February 22, 2012

Primary Tart

Pear Tart

I’ve made many a pie and galette over the years but never a tart, until this week. The tart aversion has been two-fold, first I lacked the equipment and second, most tarts are unappealing to me. Tart recipes often have a heavy cream and egg filling, both savory and sweet. Like in quiche, this egg suspension is a huge turn-off to me. I don’t like the texture or the flavor and after eating I’m left feeling weighted down. Most of this comes from my tepid relationship to the egg.

There are non-egg tarts out there and this year I decided it was about time to extend my crusty baked goods to include the tart. After hearing numerous hints, SB gave me a set of tart pans for my birthday. I decided my first tart would be pear and I knew just the pear I wanted to use.

Last fall I made three variations of pear freezer jam; unsweetened, honey sweetened and low sugar. The unsweetened is bland, the honey sweetened is a bit strange because I used a dark wildflower honey, the color and flavor of molases, which over powers the pear and the low sugar was by far the winner with a robust pear flavor. I’ve been trying to think of things to do with the dark honey pear jam, since I don’t think it is good on its own.

Thus this tart was born. I used a tart shell recipe from Deborah Madison with some extra almond extract thrown in, filled the shell with a whole jar of pear jelly (about 2 cups) and added one sliced pear on top. Then I topped it all with an almond crumble topping from Deborah’s crisp recipe.

The tart came out beautifully. The honey pear jam turned into this almost carmely, soft center and the tart shell was delicate with just a hint of almond flavor. I will make this pear tart again, as I have more jars of honey pear jam in the freezer.

Meanwhile, I’m already on the hunt for more tart recipes. A couple contenders are the Black Bean Tart with Chili Crust and Zucchini and Ricotta Tart. Any other tart favorites?

January 30, 2012

Pie-troversy

Cherry Pie

For our weekend game group, I volunteered to bring dessert. Originally I had been planning on brownies, but SB reminded me of the door county cherries in our freezer and suddenly cherry pie sounded perfect. I’ve got my pie crust, a la Deborah Madison, down perfect, so pie is no longer daunting. I used Smitten Kitchen’s cherry pie filling. In honor of valentine’s day, I decorated it with two hearts. Ta Da! I had pie to share.

Only, when it came time to slice the pie, of the six people at game group, only three wanted pie. Two of the non-pie eaters claim to like other fruit pies, just not cherry. One has decided to take a strong stand on the pie vs cake controversy and she chose cake, thanks to this guy. All the controversy meant left-over pie for me. Still, I’ve never had such a luke-warm response to dessert.

The web is full of pie or cake discussions. To provide the counter-point to the pro-cake camp, I give you this illustrated post. Personally, I enjoy cake AND pie. Good thing I don’t have to choose.

Monthly Music Challenge:
January Music: Polica at High Noon, part of the FRZN Festival
Bonus Event: Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? with Ed Begley Jr.

July 12, 2011

Cake with Strawberries

Birthday Cake

With the final strawberries of the season, I made this chocolate cake from Smitten Kitchen, Double Chocolate Layer Cake. It makes an amazingly tall and impressive looking cake, especially after you slice the two layers in half. I substituted strawberries for raspberries and made a vanilla cream cheese frosting. Inside the cake I placed two layers of strawberry filling and the center layer was frosting.

Overall I was pretty happy with it, though, in our family we have a classic birthday cake, the Black Magic Cake. While both cakes are made with coffee and oil, Smitten Kitchen’s cake came out with a courser grain of cake than the Black Magic. While the cake certainly wasn’t dry it just didn’t have the fine tenderness that my family has come to expect in a cake.

In the future I will go back to the Black Magic but use the fruit filling technique from SK. I decorated this cake with leftover strawberry filling and sliced strawberries. The drive across town and the summer heat did not leave it looking as beautiful as it had begun, but there are worse things than dripping strawberry juice.

July 1, 2011

Strawberries

Marble Angle Food Cake with Strawberries

After many hours of dreamily looking at strawberry dessert recipes, I settled on two. First up was a marble angle food cake, which necessitated a new angle food pan. I’m not a big fan of having such specific, one use, items, but it sure made all the difference. The cake came out tall, spongy and moist. I halved the strawberries and sprinkled them with just a touch of sugar. My original plan had been to make a rhubarb sauce as well, but that didn’t come together. Still an overall success.

Next up was a classic strawberry rhubarb pie. I used an Epicurious recipe, Lattic Topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. The only change I made was to use a 10 inch pan instead of the 9 inch. I have no idea how it would have fit in a smaller pan. The crust came out flaky and lightly sweet, while the cinnamon brought the fruit together. The fresh strawberries shined through in this pie. Yum!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
June 30, 2011

Samosa Pie

Samosa Pie

I’ve been wanting to make Summer of Pie’s Vegetable Samosa Pie since she blogged it last summer. My CSA’s first round of potatoes and parsnips was the perfect excuse to give it a roll. I did make a few changes, such as using half parsnips with the mashed potatoes and putting cauliflower, carrots and peas in the top.

It is a formidable tower of buttery crust and has kept its shape with no help from the outside. It is less like a giant samosa and more of a French take on Indian cuisine (aka wrap it in butter). The end result came out a little sweet, maybe from the parsnips or the tomato paste, but overall a wonderful, impressive dish.

I had never made a pie crust using the vodka method and while the crust came out beautiful, I don’t think it really would have been different if I’d used all ice water instead. I know this is a hotly debated topic in pie circles, so I’ll leave at that.

Samosa Pie
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