Friday, November 26, 2010

Cranberry Pear Tart or Gratin

So, it's the day after Thanksgiving, and I had posted this recipe beforehand, showing the gratin but not the tart, which I planned on making for Thanksgiving.  I did go ahead and make this as a tart, which you can see came out beautiful!  And so tasty - everyone loved it.  As per my original assessment, I did add a little thickener so it would work better in the tart, but I also found that I didn't use all of the streusel, so I've adjusted the amounts below, and I didn't use all of the filling.  I'm not changing the filling, though, because you need that amount of liquid  to cook all of the pears.  Just save the extra as cranberrysauce, and that will be delicious, too.

Whether you make it as a tart or a gratin, the flavor is intense, but not as bitter as many cranberry desserts.  It seems to be adored by both those who love cranberries and those who usually don't like them, so give it a try!

For the crust   you can use either the Press-In SablĂ© Crust, weighted and partially baked, or you can use Sweet Pastry Crust, which is a more traditional tart crust recipe.  For this crust, roll the dough into a 13-inch round, about 1/16-inch thick. Transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing it snugly into the bottom of the pan where it meets the edges and into the flutes of the tart pan. Roll a rolling pin over the top of the pan to cut off the excess dough. Press up on the edges to thin them out and to raise the edges about 1/16-inch (for a photo description, see Pies and Tarts Part 3. ) Refrigerate or freeze the crust for at least 15 minutes or up to 3 weeks (for long storage, place the tart in a jumbo zip-top bag).  For either crust, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Press a piece of greased aluminum foil snugly on top of the dough. Fill the foil with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and beans and bake 5 minutes more, just  until the bottom crust is cooked but not brown. Set aside to cool completely.

Cranberry Pear Filling
3 cups fresh cranberries ( about 1 package)
3/4 cup sugar
2 McIntosh apples, peeled,halved and cored
3-4 firm pears, peeled and cored, cut into 1/2-inch dice and tossed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice (using 4 pears will give a little more "tooth" to the filing)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Water, as needed

1 teaspoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water

Streusel (Crumbs)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, fluffed, scooped and levelled into measuring cups
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Wash the cranberries and remove any soft or rotten berries. Measure out 3 cups and place in a saucepan with the sugar. Place the apples in a food processor and process as finely as possible. Add to the pot. Cook over medium-low heat until the berries release their juices, about 8 minutes. Add the pears, brown sugar, orange juice, raisins and cinnamon to the pot. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and the pears are cooked, through but still firm, about 10-20 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot. If the mixture does not seem to be saucy enough, add water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture seems thin enough for the pears to cook and for the mixture not to scorch. ( If your pears were very hard to begin with, they will take the longer amount of time to cook). During the last minute of cooking, place the starch in a small bowl and gradually add the 2 teaspoons of water to the starch. Stir this into the cranberry mixture and boil for about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool, and then refrigerate until ready to use (can be made ahead).

For the Tart:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  For the streusel, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the butter and mix with your fingers to distribute the fat. Squeeze the mixture into crumbs.  Fill the tart with the cranberry filling.

Top with the streusel, and bake at 375 degrees F. until the crumbs are browned, about 15-25 minutes. Let the tart cool at least 30 minutes before serving. The tart can be made 8 hours ahead and stored, uncovered, or loosely covered, at room temperature.

VARIATION - Cranberry Pear Gratins

For 8 gratins, you probably need half of the filling and a full recipe of the Streusel.
To make gratins, leave the thickener (tapioca or cornstarch) out of the filling.  Place about 1/2 cup filling in each of 8 mini-gratin molds (you can also use ramekins, but you get more topping with the gratin molds which are shallow and long).  Sprinkle the crumbs over the gratins and set in the oven for 15-25 minutes, just until the crumbs are nicely browned.  Let the crisps cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pecan and Pistachio Chocolate Chip Fingers

I almost always have cookies in my freezer for emergencies, but I had just gotten back from vacation and found out that I was the only one making dessert for a fundraiser celebration that I recently attended. I had frozen a cake beforemy trip, but didn't have time to make anything else, and my freezer was totally void of cookies. The party was at 7 and it was about 4 when I got this news. I wanted t make a simple dessert but didn't want to make brownies or chocolate chip cookies, both of which could have been done in the time allotted. Most of my cookies need chilling time, so I knew they were out, but I do have a lovely Heath bits cookie in my book, and I thought that would be perfect. The only problem was that I didn't have time to shop for Heath bits and didn't have them in my cupboard. What I did have in my freezer, however, was a small bag of left over baklava filling. I thought this might make a very interesting variation on my original recipe, and I wasn't disappointed. The cookies were crispy, buttery and had an unusual flavor due to the pistachios in the recipe.
2-1/2 sticks butter (10 ounces), room temperature
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

2 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 cups (390 grams) unbleached all purpose flour, fluffed, scooped and leveled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mixed nuts, chopped finely by hand or in processor
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa, for dusting
Decorating Glaze
1/4 cup (2 ounces) mini-chocolate chips
1 teaspoon oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar, just until blended. Beat in the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time until well blended. Beat in the flour, a cup at a time (If you don't have a heavy-duty stand mixer, stir in the flour by hand.).  Stir together the nuts, choclate chips and cinnamon.  Stir this into the dough.

Shaping the cookies:
1. Use your hand to measure the ball size to about 1 inch.

2. Roll the ball in your palms in a circular motion to make it round and smooth.
3. Roll the ball into a log-shape by moving your hands back forth, parallel to each other.

4. Use your palm size to measure the length of the cookie to about 2-1/2-inches long. They will double in width, so go for a thinner, longer shape.
Transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 2-inches between cookies.

Place the cookie sheets on the two shelves of the oven and bake for a total of 12-14 minutes, switching the pans from top to bottom, etc. after half of the cooking time.

Remove the cookie sheets and slide the parchment onto cooling racks to let the cookies cool for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. When the temperature has come down, slide the parchment paper back on the cookie sheets and bake the cookies for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool, as above for about 5 minutes.

While the cookies are slightly warm, put the ground chocolate/cocoa into a strainer or sugar-shaker, and dust the tops of the cookies with the chocolate mixture.  Let the cookies cool completely before eating.

If you'd like to decorate them as shown in the opening photo, place the chocolate chips and oil in a small microwave-safe container. Micro-cook on medium power (5) for 1 minute. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

For this amount of glaze, you'll need a very small piping bag. You can make one out of a plastic storage or zip-top bag. Cut the bag in half, horizontally.
Put the bag into a small glass, and then fill the bag.

Hold the bag closed at the top, with the filled part resting in your palm, and your thumb and index finger holding the top (you can put a rubber band around the top if it is easier). Gently squeeze the filling toward the tip.

Make a very tiny cut in the tip with scissors. Pipe on the decoration.

These cookies keep for several days at room temperature, in a covered container. They may also be frozen in a covered container, with waxed paper between layers. This way you'll be able to defrost each cookie individually. They’ll keep frozen for 3 months. Defrost them at room temperature, uncovered.