Friday, April 29, 2011

Bakewell Tart – A Royal Treat

The recent bout of rainy weather in New York has me in a British state of mind, which is timely, as there’s been a lot of action on that side of the pond this week. It was almost thirty years ago that more than 30 million people (mostly dewy-eyed women, according to my 

woefully unromantic husband) tuned in to see Charles and Diana getting hitched.  Today, many more royal-watchers watched as their offspring William married the adorable Kate Middleton. I must admit that I’m a sucker for all that pomp and circumstance, and no 

one does it better than the Brits. They excel at royal weddings and funerals, particularly. Yes, I love all that splendid ritual, but no, I did not wake up at 4 a.m. to watch it on the telly. It was more like 6:30, 

 so I missed a good bit of the action. But what I saw was absolutely perfect. Kate Middleton's wedding dress was beautiful, very Grace Kelly, and the couple really did look like they were in love and happy to be marrying each other. 
           In honor of the royal wedding, I made a classic English dessert to enjoy with a cup of tea. It’s a Bakewell tart, which I’ve never made before, and I think it’s smashing. To make it, you bake a tart shell, spread it with layer of jam, top it with almond frangipane 

and a sprinkling of almonds, bake it again, and Bob’s Your Uncle, Bakewell Tart! I served it with a classic Vanilla Custard Sauce (a.k.a. Crème Anglaise), but vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or even clotted cream would also be delightful with it. I bet even the Queen herself would approve of this dessert. So raise a glass of champers to Will and Kate, and may they have a very long and loving marriage (unlike most of the royals)! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chocolate Easter Cake with Vanilla Malt Buttercream and Bunny Cookies

I love Easter, and always have. Jelly beans, malted eggs, chocolate bunnies—it’s all magic to me. Growing up, my mother would put together elaborate Easter baskets for me and my siblings, complete with solid chocolate bunnies, marshmallow eggs and all the 

trimmings. She’d place the baskets next to our beds sometime in the middle of the night so they’d be there, in all their frivolous glory, when we woke up early Easter morning. After breakfast we’d dress up in our new pastel colored dresses and Easter hats and head off to 

church, dreaming of our goodies at home throughout the interminable service. When we got home, the Easter sweets were a free-fire zone, though my mother gave us frequent warnings about eating too much of them before dinner. Dinner always featured a 

leg of lamb with mint jelly, followed by a dopey-looking lamb-shaped cake, covered with vanilla frosting and sprinkled with coconut, and with jelly beans for eyes. Every time a see a lamb-shaped cake, my childhood memories of Easter come flooding 

back, and I’m filled with happiness.

I don’t have that lamb mold anymore, but I think of that cake every Easter. Yes, I could get a new lamb mold, but it would never be the same--better just to remember it fondly. This year I decided to create a new Easter cake memory, and here’s my offering. Yes, it’s a 

silly looking cake, festooned with malted eggs, jelly beans and bunny-shaped cookies, but that’s the way I like my Easter cakes. And this one also happens to be delicious, which the lamb cake probably never was. Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Almond Tartlets

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably know how much I adore the combination of caramel and chocolate. Add some toasted almonds, and my salivary glands go 

into overdrive and my body begins to quiver.  Combining these flavors almost guarantees a successful outcome when making a dessert, whether it’s in the form of a cake, ice cream or individually 

sized tartlets, as in this week’s feature recipe. I originally created a full-size tart version of this recipe for Fine Cooking magazine a few years ago, and this is the pint-sized tartlet version. It’s a tender-

crusted tart with a buttery caramel and toasted almond filling, topped with a rich dark chocolate ganache. At room temperature the caramel filling is luxuriously runny, making a full-size tart 

somewhat tricky to slice, so the individual serving tartlet is an ideal form for this particular recipe. I like to eat these tartlets chilled, so that the caramel and ganache has a little bite to it, but they’re also

delicious at room temperature. If you prefer to make a whole tart instead of tartlets, use a 9 ½-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Japanese-style Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries

With all the turmoil that is unfolding in Japan, the Japanese people are much in my thoughts these days. I admire so much about them—their quiet patience and tenacity in the face of catastrophe; their centuries-old customs and rituals; their style and creativity; and, of 

course, their incredible cuisine. While Japanese cuisine is a thing unto its own, occasionally they have been known to put their own spin on American foods, including cheesecake. Japanese-style cheesecake is similar in appearance to its American cousin, and is 

made with almost the same ingredients, but it is distinctly different. It’s much, much lighter than our cheesecake, and is made with a fraction of the amount of cream cheese. It also has whipped egg whites folded into the batter, giving it a light-as-a-cloud, spongy 

texture that is sublime. If you’ve never tried it, I urge you to give it a whirl—you’ll be amazed at how wonderful it is and wonder why no one has told you about this incredible cake before. This recipe came from a pastry chef friend of mine, and I adapted it slightly, 

adding lemon zest and vanilla and scaling down the amount of batter to fit in an 8-inch springform pan. Though I chose fresh raspberries, you can top this cheesecake with any berry or fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or peaches. It would work very nicely with caramelized apples, I think.

To donate to the Red Cross’s earthquake relief effort in Japan, click here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lime and Ginger Tart Topped with White Chocolate Whipped Cream

The combination of zesty lime and spicy ginger is one that I love, especially in this sweet tart. Here the crust is flavored with ginger juice and finely chopped crystallized ginger, which gives it a subtle 

spiciness. It’s topped with a layer of tangy lime curd, which, in turn, is topped with a white chocolate-enriched whipped cream. Though white chocolate gets no respect in the chocolate world (in fact, 

many don’t even consider it to be part of it), I love the sweet richness it adds to whipped cream, which is a perfect complement to the tart lime filling. This is the first time I’ve made this tart — I  

threw it together on the fly — and I love it. If you’re a lime lover, I know that you will, too.