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L’Alliance Française de Maurice in collaboration with the bakery Pains et Moulins de Grand Baie are organizing a baking competition on Wednesday 3rd of June 2015. Open to amateur bakers residing in Port Louis, the challenge is to bake a classic French pastry, the Tarte au Citron Meringuée/Lemon Meringue Pie. The winner will be chosen by a panel of professional pastry chefs based on presentation, taste and originality of the final product and will be awarded an apprenticeship by Pains et Moulins to master the art of making macarons. The deadline for submission of entries is on Friday 29th May and should be made through the form available on the Alliance Française website.

Though not participating in the competition, I went ahead and made some homemade mini Lemon Meringue pies for the weekend inspired by Jen of The Canadian Baker from the Daring Bakers January 2008 Challenge. The recipe makes more lemon curd than I needed to fill my tartlets but I guess it gives me a rather good excuse to make Lemon Meringue pies once more. Wishing everyone good luck with the competition et que le meilleur gagne!

LEMON MERINGUE PIE

For the Crust

3/4 cup (180 ml) cold butter

2 cups (475 ml) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (60 ml) granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon (1.2 ml) salt

1/3 cup (80 ml) ice water

For the Filling

2 cups (475 ml) water

1 cup (240 ml) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (120 ml) cornstarch

5 egg yolks, beaten

1/4 cup (60 ml) butter

3/4 cup (180 ml) fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon zest

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

For the Meringue

5 egg whites, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon (1.2 ml) salt

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract

3/4 cup (180 ml) granulated sugar

Method:

  • For the crust make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Use either a food processor or pastry cutter.
  • In a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

  • It should begin to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then process it very briefly.
  • The dough will start to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a work surface.

  • Press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes. Remove from refrigerator.
  • Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. Lightly flour a work surface.

  • Roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch(0.3cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate.
  • Transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling onto the rolling pin. Turn pastry under.

  • Leave an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans.

  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes till golden.
  • Cool completely before filling. For the filling bring water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Remove from heat.

  • Let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water.
  • Whisk until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly.

  • Cook until mixture comes to a boil and is very thick; add about 1 cup of hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks.
  • Whisk until smooth and vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stir constantly.

  • Cook until mixture comes to a boil. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated.
  • Stir in lemon juice, zest and vanilla. Pour into crust. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature.

  • For the meringue topping, preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites.
  • Add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add sugar, beat until it forms stiff, glossy peaks.

  • Pile the meringue onto the cooled pie bringing it all the way over to the edges to seal the filling completely.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack and serve within 6 hours. Makes one 10-inch pie.

For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen challenged us to make Tarte Tatin from scratch. This classic French dessert is basically the apple pie version of an upside-down cake: apples are caramelized in sugar in a saucepan, covered with pastry and baked, and then inverted on a plate to serve. It’s a great example of the magic of caramelized sugar: the apples take on a deep, rich mahogany colour and become infused with the complex flavours of a well-cooked caramel, and the crisp puff pastry base also becomes practically candied with caramel at the edges, resulting in a fantastic mix of soft, crunchy, and chewy textures.

The tart is named after the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel near Paris in the 1880s. Apparently, one day one of the sisters forgot to put a bottom crust on her apple pie, but instead of the disaster she was expecting to pull out of the oven, she ended up with a dessert so loved by the hotel guests that it became the hotel’s signature dish. However, this sweet story conflicts with the fact that a similar upside-down apple tart called tarte Solognotte (named after the Sologne region in France) existed long before the tarte Tatin, suggesting that the Tatin sisters’ creation was actually just an updated and improved version of the tarte Solognotte. Either way, it is a stunningly delicious yet simple and rustic dessert.

While apples are the classic and most common filling for tarte Tatin, it can be made with almost any fruit or vegetable, sweet or savoury! Generally, tarte Tatin is baked in a large, heavy-bottomed, oven-proof saucepan but the filling can first be cooked on the stove in whatever saucepan you have and then transferred to a cake tin, covered with pastry, and baked. The best apples for tarte Tatin can be either tart or sweet, but they should be firm apples that hold their shape during cooking – otherwise you’ll end up with a pan full of applesauce. Good varieties available in North America include Granny Smith, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold.

For my trial version, I used a mixture of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith South African apples and served the finished tarte with vanilla bean ice cream. Like many I thought that the caramel was way too much for the amount of apples in the recipe and was quite afraid to have the apples turn to mush or the pastry base being too soggy. I did not have a heavy saucepan to bake the tarte in so I went ahead with an 8-inch cake tin, double lined with foil to make cleaning up easy, and to my amazement, it turned out beautifully with not a single apple piece sticking to the pan.

TARTE TATIN

Ingredients:

For the Rough Puff Pastry

1 cup (250 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour

2/3 cup (160 ml) (5 oz) (140 gm) unsalted butter, cold

¼ teaspoon fine kitchen salt

¼ cup (60 ml) ice cold water

For the Tarte Tatin Filling

6 large or 7-8 medium-sized apples

Juice of half a lemon

6 tablespoons (90 ml) (3 oz) (85 gm) unsalted butter

1-1/3 cups (320 ml) (9½ oz) (265 gm) sugar, divided

Method:

  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour.
  • With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture in crumbly but even, with pea-sized pieces of butter.
  • Make a well in the middle and pour in the ice cold water. Toss the flour and butter and water together.

 

  • Combine with a fork until the dough starts to clump together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
  • Do not worry if there are still pockets of dry flour. Gently knead and squeeze the mixture a few times.
  • Bring it together into a square [a bench scraper is helpful for this]. Be careful not to overwork dough.

 

  • There should be visible bits of butter and it should still look very rough. Lightly flour the work surface.
  • Lightly flour the rolling pin as well and roll the dough out into a rectangle about 10 inch (25 cm) long.
  • Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle and fold the top third down, as in folding a letter.

 

  • This is one fold. Turn the dough a one quarter turn so that one of the open edges faces you and roll out.
  • Roll into a 10” (25 cm) rectangle. Fold again [second fold]. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times.
  • You should make a total of 5 folds and your dough will get smoother and neater looking with each fold.

  • If your kitchen is very warm and the dough gets too soft/sticky, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  • After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat square. Wrap the dough in plastic.
  • Chill dough for a least 1 hour, or overnight. For the filling, peel the apples and cut them into quarters.

 

  • Remove the cores in such a way that each apple quarter has a flat inner side, it should sit on a flat base.
  • Place apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-1/2 oz) (65 gm) sugar.
  • This will help draw out some of the moisture from the apples and prevent an overly runny caramel.

  • Set apple mixture aside for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375˚F/190°C/gas mark 5.
  • Melt the butter in a very heavy, 9” or 10” (23 cm or 24 cm) oven-proof saucepan over medium heat.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 g) sugar. Stir with a whisk until sugar melts.

  • It should become a pale and smooth caramel. The sugar will seem dry at first, then it will start to melt.
  • If the butter appears to separate out from the caramel, just keep whisking until it is a cohesive sauce.
  • Remove from heat. Discard the liquid that has come out and then add the apple quarters to the caramel.

  • They won’t all fit in a single layer at first, but as they cook they will shrink a bit. Cook over medium heat.
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes, pressing down gently on apples with a spoon to cover them in the caramel liquid.
  • Move the apples around the pan gently so that they all cook evenly, trying to keep them round side down.

  • The apples should have shrunk to fit in a single layer and are starting to soften but still keep their shape.
  • Arrange the apples, round side down in a single layer of concentric circles covering the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove pastry from fridge, roll it out and trim it into a circle about 1″diameter larger than the saucepan.

  • Lay it over filling, tucking in the edges between the sides of the pan. Cut a few steam vents in the pastry.
  • Place the saucepan on a rimmed baking sheet (just in case the filling decides to bubble over the sides).
  • Place in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/190°C/gas mark 5 oven. Bake tart for 30 to 35 minutes.

  • Increase oven temperature to moderately hot 400˚F/200°C/gas mark 6 during the last 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let sit just until caramel stops bubbling. Place a serving platter over the pastry.
  • Grab hold of the saucepan and platter and quickly invert everything to unmold the tart onto the platter.

  • If any of the apples stick to the pan or come out of place, rearrange them onto the tart with a spatula.
  • The tarte tatin can be served warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
  • It does not keep or store particularly well and it is best served on the same day it is made. Serves 8-10.

Daring Bakers February Challenge

CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY TARTLETS

Ingredients:

For the Cocoa Pie Dough

200 g all purpose flour

40 g unsweetened cocoa powder

1 pinch kitchen salt

80 g white caster sugar

150 g butter, very cold, cubed

2 tablespoons cold water

For the Chocolate Mascarpone Filling

400 g white chocolate

200 ml double cream

100 g unsalted butter

4 tablespoons mascarpone

1 cup fresh raspberries

Method:

  • Start by preparing your pie crust. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a large bowl.

  • Using your finger tips, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is in pea-size pieces.

  • Pour in water and mix just until the dough comes together. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

  • Remove crust dough from refrigerator. Roll out with rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.

  • Roll to a circle of about 0.5 cm thickness. Check if the dough is sticking to the surface below.

  • If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking.

  • Carefully place onto a 8-inch fluted pie plate (or 2 smaller ones). Gently press dough down.

  • Cut edges. Fit a circle of parchment paper into crust and fill with dried beans before baking.

  • Place the crust dough in the freezer for 15 minutes while preheating oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

  • Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before unmolding. Meanwhile prepare filling.

  • In a saucepan bring cream to the boil. Remove from heat, add chopped chocolate and butter.

  • Let rest for 5 minutes and stir until dissolved. Add mascarpone cheese, stir until combined.

  • Spoon the filling into cocoa crust and chill until set. Decorate tart with raspberries and serve.

Recipe from La Receta de la Felicidad

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Mauritius

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