Tarts & more tarts

:: Apple tartlets ::Asparagus, Bak Kwa & gruyere tartlets

Nowadays, there will always be a ready supply of pate sucree dough in my refrigerator because depending on my schedule, I will bake some sorta tartlets for tea, breakfast, whatever.

Mom just came back from her overseas trip and I thought I should bake apple tartlets for her as she is a real fan of it and therefore a good person to turn to if you want honest feedback. I would love to make these for her but knowing that it is difficult to make puff pastry in this kind of heat, I aborted the idea. Knowing her palate, she prefers less sweet stuff and that would mean adjusting the amount of sugar in most recipes.

The first recipe that I wanted to test is from Caramelised Apple Tartlets from Meringue. It’s as simple as coating the apples in caramel syrup and topping each tartlet with french meringue after the tartlets are baked for 20 minutes. Thereafter, the tartlets are popped back into the oven for another 15 minutes so that the meringue is baked till light brown.

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Since I didn’t have enough apples that day, the portion of the fruit in each tartlet was insufficient to satisfy my mom. Reduce the sugar a bit more, she said and it would be good. For me, I didn’t like how the meringue turned out and decided that I should try another recipe, this time being one from Beyond the Plate because I was mesmerised by the photos. Heh.

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I was pleasantly pleased with this one, having reduced the portion of sugar from 100g to 60g and mom and Ken gave positive feedback. Since I still had a good amount of egg and whipping cream mixture left, I went on to bake the savoury asparagus, Bak Kwa (compliments of mom) and gruyere tartlets. I had my fill and was totally stoked. Oh, the many different tartlets one can bake.

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Which will be next on the list, I wonder?

Apple Tartlets filling (adapted from Beyond the Plate)
To make four 4-inch tartlets
2 medium apples, halved, cored and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
60 grams granulated sugar plus a pinch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon corn starch
3 large eggs
200ml heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C and grease the pan to be used.

Combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch and vanilla sugar or vanilla extract in a bowl, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the whipping cream and whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow. Set aside.

Layer the apple slices in a fashion that suits your fancy until it reaches the top of the mold. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar and the cinnamon over the apples, then pour the egg/whipping cream mixture into the pan.

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Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. The tart is ready when its surface has caramelized and turns a golden brown. Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. The tart is best eaten on the day it’s made.

For the asparagus, Bak Kwa and gruyere tartlets, all you need are stalks of asparagus, depending on how many tartlets you have and then the amount of Bak Kwa you want to put in each tartlet before topping the shell with gruyere cheese. Lastly pour the eggs and whipping cream mixture near to the brim of each tartlet before baking in the oven. I’ll do up a proper recipe the next time.

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Caramelised apple filling (adapted from Meringue)
For four 4-inch tarlets
1/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tsp sugar
4 – 5 apples, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tsp flour

Meringue
2 large egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/3 cup caster sugar

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar and stir until it is cimpletely melted and turns into a bubbly, thick caramel brown syrup. Don’t burn it. Add the apples and stir occasionally to coat the apples with the caramel syrup. Cook for 15 minutes, uncovered.

Preheat oven to 200C.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining sugar and flour and sprinkle a thin layer over the bottom of each of the tartlet shell (this will keep them crisp). Fill the shells with caramelised apples, dividing them even between the 4 tartlet shells. Bake for 20 minutes. About 10 minutes before they are finished baking, begain making meringue. Remove from over after 20 minutes, leaving heat on, but lowering temperature to 190C.

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In the bowl of an electric standmixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt and increase speed to medium-high, beating until soft peaks form. Add sugar, about a tbsp at a time, and continue beating on high until meringue has stiff, glossy peaks.

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Top the meringue in moulds all the way around the outer edge of each tartlet where the filling meets the crust. This is to form a seal at the edge so that the meringue doesn’t pull away from the crust when baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on a ware rack before serving.

Sibling <3 and a Chocolate Tartlet Recipe

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It’s amazing how kids can gel a family together.

Growing up, my siblings and I weren’t very close. Each of us is very different in character and we valued the space that we gave to one another. That also translates to little communication among us. However, that changed when we have kids.

Perhaps, it’s because we are living apart. Bro is in Shanghai and my sis is in Jogjakarta and the distance does make the hearts grow fonder. We want to be updated on one another’s progress and how the kids are doing. Thankfully, apps like WeChat helps to connect us virtually.

So, while each of us is unique in our own ways, we are ultimately a family who cares for one another.

These chocolate tarts seem to resemble us. While on the outside, we may be different – each with his or her own character and personality – we are similar on several notes, sharing bittersweet memories of growing up and the “never-give-up” spirit from mom.

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The tarts are simple to make and it’s important to choose the best and freshest ingredients (i.e. butter, chocolate, eggs) and allow them to shine! Once you have baked the tarts, all you have to do is to pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache (chocolate + heavy cream) onto the tarts. You can eat the tarts as they are or if you want a little variation, decorate the tarts with fruits (like strawberries or pears or top them with chocolate shavings or cocoa nibs. I think it’s all up to your creativity.

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Chocolate Tart Recipe
Pate Sucree Shells*
150g bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped ( I used 72% Valhorna covertures)
1/3 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)

The chocolate ganache can yield about 5 3 1/2 inch tartlets.

*Pate Scree Tart Shell
(makes two 7-inch tart or ten 3 1/2 inch tartlets)
Adapted from Miette Cookbook

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour20130925-213628.jpg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
226g cold unsalted butter, cubed (1 whole block)
2 large egg yolks
4 to 8 tbsp heavy cream

1. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tbsp of the cream. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If the dough does not come together into large chunks, slowly add the remaining cream, a little bit at a time, until it does. I took about 5 tbsp. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Divide the dough to make the portions you need. I used the pressing in method to press the dough into the tart pans. Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork and place in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 180C.

5. Fully pre-bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Every oven is different. For me, I tend to put to bake for a tad longer, sometimes up to 20 minutes. I will always look at the colour to determine if the tarts are baked to my liking.

6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling with the chocolate ganache.

7. While the shells cool, make the ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as it begins to boil remove from heat and add in the chopped chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

8. With the tartlet shells now cool, pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache onto the tarts.

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Have fun baking!

Friday the 13th’s baking: lessons learnt

The thing about baking is that it continues to baffle me no matter how many times I bake a certain item. Each time the result is different, depending on the weather, the temperature of the oven or ingredients or even the temperament of the baker. It humbles me, no doubt, and thus I stay intrigued by this craft.

Yesterday, I was to bake two items. One was a birthday cake in the form of Captain American’s shield likened to the one that I had baked earlier. The other would be 15 lemon meringue tartlets for a lady who requested for them via my FB page.

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I had baked these two items before and thought I could relax as I know the various steps involved. For the cake, I chose to bake a Belgian Chocolate Truffle Cake which was different from the vanilla sponge cake that I used to bake. It was easy to bake but this cake is much more fragile and needed much tender loving care. So, I sliced and soon realised it was not a good idea; it broke into pieces, and thankfully, big ones. The show went on and I didn’t slice the second one and went on to assemble.

Lesson learnt: Don’t slice Belgian Chocolate Truffle Cake. It is itself rather decadent already and doesn’t need to be sandwiched with layers of buttercream. 20130914-151857.jpg

Another problem arose when it comes to icing. I had made Italian Meringue Buttercream and gotten quite comfortable with it. The issue is with the addition of colours. What I needed were red and blue but after adding Wilton’s colours, I couldn’t get the shades that I wanted and panicked. What was worse was my colours ran out and I had to rush down to get more. Only then did I realised that to get the strong red that I wanted, I had to buy Wilton’s red-red and not just red. Ahh… So, in future, I should really consult this chart.

And I thought this guide on Wilton’s colours is helpful too.

In the end, the colours on the cake weren’t what I wanted but I certainly hope the chocolate truffle cake would shine!

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On to the tartlets.

I had baked the lemon meringue tartlets with success (IMHO). I love the crispy crust of the graham crackers and thought I should bake them using the same base too. However, I changed the brand of the honey and then the problem started. The crust no longer gave crispiness but a little chewiness instead. Softer, most definitely but the taste is still the same.

And then, the customer decided to collect the tartlets earlier. Uh-oh! I have wanted to assemble one
hour before the collection but by shifting the time earlier, I would have to rush and when I rush, the results could be rather undesirable.

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The lemon curd was made a day earlier and that’s fine but I had to make the meringue before the assembling and then I panicked. When I made the sugar syrup, I didn’t stir to dissolve the sugar and in the end, I had grainy meringue. Threw one batch away because it didn’t get to stiff peak (something must have gone wrong!) and did the second one and I just didn’t dissolve the sugar in my haste!

Lesson learnt: Dissolve sugar and confirm time for collection!

The kind lady had to wait 30 minutes for the tartlets and I really felt bad about it. On top of that, since it was a rushed work, the designs weren’t fantastic. Sorely disappointed! I hope tarts would still bring smiles though.

* I didn’t get to take a shot of the completed work. Sigh!

So, I realised yesterday was Friday, the 13th. Bad day for baking! Okay, I just want to blame it on something. I’m bad, I know.