Tag Archives: fruit

Cherry Brown Butter Bars

One weekend in May, I messed with brown butter for the first time. I made brown butter chocolate chip kitchen sink cookies (recipe coming eventually… I forgot to take photos because om nom nom they were so good and I just ate them and… what was I saying? Oh yes, I froze some of the dough for future cookie cravings, so I’ll take photos of those) and was delighted by my first experience with browning butter. So since I had tackled what I considered a challenge, I tried another recipe with brown butter for a Memorial Day cookout a few weeks ago.

This recipe comes from the ever-reliable Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and after I read through the comments on the page, I decided to tweak the recipe just the slightest bit. Namely, I used salted butter instead of unsalted. Because I gotta say, I love the salty. It worked pretty well, so I’d encourage you to go with salted butter as well.

So let’s talk about brown butter. Wow, it smells good. It’s actually kind of misleading, because you’re all “Mmmm, this smells like butterscotch! I’ll bet it’s delicious!” and then you remember that it’s still just butter, and it’s kind of weird to dip your finger into a pot of melted butter for a taste. So then you start really wanting some damn butterscotch.

Anyway.

If you’ve never browned butter before, be prepared to be patient. It’s very easy, but you don’t want to rush the process. You just slip a stick of butter into a saucepan, turn the heat to medium, and wait, stirring occasionally, until the butter starts to become a rich caramel color. This will take anywhere from 6 – 10 minutes. Start watching around 6, because once the butter changes color, it can quickly get scorched. (Just so you know, the butter will start out very pale yellow, then darken to a slightly disturbing yellow, then turn into its heavenly nutty color.) When it’s ready, there will be a little opaque swirl of browned bits in the middle of the pot. Go ahead and scrape all these out when you remove the butter from the pan; they won’t hurt you.

Also, another note: for stirring, don’t use a plastic spatula that can’t withstand prolonged heat. Yeah.

The rest of the recipe is very straightforward, and the results are fan-freaking-tastic. Kind of a vanilla-cherry-buttery-shortbread flavor, all tinged with cream. These bars actually reminded me a bit of the cherry cheesecake cupcakes my mom used to make for Christmas, which were just cheesecake mixture cooked in muffin cups, chilled, and topped with cherry pie filling. God, they were good.

So, have you deduced that I really love the flavor of cherries and cream? If you do too, you’ll love these brown butter bars.

Ingredients:
Crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 t. salt

Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup flour
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup salted butter, cut into small pieces
1 pound sweet cherries, pitted and halved (this will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries*)

*If you don’t have a cherry pitter (I don’t), just cut the cherry in half with a sharp knife and ply out the pit. This took a while, so I actually did it in front of the tv for entertainment. Perhaps you don’t need such distractions.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch square pan, then make a little parchment hammock — From Smitten Kitchen: “cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.”

Make the crust:
Melt the butter (you’re not browning this batch) in a large saucepan, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour. Press the crust evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan, then bake until golden, about 18 minutes. Set aside to cool while you make your filling.

For filling:
Brown the butter — melt it over medium heat and stir frequently until it turns a dark golden-brown color and smells nutty. Remove from heat and pour into glass measuring cup to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with salt, sugar and vanilla. Add flour and mix until smooth. Gradually pour browned butter into egg mixture and whisk until smooth.

Scatter halved cherries over cooled crust and arrange however you wish. Pour brown butter batter over cherries. Bake bars for 40 minutes, or until puffed and golden on top and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Move to cooling rack and cool bars in pan.

Once cool, use parchment overhang to pull the whole square of bars out of the pan, then slice into squares. Use a sharp knife to get through those cherries, and you’ll want to wipe off the knife after each cut to keep it neat.

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Daring Bakers Do Orange Tian

First off, my apologies for disappearing off the face of the earth for the last three weeks. But I hope you’ll forgive me when you see this doozy of a post.

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

I decided to join Daring Bakers — an online community that selects challenging recipes to do once a month — because I thought it would be a good way to push my boundaries and make things I’ve never even thought about. This tian definitely falls into that category; I didn’t even know what a tian was when I first read the recipe on the DB forums. Actually, I still don’t really know what a tian is — it’s a French cooking term and most of the recipes I found when googling “tian” were savory. But no matter — the Daring Bakers called for an Orange Tian dessert, and that is what we have here.

The recipe has several different components, all of which had to be made from scratch (according to the DB “rules.” Sure, you could cut corners, and I would probably advise you to use store-bought marmalade, but I’m a rule follower, at least for now). We’ve got a pate sablee, orange marmalade, whipped cream, segmented oranges, and caramel sauce.

This was a time-consuming dessert to make. You’re supposed to start it a day or two before, because the segmented oranges are to soak overnight in the caramel sauce (which results in a-freaking-mazing orange segments — the caramel sauce is just sugar and orange juice, so it’s not buttery-slick, but it imparts a burnt-sugar sweetness to the oranges that is just irresistible. The sugar-soaked oranges alone were my favorite part of this recipe). And segmenting the oranges took a goddamn long time, but I think it’s largely because I had no idea what I was doing.

So. The first thing I did was make the marmalade. Yep, I made marmalade. It’s the first jelly-type thing I’ve made on my own, and it’s kind of funny to me, because I’ve never liked orange marmalade. But this was pretty good. Of course, I went light on the spread of marmalade on the actual tian, so now I’m stuck with about two cups of the stuff in the fridge, and I really don’t think T or I will eat it any time soon. (On a side note: I had a crush on a guy in college who made himself peanut-butter-and-marmalade sandwiches. I thought it was disgusting, but back then it only added to his charming quirkiness. But still — disgusting combination.)

Then I segmented the oranges, which I’ve already mentioned was more difficult than I’d imagined. But then, about halfway through, I watched this tutorial and realized what I’d been doing wrong, and it was much easier. So if you ever want to segment citrus, check out that link first.

The caramel was really easy to make — you just melt the sugar and then add in the orange juice. If I were to make this again, I might warm the orange juice first. I think the fact that it was so cold, right out of the fridge, contributed to the caramelized sugar seizing up and crystallizing. But then you just keep stirring over medium heat and it all melts together again.

The next day, I put together the pate sablee, which was really similar to my favorite tart dough. I rolled it out and placed the removable bottom of my 9-inch tart pan on top, then cut the circle and baked it. The original recipe called for making 6 individual-sized tartlets using circular cookie cutters, but I don’t have six matching cookie cutters. The full-sized 9-inch tart pan worked really well as an alternative.

Then there was the stabilized whipped cream, which called for adding gelatin to the cream as you’re whipping it. Um, I don’t recommend using gelatin that has been in your cabinet for God-knows-how-long (long enough that the box is faded and looks like it was bought in 1981) because it just resulted in little tapioca-like granules in the cream. It wasn’t too noticeable in the final product, but I could definitely sense the texture when I tasted the whipped cream before assembling.

And, okay, the assembly. Jeez louise, this is getting long. So you assemble the whole thing upside-down-like. I started out by placing the caramel-soaked, segmented oranges in the bottom of the tart pan (and this is when I ate half of the oranges). Then I dolloped the whipped cream over the oranges and spread it out in an inch-thick layer. Then I spread a thin coating of marmalade over the top of the 9-inch pate sablee circle, and flipped that over onto the whipped cream. Then I froze it for a while. About a half-hour before I wanted to serve it, I took it of the freezer and flipped it onto a plate and removed the tart pan, then let it soften in the fridge.

And voila. Lots of hours later, it was all done. And are you wondering what the finished product tasted like? (Are you still reading?) It tasted like Creamsicles. It was very good, but I still think the best part was the candied oranges.

Would I make it again? Not so much. As I said, it certainly tasted good, but it was really time consuming for a dessert that didn’t knock my socks off with awesome.

But that said, it was light and fresh, and if you’re a fan of citrus-based desserts, it’s not a bad one to try. Just, go ahead and cut some corners.

The recipe is below, and also on the Daring Bakers website…

Orange Tian
Adapated from Alain Ducasse‘s Cooking School in Paris

For the marmalade: (This will be easier if you have a kitchen scale)

3.5 oz. orange juice (1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons)
1 large orange, sliced
cold water to cook the orange slices
5 grams pectin
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked (if you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can measure the orange slices in a cup and then use the same amount of sugar)

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes. Repeat this process once, then once again for a total of 3 times. (Blanching removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so you should use new water every time.)

Drain the slices and let them cool. Once cooled, finely mince them with a knife or food processor. Weigh the minced oranges, then weight the same amount of granulated sugar (or use a measuring cup).

Place the oranges, the sugar, the orange juice, and the pectin in a pot over medium heat. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency, about 10 – 15 minutes. (This took me closer to 25 – 30 minutes of cooking, but I used liquid pectin instead of granulated, so maybe that’s the difference?) Once thick enough, transfer the marmalade to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:

Get yourself 8 oranges. Cut them into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to capture the juice. (Check out this video for instructions on segmenting!) Set aside.

Make the Caramel:

1 cup granulated sugar
14 oz. orange juice (1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons)

Put the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. It will start to melt after about 5 minutes. Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. (It will probably make the sugar seize up — just keep stirring over medium heat until it all melts together again.) Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately remove from heat and pour half of it over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you’ll heat this up later to serve along with the assembled dessert. (Shortly before serving the tian, heat the caramel in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes minutes.)

For the Pate Sablee:

1.5 cups plus 2 T. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup plus 3 T. unsalted butter, cut into pieces and frozen
1/3 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
6 T. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Put the flour, baking powder, ice-cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, vanilla, and sugar with a whisk until the mixture is light and pale. Pour mixture into the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If the dough is a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again, until it sticks together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thick circle. Place the removable bottom of a 9-inch tart pan over the dough and cut a circle to the shape. Place the large circle of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the circle is just golden. Set aside to cool to room temp.

For the Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 T. of hot water
1 tsp gelatin
1 T. confectioner’s sugar
1 T. orange marmalade (I omitted this)

In a small bowl, add the gelatin and hot water, stirring well until the gelatin dissolves. Let the gelatin cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. (Or just skip this and make normal whipped cream.)

Place the cream in a chilled mixing bowl and whip on low speed until the cream starts to thicken, about one minutes. Add the powdered sugar and increase the speed to medium-high. Whip until the beaters leave visible but not lasting trails in the cream, then add the gelatin while beating continuously. Continue beating until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade, if using.

Assembling the Dessert:

Make sure you have enough room for a baking sheet in your freezer.

Line baking sheet with parchment, and place 9-inch tart pan on the sheet. Drain the caramel-soaked orange segments on a paper towel, then arrange in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Try to make it pretty, as this will be the top of your dessert when it comes time to serve it.

Once the oranges are arranged, place several dollops of whipped cream on top of the oranges, then gently spread cream into an even layer. Make sure to leave enough room for the dough circle to be placed on top.

Spread a thin, even layer of orange marmalade over the circle of dough, then carefully place circle marmalade-side-down on top of the whipped cream. Gently press down on the dough to make sure the dessert is compacted together. Place the dessert in the freezer to set. (If serving right away, it only needs to set for 10 minutes. But if you’re serving it later, let it freeze for as long as you want, then unmold it and give it 30 minutes in the fridge to soften up.)

To serve: Using a thin knife, gently go around the edges of the tart pan to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Place a serving plate on top of the tart pan, then turn the whole thing over. Gently remove the tart pan, leaving the tian behind. Cut into 8 slices and serve with warmed caramel sauce.

Cherry Pistachio White Chocolate Blondies

Source: Smitten Kitchen and my childhood
Yield: One 9×9 pan

When I was in middle school, my mom would pay me ten dollars a week to wash the kitchen floor. From what I recall, I usually did it when I was home alone, so I could crank up the music and glide around the kitchen like a blissed-out Cinderella. Sometime during that era, I also learned how to make blondies from scratch. I had found some recipe in my mom’s worn, fragile family cookbook — one that was filled with her own mother’s handwriting — and I was sold on the simple combination of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Easy, delicious, perfect.

I remember making that recipe one afternoon before I started washing the floor. As I prepped my cleaning supplies, the pan of blondies — set out on the counter to cool — sat patiently waiting for me to devour them. One bucket of hot, soapy water later, I was in a rhythm: run the mop up one row of floor tile, stop at the counter, eat a blondie square, run the mop down the next row of floor tile. Repeat. Until most of the blondies were gone. Now THAT, my friends, is the way to make household chores fun. I might as well have been a puppy in training, eager for my comestible reward.

You might think I’d have ruined blondies for myself, associating them with kitchen cleaning. But no. For one thing, I actually kind of liked cleaning the kitchen floor. And for another, blondies are irresistibly delicious. Warm, caramelized brown sugar; thick, chewy, buttery bites; plenty of room for whatever add-ins suit your fancy, from chocolate chips to nuts to dried fruit. These cherry pistachio white chocolate blondies have all three. They’re ripe for experimentation, too, so feel free to adapt your add-ins. But I think this particular combination is my favorite.

To this day, eating a blondie hits some part of my brain that says “Good! Good good good!” I’m pretty sure I would do most any chore with the promise of a blondie at the end. Clearly, positive reinforcement works.

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt (reduce to a pinch if you’re using salted butter)
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped salted pistachios
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

(A note on the amount of add-ins — feel free to add more or less of each depending on your taste. I did an even split among the three and it was pretty perfect.)

Another awesome thing about blondies? They could not be easier to make. A baking pan, a saucepan, and a stove are all you need. And also, ingredients. Unless you’re making Air Blondies, which, if you are, get off my blog.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9×9 square baking pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then beat in your egg. Stir in flour, then fold in cherries, pistachios, and chips.

Smooth batter into pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.

Cool, then cut into however many squares you want.

Tangy-Tart Lemon Bars

A few years ago, back when Terwilliger and I were still suffering through winter on the East coast, his So-Cal grandmother sent his family a box of legendary lemons from the tree in her backyard.

“These are the best lemons you’ll ever have,” Terwilliger told me, holding one to my nose so I could smell the sweet-tart aroma. The lemon was a deep, golden yellow, and it smelled like flowers and earth. I appreciated it, but I didn’t really understand just how awesome the lemons were until we ended up out here in San Diego, where we are terribly spoiled by our current locale.

In our yard, we have two orange trees — navel and Valencia — and the legendary lemon tree. We are not sure if they’re Meyer lemons, but they are fantastic lemons. This month the tree is just bursting with citrus, its branches heavy with clusters of fragrant, deep-yellow fruit, and I’ve been looking forward to using them in recipes.

Hello, lemon bars. When I was a kid, with no legendary lemons at my disposal, I would make lemon bars from a box mix, and it was the easiest thing in the world. I was so accustomed to the flavor of boxed crust that years later when I had my first from-scratch lemon bar, with its buttery shortbread base, I thought it was weird. Good, but not like a “real” lemon bar. I’m telling you, I loved the box mix. (One weekend when my mom was out of town, my dad and I ate an entire pan of box-mix-bars in 24 hours. We were great fans.)

But as my snobbery palate has developed over the years, I’ve moved away from box mixes, and I’ve come to salivate over homemade lemon bars. But I’ve never made them myself. So for this endeavor, I combed through various recipes, trying to find one that seemed like the ideal ratio of tart-to-sweet. I was also looking for something that used an excessive amount of lemon juice, since we have so many lemons to use. This recipe, from the Baking Bites Cookbook, used the most juice and looked incredibly easy to put together.

You’d think I would realize that by using as much lemon juice as possible, I would be creating something that was mouth-puckeringly tart. But I didn’t think about it until I tried one of these. Hoooo boy, these have some zing. They’re very good, but I’m thinking one small piece at a time is my limit, lest my throat start hurting from the acidity of the citrus juice.

But as I said, they are good. The shortbread crust has a light texture and perfect buttery flavor, and the filling is more like a lemon curd, smooth and slick and tangy. These are rather thin, so if you prefer a thicker crust and thicker lemon filling, I’d suggest baking the recipe below in a 9×9 square pan instead of the 9×13 called for.

Crust:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling:
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 T. lemon zest
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat 350 F.

In a large bowl (mixer optional), cream butter and sugar until well-combined. Stir in flour, salt, zest, and vanilla and mix until you have a grainy, crumbly dough, like coarse sand. Transfer mixture to a 9×13 baking pan (I left mine ungreased and the bars came out just fine) and press firmly to bring dough together. Bake crust for 15 – 17 minutes, or until the crust is juuuuust beginning to brown at the edges.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. This part is really easy: combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whirl until well-combined. If you don’t have a food processor, a spoon and a bowl will work just fine. Pour filling over hot crust, and then bake for 11 – 14* minutes, or until the filling is set and the edges have gotten barely golden. (*My oven cooks slow, but even still, this took more like 20 – 22 minutes for me.)

Remove from oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then transfer bars to fridge and chill for an hour before serving. To serve, cut into 20 squares and sift powdered sugar over all (you might want to use quite a bit, to cut the tartness of the filling).

Cranapplepear Crisp

Serves 4
Adapted from Simply in Season

Okay, okay, I know I recently said I want to post more recipes than only dessert, but I have a lot of desserts I’ve already made that are waiting for posting. And I think they deserve to see the light of day. Like this fruit crisp, which is wintry and warm and refreshing and sharp all at once.

For some reason, I recently bought two bags of cranberries when I was at the market. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was completely taken with the “use one, freeze another!” marketing. I’m a little susceptible to marketing in general, really. But anyway, I ended up with all these cranberries in my freezer, which isn’t too much of a problem, since apparently you can freeze cranberries for a whole freakin’ year.

Anyhoo, I wanted to find a good use for cranberries, since I couldn’t justify making another serious dessert such as this. My Simply in Season cookbook had a recipe for cranberry-apple crisp, but I had a proliferation of pears and only one apple. So I cut the recipe in half and just messed with it until I had the proper ratio of fruit.

The result was really good, guys! It’s a pretty traditional fruit crisp, but less butter makes it lighter, and the oats and fruit add a hearty helping of fiber. And we all know how important fiber is. Sweet from the pears and apples and tart from the cranberries (which almost taste like cherries), this is excellent paired with vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:

1 firm-ripe pear, sliced
1 apple (I used fuji), peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/4 cup plus 4 T. brown sugar, divided use
1/4 cup plus 2 T. flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Toss pear slices, apple slices, and cranberries together in pan. Sprinkle with 2 T. brown sugar. Set aside while you prepare the topping.

In a small bowl, stir together remaining brown sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons), flour, oats, cinnamon. Cut butter into mixture using either a pastry blender or your fingertips, until the mixture is grainy.The bits of butter should be about the size of peas, with some smaller and larger flakes.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the fruit is soft and the topping is crisp. Serve warm with ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart

Happy 2010, everyone! I’m not much of a resolution-maker, but I do have two for this blog:

1) To take better photographs. I’ve mostly been using my little Canon point-and-shoot, which doesn’t offer the greatest images. Sometimes I use Terwilliger’s fancy Nikon, but I don’t know anything about the settings. So, I’m resolving to learn more about the settings and find some better lighting for better photos.

2) I hope to post more dinner items on this here blog in the coming months. For one thing, Terwilliger and I do manage to eat dinner on a regular basis, and I would like to document the recipes I’m using. Especially because I’m learning to modify things and make tweaks with tasty results, and that’s exciting to me. I’m finding that I actually like to *cook,* not just bake, and I want to nurture that.

And, okay, there’s another thing: as you know, I really, really love the baked goods, but, well, my wardrobe doesn’t. And the thing is, I’ve been baking like a fiend because “I can put it on the blog later.” And that’s just giving me an excuse to bake every day. (Which is not a bad thing in itself, but it can be bad when there are only two people in the household and one of them doesn’t have an overwhelming sweet tooth and the other one will eat every brownie in sight. You will easily guess which one I am.) So basically what I’m saying is that I’d like cut back on the baking obsession, just a little bit. Plus, I think T is getting tired of me force-feeding him desserts.

But before I get all “this is not solely a baking blog,” I have to share the dessert I made for Christmas with you guys. Because it is good, oh, it is good. It’s a cranberry pecan frangipane tart from Smitten Kitchen, and it will knock your socks off.

Are you wondering what “frangipane” is? I was too when I first noticed this recipe more than a year ago. I still don’t know how to pronounce it, but apparently frangipane is sweetened, creamy almond paste. This one is made with pecans, though, so maybe it’s not a true frangipane. But whatever. It’s fantastic, and that’s what matters.

I’m not singing the praises of this treat just because it’s sweet and buttery and therefore delicious. No, there’s more to it than that: the rich, distinctive bite of the pecans is heightened by a hint of orange zest, and the sharp whole cranberries mellow out into the perfect foil for the sweet frangipane. Also, the crisp shortbread crust is heavenly.

I made this for Christmas night dinner, which included T and me and our friends Jake & Steph. I also made real food: roast chicken with lemon, traditional mashed potatoes, and green beans with sauteed shallots. While that wasn’t the first full meal with sides that I’ve made, it was the first official holiday dinner I’ve prepared. And that’s pretty nice, friends. I don’t know why cooking still seems like this club I never thought I’d be in, but every time I eat a meal of my own making, and it’s good, I’m a little amazed. I guess I’ll get used to it, won’t I? Especially if I hold on to resolution #2.

Here’s your Christmas tart, or Friday tart, or really Any Day of the Week tart…

*There are some do-ahead elements of this recipe, so plan your baking around that. The tart dough needs to be chilled for a total of 2 and a half hours (minimum), and the frangipane also needs to be chilled for at least 3 hours. The frangipane can be made two days in advance and kept in the fridge until needed. Same with the tart dough, come to that.*

Ingredients:

For the tart crust:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 T. (9 T.) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

For the filling:

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 & 1/2 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 3 T. sugar
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 & 1/2 tsp. orange zest
3/4 cup whole, fresh cranberries

To make the tart crust:

I used my food processor to make the crust, and it was incredibly easy. If you don’t have a food processor, just cut in the butter using two knives or a pastry blender. My instructions are going to assume you have one, though.

Place flour, sugar and salt in bowl of processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Scatter butter pieces over dry ingredients and pulse until butter is coarsely cut in (with some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas). Beat egg in separate bowl; slowly add beaten egg to processor bowl a little at a time and pulse. When the egg is added, process in two long 10-second pulses. Turn dough onto a work surface and gather dough into a ball, very lightly kneading just to get any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper or wax paper, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using wax paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Tuck dough against the sides of the pan. Trim overhang to half an inch and use extra dough to patch any cracks or thin spots. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork, including the sides. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Now it’s time to fully bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until it’s firm and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.

Make the frangipane:

Place pecans and flour in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add sugar and pulse to mix. Add butter and orange zest and blend until smooth. Add egg and egg white and process until mixed. Transfer filling to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Can be made ahead and kept in fridge for two days.)

To assemble & bake the tart:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Using a spatula, smooth the frangipane filling into the baked tart crust. The frangipane will be thick, almost like frosting. I piled the filling in the middle of the crust and smoothed it out from there. The tart crust should be filled to just under the edge of the crust — you may have a little frangipane left over.

Arrange the whole cranberries however you wish over the frangipane. (I pressed them in a haphazard pattern, one at a time, into the filling.)

Place filled tart pan on a cookie sheet to catch any spillage (the cranberries will probably bubble a bit when they’re baking). Bake tart until golden on top and until a tester inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean, about 45 – 55 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push the pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. (The tart can be made 8 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.) Cut tart into wedges (8 – 10, depending on how big you make them), and serve.

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Source: Cookies, Brownies, and Bars
Makes: 48

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I’ve gotta be honest about something: I don’t get that excited about cheesecake. If I’m faced with a dessert buffet, it’s is the last thing I’m going to consider. (Though I do love The Cheesecake Factory for its massive, motley menu.) I do love the little muffin cakes with cherry pie topping that my mom makes at Christmastime, but those are practically diet food compared with the richness of a slice of standard cheesecake.

So it follows that I’m not much of a cheesecake baker. But I had some leftover cream cheese from some icing, and I had some graham crackers I needed to get rid of, and blueberries seemed awfully festive at the time (I’ve had this recipe sitting in my drafts folder for about two months), so I whipped up these blueberry cheesecake bars for a party.

They were good.

Enough to make me think that perhaps my reluctance to eat cheesecake is actually more an act of self-preservation than preference. Because if I really let myself love cheesecake, well, let’s just say my pants wouldn’t fit. And I hate shopping for pants.

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For the crust:
2 & 3/4 C. graham cracker crumbs
2 T. sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
4 large eggs, at room temp.
1 & 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temp.
1 C. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. sour cream
2 C. blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 325. Press a 20-inch piece of aluminum foil onto the bottom and over the sides of a 13 x 9 baking pan. Butter the foil.

In a bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter and stir until moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake until slightly darkened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly.

To make the filling, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended; set aside. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Using a mixer on medium speed, beat until well blended, about one minute, scraping down bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and beat just until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add half the beaten eggs and beat just until fully blended. Add the sour cream and beat just until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using a large spoon, gently stir in the blueberries. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake until the filling looks set and does not wobble when the pan is shaken, about 40 – 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until the top is room temp, about 1 hour. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Holding the ends of the foil, lift the bars onto a cutting surface. Use a warmed knife to cut the bar into 48 pieces. Store the bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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