Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lemon Cream Tart

I've made all kinds of lemon tarts before. If you've by chance landed on this blog looking for a lemon tart recipe, please kindly disregard those and fast-forward straight to this guy. Fair warning, this takes a while and may not be for the faint of heart (see the novel-length recipes below); I tried and failed to make it during naptime. It's worth every extra second, though. The end result is the perfect lemon dessert. Velvety, tangy, smooth, and everything a lemon lover could dream of. I'm not a huge shortbread fan and the crust was very shortbread-y, so I might try a different crust recipe next time.

Lemon Cream Tart 
Other Lemon Tart recipes!
Lemon Tart
Lemon Almond Meringue Tart

Lemon Cream Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 - 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell (see below)

1. Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready.  Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

2. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water.  Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.  Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

3. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch.  You want to cook the cream until it reaches at least 160 degrees F.  (If you can get it up to 180 degrees F, which is what professional pastry chefs do, great; if not – don’t worry, it will still thicken.)  As you whisk the cream over heat – and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling – you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks.  Heads up at this point – the tracks mean the cream is almost ready.  Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature.  And have patience – depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

4. As soon as you reach the right temperature, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor).  Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

5. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time.  Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter.  Once the butter is in, keep the machine going – to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes.  If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

6. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight.  When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Storing:  While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the fridge for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Sweet Tart Crust
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1. To make the dough:  Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine.  Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.  When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.  Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change - heads up.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
2. Very lightly and sparingly  knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

3. Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it.  Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quick Pickled Veggies

I've been expanding my pickling horizons lately. I made a few batches of Pink Pickled Radishes earlier this summer, and recently I've added carrots and peppers to the repertoire.

Pickled Peppers 
This might seem a little backwards since I've never actually made pickled cucumbers, but I have big plans for that in the next few weeks as cukes are just coming into season here. In the meantime, I'm topping everything I eat with these guys. I used the same brine recipe for both batches, and I think it would work well with almost any veggie.
Pickled Carrots

Quick Pickled Veggies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Gourmet Magazine

1 bunch carrots, 6-7 gypsy peppers, or any other fresh veggie that you'd like to pickle, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup cider or plain white vinegar (the cider vinegar makes for a sweeter, milder brine)
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 1/2 tbsp salt

1. Place veggies in a heatproof jar or resealable container.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

3. Pour brine over veggies (I found a funnel helped greatly with this) and allow to cool to room temperature before covering. Seal and refrigerate at least overnight.

Pickles will keep in the fridge for 1 month.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Funfetti Cupcakes

Funfetti flavor boxed cake mix, if you're not familiar with it (not residing on Earth lately? I understand), is like a cult thing. People who love it are die-hard loyal fans. Although I don't discriminate and love all cupcake flavors, I count myself among the funfetti-obsessed.

I'm here to tell you that the boxed mix is fun, but is nowhere near as amazing as the homemade version. Paired with my favorite chocolate icing, these are definitely my new favorite cupcake to make at home. I paired some with vanilla buttercream too, but they were just so good with the chocolate.

As always, I highly recommend using an ice cream scoop (like this) to fill the wells of your cupcake tin. Portioned perfectly and so quick.

Funfetti Cupcakes
Adapted from Annie's Eats
Makes ~ 2 dozen cupcakes

1 cup whole milk, divided
6 large egg whites
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
2¾ cups (11 oz.) cake flour, sifted
1½ cups (10.5 oz) sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. (¾ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup multi-colored sprinkles (preferably quins or nonpareils)
Frosting of your choice (I used dark chocolate frosting and whipped vanilla buttercream).

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the whole milk, egg whites, vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk to blend.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Mix briefly on low speed to combine, about 30 seconds.  Add in the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the remaining ¾ cup of milk, then increase the speed to medium and beat for about 90 seconds more.  With the mixture on low speed, add the egg white mixture in three additions, mixing for about 20 seconds after each addition.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.  Gently fold in the sprinkles with a spatula.

4. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about two-thirds of the way full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pan briefly, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Caprese Bites

Recently I saw a "recipe" on Pinterest for a Candy Corn Peanut snack. Put candy corn and peanuts in a bowl, mix. I remember laughing that someone would actually write out such a simple recipe, and especially that someone would bother to pin it. Well, I've gone and done it myself. This is so simple that someone on Pinterest will probably laugh at me. Oh well, it's worth it.

I served these at Andy's birthday party recently and they were a huge hit. They're so easy to make and such a crowd pleaser for any gathering big or small. They flew off the plate and I wished I had made more! Summer on a stick.

Caprese Bites 
Caprese Bites
Makes about 50 pieces

2 pints grape tomatoes
2 containers small buffalo mozzarella balls (I used Trader Joe's ciliegine)
1 bunch basil leaves
Balsamic glaze (I used Trader Joe's, feel free to make your own if you have time)

1. Assemble all ingredients except balsamic glaze as shown in photo. Arrange on a platter.

2. Just before serving, drizzle balsamic glaze over skewers.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

White Sangria

It's become an annual tradition around here to host a big party for Andy's birthday. This year one of the highlights on the drink menu was white sangria. It's a really fun way to highlight seasonal fruit. It's light, refreshing, and just the right amount of boozy. Special thanks to my friend Caroline, mixmaster genius, for sharing the recipe!

I quadrupled the recipe, which was just enough to serve about 40 people. Be sure to chill all of the ingredients before mixing.

White Sangria

White Sangria
From The Semi-SAHM
Serves 10

2 bottles sauvignon blanc (I used Charles Shaw, it was perfect and cheap!)
3/4 cup apple juice
3/4 cup triple sec or apple liquor
3/4 cup simple syrup
Raspberries, peach slices, and lime slices (or any seasonal fruit you'd like)
Sparkling water (optional)

Combine liquid ingredients in a large vessel and stir well. Add fruit. Serve chilled, topping each cup with a splash of sparkling water if you'd like.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Mini Broccoli Cheese Frittatas

I'm always looking for easy recipes to make for my 15 month old. She's fickle like her mom, and when it comes to food, there's no knowing what she will like to eat on any given day. I was sure that these frittatas, full of her favorite ingredients, would be a hit. Alas, it was not meant to be, but I can still guarantee that they're delicious. And so easy! My hope for you is that whomever you serve this to does not dump it on the floor.

Mini Broccoli Cheese Frittatas 
These freeze really well - just cool to room temperature and pop them in a freezer bag. To reheat, warm in the microwave for 1 minute.

Mini Broccoli Cheese Frittatas
Adapted from Handle the Heat
Makes 12 frittatas

8 large eggs
1 medium bunch broccoli, cut into small florets, steamed*, and cooled
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice
Salt & pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with cupcake wrappers. In a large bowl, beat eggs well. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

2. Divide egg mixture evenly among 12 muffin cups. I find a cookie/ice cream scoop is the best way to do this. Bake until set, 12-14 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from pan and serving.

*I steam broccoli by placing it in a microwave-safe bowl with a half inch of water, covering tightly with plastic wrap, and microwaving for 1.5-2 minutes. You can also boil it on the stove for 3-5 minutes or use a steamer basket.
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