Pies and Tarts

Pate Brisee

I love this tart crust recipe – it’s pretty easy to make, and as long as you don’t overwork it, amazingly flakey every time. Plus because there is no sugar in it, you can use it for sweet or savory tarts.

  • 1 to 1-¼ cups flour (140 – 175 grams)
  • 7 TBSP chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 TBSP ice water

Place 1 cup flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process just until the mixture resembles course crumbs, about 10 seconds. Add the ice water and pulse 6-8 times just until the dough comes together when you pinch a bit between your fingers. Do NOT let the dough form a ball in the processor. Lay out a big sheet of wax paper and carefully dump the dough onto it. Using the paper, fold over a corner to squash the dough together. Continue with the other corners and repeat until you have formed a disk. If the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle it with the additional ¼ cup of flour, a little at a time until you can form a disk. Wrap the pastry and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour before rolling out.


  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 ½ tsp flour
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP softened butter
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg white
  • A pinch salt

Add the almonds to the bowl of a processor and process a minute to chop. Remove a heaping tablespoon of the chopped nuts and reserve to sprinkle over the tart. Add the sugar to the almonds in the processor; pulse until the mixture is relatively fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a smooth paste. Cover and chill while you get the other ingredients together.

Tarte Tatin Aux Poires (Caramelized Upside-Down Pear Tart) From Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells, 1989, Workman Publishing

From Food Talkers

Serves 8-10

  • 6 TBSP (3 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 7 to 8 firm pears, peeled, cored and quartered (about 2-3/4  pounds – Bosc or Anjou work well)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 recipe Pate Brisee** (see recipe below)
  • Crème fraiche or sour cream for serving (optional)


Preheat oven to 425°F.


Melt butter in deep (12”) skillet over medium-high heat. (If you don’t have a pan that big, use two smaller pans and divide the ingredients between the two. You can use a non-stick pan if you like.) Stir in pears, sugar and lemon juice. Cook, stirring carefully from time to time so the pears and sugar don’t stick, about 20 minutes. Turn the heat to high and cook until the pears and sugar are a deep, golden brown, about 10-15 minutes more. Shake the pan every once in a while to be sure the pears aren’t sticking. Your urge will be to stop the cooking a little too soon, so I’ve included a few pictures here to show you about where the pears should be when you take them off heat:


Start herethen herenot yetnow2013-10-11 17.16.012013-10-11 17.23.45


When the pears are golden, pile them into a 10-½ inch round glass baking dish (a glass pie pan works well.)Roll out the pate brisee dough slightly larger than the dish. Place the pastry on top of the pears, and tuck in the edges around the pears. You don’t have to prick the dough.


Place tart in center of oven and bake until the pears bubble and the pastry is a deep golden brown, 35-40 minutes.


Remove tart from oven, put a large flat heatproof serving platter topside down on top of baking dish and invert pan. Give the bottom of the baking dish a firm tap to release any pears that may be stuck to the bottom of the baking dish. Carefully remove baking dish so the tart falls evenly onto the serving plate.  If some of the pears don’t release, just remove them and arrange on the tart. This is a rustic tart; it doesn’t need to be pristine.


Serve warm or at room temperature, with the crème fraiche or sour cream on the side (if serving.)

Semolina Crostata Dough

(Recipe makes enough for 1 large or 2 small crostata)

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup semolina
  • A fat pinch salt (a little more than ¼ tsp)
  • 3-4 TBSP ice water

In a processor, pulse the flours and salt until well mixed. Add the chilled cubed butter and process about 8-10 pulses until the butter is about the size of peas. Add the ice water, a tablespoon at a time and pulse until the dough just comes together (grab a handful and squeeze – if it sticks together, it’s done.)

Lay out some plastic wrap, dump the dough on top, and using the wrap, gather together into a ball. Wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Remove from fridge, and roll out into a rectangle. With the long side facing you, fold in the edges to the middle. Wrap and chill another 20 minutes. (At this point you could put in a zip top bag and stow in freezer for about a month.)

After the second rest and chill, cut the dough in half, roll each half into a rough circle about 1/8th inch thick, rewrap and chill while you make the fillings.

Oven-Dried Tomato and Roasted Pepper Goat Cheese Crostata

Serves 2 using ½ the dough recipe. If you use the whole recipe, double the ingredients for the crostata filling and topping.

  • ½ Semolina Crostata Dough Recipe
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 oz. roasted peppers (you could make your own, or use the jarred)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP heavy cream
  • Pinch salt and a few grinds black pepper
  • 6-8 oven-dried tomato halves (you can also use sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained.)
  • 2 tsp pine nuts
  • A small wedge of pecorino romano (you’ll be shaving a little over the crostata)
  • 1 egg yolk, plus 2 tsp water to make an egg wash
  • Salt and pepper for sprinkling on crust
  • 4 or 5 small basil leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Roll out the dough to a rough circle, about 1/8th inch thick. Wrap and chill while preparing the filling. Add the next 6 ingredients to the bowl of a processor and process until smooth. Take dough out of refrigerator and lay out on a parchment lined backing sheet. Spread cheese mixture over the dough, leaving an inch border all around. Sprinkle pine nuts over the filling, then arrange the tomatoes on top. With a vegetable peeler, shave a few shards of pecorino over the top of the tomatoes.

Fold the edges of the dough over to make a crust, gently pressing a little where the dough overlaps. It’s ok if you cover the tomatoes a little on the edge. Brush the dough with the egg wash, and lightly sprinkle the crust with coarse salt and a grind or two of pepper.

Bake 18 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let rest 10 minutes. Sprinkle over the basil leaves and serve. Calories – approximately 470 for 2 servings. **

**This crostata makes a nice appetizer, served with wine. Just cut it into 8 smaller wedges.

Blueberry Frangipane Crostata

This is pretty rich, so one recipe serves three nicely.

For the Frangipane

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 ½ tsp flour
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP softened butter
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg white
  • A pinch salt

Add the almonds to the bowl of a processor and process a minute to chop. Remove a heaping tablespoon of the chopped nuts and reserve to sprinkle over the tart. Add the sugar to the almonds in the processor; pulse until the mixture is relatively fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a smooth paste. Cover and chill while you get the other ingredients together.

To assemble crostata

  • ½ Semolina Crostata Dough recipe
  • Heaping ½ cup of fresh or frozen blueberries (you want enough to cover the filling in one layer)
  • 1 to 2 TBSP cream or milk
  • Sugar for sprinkling (turbinado works nicely here)

Roll out the dough to a rough circle, about 1/8th inch thick, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the frangipane out on the tart, leaving an inch border all around. (If you have leftover frangipane it freezes well, and makes a nice addition in fruit turnovers.) Cover the frangipane with the blueberries, then sprinkle over the reserved chopped almonds. Fold over the edges of the dough, pressing gently where the dough overlaps. Brush with crust with the cream and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake 17-18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Calories: approximately 450 calories per serving.

Wild Blackberry Tart with Hazelnut Crumb

Makes one 10” round tart, or one 8 x 11 ½ “ square Approximately 10-12 servings

From The Less Noticeable Differences

The perfect combination of local ingredients – Oregon Hazelnuts and fresh picked Wild Blackberries.

For the fruit:

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 3-4 TBSP sugar (depending on how sweet the berries or how sweet your taste)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP Cassis (you could leave out if you don’t have it, or use Frambois or Blackberry Brandy)
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp minute tapioca

Toss the berries with everything but the tapioca and let sit for an hour.

For the pastry dough:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 4 oz (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp vodka or limoncello
  • ½ cup of cookie crumbs or bread crumbs. (I like to use cardamom biscuits I find in Ikea- 2 biscuits ground up is the perfect amount.)

Add the flour, sugar, salt and zest into food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Add in the butter cubes, then pulse until the butter is broken up into the size of baby peas. With the mixer on, add in beaten egg, lemon juice and vodka. Process until the dough just starts to come together. Butter tart pan lightly. Dump dough into pan, and with your fingers, press out to fill, making sure to go up the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the cookie crumbs over the dough and set aside.

For the crumb topping:

  • ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 2 oz. (4 TBSP) cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • ¼ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ¼ tsp salt

Add all the ingredients except the butter into the processor (you don’t have to clean it from the pastry dough…yay!). Pulse until combined. Add in the butter and pulse 3 or 4 times just to break it up a little. Pour mixture into a bowl and with your fingers, squish butter into the crumb mixture until you get a combination of big and little clumps.

To Assemble the tart:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour off the juices from the berries into a small microwaveable bowl. Add the tapioca to the juices, stir, and microwave for about a minute to heat. Let sit for about 5 minutes.

Spoon the berries into the tart pan to fill, squashing a few here and there if there are bare spaces. Add any additional juices that accumulated from the berries into the tapioca mixture and stir well. Spoon the mixture over the berries, filling every spot where you see dough peaking though. Sprinkle the crumbs over the tart, covering the berries.

Place tart pan on a cookie sheet (easier to move in and out of oven) and bake for 30 minutes, turning tart once.

Let cool for 20 minutes before serving. This keeps well covered on the counter for 2-3 days (if it lasts that long), and freezes well too. Calories: Well, you’ll be burning these off on the hike to pick the berries, but here you go anyway: approximately 370 for 10 servings, 310 for 12 servings.

Almond Pate Sablee

From Install and Reboot

Adapted from Patricia Well’s Bistro Cooking, Workman Publishing, 1989

Makes enough dough for six 4-inch tartlet shells (or one 10” tart pan)

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1/3 cup + 2 TBSP ground almonds (also called almond meal)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • zest of an orange (about 1 TBSP)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Add the first 6 ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until just until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, about 10-15 seconds. Add the egg and pulse until the pastry begins to hold together, about another 20 seconds. Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment or wax paper and flatten into a disk. If you are making tartlets, divide the disk into 6 equal pieces. (At this point you could wrap everything well in cling wrap, put into a zippered freezer bag and freeze for up to a month.)

Press the dough out quickly into the tartlet pans, making sure to go up the sides too. I find it easier to press the dough out with a piece of plastic wrap on top of it, but you could also use well floured fingers if you like. Cover well and chill for at least 2-3 hours.

Once the dough is well chilled, preheat oven to 375°F. Prick the dough with a fork, and line with buttered foil (butter facing dough). Then fill the shell with pie weights, dry beans or rice, place on a cookie sheet (makes it easier to get them in and out of oven), and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake uncovered for another 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Transfer to a rack to cool. Once cooled these can be filled immediately or frozen up to a month.

When I made these, I filled them with an espresso pastry cream and topped them with slices of the most wonderful red wine poached pears, and a drizzle of the poaching liquid reduced down until it was very syrupy. I’ve included the recipe for the pears (also from Bistro Cooking), and a link to the pastry cream recipe on epicurious.com.


Poires Au Vin Rouge (Pears in Red Wine)

From Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells

These could stand alone as a lovely dessert, but when added to the cream and tarts, well… let’s just say the reboot was a definitely a worthwhile upgrade!

  • 4 large pears, peeled with stems intact
  • ½ cup sugar (or vanilla sugar if you are lucky enough to have it)
  • 1 bottle fruity red wine
  • ½ cup crème de cassis
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 black peppercorns

In a deep non-reactive saucepan that will hold the pears snugly, combine all of the ingredients. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the pears from time to time, so they are evenly coated. Simmer until the pears are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat; allow to cool. Transfer the pears and liquid to a serving dish. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. If you are using them for the tarts, halve, core and cut into thin slices, then lay them out on a paper towel and pat dry so they don’t weep into the pastry cream.

Here’s a link to the pastry cream I used for my tartlets:

Espresso Coffee Cream

Spring Asparagus and Leek Tart

From A Clearer View

Serves 6-8

For the vegetable mixture

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped leeks
  • 8 oz. (trimmed) asparagus
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch salt

For the custard

  • 1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¾ cup milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 egg plus 2 yolks
  • 5 oz. room temperature goat cheese
  • ½ cup shredded gruyere or swiss, divided into two ¼ cup portions

For the crust

  • 4 oz. (6-8 sheets) Phylo dough
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut off the tips of the asparagus (about 2-inches long) and set aside. Chop the rest of the asparagus into ½ inch pieces. Heat the olive oil in a skillet; add the leeks, asparagus and a pinch of salt and sauté over medium-low heat until the leeks are softened and asparagus tender. Remove from heat and stir in teaspoon lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, goat cheese, lemon zest and tarragon. Stir in ¼ cup of the gruyere. Set aside.

Put a 10” tart pan with removable bottom onto a cookie sheet so it’s easy to move in and out of the oven. Spray with the cooking spray, (or you could brush with olive oil if you don’t have the spray). Lay one sheet of Phylo into the pan, making sure you cover the rest with a damp towel so they don’t dry out. Spray the dough with oil. Continue with the remaining pieces, spraying each layer and staggering the points of Phylo so there’s overhanging dough all around the pan.

[Recipe Note: Phylo likes to tear, a lot, and if you try to fight that you will make yourself crazy. In this recipe it really doesn’t matter. The only thing you have to worry about is making a relatively even thickness in each layer so it bakes evenly. So if it tears, just put the pieces in the pan, making sure you do have dough overhanging the pan.]

When the vegetables are completely cool, add to the custard, mix well and pour into the prepared pan. Take the overhanging dough and tuck in around the pan making a raised crust around the edges. Spray or brush edges with oil. Arrange the reserved asparagus tips decoratively on the top of the tart, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup gruyere.

Bake 30-40 minutes until the custard is set and the cheese has brown a little. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Calories: about 240 per serving (6 servings.)

Port-Glazed Grape Tarts with Pecan Crust (Adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

From A Sweet Ending…

Makes one 10” tart

For tart shells

  • 1/4 cup pecans (1 oz), lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 sticks (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For grape filling

  • 1 cups Ruby Port
  • 3/4 cups Concord grape jelly
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 1/2 lb small red seedless grapes, stems discarded (6 1/2 cups)

Make tart shells:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pulse pecans with brown sugar in a food processor until finely ground (do not allow to become a paste). Add flour, butter, cinnamon, ginger, and salt and pulse until mixture begins to form large lumps. Press into tart pans evenly over bottom and up sides with floured fingers. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Bake tart shells in lower third of oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer shells in pans to racks to cool completely. Carefully remove sides of pans, keeping shells on pan base.

Make filling while shells cool:

Simmer Port and jelly, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3/4 cups, about 20-25 minutes, then stir in lemon juice. Immediately toss grapes with 1 cup glaze in a large bowl until well coated, then mound in tart shells.

Just before serving, drizzle tarts with more glaze and serve remainder on the side.

The tart shells and the glaze can be made up to 2 days ahead.

Almond Galette Dough Makes enough for two 8-9” galettes

From Infinite Possibilities

  • 3 TBSP sour cream
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 cup flour (+1-2 TBSP depending on how damp the day is)
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
  • 2 TBSP cold almond paste, cut into 5-6 pieces
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 1 tsp sugar in the raw for sprinkling

Stir the sour cream and ice water together in a small bowl; set aside. Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in the work bowl of a processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse to combine. Drop the butter pieces into the bowl and pulse 8 to 10 times, or until the mixture is speckled with pieces of butter that vary in size from breadcrumbs to peas. With the machine running, add the sour cream mixture and process just until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the processor, divide it in half, and press each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours (or freeze for up to a month.)

Balsamic Strawberries Almond Galette

For One Galette, serves 4

  • ½ Almond Galette Dough recipe (one disk of dough from the two you just made)
  • 12 ounces strawberries, sliced to ¼” thick (about 2 cups total)
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar (if you have the good stuff, use it here)
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • teeny pinch salt (salt actually brings out the sweetness, go figure)
  • 1 oz (about a ¼ cup) sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp minute tapioca
  • 1-2 tsp sliced almonds for sprinkling on tart

Add the strawberries, sugar, pinch of salt and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar together (reserve the other for making the syrup); toss well and let macerate for about 45 minutes, mixing once or twice during that time.

In a food processor, grind the almonds and tapioca to a relatively fine powder. You’ll use this mixture to put under the strawberries or other fruit to thicken and baking juices so the tart bottom stays crisp. (I keep any extra almond tapioca powder in a jar in my cabinet for pies and tarts all summer long.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When the strawberries are ready, lightly flour your work surface and roll out the disk of galette dough into a rough circle about 11” wide and 1/8 inch thick, moving it around to make sure it doesn’t stick. Roll up the dough around your rolling pin and transfer it to baking sheet.

Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the ground almond-tapioca mixture over the center of the dough, leaving a 2-3” border. Arrange the strawberry slices in concentric circles over the ground almonds, overlapping the berries as you go. Try to get as little of the juices on the dough as possible – you’ll use them later to make a syrup. Sprinkle with a few slivered almonds. Fold the border of dough up over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you work your way around the galette. Because you’re folding a wide edge of dough onto a smaller part of the circle, it will pleat naturally–just go with it. This is meant to be rustic. Dip a pastry brush in water, lightly brush crust, and then sprinkle with the teaspoon of sugar. (I like to use sugar in the raw for this – it gives a nice crunch when baked.) Bake the galette for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Slide the parchment paper to a cooling rack and let the galette rest on the paper for 5 minutes. Slip a spatula under and remove the tart from the paper.

As the galette cools, pour the juices from the berries into a microwavable bowl. Add the reserved teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and heat about 4-5 minutes on high at 1-minute intervals and stirring in between. Spoon the syrup over the berries on the tart. Let cool for another 5 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The galette is best eaten the day it is made. Calories: 260 per serving (4 servings)

Cream Cheese and Guava Empanadas Makes 18 mini empanadas

From A Menopausal Cocktail Party

Empanadas are just another word for turnovers, and this simple recipe makes amazing little pastries, whatever you call them!

  • 1 package (1 lb) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 8oz. package cream cheese (cold), cut into 18 equal pieces about an inch wide
  • 18 1” x ½” squares of guava paste
  • (I like Goya brand. It comes in a large circular tin and is easily found in the Latin food section of most markets. Leftover guava paste is wonderful on a cheese platter or toasted cream cheese and jelly sandwich, and keeps well in the fridge.)
  • 1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water to make an egg wash


  • ¼ cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp milk
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • Tiny pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry to a 9 by 9-inch square. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each sheet into 9 3-inch squares. Set a pastry square in front of you with 1 of the corners pointing toward you. Place 1 piece of cream cheese diagonally over the center of the square. Top with a piece of guava paste. Brush the edges of the square with beaten egg. Fold the upper half of the square over the filling to make a neat triangle. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining turnovers, placing them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet as you go. ** If the dough begins to get too warm, just pop the fridge to chill it a little.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. While the turnovers are baking, mix the confectioners’ sugar with the milk and vanilla, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Set aside. Cool the turnovers on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes then drizzle the glaze over them. Serve warm or at room temperature. Calories: about 115 per empanada.

** This is a great recipe to make ahead and freeze. Just put the unbaked empanadas on a tray in the freezer until hard then pop into a freezer bag. Take out as many as you need, defrost, bake and glaze at will.

Wild mushroom Tart (Adapted from Gourmet) Serves 6

From Killer Heels

I found this recipe years ago on epicurious.com and have been making it ever since, varying the mushrooms around what is available. The original recipe calls for you to make the pastry dough from scratch first. Once I made it and burnt the shell while blind baking (yes, I DO burn things too…likely I was distracted picking out the perfect shoes to wear.) I was under a time crunch so I ran to the market and picked up a frozen pie crust. Know what? I’ve been using one ever since!
  • 1 sheet or pie tin of ready-made crust (if you are using the unroll and bake sheet, put the sheet in a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom, or pie plate.)
  • 1TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 3/4 pound mixed fresh wild mushrooms such as cremini, oyster, and chanterelle, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk

Make shell: Blind bake pie shell according to package directions. I like the roll out kind so I can put it into my 9” removable bottom tart pan. You can do same, or just make it in the tin it came in. Blind baking simply means to prick the crust with a fork all over so it doesn’t puff up, then put a piece of buttered foil, butter side down in tart or pie pan. Fill pan completely with pie weights, dry beans or dry rice –filling completely prevents the edges from shrinking. Bake according to package directions. Remove the foil with weights. If you use rice or beans, they can no longer be cooked, so I just put in a jar with a lid when cool and keep with my baking pans and use over and over again. Cool baked shell completely in pan on a rack, about 15 minutes.

While the pastry bakes, heat butter and oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, shallot, thyme, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender and any liquid given off is evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

[Timing note: You can bake off the crust and make the mushroom thyme shallot mixture ahead of time, then pick up the recipe from there when you want to make and serve. That makes this a great recipe to do on an impromptu Friday after work supper party.]

Whisk together crème fraîche, heavy cream, whole egg, yolk, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a medium bowl until combined.

Fill and bake tart: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Scatter mushrooms evenly in tart shell and pour custard over them. Bake tart in pan on a baking sheet until custard is just set and slightly puffed, 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool tart in pan on rack at least 20 minutes, then remove side of pan if you are using a removable bottom tart pan. Serve tart warm or at room temperature. Calories: 370/serving

Tante Betty’s Plum Tart (Zwetchken Kuchen) Makes 2 9” tarts (if you don’t have 2 tart pans, you can make this in 9″layer cake pans – it works fine.)

From Passt ein deckel

For the fruit

  • 4 lbs ripe Italian prune plums cut into quarters lengthwise (also called damson plums – they are the ones that are small and egg-shaped)
  • 1/3 cup sugar or a little more, depending upon the ripeness of the plums
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt (or a messerspitze which means the amount the fits on the tip of a knife)

For the müerbeteig (the pastry)

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 stick of cold butter, cut in ½ inch cubes
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice (you may not need it all)

For assembling

  • 3/4 cup crushed amaretto or other hard almond cookies
  • 2 TBSP slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup currant or seedless raspberry jam, plus 1 tsp water
  • 1 1/2 TBSP butter
  • sugar in the raw for sprinkling over the plums (about 1-2 tsp)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl, then toss with the plum quarters and let sit while you make the pastry.

Make the pastry base: (Oma made this by hand so that’s the way the recipe is written. There’s no reason why you can’t make the pastry in a food processor if you prefer.)

Mix 2 cups flour, ½ cup sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Pour out onto a board in a mound. Make a well in the center and put in the beaten egg, cold pieces of butter and half of the lemon juice. Mix the ingredients together with your hands until it just comes together (careful not to over knead). If it’s a little too dry, add in the rest of the lemon juice.

Divide the dough between the two cake pans and pat into place with floured hands. Make sure to bring the dough up the sides about a 1/2 inch or more. Sprinkle the crushed cookies over the dough evenly (this will sop up the juice from the plums as the bake and add a nice almond flavor.)

Lay out the plums “snazzily” (I swear, that’s how my mom wrote it down) in concentric circles in the pans. They should go in skin side down. Sprinkle the slivered almonds evenly over, tucking into some of the spaces between the plums. Drizzle over the juices left in the bowl (if there is a lot, don’t use it all – 2-3 TBSP should be enough). Dot the tarts with tiny pieces of butter (about 3/4 tablespoon per tart), then sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar in the raw over the fruit.

Bake at 350°F for 25-35 min or until the edges of the crust are lightly browned and the plums are soft. Heat the jam and teaspoon of water until the jam is melted – I do this in the microwave. Brush the glaze over the finished tart to give it a nice shine. Serve with a good dollop of schlagsahne (whipped cream)– Oh mein Gott – that’s good eating!

Calories: Here I’ll tell you exactly what Oma would have said…”it’s JUST FRUIT!”

Substitutions: You can substitute peaches or another type of plum, and other cookies such as ginger cookies, biscotti, graham crackers, or even leftover cake crumbs work just fine too.

Eleanor’s Apple Pie Makes one 9” pie

From Having a bad day…NEED PIE!

This is a terrific basic apple pie recipe. It’s my favorite not just because it’s my mom’s (with the bones from her mom), but also because it’s that good. I’ve found the best recipes let the featured ingredient shine, and this is that in a pie shell. You can obviously make it whenever you like, but we seem to only have it on Thanksgiving, making it even more special. Most importantly, we have to make certain there are leftovers so we can have it for post-Thanksgiving breakfast. It’s healthy, really…or as my grandmother would say, ”it’s just fruit!” In fact, we often looked forward to Friday pie breakfast more than the previous day’s culinary cornucopia.

Back when mom was home full-time, a scratch pie crust was the way to go. Out came the Crisco, butter and plastic pie crust guide from Tupperware. However, when she started working full-time, adding one more thing to the list of Thanksgiving preparations for an extended family of 20 seemed like one more way to ratchet up the stress. The pre-made pie crust was the wise way to go to preserve sanity and familial love (well that, and a well-made manhattan.) The quality of pre-made crust is quite good, so just choose your favorite (Pillsbury or Whole Foods are mine.) They really do taste great. And if someone at your table dares say they can taste the difference, revoke their pie privileges IMMEDIATELY. They don’t deserve pie – screw ‘em! However, if you still feel the need to get your ‘Martha’ on, go ahead and use your favorite recipe (there are hundreds out there). My advice? Use a recipe that has half butter and half shortening. The shortening makes a flakier crust, and the butter gives you the best flavor.

  • 1 package of ‘unroll and bake’ piecrust (2 crusts) or two frozen pie shells, or a double-crust recipe of homemade piecrust
  • 5-6 large granny smith apples (about 2 lbs), peeled and cut into 1/4′’ slices
  • 3-4 rounded TBSP of sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 TBSP)
  • 3 TBSP cold butter, cut into about 1/4 ” cubes
  • Optional but yummy add-ins: 1/3 cup golden raisins, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts or a combination of all
  • confectioners sugar for dusting top of finished pie

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Peel and core apples, cut into slices ¼” thick slices. Put apples in bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Toss the apples and set aside.

Put one sheet of prepared pie crust into 9” pie plate (Mom uses a Pyrex dish, so I do too). Pile the apples into the pie crust and scatter the chilled butter cubes over. Cover with the second crust and crimp the edges. Cut 4 slits around center of top.

Put on a cookie sheet (it makes it easier to move in and out of the oven and catches any drips). Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Let cool 20 minutes. Dust the top with confectioners sugar. And most importantly, don’t cover the leftovers – the crust stays crisper for breakfast pie!

Calories: approximately 350/slice (based on 8 slices)


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