Poires en Croute or Pears Wrapped in Puff Pastry

I was recently introduced to a cooking show called, The Great British Bake Off, which is currently airing on the BBC.  During the episode that I happened to watch the contestant challenge was to make poached pears wrapped in puff pastry.  Granted they made a blitz or quick puff, but they only had 3 hours to complete the entire dessert.   The “ribbons” or strips of dough were to be wrapped around the poached pears and then baked off.

If remembering correctly, only one poor soul accomplished the task with any dignity remaining.  I felt their pain as I know how hot it can get when cooking in the summer, and even more so, when the scenario includes baking in a tent.  Since it’s not summer, but instead the dead of winter, I thought I’d take a stab at this recipe and see how my outcome might fare.  The show referred to the recipe as a “Mini Pear Pie”.  I’m not convinced that that name does any justice to the results.

9 pears is not a magic number.  I just happened to be going to a party where 8 would be in attendance.  I’ve also learned the hard way that it’s advantageous to make an extra – of anything – just in case.  You could poach 3 or 5 or 7, but then you might have some champagne left over.  That wouldn’t be all bad since you should taste it anyway to ensure that it’s worthy of being used for poaching.

Baked Pear on Plate

9 slightly under ripe bosc pears, washed and stems attached
1 lemon, cut in half
1 bottle demi-sec Champagne or Prosecco
1 or 2 blood oranges, washed and organic if possible
1 3 to 4-inch cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
Boiling water at the ready, just in case it is needed
1 3/4 pounds puff pastry, preferably home-made
1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water for an egg wash

Use a non-reactive pan, with a lid, that is just large enough to snugly hold the number of pears that are being poached.  It should be deep enough so that the fruit can be completely submerged in liquid with at least 3-inches of head room.

Cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit just inside the circumference of the pot.  Cut a small hole in the center of the circle to allow air to escape.  Set aside until ready to use.

Slice the oranges about a 1/4-inch thick and place them in the poaching pot – one slice for each pear that is being poached.  Pop the cork and and after having a taste, pour the champagne or prosecco in the pot.  Of course, depending on the size of your pot, all of the liquid may not be necessary.  Add the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, and 1 cup of sugar.  Set the pan on medium heat and bring to a boil.

While the liquid is coming to a boil, cut a sliver (in other words; just enough) off the bottom of each pear to allow it to stand upright.  Peel each and rub one of the halves of lemon on them to prevent browning.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to barely a simmer and add the peeled pears.  I picked them up by their stem, but you may want to use a ladle to get them safely in the poaching liquid.

Once all of the pears are in the poaching liquid, add enough remaining champagne, prosecco, or boiling water to cover the fruit.  Place the parchment paper circle on top to cover the fruit.  This step is additional insurance to prevent the fruit from being exposed to air and browning.  Place the lid on the pot, leaving it slightly ajar and allow the pears to simmer in the poaching liquid.

Start checking for doneness about 15 – 20 minutes after the pears begin cooking.  Of course the cooking time depends on how ripe the pears are in the first place.  The more ripe they are, the quicker they will cook.  Test each one.  Once the pear can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, remove it to a rimmed plate.

Soaking Pears

After all the pears have been removed and are cooling, taste the poaching liquid for sweetness.  Add additional sugar, up to one cup to suit your taste, realizing that the liquid will be reduced to a syrup.  After the syrup starts to thicken, ladle a bit over the pears and let them continue to cool.

Once the pears are cool you are ready to proceed.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Roll out the pastry dough to between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick and about 18-inches long.  You don’t want to roll it so thin that it doesn’t puff nor so thick as it takes too long to bake.  Cut long strips of pastry about 1/3-inch wide and the entire length of the pastry.  When all the strips have been cut, brush them completely with the egg wash.

Pick up one strip of dough and starting at the bottom, wrap the pastry around the pear, overlapping it just slightly as you wind the dough up the pear.  When that strip comes to an end, overlap the next one and continue winding up until you reach the top of the pear.   It takes about three 1/3 x 18-inch strips to encase one pear.  As you finish each pear, set it on a pan in a cool place to dry.

Wrapped Pears

After all the pears have been wrapped in pastry and dried, carefully brush the outside of each with additional egg wash.  If you want to get extra fancy, and there a few scraps of dough remaining, cut out leaf shapes from the dough and attach it to the pears with egg wash.  The egg wash was my trick to keep the dough adhered to the pear.  It’s not something that they did on the show, but had they, the dough might have not slid off the pears while baking.

Pears BakedIt should take between 30 minutes to 1 hour to bake depending on the thickness of the dough.  Keep an eye on them if they start to brown too much, reduce the heat.  After the pastry is a golden brown, remove the pan from the oven to cool them a bit.  If desired, using a pastry brush, brush each with some of the reduced poaching liquid.  It will make them shine!  The Pears can be served warm or at room temperature.  Serve with the candied orange slices and any combination of the following:  reduced poaching liquid, ice cream, and/or whipped cream.   Many thanks to the TGBBO for the inspiration.

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Classic Puff Pastry

Don’t be dissuaded by anyone who tells you that it’s difficult to make puff pastry.  It takes basically two things – time: most of which is the dough chilling in the fridge and patience: the process cannot be rushed.

Here’s the reason for not rushing it.  The butter needs to remain cold to stay within the dough while you roll it out.  If it starts to seep or ooze through – STOP – wrap it back up and put it in the refrigerator for awhile.  If you take these two details into account, the likelihood of success is greatly increased.

Here’s another tidbit of information.  I have made puff pastry for years, but most recently happened upon a recipe calling for lemon juice.  I couldn’t for the life of me find the reason why acid would need to be added.   All it took was an message to a friend who is a pastry chef/instructor to learn something new.  The lemon juice denatures the gluten strands in the flour, giving them greater strength.  When it comes to puff pastry, having robust gluten is an asset.  Some recipes call for bread flour, which makes sense due to its higher gluten content;  however, bread flour is not always readily at hand, even in my kitchen.

The following is a classic recipe for puff pastry.  It involves creating a block of butter and flour, which is then encased in pastry dough.   The encased block of dough is then rolled and folded six times.   I’ve never done the math, but I’m told that after the “six turns”, 729 layers of dough/butter are created.  However, sept-cent-vingt-neuf-feuille is definitely more complicated to pronounce than simply saying “mille-feuille” or 1000 layers.  Other times it is called “pâté feuilletée”, which means pastry made leaf-like.”

Regardless of what you call it, homemade puff pastry is amazing.  Make two batches back to back.  Dividing each batch in half, two batches will give you about four 1½ pound blocks of dough.  These can be individually wrapped, frozen and ready to use later.

If you do freeze the dough, remember to thaw whatever portion you want to bake off overnight in the refrigerator.  Thawing it on the counter is not the best option.  It tends to sweat and then become a sticky mess; much like me in the summer.  Also, do not attempt to thaw in the microwave.  You will regret that you even attempted such a thing.

The block of butter
1 lb 1½ oz (500 g) cold unsalted Butter
2 teaspoons (10ml) fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons (1/4 oz or 10g) kosher salt
1 cup (4.5 oz or 130g) unbleached all-purpose flour

 The dough
2 ½ cups (11.25 oz or 320 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup (2 oz or 60 g) cake flour
4 tablespoons (2 oz or 60 g) soft unsalted Butter
pinch salt
1 cup (240 ml) ice cold water

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix butter, lemon juice, salt, and flour into a smooth mass.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap down on the counter that is about 24-inches in length. Using a spatula scrape the butter mixture from the mixer and plop it near the middle of the plastic wrap.  Fold the plastic wrap over onto the butter and form it into an approximately 6-inch square.

Peel off the plastic wrap when it starts to wrinkle and place it back over the butter.  Flip the block over as well if it starts to wrinkle on the bottom.  The end result is a block of butter with obviously no plastic wrap incorporated in it only wrapped around it.  I only mention this from my own experience.  After you’ve got the butter evenly squared up and wrapped, refrigerate it until firm.

BlockButter

While the block of butter is firming up in the fridge, it’s time to make the dough.  In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade pour in the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt.  Pulse to mix.  Scatter the 4 tablespoons of butter around the flour mixture and pulse again to evenly incorporate it.  Remove the lid and all at once, pour the water near the outside edge of the bowl but over the flour mixture.  It’s been my experience that if you pour the water through the feed tube with the machine running, some of the water collects under the blade.  This is not the result for which you are aiming.  Return the lid and run the processor again until the dough forms a ball on the blade.

Dough in Processor

Be careful of the blade as you remove the dough from the machine.  Form it into about a 4-inch disk and using a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about ½ hour.

You are ready to proceed when the block of butter is firm and your dough has rested a bit under refrigeration.   Unwrap the chilled dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour.  Pat out the dough into about a 6-inch square.  Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad that has “ears” or flaps at each corner.

Dough with Ears

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the “ears” over the butter, stretching as needed so they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely.  It should be about 6-inches square.  The first time I saw that huge block of butter on the dough I thought to myself, “there’s no way all that butter is going to fit in such a small amount of dough.”  Have no fear, it will fit just fine.

Butter on ears

It’s now time to make the first of six turns.  Using a rolling pin, press the dough 5 or 6 times to create creases across the block.  This helps distribute the butter and makes is easier to start rolling.  It should look like a piece of  corrugated cardboard.  Then, keeping the work surface and dough well floured, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square with which you started, say about 24 inches in length.

Especially with this first turn, check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along the entire length and width of the dough.  If it’s not adjust accordingly, by rolling with more or less pressure; more evenly or whatever is necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter “sandwich” or lamination.  (Another term for this pastry is “laminated dough“.  I just thought I’d throw that in, in case you see this definition somewhere.)  With a pastry brush, remove the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter.  Brush off any excess flour that was on the bottom as well prior to making the final “business letter” fold.  You have completed one turn.

Turn One

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book.  Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24 inches and then folding in thirds.  This is the second turn.

 It might be time to chill, either you or the dough; or maybe not.  If the dough is still cool and no butter is seeping  out, you can give the dough another turn or even two turns.  If the condition of the dough is sketchy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.  Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed. You will think you will remember, but you trust me you won’t.

Turn Three

The dough can also be to refrigerated 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, say if you have laundry to finish.  However in the end, the total number of turns needed is six before it’s ready to be rolled out one last time to make your favorite tart shell, turnovers, palmiers, or pot pie crust.

Final

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Brothy Poached Chicken with Mushrooms and Fresh Chile

My reading (0r lack thereof) of the numerous cooking magazines I get every month is backing up.  I could cancel every subscription and still have plenty to read for a good two years (don’t tell Cooks Illustrated, Saveur, Food & Wine, and Bon Appétit and those are just the major ones).  Therefore, one of my New Year’s resolutions (maybe the only one) is that every month I will cook a recipe from at least one of the magazines.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I have a tendency to improvise in the kitchen.  That’s what I’ve done here with Alison Roman’s recipe from the January 2015 issue of Bon Appétit.  I picked up the main ingredients at the grocer, but then looked in the pantry and freezer to see what I might add.  If I do say so myself, the results were delicious.

My version:
2 pounds bone-in, organic chicken breasts (about 2 large)
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 bay leaf (that’s all I had)
8 whole allspice
3 organic carrots, 1/4-inch, dice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut in half and sliced from “pole to pole”
11 ounces maitake or shiitake mushrooms, sliced (my schrooms came in 5 oz containers, plus I had a few in the fridge)
1 fresh red chile (such as Fresno), thinly sliced
1 1″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas (from the freezer)
1/2 cup “sun-dried” tomatoes (from the freezer)
1 tablespoon Pedro Ximenez Vinegar (dry) (I didn’t have any white distilled)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Sliced scallions (for serving)

Why not purchase bone-in chicken breasts?  They are less expensive, take minimal effort to de-bone and said bones add an abundance of flavor to the broth.

Remove bones and tendon from chicken breasts.  Place bones, chicken, garlic, bay leaf, allspice, half the diced carrots, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium pot.  Cover with 8 cups water (six cups didn’t seem like enough – see recipe below) and bring to a bare simmer over high heat.  Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and cook 8 minutes, skimming off any coagulated protein that forms on the surface (I’ve seen it referred to as scum, but that doesn’t sound very appetizing).  Remove chicken breasts fromthe liquid and let cool slightly.  Then, using two dinner forks shred into bite-size pieces.

While the chicken is cooling, continue simmering the broth for another 10 minutes.  Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl; reserving the garlic (which will need to be peeled) and discarding remaining solids.

Return the pan to medium fire and heat the olive oil (yes, the one from which you just poured the broth.  No, it doesn’t have to be washed, unless for some reason you burned something in it).

Sauté the onions for about 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms, chile, ginger, peas, remaining carrots, vinegar, and soy sauce to the broth.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth tastes to your satisfaction, 8–10 minutes.  Add the soba noodles and cook according to the package directions (my said to cook 5 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper, then add shredded chicken and simmer just until meat is warmed through.

Divide soup among bowls and serve topped with scallions.

brothy-poached-chicken-with-

Original recipe:
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large)
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
2 bay leaves
4 whole allspice
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
8 ounces maitake or shiitake mushrooms, torn into bite-size pieces
1 fresh red chile (such as Fresno), thinly sliced
1 1″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Sliced scallions and cilantro sprigs (for serving)
preparation

Place chicken, garlic, bay leaves, allspice, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium pot. Cover with 6 cups water and bring to a bare simmer over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook 8 minutes. Remove chicken from liquid and let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces.

Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot; discard solids. Add mushrooms, chile, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce to stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth tastes rich and flavorful, 8–10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add shredded chicken and simmer just until meat is warmed through.

Divide soup among bowls and serve topped with scallions and cilantro.

Do ahead: Chicken can be poached 2 days ahead. Let chicken and broth cool separately. Wrap up chicken and transfer broth to an airtight container; chill.

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Chocolate Shortbread Cookie

Chocoalate Shortbread Cookie

I tested this recipe first, using a food processor to mix the dough.  I found however, that it created too much air, allowing the cookies to puff up when cooked, but then deflate when cooled.  I guess the divot that was created could be filled with caramel sauce or ganache, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, and something to consider another time.  This time around I mixed all the ingredients by hand and if you have a kitchen scale, the entire recipe can be measured and mixed in one bowl.

As far as baking off the dough, it can be accomplished in a number of different ways.  The dough can be patted into a buttered 7 x 7-inch pan or a buttered 7-inch diameter cake ring.  Or, as I did in the recipe below, by forming the dough into a cylinder, cutting the dough into disks, and baking them off in individual 1 3/4-inch ring molds.  The dough can also be baked off without the rings; the cookie will just spread a bit.

Makes about 2 dozen depending on desired cookie size

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (1 ounce) blue corn meal
5 tablespoons (2 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
9 tablespoons (4 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into at least 9 pieces

In a large bowl, using a wire whisk, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  With your fingers, rub in butter until mixture comes together when squeezed with your hand.  Form into a cylinder of desired length and wrap tightly in parchment paper.  I formed mine into a cylinder that was 1 3/4-inches in diameter.  Refrigerate overnight.  The dough can also be frozen, but first wrap tightly in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap.

When ready to bake, set a rack on the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.  Line a sheet pan or two with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and using a sharp knife cut the cylinder into disks of desired thickness.   Set disks on parchment paper (about an inch apart, if not using rings) and bake right way so that the cookie dough sets before the butter melts.  Let cool completely then store in a container with a tight fitting lid.

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Marcona Almond Biscotti

BiscottiI like adding herbs to many different kinds of desserts.  Of course, it was only after I had made a batch of these biscotti, that I thought adding a few chopped sprigs would give them a delicious overtone with a hint of savoriness.  Next time, I might add about 1 1/2 teaspoons or so of chopped fresh rosemary or even oregano to the dough for a different twist.

Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup marcona almonds, toasted
1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375°F or 350°F convection.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper; set aside. Place almonds in a food processor and using the metal “S” blade, pulse about 10 times or just until coarsely chopped.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring together with a whisk.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time so that each is incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture before adding the other egg.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined; then stir in chopped almonds.

Divide the dough in half and roll into logs about 12-inches long; flatten slightly. Bake until firm and lightly browned about 30 to 35 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack about 15 minutes.

Transfer each log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut log crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking pan.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until slices are just turning brown around the edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

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Chocolate Gâteau

IMG_0009

I often get “ribbed” when testing a new recipe as I can never leave it well alone and just follow the directions as written.  This time around, against my better judgement, I decided to follow it as presented.  It was a disaster.  I baked the cake for triple the suggested time and it was still a soupy mess.

The result from the second round of testing was at least edible, but I was still not happy with the results.  Therefore, it was back to the kitchen for additional researching and another round of baking.

For example, as part of my testing, I baked one gâteau with a parchment paper collar and another without one.  It is one more step, but the cake holds it shape much better using the collar while baking.

Also, since there are so few ingredients, my suggestion is to use the best ingredients available to you.    For instance, I used a Valrhona Manjari chocolate with its undertone of dark cherry.  I also used organic unsalted butter produced by Kalona SuperNatural.

1 pound (500 grams) 53 – 65 percent chocolate cut into small pieces
1/2 pound (250 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee crystals dissolved in a scant ¼ cup hot water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
8 large eggs (400 grams)
powdered sugar or cocoa powder for dusting

Set the rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F  Dissolve the espresso powder in the water and add the vanilla extract.  Butter an 8 x 3-inch cake pan. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper, extending paper 2-inches above the pan to create a collar.  Set aside.

Place the chocolate pieces and butter in a large heatproof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water without allowing the bowl of chocolate to touch the water.  Stir occasionally until melted.  Stir in the espresso/vanilla mixture and set aside to cool.

While the chocolate is cooling, place the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in the sugar.  Set the bowl in the same pan of simmering water and whisk until the eggs are warm to the touch and sugar has melted.

Remove the bowl from the water and set on the stand mixer.  Using the whisk attachment beat on medium high for 8 minutes.  The eggs will quadruple if not more in volume.

Bring the simmering water to a boil for use in the hot water bath, i.e. a bain marie (pronounced “bane mah-REE”).  This is a shallow oven-proof pan just large enough to hold to cake pan.   When ready to bake the gâteau, fill the pan half-full of boiling water.

In 3 separate but equal portions fold the egg mixture in to the chocolate mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and set in the bain marie.  Bake for about 40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 140°F.  Remove the cake pan from the water bath and cool on a wire rack. When cool, refrigerate overnight.

Prior to serving heat the bottom of the cake pan over a low flame. Using an 8-inch cardboard round, place on top of the cake and flip out the cake from the pan.

Flip back over and set on a cake plate. Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder and serve.   As an alternative, whip the cream and sweeten with confectioner’s sugar.

 IMG_0013

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Eggnog Crème Brûlée

Eggnog Creme Brulee

I used Kalona SuperNatural eggnog for this recipe.  It’s all organic with no stabilizers or preservatives.  And, above all it’s really good!

Of course any type of oven-proof ramekins can be used, but I enjoy the crunchy caramelized sugar to creamy custard ratio that is achieved when using a shallow vessel.

4 – four ounce servings

2 cups commercially prepared eggnog
5 large egg yolks, preferably organic
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
3 – 4 tablespoons granulated or turbinado sugar (for finishing)

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Line a half-sheet pan with a towel and place 4 – four ounce ramekins on it.  Set aside.

Pour the eggnog into a pan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture simmers, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the egg yolks and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk together until light colored and frothy.  Stir the mascarpone into the yolk mixture until well blended and smooth.

Slowly whisk 1/4 cup of the heated eggnog mixture into the beaten yolks to temper them.  (This will prevent them from scrambling.)  Then, gradually whisk the remaining eggnog into the yolks.

Pour the eggnog mixture through a fine sieve to remove any egg strands.  Stir in the nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

Pour the mixture into the ramekins, dividing evenly.  Set pan in the oven.  Then fill the pan ½ full with boiling water.

Cook  for 40 – 50 minutes.  The centers should wiggle just slightly when shaken, but not be soupy.

Remove from water bath and cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight before serving.  When ready to serve, sprinkle each serving with some of the granulated or turbinado sugar and caramelize with a kitchen torch or under a pre-heated broiler.

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Bourbon-Pecan Tart

Pecan Tart

One 10-inch Tart
12 – 16 servings

1 – tart dough*
3 large eggs, preferably organic and at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey or Bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecan halves or pieces

Pâte sucrée (Sweet Short Pastry Dough)*
2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (1/4 ounce) salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, and cut into 10 pieces
2 large eggs, whisked together

For the dough, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Pulse several times to mix.  Distribute the butter and pulse until it is coarsely chopped.   Add the eggs and pulse again until the dough just begins to come together.

Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade.  Divide into about 7 or 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.  This is known in French as fraisage.   It is done to distribute the fat which promotes flakiness when it is baked.  After this step gather the dough up with a bench knife, form it into a disk and wrap in it plastic.  Chill the dough while preparing the filling.  You may prepare the dough up to 2 days before assembling and baking the tart.

When you are ready to bake the tart, set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to warm just until it is malleable and no longer hard.  Flour it and roll it to a 14-inch disk.  Roll the dough over the rolling pin and unroll it into a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan.  Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, folding over the excess to make a decorative rim.  Using a fork, dock the bottom of the tart shell.  Keep any extra dough for patching potential cracks during baking.  Chill the dough while preparing the filling.

Tart Dough

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Set the prepared tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and line tart dough with foil or parchment paper.  Fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake until tart dough is set and pale golden, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and weights.   Patch any cracks with extra dough and continue baking crust until golden brown, about 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in medium bowl. Beat in maple syrup.  Add butter, bourbon, vanilla, and salt; beat until blended. Stir in pecans, reserving enough to made a decorative pattern if desired.

Pour pecan filling into hot crust. Bake until center of filling is set, about 25 minutes.  Cool tart on rack 1 hour; remove pan sides.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Rewarm slightly before serving, if desired.

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