A few Fridays ago, we caught an early show of The Fighter. It was an especially busy day at work, so I left the house on the fly, which meant (a) an awkward half-walk/half-run—a scurry, as we used to say in university—to the bus stop; and (b) no smuggled snacks in my purse.
Fortunately, I have a memory like an elephant when it comes to sweets and where to find them. So as I drew back the door to the International Village (home of Tinseltown Theatre) 10 minutes before showtime, I had one thing on the brain: tarts. Our friend P. had mentioned his unexpected discovery of a particularly fine butter tart there at least a year go, but this was my first time visiting the theatre since. Jogging up the escalator stairs, I urgently scanned the perimeter for my husband—and the butter tart stand (not necessarily in that order).
I spotted R. easily enough in the ticket line, but the tart booth was proving coy. When he reached into his shoulder bag to reveal the familiar crinkly red and white stripes of Hawkins Cheezies (family size, no less), I declared him a saint and reluctantly abandoned my pastry search in favour of a good seat.
The next afternoon, though, I got to work in the kitchen. Like I said, memory like an elephant.
3/4 packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup (or, in my case, Roger's Golden Cane Syrup)
2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 batch of your favourite pastry
12 pre-made tart shells
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
In bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla and vinegar until blended. Set aside.
If you're making your own tart shells, roll out the pastry until it's 1/8-inch thick. Use 4-inch round cookie cutters to cut out 12 circles, re-rolling the scraps if necessary. Carefully press each circle into 1 cup of a 12-cup muffin tin.
Divide the raisins evenly among the 12 cups, followed by the filling. It may seem as though there's not enough liquid in each tart, but the filling will bubble up as it heats. You may even want to put the muffin tin (and will definitely want to put the pre-made tart shells) on a cookie sheet to save your oven from any spillover.
Bake until the pastry is golden and the filling is puffed and bubbly (12-15 minutes). Let the tarts cool in the pan for 1 minute, before carefully loosening them with a dinner knife and moving them to a rack to cool completely.
Yields 12 tarts.
Source: Canadian Living.
Notes: I like my butter tarts less runny, more goopy, with lots of raisins and sans nuts, which is reflected in the instructions I've typed out above. The original Canadian Living recipe, however, offers variations to suit every taste.
Marginally related notes: My online Cheezie research led me to this, which linked to this, which made me wonder (a) if superior cheese snack combustibility is a worthy source of national pride; and (b) what it means for my combustibility if I just consumed a multi-serving bag in one sitting. Eeek.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I baked this cake awhile ago, evidently. Haven't seen the sun since.
No matter. When the weather's not brightening your day, sometimes a cake can do the trick.
Toasted Pine Nut Cake
4.5 ounces pine nuts, toasted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan (mine was 9-inch, which explains why my cake is so squat compared to the one in the Gourmet photo).
Pulse the toasted pine nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the butter and process until combined. Repeat with the eggs and vanilla.
Add the flour and baking powder and pulse just until incorporated. Spread the batter in the prepared cake pan.
Bake until the cake is just firm to the touch and a wooden pick inserted into the centre comes out clean (about 30-35 minutes). Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, before flipping it out onto a rack to cool completely.
Store, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Notes: You see that dense bit in the centre? I'm not sure if it's because pine nuts contain more oil than walnuts, or because I underbaked the cake. It didn't *seem* underbaked, so I wouldn't worry if yours turns out the same. For the record, we ate ours with a smear of blackberry jam à la J-Bo. I'm sorry you can't do the same.
Source: Based on Walnut Jam Cake, originally published in Gourmet, April 2009.
Labels: Cakes and cupcakes
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Here's what you do. First, head over to the New York Times and make the now infamous no-knead bread, based on a recipe by Jim Lahey.
And if you're smitten (as I was), the next stop will be your local independent bookstore, where you'll pick up his book, My Bread.
Back to the bread though, for a minute. On day 1 and 2, you can dip a wedge in olive oil and balsamic vinegar or slather a slice in salted butter. On days 3 and 4, you're moving into toast territory. Toss a slice in the toaster for a PB&J breakfast. Sandwich shredded cheddar between two buttered pieces for a grilled cheese lunch. Drizzle some scraps with olive oil, garlic and thyme for a dinner side dish. But wait, that's a huge loaf of bread, and you've still got some left.
Two words: French. Toast.
That's where today's post comes into play. This isn't the pain perdu we chatted about a few years ago. This version is sturdier, heartier—a batter that not only soaks into the crumb, but coats it too.
A better match for bread like this and winter days like these.
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
10-12 slices of bread that's nearing the end of its useful life
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add a small dab of butter if you're worried the French toast will stick (repeat between slices).
In a medium bowl (preferably deep and just wide enough to fit a slice of bread), whisk the eggs. Add the flour, sugar and baking powder and keep whisking, as you slowly add the milk. There will be a few lumps (hopefully not too many), but not to worry.
Dip each slice of bread into the batter, turning to coat both sides. Let the excess liquid drip back into the bowl before dropping the battered bread into the hot frying pan.
Cook until golden brown. Flip. Repeat. Sometimes I like to lid the pan after the first flip, while the second side is browning, to make sure the sides cook. You'll lose a bit of crispiness though. Trade-offs.
Yields: 10-12 slices
Source: Mom's recipe file.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
At any given moment, I have a few ambitious baking projects waiting in the wings for that elusive triumvirate of time, energy and inclination. Sifting through the paper detritus that had piled up on my desk and in my drawers over the year, I stumbled on an unfinished list of challenges I'd hoped to tackle in 2010 jotted half-heartedly in the corner of a notebook. Among them, croissants.*
I even had a specific recipe in mind. The February/March 2009 issue of Fine Cooking featured a step-by-step guide to making the delicate pastries. With my schedule wide open for the Christmas holidays and time ticking down to the new year, it seemed like the right time to make things happen.
In 2010: I came, I rolled butter, I conquered croissants.
* Pretty sure this was a carry-over from 2009.
Notes: Overall, the Fine Cooking recipe I reference above served me well. I did run into some trouble when it came to cutting the dough into triangles. Instead of using the photos as a guideline and following my gut, I tried to follow the written instructions step by step. I'm a bit spatially challenged though.
Also, at the recommended baking temperature, the bottoms of my croissants browned very quickly, while the tops darkened more slowly and unevenly. Next time, I'll try a slightly lower temperature for slightly longer.
Blogkeeping: A post a week for the entire year, no ifs, ands or buts. Unless we leave the country for more than a week. Then all bets are off. Deal? Deal.