Christmas in London! Such a brilliant notion. Those powder-dusted cobbled lane pics in my Instagram feed seduced me. Granted, we have just a week to plan, yet our passports are current, we know where we want to go, what we want to do – and we’re both quite experienced travelers. All we really need is a London hotel and a cheap, last minute flight. But, alas, there’s the rub – nothing less than $1800 per person, even with a layover. Sigh, Christmas in London – again, not this year.
I console myself, as I decorate the tree, with these British-inspired confections – bite-sized Cranberry Bakewell Tarts. At least my taste buds can travel there.
3 Tablespoons smooth cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tablespoon water
16 sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 16 mini muffin cups. Make crust by beating together 6 Tablespoons butter and sugar. Add vanilla, flour and salt and combine until fully blended. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces, pressing dough along bottom and up sides of each muffin cup. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to brown. If crust rises too much after baking, gently press back down into cups.
While crusts are baking, make frangipane by whisking together 4 Tablespoons butter, confectioner’s sugar, egg, almond flour and cornstarch. Spoon frangipane into a piping bag with a ¼ to ½” tip.
Dollop about ½ teaspoon of cranberry sauce in the bottom of each cup. Pipe frangipane over cranberry sauce, covering sauce completely. Bake tarts for an additional 20-25 minutes until tops are puffed and slightly golden brown. Cool completely
To make glaze, mix 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar with water. Drizzle over cooled tarts. Garnish each with a sliced almond.
Me: “What are some of your favorite things to eat?”
Him: “I dunno, I like lots of things…I think I told you, Chocolate soufflé.”
Me: “Yeah, but it’s difficult to keep and photograph a soufflé without it collapsing. It’s more of an à la minute dessert. What about nuts? Do you like nuts?”
Him: “Sure, I like nuts. What about a tart – a fruit tart?”
Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I could bake a tart with autumn fruit…”
We had “the talk.” That’s the talk where I explain baking for him doesn’t mean he’s earmarked for fathering my children. A cake doesn’t mean I want him to put a ring on it. Sometimes an éclair is just an éclair. I bake – it’s what I do. I bake for people I like – it makes me happy. It’s the perk of knowing me – don’t overthink it; enjoy it.
I decided on this impressive looking yet relatively simple autumn apple and dried cherry tart flavored with warming Chinese 5-spice – an ideal holiday dessert to provide the wow-factor to any table. Plus, it’s a good classic dessert when baking for a guy for the first time – who doesn’t like apples and buttery pastry?
Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated French Apple Tart. This easy no-roll, no-chill crust is my go-to crust for many types of tarts.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
5 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
10 Golden Delicious apples (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cored
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 Tablespoon water
½ cup apricot preserves
¾ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
¼ teaspoon salt
To make the crust, adjust 1 oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack about 5” from the broiler element. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press dough smoothly and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and bake on lowest rack until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Set aside.
For the filling, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and soften until ready to use. Cut 5 apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 5 minutes. Spread apples on a plate in a single layer to cool. Pour any accumulated liquid from the skillet.
While the apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Strain 3 Tablespoons of preserves through a small mesh strainer and set aside for step 7.
Cut remaining apples into ½” cubes. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add drained cherries, remaining un-strained apricot preserves, cubed apples, Chinese 5-spice and salt to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash apples to puree with a fork or potato masher. Continue to cook, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and puree is reduced to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
Transfer puree to tart shell and smooth. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo above). Bake tart, still on wire rack in baking sheet, on lowest rack for about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
While broiler heats, warm reserved strained preserves in microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool for 1 ½ hours before removing ring and slicing.
“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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m celebrating a milestone birthday in a mere handful of weeks. I can’t help but ponder what I want for rest of my life. What do I want to do – for a living; as a passion? Where should I live? Who do I want to be? How will I leave my mark? Who do I want by my side? That Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime,” has been running through my brain this week.
And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here?
In truth, I don’t know what I want – and haven’t a clue how I ended up here. My chosen path isn’t clear to me – I just know this isn’t it. Not having a clear notion of what one wants for their life is fine at 18, not so much when one has less than half her years remaining.
So, I bake tarts and ponder life.
1 stick plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Make Lemon Curd: Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, eggs, and salt in a saucepan. Add butter all at once and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly until curd is very thick and first bubbles appear on the surface, about 10 minutes. Pour curd through a sieve into a bowl. Cover and chill.
Make Crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, zest and salt. Add melted butter and stir together until dough forms a ball. Press dough on bottom and up sides of 9” tart pan. Prick bottom of shell with fork and pre-baked until golden, 20-30 minutes.
Assemble Tart: Whisk together heavy whipping cream with gelatin. Add 2/3 of lemon curd to whipping cream and fill tart pan almost full. Finish with a layer of pure curd. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
This is one of two tarts I made for a friend’s housewarming party this weekend. Slightly adapted from Sunset Magazine
9 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
6 Tablespoons melted butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons espresso
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups strawberries
Preheat oven to 325°. Place cookies in a food processor and crush into fine crumbs. Add melted butter, sugar and espresso and process until combined. Press mixture evenly into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan.
In another bowl, with a mixer on medium, beat mascarpone, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour and salt.
Spread filling into chocolate crust. Place tart pan on a cookie sheet and set on center rack of preheated oven. Bake until filling is pale golden and barely set in the center when you gently shake pan, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove tart from oven and let cool on a rack about 30 minutes, then chill until cold, at least 1 hour. (cover tart once cold).
Shortly before serving, remove rim from pan. Rinse, stem, and thinly slice strawberries. Arrange in a spiral pattern on top of the tart.