Apple Strudel

img_5577Since I have been on a pastry craze the past few weeks I thought I would continue with one of my favorite but seldom made pastries, Apple Strudel.  I made this once many many years ago and thought it was a total disaster.  That was in the days when I lived in fear of anything involving dough.  Now that I have had alot more experience working with various types of dough I no longer approach it with fear and trepidation but embrace it as a relaxing and thoroughly satisfying kitchen project.  My words of advice are to just work quickly and with purpose and always remember that it is only dough and you can still eat it even if it is tough, dry or doesn’t puff and just keep practicing.

img_5583img_5582Strudel dough is not at all hard to make and it just takes a bit of patience and persistence to do the stretching.
For the dough:

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) unbleached bread flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for bowl
Warm water

Stir the flour and salt together in a bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat the egg and oil together with a fork in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Add enough warm water to make 2/3 cup.

Use a rubber spatula to mix the liquid into the flour.

Attach the dough hook to an electric mixer and mix the dough on low speed until it begins to hold together, about 5 minutes. Increase the speed a couple of notches to just below medium and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, another 5 minutes.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 minute. Coat a small bowl with a very thin layer of oil and invert the dough into it; turn the dough over so that the top is oiled, and directly cover the surface of the dough with plastic wrap. Let rest for at least one hour or up to overnight.

img_5578For the filling:

2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Vegetable oil, for brushing
Confectioners’ sugar, for finishing
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins in a medium saucepan. Add 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes. When the apples have released their juices and there is a lot of water in the pan uncover, lower the heat, and cook until the water has evaporated and the apples have thickened, about 20 minutes. Pour filling into a baking dish and stir in the walnuts; let cool to room temperature.

In a small saute pan, melt 5 tablespoons butter and add breadcrumbs. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter; set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lay a large, clean cloth or sheet on your work surface, and sprinkle well with flour. Remove strudel dough from bowl without folding it over on itself and set it in the center of your work surface. Use the palms of your hands to flatten the dough. Dust dough lightly with flour and roll it in all directions, rolling thinly as possible. The dough is very soft and sticky so be patient. Lightly brush entire surface with oil and allow the dough to rest and relax a few minutes before stretching.

Slide both hands, with slightly curved palms facing down, under dough toward the center. Using the backs of your hands and knuckles, lift the dough off the cloth and with your knuckles, begin stretching from the center out to the edges until it is too large to stretch easily with your hands. Carefully set dough back on cloth, spreading it to smooth out any wrinkles or folds. Starting in the center again, continue to stretch out the dough in all directions, maintaining a rectangular shape, until the dough is almost translucent everywhere except the edges, which should be thicker. If the dough tears while stretching; you will be able to patch any holes with some of the excess stretched dough. Once dough is stretched, let dry for 10 minutes.

Trim all the thick edges until the dough is approximately 24-by-30-inches. With the 24-inch edge facing you, scatter the breadcrumbs on a 12-by-4-inch rectangle of dough centered about 3 inches in from the 24 inch side so the 16 inch side of filling is parallel to the 24 inch side of dough. Scatter the cooled filling on the same space.

Use a brush to drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons of cooled butter all over the unfilled portions of the dough, reserving a little to brush the strudel with once it has been rolled.

Roll strudel by folding 3 inches of dough from the 24-inch side of dough over the filling, then fold the unfilled dough in from each side. Lift the cloth and roll the strudel, stopping to fold the edges inward as you roll. Transfer to prepared pan, seam side down, positioning diagonally if necessary.

Brush the top of the strudel with remaining butter, and snip vent holes in with sharp scissors.

Place strudel in oven. Bake, rotating pan halfway though, until deep golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut on the diagonal into slices. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

Stretched dough with bread crumbs

Stretched dough with bread crumbs

The apple filling

The apple filling

The first fold

The first fold

Completed strudel ready to bake

Completed strudel ready to bake

Just baked

Just baked

 

Danish Pastry

img_5562This week I decided to try something I have never attempted before, Danish Pastry.  I have always enjoyed Danish but never really thought about making it at home.  For one thing, I usually only eat one or two so I thought making a whole batch of it would be kind of wasteful around my house.  Well, once I got started I went a bit wild and made three batches of danish dough so I have plenty to pass around now.

img_5553Back in the 70s when I was working as a hairdresser, there was a bakery next door to the salon that made the most wonderful bear claws.  Every morning before work I would stop in a get a couple to have with coffee before my first client arrived.  Tom, the baker and his wife Lisa eventually became clients of mine and every time they came in to get their hair cut they would bring me an assortment of pastries and we would talk about each one.  That was my first introduction to laminated dough.  One day Tom invited me to come over and watch him work.  I was thrilled and ended up being there for over 3 hours.  Lisa was working on a wedding cake the day I visited and I was fascinated with her piping work.  Tom was working on the danish dough for the next day and he showed me how the butter was rolled into the dough to form all the flaky layers.  Little did I know that years later I would be doing the same thing in my own kitchen.

img_5551Danish dough is a butter laminated dough similar to puff pastry and croissant dough.  Puff pastry is just a flour, water and salt dough into which butter is rolled to make the flaky layers.  Croissant dough is also a flour, water and salt dough but it has butter and yeast added to the base dough before the butter is rolled in.  Danish dough is also a yeasted dough like croissant dough but it also has the addition of milk and eggs and a bit of spice before the butter is rolled in.

img_5560Once the base dough is made and chilled the butter is rolled in exactly like the other doughs and the dough is rested and chilled between each turn.  This recipe calls for 3 turns.

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For the dough you will need

1/2 oz active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
4 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pound  unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk; stir until dissolved. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 1 pound, 4 ounces flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and 4 tablespoons butter; beat on low speed until butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse meal, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the yeast-milk mixture; mix until dough just comes together. Add the eggs and yolk; mix until just combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overmix

On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead to form a smooth ball.   Wrap well with plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the remaining 3 1/2 sticks butter with 2 tablespoons flour.  The addition of flour here helps to absorb any excess water in the butter and prevents it from weeping when the butter is rolled into the dough. Form the butter mixture into a 12-by-10-inch rectangle on a sheet of plastic wrap. Refrigerate 15 minutes or up to 1 day.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 18-by-10-inch rectangle, a little over a 1/4 inch thick, keeping the corners as square as possible. Remove any excess flour with a pastry brush. Remove butter mixture from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until it reaches the consistency of the dough. With a short side facing you, place butter mixture over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the unbuttered third over as you would a business letter, followed by the remaining third. This seals in the butter.

Roll out dough again to an 18-by-10-inch rectangle, then fold dough into thirds as described above; refrigerate for 1 hour. Repeat rolling and folding two more times, refrigerating for at least 1 hour between turns.

Refrigerate the completed dough, tightly wrapped in plastic, for at least 4 hours or overnight.

One recipe of dough will make about 18 danish.  Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10 x 18 inches. Cut the rolled dough into 9 – 4 inch squares and proceed with your desired shape. Allow the formed pastry to rise for about 45 minutes.  Brush the danish with beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar.   Bake the danish at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes rotating the trays half way through the baking time.

For the bow ties you will need about a cup of your favorite Creme Patissiere recipe and whichever fruit you decide to use.  Place a dollop of the pastry cream in the center of the dough square,  Place two pieces of fruit over the cream and fold the top corner down over the fruit, then fold the bottom corner up and press to hold.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 45 minutes.

For the cheese danish use whatever cheese filling your prefer.  I used ricotta cheese to which I added lemon zest, a tablespoon of flour and the zest of 1 lemon.  Place a dollop of the filling into the center of the square and fold the corners into the center and press to hold.  Bake as above.

For pinwheels, cut the for corners of the square about 3/4 into the center.  Fold every other corner into the center and press.  Add a dollop of fruit preserves into the center.  Allow to rise for about 45 minutes and bake.

For the snails, roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Fold the dough in half and trim the edges.  Cut the dough into 3/4 inch wide strips.  Twist each strip and roll into a coil.  Allow to rise and bake.

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Chocolate Mint Cheesecake

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As I was already making a cheesecake and I had all the ingredients on hand I decided to do a second one.  I have made this cheesecake many times in the past and it always gets rave reviews.  It is especially good during the holidays as it has the peppermint which just sings holiday.  It is also nice for holiday buffets or to take as a gift during the holidays as it is a rather large cake and since it is rich and a little goes a long way, it will serve a crowd.  It has a chocolate cookie crust and a rich dense filling with a hint of peppermint.

For the crust:

9 oz chocolate wafer cookies, broken
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

In a food processor combing the cookies and sugar and process until you have fine crumbs.  With the processor running, pour in the melted butter until the crumbs are moistened.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan.  Wrap the pan in foil to prevent any leaking.  My pans generally don’t leak but I always do this as a precaution.

For the filling.

10 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 lbs cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 large eggs

Melt the chocolate and set aside while you get on with the rest of the filling.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar until very smooth. Beat in the cocoa powder and peppermint extract until combined.  Scrape the bowl as needed.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating just until incorporated. Beat in the melted chocolate just until combined, scraping the bowl as needed.  Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees until done, about 50 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and then chill for at least 4 hours.  Decorate as desired.

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Goat Cheese Cheesecake

img_5521I admit to not being a great cheesecake fan.  While I like it I often find it just too dense and rich for my taste.  This recipe comes from one of our favorite local French bistros, The Smoking Goat.  This is their signature dessert and our waiter convinced us to try it.  We did and found it delicious.  It is not as heavy as a traditional cheesecake and the goat cheese gives it a lightness and slight tang that we found most delightful. They were most generous in providing me with the recipe and I decided to give it a try.  The restaurant serves this cheesecake with a peach compote which was marvelous but I decided to just decorate my cheesecake with poached peaches instead as the ones I got at the market this week weren’t completely ripe.

img_5524It is a very simple recipe and goes together very quickly.

For the crust:

7 oz of graham cracker crumbs
1 oz of sugar
2 oz melted butter.

In a food processor combine the crackers and sugar and process until you have fine crumbs.  With the processor running pour in the melted butter and process just until all the crumbs are moistened.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.  Allow to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:

2 lbs cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 lb goat cheese
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the cheeses and sugar in an electric mixer until very smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time and the vanilla and mix until just combined.  Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.  Allow to cool.  The recipe suggests putting a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to prevent cracking.   I generally haven’t had much problem with cracking but I gave it a shot anyway.  It worked.  I have also heard many different ways of cooling a cheesecake to prevent cracking.  My preferred method is just to turn the oven off at the end of the baking time and just leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar until it is completely cool.  This does take a bit of time so I usually bake my cheesecakes in the evening and just leave it in the oven overnight.  It has never failed me.  Another trick I always do is to line the bottom of my springform pans with parchment paper.  That way I can get the cake off the bottom of the springform and onto a serving plate so that the bottom isn’t attached when I serve or present the cake.

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Layered Mocha Cream Torte

IMG_5515This is another of those recipe clippings I found last week.  It is again from the January 1995 issue of Bon Appetit.  It is from an article about a holiday dessert table.  It is certain fit for that but I think it would be great for a dinner party anytime of year.  You can make it well ahead and freeze it until you need it.

IMG_5514I made mine a few days ago and kept it frozen until I had time to finish it.  It can also be served frozen like an ice cream cake or thawed and served at room temperature.  I haven’t decided which way I like it best.

IMG_5486IMG_5491IMG_5492IMG_5496It is a wonderful combination of chocolate cookie crust filled with a heavenly and light mocha mouse and smooth coffee flavored whipped cream all layered with dark chocolate cookie crumbs. Light and smooth and very flavorful.

Layer Mocha Cream Torte

12 SERVINGS

CRUST
2 1/2 cups ground chocolate wafer cookies (from about 1½ 9-ounce packages)
1 ¼ tablespoons instant coffee powder 6 tablespoons (K stick) unsalted butter, melted

FILLINGS
12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
5 large egg whites
2 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

FOR CRUST:
Preheat oven to 350°F Blend ground cookies and coffee powder in processor Set aside 3/4 cup cookie crumb mixture. Add butter to remaining crumb mixture and process until crumbs are moist. Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake crust until just firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

FOR FILLINGS: Stir chocolate, butter and 1 teaspoon coffee powder in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Set chocolate mixture aside while preparing meringue.
Stir 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water in small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil syrup without stirring until candy thermometer registers 240’F, tilting pan to submerge bulb, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat hot syrup into whites. Continue beating until medium-stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Fold 1/3 of meringue into lukewarm chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining meringue. Set chocolate meringue aside.

Combine 1/4 cup cream and 5 teaspoons coffee powder in large bowl to dissolve. Add 2 1/2 cups cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon and beat until firm peaks form. Fold 1 ½ cups whipped cream into chocolate meringue forming mocha mousse.

Spoon half of mocha mousse bottom of crust. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons reserved crumb mixture over meringue. Spoon half of coffee whipped cream over crumbs. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons crumbs. Repeat layering with remaining mocha mousse, crumbs, coffee whipped cream and crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Can be made3 days ahead, keep refrigerated.) Run knife blade around pan sides to loosen torte. Remove pan sides and serve.

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Baci Tart

IMG_5505This is a take on those Italian Baci candies we all get at Christmas done in tart form.  To my mind it is sort of like a pecan pie that has been pushed to its utmost limits. Rich chocolate crust topped with a decadent hazelnut and caramel filling and then drizzled with still more chocolate.  Wonderful for dinner parties, adult birthdays and the holiday dessert table.  It is very easy to make but it does involve some sugar work so it you shy away from such things, now is the time to summon your courage and plow ahead or move on to another recipe.  This recipe comes from Cindy Mushet at Sur La Table.

IMG_5499The crust is a cookie dough type crust.  Beat 1 stick of softened butter with 1/3 cup sugar until very smooth and fluffy.  Add 1 egg yolk and beat until combined.  Sift together 1 cup of all purpose flour and 2 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa and add to the butter mixture just to combine.  The dough should be crumbly, do not over mix.  Press the dough into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch tart pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minute.  Check for cracks or tears and patch if necessary and then return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes.  Cool completely on a rack.

IMG_5497For the filling, toast and skin 1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts and set aside to cool.  Combine 1/2 stick of butter and 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat just until the cream is warm and the butter melted, set aside.

In another saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup and 3/4 cups of sugar.  Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil until the mixture is a light honey color.  Remove from the heat and add the cream mixture (it will bubble up and sputter) and stir to completely combine and form the caramel.  Add the hazelnuts and return to the heat and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring constantly, until an even caramel color appears.  Pour the caramel mixture into the cooled tart shell and bake at 350 degrees for 17 – 20 minutes until it is golden brown and bubbling.  Cool completely on a rack and drizzle with melted chocolate.

IMG_5506While it seems rather unassuming it is very rich so you will want to serve small portions with a nice espresso or strong coffee.

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Chocolate Orange Pound Cake with Coffee Glaze

IMG_5478This is another pound cake I found in the folder of magazine clippings I found while cleaning.  It is another basic recipe which can be dressed up with glazes, fruits or whipped cream but is equally delicious just left on its own.  It is a classic combination of chocolate and orange which always works well together.

IMG_5484As with most pound cakes this one goes together fairly quickly.  It also features a bit of plain yogurt which mellows the chocolate and orange flavors while adding a slight tang and moistness to the cake.  The glaze is of course totally optional, the cake is good just dusted with confectioners sugar or cocoa or it can be made with rum or brandy or even Grand Marnier.  I decided to try the coffee glaze this time.

IMG_5485It is easy to make.  Dry ingredients are combined.  Eggs whisked together.  Flavorings  and yogurt are combined.  Then everything is just mixed together quickly and the cake bakes for about 40 minutes.

IMG_5473CHOCOLATE-ORANGE POUND CAKE WITH COFFEE GLAZE

CAKE
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted all purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 1/3 cups sugar

GLAZE
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur

FOR CAKE:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 6 to 8 cup tube or Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray.
Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Whisk egg and egg whites to blend in small bowl. Stir water, espresso powder and vanilla in another small bowl until powder dissolves; mix in yogurt.
Using electric mixer, beat butter and peel in large bowl for 1 minute. Gradually add sugar, beating until blended, about 3 minutes. Gradually pour eggs into butter mixture, beating until smooth, about 3 minutes. At low speed, add flour mixture alternately with yogurt mixture in 3 additions each, beating just until combined after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Transfer to prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack; cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead.) Cover tightly and let stand at room temperature.)
FOR GLAZE:

Stir sugar and liqueur in small bowl until smooth. Let stand until glaze begins to set up, about 30 minutes. Spoon glaze over cake.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake

IMG_5467 I was organizing one of my bookcases when I came across an old folder tucked behind the books.  It was filled with recipes clipped out of magazines that I guess I was going to enter into my recipe database and never got around too.  These were fairly old recipes and some of the magazines don’t even exist anymore so I was intrigued to go through them.  Wow, I found some really nice recipes amongst the clippings and I can understand why I cut them out and kept them.  If only I had found them earlier.  I found several pound cake recipes in the pile and as everyone knows, pound cake is an all time favorite of mine so I decided to make a couple of them this weekend.  This one is a nice basic pound cake with the richness and slight tang of cream cheese.  According to the clipping it is from the January 1995 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

IMG_5471It is a cold oven pound cake meaning that it goes into a cold oven and the temperature is gradually increased throughout the baking time.  It does have a long baking time (1 hour 40 minutes) but the cake goes together very quickly and as long as you have a timer with a bell loud enough to hear throughout the house you don’t have to be chained to the oven to keep watch on it. Recipe follows:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour.

Butter and flour a 12-cup Bunch pan. Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat). Transfer batter to pan.
Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 250’F-, bake 20 minutes increase to 275°F bake 10 minutes Increase to 300°F, bake cake until tester inserted near center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan about 15 minutes.  Turn cake out onto a rack and cool completely.  Wrap and store at room temperature

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Milk Chocolate Pistachio Tart

IMG_5449In keeping with my chocolate and tart theme for this week I decided to try this easy pistachio tart.  I love pistachios and thought this would be an interesting tart to make and use up my pistachios before they went stale.

The crust is a sort of cookie dough type pastry.  It is:

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, nuts and salt in a small bowl.  Beat the butter in a mixer until fluffy, then add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.  Then add the vanilla and gradually add the flour mixture until a dough forms.  The dough will be very sticky.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and chill for at least and hour.  When ready to use it, roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap and use the plastic wrap to turn it into the tart shell.  Fit it into the shell and bake it at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool.

IMG_5453Make a layer of pistachio paste by combining ground pistachios with a little sugar and about a teaspoon or so of a flavorless oil until it is a smooth paste.  Spread this evenly into the bottom of the cooled shell.

The filling is even easier.  It is just a thin ganache of cream, milk, and milk chocolate which is allowed to cool and then a whole egg is beaten into it.  Pour this over the nut layer and bake the tart at 300 degrees for about 35 minutes.  Cool completely.

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Chocolate Cream Tart

IMG_5456I decided to take a break from my British baking craze this week but wanted to stay with my tart theme so I opted for a few easy to make chocolate tarts. As I have noted many times,  as I have gotten older I have lost my penchant for chocolate.  Other than an occasional craving for a Milky Way or Heath bar or a Cadbury creme egg at Easter I rarely bake many chocolate desserts these days or order it in restaurants.  It just always seems to be too heavy and cloying to my palette these days.  That doesn’t mean however that I don’t like it, I do, just crave it a lot less often.

This cream tart is about as easy as it gets.  It has a standard crumb crust which uses chocolate wafers in place of the traditional graham crackers.  So it’s just chocolate cookie crumbs, some sugar and a little melted butter.  It gets pressed evenly into a 9 inch tart pan and baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes and then cooled.

IMG_5458The filling is very easy.  It is nothing but a standard creme pat recipe.  Make the creme pat and once it thickens add chocolate and allow it to bubble for a few minutes until it is very thick.  Remove from the heat, allow to cool a few minutes and then stir in your flavoring.  I used bourbon here.  Pour the filling into the cooled crust, cover with plastic wrap which is set directly on the filling to prevent a skin.  Chill it for several hours or preferably overnight. Decorate with whipped cream and chocolate.

IMG_5461Ordinarily to decorate things like this I would just shave curls off of a block of chocolate but it seems my local supplier has stopped carrying it year round so I was forced to temper the chocolate and do the decor by hand.  In all honesty, tempering chocolate is one of my least favorite baking chores.  It seems that no matter what method I use be it seeding, temperature, stirring, the chocolate always seems to go out of temper as I am working with it and I end up having to do it several times to get what I need.  I watched Jacques Torres do it on tv just the other day.  He literally melted the chocolate, gave it a quick stir and proclaimed it in temper.  Then he spread it on a marble, dragged his palette knife across it a few times and ended up with a pile of perfectly formed curls.  I just had to shake my head and laugh.  I have been doing it that way for years and 9 times out of 10 I end up with a pile of goo and melted chocolate up to my elbows.  At one point back in the 90s I thought about buying a chocolate tempering machine so that when things went wrong I could just blame it on the machine.   I usually end up with something usable and once it is on the dessert no one can ever tell that it wasn’t what you had in mind so I have stopped worrying about it.

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