lemongrass coconut cream pie

lemongrass coconut cream pie

This is the inaugural pie post for the blog! Somehow in in the course of seven years a pie never actually made it onto the blog. I suppose I rarely make pies which probably helps contribute to that… Anyhow, this is a pie I am happy to welcome as the first to the blog – a slight riff off of a classic coconut cream pie, and a lovely riff.

lemongrass coconut cream pie
lemongrass coconut cream pie
lemongrass coconut cream pie

I took the standard rich coconut custard and infused it with lemongrass; lemongrass is herb, citrus and aroma, but without the acerbic acidity of lemon, allowing its brightness to exist seamlessly with creamy custard.

This is also a rather low sugar dessert, having only 1/4 cup of sugar in the custard (the pie crust, optionally 100% whole wheat as I tend to make it, has only salt to keep it from tasting bland, and I use unsweetened whipped cream on top). Absolutely add more sugar as per your own taste preferences. I sweeten desserts to what I think they need and I find for me, this pie already feels 100% dessert between the custard, cream and buttery flake.

lemongrass coconut cream pie

lemongrass coconut cream pie

  • Servings: 8 or 9-inch pie
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In making this I tried and referred to a few different recipes but the final version takes most resemblance from the coconut cream pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction

pie crust

  • 1 1/4 c (150g) flour (either all-purpose or whole wheat, depending on your preference) 
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 to 3/8 cup ice water

coconut custard

  • 400mL can of coconut milk
  • 180mL (3/4 c) whole milk
  • 120mL (1/2 c) heavy cream (if you’re already using a very rich coconut milk, you can replace this with milk instead)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 stalks lemongrass
  • 32g cornstarch
  • 50g granulated sugar (increase to 100g for a more standard sweetness)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80g (1 c) shredded coconut 

to top

  • 220g whipped cream* (see note)
  • toasted coconut flakes

pie crust

Whisk together the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter, tossing to coat it with the flour. Use two knives or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until it forms fine crumbs. Add ice water as needed to bring it together into a rough dough. 1/4 cup should be sufficient, but sometimes I’ve used up to 3/8 cup. Add what you need as it can vary – though generally the less you use, the better! Knead the dough a couple times to help bring it together, then form into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill completely.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle larger than the pie plate. Drape the dough into the pie plate and press it down into the corners. I like to have a thicker edge crust so I trim the pastry such that there is a 1″ or so overhang all the way around. Then tuck the overhanding pastry underneath so the edge is a double thickness of dough. Crimp the edges, dock the bottom of the pie crust thoroughly, then cover and freeze the pie crust completely. (Alternatively, if you don’t have freezer room, chill in the fridge instead! Baking time may be a bit less.)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Crumple a piece of parchment paper so it will better mould to the shape of the pie crust. Take the pie crust from the freezer, line with the parchment paper and fill with pie weights (I use uncooked rice). 

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the pie are crisped. Remove the weights and dock the bottom again. 

Turn the temperature to 375F. Bake for another 25 minutes or so, or until the pie crust is golden and cooked throughout. Let cool completely.

coconut custard

Begin by infusing the milks with lemongrass. Combine the coconut milk, milk and cream in a saucepan. Cut the lemongrass into four or so pieces and slice each piece lengthwise. Take the lemongrass and bend the pieces along all their length – akin to muddling herbs in order to help bruise the lemongrass and release the flavour. 

Heat the milk until it reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemongrass. Cover and set aside to cool, then transfer to the fridge to infuse overnight or up to a few days.

The next day pass the infused milk through a strainer to remove the lemongrass. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, while the milk is warming up, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, salt and egg yolks in a bowl. 

Once the milk has just begun to bubble, slowly pour some into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly in order to temper the yolks. Return to the saucepan and place over medium-high heat while whisking constantly. Allow the mixture to begin to bubble and cook for one minute while bubbling (being sure to whisk as vigorously as you can) to ensure the starch is cooked. The cream should be quite thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded coconut.

Spread into the baked pie crust. Press a piece of plastic directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming and chill completely.

to finish

The next day, whip the cream until billowy. If you like, whisk in a bit of sugar to taste. Spread over the pie followed by the toasted coconut flakes.

Note: I sometimes infuse the whipped cream on top with lemongrass too – if you want to do this, cold infuse the cream with 1/2 stalk crushed/bent lemongrass for at least 24 hours in the fridge. It’s best not to warm up the cream to avoid accidental overheating if you’re going to whip it later.

lemongrass coconut cream pie

pineapple jam & almond linzer torte

pineapple jam & almond linzer torte

This almond and pineapple jam linzer torte is a more literal take on the pineapple cake, a confection the object of my many affections. It’s a bit like a large, tender, sliceable and shareable version with an extra dose of pineapple jam. This tart is also a great receptacle for using up variable amounts of leftover pineapple jam from other projects.

pineapple jam almond linzer torte
pineapple jam & almond linzer torte
pineapple jam & almond linzer torte

While I only first tried a pineapple cake in high school, reading about others’ childhood memories of pineapple cakes had me nostalgic about the few Chinese snacks from my childhood – which then seemed to manifest as the random-snacks-everywhere!! theme of the photos. I raided my grandparents cupboards for an assortment of snacks forgotten in the back: paper-thin flaky egg roll cookies (which as I kid I was only allowed to eat over the sink due to all the crumbs), liquorice-flavoured preserved ginger, salty-sweet dried orange peel (blackened due to age… it should look brown, but not quite like that), tart chalky haw flakes, and featherlight crisp rice crackers.

The dough for this tart is quite soft, tearable and a bit trickier to work with. I find it’s easier to press the dough into the tart tin for the bottom. Making the lattice on the top is a matter of keeping the dough nicely chilled. Try to be patient – if it starts to get too soft, place the dough briefly back in the freezer.

The overall linzer torte is quite sweet, mostly from the pineapple jam, though the tartness helps to keep it balanced. If you prefer your desserts less sweet, keep the pineapple jam layer thin or check out Lili’s less sweet pineapple jam recipe (I know I’ll try the latter for next year)!

pineapple jam & almond linzer torte

pineapple almond linzer torte

  • Servings: one 6-inch tart
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Adapted from The Little Epicurean. Double the recipe for a 9″ tart.

  • 63g ground almonds
  • 58g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 63g soft butter
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 25g egg, at room temperature
  • about 180g pineapple jam
  • beaten egg for egg wash
  • slivered almonds

Whisk together the ground almonds, flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light. Beat in the vanilla paste. Beat in the egg in two additions. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Divide the dough into two portions, one consisting of a slightly scant 2/3 of the dough (over 160g by weight) and one consisting of  a slightly generous 1/3 of the dough (less than 80g by weight). Chill both pieces.

I used a 15cm (6″) diameter tart ring that was 2cm tall, but you can use a fluted tart pan instead. If you’re using a tart ring, set it on a piece of parchment on a baking tray.

Remove the larger piece of dough from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface into a circle about 1 cm thick (it won’t be big enough to cover the tart tin yet, this is just to get it started). Transfer the dough to the tart ring. Use the flat bottom of a glass to press the dough starting from the middle outwards into an even thickness (about 5mm) lining the bottom and sides of the tart ring. You may need to dip the bottom of the glass in flour to keep it from sticking to the dough. If you have any extra dough, add it to the second portion of dough.

Mix the pineapple jam with 1-2 tbsp water to make the jam softer and more spreadable (if needed). Spread the jam in an even layer in the tart ring.

Roll out the second piece of dough on a piece of parchment paper until it’s a rectangle at least 15cm (6″) long (or the diameter of your tart tin) and about 4mm thick. Chill the rolled out piece of dough in the freezer until firm. Slice the dough into strips 1-cm wide. The strips are much easier to handle when they’re cold so at any point if they start to become too soft, pop the dough back into the freezer to firm up.

Arrange the strips over the tart into an angled lattice pattern. Remove any excess from the edges.

Place the tart in the fridge to chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the lattice pattern with beaten egg and sprinkle the edges with slivered almonds.

Bake for around 25-28 minutes or until nicely browned.

spiced date gateau basque

spiced date & cream gateau basque

I think we are possibly still in the peri-New Year period where 2021 listicles are tolerated and somewhat relevant. For instance: last year I started an annual favourite album list which, given the constant content deficit this blog is under, is obviously being continued again this year.

As always, I never keep very up to date with music so these aren’t specifically my favourite albums of 2021, so much as my favourite albums new to me in 2021. Compared to my usual indecision, it’s usually strangely obvious to me what this list would entail as the albums that I listened to most over the past year spring to mind easily. The harder part is articulating what I love about them (and if I sound like I don’t know a thing about music, it’s probably because I don’t know a thing about music). But in my struggling lay terms trying grasp genre, emotion or theme, here goes a list.

spiced date & cream gateau basque
spiced date & cream gateau basque

1. i need to start a garden (2018) – hayley heynderickx

I Need to Start a Garden is three parts soft-spoken ballad, one part anthem of millennial angst. It wasn’t quite first love for all of these songs for me, but they grew on me tremendously, something which only makes me adore them even more. (Even the near-shout refrain of “Oom Sha La La” – not to mention, I have never encountered so relatable a rumination as “I’ve barely been to college/And I’ve been out full/Of all that I have dreamed of/The brink of my existence essentially is a comedy.”) My favourite album that I listened to this year.

favourite tracks: the bug collector, untitled god song

2. shelter as we go… (2017) – quantum tangle

This album effortlessly traverses the territories of haunting to sweet to righteously angry and determined, and stories of family, love, and colonialism linking ancestral and contemporary. The way that joy and pride and frustration coexist hints at the complexity of positive identity and community in an oppressive country. I also love an album where each song has its own distinct feel – and each of them is just lovely too.

favourite tracks: tiny hands, igluvut, ikersuaq (but really, all of them are my favourite)

3. i’ve felt all these things (2021) – anna leone

I first listened to Anna Leone’s debut EP which came out a couple of years ago and was immediately charmed by her music. I was so excited to see her first very album come out; it’s the most soothing set of songs I’ve listened over the past year, with delicate folky melodies and intimate vocals carrying the album.

favourite tracks: love you now, in the morning, still i wait

4. take the corners gently (2021) – steady holiday

Steady Holiday reminds me of melodic singer-songwriter albums from Emmy the Great and Zee Av. The tracks are about half slow, half fast, and lean wistful and nostalgic. It’s the heartfelt songs which I listen this album for: “Love me When I Go to Sleep” and “Living Life.”

favourite tracks: love me when i go to sleep, living life

5. foreigner (2020) – jordan mackampa

This is also Jordan Mackampa’s first full length album. It sounds as though his style has veered more pop-y recently, but still amazing vocals (and charming melodrama) regardless. This album is has plenty of flashy catchy tracks but it’s the more sincerely sentimental songs which are my favourite – the title track “Foreigner” particularly.

favourite tracks: foreigner, eventide, tight (a little cringy but so sweet!)

6. europhories (2021) – videoclub

This French electro-pop album is definitely a bit different from what I usually tend to enjoy but it’s only mildly electronic and also just very, very catchy?! The songs are sung in the most charismatic deadpan (I mean this as a compliment) and I’ve found myself listening to it many more times than I expected. The duo actually broke up (romantically) and disbanded (professionally) before I even discovered the album so sadly I think it’s the one and last from Videoclub.

favourite tracks: amour plastique (by far)

spiced date & cream gateau basque
spiced date & cream gateau basque
spiced date & cream gateau basque

I’ve been sporadically trying to make a gateau basque, a buttery filled cake from Basque, for a few years now and I’ve made some rather terrible ones. Generally, the recipes I’ve seen fall into two types – some use a softer dough which you pipe into layers both below and overtop the filling, while others use a stiffer dough which is rolled out like a tart crust. My first try was based on a piped version, but I didn’t like how thick the layers of pastry ended up too being: predominantly pastry without much filling. The cake was also too dry by the time it cooked through, though that was on me… After that I mostly switched to rolled pastry methods which more easily facilitated thinner layers for a higher filling:pastry ratio. I tried a stiffer dough that was very easy to work with, but which baked up too dry, crisp and cookie-like (at this point I also realized from this one that I should maintain a certain amount of sugar in the dough for tenderness.) Finally, I found I preferred a softer rolled dough formula – harder to work with, but which ended up more tender and cake-like than its dryer counterparts.

That being said, this dough is really soft. It becomes super delicate and prone to tearing as soon as it starts to warm up. It helps to be patient and roll out the dough onto parchment so you can slide it back into the fridge or freezer for when its cold-forged will begins to fade.

Gateau basque is usually filled with either a cherry jam or a pastry cream. I generally prefer the pastry cream filling, but I wanted to add an extra layer to this one, one which I felt wouldn’t detract from the sense of butter on cream on richness on butter: and that meant a layer of warmly spiced date paste. The date paste, an idea inspired by date ma’amoul, has a deep flavour, much like caramel (I now understand why date caramel is such a thing in vegan baking). As the paste is very thick, especially when chilled, I found the best way to get it into an even layer was to roll it out between two pieces of plastic into a circle just big enough to fit into the bottom of the cake. Together with the pastry cream and pastry, it’s a mellow and rich combination.

spiced date & cream gateau basque

spiced date gateau basque

  • Servings: one 7.5-inch diameter cake
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Pastry adapted from Mon Petit Four. Date paste adapted from Sohla El-Waylly. This is a fairly sweet recipe due to the sweetness of the dates and the sugar in the pastry (which I haven’t quite decimated as it has a bit of a tenderizing role), so I’ve kept the sugar in the pastry cream to a minimum.

special equipment: 7.5″ fluted tart ring (1″ tall)

pastry cream

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 14g cornstarch
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 240g whole milk
  • 1 tbsp butter

date paste

  • 150g whole dried dates
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch kosher salt

pastry

  • 85g butter, softened
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • finely grated zest from half an orange
  • 140g all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

assembly

  • beaten egg for egg wash

pastry cream

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla bean paste. Place the milk in a small saucepan and heat until steaming. Slowly pour the milk into the eggs, while whisking constantly to combine.

Return to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat while whisking constantly. Watch for slow bubbles to rise to surface (you’ll need to briefly pause whisking to see this) and once the cream is bubbling, continue to cook for 1 minute more, whisking vigorously, to ensure the starch is cooked. Immediately transfer the cream to a new bowl and whisk in the butter. Cover and let cool, then place in the fridge to chill completely.

date paste

Cover the dates with boiling water and let sit 20 minutes to hydrate. Drain and pit the dates, and place the dates in the bowl of the food processor. Process until chopped, add the oil and spices, and continue to process until the dates form a smooth puree. Chill until ready to use.

pastry

Cream the butter and sugars together, then beat in the egg and orange zest until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a soft dough is formed. Divide the dough into two pieces, one about 2/3 of the dough, and the other, the remaining 1/3 of the dough. Wrap each in plastic and chill completely in the fridge.

assembly

Lightly butter the tart ring. On a piece of parchment paper dusted with flour, roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle wide large enough to line the bottom of the tart tin. Aim for a dough thickness of about 0.5cm. This dough is very soft and delicate when it warms up, so if it has started to warm, slide the parchment paper onto a tray or cutting board and place in the fridge to chill again. Then use the dough to line the bottom of the tart pan. Tears are okay – just patch them up with a bit of extra dough. Trim any overhang.

The next layer is the date paste. Rather than spreading it, I found the best way to get a nice even layer is to roll out the date paste just like a piece of dough. The chilled paste will be quite firm, so use your hands to form it into a disc. Roll out the disc between two pieces of plastic wrap until to a round that fits in the bottom of the tart tin. Pull off the top piece of plastic, and place the round of date paste upside down into the bottom of the tart tin so that the bottom piece of plastic is on top. Peel off the plastic.

Next, dollop the chilled pastry cream overtop and spread into a smooth layer.

Now, place the final piece of dough on a piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour (you can add any extra dough from the first piece) and roll into a circle large enough to cover the tart, aiming for a dough thickness of about 0.5cm. If the dough warms up too much, slide it onto a tray or board and chill it again. Otherwise, drape the dough over top of the tart and trim any excess. Now place the whole cake into the fridge to chill while you preheat the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the cake from the fridge and place on a tray. Brush with beaten egg and use the tip of a paring knife to score lines over the top, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough. Bake for about 40 minutes or until browned. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

spiced chestnut pumpkin tart

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

If there is a film which I’ve watched a number of times, it’s probably the original 90s Jumanji, about a board game come to life. Growing up, movie nights meant a brisk walk to the neighbourhood convenience store. On one side of the cash, against papered up windows, there were a few wire shelves of video cassettes in protective plastic sleeves. It was not the broadest or particularly updated selection. With only a few kids films, I always chose the only one I recognized, one which I had seen in school for Halloween (this is as close as relevant we’re getting for the recipe so make note). In other words, I watched Jumanji a whole lot.

There were two convenience stores in the neighbourhood I grew up in, though now they’re both gone. When I think back, I am surprised at how they kind of did play some role in my childhood – a source of after school snacks, a place to drop off lost keys at the lost-and-found, and that small movie corner which defined the entertainment available to me and the neighbourhood. Maybe in some ways it was a common denominator for the community – yes there was a big Blockbuster a twenty minute walk away which held dozens of copies of new releases, but for those last minute spurious movie impulses, the convenience store shelves were most convenient. It makes me wish I remembered what else was there (excuse my tunnel vision for Jumanji). But maybe every other child in the neighbhourhood also watched Jumanji on repeat? Maybe. The fact that Jumanji was nearly always on the shelf probably meant that not so many people were renting video cassettes any more, anyways.

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

Halloween = pumpkins and Halloween = Jumanji and so Jumanji = pumpkins and so here is a pumpkin recipe. This is a riff on pumpkin pie (quite literally as a I referenced the pumpkin pie recipe on the pumpkin puree tin while making this) but a sort of ambiguously autumnal version made with chestnut puree and a gently infused spiced milk. Plus, a kinako (roasted soybean powder) cream ring which I did on a whim, but loved – it complements the squash and chestnuts so well. (Maybe try a dusting of kinako on your pumpkin pie?)

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

spiced chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

  • Servings: eight inch tart
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Adapted, vaguely, from the pumpkin pie recipe on the pumpkin puree tin.

special equipment: 8-inch fluted tart tin

infused milk

  • 100g milk
  • 100g heavy cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • pinch peppercorns
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 slice of fresh ginger

pastry

  • 210g flour, half all-purpose and half whole-wheat
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 115g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg

filling

  • 125g chestnut puree (pure chestnut puree; not creme de marron)
  • 125g pumpkin puree
  • 40g maple syrup
  • 7g granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 75g eggs (1 1/2 large eggs)
  • 180g infused milk

to serve

  • 120g whipped cream
  • 4g kinako (optional)
  • garnishes – salted roasted squash seeds and sliced roasted chestnuts

For the infused milk, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and set aside to steep for 30 minutes. Pass the milk through a sieve to remove the spices before using.

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and process until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg and process until the dough comes together – it will take about 30 seconds.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and let soften on the counter for about 10-15 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick or your desired thickness. Trim into a rough circle, about 11″ in diametre. Drape over an 8″ tart tin and press into all the corners and up the sides. Trim any excess and patch any tears (it’s a delicate pastry so it may happen, but it’s easy to fix!).

Cover and place in the fridge to chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Dock the bottom of the tart crust with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust is crisp, but still pale. Set aside and begin making the filling.

For the filling, lower the heat to 325F. Press the chestnut puree through a fine sieve to make sure it is smooth, then cream the chestnut puree and pumpkin puree together in a bowl. Add the maple syrup, sugar and salt and mix until combined, then whisk in the eggs. Lastly, blend in the infused milk.

Pour the filling into the partially baked crust (if not all of it fits, you can bake the leftover in a muffin cup lined with a paper liner). Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until only the centre jiggles and an inserted knife is removed clean.

Let cool, then chill completely.

Finish with the garnishes. Whip the cream and kinako in a bowl until billowy (if you don’t have kinako, feel free to substitute a bit of sugar and vanilla extract instead). Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a petal tip and pipe cream along the edge of the tart. Sprinkle with roasted squash seeds and slices of roasted chestnut.

birch flower & hazelnut summer fruit tarts

birch flower fruit tarts
birch flower fruit tarts

Épices de cru, in Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market, occupies a brightly painted narrow stall, shelves stacked with tins of different spices, as well as ingredients that aren’t spices in the most traditional sense, like local Quebec dried spruce tips or clover flowers. My aunt/uncle/cousin had gotten me the most lovely assortment of spices for baking one year and I’ve been excited to try using them in a dessert. These tarts are based around dried yellow birch flowers – minute, pale flowers which come with an aroma of oolong tea, grass, sandalwood incense and tonka bean.

birch flower fruit tarts
birch flower fruit tarts
birch flower fruit tarts
birch flower fruit tarts
birch flower fruit tarts

The starting point for these tarts were the dried yellow birch flowers, but even after my crowdsourced (i.e. family derived) aroma analysis, I had idea what to pair it with. So I went with all the fruits I had on hand: plumcots, cherries and strawberries. Given the woodiness of the yellow birch flower, I thought nuts could also be a nice accompaniment; in the bottom of each tart I layered a thin slick of hazelnut praline paste. It worked out very well actually – the praline paste anchors the pastry cream, with a rounded dessert-y caramel nuttiness that brings out the more amicable flavours of the yellow birch flower.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up loving these tarts!

birch flower fruit tarts
birch flower fruit tarts
birch flower fruit tarts

birch flower & hazelnut summer fruit tarts

  • Servings: four 3-inch tarts
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tart shells

  • 115g butter
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 200g flour, half whole wheat and half all-purpose

hazelnut praline paste

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 100g sugar

yellow birch flower pastry cream

  • 240g whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tbsp very lightly packed dried yellow birch flower (approx 1-2g)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 10g cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar (or more to taste – typically recipes classically use 3-4 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp butter

assembly

  • fruit! I used 1 plumcot, and about 8 cherries and 8 strawberries, but use whatever you have on hand

tart shells

This makes about twice the amount of pastry you’ll actually need to line the tart shells, but having this much pastry makes it easier – and then you can use the rest for another project.

Cream the butter with the sugar and salt. Beat the egg in a small bowl and add to the butter in four additions, thoroughly mixing in each addition. Add the flours and stir until a dough is formed. Knead a couple times to bring it together.

Divide the dough in half and roll out each between parchment to about 2-3mm thick. Chill completely. 

Set four 3″ tart rings on a parchment lined tray and line with pastry – for details of methods, you can look at this page.

Trim one half of the dough into a rectangle and slice into long strips – they should be longer than the circumference of the rings and wider than the height of the tart rings. Take a strip and use it to line the sides of a tart ring, cutting the excess length and pressing the two edges together to seal (have a bit of overlap to help seal).

Cut circles 0.5cm smaller than the diametre of the tart ring from the other half of the dough. Fit these circles of pastry into the bottom of rings and press along the seam between the side and base to seal. If there is a bit of a gap, press along the edges of the base to make it slightly wider until it meets the pastry lining the walls. Trim the excess pastry height with a sharp knife to bring it level with the side of the tart rings. Cover and chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Dock the bases of the chilled tart shells with a fork. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely.

hazelnut praline paste

This makes quite a bit more than you’ll need, but if you’re going to the trouble of making it, you may as well make more as it keeps very well.

Spread the hazelnuts out over a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Place the sugar in a small saucepan along with a splash of water. Heat the mixture until it boils and the sugar is dissolved. Allow to continue cooking over medium to medium-high heat until the sugar caramelizes, swirling occasionally. Cook to the desired degree of caramelization – I went for a darker amber. Pour over the hazelnuts. Allow to cool.

Chop the praline into pieces. Place in the bowl of a food processor along with 1/4 tsp kosher salt and pulse until a paste is formed. Place in the fridge. 

yellow birch flower pastry cream

Begin by infusing the milk. Bring the milk to a simmer and stir in the yellow birch flowers. Cover and set aside to cool, then transfer to the fridge to finish steeping overnight. 

The next day whisk the sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch together in a bowl. Set aside.

Pass the infused milk through a sieve to remove the flowers. Place the milk in a saucepan and heat until it simmers. Slowly pour the milk into the egg yolks, while whisking constantly to temper the eggs. 

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium to medium-high while whisking constantly. Look for the pastry cream to begin to bubble and to thicken considerably. To ensure the starch is cooked, let the pastry cream cook at a bubble for at least 1 minute (all the while whisking very vigorously!).

Whisk in the butter and then immediately transfer to a bowl (at this point you can taste for sweetness and add more sugar as per your preference). Cover and chill. 

assembly

Spread 1-2 tsp of hazelnut praline paste on the bottom of each baked tart shell. Whisk the pastry cream to loosen and smooth it, then dollop into the tart shells and spread smooth with an offset spatula. Arrange fruit on top.

birch flower fruit tarts

peach almond crostata

peach almond crostata

Please be advised that this post discusses residential schools and the recent tragic discoveries of unmarked graves.

What sort of school comes with a graveyard?

About three months ago the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation found the remains of 215 children buried at the former Kamloops Residential School. Not long after, the Cowessess First Nation who reported 751 unmarked grave sites by Marieval Residential School. Then there were more and more – and still many other investigations are currently underway. These finding reflected what families and survivors had been explaining all along. Survivors of these “schools” (and remember, the last one closed in only 1996) live with trauma, their descendants with intergenerational trauma, yet have been continually questioned and disbelieved. I can only begin to imagine the complexity of the recent news for affected communities: the importance of these discoveries, but also the retraumatization, the grieving, and even after all this, encountering the resistance of institutions to release records and minimal political will for change.

And to be clear, it doesn’t end there and never really has. The Sixties Scoop saw, through child welfare services, a mass removal of indigenous children from their families. These policies persist to this day: over half of children in care are Indigenous and there are more children currently separated from their families today than there were during the height of the residential school system. Dozens of children continue to die in care every year – see in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. This is not just something for us to move past – and we have blueprints from the TRC and MMIWG recommendations of what needs to change.

peach almond crostata
peach almond crostata
peach almond crostata
peach almond crostata

Just how many wake-up calls do we need? This should be an election issue, yet it doesn’t seem to be. With the federal election happening soon, ask candidates in your riding what plans they have to implement the TRC and MMIWG recommendations.

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peach almond crostata
peach almond crostata

This peach almond crostata is very much inspired by Forno Cultura‘s summer peach crostata. And what a great formula for a fruit tart it is: pastry, almond cream, jam, sliced fruit and slivered almonds to fill in the gaps. The exciting new component for me is the pasta frolla, which makes up a sweet and tender crust with a biscuity crispness to it… I can’t wait to make more crostatas next summer!

peach almond crostata

peach almond crostata

  • Servings: one 14 by 4 1/2 inch tart (36 by 12cm)
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Crostata inspired by Forno Cultura. Pasta frolla adapted from Domenica Marchetti. Almond cream based on a typical frangipane ratio.

special equipment

  • 14×4 1/2 inch rectangular tart tin (36x12cm)

pasta frolla

  • 180g all-purpose flour
  • 40g icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • scant 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 110g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg

peach jam

  • 1 1/2 peaches, peeled, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar

almond cream

  • 56g soft butter
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 65g finely ground almonds
  • 1 large egg
  • 12g all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp amaretto (or dark rum)

assembly

  • 2 peaches
  • slivered almonds
  • apricot jam to glaze (optional)

For the pasta frolla, place the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl a food process and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg and process until the dough begins to come together into a few large clumps – it will take a little while, around 30 seconds.

Press the dough together into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill completely.

For the peach jam, place the chopped peach and sugar together int a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the peach is softened. Crush with a potato masher or back of a fork to a rough puree, then bring to a simmer for a few minutes until the mixture is thickened and jam-like. Let cool.

For the almond cream, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the almonds, then beat in the egg. Next, mix in the flour and finally the amaretto.

To assemble, roll out the pasta frolla on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 3mm (1/4″) thick. Drape over a 36x12cm rectangular tart tin, pressing the dough into all the edges and corners and trimming off the excess. Patch any tears. Cover and chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Spread the almond cream into the bottom of the tart. Dollop small spoonfuls of the jam evenly overtop and then gently spread to cover most of the surface (if you’re having trouble spreading the jam you can chill the almond cream first to firm it up a bit).

Cut the two peaches in half. Slice each half into thin slices. Set aside a few of the smaller slices from each end and fan the remaining slices alongside one edge of the tart (see pictures). Sprinkle the remaining surface area with slivered almonds.

Bake about 40 minutes or until the tart is browned. If you’d like to glaze the peach slices, melt together 1-2 tsp apricot jam with 1/4-1/2 tsp water and brush over the baked peaches. Let cool completely.

tarragon lime posset tarts with black and blueberries

lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries
lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries
lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries

These tarts were inspired by these blueberry and blackberry tarts by Ed Kimber (I seem to be taking inspiration from his bakes lately!). I came across the recipe one day and the image stayed with me: shades of blue rendered in differently shaped and textured berries. Here I’ve put the berry pairing over a posset, a sort of cooked and curdled citrus cream, which, despite how it might sound, makes for a delightful tart filling. The tarragon and lime in the posset are close to a lime-and-mint pairing: – fresh herbal and citrusy – but with an aniseed/liquorice-y vibe. If you like tarragon, this might be my new favourite tarragon pairing!

lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries
lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries
lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries
lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries

Okay, but I can’t just leave you with “posset is curdled cream” can I? While true, it doesn’t give posset nearly enough credit! Posset is sharp, sweet and like the smoothest, creamiest, richest pudding – think almost ganache-like in consistency. My mum used to make it to use up near-expired cream – and it is fast and simple as is her cooking style: just boil the cream with citrus juice and sugar, and it’s done. It would probably be one of my favourite things except that it is also very sweet. As the sugar content is something of a structural necessity (I think), I haven’t dared to tamper with it too much. Thus it works well here as a thin layer balanced with a fairly unsweetened tart crust and plenty of fresh berries.

Another great thing about posset – unlike a pastry cream filling, it won’t sog up your tart shells as quickly as pastry cream! While the posset can crack after a day or two as some of the moisture is absorbed into the tart shells, any surface cracks will be covered with berries, making it quite alright to make and fill the tarts a day or two ahead of time if needed.

lime tarragon posset tarts with black and blueberries

tarragon lime posset tarts with black and blueberries

  • Servings: five 9cm tarts
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You will need five 9cm fluted tart tins (about 1.5cm tall). Posset adapted from Food52. Blueberry and blackberry arrangement based on these blueberry and blackberry tarts by the Boy Who Bakes. 

pastry

  • 56g softened butter
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 25g egg, at room temperature
  • 105g flour, half all-purpose and half whole wheat
  • plus a bit of extra beaten egg

tarragon lime posset

  • 240g heavy cream (36% milk fat) 
  • 2 large sprigs of tarragon (~3g)
  • 60g granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest
  • 37g freshly squeezed lime juice

assembly

  • approx 250g blueberries
  • approx 150g blackberries
  • tarragon leaves
  • finely grated lime zest

pastry

Cream the butter with the salt and sugar. Add the egg, a bit a time, beating in each addition completely before the next. Lastly add the flours all at once and mix in until combined. Pat into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill the dough completely.

Remove from the dough from the fridge and place on a very lightly floured countertop (you may need to let the dough warm up on the counter for a few minutes first). Roll to about 2-3mm thick. Cut out at 12cm circles and use to line the fluted tart tins. In order to line all five tins, you’ll need to re-roll the scraps. This is a delicate pastry to work with, so don’t worry if it tears – just patch any tears together with a bit of extra dough. 

Cover the tins and chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Dock the bottom of the tart shells with a fork. Bake until the tart shells are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Brush the shells lightly with a bit of extra beaten egg and return to the oven for another few minutes – this will help form a seal.

Let the tart shells cool completely. If there are any cracks, you can patch them with a bit of melted white chocolate.

tarragon lime posset

Heat the cream until steaming. Roll the tarragon between your fingers to bruise the leaves and help release the flavour, then stir into the hot cream. Cover and set aside to steep for at least a few hours or overnight (in the fridge). 

Pass the cream through a sieve to remove the tarragon, pressing to extract as much cream as you can. Transfer the cream to a medium saucepan (we’re using a larger saucepan to prevent the cream from boiling over). Add the sugar, salt and lime zest. Bring the cream to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the lime juice. Transfer to a cup with a pouring spout and allow to cool slightly.

Keep the baked tart shells in their tins for extra support. Distribute the posset amongst the five tart shells. Tap lightly on the countertop if needed to level the surface. Place in the fridge and allow to set completely.

assembly

Place 4-5 blackberries (depending on size) on top of each tart. Fill in the spaces around the blackberries with blueberries and then pile on some additional blueberries to create a slightly mound of fruit. Scatter the tarts with tarragon leaves and finely grated lime zest.

cardamom-poached rhubarb & browned butter almond tart

poached rhubarb almond tart
poached rhubarb almond tart
poached rhubarb almond tart

It seems just as quickly as rhubarb was here, with elephantine leaves and strikingly red stalks, it’s starting to slow down and fade. Though that means it’s just the beginning of the rest of the garden, so I’ll temper my disappointment with dreams of peas! And lettuces! Maybe even a zucchini or too? But until then, we obviously need to cram in as much rhubarb as we can!

This time I made a mild riff on a rhubarb and almond tart, using a browned butter almond cream and thick lengths of cardamom-poached rhubarb. It is sort of an updated version of this old tart, one of the recipes I posted in my early years of blogging. I was surprised how well the browned butter comes through in the almond cream – it bakes up buttery, cakey, and fragrant, interrupted with super tender tart rhubarb.

poached rhubarb almond tart
poached rhubarb almond tart
poached rhubarb almond tart

This recipe is pretty much the classic almond and fruit tart, with an extra bit here or there. While it’s not strictly necessary, I think gentle poaching the rhubarb before baking in the tart makes the rhubarb particularly tender. I prefer making this tart with thick rhubarb if you have access to it – the sort of hefty stalks that are an inch or more in diametre. I find they handle the poach and baking best. When I tried with thinner rhubarb, while still good, the stalks do wither in the oven and remain a bit stringy.

Of course, the size of your rhubarb will determine how many lengths of rhubarb are needed along the tart – whether just eight or so, as in the case of mine, or double that number (hence about 2/slice). Try arranging the pieces in your tart pan to determine how many you need. And be sure to poach a couple extra, just in case.

poached rhubarb almond tart

cardamom-poached rhubarb & browned butter almond tart

  • Servings: one 13 by 4-inch rectangular tart
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special equipment: 13×4″ rectangular fluted tart tin

cardamom-poached rhubarb

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 medium green cardamom pods, cracked open
  • about 250g rhubarb, cut into 9-10cm lengths

pastry

  • 200g flour, half all-purpose and half whole-wheat
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg

brown butter almond cream

  • 75g butter
  • 5g milk powder (optional)
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 75g finely ground almonds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • generous pinch salt
  • 75g egg
  • 16g flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp dark rum

poached rhubarb

Place the water, sugar and cardamom pods in a saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Add the rhubarb pieces, presentation side up (sometimes the skin on the bottom side can crack a bit when simmered). Adjust the heat as needed to warm the syrup back up to a simmer (but not a boil!!). Then remove from the heat, cover, and allow the rhubarb to cool in the syrup. This way we can gently poach the rhubarb, but avoid overcooking it – be all the more careful to avoid overcooking if you’re using small rhubarb. If not using the same day, gently transfer the rhubarb and syrup to a container and chill completely.

pastry

Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Then add the egg and process for about 30 seconds or until the dough comes together. Press into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill completely.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick. Drape over a 13×4″ rectangular tart tin, press into all the corners and trim any excess. Patch any tears that form with scraps of dough. Cover and chill completely.

almond cream

Place the butter in a small pan with the milk powder and cook, stirring, until the butter solids are golden brown and fragrant. Immediately transfer the butter to a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool completely until it re-solidifies.

Cream together the cooled butter, sugar and salt. Add the ground cardamom and almonds, then mix in the egg. Next stir in the flour followed by the vanilla extract and rum.

assembly

Preheat the oven to 350F. Dock the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry appears to lighten and dry. Let cool.

Spread the almond cream in an even layer in the bottom of the tart tin. Drain the poached rhubarb and arrange overtop. Return to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the almond cream is lightly browned.

Let cool and dust with icing sugar (not because it needs additional sweetness – this is purely for aesthetic so feel free to skip!) just prior to serving.

burnt miso & star anise banana tarte tatin

burnt miso & star anise banana tarte tatin
burnt miso & star anise banana tarte tatin
burnt miso & star anise banana tarte tatin

I am often not a fan of bananas, but they take to caramel so naturally and really start to taste quite good while they’re at it too. So it’s no surprise that tarte tatin is deemed an acceptable receptacle for bananas in my book. (Banana bread is alright too, if we must!)

This particular tarte tatin was inspired by a flavour combination from one of Ottolenghi’s columns in the Guardian – caramelized bananas with miso and anise. I love the combination, which I’ve transferred over to a tarte tatin, made dark, bitter and salty.

Continue reading “burnt miso & star anise banana tarte tatin”

grapefruit cream tart (& stop asian hate)

grapefruit cream tart
grapefruit cream tart
grapefruit cream tart

It was over a year ago (can you believe we’ve been in the pandemic for over a year now?) when I wrote about a resurgence in anti-Asian sentiments, driven by racist pandemic rhetoric but symptomatic of underlying currents of white supremacy that continue to persist. I thought I was taking it seriously then, but when I go back and read what I wrote, that “anti-Chinese racism[…] is alive and thriving in Canada, I didn’t doubt,” it rings weakly. At the time, I don’t think I really, really meant it. Not in a way that could imagine what happened in Atlanta was possible. Who would ever want to think such a thing could happen? – is my excuse.

I’ve been thinking more about why I kept harbouring hesitancy about the extent of anti-Asian racism, even when I’m a descendant of immigrants who paid an astronomical head tax, and other members of my extended family were interned. I think it’s because the model minority myth has been pervasive in my thinking – it posits that “Asians are pretty much white,” collapses the experiences of a diverse group into one, and suggests that the socioeconomic successes of some members means that structural barriers don’t exist. All of which are false. This is what I need to unlearn.

Continue reading “grapefruit cream tart (& stop asian hate)”