Jump! “I can’t.” Jump! “I’ll fall.” Jump! “I’m afraid.” Jump! “I don’t know how.” Jump! “I’m not a jumper.” Jump! “Others can jump further.” Jump! “Who am I to think I can jump?”
Jump! “We will steady you.” Jump! “You’re so close!” Jump! “Trust us; We will catch you.” Jump! “You’ll be great at it.” Jump! “Be Brave!” Jump! “We believe in you.” Jump! We’ll jump with you.”
Thank you for requesting baking demos until I said, “yes.” Thank you for telling me when my words on the page move you. Thank you for giving feedback on my recipes. Thank you for believing I can write a book worth reading. Thank you for reminding me I’m worthy of love. Thank you, to all my friends, who support, encourage, and push me just a little further. I’m better for knowing you.
Mouth-puckering Key lime custard in a shortbread cookie crust garnished with raspberry coulis sauce.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
5 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
28 oz. sweetened condensed milk
½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
¾ cup key lime juice
1 ½ Tablespoons grated lime zest
Raspberry Coulis (optional)
½ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons water
12 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
1 Tablespoon raspberry or orange liqueur (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and melted butter. Pat dough on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake about 20 minutes until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, Greek yogurt, lime juice, and lime zest. Stir until combined and pour into crust. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. Do not brown. Chill tart thoroughly before serving. Garnish with raspberry coulis, whipped cream, shaved white chocolate or grated lime zest.
To make coulis, combine sugar and water in a heat-proof liquid measuring cup. Microwave on high power for two minutes and stir to ensure all sugar crystals are dissolved. Combine simple syrup with thawed raspberries in a blender. Blend until smooth. With a rubber spatula, stir and push puree through a fine-mesh strainer to catch the seeds. Add liqueur, if using. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.
“Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and fingertips.” – Dawson Trotman
Today’s Musings: Without a particular game plan in mind, Two-Bit Tart has molded itself into a mash-up of half personal essay (aka Musings) and half food blog. It has taken me an exceptionally long time to arrive here, but this blog is now unmistakably my own with its singular, quirky, yet clear direction. This began as a personal essay blog, morphed into a food blog, and has finally, after almost 13 years, unapologetically matured into a blending of both. My challenge with the personal essay section is that it’s an intense delving into the recesses of my most intimate thoughts and feelings. Nothing is off limits from examination, holding these bits of my life up to the light for anyone to see. While I feel reasonably comfortable splaying myself in front of you, many of my stories involve others, as most personal stories do. Today, I’m experiencing a smattering of remorse and hesitation in exposing others’ secrets without permission, desiring to keep their story, tightly intertwined with mine, a compact between us. I am passionately steadfast and loyal to those who reciprocate, even those long dead. I’ve been working on a piece the last five days that I would describe as raw, honest, authentic. 1817 words with all the beastly details. How, I wonder, can I speak my truth while protecting others’ privacy? I have no wish to cause pain or embarrassment to those around me; just a desire to share my story. I’ve been reading Joan Dideon lately – The White Album. She deftly manages that delicate dance between stark, personal exposure and others’ privacy. I’m no Joan Dideon, but I’m taking mental notes. What is off-limits? Who is off-limits? Living family members? Current friends? Current lovers? How terrible that someone would eschew me for fear their secrets are exposed. Who becomes fair game? Strangers and mere acquaintances? One-date wonders? Dead boyfriends? Those who have injured me by accident? On purpose? I strive to behave better than my enemies and have a clear moral compass – but in my quest for self-discovery, have I forgotten that, if only for a post or two? I’ve decided not to share the piece I’ve been fervently writing. I’m pleased with it – my own missteps and failings exposed and acknowledged. Hours of work that will never come to fruition, but it’s the correct decision, this time. It’s my truth, but tugs too many others too far into the light, regardless of their own culpability. Today, I am setting down rules – otherwise, I will too easily cross the line.
These cassetelle are baked rather than fried and are best eaten warm, when the chocolate is melty, the ricotta velvety and the pastry crisp and tender. I pop them in a oven for a few minutes to heat them through before enjoying with a steaming cup of coffee.
In the bowl of food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Add very cold butter and pulse until butter is well dispersed. Add egg and yolk and pulse until dough begins to clump together. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press together to form a disk. Wrap plastic wrap around dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine drained ricotta, powdered sugar, chocolate chips and candied peel. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut dough in half, keeping one half refrigerated and roll out the other half to about ⅛” – ⅙” thick between two pieces of parchment or waxed paper. Cut out twelve 3” rounds. Dollop a generous teaspoon of ricotta mixture on one side of each round, fold other side of dough over, making a half-moon shape, being careful to enclose the filling completely. Seal edges with the tines of a fork. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Repeat the process with the remaining ½ dough. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350⁰ F.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until cassetelle are golden along the edges and underneath. Cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy the same day and refrigerate any remaining cassetelle (due to the ricotta filling). If refrigerated, reheat in the oven a few minutes before enjoying.
This time last year, I was preparing for Christmas in London – buying sweaters, confirming the cat sitter, excavating the converter from the junk drawer, and dreaming of mince pies.
Christmas in London without mince pies is unthinkable. These little parcels of perfection are as ubiquitous during the London holidays as sugar cookies in the States. Love them or hate them, you can’t avoid them while the halls are decked with holly. I, personally, adore these pastry jewels and longingly anticipated eating my weight in pies of mince.
Mincemeat has a history dating back to the 16th century. Originally made with meat (hence the name), the pies were much larger and oblong in shape. The fruit and spices, rather than headliners, were there to flavor the meat. Modern versions are smaller and forgo the meat altogether, containing a decadent mixture of fruit, sugar and warming spices. Their size can range from a diminutive mini tartlet to something heftier approximating the size of a British pasty.
As I walked the cobbled streets of London, I sampled a dozen versions of these buttery beauties. My first, from St. John Bread and Wine, was a disappointment, filled with almost nothing but currants. Their Eccles cake, on the other hand, was heaven in puff pastry. I sampled posh pies at Ottolenghi and take-away pies from a small no-name shop at the Columbia Road Flower Market. I ate pies served from bags and pies served on china. Arteries be damned, I prescribed myself nothing less than a pie (or two) a day throughout my trip. Home again after eating my fill in London, I added mince pies to my ever-growing list of recipes to try.
A tumultuous year has passed and I had yet to try my own version. Surprisingly, while researching for my own recipe, I discovered that many versions – including ones from famous British chefs (I’m talking to you, Paul Hollywood) call for nothing more than opening a jar of mincemeat. Jarred? Oh the horror! Jarred may be fine in a pinch, but not for the pies of my London dreams. Next, you’ll be instructing me to unroll a frozen pie crust.
After some additional research, I settled on my existing Eccles cake filling (flashback to St. John), doubled it, and added grated apple. My final filling is packed with currants, home-made candied orange peel, brown sugar, warming spices and brandy. It’s the ideal jeweled filling to nestle in a buttery pastry crust. Maybe not entirely traditional, for me, it’s London Christmas in the US suburbs.
Buttery, flaky pastry filled with a holiday mixture of fruit, warm spices, and a bit of brandy. You will need two 12-cup muffin tins for this recipe.
Candied Orange Peel:
Peels from 3 oranges
18 oz. water
6 oz. corn syrup
20 oz. sugar
8 oz. currants
½ cup candied orange peel, chopped
1 apple, peeled and grated (I use Granny Smith)
1 stick (½cup) unsalted butter
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of an orange
2 Tablespoons brandy
Short Crust Pastry:
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
6 oz. unsalted butter cold and cubed
¼ cup Crisco, cold
⅛ teaspoon table salt
1 egg (beaten)
Water (cold, as needed)
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Make Ahead – Make Candied Orange Peel:
Place orange peels in a pot of cold water, bring to boil, and drain. Repeat this two more times.
Combine water, corn syrup, and sugar in a pot. Bring to boil. Add drained peels, reduce to simmer and poach for 1 hour. Cool peels in syrup. Store in syrup in refrigerator until needed.
Day Before – Make Mince Filling:
Stir together all filling ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave for 1-2 minutes until butter is melted. Stir until well blended, cover and set aside for the flavors to meld and currants to soften, about an hour. Refrigerate. Once cold, the filling should bind together without extra liquid. Drain if necessary.
Baking Day – Make Short Crust Pastry.
In a food processor, pulse flour, butter, Crisco, and salt together until resembling course sand. Gently pulse egg and add water until mixture just comes together. Wrap into two disks and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350⁰ degrees. Roll dough to ⅛” thick and cut circles with a 3 ¼” – 3 ½” cutter to fit inside muffin tins. Cut smaller circles or stars to fit on top. Press dough into each muffin cup and fill ⅔ full with mince filling, decorate with smaller shapes on top and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Bake for 22-28 minutes until tops are golden brown. Cool in tins for 15 minutes, remove from tins and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar (if using).
TIP: To ensure the flakiest of crusts, freeze butter and Crisco for 15 minutes before using so that it is cold as possible before mixing with the flour.
“I will forgive you; the words are so small, but there is a universe hidden in them. When I forgive you, all those cords of resentment, pain and sadness that wrapped themselves around my heart will be gone. When I forgive you, you will no longer define me. You measured me and assessed me and decided that you could hurt me. That I didn’t count. But I will forgive you, because I do count. I do matter. I am bigger than the image you have of me. I am stronger. I am more beautiful. And I am infinitely more precious than you thought me. I will forgive you. My forgiveness is not a gift that I am giving to you. When I forgive you, my forgiveness will be a gift that I give myself.”
– Desmond Tutu
I’ve been focusing on forgiveness in my daily meditation practice these last two weeks. Forgiving myself; forgiving others. If you had asked me last week how my forgiveness practice was going, I would have said, “Great – like a weight has been lifted.” Rarely is anything a straight path, though. I was struggling with my forgiveness this morning, until I read Tutu’s quote above, which now resides in a place of prominence next to my desk.
There’s a Taoist parable about how collecting various betrayals and hurts is like collecting potatoes in a sack. One potato may not weigh heavy on us, but if we continue to collect these potatoes, allow them to rot in the sack, never forgiving, never letting any go, soon the sack becomes burdensome, fetid with rotting tubers, and so heavy we cannot move forward. We carry this ever-growing weight of negativity with us everywhere, day after day. Forgiveness is not about the person who wronged us; forgiveness is not about letting the other person off the hook or lightening their load; forgiveness is not about being weak. It’s about lessening our own heart’s burden. It doesn’t matter if the other person is aware of our forgiveness. Forgiveness is saying, “I will no longer be hindered by the betrayals you’ve placed upon me.” Once we are able to set the sack down, we are free to walk forward, unencumbered by another’s misdeeds.
You are probably expecting some sort of potato recipe at this point. Forgive me.
No fork or plate needed – just cut slices and serve hand-pie style with a napkin for the flaky crust.
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup Crisco
1 large egg, beaten
5 Tablespoons cold water
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
3 cups All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, unthawed
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon zest
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
Finish & Glaze
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
3 tablespoons sugar, preferably turbinado, like Sugar in the Raw
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tablespoon water
Make pie crust: Chill butter and Crisco until very cold by placing both in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and Crisco to flour and pulse on/off until mixture resembles coarse meal (you can also combine the flour and fats using a pastry blender if you don’t want to drag out your processor – more effort, less clean-up). Scrape mixture into a large bowl, add egg mixture, and stir until combined. Don’t overwork dough. Separate the dough in half and roll into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and freeze for about 30 minutes to chill.
Prepare filling: In a large bowl, toss together all filling ingredients except Panko bread crumbs.
Assemble pie: Preheat oven to 375⁰. Line bottom of baking sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle one dough disk with a bit of flour and, in between two sheets of parchment paper, roll into a rectangle about 10 x 15. Transfer to your prepared baking sheet and peel off parchment. Sprinkle with Panko breadcrumbs, spread filling evenly over bottom crust and freeze while you roll out second crust. Roll the second dough disk into a similar sized rectangle, sprinkling with flour and using parchment. Drape over filling and fold the bottom crust overhang over the edges, sealing them together, and crimping. Cut small slits to act as vents all over top crust. Brush top crust with 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water and sprinkle with 3 Tablespoons sugar. Bake pie on lower rack of oven until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together confectioner’s sugar and water until a pourable glaze consistency is reached. Drizzle glaze over top. Serve slab pie in squares or rectangles, warm or at room temperature. Will keep at room temperature for 3-4 days.
After last week’s Thanksgiving dinner, I was left with one Yukon Gold potato, one orange sweet potato and one white sweet potato – orphaned potatoes looking for a home. I thought about making something healthy – simmering them in the remaining turkey stock for an autumn soup (Yawn, Borrrrring!), but soon, I was dreaming about layering them with Gruyere and tons of herbs for a rich, French-style gratin – hmm, delicious and comforting, but more of a side dish than entrée. And then I hit upon the winning gilded-lily combination…
Why not take something as decadent as a potato gratin and encase it in a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, thyme-scented pastry crust? Oui!
A rich potato gratin encased in a flaky thyme-scented pastry.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
⅓ cup olive oil
3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk
2-3 potatoes, a mix of white and sweet, sliced very thin
⅔ cup grated Gruyere cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 large egg
¾ cup heavy cream
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and thyme. Combine canola oil and cream in a measuring cup. Pour oil mixture over flour mixture and mix well*. Place dough between two sheets of waxed paper and roll into a circle large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Transfer to pan and press dough into pan. Chill for 30 minutes while oven preheats to 400 degrees. Cover tart shell with parchment paper and fill with rice, beans, or pie weights. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove parchment and rice and bake another 10 minutes until tart shell is light golden. Remove from oven.
Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the tart shell, followed by ½ of the cheese and ½ of the rosemary and sage. Follow with another layer of potatoes, cheese and herbs. Finish with a layer of potatoes.
Whisk together egg, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and pour over potato layers. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for an hour until potatoes are tender and golden brown and tart is bubbling. Cover with aluminum foil if top browns too quickly. Serve warm.
* This crust can be a bit crumbly. Don’t be afraid to mix it well to form a bit of structure.