Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dessert on the Fly

    I went over to my neighbor's house to stash some stuff in her freezer. While I was there she gifted me a couple of Royal Riviera Pears from Harry & David. When I told her that I'd probably end up using them in a recipe, she got the mortified look on her face, "Oh no! These aren't for cooking! You want to eat these raw!"

    I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'm not a huge fan of this particular fruit. In fact, Regina I don't really like pears at all, but it was a gift. I knew they weren't cheap so I didn't want them to go to waste.

    Since I obviously don't care for pears, it stands to reason that I don't have any recipes that really call for them. Pretty much everything I've ever made from the Tartine Bakery cookbook has rocked, I figured this would be my one shot at pear dessert glory.

    The Frangipane Tart would be the vehicle of choice for this particular dessert. I think it's important to point out that a whole host of fruits can actually top this thing. In reality this is an "I got fruit I wanna use up" type recipe. If you can slice it, you can use it -today it would be pears.

A few notes:
  • Keep butter and water as cold as possible! I put them in the freezer while I measure everything out.
  • DO NOT OVERMIX the dough. Pulse that food processor until it the flour and butter can just be held together. Bigger pieces of butter make for flakier, more tender crusts.
  • I like to make it as flat as possible before wrapping and putting it in the fridge. It gets colder faster, and reduces the amount rolling you do on the dough.
  • Use a thinner, darker sheet to cook the tart on. I used a thick aluminum sheet and the center struggled to brown up.
  • This isn't a pre-cooked tart shell so there is going to be a bit of a fudge factor on the doneness time. When the hour and 20 minutes is up, peak under the tart to see if it's cooked all the way to the center. My guess is that it probably isn't. I would suggest using the browness of the topping and the outer edge of the tart to be your litmus test. Take it as far as you can until you don't want the topping or the edge of the crust to get any darker.
  • The person that I linked the recipe to, didn't use the apricot jam. I did, and it punched up the flavor quite a bit. I'd suggest using the heated jam.
  • I sliced my pears at about a 1/4" at their widest thickness. They cooked all the way through. If you wanted, I'm sure you could go a little thicker with no ill effects.

 Frangipane Tart Topped with Pears

 As usual, it came out well. People loved it and it was a pretty painless dessert to make. It is a really flaky dough that offers a great textural compliment to the almondy filling. The pears pretty much softened up and melded with the frangipane filling. This is one for the "Best of" box. A highly versatile, and very receptive to freestyling type recipe.

I did have a few left over slices of pear, and admittedly, my neighbor was right - it was the sweetest, juiciest pear I've ever put in my mouth. Regular pears would have done just fine in this tart.

The recipe can be found here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies

After dinner cookies are a staple at our house. Not a night goes by that we don't eat dessert. I know a lot of people that could go weeks without having dessert. For us it is an absolute necessity. In fact, if Regina doesn't have dessert she gets downright nasty - and not in a good way.

This past summer we were eating ice cream like it was going out of style. The one thing that both of us found is that it is one hell of an easy way to pack on pounds. As the summer wore on, my weight started to slowly creep its way up.

We eventually figured out that the ice cream was the devil, especially when topped with hot fudge, pecans, and freshly made whipped cream. It was about this time that we went into full on cookie making mode. It's taken about five months, but right now we've got one hell of a cookie rotation going. A trip to San Francisco lead to Regina's one suitcase being stuffed full of chocolate we bought at Spun Sugar in Berkeley. (Mine hovered just below 50 pounds with Pliny the Elder.) Cookie making was about to hit a whole new level.

 Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Martha Stewart actually has a very similar recipe to this, and I think we actually might like it a little better because of the fresh ginger and they don't spread as much, but this little gem from Gina DePalma is actually very good. The DePalma version calls for you to chop the chocolate up in to fine pieces, but we prefer a mix of chocolate chunks. As I mentioned before, they do spread a little more due to the use of oil instead of butter, but if they don't sit around that long it doesn't really matter.

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but these? These are best served about 10 minutes removed from the oven.

Here's a link to Gina DePalma's recipe.