Tag : tarts
Tag : tarts
I remember the good ol’ days of getting out of my car at 10:00 p.m. and watching my glasses fog up immediately. Those precious “is that sweat, rain, or the humidity?” moments. The 5:00 am sunrise and “will the sun ever set?” times.
But those are over now. My glasses don’t fog up anymore and I can walk around without fainting.
I’ve finally finished up all the frozen summer berries and started stocking up on pumpkin puree, sweet potatoes, and various apples in anticipation of autumn sweets, and let me tell you, I’m anticipating a lot of sweets.
About a year ago I started really exploring pie crust. I watched every YouTube video and read every recipe I could find. I tried every possible technique the Web would show me, and even did a bit of scientific experimentation, complete with sticky labels and test batches and all.
It was very official, y’all.
And then I took an autumn pie workshop at Scratch Bakery last October, and everything I thought I had figured out was flipped, turned right upside down on its very head. I stuck with the recipes from that workshop for months, until I took a pie class at work, and everything was made even simpler by the pastry chef. The first thing she taught us when we got to work on the dough was a universal ratio for the dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts cold butter, 1 part ice water.
It was pie-vana. I had a pie-alization. The flaky, buttery dough, the rich summer berries, the dark almond-flavored cherries, they all came together to form one simple truth:
Pie is easy.
And now a full year later, making the dough is like second nature: I toss everything into a food processor, no gimmicks or silly tricks, squeeze it into a ball, and freeze it. And it turns out well every time!
Now that the crust is a breeze, I want to expand on my fillings. Last year, I made Spiced Chai Apple Streusel Pie and Boozy Pecan Rum Pie for the holidays. I’m already dreaming up new autumn and winter combinations for this year (Pear and Fennel, Chocolate Peppermint, or Limoncello Brûlée?)
I’ve also been playing around a little bit with free-form tarts (Italian: crostata; French: galette) and just filling them with a layer of fruit and spices. One evening, when I was really feeling the impending leaf-changing and air-crisping, I sliced up some apples (skins on because I can’t be bothered to peel them), and mixed up some sugar and spices. I threw in some dried rosemary and assembled the tart, then when it was in the oven, I placed some leftover rosemary sprigs (I had made focaccia that day, as well) on top for an extra flavor infusion, and voila!
rosemary spiced apple crostata (crostata di mele e rosmarino)
makes two 7″, or one 9-10″ crostata
200 – 300 g red apples
50 g granulated sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 fresh rosemary sprigs (with or without leaves)
1 egg yolk, for washing
1 spoonful raw, turbinado, or demerara sugar, for coating
Core and slice the apples. You can peel them if you want, but they’re just as good with the skin on. Set the slices aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and spices. Set aside.
Roll dough out into a circle or a square a few millimeters thick. With a bench scraper or spatula, mark approximately halfway (both vertically and horizontally) between edges, then 2/3 of the way between the outer edge of the dough and your marking. You should now have slight marks/scores 1/6 of the way in from the edge of the dough, and halfway across. This is just a guide for how much of the dough to fill and how much to fold.
Spread about 2/3 of the spice mixture between the outer markings (so the middle 2/3 of the dough, leaving the outer 1/3 border empty.)
Layer the apples on top of the spices, and sprinkle the other 1/3 of the spices over the apples.
Fold the edges of the dough in, pinching them together where they overlap.
Freeze the tart for at least half an hour to let it chill.
Preheat your oven to 425 F/220 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Brush the edges of the tart with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for 30 – 40 minutes until the crust is bronze and the filling is bubbly.
Remove and transfer to a wire rack with the parchment paper underneath the tart.
Cut and enjoy!
Tarts to you later,
I mentioned before that I’d be coming out with a few pie recipes this season and I finally got one I feel confident publishing.
There was a time years ago, when I was in college, when I tried to learn how to make pie and used pecan pie as the test. I always seemed to get only one thing right, and it was always a different thing, but I could never get the whole thing to come together. Either I’d substitute thing recklessly and the filling would turn out funky, or the crust would burn, or the crust would hardly bake at all. Those are essentially the three aspects of a pie that you have to nail: the filling cooks and holds up, the edges of the crust don’t burn, and the bottom actually bakes completely.
Back then, I thought all hope was lost. I held off on pies for at least a few years and as soon as I moved home this past summer, I hit the ground running with dough all over my hands. You can see the first fruits of my efforts here (buttery pie crust recipe.) I wanted to practice different types of fillings and really get the measurements right before publishing any more, so after at least half a dozen pecan pies (and pumpkin pies, and chocolate tarts, and apple pies), here’s the boozy and succulent pecan pie.
I also had an epiphany recently. In order to save my family from carb-excess, I’d been using small 4.5-inch tart pans to test recipes, then calculating measurements for larger tarts based on those attempts. I figured since 4.5 is half of 9, then one 9-inch tart recipe must make two 4.5-inch tarts, right?
Wrong. While testing pecan pie recipes, I made two half recipes, thinking I could do two 4.5-inch tarts, and wound up with enough for four tarts. Whaaaat? In middle and high school, I was two years advanced in math, and apparently I had forgotten every thing in college: if you have two squares, one is 6 inches on each side and the other is 3 inches, then how many of the smaller squares fit into the larger?
Four. Because the area of a 6-inch square is 9 inches and the area of a 3-inch square is 2.25 inches.
Therefore, one 9-inch tart recipes makes four 4.5-inch tarts (and, coincidentally, two 6-inch tarts.)
I prefer to make medium (7-inch) pies, to save money and ingredients and because I like to test a lot of recipes. I figure more numerous pies, all smaller, means more variety and less guilt (I mean other people’s guilt…I have none of my own.)
boozy dark rum pecan pie
makes one 7-inch tart (with 9-inch measurements in parentheses.)
3 Tbsp butter (4 1/2 Tbsp)
90 g maple syrup (135 g)
135 g brown sugar (200 g)
1 Tbsp dark rum (4 1/2 tsp)
2 eggs (3 eggs)
hefty pinch of salt (a heftier pinch)
1 Tbsp cornstarch (4 1/2 tsp)
75 g pecans (114 g)
Roll out your chilled pie crust so that it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pan. Transfer dough to pan, fold edges under and crimp, and prick the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, or in the freezer overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
make the filling
In a pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
When melted, stir in maple syrup, rum, and sugar, and mix fully.
Remove from the stove and let cool before adding the eggs.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the cornstarch and salt, and fold in the pecans.
Fill the unbaked pie shell with the pecan filling and bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the edges are starting to brown and the filling is bubbling up.
The filling will deflate when the pie cools.
Serve with a side of shots of dark rum but try not to drink them before you eat the pie like I did.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
For a long time, pies and tarts have been the bane of my existence. Either the dough fell apart in my hands, the crust burned in the oven, or, god forbid I cover it with tin foil, the pie would be under-baked and liquid-y. My experience with pie has been…frustrating.
But I promised myself I would get into it once moving home, and that I wouldn’t stop until I could make a decent pie. I nearly mastered macarons, so I should be able to do this, right?
I picked out a recipe from a trusted book, Mom’s Big Book of Baking, watched YouTube videos until my eye bled out, and made a few different batches of dough. Fortunately, you can (and should) freeze the dough for up to a month, so I can spend an hour making 2-3 different recipes (enough for 6 – 9 tarts), and let them rest for a few days while I recover from the trauma. Additionally, if you can manage enough dough, you can knock out two birds with one oven: you can test filling recipes with your test dough!
I made a few different versions of the “buttery pie crust,” some with extra butter, some with sugar, and used each one to try a different filling, while setting aside a handful of dough to bake without filling so I could taste the crust on its own. To be honest, all the crusts tasted unbelievable, but they don’t all hold up well as a tart. Of the four I tried (the original plus three of my own), this was the best both with and without any filling.
I’ve found that pies are one of those pastries that can stupefy even the most intrepid among us (meaning those of us who will eat butter from the box, or cover our faces in sour cream in order to get rid of zits), and as such, the most effective way to succeed is to embrace your fear of failure. It’s something I’m still learning even after seven years of kitchen mishaps.
super butter-y pie crust
makes enough for four 9-inch pies (with measurements for 7-inch pies in parentheses)
25 oz all-purpose flour (7″: 12.5 oz)
hefty pinch of salt
16 oz (2 c) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen and chopped into small pieces (7″: 8 oz)
8 oz ice water(7″: 4 oz)
In a food processor, mix flour and salt. Dump in diced butter and pulse (2 seconds, stop, 2 seconds, stop, etc.) until it’s well-chopped (the pieces are about the size of a pea or smaller.)
Add water about an ounce or two at a time and pulse quickly until the dough just starts to clump together.
Dump it all out onto the counter and squeeze it together into a large mound. Divide the mound into four and form each part into a smaller mound, squeezing and turning. Don’t knead the dough.
Form four balls and wrap each in cling wrap, then squeeze and rotate each ball until it forms a disc one inch thick. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to use.
Frozen dough will keep for at least 6 months. Refrigerated dough will only keep for about 48 hours before it becomes discolored and soggy.
When ready to bake:
If the dough is frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator all day or overnight (up to two days.)
On the day you want to bake it, put the dough, wrapped, out on the counter for 15 minutes to soften.
Flour a work surface, unwrap the dough, and roll it out until it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pie pan. Alternately, sandwich the dough between two sheets of clingwrap and roll it out.
Put the dough into the pan and chill for at least half an hour, or freeze for later.
Pie crust can be baked directly from the freezer or the fridge.
Some pies can be blind baked (pecan pie), some don’t need to be (apple pie,) and some are assembled after baking (chocolate pie.)
If you make one recipe, you’ll have enough tart dough for a Thanksgiving dinner or for a month of pies!
Categories: pies and tarts