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.
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.
I have no idea who Mencius was, but he’s attributed with the quote, “The best things in life come in threes.” I decided to make a pie this weekend and it just so happens that my favorite pie crust recipe makes three crusts. Rather than scale the recipe down and attempt to divide a large egg by 3 (50 grams / 3 = 17ish grams), I decided to make a whole batch and go on a pie spree for the week.
A coworker described this first recipe, Chocolate Pecan, as tasting like a candy bar – loaded with toasty nuts but not too sweet. It’s definitely rich; a little goes a long way. Even moi, the consumer of all things dessert, only needed a small slice to satisfy my ever-aching sweet tooth.
This crust is adapted from The Pioneer Woman and makes three thin crusts or two crusts with plenty of leftover dough for decorations.
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces
- 1 cup Crisco
- 1 Egg, beaten
- 5 Tablespoons cold water
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- 3 cups All-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 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
- 1 ½ cups toasted pecan halves
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- 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 into thirds (If you prefer a more substantial crust, separate in half) and roll into balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill. (If you will be storing the dough in the freezer for a longer period, form dough into a disk and seal in a Ziplock bag. Thaw 15 minutes before using).
- Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium bowl, beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, Karo syrup, eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt until frothy. Stir in pecan halves and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350⁰. In between two sheets of waxed paper, roll out the crust, starting at the center and working your way out into a 11” – 12” circle. Once the dough is the correct size, peel off the top layer of waxed paper and, using the bottom sheet, transfer the dough to a 9” pie pan. Flip the dough over, peel off the bottom sheet, and gently press the dough into the pan. Go around the pie pan tucking the dough to make a clean edge and then crimp. Freeze for 15 minutes.
- Remove the crust from the freezer. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and cover with filling. Bake 40-50 minutes until the topping is firm and dark golden brown. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. Cut yourself a slide – you done good.
My first office job was an entry-level marketing position in mortgage banking. This savory bread pudding recipe was inspired by one I received in the 1980’s from our receptionist at the time, Dottie. I’ve upgraded the ingredients of sandwich bread, Kraft cheese and Jimmy Dean sausage into something modern, refined and packed with flavor – sophisticated enough for brunch entertaining.
Full confession – I’ve eaten this as many times for dinner as breakfast. After a long day in the office (I miss those early days of entry-level work), it warms up in the microwave quite nicely.
Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding
Updated and inspired by a 30-year-old recipe for “Breakfast Quiche.” Quiche was a big thing in the 1980’s.
- 3 cups country white bread, cubed
- 1 cup cooked baby potatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
- 1 cup frozen roasted peppers and onions (I used Trader Joe’s version)
- ¾ cup Spanish chorizo, sliced ½ inch thick
- ½ cup Gruyere cheese
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8” square pan. Sprinkle bread cubes on the bottom of the pan, followed by potatoes, sausage, frozen veggies and, finally, cheese. In a small bowl, beat together eggs, milk, Dijon, salt and pepper. Pour over ingredients in the pan and let sit at least 30 minutes until bread absorbs egg mixture. Lightly press down on bread to fully submerge, if needed (can be covered and refrigerated overnight).
- Bake 45-50 minutes until center is firm and cooked through. Slice and serve. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. Warm up in the microwave.