Cranberry Curd Tartlets

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This fall I was lucky enough to come across a mass haul of fresh, local, and organic cranberries. These bright, tangy berries freeze remarkably well, and not unlike lemons they are capable of producing a punchy curd that can be used in a variety of desserts. When paired with orange juice, a handful of brown sugar, some good vanilla extract and placed in a nutty shortbread shell, cranberries are happy to shine on center stage.

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Cranberry Curd Recipe

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Curd
Ingredients:

14.5 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (from about 3 oranges)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed (2.5 oz)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg

Method:

Combine the cranberries, water, and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Cover the pan and set it over medium heat. Cook the cranberries for 35-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until they pop and release liquid. Use the stirring tool to burst open any stubborn cranberries. Remove the pan from the heat just before the liquid begins to thicken. Use a fine mesh strainer to separate the juice and the pulp from the solids, making sure to scrape the bottom of the strainer to include all the pulp. You should have 1 3/4 cups of juice with very fine pulp. Discard the remaining seeds and solids.

In a clean pot, cook the cranberry juice with the sugars, salt, and butter until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts, approximately seven minutes.

Whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg until the mixture lightens slightly. Vigorously whisk in the warm cranberry liquid one tablespoon at a time. Return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium-low heat while whisking constantly. Cook the curd until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers 160° F on a candy thermometer. Strain the curd into a glass bowl and cover securely with a sheet of plastic wrap. Let cool completely to room temperature. The curd can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored well covered in the fridge. Loosen the refrigerated curd by stirring it with a spatula before assembling the tarts.

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Spiced Pecan Tart Shell Recipe

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Sweet Tart Dough, in Baking: From My Home To Yours
Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (188g)
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (4.5oz)
1 large egg yolk
35g toasted pecans

Method:

Lightly grease 8 to 10 small individual tart shells with removable bottoms.

Combine the flour, icing sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Place the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor along with the toasted pecans. Pulse until the pecans are fairly finely ground with some visible bits remaining.

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse just until the largest chunks of butter are the size of small peas. Lightly whisk the egg yolk with a fork. Add the yolk in three batches, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is added, pulse in long ten-second pulses until the dough begins to clump and curd. Dump the crumbly dough out onto a clean work surface and knead sparingly to fully incorporate the ingredients.

Place a small handful of dough crumbs in the bottom of a tart shell. Press the crumbs gently but firmly along the edges of the shell. Place another tiny handful of crumbs in the shell, then press them down evenly and seal the edges to form the bottom crust.

Place the tart shells on a tray and refrigerate them for ten minutes. Prick the bottom of each tart with a pointed toothpick approximately 8 – 10 times to dock the shells. Place the tarts in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake the tart shells for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 5-6 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the bottoms are completely dry. Let cool completely on a wire rack. The shells can be made up to 1 day in advance. Store the shells in their individual pans in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble.

To Assemble

Carefully spoon or pour the curd into the prepared tart shells. Slide the tarts to one side of the tray so that they remain stationary then cover the tops with a sheet of plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour to set the curd. At this point, the tarts can remain in the fridge overnight and be served the next day.

Just before serving, prepare the whipped cream topping.

Chantilly Cream Recipe

1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar or granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all three ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Carefully remove the tarts from their individual moulds. Top the curd with a generous scoop of whipped cream and serve immediately.

Contemporary Pecan Pie

Here is what you need to know about this pie:

A mixture of brown sugar and honey takes the place of corn syrup.
Brown butter makes it toasty and rich like a dark cup of coffee.
One tablespoon of lemon juice cuts through the sweetness like a knife.
A subtle 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon adds depth and warmth.
It tastes 100% traditional.

When I set out to make a classic pecan pie without corn syrup, I had to pause to ask myself why. Was it because corn syrup is inherently evil? Had I just been brain washed into thinking that it was that bad? I had avoided corn syrup in the past largely because it seemed a more processed product than raw honey and organic maple syrup, but to completely denounce the sweetener without any research hardly seemed fair.

What I discovered was that due to the unknown effect of consuming large amounts of fructose, high-fructose corn syrup is generally considered to be a consume-at-your-own-risk kind of ingredient. On the other hand, pure glucose syrup is a simple sugar that has several interesting applications in the kitchen. The problem is that most commercial corn syrup actually contains an unspecified amount of high-fructose syrup as an ingredient, unless the brand advertises otherwise. Eventually, after sifting through multiple conflicting articles, I decided that regardless of the possible pitfalls of corn syrup, honey and maple syrup are always going to be superior options for me. Not only do they impart so much more flavour, but it is incredibly easy to find people who produce these products locally and organically.

With that settled, I turned to crafting a recipe that was both free of corn syrup and ‘traditional’ – that is one without bourbon, chocolate, or any other third party ingredient attempting to offset the sweetness. Rather, I relied on the subtle aroma of darkly browned butter, a whisper of cinnamon, and soft notes of floral honey to add dimension without compromising the classic flavour of molasses and nuts. Use this as an opportunity to see how far you can brown your butter without burning it, and you will be rewarded with unparalleled flavour.

Contemporary Pecan Pie
Adapted from: Carole Walter. ‘Southern Pecan Pie.’ Great Pies and Tarts.

Ingredients:

1 disc prepared pie pastry*

7 tablespoons unsalted butter (3.5 oz)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mild honey
8 oz pecans

*an additional disc of pastry is required for a braided edge

Method:

Roll the disc of pastry into a 12 inch circle. Carefully fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate, then crimp or decorate the edge as desired. Freeze the shell for at least 30 minutes.

Darkly brown the butter, then let it cool while you prepare the other ingredients. Click here to learn how to make brown butter.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the oven racks so that you can place the pie plate on a rack in the lower middle of the oven, and a baking tray underneath it on the bottom rack.

When the oven has finished preheating, toast the nuts on a baking sheet for 6-8 minutes or until they are aromatic and slightly oily.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large measuring cup, combine the cooled brown butter, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.

Pour the liquid over the sugar mixture and stir until the ingredients are moistened. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, just until they are well combined. Wisk gently – you do not want to incorporate too much air into the mixture or it will puff up during baking. Whisk in the honey.

Remove the prepared pastry from the freezer. Spread the cooled nuts across the bottom of the pie shell. Give the filling a final stir then pour it over the nuts. Fill the pie to a scant 1/4 inch below the top of the crust, to allow room for the filling to expand during baking.

Place a large metal baking sheet on the bottom rack of the preheated oven. Place the pie on the middle rack and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, rotating carefully after 30 minutes. Use a pie shield if necessary to prevent overbrowning in the last 20 minutes. The pie is finished baking when the crust is completely golden brown and the filling has puffed up through to the centre. The filling should still wobble slightly when the tray is jiggled, and it should only begin to crack in the last few minutes of baking – if at all.

Let the pie cool completely before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Blueberry & Cherry Pie with Pecan Pastry

For the seasonal baker, summer is an overwhelmingly bountiful time of year, lush with fresh and local produce. As the crops take their turns coming into season this year, I find myself feeling inclined to bake a dessert celebrating each one. And what I am discovering is that nothing showcases juicy fruit or ripe berries like a deep, double-crust pie.

Living among the rural farms of Midwestern Ontario means that everything comes to me a month after it hits the cover of Bon Appetit, but that hardly makes the harvest less exciting. First the rhubarb crops up around the yard, then some refreshing greens sprout in the fields. Before long summer hits and the berries are pouring in by the pint, and it is not hard to find a place to pick all that you can carry home.

Pecan Pie Pastry 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pecans (approximately 58g)
2 1/4 cups cake and pastry flour (9oz)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes and very cold
5-6 tablespoons water, depending on humidity
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method:

Combine the water and lemon juice in a small glass and place it in the freezer until the liquid is icy cold, but not frozen.

Toast the pecans at 350° F for 5 minutes, then allow them to cool completely on the tray. Take a wooden rolling pin or the bottom of a sturdy glass and crush the toasted nuts into a rough meal.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the nut meal and whisk to combine.

Add the cold, cubed butter to the bowl with the flour and toss to coat the pieces. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, just until the largest bits are the size of peas. Pour the cold water evenly around the bowl and immediately toss with a fork to combine. The mixture will form small clumps, like cheese curds, and should appear slightly dry. Gather the clumps together and knead them a few times against the side of the bowl until you have the beginnings of a cohesive dough. Divide the rough dough evenly into two balls, then form into discs and wrap them very tightly in plastic wrap. Chill the discs for at least 1 hour or overnight before continuing with the recipe.

Blueberry-Cherry Filling

Ingredients: 

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3 cups fresh cherries, halved and pitted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons tapioca starch

Method:

Place the prepared cherries and blueberries in a large non-stick pan. Sprinkle the sugar over top, then add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Cover the pan with a lid and let it sit over low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring gently but frequently, until the sugar has melted and most of the juices have run out of the fruit. The mixture should just be reaching a simmer at this point.

Sprinkle the tapioca starch over the fruit and stir gently until all the starch is absorbed. Allow the mixture to approach a simmer, frequently scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid burning. After 3-4 minutes, when the filling is thick enough that the fruit holds together and the liquid coats the spatula, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature (the refrigerator may be used to speed up the cooling process).

Assemble and Bake: 

Roll out both discs of pastry into 12” wide circles. Fit one circle into a 9” pie plate and cut the other into 2” wide strips for a simple lattice top crust. Chill the pie plate (preferably in the freezer) and refrigerate the strips while the filling cools.

When the filling is completely cool, scrape it into the prepared shell and spread it evenly to the edges. Depending on the dimensions of your pie plate, you may need to reserve up to one cup of the filling in order to avoid over-filling the pie. Arrange the strips of pastry over top the filling in a lattice, then trim and crimp the edges.

Place the prepared pie on a level surface in the freezer for 20 minutes to re-chill the pastry after shaping. Preheat the oven to 400° F while you wait. Set the pie on a sturdy tray and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Use a pie shield in the last half hour to prevent the edges from over-browning. I like to broil my pies (with a pie shield on) for several minutes at the end of baking for an even golden color across the surface.

Store the pie in the fridge, and serve it sightly cool or at room temperature.

Nutty Carrot Cake

Amid an abundance of moist carrot cake recipes, this one stands apart. Tart apple, toasted nuts, brown butter, and warm spices combine to create a memorable cake that you will want to serve again and again. Chose a sour apple, such as Granny Smith, for the most impact, and make sure to use a fine mesh strainer to gently squeeze out any excess water after shredding.

Nutty Carrot Cake

Inspired by: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/grandma-s-apple-carrot-cake

Ingredients:

2 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
1 cup all purpose flour (125g)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup lightly packed peeled and shredded apple, drained of excess water
1 1/2 cups lightly packed shredded carrot
2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and line a square 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in colour. Measure a 1/2 cup of the liquid brown butter (there will be some remaining) and gradually add it to the egg mixture while whisking until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  3. Combine the flour, spices, baking power, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gently and gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, just until the mixture is combined.
  5. Fold in the shredded apple, carrot, and pecans.
  6. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake for 35-40 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (a few moist crumbs is okay).
  7. Let cool completely in pan, then carefully use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the tin, or simply cut and serve.

Quick Brown Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter (2.7 oz)
2 cups icing sugar (250g)
tiny pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons 35% cream

Method:

  1. Melt and brown the butter, let cool slightly.
  2. Stir in the salt, icing sugar, vanilla and enough cream to reach desired consistency.
  3. Spread over completely cooled cake.