Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron)

Yield: one 9-inch tart
Recipe: 92/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 110

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     All that know me understand that anything chocolate is my favorite dessert, but I have been known to appreciate lemon desserts more and more over the years. As such, I decided to attempt doing the delicious tarte au citron recipe found in Anna’s cookbook. It was easy enough to make, especially once the tart shell (Part I) was done. Part II essentially consists in mixing all the other ingredients together and pouring into the tart shell, which I love! Simplicity at its best. However, one main problem that I had when following the tart shell recipe is a notorious problem that I always face when making tarts: the dough shrank while baking! Gasp! It is quite frustrating indeed to roll out and lay out the dough perfectly, trim the edges while making sure that the dough is not stretched to the top of the pan to then have it shrink in your oven. I even followed other bakers’ advice about making holes with a fork at the bottom of the dough to let it breathe and prevent bubble formation, as well as pressing down the dough with pie weights, but sadly my dough still shrank. I believe that this is a mystical phenomenon that I shall never understand. Am I not letting the dough rest enough before rolling? Too much? Letting the rolled-our dough chill too long in the pan? Maybe one day I will figure this whole “tart thing” out.

      In any case, the point that I was getting at is that since the dough shrank considerably, the baked tart shell was less high than expected, so I was not able to put all the delicious lemon filling in the tart shell for fear of overflowing. Nonetheless, once the tart was out of the oven and cooled completely my boyfriend and I had a taste and it was delightful. Citrus-y, light and yet packed with flavor. Quite good indeed. Due to the aforementioned problem the filling-to-crust ratio was much lower than I would have prefered, but the lemon tart as a whole still tasted very good, especially considering the few steps that are required to make it. Now if only I could figure out how to make the dough stay where it is… the world of lemon tarts would be much more delectable.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Sable Tart Shell
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place the pan containing the baked and cooled tart shell on a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk and sugar until smooth.
  3. Whisk in the cream, sour cream, and lemon zest and juice until evenly combined.
  4. Pour this mixture carefully into the tart shell. Bake the tart on the tray for about 25 minutes, until the tart is set except for the middle three inches, which should still have a little jiggle to it. Cool the tart to room temperature, then chill in the pan for at least 2 hours before removing the outer ring of the pan to serve.

Valerie

Sable Tart Shell

Yield: one 9-inch baked tart shell
Recipe: 91/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 108

    Next up: Lemon Tarte, also known as Tarte au Citron. To do this, of course, requires an appropriate and delicate tart shell.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup icing sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake and pastry flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Beat the butter and the icing sugar together until fluffy using a hand or stand mixer.
  2. Stir in the egg, then add in the milk and vanilla extract.
  3. Stir in the flour and salt until the dough comes together as a ball. Note: the dough will be quite sticky.
  4. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and then chill it for at least two hours in the fridge, until firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Knead the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to soften it just slightly. Dust the pastry with a little flour and roll in out to just over 11 inches in diameter and just under 1/4 inch thick. Line a 9-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pan and trim the dough that hangs over the edges. Chill the pastry for 20 minutes in the fridge, or for 10 minutes in the freezer.
  6. Placed the chilled tart pan on a baking tray. Dock the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork* and bake the dough for 20-24 minutes, until just the edges are golden brown and the centre of the shell looks dry. Cool completely before filling.

Notes from Anna:

  • Fill the tart shell soon after baking it, as it is fragile when not filled. However, the dough can be chilled for up to 3 days and then baked.

Notes from Valerie:

  • *So that the tart shell doesn’t shrink within the tart pan as it bakes, I strongly recommend that you place a layer of parchment paper or aluminium foil over the forked dough, then cover this with pie weights (or something heavy than can withstand high temperatures) to weigh down the shell as it bakes and bubbles.

Valerie

Frosted Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes
Recipe: 90/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 280

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     It has been 9 months that I have not posted on my blog! Scandalous! I guess time just flew past me without me noticing. I have been so busy with my work and with one particular lovely and long-lasting blissful event that I forgot to take time to myself to bake. Well I never stopped baking per se and of course never forgot about this blog, but I have been baking a lot less than usual in these past months and not often from the cookbook when I was. I plan on stopping this 9-month hiatus immediately and getting back to it. Only 112 recipes to go!

    I volunteered to make baked good for a bake sale at work to support the Terry Fox Foundation and came upon this recipe in my never-forgotten book. I always hesitated to do this recipe because 1) it requires almond or soy milk, which I never have, but most importantly, margarine is used in the frosting and I never trusted that. However, for once I actually had almond milk in my fridge so I thought that it was time to let go of my doubts and give this recipe a try. The cupcakes came out much better than I thought. They were not hard to make and baked very well. I only realized when I was done mixing the batter that I hadn’t used any eggs at all! It was such a strange feeling to me since I don’t think I ever made egg-free cupcakes. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my oven to find golden tops that had risen. The frosting, in contrast, was quite a different story. I followed the recipe exactly, but it turned into a big mess. I had a gut feeling that 1/2 cup of milk was way to much for the amount of icing sugar required since normally only 3-4 tablespoons are used, but I went along with it and regretted it instantly. The frosting was very liquid, so much so that I wouldn’t even have been able to spread it (I tried). I ended up having to add a ton of icing sugar, hard to say since I was doing it by feel but anywhere from 3-4 additional cups, to make the frosting the right consistency to be able to pipe nicely. Since I added so much, it was very sweet, but still edible. In hindsight, I should have listened to my gut feeling and added the milk little by little, starting with 3-4 tablespoons. It is better to add milk than to have to add that much more icing sugar. The only reason that I can think of that could have altered the consistency of the frosting is that I had left the margarine out on the counter for maybe 30 minutes, but it had not softened that much. I don’t expect that it would have had that much of an impact. Nonetheless, the cupcakes tasted fine but I did not find that they had a lot of flavor to them, even with all the sugar. Another point to note is that because these cupcakes are egg-free and dairy-free, the texture was very different from your traditional cupcake recipe and the cupcake was all stuck in the muffin liner and was very difficult to remove. I would suggest baking these in silicone muffin liners if you have them to facilitate their removal, after which you can place the cupcakes in cute paper muffin liners if you wish.

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups almond or soy milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1 cup dairy-free margarine
  • 7 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup almond or soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two muffin trays with medium paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the almond or soy milk with the oil, lemon juice and vanilla extract.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the liquids. Whisk vigorously until well blended. Note: The batter will not be very thick.
  5. Pour the batter into the paper-lined muffin tins, filling the cups two-thirds of the way full. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the muffin tin, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely before frosting.
  6. To prepare the frosting, beat together with a hand or stand mixer the margarine with half of the icing sugar. Mix until blended, then beat in the almond or soy milk and the vanilla extract. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until the frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Pipe or spread the frosting onto the cupcakes and store at room temperature.

Notes from Anna:

  • This recipe requires more sugar than your normal cupcake or cake recipe. This is because apart from adding sweetness, the sugar is essential to provide moistness since this recipe is  egg-free. With less sugar, the cupcakes would be dry and crumbly.

Suggestions to improve recipe:

  • Use silicone muffin liners when baking these egg-free and dairy-free cupcakes.
  • When making the frosting, do not add the whole 1/2 cup of milk at once. Start little by little, 3-4 tablespoons at a time, until you reach the desired consistency suitable for piping or spreading.

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Valerie

Two-Bite Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Yield: about 6 dozen biscotti
Recipe: 89/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 38

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    Chocolate. Almonds. Bite size. This recipe was a bit more complex than others but is very well explained, utilizes some of my favorite ingredients and generates a ton of biscotti. I just had to try it. I found that there was a little something something missing in the taste of these biscotti, but I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it. Maybe it is the use of cocoa powder as opposed to other types of chocolate that changed the flavor profile of these compared to what I am used to. They have a nice bite and flavor to them nonetheless. Furthermore, keep in mind that this recipe was designed to make biscotti, so they are dry and harder than cookies, which is normal and to be enjoyed with a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ₁⁄₈ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer fitter with the whip attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on high speed until they hold a ribbon when the beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
  4. Scrape the batter into a pipping bag fitted with a large plain round tip, and pipe three rows of batter, about 12 inches long and 1 ½ inches across, onto each tray. The batter will be the consistency of cake batter and so a bit liquidy for pipping. You will need to move fast! Leave about 2 inches between each row.
  5. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the sliced almonds on top of the biscotti batter on each tray.
  6. Bake for about 16 minutes, until the tops of the biscotti appear dry. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. In the meantime, lower the temperature of the oven to 325°F.
  7. Transfer each row of biscotti to a cutting board and slice on the diagonal into thin biscotti that are about ¾ inch wide. Return the biscotti to the baking tray and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

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Valerie

Apple-Raisin Walnut Bars

Yield: about 20 bars (one 8-inch square pan)
Recipe: 88/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 63

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     Oh how the months have passed me by! They fled at the speed of light. Almost December already! Finally having some free time on my hand and a spare apple to use, I decided to make these apple-raisin walnut bars. Let me tell you, these are delightful!! They are ultra moist with all the right flavors: apple, the sweetness of raisins and that touch of cinnamon. I had never used applesauce in a recipe, especially not combined with grated apples, but this combination generated such moistness that I will use this trick in the future. Let’s not forget the pleasant texture and nutty flavor provided by the walnuts. Don’t be fooled by the presence of raisins, this recipe makes for a delicious dessert or late-night snack. If you closed your eyes you (maybe) even wouldn’t know that they’re there. You have to trust me on this one. Go for it.

Ingredients for bars:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large apple, peeled and coarsely grated
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup walnut pieces

Ingredients for glaze:

  • ⅓  cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or apple juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and beat after each addition.
  4. Stir in the applesauce and vanilla extract.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and beat well until blended.
  6. Stir in the grated apple, raisins and walnut pieces. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the pan comes out clean. When there is about 15 minutes left of baking, start preparing the glaze.
  7. For the glaze, stir all the ingredients together in a small saucepot except for the vanilla extract. Bring up to a simmer, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  8. Once the cake comes out of the oven, pour the glaze over the hot cake and let it cool completely in the pan before removing it to slice into bars. Enjoy!

Valerie

Maple Crème with Almond Crackle

Yield: 4 to 6 individual crème brûlées
Recipe: 87/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 192

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      Having plenty of cream in my fridge meant that I was going to make a custardy-type dessert, such as this maple crème topped with an almond crackle. It is not a crème brûlée per se because the top has not been coated with sugar that was burnt and caramelized to create the typical hard crust. In its place, a nut crackle is used to create the crunchy feeling usually obtained by the caramelization of the sugar. This is rather a lighter version of the classic dessert as it uses less whipping cream and half-and-half to complement it. I think that I accidentally slightly undercooked this dessert as the consistence of the inside was a bit less firm than I expected. I am still getting used to finding the right “jiggle” for custards and crème brûlées! Nonetheless, the dessert taste great and the addition of maple syrup made it decadent and flavorful.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cups half-and-half cream
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ⅔ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 recipe Nut Crackle (almond)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Arrange four 6-ounce (180 mL) ramekins or other baking dishes in a much larger baking dish that has sides that are at least the height of the ramekins.
  2. Whisk together all the ingredients (except the crackle). Pour them into the prepared ramekins.
  3. Pour boiling water around the ramekins so that the water comes up to about two-thirds of the height of the ramekins.
  4. Bake the crèmes between 35-45 minutes, until they are set around the outside but still jiggle a bit at the centre. Allow the custards to cool in the water-filled pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the water to cool to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.
  5. The crackle can be prepared while the crèmes are in the oven. To serve, break the crackle into pieces and place the, on top of the crèmes immediately before serving.

Notes from Anna:

  • This is a lighter version of the original crème brûlée since the recipe calls for half-and-half cream as opposed to heavy (whipping) cream.
  • The brûlées can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Valerie

Nut Crackle

Yield: about ½ cup (enough to garnish 1 cake or tart, or 6 individual desserts)
Recipe: 86/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 321

Needing a garnish for a dessert that I wanted to make, I made this simple yet elegant nut crackle garnish. For my particular dessert I doubled the recipe, and for some reason the “crackle” never really solidified completely, making it difficult to break into pieces. Perhaps I should have kept in a bit longer in the oven to cook the syrup more, but I am not sure if that was the problem. I will keep you posted!

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup sliced or chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) pure maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminium foil and grease well with butter.
  2. Sprinkle the foil with the nuts, then pour the maple syrup overtop, stirring just slightly.
  3. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the syrup is bubbling vigorously. Let the crackle cool completely and store at room temperature until ready to serve.
  4. To serve, peel the foil away from the crackle and break it into pieces to use. The crackle will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

Valerie