Pear and Frangipane Tart

Still drawing on my inspiration from the Great British Baking Show, I made this pear and frangipane tart for Christmas. Frangipane (say it with me: fran-gee-pan) is a fancy-sounding word for a delicious mixture of ground almonds, butter, eggs, sugar, and almond extract, which gets combined with any number of jams or fruits in various tarts.

I found this recipe at Williams Sonoma and adjusted it slightly to be alcohol-free; there was a bit of rum in their frangipane, but mine just uses water. I also kept my pears in halves, rather than quarters, to give the option of frangipane-only slices for those of us who don’t tend to like cooked fruit and skipped the part where you brush the baked tart with melted apricot jam to give it some shine. The next time I make this, I’ll chill my tart dough a bit longer; it turned out very well, but started to tear a bit as I worked with it and could have likely used another 30 minutes or so in the fridge.

Ingredients

For the tart shell

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons very cold water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups raw unblanched whole almonds, finely ground*
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and cut in half

*You’re making almond flour here and can grind the nuts in a food processor until they’re very fine and powdery. You can use store-bought almond flour if you like, but as it’s made with blanched almonds, you’ll have a slightly different color and maybe a bit of a different flavor than if you make your own from whole, unblanched almonds. 

Preparation

Prepare the tart shell: in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture and beat just until the dough pulls together.

Turn dough onto a very lightly floured work surface and pat into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for about 30-60 minutes.

On a very lightly floured work surface, roll your dough to about 1/8 inch thickness; you’ll want to flatten the dough slightly before you start rolling and turn it every few rolls to keep it from sticking.

Fold the dough round in half and carefully transfer to a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Unfold and ease the round into the pan, without stretching it, and pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan; I use a small ball of excess dough to press it into the crevices in the sides so the dough doesn’t tear. Trim off any excess dough by gently running a rolling pin across the top of the pan. Press the dough into the sides to extend it slightly above the rim to offset any shrinkage during baking.

Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil and fill with weights; I use dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil. If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold, for a total baking time of 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Leave the oven temperature at 375°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

While the shell bakes, make the frangipane: melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to the touch.

In a medium bowl, stir together ground almonds, sugar, eggs, almond extract, vanilla extract, water, lemon zest, and melted butter. Spread evenly in the shell.

Slice pear halves crosswise into slices about 1/8 inch thick, keeping them together. Arrange core-side down with the stem end pointing toward the middle of the pan.

Bake until filling is firm to the touch and golden, about 40-45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Lemon Tart

Some of the best treats are the simplest treats. This lemon tart, with a shortbread-like crust and tangy filling, is a simple but elegant dessert far easier to make than you might imagine. Dust it with powdered sugar, add a few berries and some whipped cream, or just eat it plain – I promise, you won’t be disappointed. I have big plans for a raspberry or strawberry sauce to accompany this tart the next time I make it.

Adapted from The Best Lemon Tart Ever on Allrecipes, this tart remind me of a hybrid between lemon meringue pie and lemon bars. My version is very tangy, so you’ll want to serve it in small slices. I added more lemon zest than the original recipe called for, and also highly recommend blind baking your crust – I realized about halfway through baking that the crust had puffed up so much it really needed some weight to keep it from just ending up as a tart-shaped cookie, so I blind baked for the last 15 minutes or so of the total time.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash salt
  • 1 3/4 cups flour

For the filling

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 medium lemons)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preparation

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Add flour and mix to combine completely, then press crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Allow the crust to rise slightly above the edge of the pan because it will shrink slightly during baking. Chill for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the crust with foil or parchment and fill with dried beans or pie weights; bake for 20-25 minutes, until crust is light golden brown at the edges.

While crust is baking, make filling; whisk sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, eggs, flour, and powdered sugar together until smooth. Pour filling into a large glass measuring cup; keep cool while crust finishes baking.

When crust is ready, remove it from the oven and remove foil/parchment and pie weights. Place a sheet of parchment paper on your oven rack (or on the rack below) and return the crust to the oven, then slowly pour the filling into the crust. Carefully place a crust guard around the edge to prevent over-browning. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until center is set; my center was set at about 25 minutes.

Remove tart from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack to room temperature; remove edge from tart pan and store tart, covered, in the refrigerator. Dust with powdered sugar or serve with whipped cream and berries if you like.

Almond Tart

A few weeks ago I the flu and spent two days lying on my sofa drinking tea and watching The Great British Baking Show. While I know I can bake, I can’t bake like those contestants…yet.

Once I was able to go out in public without feeling like Typhoid Mary, I ventured to Williams Sonoma for a tart pan. I’m obsessed with tarts now and really wanted to make one for our Easter dessert, so I scoured the web for good ideas. This almond tart is actually a hybrid from Better Homes & Gardens and Williams Sonoma, and it is delicious. While I doubt it would help me win Star Baker, I enjoyed making it very much. Many more tarts to come!

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 8 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice water

For the filling

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces almond paste, cut into slices
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup raspberry jam
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preparation

To make the pastry, place flour in a large mixing bowl and cut in butter until the crumbs are pea-sized. Mix egg yolk and 1 tablespoon ice water and drizzle over flour mixture, stirring with a fork to moisten. Add additional tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to moisten. Gently knead the dough until a ball forms; flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic, then chill for 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Roll out pastry to about a 12-inch diameter, then carefully transfer to a 9 1/2 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Carefully press pastry up the sides of the pan, extending dough over the edges. Gently run your rolling pin over the edges of the pan to remove excess dough; reserve your excess dough for another use.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights – I use dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift the foil; if the crust is a pale golden color all over, it’s ready. If not, continue baking for a few more minutes at a time, checking often, until crust is pale golden all over.

Remove crust from oven and place on a wire rack while you prepare the filling; lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and place the rack in the center.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until completely smooth. Add almond paste one slice at a time, mixing very well between each addition until the filling becomes completely smooth. Note: I flattened out my slices of almond paste so they’d blend into the butter easier. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in flour.

Spread raspberry jam over the bottom of the crust, then carefully top with dollops of almond filling and spread filling to form an even layer; the jam may travel up the sides of the crust a bit, and that’s okay. Top with sliced almonds in an even layer.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the center is completely set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool; I used an inverted 6-inch cake pan on my cooling rack and remove the side of the tart pan. Cool completely; serve at room temperature and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 8 servings.

Butterscotch Pie II

Some time ago, I made butterscotch pie, and my filling didn’t set well. I suspect that I didn’t cook it long enough, but then again, I was pretty much a pie-baking amateur at the time. I’m pleased to report that this recipe from Trisha Yearwood at Food Network delivered a wonderful, fully set filling.

While Trisha’s recipe calls for a meringue, I decided to leave the meringue out; you can use your three leftover egg whites to make meringue cookies or almond clouds (adapting the recipe to account for the extra whites in each of those recipes), or make a meringue for your pie if you like. Personally, I’m more of a whipped cream/whipped topping-on-pie kind of gal, but whatever floats your boat. I also have to admit that I used a store-bought pie crust for this, but as I’ve mentioned in previous pie posts, sometimes you just want to focus on your filling, and such was the case with this pie.

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch pie crust, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Pre-bake pie crust and allow to cool completely before filling.

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, heavy cream, and butter. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils; continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and turns darker in color. Remove from heat; reserve 1 tablespoon milk and slowly pour remaining milk into the sugar mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the reserved 1 tablespoon milk, cornstarch, egg yolks, and vanilla extract; whisk together until smooth. Return the sugar/milk mixture to medium heat and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring well to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens; Trisha’s recipe says this takes 3 minutes, but my filling took at least 10 minutes to get thick. Large bubbles will appear in the pan when your filling is ready.

Pour filling into baked pie shell and immediately place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the filling. Refrigerate until the filling is set, about 4 hours or overnight.

Remove plastic wrap and top with whipped cream or whipped topping before serving.

Store in the refrigerator.

 

Apple Pie with Plaid Lattice Leaf Crust

apple-pie-with-lattice-leaf-crustSometimes, I use canned pie filling. Yes! You’re shocked, I know…unless you’ve already read my posts on cherry pie and peach pie, of course.

Here’s the thing: fully scratch-made pies are awesome, but I’ve already made apple pie from scratch. And today, on Thanksgiving Eve, I wanted to spend time focusing on my crust, creating a beautiful, fancy lattice and interesting edge.

Behold, fancy lattice and interesting edge! I’m not the best crust designer, so each time I make pies now, I practice a new design. This time, I chose a thin plaid lattice of one-half and one-inch strips, then added a leaf border around the edge. I’m very pleased with the end result.

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts*
  • 1 20-ounce can apple pie filling
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg

*My pie crust recipe, which I learned from my mom, yields 3 crusts. If you’re not sure what to do with the extra crust, consider apple crumb pie, chocolate pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or pie crust rolls

Preparation

Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, and pie filling; set aside.

Prepare crusts; line an 8-inch pie dish with one and reserve the second for the lattice leaf top.

Roll your second crust into a rectangle at least 9 inches tall. Cut one-half and one-inch strips; you’ll need 5 one-half inch and 7 one-inch strips for this design, plus more for the leaves, and you should have plenty. I had a bit of dough left over that I’m going to turn into pie crust rolls later.

Pour filling into pie dish, then top with 7 strips of crust; start from the outside edge and alternate the one-inch strips with the one-half-inch strips.

Fold back every other strip halfway; place a one-inch strip, then a one-half-inch strip, in the opposite direction and fold the other strips back so they cover the new ones. Repeat as necessary; if you need video help for latticework, check out this video from Southern Living. Once your lattice is complete, trim your edges and fold them over to secure them.

Using a small leaf cookie cutter (I chose a teardrop-shaped leaf), cut leaves for your edge; re-roll your scraps if necessary. My edge used 24 leaves.

Gently press the leaves onto the edge of your crust, making sure they stick to the crust below.

Place a pie guard or foil around the edge of the crust; bake for 25 minutes, then remove the guard and bake another 25 minutes.

Cool pie completely, or serve warm.

Pumpkin Molasses Pie

pumpkin-molasses-pieWhat makes pumpkin pie better? Molasses. But what is molasses, exactly?

Molasses is a syrup that results from sugar production. To make sugar, sugar cane or beets are crushed to extract their juice, which is then boiled down to form sugar crystals. The crystals are taken out, and the remaining juice is molasses, which may be boiled two or three more times to extract more crystals. The most common type of molasses used in baking comes from the first boiling; it is the lightest in color and sweetest in taste. The second boiling results in dark molasses, and the third results in blackstrap molasses, which is the thickest and most bitter-tasting. Blackstrap molasses is said to have health benefits because it contains vitamin B6 and minerals like calcium and magnesium, but it’s usually not recommended for baking. In fact, I’ve read many a recipe that calls for molasses and then indicates “not blackstrap” to ensure a sweet result.

Last week, I took some pumpkin molasses cookies to work and my colleague Linda told me that she had a good recipe for pumpkin molasses pie. Naturally, I had to try it…and it was just as delicious as I expected.

Ingredients

  • 1 single pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line an 8-inch pie dish with crust, then trim and shape edge as you like. I did a classic crimped edge for this crust.

Place your pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper to catch any spills.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, light brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and molasses. Add eggs and evaporated milk, stirring very well to combine.

Pour filling into pie dish and place a crust shield* around the edge to prevent over-browning. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the crust shield and continue baking another 10-15 minutes. Pie is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; don’t worry about the little hole it will leave, as you can always cover this up with whipped cream before serving.

Remove pie from oven and cool completely before serving. Pie will be very puffy when it first comes out of the oven and will fall as it cools – this is completely fine.

Store pie in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

*You can buy a crust shield at King Arthur Flour and many baking supply stores. If you don’t have one handy, take a 12-inch piece of foil and fold it into quarters. Take scissors and cut out the center, leaving a 2-inch wide ring. Carefully unfold the foil and place the guard on your pie edge. 

Peach Pie with Lattice Crust

peach pieSometimes I use canned pie filling. There, I admit it.

When you want to practice your latticework, it’s just a lot easier to make your crust from scratch, pop open a can of filling, and focus on your lattice strips than it is to worry about peeling your fruit and such. Someday, I’m sure I’ll make a peach pie from scratch, but in the meantime, my can of Lucky Leaf pie filling worked very well.

This is my third lattice-topped pie, and I think it’s the best appearance-wise. I had two crusts left over from yesterday’s lemon meringue pie adventure, and I still have a bit of crust left over from making my lattice, which I might turn into pie crust rolls later.

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts
  • 1 can peach pie filling
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix cinnamon and pie filling; set aside.

Prepare pie crusts; line an 8-inch pie plate with one crust and reserve the second crust for the lattice top.

Roll out your second crust, then cut into 1 1/2 inch strips for the lattice. You’ll need 7 strips for this design.

Pour filling into pie dish; place four lattice strips on top. Fold back the first and third strips, then place another strip on your filling so it is perpendicular to the other strips. Fold back the strips so they cover the new strip, then repeat with remaining strips to form the lattice. If you’d like some video help, check out this tutorial from the folks at Southern Living magazine.

Fold the edges of your lattice strips over the edge of your bottom crust to seal. Gently press the tines of a fork into the crust vertically, then horizontally, all the way around your crust to create a crisscross design.

Place a pie guard or foil around the edge of your crust and bake for 25 minutes; remove pie guard and continue baking for 10 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack before serving.