Monday, July 12, 2010

Fresh Fruit Tart with Dark Chocolate and Pastry Cream

I have been known, a time or two, to give into a severe craving and make a beeline to the closest bakery available. It's usually late at night when, as much as I love to bake, can't quite convince myself that an hour of creating and a sink full of dishes is going to satisfy, and reward, my efforts.

One market I frequent always seems to have desserts on the higher end- you know, not just cream pies and spray painted confections. Quite honestly, here in the Arizona summers, a creme pie sounds less than appealing. If anything, nauseating.

One of the items I have tried and liked at that market was a fruit tart made with a pastry crust brushed in chocolate, a vanilla cream, and fresh fruit. While it was refreshing, some off the things I didn't care for was the heavy dose of sugar on the pastry- a huge crunch in every bite- and the glaze of unknown origin on the fruit itself. Oh, and the the $16.99 price tag was just a tad on the "don't you dare tell hubby you spent this much" side... Who, me..?

Thank goodness last week when the craving for this fruit tart hit, it was early enough in the day for me to think of how to recreate it more to my liking. While the recipe was inspired by my local Safeway bakery, the recipe I created on my own. A flaky puff pastry, spread with a premium dark chocolate, a thin layer of decadent pastry cream, with the best of the seasons fruit crowning the top.

Fresh Fruit Tart with Dark Chocolate and Pastry Cream

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
1 recipe Pastry cream (recipe to follow main recipe)
3 oz dark (bittersweet) chocolate, melted- I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao
2 c strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 whole kiwi's, peeled, sliced down center and sliced into 1/2 circles
1/2 c blackberries
1/2 c blueberries
1/2 cup seedless blackberry preserves, heated in microwave for 15-20 seconds with 1 tsp of water

Place a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom onto a baking sheet. Carefully drape puff pastry into pan, cutting off excess at top. Dock the bottom of pastry. Bake for approximately 15 minutes at 400F, until pastry has risen slightly and is flaky. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

With an offset spatula, spread melted dark chocolate to within an inch of edge of pastry. Let cool.

Again with offset spatula, cover cooled chocolate with cooled pastry cream (recipe below).

In a decorative pattern, place sliced fruit on top of pastry. Brush fruit with blackberry preserves. Chill completely in refrigerator before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

Pastry Cream

1 c whole milk
1/4 c sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split down center
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt

In a small bowl combine the egg yolks and half of the sugar and whisk until the mixture turns a light yellow. Then add the flour and salt, mixing well. Set aside.

In a 2 qt saucepan place other half of the sugar, milk and vanilla bean on medium heat. When mixture begins to simmer well, take off of heat and carefully remove vanilla bean (dry and save for another use, such as vanilla sugar).

Very carefully and slowly add a small amount, about a cup, of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, constantly stirring, to temper the eggs making sure not to scramble. Once combined, add egg and milk mixture back to the pan over medium heat. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure nothing sticks to bottom of pan. Bring mixture to the boil for about one minute, until mixture thickens. Turn off heat and add butter.

Place into a shallow pan to cool and cover with saran wrap so that a skin does not form.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Spiedies and summer memories

I have some fabulous memories of summertime growing up in New York. As a kid, our first hint of summer was when the Good Humor Ice Cream truck would start canvasing the neighborhoods, and the lot of us would scream at the top of ours lungs for him to stop. My favorite ice cream bar of all time was the Good Humor Candy Center Crunch. Somehow, I felt as if I had struck gold. Not only was I allowed to get an ice cream, but with the addition of this solid chocolate candy bar in the center, I felt extra special!

Summer also meant home grown tomatoes. My parent's loved to garden, and back there it seemed so much easier than here in Arizona. The soil was nutrient rich and dark. A huge turn from cement like red clay we have here.

My parents also loved to compete with the neighbors when it came to their tomato plants, especially who could grow the biggest. I remember one summer, about 1972, when the folks had my brother and I blow up red balloons and attach them to our plants. They had me pretend to water them while they took a Polaroid instant picture with one of those bright flash bulbs. Dad & Mom then had us run on down to the neighbors, boasting of our huge faux- 'mater plants, while they sat back laughing their tail ends off... We still crack up over it to this day!

But I have to say that for our family, in summertime, especially the 4th of July, meant one thing- Spiedies! Cubes of lamb, venison, beef or chicken are soaked in a vinegar, citrus and herb based marinade for a few days to a few weeks, then skewered and grilled over an open flame, and served on soft Italian rolls. They are a regional New York favorite, and about 26 years ago the Annual Binghamton Spiedie Fest was born.

While some may think it strange to marinade meats for a week or two at a time, it worked perfectly when using lamb or venison, removing any gamey traces, producing a tender, juicy end result. This here is my recipe, based upon family input and my childhood memories.


4 large bay leaves, coarsley crumbled
4 tsp oregano
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/8 c fresh lime juice
1/2 c good quality olive oil
3/4 c either red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp pepper
3 tsp kosher salt
3 lbs of either lamb, venison, beef or chicken- cubed
Soft Italian rolls

Combine all ingredients except meat in a large, sturdy Ziploc bag or bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Add meat. Let marinate at least 2 days, up to a week, in coldest part of fridge. Periodically stir ingredients. You will notice olive oil will slightly solidify. When ready to cook, remove from fridge and let come to room temperature before skewering. Grill to desired doneness, using caution not to overcook! If desired, bring remaining marinade to a boil for at least 7 minutes, and drizzle over spiedies. Enjoy!

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