Tidewater Kitchen August 2006

Pies and Tarts

     Every summer I look forward to going to the market to see what fruits the season has brought us. Fresh fruits make the easiest desserts because they are so sweet and delicious by themselves. It is hard for us to fail when making any dessert with an in-season fruit. Team these fruits with a well-made pastry or crust and you have a final dish that would impress even the most finicky eater.
      Many people have a fear of making these desserts. They believe that only an experienced cook can create the desserts you see in a bakery. This information will help you make wonderful fruit desserts-from selecting the proper equipment, to making the doughand crusts, to shaping and filling and baking. The recipes are not difficult; they are simple and reassuring, and will inspire you to try them.
      The following recipes feature the fruits of spring and summer. Don’t hesitate to substitute other fruits when the fruits in these recipes are not available.
      If you have never made a pie or tart, then this is the time to start. Try it now and don’t let anything stop you. If you don’t have a pie or tart pan, then use a shallow baking dish. If you just can’t get past the idea of making your own pie dough, then buy a good fresh commercial one. Don’t fuss with making the dough look perfect. A rustic pie is beautiful, too. In fact, you don’t even need to make dough for a pie. Just fill a baking dish with the filling and sprinkle it with a crumb topping.
      No matter what, when you see your first effort come bubbling out of the oven, you will be so proud. There is so much joy that comes from seeing your own creation, and having it be enjoyed by those close to you. I’m sure that you will see that there is truth in the phrase “easy as pie”

1. Nine-inch Pie Pan- Most standard recipes call for a nine-inch pie pan. They hold about 4½ cups of filling. Those made of metal will conduct the heat the best and produce a crisper crust. Glass and porcelain pie pans also work well, but should really be reserved for fruit pies without a bottom crust. This is because they conduct heat less efficiently, and will not scorch or burn the fillings. If you are going to use your glass baking dish for baking pie, remember to increase the oven temperature by 25° F. Finally, if you have pie pans that are made of black steel or dark anodized aluminum, they will conduct heat faster. You will need to decrease your oven temperature by 25° F.
2. Cooling Rack- This will help the air circulate underneath the crust as the pie is cooling. This will ensure that the bottom crust will stay crispy.
3. Heavy Rolling Pin- For best control when you are rolling out pie crusts, have a sturdy, hardwood rolling pin. The style is up to you. If you choose a rolling pin with handles, make sure to choose one with ball-bearing handles for smooth rolling. The rolling pin should have a surface of at least 12 inches. To prevent it from warping, do not wash your rolling pin. Simply wipe it clean with a dry cloth.
4. Tart Pans- Tart pans come in all shapes and sizes. A nine-inch removable bottomed tart pan is the most widely used. The fluted edges give the crust an attractive crust and the removable bottom will allow you to unmold the tart for serving.
5. Fluted Pastry Wheel, Dough Scraper, Pastry Brush, and Pastry Blender- These are all small tools that will make your job much easier. A pastry wheel will cut lattice strips or edge pie crusts with an attractive border. The dough scraper will help you lift dough and clean your work surface. A pastry brush will help you glaze the fruit or the tops of the pies. Finally, a pastry blender will help you to cut butter or shortening into your dough.

Basic Pie Crust

     This crust is crisp and flaky. It is a good crust to use for any pie that uses fresh fruit or custard. There are a few things to remember when making a successful crust:
1. Make sure not to overblend the fat and flour.
2. Have all of your ingredients chilled.
3. Add only enough water so that you can roll the dough out easily.
4. Do not overhandle the dough. This will warm your dough, and the overblending will produce a tough crust.

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t. sea salt
2 t. granulated sugar (for sweet filling), or 1 T. of a fresh herb (for a savory filling)
8 T. cold cubed unsalted butter
6 T. cold vegetable shortening
5 to 6 T. ice water

     Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the sugar or herb. Add the butter and shortening; working quickly, cut them into the flour mixture. (You can do this with a pastry blender, two forks, or your food processor.) When the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, sprinkle the ice water over the mixture until you can press the mixture together with your fingers.
      Now take out about a cup of the mixture and place it on your work surface. With the heel of your hand, smear the mixture across the board to combine it. Repeat this with the rest of the dough and then form the entire amount into a ball. Divide the ball into two equal pieces and flatten each slightly. Wrap the dough in wax paper, and refrigerate for thirty minutes to an hour. If desired, you can also freeze it at this point.
      The pie crust is now ready to use. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Roll out one ball of the chilled dough onto a slightly floured surface until it forms an 11-inch circle. Fold the circle in half, and then fold it in half again. Transfer it to a nine-inch pie plate and unfold the dough. The pie can be filled now, or prebaked depending upon your recipe. Yields one double nine-inch crust.

Unbaked Pie Shells

     There should be about a one-inch overhang on a pie shell. This will allow you to tuck the edges under the rim of the pie shell and create a fluted edge with your fingers. At this point, it would be ready for filling.

Partially Baked and
Fully Baked Pie Shells

     For partially baked pie shells, prick the bottom and the sides of the shell with a fork. So the dough keeps its shape, place a double thickness layer of aluminum foil over the pie shell and cut a few vents in it. Then press it into the shell snugly. Bake at 425° F for eight minutes. Lift out the foil and continue baking four minutes longer, or until the crust looks dry but not brown. If it puffs up, then just poke it with a fork.
      For a fully baked shell, use the directions as above, but bake it eight to ten minutes after you remove the foil. Let it cool completely on a cooling rack and then fill it. This would be delicious filled with whipped cream and glazed fruit.

Double-Crust Pies

     After filling a pie as your recipe calls for, brush the bottom rim of the crust with water. Lay the rolled-out pie dough over the pie and trim the dough so that it hangs over the pie about 1/2 inch. Press firmly around the rim and then fold the overhang under itself all around to make an edge.
      At this point you can flute the edge by pressing the dough with your thumb and finger at regular intervals around the pie. With a sharp knife, cut four or five slits into the top crust. This will allow steam to escape during baking.
      Double crust pies should be baked at a high temperature first, then reduced to a lower temperature for the duration of the baking time (usually about 45 minutes to an hour). Fruit pies also may boil over, so place a cookie sheet or some aluminum foil on the rack underneath it to keep your oven clean.
      Finally, if, during baking, the crust starts to turn too brown, place some strips of aluminum foil around the edges. Mold them to fit around the pie, then finish baking the pie.

Tart Pastry

     Because tart dough is made with a lot of butter and sugar, tart crusts are firmer and not as flaky as pie crust. Use this dough for any type of tarts, or free-form crusts. The taste of the finished crust will remind you of shortbread.

1-2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup very fine granulated sugar
½ t. sea salt
10 T. cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 cold egg yolks
1 t. vanilla extract
2 t. ice water

     Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the chilled butter into the dry ingredients by hand, pastry cutter, two forks, or by food processor. Combine the egg yolks, vanilla and ice water together and add them to the flour/butter mixture. Combine quickly, then take the mixture one cup at a time and smear it together with the heel of your hand on the work surface. Do this until all of the dough is combined. Form the dough into a ball, and then flatten slightly into a disk. Next, wrap the dough in wax paper and chill two to three hours.
      Roll the dough out between two pieces of waxed paper or on a lightly floured work surface. Work quickly so that the dough doesn’t become sticky. Line a 9-inch tart pan with the dough and then press it into the sides. Trim the edges by rolling your rolling pin over the top of the tart pan. Then, again, press the sides of the dough into the pan. Chill the dough again for about thirty minutes.
      For a fully baked tart crust, preheat the oven to 425° F. Line the tart pan with aluminum foil and then weight it down with beans, rice or pie weights. Bake for eight minutes. Remove the foil and the weights, and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Continue baking for four minutes, for a partially baked crust, or eight to ten minutes for a fully baked one.
      Yields one eight- or nine-inch tart shell or six individual tarts.

Almond Butter Tart Crust

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole almonds, toasted and cooled
1/3 cup powdered sugar
¼ t. sea salt
6 T. cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 T. ice water

     Blend the first four ingredients in a food processor until the nuts are ground. Add the butter, and cut it into the mixture until it resembles fine meal. Blend in enough water by the teaspoonful until the mixture can be pinched together. Gather it into a ball, flatten into a disk. Press the dough into a nine-inch tart pan and freeze for thirty minutes, or until the crust is firm.
      Preheat the oven to 375° F and bake the crust until it begins to brown. This will take about twenty minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool. Fill per your desire.

Crumb Crusts

     To make the crumbs, process the crackers in a food processor or use a rolling pin. You can use graham crackers, gingersnaps, biscotti, or Nabisco chocolate wafers. If you are making a filling with spices in it you could also add some of that spice to the crumbs as well.

2 cups crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted

     Combine the crumbs, sugar and salt in a bowl and toss them together. Add the butter and stir until blended. With your fingers, press the mixture into the sides of a nine-inch pie pan, or a nine-inch springform pan.
      If you wish, you can pre-bake the crust at this point. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Bake the crust for eight minutes, then cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

Filling for Tarts and
Fully-Baked Pie Shells

Whipped Cream
      This whipped cream is wonderful spread on the bottom of the tart or pie shell. It is also a good way to finish a pie or tart, with a dollop of this on the top. The powdered milk in the mixture will help to keep the whipped cream from breaking down.

1 cup whipping cream, cold
5 t. fine sugar
1 T. nonfat dry milk
1 t. vanilla extract

     Put the cream, sugar, dry milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until the cream forms soft peaks. You can pipe this cream through a pastry bag, but you will need to beat it to stiff peaks to do this.

Pastry Cream
      Pastry cream is wonderful for filling tarts and topping fresh fruits. You can flavor the cream with bittersweet chocolate (1 ounce melted), toasted coconut, or by adding espresso beans to the mixture and straining them off at the end.

1 cup whole D milk
1/3 cup sugar
1½ T. cornstarch
Pinch of sea salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 T. unsalted butter
1 t. vanilla

     Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add the milk to this mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Whisk in the egg yolks and cook until slightly thicker, about two minutes longer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.
      Let this cool to room temperature, add the vanilla, cover and chill in the refrigerator. Pastry cream will keep covered in an airtight container for three days.

Lemon Curd
      Lemon curd is delicious when used in tarts, pies and as a filling for cakes and cookies. It will last up to ten days in the refrigerator. Sometimes it is nice to lighten the lemon curd by folding in whipped cream or beaten egg whites.

5 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Freshly grated zest of two lemons
6 T. unsalted butter, room temperature

     Combine the egg yolks and the sugar in a saucepan. Whisk for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk for a minute more. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly until thickened, being careful not to scramble the eggs.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Stir until smooth and let cool. Transfer to a tightly capped jar and refrigerate.

White Chocolate
with Lime Sauce

12 oz. imported white chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
2 t. grated lime zest
Lime zest curls, or fresh mint

     Place the white chocolate in a blender. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate. Blend until smooth. Add the lime zest and process a few seconds and then let cool to room temperature. The sauce will have a thick consistency. You can pour it over fresh fruit and garnish it with zest curls and mint leaves.

Parfait Cream
      Layer this cream with fruit in wine glasses and garnish with some mint.

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 T. powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 t. fresh lemon juice

     Place the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whip until fluffy. Slowly add the whipping cream. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy. Add lemon juice to taste.

Raspberry Sauce
      Use this to dress up any fruit desert. Drizzle it over fruit, or place a slice of tart in a pool of it. This sauce will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator and up to six months frozen.

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
½ cup superfine sugar

     Place the raspberries and sugar in a blender and puree until smooth. If a seedless puree is desired, push it with the back of a spoon through a fine mesh strainer.

Glazes for the Fruit

     A coating of a warm glaze will make a fruit tart glisten. Feel free to even glaze fruit that you have placed out with a sauce. It is a professional touch that completes a beautiful desert.

Apricot Glaze
1½ cups apricot jam

     Bring the jam to a boil in a small saucepan. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Add the hot jam, and using the back of a spoon push the jam through the strainer. Discard the pulp and return the jam to the saucepan. Reheat before using.

Currant Glaze

1 cup red currant jam
½ cup superfine sugar
1½ T. fresh lemon juice

     Bring the jam, sugar and lemon juice to a boil and stir. Remove from the heat, let cool fifteen minutes, and brush the glaze over the fruit.

Praline Cups
      You can spoon any type of fruit into these wonderful cups. Let the cups sit filled for about 15 minutes to allow them to soften for easier eating. Make only two of these cups at a time because the timing in this recipe is very important. When they come out of the oven you can mold them and shape them immediately. The cups will keep in an airtight container for about one week.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup unsalted butter, plus enough to grease the aluminum foil and the custard cups
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

     Preheat the oven to 375° F. Cut twelve pieces of aluminum foil into 8-inch squares. Grease them with butter and place two of the squares onto a cookie sheet. Grease the outside of the custard cups or two flat bottomed measuring cups.
      In a small bowl, stir together the nuts and flour. In a small saucepan heat the corn syrup, butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring lightly. Stir in the flour mixture and remove the pan from the heat. Drop 2 T. of the mixture onto the center of each foiled square.
      Bake for six minutes or until bubbled and spread out to 4-5 inches. Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheets for twominutes. Place one of the greased cups in the center of the praline circle. Holding the cup in place, lift the foil gently and mold the praline on the outside of the cup.
      Cool upside down for three minutes, then remove the foil and the greased cups and cool completely. Repeat with the remaining praline mixture. If the mixture gets hard, just reheat it gently over low heat until softened.

Basic Meringue
6 egg whites
¼ t. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
      Position the oven racks to the lowest portion of your oven. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Draw eight 4-inch circles on the sheets.
      Place the egg whites in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until well mixed. Sprinkle on the cream of tartar and continue beating until white and foamy. Very slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff shiny peaks form. This will take about four minutes.
Spoon the egg whites onto the drawn circles, filling them and forming the eight rounds. Build up the edges slightly. This will hold in the filling. Alternately, you can spoon the egg whites into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip. Pipe the egg whites in tight spirals to form a circle. Again, build up the edges.
      Bake until firm and dry, about one hour. Turn off the oven and open the door. When the meringues are completely cooled, remove them form the oven and peel off of the parchment or foil. The meringues can be used immediately or stored uncovered for several days on a rack so that the air can circulate around them.

Summer Peach Pie

     This pie has a lattice top. Make the lattice strips 3/4 inches wide, so that you will only need eight or ten strips total to cover the entire pie.

One recipe basic pie crust
7 cups peeled, pitted and sliced peaches
3 T. lemon juice
¼ cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
¼ t. sea salt
pinch of nutmeg
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature

     Preheat the oven to 425° F. Roll out the pastry for the bottom crust and line a nine- or ten-inch pie pan. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut it into strips about 3/4 inch wide; set aside.
      Place the peaches in a bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, and toss to coat well. In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Add this to the peaches and toss well. Pile the fruit mixture on the top of the pastry-lined pan and dot with the butter.
      Brush some water along the edge of the pie crust. Then use the pastry strips to make a lattice top. Trim and flute the edges.
      Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° F and bake until the juices are bubbling and the top is browned, about 25 minutes. If the crust gets too brown during baking, cover the edges with aluminum foil strips.

Mixed Berry Pie

     Mixed berry pie is an old fashioned pie that was made with several different kinds of berries. When you can get three or four different types of berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, you should give this wonderful pie a try.

One recipe of basic pie crust
1¾ cups granulated sugar
4 T. arrowroot
3 cups fresh red raspberries
1 cup strawberries
1½ cups fresh blackberries
1½ cups fresh blueberries
2 t. fresh lemon juice
2 T. heavy cream
1 T. granulated or raw sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature

      Preheat the oven to 425° F. Roll out the pastry for the top and bottom crust. Line a 9- or 10-inch pie pan with the bottom crust and set aside (For a fancier presentation you can make a lattice top if you want).
      In a large bowl, combine the sugar and arrowroot, and gently toss with the berries. Let the filling stand for a few minutes, then spoon into the pie shell and dot with butter. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with water, then gently lay the top crust over the berries. Flute the edges.
      Using any leftover dough, make some berry-shaped cutout to decorate the top of the pie. Brush the top of the pie with the cream, and place the cutouts on the top. Brush the cutouts with cream, then sprinkle the entire pie with the sugar.
      Using a sharp knife, make a few small slits in the crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° F and bake for about 30 more minutes. The pie is done when the juices start to bubble slightly. Remember that if the crust begins to brown too much, cover the edges with aluminum foil strips.

Caramel Walnut Tart

     Serve this tart with vanilla ice cream and toasted walnut halves. Dust the top with powdered sugar and serve garnished with mint leaf chiffonade.

One half of the basic pie crust recipe
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 T. honey
2 T. sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped

     Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Make the dough according to the recipe. After it has chilled, roll it out into an 11-inch diameter circle. Press the dough into a nine-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes and then line the crust with foil. Fill the tart pan with beans or pie weights and then bake for 15 minutes.
      Remove the foil and the beans and bake the tart crust for another 15 minutes. Cool the crust on a wire cooling rack. Leave the oven set to 325 degrees F.
      For the filling: In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, butter, honey and sugar. Stir over high heat until the butter melts and the mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and boil the mixture until it reaches 240 F. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cream and whisk the mixture until it is smooth. It will bubble furiously. Mix in the nuts and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
     Spoon the filling into the crust. Bake until the filling darkens around the edges and bubbles, 30 minutes. Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and cool 20 minutes. Serve warm with extra walnuts on the plate and dusted with powdered sugar. Serves 8.

Cherry-Chocolate Tart

     This is so easy to make and wonderful in the late summer and early fall when cherries are at their best. Make it up to a day in advance.

One recipe tart pastry
1 cup cherry preserves
2 T. water
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 T. unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet callebaut chocolate, finely chopped
1½ pounds cherries, pitted

     Make the tart recipe according to the directions for a fully baked tart crust. Cool on a wire cooling rack.
      For the filling: In a small saucepan combine the water and preserves. Stir over medium heat until the preserves melt. Strain out any solids from the mixture and set the strained preserves aside.
      In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, butter and ¼ cup of the preserves. Stir over low heat until the butter melts. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool slightly.
      Spread the chocolate over the crust and refrigerate until almost set, about 30 minutes. Arrange the cherries decoratively over the tart and press slightly to adhere. Rewarm the reserved preserves over low heat and then brush the cherries with it. Chill until the tart sets. Can be made up to one day in advance. Garnish the tart with mint. Serve 8.

Plum Almond Tartlets

¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
¼ cup plus 1 tsp sugar
½ t. cinnamon
¼ cup unsalted butter
3 sheets phyllo dough, thawed and cut into 18 6-inch squares
½ t. powdered sugar
4 ripe but firm plums, pitted and quartered
2 t. lemon juice
1 T. light rum
Vanilla ice cream

     Preheat the oven to 375°. In a food processor, combine toasted almonds, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Process, or if doing by hand, chop until fine. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, and clarify it by skimming off the foam and discarding the milk solids on the bottom.
      Prepare a 12 ½-cup muffin tin by lightly brushing six cups with the clarified butter, leaving an unbuttered cup in between each one of them. Line each with a phyllo square, allowing the points to extend above the edges of the cups. Brush inside of each with the butter, and sprinkle with some of the almond mixture.
Now take another six pieces of phyllo dough and lay those in each muffin tin. Brush them with butter, and sprinkle each with the almond mixture. Repeat again with six phyllo pieces and brush them with butter, but omit the almond mixture. Save the remaining butter and almond mixture.
      Cover the muffin tin loosely with foil and bake for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil. Remove the phyllo from the tins and cool completely on a rack. Sift powdered sugar over the cooled shells. These may be made ahead at this point and kept for two days. They should be stored, covered loosely at room temperature.
      In a large skillet, combine the plums, the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, the remaining ¼ t. cinnamon, lemon juice, and any remaining butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tender, about five minutes. Remove the plums from the skillet. Add the rum and cook over medium heat to deglaze the pan.
      Just before serving, divide the plums among the cups. Top with a small scoop of ice cream and drizzle with the reserved juices. Garnish with the remaining almond mixture.

Kids Favorite Fruit Pizza

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 package refrigerator sugar cookie dough
1/3 cup sugar
½ t. vanilla
Assorted sliced fruit
1 T. water
Seedless jam

     Preheat the oven to 375° F. Cut sugar cookie dough into 1/8-inch slices. Line a 14-inch pizza pan with the slices of cookie, overlapping them. Bake them for about twelve minutes or until just beginning to brown.
      Blend the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Spread over the cookie crust. Arrange the fruit in circles on the cream cheese. Warm the jam in a small saucepan. Glaze with the jam and serve within three hours.