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.

Advertisements

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.

 

 

Apple Crisp

Fall is in the air! I know this because I have gotten out a bunch of cookbooks and have gone to the library and checked out a few as well. I think about baking; I bake; I think about baking some more.

Apples: we bought some nice locally sourced Gala apples as these are one of our favorites for eating. It is a portable fruit. Hubby goes off to work with an apple, a piece of cheese, and granola bars, none of which is homemade. We then bought five pounds of more apples, also locally sourced, with the express purpose of making apple pies, muffins, tarts, etc.

So this week’s apple recipe is an Apple Crisp. This is from King Arthur Flour’s 200th Anniversary Cookbook. They had posted one on line but I think that may be different. Not sure. Anyway this is a good one. I did add my own flair to it, though.

  • 4 cups chopped apples, peeled (KAF said this was about 8 apples, so I peeled, cored, and chopped exactly 8 apples.)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon gingerbread spice mix (my addition: original recipe called for 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp allspice)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (I melted mine)
  • 2 Tab. chopped candied ginger (my addition)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (my addition)

Put chopped apples in lightly greased (or sprayed) 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle on the cranberries and the candied ginger. Blend the dry ingredient and add the butter. Melted butter (somewhat cooled) mixes in nicely. Stir until all ingredients are not dry. Put this on top of the apples. I patted it down like a crust. Bake 35 minutes at 375 degrees F.

IMG_2054

This came out well. Hubby said it had a “grown up taste”, not sure what that means. The topping was crispy and contrasted with the apples very well. In future I would reduce the brown sugar to 3/4 cup sugar as I think the topping doesn’t need that much sweetness. We did not have ice cream in the house and that would add a nice finish to this Crisp.

Apple “cup-pies”

 

I have made mini apple pies in a cup cake pan. The recipe is http://www.livewellbakeoften.com/mini-apple-pies/. I found this by googling apple pies looking for tarts.  The only adaptation I made is to brush the tops with water and sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar. I also used 3 cups of chopped apples instead of 2 1/2. I used Macoun apples. If I make these again, and it is likely I will, I would reduce the sugar by half and increase the amount of apples to 4 cups.

  • 2 9-inch pie crusts (I used store bought because I haven’t gotten around to making my own.)
  • 2 1/2 cups apples, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar (in the future I would use 1/8 cup)
  • 2 Tab flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Cut the pie crust into 12 circles about 3 1/2 inches. I used my Pyrex custard cups as the cutter. Press these circles of dough into your regular sized muffin pan. Use the leftover dough to make strips for the lattice tops. I found that four strips are needed for each mini pie.

Mix apples and other ingredients all together and spoon even amounts into the dough cups. Fashion the lattice to each. I then brushed the tops with water and sprinkled with a tiny bit of cinnamon sugar. Bake in 425 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes or so and then carefully remove to a cooling rack.

 

IMG_2052
“good bake”

Ready, set, bake! Puff Pastry Dough

All week long for some reason I felt like making puff pastry. Actually I wanted to make a Rough Puff pastry. Can you tell I’ve just finished watching Season 5 of the Great British Bake Off? I searched on-line for a recipe to make. I found Paul Hollywood’s but just reading his name was too intimidating. So I went with Epicurious: Rough Puff Pastry Dough.

This is mostly butter. Lots of butter. In looking at PH’s recipe there seems to be less butter to the same amount of flour. Interesting. This, of course, I note in hindsight. I have made “real” puff pastry before quite a long time ago so I do not recall the difference. That will mean another internet search sometime.

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick, plus 5 tablespoons of butter frozen
  • 5-6 tablespoons of ice water

IMG_1937
Ready, set, bake!

The metal bowl is to be chilled but I did not want to wait. I somehow do not have a box grater so I started out with that small hand held one and ended with working the butter into the flour with my hands. I keep butter in the freezer so that was readily available.

First sift the flour and the salt. Then grate the frozen butter into the flour. With a box grater this would have been easy. Not so much with the itty-bitty one I have. I became concerned that the butter parcels would be too small so I chopped up the remaining stick of butter with a chef’s knife and rubbed it into the flour with my fingers. Then sprinkle the flour/butter mixture with 5 tablespoons of iced water and stir with a fork until it comes together. It should hold together without crumbling when squeezed with your hand. If not, add a little bit more water. At this point my hands are covered with butter and flour. Form this into a 5 inch square. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

So Hubby and I find an intriguing movie to watch on Netflix. We pause this every 30 minutes for me to go roll out the dough.

Roll out dough into a 15 x 8 inch rectangle. Epicurious says to fold in thirds. But I think I remember PH liking the four fold, fold a fourth on each small end to the middle and then fold over. So this is what I did. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Do this two more times. Now chill the finished product for at least one hour. I leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

Now what to do with this? Nothing too original. Tarts made with a nice all-fruit jam. Roll out the dough into a rectangle 24 x 8 inches. Cut into 6 smaller rectangles. Place a helping of jam on one half. Brush edges with an egg wash made of one beaten egg and a few teaspoons of milk. fold into your turnovers. Use a fork to seal the edges and to poke through the top crust. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. I chilled these for an hour or two or three as Hubby and I were busily cleaning and de-cluttering our kitchen for a bit of remodeling. I baked these at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. We’re still working in the kitchen and Hubby asks “What’s burning?” I guess that means my oven may need cleaning or he did not expect to smell the baking heat.

So here is our tasty treat. No soggy bottom. Hubby declares it “a good bake”. Melt in the mouth buttery and flaky.

I would make this again. Maybe tackle PH’s recipe. Or I will buy the stuff from the grocery store freezer and keep it handy to use. I guess it depends on how much I want to get my hands into the action!

Apple Crunch Pie

I made an apple pie with a crunch topping. I was trying to make a crumb topping but it was very crunchy, tasty but very crunchy. I had a bunch of apples that needed to be made into a pie or a brown betty. Hubby voted for pie. There were some Empire, some Gala, and some Granny Smith apples. I sliced up about eight of them which made 4 cups. I had a pre-made, bought pie crust, just one so I had to make a topping.

I made the Cinnamon Add-a-Crunch topping from my handy-dandy Quaker Oats cook booklet. Thinking on it now, the “add-a-Crunch” should have given me a hint as to the outcome! I love crumb toppings that use melted butter. Makes it so much easier to mix than “cut together with fork until resembles…”

  • 1 1/4 cups quick or old-fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ (I actually have this! It’s great to sprinkle over the waffle batter before you close the lid on the waffle iron.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

The actual recipe says mix this together and cook in skillet for 5-7 minutes and then spread on cookie sheet to cool. I figured it would cook on the pie so I just mixed it all together and added 1 cup of chopped walnuts as well.

Make your apple pie. Spread this topping on top. Bake your apple pie. Voila! Very pretty.

IMG_1009

My pie was tasty but the apples did not meld together in any fashion. I had to serve this in bowls. I may have forgotten to pat the top of the apples with butter, but that can’t have been the problem. I never cook my pie fillings first and other apple pies have turned out like pies. I don’t make apple pies frequently enough to experiment like America’s Test Kitchen. I have had this same problem once or twice before which I attributed to the type of apple and/or size of the apple slices. But I sliced these apples in thin slices.

We ate the pie. We enjoyed the pie. It just wouldn’t have won any prizes!

A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake

This looked so fabulous and fancy in the magazine. And it uses candied oranges which is reminiscent of the candied orange peels my mother used to make. I made those a while back and you can read about that adventure here. The ingredients are simple enough. The time consuming part is poaching the orange slices in simple syrup to take away some of the bitterness. I have a lot of hopes while making this. And doubts.

I spent one evening preparing the orange slices. Scrub 4 navel oranges and then slice thin, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Place these in a wide skillet or pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer one minute. If left too long the slices will start to break a little. Drain and set aside momentarily. Bring 3 cups water and 3 cups sugar to a boil in that pan and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Then return orange slices to the pan. Slices must be put gently in the sugar water or they will break apart. Let this gently simmer for 2 1/2 hours, occasionally spooning the syrup over the oranges. Let cool in pan. At this point I stored these in the refrigerator covering the pan with its lid.

Two days later I am ready to make the cake. This is a sponge cake. I have only ever been successful at making a sponge cake once in my life! But I go for it anyway. Only afterward did it occur to me that I could have just made a butter cake which I have very much more success with.

IMG_0738

First, arrange the orange slices in a greased 9-inch round pan. I also added parchment paper to be sure it turned out of the pan okay. Additionally, the recipe said to drain the slices on paper towels and pat dry. Well…I forgot to do this. But I proceed.

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, warmed in hot tap water for five minutes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (about one orange’ worth)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on low until blended and then on high 8-10 minutes until pale and thick and leaves a ribbon trail when the beater is lifted. I used the whisk attachment for this; not sure if that was the right thing to do. Where is Mom when you need her? I know she is up in heaven looking down and laughing at me! Merry Celestial Christmas Mom and Dad!

Then whisk in the orange zest and vanilla. Sift half the flour/salt mixture onto the batter and carefully fold this in. Repeat with the remaining flour. Then fold in the melted butter. So far, so good. Scrape this into the prepared pan and spread to edges to cover all the orange slices. Now bake this for 25-30 minutes until springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out of the center clean. My cake took 33 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake and let cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto cake plate.

IMG_0739
Very pretty!

First thing to notice is that they syrup from the orange slices has been absorbed into the cake. The second thing is after a few minutes on the cake plate the middle sank. Just a little bit, but still. Hmm? What is this about?

So now I am contemplating what to do. I could make a new cake and remove all these lovely orange slices and bake them upside down with a butter cake. I could spend 2 1/2 hours poaching more orange slices and make this again with a butter cake recipe. Or I could hope that there will be more than one dessert for Christmas Eve. And that this actually will be just fine, even though I cannot test it first. It is to be served with a chocolate orange sauce which might cover all ills. What to do?

Not content to leave well enough alone I decide to make a back-up cake! This one will have fresh orange slices in the manner of pineapple upside down cake. And will be a plain butter cake from my standard Betty Crocker Cookbook. I peel these oranges before slicing them. Melt 1/4 cup butter in the cake pan and sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar on the butter and then arrange orange slices. Make a batter for a single layer cake, 9-inches. Bake 45 minutes.

IMG_0742 1
I sprinkled it with red sugar to be festive!

I take both for the Christmas Eve feast. The pretty cake is pretty and smells quite orange-y. It is impossible to slice effectively. And there is virtually no cake under the center for at least a 3-inch diameter. The candied orange slices are sickly sweet, almost inedibly so. The cake that is there at the edges is okay, but this did not serve as a slice of cake. And was not worthy of the chocolate orange sauce I made to go with. An epic fail!

The back up cake was ugly. Especially ugly when displayed next to the first cake. The cake was nice, a moist ordinary butter cake. Orange slices because of their fibers do not make a good cake fruit. One should stick to apples, pineapple, pears, and the like.

Luckily a family member had made a nice apple pie and there were plenty of Christmas cookies for dessert…and bourbon…and wine. Did I mention there was bourbon? And everyone was full from the wonderful prime rib dinner.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! Happy Winter holidays to others! Hanukkah is past. Kwanzaa has just begun. And may we all have a blessed New Year in 2018!