bourbon pumpkin cheesecake

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I know what you’re thinking. A little late for the pumpkin desserts, right? And I absolutely agree with you. BUT, I have made this pumpkin cheesecake four times in the past three weeks – twice before Thanksgiving, and two more on Thanksgiving Day. The first cheesecake I made on Thanksgiving morning fell to its death in the oven as I was taking it out, so that’s why there were two. I experimented, I made adjustments. I burned my hand on the blistering hot rack of my oven. And I did way too much sampling. Therefore, I present to you… bourbon pumpkin cheesecake.

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I’ll be totally honest – I’ve never been much of a cheesecake fan. Only in the last five years have I come to appreciate cheesecake. But I never really go out of my way to eat it, and before three weeks ago, I had never made one. But since I’m convinced that pumpkin baked goods are almost always outstanding, and because I was bored with the idea of a traditional pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake sounded just delightful. And since I was racking my brain for desserts for this Thanksgiving, I set out for a recipe.

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This is a winner, dear friends. It’s pumpkin and spiced and rich in that cheesecake way, but not as heavy as traditional cheesecake. It has a nice, tangy sour cream top, also giving it a really stunning finish. The pecan-graham cracker crust is just off the hook good – it’s a little nutty but also slightly caramelized, two pluses in my book. And it’s spiked with bourbon, which is what drew me in initially. This beauty is definitely a contender for Christmas. I’m pretty sure you’ll thank me later.   

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bourbon pumpkin cheesecake 

adapted slightly from Gourmet

serves 12-14

for crust:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 6 or 7 graham crackers)

1/2 cup pecans (1-3/4 ounces), finely chopped

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

Invert bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (to create flat bottom, which will make it easier to remove cake from pan), then lock on side and butter pan.

Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars, and butter in a bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan, then chill crust, 1 hour.

for the filling:

1-1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

3 large eggs

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2- 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and bourbon (if using) in a bowl until combined.

Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt in large bowl. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. (Leave oven on.)

for the topping:

2 cups sour cream (20 ounces)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

pecan halves (for garnish)

Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and bourbon (if using) in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake. Place cheesecake back in the oven and bake 3 minutes.

Turn off the oven, leaving cheesecake inside to cool for at least two hours, up to three to cool completely. This prevents the top from cracking.

Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.

**Cooks’ Note: Baked cheesecake can be chilled, covered, up to 2 days.

 

fig & blackberry tartlets

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More summer, please! I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I have a maxi dress hanging in the closet that’s never been worn. And I could really, really use a proper beach day. And a few more bottles of rosé (aka summer drank). Can’t we keep the barbecues going for just a bit longer?

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We spent last weekend camping in Big Sur. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. My love for Big Sur runs deep. It’s been an entire decade since my very first trip down there. And just as long since the last time I camped. I almost forgot how much I love sleeping in a tent and lazy afternoons by the river and a good ole fashion s’more and cocktails by the campfire. I had such an amazing time. I can’t wait to get back there. I think this needs to happen every summer.

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Guess what else needs to happen every summer? If your guess had anything to do with these tartlets, you are correct. I get super excited when the late season figs come rolling into town. And they are abundant at the moment. There’s nothing like a super ripe fig, sweet and jammy and practically bursting at the seams. They are perfect as is, and they are equally wonderful baked with blackberries and hazelnuts in a sweet, buttery pastry. Make it happen.

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fig & blackberry tartlets

from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater

makes 4 tartlets

for the pastry: 

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar , plus more for dusting 

1 large egg yolk 

Put the flour in a medium mixing bowl and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour. Add the powdered sugar and egg yolk and mix until combined. Bring the dough together and squeeze it into a round. Roll it into a short log, fat log. Wrap the dough in plastic and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for 30 minutes.

for the filling:

8 ounces blackberries, about 1-3/4 cups 

4 large figs, coarsely chopped  

4 tablespoons blackberry or red currant jelly, melted

juice of half a lemon 

1/2 cup ground hazelnuts 

Place the blackberries, figs, and chopped hazelnuts in a bowl. Add the melted jelly and lemon juice and toss.

to assemble:

4  3-1/2 inch tartlet pans

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Divide the pastry into four equal pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper over the dough. Using the palm of your hand, flatten each piece on a floured board. Line each pan with a round of dough, leaving the excess hanging over the edges. Don’t worry if the dough cracks – just patch it together. Divide the filling between the four tart shells, then loosely fold over the pastry, leaving the fruit in the center visible.

Place the tarts on a baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm or cool.

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strawberry rhubarb pie

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Ooooh weee. That was quite a break if I do say so myself. It feels like those carbomb cupcakes happened a lifetime ago. I’ve gotta start by saying that I sure have missed you. Not a single day went by where I didn’t think about this place. And I made several attempts to share things here. But nothing felt right. So it seemed like the only thing to do was take a time out.

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But being away for so long was beginning to stress me out a bit, similar to the way cutting class in high school and college would make me feel crazy. One day turns into five and then you find yourself scrambling for an excuse for your absence. I was starting to worry that I’d never find my way back here. But I love this space more than anything, so I knew I’d figure it out eventually.

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I don’t have much of an excuse for our little hiatus. I didn’t skip town or run into any trouble with the law. I did have a mean case of writer’s block. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a grand ole time. There were parties and dance parties and really great shows (Band of Horses and Beach House in the same week!) and brunches and nights out with friends – old friends, new friends, best friends, friends from out of town. I drank fantastic whiskey cocktails. I Instagramed. There were a few serious, not-so-fun moments thrown in there as well. To sum it up, life was just happening.

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If you’ve been tuning in here for a while now, you might’ve figured out that I have a thing for rhubarb. I wait all year for those gorgeous pink stalks to show up at the market. And when they do, I can’t contain myself. One year it was these ice pops, last year it was this boozy fool and a couple of batches of jam. This time around, all I really wanted was a good old fashioned strawberry rhubarb pie.

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I’ve made a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies in my time, and if I’m being totally honest, none of them were great. They were all a little too soupy, a bit too tart. So when I found a recipe that required sauteing the rhubarb, and macerating and draining the strawberries before baking, I was pretty sure I had found a winner. Plus, an all-butter lattice-top crust is always enticing.

I was totally smitten with this pie, but I was convinced that I would love it even more if I swapped out the allspice in the original recipe for vanilla bean. So I gave it another go. And it was just what the doctor ordered. Flaky crust, sweet-tart fruit and a dollop of whipped cream on top is a truly wonderful thing.

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strawberry rhubarb pie 

adapted just slightly from The Wall Street Journal Online

makes one 9-inch pie

for the all-butter pie crust:

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

8 to 10 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed, with a splash of cider vinegar

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add butter to the dry ingredients and coat it using a spoon or spatula. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into the flour until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; do not over-blend).

Sprinkle 4 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and cut the water in with a spatula. When water is fully incorporated, add more water, one to two tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.

Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with drops of ice water if necessary to combine.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Wrapped tightly, dough can be refrigerated for three days or frozen for one month.

for the pie:

all butter pie crust 

2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered

3 cups rhubarb, cut into ¾-inch pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1 grind fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons arrowroot (or tapioca starch or corn starch)

1 to 2 dashes Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters (or Old Fashioned bitters)

1 teaspoon orange zest

1-1/2 teaspoons al-purpose flour 

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over strawberries. Let sit 1 hour.

Roll out one disc of pie dough into a 12-inch circle, about  1/8 of an inch thick. Place disc in pie pan and trim the edge, leaving 1 inch of overhang. Place in fridge to chill.

Roll out the second disc of pie dough and cut into 1-inch-wide lattice strips. Lay strips on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and place in fridge to chill.

Heat vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté rhubarb until it softens slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, ¼ cup sugar, salt, black pepper and arrowroot.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer strawberries into bowl with cooled rhubarb, leaving behind most juices.

Add bitters, orange zest, vanilla, and dry mixture to fruit mixture. Stir gently with a spatula.

Sprinkle 1½ teaspoons flour and 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar into bottom of prepared pie shell and spread around with your fingertips.

Pour filling into pie pan, arrange lattice on top and crimp edges.

Lightly beat together egg and cream or milk and brush pie top with it. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F, move pie to center rack and continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and pastry is golden.

Allow to cool at least 2 hours. Serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Best served same day it is made.

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bacon bourbon pecan pie

Let’s start November off the right way, shall we? It is the month for indulging, after all.

Bacon. Bourbon. Pecan. Pie. The ultimate of pies.

I first started dreaming of this pie two years ago. I was obsessed with the idea of bacon fat pie crust. At the time, I really thought a sweet-savory sweet potato pie was going to be the answer. It was fine. But not life altering. So I went back to the drawing board the following year, and it went from being a sweet potato pie to a pecan pie, which was the obvious solution. Though it did require a little bit of experimenting (bacon or no bacon in the filling?). But then I found the sweet spot.

Bacon fat pie crust + gooey, crunchy pecan filling = love at first bite. A little bit of bacon fat in the pie crust really makes magic happen; it’s an instant flavor booster and makes for an ultra flakey base. And the pecan filling, spiked with bourbon and maple syrup, gets a subtle hint of savoriness with the addition of finely chopped bacon. And there you have it. Bacon and bourbon dreams really do come true. But you’ve gotta be careful with this sort of pie – it’s highly addictive. You might just end up eating straight from the pie pan if you don’t check yourself. You have my blessing, of course.

bacon bourbon pecan pie

makes 1 9-inch pie, serves 8

bacon bourbon pie crust (from the LA times)

1-1/2 cups (6.4 ounces) flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons cold bacon grease or shortening, cut into 3 pieces

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

2 tablespoons cold bourbon

2 tablespoons ice water, more as needed

maple bacon pecan filling (heavily adapted from Bon Appetit)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups pecan halves

1/2 cup bacon, finely chopped

3 tablespoons bourbon

for the crust:

Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the bacon grease and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (the dough will look like moist sand). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the bourbon and water over the mixture, and stir together just until incorporated. Gently press the crumbly mixture together with a large spoon, rubber spatula or the palm of your hand just until it comes together to form a dough. Mold the dough into a disc roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disc tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a round roughly 13 inches in diameter. Place in a 9-inch baking dish, crimping the edges as desired. Freeze the formed shell for 20 to 30 minutes before filling and baking.

for the filling:

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Stir syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Cool to lukewarm, about 45 minutes.

Whisk eggs, vanilla and salt in 4-cup measuring cup to blend. Gradually whisk maple syrup mixture into egg mixture. Stir in the pecan halves, bacon, and bourbon. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie until filling is slightly puffed around edges and center is set, about 55 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack.

Can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Cut pie into wedges and serve.

savory fig tart

Isn’t it crazy that the holidays are just around the corner? I feel like in the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving will be here and I’ll be knees deep in pies and sides. I know it sounds slightly insane that this is what I’m obsessing about at the moment since it’s not even Halloween yet (Halloween??!! OMG, I need a costume!), but this is how my brain sometimes operates – freaking out about the future instead of dealing with the present.

In the spirit of staying in the present, I’m giving you a fig tart. I know we’re on the very edge of fig season, which is why I hesitated sharing this with you. I considered waiting until next year, for the peak of fig the season. But then I realized that if I wait a whole year, I might forget entirely about this tart. And that would be a shame.

If you can still find figs at the market (I’ve been buying mine at Whole Foods), you’ve gotta make this tart. It is heavily inspired by the amazing fig tart I ate on my birthday. Figs are my favorite, so whenever I see them on a menu, I go for it. This particular tart is a sweet and savory number, which is always a plus in my book. There are lots of little elements that make this fantastic. Gorgeous figs. Sweet-savory onion jam. Salty prosciutto. Sharp watercress. Pungent blue cheese. Toasted hazelnut for a little bit of crunch. Together they become this little masterpiece. It’s the kind of thing that works beautifully as a first course, or a light lunch. Or if you’re feeling real ambitious, you could make them into bite size hors d’oeuvres. Whatever your little heart desires…

savory fig tart 

inspired by Wood Tavern

serves 4

1 sheet puff pastry

1 cup onion jam (store bought or make your own… I’ll post a recipe soon!)

1 pound black mission figs (about 3-4 figs per tart), quartered

3 ounces prosciutto

1 bunch watercress or upland cress, stems trimmed 

1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled 

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2  cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thaw the puff pastry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the pastry and carefully smooth out any seams or tears in the dough. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork. Cut the sheet into quarters, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place a sheet of parchment on top of the pastry, then place another baking sheet or pan on top of the parchment. This will prevent the pastry from puffing, leaving you with a flat pastry base. Place in the oven and bake until golden, about 15-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

When the pastry is cool, spread 1/4 cup of onion jam on each quarter of the pastry. Arrange figs on top of onion jam. Take slices of prosciutto and arrange on top of figs.

Pour the vinegar in a small bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is emulsified. Add the blue cheese and mix gently until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Just before serving, toss the watercress lightly with the vinaigrette. Arrange a mound of dressed watercress on top of each tart. Top with chopped hazelnut and extra blue cheese from the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

cherry hand pies

Do yourself a favor this weekend. Pick up a couple pounds of cherries from the market. Don’t wait – cherry season is pretty much over. And buy or borrow a cherry pitter. We’re making pie.

I always panic towards the end of cherry season. So this year, I decided to can a few pounds of cherries for later use (yes, I’m hoarding cherries). I also had a real hankering for cherry pie.

I’d never actually made a cherry pie. But I’ve come to understand that real cherry pie is made with sour cherries, which are pretty hard to come by in these parts as this is the land of sweet cherries. A sweet cherry pie sounded just fine to me. When I was growing up, my dad used to come home with bags of super sweet Bing cherries. It was one of my favorite summertime treats. It still is.

Speaking of childhood, does anyone else remember Home Run Pies? You know, those individually packaged pies that came in flavors like lemon and cherry and apple and chocolate pudding? They were really popular in the 80′s. I can’t even remember the last time I had one, but I do remember that as an adult, I wasn’t so impressed. Reminiscing about retro junk food made me want a grown-up version of Home Run Pie.

So I made my favorite all-butter pie crust, divided and rolled out eight discs of dough, and loaded them up with sweet cherry filling. Made little cutouts with the scraps. Egg washed and sprinkled with turbinado. Baked until each pie was golden and bubbling. Picked up a still warm pie and ate the whole thing in minutes. And there you go.

cherry hand pies

serves 8

basic pie dough 

from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

makes 2 10-ounce balls of dough; 1 double-crust 9-inch pie, 2 11-inch tarts

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup ice cold water

1 large egg

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a fork. Add the butter and work into the flour with a pastry blender or your fingertips, leaving some of the butter in fairly large, irregular pieces.

Pour in three quarters of the water, stirring all the while with a fork until the dough begins to form clumps and hold together. Keep adding water if needed.

Divide the dough into eight pieces (a food scale is helpful here), rolling each piece into a ball, and then flatten into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic. Let rest, refrigerated for 1 hour or longer.

cherry filling

adapted from The Fearless Baker by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weiss

1-1/4 pounds fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch or cornstarch

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Put the cherries, sugar, tapioca starch, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently but gently and scraping the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula to prevent sticking as the liquid comes to a low boil. After about 8 minutes, the cherries should have given off juice and thickened and cherries should still be whole. Let cool. Refrigerate until cold.

to assemble:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Remove dough from fridge right before assembling. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll out each disk of dough until about 1/8-inch thick.

Place a heaping tablespoon of the cherry filling onto one half of the circle of dough. Fold the other side of the dough over the filling and press the tines of a fork into the dough to seal the edges together. For a neater looking pie, trim the edges with a pizza cutter or pairing knife. Make a small cut on top of the pie to make a vent. Repeat with the remaining discs of dough. Place the pies on the prepared baking sheets.

Collect any extra scraps of dough and roll out until about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out shapes using a small cookie cutter. With a pairing knife, lightly score the back of each cut-out. Set aside.

Whisk the egg with a little bit of water. Brush the back of each cut-out with egg wash and place on pie. Lightly brush the top of each pie with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and pies are golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve warm.

maple yam-ginger pie

I thought I’d sneak in one more post before Thanksgiving, just in case you still need a recipe. This one goes out to all of my vegan homies. I feel like vegetarians get the short end of the stick on Thanksgiving. So I’m giving back in the form of pie.

The first time I made this pie was last year, a few days before Thanksgiving. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Nothing about it indicates that it’s 100% dairy free. The filling is smooth and silky, with hints of ginger and cinnamon.

Can we just talk about the crust for a minute? Initially, I was skeptical about the crust because it sagged a little while par baking. But all of my doubts vanished after my first bite. This crust is outstanding. It’s crisp and slightly nutty thanks to its coconut oil base and a little bit of whole wheat pastry flour. It is certainly in the running for my favorite pie crust.

If you like ginger like I do, a little candied or crystalized ginger is really nice alongside this pie. Just make sure to leave a little room in your belly. And have yourself a marvelous Thanksgiving.

maple yam-ginger pie

adapted from Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry

makes 1 9-inch pie

for the crust:

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons raw cane sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

7 tablespoons solidified coconut oil

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup ice water

for the filling:

2-1/2 pounds garnet yams

2 cups coconut milk

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons agar flakes

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced or 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

candied or crystalized ginger (optional)

for the crust:

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. Add the solid coconut oil to the bowl and rub it into the dry mix with your fingers until it resembles small pebbles.

Add the vinegar to the ice water. Drizzle the water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing as you add it.  Stop adding water when the dough holds together when squeezed. Do not add more water than necessary.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape it into a bowl and then flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400°F. Pierce the yams all over with the tines of a fork. Place the yams on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator after 45 minutes and allow it to warm to room temperature. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pie plate. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the plate. Trim the edges with a knife. Make a decorative edge by pinching the dough between your index finger and thumb.

Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork several times. Transfer to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes. If your crust begins to shrink or sag significantly, gently press it back into shape with the back of a wooden spoon. When the crust is golden brown, remove from oven and set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 375°F.

In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk to a simmer over medium heat. Do not let boil. Add the agar flakes and the ginger and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring often, until the agar dissolves. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract and simmer for an additional minute. Turn off heat.

Add the yams, agar mixture, cinnamon, nutmeg, arrowroot, and sea salt to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until cream and smooth.

Pour the filling into the pie shell and smooth the top with a wet spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is firm.

Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours, or until the pie has firmed up. Serve each slice with some candied ginger.

heirloom tomato tart

I know that it’s no longer tomato season for some of you, but it’s still happening in my neck of the woods. I just couldn’t pass them up at the market this weekend. It’s hard to keep walking when these heirloom varieties are so gorgeous.

So, I’m sneaking in one last tomato dish for the year. It must be done. Hopefully you can sneak one in, too. If not, there’s always next year.

Since these particular tomatoes were so handsome, I wanted to make something to show off just how good looking they were. A tart seemed like the perfect solution.

Tomatoes and puff pastry, together at last. I love the simplicity of this tart, and because it is so simple, it really showcases the goods. The combination of the buttery puff pastry and the juicy, slightly acidic tomatoes is perfect – definitely more decadent than your average tomato and pizza dough pairing. It’s really lovely served with a mixed green or arugula salad and a glass of white wine. Oh, tomatoes, until we meet again…


heirloom tomato tart

adapted from Canal House Cooking, Volume 4 by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

serves 4-6

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

2-3 tomatoes, cored and sliced

2-3 branches fresh thyme

really good extra-virgin olive oil

pepper

flaky sea salt, preferably Maldon

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lay the sheet of puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score a 1/2-inch border around the pastry. Prick the dough inside of the border all over with the tines of a fork to prevent it from puffing too much during baking.

Arrange the tomato slices on the pastry in a single layer, being careful not to crowd or overlap the tomatoes, which will make the puff pastry soggy. Strip the branches of thyme, scattering the leaves over the tomatoes. Drizzle the tart with olive oil and season with pepper.

Bake the tart until the pastry is crisp and deeply browned on the bottom and around the edges, 30-40 minutes. Season with salt. Eat warm or at room temperature, preferably the day you make it.

italian plum tart

Happiness is…

Dahlias in the morning.

Finally finding this out of print documentary on DVD after a decade of searching. The best ever 10-hour documentary on the history of rock and roll = 10 hours of nerding out at home. Very influential in my formative years. Thank you, PBS, for your excellent programming. And thank you, ebay!

Fresh San Marzano tomato sauce. And simple pasta dinners.

Chloe. Genius.


Homemade puff pastry and an Italian plum tart.

I’ve always thought of puff pastry as something you buy. All of those layers of buttery goodness seemed too good to be able to produce in your own kitchen. But after reading over Alice Waters’ recipe for easy puff pastry, it actually seemed very doable. I was feeling up to a challenge and decided I must give it a go. Making this puff pastry was actually pretty easy, it just requires time. It’s essentially a large mass of butter and some flour rolled out and folded several times. Nothing to be scurred of.

With my 2 pounds of puff pastry ready to go, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Earlier this summer I made a plum tart with store-bought puff pastry. It was great, but I really wanted to try it with my handmade goods. And since there were finally Italian plums at the market, I knew it was time to make it again.

This is one of those throw-together, simple summer desserts. Whether you use homemade puff pastry or the store-bought stuff, it’s a winner. The plums and almond paste together are perfect. When combined with the sugar, the plum juices transform into a beautiful, sticky, slightly caramelized lacquer. And the puff pastry is awesome – buttery and flaky and buttery.

Happiness is…

italian plum tart

adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume 1 by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

serves 6-8

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted (about 1 pound of homemade pastry)

1/4 cup flour

4-6 tablespoons sugar 

2 pounds Italian prune plums, halved lengthwise and pitted

4 tablespoons cold butter

1/4 cup almond paste, crumbled (optional)

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. With a pairing knife, lightly score a 1/2-inch border around the entire pastry. Prick the dough inside the border all over with the tines of a fork to prevent it from puffing up too much during baking. Transfer the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle the dough evenly with a few tablespoons of sugar. Arrange the plums cut side up in the center of the pastry, then sprinkle them with the remaining sugar. Dot the tart with butter and sprinkle with almond paste. Brush the 1/2-inch border with the heavy cream.

Bake the tart until the pastry is deeply browned around the edges and the plums are soft and jammy and their juices are bubbling and syrupy, 30-40 minutes. Best served the same day it is prepared. Excellent warm or at room temp.

puff pastry

adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters

makes about 2 pounds

14 ounces (3-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2/3 cup ice water

1-2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unbleached bread flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

Place butter in the freezer for 30 minutes. Combine the lemon juice and water in a measuring cup. Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Add the chunks of cold butter a handful at a time, taking about 30 seconds to add it all. Mix for 30 seconds more, or until the edges of the butter have rounded off. Slowly add the water and lemon juice, pouring along the inside edge of the bowl, and mix until the dough comes together roughly. The butter should still be in recognizable pieces and most of the lour should be moistened but not wet. You may not need to add all of the liquid.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. With the heels of your hands, a pastry scraper and a rolling pin, quickly shape into an 8-by-14-inch rectangle, with an 8-inch side facing you and the long sides perpendicular to the near edge of your rolling surface. The dough may not knit together at this stage, but don’t worry, it will eventually. With the help o a broad, rimless baking sheet, fold the bottom one-third of the dough over the middle third. Brush off any lour, and then fold the top third over the middle. Lift the dough dough as you reflour the surface and turn the dough 90 degrees, so that the top flap is on your right, like the cover o a book.

Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll it again into an 8-by-14-inch rectangle. Fold in thirds as before. This completes 2 “turns”. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove the dough from the refrigerator after 30 minutes, unwrap it, and give it two more turns. Rewrap the dough and refrigerate for 40 minutes. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight at this point.)

Give the dough 2 more turns (6 turns in total) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.  The puff pastry can be frozen at this point or refrigerated overnight. (Frozen dough should be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator.)

key lime tart

Last week was not my week. I wont get into the nitty gritty of it, but I will say that I had planned on sharing a tres leches cake with you. And I did bake the cake. And soaked the layers in a heavenly concoction of goat milk, heavy cream, and condensed milk. I even started to cover the entire cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream. And then in the blink of an eye, the cake was airborne. And then it was on the floor. Actually, it was everywhere. On the floor, allover a cookbook, on the legs of a chair. Normally, I would have had an episode after such a travesty. But I remained strangely calm, grabbed an empty paper bag, and started filling it with hunks of leche soaked cake. Did I mention that it was filled with fresh raspberries? Yeah, there were raspberries.

When things like this happen, I feel that the universe is trying to tell me something. Like maybe I shouldn’t try to do so many things at the same time. Or maybe I need a more organized workspace.

Or maybe, just maybe, the universe didn’t care for that tres leches cake. Maybe what the universe really wanted was a key lime tart. I had extra condensed milk and heavy cream left over from the tres leches. And I happened to have a sack of key limes. So, it seemed that maybe a key lime tart was meant to be.

For anyone who isn’t a fan of your typical graham cracker crusts, I’ve got the answer for you. This homemade graham cracker crust is perfect. It reminds me of a cross between a graham cracker and a shortbread cookie. It’s buttery and crunchy and sweetened with brown sugar and honey. It’s an excellent platform for a tart, silky key lime filling. And a healthy dollop of whipped cream. You know what they say, when life gives you limes…

key lime tart

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart

makes one 9-inch tart (and a few tartlets)

for the graham cracker crust:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1-1/2 cups graham flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Fit the dough into a 9-inch tart ring set on a parchment lined baking sheet or a tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing into the sides. Using a sharp pairing knife, trim the excess dough. Prick the bottom of the dough allover with a fork. Chill the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line tart shell with parchment paper and  fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust is just beginning to turn golden. Remove parchment and weights. Return to oven and continue to bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

for the key lime filling:

4 egg yolks

1 can sweetened condensed milk, 14-ounces

2 teaspoons grated Key lime zest

1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (about 12 limes)

pinch of salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat yolks on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add condensed milk, lime zest, lime juice, and salt and beat until combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Transfer tart (still on parchment if using a tart ring) to a wire rack to cool completely. When completely cool, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

When ready to serve, combine heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until soft peaks form. Serve tart with whipped cream on the side and a bit of freshly grated lime zest (optional).