Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes

February 14, 2017

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February 14th….yup, you guessed it…It is Valentine’s Day. Does everyone know what amazing dish they’re making for their sweeties to celebrate the day? I tell you, I think I’ve got a real winner here with these Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes. The husband loves a good G&T. The two places which he ranks as making the best G&T’s out there are the Slippbarinn in the Marina Hotel in Reykjavik Iceland (kind of difficult to get there for us…) and Saison in good old Richmond Virginia (Dangerously close to us if you know what I mean!). Although each version of this classic cocktail has very different flavor profiles, they both share the use of grapefruit juice and garnish in their mix rather than the traditional lime. So that is what I did here. Bring on the grapefruit I say. Wow! These boozy little cupcakes are just perfect.

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So refreshing with bold citrus flavors and floral gin notes. And I should also mention that I frosted them with a pink grapefruit/gin swiss meringue buttercream frosting. Yeah, swiss meringue frosting rules. So fluffy, so light. It is everything you could ever want in a frosting.

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It is actually strange for me to say that recently I am really into grapefruit. I absolutely hated it as a kid and was at a loss as to why anyone would eat one. Can’t get enough of it now. I’m even sipping on a grapefruit flavored fizzy water as I write this. And G&T’s are also something I never cared for in the past. To me drinking any kind of gin was like licking a Christmas tree. But my opinion has definitely changed since I took a taste of the husband’s G&T at Saison. I couldn’t wait to order my own! Saison is our favorite restaurant in Richmond, which says a lot because Richmond is just chock full of fantastic eateries. A real foodie destination I tell you, but it is actually pretty difficult to tempt us away from Saison when we are in town. Not only has every morsel of food we have ever gotten there been delicious, but their cocktails are also simply superb – especially their G & T’s. One of the things that makes Saison’s G&T so remarkable is that it is a hopped G&T. They actually make their own hopped tonic. Now they used to sell little bottles of this magical tonic, but their G&T is such a popular cocktail for them, that they had trouble making enough tonic for both the bar and take out market. Here is where we totally lucked out. We happened to be there last week and the bartender had just made up a brand new batch of tonic. Not only were we able to enjoy it in a Hopped Gin and Tonic or two…we were also actually able to buy a little bit of the hopped tonic to take home with us. I used it in these Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes. That’s right…the ones we are scarfing down here are actually Pink Grapefruit Hopped Gin & Tonic cupcakes! OMG! So delicious! The hopped tonic is slightly bitter but also citrusy which pairs so well with the sweet grapefruit notes. Now I know not everyone can get ahold of that amazing elixir. Like I said, we really lucked out. But you can use regular tonic water and the results will still be stellar!

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So I don’t know if your Valentine is anything like mine….he is not so much into chocolate, but loves fruit desserts. And he loves G&T’s, so these Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes are a Valentine’s Day dessert match made in heaven for him. I’d wager you’d love them too. And don’t forget, if you are ever in Richmond, you must grab a bite to eat as well as a Hopped G&T at Saison! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes

  • Servings: 15 -18 cupcakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe inspired by: Globe Scoffers

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes:

  • 180 grams unsalted butter
  • 180 grams caster (superfine) sugar
  • Zest of 1/2 large pink grapefruit
  • 180 grams self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 4 Tablespoons tonic water
  • 2 Tablespoons Gin (plus more for brushing over cupcakes)

For the Frosting:

  • 5 large (150 grams) egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 2 – 4 Tablespoons Gin
  • grapefruit zest for garnish

Directions:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line muffin tins with cupcakes papers.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and grapefruit zest until light and fluffy.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.

Add the flour/baking powder and mix until it is just incorporated. Take care not to over mix.

Stir in the tonic water and gin, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide the mixture between the cupcake wells. I use an ice cream scoop.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cakes are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cupcakes on a metal rack. While they are still warm, poke several holes in each cake with a skewer. Brush liberally with gin and let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice or vinegar to remove any trace of grease. Make a double boiler by placing the mixer bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl, whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140°F, or until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl no longer feels warm, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Continue beating until it has reached a silky smooth texture. If the buttercream curdles simply keep mixing and it will come back to smooth. If the buttercream is too thin and runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes before continuing mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add the vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

Add the grapefruit juice and gin slowly, 1 Tablespoon at a time, and mix until well combined.

If you would like to make this frosting ahead of time, keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let come to room temperature and rewhip in the mixer with the paddle attachment before using.

When you are ready to frost the cupcakes, place frosting in pastry bag fitted with whatever tip you desire and pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Garnish with grapefruit zest and wedges as you prefer.

Enjoy!

Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools and Ingredients for Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips Ice Cream Scoop

King Arthur Self Rising Flour – You can also find this on Amazon, but have to purchase several bags of it.

India Tree Superfine Caster Baking Sugar

Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Tonic Trio – I have never actually tried these, but if you are into the idea of artisan tonics these might be fun to experiment with. Just add soda water to these syrups for a unique flavor profile.

 

 

 

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Banana Cream Pie

February 13, 2016

 

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Today is Valentine’s Eve. Does everyone know just what decadent dish they are going to make for their sweetie tomorrow? You know, that culinary creation that will totally sweep your beloved right off of their feet! I’ve got mine all done and dusted. A classic Banana Cream Pie!

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Yes sir-ree. And this is no ordinary Banana Cream Pie. Nope….this one is special and totally home-made. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of tasty Banana Cream Pies that were done with graham cracker crusts, instant Jello banana pudding filling and Cool Whip topping. But I got to tell you, this pie, made totally “from scratch” just leaves them all in the dust! Let me tell you why. I’ll start with the crust. It is light, flaky and wonderfully buttery.

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And as if, this pie crust weren’t good enough on its own…which it definitely is, for this Valentine’s creation, I gilded the lily a bit and brushed a silky dark chocolate all over the top of it. Then I filled that chocolate covered crust with a lovingly simmered, velvety banana infused custard and topped it with swirls of fluffy whipped cream. Oh mercy!

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So homey yet so utterly indulgent! Actually, to tell you true, this dessert is totally not my thing. I like chocolate and peanut butter and am somewhat obsessed with cupcakes. Fruit desserts? Not so much. But I didn’t make this for me. I made it for my Valentine.

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And the Husband can pass by a table of chocolatey sweets without a second glance. But show him any type of crumble, fruit crisp or pie and he goes weak in the knees. So you see, my path was clear. And I’m very happy to say, he did indeed find this Banana Cream Pie “swoon worthy”!

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So if you know someone who you think you might want to get to know a little better, whip them up this classic comforting and oh so dreamy Banana Cream Pie. After the very first bite, I bet they’ll be your Valentine before you can even ask.

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Banana Cream Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe from: Bon Appetit, Flaky Pie Crust slightly adapted from Inspired Taste

Ingredients:

For the flaky pie crust: (Or, if pressed for time, purchase a 9″ pie crust)

  • 2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
  • 6 tablespoons vodka (chilled)
  • 2 Tablespoons ice water

For the Chocolate lining:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

For the Pie:

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 bananas, sliced

For the Whipped Topping:

  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • chocolate shavings for decoration, if desired

Directions:

For the flaky pie crust: (This makes enough for two 9″ pie crusts. You will only use one of them for this recipe. The other one can be frozen for up to three months, giving you a jump start on the next pie you make!)

Mix 6 tablespoons of vodka and 2 tablespoons of water. Put in fridge or freezer (don’t forget it) to chill.

Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.

Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).

Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).

Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water/vodka over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water/vodka and continue to press until dough comes together.

Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).

Once you are ready to bake, remove one of the dough discs from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. (If you’d like to see a great video on how to roll out pie dough, take a peek at this one from Inspired Taste.)

Lightly flour work surface, top of dough and rolling pin. Then use rolling pin to roll out dough to a 12-inch circle (about 1/8-inch thick). Be sure to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below — add a small amount of flour when necessary.

Check for size by inverting pie dish over dough round. Look for a 1-inch edge around the pie dish.

To transfer dough to dish, starting at one end, roll dough around rolling pin then unroll over dish.

Gently press dough down into dish so that it lines the bottom and sides of the dish. (Be careful not to pull or stretch the dough). Then, use a knife or pair of kitchen scissors to trim dough to within 1/2-inch of the edge of the dish.

Fold edge of dough underneath itself so that it creates a thicker, 1/4-inch border that rests on the lip of the dish. Then, crimp edges by pressing the pointer finger of one hand against the edge of the dough from the inside of the dish while gently pressing with two knuckles of the other hand from the outside.

Heat the oven to 425º F. Place a baking sheet on a middle oven rack.

Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork (this prevent air pockets or bubbles from forming while baking). Line the crust with two sheets of aluminum foil. (Be sure to push foil against the edges of the crust). Then, fill foil with dried rice, dried beans or pie weights. Refrigerate 30 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Place pie crust onto preheated baking sheet and reduce oven temperature to 400° F (200° C). Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Make an egg wash by whisking one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of cream in a small bowl. Then, remove rice, beans or pie weights and foil from pie crust. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust with egg wash. Bake until egg wash is dry and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool crust completely.

If you are using a store-bought crust, prebake it and set it aside to cool completely.

Once your crust has cooled, melt 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and brush over a prebaked 9-inch pie crust; chill until set.

For the Banana Cream filling:

Meanwhile, whisk 3 large egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan, off heat, until smooth. Gradually whisk in 2 cups whole milk. Whisking constantly, bring to a full boil over medium heat and boil until the custard pulls away from the sides of the saucepan, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Fold in 3 sliced bananas and let cool slightly. Pour filling into prepared pie crust, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

For the whipped topping:

Beat 1 cup chilled heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until firm peaks form; spoon over pie and swirl decoratively. Decorate with chocolate shavings, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips or just serve it au natural, as you wish!

Enjoy!

Banana Cream Pie brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Banana Cream Pie:

Cuisinart Pro Classic 7 Cup Food Processor

Norpro Silicone Pastry Mat

Oxo Good Grips Silicone Basting & Pastry Brush

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Sauce Pan

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

 


Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart

February 13, 2015

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Here it is…the day before Valentine’s Day! Oh and it also happens to be Friday the 13th, which is a bit disconcerting. Anyhoo… Have you baked up a little something special for your sweetie? I know some folks were suspicious that my Valentine would be getting those irresistible Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies that I blogged about a few days ago. Now those were right up my alley! Alas, as I mentioned, the husband does not have any trouble resisting Peanut Butter treats whatsoever. (Yay! More for me…) No. Definitely. NOT up his alley. Nor likely anywhere on his map! So I’d have been a pretty horrible wifey to offer those up to him. Luckily I’m not that clueless and know exactly what he likes. Believe you me I have earned some serious Valentine’s Day points from him by making this Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart. For the husband, and perhaps some other of you fruit dessert loving folks out there, this is the dessert that is irresistible.

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So what we’ve got here is a crispy graham cracker/cashew crust holding a creamy, sweet and tart lime curd filling, all crowned with the husband’s favourite fruit, fresh blackberries. Yup…this might possibly be the confection of his dreams!

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And the big win for me, besides my darlin’s everlasting devotion (just imagine the fluttering cupids), is that it was really pretty easy to make. Truth be told, I made this over a couple of days, lime curd first, crust the next and saved the final assembly until I was ready to surprize him.

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Though I will say that the crust and filling are both pretty quick and low impact to make, so this tart could easily be made on the day you need it. Like maybe tomorrow?

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So if you’ve got a significant other like mine who will shun the chocolate dessert to make a beeline straight for the fruit filled offering, take note of this Valentine’s Day indulgence. You know what they say…the way to a man’s heart and all that!

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Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart

  • Servings: One 9 inch Tart
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: My Cup is Full and Food Network (for the Cashew/Graham Crust)

Ingredients:

For the Cashewed Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 2 cups cashews, finely ground
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (digestive biscuits are a good substitute for grahams)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted and cooled butter

For the Lime Curd Filling:

  •  1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temp
  • 1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons (5 oz.) fresh lime juice

For the Topping:

12 ounces fresh blackberries

Fresh whipped cream for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the cashews, graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup sugar, and the melted butter. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

Bake the crust for 8 -10 minutes until it is set. Set aside to cool on wire rack.

Next, make the lime curd (just a note, you could make up the lime curd a day or two beforehand and store in the fridge covered with plastic wrap).

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.

Pour in the lime juice and continue to mix until combined (you may need to scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl). This is the point at which I have to tell you not to freak out, because I might have, just a bit. Once you add the lime juice, your lovely creamy sugar/butter/egg mixture will go all curdled. Just take a deep breath and say “All will be fine.” As you heat and whisk the mixture in the next step, the lovely creamy mixture will once again appear.

Pour the curd mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring continually with a whisk until the mix is smooth.

Increase the heat a touch and keep whisking until the mixture has thickened and has reached a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit

Remove the curd from the heat and transfer to a heat-resistant bowl (such as glass), and cover with plastic wrap pressed to the top of the curd. Allow it to come to room temperature and then chill it in the refrigerator before putting in the crust.

Once the crust is cooled and your curd is chilled, scoop the curd into the center of the crust, spreading evenly to the edges with the back of a spoon.

Finally, arrange your berries over the top of the tart.

Enjoy!

Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Curd Tart brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin for my Valentine

February 14, 2014

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So here it is, Valentine’s Day yet again. And this one had quite an exciting meteorological lead up to it around here. Folks have been pretty much hysterical all week over the HUGE snow storm that was slated to commence clobbering us on Wednesday evening. Didn’t I say Winter wasn’t done with us yet…dang that old Punxsutawney varmint! (Just kidding…Sorry Phil, I won’t shoot the messenger!) Usually when there is that much hype about a storm here, nothing actually happens. But this time we did end up with about 10 inches in the wee hours of Thursday and sleety rain/snow throughout the entire day. Luckily I was prepared to make a gorgeous treat for my Valentine and had all of my ingredients ready right here in my cozy warm home and did not need to go out to brave the grocery stores, which if they were even open, I’m sure were in a quite a state to say the least! This year I will be sticking to my usual template when making Valentine’s Day Treats for my sweetie. I think the first one I ever blogged about was Lemon Curd Bread Pudding with a Blackberry Glaze,

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the next year I was on to Luscious Lemon Squares,

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then I whipped up a Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream.

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Anyone spot a pattern here? I just noticed that they all had lemon in them, but that isn’t really what is key here. Give up? They are all fruit desserts. No rich, decadent, indulgent, oh so common on Valentine’s Day chocolate in sight! Now I’ve told you that I think the husband’s preference for fruit desserts over chocolate ones is a bit inconceivable for me, though I must say, I don’t necessarily want chocolate…You guys know me by now right? What do I want? CUPCAKES! (just thought I’d make that word really stand out in case my sweetie just happens to be reading this post…hint, hint!) But since I’m such a lovely and thoughtful wife, I did not make my Valentine cupcakes. I made him this fantastic Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin!

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I was lucky enough to receive Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas and immediately knew this Tarte Tatin would be the Valentine’s Day dish this year. If you have not got a copy of the book, what in the world are you waiting for?!! It is chock full of delicious recipes, similar to the ones found on her blog, as well as her stunning photos. And let me tell you, this Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin did not disappoint. It was very quick and easy to make. You really only dirty one pan, the cast iron skillet that you cook it in. You start by cooking the bananas in a boozy butterscotch sauce on the stove top.

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This is where you will lose any element of surprize because the tantalizing aroma of the bubbling banana medley will bring every single person who is in the house into the kitchen to investigate. Next step is to add the buttery puff pastry topper and then pop the whole thing into the oven for about 25 minutes until it is bubbly and golden.

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Are you drooling yet?

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Next you carefully flip it over onto a plate and get ready for folks to swoon!

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I think it looked truly impressive. Not to mention how scrumptious it tasted…and I am not even that big of a fruity dessert fan.

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I did indeed choose wisely for my Valentine. He was over the moon! Hope everyone has a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin

Recipe from: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook  by Deb Perelman or you can see recipe online at EatDrink.CA

yield: 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 1 sheet frozen puff-pastry dough, thawed in the refrigerator for 1 day
  • 3 Tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, such as Maldon
  • 5 Large ripe bananas peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon or Scotch (optional – are you kidding me?! I chose Knob Creek Bourbon)
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:

For this recipe, you’ll need a 9″ skillet heavy enough so you fear dropping it on your toes. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Roll out your puff pastry on a floured surface to a 9″ circle, and trim if necessary. Transfer the pastry to the fridge until needed.

Melt the butter in the 9″ skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar and salt. Cook, swirling the skillet occasionally, until the mixture turns medium amber, about 3 minutes.

Arrange the bananas in the skillet, overlapping them slightly. Cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes. Drizzle the vanilla and the alcohol of you choice over the bananas and cook them until most of the liquor has evaporated and liquid has thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the bananas from heat.

Place the pastry round on top of the bananas and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Remove the tarte from the oven, and carefully invert the tarte onto a serving plate. Don’t even think about serving this without vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!


Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream

February 14, 2013

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The second I saw this Poached Pear Tart I knew that I had found the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert for the husband. I’ve already confided in you his “strange” preference for all fruit filled desserts over all decadent chocolatey offerings. I know….bizarro! But at least I’ve accepted and internalized this knowledge and can apply it when I’m trying to come up with a sweet indulgence made just for him.

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A Pear Tart would not be my Valentine’s choice, but I’m not baking for me. My husband knows what to get me (cupcakes!), so I will leave it to him. But back to this tart,  I could tell from his perspective this dessert has it going on! I mean, he absolutely LOVES tarts, anyone who knows him will tell you that about him without hesitation… (snicker, snicker) and this one has wine poached pears baked in lovely lemony cream! Seems like it was a recipe crafted just with him in mind. A perfect Valentine’s treat!

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I must admit though, I really don’t like working with pears at all! It’s not that I don’t like them, I really do. It’s just that I can never tell if they are ripe or not. So I spend an eternity in the store, gently touching every pear on display, like some sort of pear whisperer, hoping that the mysterious fruit will take pity on me and push the ripe ones of themselves into my basket. Yet that has never happened, so I finally give up and just pick a few to cart home with me. Of course they are not the perfect ripe ones, so I try to accelerate the process by placing them in paper bags with other ripening fruit. Yeah. They remain rock hard until I turn my back for like 5 minutes and I come back to find them ripened into a pile of mush! Don’t know if that happens to you or not, but it sure happens to me. Though this time, I really wanted this dessert to work out for Valentine’s Day, so I held vigil by these little devils until they were ready! Yup. It’s true I love my husband that much. I braved the pears and actually won on this time!

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There are quite a few steps involved in making this tart, but the good news is that you can break them up over several days if necessary. I poached the pears and made the pastry on one day and then completed the recipe on the following day. Making this tart was definitely worth the time investment because it not only looks beautiful but tastes amazing. Refreshingly light.

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I served each slice with a scoop of simple vanilla ice cream drizzled with a scrumptious syrup reduction of the pear poaching liquid. And don’t forget the champagne of course! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream

recipe from: Elra

yield: one 11″ tart

Ingredients:

For the pastry dough:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
For the poached pears:
  • 3 ripe but still firm Bosch pears
  • 750 ml (1 bottle) good quality white wine of your preference
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • vanilla bean, scraped
For the lemony cream:
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, optional

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Directions:
Peel, and cut the pear in half, using melon baller core and discard the seeds. Place them in a large pot,  pour in white wine, add sugar and vanilla bean. Place the pot over medium low heat, simmer until pears are slightly tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat, cool completely in the liquid.
In the mean time, begin to make the pastry. Put all ingredients, except lightly beaten egg onto food processor. Pulse use 1 to 2 second pulse until most of the butter is the size of a peas. Add lightly beaten egg and pulse again until the dough just starting to form a small clump.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead lightly a couple of times. Gather the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least  30 minutes.

Generously grease an 11-inch removable bottom tart pan with butter.

Roll out the pastry to fit the size of tart pan, transfer into the pan, and trim off the excess. Prick all over with fork, cover with plastic wrap, and place it back in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, or up to a day in advance.
On baking day, preheat oven to 375° F. Remove the pastry from refrigerator. Place a piece of parchment paper, or aluminum foil directly on top. Add dried beans, or pie chain, directly on top of paper of foil, then bake in the middle rack for 15 minutes. Remove pastry from oven, remove the paper, or foil including the beans. Quickly and lightly brush the pastry with egg white, this process will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy. Return pastry to the oven, continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Turn the oven up to 400° F. Set the racks in the lower third and upper third of the oven.
Remove pears from their poaching liquid, blot dry with paper towel, and set them aside. Place reserved poaching liquid in small heavy bottomed saucepan and set over medium to medium high heat to reduce. This takes about 20 minutes or so and you will end up with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of syrup.
Using a hand whisk, large wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until pale and creamy, add egg, and vanilla extract, beat  to blend. Mix in lemon zest and lemon juice. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, add it to the cream mixture, and mix just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Using small spatula, spread the batter into the bottom and sides of the cooled tart shell. Arrange poached pears over the filling. Bake the tart on the lowest rack for 25 to 30 minutes. Take the tart out from the oven, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, taking care not to get sugar on the pastry, which could cause it to burn. Return the tart to the oven, and place it on the top rack. Continue to bake for another 15 minutes, or until pears starts to caramelized, and the crust is dark browned. Remove the tart from the oven, and transfer it onto cooling rack to cool completely. Using a kitchen torch, lightly char the pears, to get that slightly burnt and rustic look on your tart. Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or simply drizzled with the reduced pear poaching syrup.
Enjoy!

Luscious Lemon Squares for my Valentine

February 14, 2012

So, today is Valentine’s Day. And I know for a lot of folks, Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be complete without chocolate…lots of chocolate. Now, Don’t get me wrong, I like chocolate, but for me it’s all about cupcakes (hint, hint, hint!) I would really like some cupcakes right about now!

Perhaps one (or two, or so...) like this....

However, I wasn’t trying to make Valentine’s Day goodies for me. I was making something for my sweetie. That being said, some folks might consider my fellow’s dessert cravings a bit odd. He will walk right  by most chocolate confections with no more than a passing glance. ( What in the world?!!) However, any fruit dessert will undoubtedly catch his eye from a country mile away. And one of his favourite of all fruit desserts is the elusive lemon bar. I say elusive because I have tried on several occasions to make these little devils and had never gotten it quite right. I either didn’t like the soggy crust, or the filling was too sweet or too tart or the wrong consistency all together! You can imagine how happy I was when I saw that one of my all-time favourite blogs, Once Upon a Chef, had a Lemon Square recipe posted. I have made many of the recipes that Jenn has posted on her fantastic, tried and true blog and have never been disappointed. Everything has turned out incredibly tasty. So, what was left to do but make these Luscious Lemon Squares. And luscious is exactly what they were.

The crust was amazing, a crisp buttery shortbread that was well able to stand up to the delicious filling which was just the right ratio of tart to sweet. They were beautifully topped with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I am not even a lemon dessert fan and I couldn’t resist eating them. My sweetie was dazzled both with the dessert and my baking prowess. So if you happen to have one of those chocolate indifferent Valentines (again…What the what!), give these luscious little treats a try. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Luscious Lemon Bars

recipe from Once Upon a Chef

yield: 16 – 2″ squares

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar (plus more to decorate finished bars)
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into ½-inch pieces

For Lemon Topping:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (you’ll need between 2 and 3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon, be sure to zest before juicing)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour

Directions:

Make the Crust

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cover a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Push foil neatly into corners and up sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from pan). Spray foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the flour, corn starch, salt and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and mix for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix to blend, until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire bottom, building up a thin ½-inch edge around the sides (this keeps filling from spilling beneath crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Bake the crust until lightly golden, about 15-20 minutes.

Make the Topping

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour.

As soon as the base is baked, give lemon mixture a quick final stir and then pour over top. Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, or at least 30 minutes, then cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to cut (it will be much easier to cut when cold).

To cut, use the foil overhang to lift baked square out of pan and onto cutting board. Loosen the foil from the edges of the crust (use a knife to separate crust and foil if necessary). Using a sharp knife, trim the edges off, then cut into 2-inch squares. Use a fine sieve to dust squares with confectioners’ sugar. Store finished lemon squares covered in refrigerator and serve chilled.

Enjoy!


Lemon Curd Bread Pudding with Blackberry Glaze for my Valentine

February 12, 2011

I know chocolate gets all the prominent billing with almost everyone for Valentine’s Day, but not with my sweetie. He likes chocolate o.k., I mean who doesn’t,  but given the choice of delectable treats, he will go for the offering with fruit in it 9 times out of 10. So when searching for a Valentine treat that I could whip up for him, I kept his love of bread pudding as well as lemon bars in mind. I had seen a recipe for Meyer Lemon Marmalade Bread Pudding that I was dying to make at Spoon with Me a while ago. If you haven’t taken a peek at her site, you are truly missing out. Her recipes are fantastic and her photography is stunning. She had made the Meyer Lemon Marmalade that she used in this dish herself and I didn’t see any such thing available in my local grocery stores. Nor was I industrious enough to make said marmalade. However, my Valentine loves lemon curd, which we have plenty of in the house, so I adapted the recipe. I figured the curd wouldn’t make a very pretty glaze on top of the pudding, but another favourite of my darlin’s is blackberry preserves. Voila! He was very pleased with the results!

Lemon Curd Bread Pudding with Blackberry Glaze

The fun thing about this recipe is that it is very customizable. You can replace the marmalade with whatever fruit strikes your fancy, or mix it up like I did with one flavour of pudding and a different glaze. Or you can just add different toppings to the pudding. I must admit that I really do love chocolate and was having a complete chocolate fit watching the flood of great chocolate Valentine’s recipes go by, so I might have made a couple of these little ramekins of pudding with a chocolate chip topping.

Lemon Curd Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chip Topping

Excellent as well! And everyone is happy! (Just between us, I am still hoping for a Valentine’s Day cupcake, but my Valentine knows me well, so I don’t think I will be disappointed.) Veuve Clicquot goes well with both bread pudding and cupcakes, so we’ll be set. 🙂

Yum!

Lemon Curd Bread Pudding with Blackberry Preserve Glaze

* 1 loaf challah bread

* 3 1/2 Cups heavy cream (you could substitute half & half or  even 2% milk if you wish to be more virtuous)

* 1 scant cup granulated sugar

* 2 eggs

* 2 egg yolks

* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1/2 cup Lemon Curd

* 1/2 cup raisins

* 2 tablespoons butter

* Seedless Blackberry preserves for glazing-about 6 teaspoons

Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter 6  eight ounce ramekins.

Remove the crust from the Challah bread. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and toast for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then place in large bowl.

Place the raisins in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit until plump and moist, about 15 minutes or so. Drain well and sprinkle raisins over bread crumbs.

Heat the lemon curd and butter in a small saucepan until melted and combined. Remove from heat and pour over bread cubes. Gently toss.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

Heat cream in medium saucepan over medium heat until it simmers.

Slowly add the heated cream to the egg mixture, whisking constantly until combined. If you add the cream too quickly it will cause the eggs to cook!

Pour the custard over the bread cubes and gently toss until coated. Allow bread to soak-up custard for 30 minutes. Fill the buttered ramekins with the bread-custard mixture, making sure to equally distribute the raisins which may have sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Bake* for 25 minutes, or until tops of the puddings began to brown. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the blackberry glaze over the top of each pudding. Bake for 5 more minutes.

*Puddings can be refrigerated overnight prior to baking. When ready to bake, remove ramekins from refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature before placing them in the oven.

 

Happy Valentine's Day Darlin!


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