Savory Potato Tart

A potato and herb tart

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!


Savory Potato Tart

A rich potato gratin encased in a flaky thyme-scented pastry.


Ingredients

    Tart Shell
  • 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
  • Tart Filling
  • 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

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
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Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. Set this recipe aside for Easter or Mother’s Day.

A pink grapefruit tart with whipped cream and shaved white chocolate

If you want your tart a little more “pink” try adding a dash of red food coloring.  I kept mine au naturale.

What does one make for a football and dessert party? Considering the season, my schemings first turn to creamy pumpkin, crisp apple, or juicy pear – the fruits of the season. And spices…oh, there should be spices! Cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. Ah, gingerbread. Gingerbread…and pear. Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Cake, warm and comforting; a celebration of Autumn. YES!

How I got from those thoughts to a refreshingly light pink-grapefruit tart, I haven’t a clue. Oh, but I’m so glad I did!


Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. A press-in crust keeps the fuss-factor down.


Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pink grapefruit zest
  • ⅔ cup pink grapefruit juice
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ 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.
  2. Beat together eggs, whipping cream, sugar, salt, grapefruit zest and grapefruit juice. Pour into tart shell and bake about 30 minutes or until filling jiggles only slightly in center.
  3. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes, transfer to refrigerator and cool completely. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Pumpkin Spice Couronne

Pumpkin Spice Couronne – a French sweet dough ring filled with pumpkin, warming spices and toasted pecans – just in time for autumn.

A ring of pumpkin spice couronne glazed with icing

“I have Pumpkin Kringle at my desk,” she confided conspiratorially. All I could envision was an obscene mishmash of holidays that somehow culminated with a roundly obese Santa Claus in a pumpkin costume shacked underneath her desk. “Who exactly,” I wondered, “is Pumpkin Kringle?”

“You know what pumpkin kringle is, don’t you?” she inquired when I responded with a blank stare. (Ah, thank goodness, she said “what” rather than “who.” Pumpkin kringle, whatever it was, wasn’t a person at all!)

A kringle, I discovered that day, is a ring of Danish pastry dough filled with nuts or fruit, in this case pumpkin, which is baked and then iced. Racine, Wisconsin is the mecca of kringles and, hers, thanks to Trader Joe’s, was an ideal specimen of Racine’s baking prowess.

Now please don’t be confused, the recipe below is decidedly NOT a kringle. The recipe below is a Couronne, a French filled sweet bread. I only mention the kringle because it was the impetus for my foray into couronne baking this weekend. After I nibbled a bit of the kringle…okay, full confession, after I devoured two thick slices, I started dreaming about enriched yeast doughs, I started dreaming about breakfast sweet breads, I started dreaming about Paul Hollywood’s apricot couronne (which I’ve been meaning to make!), I started dreaming about pumpkin spice season (now!) and well…this just happened.

There’s really nothing more lovely than hand-kneading a supple enriched yeast dough.  I love the texture of it under the heel of my hand, which is a good thing since my Kitchen Aid Pro Mixer died last week.


Pumpkin Spice Couronne

  • Servings: One Couronne
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A rich French sweet bread filled with pumpkin, spices and toasted pecans.


Ingredients

    Dough
  • 2 cups strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons fast-rising yeast
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon full-fat milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Filling
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Tablespoon white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Zest from ½ of an orange
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for topping
  • Glaze
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions


1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast on the other (salt can slow yeasts reaction so keep them separate in the beginning). Add the butter, milk and egg and stir to combine.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise until at least doubled in size (1-2 hours).
3. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar and heat over medium heat until melted. Add puree, flour, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, clove and salt and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick and sticks to the spoon. Remove from heat; add orange zest, vanilla and pecans. Set aside.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough into a rectangle, 13” x 10”. Spread the pumpkin filling evenly over the dough to the edges. From the long end, roll up the dough tightly, jelly-roll style. Roll it back and forth lightly to seal the edge.
5. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, leaving it joined just at one end – like a pair of legs. Twist the two dough lengths together, somewhat tightly and then join the ends together to form a circle. Transfer to a baking tray and cover with plastic wrap or a plastic baking bag.
6. Let proof for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes (internal temperature 185). Place on a wire rack to cool.
7. Heat apricot jam in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, sieve and brush over the couronne to glaze. Mix the powdered sugar with enough water to make an icing. Drizzle over the couronne and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Pecan Pumpkin Tart

The best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive dessert:  Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust.

Pecan Pumpkin Tart fresh from the oven

Oh, September…that month where food bloggers in all 50 states are posting pumpkin spice recipes…muffins, lattes, pies, soups – you name it, someone out there has “pumpkin spice-ified” it for Fall.

Just throw me onto the pile with the rest…


Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pecans, Pumpkin and Ginger...the best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive tart.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • 2 ½ cups finely crushed ginger cookies ( about 55-60 Anna’s Swedish Ginger Thins, for example)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Pumpkin Layer
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pecan Layer
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup corn syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¾ cup pecan pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To make crust, combine ginger cookie crumbs with butter in a bowl and press along the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart shell. Wrap bottom in aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. To make pumpkin layer, beat together all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. To make pecan layer, beat together all ingredients except pecans in a bowl until sugar is incorporated. Stir in pecans.
  4. To make tart, spread pumpkin layer evenly over crust. Spoon pecan layer over pumpkin. Bake for about 45 minutes  or until center no longer jiggles and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool tart completely. Once cool, transfer to refrigerator until ready to serve.

Flatlay shot of Pecan Pumpkin Tart

Caramel Banana Cream Pie

Layers of buttery caramel gild the lily on my mom’s original recipe for Banana Cream Pie.

Banana Cream Pie with Caramel

My Book Club is currently reading “Life of Pi” for our August discussion. Every time I write or type it, it comes out as “Life of Pie.” I’m a baker, after all, not a mathematician. The only ratio I’m concerned about is the amount of fruit filling to flaky pastry crust. I’ve posted club announcements, emailed reminders and sent confirmations to my fellow bibliophiles – and each time it’s “Life of P-I-E.”

If one has pie on the brain, one might as well embrace it. A few of my coworkers have been asking for one of the Banana Cream variety. I decided to appease them – and gild the lily yet again by adding layers of buttery caramel.


Caramel Banana Cream Pie

  • Servings: One 9” Pie
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Based on my mom’s Banana Cream Pie recipe, a pie of my childhood, I’ve updated the method slightly and added layers of buttery caramel.


Ingredients

  • 1 baked 9” pie shell, cooled (I use this one)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3-4 bananas, sliced just before using
  • 1 cup caramel sauce (I use David Lebovitz’s Butter Caramel Sauce)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, ¼ cup of sugar and salt over medium heat. Blend cornstarch, flour and remaining sugar in a bowl. Add yolks to sugar mixture. Pour hot milk over eggs slowly to temper. Pour mixture back into saucepan. Bring to a simmer while continuously whisking. Cook over low to medium low heat until thickened. Add vanilla and push through a sieve (to catch any lumps) into a shallow pan. Cover with plastic wrap touching surface and cool to room temperature.
  2. Swirl a small amount of filling on the bottom of the cooled pie shell. Add a layer of sliced bananas. Drizzle bananas with half the caramel. Cover caramel with half the filling, another layer of bananas and the remaining caramel. Top with the rest of the filling.
  3. Beat whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff. Place in a piping bag and pipe rosettes over top of pie. Chill at least two hours before serving to allow flavors to meld and filling to fully set.