Archive for the ‘Desserts (Pies and Cakes)’ Category

Strawberry Tart

August 11, 2008

First of all, I’m sorry for the terrible photos of this tart. It’s such a shame because it was really pretty to look at but by the time I got it put together it was night time so I couldn’t get any natural light. Despite the lackluster photos, this was really a great dessert. What’s not to like about a buttery crust, sweet cream filling, and fresh strawberries?! My only gripe with the tart was the crust was a little too crumbly and it didn’t hold together well. When I make this again (which I will), I will be sure to swap out the crust recipe for this one from my Blueberry Tart.

Strawberry Tart

Source: Everyday Food

Serves 8

* 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for handling dough
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 bar (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
* 1/4 cup seedless red currant jelly (I used strawberry jam)


1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend flour, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt until moist crumbs form (this may take up to 1 minute). Transfer dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.
2. With floured fingers, press dough evenly into pan and up sides. Dip a dry-measuring cup in flour, and use it to press dough firmly into bottom and against sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Using a fork, prick crust all over. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, pressing down gently once or twice with a spoon during baking if crust puffs up. Cool completely in pan.
4. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth; spread mixture evenly in bottom of baked crust (still in tart pan).
5. Starting from outside edge, arrange strawberry halves, stemmed side down, in tight concentric circles on cream cheese.
6. In a small saucepan, heat jelly on medium-low until liquefied. Gently brush strawberries with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Chill in pan at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours); remove from pan just before serving.


Almond Gateau with Praline Buttercream

July 30, 2008

It’s that time again! Daring Bakers time! And ok I will just admit it. This, my second Daring Bakers challenge, scared the living beejeezus out of me. That’s what happens when I print out a recipe to “study” it and it is FOUR PAGES LONG!! What the….?!? I had a few moments of thinking perhaps I made a mistake joining this group before I decided to suck it up and get to work.

In case you are looking at the word “Gateau” like it is a dog with 10 heads (like I was) I will give you a definition. (Can I just say that it is a definite sign that I am being “Daring” if I have to google multiple words in the recipe itself to figure out what they are!) According to, “a gateau (pronounced ga-toe) is a French cake, often specifically a sponge cake that may be made from almond flour instead of wheat flour.”

The original recipe was for a “Filbert Gateau”…..*staring blankly at the word Filbert*. So after yet another Google use I realized that a Filbert was just another fancy-schmancy name for a hazelnut. Well, I wasn’t able to find any hazelnuts at my grocery store so I decided to switch the recipe to an Almond Gateau (which was an allowed substitution).

The original recipe also called for a Swiss Buttercream, which I had never heard of. Upon further reading I started to break out in hives just thinking about attempting a buttercream that involved cooking egg whites in a double broiler. I thought about it and decided this recipe was going to be PLENTY difficult for me even without the Swiss Buttercream so I just went with a “normal” buttercream recipe where all you have to do is beat butter, confectioner’s sugar, and a little water and vanilla extract together.

Overall the “Gateau Experience” was extremely frightening and somewhat frustrating. I ended up with crumbly cakes that fell apart (but I managed to salvage them), one burnt batch of Praline Paste, one semi-burnt batch of Praline Paste (which I used anyway), one burnt batch of Chocolate Ganache, and one just OK end result. I mean it was a very tasty end result, but just entirely not worth all the work in my modest opinion. There are plenty of cake recipes that are a quarter of the work but just as tasty. It was very pretty though with the shiny ganache coating and the buttercream piping.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the inside of the cake because I served it at a dinner party and forgot to take a picture when I cut into it. Grrrr…after all that work I didn’t even get a decent picture to do it justice!!! Oh well!

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise (Mine was Almond)
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks (I omitted)
1 recipe Apricot Glaze (Mine was Raspberry Glaze)
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped (I omitted)

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned (I used almond meal)
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees) (I just used regular melted butter)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan (I used two 9-inch cake pans).

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds.  Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture.  You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process.  Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar.  It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step.  When finished, the mixture should be ribbony.  Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind.  Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so.  Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.*  Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds.   Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter.  Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon.  **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter!  It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan.  Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan.  Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake.  *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream (I used a standard buttercream recipe)
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream.  Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.  Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream (I subbed a standard buttercream recipe)
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved.  The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute.  Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My  buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed  butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless (Or blanched almonds)
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet.  Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals.  If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides.  Cook until the mixture starts to bubble.  **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor.  Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place.  Do not refrigerate.

Apricot (or Raspberry) Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot (or raspberry) preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm.  If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms.  While warm – great fudge sauce.  While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil.  Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate.  Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake.  Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream.  Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake.  Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake.  Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely.  Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings.  Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center.  Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance.  The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”.  Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream.  Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake.  As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting.  Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center.  The leaves should overlap.  Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Blueberry and Buttermilk Tart

July 15, 2008

A few months ago I participated in a gift swap with other people who love to cook via an online community. My secret gift giver was sweet enough to send me these adorable little yellow ice cream bowls, yellow spatulas, and a tart pan. I was so looking forward to using the tart pan but I wanted to make sure it was the perfect recipe. When I saw this recipe for a Blueberry Tart on Martha Stewart’s website I knew it would be a great choice since berries are in season right now. It’s also the perfect choice for a summer dinner party because you have to chill it for at least 2 hours before serving so you can assemble it ahead of time and forget about it until it’s time to pull it out for dessert. Oh and the shortbread crust was DELICIOUS! I am tempted just to use the crust recipe for my go-to shortbread cookie recipe! All in all it was just wonderful with the buttery shortbread crust, tangy lemon buttermilk custard, and fresh blueberries.

Blueberry and Buttermilk Tart

Source: Everyday Food


Serves 8

* 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
* 1/3 cup blanched whole almonds
* 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
* 1 tablespoon cold water
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 3 tablespoons sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 1/2 pints)


1. Make the crust: With an electric mixer on low speed, beat butter and 1/4 cup sugar until just combined, about 15 seconds. Add flour and salt, and beat until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Shape into a disk.
2. Pulse remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Scatter half of the almond mixture onto a clean work surface, and place dough on top. Scatter the remaining almond mixture on top, and roll out dough, resprinkling with almond mixture and incorporating into dough, until dough measures an 11-inch square. (I didn’t have any luck rolling out the dough because it was way too crumbly so I just incorporated all of the almond mixture in by kneading and then just pressed the dough into the pan with my hands until it covered the bottom and sides of the tart pan. )
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Fit dough into a 9-inch square tart pan with removable bottom, pressing into bottom and up sides. Trim dough flush with rim. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes (or up to 1 day).
4. Bake tart shell, occasionally pressing bottom to flatten using the bottom of a glass, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
5. Make the filling: Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.
6. Heat cream, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Add gelatin mixture, and stir until it has dissolved. Remove from heat; let cool. Stir in buttermilk and lemon juice.
7. Remove tart from pan. Spread custard into crust. Refrigerate until custard is slightly set, about 15 minutes. Scatter blueberries evenly over top. Refrigerate until custard is firm, about 2 hours (or up to 1 day). Cut into squares to serve.

Strawberry Hand Pies

June 25, 2008

Strawberry Hand Pies

When I first saw these on Good Things Catered I knew they sounded right up my alley. Then, when I saw them on Annie’s Eats I took it as a sign that I needed to make them ASAP. They were so very delicious, especially served with freshly whipped cream.

I definitely had some issues with them though. First, the recipe says it should make 10 to 12 pies but I could BARELY get 8 pies out of the dough recipe and I really don’t think my pies were all that big. Also, the recipe suggests using confectioners sugar instead of flour for rolling out the dough and to keep it from sticking. Well, this didn’t really work for me. It just ended up making a stickier mess than before so I had to switch to flour. I wish I could have stuck with the confectioners sugar though because it added such a nice sweetness to the dough. Next time I might make a half and half mixture of flour and sugar. Then, I had issues with filling the dough with the strawberry mixture. See I had mixed my strawberries with the sugar and stuck them in the fridge about an hour before I started filling the dough rounds so there was lots of strawberry juice by the time I got to them. Well, the juice made the pies not want to seal so there were tons of holes that opened up during cooking. Also, when eating the pies I just felt that they were a little too “crusty” and could have used more fruit filling but I have NO IDEA how I could have put more filling inside without them bursting open completely.

Now after all those “issues” you’d probably think I would never make them again but that is SO WRONG! They were so good and so worth the amount of work and headache that they caused. Plus, I think this is the type of recipe where the more you make it the better you get at it. I can’t wait to try other fruit fillings too! Thanks for another great recipe, Katie!

Strawberry Hand Pies

Source: Good Things Catered

1 recipe sweet butter pie dough (see below if needed)
3 c. fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

powdered sugar for dusting

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment.
-In medium bowl, combine strawberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice and set aside.
-Turn dough out onto a powdered sugar-dusted work surface and cut pie dough in half (rewrap other half and place back in fridge to stay cold).
-Roll one half of pie dough out about 1/8 in thickness. Using round pastry cutter (or trace knife around small plate), cut out about 5-6 inch rounds.
-Place round onto baking sheet and place about 2-3 Tbsp strawberry mixture into center.
-Using pastry brush dipped in a small amount of egg, brush the edge of half of the round.
-Fold dry edge onto egg brushed half, forming semicircle shape, and press edges together to seal with the tines of a fork.
-Brush the top of the pie with egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar.
-Use a small knife to make a 1 inch slit in the top of the pie for steam to escape.
-Repeat with remaining pastry dough.
-Place in oven and bake until tops are beginning to turn golden brown, about 20 minutes.
-Let cool on sheets for 7-10 mins and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
-Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 10-12

Sweet Butter Pie Dough

2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon zest
2 sticks (1 c.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 in pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 Tbsp cold buttermilk (whole milk with a dash of fresh lemon juice can be subbed)

powdered sugar for dusting

-In small bowl, combine vanilla and buttermilk, stir to combine and set aside.
-In large bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest and whisk to combine.
-Use pastry cutter or two knives to cut butter into flour mixture until resembles course meal or just until all pieces are less than pea-sized.
-Add buttermilk mixture and stir in until dough comes together.
-Transfer dough to powdered sugar-dusted work surface and shape into flat disk.
-Wrap disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Notes: You can also make the dough in the bowl of a food processor, just be careful not to over process (30 secs should be enough to bring it together.)

Pie dough may be made ahead and frozen for up to 2 months if wrapped well.