Sunday, August 24, 2014

Banana Walnut Tart

I imagine that there are not a lot of people seeking out and wanting a banana tart.  However, that does not mean that it cannot be created with a delicious result.

This recipe comes from a chef that worked at Le Cirque for several years, named Francisco Guiterrez.  The executive chef, Jacques Torres published the recipe, stating that it was the most popular tart specials they had on the menu.  Flaky shortbread is filled with fluffy almond cream and then layered with sliced bananas.  The bananas encircle a blend of creamy caramel and crunchy walnuts.  Made in a circular tart pan, every slice with contain both bananas and walnuts.  Made in an oblong pan, the banana lovers will gladly go for the edge pieces and the nut lover will be patient until you get to the center pieces.  Either way, everyone will be happy with whatever part of this dessert lands on their plate.

The only issue I had with this recipe was concerning the volume of the components.  I am not one that likes to make excess to use elsewhere.  I would rather it all goes together with no waste.  Based on this, you will find the ingredient measurements a little strange, but it has all been altered in an effort to make sure every component is completely used. The almond cream filling recipe and the caramel walnut base recipe have been cut in half from the original.

This recipe states that it is for one 10 or 12 inch tart.  I made three 3 1/2 inch mini tarts and one rectangular tart (7'x10").

Francisco's Banana Walnut Tart
adapted from Dessert Circus at Home

Ingredients/Shortbread Dough
1/2 cup and 2 tbs cold unsalted butter, diced
1 2/3 cup cake flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1/3 cup water

Ingredients/ Caramel Walnut Topping
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk (whole, not 2%)

Ingredients/Almond Filling
4 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 large egg ( equals 2 tbs of scrambled egg)
2 tbs flour
1/2 cup almond flour
4 bananas
extra sugar (for sprinkling over top)

For the crust, sift together flour, sugar and salt.  Add the cubes of butter and use a pastry cutter to blend the butter into the dry ingredients.  The other method is by hand, grabbing handfuls of butter and flour, then rubbing your hands together to combine.  However, you would need to periodically run your hands under cold water and dry them.  That way no heat from your hands would melt the  butter. Either way, your mixture should end up as coarse crumbs with some small chunks of butter.

Then add all of the water to the dough and blend with a spoon or by hand.  Once the dough can hold a ball shape, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on your work surface for about 30 seconds.  Then flatten into a disc and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, make the almond filling.  Add the butter, almond flour and sugar to a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  The beating should help the sugar dissolve into the butter, creating a light and fluffy texture.  Then mix in the 1/2 egg, beating for about 3 minutes.  This process with make the mixture lighter in hue and put air into the filling.  The air will aid in the rising process when baked and keep it from being too dense. Lastly, fold in the flour, stopping once there are no dry streaks.  Set aside.

The caramel walnut topping starts by pouring the sugar in a saucepan and then placing it over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and let cook until the sugar is melted and becomes caramel colored.  Then pour in a stream of the heavy cream and continue to mix. Repeat the same process with the milk.  Once all is blended, take out a candy thermometer and then stir in walnuts.  Stir occasionally while the mixture cooks.  It should heat up to a temperature of 225 degrees as registered by the thermometer.  At 225 degrees, remove the saucepan from the heat and empty contents into a heat proof bowl to cool.  Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Again, dust the flat surface with flour.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Using your hands,  pat dough a couple of times on each side to soften it a little prior to rolling.  Roll out dough to 1/4" thick.  Make sure it exceeds your pan sides by 2 inches all the way around.  For the rectangle tart pan, you should have more than 2 inches excess.  Make the excess beyond 2 inches on the length of the dough and cut off to reserve for the smaller tarts.

For the big tarts, roll the dough over a rolling pin.  Then unroll dough into the tart pan and press into pan, forming into the interior shape of the pan.  Make sure the dough covers all inside surfaces tightly, using your hands.  It should all be compressed along the interior sides, corners and bottom.  Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan edges, making a clean cut of the excess.  If making the mini tarts as well, roll out all of the excess dough and cut in circles 5 1/2 inches in diamer, cutting and re-rolling as necessary.  Follow the same process to shape the dough in the pan and cut off excess.  Then dock the dough on the interior bottom of the tarts with a fork, to make sure it will not bubble when baked.

Take the almond filling and smooth over the interior dough, covering all the bottom of the tart dough evenly.  If making mini tarts, use about 1 tbs and 1 tsp of filling for each.  Then peel and cut one of the bananas into 1/4 inch rounds, cutting and discarding the small ends.  Lay the slices on the almond filling, starting with the outer edge and going inward.  Keep cutting the bananas and layering until there is only the center has the almond filling exposed. Leave a 2 inch circle (if using a 10 inch tart pan) or a 2x3 inch rectangle ( if using a rectangular tart pan) and 1 1/4 inch circle (if using a mini tart pan).

Cover the exposed almond filling with the caramel nut mixture and smooth over the top.  If using the mini tarts, measure out 1 tbs of the nut mixture and spread over the center of each.  Then sprinkle sugar over the top of the banana slices. Bake the tarts for about 35-45 minutes.  Each tart is done when the shortbread crust gets toasty and the filling forms a crust.  Remove from oven and place tart pan over rack to completely cool. 

Tips and Notes:

1.  Caramel can quickly burn, so to avoid this, turn your heat down to medium for it to cook up to the right temperature and be patient. Hope you have a candy thermometer that clips to the edge of your pan, I had to hold mine by hand the whole time....

3.  A dense pudding filling inside a tough cardboard pastry shell is not what you want, so avoid over mixing or beating when preparing the dough and adding the flour to the almond filling.

4. The recipe suggest dusting with powdered sugar or brushing with apricot glaze (1/4 cup apricot jam heated and mixed with 1 tbs water) for a nicer presentation.

5. The layering of the bananas can be single slices or have a slight overlap, whichever you prefer.

6. If preferred, add a splash of rum to the almond cream mixture for some extra flavor
                                         **LAST YEAR:Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake                           

Monday, August 18, 2014

Citrus Syrup Tea Cakes

I have always thought that citrus was a summer fruit-with the exception of oranges. Oranges are available year round.  The sweeter of the orange family, the clementines, are actually a winter fruit. However, the tropical regions have a different seasonality.

The food industry can be tricky when it comes to getting ingredients.   The name of something may just mean the flavor, not the real thing.  Bacon bits are a good example.  As far as fruit, I am always reading that some type fruit is being presented as another. Today's recipe lists clementines as the major flavor ingredient.  At the grocers I found a box under the produce rack that said clementines. Inside the box were smaller containers, labeled sweet snack.  In the end, they were listed as mandarins on the receipt.  Apparently in Chile, the seasonality of these fruits has one on its way out of season while the other is just coming in season.

This recipe has a limited amount of ingredients, it has no butter, oil or milk. These cakes were dense and nutty, perfect for soaking up the tangy syrup drizzled on top. Most of the cake type of recipes in this book create heavier baked goods, which are a better to serve with tea.  They do not crumble and are great for dunking .  The method of preparation is unique-every part of the fruit is utilized, except for the seeds. Almonds may not be the first item that comes to mind when pairing with sweet clementines, but the combination does get a thumbs up in my book.

Be sure to plan in advance on this one, there is a 2 hour simmer of the clementines prior to mixing and baking.  This recipe makes 1 dz tea cakes.

Citrus Syrup Teacakes
Adapted from the Perfect Afternoon Tea recipe book

2 cups ground almonds or almond flour
1 cup sugar
3 clementines
6 eggs

Ingredients/Syrup Topping
juice of 3/4 lemon
1 clementine rind, pith removed and cut into strips
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup and 2 tbs of water

Prepare a muffin tin by lining the cavities with cupcake papers.

Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil.  Slowly drop in all the whole unpeeled clementines.  Let boil for 2 minutes and reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 2 hours and remove from heat.  This process aids in reducing bitterness and softens the fruit.  Remove fruit from water and let cool.

Once the fruit has cooled, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Cut the clementines in half and remove any seeds.  Place the halves in a food processor or a blender.  Process or blend the fruit until it becomes a puree.  Set aside.

Put eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat on low speed until foamy.  Fold in the ground almonds and then the puree.  Pour the mixture into the 12 cupcake cavities, making sure they are filled evenly.  Place pan in oven and let bake for 30-35 minutes.  The top center of the cakes should be set but there will be no browning on the edges of the cupcakes. Remove pan from oven.

Let cupcakes cool in pan for 2 minutes, and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.  During this time, prepare the citrus syrup.  Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Then add the lemon juice and strips of rind.  Bring to a boil.  Once it reaches that point, turn heat down and let the mixture simmer for about 2-3 minutes.  It should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Once the cakes are cooled, drizzle the syrup over the top.  Each cake should have about 1 tablespoon of syrup on top.
                                           **LAST YEAR: Blondie Pie*                               

Sunday, August 10, 2014

JD's Birthday Cake

Well if you are wondering who JD is, it is Jack Daniels- the founding father of the famous Jack Daniels Whiskey.  It would seem natural that whiskey be one of the key ingredients for his birthday cake.

This cake does not have oil, milk or water.  The liquid that does make this cake moist is the melted butter and the sweetness, other than the topping, comes from brown sugar.  Please note that this cake does not rise high and fluffy, it will be dense and about 1 3/4 inch thick.  However, the texture is definitely one of cake and not like bars.

Since I did my spring cleaning late this year, this particular recipe was perfect.  This item is proof that delicious cake does not always require lots of time or exotic ingredients. So if your friends just let you know they will be arriving shortly, pull out this recipe.  Other than the bake time, it comes together in a snap. 

JD's Birthday Cake
adapted from Jack Daniels Cookbook

1 cup melted butter, cooled
2 cups packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup whiskey
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1-6 oz package of semi sweet chips/regular or mini
1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
3 tbs whiskey

Prepare a 9/13 inch pan by buttering the inside.  Then line the bottom and 2 long sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the long sides.  Butter the face up side of the parchment. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, whiskey and brown sugar together and set aside.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients in with the wet until smooth.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle the surface of the batter with chocolate chips and pecans.

Place in oven and bake until center is firm and edges start to pull from pan.  This should take about 45-50 minutes.  Remove and let cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes.  Then pull up on parchment and transfer cake to rack to finish cooling.

To make glaze, stir together butter,whiskey and vanilla.  Then sift in the powdered sugar and stir until smooth.  Using a squirt bottle or a fork, drizzle glaze on top of cake.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Orange Grand Marnier Cake**

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cinnamon Bun Pie

I think that seeking to improve old favorites is not a bad thing, but it generally is a tall order.  While the grocery store is lined with products that state new and improved, some fall into the " I wished they left it the way it was..."  The smart thing to do is introduce more variety, not discard the original product that founded your success.   With that being said, I will now get into some explanation concerning the above item.

This particular recipe is a spin off from the original baked cinnamon rolls with the cream cheese topping.  The filling is what really makes this special.  With cinnamon rolls you get the cinnamon entwined in the dough and the top is coated with a cream cheese mixture.  This pie, however, does have a stand out quality with the increased amount of the cinnamon and cream cheese mixture.  Even better, the two flavors are baked together.  Just the idea of a warm blend of cinnamon, brown sugar and liquid cheesecake filling is nothing short of a delicious stroke of genius.

That genius idea comes from none other than Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar.  I have made a few of her recipes and have been pleased with the results. Regarding this pie, it is obvious I am not the only one!  Hopefully since I have put it out of sight, it will not continue to shrink in size.   As I sit here doing this blog, I am wondering if someone is cutting themselves another slice. Hmmm...the best food security is the freezer... I better get on with this post so I can store it there!

Before we get started, this is one of those recipes that have components.  Be aware that some of the components require baking and cooling prior to assembly of the pie, so be sure to allow yourself plenty of time. 

Cinnamon Bun Pie Components
adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

Ingredients/ Liquid Cheesecake
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz cream cheese
2 tbs milk
1 tbs cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

Line a six inch square or round pan or ramekin with wax paper. Do not worry about the folds or wrinkles, it is for baking the filling and has no impact on the final appearance of the pie.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until it becomes like smooth frosting.  This should take about two minutes on low speed.  Be sure to stop the mixer in intervals and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Then beat in the sugar until evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, sift together cornstarch and salt.  Stream in the milk, whisking into the dry mixture.  Lastly, beat in the egg until incorporated. 

Turn the stand mixer on medium low and pour the egg batter slowly into the cream cheese batter.  Continue to beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.  After 3-4 minutes the batter will become a smooth and have the consistency of pudding.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Then add the rest by scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula and dropping batter into pan. Place pan in oven and let cook for 15 minutes.  Then open the oven and check for consistency of cheesecake, it should be firmer around the edge and jiggly in the center.  If still watery, keep adding 5 minutes baking time and check after each interval.  The most it should take is 25 minutes.  Do not let the mixture rise more than 1/4" when baking or brown on the edges.  Consider that it will become more solid upon cooling but must be able to be spread like butter. Cool the cheesecake completely before using.

Ingredients/Browned Butter
1/4 cup butter

Place butter in a deep saucepan placed over medium high heat.  Let butter melt and then cook until it reaches an amber color.  It will sputter and pop, so be careful.  Remove from heat and pour into heatproof bowl to cool. Use when completely cooled.

Ingredients/Mother Dough
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp and pinch of yeast
1/2 cup plus 3 tbs water
oil, for coating inside of bowl

Coat the inside of a medium size bowl with oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together dry ingredients and then stir in water.  Use your hands to mix until no dry streaks remain.  Now it should resembles a shaggy mass of dough.  Place dough in bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix on low speed for about 7 minutes.  The end result should be a damp ball of dough that bounces back when poked with your finger.

Place dough in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let proof for 45 minutes at room temperature.  Then the dough will be ready to use.

Ingredients/ Cinnamon Streusel
2 tbs light brown sugar
1 tsp gnd cinnamon
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs melted butter

Stir together dry ingredients until evenly distributed.  Then stir in the butter and vanilla extract until the dry is completely moistened and clumps form.  Set aside.

Cinnamon Bun Pie/Assembly and Baking
adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

components, noted above
3 tbs flour for dusting flat surface
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly dust a flat surface with flour.  Punch down dough in bowl and then place on the floured surface.  Roll dough out to a circle about 11 inches in diameter and 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Place dough in a 10 inch pie tin and press dough evenly in place.

Smooth half of the brown butter over the surface of the dough.  Using 1/2 of the liquid cheesecake mixture, drop spoonfuls onto buttered dough.  Take the back of the spoon and smooth the cheesecake into an even layer over the interior of the dough, leaving a  1/2 inch border or edge.  Add another layer of butter, smoothing as best you can. 

Sprinkle on the brown sugar and press lightly to adhere.  Then sprinkle the cinnamon and salt evenly on top.  Layer it with the remaining cheesecake as stated prior, but this time take and dip the spoon in water at intervals to help you with the smoothing process.

Lastly, sprinkle evenly with the streusel and press down lightly.  Place the pie tin over a cookie sheet and put in the oven.  Bake for about 40 minutes and then check for doneness.  The outer edges of the filling should be firm with a slightly jiggly center.  The crust should be golden brown and the streusel have a dark brown hue. It not, cook for an additional 5 minutes and check again.

When done, remove pie and place on rack to cool. Pie is best served slightly warm.

Tips and Notes
1. Do not overwork your dough when pressing in pie tin.  Dough is to have a pit in the center but do not try to have dough go completely up the sides of pie tin.  It is to be more like a pizza crust than pie crust.

2. The first brown butter layer is the only one to cover the whole surface of the dough.  The other layers will leave a 1/2 inch border. 

3.  Suggestion was made to make the brown butter in a microwave in a bowl with a saucer over the top.  I found that the force of the butter popping knocked the saucer off and hence butter splattered all over the inside of the microwave.  Cooking or even melting butter in the microwave is not a good idea.

4. The instructions were to use plastic wrap to line the pan for the liquid cheesecake.  On the box of the plastic wrap I use it states that heating with high fat or sugar items may cause the plastic to melt, so wax paper was used.
                                       **LAST YEAR:White Velvet Cut Outs**