Pumpkin Cheesecake and Chocolate Tart

Pies and Tarts

Yield: one 9-inch tart
Recipe: 133/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 122

    Fall is truly my favorite season. The beautiful trees changing colour as the weeks go buy, the breezy but still warm air, the walks and the crunchy leaves, the hot chocolates, sweaters and long coats. But also, I feel like baking in autumn is just that much better, for some reason. A warm tray of cookies or a hot pie coming out of the oven just taste and smell better when it is a bit more chilly, I think. In any case, someone at work mentioned that they liked pumpkin, which I do not, and I was reminded of the pumpkin tart recipe that I have flipped through and ignored several times in the cookbook throughout the years. Since I never really liked pumpkin it was not a recipe that I was interested in doing. However, as it is my challenge to complete all the recipes in this great book, I thought that now would be a great opportunity to get it out of the way and at least one person at my workplace would enjoy it.

    Oh how misguided I was. This recipe for pumpkin cheesecake chocolate tart sounds… unusual, to say the least. Pumpkin, cheesecake and chocolate?! Seems a bit much. Anna Olson says as much in her cookbook. Nonetheless, I followed the recipe as prescribed and everything went as smooth as the pumpkin cheesecake mixture. One aspect that was undeniable is how pretty this tart looks, especially with the exposed pumpkin edge underneath the chocolate ganache. The tricky thing with tarts, pies or cakes is that you cannot try it before you bring it to its final destination, as it would be very apparent that it was tried beforehand and would ruin the look of the dessert. So I just had to trust the recipe and my skills and hope that it would taste okay. I had some doubts, of course, because of the pumpkin, but I brought it anyways. I kid you not, 3/4 of the tart had disappeared within 10 minutes. I have never in my life made a dessert that was devoured so rapidly and that received so much praise. People were going out of their way specifically to come tell me how delicious it was. It appears that I severely underestimated how much people like pumpkin-flavoured desserts. People were taking pictures and saving a piece for later, it was very surprising to me. Of course, I had to taste it myself just to see, and by golly were they right. Somehow, everything fits together exactly as it should in this tart. The autumnal flavour of the pumpkin, the fragrant spices of fall, the richness of the cream cheese and the sweetness of the chocolate. What a perfect mariage of flavours and textures! Turns out I do, in fact, like pumpkin. This dessert was truly one of a kind, scrumptious and not too guilty at the same time. It made a pumpkin convert out of me, after all! This is now my official fall dessert that I will bring to all and any party or gathering that occurs during this season.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Chocolate-Crust Tart Shell, baked and cooled
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup plain pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks

Ingredients for ganache topping:

  • 2 oz (60 g) bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Using electric beaters or a food processor, combine the cream cheese and brown sugar until the brown sugar dissolves.
  3. Stir in the pumpkin purée, cornstarch, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Mix well to combine.
  4. Add the whole egg and egg yolks, and stir until homogenous.
  5. Pour this mixture into the cooked, cooled chocolate crust, and bake the tart on a baking tray for 20 minutes until, like a cheesecake, it is set around the outside with just a bit of a jiggle in the centre. Cool the tart to room temperature.
  6. For the ganache, melt the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a metal or glass bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring with a spatula until smooth. Pour this gently on the centre of the pumpkin cheesecake, and carefully spread it toward the outside, leaving 1 inch of the pumpkin visible at the edge. Chill the tart for at least 2 hours in the pan before removing the outer ring of the pan and slicing the tart to serve.

Valerie

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Custards, Puddings and Soufflés, Pies and Tarts

Yield: 12 tarts
Recipe: 114/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 102

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    Not one to waste egg yolks that I had leftover from making a Swiss buttercream, I decided to finally try making this lovely recipe for Portuguese custard tarts, also called natas here in Quebec. This recipe was actually a little bit more challenging to make. I found it quite interesting to add softened butter to the top of a rolled out pie dough to ultimately convert it to a flaky dough once baked. Pretty ingenious! This recipe is a bit more time consuming than your average cookies or tart, but I much enjoyed the process, especially rolling out the 12 littles pieces of dough individually and filling them with custard. A word to the wise, because of all the added butter, when rolling out the individual dough pieces they will become soft very quickly, so make sure that you flour the surface that you are rolling on and the you don’t overwork the dough!

    The taste of the tarts is very good and the custard itself is tasty and just right, not too eggy or creamy. However, it is evident that I did not roll out each of the 12 portions thin enough (I never know what 1/4 inch looks like and I am too lazy to take out a ruler and measure), because when baking them the dough almost doubled in size and is a bit too thick. As a result, my tarts don’t have the pretty overhangs to be expected based on the recipe and the dough-to-custard ratio is a bit too high. Nonetheless, they taste very good. If I do these again I would just make sure to roll them out thin enough so that I don’t have very thick tarts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough, wrapped in one piece and chilled
  • 5 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons +1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Pull the dough from the fridge 30 minutes before rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the entire piece of pie dough into a rectangular shape that is about 20 inches by 12 inches long (50 x 30 cm), and 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Evenly spread 5 tablespoons of the softened room temperature butter over the surface of the dough, and roll up the pastry from the short end. Wrap and chill the dough while preparing the filling.
  3. Heat the cream and milk in a pot over medium heat to just below a simmer.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla extract.
  5. While whisking the egg mixture, slowly pour in the hot cream, then pour everything back in the pot. Whisk the custard constantly over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to bubble, about 4 minutes.
  6. Strain the custard into a bowl and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool the custard on the counter at room temperature, then chill for 1½ hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  8. Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut 12 discs from the log. Roll out each portion on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Trim with a 5-inch round cutter and press each portion into the muffin tin so that the edges of each tart shell are about 1/2 inch above the edge of the muffin cup.
  9. Spoon the chilled custard into each pastry.
  10. Bake the tarts for 35 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the custard has browned on top somewhat. Cool the tarts in the tin before removing to serve at room temperature or chilled.

Valerie

Blueberry Coconut Custard Mini Tarts

Pies and 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

Raspberry Pecan Tart

Pies and Tarts

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

Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron)

Pies and Tarts

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