pie challenge & the tart

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The baking crew and I were at it again.  This time, the challenge was pies.

Yay!  I heart making pies!

Cory made a beautiful apple, walnut, goat cheese pie (gorgeous … but a little dry: even he agreed).  Tom & Aimée made a really delicious pecan pie (nothing to fault with this one at all), and Meredith made a super flavourful apple & cranberry pie (she had some pastry issues … but the filling was spot on).

We went pie crazy! I went pie crazy!

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Not only did I make my chocolate – cranberry tart … but I also thought it’d be fun to arrive with some mini chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts topped with pumpkin ganache (talk about a real mouthful!).

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Mother of Jerome!? (It can’t always be Pearl right?) What was I thinking?

I was thinking … “I am not 100% sure that the chocolate – cranberry tart will turn out exactly as I want it too… so why not add a new component to an already loved classic and giver!”  Welcome to how my mind works … these are the types of internal dialogues I have … all.the.time.

Since we were baking these in honour of American Thanksgiving … I thought … pumpkin, pecans, chocolate, cherries and pie … individually they all remind me of Thanksgiving … combined … they SCREAM Thanksgiving (and deliciousness in a bite).

How could I *not* make these??!  Exactly.  I had no choice.  chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts with pumpkin ganache were a must.

This recipe is a combination of my own chocolate-pecan pie and momofuku milkbar‘s pumpkin ganache.  I had been flipping through my momofuku milkbar cookbook, spotted the ganache recipe and thought it would be the perfect complement to my tart filling.  Although you need to plan ahead (the ganache recipe calls for a minimum of 4 hours in the fridge), the entire recipe is dead easy.  And ridiculously delicious.

*bakers note: according to the recipe book, you MUST use an immersion blender to make this ganache.   

My chocolate-pecan-cherry filling actually originated from a pecan pie recipe: it’s what I consider to be my *go to* pie.  The one I make when I don’t have much time, when I don’t want to blind bake my pastry dough, and when I want to impress people.  The original recipe brings a smile to everyones face … I decided it was time to switch it up a bit.

If you’re new to pies and tarts and want to try something easy and delicious: this is the recipe for you.  Plus you’ll impress everyone when they see how pretty the tarts look with a little piped pumpkin ganache.

chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts with pumpkin ganache

ingredients:

basic pastry dough (I omit the sugar and water from the recipe)

momofuku milkbar’s pumpkin ganache

150 g white chocolate
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 c. cold heavy cream
1/3 c. pumpkin purée
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine the white chocolate and butter in a medium bowl over gently simmering water (you don’t want the water to touch the bottom of your bowl), and melt.  You want the chocolate to be barely warm to the touch.  You can also do this in a microwave in 15 second bursts (stirring between each blast).

Transfer your chocolate mixture to a tall and narrow container – something that will accommodate an immersion blender (mine came with a 1 litre container-like bowl).  Add the corn syrup to the chocolate mixture and buzz with your hand blender.  After a minute, stream in the COLD heavy cream.  You’ll see that the ganache will come together in a smooth and shiny texture.

Blend in the pumpkin purée, salt and cinnamon.

Put the ganache in your fridge to firm before using; a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.  If not used immediately, this can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

tart filling

1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose b. flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. dried cherries, chopped
1 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. butter, melted

Heat your oven to 350 F.  Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface.  I was able to roll it out, cut out 12 pieces and line the 12 muffin cups in my pan.  I like to have my dough as cold as possible … so once I’ve lined the muffin cups, I return the pan to the freezer while I make the filling.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and flour together. Add the eggs, pecans, chocolates, corn syrup, butter and vanilla. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crusts.

Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack of your oven.  You’ll know that they are ready when the centre doesn’t jiggle.  Careful!  These babies are hot!  Corn syrup, pecans and brown sugar … all things that heat up quickly!  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

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I decided to re-whip the pumpkin ganache before putting it in the piping bag.  I just wanted to get it a little fluffy.  After quickly whipping the ganache, I filled a piping bag and piped each mini tart (using a star tip).

Don’t they look pretty?  They tasted pretty awesome too!

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ps … my chocolate-cranberry tart won best in show!

chocolate – cranberry tart

I LOVE this recipe.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Layers of rich chocolate ganache and tart cranberry curd, topped with fluffy whipped cream; all a-top a light and flakey pastry.

Mother of pearl!

One bite will make you *oh so* happy.  The kind of happy that only chocolate, cranberries and whipped cream can make you.

It’s the kind of tart that not only tastes perfectly delicious; it looks gorgeous as well.  This should be on your holiday baking list.

It’s not even an overly complicated recipe.

Pastry dough.  Easy.

Chocolate ganache.  Easy.

Cranberry curd.  Easy.

Whipped cream.  Ridiculously easy.

All you need is a little time.  Time to blind bake your pastry dough.  Time to allow your ganache to set.  Time to top the ganache with the curd and allow that to set.  Once all those things are done … whip the heavy cream and top the tart.

Seriously … with the curd and pastry dough made in advance, this tart took me only 2 hours to complete from start to finish (and the prep work of curd and dough the night before was a total of 30 minutes).

You see?!  So little effort for such a spectacularly beautiful tart!

Imagine … presenting this to your friends and family.  The oohs and aahs …. and that’s before you give them a slice.

That’s when the real praise will begin.

I started by making the cranberry curd (thank you Kitchen Confidante for the original recipe)… that way it cooled in the fridge overnight and was ready for use when I was baking and assembling the tart.

chocolate – cranberry tart

ingredients:

basic pastry dough

cranberry curd

Combine the cranberries and water in a small saucepan, and cook, covered over medium heat ( juice and zest of an orange added to this step would be brilliant).  The cranberries will start to pop as they cook.  That’s when you know it’s ready to be taken off the heat.

Pass the cranberries through a strainer – you want to keep the liquid.  Use a spoon to push the cranberries through, remembering to scrape the underside of the strainer and keeping all those little bits for the curd.  Allow to cool slightly. 

bakers note: toss out the cranberry skin that stayed in the top of your strainer.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the yolks and egg until combined.  Add the sugar, and continue to whisk.  Add the cranberry purée to the saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring constantly.  The mixture will start to thicken, you don’t want it to start to boil, but you do want the curd to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat.

Whisk in the cubes of butter, ensuring that everything is well incorporated.

Pass the curd through a strainer, cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool in the fridge.

While it cools you can make your pastry dough, allowing it to rest for at least one hour before rolling it out.

Once that’s all done … the really fun part begins.

Heat your oven to 350 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pastry dough.  Line your tart pan (you’ll notice that I rolled the dough out larger than the circumference of my tart pan); line it with parchment paper, and fill with dried beans.

Blind back on the lower rack of your oven for 20 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper and dried beans from the tart pan, return to the oven for a further 10 minutes of baking on the middle rack.

Once done.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

bakers note: I used the entire batch of chocolate ganache … to have a bit more of a balanced tart (aka to taste the cranberry curd more) use less.

chocolate ganache

1 c. heavy cream

splash of vegetable oil

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan, gently heat the cream and splash of oil.  You don’t want it to boil … just simmer.  Pour the heavy cream over the dark chocolate, using a spatula to stir the chocolate and cream together.  The ganache will thicken and smooth as you stir.

Pour it directly into the pre-baked tart shell.  Allow to cool and set (I usually put it in the fridge for this stage).

Once the chocolate ganache has set … top it with the cranberry curd.

I ended up returning the tart to the oven and baked it for a further 10 minutes at this stage. Middle rack at 350 F.  Once that was done, I cooled the tart on a wire rack.

whipped cream

3/4 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. powdered sugar

In the bowl of the stand-mixer, using your whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream at a fast speed, adding the powdered sugar.  You want the whipped cream to be stir enough that it holds its shape when piped on top of the tart … but you don’t want to over-whip it.

Once you get to that stage, fill a piping bag with a large star tip, and pipe the entire tart.  Working from the outside in … until the entire chocolate – cranberry tart is covered.

A thing of beauty to look at … and to eat.  The *perfect* kind of dessert.

Store this tart in the fridge.  Most of it disappeared within a few hours of slicing into it … but I did manage to keep a couple of slices for a few days.  It tasted just as good as the day I made it.

apple – carrot – chocolate chip bundt cake

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bakers note: I could actually re-name this cake the olivier dumas cake … he’s requested, and I’ve made it for him, 5 times in 4 weeks.  That’s right.  Twice in one week.  Talk about loving a cake!

There is nothing fancy about this cake.

Nope.  Nothing fancy at all.

But sometimes … you don’t need fancy.  You just want tasty.  And this cake sure is tasty. 

Frankly … this cake is deliciously moist and ridiculously addictive (see bakers note above).

Apple – carrot – chocolate chip bundt cake is absolutely fabulous.  And you should make it immediately.

The idea came from combining three of my favourite things: carrots, apples and chocolate chips.  I love a good carrot cake, and I’m pretty addicted to my friend Robin’s mother’s apple chocolate chip spice cake… it was time to combine both and make this.

I am brilliant.

Oh … and because it’s a bundt cake and not a layer cake … no frosting necessary.  All the *hard work* is done before you pop the cake pan into the oven.  All that’s left is for you to sit back, relax, allow the smell of freshly baked cake to permeate throughout your home … and then pull it out.

I promise you won’t regret adding this to your list of desserts … or breakfast foods … it goes well, as either, or.

If you really don’t like that it’s not *dressed up* … you can dust it with a little icing sugar.  But honestly … I just leave it.  This cake can stand up on its own.  It’s that good. 

apple – carrot – chocolate chip bundt cake

ingredients:

1 ½ c. packed dark brown sugar

1 ¼ c. sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla

3 eggs

2 1/3 c. flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cloves

½ tsp salt

10 oz (about 3 large) carrots, peeled and grated

5 – 6 oz (about 2 large) apples, peeled and grated

2/3 c. chocolate chips

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This is the part I always do first … grate the carrots and then the apples.  You can see from the recipe above that when you combine both ingredients, it’ll feel like you’re adding way too much … but you’re not.  You almost want the batter to be completely *overwhelmed* by these ingredients.  That’s the secret to baking the most perfectly moist bundt cake.

EVER.

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Heat your oven to 350 F.  Spray your bundt pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, combine the brown sugar, oil and vanilla.  Using your paddle attachment, beat the ingredients at medium speed for about 3 minutes.  You want it to get mixed really well.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add the eggs, one at a time, then continue to beat at medium speed for a further 5 minutes. You’re batter will be quite fluffy.  Fluffy batter is a good thing.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and salt together in a bowl.

Turn off the mixer, scrape the sides with a spatula; then pour all the dry ingredients into the wet batter.  Mix at a low-speed (I keep my mixer at *stir*).  The flour will get incorporated.  This shouldn’t take more than a minute (at most).  Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Then add the grated carrots and grated apples.  Stir (I use my mixer for this part too).  Finally … toss in the chocolate chips and stir.

Done.

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Bake the cake for 50 minutes.  I usually check it at 40 minutes … and then stick it back in for another 10 minutes. 

Perfection every single time.

Allow to cool on a wire rack.  Then turn it out and serve on a pretty plate.

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If you’re a member of my family … you definitely can’t eat just one slice …