You may have noticed a lapse in my blogging. I was knocked down with some evil virus this past week and it hit me hard. I lost all energy and motivation-for anything. Baking, as much as I love; took a back seat. I’m happy to report I am back on the mend but not exactly high on motivation yet. To ease back into my bakingdom I knew it would have to be something easy. French apple tart to the rescue. I even have a pastry crust product I like to buy [French Picnic] that comes all stamped out into a perfect round. You don’t even have to unfold anything or coax out any annoying folds on the pastry. I usually make my own pie crust but I am feeling uber lazy. You just slide out that puppy from the box and thaw and you are good to go. Good quality applesauce, fresh apples, butter and sugar and that’s pretty much it. Bon appetit!
French Apple Tart
9 inch pastry crust ;unbaked
2-3 Tablespoons applesauce
4-5 golden delicious apples; sliced thin
This is not so much a recipe, but a process. You could take any size of crust depending on how large a tart you want to make. Start by removing the peels from the apples and cut off the “cheeks” from the apples and slice into thin slices about 1/4 inch thick. Toss the apples in bowl with a little lemon juice or “fruit fresh”. (You can usually find it by the canning products in the grocery store). I personally like fruit fresh powder as it does not add any moisture to the apples. Just sprinkle a little fruit fresh and toss your apples to coat. It prevents the apples from oxidizing while you prepare your tart.
Spread a thin layer of applesauce over the tart crust and then shingle the apple slices; to create a decorative patter. Brush the apples with soft butter and then sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake the tart at 400 degrees F until the apples are slightly brown around the edges and the apples are soft; about 30 minutes. Cool the tart on a wire rack.
I just bought a strawberry plant. I’m hopeful but cautious at the same time. It’s a known fact that I do not have a green thumb. The Husband will be quick to vouch for this-the fact that I kill plants. When we were first married he had this crazy-God knows what it was-leafy plant. He was so proud that he had this plant for years and it had thrived with gentle watering and sweet talking. Then I came along. It died. Ever since this I have tried to grow various plants. I’m good with herbs; no problem. Plants are a different story. Thirteen years later since killing The Husband’s plant, I am still trying. I could not resist the cute strawberry plant at Home Depot. There it was just beckoning me. I know, I know…but I had to buy it. The dark green leaves, the tiny little strawberry buds, the delicate little white flowers. The entire plant housed in a perfect basket for hanging. I am determined not to kill this plant. In the meantime, while I am awaiting the outcome of my berry bliss, I am lucky to find plump sweet California berries in my local market; perfect for mini tart tatins.
Mini Strawberry Tarte Tatins
(yield: 12 mini tarte tatins)
recipe adapted from Donna Hay
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 Cup caster (superfine) sugar
3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste
fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half
frozen puff pastry, thawed
1. Preheat oven to 400° F. In a small nonstick pan combine the butter, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla bean paste.
2. Prepare a muffin tin by spraying the wells lightly with non-stick spray. Place about 3 small berries in the bottom of the wells with the rounded side down and cut side up. Pour about 2 tsp. of caramel over the berries. Using a round cutter place a cut piece of puff pastry that is about 1/2 inch bigger than the muffin tin. Tuck the pastry over the berries and tuck down into the wells slightly.
3. Bake the tatins for about 20 minutes or the pastry is golden. Let the tatins rest for about 10 minutes. Carefully invert by placing a sheet pan over the muffin tins and invert. Spoon any syrup over the tatins. Serve with creme fraiche or ice cream if desired.
Cream horn. This little pastry gem falls under the category simple but tasty. So simple to make. Sure you can buy them at the store, but when you make them at home you can also know that they are fresh and have not been sitting there for God knows how long. Growing up my Mom used to buy cream horns at the store all the time. We weren’t really a twinkie kind of household. Explains a lot, no? When I was in pastry school and we learned how to make fresh puff pastry this little pastry treat was one of the recipes we made. You can make a million things with puff pastry and it’s handy to have a box in your freezer when the mood strikes you to make something tasty and easy. Our teacher in pastry school; the amazing pastry chef Nancy Pitta taught us to put a spin on the recipe and add a piped stripe of raspberry jam on the inside belly of the horn before piping in the cream. I will never make a plain cream horn ever again since that day. The raspberry jam totally makes this simple treat even better.
Raspberry and Cream Horns
yield: about 12 cream horns
1 box puff pastry
metal “horns” for wrapping puff pastry on (note; if you do not have the metal horns you can create your own by using tinfoil to shape a horn shape) cannoli tubes also work if you happen to have them
coarse sanding sugar
seedless raspberry jam
stabilized whipped cream (recipe below)
Stabilized whipped cream:
4 tsp. cold water
2 tsp. gelatin
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Chill mixing bowl and whisk attachment for at least 15 minutes before using. Place cold water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow to soften 5 minutes.
2. Dissolve gelatin by microwaving for about 20-30 seconds. Remove from microwave and place the bowl in the fridge; you want the gelatin to be liquid but not warm when added to cream.
3. Remove bowl and whisk from refrigerator and pour in cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat together just until beater marks begin to show distinctly; about 1 minute. Remove the gelatin from the fridge, with the mixer still running, pour the gelatin mixture in a fine stream into cream, pouring in a steady stream while beating constantly. Beat until stiff peaks form. Chill until ready to use.
1. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. Roll over the pastry a few times with a rolling pin to secure any seams in the pastry. With a pastry wheel or sharp knife cut strips of the puff about 3/4 inch in diameter. Lightly grease the metal horns with nonstick baking spray. Wrap the puff strips around the metal horn starting at the tapered end and overlapping 1/2 half of each strip as you make your way up the horn. Add strips as you need to so you have a continuous wrap up the metal horn. Secure and pinch any loose seams to keep the wrap tight as you go.
2. Once the horns are completely wrapped brush each horn on one side with water and press into coarse sugar. Place the pastry horns on a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet with the sugar side facing up and chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on the tray.
4. Pipe each bottom floor of the pastry horn with raspberry jam. Fill the remaining pastry horn with stabilized whipped cream. These are best served the same day, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.