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threetarts

With summer drawing to a close, I find myself scrambling for fresh fruit, heaping extra blueberries on my cereal and making desserts with plums or raspberries taking center stage. One of my favorite fruit desserts is a tart or tartlet loaded with whatever fruit is in season and a simple filling of cream cheese or custard. Especially, I love a strawberry tart, made with the choicest of bright red berries, their color highlighted by a glaze of melted red current jelly.

True, strawberry season is over. It is in late spring and early summer when these luscious berries are at their best. Modern farming methods have made this fruit available all year round, but I’m not a fan of buying it in the dead of winter. Yet, as the first nip of autumn fills the air, reminding me of some of the dreary and rainy days to come, I hanker for strawberries.

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I make my tartlet shells using Martha Stewart’s recipe for pate brisee, which seems to be the go-to recipe for pie-dough. Pate brisee is the French version of a classic pie or tart pastry. You press the dough into a disc rather than a ball before chilling it in the refrigerator, which helps it chill faster. The recipe makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9 to 10-inch pies, so I halve the recipe to make 4 4-inch tartlets. Of course, if you want to make 6 or 8 tartlets, use the whole recipe. You can find it here.

Strawberry Tartlets with Lemon Cream Cheese

strawbtart

Makes 4 4-inch tartlets

For the filling:

9 ounces (250g) cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cream all of the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Spread into cooled tartlet shells.

Cut strawberries lengthwise into quarters and arrange on top of the cheese in a pyramid shape.

To give the tartlets a glaze, melt 3 tablespoons of red currant (or other red jelly) with one tablespoon of water and brush over strawberries with a pastry brush.



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cococuplong

I’d been wanting to make Ina Garten’s coconut cupcakes ever since I bought her Barefoot Contessa cookbook over a year ago. I love Ina’s recipes and I faithfully watch her show. Her food is simple yet delicious. Classic, with a twist. I rely on her books when I entertain, and they haven’t failed me yet. People are always impressed with the things I make from Ina’s books.

I do admit, though, I usually skip the chapter on baked goods. There’s nothing inherently wrong with her pecan squares or her croissant bread pudding. In fact, they look fabulous. I just have a wee bit of a problem with adding a pound of butter to whatever I bake. Maybe it’s me and I just haven’t baked enough to know how rich a lot of baking can be. It’s one thing to buy a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie to go with your latte at Starbucks, quite another to see all the fat that goes into such a cookie when you make it at home.

Take those pecan squares of Ina’s. Her recipe calls for 1 1/4 pounds of butter for the crust and 1 pound of butter for the topping. Her recipe makes twenty squares. Do the math. That’s a heart attack waiting to happen. I’m all for butter–I can’t live without it. But really, sometimes too much is too much.

But I couldn’t get the coconut cupcakes off my mind. When the opportunity to make them presented itself in the form of my brother’s birthday last week, I finally made them. Needless to say, I reduced the amount of butter called for in Ina’s recipe. I don’t think it diminished the cupcakes in any way. Despite my building them up in my mind for so long, they did not disappoint, and I’ll definitely make them again.

I did add a twist of my own, though. Lemon. I love lemon. Everything tastes better with lemon, in my humble opinion. I added the juice of a couple of lemons to the batter and the icing, along with their zest. They gave these rich cupcakes a bit of contrast and a refreshing tang, and the little yellow flecks of zest made them look even more scrumptious.

 

Ina Garten’s Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

adapted from “The Barefoot Contessa” cookbook

Makes 18-20 large cupcakes

cococup

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups sugar

5 extra-large eggs at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

cream cheese icing (recipe below)

 

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 325F. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract.

2) Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In three parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

3) Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each cup with batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

4) Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack. Frost with cream cheese icing and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 pound cream cheese at room teperature

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 pounds icing sugar, sifted

 

Blend together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electirc mixer. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

 

I did not change the icing recipe in any way. I was afraid that if I began tinkering with it, it might not come out right. You might want to use just a little icing for each cupcake and freeze the rest for next time.

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QUOTE

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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