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.

100% Kamut Shortbread Cookies

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100% Kamut (Khorasan) Shortbread Cookies

What better way to experience the marvelously rich, buttery aroma of organic Kamut flour than in a classic shortbread cookie. Kamut flour is an ancient ancestor of our modern wheat, containing 20-40% more protein and a heck of a lot more flavour. After experimenting with both spelt and Kamut flour, I found that it is necessary to adjust the classic ratio of butter and flour when using high absorption flours to make shortbread. An additional quarter cup of flour per cup is sufficient to provide structure without yielding a dry cookie. The final result is a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread with an entirely new flavour and texture to savour.

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 cups sifted Kamut flour (10.5oz)
1 cup unsalted butter, preferably cultured (8oz)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar (100g)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method: 

Remove the butter from the fridge and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Let the cubes warm at room temperature until they are pliable but still cool to the touch.

Butter a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Use a whisk to ‘fluff’ or slightly aerate the flour.

Place the butter in the bottom of a medium mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat the butter for approximately 1 minute on medium speed until it is smooth and slightly fluffy. Scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl to ensure that all the sugar is incorporated.

Dump the flour into the bowl with the butter. Using a large wooden spoon or a stiff spatula, gently stir the ingredients until no streaks of flour or butter remain. The dough will be crumbly, and will gather in clumps rather than form a ball of dough.

Carefully turn out the clumps into the center of the prepared tart pan. Spread the dough so that it is evenly dispersed and press it down with your fingertips, gently but firmly. Use a piece of plastic wrap to prevent the dough from sticking to your finger tips.

Place the pan on a small baking tray, and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the fridge and use a small knife to cut the dough into 12 wedges. Return the tray to the fridge for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Remove the tray from the fridge. Sprinkle a thin layer of granulated sugar over top the chilled dough.

Bake the pan on the tray in the preheated oven for 60-65 minutes, or until the top of the dough is golden brown with darker brown edges.

After the tray is removed from the oven, wait at least 15 minutes for the pan to cool slightly then carefully cut along the lines that separate the cookies with a sharp knife. Lift the pan off the tray and let the cookies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

The cookies will be delicate, so handle and store with care. They will keep for one week in an airtight container.

Date Crumble Tart

Although it may appear slightly fancier, this tart does not stray far from the classic Canadian combination of sticky sweet dates and buttery oatmeal crumble. Choose the best dates you can find, preferably some fat and juicy medjools from the organic section, and that is all you will need to elevate the humble date suqare. The sweet tart dough is so rich and flavourful that the last crust-filled bite is just as delicious as the rest, and the crunchy crumb topping adds a welcome contrast to the moist filling.

Date Crumble Tart

Sweet Tart Dough Recipe
via Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (188g)
1/2 cup icing sugar (60g)
1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (4.5oz), cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk

Lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Sift together the flour, icing sugar, and salt. Place in the bowl of a food processor.
Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse only until the butter resembles large flake oatmeal with a few remaining pea-sized bits.
Use a fork to break up the yolk and then add it gradually, pulsing after each addition.
When the egg yolk is incorporated, pulse in long (10 second) pulses until the dough forms small clumps.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball, giving it a few brief kneads if necessary to ensure that all the ingredients are combined.
Press the dough into the tart pan, making sure that it is evenly distributed and pressed in firmly around the edges.
Cover the shell with plastic wrap and freeze it for one hour. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Butter a large piece of tinfoil and press it securely against the dough, forming it to the shell. This will prevent the dough from puffing up during baking.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to brown and the bottom is dry.
Let the tart shell cool completely in the tin.

Date Filling Recipe
adapted from joyofbaking.com, http://www.joyofbaking.com/DateSquares.html

395g dried whole dates, preferably medjool
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean

Carefully pit the dates, then roughly chop them and place in a small saucepan. Scrape in the seeds of one vanilla bean. Cover with 1 cup of water.

Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, just until the dates have absorbed most of the water. Once the mixture has cooled completely, blend in a food processor to form a slightly chunky paste.

Oatmeal Crumb Topping Recipe
Note: My basic crumble recipe makes more than is needed for this tart. Freeze the remaining crumble in a plastic bag and use to top your next batch of muffins.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (188g)
2/3 cup packed light brown or golden yellow sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cinnamon
4.5 oz unsalted butter
6 tablespoons quick oats

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and quick oats. Use your fingers to break up any large chunks of brown sugar.
Melt the butter and let it cool slightly.
Stir the butter into the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time to disperse evenly. Pour the butter over dry spots in the bowl and use a fork to toss, until all the liquid is absorbed and you have a nice blend of large and small clumps.
Spread out on a large tray to avoid mass clumping, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Assemble and Bake

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Spread the cooled filling evenly into the partially baked and cooled tart shell. To ensure that the edges of the tart do not overbrown, cover with a pie shield or long strips of tinfoil.
Sprinkle the frozen crumble over top the filling in a thick and even layer.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the crumble is a nice golden brown.
Cool completely before removing from the pan.
The tart will keep covered in the fridge for up to one week.

Short ‘n Sweet: Buttery Poppyseed & Citrus Cookies

One of the perks of being a baker is that gift giving becomes a whole lot less agonizing when almost everyone you know would be happy with a fresh batch of homemade cookies.

Having spent the last month reading and testing in the hopes of discovering some of the best adventurous cookie recipes, I was disappointed when I realized that I still hadn’t found the perfect basic slice-and-bake shortbread. I quickly narrowed my search down to two recipes (via Smitten Kitchen and Southern Living), chose orange zest and poppyseeds as my flavourings, and sliced up some cookies to sample.

While the difference was barely perceivable, my tasters settled on the more traditional recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Because this shortbread was slightly less sweet, the individual flavours of the butter, orange zest, and poppyseeds came through the strongest.

With this recipe in my arsenal, I can easily put together a personalized cookie package that is as unique as the person I bake it for. And now that the shortbreads are sorted, maybe it’s time to start thinking about making a cake… ‘Tis the season after all. 

Coffee-Nut Shortbread Cookies

Satisfy your cookie cravings with a smooth, rich and nutty shortbread flavoured with coffee and roasted hazelnuts.

The problem with having your heart set on something is that it may take some time and a bit resourcefulness to get exactly what you want, but often what you end up with is the most delicious and effort-worthy version of your idea. This week I was firmly set on baking a nutty shortbread, but specifically one that was flavoured with a taste that I look forward to every day: coffee.

As it happened, I came across a recipe for hazelnut and brown sugar pan shortbread and suddenly remembered a stash of hazelnuts tucked away in my freezer waiting for such an occasion. There were only two obstacles between me and my cookies, how to procure finely ground nuts and instant espresso powder without food processing equipment or proximity to an Italian supermarket. Luckily both snags were easily solved with a plastic freezer bag, a wooden rolling pin, and an inexpensive spice grinder.

To achieve a rough nut meal, simply toss toasted and cooled nuts into a plastic freezer bag and take a heavy rolling pin to them. Avoid the instinct to give the nuts a good pounding, which will only tear the plastic, and apply heavy pressure as you roll the pin over a hard surface. The finished product will not be as fine or as even as machine processed nut flour, but for this recipe it will be just as yummy.

In the past I have used instant coffee (which on its own I abhor) to flavour desserts by dissolving the granules in a tablespoon or two of boiling water and then using the liquid as if it were a mild extract. However in the case of shortbread and many other cookie recipes I would hesitate to add the additional liquid, so another brilliant option is to combine fine espresso powder with the rest of the dry ingredients. To convert course instant coffee grains into a fine powder, I popped a half cup into a small electric spice/coffee grinder and gave it a few whizzes, just until the granules were reduced to a light and perfectly whisk-able dust. Do make sure to use your new ingredient in moderation, as finely grinding the coffee greatly increases the potency per tablespoon. For a large double batch of shortbread, I used only 1 tablespoon of the flavouring.

And the result was almost as satisfying as the first roast of the morning. The dark aroma of coffee heightens the richness of the shortbread and brings out the creaminess of the butter, while the presence of toasted hazelnuts and brown sugar rounds off the entire ‘latte’ experience. A drizzle of chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream wouldn’t hurt either.

Dorie Greenspan’s ‘World Peace’ Cookies

Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies, from Baking: From My Home to Yours


Why are these little unassuming chocolate nuggets called ‘world peace’ cookies? It is a legitimate question, and I have a few theories, but the point to focus on is the melt-on-your-tongue, salty, bittersweet sensation that is fleur de sel spiked double dark chocolate shortbread.

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This recipe immediately brought my sister to mind because often when I ask her what sort of treat she would like, she replies with “chocolate”. I would go so far as to say this is the ultimate dark chocolate cookie for adults; smooth Dutch processed cocoa (my own tweak), chopped bittersweet chocolate, and a lingering mouthwatering saltiness from a generous dash of sea salt.


As for the name, it may have something to do with the fact that as you slice the cookies, they tend to want to frustrate you and fall into pieces on the board. Thankfully Greenspan writes an encouraging note in the recipe, telling us not to be concerned and “just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie”. The finished cookies also slightly resembles a small globe, with their round shape and dark chucks of chocolate studding the surface. Whatever the origin, I love that the name is almost as memorable as soft moist texture and deep rich flavour of the shortbread itself.