crystalline coconut cream pie

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In this pie, coconut is the star. There is coconut in the crust, in the pastry cream in the center, and decorating the whipped cream on top. Based on the triple coconut cream pie  from Seattle’s Dahlia Bakery, I’ve adapted this recipe by using crystalline coconut, dried sweetened coconut meat instead of the dessicated coconut normally used in desserts. Called maprao kaew (literally “glass coconut” in Thai) it is a soft, chewy, lightly sweet snack, and tastes like real coconut.

 

Crystalline Coconut Cream Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Coconut Pastry Cream
1 cup (235 ml) whole milk
1 cup (235 ml) UHT unsweetened coconut milk
1-2 cups (75g to 150g) finely shredded crystalline coconut (use more or less as desired)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (113 g) caster sugar or vanilla sugar (I reduced the sugar to 100 g)
3 tablespoons (25 g) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, room temperature (72˚F)
2-4 teaspoons rum (can add up to 1 tablespoon, if desired)

Combine the milk and coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture develops bubbles around the edges. This is called scalding the milk.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined—no lumps. Temper the eggs. This means that while whisking the egg mixture, pour 1/3 cup of the scalded milk into it. Then add this egg mixture to the saucepan. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Add the rum. Mix in the shredded coconut. Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl set inside a larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir occasionally until cooled. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools. DO AHEAD: one day before baking the crust.

Coconut Crust
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup (37g) finely shredded crystalline coconut, loosely packed
8 tablespoons (110 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed

Cut the coconut into half inch dice. Process in a food processor until finely shredded then scrape into a large bowl. Add flour, sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Sprinkle cold butter over and use a pastry blender to work butter into flour until mixture resembles a coarse crumb. Gradually add water, drizzling 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir to combine. After adding 1 tablespoon water, pinch a piece of dough. If it holds together, do not add any more water. The dough will not come together in a ball and will be quite loose.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough, forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.

Baker’s Note: Chill the pie pan too!

To roll the dough, unwrap the round of coconut dough and put it on a lightly floured board. Flour the rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Occasionally lift the dough with a dough scraper to check that it is not sticking. Add a bit more flour if it seems like it’s about to stick. Trim to a 12-13 inch circle.

Baker’s Note: Rolling the dough out between sheets of waxed paper, parchment, or plastic wrap eliminates the tearing and stickiness of this fragile dough, and makes transfer easier.

Transfer the rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease the dough loosely and gently into the pan. You don’t want to stretch the dough to fit otherwise it will shrink when it is baked. Trim excess dough to a 1-1 1/2 inch overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your fingers and thumb to flute the edges. Freeze the pie shell for 15-20 minutes while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Place a piece of parchment in the pie shell, with sides overhanging the pan, and fill with dried beans. This prevents the pastry from puffing up while it is baking. Bake the pie crust for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry rim is golden. Remove the pie pan from the oven and reduce heat to 350˚F/175˚C. Remove the paper and the beans. Return the pie crust to the oven and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until the bottom of the crust is golden brown. Be careful that the edges don’t burn because of the coconut in the dough. Remove from the oven and allow the pie shell to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Baker’s Note: Crumple a large sheet of parchment paper then fold it out into the pie shell. Pour in the beans. The crumpled shape will fit the pie shell better.

Whipped Cream

2 cups whipping cream, chilled
3 tablespoons granulated or caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1/2 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water and heated for 5 seconds in the microwave (optional)

Chill bowl, whisk, and measuring cup for at least 1 hour. Pour chilled cream into the chilled bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the chilled whisk attachment. Turn the machine on to Level 3 and whisk for 1-2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla, if using. Turn the speed up to 4-5 and whisk until soft peaks form. Stop the machine and remove the whisk. Turn it upside down. The cream should be soft and curl over on itself. Re-attach the whisk and continue whisking on Level 4-5 until stiff peaks form. Because cream can “weep” if it is not eaten right away, you may wish to stabilize the cream with gelatin. Slowly add the dissolved gelatin and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

Baker’s Note: A vegetarian alternative is to make a whipped cream icing made with cream cheese instead of gelatin.

Whipped Cream Icing

Ingredients
1 8-oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup white superfine/caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or rum extract
2 cups heavy cream, chilled

Preparation
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and extracts on medium-low speed in a stand mixer. While the mixer is running, gradually add the cream. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. This could happen quickly so watch carefully.

Assemble the Pie:

Scrape the chilled pastry cream into the cooled crust. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Spread about a cup of the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream, mounding it slightly in the center. Spoon the remainder of the whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe cream in mounds all around the outer edges of the pie.

For Garnishing the Pie
1 1/2 cups (55 g or 2 oz) thin slivers of crystalline coconut
4-6 oz good white chocolate to make 2 ounces of curls

Slice the coconut into thin strips (julienne). Lengths will vary and that’s okay. Sprinkle crystalline coconut strips in the center of the pie. Use a vegetable peeler or a small knife to scrape about 2 ounces of white chocolate to make curls. Sprinkle curls on top of the coconut strips.

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Christophe’s Apple Tart

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After watching Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of Baking on YouTube bake a French apple tart, I noted her recipe and Christophe’s were very similar. These French apple tarts start with a buttery pâte brisée, then a layer of apple sauce, and finishing with a pretty arrangement of apples on top. I picked up some tips from Stephanie: brushing the crust and the apples with apricot glaze, and cooking down the apples will make them easier to arrange on top of the apple sauce. I decided it was worth it to revisit Christophe’s tarte aux pommes. I liked that recipe because it is not overly sweet and even with the extra steps from Joy of Baking added in, this tart is still so simple to make. It looks like you spent hours on it, but with a few simple tricks, you can make it look so professional!

Christophe’s Tarte aux Pommes
Makes 1 x 7-inch tart

For the Pâte Brisée:
200g all purpose flour (Type 55)
100g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup cold water

Apple sauce
2 small apples, peeled, cored, chopped (recommend: Granny Smith or Gala)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla or a dash of cinnamon, optional

Tart
3 small apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
Dash of cinnamon
1 tablespoon apricot jelly
1/2 tablespoon rum

Preheat the oven 400˚F/ 200˚C.

Prepare the pâte brisée. Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter in small pieces. Mix in cold water, a tablespoon at a time, or just enough to make a ball, and let rest about 30 minutes in refrigerator wrapped in plastic to firm up the dough. Heat the apricot jelly in a small pot until just warm. Remove from heat. Stir in rum. Set aside.

Make the apple sauce. In a small saucepan put 2 apples cut up into small pieces with the sugar, 4 tablespoons water, cinnamon or vanilla (if using), and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes on low heat (8 minutes in an oven-proof casserole in the microwave), crushing the apples as they cook to make a thick applesauce. Set aside to cool. Makes about 1/2 cup apple sauce.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut up the remaining 3 apples into thin slices. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and a dash of cinnamon, stirring to blend. Add the apples to the pan and cook until the apples are just wilted. Drain in a colander. Set apples aside to cool.

Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator and roll it out onto a lightly floured board into a 1/2 inch thick disk 8 inches in diameter. Roll up on the rolling pin. Place dough circle in the tart pan, rolling it out and pressing the dough into the bottom and sides. Repair any tears with extra dough pieces. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork.

Line the pastry shell with parchment paper. Fill with pie weights. Blind-bake the pastry shell 10 minutes at 200˚C. Reduce heat to 175˚C. Remove the parchment and pie weights and return to the oven and bake the pastry shell 5-10 minutes or until the bottom is light golden. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Brush the bottom with apricot mixture. Reserve any leftover apricot mixture.

Spread the cooled apple sauce over the base of the tart. Arrange the apple slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles on top of the apple sauce. If the rim of the crust is browned, cover it with foil to prevent it from over-browning. Bake 30 minutes or until the apples are slightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven. Remove the foil collar, if using. Brush the apples with the remaining apricot mixture to glaze them.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.

Aunt Gloria’s Tourtiere

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I got this recipe from my sister. She serves it at Christmas, and so I thought I would try a Canadian Christmas tradition this year. The tourtiere or meat pie came out full of flavor with a flaky crust although a bit dry. I was afraid the water that sprang with the  cooking of the meat would make the crust soggy so I poured it off. I should have left it in because the potato would have absorbed the liquid. I also added 2 teaspoons of President’s Choice Four Peppercorns to the meat mixture. Joyeux noel.

Classic Canadian Tourtière
For Tourtiere
1 large potato or 2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 slices bacon, chopped (thick cut bacon in original recipe)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced button mushrooms, optional
¼ cup dry white wine (I used brandy)
1 1b each ground pork and veal (I used 1 kg ground pork tenderloin)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper (I added 2 teaspoons Four-Peppercorns)
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves (can substitute allspice)
All-purpose savory pie dough (recipe after this one)
1 egg yolk

In saucepan of boiling salted water, cook potato until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to saucepan, mash and set aside.

Meanwhile, in large saucepan, fry bacon over medium-high heat until softened. Add onion and garlic; cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add mushrooms, cook until almost no liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Add wine; cook until almost no liquid remains.

Stir in pork and veal, if using; cook, breaking up with spoon, until browned, 20 to 25 minutes. There will be some liquid in the bottom. Don’t discard.

Add salt, pepper, cinnamon and cloves; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add potato; cook, stirring, until incorporated, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

For Savoury Pie Dough
Makes enough for 1 double-crust 9-inch pie
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed (when I don’t have unsalted butter, I use salted butter and cut the salt in half)
1/3 cup cold lard, cubed (I use vegetable shortening instead)
1/3 cup cold water (approximate)

In bowl, whisk flour with salt. Using pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter and lard until in coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.

Add water 1-2 tablespoons at a time, tossing with fork until ragged dough forms and adding up to 1 tbsp more water if necessary.

Divide in half, shape into discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

On lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disc of the dough to 13-inch circle. Fit into 9-inch pie plate. Fill with meat mixture, mounding it in the center. Trim dough even with rim; brush rim with water.

Roll out remaining dough into 12-inch circle. Fit over filling, pressing edge to seal. Trim to leave ½-inch overhang; tuck under bottom pastry and flute. Cut steam vent in top.
If desired, roll out pastry scraps and cut out festive shapes. Whisk egg yolk with 1 tbsp water; brush over pastry. Press shapes onto pastry; brush with egg wash.

Bake in bottom third of 425 degree Fahrenheit/225˚C oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200˚C; bake until steaming and pastry is golden, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Serve with A1 steak sauce.

 

christophe’s apple tart

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This is a recipe for tarte aux pommes, the classic French apple tart with a base of apple sauce. Christophe made it for us one night at dinner; it was so delicious I asked him for the recipe. I translated it from the French–with a little help from a French-English dictionary. I tweaked it somewhat, adding lime juice because I like a tart apple sauce. I left out the vanilla/cinnamon in the apple sauce, too. The result is lightly sweet with the tart fresh taste of apple on a buttery crust.

Christophe’s Apple Tart

Prep time: 50 minutes (includes refrigerator time)
Baking time: 30 minutes
Makes 2 x 7-inch tarts

For the Pâte Brisée:
200g all purpose flour (Type 55)
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar

5 medium green apples, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 small lime, optional
4 tablespoons water
Vanilla or cinnamon, optional

Prepare the pâte brisée. Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter in small pieces. Mix in up to a 1/2 cup water, a tablespoon at a time, or just enough to make a ball, and let rest about 30 minutes in refrigerator wrapped in plastic to firm up the dough.

Baker’s Note: If you’re in a hurry, put the wrapped dough ball in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Make the apple sauce. In a small saucepan put 2 apples cut up into small pieces with the sugar, lime juice (if using), a tablespoon of water, cinnamon or 1 teaspoon vanilla (if using), and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes on low heat (8 minutes in an oven-proof casserole in the microwave), then mix the sauce. Add more water if it seems dry. Set aside to cool. Makes about 1 cup apple sauce.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut up the remaining apples into thin slices. Set aside.

Preheat the oven 200˚C.

Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator and roll it out onto a lightly floured board into a disk. Press dough in the tart pan. Prick the dough with a fork.

Baker’s Note: Lightly flour the board and the rolling pin. First pat the ball into a disk and turn it over to flour the other side. Roll out evenly, turning the dough over now and then to make it a circle about 2 inches wider than your tart pan. The easiest way to get the dough into the pan is to roll up the dough circle onto the pin and then roll it out on top of the tart pan. Don’t worry if it breaks apart. Just use the extra dough to patch it.

Spread the cooled apple sauce over the base of the tart. Arrange the apple slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles on top of the apple sauce. Sprinkle the top with sugar to taste. (I used demerara sugar. ) Bake 30 minutes or until the apples are cooked through and slightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.

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savory egg pudding

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savory egg pudding

A cross between a crustless quiche and an egg pie, this savory pudding has a mild herbal flavor and a delicate custard-like consistency. Parboiling or pre-cooking the potatoes is an important first step in ensuring that the potatoes cook at the same time the egg custard sets.

Savory Egg Pudding (adapted from Chowhound)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half (half cup milk and half cup heavy cream)
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
salt
white pepper
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (can be peeled or not)
2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more to grease the pan
2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise and then sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
2-4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1. Put the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375˚F/200˚C. Grease a 2 quart baking dish generously with butter and set aside.

2. In a blender jar, combine the flour, half of the half-and-half, the eggs, and the egg yolk. Pulse several times until smooth. Add the remaining half and half and the cream. Season well with salt and white pepper to taste. Pulse to combine. Set aside.

3. Slice the potatoes thinly with a mandoline. Put potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just tender. Drain the potatoes and put them in a large bowl. Add the chopped tarragon, parsley, and dill. Season with salt and white pepper. Toss to coat.

4. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Sauté the leeks and the garlic 5-6 minutes or until wilted. Mix the cooked leeks with the potatoes and herbs. Season with additional salt and pepper. Evenly spread the potato mixture in the prepared baking dish and then pour the egg mixture on top.

5. Bake until the egg custard is puffy and golden. It should set in about 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let the pudding rest 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with a few twists of Himalayan pink salt and black peppercorns.

a simple easter menu

DSC_0529.jpgIn the past we’ve had more elaborate meals for Easter Sunday. Today, we had a simple Easter meal consisting of a quiche, simple salad, corned egg, and a Jamaican spice cake with malted buttercream frosting.

Bacon and Cheddar Crustless Quiche

1 1/2 cups whole milk
White pepper
1/2 cup prepared biscuit mix (recipe to follow)
1/4 cup melted butter
4 eggs
8 pieces of bacon, crisped and crumbled
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven 325˚F/175˚C. Grease a 9″ pie dish and set aside.

In a blender, combine the milk, white pepper, biscuit mix, melted butter, and eggs. Pour the milk mixture into the prepared pie dish.

Sprinkle on top the crumbled bacon, red pepper, and cheddar cheese. Use a fork to press down into the milk mixture.

Bake 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Biscuit Mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon all vegetable shortening

Put flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Stir to combine. Add the shortening and cut into the flour mixture until the mixture is the texture of sand. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Jamaican Spice Cake (adapted from The Cake Bible)

All ingredients at room temperature:
1/4 cup milk
120g or 4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons Jamaican rum
250g or 2 cups sifted cake flour, plus 1 tablespoon
225g or 1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
227+14g (241g) unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven 350˚F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and mix in 1 tablespoon flour. Brush butter-flour mixture on the insides and bottom of one 8.5 inch loaf pan. Line bottom of loaf pan with waxed paper or parchment. Grease and flour parchment.

In a medium bowl, lightly combine milk, egg whites, and rum.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and cocoa powder. Whisk 30 seconds. Set aside.

In another large bowl, add 16 tablespoons (8 oz) butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Add one-third flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until just moistened. Scrape down the sides. Add half the milk mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add half the remaining flour mixture, beating until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add the remaining milk mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Scrape down the sides.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap pan lightly on the countertop to dislodge any air bubbles. Bake 45-55 minutes for loaf pan.

Let cake cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges. Unmold and invert onto a greased wire rack. Turn right-side up so the bottom won’t split. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. I frosted it with Malted Buttercream. Then I served the cake with strawberries I had frozen in simple syrup.

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strawberry pie

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Andy found these strawberries being sold from the back of a truck in Salaya. He got four pounds of berries, enough to make these two pies. I used to make strawberry pies in the summer when we lived in Milwaukee. We’d go to the strawberry farm on Donges Bay Road and Swan Road to pick berries straight from the field. I’d make strawberry freezer jam, strawberry ice cream, and of course, strawberry pie! This pie’s bright garnet color is completely natural–no food coloring added.

Strawberry Pie (The Milwaukee Journal)
2 pounds of fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 2/3 cup digestive biscuits crumbs (can use graham crackers, of course)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.

Remove a cupful of berries and mash them. Set aside with the juice.

Mix the crumbs with cinnamon in the pie pan. Add the melted butter and mix. Using the back of a fork, press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake in a 350˚F/175˚C oven for 10 minutes. Take it out of the oven and set aside to cool.

In a saucepan, make the glaze. Mix the sugar and cornstarch. Add the water and the crushed berries and juice. Heat, stirring, on medium heat, until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn down the heat and continue stirring. The strawberry glaze will thicken, turning a deep ruby red that is translucent. Once it thickens, remove the glaze from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

In the cooled crust, arrange the remaining berries. Don’t worry if there are spaces. The glaze will fill them in. Pour the cooled glaze on top, using a silicone spatula to spread the glaze around and fill up the spaces between the berries. Chill at least 2 hours before slicing.

Serve cold with whipped cream or crème fraîche, if desired

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vodka pie crust apple galette with spiced sugar

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This is a delicious crust, but it’s hard to manage. It sticks to the board, the rolling pin, and it’s very hard to roll up and move to the baking tray. For the galette, it is best to roll it out on the silicone mat. I wanted to make an apple galette–I made two, actually, because this recipe makes a double crust. The crust really did come out flaky and tender, just as America’s Test Kitchen had promised.

Apple Galette
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into sixteenths

Spiced Sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind (1 small lime)

Vodka Pie Crust (America’s Test Kitchen)
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups (313g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (170g) cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch cubes, chilled
1/2 cup (95g) cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces, chilled
1/4 cup chilled vodka
1/4 cup cold water
milk for brushing
demerara or turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Procedure

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.

2. Scatter butter and shortening on top and process until incorporated and dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. Dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour.

3. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough as been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

4. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.

5. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or up to 2 days. Let dough sit on the counter 10 minutes before rolling it out.

Cake Baker’s Note: I wrapped and froze the dough for a week then thawed it for several hours in the refrigerator.

6. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425˚F or 220˚C. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll onto a silicone mat. Alternatively, roll it out onto a floured silicone mat. I had to scrape it off the pastry board with a bench scraper and pancake turner. I just don’t know if it’s supposed to be that sticky.

7. Mound half the apples in the center of the dough circle. Sprinkle generously with the spiced sugar. Use a bench scraper to fold up the sides. Fold the corners. Brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with demerara or turbinado sugar. Place the mat on the baking sheet and bake 45-55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Repeat #6 and #7 for the second dough circle.

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apple tart with almond cream

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It’s a steaming hot night so of course, I decided to bake. I wanted to bake apple tarts with almond cream from a Food and Wine recipe.  The top one is made with Asian pear while the one on the bottom is Granny Smith apple. The almond cream inside these tarts is made of chopped almonds, butter, eggs, a bit of flour and sugar, and a tablespoon of rum. Both tarts are liberally sprinkled with turbinado sugar and ready to go into the hot oven. These tartlettes were ready in 30 minutes rather than the 1 hour baking time. The crust was flaky and the almond cream was lightly sweet. And the fruit! Oh, the Asian pear is a fruit I’ve come to respect as something versatile enough to eat raw in a salad and baked up in a tart.

Baked Pastry Shell

Prep time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons (2 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of ice water and pulse just until the dough holds together when pinched. If needed, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of ice
water to the dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, 1 hour.

Cake Baker’s Note: I didn’t have a 9 inch tart pan but I had two eight-inch non-stick tartlette pans. I divided the dough between them. It tore in places but I used the extra dough to patch it.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Push a rolling pin over the top to trim any overhang. Prick the bottom in several places with a fork.

Cake Baker’s Note: I didn’t have pie weights so I used dried beans. Improvise!

Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes, until the shell is lightly colored around the edges. Remove the foil and weights and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden. Let cool before filling.

Cake Baker’s Note: The tartlettes did not need the extra 10 minutes, so I skipped this step. It’s best to go with how the shell looks rather than follow the recipe exactly. And because I was anxious to get to the next step, I popped the pastry shells in the freezer to speed up the cooling. While they were cooling I made the filling.

Apple Tart with Almond Cream

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes

1 cup slivered almonds (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter, for brushing
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark rum
Baked Pastry Shell
1 Asian pear and 1 Granny Smith apple peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 golden delicious apples in original recipe)
1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, process 3/4 cup almonds until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse the remaining 1/4 cup almonds, until coarsely chopped–about four or five pulses. Transfer to the bowl. Add the granulated sugar, flour and salt and toss gently to combine.

In another bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the 4 tablespoons of butter until creamy. Add the almond mixture all at once and beat until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the rum. At this stage, the almond cream has the most wonderful smell.

Spread the almond filling in the Baked Pastry Shell. Arrange the apple slices on top in concentric circles. Brush the apple slices with the melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar.

Cake Baker’s Note: I skipped the melted butter.

Bake the tart for 1 hour, until the filling is set and the apples are browned and tender. Transfer the tart to a rack and let cool slightly. Remove the ring (if your tart pan is two piece) and serve the tart warm or at room temperature.

Cake Baker’s Note: My tarts were ready in 30 minutes. I recommend checking the tart after 30 minutes to see if additional baking time is needed. A tester inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few crumbs attached. If it is still moist and shiny, give it another 5 minutes.

The baked pastry shell can be made a day ahead. The tart can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature for a day. But in Bangkok’s heat, I’d refrigerate it.

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as you like it: a breakfast casserole baked in a pie dish

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This is loosely based on a Simply Recipes breakfast casserole. Since I am cooking for two, I halved it and baked it in a pie dish. I remembered how at Christmas we’d use up leftover ham by frying it with scallions. It made a most delicious breakfast. So I did that and threw in the mushrooms for savoriness. I call this…

Egg Pie As You Like It (with apologies to Shakespeare)

Butter
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
3 slices bread, cut into rough cubes
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup quartered shiitake mushroom caps (can use chopped uncooked broccoli)
1/4 cup sliced scallions (can substitute sliced onions)
1 cup cubed ham, preferably pepper ham (can substitute crumbled cooked bacon)
1 teaspoon dried herbs, e.g. basil, rosemary, thyme (optional)
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a nine-inch pie plate and set aside. Meanwhile quickly stir fry the mushrooms, scallions, and ham in a little bit of oil. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and cheese. Add the bread and carefully stir it in the egg mixture. Scrape the mushroom mixture into the prepared pie plate. Pour the egg mixture on top. You may need to stir the mixture carefully in the pie plate to redistribute the ingredients. Sprinkle herbs on top if using.

Bake 40-50 minutes or until a thin blade inserted near the center comes out clean and the top springs back when touched lightly. Cool about 10 minutes in the plate then slice into wedges and serve with Sriracha sauce, if desired.