Friday, April 01, 2005

Pear Tart

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This pear tart is one of Yurdaer's favorites. I copied the recipe years ago from a magazine. Both fillings and pastry shell can be prepared in a food processor. I used an 11-inch quiche pan instead of the 10-inch one called for in the recipe; therefore, the tart turned out to be thinner than usual, and the layers of almond paste and cream were less visible. But it was still very delicious.

Pastry Shell:

1 1/2 c unbleached flour
8 tbs unsalted chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 large egg
2 tbs sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp ice water (if required)

Almond Paste:

1/2 c (1 1/2 oz) whole almonds
3/4 c sugar
4 tbs butter at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
1 large egg
1/2 tsp almond extract (check health food stores for oil-based almond flavor)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Cream Filling:

1/2 c heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears, halved, peeled and cored

For the crust, process flour, butter, egg, sugar and salt until mixture resembles coarsemeal, 10-15 seconds. Pinch; if it does not hold together, sprinkle a few drops of cold water and pulse 2-3 times to mix. Do not overprocess. Gather dough in a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12 inch-circle about 1/8-inch thick. Line a 10-inch quiche pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes before filling.

Meanwhile, you can prepare the almond paste, pears and the cream filling: For almond cream, process almonds and sugar until finely ground. Add butter and pulse 4-5 times. Add remaining ingredients and process 15 seconds to blend. For cream filling, process cream, egg yolk sugar and vanilla extract for 10 seconds.

Before assembly of tart, preheat the oven to 350F. Spread almond paste over bottom of pastry shell and arrange pears attractively, flat side down on almond paste. Pour cream filling carefully over pears. Bake for 1 hour or until filling is set and browned. Cool in pan over wire rack. You can glaze the tart with a little diluted apricot jam if you want. Equally delicious served warm or at room temperature.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Easy Mini Cheesecakes

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We made these with my friends to sell at the basketball tournament concession stand in order to raise funds for our class trip. Everybody liked them.


1 c finely ground vanilla wafer cookie crumbs
3 tbs melted butter


1/4 c sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp lemon rind
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice


Different fruit jams or lightly sweetened sour cream

Heat oven to 325F. Line muffin pans with liners. Mix melted butter with crushed wafer crumbs and stir well. Put about one tsp of mixture into each liner and press to form the crust of cheesecakes. In large bowl, mix sugar, cream cheese, egg, vanilla, lemon rind and juice. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Pour over crusts, filling cup 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until set. Fill the dipped centers with jam or sour cream to decorate. (Makes about 8 mini cheesecakes.)

My friends and I preparing cheesecake batter with help from Rana. Posted by Hello

Rana cooking in her kitchen Posted by Hello

Mirsada's Coconut Truffles

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The credit for this recipe goes to Mirsada, my Bosnian friend who is one of the best cooks that I know. She also has an excellent chocolate truffle recipe (that uses cooked eggyolks) which I hope to post in the future. A combination of her chocolate and coconut truffles served in tiny paper cups makes for a very elegant dessert tray. I am going to write down the recipe as she gave me, but when I made the truffles I halved the ingredients and decreased butter even more. I also experimented by stuffing some with pistachio paste. The result was visually pleasing but I think that they taste better left plain. Make sure that the coconut used in the recipe is not the sticky sweetened kind, otherwise the truffles will be too sweet. I substituted very finely ground coconut for coconut flour, but I think one can simply make this at home by processing shredded coconut until it is very fine. The truffle mixture can be kept in the freezer, and easily formed into rounds when the occasion calls for a quick dessert. One last thing--as for many other homemade truffles, these are best served from the refrigerator and become softer as they stand at room temperature. I read somewhere that this can be remedied by dipping them in tempered chocolate (white chocolate, in this case); but I have never done it myself.

100 ml water
250 gm sugar
2 sticks butter, cut into chunks
120 gm coconut flour
200 gm powdered milk
Shredded unsweetened coconut to cover truffles

Mix water and sugar in a pan. Cook on medium flame, stirring until sugar melts. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 2 minutes. Add chunks of butter and stir until they melt in the hot syrup. Add coconut flour and powdered milk and stir until you obtain a smooth mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Take teaspoons of mixture and roll into small balls. Put shredded coconut to a small plate, and roll the balls in coconut until they are coated.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Marzipan Roses

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My dear friend Ayca's oldest daughter Amina is getting married on May 29th. Her fiancee Murat is another good friend of ours. Quite a while ago, when Ayca first gave me the good news, my happiness and excitement got the better of me and I offered to help with the wedding cake. The truth is, helping was really the extent of my offer at the time, because we have another good friend who is much more experienced than me in making this kind of cake, and I was quite certain that she would rise to the challenge. However, when the date of the wedding was set last week, we found out that our friend had other commitments that week, making it impossible for her to take on this project. She said that she would be available on the day of the wedding to help construct the cake and to decorate it. That's still a big relief! Other friends offered freezer space, which also helps a lot. I hope to start baking the cake this week. Since Zeynep is on her spring break, she can help me with her sister. I will freeze the layers after I bake them. Buttercream frosting can be made ahead and frozen as well. It seems that for the coming 2 months, my bed time reading will be limited to Rose L. Beranbaum's Cake Bible, an excellent, excellent resource for brave amateurs like me. She has several recipes for wedding cakes, but more importantly, she has lookup tables you can refer to when you bake the cake in different-sized pans. She also has many decoration ideas, which brings me to the above picture, my first attempt at making marzipan roses. I tinted the marzipan with the point of a needle's worth of pink powder food coloring to get this pale shade of peach. I did not have a real rose to look at for inspiration, but still my creations resembled roses. Good enough, I say, for a first attempt. The roses have dried and become somewhat crumbly since yesterday, so it seems that they will be best made on the day of the wedding. Or, I can shape roses in advance from white chocolate modeling dough (which is not as delicious as marzipan, hence less tempting to eat). Of course, real flower decorations are the most beautiful alternative, but one has to make sure that they are pesticide-free. I foresee many decisions to make, a lot of planning and physical labor ahead of me. The preparation of a wedding cake is certainly an event worth blogging about, and I am sure that there will be many installments to this theme to come.