Friday, April 29, 2011

Apple Rhubarb Pandowdy

Rhubarb haters: proceed with caution.

This time of year, I go a bit rhubarb crazy. Is it the rosy color and bright flavor that gets me, or merely the last 6 months of pomey deprivation scrambling my baker's brain? Perhaps a bit of both.

Winter is lasting longer than usual here in California; we don't usually see much rain past February, and yet I awoke just the other morning, late April, to a hearty drizzle on the other side of the window. While this time last year, I had already indulged my rhubarb obsession twice, I didn't see any in the markets until just a few days ago.

So when Jay and I headed down to Corralitos last week, the tiny town outside of Santa Cruz, for his birthday, I had one thought on my mind: rhubarb from his mom's garden. (Well, I may have been dreaming of smoked sausages and bacon, too. I'll never tell.) When we arrived, I bolted out of the car and around the back of the house, and rejoiced to see several fat, red stalks ready for picking.

When strawberries are still scarce and seem too precious to bake, I like to pair rhubarb with apples, which has the dual benefit of tempering rhubarb's tang with sweetness, and bolstering up its watery-when-cooked texture with a bit of heft and substance.

I turned to Deborah Madison's apple rhubarb pandowdy, which I'd made many years ago and vividly remembered as being The Best Dessert, Ever. I'd shared it with Jay and a friend of mine, and we had all moaned ecstatically as we ate it, then went back for seconds.

Pandowdies are apparently made by sticking a bunch of sweetened fruit in a large baking dish, placing a sheet of pie dough over the top, baking it, then cutting and scoring the crust and partially submerging it in the juices. Pre-scoring, the dessert looks downright pretty, but after the massacre, it takes on a 'dowdy' appearance.

Deborah Madison's Apple Rhubarb Pandowdy

So I made the pandowdy again, and I don't know whether it was just my crappy pate brisee (to which I added too much water, making it tough) or my changed (re: spoiled) taste buds from 5 years of working as a professional dessert-maker (which does nothing to explain my continued botching of pie doughs), but this time the pandowdy did not seem quite like The Best Dessert Ever. It was still tasty, and it certainly all got eaten, but the spices (cinnamon, clove, allspice and nutmeg) seemed to muddy the bright flavor of the rhubarb, and the crust seemed soggy rather than caramelized. I turned to Baking Illustrated to see what kind of flavorings they used in their apple desserts (just vanilla and lemon), but I also picked up some pandowdy advice. They suggested cutting the crust flush with the pan, rather than tucking the edges under (which results in 'boiled,' as they put it, crust) and rather than submerging the crust, they simply slice it up and serve when it's done baking.

Unsure of whether this would constitute a genuine pandowdy, I asked Martha, and she gave yet another method of cutting up the dough into squares and laying them over the top of the fruit. I wagered that the windows left between the tiles of dough would allow the steam of the fruit to escape, keeping the crust crisp and the fruit from being overly wet.

I mashed all three recipes together, and this time when I ate a bowlful of pandowdy, topped with honey yogurt ice cream, I did moan and think it The Best Dessert Ever*.

Unfortunately, you probably oughtn't trust a New Englander like Martha to define a classic, Southern dessert. Because when you do, look what happens:

It really isn't dowdy at all.

But faced with a crisp crust, gently sweetened fruit, and a puddle of tangy ice cream melting into vanilla-flecked juices, I'm not one to quibble over authenticity.

*The dessert in your mouth is The Best Dessert Ever. (Ancient Bojon proverb)

Rhubarb recipes:
Rhubarb Streusel Coffeecake
Brown Butter Rhubarb Squares
Apple Rhubarb Crisp

One year ago:
Panela-Rum Buttercrunch Toffee

Apple Rhubarb Pandowdy

Makes about 8 servings

This dessert takes inspiration from three sources: Martha Stewart's apple cranberry pandowdyBaking Illustrated's apple pandowdy, and Deborah Madison's apple rhubarb pandowdy.

I used Pink Ladies for the apples here, which have a good balance of sweet to tart, and hold their shape a bit. Any semi-firm baking apple with work, such as Fujis, Pink Pearls and Mutsus, just to name a few, or use two each Granny Smith and McIntosh.

A 10" skillet gives the ideal crust-to-fruit ratio and makes for a handsome presentation, but you could probably get away with a 9" skillet or a two-quart-capacity baking dish.

Serve this, as I did, with ice cream such as Honey Yogurt. Dreamy Vanilla would do, too. 

Adapted from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces / 3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, in 1/4" dice
1 - 2 tablespoons ice water

For brushing the crust:
1 tablespoon cream or milk
1 tablespoon sugar (such as turbinado)

4 large apples (see headnote) (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cut off the core, and sliced 1/2" thick
1 1/4 pounds rhubarb (about 5 medium-large stalks), halved lengthwise if fatter than 1", sliced 1/2" thick
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, in 1/4" dice

Prepare the crust:
In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar and salt. Scatter the butter chunks over the top and work with your fingertips until the mixture looks like cornmeal, with some pea-sized butter bits remaining. Dribble 1 tablespoon of the ice water over the top, tossing the mixture with your fingers as you go, until the dough holds together when you squeeze it. Add more water if necessary, drop by drop, until this happens.

Turn this crumbly dough out onto the counter, and fraisage it: place about 1/4 of the dough under the heel of your hand and drag it across the counter away from you, smearing the dough across the counter. Scrape the dough up with a metal bench scraper and place it back in the bowl. Repeat with the remaining dough. (Fraisage-ing the dough helps to make it extra flaky by creating thin sheets of butter within the dough, almost like puff pastry, which make it rise into many layers when it bakes.)

Gather the fraisaged dough into a ball, flatten into a 1/2" thick disc and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour, until firm, and up to 3 days.

Remove the dough from the fridge, and roll out on a lightly floured surface to an 11" circle, a scant 1/8" thick. (If it has been chilled for longer than 1 hour, let the dough soften at room temp until malleable and you can roll it without it cracking a whole lot.) Trim away the ragged edges if you like, and cut the dough into 2-3" squares. Stack the squares on a plate, cover, and chill until firm, at least 20 minutes, while you prepare the filling.

Make the filling, and assemble and bake the pandowdy:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF.

Combine the sliced apples and rhubarb in a very large bowl. Place the brown sugar on top of the fruit, then rub the vanilla seeds into the sugar to distribute and un-clump them a bit. Sprinkle the flour, salt and lemon juice over the top, and toss everything together to combine well.

Dump the fruit mixture into a 10" oven-proof skillet (or other baking vessel - see headnote). Dot with the diced butter. Lay the dough squares over the top, covering as much of the surface as you can but leaving some small windows for steam to escape; it's fine if they overlap a bit. Brush the dough with the milk or cream, and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake the pandowdy until the crust is golden and the filling bubbles thickly. Let cool at least 15 minutes to thicken the juices a bit. Serve warm.

The pandowdy is best the day it is baked, but can be kept for up to 4 days in the fridge and reheated in a 350º oven for 15 minutes or so until warm to crisp up the crust.

Honey Yogurt Ice Cream

Walking home from work through the Mission District of San Francisco, I see many odd sights. One day it was a man casually walking his pot-bellied pig on a leash down the street.

Yesterday, I noticed some caution tape cordoning off the corner of Valencia and 15th street in the Mission, and a parked police car blocking traffic. Bracing myself for some grisly crime scene, I peered around the corner. In the middle of the sidewalk sat only a medium-sized cardboard box, being circled by flying insects. A closer inspection showed the insects in question to be bees. I overheard a police officer tell another woman that the bees were being moved to a place with thousands of hives, and that the man who owned them loaned them out to pollinate crops.

I didn't stick around long enough to find out why the bees were hanging out on the corner, and what all the hoopla was about.

But I did whip up this stupid-easy ice cream, from Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts, and served it atop an apple rhubarb pandowdy.

Containing just three ingredients, this couldn't be simpler to make. Honey and cream are warmed together in a saucepan, then whisked into plain, whole milk yogurt. The mixture chills until cold, then gets spun in an ice cream maker. The result is rich and creamy, with a crisp tang from the yogurt and the complexity of a million flowers from the honey. The honey keeps this ice cream from freezing too hard, as homemade frozen yogurts tend to do. It is just the thing to serve with some fresh fruit, or drizzled with more warm honey and toasted nuts or granola, for an easy and fairly healthful dessert.

I had to try really hard not to throw any lavender, vanilla, orange flower water, ginger, cinnamon or cardamom into this frozen dessert, but I'm fairly certain that any of them would be welcome additions.

I scream:
Lemon Balm Crème Fraîche
Sour Cream
Dreamy Vanilla
Vanilla Black Pepper

Honey Yogurt Ice Cream

Adapted from Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts

Makes about 5 cups

Since the honey is the main affair here, choose one of high quality that has had as little done to it as possible; ditto for the cream and yogurt. DM says you can substitute maple syrup for a different flavor, but you may need to add a bit more as it is less sweet than honey.

3/4 cup honey (see headnote)
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups plain, whole milk yogurt

In a medium saucepan over a low flame, heat the honey and cream until just warm, stirring frequently to avoid scorching and to combine. Place the yogurt in a large bowl, and slowly whisk in the honey mixture. Chill the ice cream base until cold, a couple hours or up to 3 days, then churn in an ice cream maker. Let the ice cream 'cure' in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm to a scoopable consistency.

This ice cream is best within a couple days of being made, as it forms some ice crystals after that, but will keep for up to several months in the freezer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lentil Walnut Pâté

The first job I had in San Francisco was at a gluten- and dairy-free wholesale bakery called Crave. The company consisted of myself, another baker, and the owner. We baked out of a communal kitchen in the 'Dogpatch' district of San Francisco, which housed a couple of other caterers and a (now well-known) San Francisco charcuterie maker.

Our table sat next to 'the pig guy,' as I called him in my head, and while Amber and I were cutting up hundreds of pretty little organic brownies on our steel table, the pig guy would be hacking up a whole pig four feet away on the next table over. Being incredibly squeamish, I found this horrifying, and often had to stare at the grisly deed for hours until I'd pluck up the courage to ask Amber to switch sides with me.

Sometimes I would open the compost bin to dump in our eggshells and used parchment paper, and the vacant eyes of a pig's head would stare back at me (when the pig guy wasn't using it to make headcheese, that is). One day, the pig guy brought a vat of burgundy liquid into the walk-in. Innocently thinking it was some kind of red wine reduction, I asked after the contents. 'You don't want to know,' he said darkly. And I'll never forget the morning when the bell rang before the pig guy had arrived for his daily butchering and grinding. A man stood outside with a pig in a large plastic bag, which Amber and I had to drag into the kitchen ourselves.

Now I wish I hadn't been so squeamish, because I would have liked to taste his now renowned sausages. But the sight put me off meat (particularly pork) for a good while.

When I moved in with vegetarian Jay, I used it as an excuse to invest in many plant-based cookbooks. Everything by Deborah Madison found its way onto my shelf, in addition to Chez Panisse Vegetables, The Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and Everyday Greens, to name just a few. When I learned that Real Food Daily, a vegan restaurant in my old haunts of Santa Monica, had come out with a collection of tantalizing recipes and photography, I snapped it up.

It had been many years since I had eaten real pâté when I pureed up this lentil walnut goop for the first time. When I tasted it, a million memories rushed back of eating the Trader Joe's pâté my dad used to buy, with cornichons (tiny, tangy pickles) and stone-ground, whole-wheat crackers. It tasted exactly the way I remembered the piggy stuff: sweet, meaty and rich, with the texture of velvet on the tongue.

While sherry and liver gave the pâté with which I was familiar its characteristically complex taste, a stealthy trio of Japanese ingredients flavor this vegan spread. First, caramelized onions and garlic are deglazed with Mirin, a sweet cooking wine. Bay leaf-scented lentils and toasted walnuts are then blended with umeboshi, a pink puree made from pickled sour plums, and miso, fermented soybean paste. A handful of fresh herbs adds further depth and flecks of color. The recipe does require several steps - sauteing onions, toasting the nuts, cooking the lentils - but in the end, it comes together in minutes with the help of a food processor.

Top: umeboshi (pickled plum) paste  Bottom: yellow miso

I've made this pâté many times, for many events, varying the herbs, adding a bit of olive oil for moisture, but keeping the rest exactly the same. Every skeptical mouth that tastes this unassuming spread smiles in rapturous surprise; most go on to ask for the recipe.

And I'm always happy to tell them that no pigs were harmed in the making of this pâté.

Noshes and nibbles:
Herby Cheese Straws (a.k.a Crack Sticks)
Sourdough Crackers
Smoky Baba Ganoush

One year ago:
Bacon Cheddar Beer Scones

Lentil Walnut Pâté

Adapted from the Real Food Daily Cookbook

Makes about 3 cups, 8 - 10 appetizer-sized servings

Miso, umeboshi paste and mirin can all be found in hippy health food stores/Whole Foods in the Asian foods aisle, or at Asian (Japanese) markets. Look for miso that is stored in the refrigerator rather than shelf stable, as it will contain all the beneficial bacteria and probiotics of which miso is full. Don't worry about the pâté's lack of salt - the miso and umeboshi paste both contain the salt needed to give the pâté just the right amount of flavor. 

3/4 cup dried green lentils (lentils de puy)
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
1 small, yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon mirin
1 1/4 cups walnuts, toasted (for 10 - 12 minutes at 350º) and cooled
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, basil or parsley, plus extra for garnish, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram, chopped
3 tablespoons yellow miso
1 1/2 tablespoons umeboshi paste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
extra olive oil, for drizzling

In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very tender (but not falling apart), 20 - 30 minutes. Drain, discard the bay leaf, and cool completely (you can speed this up by spreading the lentils out on a plate and sticking them in the fridge).

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently and reducing the heat if necessary, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the mirin and remove from the heat. Cool completely (to speed up the process, see lentils, above).

Place the toasted and cooled walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it looks like nut butter, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the cooled lentils and the onion mixture and puree smooth. Add in the herbs, miso, umeboshi, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and blend until smooth.

Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Drizzle with olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, and serve with crackers or sliced baguette and cornichons or olives.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pistachio Chocolate Torte

Ah, Passover; the most morbid of Jewish holidays. The name refers to God's slaughtering of non-Jewish first-born sons as a final warning to the Egyptians to free the slaves. The Jews were instructed to paint their doorways with blood from a sacrificial lamb so that God would know to 'passover' their homes and spare their children.

Pharaoh released the slaves and they fled in a hurry, without time to sit around waiting for their bread to rise, so they baked it flat. During Passover, to remember and honor our ancestors, good Jews abstain from eating anything made with yeast, baking powder or baking soda, and the only wheat one can consume must come via kosher matzo, those flat, cardboard-flavorless crackers sold in square boxes. (Pastry chefs are, uh, exempt from this.)

Speaking of hardships and tragedies, let me tell you about one Passover seder with my family.

Since all this morbidity may put one off eating (even more so than foods representing things like tears, mortar, and bitterness), we are forced to sit around the dinner table for hours recounting the story, singing, washing our hands, etc., until we are practically dead from hunger. Then we are finally permitted a bowl or two of matzo ball soup, and some chicken.

If all of this sounds like not-so-much fun, there are two redeeming parts of Passover:

1) Flourless chocolate tortes
2) The drinking of much wine during the (loooooooong) ceremonial dinner

One year, a large portion of my family crammed ourselves into the tiny Berkeley kitchen of my half sister's mom and her partner. Jay and I walked in late and opened up the one bottle of wine we had brought, and when that was consumed (in about 5 seconds flat) all eyes turned to the only other libation on the table: two bottles of Manischewitz, the sticky-sweet concord grape wine that 12-year-old Jew-kids (like myself) love, but grown-up palettes deride.

The rest of the night comprised the longest Passover ever; many of us were traumatized and never went back.

For Thanksgiving that year, Jay and I stuck several bottles of wine in the car, just in case. When we entered my brother's Berkeley home, we rejoiced to see the wooden counter practically buckling under the weight of dozens of wine bottles. My cousin pulled me aside and whispered, 'We have more in the car, you know, just in case.' I greeted my brother, who confided that he had a whole other case waiting to be opened up if needed.

Being a bad Jew, the real reason I baked this torte is that I had a bunch of egg whites needing to be used up after last week's ice cream and tart (which both used lots of yolks).

Egg whites will keep in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks, or they can be frozen for several months. Being a custard fiend, I often have at least one mournful jar of whites in the house. Since I dislike meringue anything, fear macarons, and abstain from buttercream and white cakes, my favorite way to use up whites is in dense, nutty confections, such as financiers or chocolate cakes. When I saw the stunning photo of this torte in Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert, I made it almost instantly. It contains only ground (not melted) unsweetened chocolate, nuts, sugar, salt, egg whites, and a touch of cream of tartar (used here not as a leavener, but as an acid to stabilize the meringue - if you are a stickler, you can omit it) and comes together quickly with the use of a food processor and electric mixer.

Ms. Medrich tests her recipes rigorously - I didn't change it at all, except for swapping out the almonds for pistachios that I needed to use up. Sadly, their color didn't come through in the final cake, and the chocolate flavor is so strong, that almonds, walnuts, hazels or pecans could easily go in their place.

Like Passover, this torte is not for the faint of heart. It seems light at first, but sneaks up on you with its deep, dark richness. A dollop of whipped cream acts as the perfect counterbalance. And a glass of wine wouldn't hurt, either.

Of course, this torte needn't be reserved for (or even associated with) any holiday in particular. But it is a handy recipe to have at one's disposal to prevent those pesky egg whites from being passed over.

Happy Pesach!

Let them eat (chocolate) cake:
(Gluten-Free) Chocolate Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
(Optionally Gluten-Free) Chocolate Bouchon Cakes
Double Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

One year ago:
Lemon Balm Crème Fraîche Ice Cream

Chocolate Pistachio Torte

Makes 10 servings

Adapted from Claudia Roden's torta di mandorle e cioccolata in her Book of Jewish Food, via Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert

Since this recipe contains few ingredients, use a high-quality unsweetened chocolate; Scharffenberger and Valrhona are two excellent brands. For the nuts, you can use almonds or hazels in place of the pistachios; walnuts or pecans would probably work, too. The cream of tartar here is used not as a leavener, but as an acid to stabilize the egg white meringue; if making this for a kosher Passover, you can omit the cream of tartar. 

1 cup (5 ounces) whole, raw pistachios (see headnote), plus extra chopped pistachios for garnish
7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped (see headnote)
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar (divided use)
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 large egg whites (1 cup / 8 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
powdered sugar or cocoa powder, for dusting
sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350º. Grease a 9" springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

Spread the nuts on a small baking sheet and toast lightly in the oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely (spread on a plate and stick in the fridge to speed this up - do not grind hot nuts with the chocolate and sugar or it will melt the chocolate).

In a food processor, whizz together the thoroughly cooled nuts, the chocolate, the salt and half of the sugar until finely ground but not powdered. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with electric beaters, or with a whisk and your brute strength) beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium-high speed until foamy. Still whipping, slowly add in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue whipping until soft peaks form (i.e., when you lift the whisk out and hold it upside-down, a peak will flop over; see photo in post, above). Immediately but gently fold in 1/3 of the chocolate mixture using a large, rubber spatula, until mostly combined. Fold in half the remaining chocolate mixture, then the rest, until incorporated, and no large clumps of either nuts or egg white remain.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake until the torte is puffed, golden brown, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, or smeared with a bit of melted chocolate, 30 - 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and let cool completely on a cooling rack. Remove the sides from the pan, and invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and then re-invert it onto a serving plate.

Dust with powdered sugar or cocoa, and serve with whipped cream and chopped pistachios, if desired.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lemon Mascarpone Tart

There are many types of crushes.

There's a music crush, where you admire someone's virtuosity so that you look at them in a way you never would were they not a phenomenally talented singer/guitarist/glockenspiel player. There are teacher crushes, where you adore your teacher's bass playing/dancing/asanas so much that you just want to be teacher's pet. There are dance crushes (see: music crushes). There are blog crushes, where, though you have never met the person, yet you feel like you are best friends/soul mates. (David L - call me!)

And of course, there are celebrity crushes.

I was never particularly star struck as a young'un (though I did think that TV star Jonathon Taylor-Thomas and I would make an adorable couple, mostly because we could give our kids the last name 'Taylor-Tobin-Taylor-Thomas').

But the day I discovered Jamie Oliver on the Food Network, a decade or so ago, I was practically reduced to a shrieking/fainting Beatles-type fan. I squealed all through the opening credits of The Naked Chef (especially the part where Jamie would mutter coyly, 'It's not me, it's the food that's naked!') and simpered when he would describe 'blitzing' food in the Cuisinart. His blue eyes, red lips, blond hair, and British accent all did me in.

I was smitten.

It's no surprise, then, that when I noticed an issue of Jamie Magazine on the rack at my local coffee shop, I snapped it up. While there weren't nearly enough shots of the blond chef for my liking, the fun layout, handsome photos and intriguing recipes held my interest (and I did get a bit pink-cheeked whenever they'd refer to 'plastic wrap' as 'clingfilm').

I may be a one-British-chef-woman, but when it comes to recipes, I'm a bit of a floozy. Reading through the magazine, I gave my heart away to cassoulet, apple cider flan, double choc brownies, and buckwheat crepes with poached apple and pear. But most of all, I fell hard for this lemon mascarpone tart. The photo caught my eye first, but as I read through the ingredient list, the lemon verbena steeped in the creamy mascarpone custard sealed the deal. I decided to make it for a potluck bar-be-que, garnished with the first strawberries of the season and some slivered apple mint, compliments of my green-thumbed and infinitely talented friend Jessa.

Though my love for Jamie hardly wavered while making this tart, I did have a bit of a wrestling match with the pate sucree, which practically disintegrated when I tried to lift the rolled-out dough into the pan. Next time, I'd probably use this press-in crust, with the seeds from half a vanilla been rubbed in, which, besides being infinitely more tender, and saving you hours of chilling, rolling, pressing, and re-chilling, will also leave you with one less lonely egg white to use up.

No matter about the crust, a taste of the meyer lemon/verbena/vanilla-infused cream erased any memory of difficult times. And at the party, when the tart had finally cooled (finally!), and the grilled steak, tofu, salmon, potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, 2 salads, 3 cheeses and 1 multi-grain batard were all distant memories, a bite of the quivering custard left me, and apparently the guests, too, more smitten than ever.

The tart's silky texture is similar to a lemon curd tart, but less eggy, and with a rich tang from the heavy cream and mascarpone; like a cross between a lemon tart and a cheesecake. The macerated strawberries and slivered mint make a fine accompaniment.

I hope you'll find this tart as crush-worthy as I did.

But keep your man-stealing mitts off Jamie.

Smitten with Citrus:
Tangerine Olive Oil Pound Cake
Lemon Lavender Mascarpone Pound Cakelets
Blood Orange Tart

One Year Ago:
Rhubarb Chèvre Galettes

Lemon Mascarpone Tart

Adapted from Jamie Magazine

One 9" tart (10 - 12 servings)

I used the original tart shell recipe (adapted, below), but if I made this again, I would go with this press-in crust, with the seeds from half a vanilla been rubbed in, as I found it both easier and tastier. The choice is yours.

While delicious plain, this tart would make a handsome foil for any number of fruits: poached rhubarb, blueberry coulis, blood orange supremes, or poached sour cherries would all be divine in place of the minted strawberries. I loved the fruity undertones of the apple mint, but spearmint, lemon balm or basil would all go nicely with the berries as well.

The crust:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 1/2 ounces, 165 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (65 grams) powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2 3/4 ounces, 75 grams) cold, unsalted butter, in 1/4" dice
seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean (pod reserved for filling, below)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 whole egg, beaten well (for brushing the tart, the remainder reserved for the tart filling)

The mascarpone filling:
zest of 1 (meyer) lemon
1/2 cup (4 ounces, 110 grams) sugar
1 cup (250mL) heavy cream
15 lemon verbena leaves (fresh or dried)
1/2 vanilla pod (left over from crust, above)
4 egg yolks
remainder of egg from washing crust (above)
8 ounces (about 250mL) mascarpone

For serving:
2 pints strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
1 - 2 tablespoons sugar
a handful of mint leaves

Make and blind-bake the crust:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Rub in the butter and vanilla bean seeds until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Sprinkle over the egg yolk/water mixture and continue working the dough with your fingertips until it begins to clump together. Press the clumps into a ball, flatten into a 6" disc, and slip into a plastic bag. Let rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out between two pieces of parchment paper into a 12" round, turning and flouring the parchment as needed.  Lift the dough into a 9" tart pan with removable bottom (mine cracked and split a whole lot) and ease into the corners of the pan. Trim the overhang to 1", then fold over the edge and press to form a double layer. Trim the crust flush with (or a tad higher than) the pan sides. (Wrap up and save any dough scraps in case you need to patch a hole in the bottom of the crust after baking.) Cover the tart with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, then freeze for 20 minutes until firm.

While the dough is chilling, position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 375ºF (190ºC). Line the frozen tart shell with parchment paper, then with pie weights (or dried beans or clean pennies). Bake the shell in the oven until set, and the sides are beginning to color, 25 - 30 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment, and bake the tart until the bottom turns golden, 5 - 10 more minutes. Remove the shell, brush with the egg wash, and bake another minute to set the egg wash (this creates a barrier between shell and custard filling, preventing the shell from softening). Remove the shell. Patch any holes with a bit of reserved dough scraps if necessary.

While the tart shell is baking, make the filling:
In a small saucepan, rub the lemon zest into the sugar. Add the cream, and place over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the cream is warm and steamy (don't boil). Remove from the heat, add the lemon verbena leaves and vanilla bean, and steep for 20-30 minutes.

Combine the egg yolks and remainder of the egg from washing the crust in a large bowl. Slowly pour in the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg/cream mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Place the mascarpone in the large bowl, then pour in few tablespoons of the cream mixture, and whisk smooth. Continue like this, adding the cream mixture to the mascarpone bit by bit and whisking smooth after each addition, until is it all combined.

Bake the tart:
Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF (162ºC). Place the baked and washed tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips) and set on the rack in the oven towards the front. Carefully pour in the filling, slide the pan back into the middle of the oven, and close the door. Bake the tart until the filling is lightly puffed and wobbles when shaken gently (but doesn't appear wet or watery), about 30 - 35 minutes (check at 20 minutes, then every 5 minutes after).

Remove the tart from the oven and let cool completely at room temperature, 1 - 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan (easily accomplished by setting the tart on a large can and letting the sides fall away) and slice the tart into wedges.

Toss the strawberries in a bowl with sugar to taste, and let sit to macerate for 15 minutes. Stack the mint leaves, roll up lengthwise, then slice thinly crosswise. Toss into the berries.

Serve slices of the tart with the minted berries. The tart tastes best the day that it is baked, at room temperature, but it will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge.