Custard Tarts!

I had a baking weekend! Two types of bread and custard tarts. I have been fascinated by custard tarts ever since being a devotee of As Time Goes By on PBS. Lionel’s favorite was custard tarts. These pastry treats are not easily found in my grocery bakery. Nor are they a staple in many of my cookbooks. What type of custard is to be used? My two French cookbooks had several types: patisserie, baked, Chantilly, anglaise. I had recently made a pumpkin pie which is essentially a custard pie. Should I pre-bake the tart shells or could I bake the custard and the pastry at the same time? So I got out several cookbooks. I looked at the custard/pastry cream recipes. I had to choose what to do. So here’s what I did.

The Art of French Cooking suggested pastry cream for tarts. These recipes are a bit fussy. French Feasts instructions are not always clearly written. So that left (not really, I have over 50 cookbooks) Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. And his pastry cream recipe was simple and not fussy at all. The only change I made was to add the zest of one orange.

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs or 4 egg yolks (I used two eggs)
  • 2 cups cream, half-and=half, or whole milk (I used light cream)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest from one orange (my addition)
  • orange marmalade for glaze (my addition)
  • 4 tart shells; I used a refrigerated pie shell and cut it into four to line four individual tart pans. Pre-bake these.

Do you notice a theme of “2s”?

My successful blind baked tart shells. I used parchment filled with beans to hold the shells in place and to prevent shrinkage.

In a saucepan combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl mix the eggs with the cream. Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients over medium heat for about ten minutes whisking constantly to prevent lumps. This will thicken. The test for readiness is when the mixture coats a spoon and when you draw a line through the coating the line will hold its shape. Remove from heat and stir in butter and extract and zest. The butter will melt. Let this cool to room temperature before filling the shells.

I filled the four tart shells and had a cup of pastry cream leftover. I think this amount of cream would fill a 9 inch pie, or 2 more individual tarts. I then melted a small amount of orange marmalade to spoon onto each tart for added orange flavor and to make them pretty. I then grated a very small amount of dark chocolate on top. Chocolate curls would have also been nice. I put these in the fridge to set for about an hour. I then popped them, carefully, out of the tart pan and placed them on a platter to serve.

They kind of look like poached eggs!
The first day we each had half. The next day we each ate a whole one.

And here are pictures of the breads. These were not so successful. Eaten when first baked but then left alone. They seemed underbaked and either overproofed or underproofed. I think I will buy fresh yeast before trying bread again.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Warning: this post does not contain a specific recipe. There will be links to two recipes though, one that I have written about before and one someone else’s.)

Chocolate chip cookies are the comfort food of cookiedom. Oh sure, you come across one of those oddities of people who don’t like chocolate but I think they must be aliens from outer space. No offense intended.

First I made the best chocolate chip cookie recipe EVER! to take to my weekend in Maine with “the girls”. We are all grown women ages 40s to 60s but we call this the girls’ weekend and have done for the past 5 years. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated and I wrote about it a while ago https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2017/11/30/cooks-cookies-chocolate-chip/. The secret is the browning of some of the butter. It is a bit fussy to put together but absolutely worth it. Hubby and I ate a dozen of them before the weekend and then the camp neighbor took the remaining 4 in the bag. We thought he would only take one! We did have Sue’s chocolate cookies with nuts which were quite delicious too.

Lake Cobboseecontee

Meanwhile here I am trying to adjust to new progressive eyeglasses. I can see further better but this mid range and reading are a chore. And I have worn progressives for a number of years. I think my eye doctor did not test my reading range adequately but I did not want to write my own prescription by making an adjustment. It also takes 2-3 weeks to adjust just because it is a new prescription. Must have patience.

The next chocolate chip cookie is a tribute to the fall season when all the recipes are coming out as pumpkin spice. I like pumpkin but am not that fond of pumpkin spice coffee unless it is one of those fancy lattes with whipped cream and such. The description of this cookie sounded like a cookie I would eat, not cakey. I have made the pumpkin cookie recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook and although tasty it was cakey. This promised to be “super soft, chewy, and filled with chocolate chips.” https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies/. My first bite was heavenly. I do not like the phrase “to die for” but it would apply to these cookies.

I am continuing to enjoy having a house husband. I was never a proper housewife so had no idea what to expect. I think our advanced ages make this more workable than say a couple in their twenties. Hubby claims not to be fond of cats. Our cat Squeaky is the only pet remaining in our home. So, who feeds her “mushy food”, who brushes her fur? He is working hard at home refinishing the floors and scraping the layers of paint off the mantle, which is flying about and leaving paint spots on the floors. He is not worried about this so I won’t worry about it either. He is my handyman!

This is at the top of Mount Greylock. Early morning, squinting into the sun!

The third batch of chocolate chip cookies were eaten but not enjoyed. These were made by the recipe on the back of the package of almond flour I bought just for fun. I will not bother with this again. These were mushy in texture even though light brown on the edges and the bottoms. Hubby had the great idea of re-baking them to see if they would crisp up. I re-baked them the next day for another 10 minutes. They did crisp but were still not enjoyable.

Until next time, happy fall and fall baking! I’ve already made a pumpkin pie!

Scones

Another recipe made by request of Hubby. It was a cool weekend and prime for baking. I got out a number of cookbooks looking for bread recipes. There were so many and then I saw a recipe for scones with maple syrup and pecans. Yum! I also have a scone pan that I had never used. The retired doctor and baker from whom I purchased this at an estate sale told me to be sure to grease the pan because it is not non-stick. I think he sold this to me for $3.

The problem with the scone recipe is that we have no cream, not even half-and-half now that we drink our coffee black. Well, I did not look up substitutions but decided I could use sour cream (or yogurt) and thin this with a bit of almond milk. And hope for the best!

This recipe is an adaptation of maple-pecan scones from The New England Table by Lora Brody.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup full fat sour cream + 1/3 cup almond milk (I have unsweetened vanilla)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray scone pan with cooking spray or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients, stir with a fork (I use a whisk), then add pecans and cranberries stirring to coat. In another bowl whisk together the butter, maple syrup and sour cream/milk mixture. Dribble this over the flour mixture and stir with a fork until it comes together. Turn out on a floury surface. Knead ever so slightly so as not to make a tough dough. Pat into a circle.

At this point I have to figure out how to make triangles out of a circle to fit into the sections of the scone pan. I confess I did not think of this ahead of time or I would have patted the dough into a square. So I cut the circle in half and then each half into 8 pieces and gently stuff each piece into the pan. If not using a scone pan, cut the circle into 10 wedges, or as many as you would like. For wedges you are to place them on the prepared baking pan about and inch apart. Bake 14-16 minutes.

For my scone pan, these were not done after the baking time. I had Hubby taste test and sight test. So I put them back in to bake for another two minutes and then another minute with the oven turned off.

While these are baking I make the glaze. Glazes are simple, right? Well, I did not read the directions and ended up with a thick frosting-like concoction. I mixed it together in a small bowl. To make it softer I had to heat this over the stove so that it would be thin enough to drizzle on the scones. Apparently this particular glaze was to be cooked on the stove. The lesson is to read all the way through the recipe first.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Melt butter over low heat, whisk in the sugar and syrup until smooth.

The finished product was very tasty. Hubby thought they were a bit too sweet. They had a slight but not overpowering taste of maple.

I made Biscotti

Life goes on at our home. I go to work, walking most days. Hubby continues his unproductive job search. We avoid getting run over by a car. We hope we did not board up the sparrow babies in their nest when we fixed the eave under the gutter. Really, we listened very closely and did not hear peeping for a several days. We watched and did not see momma and daddy sparrow going in to feed the young. We are trying not to feel guilty but did our best to honor the bird lives. Eminent domain? 😦

Hubby asked if I could do this. One of my nieces told me a few holiday seasons ago that they are easy to make. I looked through a few cookbooks and settled on Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I will ‘fess up to two mistakes: I should have flattened the logs before baking the first time and I forgot to leave them in the oven until dry the second time. Oh, and I just smeared the chocolate on the after dipping did not work out so well.

  • 1/2 stick butter (4 Tablespoons, softened)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate orange with almonds chocolate bar, melted

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then add the extract. Mix dry ingredients and add to the dough a little at ta time and add the milk as needed to bring the dough together. Add the cranberries at this time as well.

Butter and flour two baking sheets. Divide dough in half and roll into logs about 2 inches wide. Bake these 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F. When loaves are cool enough to touch use a serrated knife to cut them into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal. Put these on the baking sheets and return to oven, turning them once, for 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

I then tried to dip them in melted chocolate. And then I glopped the chocolate on them as frosting. Very tasty. Very rich tasting. Hubby ate most of them.

Will I make these again? Not especially. Well, perhaps if Hubby asks nicely!

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

The summer weather cooled a bit and baking is now able to be done without making the house unbearable. Hubby and I did heave and ho (we have scrapes and bruises to prove that we are getting too old for this sort of thing) the too big AC unit into the sewing room window and put up curtains to partition the living room from the rest of the house but prefer to not have to use it if possible. So technically I could have heated the oven (ugh!) and then go sit in the cooled living room but I did not. Baking is not a past-time I have the urge to indulge in summer. I will confess that I have at least once succumbed to chocolate urges and baked a box of brownie mix. Then we ate that in two sittings. Not good for the waist line!

The idea that I would cook through the Betty Crocker cookbook was a bust. I may do some baking from it but the meat and vegetable recipes were too plain and uninteresting to me this year. I did not even bother to look in that book when deciding to make oatmeal cookies. Deciding to make oatmeal cookies delighted Hubby. Alas, I did not put M&Ms in them so technically they are not “Daddy Holiday Oatmeal Cookies”.

I found this cookbook while looking for a recipe to use. Actually it is the first book I looked at and since there was a recipe I did not look further.

The oatmeal cookie recipe is on page 33 and calls for 3 cups of goodies added to the batter. The only item I added to the original recipe was 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and then I mixed up the 3 cups of goodies for variety.

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (doesn’t every baker know to pack brown sugar by now?)
  • 2 eggs (also at room temperature if one remembers to put them out on the counter with the butter,or is this just for bread?)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups oatmeal (I don’t think it matters if this is instant, quick, or regular? I used quick-cooking.)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate morsels + 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries + 1/2 cup dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. This recipe goes together in the usual way: cream butter and sugars then add eggs, beating well after each, then add the vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients together (flour through cinnamon in above list) and add to the creamed mixture. Then add the oatmeal and goodies. I combined these in a separate bowl first as well.

Scoop batter in heaping tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Let sit on baking pan 1-2 minutes before removing to cooling racks. This step is very important or the cookies will fall apart. This made exactly 4 dozen cookies.

Hubby is having a few for breakfast with his coffee right now. I had thought I would take a plate of these to work but Hubby is enjoying them too much to deprive him of his treat. I did sneak a dozen of them into a freezer bag for later, maybe?

Camping is my Happy Place

I’ve been camping. So baking and cooking has not been occupying my time. Sitting in the backyard weeknights is a good place too. I decompress from work there. I watch the birds. The same ordinary backyard birds. I did see a goldfinch this week. Actually that was while camping in New Hampshire. The biting flies were still at it. Mountain lake for swimming, campfires for roasting marshmallows, grandchildren for chasing around the fields with bats and wiffle balls. Bicycles for riding…into the woods to sit by the river…almost getting thrown into the ferns and poison ivy by the exposed tree roots on the path. Camping is my happy place. And that campground is one of our favorites. I have three more camping adventures planned for the season. That just seems too few for me.

We had a gourmet meal while camping. Beef filet wrapped in bacon, stuffed baked potatoes, garden salad, and fresh focaccia bread. Voila!

The secret here is the beef filet are from a package already prepared and ready to cook. Hubby had baked the potatoes ahead of time and stuffed them at the campground to heat on the grill. The salad greens and the bread were fresh from the Keene farmer’s market that morning. A tasty meal that we ate under the canopy while listening to the now gentle rain tapping on top. It always rains when we camp.

But then:

And, of course, there is the cast iron all-in-one breakfast: sausage patties with eggs and sauteed leftover potato, onion, with cheese on top.

Turkey Dinner

Due to the various arrangements and travels of family members through the last winter holidays, Hubby and I did not get to enjoy a traditional roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings. But we had a 15 pounder in the freezer. Well, it was time. Hubby roasted the turkey and made his famous stuffing. He also made smashed potatoes. I made the turkey pie and cranberry sauce. It is nice having a house-husband around. When I came home from work I just had to make the gravy.

Betty Crocker’s recipe was used for the cranberry sauce. Unfortunately it did not gel. It was tasty but did not gel. My daughter had that problem a few years ago. We did not figure out why.

  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

I admit I halved the recipe. Was that the problem? I also did not follow the instructions strictly. But I never had in the past either. One is supposed to bring the sugar and water to a boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes before adding the cranberries. Once added boil this for an additional 5-8 minutes. So I brought the water and sugar to a boil, maybe let it boil a minute or two, then poured in the cranberries which were frozen. I let this boil away for 10-15 minutes since I failed to watch the clock.

Meanwhile life goes on. Hubby continues to job search. He keeps busy doing various household tasks and chores and reads books and listens to the financial reports. (I’m counting on him to make our millions in the market so I can eventually retire.) Grandson turned 3. Our debit cards got hacked. We can’t seem to lose weight, even though I walk to and from work most days. We watch too much Netflix and complain about no content. I got a bird book and have casually taken up bird watching. But now that I am looking, the birds are not staying put long enough for me to figure out what they are. Ordinary life is a good life. Blessings to all!