(The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.)

I have to admit -I looked at this challenge and was unimpressed.  I make tarts all the time, and I have a really good tart crust recipe that I like.

But it’s the holidays, and who doesn’t need an extra dessert to take somewhere?  I was making a rather adventurous chocolate-cranberry pie for Thanksgiving, and thought a tart would be a good backup if the pie didn’t work out.

So I mixed up the tart dough.  It started with powdered sugar and flour, with an entire stick of butter worked into it until it crumbly.   Then add an egg and a yolk, work it into a dough, then into the fridge for two hours to rest.

I left mine in overnight, and put it on a silpat to roll it out:

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It rolled out far easily then I expected – cold, sticky dough is usually a real pain, but the silpat (and a light dusting of flour) really helped:

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For a filling, I used cherry jam. I’ve been doing a lot of homemade jam, and I had one batch of cherry that hadn’t set up evenly, but I figured a trip through the oven would fix it nicely. The recipe called for 1 3/4 cups, but that wasn’t nearly enough for my tart pan – even a thin coating took about 2.5 cups, but I may have a non-standard pan.

I planned to weave the top, but the dough I reserved had gotten soft while I assembled the jelly, and so I was doing good to get the strips to hold together long enough to lay them lightly on top.

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Then a quick egg wash, and off to the oven for half an hour. It came out looking really good:

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Since my pie looked to have been a success, we just went ahead and tried the tart – and it was really very good.  The sweet dough reminded me of a cookie, and the jam complimented it nicely.  I was so impressed with it that I immediately made a second one to take with me on an after-Thanksgiving trip.  I didn’t get pictures of the second one, but I made sure to keep the dough I’d reserved for the top cold, so I could actually weave the strips into a real lattice. 

I’ll probably make it again for my cookie-swap party, maybe with swirls of cream cheese in with the jam.  Definitely going in the "keep" folder!

( see the recipe )

Lemon Blueberry Tart

The best part of getting new kitchen toys is finding ways to use them – and this has been the month of the New Mini Tart Pans.

I happened to see blueberries at the grocery store.  I’m not sure they’re quite in season yet, but I bought a package anyway.  And since the mini-tart pans were still sitting on my kitchen counter, I figured I’d make blueberry tarts.

So I went though that huge pile of bookmarked recipes that everyone has, and I found the recipes I needed for a nice, basic pastry cream tart.

The crust is from David Lebovitz.  Unlike the turtle tart dough, which used cold butter, this recipe has you put the butter in the oven for 15 minutes.  That gives it time to get that nutty brown butter flavor.  I’m not sure exactly what the tablespoon of oil is for, but I suspect it’s there to keep the dough from getting too firm to eat when it’s chilled.

The pastry cream is from The Kitchen.  The recipe as it’s written there isn’t very interesting – on my first attempt, I doubled the vanilla, and it still just didn’t pop for me.  If I wanted a very strong vanilla flavor, I think I’d scrape a vanilla bean in with the milk.  Plus, even with the smallest amount of flour, it was too thick and floury.

So, for version 2.0, I replaced half the flour with cornstarch, so it didn’t have to be cooked as long.  And then I decided lemon would be better with the blueberries, so I put in 1/4 teaspoon of lemon oil instead of the vanilla – and that made it exactly right.

Overall, they were good – the crust was amazing, the pastry cream tasted like the bottom part of lemon meringue pie, and the blueberries kept the pastry cream from being too overwhelming.

( see the recipe )

Turtle Tart

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago on Vanilla Garlic. I’d been looking for an excuse to get myself a set of little tiny tart pans, and it pushed me over the edge. My favorite two restaurant supply stores didn’t have the mini tart pans, so I ended up making a trip to Williams-Sonoma. I got home, gathered ingredients, and got started. This is one of those recipes that takes a few hours, but only needs 15 minute chunks of attention here and there.

The crust is a traditional tart crust with some cocoa added. I used Hershey Special Dark Cocoa – I’m not generally a big Hershey fan, but it’s the darkest, richest cocoa I’ve ever found. It makes mind-blowing brownies, but that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, you make the crust, press it into the tart pans, bake them, then let them cool. Then toast the pecans, dice them finely, then sprinkle them on top of the crust. Next, make the caramel – I included the recipe from the original post here, but any soft caramel recipe will work. This one makes about twice as much caramel as you’ll need for the small tarts, but the leftovers are amazing on ice cream.

Pour the caramel gently over the pecans, sprinkle with kosher salt, then let them cool again. This is what they looked like before the ganache:

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The ganache is easy – the recipe said to boil the milk in a saucepan, but I always burn milk in a pan. I just boiled mine in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. If all the chocolate doesn’t melt, you can put it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so at a time until it does. You don’t want it runny, just soft.

Spread it on top of the caramel, and you’re done!

( see the recipe )