Good afternoon everybody! I hope the holiday season has been going well for all you guys. I’ve been home for almost a week at this point, thanks to Northwestern’s wonky schedule. I can’t believe that I’m already done with my first quarter of sophomore year, but I head back to school the day after New Year’s, so I’m trying to make the most out of the time that I’m back: relaxing, baking, practicing, and going into New York City a whole bunch. Chicago is great and all, but I really do miss the northeast while I’m at school. I already have my heart set on living/going to school in NYC after Northwestern, but I still have many years before that.
I have an overwhelming love for cranberries, specifically raw cranberries. I’ll eat them by the handful, and it amuses my mom to no end. She will specifically buy them for me in anticipation for my return, and in this case, it was Thanksgiving. Although I made this beautiful pie for dessert for my Thanksgiving meal, it would be a wonderful addition to any dessert potluck or get-together this holiday season. Between the thousands of cookies that are bound to be offered, this stunner is sure to stand out.
I’ll admit- I did cheat a bit and use frozen pie crust. Partly because I don’t really eat the pie crust anyway, and partly because I planned out my dessert baking poorly and didn’t have the hours for homemade pie crust to chill in the fridge. I loved the addition of pears- the extreme sweetness counteracted the especially tart raw cranberries, and it made a pretty darn good breakfast the day after too 🙂
Fit one pie crust into a 9-inch baking dish and refrigerate until ready to use.
Take the other pie crust and cut into strips, of either equal or varying widths. Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For the filling, in a medium pot, combine the pears, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Cover and cook until the pears are tender, but not mushy, approximately 15-20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Stir in the cranberries to the pear mixture and pour into the prepared baking dish.
Even though it’s only Tuesday, my week is already fantastic. I was able to finish all of my finals early last week so I would be able to come to Ottawa, Ontario, to attend a summer music program! So yes, I’m technically blogging internationally, which is totally a first for me. I’m having so much fun meeting other kids and seeing some old friends too, and I can’t wait to spend 2 weeks here.
In addition to all of the music fun that’s been happening, we had our yearly gymnastics banquet last Friday night. It was so sweet seeing everyone from the gym dressed up in their pretty dresses and sparkly shoes (especially the little kids), but it was also emotional because the gymnast who is a senior this year is leaving after 16 years at Arena. We are all so proud of her and know that she’ll be an absolute start in college gymnastics!
Since my summer is just beginning (even though it’s not June 21), I thought that I would share an absolutely delicious tart with you guys. My mom has been working away at her website, which is sure to be launched in August, and I’ve been helping with a lot of the baking. We had a nice selection of strawberries that were begging to be used, and they were just too pretty to shove into a pie or crumble. This recipe is courtesy of Molly O’Neill, former food writer for the New York Times.
Strawberry Almond Tarts
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/4 cup ice water
4 ounces almond paste
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish.
1. Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until butter is the size of small peas. Add the water and pulse until dough barely begins to come together. Press the dough together with your hands, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Fit it into a 9 1/2-inch quiche dish. Line the crust with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or raw beans and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the paper and the weights and bake for 2 minutes more. Set aside.
3. Place the almond paste and butter in a food processor and process until smooth. Mix in the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg and vanilla and process until smooth. Scrape the mixture into the tart shell, spread into an even layer and bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool.
4. Make a ring of strawberries around the edge of the dish, leaning the cut side of the berries up against the edge. Repeat, making concentric circles until the tart is covered. Just before serving, sift confectioners’ sugar over the top. Cut into wedges. Serve.
Happy holidays everybody! I hope everyone has had a wonderful time at their seders or will have a great time at their upcoming Easter brunches. Now is a wonderful time to spend some time with family and friends, and of course, prepare and enjoy lots of food. Some of my highlights included the 7 different types of charoset that my mom and I prepared, ranging from American Ashkenazi to Moroccan Charoset Balls, to Persian. All of them were incredibly delicious and there’s more than enough to last me until next Tuesday!
Some exciting news about gymnastics is that I made regionals! I had the state championships this past weekend and not only did I win floor, bars, and the all around for my age group, but I qualified to the Super Team! That is above the regular 15+ team, and the scores are the top 7 all-around scores for the entire meet, regardless of age. To say the least, I’m incredibly excited to compete and to have qualified to regionals for the second year in a row.
But that’s enough about me. The starts of this post should really be these pop tarts. These delights from King Arthur Flour have been in my recipes-to-make list for awhile, but I was always intimidated by making my own crust, mostly because of the giant butter v. vegetable shortening debate. Like yeast, I was able to get over it, and I’m so glad I did. These were almost like hand pies, because of the crispy buttery-ness of the crust and the sweet fruit filling. They were basically the most gourmet pop-tarts I’ve ever had!
Homemade Pop Tarts
2 cups (8 ½ ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 quarter-pound sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
1/2 cup (3 ¾ ounces) brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons All-Purpose Flour
1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling
3/4 cup jam (I used strawberry)
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible. Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive.
Divide the dough in half; each half will weigh about 10 ounces (about 280g). Shape each half into a rough 3″ x 5″ rectangle, smoothing the edges. Roll out immediately; or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Make the filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour. If using the fruit filling, mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.
Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. Laying a 9″ x 13″ pan atop the dough will give you an idea if you’ve rolled it large enough. Trim off the edges; place the scraps on a baking sheet, and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.
Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first. Press the edge of a ruler into the dough you’ve just rolled, to gently score it in thirds lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll see nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.
Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Cut the dough evenly in between the filling mounds to make nine tarts. Press the cut edges with your fingers to seal, then press with a fork, to seal again.
Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.
Sprinkle the dough trimmings with cinnamon-sugar; these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack. While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, till they’re golden brown.
Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 25 to 35 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.
Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your Labor day! I survived my first week of school and now that was the last blast of summer before I truly get down to business. I headed back to gymnastics this week after taking a full week off, so no crazy new things. I experimented with some really cool floor choreography and I’m still in the search for some great floor music! Feel free to throw out some suggestions!
What do you know, another fantastic summer fruit recipe. Instead of using all of the perfectly ripe peaches (peach recipes are coming!) I saw some fantastic looking fresh apricots at the store and needed to find a recipe that would just let the fruit shine. If you’ve never had a fresh apricot, the outside is similar to the texture of a peach, but the inside is sweeter. With just some puff pastry dough to hold the gorgeous fruit in, this super simple recipe from BBC is an easy crowd pleaser. Simple, delicious, basically healthy…? 🙂
Apricot and Raspberry Tart
3 Large sheets filo dough
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons apricot jam, melted
6 ripe apricots, pitted, peeled and chopped
3 ounces raspberries
Preheat the oven to 375, let the filo dough thaw, and set up one baking sheet.
Brush each layer of filo dough with melted butter and fold the sheet over itself, making a small rectangle. Use your fingers to fold in the edges and make a 2 cm boarder. Brush the boarder with the melted jelly. Slide the filo dough onto the tray and bake for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and scatter with the apricots. Glaze with any leftover butter. Bake for 10 minutes, then take it out, add the raspberries, and bake for another 10 minutes.
So simple, so pretty, so delicious…what’s not to love?
Today is my official last day of summer and at 7:30 tomorrow morning, my junior year will have officially begun! But today, my family and I are driving my brother up to college and getting him settled in. It will feel weird around the house to only have one sibling here and to not hear the constant whistling going on next to me while I do my homework. Who will be my homework buddy at midnight from now on? I’m certainly going to miss him, but I know that we’ll be seeing him again soon.
Now, we all know that the best part about late summer is the fantastic produce, and this summer is a way to get in those dark red, sweet as sugar cherries that I just love. The cherry crisp that I made last year was good, but this tart from Martha Stewart was amazing. I made it with reiner cherries which made the tart especially gorgeous. In addition to the graham cracker crumb on the bottom, I sprinkled on some almond paste, which gave the otherwise simple crust a candy like quality that was amazing. It was almost a little too hard, making it a (kind of) pain in the butt to cut through, but the flavor was absolutely amazing. With a simple cream in the middle, what’s not to love?
Fresh Cherry Tart
Makes 1 9” Tart
9 graham crackers (each 2 1/2 by 5 inches)
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup almond paste
6 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon seedless jam (I used apple)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9” tart pan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and 2 tbsp sugar until ground. Add the butter and process until combined. Transfer the mixture to the tart pan, and using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan. Sprinkle on the almond paste. Bake until browned, 10-12 minutes.
While that is baking, using an electric mixture on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract, almond extract, and 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the cream and beat until soft peaks form. Spread the mixture in the cooled crust and scatter cherries on top.
In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon of water. Heat on low until liquified, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, glaze the cherries.