Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Dessert of Necessity

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Yesterday, we went to a friends' house for dinner, and I was to bring dessert.  Enter the Chocolate Marshmallow Crunch Tart.  I chose this recipe for a variety of reasons:

  1. I wanted to use our ice cream maker for the first time, but I didn't have enough time to freeze the bowl thingy before we had to leave the house, let alone make ice cream.
  2. I was going to go to the store to see what struck me as a good idea, but just as I was about to leave, I got blocked into the complex by painters.  So I had to make something with whatever I had in the house.
  3. I pulled this recipe out of a magazine, and the hubster had been drooling over the picture ever since.  But, since it makes a 9" tart, it's too big to make for just the two of us, so I had to wait to make it for something where other people would be around to eat it. 
  4. It was hot yesterday, and I didn't want to use the oven a whole lot.  The only time I had to turn it on was for about 15 minutes to toast the coconut. I was pretty happy with that, and the little time the oven was on managed to make my house smell like coconut, which I enjoyed.
So, here it is:

Chocolate Marshmallow Crunch Tart
Source: Rachel Ray Magazine

Serves: 4
Prep: 20 min (plus chilling)
Cook: 20 min

One 10-ounce bag large marshmallows (about 45)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (flour pile note:  i don't like pecans, and i didn't have any, so i used almonds)

1.  Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  In a double-boiler over simmering water, melt 17 marshmallows, the butter and 1 ounce chocolate, stirring frequently, until smooth.  Stir in the cereal.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared tart pan and, using a greased rubber spatula or your hands, press into the bottom and up the sides ( flour pile note: if you use your hands, grease them, and be careful! that stuff will be very hot! ). Wipe out the double-boiler insert.

2.  In the double-boiler, melt the remaining marshmallows in the milk over simmering water, stirring frequently, until smooth; let cool. Pour the mixture into the crust; refrigerate 30 minutes.  Wipe out the double-boiler insert.

3.  In the double-boiler, melt the remaining 7 ounces chocolate over simmering water, whisking constantly, until smooth.  Stir in the oil, 3/4 cup toasted coconut and 1/2 cup pecans.  Spoon the mixture onto the tart and spread evenly to cover the marshmallow layer.  Top with the remaining 1/4 cup coconut and 1/4 cup pecans; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Okay, now that you have the recipe, I have some things I want to mention about it. First, when it says to let the marshmallow/milk mixture cool, I'm pretty sure they mean it.  I missed that part when I made this, and when I poured the mixture over the crust, it sort of made one thick layer, rather than the two that it should have (you can kind of see this in the picture above).  Also, I feel like the chocolate on top was too thick.  It was like trying to break through a chocolate bar, which I did not enjoy.  In general, this thing is really sweet.  You have been warned.

I'm not entirely sure I will make this again. It was interesting.  I did like the marshmallowy goodness in the middle, but that's really about it.  But, by all means, try it out for yourself, and see what you think.

And, of course, here's the flour pile pic:

It's sort of disappointing.  It's just bits of coconut and almonds. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Raspberry Tart

Baked Raspberry Tart

I decided to make this for a few reasons:
  1. We had a friend coming over for dinner, and he loves my baked goods.
  2. I just bought a new tart pan, so I was looking to make a tart.
  3. I wanted something fruity to serve for dessert.
That is what I would consider three very solid reasons to make this.  Or, you know, making it so you can eat the leftovers the next day (which I plan to do shortly).

This recipe is kind of a two-in-one dealie.  Not only is the completed tart delicious, but the dough for the tart shell is the best I have ever tasted!  Sweet and wonderful, and pretty darn easy to make.  I highly recommend making a few batches and storing it in the freezer.  Dealing with the dough is what takes the longest in this recipe, and making it ahead of time is a good idea.  You can make the dough and keep it in the fridge up to 2 days ahead, or keep it in the freezer for up to 1 month.  If you do freeze it, let it thaw completely on the counter before you try to use it.

All recipes came from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. 

Classic Tart Dough

1 large egg yolk [flour pile note: if you are making the raspberry tart, save the egg white -- you will need it later]
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted  butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled

1.  Whisk the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Process the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor until combined.  Scatter the butter pieces over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 pulses.

2.  With the machine running, add the egg mixture trough the feed tube and continue to process until the dough just comes together around the processor blade, about 12 seconds.

3.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Before rolling the dough out, let it sit on the counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. 

Chocolate Tart Dough
Substitute 1/4 Dutch-processed cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the flour. 

Baked Raspberry Tart

Makes one 9-inch tart
Serves 8-10

1 recipe Classic Tart Dough
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kirsch or framboise (optional)
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons instant flour (like Wondra)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups (10 ounces) fresh raspberries

1. Roll the dough out to an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured counter and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Set the tart pan on a large plate and freeze the tart shell for 30 minutes.

2.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Set the tart pan on a large baking sheet.  Press a double layer of foil into the frozen tart shell and oven the edges of the pan and fill with pie weights.  [flour pile note:  i don't own pie weights.  i always use dried beans.  i have a baggie full of dried pinto beans that i keep around just for this.]  Bake until the tart shell is golden brown and set, about 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and carefully remove the weights and foil.  Let the tart shell cool completely on the baking sheet, about 1 hour.

3.  Cook the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it smells nutty and the milk solids at the bottom of the pot are golden brown, about 7 minutes.  Transfer the browned butter to a small bowl and cool to room temperature.

4.  In a medium bow, whisk the egg and egg white toge3ther until combined.  Vigorously whisk in the sugar and salt until light colored, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the browned butter, vanilla, kirsch (if using), lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Whisk in the instant flour, followed by the cream, until will combined.

5.  Distribute the raspberries in a single layer in the bottom of the cooled tart shell.  Pour the filling mixture evenly over the raspberries.  Bake the tart on the baking sheet until the filling is set (the center should not jiggle when shaken) and the surface is puffed and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

6.  Let the tart cool completely on the baking sheet, about 1 1/2 hours.  To serve, remove the outer metal ring of the tart pan, slide a thin metal spatula between the tart and the tart pan bottom, and carefully side the tart onto a serving platter or cutting board.

To Make Ahead
The tart dough can be made ahead.  Once baked and cooled, the tart can be wrapped loosely with plastic wrap and held at room temperature for up to 4 hours before serving.

I served this with fresh whipped cream, partly because I had it to use, and partly (well, mostly) because whipped cream makes everything better. 

And somehow, miraculously, I didn't spill any flour or other powdery substance on the floor this time. 

Sorry for the lack of photos.  It was dark by the time it was ready to be cut and served, so my pictures didn't turn out very well. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Introductions are in order

Hello there!  Welcome to my baking blog, The Flour Pile!

I am by no means a professional baker, but I do love it, and I bake every chance that I get.  Here I will share with you my baking successes, as well as the failures, and the pile of flour that almost always ends up on the floor when I bake. 

So, without further delay, here is my first recipe!

Classic Brownies

This recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated, and it is my go-to recipe for brownies.  While they are delicious as printed in the recipe, I like to add things to them to make them a little more fun.  The picture above has tiny peanut butter cups in them, like these:

I have also added chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, various candies, or whatever I had on hand that sounded good.  I don't, however, recommend that you add marshmallows.  I tried that, thinking I would get yummy chocolate brownies with chunks of marshmallow, and this is what I got:

That is a sticky, gooey mess that tastes great, but has no discernable bits of marshmallow, and does not cut nicely. 

You can also add swirls of other things on top, like peanut butter (have you notice yet that I really like chocolate and peanut butter together?).  Just put dollops on the top of the uncooked brownies and swirl it around with a toothpick or butter knife and stick it in the oven like usual.  So good!

It is really important that you use cake flour in this, and not all purpose flour.  I did that once, and they came out really dense and not as good.

So, here's the recipe!

Classic Brownies
makes twenty-four 2-inch-square brownies

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

[flour pile note: if you have a food scale, use that for the measurements, but don't feel like you have to run out and buy one.  i sucessfully made these brownies many times without a scale, just using the volume measurements.]

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees.  Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width.  Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges.  Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet.  Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

3.  Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

4.  Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn [flour pile note: I can't melt chocolate in the microwave -- i ALWAYS burn it]) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in vanilla.  Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous. [flour pile note: if you want to add something fun, like peanut butter cups, do it now.  just not nuts.  those go on later]

5.  Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface.  Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang.  Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

* I don't like nuts in my brownies, so I always omit them.

I am experimenting to see how well these babies freeze.  I will report back later.  

And, since I promised it, here is my disappointing flour pile picture:

That's right, it's just a marshmallow.  That's the only thing I dropped on the floor.  Looks like the marshmallow brownies were a disappointment all around.