November 25, 2009

Pecan Tarts/Tartlets

Pâte Brisée Recipe

Makes enough for an open-shell 9" tart or at least 24-36 mini muffin-sized tartlets. Double for a double-crust pie or for lattice work on top.

1 1/4 cups flour
4 oz COLD unsalted butter (1 stick), cut in ~8 pieces
1/2 tsp KOSHER salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
1 tsp sugar
1/4-1/3 cup cold water

Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a stainless steel bowl. Add the cold butter (cut into 1/2" blocks). Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse meal (the butter chunks are pea size). You can also use a food processor using the pulse feature to get the same effect. Do not overmix! The key here is to keep the butter and flour from blending or you'll end up with doughy, elastic crust.

Add just enough cold water (and no more) and blend quickly with a few strokes using the pastry cutter. The key here is to get the flour mixture to just come together slightly. 
The dough will seem like it doesn't come together but it will later, trust me!

Turn onto a large piece of plastic wrap, form into a ball and refrigerate for at least 1 hr or more. The colder the dough the easier it is to roll.

Turn onto a floured table and roll out.

Remember to work the dough the LEAST possible; the more you work the dough, the less flaky and more doughy the crust will be! 
Chocolate FillingAdapted from a recipe from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts Book4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick), cut in ~8 pieces1 cup granulated sugar1 cup light corn syrup4 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Melt the butter in the microwave (2 minutes @50% power). Add chocolate to the melted butter and let sit for 10-15 minutes undisturbed until chocolate is melted. If the chocolate doesn't completely melt, finish in microwave for 30-60 seconds @50% power.
  2. In a medium-size saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Stir in the chocolate-butter mixture until blended. Then whisk in the syrup until well blended. Stir in vanilla and chopped pecans and set aside to cool.
Regular FillingAdapted from Karo Syrup's Classic Pecan Pie Recipe1 cup granulated sugar1 cup light corn syrup3 eggs2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted1 teaspoon vanilla1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Whisk together sugar, syrup and eggs until well blended.
  2. Whisk in melted butter.
  3. Whisk in vanilla and chopped pecans.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Roll out pie dough (pâte brisée) onto tart pan, pie plate. If doing mini tartlets, use a mini-muffin pan and use a round cookie cutter (~2-2.5") to cut dough into small round shells you can put in each mini-muffin hole.
  3. Fill pie(s)/tart(s) with desired filling to near top and bake for ~60 minutes or until filling is set for regular pie or tart (9-11" diameter). For mini-muffin sized, bake for 18-20 minutes.

June 22, 2009

Peach Amaretto Tart

I made this tart for myself on fathers day because I was craving pie with vanilla ice cream. Since southern peaches are starting to creep up to the northeast I figure I make a peach tart.

To keep the crust from getting soggy, I baked the crust by itself and cooked the peaches on a 12" frying pan. I then assembled the tart before service after everything is cool.

Make sure to read the recipes before using them and have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go before starting.

To Make the Sweet Tart Crust

1 1/4 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (cut to 1/4 if using already grated, which is, IMO, not worth using)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup very cold water

Put the flour, salt, sugar, and spices in a Cuisinart food processor and pulse until combined. Cut the butter into tablespoon sizes (into 8 pieces) and add to the flour. Pulse 15-18 times until the mixture resembles very coarse meal (don't overdo it). Whisk the yolk into the water and add through the food processor shoot while pulsing until the dough comes together slightly.

Put the mixture in a gallon sized plastic bag and briefly press together with your hands from the outside. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Remember that you want to work the dough the least possible. The more you work the dough, the less flaky and more doughy it will be. This is because as you knead, you promote the formation of gluten strands. This is why you want to do the opposite when making bread (you WANT to knead your bread dough).

When the dough is cold, roll to 1/8" inch and put in a french tart pan (removable bottom). Put a piece of foil on top and pie weights (or beans) and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil, pierce the bottom with a fork a few times (to allow bottom steam to come out and not create bubbles) and bake an additional 10-20 minutes until slightly brown. Watch out, don't burn it!

Cool on wire rack and remove from tart pan when cool.

To Make the Peaches

3 lb ripe but firm peaches (make sure the stem area does not have a green tinge)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Amaretto liqueor (Disaronno)

Peel and slice the peaches into wedges. Mix with sugar and cinnamon and cook on 12" frying pan on medium heat. When peach wedges are soft (but not falling apart), strain from the cooking syrup. Add the Amaretto liqueor and continue cooking the syrup until thickens. This might take 20 more minutes. It might bubble so watch it. Also, you don't want it to cook over 240F or it will burn quickly. You don't need a thermometer, just watch it.

Let the peaches and teh syrup cool to room temperature separately.

To Assemble the Tart

Arrange each peach wedge in whatever fashion you like on the tart and the pour (or brush) some of the syrup on top. You migth have to warm the syrup a little if it is too thick to pour or brush. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream.

June 10, 2009

Best Brownies

Adapted from a Cooks Illustrated brownie recipe.

1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (6 oz)
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used 100% Unsweetened Guirardelli, black label) (Don't go cheap here, this is the main ingredient!)
2 and 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (NOT the self rising kind)
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

9"x13" pan (I used a straight edged aluminum commercial brand)
parchment paper (NOT waxed paper, that melts)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Cut a piece of parchment paper 9"x13" and place in bottom of the pan. This will help take the brownies out.
  3. Optional: Roast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes if already chopped, 10 minutes if whole.
  4. Chop walnuts after they cool off if not chopped already.
  5. If you have time, melt butter in a medium saucepan on the stove at low heat. Or, carefully, melt butter on microwave. 2-3 minutes at power 50% will probably do. Make sure you chop the butter in small cubes because butter tends to explode in the microwave when heated.
  6. Chop chocolate and put in the melted butter. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes until it is all melted. Mix w/ a spatula. If there are still unmelted chucks, melt on microwave at 30% power using 30 second intervals and mixing in between until all is melted. Do not overheat or the chocolate will burn. It should look nice and smooth and shiny. If it gets gritty you burnt it and it's over.
  7. Mix sugar w/ the melted chocolate and butter using a spatula. It will look sort of grainy.
  8. Whisk eggs into the mix, one at a time w/ a hand whisk (or even the same spatual will do, it's just harder).
  9. Whisk in the vanilla.
  10. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into the chocolate mixture and mix together w/ the spatula until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix.
  11. Place mix into prepared pan, leveling w/ spatula.
  12. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over the chocolate mix. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup and lightly press the nuts into the mix, but not too much so that they don't get buried into the mix.
  13. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 325F. 25 minutes will yield fudgy brownies, 30 minutes will be more cakey. Over 30 can yield overdone and dry so watch out!
  14. Let cool before removing from pan and cutting.
  15. Enjoy by themselves or with vanilla or coffee ice cream.

April 19, 2009

Versatile "sofrito"

In Puerto Rico, we call a pepper/onion/cilantro (or recao) mixture "sofrito" and it is used as a base for almost everything from soups to rice and beans. This one does not use the usual aji dulce pepper. Instead, I opted for cubanelles and spiced it up w/ some chipotle chili powder and cumin.

Spiced Sofrito

1 cubanelle pepper
1 medium yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
bunch fresh cilantro (~1/2 cup, loose, chopped)
1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons if using Morton, has double the sodium)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

Blend all ingredients in the low-chop setting of your blender or process until smooth in your food processor.

Yields about 1 1/2 cups.

Tortillas/Quesadilla Dip

Mix 1 cup of regular sour cream with 2-3 tablespoons of the sofrito. Let sit in the fridge for a few hours to set. Use for dipping anything from veggies to chips or quesadillas.

Grilled Whole Chicken

Wash and pat dry a whole chicken. Cut through the middle of the sternum bone to split both breasts and flatten the chicken for faster grilling. Season generously with the sofrito through cavities and underneath the skin.

Preheat your grill and grill at 350F for 45-50 minutes (about 25 minutes each side). Start w/ the back side first.