I failed at making a chocolate caramel pretzel tart a couple of months ago, and, while tasty, it might be the second ugliest thing I’ve ever made, just after those Apricot Pistachio Squares. I had extra ingredients so I made minis of the tart (as shown below), and it’s not so noticeable.
But once I took the tarts out of their pants, the crust completely fell apart. Leslie, Shirley, Tri, and Spencer came over for a little Middle Eastern potluck back in November. You can see my crumbly hot mess of the tart at the top of the photo below.
On top of the fact that the crust fell apart, the caramel didn’t come out creamy enough so it hardened. This all made the tart nearly impossible to cut with a fork without a messy explosion. Case in point below:
I recently had an opportunity to redeem myself with another tart crust that doesn’t fall apart, when I came across a recipe for a deliciously buttery pâte sablée. The flavor is rich and texture is similar to shortbread. I’m super excited to share the filling recipe soon, but I wanted to separate this recipe out since it’s versatile enough to be something I’ll definitely refer to again in the future.
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in 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 coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.
Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
FOR A PARTIALLY BAKED OR FULLY BAKED CRUST: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the crust. Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.
Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
FOR A FULLY BAKED CRUST: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. If you want a more browned crust, continue baking for another minute or two, but keep a very close eye on the crust as it can go from golden to too dark quickly. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
TO PATCH A CRUST IF NECESSARY: If there are any cracks int he baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.
If you want to try a sweet tart dough with nuts, reduce the amount of flour to 1 1/4 cups and add 1/4 cup finely ground almonds or walnuts, pecans, or pistachios).
Storing tip: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer – it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.
I have been posting a ton of recipes made in our new kitchen lately, and have been hit or miss with including links to the recipes, so here they all are!
My round-up from Thanksgiving this year:
This year, instead of using all chicken apple sausage, I used half hot Italian and half chicken apple sausage to try and balance the sweetness of the cornbread.
I made the soup this time without the apple, and double the carrots and celery.
And here’s my December round-up:
I used the cupcake recipe from the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. Being the practical baker that I am, I didn’t want to buy a whole 6-pack of Guinness since we’re not Guinness drinkers at home. So I bought a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, which worked great except I didn’t realize the bottle was 9% ABV which is over twice what Guinness is. The cupcake was a teensy bit more beer flavored than the Guinness Cupake usually is, but it still tasted fine. I used the frosting recipe from the Samoas Cupcakes, and added 1 cup extra powdered sugar to thick it a bit. Since I wasn’t dipping the cupcake in coconut flakes, I wanted to make the frosting a bit more substantial. It still wasn’t thick enough to pipe but it was delicious nonetheless.
I made mini brown sugar pumpkin cheesecakes with oreo crust this past Thanksgiving as one dessert per my uncle’s request for something with pumpkin. And my mom wanted something fruity, so I figured it would be great to take advantage of pears being in season. However, I don’t like it when cooked pears get mushy. I came across this recipe on Food & Wine magazine, and thought the addition of the apple and streusel would keep the galette’s texture interesting.
I was also super excited to roll out the dough on our gorgeous new countertop! Thanks Johnny and the Expert Hardwood Flooring team! These small joys are what life is all about. At our old apartment, Kev and I didn’t have a lot of kitchen counter space and what little we had was right next to the sink and really the only prep space we had.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice water
2/3 cup walnuts
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 Granny Smith apples, halved, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 firm Bartlett pears, halved, cored and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
MAKE THE CRUST In a food processor, pulse the 2 cups of flour with the salt. Add the butter and pulse until the pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle the water on top and pulse until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather up any crumbs and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until well chilled, 1 hour.
MEANWHILE, MAKE THE STREUSEL Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and bake for about 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, then chop.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the brown sugar and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingers, pinch it into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the walnuts and pinch the streusel into clumps. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.
MAKE THE FILLING Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the pears, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, the salt and lemon juice. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 19-by-13-inch oval. Ease the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Mound the filling in the center of the oval, leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the fruit and fold the edge of the dough up and over the filling.
Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle evenly with granulated sugar. Bake the galette for 45 to 50 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the streusel and crust are golden brown. Let the galette cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using, before serving.
This was a big hit at Thanksgiving. The tart crispness of the apple really complimented the sweet pear. My aunt hosted this year, so I had to let it cool and bring it over at room temp, but I would definitely recommend serving it a little warm with ice cream if you make it at home!
1 pkg (1.2 oz) of freeze-dried strawberries (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
1 C unsalted butter, softened
3 t lemon juice, or milk
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
3 C powdered sugar, 1 C more if needed
Dump your freeze dried strawberries into a food processor. Be sure and take out the little white packet inside, this packet keeps out any moisture but it’s not edible. Finely crush the berries in your food processor or blender.
Pour into a sifter to remove any larger chunks, and discard what doesn’t go through the sifter.
In a stand mixer, beat sifted strawberries and butter until smooth.
Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat again.
Slowly add in powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Cupcakes will need a stiffer frosting while a cake can be a little more soft. To check, I always pull out my spatula and swipe my finger through the frosting. If the frosting keeps it’s shape and doesn’t sink, you’re good to go!
I wanted to call this “Natural Strawberry Frosting”, but mother nature doesn’t freeze-dry strawberries. It’s probably the most natural you’ll get for really colorful frosting!
To avoid writing on the cake and possibly ruining it with my not-so-great frosting script, I topped the cake with some fresh strawberries that Kevin picked up from the farmer’s market. However, they were so juicy that they “leaked” a bit on the drive over to the potluck! Here’s a photo of the finished cake:
This frosting will definitely be a go-to for me. It wasn’t too sweet thanks to the lemon juice. You can always add more lemon juice to make it more tart too!
For Mother’s Day with Kevin’s side of the family, I wanted to make a white cake with strawberry frosting. However, I ended up turning this into a white(ish) cake because I couldn’t bring myself to only use the egg whites that the recipe called for and waste 6 egg yolks! After a teeny adjustment, here is the recipe as adapted by Cook’s Illustrated:
2 1/4 C cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 Cwhole milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs** (3/4 C), at room temperature
2 t almond extract
1 t vanilla extract
1 3/4 C granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 t baking powder
1 t table salt
12 T unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool
**Use 6 large egg whites (3/4 C) at room temp if you want a true WHITE cake. The yolks are what gave this cake the light yellow hue.
Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.
Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.)
Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours before frosting.
The strawberry frosting recipe will be coming soon, but here’s a peek at the finished product!