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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Apple Pie Cake

So last fall we went apple picking. And you know what happens when you pick apples– you eat a bunch the first week, then the remaining apples just languish in the bag until you can find something to do with them. And since we had a lot of apples, several of them languished for quite a while…

I finally decided that it was time to use up the last few apples, so I went in search of a suitable recipe that I hadn’t tried before– and found this one! It’s apparently a copycat of an apple pie they serve at Disneyworld, and it’s pretty tasty! You start with a pie crust, then fill it with pre-steamed apples (to avoid them getting too juicy during baking) and a thick cake batter. It turns out beautifully golden-brown on top, and the addition of a layer of powdered sugar gives it just the right amount of extra sweetness.

Personally, I cut a corner and used a refrigerated pie crust, but you can make your own if you prefer. I find that using pre-made crusts gets you a thinner layer of crust, which I like in this recipe– too thick and it might end up stodgy-seeming with the extra cake batter in there as well.

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Chocolate Pudding Pie

You know, sometimes the classics are just the best. I do love making fabulous, multi-component desserts– both for the challenge and the layers of flavor and texture– but every now and then it’s great to go back to basics. Especially when you’re running around frantically to cook your first solo Thanksgiving dinner and you JUST need something good for dessert and your family insists that they HATE pumpkin pie and can’t agree on whether to have apple pie or custard pie and and you’re ready to commit the heresy of getting STORE-BOUGHT just to get it over with–

Ahem.

In any event, we eventually decided on this pie, and boy is it a keeper. As is so frequently the case, it’s from the incomparable Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and having had my first slice I’m fairly sure I could make one of these every week and never get tired of it. The cornstarch pudding is simple to put together and practically foolproof– a for flavor, it’s perfectly rich, not too sweet, and light enough to not weigh you down, even after a holiday dinner. I even used a pre-made crust and it still turned out fantastically… though homemade whipped cream is a must here, I have to insist on it.

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Cranberry Gingersnap Pie

First off, my apologies for the 3-month delay since my last post. Between moving to a new house, dropping my laptop (!) and having to get a new one, and now the holiday season, it’s just been impossible to find time to blog! BUT, I haven’t stopped with the projects, so now I’ve got a backlog of posts to clear– you’ve been warned!

So it’s pie season, and it’s cranberry season, which are pretty much the same thing. Right?

Since my family members aren’t huge fans of cooked fruit (something about the texture?), I decided to join the legions of bakers apparently making cranberry curd pie this year– I was inspired by my friends at The Pie Project (they made a different pie every week for a *whole year*!) to make this one, which features a gingersnap-walnut crust and a tangy layer of cranberry curd that’s perfectly puckery. I couln’t help gilding the lily a bit, so I added a fluffy wreath of meringue and some sugared cranberries– I think the meringue adds a nice contrast, while the cranberries are mostly decorative but still tasty.

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Meyer Lemon Tart

lemon-tart

The other day I was in the grocery store, and they were having a sale on Meyer lemons! I’d heard so much about them, how they had a distinctly floral kick to their lightly lemony flavor, and had wanted to try them but never gotten the opportunity– so the fact that they were on sale when I’d be stuck inside for a while seemed like fate!

I immediately knew that the first thing I wanted to make was a lemon tart– one of those whole-lemon tarts where you throw in the whole thing, skin and all, because I figured that it would make the best use of the lemon. I settled on another Smitten Kitchen recipe, which ordinarily would be nothing unusual, but this time was different– I’d actually tried this recipe years ago and it was a disaster. The supposedly unshrinkable tart crust shrank, the filling baked up with a pool of butter on top, and it was just generally bad. Luckily, it appears that other people had the same issue and Deb tweaked the recipe to address the issues.

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Curried Butternut Pasties

butternut-pasties.jpg

I was invited to a pumpkin-carving party recently, and wanted to bring some kind of snack to contribute. I usually bring desserts (last year I brought these pumpkin cheesecake bars) but everyone brings desserts to these things, so I decided to go in a savory direction this time.

Butternut squash seemed the perfect ingredient to focus on for a squash-theme party, so I started with that. I wanted to keep things handheld and relatively neat to eat, so I knew I’d be enclosing the filling in a pastry, and after that it was just a matter of adding flavors I thought would work. Best of all, the prep time was relatively low since the filling ingredients were roasted together on a sheet pan.

As for the outside, I revisited the hot water crust recipe I used to make Paul Hollywood’s pork pies, since I’d been struck at the time by its flakiness and great flavor. To cut down on leftover scraps I cut my pastry into squares, which were folded diagonally to make little turnover shapes– but I’m calling them pasties here because 1) they sound more savory than “turnovers,” which always evoke dessert to me, and 2) I’m kind of on a Harry Potter kick right now and these remind me of pumpkin pasties (which were probably intended to be sweet, but whatever).

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Berry Cheesecake Galette

berry-galette

Yup, it’s another recipe borrowed from Smitten Kitchen… I can’t help it, it’s my go-to source for tasty recipes and this one turned out so delicious (and pretty) that I couldn’t help sharing!

This galette is easy to put together, looks impressive, and tastes great served cold or at room temperature. The creamy cheesecake filling contrasts nicely with the tart berries (whichever kind you want to put in, fresh or frozen!), and the sugar-studded crust brings it all together. It’s kind of like a three-way cross between a danish, a berry pie, and a cheesecake, and it’s definitely going to be served at my next brunch gathering.

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Mini Pork Pies with Quail Eggs

pork-pies-split

I’m a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show. I admit it. It’s just so much fun to watch, and there’s no backstabbing or drama– just baking. There’s not even a huge prize at the end, so it’s clear people are just in it because they love to bake. And aside from the wholesome enjoyment of watching something like that, I have fun seeing the quintessentially British recipes that come up every week. Like pork pies. Cute little mini pork pies with adorable tiny quail eggs in them. (Here’s the episode: it’s around minute 20 of the show.) I just fell in love with those, and when I decided to have a historical-themed picnic I knew that they’d be perfect.

I’d never made a meat-based pie before, and I’d definitely never made hot water crust pastry before, but I was willing to give it a shot! I found Paul Hollywood’s recipe* and got to work! Continue reading