Peach Tart

I stumbled upon fresh organic peaches at BJ’s and just knew that I had to make something yummy with them.  I’m not a big cobbler fan, so I thought a tart would be the perfect dessert.  Although my first attempt at making a free form tart wasn’t exactly neat, it was delicious.  I topped the warm slices with Honey Vanilla Ice Cream and we were licking our plates clean.
Peach Tart
Adapted from BHG

Rich Tart Pastry, recipe follows
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sliced, peeled peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tbsp milk
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
Fresh nutmeg, for grating

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare pastry; set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment; sprinkle lightly with flour. Roll pastry to 13-inch circle on prepared baking sheet.
In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add peaches and lemon juice; toss gently until coated. Mound peach mixture in center of pastry, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold border up over peaches. Lightly brush top and sides of the crust with milk. Sprinkle edge of tart with turbinado sugar, lightly grate fresh nutmeg on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.

Rich Tart Pastry
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking

6 1/2 oz all purpose flour
2 oz powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into pieces, kept very cold
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract

Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Pulse a few times to mix. Drop in butter pieces, one at time, pulsing until mixture forms pea size balls.
In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks, stir in heavy cream and almond extract. Slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the food processor and pulse until it just starts to form a ball.
On a work surface, shape the dough into a six inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 45 min.


Blueberry Ice Cream Pie

Our blueberry bushes are ripe for the pickin’!  I figured I’d give this pie a try to use up some of that fresh goodness.  I’m not a big fan of nuts in my dessert, but the gang that I served it to loved the crust.

Blueberry Ice Cream Pie
Adapted from BHG, June 2011

1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup hazelnuts, skinned
2 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Blueberry Sauce
3 cups blueberries, rinsed, well drained, and carefully picked over for damaged berries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
A few gratings of nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. water

Assemble and Serve

1 qt. homemade vanilla ice cream
3/4 cup of the Blueberry Sauce, chilled
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
Remaining Blueberry Sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade combine almonds, brown sugar, and salt. Pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to bowl and stir in melted butter. Turn into 9-inch pie plate. With fingers press onto bottom and sides to form a firm, even layer.

2. Bake 8 to 12 minutes until lightly golden. “Don’t overbrown or the crust will have an overpowering flavor,” Scott says. Allow to completely cool on a rack. Transfer to freezer until ready to use (may be made up to a week in advance and frozen, tightly wrapped).

3. In large, wide, nonreactive skillet combine blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, and salt, stirring well with a spoon to distribute the sugar and cornstarch. Add zest, lemon juice, water, and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg; stir again to blend.

4. Cook and stir over medium heat until blueberries begin to pop, give off juice, and come to a full simmer. Simmer, stirring gently for 1 additional minute until sauce is lightly thickened and cornstarch is well cooked.

5. Set aside to cool; refrigerate sauce until completely chilled before proceeding. “Otherwise you’ll wind up with a blueberry milk shake,” Scott says.

6. Transfer ice cream to a mixing bowl and let stand in the refrigerator 30 minutes or until just softened.

7. Spoon half into prepared crust. Spread in even layer and top with the chilled blueberry sauce. Spoon on remaining ice cream and spread to edges.

8. Cover surface of ice cream with plastic wrap and freeze at least 8 hours or overnight until firmly set.

9. To serve: In chilled mixing bowl, whisk crème fraiche, heavy cream, and sugar until just thickened to spreading consistency. Do not overbeat. “It is very easy to go from smooth to grainy,” Scott says. Spread cream mixture over pie; top with blueberries. Serve with heated sauce on the side. Makes 10 servings.

Italian Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread Cookies

I thought these cookies would make an interesting addition to our annual cookie exchange.  While the flavor was good, the presentation left much to be desired!  I found the dough incredibly dry which made slicing the cookies according to the directions very challenging.  I ended up cutting the cookies with cookie cutters, so I got much less than the expected 4 dozen.

Italian Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appétit

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Blend flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, 1 tablespoon espresso powder and salt in processor. Add butter and vanilla. Using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add nuts; blend until finely chopped. Transfer dough to floured work surface. Knead just until dough comes together.
Divide dough in half. Press each half into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer shortbread to rack; cool 2 minutes. Remove pan sides. Cut each shortbread round into 24 wedges. Cool completely.

Chocolate-Almond Torte

I clipped this recipe from Food Network Magazine’s December 2009 issue.  I was excited to try something new using ground nuts instead of flour.  Unfortunately, the texture of the finished dish was unpleasant.  I won’t be making this one again. 

Chocolate-Almond Torte
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 1/4 cups blanched, sliced almonds
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, plus more for greasing
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated, plus 3 egg yolks
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet until lightly golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Cool slightly, then pulse in a food processor until finely ground, but not pasty.

Melt 12 tablespoons butter and the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water). Stir until the chocolate is smooth, then remove from the heat and cool slightly. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter and coat with the breadcrumbs, tapping out the excess.

Set aside 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Combine the 6 egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the orange zest, rum and salt, then beat in the melted chocolate until smooth. Mix in the ground almonds until just combined.

In a clean bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with a mixer until foamy. Gradually beat in the reserved 2 tablespoons granulated sugar on high speed until almost stiff. Stir one-third of the whites into the chocolate batter, then gently fold in the rest. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until the top is firm and cracked (a toothpick inserted into the cake will be fudgy), 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the ring. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar and whipped cream, if desired.

Nilla Apple Crisp

Crisps are one of my favorite desserts!  Warm and gooey, they’re great alone or topped with ice cream or whipped cream!  Here’s a simple crisp variation that you’ll keep returning to!

Nilla Apple Crisp
Adapted from Kraft Foods

4 large cooking apples (2 lb.), peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
1/3 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold margarine
25 NILLA Wafers, crushed (about 1 cup crumbs) (I’ve also used graham crackers)

HEAT oven to 350°F.

TOSS apples with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Spoon into 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.

COMBINE oats, remaining brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in margarine with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in wafer crumbs; sprinkle over apples.

BAKE 30 to 35 min. or until apples are tender

Harvest Fruit Pie

I didn’t care much for the pie because it was too sweet for me, but Forrest loved it!

Harvest Fruit Pie
Adapted from Food to Live By

Pie Filling
3 crisp apples, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (about 3 cups)
1 large ripe pear, peeled  and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen (unthawed) cranberries
1 tsp grated lemon or orange zest
2/3 cups sugar
2 tbsp unbleached ap flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 cup unbleached ap flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 tbsp (1/2), unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Sweet Pie Crust (you will only need half)
2 1/2 unbleached ap flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water, or more as needed

Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse to blend.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  With the machine running, add the ice water and process to combine, about 5 seconds.  Add more water as necessary.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and divide it in half.  Form the dough into two flat disks, patting it just enough to hold together.  Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

Remove dough from fridge and place on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll the dough into a round about 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches larger than the pie plate.  Press the dough firmly into the pie plate and brush off and excess flour with a pastry brush.  Patch any holes with leftover dough.  For a single crust pie, trim the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang.  Fold the edge under to forma double layer and crimp or flute it.  For a double-crust pie, fit the dough for the bottom crust into the pie plate and trim the dough even with the rim.  Roll out the second disk of dough.  Place the filing in the bottom crust and place the dough for the second crust on top.  Trim the top crust, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang.  Fold the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust, and crimp or flute it to seal.  Cut 3 slits in the center of the top crust to allow steam to vent as the pie bakes.

Almond Tart

I found this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge to be very simple. I’ve made many pie crusts, but found this to be the easiest pie crust recipe that I have ever made! I did not finely grind the almonds for the frangipane, therefore I did not like the texture. My family loved the desert, though!

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

Bakewell Tart…er…puddingMakes one 9” tart
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 9” pie plate, rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
1cup (8 US fl. oz) seedless rasperry jam, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tartPlace the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 1/4” thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.
The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.
Sweet shortcrust pastryPrep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film
8oz all purpose flour
1oz sugar
½ tsp salt
4oz unsalted butter, cubed, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
½ tsp almond extract
1-2 Tbsp cold water
Using food processor fitted with the dough blade, pulse together flour, sugar and salt. Drop butter by pieces through top while pulsing. Pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract. Pulse mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
FrangipanePrep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula
4.5oz unsalted butter, softened
4.5oz powdered sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
4.5oz finely ground almonds
1oz all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft and retain its pallid yellow colour.