Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lemon-Lime Tart for Sweetie

 Valentine's Day is always a bit of a challenge, coming as it does the day after my birthday. This year Sweetie requested a pie or tart for Valentine's Day and I had already decided to make the Queen Mother Cake for my birthday.

I bought a bag of good-sized limes, thinking that I would make a lime tart, but then we received a gift of a bag of beautiful lemons from a neighbor, so I decided to go for a lemon-lime tart for Valentine's Day.

My favorite lemon tart filling is Dorie Greenspan's, so I began with that recipe and added lime zest and juice to the lemon zest and juice, with a decoration, after the tart was finished, of strands of zest from both fruits. The tart case is fairly simple and comes out cookie-like so that the filling doesn't make it too gooey after a day. We had the last slice, shared, two days after I filled the tart shell and the base was still crisp.

As it turned out, we had the Queen Mother cake on Valentine's Day, right after Sweetie's fire board meeting. Then we had the Lemon-Lime Tart the next day and were able to share it with our daughter and her fiancé'. I was worth the wait and well worth your time to make. It would be perfect for St. Patrick's Day, which is coming up soon. It would also be delightful for Easter...or anytime, really.

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon - Lime Cream Tart 

Based on a recipe by Dorie Greenspan in Baking, From My Home To Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Grated zest of 2 limes, (or 3 if smaller limes)
4 large eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice mixed with lime juice (from 3-4 large lemons or up to 6 smaller ones, plus2-4 limes)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, at room temperature 
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe follows), fully baked and cooled

Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer (if straining out the zest), and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand.

Bring a few inches of water to simmer in a saucepan or the bottom of a double boiler.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water, or in the top pan of a double boiler. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon-lime juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, or set the top into the bottom of the double boiler, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling, you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks, which means that the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking! Continue to check the temperature. It might take a while. so be patient. Usually it's done in about 10 minutes.

As soon as the cream reaches 180 degrees F, remove from the heat and, if removing the zest, strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. (If not removing the zest, just scrape the cream right into the blender or food processor). Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the food processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter, about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sided as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once all the butter is in, keep blending/processing for another 3 minutes.

Pour the cream into a container (I used a large Pyrex bowl), press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. I like to swirl the top with the back of a spoon. If desired, decorate the top with strands of lemon and lime zest for additional lemons and limes. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

Note: The filling will keep in the fridge for 4 days, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and whisk before putting into the tart shell.

Sweet Tart Dough
From Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (Frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in- there will be some tiny pieces and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk to break it up, then add it a little at a time, pulsing afer each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, knead lightly just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. In all of this, don't overwork the dough.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press clumps of the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece (about a teaspoon worth), which you should save in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust ahs puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Patch the cruse if necessary, then bake for another 8 minutes or so, until it is firm and golden brown. Keep an eye on it the last few minutes and pull it out if it gets darker than golden. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before filling. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Birthday and Valentines Fun

 In my world, a holiday or life event is a reason to bake. Since I'm doing less of that all the time in an effort to eliminate excess calories, having two dates back to back to bake for has been fun, exhausting, and calorie-laden, but full of joy.

For my birthday I not only baked, but I also braised lamb shanks for dinner. The good news is that it can be done ahead, so I did. The lamb was uber-local...thanks AM and G!...and delicious. You can find the recipe HERE.

For the birthday cake I made one of my favorite chocolate cakes, the Queen Mother Cake. Because there are only two of us, I made it in two pans...a 6-inch springform and a heart shaped 9-inch. As it turned out, I was so full from the lamb shanks dinner, which also included steamed rice and fresh asparagus, that we had the birthday cake on Valentine's Day after Sweetie's fire board meeting.

It was one of the best cakes ever. It was super moist inside, covered in decadent ganache, and a smaller portion than usual but just the right amount. If you look closely at the photo, you will see that, contrary to popular opinion, I'm not perfect and I can and do make a ganache that isn't perfectly smooth...although it was delicious.

The second cake was served the next day to friends at an afternoon tea party.

For my Valentine, I made, at his request, a Lemon-Lime Tart, but we saved it for Thursday evening when our daughter and fiancĂ©' arrived.  We are all happy with pies and tarts. This one is a lemon-lime one and I'll post, with the recipe, soon. Next sister down also gifted me with an amazing cookbook with recipes for making geometric inspired pies and tarts. Will post about that, too, soon.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Joy of Cooking Muffins

I've been baking from The Joy Of Cooking cookbook for longer than I can remember. This is one of those full compendium type cookbooks and it's from before there were photographs with recipes, although there are some line drawings here and there.

Another feature is that the recipes are written as directions, with the ingredients and amounts coming as part of the recitation of oven temperatures, bowls to use, pans to bake in, etc.

I prefer a recipe where the ingredients are listed first so that I can make sure at a glance that I have the stuff I need to make the item(s). Since I have a well-stocked kitchen it is very likely that I'll have the pan or pot or implement needed, but missing an ingredient is often a reason I decide to not make something.

Recently I made some healthy-ish muffins based on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking book. The recipe was for Cooked Cereal Muffins. Mine also included added nuts and seeds, plus dates.

The key thing to remember for this recipe is to cook the cereal (I used oatmeal!) far enough in advance that it can cool to room temperature. While it is cooling, the melted butter can also cool a bit. The egg and milk can use that same time to warm up a bit closer to room temperature. While those things are cooling or warming, you can chop the nuts and seed and chop the dates. After that it all goes together pretty quickly. I did use brown sugar instead of white, for flavor, and added a bit of baking soda because the muffins were baked in two batches in 8-pan tins.

This past weekend we had some major storms, including a cyclone. The winds toppled trees all over the county and beyond, which meant that many electrical wires also came down. There are still areas and thousands of customers without power today. Fortunately we were only without power for about 30 hours. We have generators which we ran for a couple hours twice a day to keep frozen stuff frozen, but not a lot more. The local internet provider also lost lines so it was even longer before that was back. Still, we were lucky that there was no damage to our property and only a few pretty small tree limbs came down.

Fortunately I had made these muffins the night before, so at least we had yummy date-walnut-oatmeal-seeds muffins to enjoy. I hope that you enjoy them, too.

Cooked Oatmeal And Seedy Muffins With Walnuts and Dates

Joy of Cooking variation

2 eggs at room temperature

½ cup rolled oats cooked in 1 cup water, then cooled to room temperature

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk at room temperature

4 Tablespoons/4 oz./ ½ stick butter, melted and cooled

1 ½ cups all- purpose flour

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup walnuts, chopped

¼ cup pitted and chopped dates

1/3 cup King Arthur Baking Harvest Blend mixed seeds

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 16 muffin cups – baking spray works well.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, then mix the eggs with a fork to break them up a bit. Add to the cooled cooked cereal gradually and use the fork to break down any lumps as you combine the eggs and cereal. Add the milk and melted butter and combine.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and salt. Stir in the chopped walnuts, dates and the seed mixture. Pour in the liquid mixture and use the fork to stir until just combined.

Scoop batter into the muffin cups to about 2/3 full. If any of the cups are left unused, add a tablespoon of water to that cup instead.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and spring back when you push down gently.

Serve at once. Butter goes well with these muffins which are hearty and delicate at the same time.