apple tart

Happy Sunday, everyone! Since we made the Salty Nut Tart a few weeks back with our fellow Dessert People, our next bake from the Pies and Tarts chapter of the book was Claire’s Apple Tart. The base of this tart was another Foundational Recipe (the Rough Puff Pastry), which means we were able to check off recipes 23 and 24. Almost a quarter of the way through!

Lauren’s Take

Hello to all and happy belated Father’s Day! (And happy belated posting because yesterday a lot of babies wanted to be born). This week we made Claire’s Apple Tart with…wait for it…Rough Puff Pastry! Now, as a long-time fan of Great British Bake-Off but not a super experienced baker, I would hear the term “rough puff” said multiple times a season and watch with wonderment at the creations. Julia and I were both so excited to make our first rough puff and really start to step into the light of “real” bakers like the ones we love to watch on TV. With that excitement came some doubt, some questioning, some cheering, and a whole lot of butter.

At the core (pun intended) of this recipe, there isn’t a lot to it. You make a pastry, make a compote, slice some apples and bake. Time management is a good thing to have on your side when deciding when you’re going to do this bake because the rough puff pastry does need to be chilled a couple times before it’s ready to be shaped. The first component is to make the rough puff. This was actually easier than I thought, which was a comforting surprise. You start by freezing 1.5 sticks of butter and the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt), and then refrigerating the other 1.5 sticks of butter cut into thin slices. Once the butter from the freezer is firm, you grate it into the dry ingredients and toss together. Then you add the sliced butter for the fridge and slowly add ice water until the dough comes together. As Claire states in the recipe, this dough is meant to look and feel quite dryer than your average pie dough so I really had to restrain myself from adding more water. You then place the clumps of dough in plastic wrap, mold into a square and refrigerate for 2 hours. After that, you do the folds.

(Duh, duh, duuuuuuuh). Full honesty, this was the part I messed up. You take the chilled dough out of the fridge, let it warm up a touch, hit it with the rolling pin and then roll it out into a long rectangle, and then do the letter fold. You then rotate the dough 90 degrees and do it again. Once you’ve done that you cut the folded dough in half and should be able to see thin lines of dough throughout. After my first go, I did not. I mistakenly rolled it out too thin the first time and I think I folded it the wrong way the second? Either way, wasn’t pretty. So I let the dough chill for a bit longer and did it all over again, and this time, I had thin lines. They weren’t super distinguishable but they were there so I decided to go for it.

This recipe only calls for half of the rough puff recipe, so I put half in the fridge to chill for my apple tart and the other half in the freezer for later. While the dough was chilling, I made the compote. This was so enjoyable because it just smelt so damn good. You put brown sugar, salt, and butter in the pot on the stove, and once it thickens add some chopped Pink Lady apples. Once these apples start to caramelize, you add some apple cider and let the mixture reduce while stirring and mashing up the apples. Eventually, you start to get what looks like a chunky applesauce, that looks and smells and tastes so delicious. Tears were wept for this applesauce it was so good. Once the applesauce compote is ready, you let it chill in the fridge with the dough.

The next step is to thinly slice the apples for the top of the tart. Claire describes a very easy method in which you cut the apple in four segments around the core, which is maybe the simplest way I have been taught to core an apple (#claireforthewin). You end up with TONS of apple slices and trust, I don’t think you need this much. I sliced the remaining three apples which was dictated in the recipe, but I think you could safety get away with only using two and probably still have some left over. By the time my apples were sliced, my dough had chilled long enough. You roll it out into a roughly 13 by 9 inch rectangle, place it on a baking sheet, and then perforate holes all around the dough, leaving a one inch border all the way around. Along the border, you brush with egg wash and sprinkle with brown sugar. Inside the border, you place your cold apple sauce (mine was not cold enough and I think melted some butter in the pastry so please be more patient than me). And then on top of that, you fan out your apple slices, and brush those with some melted butter and apple cider. At this stage, the tart already looks so beautiful and each component visually compliments each other so well.

Then you bake! I was very nervous and watched like a hawk this round after burning my galette, and I found that after 40 minutes my tart was done and nicely golden brown on the outside. In retrospect, I do think I under-baked a tad but it still looked great and I could see LAYERS in the pastry! Nothing has ever brought me more joy. Except for when I tasted it. Friends, this tart was unreal. The pastry was so flaky and buttery. The compote was not too sweet or too tart, and the apples on top just really completed the whole thing. I don’t know if I can even truly describe how good this dessert tasted; you really just have to make it and experience it. I must say too, it was nice to be introduced to our first pastry dough in an otherwise fairly simple recipe, so mad ups to Claire for that. This tart was everything and I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy it someday. Definitely a 5 star from me!

Julia’s Take

Apple desserts must be one of the most comforting things in the world! Friday happened to be a super grey, rainy day here in North Bay so even though apples don’t necessarily scream summer, it felt like the perfect time to make this recipe. The photo of this tart in the book is so beautiful, and Claire’s description of her time in culinary school in Paris going to cafes and buying fancy apple pastries (I love bougey Claire) totally set the vibe to take on this bake. I had never made Rough Puff before, and have heard that homemade puff pastry is something most people opt out of, just because it’s so much work and the frozen versions you can buy are just as good, so I was a little nervous but also very excited to take it on!

The pastry itself took 3-4 hours start to finish. Everything starts off SUPER cold—flour, sugar, salt, and half the butter sit in the freezer for about 20 minutes while the other half of the butter is sliced thinly and refrigerated. The frozen butter is grated into the dry ingredients first, and then the slices are tossed in; the two textures of butter help to create extra flakiness in the dough. The buttery dough comes together slowly with some ice water; I was surprised at how dry the dough still felt and was worried I’d done something wrong, but I resisted the urge to add too much water and just wrapped the pieces of dough together tightly in plastic like Claire suggests. Once it’s all wrapped up and pressed into a square shape, it sits in the fridge for 2 hours. Once the cooled dough is unwrapped and rolled out, you can see how the butter sets and brings the shaggy dough together into something smooth and really easy to work with.

The pastry then goes through a series of “turn and folds”—roll the dough out into a long rectangle, do an envelope fold, turn it 90 degrees, roll it out again into a long rectangle, do another envelope fold, then re-wrap the square and let it set in the fridge for another hour. After this final set, which helps the gluten relax so your dough doesn’t spring back too much, the square is cut in half and is ready to use; Claire’s recipe makes enough dough for two tarts; if I was going to go through all the work of making this pastry, I figured I may as well make the full batch, and now I have one sheet frozen and ready to use for a future bake!

Cutting the block of pastry in half was such a fun moment because that’s the first time you get to see how well your turn and folds worked out. Pulling the two pieces apart and seeing all of those thin, tiny little layers built into the dough is so cool and SO satisfying. It’s amazing what you can get just by combining butter and flour together and folding it a bunch of times. As our other sister said to me when I was explaining this process: “Who figured out how to do all this stuff?” I googled it and his name was Claude Gelée; apparently he made the first laminated dough in 1645 and it was a total accident—in case anyone was curious 😉 Thanks, Claude!

I used all the fridge setting time with the pastry to prep the other components of the tart. The compote layer comes together with chunks of apple (I used Pink Lady like Claire recommends, but you could easily use any apple), brown sugar, butter, vanilla, some salt, and then—once the chunks have softened a bit—some apple cider. The mixture comes to a boil, the apple is broken down with a potato masher, and then gets cooked down until there is no moisture left. This takes a while, but what you’re left with is a really caramelized, super golden applesauce. I would make just this on its own again. My house smelled amazingggg.

When the pastry is ready to go, it’s rolled into a rectangle, the edges are trimmed and then brushed with egg wash and some sugar, and then the middle of the tart is covered with a layer of the compote. Thin slices of apple are arranged on top and brushed with melted butter and apple cider, and then the whole tart bakes for about 40 minutes. I’ve learned to really watch my oven and usually opt for the lower end of suggested cooking time in the book with these pastries (total opposite of the loaves and single layer cakes, where everything needed longer).

I took the little trimmed off edges and put those in the oven too as a tester/snack, and let me tell you, never as there been a more thrilling moment then when I pulled those little pieces out and saw how they’d puffed up and created the most amazing, flaky layers. Fast forward 40 minutes after that, and pulling out the beautiful tart and seeing the amazing results on that puff pastry was so, so rewarding. I could not believe I had made this thing!

THIS. TART. WAS. SO. GOOD. I felt like I was sitting in one of those little cafes in Paris being bougey with my girl Claire. Very few things that I’ve made in the past have made me feel as proud as this one has. The pastry was so buttery and incredibly flaky, the compote was so rich in flavour, and the layer of glazed apple broke up the richness and added a nice, fresher crunch. I would eat this tart every day for the rest of my life. 5 stars!!

Next week, we’re making another summer favourite: Caramelized Honey Pumpkin Pie 😉

pistachio linzer tart

Welcome back everyone, and Happy Sunday! This week’s recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person is the Pistachio Linzer Tart. This marks bake number 22 for us!

Lauren’s Take

Hello all! And hello to beautiful warm weather, sunshine, and the beginning of patio season in Ontario! This weekend was lovely for so many reasons; I was off call, the weather was wonderful, the streets were full of happy people eating at restaurants once more, and I got to make another killer dessert from Dessert Person (apologies for my failure to perform last week). The recipe up this week was the Pistachio Linzer Tart. This bake came at a convenient time for those of us baking in order because I had a bunch of pistachios left from the galette last week! I just want to take a quick moment to point out something obvious and that is—pistachios are expensive. I know Claire says you can sub them out for another nut, and I’m glad she does because my lord, they break the bank. Aside from this recipe sparking my frugality, I was excited because I had never made, nor heard of, a linzer tart before.

This recipe at first can seem a bit daunting. Firstly, it calls for a pastry bag which always sparks some fear for me, and the picture in the book versus how making the dessert is described was confusing to me. Her photo looked perfect and neat (as per usual), but when I was visualizing how it was going to come together based on the steps, it didn’t seem to make sense. You start off by toasting the pistachios and then combining them with flour, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. I ended up realizing that I had some unsalted pistachios and some salted, so I just omitted the salt in the mixture. You then remove the dry mixture and add sugar and butter to the food processor, blend until smooth, and then add an egg, vanilla, and lemon zest. Finally, you re-add the dry, nutty mixture and create a SUPER thick batter.

Here was when the beginning of my downfall began. Being the sub-par mathematician that I am (stay in school kids), I foolishly thought that instead of using a 9-inch round, I could use a 9-inch square tart pan and be fine. Wrong. The area of those two things are vastly different. I took out what I believed to be half of the mixture and spread it into a thin layer at the bottom of my tart pan and just kept a keen eye while baking to make sure it didn’t burn. It came out after 20 minutes and looked beautiful—nicely golden, firm to the touch. I was so pleased and thought I had evaded any shenanigans for this bake. Wrong.

The next step is to add the jam of your choice combined with a bit of lemon juice on top of the tart bottom you just baked. I chose raspberry because I thought it would compliment the pistachios well. You leave about a 1/2inch border on the end when spreading the jam so you can get that effect of the jam being enclosed by the tart after you add the top layer. After adding the jam, I still felt great. But then things really took a turn.

For Christmas one year, my lovely parents got me this tool that helps you to ice cakes/pipe things instead of using a pastry bag. It is plastic, super easy to fill, and then has a button you press to slowly release whatever is inside. It is wonderful and I would 10/10 recommend for ease of use and also less waste because you aren’t discarding pastry bags. I filled my little tool, chose which tip to pipe with, and then disaster struck. I maybe piped two or three lines across the tart and was out of batter. I felt so defeated, I tried to spread what I had piped to see if it would cover things (massive mistake), I yelled, I almost cried. It was not good. Then my lovely partner, looking at me with so much sympathy, said “You gotta make more batter.” He was right. I was out of pistachios so I made a quick run to the grocery store and when I came back he had cleaned everything for me and prepared all the ingredients so I could start fresh (mad props to Ben on this recipe). I made another full recipe and used all of it to pipe on the top. Just a heads up, even with this tool, piping the batter was difficult because of the thickness of it. So just go slow and if the line breaks, just keep going—it’ll still work out fine.

The completed tart bakes for about 30 minutes, just as the sides are beginning to become golden. The colour of the tart is quite pleasing, especially with the golden hints over the top, but I gotta be honest, it’s not the prettiest dessert. I don’t know what kind of piping tool magic Claire had but I don’t find the aesthetic is as easy to replicate with this recipe. Taste-wise though I really liked this tart. The jam adds some needed sweetness and moist-ness (if it’s not a word it is now) to the dessert, and the tart itself taste likes a delicious sugar cookie. You definitely get the hints of cinnamon and lemon zest in the tart; once again though, I think Claire went a bit heavy handed with her amount of citrus zest because the lemon does tend to overpower the pistachio flavour. All in all though, a fairly simple dessert (if you have the right sized dish or can do math correctly). And I always find it’s fun to bake desserts from other countries. I’d give this one 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

It’s been a great few days here in lovely Northern Ontario, with so many hot, summer days, my first official beach hang of the season, a garden that is exploding, and—at long last—a pandemic lockdown that has eased up and the opportunity for some long-awaited patio drinks with friends. I kept postponing my plans to make this week’s recipe in place of outdoor activities, but I was finally able to squeeze in some time to bake Saturday afternoon in between visits to our very-much-missed local establishments!

This week’s Pistachio Linzer Tart is an Austrian dessert that I was unfamiliar with. I have made Linzer cookies before around Christmas time, and knew that there is usually a nut-flavoured dough of some kind, and a jam of some kind. Both of those things came into play in Claire’s recipe, with toasted pistachios being blended up with flour, cinnamon, sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest to create a batter, and a thick layer of raspberry jam in the middle. It was a pretty straightforward bake in terms of both ingredients and process compared to the last two weeks.

The tart is baked in two rounds. Once the batter comes together, it is spread thinly into a tart pan (I tried out a new rectangular shape for this recipe, which I loved! These are the things I get excited about this days…) and then bakes for about 20 minutes. Once the tart shell has cooled, the raspberry jam, thinned out with a bit of lemon juice, gets spread over top and then the rest of the batter is piped over the jam to close in the tart. Piping has NEVER been my strong suit. I don’t know what it is—I’ve tried all kinds of different bags, tip sizes and styles, mixtures thick and thin, and I never seem to be able to control what I’m doing. Not looking promising for the Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts chapter, but I’m bound to improve eventually. I chose a star-shaped tip in this case in hopes of creating a bit of a ridged effect on the tart similar to the picture in the book. This worked out decently well, but the batter was SO thick that it was extremely hard to get out in thin, even lines. I managed to fill in some of the breaks and gaps as I went, and the end result was pretty good, but it’s not the best looking thing I’ve ever made, that is for sure. That tart then baked for another 30 minutes—which I ended up doing in two installments of 15-minutes each because, again, it was a sunny Saturday and there are finally things to do again! No harm, no foul.

The flavour of the tart was wonderful! I used about half the amount of lemon zest the recipe called for because I learned my lesson from the extremely orangey rhubarb loaf, and the pistachio and raspberry came through so nicely. I would probably make just this tart-shell batter again and eat it on its own because it was SO delicious. The base is basically equal parts pulsed up pistachios and flour, so the nutty flavour was super prominent and it smelled amazing; it also had the best flaky texture from all the butter. The top part was a little softer than I was expecting, but I still ended up with a nice crisp from the bottom layer. Now that the world is (slowly, optimistically) starting to open up again, let’s hope the next time I eat a linzer tart, it’ll be in Austria! This was a 4-star bake for me!

Coming up next week: Claire’s Apple Tart!

plum galette with polenta & pistachios

This week brings us recipes 20 and 21 from Claire Saffit’z Dessert Person—our first attempt at the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough (another one of the Foundational Recipes in the book), which is then used to bake our second recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter, the Plum Galette with Polenta and Pistachios.

Lauren’s Take

**check back tomorrow for Lauren’s updates. She’s been very busy delivering babies this week!**

Julia’s Take

Welcome back, friends! Here in Ontario, it feels like summer is already in full swing. My garden is planted, the heat and the sun make me feel like a new human, and I’m just counting down the days until I wrap up teaching for the year and get a few weeks of down time after a super chaotic year. I’m looking forward to watching my plants thrive, camping trips, beach days, picnics, and hopefully long-overdue catch-ups with friends as we (hopefully!) start to come out on the other side of this pandemic; I’m also looking forward to all the new recipes we get to experiment with in the upcoming months! What excites me most about working through this next chapter in the book is not only all of the different flavours and types of produce we get to use this summer, but also that most of the Pies and Tarts recipes require multiple bakes within the full bake itself. This means we’re getting to work more with different doughs and test out a variety of techniques.

This week, the Foundational Recipe was Claire’s Flaky All-Butter Pie dough. There’s nothing better than a really crispy pie dough so I couldn’t wait to try Claire’s take on this—and it totally delivered! The process is pretty standard from what I could tell (I’m no pie expert…): mix together flour and cubes of cold butter with your fingers until it’s combined, and then drizzle in ice water to help the dough come together. Claire’s recipe calls for butter to be added in two ways—the standard cubes as well as thinner slices. The idea is that the cubes are broken down into pea-size pieces with the flour, while the slices stay slightly larger so that you sort of have shards of butter scattered in throughout the dough for extra flakiness. Once the dough comes together, it’s wrapped up and sits in the fridge for 4 hours. This would normally be the time to roll out the chilled dough and prepare to bake, but Claire recommends an optional extra step of rolling out the dough and doing an envelope fold before letting it sit another 30 minutes. The folding technique means that you’re creating even more flaky layers within your crust so that it almost becomes a hybrid of pie crust and laminated dough (which you’d use for danishes or croissants). Who doesn’t want more flakiness?!

The only issue I had with my dough was that it gets wrapped up and chilled as a square but the recipe asks you to roll it out into a circle. I’m no geometry wiz and so trying to turn a square into a circle was slightly challenging; I ended up with more of a rectangle with a couple of rounded edges. Ultimately, as long as the surface of the dough is large enough to hold your filling, I don’t think the shape matters much—but I will definitely be practicing my rolling techniques this summer.

The filling of the galette came together really easily because it didn’t involve any cooking. The plums are cut in half (or into smaller slices depending on their size); shelled pistachios are toasted for a few minutes in the oven; and then cornmeal, cornstarch, sugar, and the chopped-up toasted pistachios are mixed together. The recipe calls for either polenta or cornmeal (I don’t think there’s really any difference between these two things from what I’ve read); I already had a big bag of corn flour in my house and since the filling only requires 2 tablespoons, I didn’t think it was worth it to buy a whole new bag of something. Corn flour is ground up more finely than cornmeal, so I’m sure there was a slight texture difference, but ultimately I think it was pretty subtle and worked out fine.

I was skeptical about the addition of cornmeal/corn flour in the recipe, but as usual the finished product was something surprisingly delicious. The corn flour/sugar/pistachio mixture gets sprinkled evenly over the rolled-out pie dough, and then it’s topped with the plums and a drizzle of honey. You leave an inch or so border of dough, which then gets folded up over the filling on all sides, pinched together, and covered in an egg wash. The crust and filling are all sprinkled with a bit more sugar and then the galette bakes. What you end up getting from the seemingly random cornmeal is such an interesting combination of textures: the crispy, flaky crust, followed by a smooth, sweet, and also crunchy later from the cornmeal and pistachios, and then the super jammy plums on top. A total winner!

My main criticism is that, like several of the recipes so far, the bake times seemed a bit off. The book says to turn the oven temp to 425 and bake the galette for 45-55 minutes. This seemed way too hot to me, but I went with it and, sure enough, after about half an hour my crust was already edging on burnt. Luckily, Lauren had made this recipe a couple of days before me and had warned me to keep a close eye, and since my plums seemed cooked down enough, I just took the galette out of the oven after about 35 minutes. Next time I make this, I’ll likely turn down the temperature so the plums have a chance to cook down a little bit more before the crust becomes totally inedible.

Temperature issues aside, I absolutely loved both the process and the end result of this bake. It looked beautiful, and the flavours and textures were so incredible. 4.5 stars from me!

Next week we’ll be baking the Pistachio Linzer Tart. See you then!

cranberry pomegranate mousse pie

Happy Sunday, friends! We are kicking off the second chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person this week—Pies and Tarts—with bake number 19. This week’s recipe was the Cranberry Pomegranate Mousse Pie, and it was a delight!

Lauren’s Take

Hello hello hello! We have officially made it to the second chapter of the book! I am super excited to be in the world of pies and tarts. My previous experiences with baking have almost exclusively been making pies and tarts after the musical Waitress came out and I bought the pie cookbook— so it feels great to be in familiar territory and I’m excited for so many of the recipes in this section! The first recipe is the beautifully coloured Cranberry and Pomegranate Mousse Pie.

What I haven’t had experience with is making mousse. My only experience with or knowledge of mousse is every episode where they have to make it on the Great British Bake-Off and they’re afraid it’s not going to set in time. I obviously have unlimited time to let my bakes set but the panic still palpated within me nonetheless. This bake was very easy to make but creates such a well-balanced and satisfying dessert, and the colour is so striking.

You start by making the Graham Cracker Crust—Claire suggests making it with Biscoff cookies, which I couldn’t find so I just made it with regular graham crackers. We had been here before when making the cheesecake. With my cheesecake experience (please refer to the previous post to hear the entire sob story), I didn’t really get the full graham cracker crust experience because it turned out so soggy, so I was excited for a chance at redemption SANS water bath method. Can now confirm—the graham cracker crust is delicious and crispy, NOT non-existent and soggy.

After the crust has been made, baked, and cooled, you make the mousse filling. This was a fun process and introduced me to some ingredients I had never heard of before (looking at you, pomegranate molasses). You start by reducing cranberries with sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, salt, water and your new friend pomegranate molasses. You let this cook in order to create a compote with the cranberries. This is another example of where I had to cook it down quite a bit longer than the book listed. Once it has cooked down into a jam-like consistency, you strain in through a sieve and mix in some heavy cream. I was worried when straining that I didn’t have enough of the mixture, but everything still turned out fine, so don’t obsess over straining like I did. I think I ended up with around 3/4-1 cup.

You then let this mixture cool in the fridge while you soften the powdered gelatin over the stove and whisk some heavy cream to firm peaks. I had never used gelatin before and wow, it is maybe the coolest thing I’ve ever seen—the way it can dissolve when warmed and then re-solve (is this a word) when cooled and firm things up? Science is wild. You mix the gelatin into your cranberry/pomegranate mixture and then fold in the whipped cream slowly to create your mousse. You then pour the mousse into your crust and let it set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

I, the great planner that I am, did not read the recipe beforehand and realize how long it had to chill. So because I made it at 930pm, I left it to set overnight before trying it. Regardless of the time in the fridge, once it has set, you top it with more whipped cream, and some sugared cranberries. I had to use frozen cranberries, which Claire says you can’t use to make the sugared cranberries part, but it worked out fine for me! And voila that’s it!

This pie was light and airy, but also so rich, tart, and satisfying. I absolutely loved it. The tartness of the mousse was contrasted so well by the whipped cream, and then the lightness of the mousse worked so well with the graham cracker crust. Everything worked together in a beautiful harmonious way. Also, THIS is the pie you want to make at Thanksgiving and I think I might next year; it’s light, has those familiar Fall flavours, but also is a no-bake recipe, so it won’t take up precious real estate in your oven while cooking dinner. Genius. Claire, you’ve done it once again. I love this pie, I found a love and deep respect for the marvel that is gelatin, and I love mousse. 5 stars.

Julia’s Take

I was really looking forward to making this recipe because 1) I was super excited to officially get started with this new chapter of the book and start working on new kinds of bakes, and 2) it involved a whole bunch of ingredients I’d never used or tried before—pomegranate molasses, biscoff cookies (referred to as speculoos in some places), gelatin, and just generally the process of making a mousse.

It was a relatively quick and easy bake in terms of the actual work involved. The base of the pie is a variation of Claire’s Graham Cracker Crust, which uses Speculoos or Biscoff cookies in place of the graham crackers. This was my first time trying biscoff and I am now obsessed—they are sort of like if graham crackers and gingerbread had a baby. It looks like Claire uses this particular ingredient a few times and I cannot wait. They’re super delicious!

The crust comes together in the same way as the Graham Cracker Crust we made for the Goat Cheese Cake, and then bakes for about 15 minutes. While it was cooling, I made the mousse filling. The first step is to make the cranberry compote, which is obviously cranberries (I used frozen since fresh aren’t usually available in the grocery stores this time of year), sugar, water, orange juice/zest, a cinnamon stick, and the next never-before-used ingredient, pomegranate molasses. This was also SO GOOD and something I will absolutely use again, even for savoury recipes as a glaze or in salad dressings. This all cooks down until you get a jammy consistency and then you pour it through a mesh strainer. I was a little concerned I wasn’t going to have enough of the compote because there was quite a bit of discarded cranberry leftover, but it seemed to work out fine in the end. I didn’t feel great about all the cranberry that kind of went to waste, but not sure what else I could have used this for?

Once the compote also cools, you whisk in some gelatin powder that’s been softened with a bit of water and warmed up on the stove. While that sits, I whipped heavy cream to stiff peaks, and then that also gets folded in to the compote/gelatin mixture. This all gets poured into the cooled crust and sets in the fridge for at least four hours. It sounds like a lot of steps, and it was, but it wasn’t really anything too complicated or labour intensive. I did find myself going back to the book more often than usual though, just to make sure I was keeping track and wasn’t missing anything important. No one wants a runny mousse!

While my pie was setting, I moved on to one of the last steps which was making the sugared cranberries to go on top of the pie. Claire says in the book that you can’t make these if you’re using frozen cranberries but—sorry girl—I respectfully disagree. Fresh cranberries would definitely hold their shape a bit better I think, but the frozen ones worked out just fine. More of the sugar, pomegranate molasses, and water gets mixed down into a syrup, the cranberries go in for a few minutes to cook down and get coated, and then they sit on a wire rack until they’re cool and sort of sticky to the touch. Roll them around in some sugar, and you’re ready to go!

I decorated the top of my pie with more homemade whipped cream and the sugared cranberries like Claire suggests, and also added some orange rind spirals that I made by wrapping the rind around a wooden skewer. I know I say this basically every week, but this pie was SO delicious! The combination of flavours was really amazing, it was the perfect mix of sweet and tart, the colour was so beautiful and vibrant, and the silky-smooth mousse set perfectly. It was a great introduction to pies and I cannot wait for all the recipes to come this summer! This pie gets 5 stars from me!

Check back next week for our second pie: Plum Galette with Polenta and Pistachios!

pineapple and pecan upside-down cake

Welcome back! We have been working on this project for about three and a half months now, and have officially completed the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person (with the exception of the Spiced Persimmon Loaf, which we’ll circle back to at the end of the year). We completed bake number 18 this week, which was the Pineapple and Pecan Upside-Down Cake.

Lauren’s Take

Hello and happy long weekend! Long weekends for me are a time when I can completely check out of responsibility, drink mojitos, read my book, lay out in the sun…and of course bake a fabulous dessert to enjoy. And this long weekend was no exception to that with our bake this week—the Pineapple and Pecan Upside-Down Cake!

And even more exciting than a three-day weekend… we made it through the first chapter of the book! I know I’ve remarked on this multiple times, but I really do feel grateful for this journey that my sister and I decided to take—grateful for the opportunity to be creative each week, to try new things, to connect with my sister in a cool way, and to have met so many wonderful and kind new people along the journey. To think that we’ve already had such an amazing experience and all we’ve made are single layer desserts.

Anyways, back to the bake. This week’s bake is fairly straightforward as well but does involve a few different steps. The first thing you have to do is cut and poach the pineapple pieces that will become the top of the cake. I cheated and got the pineapple from the grocery store that is already pre-peeled and cored, and honestly no regrets (see previous posts to appreciate my loathing of chopping things). You poach the pineapple in a mixture of dark rum, brown sugar, and a bit of water (delish) until the fruit gets soft and translucent. Claire says this takes about 10-15 minutes and mine took about 20 minutes to really soften. You then remove the pineapple pieces leaving the sugar-y rum mixture and the pineapple juices in the saucepan. This becomes the base of your caramel.

You add some butter to your caramel mixture and swirl the pan regularly until the liquid thickens. Now this is where I think Claire was a bit over zealous in the recipe. She writes that this will take about 5-7minutes but it took SO LONG for me to get my caramel to thicken to the point I was about to give up and just accept a thicker syrup until it finally became a caramel. But I think in total that took about 15 or so minutes, if not longer. I do think that while you can wait longer for a thick caramel, making this cake with the liquid a bit thinner would still work out okay, so no need to panic for that.

Once the caramel is done, you pour it into the bottom of your cake pan and arrange the pineapple overtop in a tight pattern. This was a super fun and satisfying part of the bake for sure. But this was also where I made a classic Lauren blunder…I mistakenly used a springform pan instead of just a normal cake pan, so a TON of my caramel seeped out of the sides, leaving remnants on my counter, stove top, and in my oven…woops!

After the top of the upside-down cake is done, you make the actual cake which was a super enjoyable process due to the smell of roasted pecans the entire time. You first roast the nuts in the oven, and once they’ve cooled, put them in a food processor with your dry ingredients and pulse them until they’re ground. This mixture smells so good and ignited a new obsession with roasted pecans for me.

You then cream the butter and sugars (both granulated and brown) in the stand mixer, add eggs, and then alternate adding your pecan mixture with some buttermilk. As you can probably imagine, this makes a sugar-rich and creamy mixture and I had to stop myself from eating all the batter. Then, you just pour this cake batter over top of your pineapple design and bake until golden brown!

Once the cake is done, you only let it cool for about 15 minutes before revealing your upside-down pattern…any longer than that and the caramel will firm too much and it will be difficult to get the cake out of the pan (unless you mistakenly use a springform of course).

This cake was very beautiful to look at—I loved the pattern and shine of the pineapple on top, and the dark colour of the cake with the pecan pieces throughout made a cool contrast. My cake was not very sweet, and I’m not sure if that’s because I lost like 45% of my caramel, but it is definitely more of a hearty cake. But I did love the texture of the soft pineapple on top with the slight crunch of the pecan cake below. All in all, I give this cake 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

I cannot believe we are already one chapter down! I feel like we just began this journey together, and yet also can’t remember a time before my grocery list and my schedule didn’t revolve around what I’m baking from Dessert Person. This entire first chapter was such a delight; a lot of people have asked how we’re liking baking the book in order rather than randomly selecting different kinds of recipes from the book as we go. Honestly, even though everything is a “single layer cake,” I have not felt any repetition. Everything has been so unique in terms of techniques, textures, and flavour profiles that it’s never been boring. I know that that’s going to continue in the chapters to come, and while it takes a little bit of patience, I am absolutely loving tackling the bakes by category.

It has also been so much fun to have this creative outlet. Writing something just for fun; working through a recipe; trying new ingredients and methods; taking photos; experimenting with social media; meeting people from all over the world who love food and Claire as much as we do; and of course having an excuse to touch base more often and share an experience with Lauren—all of it has brought me so much joy, and I can’t wait for everything that’s still to come!

Now on to this week’s bake! A pineapple upside-down cake is such a nostalgic and classic dessert, but as always, Claire manages to give it a facelift and upgrade it to something new and extra special. The process of making this cake from start to finish was super enjoyable. I peeled and sliced my pineapple, and while I did manage to get nice, thin slices it definitely wasn’t my most uniform or aesthetically pleasing work. Making the caramel was also a little bit touch-and-go; you mix sugar, rum, and water together, then allow the pineapple slices to cook down in this liquid before removing them carefully and then waiting for the caramel mixture to thicken further. Mine was definitely not thickening in the allotted time, or even far passed that allotted time, and I could not figure out what I’d done wrong. I finally just gave up and poured the thick syrup (not caramel) into my cake pan. After allowing it to cool in the cake pan, it did thicken further and I was able to arrange my pineapple slices on top just fine.

The cake itself is very pecan-forward which I LOVED. The aroma of making this cake was just out of this world—first, pecans are roasted in the oven and then, once they’ve cooled, they get broken down in a food processer and mixed with the rest of the dry ingredients. You basically end up with half flour and half blitzed down roasted pecans which creates not only an amazing smell, but also a fantastic, rich colour. Once you have your dry blend, it gets mixed in with butter, brown and granulated sugars, egg, and buttermilk. I could have eaten this entire bowl of batter on its own!

Dollops of the delicious sugary pecany batter are placed on top of the pineapple design, smoothed out, and then the cake bakes, filling the whole house with that incredible roasted scent. Truly one of the most comforting things in the world. After the cake has cooled for 15 minutes, you flip it over to reveal the beautiful pineapple design; there is always a little thrill that comes from that flip and reveal—upside-down cakes might be my new favourite thing. Claire says you can warm up some apricot jam and brush it over the pineapple slices as a glaze; I happened to have some apricot jam in my fridge so I did this and it added such a pretty shine to the cake, as well as extra flavour.

This cake was so comforting, so delicious, so fun to make, and so beautiful to look at. It’s another 4-star bake from me!

Next week we begin our journey through the Pies and Tarts chapter and we are SO excited! Check back on Sunday for the Cranberry Pomegranate Mousse Pie!

goat cheese cake with honey & figs

This week we’ve tackled recipes 16 and 17 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—the Graham Cracker Crust, another one of Claire’s Foundational Recipes, which is used as the base for the Goat Cheese Cake with Honey & Figs. This is the second last recipe in the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section—we can’t believe we’re already so close to finishing the first chapter in the book!

Lauren’s Take

Good morning, good morning to you all and hello to some lovely warm, spring weather in Ontario (finally).

The arrival of warm weather always brings back a memory for me…my Dad would go to the grocery store and find that the fresh boxes of figs had arrived and were in season. He’d buy a full case and bring it to my Nanna’s home for her, and upon seeing the figs, her face would light up brighter than I’d ever seen. She’d then proceed to sit in her kitchen, the light beaming into the room from her open side-door, and eat the figs, one by one until the case was gone. She’d accompany her feast with talks about her childhood in Italy where she could pick a fig off the tree whenever she wanted and enjoy it. Because of Nanna’s fondness for figs, I tried many a time to fall in love with them like she had, but always fell a bit short. However, seeing that this week’s recipe included my Nanna’s favourite thing and my favourite thing (dairy dessert…you’re not new here), I was very excited to make it and had been looking forward to it since I got the book.

In traditional Lauren fashion, we had some snags with this recipe. First mission was finding the figs. I ventured to a Produce Depot in my city which has every type of fruit under the sun and found one…slightly decrepit looking…case of figs. Having always had my parents be the ones to select the figs, I had no knowledge of what would be good or bad, so I just prayed I picked the right ones and went on with my purchase (spoiler alert—they were not the right ones). Then came the making of the cheesecake. You first make one of Claire’s other Foundational Recipes which is the Graham Cracker Crust. This was pretty simple to make and to press into your pan and smells extremely good coming out of the oven. Then you make your cheesecake base which combines goat cheese and cream cheese for a lighter, tangier flavour. Seeing all this cheese mixed together with the combo of sugar and lemon was like a religious moment for me. The batter tasted delicious and I was so excited for what was to come.

… Maybe a bit too excited because I then made some mistakes. The trickiest part of this recipe, in my opinion, is how you have to cook it. Firstly, you have to wrap the cake pan in multiple layers of aluminum foil and perhaps I should have done this more diligently in retrospect. Then, you cook the cheesecake in a water bath of boiling water that you place in a roast pan that sits in your oven. Well friends, this was tricky. I didn’t have a roast pan so had to scramble to find something that would allow enough space for the water and the cake pan—I settled on my cast iron. And it was so hard to gently place the cake pan into the boiling water when the pan wasn’t very large. Safe to say it was a bit stressful but what was more stressful was when it was done.

You have to let the cheesecake sit and cool for a very long time—two hours with the oven door open, and two hours in the fridge. When I took the cake out of the tin, I realized that despite all my layers of foil, a lot (and I mean A LOT) of water got through and my cake was, in a word, soggy AF. I was super sad but decided to persevere and add the fig and honey topping, assuming that this would add a nice flavour and the cheesecake would still taste fine. My boyfriend had never tried figs and I was so excited to see his face light up in the same way my Nanna’s had when he took that first bite…well, that didn’t happen. The figs were not good and the cheesecake was soggy. I threw out the figs from the top, put the cheesecake back in the fridge and left it for 2 days out of pure frustration. Then something magical happened—the cake was no longer soggy, the rancid figs were gone and the cake tasted amazing, and I loved it. So, safe to say I will be making this recipe again, just probably with figs my Dad picks out for me and with so many layers of aluminum foil, I lose count. 4 stars for me for taste, although I will say, I believe that this cake baking is a tad more complex than it needs to be with the water bath, so I give the recipe itself 3.5 stars.

Julia’s Take

Welcome back, everyone! Another week, another cake—my friends, family, and neighbours are very much on the Dessert Person train at this point and are always wondering what I’m baking up next and divvying up between them. Very grateful for all my taste-testers so I don’t have to consume full cakes myself on a weekly basis!

This week’s recipe was the Goat Cheese Cake with Honey & Figs. I was really excited to make it because I love cheesecake and was really curious to try this particular spin on a classic dessert. Making this cake also made me think about our Nanna. When I think of cheesecake, I think of The Golden Girls, which was one of her favourite shows and something my siblings and I always watched with her; figs also happen to be her favourite food (arguably her favourite thing ever just in general – see Lauren’s detailed account above). I think she would have been a big fan of this bake!

All of our bakes so far in this chapter have been relatively low on the technical scale, but this one was definitely more complex. The cheesecake is made using the hot water bath method, and we’d heard from fellow Dessert People that there could be some issues with water leaking in to the cake. The first step was easy—make Claire’s Graham Cracker Crust using a food processer, mold it into a springform pan, and bake. Once the filling is made (a combination of both cream cheese and goat cheese—about equal parts of each—with sugar, some cream, lemon, vanilla, and eggs), you pour it into the baked crust, and this is where the stress sets in.

First, I was convinced I’d messed up my filling because it is a LOT thinner than I’d expected it to be. My crust had also slightly come away from the sides of the pan while it baked, so I was concerned about the loose filling spilling over and causing textural issues. Once you have the batter poured in, you wrap the springform pan in tinfoil; I’d been warned about the potential water leakage/soggy crust problems, so I wrapped that baby up as tightly and in as many layers of tinfoil as I could, laying the tinfoil along the bottom of the pan and then folding it up along the sides. Once it’s tucked away in its foil cocoon, the springform pan is placed in a roasting pan that’s had boiling water poured into it, and bakes for about half an hour. Then, the oven is turned off and you leave your cake in the hot water bath with the oven door slightly ajar for another two hours, allowing the cake to fully set. After THAT, the cake sits in the fridge for at least two hours to firm up even more. Never did I ever think I would dedicate 5 hours to making one cheesecake…

After the two-hour rest in the fridge came the moment of truth. Releasing the cheesecake from the springform pan was a bit of a debacle; although my cake filling did set properly, it was still extremely soft, and so I did get some breakage as I tried to get it out of the pan, and cutting clean slices was basically impossible.

On a positive note though, I did NOT get any water leakage (don’t ask me how… I honestly think this just comes down to luck vs. any real skill), I didn’t have any cracks on the top of the cake (a common issue with cheesecakes), and my crust stayed so nice and crispy. While the whole process was a little more involved and finicky than I think is necessary, the texture and flavour of this cake was unreal. It was light, soft, and silky smooth; it wasn’t too sweet; there was such a nice tang from the addition of goat cheese; and the little hit of lemon balanced the whole thing out so well. The cheesecake is topped with figs that are drizzled in olive oil and honey, which I wouldn’t have thought of myself, but it was a fantastic combo.

This cake was messy, anxiety-inducing, but absolutely delicious! I had really great feedback from my taste-testers on this particular recipe. I’m not sure I’ll be beating down doors to use the hot water bath method again any time soon, but I absolutely loved this cheesecake. If I’m going just on flavour, it’s a 4-star bake for me!

Coming up next week: the finale of the first chapter of the book – Pineapple and Pecan Upside-Down Cake!

blood orange olive oil upside-down cake

Welcome back! We’ve checked off our 15th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person and continue to inch our way closer to the end of the Loaf Cakes & Single Layer Cakes chapter. This week, we made Claire’s Blood Orange Olive Oil Upside-Down Cake, which also happens to be the cover star of the book!

Lauren’s Take

We baked the cover!! I remember when I first got the book, I was surprised that I’d be baking the cover so soon—surely the cover bake must be something more extravagant and complicated than a loaf or single layer cake?! But once again, Claire showed me that for something to be utterly delicious and satisfying, it doesn’t need to be complicated. This olive oil cake is so rich, moist, and the deep flavours of the olive oil and semolina flavour combined with the citrus make this cake a winner.

The hardest part of this cake, hands down, is slicing the blood oranges. I am the first to admit that I may be the worst chopper, slicer and dicer in the world—I get too impatient and things are never sliced evenly or finely enough (I now chop everything in my food processor and it has been life changing). When my partner and I make meals together, he is always on chopping duty. So, being the resourceful person that I am, I called my boyfriend in to do the slicing for me. IT WAS TOUGH. We sharpened our knives, we put the blood oranges in the freezer… but regardless, it was so difficult to get a cut that was thin enough for the peel, but not too thin that the insides didn’t break off. Kudos to him for having the patience and the gumption to persevere for me! We ended up getting about 15 pieces that were thin, but many still had a significant peel to them. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to get around this and have no advice to offer other than it is super hard and make sure you have a sharp knife. What was super fun about slicing the blood oranges is that each one was a different colour inside which made me excited to create the pattern on top.

The blood orange slices are arranged on top of a sugar-y, citrusy juice that stabilizes them to make the upside-down pattern. The next step is to make the cake batter in the stand mixer, which was fairly simple but requires the most olive oil I have ever used at one time. You also have to slowly add it to the batter and I swear I was standing there, holding my JUG of olive oil for 15 minutes. I believe that this recipe may single-handedly contribute to the EVOO shortage happening in the world right now. Then you pour the batter on-top of the orange slices and bake!

Once the cake is done and still warm, you take it out of the pan and flip it over to reveal your upside-down topping. This was a nerve-racking moment for me, but the bottom actually came off super easy (probably because of all the olive oil and parchment paper) and revealed a beautiful pattern! I definitely had spots where the oil came through or where I could see the cake, but it still looked great.

THE HARDEST PART OF THIS BAKE is that you have to wait at least 24 hours before you can eat it. Okay, HAVE TO is a strong statement, but it was encouraged so that’s what I did. And I think it was worth the wait; this cake tasted better with each day it sat out. It tasted so light and rich—it was a winner for me. The larger peels were definitely bitter and could take away from the cake itself, so next time I just might make the cake and use a different fruit topping, but it was fun to explore with blood oranges for the first time! 4.5 stars from me!

Julia’s Take

Wow! I can’t believe we’re already at our 15th bake from the book—it feels like we just started this project, but also I don’t remember a time when my schedule and grocery list didn’t revolve around what I need to bake from Dessert Person each week. I was SO excited for this week’s recipe because we got to bake the COVER! I have seen soooo many people making this cake since Claire published the book, and couldn’t wait to finally give it a try myself.

Like Lauren mentioned, the trickiest part of this bake is definitely getting the blood orange slices thin enough. I kept my oranges in the freezer for quite a long time—almost a full day—and I did find that this really helped. I also used a paring knife, which has a curve to it and hugged the shape of the orange nicely; I’m no pro, but I think that this made a difference. There was the odd piece of rind that was still a bit too thick depending on the shape of the orange, but overall I was able to get pretty nice slices without my kitchen counter looking too much like a crime scene.

I love a recipe that involves a little bit of creativity and design work; one of the best parts of making the Pear & Chestnut Cake was getting to create the fanning of pear slices on top, and I found the same thing with this cake. A slurry of blood orange juice and sugar gets poured into the bottom of the springform pan, and after that I was able to arrange the orange slices into the pattern that would eventually become the top of my cake. Call me crazy, but I find that kind of thing sooo soothing. #pandemiclife

Upside-down component aside, the ingredients and flavours in this cake was INCREDIBLE. I’m not an experienced or knowledgeable enough baker to really know the difference between all the different kinds of flour floating around out there, but after making this cake (which specifically called for cake flour) I can absolutely see why someone would choose one over the other. I learned that cake flour has a lower protein content and a finer consistency which makes for a more tender bake; that, combined with the portion of semolina flour that the recipe called for, created such an incredibly light and soft texture. The recipe also called for orange zest, Grand Marnier, and orange blossom water (my new favourite ingredient), so the orange flavour REALLY comes through. I definitely want to try making this cake again with different liquors and flavourings and am already dreaming up different combinations!

It truly blew my mind just HOW. MUCH. OLIVE. OIL goes in this cake. It really does result in a pretty amazing flavour and super rich cake, but wow. I think my cake was slightly under-baked because there were a few places that remained more oily than I would have liked inside, and I did get some slight sinking in the middle of the cake after it came out of the oven, but overall it tasted incredible and just got better and better the longer it sat out.

There is no doubt in my mind why this cake made the cover. The reveal you get when you peel off the parchment and see those vibrant slices of blood orange is so beautiful, and it’s one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to make this cake again. I’ve been on a major kick with the high ratings but I can’t help it—these last few weeks have just been top-notch, and this is a 4.5 star bake for me!

Check back next week for the Goat Cheese Cake with Honey & Figs!

salty nut tart with rosemary

We’re back with two more recipes from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person! This week we tackled our second Foundational Recipe, which was the Sweet Tart Dough. This was then used to make the Salty Nut Tart with Rosemary. For those that have been following along weekly, you may be confused about why we’ve suddenly skipped ahead before completing the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter, but it was for a very special reason. Keep reading!

Lauren’s Take

Wow, what an exciting and unique baking experience for us this week! As we’ve mentioned before, baking through this book has introduced us to such a lovely, welcoming, and generous community of people all around the world who share our love of baking and of the queen herself. We’ve had the chance to get to know a lot of these people virtually, exchanging baking tips/success/fails, but this week, the group of us decided to pick a recipe and bake it together over Zoom! It was so cool to “meet” everyone, discuss our shared passion, and bake together. It was a beautiful reminder to both Julia and myself, especially in these difficult times, that there are good people everywhere and you can always find community.

That being said, the recipe from the book we all voted to make was the Salty Nut Tart with Rosemary. It was a bit of a skip ahead for Julia and I (wooooops) but not that far ahead so we figured it was okay 😉. It was a fairly simple recipe again, but allowed us to make our first dough from the book—Claire’s Sweet Tart Dough. This dough is made using a combination of roasted almond flour and All-Purpose flour which gives it a nuttier flavour. I also chose to substitute almond extract for vanilla extract to really bring the almond flavour out. This dough is very similar to the process of making pie dough, but includes more wet ingredients to really bring all the components together like more of a cookie dough. I did not have the recommended food processor to mix the dough together so used my stand mixer instead which worked out well! After letting the dough chill, you press it into the tart shell (thank you Jackie for letting me borrow yours!). Claire has a very easy method for pressing the dough into the shell that worked extremely well (check out her Meyer Lemon Tart video to see it!).

 

You then parbake the crust for about half an hour. Man, just this crust with nothing in it smells so incredible—it took everything I had to just let the crust sit there and leave it overnight to cool. My crust did shrink a tiny bit and had some cracks along the bottom that I just patched up with my leftover dough.

The next morning, we jumped on Zoom and made the filling with everyone! It was nice to have people there in real time that could reassure you when you thought you were messing something up! Making the filling is a pretty painless process; you first roast the pine nuts and walnuts (and oh man did I keep an eye on that oven for fear I would burn my pine nuts and therefore burn through so much of my cash money). Then you make the caramel mixture by heating honey, cream, olive oil, and corn syrup and then add some rosemary and you’re roasted nuts to that. Then you pour it into the tart and bake!

This tart coming out of the oven looked and smelled amaaaazing. I have never been so impressed with something I’ve made so far. The caramelized mixture of top just glistens and the rosemary spread over top adds some beautiful colour. And the aroma of honey, nuts, almond…just can’t be beat. The tart tasted a lot like a baklava; the combination of nuts with the honey provided a familiar and delicious taste. I did find it a bit sweet for me (probably will just add more salt next time!) so you really only need a small piece to hit that craving. The pastry is delicate and buttery and cuts super easily and is extremely satisfying both aesthetically and in taste.

I loved making this dessert with all of my dessert people and it tasted great, so really, it’s a win in my books! 4 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

As much as I’ve loved everything we’ve made so far in our Sisters & Saffitz project, this bake will always be extra memorable for me! For anyone who follows along with us on Instagram, you may have already seen that on Saturday morning, Lauren and I participated in a virtual bake-along with 15 of our fellow Dessert People. It’s obviously been so fun to bake through the book and compare results with each other, but what’s made the experience that much cooler has been this opportunity to find and connect with bakers from all over the world who are also baking their way through Claire’s book.

A couple of months ago, one of the bakers started a group chat on Instagram, and since then plans have been in motion to “meet” virtually and bake together. So this weekend, we did just that! There were Claire fans from all across Canada, the US, and as far as Dublin and Mumbai on the Zoom call. We’d arranged in advance to find a recipe that took less than 2 hours to bake, and ideally one that most of us hadn’t already made. That’s how we ended up at the Salty Nut Tart (definitely worth skipping ahead in the book for!). We had SO much fun getting to chat and bake with so many wonderful people. A little over half of the group was able to participate, and we look forward to more bake-alongs as we keep working through the book!

As far as the tart itself goes, this one was a MAJOR winner! I know I say this basically every week, but this one truly is one of my absolute favourites to date. Like we mentioned already, this was a two-part bake and allowed us to check off two more recipes from the book. First up was Claire’s Sweet Tart Dough, which we’d heard great things about. I made the dough and parbaked my crust the night before the bake-along; everything gets mixed up in a food processor, so was quick and easy. You start off by toasting some almond flour in the oven (had never heard of toasting flour before but let me tell you, it is a genius technique and you end up with the most incredible smell!). The toasted flour is combined with regular AP flour, powdered sugar, some salt, vanilla, an egg yolk, some cold water, and a whole bunch of cold butter!

I had a slight moment of panic after this because, as I started to spread my dough into the tart pan, I realized it was an 11” instead of the 9” pan the recipe called for. Cue me texting Lauren to see if she thought it would still work, calling my Mom to see what size pans she had, and texting a whole crew of friends asking if anyone had a 9” tart pan handy. Turns out this piece of equipment is harder to come by than you’d think—everyone I talked to only had either an 11” tart pan or a 9” springform pan. So, I decided to just wing it with the 11” inch, make a bit of extra dough in case anything cracked too much, and hope for the best. It ended up working out just fine! My crust was just a tiny bit thinner, which I didn’t mind.

The filling came together during our Zoom call, and was incredibly easy. Pine nuts and walnuts get toasted in the oven (you could easily substitute any nut you like); I was slightly frantic about burning my pine nuts because those things cost a small fortune, but there were no casualties! While they toasted, we brought the caramel ingredients together to a low simmer in a saucepan; the recipe calls for honey, sugar, some corn syrup, olive oil, and some heavy cream so definitely not a traditional caramel and it stays pretty loose until you toss in the nuts. Some fresh rosemary gets mixed in right at the end, which smells incredible, and then the tart shell is filled and everything bakes for about 25 minutes.

The whole tart is topped off with more fresh rosemary and flaky sea salt. The smell was unreal and it tasted even better! This tart is basically a bougey, better version of pecan pie. You get that same nutty, toffee-like filling but the addition of rosemary and salt makes it borderline savoury and helps cut through what could otherwise be that overwhelmingly sweet sensation you can get from other caramel-filled desserts. I loved this tart so, so, so much. I shared most of it with family, but could have easily eaten the whole thing myself. It’s a no-question 5 stars from me and I’ll be making it again and again!

Next week we’re back on track as we inch closer to finishing the first chapter of Dessert Person. We’ll be baking the Blood Orange Olive Oil Upside-Down Cake, which also happens to be the cover star of the book!

flourless chocolate wave cake

Welcome back friends! This week is our 12th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person as we continue to make our way through the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes chapter of the book. This section has been packed full of incredible and unique flavours and textures, and this week’s Flourless Chocolate Wave Cake was yet another delicious bake to add to that list!

Lauren’s Take

Hello hello! We’ve reached our dirty dozen bake and we’ve slid into it with the Flourless Chocolate Wave Cake! I saw many examples and heard praise of this cake before making it, so it was one I was looking forward to attempting to bake, especially with the challenge of making something without flour. However, as someone who isn’t a very big fan of chocolate desserts, I wasn’t too too excited about eating this week’s cake. I find a cake that is just chocolate is too heavy and I’m left searching for other flavours that aren’t there.

Making this cake was fun since it introduced some new and technical steps that we haven’t had to do too much in the previous bakes. You need a dece amount of chocolate (10 ounces) and you melt it over a double broiler with some rum (delish) and water. Once that has cooled, you add some egg yolks and almond flour. I was so glad this recipe called for almond flour ‘cause I have a massive bag from Costco that I bought during my macaron making phase that has been sitting dormant for many moons.

You then make a meringue by beating egg whites and sugar; now here is where I always psych myself out…is this a stiff peak? What is truly the difference between glossy and matte? Does this seem under-whipped? Did I just over-whip? Making meringues for me is like having a tedious and insecure mental monologue where I keep doubting. In this case, I do think I over-whipped the egg whites; when I went to fold in (insert Schitt’s Creek meme here) the meringue, it wasn’t incorporating very well with the chocolate mixture and was leaving large globs throughout. I ended up leaving quite a few streaks because I didn’t want to over-mix.

You then top the cake with sugar and let it bake! Watching this cake bake was potentially more fun than eating it. The cake gets so much height on the top layer with the sugar and looks like a little mushroom top floating above the rest of the cake. Once the cake is done baking and you leave it to cool, it starts to fall and create all these pits and peaks throughout the cake which look so gorgeous.

This cake is, in a word, FUDGE-Y. To me, it tasted as if a brownie and a chocolate pudding had a love child. It is airy, moist, delicate, and has a super soft and interesting texture. And the top sugar layer adds a really fun and needed crunch to the cake. As I mentioned at the beginning, my classic qualm with chocolate desserts was present with this cake too—I just found that it was too much chocolate and nothing to break it up, but I do give mad props for the texture. I shared this cake with some chocolate lovers though who did not have the same concerns as me. With all that said, I’d give this cake a solid 4 stars—a delicious and rich chocolate cake that’s gluten-free friendly is a win.

Julia’s Take

I’d been really looking forward to making this cake for a while for a few different reasons: I LOVE chocolate; I’d seen so many of our fellow Dessert People make this one already and everyone had raved about it; and our other sister, who lives in the same city as me, is gluten intolerant and I was happy to finally have a bake that I could share with her!

For those that don’t already know, I teach Language & Communications courses at a college here in Ontario, and this past week was exam week for my students. That means hundreds of tests and final research reports coming my way, and sitting in front of my computer screen for hours reading through work (no multiple choice or scantron sheets for this girl!). It was so nice to get to bust out of my marking bubble, slow down for a beat, and enjoy the process of making this cake.

The ingredient list was pretty simple for this bake compared to some of the others we’ve made so far: just some good quality chocolate, salt, sugar, oil, lots of eggs, and a little almond flour. Claire also calls for some rum or amaretto which gets added in to the melted chocolate. I used amaretto in mine, which made for a really nice flavour. This bake was similar to last week’s in the sense that the batter comes together in a few different steps: melting down the chocolate, whisking in egg yolks, flour, and other ingredients, then making the meringue and slowly folding that in. Watching egg whites and sugar come together to create something smooth, beautifully glossy, and magically stiff yet soft has to be one of the great simple pleasures in life. Anyone else share this sentiment? Just me? This is what grading hundreds of papers can do to a person…

The other thing that made this cake similar to last week’s was that it gets quite a bit of height while it’s baking, but then gradually sinks down after it comes out of the oven, which is so satisfying to watch. Because of the sugar that gets sprinkled on top of the cake before it bakes, you also get this crackly, crunchy top which adds some delicious, much-needed texture and also creates the “wave” affect that gives this recipe its name.

The taste and texture of this cake was SO delicious. The rich, fudgy flavour of the semisweet chocolate absolutely shines through, so if you’re a chocolate lover like me, you won’t be disappointed. This recipe is basically a variation on a chocolate soufflé; considering how rich it is, it’s also insanely airy and soft which just brings it up to a whole new level and makes it distinct from your average chocolate cake. My taste-testers loved it as much as I did. This is another 5-star bake for me!

Next week, we’re taking a slight deviation to bake up something extra special. Be sure to check back on Sunday!

ricotta cake with kumquat marmalade

We’re back with our 11th bake from Dessert Person, which is Claire’s Ricotta Cake with Kumquat Marmalade. We have only a handful of recipes left in the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of the book; we can’t believe how delicious everything has been and are so excited to start tackling Pies and Tarts as we head into summer!

Lauren’s Take

Whenever someone asks me what was favourite dessert is, I always say cheesecake without hesitation. I mean, what’s not to love about cheesecake—creamy, sweet, slightly savoury and usually served with fruit? Sign me up any day. What I was not anticipating was that ricotta cake, the lesser known and popular sister of the cheesecake, would enter into my life and shake up my long-term relationship with cheesecake. I cannot stop talking about my love for this cake and I promise if you make it, you will not be disappointed.

Once again, it is not a super complicated bake. You start off by making the ricotta mixture in a food processor, combining the ricotta, heavy cream, sugar and lemon zest into a delicious batter. You then make a meringue with egg whites and gently fold it in to make a super light and delish batter. The cake bakes for about 40 minutes; I think I took my cake out too early because it didn’t really become golden brown, but it still baked all the way through, so don’t fret if you don’t get the colour you expect.

While the cake is cooling, you make the topping which is a marmalade. Claire makes hers with kumquats, but says you can use any seasonal fruit. I could not find kumquats ANYWHERE despite calling numerous grocery stores and farms. So I decided to use gooseberries because I had never tried them and they looked pretty similar to what I saw in the Dessert Person photo. Gooseberries have THE MOST tiny seeds I have ever seen and despite taking 40 minutes to try and remove them all, many remained (but didn’t seem to affect the taste or texture so I wouldn’t waste your time). You reduce the fruit with some water, sugar and vanilla until it reaches a “maple syrup consistency.” I was endlessly confused by this—I kept taking my maple syrup out of the fridge to get a better idea what the consistency should be because I couldn’t tell if the mixture was thickening. I looked online and saw that marmalade should cook to about 217 degrees Fahrenheit so once it got there I took it off the stove, still looking extremely loose, and hoped for the best. I left it overnight and it thickened up BEAUTIFULLY and tasted amazing.

This cake is everything and so much more. I loved every bite. I dropped the cake off to a friend and the results were unanimous—this cake is unreal and should get an award for being so perfect. This might be my new favourite dessert and I am not ashamed about it. Make this and you will not be disappointed…but maybe don’t share it because you’ll wish you had more 😉. 5 stars for sure.

Julia’s Take

Welcome back friends! I am still not totally over the joyful experience that was making and eating this week’s cake. It was SO. GOOD. For me, these last couple of weeks have been so much fun because we’ve upgraded from the really simple, basically one-step loaf-style bakes from the earlier half of this section of the book, but we haven’t moved into the more complex, multi-day, panic-inducing bakes that are yet to come. These more recent single-layer cakes, and the ones that we’ll be tackling over the next few weeks, have given me a chance to bake recipes that are slightly more involved in terms of process, and super unique and delicious in result, without causing me too much anxiety!

The first step in making this cake was to try and track down kumquats. I had heard of kumquats before but wasn’t entirely sure what they looked or tasted like. Living in a smaller-sized city in northern Ontario, I was pretty certain I would never get my hands on an ingredient like this. While we do have several higher-end grocery stores that will often carry speciality or international ingredients, I felt like between citrus season coming to an end and the rarity of something like kumquats in Ontario in general, I’d have to resign myself to coming up with a really good substitute for the marmalade topping.

But I am not a resign yourself kind of girl! After checking several of the grocery stores in town, I decided to call around to a few produce wholesalers. Most of them let me know that they make almost-daily trips to produce markets in the Toronto area to bring up stock and that they’re always happy to bring up speciality items when requested (will be keeping this in mind when we need to bake with quince…). After a few phone conversations on a Monday, I had a call back that Thursday letting me know there was a case of kumquats waiting for me! (No way you’re reading this, but shout-out to Shane from TCM Produce!). I never thought I’d get so excited about a case of citrus.

For anyone like me who’s never had a kumquat before, they are the coolest little things! They look and taste like a mini, more oval-shaped, and slightly more tart version of a tangerine. You eat them with the skin on, and they make the most incredible marmalade! I made this part of the recipe the day before—seeding and halving the kumquats and cooking them down with sugar, vanilla bean, lemon juice, and some water—and I was really glad I did because the marmalade became much thicker and more delicious the longer it sat. I was also so glad that I had a full case; the amounts Claire calls for in the book are surprisingly minimal, and you will definitely want extra of this magical golden sauce (is marmalade a sauce?). I’ve clearly been a big fan of all the accompanying sauces so far, and you can now consider me a big fan of kumquats too!

When it came to making the ricotta cake, the process was really satisfying. You start by blending most of the ingredients in a food processer—not totally sure why Claire called for this particular piece of equipment, because I think you could just as easily mix everything together in a stand mixer or even a blender. Once you have your batter, which is so smooth and luxurious, I used my stand mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then those get gently folded in to the batter (anyone else immediately think of David and Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek every time you see the words “fold in” ?!). My cake needed a slightly longer bake time than what Claire called for, but came out with a nice deep golden brown colour. It was also SO cool to see the centre of the cake slowly deflate after it came out of the oven; this created a beautiful sort of crown shape with a well in the middle for the marmalade to sit in.

Because it’s called a ricotta cake, I was expecting a cheesecake-like taste and texture; it some ways, this cake is similar to a traditional cheesecake, but it’s also something completely different. The addition of some flour, and the texture of the ricotta itself, make this cake much less dense and sweet than a regular cheesecake, which I personally loved. It was light, fluffy, smooth, had the perfect hint of lemon, and made for the most amazing pairing with the kumquat marmalade. I will definitely be making this cake again—it’s a 5-star bake for me!

Next week: Flourless Chocolate Wave Cake. We’ve seen A LOT of people in our Instagram community make this one, and we’re so excited to give it a try! If you don’t follow along with us there already, check us out @sistersandsaffitz.