Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fruit Tartletts with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

Do I have your complete, undivided attention? Hmmm?  Go ahead, look at it again.  I am.  I still cannot believe I made that let alone took such a stunning picture lol Well ok, for ME the picture is stunning.  No it's not how you are "supposed" to photograph food I KNOW I KNOW BUT man I'm lucky just to remember to take a dang picture let alone blog about it hehe.

Ok so I saw this tart crust on Joy of Baking and it looked so good.  It was called a "sweet" crust, not a typical pie crust, but not a shortbread crust either.  I also saw a recipe for pastry cream which made me want to lick the screen and THEN I remembered I had 2 vanilla beans I needed to use!  EEK! A plan was born.

Let me say this is probably one of the best things I have ever made.  I know, strong statement.  I say this because it was THAT good PLUS factoring in the variability of this recipe.  I can picture the pastry cream in my  homemade crepes and in cupcakes and cakes.  I can also picture this crust filled with my homemade lemon curd.  So many different uses.  

A small warning about the pastry cream which is not in the recipe.  Actually a warning across the board - this is not for a beginning baker.  Not the cream nor the crust.  While I had the pastry cream on the stove over extremely low heat whisking away it SUDDENLY seized up.  I found myself screaming NOOOOOOOOOO NO NO PLEASE DON'T hahahahaha This is true, I was begging it not to be mean.  Yes it is supposed to thicken but thats not what the recipe says will happen.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.  Do not freak out and yell at your cream as I did.  It's not its fault honestly.  Just be prepared :)

Fruit Tartlett with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
(Adapted from Joy of Baking)

Sweet Pastry Crust:
(this is for a full size tart although I used mini tart pans)
1 1/2 cups AP Flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk (whole or 2%)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (honestly I will use a whole vanilla bean next time)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)

Apricot Glaze: (optional) (I did not do this step as we inhaled them immediately upon completion)
1/2 cup (120 grams) apricot jam or preserves
1 tablespoon water

Sweet Pastry Crust:  
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Place the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or just until firm (can place in freezer for about 10-15 minutes.)

Lightly butter and flour, or spray with a non-stick vegetable/flour cooking spray, an 8 - 9 inch (20 - 23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Evenly pat the chilled pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Lightly prick bottom of pastry crust with the tines of a fork (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Place tart pan on a larger baking pan and bake crust for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and continue to bake the crust for about 15 minutesor until dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before filling. Can be covered and stored for a few days.

Pastry Cream:
In a medium heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together.  Do NOT let the mixture sit too long or you will get little pieces of egg yolks form.  Ew gross.  Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.  

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The vanilla bean can be washed and dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavor.) Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). (Stir in vanilla extract is using instead of a vanilla bean.) Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat or whisk before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Apricot Glaze:  
Heat the apricot jam or preserves and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid (melted). (Can also heat in the microwave.) Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps.

To Assemble Tart:
To remove the tart from the fluted sides of the pan, place your hand under the pan, touching only the removable bottom not the sides. Gently push the tart straight up, away from the sides. The fluted tart ring will fall away and slide down your arm. If you want to remove the bottom of the pan, run a knife or thin metal spatula between the crust and metal bottom, then slide the tart onto your platter.  Spread a thin layer of apricot glaze over the bottom and sides of the baked tart shell to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry (about 20 minutes). Then spread the pastry cream onto the bottom of the tart shell. Place fruit randomly on top of cream or in concentric overlapping circles, starting at the outside edge. After arranging the fruit, rewarm the glaze, if using, and gently brush a light coat on the fruit. If not serving immediately, refrigerate but bring to room temperature before serving. This fruit tart is best eaten the same day as it is assembled. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
Serves about 6-8 people.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies with Lemon Icicng

Let me start by saying this is OFFICIALLY my "go to" sugar cookie.  I have tried several different recipes from several really well known blogs and sites and these were the tastiest and held up the best.  They can run on the delicate side BUT this also lends to how long they stay good.  I even forced (yes FORCED) a co-worker who doesn't like cream cheese to try one and he loved it.  The cookies do NOT taste like cream cheese at all but boy it does WONDERS for their texture.  The icing made them out of this world good.  I always half the recipe and still get probably 2 dozen large cookies.

So you may notice this post is a little short.  Thats because I have a FREAKING AWESOME recipe (and photo) I am going to post. That and the fact I have so many stinking things to do this weekend which is really REALLY getting in the way of my huge baking weekend.  This is the weekend I was going to tackle yeast dang it!  Now I have birthday parties and that stupid Easter Holiday is here haha!  So, I will start my poolish tonight (bread starter) and hopefully get my my No Knead Bread done, plus the homemade quiche's I'm going to take a stab at.  WHEW!  

White Velvet Sugar Cookies
(Courtesy of My Kitchen Cafe)

2 cups butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ¾ cups flour

Lemon Zinger Icing

Powdered Sugar (I didn't measure so maybe 1-2 cups for half a batch of sugar cookies)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (at least one lemon - add until you get a glaze consistency)
Zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour. The dough will be VERY soft; don’t worry, it gets firmer after chilling. Cover and chill two hours or until firm. Roll out on floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into shapes; place on greased baking sheets (or use parchment paper). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until set (but not browned). Cool 5 minutes. Place on wire racks to cool. Using a spoon, drizzle on the sugar cookies.  Let stay on rack until set.  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Worlds Best Pancakes

Because I am blogging from my new cell phone and because these really are the worlds best pancakes and because I haven't blogged in months and because I love you, I am going to share this recipe! How's that for proper sentence structure?

*Disclaimer - I have never in my life used an app from a phone to blog so if it eds up looking horrible please forgive me and just move on to the dang recipe and trust me ha!

Ok this is the easiest homemade pancake recipe I have ever tried.  The fact that it is the only homemade pancake recipe I have ever tried means nothing hehe.  I will never, EVER buy pancake mix again....these are THAT good and THAT easy.  Scouts honor.  They are light and fluffy and ohhhhh so filling.  I fed these to two teenage boys who could only eat three each.  I swear these rival ihop.  To top it off they are foolproof.  How do I know you ask? Because I have screwed up the recipe three times and they still came out amazing lol

Worlds Best Pancakes
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/8 cup buttermilk

Ok It also calls for melted butter but I tried it once and I messed up the batter.  I also cut the salt waaaaaay down.  This also only will make 4 pancakes really.  If you double or triple the recipe, don't add all the butermilk at once.  Instead watch the consistency.  You want it slightly lumpy and pretty thick.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes and it will get sort of foamy.  This is good.  Once your pour on the pan, spread slightly but not too much or the won't puff up.  Cook as you would a normal pancake and enjoy!