Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Almond Berry Tarts

I’ve recently discovered how to make my own almond cream.  And how I can replace the almonds with pistachios or hazelnuts or pecans…  Basically, a whole new world full of joy has just been revealed to me.  And with summer fruit season in full swing, it’s fairly inevitable that I should pair the two. 

It’s funny because pastry chefs have been using almond creams and pistachio creams to do just that for a while and I’ve probably been eating them often enough but never realized precisely the bliss my taste buds were experiencing.  But now I know.  And I’ve been putting this knowledge to good use lately.  

I read about almond cream from Dorie Greenspan in Baking Chez Moi and while she was discussing it, she offered up the tidbit of replacing the almonds with other nuts like pistachios.  So I actually made pistachio cream first.  And I fell in love with it.  Then I tried a pecan cream and was equally smitten.  In fact, I made two galletes with  some fresh summer fruit—one with pistachio cream and one with pecan cream.  If not for some technical difficulties (new camera coupled with some personal technical density) they both would have probably made it onto my blog.  Nevertheless, I come here bearing a new product with almond cream—one of the tree nuts I had yet to try my hand at.  And it did not disappoint either.  I paired the almond cream with some raspberries and blackberries and threw them both into some partially-baked pâte sablée.  The entire combination wasn’t too sweet or rich—it was pretty right on.  

Admittedly, I think I prefer the pistachio and pecan creams over the almond cream.  But it’s not as though I’d ever pass on an almond one—it’s pretty delicious nonetheless.  The great thing about these recipes is that they are super easy to make—professional pastry chefs use them all of the time and that’s probably because they’re equally delicious and easy to make.  That said, I certainly don’t think this is something that the every day baker couldn’t or shouldn’t tackle.  It’s an amazing addition to spruce of a fruit tart at any time of the year.


Pâte sablée from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (enough dough for 1 double crust pie for a standard 9 inch pie pan or six 4 inch individual tart pans with some dough still leftover)

408g (3 cups) all purpose flour
120g (1 cup) confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
256g (18 T) chilled unsalted butter and cut into small quarter-inch cubes
2 large egg yolks

First, butter your tarts pans and set aside.  Then, prepare the dough.  You can do this in a food processor or by hand.  I did mine in my food processor so here's how that went...  Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of the food processor and pulse to combine.  Place the butter in the food processor and pulse until the mixture has clumps the size of peas--you may need to manually stir the mixture up a bit to make sure the butter has been distributed evenly.  Add the egg yolks and pulse until they have fully moistened the dough.  Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor and place it on a work surface.  Lightly knead it just to make sure there aren't any dry bits leftover. After that, you can either roll the dough out and place it into the tart pans or press it into the pans.  I pressed my into the pans--which I found to be easier.  Once the pans are lined with dough, prick the bottoms of each tart pan all over with a fork.  Place the tart pans on a large baking sheet, cover it with plastic wrap and then place the pan into the refrigerator to chill until you're ready to par-bake them.

Almond Cream from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

85g (6 T) unsalted butter at room temp.
132g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
75g (3/4 cup) almond flour
2 tsp all purpose flour
1 tsp corn starch
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Attach the bowl to the mixer and using the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until it's creamy--1-2 minutes.  Then, add the sugar to the bowl and beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy--3-5 minutes.  Add the flours and corn starch and beat until fully combined.  Next, add the egg and beat until it has been fully combined--making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl so that all of the ingredients have been thoroughly combined.  Lastly, add the vanilla and beat until it has been combined.  Store the almond cream in an air tight container in the refrigerator until read to use.


1 - 1 1/2 cups of fresh raspberries and blackberries

First, par-bake the dough-lined tart pans.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line each dough-lined tart pan with parchment paper and fill each one with pie weights.  Bake them for about 12-15 minutes and then remove them from the oven to cool completely--and remove the pie weights and parchment paper.  Once the par-baked dough is completely cool, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Then, divide up the almond cream evenly between each pan and spread it evenly over the bottom of each one. Divide up the berries between the tart pans and spread them atop the almond cream.  Bake the tarts for 30-45 minutes or until the almond cream has puffed up and slightly browned.  Remove the tarts from the oven and let cool.  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Basque Cake

Ever since I discovered the basque cake at a cafe--Floriole to be specific--in my hometown, I've been kind of obsessed with finding a recipe that rivals it--or at least comes close to it.  I suppose I could just politely ask for the recipe from said establishment, but I have my doubts that they'd give it to me.

Nevertheless, I think this particular concoction that I came across comes pretty damn close--maybe a few tweaks and it would be even closer. But even on it's own--without comparing--it's a heartstopping cake.  And it literally might stop your heart.  I have never made a single cake that has a POUND OF BUTTER and a POUND OF SUGAR in it--plus a full tablespoon of kosher salt.

This has to be the richest cake known to humankind.  It's not a cake for those who are trying to "cut back."  It's not a cake for those who are looking to eat better.  This cake is very very bad for you. But....at the same time it's soooo darn good for you too.  If this were the last cake I was to eat before I died, I would probably die happy.

That said--admittedly I experienced certain bouts of angst during the process of making this cake. Specifically when I had to weigh out the pound of butter and sugar.  I kept asking myself, 'Should I really do this?  Is this right?  Should I find another recipe?  Am I gonna die after eating this thing?'  All of those answers became quite clear after the first bite--yes, yes, no way, who cares--this is so f'ing good.   This is the kind of the dessert that's really just good for your soul.

Recipe adapted from Amanda Rockman's Basque Cake recipe via Lottie + Doof

16 oz unsalted butter at room temp.
16 oz granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs at room temp.
10.5 oz cake flour
2.5 oz almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 T kosher salt
6-8 oz of cherry preserves

First, butter and flour an 8, 9 or 10 inch spring form pan (the original recipe I found called for an 8 inch pan but I only had a 10 inch one so I used it and it worked fine).  Next, preheat the oven to 325 F.  Then in a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt and baking powder and whisk to combine--set it aside. Now, place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and then using the mixer and the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for about 3-5 minutes until it's light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla bean paste and mix just until it's fully incorporated.  Then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Next begin adding each egg one at a time beating well so that each egg is fully incorporated into the mixture before the next egg is added--scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Finally, the add flour mixture and mix on low speed just until it has been completely incorporated into the mixture.

Now for assembly--you can choose to do this a couple of ways.  The first way is by spooning half of the batter into the baking pan and spreading it out and creating a bit of a well in the middle where the cherry preserves will sit.  Or, place the batter into a piping bag and then pipe half of the batter into the pan and create a well that way.  Either way you go about it will work as far as I'm concerned. Nevertheless, once you have half the batter spread in the bottom of the pan with a well in the center of the batter, spoon the cherry preserves into that well.  Then pour/pipe the rest of the batter on top of the preserves and cake batter and smooth out the top evenly.  Finally, place the cake in the oven to bake for at least an hour--mine took about 75 minutes (like the original recipe stated).  The cake is done when it's set and as the original recipe stated--err on the side of baking longer because the cake has so much fat in it, it would be quite difficult to dry it out.  Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let cool completely before removing it from the pan.  Eat in small portions--if you can resist...