peach raspberry galette

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I know this is crazy, but I’ve already started on my New Year’s resolutions for 2015. Resolution-haters are always saying that they don’t need to make resolutions at the new year, because if they see changes they want to make, they just make them, regardless of the date. And I get their point, but I also think that right after the busy, indulgent holiday season when things slow down to a more manageable pace is a great time to think about personal changes. While I am expecting the next four months to be rushed, I was worried I would lose momentum by the new year, so I’m dipping my toe in now.

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My goals are mostly cooking-related, as usual:

1) Use more cookbooks. It’s not the first time I’ve made this resolution, but I didn’t do a great job before. This time, I’m going to make myself a schedule to stick to, and hopefully that will lead to a routine. Because I love cookbooks so much, but if I don’t use them, I feel guilty for having them.

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2) Cook a wider variety of cuisines. There is delicious food out there that isn’t Italian, and maybe I should try some of that once in while. I’m particularly interested in Asian food. I’m intimidated by the ingredient availability issue, but if I’m cooking more of it, I should be able to use up ingredients before they get lost in the back of the refrigerator or pantry.

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3) Read Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. Also not the first time I’ve made this resolution. I started it but got bogged down.

4) Bake more pastries. I’ve gotten into a bit of a bar cookie rut, partly because almost everything I bake is brought to work to share, and it’s easier for coworkers to grab a fruit crisp bar than a slice of pie. But after four years of almost weekly treats, my coworkers seem happy with anything I bring in.

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So far, I’m doing good with my not-New Year resolutions. I’ve been going to bed a little earlier almost every night to read On Food and Cooking. I recently made kung pao tofu, and last night, we had summer rolls for dinner. And I made these galettes from Tartine, perhaps my favorite baking book. Since they’re sort of pastries, so I killed two birds with one stone.

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My coworkers, as expected, did not mind cutting themselves a slice of galette, transferring it to a plate, and spooning a dollop of whipped cream on top. And I had fun tackling a more ambitious baking project than usual, even on a weeknight. Maybe I need to join the New Year’s resolution haters and create my own not-New Year’s resolution tradition.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Raspberry Peach Galette (adapted from Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s Tartine)

Makes two 10-inch galettes, serving about 16

Galettes are often lauded as the lazy man’s pie, with only one crust and no crimping. This recipe belies that description. In order to maximize the flakiness of the crust, the butter is rolled into the flour several times, then the dough is rolled several more times after the water is added. I was pleasantly surprised that this process only took half an hour.

I didn’t use quite enough fruit, mostly because I was too lazy to peel and slice a fifth peach and too cheap to buy a second container of raspberries. However, I am recommending that you use the extra fruit, as my crust to fruit ratio was slightly high, even as delicious as this crust is. Tartine recommends substantially more crust, but the reduced amounts listed here (which are what I used) were perfect for two galettes (or it would be, with a little more fruit than I used).

24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter
18 ounces (3¾ cups) unbleached flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1¼ teaspoons salt
¾ cup ice water
4 cups peaches (4-5 large peaches), peeled and pitted, sliced ⅛-inch thick
2 (6-ounce) containers raspberries
¼ to ½ cup (1.75 to 3.5 ounces) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 small egg, whisked with a pinch of salt

1. Cut the butter into ½-inch cubes; freeze for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt.

2. Transfer the dry ingredients to a pastry cloth or clean work surface; spread out to ⅓-inch thickness. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour, tossing them to coat with flour. Use a rolling pin to flatten the butter pieces into the flour. When the flour/butter mix has been rolled to the edge of your work surface, shape it back together to a ⅓-inch thickness. Repeat the rolling and reshaping three more times, until the mixture resembles large flakes.

3. Form the mixture into a pile and clear a well in the middle of the pile. Pour in the water, then use a bench scraper to mix the dough into the water with a cutting motion. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 10 by 14 inches. Fold it into thirds, then in half the opposite direction. Repeat the rolling and folding three more times. Roll the dough into a 14-inch by 7-inch rectangle. Cut the dough in half to form two 7-by 7-inch squares. Wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Roll each square of dough into a 14-inch round. Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheets; chill 10 minutes.

5. Divide the peaches evenly between the two dough rounds, leaving a 2-inch border. Top with the raspberries, then sprinkle 2-4 tablespoons of sugar (depending on how ripe and sweet your fruit is) over each pile of fruit. Fold the sides of dough over the fruit, pleating as necessary. Brush the dough with the egg wash, then sprinkle with sugar.

6. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is browned, 45-55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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blueberry pie

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The two weeks a year when blueberries are reasonably priced are almost a tease. Blink and you miss it! Down here in the desert, some years it doesn’t happen at all (or maybe I blinked). They went on sale recently, and I loaded up my cart. I didn’t know what I was going to make for dessert that weekend, but I knew it would have lots of blueberries in it.

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Pie. Pie is so classic, and like I recently said, I don’t get many opportunities to make it. While pies aren’t the easiest desserts to make, at least blueberries don’t require any tedious prep like most other fruits – that is, unless you choose a high-maintenance Cook’s Illustrated recipe for blueberry pie.

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I did, because I hate soupy pies enough to pre-cook the filling and peel and grate an apple into the mix. And clean out the coffee grinder to powder the tapioca when the grinder I keep in the kitchen for non-coffee things broke. All the cleaning, dough-rolling, pre-cooking, and apple-shredding was worth it when I was rewarded with a flaky crust over a juicy but not soupy filling of my favorite summer fruit.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Blueberry Pie (pretty much straight from Cook’s Illustrated, except for I don’t use their crust)

CI notes: This recipe was developed using fresh blueberries, but unthawed frozen blueberries (our favorite brands are Wyman’s and Cascadian Farm) will work as well. In step 4, cook half the frozen berries over medium-high heat, without mashing, until reduced to 1¼ cups, 12 to 15 minutes. Grind the tapioca to a powder in a spice grinder or mini food processor. If using pearl tapioca, reduce the amount to 5 teaspoons.

dough for double-crust pie (I always make this one)
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
¾ cup sugar (5¼ ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground (see note)
pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 ½ cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

2. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

3. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about ⅛ inch thick. Using 1¼-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1½ inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least ½-inch overhang on each side.

4. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving ½-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

5. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

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banana cream pie

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It’s Dave’s birthday (well, yesterday was), and therefore time for my annual banana cream pie post! Except last year I made banana cream cupcakes, and the year before I took a break from posting about banana cream pie – I must have assumed I’d made all the variations that were out there. But then I found a recipe that steeps bananas in the half-and-half that is then used to make the pastry cream, and I had to try it.

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I have to say that this might be my favorite banana cream pie recipe. There are things I really like about each of them, but this one is simply just what a banana cream pie should be – the crust stayed crisp even after two days in the fridge, the pastry cream didn’t slop all over the plate, and everything was in balance.

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Steeping the bananas in the dairy used for the pastry cream didn’t make an obvious difference, but I wonder if that was part of what made this pie so good, because all the components seemed to go together so well. Unless I find yet another trick to try in the realm of banana cream pies, I’ll be making this one for Dave’s birthday next year too.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Banana Cream Pie
(very slightly tweaked from Cook’s Country)

I didn’t want to buy a second container of half-and-half only use a small portion of it, so I used 2 cups half-and-half, ¼ cup whole milk, and ¼ cup cream. Then I only used ¾ cup of cream for the topping, reducing the confectioners’ sugar to 1½ tablespoons. I also scraped the seeds of a vanilla bean into the steeping dairy and let the bean steep as well. And I forgot the orange juice.

5 ripe bananas
4 tablespoons butter
2½ cups half-and-half
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
pie crust for single-crust pie (recipe below)
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1. Peel 2 of the bananas and slice them into ½-inch-thick pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced bananas and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the half-and-half, bring to a boil, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow to sit for 40 minutes.

2. Whisk the granulated sugar, egg yolks, and salt together in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in the cornstarch. Strain the cooled half-and-half mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the yolk mixture – do not press on the bananas – and whisk until incorporated; discard the cooked bananas.

3. Transfer the mixture to a clean medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it is thickened to the consistency of warm pudding (180 degrees), about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat; whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl, press greased parchment paper directly against the surface, and allow it to cool for about one hour.

4. Meanwhile, roll the pie dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured counter. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate, fold the edge of the dough under itself so the edge of the fold is flush with the outer rim of the plate, and flute the edges. Refrigerate for 40 minutes, then freeze for 20 minutes. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375°.

5. Line the chilled pie shell with a 12-inch square of aluminum foil, folding the foil over the edges of the dough. Fill with pie weights, place the pie plate on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and the weights, rotate the plate, and continue baking until the crust is golden brown, about 7 to 11 minutes. Transfer it to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

6. Peel and slice the remaining 3 bananas to about ¼-inch-thick and toss them with the orange juice. Whisk the pastry cream briefly, then spread half over the bottom of the pie shell. Arrange the sliced bananas on the pastry cream. Top with the remaining pastry cream.

7. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the cream, confectioner’s sugar, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the pie. Refrigerate the pie until it is set, at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours.

Pie Crust for Single-Crust Pie (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Deb has instructions for mixing by hand if that’s your preference.

1¼ cups (6 ounces) flour
1½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold
⅓-½ cup ice water

Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until mixed. Add half of the butter; pulse once, add the remaining butter, and process with 1-second pulses until the largest pieces of butter are about ¼-inch across. Add ¼ cup of water; pulse once, then add 2 more tablespoons of water. Pulse a couple times to incorporate the water, then pinch a portion of the dough together; if it crumbles, pulse in another tablespoon of water. If it barely holds together, transfer the mixture to a large piece of plastic wrap. Form the dough into a ball, kneading it once or twice so it holds together. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling.

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pumpkin pie

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Let me be frank: The recipe on the back of the can of pumpkin makes a perfectly good pumpkin pie. I have no beef with this pie. It’s the one I ate growing up, and I’ll still certainly grab a slice if it’s available. But at some point, it occurred to me that pumpkin pie is a custard pie, and it should be more custardy – smoother, richer, creamier. It still needs to be firm enough to form straight-sided slices, not puddles, but it shouldn’t be solid.

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I blame the evaporated milk. I like evaporated milk in my salmon pesto pasta recipe as a healthier alternative to cream, but we’re talking now about a dessert that’s eaten after one of the most decadent meals of the year. Is this really the time to cut calories? Stick with heavy cream for dessert.

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But there’s another requirement I have for pumpkin pie, and that is that it be easy. If the filling requires steps beyond mixing everything in the blender, I’m not interested. Not because a great dessert isn’t worth some effort, but because I’ve found that for pumpkin pie, extra effort just isn’t necessary. You can make yourself a perfect pumpkin pie – silky and rich, firm enough to form slices but still soft and smooth – with no more effort than it takes to make the recipe on the back of the pumpkin can.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Pumpkin Pie (adapted from Bon Appetit’s Spiced Pumpkin Pie and Cook’s Illustrated’s Silky Pumpkin Pie)

1 unbaked pie crust, rolled, transferred to pan, chilled (recipe below)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Remove the pie crust from refrigerator; line the crust with foil and fill it with pie weights. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and the weights; bake 5 to 10 more minutes, until the crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove the crust and baking sheet from oven. Retain the oven temperature.

3. Combine all of the ingredients except the cream in the food processor or blender. Add the cream; pulse. Pour the mixture into the crust.

4. Return the pie plate with the baking sheet to the oven and bake the pie for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until the edges are set (an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center should register 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Pie Crust (rewritten from Smitten Kitchen)

1 single-crusted 9-inch pie

1¼ cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold
⅓ to ½ cup ice water

1. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Cut the butter into ¼-inch cubes; add to the food processor and pulse until the largest pieces are pea-sized. Transfer the mixture to a bowl; stir in the water. Wrap in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. If chilled longer than an hour, leave the dough at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to soften before rolling.

2. Roll out the dough on a generously floured work surface to make a 12-inch circle about ⅛-inch thick. Roll the dough loosely around a rolling pin and unroll into a pie plate, leaving at least a 1-inch overhang all around the pie plate.

3. Working around the circumference, ease the dough into the pans by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing into the plate bottom with other hand. Trim overhang to ½-inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

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berry tart with mascarpone cream

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In late August, I always start to get a little bit panicked about the end of summer. This, despite the long six months of summer we get in southern New Mexico and despite the months of temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees. This, despite the breathtaking beauty of upstate New York’s fall, despite the pumpkins and apples, football and fall fairs that I loved when I lived there.

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But for me, fall can’t beat summer. I love being not just warm, but hot. The 4th of July is my favorite holiday. Homegrown tomatoes are my favorite food. I love wearing skirts and hate wearing pants.

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I love peaches and zucchini and berries. I already made Dave’s favorite pie once this summer, not that it isn’t good enough to have more often. But I was hosting an Italian-ish dinner party so wanted an Italian-ish dessert. This was perfect. A sweet cookie crust, a simple mascarpone-based creamy layer, lots of fresh berries, and none of that gelatinous shellack that fruit tarts often include. The custard layer was similar to pastry cream, but it required just a few minutes of mixing instead of egg-separating, heating, tempering, whisking, straining, and cooling.

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It’s been a long, hot summer here. My tomato plants haven’t done well, although I’m grateful for the occasional fruit they do give. But I’m as ready as I ever am to move on to fall. I’m thinking about braising and roasting. But I can’t quite shake that tug of dread to say goodbye to my favorite season, and fresh berries are just part of the reason.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream
(crust rewritten from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours; filling adapted from Gourmet via epicurious)

Crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Filling:
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
⅓ cup well-chilled heavy cream
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1½ cups raspberries
1½ cups blueberries
1½ cups blackberries
2 tablespoons red currant jam or raspberry jelly
2 tablespoons dark berry liqueur such as blueberry, blackberry, or cassis or port

1. For the crust: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut, with some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk with a fork and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Process in long pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds; the sound of the machine working will change. Scrape the sides of the processor bowl to incorporate any unmixed dry ingredients.

2. Grease a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.

3. Center a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees.

4. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with nonstick spray and fit the foil, oiled side down, tightly against the crust. 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. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

5. For the filling: In a bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer, beat together the mascarpone, cream, and sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Spoon the mixture into the shell, spreading it evenly.

6. In a large bowl, combine the raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. In a small saucepan, simmer the jam and port, stirring, until reduced to about 3 tablespoons; pour over the berries. With a rubber spatula, gently stir the berries to coat evenly. Mound the berries decoratively on the mascarpone cream. The tart may be assembled 2 hours ahead and chilled; bring to room temperature and remove the sides of the pan before serving.

strawberry poptarts

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I like to keep track of things. This is why I have a website showcasing new recipes. But I also have calendars (printed out and filled in with pencil, old school) logging all the workouts I’ve done for years, a list updated daily of which projects I spend time on at work, and a color-coded Google Calendar that I check and update several times a day.

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This apparently wasn’t enough for me, so I’ve recently started tracking some new things – indulgences. Desserts, alcohol, restaurant meals, snacking on ingredients while making dinner – those are the biggies for me. I set goals for the month, and they are generous, and I don’t get bent out of shape if I miss them (and I always go over on both alcohol and desserts), but having it laid out in front of me in a spreadsheet does help my self-control sometimes. Is munching on this cucumber, even if it’s dipped in dressing, really worth having to log a day of ingredient snacking?

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There are loopholes though. Shortcake, obviously that’s dessert. But scones are breakfast, so I don’t need to record those, even if they do contain just as much butter and sugar as shortcake. Cupcakes, dessert; muffins, breakfast. Poptarts are breakfast, right?

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That might be a stretch, even by my standards. Yes, there is jam involved, but a spoonful of jam is squeezed between two sheets of buttery delicious pie crust. And that’s all there is to it, unless you add icing. But once you add icing, any hope of calling this anything but a treat of the most indulgent manner is lost. It went on the list as dessert, and it was worth every mark on the spreadsheet.

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One year ago: Banh Mi (I absolutely love this recipe)
Two years ago: Taco Pasta Salad
Three years ago: Twice Baked Potato Cups
Four years ago: Banana and Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast

Printer Friendly Recipe
Strawberry Pop-Tarts (adapted from King Arthur Flour via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 9 (although I made 10 out of a half recipe)

My dough was too crumbly with just one egg, so I also used part of the egg used for the egg wash.

I used the icing because I wanted my tarts to be as traditional as possible, but, it turns out, royal icing on pie just isn’t that good. It’s pretty, but I don’t recommend it for the best flavor.

I replaced a quarter of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour.

Pastry:
2 cups (8½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk

Filling:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
¾ cup (8 ounces) strawberry jam

Egg wash:
1 large egg
salt

Icing:
½ cup (2 ounces) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon meringue powder
1 tablespoon water

1. For the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until it is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the egg and milk and pulse until the dough looks crumbly but stays together when pinched. Turn the dough out onto a work surface or shallow bowl, forming it into a ball and kneading a few times. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle, about 3 by 5 inches. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap; chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

2. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small saucepan, stir together the cornstarch and water. Mix in the jam. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cool completely before using.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one portion of the dough to ⅛-inch thick, slightly larger than a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Trim each portion of dough into a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Cut each piece of dough into thirds both lengthwise and crosswise, forming a total of 18 3 by 4-inch rectangles.

4. Beat the additional egg with a pinch of salt and brush it over the entire surface of half of the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each egg-brushed rectangle, keeping a bare ½-inch perimeter around the jam. Place a second rectangle of dough on top of the jam, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining rectangles of dough to form 9 tarts.

5. Transfer the tarts to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork to allow steam to escape. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes (or freeze for 15 minutes), while you heat your oven to 350 degrees.

6. Bake the tarts for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re light golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before icing.

7. In a small bowl, beat the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Dribble over the tarts. Let set at least 20 minutes for the icing to set.

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tomato mozzarella tart with basil crust

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I planted tomatoes in my garden this year with high hopes and low expectations. Last year I lost all of my precious tomato plants to fusarium wilt, and even though I didn’t do anything to rid the soil of the fungus, I couldn’t resist planting a few tomato plants this year too. They started strong but succumbed to the disease before setting fruit. At that point, I settled in for a tomato-less summer.

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Instead, I’ve had what’s nearly been a landmark year! After describing my tomato woes to a coworker, she started bringing me some tomatoes from her garden. At first it was a trickle, just enough so I could make each of my favorite tomato dishes once. She also bought me a handful of zebra tomatoes while traveling. And then I bought myself a pound or so of tomatoes from our town’s little farmer’s market. And then the bonanza from my coworker – nearly ten pounds of beefsteak, romas, and cherries. This was enough to make all of my favorites again, plus try some new recipes.

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This was first on my list. It has all the ingredients of pizza, but rearranged and with a whole lot of butter added. How can that be bad?

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The basil crust is fragrant, tender but sturdy enough to hold up the toppings. The mozzarella holds the toppings on. And the real star is those thin but deeply flavorful slices of tomatoes. There is nothing I like more than a landmark year for tomatoes. But next year, I’m determined to successfully plant my own – but maybe I’ll still take some off my coworker’s hands.

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One year ago: Fresh Pasta
Two years ago: Pappa al Pomodoro
Three years ago: 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Four years ago: Lemon Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

Printer Friendly Recipe
Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Crust (adapted from Jack Bishop’s The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook via Ezra Pound Cake; crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Sweet Tart Dough)

I used fresh mozzarella (as seen on Annie’s Eats) both times I made this, but when I removed the tart from the oven, I noticed a puddle of liquid skimming across the baked cheese. Once cooked, I don’t think fresh mozzarella seems so different from the firmer type, which isn’t as moist and won’t release liquid onto the surface of the tart, so in the future, I’ll use regular mozzarella instead of fresh. (Fortunately, the crust didn’t seem to get soggy from the extra liquid.)

The original crust recipe was for a flaky pie type of crust, which used ice water. It shrunk when I baked it, plus I wanted something sturdier, so I adapted a traditional tart crust to include basil. This is a tart after all!

Crust:
½ cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled
1¾ cups (8.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten

Tart:
8 ounces mozzarella, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
salt
black pepper
parmesan
3-4 basil leaves, slivered

1. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the basil and garlic until finely chopped. Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter; process in 1-second pulses until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. Add about half the egg, pulse, then add the remaining egg. Process continuously until the dough forms clumps and curds. The sound of the food processor will change when it gets to this point.

2. Evenly press the dough onto the sides and bottom of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Spray a 12-inch square of aluminum foil with cooking spray and press it, sprayed-side down, onto the tart crust. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

3. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tart crust from the freezer and spread pie weights over the bottom. Transfer the tart pan to a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 5 minutes, until the crust is just starting to brown. Remove from the oven, maintaining the oven temperature.

4. Line the crust evenly with slices of mozzarella, overlapping if necesary. Top the mozzarella with slices of tomatoes (do not overlap the tomatoes). Season with salt and pepper. Grate a generous layer of parmesan cheese over the tomatoes.

5. Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is brown and the cheese is melted and just starting to brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. Evenly distribute the slivered basil over the top of the tart. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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coconut cream pie (tom douglas)

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My rules of thumb for ordering food in restaurants – get the restaurant’s specialty, if it has one, and don’t get anything I could easily make at home – failed me when I went out for dessert with Brady, Nicole, Joelen, Jessica, and another friend we met at BlogHer Food. (Hillary – get yourself a blog, would you?) I considered the coconut cream pie, but passed it over because I had no idea that it was A Thing at that restaurant. The rhubarb rose sorbet sounded great too, but I went with the lemongrass frozen yogurt. It sounded interesting, but it wasn’t. It tasted like sweetened frozen milk and was nice; not thrilling, but nice.

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The bites I stole of Brady and Joelen’s coconut cream pie, however, were thrilling. Silky custard, mounds of whipped cream, crisp crust. How was something so basic as coconut cream pie knocking my socks off? We were all excited later when we found the recipe online. We could create this perfection ourselves!

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But, the pie I made was not the pie I kept stealing bites from at the restaurant. The crust might have been the same, and the simple whipped cream certainly was, but my pastry cream seemed off. For one thing, I don’t remember shreds of coconut within the pastry cream at the restaurant. For another, I have my doubts about using flour as the thickener in pastry cream instead of cornstarch. I tried it because I was curious, but in the end, I prefer the silkiness of cornstarch compared to the pastiness of flour used in pastry cream.

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The fully assembled pie was a thing of beauty, with its golden crust and mounds of whipped cream. But when I removed a slice, the sloshy unset filling flowed in to fill the gap, so that if it weren’t for the missing rim of crust, you’d never know there was a slice missing. This pie, good as it was, seemed different from the one we had at the restaurant. Or maybe it’s just that nothing can come close to the memory of sharing desserts with five friends in Seattle.

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One year ago: Date Nut Loaf
Two years ago: Dressy Chocolate Cake
Three years ago: Strawberries and Cream Pie
Four years ago: Pigs in a Blanket

Printer Friendly Recipe
Triple Coconut Cream Pie (adapted from Tom Douglas)

Makes one 9-inch pie

Shredded coconut in the crust was an interesting idea that I enjoyed, but for the filling, I prefer this recipe.

Crust:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2.1 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
⅓ cup ice water, or more as needed

Pastry cream:
½ cup heavy cream
1½ cups whole milk
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (4.4 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened

Assembly:
2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces unsweetened “chip” or large-shred coconut
Chunks of white chocolate (4 to 6 ounces, to make 2 ounces of curls)

1. For the crust: In a food processor, pulse to combine the flour, coconut, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the diced butter; pulse until the butter is broken into pea-sized bits, 6-8 one-second pulses. Stop the machine and pour in about half of the water; pulse twice, then add the remaining water. Pulse 3-4 more times, then test the dough by gently pressing it between your fingers; it should just hold together; if it doesn’t, add a couple teaspoons water and pulse to combine again. Line a wide, shallow bowl with a large sheet of plastic wrap; transfer the dough to lined bowl. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough, then flatten it to a round about 1-inch high. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling. (The dough can be prepared a day in advance, and stored, wrapped tightly, in the refrigerator.)

2. Unwrap the round of dough and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Dust the dough lightly with flour, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll the dough into a 12- to 13-inch circle about ⅛-inch thick, adding more flour if it begins to stick. Transfer the rolled dough onto a 9-inch pie pan. Trim any excess to a 1- to 1½-inch overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your fingers to flute the edge. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the unbaked pie crust at least an hour before baking.

3. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper in the pie crust and fill the cavity with dried beans or pie weights. Bake the crust until the edge is just golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, lift off the foil and weights, and return the crust to the oven. Bake until the bottom of the crust shows golden-brown patches, 10 to 12 minutes more. Transfer the crust to a cooling rack and cool completely before filling.

4. For the pastry cream: In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, milk, coconut, vanilla seeds and pod, and salt. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir the mixture occasionally until it begins to steam and tiny bubbles start to form around the pan’s edges. (But don’t let it come to a boil.) Remove the pan from the heat.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Whisking continually, slowly add about one-third of the scalded milk into the egg mixture. Pour the warmed egg mixture to the milk and coconut mixture in the saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and whisk until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the pastry cream is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl, then place it over another bowl filled with ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming, and refrigerate until cold, about an hour. The cream will thicken as it cools.

6. To finish the pie: Heat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut chips over a baking sheet. Bake the chips, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to shave about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls.

7. Pour the chilled pastry cream over the prebaked pie crust, smoothing the surface with a spatula.
In an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase the speed to high, and whip to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Spread the whipped cream over the surface of the pie. Just before serving, decorate the pie with the toasted coconut and white chocolate curls.

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strawberry rhubarb pie

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My parents have a cabin in the mountains in Colorado, where they have a neighbor who is officially a Mountain Man, with a long scraggly beard, horses running around on his property, and the requisite amount of woman trouble. One day the Mountain Man and I got to talking about pie. He declared that pie is simple – it’s a mixture of fruit, flour, and sugar baked in a crust. I don’t recall whether we discussed his crust recipe, but I have to believe it comes from a vacuum-packed tube.

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While I can agree that fruit pies are, at their most basic, a mixture of fruit, sugar, and thickener, I would disagree that that makes them simple. In fact, it makes them particularly tricky. First, the best thickener for each fruit varies – is it flour, cornstarch, tapioca, or something impossible to find in the average grocery store? Second, and worse, is that the perfect amount of thickener will vary depending on how ripe the fruit is. Exceptionally juicy peaches will need more thickener (and less sugar) than just barely ripe peaches.

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I’ve gotten strawberry rhubarb pie wrong at least as often as I’ve gotten it right. Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for it that starts with sautéing the rhubarb with sugar to get rid of some of the excess liquid. I did make an awesome pie with this recipe, but it resulted in the worst burn I’ve ever had when a chunk of super hot sugar-coated rhubarb landed on my foot. Plus it’s a hassle – who wants to deal with pre-cooking the filling in addition to rolling out dough and chopping filling ingredients?

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I tried Deb’s recipe last year, which calls for tapioca as the thickener, but didn’t like the bits of gelatinous tapioca mixed with the fruit filling. I thought the answer was grinding the tapioca to a powder with a spice grinder (aka repurposed coffee grinder) until I saw Cook’s Illustrated comment (in The New Best Recipe) that tapioca and rhubarb don’t make a great pair. I happen to have arrowroot powder in the cabinet, so I used that instead.

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And what I got was a perfect strawberry rhubarb pie. When the first slice was removed, the filling didn’t flow in to fill the void, but it wasn’t dry. It was just sweet enough. I didn’t use flour in the filling, but I still think that even Mountain Man would approve.

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One year ago: Whole Wheat Almond Bread
Two years ago: Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Three years ago: Strawberry Tartlets
Four years ago: Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I used Deb’s recipe for pie crust.

If you can’t find arrowroot powder, use ¼ cup of tapioca, ground in a spice grinder.

Baking the pie on a baking sheet catches any drips; preheating the baking sheet helps the bottom crust become crisp and flaky instead of soggy.

dough for a double-crust pie, rolled into two 13-inch circles and refrigerated
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (4.4 ounces) granulated sugar
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) light brown sugar
¼ cup arrowroot powder
¼ teaspoon salt
24 ounces (about 3½ cups) rhubarb, sliced ½-inch thick
16 ounces (about 3½ cups) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if small
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg beaten to blend with ¼ teaspoon salt (for glaze)

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, mix the sugars, arrowroot powder, and salt. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice; stir to combine well.

3. Line a 9-inch pie plate with one round of dough. Transfer the filling to the lined pan. Scatter pieces of butter over the fruit. Top with the second round of dough, sealing and fluting the edges. Cut 8 slits in the top crust and brush with the egg wash.

4. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees; bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

5. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool at least 4 hours before serving.

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fresh orange cream tart

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I’ve come full circle. The second recipe I made as part of Tuesdays with Dorie was a lemon cream tart; the alternative offered for that recipe for lemon haters was this fresh orange cream tart, and now this is the second-to-last thing I baked for the group. I swore after that lemon tart that I was done with citrus creams, because, as good as they are, a full pound of butter in a 9-inch tart is extreme. But it was a never say never situation, because I made a lemon cream as part of this lemon meringue cake and now I’m making an orange cream to say I baked every single dessert recipe in the book.

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Fortunately, this time I was smart enough to give them all away without telling my guests that they were eating orange-flavored butter on a cookie. Plus I made them tiny, so each little tartelette only contained maybe one tablespoon of butter. Which is still a lot. It’s good enough that it might be worth the calories. But what I can say for sure is that making this one very rich dessert was worth it to say I finished off an entire cookbook.

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Three years ago, one very busy day of candy-making: Candied Orange Peels, Buckeyes, White Chocolate Lemon Truffles, Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Vanilla Bean Caramels

Printer Friendly Recipe
Fresh Orange Cream Tart (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)

I skipped both the orange segments and the jelly garnishes.

For the Orange Filling:
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
Grated zest of 3 oranges
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 large eggs
Scant ¾ cup fresh blood-orange or Valencia orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
2¾ sticks (22 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at cool room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell (round or square) made with Sweet Tart Dough or Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts, fully baked and cooled

3 orange segments, for decoration
⅓ cup quince or apple jelly mixed with ½ teaspoon of water, for glazing

Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and orange and lemon zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zests together between your fingertips until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the orange and lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk – you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling – you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point – the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience – depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest.

Soften the gelatin in the cold water, then dissolve it by heating it for 15 seconds in a microwave oven (or do this in a saucepan over extremely low heat). Add the gelatin to the filling and pulse once just to blend, then let the filling cool to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going – to get the perfect light, airy texture, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (The cream can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the fridge.)

When you are ready to construct the tart, whisk the cream vigorously to loosen it. Spread the cream evenly in the crust. Arrange the orange segments in the center of the tart and prepare the glaze: bring the jelly and water to a boil. Use a pastry brush or pastry feather to lightly spread the jelly over the orange segments and cream. Serve now or refrigerate the tart until needed.

Sweet Tart Dough

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter 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.

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.

To Fully Bake the Crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, butter 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. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

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