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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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?

Snack cakes

I may or may not have posted this recipe before. I have a hard time keeping track. There are just so many recipes out there, and just so many that I keep going back to. On occasion I have spotted an interesting new one to try, but have not been adventurous lately.

I am almost three years into blogging, or is it four? It is actually four. I did not intend for this to just be a post of recipes but who am I to think people are interested in my musings on my ordinary life?

Life has happened in the four months since I last posted here. Hubby was laid off and is at that borderline age of contemplating whether this should lead to retirement but not quite there yet, so a job search continues. Leo the Dog had to be let go to doggy heaven after 13 1/2 years of life and 2 1/2 years as part of our family. 😦 Camping season is upon us and we managed to survive a week of biting black flies and chiggers in the Vermont woods. And now that Leo is not a consideration I have been able to look at the State Parks for camping but it is a bit late in the season already to find weekend spots at the shoreline parks.

The other day I needed to bake. Something. Anything. This snack cake recipe is an easy favorite and it has variety. I made the applesauce version with a few tweaks.

  • 1 2/3 cups flour; I used one cup all-purpose and 2/3 whole wheat pastry
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon gingerbread spice (recipe called for allspice)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

And my own additions:

  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix everything together. I do the dry ingredients first and then add the wet and the additions. Put in 8 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. All done!

This recipe makes a one layer cake. I made the chocolate version to make “bug cakes” for my daughters birthday. The grandchildren helped me decorate them. I bought this fancy pan for $3.50 at an estate sale last summer.

And yes I am aware that there is a unicorn butterfly. It’s all good. 🙂

Lemon Meringue Pie

I have posted on making a lemon meringue pie before Birthday pie: lemon meringue. This is a different recipe. I baked this pie for the same purpose as this year our favorite Airman is home with us for her birthday. And again she requested a lemon meringue pie. This year’s pie is from PCV Emily, now RPCV. I make her pie crust as my go-to crust and you will find that one here. The apple cider vinegar and egg pie crust is fabulous. Each batch makes three nine inch crusts. I made two batches. I use my food processor for easy mixing.

When Emily sent my son the recipe for the pie crust she also sent recipes for some pie fillings, one of which was Lemon Meringue. I went with that this year. It calls for 6 eggs. The ingredients were not as clear as I had hoped. But I figured them out and the pie was a big hit. And turned out better this year than two years ago.

For the Lemon Curd:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice and zest of those lemons (how many lemons is this? I used 4 and had to add a bit of bottled lemon juice to make 1/2 cup. The lemons were small and I got tired of juicing them!)
  • 3 whole eggs (save the whites for the meringue): this is understandable
  • 3 egg yolks (this makes it confusing: is this from the above eggs? or is it a total of 6 egg yolks?)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 Tab butter cut into pieces (this is one stick=1/2 cup)

I decided to use 4 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs, saving the 4 egg whites for the meringue. Mix all the ingredients into a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat so nothing sticks to the bottom and the eggs don’t scramble. Do this until one boil bubble comes to the top. This will take awhile. You could strain this through a sieve to remove seeds and zest but I like zest and there were no seeds in my lemon juice.

Now make the meringue. This turned out really well. I was very pleased.

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (whirl the sugar in a food processor to make it superfine)

In a bone dry and very clean bowl beat egg whites and tartar with a mixer until very foamy. Slowly add in sugar as you continue mixing. Mix until stiff peaks have formed.

Now here’s where I wasn’t prepared. The pie crust needed to be pre-baked. This would have easily been done while I was preparing the filling, but I didn’t think to do this. So I now have stiffly whipped meringue in my mixer bowl and fully cooked and hot lemon curd in my saucepan. And I had used a pyrex 8-inch pie dish and still have no pie beans for pre-baking! And I had deliberately placed the pie crust in the dish in the freezer to prevent shrinkage, but had it out at room temperature while I was preparing the curd and meringue, and now I have to pre-bake. I end up with a little shrinkage and a bit of soggy bottom at the end. Life goes on.

Spread the curd into the pre-baked (mine was half-baked) pie crust. Pile the meringue on top. I had lots of meringue. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes until meringue is lightly browned.

Happy Birthday Val!

IMG_2090
This was cut while slightly warm. The curd firmed up the when completely cooled.

 

 

Cake from a Box!

 

I found a box mix at one of those big warehouse type stores that sell odd items, discontinued stuff, and leftovers. The ingredients are your basic recipe ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, corn starch, canola oil, baking powder, and salt. I had to buy this; actually I bought two boxes. I’m thinking that I could make my own cake mixes by mixing up the dry ingredients and listing what wet ones to add. For this box mix one adds 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 stick butter, and three eggs. I’m not sure how they got the canola oil in the mix.

I love German Chocolate Cake. Either myself or a family member makes or buys one for my birthday. It is not my birthday, no where close. I have previously made a German Chocolate Cake just for fun, also not for my birthday. That post is Cake Envy

This was super easy to make. I baked it in my 8-inch round cake pans. I then made the frosting from the side of the box for the classic Coconut Pecan Frosting.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Cook all this except the coconut and pecans in a sauce pan. Bring to boiling and then cook over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool completely before frosting the cake.

What could be simpler? Well, it usually helps to read the recipe several times. I put in an entire can of evaporated milk so that was 1 1/2 cups. I cooked this longer than the 5 minutes because it was not getting thick. I admit I also had to pick out a few small pieces of scrambled egg! After cooking and stirring in the coconut and pecans it seemed more pudding like than frosting. I contemplated making it into a German chocolate trifle. But I persevered and stuck it in the fridge to firm up. And voila! It worked!