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Today is a beautiful, apple-icious day!

I love Spring. It just may be my favorite season. It and Summer. The Fall is pretty nice too. It’s winter I’m not so fond of. The snow is pretty, it’s the cold I have issues with, though I know some people like it. This week has been filled with mild temperatures and bright sunny days. It’s almost like a pre-cursor of what’s to come. My husband reported seeing his first Robin already and the Killdeer are quickly taking up residence here. The thing I love most about Spring is feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and I ‘m so looking forward to the heady scent of apple blossoms wafting from the trees. That and flowers popping up everywhere, getting re-acquainted with my Spring bulbs, fresh green grass and buds on the trees. I have to admit it’s been a mild winter here in Ontario, even by my standards, and it seems almost too good to be true, that Spring is officially just a week away. So this may seem rather odd, especially since we’ve just sprung our clocks forward an hour in anticipation of Spring, but I’m going to ask you to indulge me for just a moment.

Remember the Fall.

 It wasn’t all that long ago, really.

 

Think falling leaves, warm winds and crisp green apples.

 Or curly haired sheep with beautiful blue eyes and straw on their forheads.

Or pink pig caramel apples with candy watermelon slice ears, m&m eyes and a marshmallow snout.

Fall for me always includes a county fair or two and a delicious caramel apple. Or two. I know some of you worry about  all that messiness. Not me. No Siree. I’m all for messy, when messy tastes that good.

I love the crispness of the apple and the chewiness of the thick caramel followed by the deliciousness of the chocolate and crunchy peanut coating. Mmmm, so good.

I made this yummy treat last week and it reminds me of all of that minus the chocolate but with peanut butter, apples, Skor bits, caramel and chopped peanuts all on a sugar cookie crust, and sprinkled lightly with cinnamon, you won’t miss it. This Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza is a delicious treat and will be sure to delight young and old alike.

It combines the flavours of “Fall Fair” caramel apples on a delightful sugar cookie crust that is so yummy and delicious, it will literally disappear before your very eyes.  Seriously.

You’ll be, like, wait a minute – where’s the Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza I just made?  No seriously, is this a joke?

So my advice is, cut yourself a generous piece before serving, because as soon as you turn around, it will instantly disappear ~ it’s that good.

Now you can go back to blue skies and the sweet smell of Spring. Oh, that does sound good, doesn’t it!!  Happy, happy, happy!

Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza

Slightly adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

Serves 8

3/4 cup refrigerated sugar cookie dough

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons Skor pieces (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 medium tart apple, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup caramel topping, warmed

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

1. Pat cookie dough into a pie pan or lay it on a pizza pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 °F for 12 -14 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. Cool completely.

2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Add Skor pieces and stir. Spread over sugar cookie crust. Arrange apple slices on top in a circle.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and dust with cinnamon. Drizzle with warmed caramel topping and cut into wedges to serve.

Notes

To prevent the apple slices from browning, I brushed them with a pastry brush dipped in a solution of 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 tsp vanilla

Method

1. Place the water and sugar into a small, heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Cook undisturbed until the sugar starts to color around the edges.  Gently swirl the pot to even out the color and continue to cook only until the mixture turns a light amber. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.

2. At arm’s length, gradually stir in the heavy cream. Be careful as it will bubble up.  Stir until the caramel is smooth.  When the bubbles subside, stir in the vanilla extract.

Notes

Like all caramel, this sauce thickens considerably as it cools.  It can be made ahead and refrigerated, then reheated for a few seconds in the microwave or on the stove over low heat. The sauce will be quite stiff when cold and will thin as it warms.

Caramel sauce can be kept covered and refrigerated until the best-by date stamped on the cream carton.

Other recipes with apples:

Vanilla Bean Baker’s Apple Pizza Pie

My Kitchen Addiction’s Balsamic Onion, Apple, and Gorgonzola Pizza

Brown Eyed Baker’s Homemade Caramel Apples

Picky-Palate’s Honeyed Apple Peanut Butter Tart

The Pioneer Woman’s Quick & Easy (and Yummy) Apple Tart

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No matter how you bake them, butter tarts are hailed as a true Canadian

favourite.  Dating back to the early 1900′s, butter tarts recipes have been

passed down from generation to generation and many family recipes have

debuted at county fairs all across this nation. Synonymous with tradition

and old-fashioned goodness, many recipes originate from our mothers or

grandmothers who thought nothing of throwing together a batch of pastry,

mixing some butter, sugar and dried fruit and turning out these sweet

confections by the dozen. They were filled with whatever happened to line

the pantry shelf that day and often included raisins, currants, walnuts,

chocolate, cranberries, coconut, pecans or any combination of these.

The perfect butter tart all comes down to preference  and Canadians have

definite opinions about whether the filling should be firm and custard-like

or gooey and runny when you bite into it. Over the holidays, I baked

up several recipes while looking for the perfect butter tart but was mostly

disappointed, until finally, I found it.  The most delicious butter tart

filling I found, was from a blog called Under the High Chair by Aimée from

Montreal, Canada. These are her mother’s tarts and the only one’s she eats. 

If you make them, you’ll be sure to see why.

 The filling for these tarts is a perfect combination of both a gooey filling and a

chewy texture. The filling bakes up to a perfect stickiness that’s delicious on

it’s own, or paired with dried fruits and nuts.  These tarts perfectly capture the

homemade taste of sweet Canadian baking and are a delight of buttery

goodness from start to finish.  First you’ll want to start with a pastry that gives

you a light, flaky crust.  This sour cream pastry is easy to handle, rolls out

nicely and bakes up flaky, golden and tender.  It’s a perfect butter tart dough.

Double-Crust Sour Cream Pastry

2 1/2 cups (625 ml) all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

1/2 cup (125 ml) cold butter, cubed

1/2 cup (125 ml) cold lard, cubed

1/4 cup (50 ml) ice water (approx.)

3 tbsp (50 ml) sour cream

 

Method

1. In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the cold

butter and lard until it’s in fine pieces with just a few larger pieces.

2. Using a liquid measure, whisk water with sour cream.  Drizzle over the flour

mixture, tossing briskly with a fork and adding a little more water if necessary,

until a ragged dough forms.

3. Divide the dough in half; press it into 2 discs.  Wrap; refrigerate until chilled,

approximately 30 minutes.

Notes

The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days or freeze in an

airtight container for up to 1 month. This is a double crust pie recipe that will

make enough for 18-24 butter tarts.

Recipe Source:  The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book

Butter Tart Filling  

1/3 cup (75 ml) butter, softened

1 cup (250 ml) brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup (125 ml) corn syrup

2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla

1/4 cup (50 ml) raisins

1/4 cup (50 ml) chopped walnuts

1/2 cup (125 ml) coconut, toasted

1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

2 tablespoons cream

Method

1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to generous 1/8-inch (3 mm)

thickness.

2. Using a 4-inch (10 cm) round cutter, cut out 12 circles, re-rolling any

scraps. Fit into muffin cups; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light.

Beat in eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla and mix well.  Mix in raisins, walnuts,

coconut, salt and cream.  Combine thoroughly. Divide evenly between the

pastry shells, approximately 1/4 cup (50 ml) into each shell.

4. Bake in the centre of a 350 °F (180 ° C) oven until filling is set and pastry is

golden, approximately 20 minutes.  Run a thin knife blade around the edges to

release the tarts.  Let cool in the muffin cups on a rack for 20 minutes before

transferring to a rack to cool. These tarts can be made ahead and stored in a

single layer in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen 2-inch tarts.

Notes

Ease the rounds of pastry dough into the muffin cups and gently press them 

up against the sides of the cup with your fingertips. Without stretching the

pastry, fit the dough into the cup, working out as many of the folds as possible

for a circular tart shell or leave them wavy for a ruffled effect. 

Recipe Source:  Under the High Chair

Butter Tart Variations

Plain Butter Tarts:  omit the raisins, walnuts and toasted coconut.

Chocolate Butter Tarts:   add 3/4 cup ( 175 ml) semi-sweet chocolate

chips, omit raisins, and coconut.

Cranberry Coconut Butter Tarts:  add 3/4 cup ( 175 ml) cranberries,

omit  raisins and nuts.

Pecan Butter Tarts: add 3/4 cup ( 175 ml) chopped pecans, omit the

raisins, walnuts and toasted coconut.

There are, of course, the tried and trues, but the variations for these tarts are

endless. And, of course, that is what makes them so much fun ~ there’s

something for everyone!  I know I had my fair share.

Sshh!  That’s all I’m saying about that.

This Sweet Wife

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Image

With Christmas just around the corner, I’ve got recipe ideas flying around my

head like freshly falling snow.  If only I had the time to make them all! Aahh,

that would be so very nice.  Over the next two weeks, I’ll make as many

interesting recipes as I can, that tie into the holidays and help us to bake and

cook up the delicious scents and aromas that we love about them. 

Image

I love this time of year and I love all of the desserts and sweets that go with it

  Image

These tartlets hold a medley of four different kinds of nuts and red chopped

glace cherries in a cookie-like shell.  Wrapped up in a honey caramel, the fruit

and nuts offer a taste and crunch that are a perfect match for each other. 

Drizzled with milk chocolate, these tartlets will add a delightful festive

appearance to your holiday table that will have your guests reaching for

more. Make and freeze these tartlets ahead of the holidays and you’ll have one

less thing to do once the festivities begin. Hhmmm, that sure sounds good!

  Image

Nutty Cherry Tartlets with Honey Caramel

Crust

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (125 ml) icing sugar

1/3 cup (75 ml) cold butter, cut into cubes

 1 egg

1/4 tsp (1 ml) vanilla

Filling

1/2 cup (125 ml) each of pistachios, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts

1/2 cup (125 ml)  glace cherries

1/3 cup  (75 ml) clear honey

1/4 cup (50 ml) sugar

1/2 cup (125 ml) 35 % whipping cream

2 tbsp (25 ml) butter

1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate

Method

1. To make shells, coat three dozen mini-muffin cups with cooking spray or

lightly butter.  If you have non-stick pans, you can skip this step.  Whirl flour

with icing sugar and butter in food processor until butter is in tiny, barely

visible pieces. Add egg and vanilla; whirl until moist crumbs form.  Turn out

onto a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper and form into a solid disc of

dough.  For ease in rolling, divide dough in half  and roll between two sheets of

waxed paper or parchment. Roll out each half until slightly thinner than

normal pie dough.  Cut with a 2 1/2 -inch (6-cm) cutter; line cups, extending

the dough slightly above the cup edge.  Use scraps to repair any breaks or fill

in thin spots.  Freeze while making the filling or for at least 10 minutes.

Note:  You could certainly use your own favourite pastry recipe for the shell

instead of following the one here. 

2.  Spread the nuts onto a baking pan and toast in a 400 °F (200 °C) oven for 6

minutes or until lightly browned.  Use a tea towel to rub papery skins from the

hazelnuts.  Coarsely chop nuts and cherries.  Stir together; set aside.

3.  To make the honey caramel, combine the honey and sugar in a medium

heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Without stirring, bring it to a boil over medium

heat.  Meanwhile, in a measuring cup in the microwave, heat the cream and

butter together for 45 to 60 seconds or until very hot, but not boiling. 

Continue boiling sugar mixture until it has turned a deep caramel colour. 

Remove the pan from the heat.  Avert your face while slowly pouring in the

cream mixture (because it will really bubble up); stir.  Reduce heat to low and

return pan to stove.  Gently boil, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Stir in

nuts and cherries; remove from heat and set aside.

4. Remove tart shells from freezer; immediately place in preheated oven. 

Bake until pastry is golden, about 8 minutes (for a dark pan) or 10 minutes (for

a light pan). Cool; then generously fill with caramel nut mixture. 

5. Drizzle with melted milk or dark chocolate. For this small amount you can

easily melt the chocolate in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for 30

seconds, remove & stir until completely melted. Drizzle back & forth with a

spoon across the tarts.

Covered, these tartlets keep well at room temperature for up to 2 days; or

freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Makes 3 dozen tartlets. 

Thanks for the company, and good luck with all your Christmas baking!

This Sweet Wife

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Lemon Lime Tart

Just like hay and sunshine, lemons and limes are just meant to go together. Singularly they’re very good, but together they’re intense. A combination of  lemons and limes makes the most glorious, tart, refreshing flavour explosion I can think of.  This recipe takes these glorious flavours and turns them into a luscious, creamy, beautiful and luxurious dessert.  The combination of the graham cracker, coconut crust is warm and delicious, the layer of lemon is sweet and heavenly, the topping of fresh lime is rich and creamy.  All 3 of  these layers combine to provide an absolutely luscious dessert that will impress your most discerning of guests.   

Lemon Lime Tart

1/2 cup (125 ml) lemon juice, strained

3 eggs

1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla

2 limes

8 oz. (227 g) cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons (30 ml) granulated sugar

Coconut Graham Crust

1 cup (250 ml) graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened desiccated coconut

3 tablespoons (45 ml) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons (30 ml) sugar

1 pinch salt

1. In a large bowl and using fingertips, crumble graham cracker crumbs, coconut, butter, sugar and salt.  Press into parchment-paper-lined 9-inch   springform pan.

2. Bake in 350 °F ( 180 °C) oven until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely. This can be made ahead and stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

Lemon Filling

While your crust is cooling, prepare the lemon filling.  In another large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, eggs, 2/3 cup ( 150 ml) of the condensed milk and half of the vanilla; pour over the cooled crust.  Bake in 350 °F (180°C) oven until set, 20-25 minutes.  Let cool completely. 

Lime Topping

1. Zest one of the limes to make 1 tablespoon of zest.  Squeeze and strain both limes to make 1/3 cup (75 ml) juice.

2. In a food processor, pulse cream cheese, remaining condensed milk and vanilla, lime zest, (strained) lime juice and 2 tablespoons (50 ml) sugar until smooth.  Pour over baked layer.  Refrigerate until set, about 8 hours. 

If you’re like me and find it difficult to wait 8 hours before you can sink your fork into all this goodness, plan ahead and make sure you’re distracted or at the very least, getting a good night’s sleep while it sets, however I’ll just warn you … the anticipation may make it difficult.

Notes

When you’re ready to remove the tart from the spring-form pan be sure to dip a knife in hot water and run it around the inside edge of the pan before you decide to release the clip. This will help ensure you have a clean edge without any large cracks or tears.  If you do have a rough edge just dip your knife in some hot water and use it to smooth out the tear.  Use this method again witha larger knife when you go to cut and serve the tart.  A sharp, hot knife will give you a nice, clean edge and prevent your knife from gumming up so that your servings look neat and tidy.  Or if you’re not trying to impress and you just can’t wait one more minute, cut, serve and experience a little taste of heaven. The entire dessert can be made ahead, covered without touching the top layer, and stored in the fridge.  Top with a little lemon and lime zest and you will have the most delicious dessert you’ve had  in a long time.

Source: Canadian Living 

Serves 12 wonderful people, family and friends 

 

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