Thursday, May 28, 2015

Apple Rosette Tart

It's summer, which means it's not quite apple season.  No worries, as this apple tart, from Cook's Illustrated, uses golden delicious apples, which are widely available year round. However, you could also try this recipe with nectarines, particularly if you want to avoid the bother of the lovely yet ulcer-inducing tart of death.

The procedure is fairly easy and straightforward. My only moments of confusion were twofold. First, the crust is a press-in affair, using melted butter, to create a play-do-like dough that's greasier than I expected. The recipe claims you don't have to freeze it before baking, as I usually do with any tart dough, but I bet it wouldn't hurt, as my crust did shrink a bit more than I expected.

Second, I wasn't quite sure how long to cook the apples, as mine did not seem to become "translucent" as directed by the recipe. Really, they just need to be a bit pliable so you can use them to form a rosette, as in the picture. And if they're not perfect, no worries, as they get folded into tart and no one will notice anyway.

I brought this tart to a party, where it attracted oohs and aahs, and after it was tasted, many requests for the recipe. The taste is pretty straightforward:  apple all the way. Some commenters on other blogs have said they found it bland, but I and everyone I talked to thought it was sweet and delicious. You decide!

French Apple Tart
from Cooks Illustrated

Note: You may have extra apple slices after arranging the apples in step 6. If you don’t have a potato masher, you can puree the apples in a food processor. For the best flavor and texture, be sure to bake the crust thoroughly until it is deep golden brown. To ensure that the outer ring of the pan releases easily from the tart, avoid getting apple puree and apricot glaze on the crust. The tart is best served the day it is assembled.

Serves 8

1 1/3 cups (6 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

10 Golden Delicious apples (8 ounces each), peeled and cored
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt


1.  Adjust 1 oven rack to lowest position and second rack 5 to 6 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in bowl. Add melted butter and stir with wooden spoon until dough forms. Using your hands, press two-thirds of dough into bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press remaining dough into fluted sides of pan. Press and smooth dough with your hands to even thickness. Place pan on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and bake on lowest rack, until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Set aside until ready to fill.


2.  Cut 5 apples lengthwise into quarters and cut each quarter lengthwise into 4 slices. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and water and toss to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to turn translucent and are slightly pliable, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer apples to large plate, spread into single layer, and set aside to cool. Do not clean skillet.

3. While apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, about 30 seconds. Strain preserves through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl, reserving solids. Set aside 3 tablespoons strained preserves for brushing tart.

4. Cut remaining 5 apples into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add remaining apricot preserves, reserved apricot solids, apple wedges, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft, about 10 minutes.

5. Mash apples to puree with potato masher. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until puree is reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes.

6. Transfer apple puree to baked tart shell and smooth surface. Select 5 thinnest slices of sautéed apple and set aside. Starting at outer edge of tart, arrange remaining slices, tightly overlapping, in concentric circles. Bend reserved slices to fit in center. Bake tart, still on wire rack in sheet, on lowest rack, for 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.

7. While broiler heats, warm reserved preserves in microwave until fluid, about 20 seconds. Brush evenly over surface of apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds and turning as necessary, until apples are attractively caramelized, 1 to 3 minutes. Let tart cool for at least 1 1/2 hours. Remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom, and carefully slide tart onto serving platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

TO MAKE AHEAD: The baked crust, apple slices, and apple puree can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Apple slices and apple puree should be refrigerated separately in airtight containers. Assemble tart with refrigerated apple slices and puree and bake as directed, adding 5 minutes to baking time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sweet 'n' Tart: a Luscious Lemon Mousse Dessert

While waiting in line at my local Whole Foods, I was glancing through Saveur Magazine and came upon a recipe that stopped me in my tracks. Created by pastry chef-bakery owner Ayako Kurokawa, who runs a bakery called Burrow in Brooklyn, this tart is a show-stopper, and not terribly hard to pull off if you do it over several days.

The tart recipe consists of a shortbread pie crust filled with lemon mousse that's topped with a light layer of lemon curd, and then candied lemon. But what really sets it apart is the fact that Kurokawa cuts the scraps from the pie crust into decorative cookies and then glues them to the outside of the crust with white chocolate. Pretty, right? I couldn't decide which angle to show off my pie, so here's another shot:

I actually made this tart twice, the first time for practice, and the second time to take to a birthday party. After my first go-around, which was very successful, I learned a few things. 

First, the outside cookies become even more dramatic if you cut them thinly and use soaring, dramatic shapes that rise up above the rim of the tart shell, though be warned, the cookies are a bit brittle and will break easily. I spent a good deal of time glueing them back in place with white chocolate. 

Also, the recipe calls for decorating the top of the pie with wheels of candied lemon slices, which look pretty, but present a problem when you're trying to cut the pie into slices. See below:

In my second version, I ringed the edge of the pie with bits of candied lemon peel and did one wheel in the center. Also, I decided to drizzle the outsides of the cookies with melted white chocolate in addition to glueing them to the crust with white chocolate, for more taste and decoration.

One final modification: I substituted my own favorite lemon curd recipe (doubled) for the one in the recipe, and it worked great. The result was light, highly citrusy yet sweet, and as a bonus for finishing your slice, you get a lemon-dipped shortbread cookie!

Give yourself a bit of time to put it all together. The crust, cookies, lemon curd can all be made in advance, and once it's assembled, the tart needs time in the fridge (or even the freezer) to set.

You'll be happy you did!

Lemon Custard Tart 
adapted from Saveur Magazine:


For the Tart Shell and Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
8 tbsp. almond flour
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. confectioners' sugar
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 egg

For the Filling and Garnish
the peel of 1 lemon, thinly sliced, plus one "wheel" slice of lemon, seeds discarded
3 cups sugar, divided (1 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 cup)
1⁄4 cup grated lemon zest plus 1 1⁄2 cups juice
12 whole eggs
2 sticks of unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled


1.  Make the tart shell and cookie dough: Whisk flours and salt in a bowl; set aside. Using an electric hand mixer, beat sugar and butter in another bowl until fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add egg; mix to combine. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until a soft dough forms. Flatten dough into a disk; cover with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

2.  Heat oven to 325°.  Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with greased parchment. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough until 1⁄6" thick. Trim dough into a 15" circle. Press dough into bottom and 1 3⁄4" up the sides of the springform pan. The dough may break, but just press it into place. Trim and gather edges of dough, and set scraps aside. Place the dough-lined pan in the freezer for 15 minutes, then remove. Using a fork, prick the dough in the pan all over. Line dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans; bake until golden and cooked through, about 1 hour, and let cool.

3. Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll dough scraps 1⁄6" thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out 20–25 cookies and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; bake until golden, 10–12 minutes. When cool, drizzle with 1 oz melted white chocolate, or more if desired.

4. Make the filling and garnish: Place sliced lemon in a 2-qt. saucepan filled with water; boil. Strain lemon; set aside. Add 1 1⁄2 cups sugar and 1⁄2 cup water to pan and bring to a simmer over medium; cook until sugar is dissolved and stir in lemon. Cook until lemon rind is softened and translucent, about 10 minutes; let candied lemon cool in syrup.

5. Whisk remaining sugar, the lemon zest, salt and eggs in a 4-qt. saucepan until smooth. Whisk in lemon juice; cook over medium, stirring constantly while adding bits of butter, over medium until all the butter has melted and the curd has thickened, 10–12 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; press plastic wrap onto surface of curd and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
6. Transfer 1 1⁄2 cups curd to another bowl; set aside. Whip cream in a separate bowl into stiff peaks; fold cream into larger amount of curd and spread evenly into tart shell; chill until set, about 1 hour. Spread reserved lemon curd over lemon cream and top with candied lemon slices; chill 1 hour. Remove tart from pan and transfer to a cake stand or platter. 

7. Use remaining melted white chocolate to glue cookies to outer crust of tart.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Citrus Bundt Cake

I'll admit that I'm prejudiced--against Bundt cakes. In my experience, they're generally dry and visually unappealing. When I want a piece of cake, I want frosting, sprinkles, layers, the works!

However this recipe for Triple Citrus Bundt Cake from Martha Stewart Living tempted me with its promise of three levels of citrus flavor, in the batter, the glaze, and a sprinkling of candied lemon zest on top.

This is indeed a perfect springtime cake, lovely, delicate, and moist. But what surprised me most after I made it was the impact of a non-citrus ingredient on the finished product:  creme fraiche. It seems unfair to describe creme fraiche as the French version of sour cream, though I suppose that's as good a definition as any. But the key point about it here is that its addition to the cake gives it a lovely sour yet rich tang.

Give this one a try. It's made me rethink my Bundt prejudices.


Vegetable-oil cooking spray
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 lemons
1 large or 2 small oranges
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons coarse salt
3/4 cup creme fraiche
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted syrup
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 cup superfine sugar glaze
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Candied Lemon Zest (optional)


1.  Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 10-cup Bundt pan (or kugelhopf mold) with cooking spray; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Finely grate 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon orange zest.

2.  With a sharp knife, remove peel and bitter white pith from all citrus. Holding a lemon over a bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze juice from membranes into another bowl. Repeat with remaining lemon and orange(s), combining segments in one bowl and juices in other. Cut segments into 1/4-inch pieces. (You will need 3 tablespoons juice and 3/4 cup segments.)

3.  Sift together flour, superfine sugar, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Add creme fraiche; beat on medium speed until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each. Beat in butter, citrus juices, and zests. Add citrus segments and beat just to combine. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake, rotating pan once, until a tester inserted in middle comes out clean, about 48 minutes.

4. Syrup: Bring citrus juices and superfine sugar to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil 30 seconds more.

5.  Glaze: Whisk together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a bowl.

6.  Serving: When cake is done, leave oven on and let cake cool in pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet 15 minutes. Turn out onto rack and let cool 10 minutes more. Transfer to a shallow dish. Brush syrup over cake. Continue brushing syrup from dish until all syrup is used. Return cake to wire rack; let dry in oven 5 minutes. Immediately brush with glaze. Let cool completely. Cake can be stored, covered, up to 1 day.

7.  Spoon whipped cream into center of cake; top with candied zest and serve.