Blueberry Coconut Custard Mini Tarts

Yield: about 18 mini tarts
Recipe: 108/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 278

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     My boyfriend and I made these tarts for a friend’s birthday at work. He really likes coconut so we thought that this would be the perfect time to try a new recipe. Unfortunately, everything went wrong with this recipe. The crust was not working at all for us. When we mixed together all the ingredients, the crust was not crumbly at all and was just a dry mess. It would not stick together at all, so we had to improvise and add some (a lot!) honey and vegetable oil until the mixture would at least stick together a little bit. Pressing the graham crust into the mini muffin tins took much longer than expected, but that was not the least of our worries. The coconut filling also did not work out as expected. Although we followed everything exactly, the mixture was very liquid, similar to heavy cream. We simmered it for a longer period of time to try to get it to thicken and we let it cool down in the fridge for many more hours, but it barely thickened at the end. Sadly, these mini tarts looked very cute but did not taste good at all. The crust tasted strange and the filling did not taste like coconut much. We were very disappointed that this recipe didn’t work for us and I cannot think of anything that we may have done wrong! To be repeated.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Key Lime Pie crust
  • 1 can (398 mL) coconut milk
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin.
  2. Prepare the graham crust and press it into the bottom and sides of the muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool to room temperature.
  3. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepot and scrape in the seeds of the vanilla bean (or stir in the vanilla bean paste).
  4. In a bowel, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk into the coconut milk, then turn the heat to medium and whisk until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, about 6 minutes.
  5. Scrape the custard into a bowl, cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap and allo to cool completely to room temperature.
  6. One cooled, spoon the coconut filling into the mini tart shells and top each with 3 blueberries. Chill for at least 2 hours in the muffin tin before taking them out to serve.

Valerie

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Key Lime Pie crust

Yield: crust for one 9-inch pie or 18 mini tarts
Recipe: 107/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 263

    This recipe is part of the “Key Lime Pie” recipe. I have not yet done the pie, but the crust was necessary for another recipe, so I will only show this part. Essentially, just mix together all the ingredients for the crust.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt

Directions:

  1. Stir together the flour, oil, sugar, honey, cinnamon and salt until it is a rough, crumbly texture.

Valerie

Cinnamon Roll Pinwheel

Yield: about 6 dozen cookies
Recipe: 106/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 29

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     During the holidays I made another recipe to go with the banana walnut bread: cinnamon pinwheel cookies. Although the recipe seemed simple enough and did not require uncommon ingredients, it was a complete disaster. Now I’m not sure if it’s because I have never done cookies with a filling that need to be rolled like that before, but it was a big fiasco. As I prepared the dough, it was not coming together at all. It was much too dry. I had to add some whipping cream to make sure that it would form a ball. Then, the instruction for the filling was not as clear as I was expecting. Although the recipe says to divide the dough into two balls, then take one ball of dough and roll it out to the specified dimensions, the quantity of the ingredients for the filling seems to be halved. The recipes says to mix all the ingredients of the filling together and spread it out on the rolled dough. However, at this point we have only rolled out one. So either the prepared filling mixture has to be divided amongst the two rolled doughs, or the filling recipe needs to be doubled. When put in the oven, the cookies more than doubled in size and the filling was oozing out everywhere. It seems that I didn’t roll the filled dough tight enough.

       I am assuming that the fact that I added whipping cream to make the dough come together made it too loose and that is why it expanded so much in the oven, because it was not the right consistency. But I really don’t see how I could have done otherwise.  Also, if there was too much filling in between the layers of dough it is possible that did not help maintain the structure of the cookies. The cookies still taste good, but they are crunchy and not very pretty. I will definitely have to try this recipe again!

Ingredients for cookie dough:

  • 2 cups + 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut in pieces
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt to combine. Note: alternatively, electric beaters could be used.
  2. Add the butter and pulse or blend until the dough is a rough, crumble texture.
  3. Add the whipping cream and pulse or blend until the dough comes together.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap and set aside while preparing the filling. Note: do not refrigerate the dough.
  5. For the filling, stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Roll up the cookie dough in the style of cinnamon rolls, starting at the longer side. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Wrap each roll of filled dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  8. Unwrap and slice the cookie rolls into ¼ inch (6 mm) slices, and lay the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking trays,
  9. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, until they barely start to turn golden. Cool the cookies completely on the trays before removing.

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Valerie

Banana Walnut Bread

Yield: one 9×5 inch loaf (about 12-16 slices)
Recipe: 105/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 276

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     With a lot of time suddenly freed up after being done teaching a lab course, I took the opportunity during the weekend to bake a couple of things. It had been a while! Since I had some very ripe bananas in my fridge that needed to be used, I started with this vegan banana and walnut bread. It was simple to make, but the first time that I tasted it I wasn’t too impressed. I found it a bit too salty and not sweet enough. I thought that it was perhaps because my bananas were beyond saving (I’m telling you, they were very old and I think they may have started to ferment) and for this reason were not as sweet as normal ripe bananas. However, the second and third time I tried the bread I grew to like it. The banana flavour is not as strong as what I am used to, but you can definitely still taste the bananas. What surprised me most is the texture of this bread. Since there are no eggs, butter or dairy milk, I was not expecting such a fluffy texture. You could never tell that this recipe is egg-free and dairy-free! If you are looking for a yummy banana bread that does not require eggs or dairy, definitely give this a try! Word to the wise, I strongly advise you to use ripe bananas that have black spots on the skin, that is when they will be the sweetest.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnut pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, vegetable oil and almond or soy milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir until evenly blended.
  5. Stir in the walnut pieces and mix well.
  6. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and cook for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn it out to cool completely.

Valerie

Pecan-Topped Applesauce Coffee Cake

Yield: one 9-inch coffee cake
Recipe: 104/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 215

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     I have always loved Fall since I can remember. The beautiful leaves changing colours, the cooler weather, the sweaters, comforting soups and hot chocolates. But most of all, I love the apple season, especially apple-picking. For a record this year we went apple-picking three times! We probably picked a total of 50 pounds of apples, so needless to say I had plenty of apples to choose from to make a nice apple recipe. I thought that this apple and pecan cake recipe looked perfect to use some nice apples that were going soft. Although the apple flavour was more subtle than I was expecting, the coffee cake was good and very moist. The topping was a nice combination of sweet and crunchy. Definitely I nice cake to have with coffee, tea or hot chocolate!

Ingredients for cake:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Ingredients for topping:

  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecan pieces
  • 1 peeled apple, coarsely grated

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs just to blend.
  3. Whisk in the applesauce, brown sugar and oil until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Stir this into the applesauce mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Scrape the batter into the springform pan and prepare the topping.
  6. To prepare the topping, stir together the brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, then stir in the pecans and the grated apple. Spread this over the cake batter.
  7. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake to room temperature, then remove the cake from the pan before serving.

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Note:

  • If you wish you can easily make the unsweetened applesauce yourself instead of buying it. To do so, simply place in a pot 3 pound of peeled, sliced and cored apples, ½ cup of water and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set to medium heat, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the apples are soft. Use a potato masher or immersion blender to puree the apples. Let cool and voilà! Homemade unsweetened applesauce. Recipe from Life Made Simple.

 

Valerie

European Lemon Cheesecake

Yield: one 9-inch cheesecake
Recipe: 103/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 162

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    For the second cake that I had to (I don’t like baking at all, I was almost tortured!) make for my boyfriend since I lost a bet, he requested this European lemon cheesecake because, quite simply, he loves lemon and cheesecake, so the combination could only be delicious. The theory proved to be true! This cake was simple to make and although I genuinely had my reservations about this cheesecake due to the use of pressed cottage cheese (note: cottage cheese has always caused some slight disgust to me), it was excellent. Perhaps slightly too lemony for my taste, yet still highly enjoyable. The texture is perfect and similar to that of the classic cheesecake, but feels a bit fluffier and lighter. Essentially, this cheesecake eats itself and you don’t feel to guilty about doing it! Lemon lovers are sure to love this dessert.

   Even though it was not expected for this European cheesecake, I did encounter the typical cheesecake problem of having a big crack develop in the middle. Since I did run a palette knife around the cake after taking it out of the oven and I let it cool completely before chilling it, the only other reason that I think may have caused the crack is that I may have over-whipped the egg whites. It may have been more of a stiff peak than a medium peak, which would have caused the eggs to deflate when the cake was cooling down. So be careful while whipping your eggs, but this is really the only sensitive step of the recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (8 oz/250 g) pressed cottage cheese, 10% milk fat
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs at room temperature, separated
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform and coat it with sugar, making sure to tap out the excess.
  2. Using a food processor or a hand mixer, blend the cottage cheese with ½ cup of the sugar.
  3. Add the flour, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Blend well.
  4. Beat in the egg yolks.
  5. In a stand mixer or in a clean bowl using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy, then pour in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, continuing to whip the whites until they hold a medium peak (the whites should curl just slightly when the beaters are lifted).
  6. Fold the whites into the cheese mixture in two additions, then spread the cheesecake evenly in the prepared pan.
  7. Bake the cheesecake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for about 25 minutes more, until the top just begins to colour. Let the cheesecake cool completely to room temperature, then chill for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Notes from Anna:

  • To prevent a gaping crack to form in the middle of your cheesecake, the speed at which the egg whites are whipped is crucial. Whipped eggs will soufflé in the oven, but when the cheesecake starts cooling, those souffléd eggs will fall, thus creating a crack, even hours after the cheesecake is out of the oven. Make sure not to whip the egg whites too much.
  • Another tip to prevent cracks in the cheesecake is to run a palette knife around the inside edge of the springform pan, which allows to separate the cake from the pan. This way, if and when the cheesecake contracts, it will pull away from the sides of the pan, making it less likely to crack in the middle.

Valerie

Raspberry Pecan Tart

Yield: one 9-inch tart
Recipe: 102/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 116

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     After several months of not posting any new recipes from Anna’s cookbook, I decided that it was time to remedy this! I “owed” my boyfriend two cakes due to two lost bets, and as per his request I made this delicious-looking raspberry and pecan tart, two of his favourite foods. I was happy to finally have a recipe to do and a dessert to make, and it was no trouble at all to do. I am typically not a fantastic dough maker, but since I had already made the nut-crust tart shell required for this recipe, I new what to improve (add a bit more water to obtain the right texture! This is temperature- and kitchen-dependent!)  and got it perfectly right I think. The shell was easy to slice and bite through yet did not crumble to pieces. The tart itself was very good. The filling is slightly gooey with a nice crunch provided by the pecans, and the sweet burst of juice and flavour from the raspberries was very pleasant.  I was not expecting it, but the coconut was the perfect combination in this tart, providing both a good bite and some sweetness. We devoured it in a matter of days. Strongly recommended for an uncomplicated light dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Nut-Crust Tart Shell recipe, baked and cooled
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups roughly chopped pecans
  • 1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place the pan containing the baked crust onto a baking tray until it cools down to room temperature.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla extract until blended.
  3. Stir in the pecans, coconut, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well to combine.
  4. Gently fold in the raspberries.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and bake on the tray for about 45-50 minutes, until evenly browned and set. Cool the tart to room temperature in the pan before removing the outer ring of the pan to slice. The tart can be served at room temperature or chilled.

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Valerie