Mini Fruit Tarts with Berries

I have always wanted to make these, I am very very excited to share and more so happy with my results.  The crème pâtissière is thick and sweet, alone I would say it’s almost too rich.  However with the sour and tart fruit it is a perfect balance.  The flakey pastry crust adds the texture it needs for the most amazing balance.  I would have to say for personal preference, the blueberries and raspberries had the best balance, but the strawberries made it decadent.  I would not omit them by any means.  These would make a beautiful addition to any summer gathering.   The crème pâtissière can be made days in advance, as well as the pastry crust.    Then assemble the day they are needed.

I don’t own mini tart pans so I used a cupcake tin, it actually worked out quite well, just cut 4″ rounds out of the pastry dough and fitted into the tin pan.  Filled with a tiny piece of parchment paper and pie weightes made cute little tarts.    So, don’t think you -must- have a tart pan it may make for a prettier presentation of course, but I was please with the results of the cupcake tin.   The crème pâtissière is from the amazing Julia Childs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The crust is my sweet crust adaptation from Williams Sonoma.

French Pastry Cream
Creme Patissiere

  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Paste or 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes

Over medium heat in a small sauce pan bring the 2 cups of milk and vanilla to a boil (If using a vanilla bean, cut in half and scrape the beans out stir in the milk and add the whole bean pod in the milk as well). Place a 3 quart or larger sauce pan on the stove ready for use.

Place the egg yolks in a stand mixer, and with a wire whip gradually beat in the sugar. Continue beating for a 3-5 minutes until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and it should form thick ribbons.

Beat in the flour until well combined.  Slowly on low speed, trickle in the milk in a thin slow stream.  Do not add the vanilla pod set aside for a moment. After the milk is added turn onto medium high speed and mix for 1 minute.

Pour the mixture into the 3 quart pan you previously had set on the stove, re-add the vanilla pod.   Turn to medium-high heat.   Slowly and  continuously whip with a wire whip, reaching all over bottom and sides of pan, until mixture thickens.   The mixture will get lumpy as it begins to thicken.  Keep whisking it and it will work the lumps out.   After a while you will notice the mixture start to decrease in volume down to a thick custard.  At this point turn it down to medium-low and keep mixing to work out any lumps.

Continue stirring for several minutes, anywhere from  5-10 minutes to cook the flour and thicken the cream. Be very careful about scorching cream in bottom of pan; be sure your pan is heavy, be sure to keep stirring, and do not use high heat, particularly after cream has reduced in volume and started to thicken.  It will be ready when the mixture is thick and heavy, but not so thick it resembles a roux.

Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.  Pour into a bowl, using a spatula to clean off sides of the pan to get all of the custard. Cover the bowl with cling film pressing it down lightly touching on top of the custard.  This will prevent it from creating a film from forming when refrigerated.   Will keep refrigerated for one week or frozen up to a month.

Sweet Pastry Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. very cold water

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture is a small crumb, and slightly resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.   Transfer the dough to a work surface, shape into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll to the needed size.  Fit into pan(s), prick dough with fork and fit a piece parchment over the top of the dough enough to cover up over the sides.  Fill with pie weights (alternatively and cheeper, you can use dried beans as pie weights).  Refrigerate the dough until firm 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool enough to handle, remove the weights and parchment.  Fill as desired.
To make dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt in the processor and pulse until combined.  Slowly add the butter and pulse until it forms a small crumb like coarse cornmeal.  Add the water and pulse until the dough starts to come together.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll to the needed size.   Fit into pan(s), prick dough with fork and fit a square of parchment over the top of the dough enough to cover up over the sides.  Fill with pie weights (alternatively and cheeper, you can use dried beans as pie weights).  Refrigerate the dough until firm 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool enough to handle, remove the weights and parchment.  Fill as desired.

Adapted: Pastry Cream:  Julia Childs MtAoFC, Pastry Crust: Williams Sonoma

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Black Beans & Rice with Eggs

Just a little background on me.  When I first go to any restaurant I am really not adventurous when it comes to choosing off the menu.  Hence, my New Years Resolution, my husband orders off the menus for me this year.  As I tend to stick to meals I have had before or what my husband calls bland/boring.   So, when I seen this on the menu at a local Cuban restaurant I was intrigued.   Beans and Rice sure, I’m latin, it’s a staple food, but add in eggs?  It almost lost me.  Now?  This is my favorite breakfast ever.  Which is funny because when I first had it was the only thing on the menu that sounded like would be a good first step, a typical ‘me’ choice.  When I finally got to dig into it, it was anything but bland and boring the spicy beans over the rice with the soft creamy eggs was happiness on a plate.   Add in a cup of steaming hot Cuban coffee and it was perfection.

I wanted to make this at home one winter because with 3 feet of snow outside, and more coming down as I peeked out the blinds, going to this restaurant was not high on my to do list.  So, a few tweaks and modifications it finally came to be.  I cheated with using canned Organic Whole Black Beans for this recipe and now it only takes around 20 min to prepare.  The list of ingredients are pretty minimal and typical to what most have in their pantry.  It makes a great go to breakfast for a busy summer day.  Tons of flavor, protein, and carbs to get you through a day of shopping, or a day trip to the locals farmers market.

Black Beans & Rice w/Eggs

  • 1 C Jasmine Rice
  • 1 1/2 C Water
  • 1 strip of Bacon, diced
  • 1/8 of a Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1  can (15 oz) Whole Black Beans, undrained
  • Small Pinch of Cumin
  • Very Small Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 eggs, per serving
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Over medium high heat, place a small sauce pan with the rice and water.  Once it comes to a boil turn down to low, put on lid, and cook for 20 min.

While the rice is cooking.  Head up a 10″ skillet to medium, once hot add the bacon to pan and cook until crispy.   Remove all of the bacon grease.

Add the diced bell pepper to the bacon and cook until the peppers turn a vibrant red, slowly add in the can of beans, with liquid and all.  Add in a pinch of cumin and salt to taste, and simmer until liquid is reduced by half.  About 10-15 min.

By now your beans should be almost done, and your rice should have all the liquid cooked out.  Take the rice off heat and fluff with a fork.

Place a small pan over medium heat, pan should have a lid.   Once the pan is hot add the olive oil, after about 30 seconds oil should be hot.  Add in eggs and place the lid on the pan.  Cook for 3 minutes if you like your yolks easy, 4 min for medium, and 5 min for hard yolks.  By placing the lid on the pan you’re cooking the top slowly as you cook the bottom, I found this makes for a softer egg yolk and creamer texture.

To serve spoon the beans over the rice and serve eggs on the side.  This goes great with a fruit salad on the side.  Toast is optional.

Makes 4 Servings

French Styled Omelette Filling

What is better on a weekend morning then a nice dark cup of coffee and an omelette with a side of toast and fruit? To me it is a relaxing breakfast to set the weekend off to a slow and peaceful start.  This weekend was a nice long and peaceful one, so much so I neglected making posts for almost a week, sorry.

Omelets have always been a favorite of mine and I like to try different fillings.  My requirements are simple, very quick, and packed full of flavor.

The technique on the eggs is adapted from Alton Brown, where you do not flip the egg but just push it around and then optional fill while still soft and turned out of the pan. I love it to have that soft egg creamy center to the outside slight textured crunch.  Which is not typical of French Omelets but is a favorite of ours.

Filling

  • 3 slices of bacon diced
  • 1/2 Leek, diced and washed
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provonce
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced parsley
  • 1/4 c Gruyere, shredded
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Eggs

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp cream (optional)
  • 1 tsp water
  • Pinch of salt

Makes one omelette to serve two.

In small pan crisp the bacon pieces. Remove 1/2 of the bacon grease.

Sauté the leeks, shallots, herbs, and zest with bacon until vegetables are transparent.

Add the vinegar and slowly cook all moisture out of mix. About 2-4 min.

At this point turn on the pan for your eggs. Heat pan before adding 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp clarified butter(if you don’t have clarified butter just omit)

Remove the filling from the heat. Stir in the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk your eggs, cream, and water in a bowl. Once well combined pour into heated pan. Cook to your own preference.

Once the eggs are cooked to your preference spoon in your filling and sprinkle with the cheese. Turn onto plate and serve.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

For those lucky enough to live in the twin cities, there is this amazing restaurant called, Hell’s Kitchen, it’s downtown Minneapolis.   We had been there quite a few times now.  It has amazing food, comfortable atmosphere one of my favorite places to go have brunch with friends.   Last year when my brother was visiting we took them there as a treat, and I recommended my nephew get the pancakes.   I think we actually all had a bite and ‘helped’ him finish them off.

I have been wanting these pancakes for a very very long time, we had plans to go there for brunch today but plans changes so I went digging and brought brunch to us!  These lemon ricotta pancakes are light, sweet, filling, and just oh so amazing, only complaint is after preparing the batter letting it rest in the fridge for an hour? argh! hard to resist not making them early.  The acid in the berries make this go from great to amazing!  These pancakes are so moist and light you will not need syrup just a little dust of powdered sugar and its the best thing to add to your brunch menu since mimosas!

 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

  • 6 Egg Whites
  • 9 Egg Yolks
  • 1/3 c Unsalted Butter, Melted
  • 1/2 c Sugar
  • 1 c Whole Milk Ricotta
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Zest of 3 whole lemons
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2/3 c Cake Flour, sifted

In a mixer beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.   While your egg whites are working in a bowl combine and whisk by hand until well blended, egg yolks, melted butter, sugar, ricotta, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice.   Once your egg whites are formed, slowly on medium speed add the egg yolk mixture, once all in stop and scrape down sides, and mix for one(1) minute.  Slowly add in the cake flour a few tablespoons at a time.  Once all in, stop and scrape down the sides again and mix for another minute making sure it is very well blended.

Seal the bowl and transfer to the refrigerator for at least one hour, this will give the butter time to firm up so when you cook your batter it will not thin out as much.   Cook over medium heat on skillet, turn when bubbles begin to break through the batter, about 3-5 minutes, they will be very soft so be VERY careful when turning.  Cook for 2 min on flip side.  Serve with fresh berries and lightly dust with powdered sugar.  Makes 10-12, 8″ pancakes.

Adapted from: Hell’s Kitchen Cookbook

Spinach Bacon Quiche

This is quickly be coming a favorite with us.  The crust is simple and quick, not as intimidating as I originally thought.  I mean, considering only 2 weeks ago I had never made a homemade pie crust.  I changed some things with the original recipe based on first attempt with the taste, texture and removed what I didn’t care for and added in what we do like, also what I had on hand.  Realizing I changed the recipe so much now that the only thing that is the same is the amount of bacon. This is honestly amazing tasting, the flavors are subtle yet right in your face.  The result was a nice light but rich quiche with a flaky crust that is irresistible.

Savory Pie Crust

  • 1 1/4 All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 8 tbsp Butter, unsalted cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 tbsp ice cold water

Put your oven on 400°.  Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Add in the butter and using a food processor or hand dough blender which is what I use.  Cut the butter into the dry until all the larger pieces are broken down.  You should have what looks like a small crumb strudel topping.  At this point add 2 tbsp of water, and keep adding water 1 tbsp at a time until it comes together, keep working it with the hand cutter don’t use your hands, it should form a ball.   Once it’s together.  Get a cookie sheet size of plastic wrap on your counter top and drop the dough ball into one half of the plastic wrap, cover with the other half and as it’s covered shape into 5″ round, do this very quickly!  The more you handle it with your warm hands the less flaky your crust will become.  Quickly wrap completely in plastic wrap and put into a zip-lock bag and put in the fridge until firm 20-30 min, or you can place in the freezer for use later.   Lightly flour your work space and put the dough down and flour the top, roll about 2″ wider then the size of the pie plate you are going to be cooking in.   Once you have it worked into your pie pan take a fork and make little pricks around the base and sides of the crust to prevent big bubbles from forming while baking.  Cut a piece of parchment paper 2″ wider then the pie pan and layer on top of your raw dough fill the inside of the parchment with pie weights, or dry rice or beans, if you do not have the weights.  Bake for 10 min with the weights, remove from oven and bake 10-15 more minutes until the center of the crust is a pale golden brown.  If you’re edges start to turn brown quickly wrap the edges in foil to prevent further browning while the base of the crust cooks.  Cool on a wire rack.

 

Quiche Filling

  • 4 Strips thick sliced bacon, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 stems of fresh Thyme
  • 1 stem of Rosemary
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 bundle fresh spinach, de-stemmed, washed, and chopped roughly
  • 1 c Gruyere, grated
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c half and half
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Turn your oven to 350°  In a hot pan, saute the bacon until brown and lightly crisp.  Drain out all but 2 tbsp of the oil, toss in the garlic,  Herbs de Provence  and whole herb stems (this is so they can be removed later why leave them on the stem) and lightly cook then add the shallots and leeks, cook until pale in color.  Add in the white wine, and when it comes to a simmer toss the spinach on top loosely and place a lid on the pan.  Do not stir just put the lid on, and leave for 3 min.  While your pan is steaming the spinach, in a blender or large glass with a stick blender mix the eggs and half and half until light and foamy looking.   Toss your Gruyere and Parmesan with the flour and set aside.  After  the 3 minutes is up take the lid off and toss around lightly at this point remove the stems of thyme and rosemary.   In your pie crust, pour your saute mix into the bottom of the crust and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle the cheese mix over the spinach mix  in a thin light layer.  Pour your egg mixture over as a third layer and carefully place in the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, depends on the depth of the dish, just bake until the center is soft yet firm to the touch.   Cool for 15-20 min slice and serve!

Source: Crust: Williams-Sonoma