Mini Carrot Cake Cheesecakes

“More carrot cake jam?”– you may ask, wondering just how many more recipes for this delectable condiment I have planned. Well, this is my last variation, and it’s just as delicious as the previous ones. It’s simple, really– standard bite-sized cheesecakes with a swirl of jam baked into them– but irresistible once you’ve tried one. I like them best frozen, and really can’t decide whether I like these or the Carrot Cake Ice Cream better. Obviously, the recipe would work equally well with a jam or preserve of your choice– I’m thinking sour cherry next time?

I will note that this recipe makes 40 bite-sized cheesecakes in a mini muffin pan. I used a silicone pan, which made it a snap to remove the chilled cheesecakes– if you’re using metal, I recommend using paper liners. If you don’t have two mini muffin pans, the unbaked crumbs and filling will keep at room temperature while you bake and freeze your first batch– just don’t let it sit overnight or anything.

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Hong Kong Style Egg Tarts

Going out for dim sum as a kid, we would always get egg tarts for dessert. They were my dad’s favorite, and since they came three to a plate I would sometimes split one just for the sake of having something sweet to finish off the meal. Back then I leaned more towards chocolate desserts, but as I’ve grown up my tastes have gotten more diverse, and I’ve learned to appreciate a flaky crust filled with smooth, silken custard– and I’m betting that if my dad ever gets to taste these, he’ll like them even better than the ones in the restaurant.

I admit that making a fully-laminated dough for the crust is a bit labor-intensive– certainly more so than simply making a flaky pie crust or a melted-butter tart crust– but the crust is one of the distinctive elements that makes these tarts a classic.

I actually made two different crust recipes, just to see which one I liked better, and while I’m only 95% sure that I noted the correct recipe to use here (oops!) they were both pretty tasty, so I’m comfortable giving you this one. It was a little tough to roll out but the flaky layers were perfectly crispy.

I used foil tart pans (these were perfectly sized), but you could probably use a regular muffin pan if you were so inclined. There’s enough butter in the dough that I wouldn’t worry too much about sticking.

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Pumpkin Pasties

To continue the Harry Potter theme, I baked up a quick batch of pumpkin pasties– basically mini hand-pies filled with spiced pumpkin purée. Previously when I’ve made pumpkin-filled desserts I have gone to the trouble of baking a pumpkin custard, basically a pumpkin pie filling, and then scooping it into whatever I’m filling (phyllo triangles, for example), but I was in a bit of a hurry with this one and it ended up tasting just fine, so I’ll give you the recipe as-is.

Not too sweet, these two-bite desserts have a nicely spiced filling and sparkle with coarse sugar on top. I actually like them better cold than hot– the pumpkin flavor seems to come through better that way– but they’re tasty either way!

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Mini Treacle Tarts

In yet another dessert for my daughter’s Hogwarts birthday party, I decided to make miniature treacle tarts– treacle tarts are not only quintessentially British, but the first dessert that Harry eats at Hogwarts!

A moment later the desserts appeared. Blocks of ice cream in every flavor you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate éclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, Jell-O, rice pudding…
As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the talk turned to their families.

-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

These are made with a pate sucrée crust and a slightly non-standard filling– the recipe I used had a bit more cream in it than most other recipes I saw later (oops!), which I expect made it less gooey and more custardy in texture than is usual. Also I did have extra filling, which I baked in two small ramekins and enjoyed later with berries on top. Enjoy!

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Bakewell Tart

Bakewell Tart is one of those quintessentially British-sounding desserts that I’d never tried to make for myself– I know I definitely saw it on an episode of The Great British Baking Show (albeit with a sickly-sweet-looking icing on top… ugh), but it didn’t appeal to me at the time. That being said, when I found myself with some extra homemade plum jam and a refrigerated pie crust, I figured I’d give it a shot.

In case you didn’t know, Bakewell Tart is traditionally made with a shortcrust pastry, raspberry jam base, and a baked frangipane filling. That being said, a good-quality refrigerated pie crust worked just fine for me, and I think any reasonably tart jam would be delicious here. Tartness really is key, because the frangipane is pretty sweet– a nice apricot would be excellent, or sour cherry, and I can definitely see this working well with some infused herbs like rosemary if you wanted to be a bit adventurous.

This recipe couldn’t have been easier– the only slightly tricky step was the blind-baking process, which does require pie weights (I use dried beans). Aside from that, it whips up with a minimum of fuss and the finished tart is delicious. The crust is crisp, the interior is nicely plushy with a warm almond flavor, and it goes perfectly with a cup of tea. I highly recommend this one, and will be adding it to my go-to recipe box!

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Creme Brulée Tart

After making pavlova for the first time, I found myself with four extra egg yolks. If it were winter I’d happily mix them into a batch of pasta a la carbonara, but it’s just too hot out to eat something so heavy for dinner– I decided to go with dessert instead. And since I was mysteriously short on ramekins, creme brulée was out… or was it?

I found a recipe for creme brulée tart that looked interesting– shortcrust pastry, layer of custard, and of course the caramelized top– and decided to give it a shot. I’ll say right now that there was a problem with this tart, but I think it was more in my execution than an issue with the recipe– while my crust looked fine (a little shrinkage, but mostly fine) during my blind-bake, for some reason it bubbled up in one spot during the custard-baking session, which made for a very odd-looking surface. It looked fine once I sugared and torched the top, but I had to be careful not to serve the slice with the giant crust-bubble in it, since it was dangerously short on custard!

Aside from that, the tart came together pretty easily. The crust is pulsed up in the food processor, and the custard filling doesn’t need any pre-cooking or thickening before being poured into the baked crust for a last session in the oven. The original recipe called for me to steep my dairy with a vanilla bean for half an hour, but since I used extract I got to skip that step and just warm the cream before mixing.

The tart itself is delicious– rich and creamy, with a nice buttery crust. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the egg tarts you get at dim sum restaurants, but a little less eggy and with the welcome addition of caramelized sugar. I still like regular creme brulée best, but this is a nice variation!

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Sesame Chess Pie

I’ll confess right off the bat that I’ve never tried regular chess pie before. Heck, I only heard of it recently as basically a sugar pie, like a pecan pie without the pecans, and it sounded too sweet to deal with. But when I came across a recipe for Sesame Chess Pie I was intrigued. I’ve always liked experimenting with adding savory flavors to my sweets, and tahini is like a less assertive peanut butter in that sense. I decided to give it a shot, figuring that I could use the extra egg whites to make macarons later on (more on that later).

The pie itself is a cinch to whip up– especially if you use a store-bought pie crust– and aside from the tahini calls for standard pantry ingredients (at least in my pantry). It puffed and browned beautifully in the oven before settling down during cooling, and smelled delicious.

I served mine with a scoop of no-churn orange-sesame ice cream, which was basically this recipe except I substituted sesame seeds for almonds.

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Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut is one of those flavors that I didn’t come to appreciate until I was an adult– I hated macaroons as a kid, along with Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars, and so coconut cream pie never appealed to me. Now, of course, I enjoy coconut on occasion (though it’s still not in my top 5)– and who can resist a pudding pie? Not me.

I had an extra refrigerated pie crust that I needed to use up, and when I saw the can of Coco Lopez in my pantry I knew that I’d hit on an idea for dessert. That being said, for some reason I really dislike making custards that require extra egg yolks (probably because then I’d have extra whites to use up), so all of the custard-based pie recipes were out. Instead I was able to find a recipe that called for instant pudding mix that was whipped up using cream of coconut instead of milk– sounded perfect!

The original recipe had a homemade crust made with coconut and coconut-flavored rum, but since the whole point was to use up a refrigerated crust I skipped that part. I ended up adding some extra coconut extract to make up for the resulting reduction in coconut flavor, and the finished pie was creamy, fluffy, decadently rich, and of course delicious.

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