British Egg Custard Tart

British Egg Custard Tart
“This is right up your alley” was all her email said. She included this link. She was right – and I haven’t stopped dreaming of it since.

I’m sidelined by the enormity of it. It’s not easy to buy a business in the UK when you’re not a citizen. Yet, a similar cottage in New England doesn’t hold any appeal. And what would I do with my two “boys?” Sending them across the ocean followed by quarantine is more than their little pampered hearts could take, I’m afraid. What to do with my typical American superfluous “stuff” that couldn’t make the trip? Finally, there’s the brisk and rainy Yorkshire weather – a 66⁰ F. June summer HIGH. Brrrrr!!

And yet, I can’t shake it from my mind.

I’d have to learn to make a proper cuppa – and traditional High Street pastries like this one:


British Egg Custard Tart

Eggnog fans rejoice – all that creamy nutmeg-gy flavor wrapped in a pastry crust. This recipe uses a forgiving pâté sucrée dough rather than brisee which requires cutting in the butter.

Ingredients

  • 3 ¾ oz. butter, softened
  • 1 ½ oz. sugar
  • 1 ½ oz. egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. All-purpose flour
  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 6 oz. whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3 ¼ oz. sugar
  • Freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale. Add egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together salt and flour and stir into sugar mixture. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
  2. Roll the dough on a well-floured surface into a large enough circle to cover the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan, nudging the dough into the sides of the pan. Trim excess dough and return to the refrigerator for about 30 more minutes.
  3. For the filling, warm the heavy whipping cream and milk in a saucepan. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture stirring constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Stir well until all sugar has melted. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring.
  4. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Blind bake the pastry for about 30 minutes. Remove the parchment or foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes until bottom of pastry is light brown.
  5. Fill the pastry with custard mixture. The mixture is very runny so I recommend filling as close as possible to the oven to avoid splashes. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges look set but the center still wobbles. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Ginger Hazelnut Millionaire Bars

Millionaire's Shortbread
Inspired by one of my favorite recipes for Ginger Crunch Slices, these rich bars combine buttery shortbread, spicy ginger-cardamom caramel, creamy bittersweet ganache and sweet-salty hazelnut “croquant.”

I planned on giving them to the new neighbors across the street, but after eating two, decided to keep this batch all for myself.


Ginger Hazelnut Millionaire Bars

More like an exotic candy than a cookie, the combination of butter, heady spices, bittersweet chocolate and hazelnuts create quite a flavor bomb.

Ingredients

    Shortbread
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Caramel
  • 7 Tablespoon butter
  • 4 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • Hazelnut Croquant
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • pinch salt
  • Ganache
  • 4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

    Shortbread:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch square pan with aluminum foil and butter the foil.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and beat until the batter just starts to clump together. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan, lightly prick the shortbread with the tines of a fork, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until pale golden in color. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel.
  3. Caramel:
  4. In a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine caramel ingredients, bring to boil and pour over shortbread. Cool.
  5. Hazelnut Croquant:
  6. While caramel is cooling, heat sugar and water in a small nonstick skillet over high heat, swirling, until sugar dissolves. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, swirling occasionally, until amber, about 4 minutes. Add hazelnuts and stir for 30 seconds to coat.
  7. Pour mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a nonstick baking mat, and immediately spread nuts on sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let cool. Coarsely chop.
  8. Ganache:
  9. Once caramel is cool, place bittersweet chocolate, heavy whipping cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk until completely melted and combined. Pour over caramel and smooth. Sprinkle with hazelnut croquant. Let set for an hour or two, or refrigerate until set. Remove from pan using foil, cut into 16 fingers.

Caramelized Nectarines

Caramelized Nectarines in a white casserole dish
The annual nectarine onslaught has begun again and, in fact, the prolific bounty has already managed to snap two branches with the weight. Harvest time is brief with pounds upon pounds of sweet fruit ready all at once. I want to rescue each juicy orb from Newton’s law, plucking them from the tree before they fall, but each morning I find a dozen plump globes bruised and broken upon the ground, their potential wasted. In my efforts to salvage the masses in the past, I’ve bubbled large caldrons of steamy nectarine jam, resulting in three dozen jars “put up.” One can only eat so much jam, however, and most of it remains languishing in the cupboard. I’ve also undertaken a raft of baked goods, but it’s a losing battle – a recipe requires a pound or two of fruit, while I’m picking a few pounds each DAY. I’ve tried freezing the fruit, but that resulted in mushy brown thawed blobs. I picked the first fat, ripe nectarines this week, preparing them with a drizzle of butter, sprinkle of sugar, and quick broil. I know I can’t save them all, but over the next few weeks, I’m willing to try.


Caramelized Nectarines

  • Servings: 2-4 people
  • Print
My nectarines are small.  With larger nectarines, you’ll probably only need two or three to reach the amount needed for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 10-12 oz. Nectarines, sliced in half and pitted.
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Pinch salt
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (preferably turbinado, like Sugar in the Raw)
  • Pinch cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler. Place nectarines, cut side up in a small casserole dish. Melt butter in microwave or small saucepan. Add salt and vanilla to butter and stir to combine.
  2. Drizzle butter over nectarine halves, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Broil nectarines about 4” from broiler element for approximately 8 minutes until fruit is bubbling and beginning to brown. Enjoy plain or serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Jaffa Cakes

LU Pim's

Today, Spring said “hello” through sunshine, orange blossom-scented breezes and a Mexican couple dressed in their Sunday best peddling Jesus’s resurrection door-to-door. My neighbor says it’s going to rain again tomorrow. Could Mother Nature truly be that fickle?

For today only, then, I bathe in sunbeams.

Jaffa Cakes

  • Servings: 24 cookies
  • Print
These British biscuits are a favorite of mine, but usually I succumb to the packaged variety, called Lu Pim’s in the States. It’s a textural thing – the crack of dark chocolate giving way to a gelatin layer atop a sliver of cake.

Ingredients


Gelatin Layer
– 1 pkg. gelatin (1/4 oz.)
– ½ cup fresh orange juice
– zest of 1 orange
– ¼ cup sugar
Cake Layer
– 2 large eggs
– ¼ cup sugar
– ¼ cup flour, sifted
Chocolate Layer
– 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

Directions

  1. Combine gelatin with a bit of orange juice to soften. Meanwhile, heat remaining juice, zest and sugar on a saucepan until sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat, add softened gelatin and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Briefly return to heat, if necessary.  Pour into a 8” square pan, cover and refrigerate until firm, about one hour. Cut gelatin in 1-1 ¼ inch circles using a small cutter.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin with baking spray. On top of a double-boiler, beat eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy using a hand-held mixer, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, gently fold in flour with a rubber spatula. Fill each muffin cup with a teaspoon dollop of batter, filling each cup no more than 1/3 full. Bake for 8-10 minutes until edges are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan and then gentle remove cakes.
  3. Break chocolate into small pieces and heat in a microwave in 15-second bursts, stirring occasionally until ¾ melted. Remove from microwave and continue stirring until fully melted. set chocolate aside for 5 minutes to cool and stiffen slightly (this is the lazy girl’s way to temper chocolate).
  4. Place a round of orange gelatin atop each cake round. Dollop each gelatin round with chocolate and gently nudge the chocolate to the edge, fully covering the gelatin. It’s okay if the cake edges aren’t completely covered. Set aside until chocolate is fully set. Store covered for up to two days.

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Panna Cotta with Caramel

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta with Caramel

When I think of my 2013 trip to Bologna, a specific lunch comes to mind (or should I say “lunches” since I made the pilgrimage twice):  Pasta Fresca Naldi – a tiny mecca some distance from Piazza Maggiore, near the city walls, serving only pasta – and only for lunch.   I made the trek on the recommendation of my B&B proprietress. Hearing that they supply fresh pasta to local restaurants and serve lunch to locals as a small side business, it sounded like my kind of place.  When I stepped inside the tiny graffiti- marked building, it was packed with a line of customers and only  a few random stools along the wall.  Three generations of women (nona, mother, and daughter) cooked in the kitchen.  It was clear that this was no tourist joint – one menu card at the counter, written in Italian, and a friendly woman who didn’t speak English to take my order.  My Italian wasn’t any better than her English but with some good-natured pointing, nodding and gesticulations, I managed to place an order for two pasta dishes.  “Due??!” she confirmed.  “Si, Due!”  I replied; this girl can eat.  With some gestures of her own, she directed me to wait across the street at the picnic benches.   She didn’t take any money. As I sat down on the bench, an Italian sitting next to me asked me how an American like me ever found this local place.

Perhaps the location had something to do with it, eating fresh pasta on the street in the Bologna sun with the locals.  Whatever the cause, this simple pasta lunch was mind-blowing.  After devouring both dishes and convinced I couldn’t eat another bite, I stepped back inside to pay.  A small hand-written sign near the registered offering panna cotta with caramel for 1 euro quickly convinced me I needed dessert  (doesn’t everyone order a rich and creamy dessert right after they’ve completely stuffed their face?). One panna cotta to go, please!  This was a different dessert altogether from any panna cotta I’ve had – rich and cream, sporting a bottom layer of caramel like a hybrid of crème caramel and panna cotta.  It too, was heavenly.  I walked home along the sunlit street with my taste buds humming.

Tortelloni in Bologna

Pasta Fresca Naldi Tortelloni

Note:  Word has gotten out about this little gem since my trip.  When I Googled it in 2013, there were zero results. One could find it by word of mouth only.   Now, Pasta Fresca Naldi is listed on Trip Advisor and Yelp, they have a Facebook page,  menus are available in English and their hours extend past lunch.  A secret treasure never stays secret very long, does it?

Thinking back to my meals at Pasta Fresca Naldi and looking forward to my upcoming Italy adventure, here’s my attempt to duplicate that heavenly panna cotta.

Panna Cotta with Caramel
Makes 12

Panna Cotta
1 Tablespoon Gelatin
3 ¼ cups Heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
¾ cup Buttermilk
¾ t. vanilla
Caramel (optional)
¼ cup Sugar
4 T. Water (divided)

Lightly spray 12 ramekins with unflavored oil.  If using dessert glasses, no oil is needed.

Caramel (optional)

In a small pan, combine ¼ c. sugar and 2 T. water.  Cook over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes and turns the color of dark copper (watch closely so it doesn’t burn).  Take caramel off the heat and add 2 T. water. Be carefully as the caramel will spatter when water is added.  Stir together until combined.  Pour a thin layer of the caramel in the bottom of the ramekins and set aside.

Panna Cotta

Pour gelatin in a small bowl with  4 T. of water. Stir and set aside for 5-10 minutes.

Combine whipping cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and whisk over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and small bubbles appear, but before the cream comes to a full boil.  Remove from heat, whisk in the softened gelatin until dissolved. Add buttermilk and vanilla, whisk again and let cool 3-5 minutes. Remove any bubbles from top of custard.

Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins.  Cover with plastic wrap (it doesn’t have to touch the surface like pudding) and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

You can serve the panna cotta in the dessert glasses with fruit or various toppings.  To unmold ramekins, fill a small baking dish with  boiling water. Slip a sharp knife around the inside of the ramekin loosening the custard, place the ramekin in the water for about 10 seconds and invert it onto serving dish.  If needed, scrape any leftover caramel from the ramekin onto the custard.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta with Fresh Nectarines