March 21, 2011
If you’re reading my blog, you are either a recipient of the multitude of baked goods produced in my kitchen from week to week or bake enough to completely understand how quickly sweets build up in your kitchen and freezer (and belly). I’m always looking for ways to keep baking while making sure everything I bake gets eaten. My friends understand my conundrum, and one in particular presented me with a book dedicated just to baking in small batches! She loves me, she really loves me! Or is just very sick of getting bombarded with over the top sweets and ridiculous taste inquiries. I hope it’s the former. Anyway, it certainly beats having to do math when all I want to do is eat something gooey and fresh from the oven.
I decided to post this recipe, for chocolate lavender cream tarts, for a variety of reasons, even though dried lavender is an ingredient not usually seen on the spice rack. Lavender makes a great addition to glazes and adds a little something something to cake batter. Apparently it’s also amazing with chocolate! I needed to try this tart; it called to me. Another reason for posting this recipe is that it might make a great dessert for those playing the dating game. It’s decadent, plates well, is slightly out of the flavor norm, and, well, is totally adorable.
Chocolate Lavender Cream Tarts
(Recipe adapted from Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers)
Yields 2 tarts, baked in 4 ½ inch individual tart pans with removable bottoms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon honey (lavender honey, if you have it!)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For chocolate filling:
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon dried lavender (McCormick sells dried lavender blossoms. I found them in the spice section of a big name grocery store.)
1 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips*
½ ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped*
1 tablespoon honey (again, lavender honey if you have it)
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
*My kitchen scale is not digital, so it’s hard to measure anything under 2 ounces accurately. I used 2 tablespoons chocolate chips and 1 scant tablespoon unsweetened chocolate. Be warned, however, because I did not do any math here. My tart came out fine, so my guess is that you can
Sifted confectioners’ sugar or lightly whipped cream
1. Move an oven rack to the center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, mix melted butter, honey, granulated sugar, and salt with a spatula or fork. Add flour and stir until blended. Dough will be crumbly, just mix well enough to make sure all ingredients (especially the flour) are incorporated.
3. Divide dough evenly between two individual tart pans with removable bottoms. Press dough evenly in the pans, along the bottom and up the sides, until you feel like you can’t compress the dough any more. Prick bottoms with fork.
4. Place tart pans with pressed crust on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until dry and just starting to brown, 7 to 8 minutes.
5. If crust puffs, press gently to release air underneath (as happened with one of my crusts). Let cool in tart pans on wire cooling rack while you prepare chocolate filling.
6. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. (Being paranoid, I made sure the oven was at 325 degrees F on the oven thermometer before baking entire tart. The recipe didn’t specify whether you had to have an exact temperature or just make sure the oven was turned down.)
7. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring cream and lavender blossoms to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes.
8. Place chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl. Strain lavender infused cream over chocolate, catching all the lavender in the strainer. Stir until chocolate is melted completely.
9. Stir honey, egg yolk, and salt in to the chocolate mixture until well blended.
10. Pour equal amounts of filling between baked pastry crusts.
11. Bake filled tarts in preheated oven until centers of tarts are just set, 14 to 15 minutes.
12. Transfer tarts to a wire rack and let them cool completely before removing from tart pans.
Tarts will store at room temperature for up to three days in an airtight container, and maybe longer in the fridge, though I highly doubt you will need to store them for long!
January 4, 2011
There’s no denying it, I love a project. So when my roommate, who loves to eat and loves to cook, proposed a fancy, schmancy roommate dinner, I jumped at the chance to make dessert. It was just the justification I was looking for that would allow me to spend my two days off preparing a dessert!
This recipe was flagged under the category of “Wishful Thinking, Colleen” with the subtitle “Where do you suppose you’ll get the time to make that?” My patience paid off, the opportunity arose, I did the legwork of making the tart (and by “legwork” I mean waiting patiently between steps), and it was worth it. My roommate, who doesn’t normally like desserts, ate her piece with rare enthusiasm, and it absolutely made me warm inside.
It’s a behemoth of a recipe, but yummy and fancy and DEFINITELY appreciated by those fortunate enough to wrangle a bite!
Whiskey Pear Tart
(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations)
Yields one tart in an 11 inch diameter pan, or one tart in a 14 by 4 inch pan
For the pears and soaking juice:
One 15 oz can of pear halves in heavy syrup (or 6 halves, if you want to poach your own pears)
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons whiskey
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the dough:
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup, or 1 stick, unsalted butter, cool but not cold (if you take the butter out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before using, you’ll get cool but not cold butter)
1 large egg, beaten
For the almond filling:
¼ cup, or ½ stick, unsalted butter, cool but not cold
4 ½ ounces almond paste (the tube I found at the grocery store was 7 ounces)
1 large egg
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon whiskey
For the glaze:
Drained syrup from the canned pears
Soaking juice drained from marinated pears
1 teaspoon whiskey
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
For the pears and soaking juice:
1. Strain the pears, making sure to keep the heavy syrup. Put the heavy syrup in a covered container in the fridge until you need it for the glaze.
2. Whisk together the wet ingredients (lemon juice, whiskey, sugar, and vanilla extract), until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Combine the strained pears and the whisked mixture (your soaking juice) in an airtight container, and keep in the fridge overnight.
For the dough:
4. Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt until combined.
5. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes, then added to the flour mixture. Cut with a pastry cutter, or use two butter knives, until the mixture is sandy looking.
6. Add the egg, and mix with your hands until the dough comes together.
(If the dough is not coming together, as mine didn’t, add a tablespoon of cold water, mix, and try to form the dough into a ball. Repeat as necessary; however, try not to over mix the dough. This part was tricky because you still want to see lumps of butter.)
7. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap, and keep it in the fridge overnight (or at least an hour).
*** I’m going to copy the instructions for this part of the recipe verbatim, because if you have a food processor, you should follow these instructions instead.
“Put the sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until sandy (about 6 to 10 quick pulses). Add the egg and pulse until the dough begins to form a mass. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight (or for at least 1 hour).”
To bake the crust:
8. Take the dough out of the fridge and place it on a work surface sprinkled lightly with flour. If you left the dough in the fridge overnight, let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before rolling.
9. Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch, in a circle (or in what ever shape pan you have) one inch larger in diameter than the tart pan. The dough is a bit sticky, so make sure to run a butter knife underneath the dough to un-stick it while you are working.
10. Glide the rolled dough into the tart pan, and press it to shape the pan. Trim the excess dough from the sides. At this point, I usually reinforce the sides with the scraps, but it’s not necessary.
11. Place the molded tart shell in the freezer for at least thirty minutes.
12. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
13. When the oven is preheated and your tart shell is sufficiently chilled, line the shell with foil and place pie weights or beans over it. You need to weigh the crust down enough to prevent puffing.
14. Bake the shell for 15 minutes with the pie weights, then remove the foil and pie weights to bake the shell for another 7 to 10 minutes, until it is light brown in color.
15. Move the shell to a cooling rack, and leave the oven on.
For the almond filling:
16. Cream the butter and almond paste until the mixture is light and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes if you have a mixer. To facilitate the process with cool butter, I cut the butter into more manageable pieces (thin slices, or you could do small cubes).
17. Add the egg and beat until combined.
18. Add the cornstarch, sprinkling it or sifting it into the mixing bowl, then mix to combine. If you are using a mixer, turn the speed to low.
19. Add the whiskey and beat until everything is combined and cream-like.
To assemble the tart for baking:
20. Spread the cream evenly in the baked tart shell.
21.Take the marinated pears out of the fridge. Drain them and reserve the juice (I added it to the extra pear syrup right away). Arrange the pears in the cream spread on the tart shell.
22. Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated, 375 degree F oven. Watch it after 30 minutes, though, as mine started to dangerously brown after 32 minutes.
To make the glaze:
23. Place the pear syrup and soaking juice together in a medium/small saucepan over medium heat, boiling the mixture until it is reduced to ¾ of a cup.
24. Remove from the heat, and whisk until the mixture stops steaming (a minute or two).
25. Add both the whiskey and cornstarch, whisking until smooth.
26. Put the pan back on the heat, but this time over medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook at a boil for a minute.
27. Use a pastry brush to generously apply the glaze to the tart.
Serving the tart as soon as possible is highly recommended, but it can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for three days.