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Berry Cream Cheese Tart with Chocolate

12 Jul
Tart filling courtesy of The Sun, crust courtesy of Annie’s Eats

For the crust:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp heavy whipping cream 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface 
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar 
1/4 tsp salt 
8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

For the filling: 
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
8 oz. cream cheese, softened 
1/4 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup heavy whipping cream 
12 oz. mixed berries 

1. To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process briefly to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 one-second pulses. With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least one hour or up to 48 hours.
2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)  Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan. Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes. 
3. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes longer. Transfer the shell to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double-boiler over simmering water. Spread the chocolate in a thin, even layer over the bottom of the cooled tart shell, reserving some chocolate for drizzling. Keep the remaining chocolate heated over hot water to use later. Refrigerate the coated tart shell until the chocolate hardens. 
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the whipping cream. Spread the cream cheese mixture into the cooled tart shell and chill for one hour. Arrange the berries on top of the filled tart, starting on the outside and working toward the center. Drizzle the reserved chocolate over the top of the berries, if desired. Chill the tart until you are ready to serve. 

For my family’s Fourth of July get together last week, the dessert spread was a group effort. My sister and I baked a fabulous Ricotta Cheesecake courtesy of David Lebovitz, my cousin contributed a decadent Chocolate Pudding Pie, and my aunt whipped up her famous Berry Cream Cheese Tart. I first tried this dessert at another summer barbecue a couple years back and immediately loved it. The combination of the buttery, tender crust with the rich cream cheese filling and fresh berries is simply irresistible. The dark chocolate shell adds a subtle note of bitterness and ties the whole tart together. In celebration of The Fourth, my aunt opted for a patriotic red, white, and blue star design. However, this dessert would be appropriate for any special occasion throughout the seasons and you can use whichever berries you prefer. 

Harvest Apple Crumb Cake

30 Nov
Since I began blogging a little over a year ago, I have grown passionate about homemade, delicious food and baked goods made from scratch with fresh, high quality ingredients. Now, I carefully assess everything I eat, paying attention to even the most minute details. Having visited several outstanding restaurants and bakeries throughout my travels, I sometimes find it difficult to compare my at-home creations to those made by experienced professionals. Doing so is especially challenging when my recipes do not turn out as well as expected. But, recognizing one’s failures is equally important as recognizing the successes, especially when it comes to food. With that in mind, I have recently embarked upon replicating some of my favorite items from outside in my own kitchen. Which leads me to this cake.
Moist, flavorful, speckled with soft diced apples, and topped with crunchy pecan crumb topping, this homemade harvest apple coffee cake blows any store-bought version out of the water. On a brisk autumn afternoon, the cake can be optimally enjoyed with a mug of pungent, hot coffee in front of the fireplace. I can identify no better way to celebrate fall’s delicious apples and its mild weather than with this quintessential item. So, for those of you who have been demoralized by recent failed baking ventures, this recipe is for you. Stop what you are doing, take out the measuring cups, get to work, and you will realize that sometimes the best baked goods can come from one’s own kitchen.

Recipe slightly adapted from A Sweet Spoonful

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups diced, peeled yellow apple, such as Honeycrisp (about 2-3 large apples)
  • Butter for greasing

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces

Serves 12-16 slices.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan with butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. Add the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time, beating after each addition to incorporate. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold the apples into the batter, ensuring that they are distributed evenly throughout. Do not overmix. Spread the batter evenly onto the prepared pan.
3. For the crumb topping: In a small bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together with a fork. Pour in the butter and work it in with your hands to form pebbles. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake. Bake for 50 minutes. Allow the cake to cool completely at room temperature before serving.

Framboise Cake Courtesy of my Garden

23 Oct

Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup framboise
Non-stick baking spray 
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Serves 8-10 slices. 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10″ pie pan with baking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, milk, and vanilla until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula when necessary. Add the dry mixture gradually, mixing until smooth.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pie plate. Place the framboise on top of the batter and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake the cake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan. Lightly sprinkle the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar.

          Since my family and I planted our garden in early May, humble plants have grown into sprawling bushels of fragrant herbs, rows of crisp, vibrant vegetables, and countless colorful flowers. Fresh herbs have become a staple of my mother’s cooking as she completes every dish with a generous herb garnish snipped directly from the garden. We scour magazines and the internet in search of recipes that incorporate our plentiful supply. Stacks of dried herbs fill the pantry, conserved for the imminent winter months when they will no longer be available fresh. 
          One day, while collecting an handful of ingredients for a meal, I could not help but notice a growing green bush dotted with red. The framboise, a dainty red berry tangier in flavor than a strawberry, had been ignored for several months despite my mother’s and my effort to use up everything the garden had to offer. This simple, charming cake ended the framboise long period of neglect. Moist and barely sweet, the cake pairs perfectly with a cup of afternoon tea or coffee. Serve each slice with a dollop of lightly whipped cream and it transforms into an effortless dinner party dessert. The recipe will work beautifully with blueberries, strawberries, or many other seasonal fruits as well. Though the framboise may have been overshadowed by its attention-seeking neighbors, basil and parsley, the delicate berry has made its mark and is here to stay. 

Banana Flambé with Vanilla Ice Cream and Almonds

15 Sep

1 medium, ripe banana
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

1. Bring a saucepan to medium-high heat. Melt the butter, coating the entire face of the pan. Add the honey and allow for it to bubble Slice the banana in half, length-wise and then again, cross-wise. Place the four slices face-down in the saucepan.
2. Using a fork, turn the slices after two minutes have elapsed. Once softened, sprinkle an equal amount of brown sugar on the inside faces of the slices. Flip the bananas again so the brown sugar-coated side faces down. Cook for an additional two minutes then remove the pan from the burner.
3. To assemble, obtain a deep smoothie cup or glass. Pour one tablespoon of sliced almonds in the bottom of the cup. Place one banana slice over the almonds and top with 1/4 cup ice cream. Repeat the process one time and finish the dessert with two banana slices and almonds sprinkled on top.
*You must serve while the banana slices are still warm.

I was first introduced to this recipe in elementary school, during my core experimental years when all I knew about dessert was Betty Crocker brownie mix and pre-made Nestle cookie dough. Preparing the flambé, I remember feeling incredibly independent in the kitchen, creative and in-control. I shooed my mother away when she offered her help, focusing intently on crafting the perfect homemade dessert. I scooped the ice cream carefully and sprinkled the almonds precisely. I savored each and every bite, unashamedly proud of my creation. Today, this simple, charming banana flambé remains a favorite of mine. It is an ideal recipe to have under your belt for those casual weeknights when you crave something sweet but have neither the time nor energy to pull together an extravagant dessert. With its hasty preparation and cleanup, my beloved banana flambé will soon become a staple of your repertoire as well.

Blueberry Crumble

23 Aug

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

2 pounds fresh blueberries
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
Large pinch of salt
6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup organic rolled oats
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream

Makes 6 servings.

1. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; whisk to blend. Add the butter. Rub the butter in with your fingertips until the mixture sticks together in clumps. Mix in the oats, nuts, and vanilla extract.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the 1/3 cup sugar in a large bowl. Add the blueberries to the bowl and toss until they are evenly coated in the sugar.
3. Pour the berry filling into an 11x7x2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the oat topping evenly over the fruit. Bake the crumble until the filling bubbles thickly and the topping is crisp, about 45 minutes. After removing from the oven, allow the crumble to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Incredibly easy and delicious, fruit crumbles are my ultimate go-to desserts. With its combination of crisp, butter-specked topping, soft, naturally-sweet blueberries, and soothing vanilla ice cream, this delectable blueberry variety serves as the perfect end to a summer barbecue. You can substitute blueberries for various seasonal fruits such as apricots, peaches, or nectarines. This classic dessert will surely impress all your dinner guests, encouraging them to return for seconds (or sometimes thirds, in my case!).