Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Know, I Know...

     I was really aiming to have a new post every week, but I also warned you from the start! And by you, I mean the random people who happen to come across this blog as I don't have any actual followers (*cough* *cough*).  In any case, I was seized by the need to start this block smack-dab in the middle of the busiest month of my academic life. Just yesterday I had a midterm and a final, and tomorrow I have a big paper due. So, I promise I haven't been lazy.
      LUCKILY, I had a few recipes saved up that I had photographed when I made them for just such days. So, if you promise to forgive me, I promise to deliver tasty treats. And also, I promise to have some more substantial posts in the future.
     Becauseeeeeee, I would like to announce a new arrival to my family. Please give a warm cyber-welcome to my new lovechild.  And it's yellow, my favorite favorite favorite color!

Image from Google

      I have honestly wanted a Kitchenaid stand mixer for as long as I can remember. I have been limited in what I could make without one. Up until this point, I have been making souffles with a rather sub-par hand-held mixer with one arm. So...I can promise you that I will be tackling some truly herculean culinary feats as soon as I'm done with school. Chocolate croissants, homemade bread, MACAROONS!
      As for the recipe, it's a subtle riff off of Desert First's “Blueberry Tarts with Meyer Lemon Cream.” I often feel as though recipes sort of...come together for me. Like the cosmos align and direct me towards one thing over another. In this case, I had just gotten some new tart pans, and I was definitely looking to take advantage of them. Same story with an amazing little offset spatula.  Furthermore, I had been lamenting for weeks about how I wanted to bake with Meyer lemons, and after a trip to the weekly farmers' market I had finally succumbed and made my purchase.
     But that's not even where the story ends. Those lemons sat on my counter for days as I tried to guilt myself into buying blueberries. They're expensive, and while I'm all for buying local and organic and what have you, it's hard for a poor college student to justify spending five dollars on less than a pint of fruit. And then, lo and behold, strawberry season came, and I was more than happy to shell over the dough for a pint of perfect, red strawberries.
      So it was, and I can promise they were delicious. O doesn't even like lemons in desserts all that much, but he thought these were pretty fantastic. I was pretty giddy that they came out so well considering it was my first time making tart dough and my first time making a lemon curd. Hope you enjoy :)

Strawberry and Meyer lemon Tarts (adapted slightly from DessertFirst)

Graham Cracker Tart Shell 
     (makes one 9-inch tart, about sixteen 3-in round tart shells or twenty-four 2×4 in rectangular tart shells)

      1 cup butter, room temp.
      1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
      1/4 cup granulated sugar
      1/4 cup honey
      2 cups all purpose flour
      1/2 cup whole wheat flour
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cream the butter in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugars and continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and light colored. Add the honey and beat until combined.
2. Combine the flours, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl, and add to the butter mixture in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Mix until the dough is well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and form into a disk – the flatter the better. Chill until firm, at least an hour.
3. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to be 1/8 inch thick. Use either a 3 inch round cookie cutter (I used some ramekins, but you could use a large cup, the top of a vase, or anything circular that's the right size) to cut out circles of dough, or cut out rectangles of dough to fit your desired tins.
4. Press the dough gently into the tins, prick dough with a fork all over, and let chill for 5-10 minutes or until the dough is firm enough to trim off the excess easily. Buttery doughs like this one always need to be chilled before baking so they bake up evenly. (When I trim off the excess dough, I usually use an offset spatula and run it flat against the top of the tart tin.) Scraps can be re-rolled and re-used.
Note: I only made two small 4-inch tarts, but I wrapped the rest of the dough in some wax paper, put it in a plastic bag, and kept it in my freezer for a few weeks until I got an even larger tart pan, and then used it to make another tart (another recipe for another day) and it held up really well.

Lemon Cream and/or Curd (1 1/2- 2 cups)
      1/2 cup sugar
      zest from 2 lemons
      2 eggs
      1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
      5 ounces butter, cut into 1 inch pieces, softened but not melting

1. Create a water bath by placing a saucepan of water over heat to simmer and placing a metal bowl unto the pan so its bottom does not touch the water. Combine the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers and add to the metal bowl. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice.
2. Cook the mixture over the simmering water, whisking constantly, until the cream reaches 180 degrees and thickens. Keep whisking while the mixture is heating up to prevent the eggs from cooking.
3. Once the cream is thickened – you should be able to make tracks in the mixture with your whisk – take the cream off the heat and strain it into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Let the cream rest for a bit until it cools to about 140 degrees.
4. Add in the butter pieces a few at the time and combine on high speed. Once all of the butter has been added, let the mixture combine for a few minutes longer to ensure the mixture is perfectly smooth. It is the addition of butter that changes this recipe from a simple lemon curd to a rich, satiny-smooth cream.
5. Once the cream is finished pour it into a container and let it chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour before assembly.
Note: Now, I tried to follow this recipe pretty exactly, and I did not end up needing anywhere near that much butter. But then again, I didn't get as much cream as the recipe specified. Seeing as this was my first time making anything like it, I'm not going to claim that the results were spot-on, but it tasted really good. I did end up having to strain it through a pretty fine strainer to get it really smooth.

To Assemble Tart(s)
1. Once your tart shell(s) and cream are properly cooled, spoon cream into shells, cut strawberries, and place on top decoratively. Serve immediately.

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