I’m thrilled to talk about love today. Not my love, but other’s love – young love. To the surprise of both families and their friends, my best friend’s daughter eloped last month. I couldn’t be prouder for the happy couple; they did things in their own style, traditions that mean nothing to them be damned. Auntie Julie approves of any system-bucking in the name of Love! The parents of the newlyweds are hosting a “ring ceremony” in two weeks. I’m not exactly sure what a “ring ceremony” is, but I have an inkling it’s a sort of olive branch from the couple to their families for eschewing the expected. As a guest, I imagine it’s a kind of wedding-lite.
My friend asked me to make six dozen fruit tartlets for the occasion – the new bride’s favorite dessert. It’s an honor – I’m happy to be able to use my talents in such a special way. I’ve been around since the beginning – watching a little girl blossom into an independent woman who knows her own mind – and especially her own heart. I worked on the recipe this weekend (and last) and finally (after three crust versions, two pastry crème versions, and both white and dark chocolate) decided on this recipe.
Congratulations to the happy couple!
This recipe makes a lot of tartlets – feel free to cut it in half if you don’t need quite so many. A layer of white chocolate between crust and pastry crème helps keep the crust crisp.
Shortbread Pastry Shells
- 5 ⅓ cups All-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- 5 sticks unsalted butter, melted (Yikes!)
Vanilla Pastry Crème
- 4 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup sugar, divided
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolk
- 6 Tablespoons corn starch
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- Assorted fruit, sliced and berries
- 8 oz. white chocolate
- Apricot jam
- Make pastry shells: Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Add melted butter and stir together until a soft dough forms. Separate dough into 4 disks, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Roll dough between two pieces of waxed paper, sprinkling with flour as needed to avoid sticking, to a thickness of 1/8th inch, cut with 3” round cutter and gently place in the bottom of muffin tins (the dough is soft). Chill again for 20 minutes. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool and remove from tins.
- Make Pastry Crème: Heat milk, half the sugar and salt on stovetop. Blend cornstarch and remaining sugar in a bowl. Add eggs and yolks to sugar mixture. Pour hot milk over eggs slowly to temper. Pour mixture back into saucepan. Add butter and vanilla and bring to a simmer while continuously whisking. Cook over low to medium low heat until thickened. Scrape pastry crème into a shallow pan, cover with plastic wrap touching surface of pastry crème, and chill.
- Make Tartlets: Melt white chocolate by zapping it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spread a small bit of chocolate on the bottom of each tartlet shell. Scoop pastry crème into a pastry bag and pipe into tartlet shells. Decorate with fruit. Warm Apricot jam in microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sieve jam and brush over fruit. Chill until ready to serve.
It’s 9:00 p.m. on a quiet Wednesday night. The dishes are drying in the sink, the floors have been swept and there’s nothing but re-runs on television. My mind begins pondering other things…naughty things. I switch on my iPad and begin surfing Google images. After a few attempts, I hit the jackpot. My iPad and I make our way into the other room. I adjust the lights, setting the mood, slip into something more comfortable and then…
I preheat the oven to 350 degrees, un-nest my mixing bowls and get right to it. Carrot Apple Oat Muffins – oh yes, baby, YES! What did you think I was talking about?
At the point I added cream cheese frosting, I think these stopped being muffins and moved into cupcake territory.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Quaker oats
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 Granny Smith Apples, grated
- 2 carrots, grated
- ½ cup currants, softened in boiling water
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup molasses
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or use papers. Combine flour, oats, , sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Add apples, carrots and currants and stir until they are coated in flour. Beat together eggs, buttermilk, oil, molasses and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Do not over-mix.
- Fill each muffin cup ¾ full. Baked for 15-20 minutes and until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.
To gild the lily: Frost cooled muffins with cream cheese frosting.
Originally posted July 2015
My final pie in the Pie trilogy is a coffee caramel macadamia pie.
Based on last week’s hotel bed eating confession, it’s no surprise to hear that, on a recent business trip to Hawaii, I polished off an entire canister of coffee glazed macadamia nuts while lying in bed. I’m not proud of it, but constant traveling, even to tropical locations, messes with my eating, sleeping, and exercise regimen – but especially my eating. Six hours in coach, 24 hours on Oahu, another plane, 24 hours on Maui and then six hours back home – that is not a vacation. So, when I stumbled into my hotel room, tired and stiff from waking up at 3:30 a.m. and flying across the Pacific in a tin can, is it any wonder that my first act, even before unpacking, was to crack open the comfort food canister of nuts waiting for me in my hotel room?
This pie is inspired by those coffee glaze nuts – a little salty, a bit sweet, with a dash of coffee to compliment the buttery richness of the macadamia nuts…all encased in a flaky pastry crust.
Coffee Caramel Macadamia Pie
This pie is inspired by coffee glaze macadamia nuts – a little salty, a bit sweet, with a dash of coffee to compliment the buttery richness of the nuts.
- 1 9” pie crust (pre-made if you must, but I recommend homemade)
- 2 cups roasted unsalted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large yolks
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 1 Tablespoon instant coffee
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 Tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Flaky sea salt
- Preheat to 350 degrees F. Blind bake the crust for about 15 minutes until just beginning to brown. Cool, cover pie crust with macadamia nuts and chill crust until ready to use.
- Beat together the eggs, yolks, sugar, corn syrup, instant coffee, and salt. Whisk in the melted butter, heavy cream, flour and vanilla. Pour over macadamia nuts and sprinkle flaky sea salt on top. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the filling is set at the edge but slightly wobbly in the center. Cool pie completely before slicing.
“That one should be disqualified – that’s not salsa. It’s good, but it’s not salsa,” He whispered while pointing to her Tupperware container.
In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, her office was holding their annual salsa-making competition. Never one to go the traditional route, she had decided on a Tropical Fruit Salsa – a twist on the same ol’ tomato, onion, and chilies. She knew her flavor combinations weren’t for Everyman – and now there was “controversy” over whether her tropical fruit version was actually even salsa.
She smiled to herself – always seeming to end up in some sort of controversy. She knew it was good, even thrown together in 20 minutes the night before – even if most of them didn’t “get” it. Hers was only Tupperware actually empty at the end.
She couldn’t wait for the annual chili cook-off.
A cooling tropical salsa that pairs well with warm summer days and backyard barbecues. Choose ripe fruit for the best flavor.
- 1 ½ cups mango, chopped
- 1 cup kiwi, chopped
- 1 cup pineapple, chopped
- ¼ cup red onion, chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 – 1 ½ fresh serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, slightly crushed
- ¼ t. salt
- In a medium bowl, combine mango, kiwi and pineapple.
- In a small bowl, combine red onion, cilantro, serrano chile, lime juice, cumin seeds and salt. Pour over tropical fruit.
- Let salsa sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Adjust seasoning and serve with tortilla chips or freshly grilled fish.
The first (and only) time I tried it, I was sprawled across a bed at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. It was late at night and I was clothed in nothing but a fluffy hotel robe. I felt guilt – even a bit of shame – over what I was doing. I intended to save it, save it until I arrived home, save it to share with my loved ones. Yet, there it was between my knees, uncovered, my sticky fingers bringing bits of it to my lips, morsel by morsel, nibble by nibble, the sheets smeared with the evidence – Derby Pie.
I tried to defend my actions – I was starving, room service hours had ended, it has been a taxing day, I couldn’t bring it home on the plane – but nothing, absolutely nothing, could justify eating an entire pie straight from the tin.
I’ve visited Louisville three times in my life and two things about the destination stick in my mind – watching the Kentucky Derby from a private suite (a high point) – and eating nearly an entire Derby Pie while lying in bed (most certainly a shameful low).
This weekend, 20 thoroughbreds will get the once in a lifetime opportunity to run in the 144th Kentucky Derby and, in tribute, I decided to try my hand at my own version of Derby Pie. But this one, I promise, I’ll share.
I’m calling my version “Better than Derby Pie” because the Kern’s Kitchen people, who make the trademarked version of Derby Pie, are a litigious bunch (those bastards).
This pie reminds me of a chewy chocolate chip cookie with walnuts inside a pastry crust.
- 1 9″ unbaked pie shell (refrigerator or from scratch)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup Karo syrup
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups toasted walnut pieces
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350⁰. In a medium bowl, beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, Karo syrup, eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt until frothy. Stir in the flour. Stir in walnut pieces and chocolate chips.
- Fill pie crust with filling, ensuring that nuts and chips and spread evenly throughout pie. Bake 45-50 minutes until the topping is firm and golden brown. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool.