Friday, January 29, 2010

Cute as a Brownie Button

The first time that I made these, it was for my seven-year old campers at Camp Yomi, and I feel like that is the best possible use for these. I don't mean that as a slight - it's just that these brownies are cute and simple and manageable, perfect for little kids. Yet they also can be sophisticated when arranged prettily on a dessert plate.

This time around, I just made them for fun, because they're also fun. It's fun to pop them out of their little pan holes. It's fun to dip them in white chocolate and give them a little twirl. It's fun to eat them! (And you don't have to feel guilty because they're so small.) Taste-wise, they're good, though nothing that special, but I kept them in the fridge, where they attained a fudgy consistency that compounded the richness of the white chocolate. Yum!

Brownie Buttons
from “Baking From my Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan

Grated zest of 1/2 Orange
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Flour
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Stick (4 Tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, Cut into 4 Pieces
2 1/2 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, Coarsely Chopped
1/3 Cup (Packed) Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Large Egg

For the optional Glaze:
2 Ounces White Chocolate, Finely Chopped

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter two miniature muffin pans, each with a dozen cups, and place them on a baking sheet.

If you’re using the orange zest, combine the zest and sugar in a small bowl, rubbing them between your fingertips to blend: set aside. Whisk together the flour and salt.

Melt the butter, chocolate, and brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula and keeping an eye on the pan so that nothing overheats or burns. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and cool for a minute or two. Stir the vanilla, egg and the zest into the chocolate mixture. When the mixture is well blended, add the flour and stir only until it is incorporated. You should have a smooth, glossy batter.

Spoon the batter into 16 of the muffin cups, using about a teaspoon of batter to fill each cup 3/4 full. Put 1 teaspoon of water in each empty cup.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the tops of the buttons spring back when touched. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 3 minutes before carefully releasing the buttons. Cool to room temperature on the racks.

To make the glaze: Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Stir constantly and don’t leave the chocolate for even one minute- white chocolate scorches easily. As soon as the chocolate is smooth, remove from the heat.

One by one, dip the tops of the buttons into the chocolate, twirling the buttons so that you get a little swirl at the center of each one and the excess chocolate drips back into the bowl. Refrigerate the buttons for 15 minutes to set the glaze.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Search for the Chocolate Chip Cookie

I have a confession to make: I, too, am a stress baker. Big time. My parents and roommates have benefited from this in the past, and now that I am back to being as stressed as ever I decided it was time to break out the ole cookie sheet.

Baking in foreign countries is tricky. There's the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion. There's the grams to cups conversion. Then there's the UK cups to US cups conversion. Then there's the fact that sugar here is less finely granulated, that eggs are smaller, that butter is measured in grams rather than tablespoons...all in all, it's a tricky endeavor. But it can be worth it for its stress-alleviating properties, and so I had baked a couple of things based on American recipes. None of them turned out very well, and so I went hunting for British recipes. The first thing I looked for was chocolate chip cookies. I know they are an American invention, but they're some of the easiest, homiest things to make, and having a good solid recipe is essential.

From what I can tell, baked goods don't enjoy the same popularity here that they do in America. Occasionally I will come across a recognizable cookie or cake, but for the most part it's fruit compotes with custard and these things called digestive biscuits. So it took some considerable digging, but at last I found a Web site for women (natch) which had some appealing-looking recipes, including one for chocolate chip cookies. I adapted it a bit (i.e. I creamed the butter rather than melting it, I added some mixing time in between the egg parts and I lessened the baking time). I also added the American equivalent measurements, in case you want to make it. I have to say, it tasted just like home - sweet and buttery and chewy and delicious. A wonderful find on a stressful day!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from SoFeminine's Recipe Section

Ingredients :
250g/2 cups plain/self-raising flour
2g/scant 1/2 tsp. baking soda (not necessary if using self-raising flour)
3g/2/3 tsp. salt
170g/12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
220g/1 cup packed brown sugar
100g/scant 1/2 cup white sugar
15ml vanilla extract (I don't know what this is - I just used a little over 1 teaspoon)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
335g/1/2 cup chocolate chips

Recipe :

1-Preheat oven to 165°C/330°F, grease baking sheets or line with baking parchment

2-Sift together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.

3-In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter and sugars until well blended.

4-Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy, mixing for a minute between after each egg addition. Mix in the sifted ingredients 1/3 at a time, stirring until just blended.

5-Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookies 1 tbsp at a time onto baking sheet about 3 inches apart.

6-Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring onto wire racks.

Monday, January 25, 2010

See the World in Black and White...

I love cookies. I do. I love everything about them-- I love that they taste delicious hot, room temperature or frozen; I love that they are a snack-sized pile of sweetness just waiting for me whenever I'm ready for them; I love that they come in individually sized pieces and so they last for sooo long without getting stale. However, despite living in my apartment for three and a half years now, I had no dairy cookie sheets. Instead, I had yucky disposable pieces of aluminum that I was constantly covering in tin foil and vowing to replace, just as soon as I remembered to do so. Every time I baked, my roommate would say, "Why don't you just get cookie sheets?" And I would wave her off and the cycle would continue.

However, that day has come at last! The cycle has finally been broken! (Better late than never, right?) So today, in order to dedicate my new cookie sheets, I decided to make an old favorite-- White Chip Chocolate Cookies.

The recipe for these cookies are found (in a slightly modified way) on the back of Nestle premier white morsels. They're easy to make, and if they're cooked for the right amount of time, they are light, moist and rich without being too heavy. I've actually found that they taste best either hot or frozen (as opposed to at room temperature) because they are very sweet, but no matter what, I guarantee you will enjoy them.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Premier White Morsels
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by well-rounded teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 3 dozen large cookies, or 4 dozen smaller ones.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stress Baking: The Baked Brownie

My husband claims that I do something called stress baking.  When there is a lot going on, and I am stressed out, I bake.  I guess it is better than stress eating or stress shopping, since I send most of the baked goods to my husband's office, but I think he might be right about the stress baking.  There is a lot going on in my life right now, a lot of which I can't control, so baking it is!

I recently got the Baked cookbook (ok, I do engage in some stress shopping, but it is mostly books) and they claim to have the best brownie in America.  I have never been there to taste the version in their bakery, but they have the recipe in their book, so I decided to make them. 

This was, hands down, the most complicated brownie recipe I have ever made.  I am the "put everything in a bowl and stir" kind of girl and these brownies were definitely not those.  It involves melting, putting things in side bowls and folding things with a spatula.  That being said, since the purpose of making them was stress relief, it was better that they took a long time.  

I don't know how these were supposed to look (they were less shiny on top than other brownies I have made) but they smelled really good.  I didn't taste them the day I made them and I sent most of them to my husband's office, but I ate one out of the freezer.  It was good, but I'm not sure if it is better than other brownies out there.  Maybe that is because it was frozen?  Not sure.  I'll have to do a taste test when I am patient enough to let them defrost.   

Here is the recipe:

The Baked Brownie from Baked – New Frontiers in Baking
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or light-colored metal baking pan. 
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder. Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature. 
Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey. 
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. 
Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve. Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best Thing I've Ever Baked: Chocolate Cinnamon Bread

About three years ago, I was waiting on line at a Starbucks and I saw that they were giving out recipe cards for various baked goods that they carry.  I picked up one for chocolate cinnamon bread, something that I had never tried but since I love the combination of chocolate and cinnamon, I thought I would give it a try.  It languished in my recipe box until this week when I decided to go for it, and make it.  

And I am SO GLAD I did.  This is one of the best things I have ever made and eaten, hands down.  Usually I send baked goods to my husband's office, but this was too good and I hoarded it all to myself (I froze some for later).  I don't know if it was the moistness of the cake or the crunchy cinnamon/sugar/spice topping, but it was utterly delicious.  Please, please make this cake.  It is super easy and very satisfying, and since it is called "bread" you can eat it for breakfast :).

The only issue is that the recipe makes two loaf pans worth of cake.  I split it in half, but since the recipe calls for five eggs, I had to use half an egg to make just one loaf (although if I had known what it tasted like, I might have made two).  To make half an egg, I cracked it in a glass, beat it a little with a fork and poured half into the batter and threw out the rest.  It worked fine.  Yummy!

Here is the recipe:
Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread 

Chocolate Batter:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature 
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups dutch-processed cocoa 
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup decorating or sparkle sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

Make the chocolate batter:  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next and scraping down the sides of the bowl several times.

Meanwhile in a medium bowl: Sift together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, water and vanilla.  With mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to butter, beginning and ending with the flour and beating just until blended.  Divide the batter between the two pans, shake the pans to even the tops and set aside.

Make the Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust: In another small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, ginger and cloves.  Sprinkle the surface of both batters with the decorating sugar (I didn't have any, so I just used regular sugar).  Sprinkle with the cocoa sugar mixture, dividing evenly.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.  Let cool completely, run a thin knife around the sides to release the breads and remove from pans. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

World Peace, Across the Pond

Hi from ENGLAND! I am sitting in my room, looking out on the River Cam, eating the best bread in the world and thinking, Hmmm, it's been a really long time since I checked in on the Baking Sisters. So tragic! You see, before coming here, I was told I would have a "gyp room" which would have a "hob" and "microwave"...oh wait. Anyway, a gyp room is a kind of kitchenette, so called because it used to be cleaned by gypsies. Uh oh, I don't think I can use that term anymore. A hob is a burner or stove. But the upshot of this lesson in British slang is that I was under the impression that I would have no oven. That combined with Rebecca coming to New York meant some non-stop marathon baking by the Baking Sisters.

Now I am here and it turns out I have a full kitchen with an oven, and though the rest of my equipment is, shall we say, minimal, I'm doing my first baking on Sunday! Nothing fancy - just the pie that I
blogged about last month, since it's super simple - seeing as I have yet to get my hands on a mixing bowl or measuring spoons. It's for my friend Pam's birthday, which was last Sunday, but since it was our first day in England no one knew it was happening. She said she wanted something to remind her of America; hence, apple pie.

HOWEVER, she also loves chocolate. And that brings us (finally) to today's post. This is one of our all-time favorite recipes, and it's kind of amazing that we haven't blogged about it yet, but I feel like it's such a staple in our repertoire that we tend to overlook it. It is all the world's chocolatey goodness packed into a little cookie, and that is why I may make it for Pam. She also said that she doesn't care for salty baked goods, but I think these may just be the cookies to convert her.

According to Dorie, these are called World Peace Cookies because if everyone ate some every day, there would be world peace. There would also probably be bad coronary artery disease, but I think it's a price we're all willing to pay for world peace.

Like most log cookies, these can be kind of temperamental when it comes to cutting, but in this case it doesn't really matter, since they're easy to squish back together and unlike, say, sables, they don't really need to look perfectly round and even. And if you find you can't squish a cookie back together, well, there's always eating the dough. It's a burden, I know, but once again, one we will all bear for world peace.

World Peace Cookies
From "Baking From My Home to Yours"

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.
3. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.
4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)
Getting Ready to Bake:
5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
6. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them — don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.
7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Still Unofficial Martha Stewart Cupcake Club: Coconut Cupcakes

I still have not been approved for the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club (there is a waiting list), but I am enjoying baking along, so I thought I would keep going.  This month's pick, by Cinema Cupcakes, was coconut cupcakes on page 28-29 of the cookbook.  You might wonder why you have not seen more coconut on this blog, and it is because none of us really like it.  However, I decided to make these and send them along to my husband's office, since they always like cupcakes.  I don't know how they tasted (again, I don't like coconuts), but they smelled nice and they were very high, soft and springy, so I assume the texture was good.

So, now let's talk about the frosting.  The recipe called for coconut flavored 7 minute frosting.  I was psyched about this frosting, because it let me use up 6 of the egg whites I had in freezer.  Everything was going fine until I decided that, since I didn't have coconut extract, I would use coconut milk instead.  As soon as I put it in the fluffy beaten egg whites, I knew it was a mistake.  No liquid in egg whites, except in very small quantities!  I knew that, but I didn't think it through.  Anyway, no amount of beating could salvage the frosting, so I just kept going, adding the sugar syrup and beating until it was cool (for about 7 minutes, hence the frosting name).  It did not work out, so I just dipped the cupcakes in the sad, liquid frosting and called it a glaze.  I topped it with some shredded coconut to try to make them look pretty and to let people know what they were going to eat.  There is nothing worse than thinking something is vanilla and getting coconut.

I look forward to seeing what other people thought of these and if there is anyone in my husband's office reading this blog, feel free to comment and tell me how they were!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Love Muffins: Blueberry

I have been trying to find a muffin worth eating here in Texas.  Many of them are way, way to sweet, or they are too dry or they just don't taste good.  I have decided that the only solution is to make my own.  Sometimes you just want a really good muffin.

I have made this a bunch of times.  They are from one of my favorites -- King Arthur Flour -- and they are delicious.  I would make a couple of adjustments to the recipe.  I think that you could reduce the sugar somewhat.  They are not overly sweet, but they could be less sweet, especially if you want them as a breakfast treat, so I might go down to a little more than half a cup of sugar.  Also, you could substitute some of the white flour with whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour) if you want them to be a bit healthier.  Finally, I thought that 1.5 cups of blueberries was way to many for the amount of batter.  I would reduce to one cup and you would have plenty.

I didn't have any sparkling sugar, so they looked good, but they didn't have that sugary crunch.  You can find the recipe here.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Going Bananas

My sister Rebecca hates bananas. Hates them. And one of the great ironies of the world may be that her son, Simon, loves them deeply. However, I believe in my heart of hearts that perhaps, if Rebecca had tried the banana bread I made last week, she might be convinced to change her mind.

Some backgound: following our triumphant Dorie extravaganza, I got on a plane and went to Israel for 12 days. Most things in Israel are, surprisingly, just as (if not more) expensive than things in America. The exception to this rule is the shuk, an open-air market in downtown Jerusalem. There, you can buy everything you would ever want (fruit? sure! spices? why not! pants? why would you go anywhere else?) for very little money. So naturally, when I ventured there with my friends Maital and Adam, we basically bought our body weight in food for approximately $20-- including some amazing bananas. Since Maital and Adam were kind enough to host 18 guests over the course of Shabbat, I figured the least I could do was make them delicious dessert.

This recipe is great because it's really easy, and it tastes amazing whether it's room temperature or heated up, so the chocolate chips are all melty. I doubled it and baked it in a 9x13 pan. I didn't have all of the right ingredients so I improvised a bit by combining different recipes, but the end result did not disappoint. Sorry there's no picture of the inside-- it was so good that people finished it over Shabbat, and there was nothing left to photograph.

REBECCA'S NOTE: It would NOT make me like bananas. Sorry!

Banana Bread (adapted from

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and salt
2 medium (1 cup) ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate chips according to your preference

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with Parchment Paper or grease the pan.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt on a sheet of parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl combine bananas, eggs, oil, milk and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture; stir just until moistened. Stir in chocolate chips; pour into pan.
Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Just the Thing for a Cold Day: Frozen Hot Chocolate

A frigid chill has gripped most of the country (except for southern California -- seriously, does it ever get cold there), and you are probably thinking about curling up with a nice hot mug of hot chocolate.  You must be thinking we are a little crazy for suggesting Frozen Hot Chocolate when its so cold outside, but we're not.  This drink is worth cranking up the heat for, we promise.  It is chocolaty and delicious, and while you might get a brain freeze, you will be warmed by the memory of this drink's yumminess.  

There is a restaurant in New York, Serendipity 3, that is famous for their frozen hot chocolate.  While this drink might not be quite as out-of-this-world as theirs, you can make it at home, which means you don't have to go outside in the cold (or get on a plane) to get it.

It is super simple to make.  

Frozen Hot Chocolate (adapted from the Food Network)
3 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1.5 cups of milk (you can experiment with what type)
2 teaspoons hot chocolate mix (do not use cocoa powder, you won't get the same results)
3 cups of Ice 
Whipped Cream (if you want to)

In a saucepan, melt the chocolate with half the milk.  When it is all melted, stir in the hot chocolate mix.

Put ice in a blender with the remaining milk.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the ice.  Blend until it is the consistency of a frozen drink.  Garnish with whipped cream if you want to.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What Happens When You Listen to Dorie...

So, by now you know of how much we love Dorie.  That's no secret to anyone on this blog.  And one thing that we have learned is that Dorie is generally right on in the little hints and tips that she gives about her recipes.  And, since we know that, this tart should have been the first thing we made.  She says that this is her husband's all time favorite recipe, and that means something.  And we can see why.  This tart was delicious.  Even in the face of stiff competition from smores, the chocolate caramel crunch tart and other assorted goodies, this tart was the hands down favorite of the evening, and surprisingly easy to make.

First, we poached the pears.  Poaching pears sounds fancy, but it is really easy.  Take some water, lemon juice and sugar and put them in a pot with three peeled pears and bring to a boil.  Let them simmer until they are soft (but not mushy) and then, viola -- poached pears!  Dorie also says that you can use canned pears, but the poached pears bring the tart to a whole different level.  Also, the poaching liquid is so good, I actually drank it from a glass.

The rest of the tart is really easy to make.  Our almond cream was kind of grainy, but once it was baked, you could not tell at all.  The combination of the almonds, pear and the sweet dough is perfect.  Normally, I would not pick fruit over chocolate, but even with chocolate on the table, I wanted to go back for more of this tart.

Here is the recipe, which you can find on Dorie's blog:
Adapted from BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS (but taken from my manuscript, so the wording may be a little different from the way it appears in the book)
Makes 6 servings

For the pears:
6 canned pear halves OR 3 medium pears, firm but ripe
1 lemon
4 cups water, optional
1 1/4 cups sugar, optional

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

1 partially-baked 9-inch tart shell, made with Sweet Tart Dough (see below), at room temperature

Confectioners' sugar for dusting, or apple jelly for glazing

Getting ready:  If you are using canned pears, you have nothing to do now.  If you are using fresh pears but do not wish to poach them, you have nothing to do now.  If you are using fresh pears and want to poach them, peel them and leave them whole.  Bring the 4 cups water, the 1 1/4 cups sugar and the juice of the lemon to a boil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears.  Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat so the syrup simmers and gently poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.  Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup. 

To make the almond cream:  Put the butter and sugar in the workbowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny.  Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended.  Add the flour and cornstarch, process, and then add the egg.  Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is homogeneous.  Add the rum or vanilla and process just to blend.  If you prefer, you can make the cream in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a bowl with a rubber spatula.  In either case, the ingredients are added in the same order.  Scrape the almond cream into a container and either use it immediately or refrigerate it until firm, about 2 hours.

Getting ready to bake:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Have a lined baking sheet at the ready.  If you are using fresh (unpoached) pears, peel them now.  If you are using poached or unpoached pears, cut them in half from blossom to stem and core them; rub the unpoached pears with lemon juice.  Whatever pears you have, make sure to pat them dry - really dry - so that their liquid won't keep the almond cream from baking. 

Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it even with an offset metal icing spatula.  Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula, press down on the pear to fan it slightly and place it, wide-end toward the edge of the crust, over the almond cream.  The halves will form spokes.

Put the crust on the lined baking sheet, slide the sheet into the oven and bake the tart 50 to 60 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up around the pears and browns.  Transfer the tart to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature before unmolding. 
Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioners' sugar.  If you prefer, prepare a glaze by bringing about 1/4 cup apple jelly and1/2 teaspoon water to the boil.  Brush the glaze over the surface of the tart.  

Serving:  This tart goes very well with aromatic tea.

Storing:  If it's convenient for you, you can make the almond cream up to 2 days ahead and keep it closely covered in the refrigerator, or you can wrap it airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months; defrost before using.  You can also poach the pears up to 1 day ahead.  However, once you've baked the tart, you should be prepared to enjoy it that same day.

Playing around:  The almond cream is a great companion for a variety of fruits.  It's as good with summer fruits, like apricots or peaches, as it is with autumn's apples.  

SWEET TART DOUGH (Adapted from BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS, but taken from my manuscript, so the wording may be a little different from the way it appears in the book)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

To make the dough:  Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine.  Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.  When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.  Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change - heads up.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it. 
If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.
To make a press-in crust:  Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it.  Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. 
To make a rolled-out crust:  This dough is very soft - a combination of a substantial amount of butter and the use of confectioners' sugar - so I find it is easier to roll it between wax paper or plastic wrap or, easiest of all, in a roll-out-your-dough slipcover.  If you use the slipcover, flour it lightly.  Roll the dough out evenly, turning the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap often, so that it doesn't roll into the dough and form creases.  If you've got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge to rest and firm for about 20 minutes before fitting the dough into the buttered tart pan.  Trim the excess dough even with the edge of the pan.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially bake the crust:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust.  Bake the crust 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil.  If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.  Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails