split-level pudding

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Have you ever had a recipe go haywire and just not be able to figure out for the life of you what went wrong?  You review the recipe again and again, thinking, “well, it certainly looks like I did exactly what I was supposed to…”

One of the best parts of Tuesdays with Dorie is the discussion of the weekly recipe, where people can voice concerns, provide tips, and compare results.  If a bunch of us have the same issue, I feel pretty safe saying that the recipe has a finicky step.  We didn’t all follow the directions incorrectly, after all.  (But usually only a portion of us have problems, and I swear, I am always in that portion.)

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My pudding didn’t set up quite right.  It seemed perfect right off the stove, but then Dorie likes to give pudding a whirl in a food processor or blender before she chills it, just to make sure it’s lump free.  My smooth, thickened pudding turned right back to liquid after its time in the blender.  After it set up in the fridge, it was kind of…weird and lumpy.  And I wasn’t the only one with this problem.  No more blender/food processor step for me!  A fine-mesh strainer will do from here on out.

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Other that a slightly odd texture, what’s not to like about this?  Soothing, fresh vanilla paired with rich, comforting chocolate.  It’s a classic flavor combination for a reason.  Remind me in the future how good vanilla pudding is when a simple ganache is added.  That’s probably true for most things, though, right?

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Garrett should have the recipe posted.  As I said, in the future I’ll skip the food processor steps in favor of using a whisk and a fine-mesh strainer.  I might also add a little more cream (or less chocolate) to the ganache, because it was quite a bit more solid than the pudding.

One year ago: Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

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chocolate souffle

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I’ve noticed lately that some of the fanciest desserts are actually the easiest to make. Crème brulée? Mousse? Molten chocolate cake? There’s nothing difficult about any of them, and the same can be said of chocolate soufflé.

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You really just melt chocolate with sugar, then stir in milk and egg yolks. Whip some egg whites and fold them into the chocolate mixture. Bake. That’s all there is to it.

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Maybe the trickiest part is knowing when they’re done. I’ve underbaked, overbaked and perfectly baked soufflés, and I recommend erring on the side of less baked. I think I overbaked these, because they seemed too dry.

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They were also really really sweet, and I’m not sure if that was related to overbaking them, or the type of chocolate I used (Ghirardelli bittersweet), or something else. But even too sweet and too dry, it’s still chocolate soufflé, so no complaints. Especially considering how easy it was to make!

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

One year ago: Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops

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lime cream meringue pie

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Oh, how times change. I had kind of thought that last year’s lemon cream tart would be my first and last citrus cream experience. Seriously, that is a lot of butter. But apparently, my attitude toward rich foods has slowly evolved from ‘this is way too fattening for me to indulge in more than a few bites at a time’ to ‘well…it’s not like I eat like this all the time…’ except that, these days, I kinda do.

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The lime cream is made almost exactly the same as last year’s lemon cream – heat sugar, eggs, zest, and juice, then blend in softened butter – with the only difference a couple teaspoons of cornstarch that is added to the lime version, along with grated fresh ginger. Don’t take me lightly when I say there’s a lot of butter involved – the full pie calls for 2½ sticks (20 tablespoons), and that doesn’t even include the portion in the crust.

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Fortunately, I was hearing that some Tuesdays with Dorie members were decreasing the butter, sometimes by as much as half. I didn’t make quite such a dramatic change, using 4 tablespoons for the quarter of the recipe I made – so the equivalent of 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) for a whole recipe. It worked really well.

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I do like these citrus creams. I’m a big fan of citrus desserts, and of smooth, rich custards, so the combination is wonderful. I also really like meringue and, you know, torching food. So there really wasn’t much not to like for me this week! Except for the tiny portions I forced upon myself. Ah, compromise…

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Linda has the recipe posted. I decreased the meringue by half, because I happened to have that amount of egg whites leftover from something else.  Also, I didn’t strain out the zest.

One year ago: Black (and Pink) and White Chocolate Cake

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amaretto cheesecake

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My brother became known as the family cheesecake maker early on. I think we were still teenagers when he started getting cheesecake cookbooks. In one of those, there was a recipe for amaretto peach cheesecake that became a family favorite.

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I’m guessing it’s a Kraft recipe that’s widely available on the internet, but, frankly, I think I can do better than Kraft these days. Okay, fine, I think Dorie Greenspan can do better than Kraft, and I can add a bunch of amaretto to her Tall and Creamy Cheesecake recipe.

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The ratio of the main ingredients – the cream cheese, eggs, and sugar – is the same as Dorie’s recipe. I used heavy cream this time instead of sour cream because I didn’t want anything to fight with the almond flavor of the amaretto. I dumped in as much amaretto as I thought the batter could take, then added a teaspoon of almond extract to bump up the flavor even more. I used a sugar cookie crust instead of a graham cracker crust, again, so as not to fight with the almond flavor. Something sweet and subtle was more in line with my goals.

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The peach part of the picture was an afterthought in my case. I considered somehow adding it directly to the cream cheese mixture, but, I couldn’t figure out how to make this work. In the end, I think I’m happier with keeping the almond and peach parts separate anyway. I had wanted to make a peach coulis to top the cheesecake, but I ran out of time. Instead, I thinly sliced some peaches (canned, as this was several months before peach season) and sprinkled the tops with toasted almonds.

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And – yum. I was worried that the amaretto flavor would be too subtle, but I thought it was perfectly balanced. The texture was smooth and creamy, just what you want from cheesecake. It wasn’t quite as light as some cheesecakes, since I didn’t use much heavy cream, but it wasn’t overly dense either. The peaches and almond are such a great combination. I still think a light peach coulis would be perfect, but there’s certainly nothing bad about almond-scented cheesecake, sliced peaches, and toasted almonds. Who’s the family cheesecake maker now? ;)

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One year ago: Fruit Bruschetta

Amaretto Cheesecake

To make a full cheesecake instead of miniatures, use a 9-inch springform pan; bake the crust for 10 minutes and cook the cheesecake in a water bath for 90 minutes, keeping the same temperatures noted below.

Crust:
3 tablespoons butter
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
pinch salt
1 egg
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

Cheesecake:
4 (8-ounce) boxes cream cheese, room temperature
1⅓ cup (10.5 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, room temperature
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup amaretto
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray. (You could also line the muffin tin with cupcakes liners.)

2. For the crust: Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg, mixing until thoroughly integrated. Gradually add the flour, mixing just until combined. Divide the batter evenly between 24 muffin cups and spread over just the bottom of each tin. Bake 7-10 minutes, until the crusts are firm and just slightly browned around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

3. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until soft and smooth. (Of course, you can also use a hand mixer for this.) Add the sugar and salt and continue beating until smooth and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute between each addition. Add the cream, amaretto, lemon juice, and almond extract and beat until combined.

4. Pour the batter into the crust-lined muffin cups. It won’t rise significantly, so feel free to fill the cups. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a cheesecake measures 150 degrees.

5. Let the cheesecakes cool on a wire rack until they’re at room temperature. Use a thin-bladed knife or offset spatula to remove the cheesecakes from the pan. (If you can’t seem to get them to budge without breaking them, try putting the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes first.) Refrigerate for several hours, until cool. Top with something peachy and lightly toasted sliced almonds, if desired.

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vanilla ice cream

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I haven’t been as interested in ice cream the last few years (I demand butter and flour and the stand mixer and the oven!), but that wasn’t always the case. When Dave and I started dating, we lived near a great frozen custard place. We’d go probably once a week, normally just for a single scoop in a sugar cone, but when I was feeling indulgent, I’d get the brownie sundae – vanilla custard, a brownie, whipped cream, and hot fudge, but I exchanged the hot fudge for raspberry sauce. Mmm…raspberries and chocolate…my favorite.

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This is something like the fifth vanilla ice cream recipe I’ve tried in the last few years, and most of them are very similar. Egg yolks, cream, milk, sugar, vanilla. Heat the cream and/or milk, temper the egg yolks, heat it up, chill it, churn it. In fact, the only difference between this recipe and David Lebovitz’s recipe, which I made last year, is the ratio of cream to milk.

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Dorie’s recipe has a 1:1 ratio of cream to milk, while David’s has a 2:1 ratio of cream to milk. Guess which one I liked more? Yes, the fattier one. It’s smoother, richer, creamier.

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Not that Dorie’s recipe is low fat, and, as a result, it is also smooth, rich and creamy. If you care about fat content and calories and such, then don’t eat ice cream definitely go with Dorie’s. If you want just a bit of extra ice cream perfection, treat yourself to David’s. And definitely top it with a brownie and raspberry sauce.

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Lynne chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie this week and has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Summer Fruit Galette

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clafoutis

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Cooking, to me, isn’t a competition. It’s about sharing and exchanging ideas. Cooking for someone is like offering them a bit of a gift, and competition adds intimidation where there should be none. Plus, whether someone is more or less experienced than me when it comes to cooking, I’m sure I have something to learn from them. So I’ve never participated in a cooking contest.

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Um, until now. This one isn’t just about cooking, it’s also blogging, and it seemed too fun to pass up. The event is associated with the movie Julie and Julia, based on a book of the same name. I read this book years ago, and after the book, I went back and read Julie’s entire blog. In it, Julie Powell cooks her way through Julia Child’s thoroughly intimidating Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Not only is the book fun and easy to read, the whole concept of cooking entirely through a book appeals to me.

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To enter, I had to cook and blog about a Julia Child recipe. I’ve owned MtAoFC for years. I’ve just never bothered to use it, at all. I figured the time would come when I was excited to pick it up, and I was right. After scanning through the book, I chose to make clafoutis.

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Clafoutis, it turns out, is really easy. The batter, which is similar to crepe batter or thin pancake batter, is mixed in the blender. Then it’s poured into a baking pan with cherries, topped with more sugar, and baked. To make it even easier, the cherries are traditionally left unpitted (although Julia does call for pitted cherries). Cherry pits release a bit of almond flavor as they’re heated, which is lost if the cherries are pitted before baking.

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That being said, next time, I’ll pit the cherries, because the seeds were a little distracting. Other than that detail, this was a treat. You can’t go wrong with cherries in July, and these were just slightly tart and complimented the sweet batter. The batter cooks up moist and soft. What’s more, there’s no butter or oil in this dessert. So it’s fancy, easy, and relatively light – definitely a winner.

The contest winners are chosen through voting.  It’s an easy process with no sign-in required.  If you’d like to vote, click here.  I’m last on the list.  Thanks!

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One year ago: Comparison of 4 white cake recipes

Clafouti (slightly reworded from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck)

MtAoFC note: Use fresh, black, sweet cherries in season. Otherwise, use drained, canned, pitted Bing cherries, or frozen sweet cherries, thawed and drained.

My note: The only bit of funny business is that Julia calls for a Pyrex pan, then says to “set it over moderate heat.” Pyrex is not fit for stove use. I put the pan in the oven for a few minutes to let the batter set before continuing. I think you could also preheat the pan as the oven heats, and then the batter would set immediately after it’s poured in. (The batter isn’t especially cold, so it won’t shock the hot pan and cause it to shatter.)

For 6 to 8 people

3 cups pitted black cherries
1¼ cups milk
⅔ cup sugar, separated
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup flour (scooped and leveled)
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter (or spray with nonstick spray) a 9-inch Pyrex pie pan.

2. Place the milk, ⅓ cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour in your blender jar in the order in which they are listed. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute.

3. Pour a ¼-inch layer of batter in the baking dish or pie plate. Set over moderate heat for a minute or two until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from heat. Spread the cherries over the batter and sprinkle on the remaining ⅓ cup sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.

4. Place in middle position of preheated oven and bake for about an hour. The clafouti is done when it has puffed and browned, and a needle or knife plunged into its center comes out clean. Sprinkle top of clafouti with powdered sugar just before bringing it to the table. (The clafouti need not be served hot, but should still be warm. It will sink down slightly as it cools.)

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blancmanger

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Sometimes I have a hard time motivating myself to make certain things. Or, what I should really say is, I’m going through a cookies and cupcakes phase. Blancmanger is neither of those.

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So what is it? Basically fancy whipped cream. First, you heat milk, ground almonds, sugar, and in my case, a ridiculous amount of vanilla seeds, and then you add gelatin to the mixture. Chill it a bit and stir in some whipped cream and fruit. Chill it some more. Unmold. Eat. Really, I thought it was going to be much more time-consuming than it was.

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It tasted pretty good too. You can maybe see that I went overboard with the vanilla – I had half a bean leftover from something else, so I used all of that, but I only made a third of the recipe. My blancmanger isn’t quite as pristinely white as Dorie’s, but it did taste nicely of vanilla.

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The only thing I wasn’t completely sold on with this recipe was the ground almonds, whose texture didn’t seem to complement the perfectly smooth cream base. In the future, I’ll probably keep my sweetened gelatinized cream without ground nuts – in other words, as panna cotta.

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Susan chose the blancmanger for Tuesdays with Dorie and has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Soba Salad with Feta and Peas

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honey peach ice cream

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It seems lately that ice cream isn’t really my thing. For one thing, it hurts my sensitive teeth. For another, when it comes to making desserts, I really want to use the mixer. And the oven. And butter and flour and leavening. The blender and the stove? Pbbth! That’s for cooking, not baking. Although watching the ice cream slowly change texture while churning is fun.

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But if I’m making ice cream, at least it’s peach ice cream. It’s the only flavor I remember my mom making as a kid, and I always loved it, even though I thought I didn’t like peaches, picky little brat that I was.

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For this ice cream, peaches are softened over low heat with honey, then pureed and made into a custard with egg yolks, sugar, milk and cream. Once the custard is chilled, it’s churned into ice cream, with more peaches, chopped, mixed in at the end.

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Because I had no desire for peach-flavored ice cubes dispersed throughout my ice cream, I stirred some vodka into the chopped peaches and let them set for a few hours. Hopefully the alcohol would soak into the peaches and keep them from freezing completely.

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It sort of worked. Nothing is going to stop ice cream from being cold, of course, but at least the peach bits weren’t ice bits. I personally would have still preferred the ice cream without them, but Dave liked them. The custard part of the ice cream was smooth and soft enough to scoop after spending days in the freezer. It tasted pleasantly peachy, although I’m sure the flavor would be improved by more seasonal specimens than I was able to find. I couldn’t really taste the honey, but since I do like honey quite a bit, I think I’m going to start replacing part of the sugar with honey every time I make peach ice cream.

This ice cream was chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Tommi, and she has posted the recipe.

One year ago: Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

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Temporarily or not, the above link doesn’t work for the recipe.  So here it is!

Honey-Peach Ice Cream (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)

4 large ripe peaches
1/4 cup honey
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla

1. Chop 2 of the peaches into 1/2 inch chunks and toss them in a small saucepan. Add the honey and bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the peaches are soft (about 10 minutes). Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree. Set aside.

2. Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and sugar together until blended in a heatproof bowl. Drizzle in a bit of the hot milk mixture to temper the eggs (making sure they don’t curdle). Slowly add the rest of the milk mixture. Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the saucepan and heat while stirring until it thickens. Remove from the heat, pour into a heatproof bowl, and stir in the vanilla and peach puree.

3. Refrigerate the custard until chilled. Scrape into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, dice the remaining 2 peaches and add them just before the ice cream is thickened. When the ice cream is ready, pack into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours until it is firm enough to scoop.

tartest lemon tart

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You know how a lot of citrus recipes warn you to be careful not to get any of the white pith when you zest the fruit, because it’s bitter? Well, guess what?

Bitter is good.

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This was my first whole lemon dessert, where everything but the seeds is included. It was simple. Blend sugar and lemons together, then add the rest of the ingredients – eggs and cream, cornstarch and of course butter – to the blender and mix it all together. Then bake it, supposedly until it sets, but it never set for me. The filling boiled instead, until the crust was quite a bit darker than I like and I figured I’d better take the tart out of the oven, bubbling or not.

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It did set up once it cooled, and it was delicious. I loved it. I didn’t think it was exceptionally tart, but it’s possible that I either had a lemon that was on the milder side, or my smallish organic lemons had a very thin layer of pith. It was just the slightest bit bitter, which was perfectly balanced by sour and sweet, adding an extra dimension to the dessert without dominating it.  I am definitely sold on the idea of whole lemon desserts – so much so that I made another one two days later!

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Barb chose this tart for Tuesdays (or Thursdays, if you’ve been ignoring your blog while entertaining a guest) with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Caesar Salad and Snickerdoodles

Tartest Lemon Tart (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Tartest Lemon Tart recipe found in Baking from My Home to Yours)

Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts:
1¼ cups (6 ounces) all purpose flour
¼ cup ground almonds (or pecans, walnuts or pistachios)
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick, plus 1 tbsp (9 tbsp) very cold or frozen unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

Filling:
1½ lemons, scrubbed and dried
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1½ tbsp cornstarch
½ cup heavy cream
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. For the dough: Put the flour, ground almonds, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor, pulsing a few times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses— about 10 seconds each — until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change — heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

2. To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed—press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

3. To partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch. Transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

4. For the filling: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place tart pan on baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone mat.

5. Slice whole lemon in half and pull out seeds from it and the half. Then cut lemons into small pieces. The filling is best made in a blender, but you can use a food processor. Put lemons and sugar in the blender or processor and pulse, blending and scraping down the sides until you have smooth mix. Add the remaining filling ingredients and pulse and blend until the filling is homogeneous. Rap bowl on counter several times to de-bubble the filling as much as possible, and pour it into your prepared partially baked crust.

6. Very carefully – tart shell will be full – transfer baking sheet to the oven. Bake 20 minutes, then increase the oven temp to 350 degrees and bake the tart for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. (The total time is 45 to 50 minutes). Don’t be alarmed when the filling starts to bubble up. (It might even bubble over the edge of tart – that’s okay.) When tart is properly baked, it should be set, although perhaps still shaky in center, and most of top will have formed a light sugary crust.

7. Transfer the tart pan to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Chill, if you’d like, before serving with cream or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

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chocolate cream tart

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Chocolate cream tart seems like an appropriate way to cap off this month of chocolate, with a bitter chocolate crust and rich chocolate pastry cream balanced by lightly sweetened whipped cream and topped off with decorations of pure bittersweet chocolate. It’s a good thing that  I don’t get tired of chocolate or have problems with rich desserts.

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But I was concerned that Dave, who, after eating his umpteenth brownie, mentioned he’s actually not the biggest chocolate fan, wouldn’t like this. Fortunately, I’d forgotten how much he does like custard and pie, which apparently overshadowed his lukewarm feelings toward chocolate.

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I’m always intrigued by Dorie’s tart dough, which calls for almost no liquid, and instead comes together through far more processing than is usually recommended in crust recipes. She then recommends pressing the dough into the pan instead of rolling it out. Am I the only one who hates pressing dough into pans? I don’t think it’s any less work than rolling it out. I did have to roll it out for the little brioche pans, because in my experience, pressing crusts into these deeply fluted edges results in a huge buildup of crust in the ridges. I pressed the crust into the flat tart pans, and I like both crusts equally.

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The pastry cream is pretty luscious stuff. I did reduce the cornstarch a bit, remembering how the last few times I’ve made a cornstarch-containing custard from Dorie, the cornstarch didn’t seem to completely dissolve. I don’t mind a softer pastry cream anyway. Also, I missed that the chocolate was supposed to be melted before it was added to the pastry cream until it was too late to do anything about it, so I just finely chopped it and stirred it into the hot cream. It worked great, so this a timesaving trick I’ll keep in mind for the future.

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Overall, I thought the tart was pretty great. Some TWD members indicated that they would have rather had a regular tart crust instead of the chocolate crust, and I wholeheartedly disagree. Usually I think tart crusts just get in the way of the filling, but I felt like the chocolate crust complimented, rather than detracted, from this dessert. All of the components, bitter and sweet, rich and light, balanced each other well.

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Kim has posted the recipe.

One year ago: Carrot Cake

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