Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fresh fruit tarts! Lime curd tarts!

Whenever I go to a bakery and am looking over the selection, my eye always lingers on the fruit tarts. The bright assortment of fresh fruit, the cute little package it comes know what I'm talking about, right? The only thing is, I hardly ever buy them, simply because they're always so expensive!

My husband gave me a beautiful set of 4 1/2 inch tart pans for my birthday, and I couldn't wait to use them! This was a new venture for me, as I've never made tarts before. I've learned a few things in the process, and will definitely be making more because they were so yummy, and definitely cheaper than if I had bought them at a fancy restaurant or bakery!

I used Ina Garten's recipe out of the Barefoot Contessa cookbook. When I made the fresh fruit tart, I baked the tart shell right before I served it. The shell was pretty crunchy, and reminded me of a sweet shortbread. When I make it again, I'll bake the tart shells the day before, and assemble the tart a few hours before serving so that the moisture from the pastry cream can seep into the shell and soften it up a bit. My parents and siblings were all visiting so they got to enjoy this tasty treat!

A few days later I made a lime curd tart. I did as mentioned above, and baked the tart shell the day before and assembled it early enough that the shell was all nice and soft. I do have to admit that I liked the fruit tart a little better. It was a much lighter dessert - the lime curd was very thick, rich, and sweet. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious. But I could only eat half of it. Both tarts were a lot of work, but I enjoyed making them!

Here are the recipes!

Tart shell
from Ina Garten

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into 5 flat discs. Press the dough into 5 4½-inch false-bottom tart pans, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Butter one side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and rice, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 10-15 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Pastry cream (for fruit tarts)
from Ina Garten

6 extra large egg yolks at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium high speed for 3 minutes until the mixture is light yellow and falls back into the bowl in a ribbon. On low speed, beat in the cornstarch. Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan and, with the mixer on low, slowly pour it into the egg mixture. Then pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook on low heat 2 to 3 more minutes. Taste to be sure the cornstarch is cooked. Remove from the heat, mix in the butter, vanilla, and cream and strain into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.

To assemble fresh fruit tart, fill tart shells with pastry cream and group each fruit to make a casual arrangement.

Lime Curd
from Ina Garten

4 limes at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 4½-inch baked tart shells

Remove the zest of 4 limes with a zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Fill the tart shells with warm lime curd and allow to set at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

BYU Mint Brownies

When I think back to my college days, I have fond memories of living away from home for the first time, figuring out how to juggle school and my social life, making life-long friends, and mint brownies. They were happy days. Particularly the days when I got to eat a mint brownie.

Brigham Young University (BYU) is famous for their mint brownies. At least I think they should be. These brownies are so moist, and I go nuts for anything with mint in it. Whenever you went to an event catered by BYU, the mint brownies were there. You could also buy them in the Cougareat, our little cafeteria in the student center.

When I received a copy of the recipe in an alumni email 5 years ago, I was so excited to make them myself. 5 years passed and I still hadn't made them...but I held on to the recipe knowing that one day I would succumb to the temptation.

We had a bbq with some friends a few weeks ago, and it was like an aha! moment when I realized they would be the perfect thing to make for dessert. I went and bought margarine (which I never do) just for the brownies. And was it worth it? Oh yes!


Sugar-n-Spice, Cougareat Food Court

PREP AND COOK: 90 min. COOL: 1 hr.

1 c. margarine
1/2 c. cocoa
2 Tbsp. honey
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped walnuts
12 oz. chocolate icing (I used the recipe for the mint icing below but just added about 1/3 C of cocoa and left out the mint extract and green food coloring)

5 Tbsp. margarine
dash of salt
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. mint extract
1-2 drops green food coloring

1. Melt margarine and mix in cocoa. Allow to cool. Add honey, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Add nuts. Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool.

2. Prepare mint icing: Soften margarine. Add salt, corn syrup, and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Add mint extract and food coloring. Mix. Add milk gradually until the consistency is a little thinner than cake frosting.

3. Spread mint icing over brownies. Place brownies in the freezer for a short time to stiffen the icing. Remove from the freezer and carefully add a layer of chocolate icing.