.5 C Gluten Free Flour
2 tsp  Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 Eggs
1 C Sour Cream

1 C of Figs quartered
-Preheat oven to 350
-Butter or spray a 9" cake pan
-Mix the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda in large bowl.
-In a smaller bowl, whip eggs and sour cream.
-Fold in the egg mixture to the dry flour mixture until well combined
-Bake for about 35-40 min. Test with a tooth pick in the center until it comes out clean.  Let cake cool completely.
-Pour the mixture into a cake pan and spread out evenly.
-Place the figs evenly balanced over the cake mixture.

For the glaze:
1/4 C Brown Sugar (packed)
1 1/2 C of Powder Sugar
1/2 tsp of Cinnamon
1/2 tsp of Cardamon
2  tbsp of Honey
2  tbsp of warm water
-Combine all ingredients until well mixed, let it set for 30 min until all sugars are dissolved.
-Drizzle on to warm cake and serve.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Cherry Cookie

I love my cookies very meaty or as simple as can be. It was time for a meaty chunky cookie for a goodbye potluck for some office mates.  Cookies are great for potluck food because you don't need to cut anything, you don't need to serve it on a plate or with silverware, at most you just need a napkin.  

I wanted to make a very chocolaty cookie but also cut the richness with some fruit and add some nuts for texture.  Here is what I came up with...a chocolate base cookie, with two different kinds of chocolates, dried cherries, and some toasted pecan, and topped it off with some fleur del sel salt. This salt is important because it's not too salty but has a nice savory flavor. This recipe also mirror my favorite way to eat a chocolate chip cookie. 

Here is the recipe:

2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of kosher salt
1 cup of butter, soften
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp of vanilla
2 cups of dark chocolate chips
2 cups of milk chocolate chips
1 cup of toasted pecans
1 cup of dried cherries
Sprinkles of Fleur del Sel salt

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and put aside
-In a large bowl, cream butter and both kind of sugars until light and fluffy
-Add eggs and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture and whip again until light and fluffy
-Add the dry flour mixture to the wet butter mixture until combine, don't over mix
-Add the chocolate chips until combine
-Add pecans and cherries until combine
-Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon liner
-Using an ice cream scooper, scoop the batter and place on to the baking sheet, keep about three inches of space between the cookies, once baking sheet is full, place in freezer for about 15 minutes
-Once cookies are cold and firm, take out and place in oven and bake for 8 minutes and then rotate racks to bake evenly and bake for 7 more minutes
-As soon as it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the fleur del sel salt.  When you sprinkle the salt right out of the oven, it sticks to the cookie better then when cooled
-Let cool in the baking sheet for 10 minute then transfer to a cooling rack
-Enjoy warm or completely cooled 
-Or put vanilla ice cream between two cookies and freeze for an ice cream sandwich

This was my first attempt for these cookies, and they were pretty good enough the post.  I might try to lighten it by separating the egg yolks and whipping the egg whites like meringue. 

The feedback from the potluck was good too! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

White Peach Coffee Cake - Gluten Free!

You know sometimes you meet certain people and you just click.  At first meeting, it just feels like a friend you have known all your life and it's just fun and easy to be around them.  You laugh at the same things and you are on the same page.  This is the case with my friend Erika.  I met her about 3 years ago because we were on the same project, and we probably met in person less than three times since, but I just have so much joy around her and she is good people.

She was coming to Seattle for an event and came in early to stay with me.  I know she likes food as much as I do and upon arrival, I got a shocking news that she is now gluten free.  I was thinking no! not you!  Everyone is doing the gluten free thing.  I mean, I get it, I read parts of the book Wheat Belly and I do feel much better when I do eat gluten free, but I can never give up flour and regular baked good.  I've not come across that great baked goodies made with gluten free ingredients. I had planned cooking a nice brunch since breakfast is my favorite meal to make, but now I thought what I am going to bake?   

Well, I had recently picked up a new gluten free flour from Thomas Keller, yes Thomas Keller has a new flour called Cup 4 Cup.  I thought, I will test my favorite coffee cake recipe with this.  

Peaches are in season now and while I was at the grocery store, just a whiff of a white donut peach smelled amazing !  I mean, it smells like a peach lotion where the scent is exaggerated and but lovely!  This was the coffee cake flavor I was going to make.  

Well, I have to say, I was so surprised!  The Cup 4 Cup flour didn't make a difference to the coffee cake.  It tasted the same and the texture was just as soft and moist as regular flour. Wow!  Erika agreed.  Best of all, didn't get the bloat and energy drain that you get with normal flour.  

Here is the recipe.

For the cake:
1 C Sugar
1.5 C Gluten Free Flour
2 tsp  Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 Eggs
1 C Sour Cream
4 White Donut Peaches Sliced

-Preheat oven to 350
-Butter or spray a 9" cake pan
-Mix the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda in large bowl.
-In a smaller bowl, whip eggs and sour cream.
-Fold in the egg mixture to the dry flour mixture until well combined
-Pour the mixture into a cake pan and spread out evenly.
-Place the peaches evenly balanced over the cake mixture
-Bake for about 35-40 min. Test with a tooth pick in the center until it comes out clean.  Let cake cool completely.

For the streusel:
1 C Brown Sugar
2 oz or 1/4 C of Butter, cut in dice sizes and cold
1/4 C Rice Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 C Toasted Pecans
-Combine and mix the brown sugar and butter with a fork until blended and has sandy texture.  
-Stir in rice flour and salt and toss around until the texture of the mixture is lighter and not clumpy.  
-Stir in the pecans.
-When cake is cooled, spoon the mixture evenly distributed to cover the cake.

Erika has motivated me to try to eat less flour and try my other recipes like biscuits and cookies with this gluten free flour.  We will see!    

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Berry Caprese Salad

I love the traditional Caprese Salad and it's so easy and simple.  I made a summer version of it using berries the other day for a gathering and a friend wanted the recipe so here it is!

1 cup of organic cherries, pitted and sliced in half (red or white)
1/4 cup of good aged balsamic vinegar, I used aged modena version 
1/8 cup plus generous drizzle of really good olive oil that has a grassy taste finish
4-5 medium size organic tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
1 pint of organic strawberries, stems removed and quartered
Handful of Italian parsley, teared or chiffonade
8oz package of burrata, quartered
Pepper to taste

-Combine cherries, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and put in a container with lid and set aside. Let it marinade for at least 30 minutes.

Assemble the rest of ingredients when ready to serve.
-Layer the tomato slices in a large platter, sprinkle 1/4 tsp of the salt
-Next layer the strawberries evenly on top of tomatoes
-Sprinkle the Italian parsley evenly
-Then layer the burrata, (if you are taking this dish to a party, omit this step and the cherry mixture until you arrive at the party)
-Give the cherry mixture a good toss then drizzle over the salad platter
-Sprinkle rest of salt and pepper to taste
-Drizzle additional olive oil and then serve

I wanted to keep the traditional colors of a caprese salad but change up the flavors.  However, you really can mix this up with different berries and herbs.  I used Italian parsley because I wanted a grassier taste to counter a bit more sweetness that comes with berries but it can easily be made with the traditional basil, as well as regular mozzarella.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Peach Pecan Butterhorns

It's been almost six months since I've baked anything.  Work has been the reason. I've started a new job, well same job but changed groups and all new customers so it's like starting a new job and have taken some time to ramp up.  It was great to bake something again, and it brings me to a great place to share and feed my friends.  

I've had a love affair with Butterhorns since I used to get them at the Nordstrom's coffee bar.  What are Butterhorns you ask?  Before having baking knowledge, I would have said, it's a long stick cinnamon cookie.  Now days, I can tell you that it's a rolled up pie crust, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, baked, then covered with a simple sugar glaze.  

I've tasted apple filled version from Diva Espresso but they don't carry them anymore. I loved the idea of filling them since the base is a typical pie crust.

For a Fourth of July gathering, I was going to bake a Berry Crisp but had some fresh organic peaches but not enough to put into a pie so decided to try making the Butterhorns instead. 

This is another super easy, I have no time recipe.  I'm going to try other fillings like apple, blueberries, and even a just pecan version. Yum!

2 Rolls of store bought pie shells. I used the Trader Joe version since it's very buttery and more like homemade.  
4 Peaches
3 Tbl of granulated sugar
1 Tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2 Cup of chopped, toasted, salted pecans
1 Cup of powder sugar

-Unroll pie shell and cut diagonal into 8 slices (like pizza slices) then place them on a sheet pan and put in refrigerator until ready to use
-Cut peaches into 1/2 inch slices
-Place peaches, cinnamon, and sugar into a medium size bowl and toss, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes
-Once peaches mixture has developed a watery base and sugar has dissolved into the mixture, drain.  Leave the juice base in the bowl
-To assemble the butterhorn, take one slice of pie shell, and line 2-3 slices of peaches at the tip of the longer edge of the pie shell and then roll once, sprinkle some pecans on top of the rolled dough side. This way it stays crunchy and not soggy by the peaches. Roll rest until tip is fully rolled.(Use about 1/4 cup of it and save rest to top after baking.) Place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until all 16 are complete. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to bake
-Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown
-Transfer to a rack and cool completely

-For the glaze, add the powder sugar to the peach juice mixture. Using a back of spoon, blend like a paste to ensure smooth glaze and let it sit until fully dissolved and put aside. If your peaches are not very ripe then there will not be as much juice, in that case, add some milk to the glaze and ensure the consistency is like honey to have a perfect glaze
-Once the butterhorns are cooled, spoon the glaze over each butterhorn until it drizzles and covers most the pastry.  Sprinkle remainder of the pecans and allow the glaze to dry, then serve or store in air tight container

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