Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart

Dorie's Pumpkin Tart

Dorie Greenspan's Pumpkin Pie/Tart has been my favorite for years, and I have to have it every fall.  Sometimes it graces our table on Thanksgiving.  I love it cold straight from the fridge, but my mom likes to warm her slice in the oven for a few minutes.  I think it's perfect -- creamy and mellow, the spices fragrant but not too sharp.  I brought one of these tarts in to work last weekend, and one co-worker called it "sublime."  Another said it was "really fockin' tasty."

Pumpkin Tart

If I have one complaint, it's that there's always too much filling unless you bake it in a deep-dish pie pan.  But because I like the fancy-schmancy look, I divided the filling between a round tart and a rectangular tart.  If you do this, you'll need to double the recipe for the dough, and you'll have dough left over.  Shape it into decorative leaves like I did here.  Or roll out the leftover dough, cut it into strips, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake.  Whichever way you make the tart/pie, I think there should always be a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

If this doesn't satisfy your pumpkin fix, here's more:

Waffles with Syrup

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Fritters

Pumpkin Meringue Pie

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Vanilla-Bean Pear & Apple Tart

Vanilla Bean Pear & Apple Tart portrait

I have a zillion apples to get through after apple picking.  There's something about fall that makes you bypass even the farmers markets and head for the orchards to pick your own.  Is it the gorgeous foliage views, the hay rides, the cider doughnuts?  When we first arrived, the aroma of cider doughnuts was intoxicating, and they tasted just as good as they smelled.  With doughnuts in our bellies, we picked more apples than we needed.  And I knew the purpose most of them were meant for: pies.  With that in mind, the bulk of our apples were Golden Delicious and Mutsu, which hold their shape well when baked.

Orchard Collage 1
The orchard; my niece, Audrey; and a cider doughnut.

I was looking for a new way to do apple pie -- I've done traditional double crust, tarts, turnovershand pies, and crostatas.  The recipe I chose involved simmering the apples with some Red Devoe pears in a bath of melted butter and vanilla bean, and they were baked into the pie topped with a walnut lattice crust.  Apple, pear, butter, and vanilla bean combined are truly heavenly, and the chunky pieces of fruit were juicy.  Except... the bottom crust was soggy and the recipe called for an unusual lattice that came with no instructions: the strips were wide with no spaces between them.  I've made several lattice pies before so I wrangled one, but it was fussy.  So I set about re-creating the recipe.

Vanilla Bean Pear & Apple Tart

Enter this tart.  It's shallower than a pie and has a lot less fruit, so no soggy bottom crust.  No tricky lattice dough to contend with, and no walnuts to blend into it.  I kept the blend of pears and apples, sprinkling them with vanilla sugar and dotting the whole thing with cold butter.  Much easier and faster than the pie, which was a production.  I might cut the fruit thicker next time because I did miss the big, juicy chunks from the pie.  It also didn't have as much vanilla-butter sauciness as the pie, but tarts are generally drier like that.  Don't substitute that vanilla bean with extract!  Go ahead and splurge on a bean, because it makes a world of difference.  Now I've just got to work my way through about a bushel more of apples!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chocolate-Filled Walnut Cookies

Chocolate-Filled Walnut Cookies

Wow.  I thought I'd like these cookies, but I didn't think they would be quite that good.  I've had these walnut cookie molds for four years now, and they sat wrapped in their plastic packaging until this week.  I don't know why it took me so long to try them out.  Of course it's not the molds that make the cookie great, but the recipe.  When filled with chocolate ganache, the flavor is reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie with walnuts.  As good as that is, I prefer them unfilled because they actually taste close to pecan pie, with that deep brown sugar and nutty flavor.

Shnooky Collage
Top-left: Shnooky with our current cat, Gandalf the Grey. Bottom-left: Shnooky (left) with his big brother, Baby.

Before I go further, I wanted to dedicate this post to my beloved cat Shnooky, whom we lost three weeks ago.  I've been feeling down and a little lost without him, and we'd been together for one-third of my life.  He was as kooky as his name, and he made me laugh a lot.  He was "little buddy" and "sweet pea" to me, and he loved sunbeams and charging squirrels and birds outside the window with his "battle cry."  I even miss him walking all over me, demanding to be fed, as I slept in the mornings.  We feel sad to have lost two cats in two years, but we try to remember them with smiles instead of tears.

Back to the less-sad subject of cookies.  Don't have walnut molds and don't want to buy them?  You don't need to.  After I filled all 50 molds, I used a cookie scoop to make 3 more mounds, and they baked up on the cookie sheet just fine.  I can't tell you about the experience of filling those with ganache, because we ate them first.  Take note, though, that you can't use those cookie scoops (even the "teaspoon-sized" ones) to fill the walnut molds; those will give you too much dough.  Use the teaspoon in your measuring spoon set.  I would have preferred the ease of a spring-loaded scoop.  I also thought I would include these in our Christmas cookie baskets this year, but they appear too fragile to hold up in the mail.  Still, they would make a lovely gift hand-delivered for the holidays.  Or just good for eating on any old afternoon.