coconut cream tart

Don’t you hate when the only coconut in something that’s supposedly coconut cream pie is a garnish of coconut shreds over the top? Or strawberry cake that’s actually vanilla cake topped with gluey strawberry gel? Or, worse – brownies that have just enough cocoa to look chocolate-flavored, but after one bite, you realize are just sugar-flavored. If a dessert is going to claim to have a primary flavor, that flavor had better really dominate.

I wanted to stuff as much coconut into this tart (that turned into pie when I couldn’t find my tart pan) as possible, so I was excited when I stumbled upon coconut flour in the store. What a perfect way to turn the crust into a tender coconut cookie that’s still sturdy enough to hold up an inch or so of pastry cream.

I love Tartine’s pastry cream because it uses whole eggs instead of yolks, which results in a lighter, looser, silky cream. Its only downside is that it’s quick to form lumps when it’s cooked, although a quick whisk and a pass through a fine-mess strainer smooths it out. However, my friend and I were working on this pie/tart together, and she slowly dribbled the tempered custard mix into the hot milk, carefully stirring all the while, and what do you know – no lumps. I should try being careful more often myself.

With coconut extract and unsweetened coconut flakes stirred into the pastry cream, coconut flour in the crust, plus a spinkling of sweetened toasted coconut over the top of the pie, this was coconut all the way. You could add swirls of whipped cream, but wouldn’t that dilute the coconut that you tried so hard to make shine? This pie is perfect just the way it is.

One year ago: Sun-Dried Tomato Jam
Two years ago: Sushi Bowls

Coconut Cream Tart (crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan; filling adapted from Tartine)

If you can’t find (or just don’t want to buy) coconut flour, replace the coconut flour in the crust with an additional ¼ cup all-purpose flour (to make a total of 1½ cups all-purpose flour).

Consider using half coconut milk in the filling instead of some of the whole milk! I forgot, but I think would add another delicious layer of coconut.

For the filling:
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon coconut extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
1¼ cups (3.5 ounces) unsweetened small-flake coconut

For the crust:
1¼ cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons total) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted, for garnish
whipped cream (optionial)

1. For the filling: Add the milk and salt to a 2-quart saucepan 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. 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. Prepare the crust: Add the flours, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the butter is cut into the dough but some pieces are still pea-sized, 2-3 seconds. Add the yolk and process continuously until the dough begins to form clumps, 30-45 seconds, stirring once or twice.

3. Spray a 9-inch tart pan (or a pie pan, but then your crust will be thicker, like mine) with nonstick spray. Lightly pat the dough onto the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Freeze the lined pan for at least an hour before baking.

4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray one side of a 12-inch square of foil with nonstick spray; press onto the crust, oiled side down. Bake 25 minutes; remove the foil and continue to bake until the crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes more. Cool completely.

5. Assembly: Remove the chilled pastry cream from the freezer and stir in the unsweetened coconut. Spread the pastry cream into the cooled crust; smooth the top. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the filling and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. During this time, the coconut will soak up moisture from the filling, become softer and thickening the filling further.

6. When ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap and top with toasted coconut and whipped cream, if desired.

all-american, all-delicious apple pie

I’ve made all manner of banana cream pies for Dave, and yet he remains convinced that nothing beats Baker’s Square’s. I have my doubts, as I don’t believe he’s been to a Baker’s Square since I started baking for him. But I keep trying.

By contrast, he declared the first apple pie I made for him the best apple pie he’d ever had. Not that that keeps me from trying new recipes. Just last month (a few days before October’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipes were announced and I realized I’d be making more apple pie soon), I made a rum raisin apple pie that sounded great, but didn’t have quite the perfection of my normal recipe.

Clearly this calls for a comparison, especially because Dorie calls for tapioca as a thickener instead of apple pie’s standard flour. My original plan was to make side-by-side versions of Dorie’s recipe and my old favorite, but, like many cooking endeavors when I’m rushed, this one went awry. I underfilled both mini-pies (although at least I underfilled them equally), forgot the breadcrumbs and butter in Dorie’s, didn’t adequately stir the zest into the filling… Because the recipes are very similar, with the same ratio of apples to sugar to spices to thickener, it really ended up being a comparison of tapioca versus flour.

I couldn’t tell a difference – not in taste, not in texture, not in soupiness. Dave really enjoyed them both as well. Now I just need to keep him from trying Baker’s Square’s apple pie. One impossible pie standard to live up to is quite enough, thank you.

Emily chose this recipe for TWD, and she has it posted. My other favorite apple pie recipe is by Cooks Illustrated. It’s very similar, with an equal amount of flour substituting for the tapioca in Dorie’s, no breadcrumbs or butter, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice instead of the larger amount of zest that Dorie recommends.  In all photos, Dorie’s recipe is to the left (with the crimped edge, not forked).

One year ago: Allspice Crumb Muffins
Two years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes

caramel pumpkin pie

Bringing desserts to work is awesome. It gives me a chance to bake without wondering what in the world we’re going to do with all this stuff, people come by and say thanks, and I become known as “the girl who brings treats” instead of “the girl whose desk faces the men’s bathroom.”

The disadvantage is that sometimes I only eat just enough of what I bake for quality control. And by quality control, I mean, is this edible? And not, can I taste the caramel in this?

I didn’t detect the caramel in the few bites I had, and neither did the coworkers I accosted in the hallway when they were trying to enjoy their tartlets (pie-lets?) in peace. But we all agreed that it was good, and that’s all that matters.

Janell, who chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Split-Level Pudding
Two years ago: Pumpkin Muffins

fold-over pear torte

You didn’t think I’d miss a week of Tuesdays with Dorie, did you? I’ve been in the group for two and a half years, haven’t missed a week yet, and don’t plan to start now. Being late is, of course, a different story. Being late is what I do.

Although if I’d realized how involved this recipe was, I might have procrastinated enough to be even later – pie crust, peeled and chopped fruit, and a custard that involves a mixer. Having overzealously planned my weekend cooking (as always), I jumped in, rushed, without looking at the recipe, with the kitchen counters covered in dinner dishes.

My measurements were imprecise, my rolling was sloppy. While the tart baked, I shaped over-risen bagel dough, realizing too late that the tart and the bagels needed the same oven at the same time but at very different temperatures. The bagels won and the tart (torte?) was under-browned.

But good nonetheless. Pears and rummy custard and dough are such a great combination. Even if it was a lot of steps. It’s worth it to keep my unbroken record of not skipping a week (although not necessarily being on time).

Cakelaw chose this for TWD and has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
Two years ago: Lenox Almond Biscotti

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

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.

tart noire

Sometimes I wish I was one of those people who didn’t like rich desserts. I think it would keep me from eating a lot of rich desserts.

But I am not. I’m prudent enough to cut myself only a modest slice, but not prudent enough to not cut myself another and another modest slice. Never mind that what I’m eating is nothing but a mixture of chocolate, cream, and butter spread over a big cookie.

On the plus side, at least I get to enjoy rich desserts. Because missing out on a mixture of chocolate, cream, and butter spread over a big cookie would be a shame.

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

One year ago: Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies
Two years ago: Blueberry Pie

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

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

cauliflower cheese pie with grated potato crust

I have a hard time figuring out where I fit on the healthy eating spectrum. Some things are obvious. I eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins: good. I also eat dessert often, although not necessarily a lot of it: still, bad. But everything in between, I’m not so sure.

For example, I love these bran muffins, and I consider them very healthy, as they’re completely whole grain, have a large portion of pure bran, a good dose of dried fruit, and less than 1 teaspoon fat per muffin. But someone commented, “it would be interesting to know the calorie/fat/carb ratios and that way know exactly how healthy these are…” Well, I don’t know; to me, they’re considered healthy. Maybe others disagree based on their versions of what healthy means.

Branny often “brannifies”, as she calls it, recipes by reducing the cheese and other fat, increasing the vegetables, substituting whole grains for refined, using egg whites instead of whole eggs, and choosing less saturated fats than butter. She used many of those tricks when she made this pie, but then when I made it, I…well, I unbrannified it, making the original Moosewood recipe instead of Branny’s healthier adaptation.

I like healthy foods too, and I have no problem decreasing fat and increasing vegetables when it seems reasonable, but by my standards, the original version of this recipe was healthy enough, with just a couple tablespoons of butter in the whole pie and 1 ounce of cheese per main course serving.  Perhaps milk, eggs, and potatoes are all questionable ingredients, but by my standards, they’re all fine in moderation.

But while we may disagree on just how healthy this is, I think we can all agree that it tastes great. And if you don’t like cauliflower, I think it would be at least as good with broccoli. The crust in particular is a revelation – made of grated potatoes and held together by an egg, there is no butter or oil anywhere. How about that for a flaky delicious pie crust? I can’t wait to use it with a quiche. Because even I know that buttery regular pie crust is decadent.

One year ago: Anadama Bread (another Moosewood recipe)
Two years ago: Sichuan Green Beans (still one of my favorites)

Printer Friendly Recipe
Cauliflower Cheese Pie with Grated Potato Crust (adapted from Moosewood via Branny Boils Over)

Serves 8 as a side dish; 4 as a main course

Looking at online versions of this recipe now, I’m seeing that most call for the shredded potatoes to be salted and drained. I didn’t do this, and in fact, I thought the starch from the potatoes would help form a cohesive crust. I was very happy with how my crust turned out without the draining step.

I recommend using a food processor to shred the potatoes, grate the onion, and shred the cheese.

Crust:
2 cups packed shredded raw potatoes, preferably russet
¼ cup grated onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

Filling:
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 dash thyme
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 cup packed grated strong cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
black pepper
paprika

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the shredded potatoes, onion, salt, and egg. Pat the potato mixture into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then give the crust a spritz with nonstick spray. Continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the onion and cook just until they start to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the thyme, cauliflower, and salt; cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is just tender, about 8 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, a pinch of salt and another of black pepper, and the milk until evenly colored.

5. Spread half of the cheese on the baked crust. Top with the cauliflower mixture and the rest of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the pie. Dust with paprika.

6. Bake the pie until the custard is set and the top is slightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving.