I can’t remember when we actually made this dish (obviously before daylight savings time kicked in, judging from the summery light in this photo – oh how I covet thee…) But I do remember just how tasty these little tartlets were. A buttery pastry crust, rich onions cooked down with balsamic vinegar until they are so sweet you could almost mistake them for candy, and of course the goat cheese topping (because everything is better when sprinkled with goat cheese). A true delight that is not to be forgotten.
For what it’s worth, my pastry crust was rather ornery. Rather than rolling into perfectly smooth sheets, I did my best to press the crumbs of the dough-that-never-came-together into the pans. More like a graham cracker crust than a pie dough. But hey, it worked. Maybe next time I make these I’ll substitute the One Pie Dough to Rule Them All, whose sugarless goodness would be perfectly suitable in a savory application. We shall see.
Balsamic Onion Tart with Goat Cheese and Thyme
Makes 1 large (9 or 10 inch) tart or 8 small (4 inch) tartlets.
Recipe from Fisher & Paykel.
2 cups (225g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon mustard powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons iced cold water
2 tablespoons butter
4 white or yellow onions, very finely sliced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Stem of fresh thyme
5 oz. soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or sprigs of fresh thyme
To prepare filling, melt the butter in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Add the onions, salt, pepper and thyme and cook gently for about 30 mins until the onions are soft and transparent but not browned, stirring occasionally.
Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and continue cooking for another 30 mins or so until the onions are almost dry. Don’t rush this stage; the longer and slower the cooking, the better the marmalade will be. Remove the thyme. Set aside.
To make crust, in a food processor blend the flour, salt, mustard, pepper and butter until the mixture looks like fresh breadcrumbs. Add the cold water and pulse the food processor until the pastry just comes together. Don’t over-process. Gently pull the pastry together with your fingers, wrap the ball in plastic film and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to allow the pastry to relax.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll the pastry thinly and use to line a 9 or 10 inch tart pan in diameter or several mini tart pans. If your dough is exceptionally crumbly, you can also press it into the tart pan rather than rolling it. Line the uncooked crust with foil or parchment paper, fill with ‘baking beans’ or pie weights. It is essential to support the sides of the tart in this way to prevent them falling in and to stop the base rising. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is ‘set’. Remove weights and lining and return the pastry to the oven for another 10 mins or until the crust is cooked and golden brown.
Spoon the onion mixture into the cooked pastry cases and top with crumbled goat cheese.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake filled tart for 15-20 minutes or until the filling is hot. Garnish with thyme leaves. Serve warm with balsamic-dressed salad leaves and fresh crusty bread.
Taco night is quickly become a tradition around these parts. Hosted by our lovely neighbor, these nights are basically an excuse to get together. Neighbors, friends, new friends… and tacos. The ultimate community food.
But what goes with tacos? For dessert, I mean. I considered flan (involves making caramel, I scrapped that real quick), tres leches cake (or tres leches cupcakes), margarita lime something or other, homemade churros…
Except I didn’t want to deal with deep frying anything.
So I did the next most logical thing.
I reinterpreted the churro.
As a cupcake.
The best churros are the ones served with warm dipping chocolate. And I wasn’t about to serve cupcakes with dipping chocolate, so I filled them with a spiced chocolate pudding instead.
That’s right, pudding. Delicious pudding. Pudding that would have been a treat on its own. But enveloped in a light and perfectly crumbly cinnamon cake? Help me now.
Not wanting to overpower the delicate cinnamon scented cake and rich creamy filling, I went a slightly different direction with the frosting. No thick and heavy buttercream here. Rather, an ethereal chocolate cinnamon whipped cream. Light, airy, and utterly divine.
The result was nothing short of sinful. No, I wouldn’t use this frosting on a hot summer day, and no, I wouldn’t trust it to hold up more than a day (not that I expect anything adorned with it to last that long, but still). Fresh out of the piping bag, this frosting is incredible. Heck, if there had been any left over I would have piped it right on to a steaming cup of hot chocolate and swooned in utter delight.
Cinnamon Chocolate Churro Cupcakes
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mexican Chocolate Pudding Filling:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 ounces good quality semisweet or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon meringue powder
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of cinnamon
1 cup chilled whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
Combine almond milk and vinegar and stir to combine. Whisk in sugar, oil, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until relatively smooth. Fill cupcake liners with a scant 3 Tablespoons of batter (cups should be just under 2/3 of the way full). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until set, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To prepare filling, combine the cornstarch, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a larger pot filled with 1 inch of water. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a small bowl and cover, gently pressing a layer of plastic wrap against the surface before refrigerating (this will prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days (ahem, good luck with that).
For frosting, whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, meringue powder, cream of tartar, and cinnamon in large bowl until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and ready to use, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Using electric mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, gradually beat chilled cream into chocolate mixture. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
With a small pairing knife cut out cones from the tops of cupcakes approximately 1 inch in diameter. Set aside but do not discard. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of filling into each cupcake (you'll have extra pudding, so grab a spoon). Replace top and press into place (it helps to remove a bit off the base of the cone piece to help it sit more level on the filling - tasties for you). Pipe on whipped cream frosting, taking care to cover up all seams. If desired, sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar prior to serving.
All these years and we’ve never made gnocchi. We’ve made gnocchi dishes, but have always purchased pre-made gnocchi from various sources. And to be honest, it’s never very good. Dense and gummy would be appropriate adjectives to describe the little potato lumps. Which is maybe why we’ve never attempted the homemade version; we just assumed it was something we didn’t really like very much.
I’m glad we made the effort (and yes, it takes quite a bit of effort), because these homemade gnocchi were fabulous. Granted, they look a bit more like packing peanuts than the pretty little dumplings they’re supposed to be, but I just need to work on my technique. The ricotta cheese gives each bite a light and airy texture, like petite potato pillows drizzled with browned butter and sage.
Note to self: pay attention to the serving size on recipes before you prepare them. Do the math. Two of us. A recipe serving 10-12? Hello leftovers. Luckily gnocchi freeze quite well, and we froze a ton of them. Tomorrow night’s dinner will be as easy as boiling and buttering.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork
1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. (We personally felt that the microwave didn't adequately cook the potatoes, we ended up cutting them into chunks and boiling them. You could also roast them for an even richer flavor, which is probably what we'll do if we make this recipe again).
Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet. (At this point the gnocchi can be frozen on the baking sheet overnight, then transfer to a freezer safe bag for long term storage).
Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, about 5 minutes or until gnocchi float to the top of the pot. With a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.
Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through and lightly golden brown and crispy, about 6 minutes. Empty skillet onto rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.
Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves.
We’re not very good at making decisions. It took us 3 months to pick out a sofa for our living room. Out kitten Sgt. Pepper was nameless for nearly a week. I ordered and returned 8 different pairs of winter shoes before I finally liked one enough to keep.
Decisions are not our strong suit.
I mean, who in their right mind can choose between chocolate or banana cream pie? Chocolate, is, well, chocolate. You can’t go wrong with chocolate. But banana… something about it just makes me happy inside. I can’t remember the last time I actually ate a banana cream pie, yet the memories of the flavor are fresh in my mind. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t get the thought of its creamy goodness out of my head. At least I knew I wanted to make a cream pie, that was easy. But deciding between chocolate cream pie or banana cream pie? Impossible.
So, I did what any obsessive, indecisive, sweet-toothed baker would do when faced with such a dilemma.
I made both.
The results were incredible. So much so, in fact, that I’m planning to make a second pie this weekend. And maybe another pie every weekend after that. This pie is so good that I cannot picture my life without it.
This pie begins with a chocolate pastry crust, filled with a layer of rich vanilla cream. Topped with a layer of sliced bananas. Chocolate cream over that. And finally, topped off with a thick layer of freshly whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate curls. Holy indulgence.
I know it’s the New Year diet season and all, and your resolutions are probably still going strong. Sorry. I just couldn’t wait to post this any longer. Consider this a reward after two weeks of good behavior.
You totally deserve it.
Chocolate Banana Cream Pie
For Pie Crust:
1 cup plain all purpose flour
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 medium bananas, sliced
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate curls, for garnish (optional)
Prepare pie crust according to the technique outlined here, adding in cocoa powder and sugar. Roll out and gently press into a 9" pie pan. Place pan and crust in the freezer for at least 10 minutes prior to baking (or while your oven is preheating).
Line crust with foil or parchment paper and fill full with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove weights and lining. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until set. Allow to cool completely.
In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, flour and salt. Stir in 1 cup of milk, mix until smooth, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
Beat the egg yolks with the remaining cup of milk. Temper the egg mixture with a small amount of the slightly cooled milk mixture then blend this into the larger saucepan with the cooling milk mixture.
Return saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil again, stirring constantly, lower heat and simmer until mixture is the consistency of thick pudding, about 1 minute.
Remove from the heat and quickly stir in butter and vanilla. Transfer half of the filling mixture to a small bowl and set aside. Add chocolate chips to remaining filling and stir until melted and smooth.
Allow fillings to cool for 5 minutes, then pour plain filling into cooled pie shell. Arrange a single layer of banana slices on top of the filling. Pour chocolate filling on top. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
Whip cream until almost stiff. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until cream holds peaks. Gently spread whipped cream on top of cooled filling, smoothing top into a slight dome. Garnish with chocolate curls if desired.