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Posts Tagged ‘pies and tarts’

When we got married, hubby and I were on the young side – me especially.  I was 23, and hubby was 27.  Now we’ve been married for over 6 years and it’s safe to say we’re just as obsessed with each other now as we were then.  Possibly more so.  Of course, being married for 6 years doesn’t make us an authority on marriage, by any stretch of the imagination.  My grandparents have been married for 60 years.  If anyone’s the authority on how to make a marriage work, it’s them.  But as many friends and colleagues have gotten married, I as the “already married girl” tend to get asked for marriage advice.  While I think every marriage is obviously different and what has worked so far for hubby and myself doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, there are a couple of things that I will tell people if they ask for my advice.

One thing that I think is extremely important in marriage is this: make the other person’s happiness your business.  Of course, I think that each person alone is ultimately responsible for his or her own happiness.  To make my happiness my husband’s responsibility would be to put a massive, unfair burden on him.  My happiness is not my husband’s responsibility, and his happiness is not mine.  But is my happiness his business, and is his happiness my business?  I would argue that it absolutely is.  I believe that when I promised to love and cherish hubby forever, an implicit part of that promise was that I would do everything in my power to make him happy.  So one thing I encourage to-be-marrieds to aim for is to know what makes your partner happy, and consciously strive to create those conditions in your life.  Maybe it makes your partner happy to have you cook for him or her.  So do that.  Or maybe your partner needs you to sit on the couch and listen about his or her day each evening.  So do that.  Striving for your partner’s happiness doesn’t have to be a particularly time-consuming or expensive undertaking, either.  It’s all about knowing your partner and consciously choosing to do those things that will bring him or her joy.

One of the things that I have done for hubby was to give him a third anniversary gift that included, as part of it, “coupons” that he could redeem once a year at specific times.  One coupon, for instance, was for his favorite chocolate chip cookies.  Another was for a fun weekend date planned by me.  And another coupon was for one of his favorite desserts, chocolate silk pie.  Hubby is a chocolate person and he loooooooves chocolate pie.  (Me?  I’d rather have key lime pie, thankyouverymuch.  But this isn’t a gift for me.)  So whenever this coupon comes up in the rotation, hubby gets a huge smile on his face and “redeems” it almost immediately.  Anything to make my hubby happy.  After all, that’s my business.  (Especially this time of year.  And this would be a great dessert to make for Valentine’s Day… wink wink, nudge nudge.)

Frozen Dark Chocolate Silk Pie

1 unbaked pie crust
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
9 squares Green & Black’s Organic 85% dark chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
7 ounces marshmallow creme*
2 tablespoons coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
chocolate curls or cocoa powder for garnish

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare pie crust as follows: cover with two layers of aluminum foil.  Press foil down and add pie weights or dried kidney beans.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove pie weights and discard foil.  Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for 5 more minutes.  Allow to cool on wire rack.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate chips and dark chocolate squares together with the butter, marshmallow creme, coffee and vanilla extract.  Allow mixture to come to room temperature.
  • Beat one cup of heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks.
  • Transfer chocolate mixture into mixing bowl and fold in whipped cream.  Scoop into cooled pie crust.  Transfer pie crust to freezer and allow to chill for at least 3 hours.
  • When you have about an hour left before you are ready to serve, beat the remaning cup of cream with the confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form.  Spread whipped cream over frozen chocolate and refrigerate.  Just before serving, garnish with chocolate curls or a dusting of cocoa powder.

*I used Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme, which is vegan.  However, you could always use the classic marshmallow creme.

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

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Apricot-Honey Tart

Honey, you will love this.

Apricots.  Honey.  Ricotta.  Vanilla.  What else can I say?

Oh, I can think of one thing: YUM.

YUM seems to happen when my fabulous friend Rebecca is visiting.  She was in town recently and we squeezed in some kitchen time, as we always must do.  Sightseeing is important, no doubt.  (And Rebecca, I’m sure the federal government will really appreciate your suggestion about zombie-powered cars.  Definitely more environmentally friendly.)  But a visit wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t cook one meal together.  As usual, Rebecca was in charge of dinner – eggplant-mint pesto, anyone? hello! – and I was in charge of dessert.  The heat of summer had set in and I wanted something fruity.  I can’t let summer go by without baking some kind of tart, so Rebecca and I settled on the time-honored combination of honey and apricots.  (Hey, Whole Foods?  You’re welcome for the money.)

Go ahead and drool.  I won’t tell anyone.

Apricot-Honey Tart

1 recipe sweet tart dough from Dorie Greenspan
6 apricots, halved
HONEY!
1 pint ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (more if desired)
vanilla sugar (optional), for garnish

  • Prepare tart dough according to Dorie’s recipe, press into tart shell and parbake until just golden.  (Messy tip – cover the dough in foil and fill the tart shell with pie weights or dried beans to keep the bottom from puffing up.)  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tart shell.
  • While tart dough is baking, halve and pit 6 apricots and drizzle slightly with honey.  Bake apricots alongside tart dough until tender.
  • Prepare ricotta tart filling: combine ricotta cheese, vanilla extract and sugar in a bowl and beat vigorously until either the filling is smooth or you are tired, whichever comes first.  (Alternatively, you could mix this in a stand mixer.  I have one but was too lazy to get it out, so I beat the filling by hand until the point of exhaustion.  How ironic is that?)  Taste the filling to decide if you want to add additional sugar, and adjust as desired.
  • Spread the filling into the baked tart shell and smooth the top.  Drizzle with honey.  Allow filling to chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour.  Add baked apricot halves and drizzle with more honey.  If you really want a showstopping tart, sprinkle vanilla sugar over the top.  Remove from tart shell and try to show enough self-discipline to take photographs before you slice it.

Source: Covered In Flour

Nota Baker: You can now follow me on Twitter!  That’s right, I’m slowly joining the 21st century.  I can be found at: http://twitter.com/backyardyogini or you can search for me @backyardyogini.  (Oddly enough, @messybaker was taken!  So I went with a name based on one of my other favorite hobbies: creeping out my neighbors by doing asanas in my yard.  Hi, neighbors!  Namaste!)

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Easy as pie?  No – easier.  Easy as galette.  This dish tastes like summer’s very essence encased in a crisp, sugary shell.  This is the second recipe that I’ve made out of Rustic Fruit Desserts, and so far we are two-for-two, although I like this even better than the Blueberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit I made a few weeks ago.  The plums are sweet and tart; leaving their skin on imparts fantastic color and wonderful flavor.  The vanilla bean seeds spread across the fruit and the crust, giving the entire dessert a delectably speckled appearance.  I don’t know about you, but when I see those little black dots, I just know I’m in for something good.  This galette is no exception…

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Vanilla Spiked Plum Galette

Galette Dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, in 1/2 inch cubes
3-5 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Filling
3/4 cup sugar
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 plums, cut into eighths

  • To make the dough, whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, then chill the whole thing in the freezer for 10 minutes.  After chilling, add the cubed butter, then toss quickly to combine.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir 3 tablespoonse of ice water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice together, then drizzle through the feed tube of the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  The pastry should hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand; if it doesn’t, add more ice water as needed.  (I ended up with about 5 tablespoons of ice water.)  Dump the pastry onto a floured work surface and quickly shape into a disc.  Chill for 1 hour, until ready to roll.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Roll out dough into 1/8-1/4 inch round.
  • Rub vanilla seeds into 3/4 cup sugar until well combined.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the vanilla sugar over the center of the pastry round, leaving about a 2-inch border.
  • Stir cornstarch into remaining sugar.  Add plum slices and toss to coat.  Arrange the plum slices in a spiral in the center of the pastry round (over the same area as you previously sprinkled with sugar).  Stir together the plum juice and sugar mixture remaining in the bowl, until goopy.  (That’s a technical term.)  Pour the goopy sugar mixture over the plum slices.  Fold the outer edge of the pastry over the plums, pleating the dough periodically to seal it.
  • Make an egg wash (use your preferred recipe) and brush over the outer crust.  Sprinkle crust with vanilla sugar (either reserve some or use some from your pantry – I like Penzey’s brand).
  • Bake on a rack in the lower third of the oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, lower the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the kitchen smells so good that you have to beat people back with a wooden spoon.  Let the galette cool for 5 minutes or so – or as long as you can keep your family away – then slice and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Source: Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

Note: The recipe actually only calls for the seeds of half the vanilla pod.  I used the whole thing because I really love vanilla, and I thought the plums could take it.  They could.  But go ahead and omit half if you want – especially if you have something else in mind for the other half of the seeds!  Oh, and don’t waste the vanilla pod, either.  Tuck it into a sugar bowl for homemade vanilla sugar.  Yum!

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I’m a Libra, which means that I have certain tendencies and personality traits… if you believe in that sort of thing.  They do seem to check out.  I’m passionately committed to justice… check… a bit spacey… check…  with an eye for beautiful things… my jewelry box says check… And I’m indecisive.  Oh, heavens, am I indecisive.  Case in point: I’ve been wanting a food processor for about 3 years now.  Every time I bake a pie, make homemade pasta, try to slice potatoes or cucumbers or cabbage or anything, really, on my Mandoline, I groan “If I only had a food processor, this would be soooooo much easier!”  Then the hubs says “Then BUY a FOOD PROCESSOR!”  Oh, but if only it was that easy.  What brand?  Which one has the best features?  The best reviews?  Is the prettiest?  This is obviously too big of a decision for me to make – so much is riding on it! – so I give up and go lie down with a cold cloth on my head.  That’s been the state of things for a few years now.

And that looked to be the state of things forever… until I met (drumroll please) The Cuisinart Elite 16-cup Die Cast Food Processor.  Oh, baby.  This cutie is tricked out almost beyond recognition.  1000-watt motor that runs practically silent.  Three nesting bowls.  Three blades, and a dough-kneading function.  Two discs, a double-sided one for shredding and a slicing disc with six thickness settings.  Oh, BABY!  Come to Mama!  I can be a bit of a guy about certain things, so I’ve been waxing poetic about the motor ever since I ordered this beauty… yes, I finally pulled the trigger.  It arrived on Friday.  I set it up on the countertop – it didn’t fit in the space I cleared for it in my kitchen island – watched the instructional DVD because I’m a nerd like that, and then I had to make the REALLY tough decision: what to make first?  I figured this journey started with me painstakingly and begrudgingly (and badly) making pie crust by hand, so it should end with pie crust too.  Thus I present…

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Peach and Raspberry Pie

Ingredients for pie crust

4 cups sliced peaches
1 cup raspberries
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons flour

  • Make the pie crust.
  • Peel the peaches as follows: cut a very shallow X shape into the bottom of each peach and drop it into boiling water for about 15 seconds, no more than 20, to blanch it.  Remove peaches quickly to an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Peel and rub the skin off – it should come off fairly easily, but if you can’t get some stubborn spots to cooperate, don’t stress over it.  Peach skin is edible, after all.
  • Cut the peaches into wedges – about 8 wedges per peach.  They will cook down slightly in the pie, so you don’t need to get them too fine.  Place peaches in a bowl and add raspberries.  Toss with remaining 3 tablespoons of flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Try to keep the raspberry carnage to a minimum if at all possible.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a 9-inch pie plate.
  • Roll out your first dough disc to your preferrred thickness and place in the pie plate by draping it over your rolling pin and transferring it.  Dump in the peaches and raspberries.
  • Roll out the second dough disc.  (If you like a lattice topping, now is the time.)  Transfer as with the first, by draping it over the rolling pin.  Cut edges neatly and crimp in an attractive manner.  If you did not make a lattice crust, make a few slices in the top crust to release the steam and juices.
  • Make an egg wash and brush over the pie.  Sprinkle with turbinado or other sugar of your preference (I like Penzey’s vanilla sugar) and place pie on a cookie sheet.  (Consider using a pie shield to protect the edges of the pie for the first 30 minutes, so they don’t get too browned.  I don’t have one, and I don’t think my edges browned excessively this time, but I’ll probably have a pie shield on my birthday list.)
  • Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for another 30 minutes.  Remove pie from oven, let cool slightly, and serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.  Yummmm!

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I’m so glad I waited.

Note: Don’t throw away the scraps from your pie crust!  Save them for mini pies next time you have company.  People will be impressed, I promise – everyone likes tiny desserts – and no one but you will know that you made them with dough scraps.  I’ll keep your secret.

Sources: “Good For Almost Anything Pie Crust” from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours; Filling adapted from allrecipes.com.

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