Sunday, February 10, 2008

I need a bigger food processor...

After spending the middle of the day preparing this week's Tuesdays with Dorie item (Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake) only to realize that it had to refrigerate for at least 6 hours, needless to say I was disappointed. Once you've spent a few hours making and smelling a delicious baked good, well, you want to eat it! So on the drive back home from Christine's house (she has a house, more appliances than I, and just as large a love of baking = perfect baking partner!), I was trying to discuss with the boy what we would make for dessert. Of course, he didn't have too much of an opinion because his sweet tooth isn't nearly as large as mine, so I had to figure it out on my own. I finally settled on something relatively light (I thought at the time) - a jammy fruit tartlet. That allowed me to get what I've wanted a reason to get for quite a while - cute little tartlet pans! Yes, I now have 6 of them, as well as a 9" tart pan for larger projects. So adorable! I'm a sucker for little things I think...

While he prepared the crab cannelloni that we had decided on making for dinner earlier in the day, I whipped up the sweet tart dough from Dorie's Baking book. Seriously, this book has become my go-to book for desserts because of its wonderful versatility. Now, here's the one problem. I don't have a normal sized food processor, and instructions call for making the dough in a food processor. In fact, I have what Cuisinart quaintly calls a Mini Prep Plus. It really only had room for half of the dough, and tends to smell a little burnt whenever I make it do more than little pulses of chopping action on simple to blend and chop things. So I crossed my fingers that I wouldn't start seeing black plumes of smoke and got it going.

By only mixing up half the recipe at a time, there was only a little bit of a burnt motor smell and I was good to go. The recipe is supposed to make enough tart dough for a 9" tart pan, so I figured that it would work for 6 tartlet pans. I buttered them, pressed the tart dough in, and popped them in the freezer just in time to walk the boy through making his first bechamel sauce, which, I have to say, turned out perfectly. I think it helps that he had no clue of all of the culinary pitfalls of making bechamels...

After dinner, we decided to wait a while to make dessert (even eating half of the "serving size" that the recipe calls for, those cannelloni were rich. I blind-baked the tartlets for 15 minutes before taking the foil off and letting them finish baking for ~15-20 minutes. Now, my plan after pulling the tartlets out was to fill them with fruit and jam, but the boy had other plans - ice cream! Yes, this was his idea of a good dessert:

I would have a picture of my apricot tartlet, but it broke when I took it out of the pan :-( Soo, all you get is the mint chocolate chip ice cream mounded in my cute little tartlet. It was crisp, sandy, and wonderfully tender. All in all, a good spur-of-the-moment dessert success.

Sweet Tart Dough (Dorie Greenspan's Baking)

1 1/2 c. AP flour
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 T (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses--about 10 seconds each--until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sounds of the machine working the dough will change--heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy-handed--press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooking rack (keep it in its pan).

To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust's progress--it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

Makes enough for one 9-inch crust.

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