Rainbow of Flavor

Here are the four versions of my signature dish I made for our cookout.

I like them to have variety, but the filling for all of them was a mixture of cream cheese/neufchatel cheese, homemade yogurt, and raspberry preserves.

Michael seemed to be quite happy there were enough for him to have two slices! 😉

Step-by-Step Tart Crust

First stir together the flour and brown sugar.

I’ve had a few requests lately for more information on how I make my shortbread tart crust, so here is a step-by-step demonstration of what it looks like as I put one together. Tomorrow we are having a bunch of people to our house for a cookout so I’m making four fruit tarts. When I make this many tarts, I double the recipe and mix it in my KitchenAid mixer (I also have two tart pans). For one tart, I do it by hand because it doesn’t make enough dough to warrant the big mixer. When I actually manage to plan ahead, I will bake the crust in advance and slide it into a 2 gallon freezer bag and freeze it until I’m ready to fill it. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many things on my plate lately and didn’t get that far.

Add the slightly softened butter in chunks and cut it in slowly (for one tart I use a fork to cut in the butter by hand).

Grease and flour a tart pan.

Using my left thumb and my right index and middle fingers (I’m right handed), I press the dough into the pan, making a nice edge.

Then, I use my palm to flatten out the dough in the center and make sure it is evenly distributed in the pan.

Bake to a golden brown.

Shortbread crust
1 1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease and flour 12-inch tart pan.

Mix flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press firmly and evenly against bottom and side of pan. Bake 10-15 minutes or until light brown.

SHF#45: Sweet Berries

Since the berry fudge didn’t turn out to be the masterpiece I had envisioned, I turned to tarts for Sugar High Friday, that very sweet creation of The Domestic Goddess, Jennifer. Food Blogga selected the luscious ripeness of berries for the sweetness of this round.

I love berries. In fact, our entire family loves berries. All kinds. Locally we easily have access to strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, so that’s what I used, in addition to half of a kiwi just for color. To jazz it up from my routine tarts, for my crust I used almond meal, leftover from the Opera Cake. I used mascarpone cheese, white chocolate, and strawberries for a creamy filling. I can’t wait to dig into it!

Berry Tart
Almond Crust:
1 c. almond meal
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
10 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tart pan; set aside.

Stir the almond meal, flour, and sugar together to remove the lumps. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is evenly distributed and crumbly. Press into the prepared pan.

Bake at 400 F. 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

3/4 c. strawberries, cleaned and chopped
2 Tbsp. sugar

6 oz. white chocolate
4 Tbsp. heavy cream

8 oz mascarpone cheese

Place the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar; set aside.

In a heavy pan over low heat, melt chocolate and cream until smooth. Cool.

In a medium bowl, beat together mascarpone cheese, strawberry mixture, and white chocolate mixture. Chill if necessary to thicken.

Spread into cool crust. Top with berries as desired.

RRC#11: Momma Knows!

When we first moved to Illinois, one of my favorite Saturday pastimes was auctions. We found all sorts of treasures. Several times there was one particular thing we were waiting for and because they couldn’t get bids on lots, they would just keep adding and adding to it until suddenly the one thing we wanted was added to the pile — sold! $1. But now we have all this other stuff. At one auction I picked up a box of cookbooks as well as two boxes of rickrack and seam tape and some things that went straight to the garbage can without entering the house. Among the cookbooks was this little gem of culinary history:

Inside you can find recipes from the various regions of the US including pickle cured bacon (start with 100 lbs sides of bacon from fresh-killed hogs), curing hams (100 lbs of ham, use only corn-fed hogs), pig knuckles with sauerkraut, or stewed eels. The book was originally published in 1939 and this is the third printing in 1947, the year my mother was born. It’s not a book I turn to regularly, as you can imagine, but it is full of interesting things, like these salads — are these rabbits or rodents? Ewww.

But the book also makes me a little sad. Inside it was stuffed with newspaper clippings of recipes, a few handwritten recipes (in this box of cookbooks there must have been a dozen copies of the same ‘ham and veal loaf’ recipe and it made me wonder — was this a family favorite that was always requested? or the dreaded recipe that Aunt Helen brought to every gathering?). It made me sad that no one in her family wanted these treasures. I’m not exactly sure why, but I keep all the original stuff with the book — I’m an archivist at heart, I guess — including these photos and a personal note written on the back of a train car switching order that reads:

Dearest Helen,

Could you please do me this last favor. Helen I don’t mean to take advantage of you by depending on you cause I know how you stand to.

But as as I told you dear when you least expect it, you have every dime you let me have. Cause I don’t know how to express my thanks to you especially cause you been wonderful to me. But I won’t forget. I hate to ask, but could you spare $5.00 more & this will be it till I pay you back.


Don’t you want to know the rest of the story? My guess is he didn’t pay her back.

Anyway, when The Happy Sorceress announced the next Retro Recipe Challenge (thank you Laura Rebecca for this fun event) with the theme of recipes published before your mom was born, I knew to which cookbook I would refer. In this case, I took a recipe for a filling and used it for the top of a tart.

I made the orange version and made my tart a ‘Dreamcicle Tart’ by putting a sweetened cream cheese layer on the shortbread crust followed by the orange ‘filling’ and then garnishing with whipped cream and mandarin orange slices.

Thanks to our hostess for an opportunity to make use of this cookbook!

Daring Little Tart

It’s that time again! Today Lemon Meringue Pies will be sprouting up all over the blogosphere because that was the Daring Baker Challenge selected for us by our host for the month, Jen of Canadian Baker. It also happens to be one of The Husband’s most favorite pies and I have *never* made one for him until now. That’s right, never.

treacherous seas

The first time around, the crust was a little too thick and a tad underdone, the curd was perfect, and I had a little trouble with the oven temp (again!, argh!) so my meringue peaks were burnt in less than half the suggested baking time. He was scarfing down the last piece from that pie as he looked over my shoulder at the computer while I made disgusted sounds over my photos — taken with the fluorescent light (under the cabinet) on one side and blue/white lights (above the stove) on the other side of the pie, making it a strange sea of greens, browns, and purples. “Mmmmm, yeah, I can see this is a definite do-over. You can’t possibly put those pictures on your blog. Mmmm hmmm, yep. I think you might need to make this every day this month, just to make sure you get a good data set.”

I think I’ve been conned. But one of the suggestions for this challenge was to make free form tarts and I really wanted to try that, so I knew I’d be making it at least one more time. Also, I kept imagining it with my homemade blueberry syrup.

For the mini tarts, rather than bake flat disks as suggested, I cut out shapes and then used a piece of foil under it and folded the corners over the top into the shell as the ‘pan’ and then fluted the edges a little with my fingers. Then I folded another piece of foil and tucked it into the center. I don’t have any pie weights and didn’t have beans on hand so some of them puffed up a little in baking, but it wasn’t bad. I baked them for about 20 minutes and then pulled out the center piece of foil and let it bake for another 5 minutes or so, before removing them to cool.

big, hairy deal

The curd and meringue went together beautifully again and this time I played around with the meringue a little, making the tartlets a little different. The oven was a little cooler this time so they didn’t burn but they gently browned. I plated it with a little blueberry syrup with white chocolate piped on top.

But this one, after I took a few pictures, I decided to try with extra blueberry syrup (with whole blueberries in it) scooped on top. Oh, yeah! That is just soooo good! This probably isn’t something I would make for me, but I can see The Husband requesting it again, and again, and again! Thanks, Jen!


Recipe after the jump. Continue reading