Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer Strawberry Season!

YOU GUISE. Seriously, you guys. SRSLY. I LOVE strawberries. Like, I would marry them if I could. They're perfection. And it's STRAWBERRY SEASON OMG.

Now, my mom made one of the best cakes I've ever had for my birthday and do you know what I did? I left my camera at home. And it was GORGEOUS. She made this Almond Chiffon Cake with mixed berries beautifully piled on top (it looked just like that pic) and it was DELISH. I'm really disappointed that I forgot my camera but it was a crazy-awesome birthday and I got caught up.

To continue on the OMG FRESH BERRIES kick, I picked up some strawberries this weekend and got right to using them! The first is this
strawberry tart which, okay, tarts? They are TIME CONSUMING. You prepare the ingredients by laying some out to come to room temp (or freezing butter for the dough), then you assemble the dough and put that back in the freezer once it's in the pan. Make the pastry cream (which I'm getting better at with practice) then throw that in the fridge for a couple more hours. You bake the tart crust and set that out to cool. Once that's cool and then the cream is properly chilled, you can finally prep the strawberries and assemble everything! It took most of Saturday.

But it was TOTALLY worth it. I love fruit tarts. It was a hit with the family too! Success all around! I should make more tarts...


Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours

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

1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. If dough does not come together, add 1-2 Tbsp of cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you can pinch dough together.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

2. To roll or press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.

If you want to roll the dough, chill it for about 2 hours before rolling (unless you've used frozen butter and the dough comes out of the processor firm and cold, in which case you can roll it immediately). I find it easiest to roll this dough out between two sheets of plastic film – make sure to peel away the film frequently, so it doesn't get rolled into the dough.

If you want to use the press-in method, you can work with the dough as soon as it's processed. Just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don't be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don't press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.


2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Add the salt, place over medium-high heat, and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth (don't let the eggs and sugar stand together for too long or else the sugar will cook the eggs *so I've heard*).

When the milk is ready, slowly drizzle about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes. The mixture must come just to the boiling point (slow bubbles, not boiling vigorously, or you will curdle the eggs, yuk). Remove from heat and immediately pour through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into 1 tbsp pieces and whisk into pastry cream 1 tbsp at a time until smooth.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming and put in the refrigerator to cool for 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Assemble tart inside pan to prevent crust breaking. Cover with desired fruit! (For a glossy coat, microwave about 1/4 cup apricot (or raspberry or strawberry) jam for 30 seconds or until liquid enough to brush over fruit.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pig Cake!

Every year I make my mom's birthday cake at the beginning of April and she makes mine at the end. We're both pretty easy to make happy - I like anything pink or with berries and she likes chocolate. This year, she felt like something different and she produced a recipe she'd cut out of the Houston Post over 20 years ago (1987 omg!). It was a cake she'd had at a potluck and *remembered* liking it a lot but couldn't exactly remember why. So she gave the recipe to me and said Make it so!

Personally, I'm a little offended by ~cake mixes. Mostly because sometimes cake mixes are just plain better than homemade. They're so soft and effortlessly fluffy... It's not FAIR. It's cheating! However. This recipe called for a mix which made it super easy to make.

It was also super easy to EAT. They say it's called "Pig Pickin' " because you make a pig of yourself. I will support this claim. We all went back for seconds. I'll keep this cake in rotation, no problem. Mmmm!

Adapted from: Ann Valentine

1 package yellow cake mix with pudding
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, UNDRAINED
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, UNDRAINED
1 9-ounce carton frozen whipped topping thawed
1 (3.75-ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix

Grease two 9-inch layer cake pans. Line bottoms with waxed paper; grease again; set aside. Combine cake mix, mandarin oranges, eggs and oil; beat 2 minutes at highest speed of electric mixer. Reduce speed to low; beat 1 minute. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes; remove layers from pans, let cool completely.

Combine remaining 3 ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer; let stand 5 minutes in refrigerator or until mixture is of spreading consistency. Spread pineapple mixture between layers and on top of cake - you may frost sides if desired. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.