French Beer Tart

beer-tart

I admit that I’m not usually a beer person– it’s just not my thing, for the most part. But in certain applications, it can be a fun ingredient! This is one of those applications– not only is this tart delicious, but it makes a great dessert for any beer lovers you may know (and any people who, like me, aren’t necessarily beer fans).

I got the recipe from David Lebovitz, who has some great desserts (and a fabulous ice cream book that I use every summer to make my own ice creams) and lives in Paris, so I was confident that he wouldn’t fail me when it came to something called “French Beer Tart.” I was right.

This tart won rave reviews from all tasters– everyone really liked how you could taste the beer (so use one you like) without it being overpowering. One thing I might try next time would be more salt in the crust, or perhaps some ground-up pretzels instead of some of the flour. But the filling is perfect– wouldn’t change a thing.

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Lemon-Blueberry Tart

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I’ve been stretching the last jar of my batch of lemon curd from that tea party I mentioned before, and wondering why, since it’s so delicious, I don’t make it more often. So when an occasion came up to make a dessert for company, it’s hardly surprising that lemon curd was on my mind…

I decided to make a tart, and thought that some fresh blueberries would be a great complement to the tartness of the lemon curd. I dug out an old recipe for a brown sugar tart crust I’d previously used and loved, figuring that its sweetness and slight caramel flavor would add depth to the bright and zingy fruits in the rest of the dessert. And you know what? I was right!

The resulting tarts were beautiful to look at and delicious to eat– definitely a showstopper for company in any season (though I’m sure that the blueberries would be that much more delicious in summer).

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Savory Brunch Tarts

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So I mentioned the post-Christmas brunch we hosted earlier– along with sweets we also had several savory items, including a trio of delicious savory tarts. I was originally only going to make two– cauliflower and onion, and apple and fennel– but ended up having extra cauliflower, onions, and pie crust, and didn’t want to let it go to waste. The tarts didn’t turn out perfectly (cracks in the crusts allowed egg to leak through, making the bottoms soggy), but they were pretty tasty and provided inspiration for future recipes!

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Almond Puff Loaf

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I’m a sucker for pastry, especially at breakfast, so when I came across this recipe for King Arthur Flour’s Almond Puff Loaf, which promised a delicious, multi-layered pastry in only a few simple steps, I knew I’d have to try it out. It starts with a base that’s halfway between a biscuit and a pie crust, and it’s topped with choux paste to provide some serious puff. The process reminded me a little of the Gateau St. Honoré, but the finished product was very different– probably because of the different ingredient proportions.

I also decided to add a layer of almond paste between the two doughs, to really amp up the almond flavor– I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking to try this recipe, along with using apricot jam, which pairs perfectly with the almond.

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Frozen Key Lime Tartlets with Secret Ingredient!

key lime tartlets banner

I am indebted to my dad for this recipe, as he’s always been one for making simple desserts that nevertheless end up tasting fantastic. (I still remember him blending up instant chocolate jello pudding with a peppermint Altoid and pouring it into a chocolate crumb crust– easiest chocolate pie ever!)  Anyway, he made me try this recipe the last time I visited home and I’ve been making it ever since.

The filling, which you can pour into a graham cracker crust to make a pie, into dishes to make pudding, or into mini muffin tins to make tartlets, is amazingly simple– you just blend together your basic ingredients and you’re set! I admit to making things a bit more complicated with a homemade graham cracker base, but the basic recipe is fantastic just as it is– creamy, tangy, perfect for summer. Plus, unlike other key lime recipes I’ve seen, it’s got (secret ingredient!) low-fat cottage cheese in it rather than cream cheese, sour cream, or egg yolks, making it a healthy (okay, slightly healthier) alternative to the standard dessert!

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Emily’s Upside-Down Custard Pie

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Emily’s Runaway Imagination is one of Beverly Cleary’s lesser-known works, and it takes place on a farm in the 1920s or thereabouts. One of the scenes I remember best is where Emily (a little girl with a big imagination) bakes custard pie for a church potluck. She’d previously overheard someone say that the secret to a light and flaky pie crust was adding “a generous pinch of baking powder” to it, and she’s eager to demonstrate her newfound pie crust prowess.

“Two and a half cups of flour,” directed Mama. “Some salt — not quite a teaspoonful. Let’s see, some lard. You’d better let me measure that.” Mama came into the pantry and deftly measured the lard out of the lard bucket. “Now Emily, take two knives and slash through the flour and lard until it is as fine as corn meal.” Emily started to slash. […]
Quickly Emily added a generous pinch of baking powder and then, not certain how big a generous pinch should be, added another generous pinch to make sure. Then she slashed and slashed and according to Mama’s directions, added water, just a little bit. “There are two secrets to making good pie crust,” said Mama. “Use very little water and handle the dough lightly.” Emily smiled to herself because she knew a third secret. 

Unfortunately for Emily, once the pies come out of the oven, instead of the custard surface being “golden yellow and flecked with nutmeg,” the crust has risen to the top with the custard at the bottom. Her mother concludes that the custard filling was too liquidy to weigh the crust down (apples or raisins would apparently have worked better). No one wants to eat her “funny-looking” pie, until one of her neighbors remarks that the inversion will keep the crust from getting soggy… and then everyone digs in.

I always wondered as a kid if this would really happen if you added baking powder to a custard pie crust. Thinking about it now it doesn’t really make sense, since the custard would have no way of getting down through the bottom of the crust unless the crust had holes in it to let the custard flow through– without the holes even the puffiest crust would just end up pushing the extra custard over the top of the pan to spill on the oven floor. I could dock the crust, of course, but no one would dock a crust with big enough holes to let custard get through in any quantity– that’s just asking for the custard to leak and stick the crust to the pan.

I decided to give this food myth (if one can really call it that) the best possible chance of success by cutting a few 1″ circles out of the pie crust, allowing the custard plenty of space to run through and let the crust rise up to the top. I figured that if that didn’t work, nothing would.

Let’s see what happens!

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Chocolate Cherry “Cream” Pie

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(Don’t let the quotation marks in “cream” pie scare you– I promise that this recipe is creamy, rich, and delicious, despite being dairy-free!)

Did you know, before I heard of this recipe I’d never made a chocolate cream pie before? It wasn’t that I didn’t like the idea– I love chocolate and I love creamy, pudding-y desserts– but I just never got around to making one. I think it was partially because the recipes I saw fell into one of two camps– overly complicated, involving separating eggs and slaving over a hot stove to make custard; or extremely processed, relying on instant pudding and Cool Whip. Not that I have anything against instant pudding or Cool Whip– both are staples of my quick dessert repertoire– but “chocolate cream pie” seemed to call for something a bit more involved to live up to the decadence of its name.

Anyway, that all flew out the window when I heard of a chocolate cream pie recipe that called for only a few ingredients, one of which seemed so preposterous I had to try it. I’m always a sucker for a “secret ingredient,” and this was too good to pass up. What was it?

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