crunchy and custardy peach tart

It’s hot.  Usually at this time of year, I’m glaring at everyone who is eating chili and baking pumpkin treats and looking forward to fall, wondering how anyone could possibly want to move on from the sunny days of summer.  But now it’s too hot, and I just want a few days where the high temperatures are below 90 degrees.  Below 90…that’s all I ask.

On the other hand, I’m not ready to give up summer food!  I haven’t had anywhere near my fill of stone fruits, berries, and tomatoes.  I’m lucky that Rachel’s choice for Tuesdays with Dorie this week gave me a chance to use peaches.  You can’t go wrong with a good summer peach.

In this case, those summer peaches were sliced, spread over tart dough, covered in rich custard, and dotted with streusel.  All of those extra textures and flavors just enhanced the perfection of the peaches.  Unfortunately, it involved an hour and a half of oven time.  Delicious though it was, perhaps I wouldn’t need yet another cooling shower right now if we’d eaten the peaches plain…

Rachel has this recipe posted on her blog.  I think I undercooked mine.  It was still very juicy, and the streusel wasn’t browned.  On the other hand, the tart crust was getting too dark, and the custard seemed curdled.  I don’t know the answer, although perhaps one isn’t necessary, as we certainly weren’t complaining about the tart as it was.

One year ago: Lime Cream Meringue Pie
Two years ago: Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte

chocolate ganache ice cream

I was doubting Dorie when I mixed up the custard for this ice cream. It’s made like any other custard-based ice cream, so I would have sworn that Dorie threw “ganache” in the title just to make it sound fancier and more decadent, when in fact it was just standard chocolate ice cream.

Oh, how wonderfully wrong I was. After the custard had chilled, I found that it had a texture similar to ganache, not like a looser regular ice cream base. So thick and smooth and rich, I was afraid that there was no improving on this, and that churning it into ice cream would just ruin that delicious texture.

Not only did it not diminish its luscious texture, but  when you churn custard into ice cream, you mix in air, giving you more volume. That means more ganache custard. And that is very, very good thing.

Katrina chose this recipe for the group, and she has it posted. I added some vanilla to the custard right before chilling.

One year ago: Brownie Buttons
Two years ago: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

lemon curd tart

After the lemon cream tart, I was pretty sure I was done with lemon cream. With thirty tablespoons of butter in the whole tart, there is no reasonably sized serving. And then there’s my favorite lemon tart, which uses the whole lemon, peel and all. But I was making this for my mom, and I had a feeling she wouldn’t enjoy the pucker of that one quite as much as I do. There’s a third option for lemon tarts, probably the most classic version, and that is filled with lemon curd.

The ingredients in all three are the similar – there are eggs, lemons, sugar, and butter, but the ratios and the method for combining the ingredients differ. Only the tartest lemon tart includes heavy cream, but the most important difference between the recipes aside from that is the amount of butter – 21 tablespoons in the filling for the lemon cream and 8 tablespoons in the tartest make the four tablespoons here (plus what’s in the crust of course) seem downright skimpy.

The lemon cream manages to hold 21 tablespoons of butter in only 4 eggs and ½ cup of lemon juice because it’s emulsified when the butter is slowly added to the other ingredients.  The tartest tart is the simplest, in that the ingredients are just thrown together and blended, then baked, like lemon squares. For the curd, the ingredients are mixed in a double boiler. (I seem to have added all the ingredients at once instead of slowly stirring the butter in after the other ingredients heated. It apparently worked.)

This curd reminds me of why lemon cream, to me, isn’t worth it. Yes, it’s smooth and balanced and so, so good, but this lemon curd tart is so, so good too. It’s different from the cream, yes, but not worse. My favorite lemon tart is still the tartest though – I love that bitter hint from the lemon peel. This, however, is a crowd pleaser.

One year ago: Casatiello
Two years ago: Soba Salad with Feta and Peas

Printer Friendly Recipe
Lemon Curd Tart
(adapted from Joy of Baking)

Serves 6 – 8

tart crust for a 9-inch pan, completely baked and cooled (I used Dorie Greenspan’s)
3 large eggs
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated white sugar
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest

1. In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, whisking constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes pale in color and quite thick (like a hollandaise sauce or sour cream) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C on a thermometer). This will take about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest, cover, and let cool to room temperature before filling the pastry crust. (Note: The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Covering the lemon curd with plastic wrap prevents a skin from forming on the surface.) Serve plain or with softly whipped cream and fresh berries.

strawberry chocolate ice cream pie

The rest of the country (hemisphere, I suppose) is gearing up for summer. Here in the desert though, we’ve been there for a while. This weekend Dave and I hiked over seven miles in 90 degree weather. It’s a dry heat though! (Actually, the hike wasn’t bad at all – it was either shady or windy the whole time, so although we were hot, we weren’t dying. And the dry heat does make a difference.)

the beginning of homemade chocolate ice cream

Ice cream pie is perfect for the weather we’ve been having. The specific ingredients called for here aren’t perfect for me though. I eat so many bananas as snacks that the idea of adding them to chocolate ice cream for dessert didn’t sound appealing. Strawberries, however, can be added to most any dessert.

Oh, except maybe not one that’s going to be stored in the freezer like this. Sliced strawberries between the crust and the ice cream turned into ice cubes in the freezer; I should have given them a dip in vodka before freezing them to keep them from freezing so solidly. Other than that, what’s not to love about this dessert? I don’t need to tell you that chocolate ice cream and strawberries are a tempting combination – especially when it’s a hundred degrees out.

Spike chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Chipster-Topped Brownies
Two years ago: Pecan-Honey Sticky Buns

cherry-cherry bread pudding

Seasonal fruit – I like it. I eat the strawberries in the spring and the blueberries in the summer and the apples in the fall and the apples, still, in the winter. I do not eat the apples in the spring. And apparently I shouldn’t eat the cherries in the spring either, because these were the most terrible, tasteless, watery cherries I’ve ever had.

I was vaguely hoping that baking them would concentrate their flavor enough so that they, you know, had some, but no, that just gave me cooked terrible cherries. Poor bread pudding, ruined by bad cherries. I guess I should have gone for the apples after all.

Now the bread pudding part, that I certainly enjoyed. It’s bread, it’s custard – it’s French toast! I’ll make it with the apples in the fall to enjoy this recipe in all its glory.

Elizabeth chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I used 1 cup (terrible!) cherries, pitted and halved, in place of the caramelized apples, cherry jam instead of apple butter, and all whole milk rather than a mixture of milk and heavy cream. And I forgot to add a dash of salt to the custard, which I regretted.

One year ago: Mango Bread
Two years ago: Traditional Madeleines

quick classic berry tart

I can’t be the only one who prefers recipes that use whole eggs instead of egg parts. It isn’t just a mild packrat tendency, although I’m sure that’s part of it. I buy the expensive eggs – the ones that are hopefully (but questionably, I know) from slightly less mistreated animals. Throwing away egg whites is throwing away money. And sure, you can freeze egg whites (because it’s always egg whites I have leftover; delicious rich emulsifying egg yolks I can almost always find a use for), but what’s the point of gathering a collection of frozen egg whites that I’ll never use?

All this to say that I didn’t really make Dorie’s classic berry tart. I made Tartine’s. Their pastry cream is the only I’ve seen that uses whole eggs instead of egg yolks. I like the silky light texture that results from the addition of egg whites. Likewise, their tart dough uses whole eggs, so I went ahead and made that too, instead of Dorie’s.

Of course the result was fantastic – every baking book has some variation of tart dough + pastry cream + berries, and for good reason – it’s an unbeatable combination. I’m confident this tart would be just as good with Dorie’s recipes; I’ve made both her pastry cream and her tart dough, and they’re wonderful. They’re especially great if you enjoy egg white omelets so you don’t end up with a freezer full of egg whites.

Christine chose this, and she has Dorie’s recipes posted.

One year ago: Tartest Lemon Tart
Two years ago: Florida Pie

burnt sugar ice cream

I used to be so good with caramel. For years, I made caramel with no problems, and then when I made this hazelnut cake, everything changed. I can’t remember how many batches of caramel I made for that cake, each one forming crystals instead of turning amber; I do remember that even the final batch crystallized, but I had given up. Since then, it’s been hit or miss – probably half of my caramel attempts crystallize. I’ve lost my caramel mojo.

I know a lot of my problem is that I’m working with smaller batches than the recipe recommends. Working with caramel is notoriously difficult in small batches, but my freezer is already stocked with vanilla cake, three types of cookies, and cheesecake. A half batch of burnt sugar ice cream would be plenty for us.

Fortunately, there’s an ace in the hole when it comes to caramel – corn syrup. A seemingly insignificant squirt of the sticky stuff can make all the difference in whether you get to move on to the next step in the recipe or you dump out yet another batch of sugar and start over.

So with that taken care of, I was finally able to make some ice cream. And lo! it was good. Smooth and chunk-free, which is my preference, plus that deep caramelly hint of bitterness makes for a really fun ice cream flavor.

Becky chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. For the first time in weeks, I didn’t add any salt to Dorie’s recipe!  But I did add a squeeze of corn syrup to the sugar/water mixture.

One year ago: Tiramisu Cake
Two years ago: Peanut Butter Torte

soft chocolate and berry tart

Chocolate and raspberry was my favorite flavor combination for a long time. It’s still up there for sure, but I’ve tried so many desserts recently that I’ve found all kinds of other great pairs – orange and vanilla, peaches and amaretto, cream cheese and anything. There’s no need to play favorites, but I was excited about making a chocolate and raspberry tart.

Then I used strawberries instead. Sometimes baking for Tuesdays with Dorie happens to be one item on a long (but manageable!) To Do list, and those times, I make do – and I had strawberries in the freezer. Even though Dorie specifically recommends against using strawberries because they’re too juicy, I went ahead with what I had. I defrosted a few, diced them small, sprinkled them with sugar, and set them aside to give off some liquid, which I drained before using the berries in the recipe. (I had a brief thought of “what should I do with the liquid?” Then – wait a minute! That’s sugary strawberry juice! And I drank it.)

I’d call it a success! My tart was a bit sloppy when I cut into it, but it was still crisp tart crust, rich chocolate, and sweet berries. No one complained about combining chocolate and strawberries around here, that’s for sure.  Rachelle has the original recipe posted on her site.

One year ago: Lemon Cup Custards

toasted-coconut custard tart

I used to not like coconut. That was dumb. I used to not like a lot of ingredients that are actually very good – ingredients that I’m not sure I’d actually tried. That was also dumb.

Although I think I would have liked this tart even back in my coconut-adverse days. There’s toasted coconut both in the pastry cream itself and sprinkled over the top of the tart, but it seemed to affect the texture of the tart more than the flavor.

It was good either way, but I wish I’d added a drop of coconut extract to the filling. Or maybe used coconut milk instead of regular milk in the pastry cream? Does that work? It sounds delicious.

However you make it, you can’t go wrong with crisp tart crust, smooth pastry cream, and light whipped cream topped with crunchy toasted coconut. Beryl chose this tart for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Caramel Crunch Bars

banana cream pie

Dave lucked out this year when his annual birthday pie didn’t come out quite right. Because then I made another one, and then when that one wasn’t perfect either, I made another one.

The recipe is Tartine’s, and as usual, they take a classic and kick it up a notch. Their banana cream pie has the traditional flaky crust, pastry cream, bananas, and whipped cream. Then they add caramel and a thin layer of chocolate over the crust to keep the pastry cream from compromising the crust’s crispness.

The chocolate layer in my first pie was way too thick. It was like a Hershey bar on the bottom of the pie. It was impossible to cut. Dave compared it to armor. The second time, I slimmed down the chocolate, but ran out of sugar when I was making the caramel. I thought I’d come up with a way around the sugar issue, but it must not have worked because the caramel layer was hard and chewy. If the chocolate had been like leather armor over the crust, this was chain mail.

I tried one more time. And, finally! A very thin chocolate layer, the added subtleties of caramel, two layers of sliced bananas, Tartine’s wonderful light pastry cream, all topped with sweet whipped cream. Perfection. Although after my third banana cream pie in as many weeks, I am so ready for some cake or something. I’m not sure Dave agrees.

One year ago: Crispy Baked Chicken Strips
Two years ago: Moo Shu Pancakes

Printer Friendly Recipe
Banana Cream Pie (completely rewritten and slightly tweaked from Tartine’s cookbook)

Full disclosure:

1) The pastry cream pretty much always curdles for me before it boils, but I just pour it into the strainer set over a bowl, whisk like crazy and strain it, and it always ends up smooth and delicious.

2) Working with small amounts of caramel can be tricky, but I had no problems with these quantities. If you see crystals forming when the sugar mixture is bubbling, discard those ingredients and start over. If you’re worried about it working right, you might want to make twice the amount listed here and save half of it for another use.

3) I’m too lazy to set up a makeshift double boiler for 1 ounce of chocolate and I’m biased against microwaves for some reason, so I just melt the chocolate in a very small saucepan over low heat while stirring constantly.

4) The photo of the slice shows only half the whipped cream called for in the recipe, because I ran out of cream.

Pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scraped out
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes

5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
½ tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch salt
3 tablespoons cream
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter, cut into four pieces

Whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pie crust for single-crust 9-inch pie, fully baked and cooled
1 ounce chocolate, finely chopped
3 bananas, sliced ¼-inch thick

1. For the pastry cream: Pour a bit of water into a medium saucepan and dump it out. I know it sounds strange, but wetting the bottom of the pot before adding the milk really helps keep the milk from forming a browned layer on the bottom. Add the milk, salt, and vanilla seeds to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, then whisk in the eggs. When the milk boils, pour just a bit of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Keep whisking and very gradually add the rest of the milk to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pot and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just starts to boil; it will only take a few minutes (see note #1). Quickly pour the pastry cream into a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl (I use the same bowl I originally mixed everything in). Use a rubber spatula to push the pastry cream through the strainer. Let the pastry cream cool for a few minutes, occasionally stirring it, and then mix in the butter, 2 cubes at a time. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate it until completely chilled, 3-4 hours or overnight.

2. For the caramel: Pour the sugar into the center of a tall, heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (see note #2). Carefully pour the water and corn syrup over the sugar. Gently stir the mixture with a clean spatula. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Before it boils, you can stir it a bit if it seems to be heating unevenly and the sugar isn’t dissolving, but once it starts to boil, stop stirring. You can gently swirl the pan if it seems to be cooking unevenly. Once the mixture becomes a light amber color, remove it from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble up a lot, so stand back. Give it a few seconds to die down, then whisk the cream into the caramel. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice, then stir in the butter one cube at a time. Pour the caramel into a small dish.

3. Pour about an inch of water into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer (see note #3). Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl, place the bowl over the simmering water, and heat, stirring pretty often, until the chocolate is melted. Pour the chocolate into the cooled crust and use a pastry brush to spread it evenly. Set the chocolate aside to set for a few minutes.

4. For the whipped cream: Place the mixer bowl and whisk attachment (or beaters for a handheld mixer) in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. When the bowl is cold, add the cream and beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating at high speed until firm peaks form.

5. Pour the warm-not-hot caramel over the chocolate and spread it fairly evenly. Spread half the pastry cream over the caramel, then arrange half of the banana slices over the pastry cream. Repeat with the remaining pastry cream and bananas. Spread the whipped cream over the bananas. Refrigerate the pie at least 4 hours or overnight, until set.