sour cherry pie

We’re back with the latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—the Sour Cherry Pie, our 33rd bake from the book and one that will always hold a special place in our hearts.

The Reunion Bake: A Double Take

This week was a special one folks—we are coming to you live from the SAME kitchen! (Our Mom and Dad’s kitchen to be exact…).

With some of the restrictions being lifted in Ontario and thanks to being double vaccinated (#shotgirlsummer), Lauren was able to come to North Bay for a long-anticipated family visit, which meant that sisters&saffitz could be in the same place for the first time ever! We both smiled from ear-to-ear when we put on our matching aprons and were able to cook in the same place, rather than just text each other constantly throughout the bake. It reminded us that the part of baking that is truly special is being able to experience it with others (cue the sappy music).

And what better way to celebrate a reunion than with a cherry pie? We both were excited about this bake: one, because we’d be able to do it together, but also because neither one of us had done a lattice crust before and we were keen to try.

 

 

 

Unfortunately, sour cherries were very elusive in North Bay and we weren’t able to find any, but we did manage to find some absolutely beautiful, fresh local cherries and decided to splurge and use those instead. And when we say splurge, we really went for it folks. No shame.

We made the pie doughs together the day before. The recipe calls for making a double recipe of the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, but indicates doing the almond flour variation. This variation simply involves substituting a small amount of all-purpose flour for almond flour. Lauren forgot to substitute when doing one batch of the pie dough, so we instead had one regular pie dough and one beautifully speckled dough made with almond flour. We decided that doing one of each would be cool both in terms of design but also for helping to balance out the almond flavour.

We also pitted the cherries the day before (shout out to Julia for the commitment to this task—there are still remnants of red juice left on her hands) and froze them as Claire recommends in the recipe. Freezing the cherries helps the pie dough to stay cold while assembling.

 

 

The next day, Julia came back to Mom and Dad’s, and we rolled out our pie doughs. We used the regular recipe for the base and cut the almond flour one into 1-inch strips to be used for the lattice crust. Both of us have become so accustomed to working through the recipes solo that we couldn’t believe how much easier and more efficient it was to tag-team on this one; while one tackled rolling out dough, the other would prep the filling. While one assembled the lattice, the other walked her through by reading the instructions from the book and providing visual cues. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: baking buddies—we can’t recommend them enough.

Once the doughs were prepped, the actual assembly of this pie was super simple. The frozen cherries were tossed with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and almond extract. Since we weren’t able to track down sour cherries, we cut down on the sugar slightly. The base dough is rolled out into a circle shape and laid into the pie plate; the filling is scooped in and pressed down firmly to eliminate as much air as possible; and then the strips of top-layer dough are assembled into a woven lattice pattern over the top.

This was the first lattice for both of us and it was actually really fun to put together; as usual, Claire’s visuals in the book were so easy to follow and made what could seem like a trickier process totally doable and straightforward. Once some of the excess dough is trimmed off, the sides are pulled up and pinched together, the edges are crimped, and the whole pie is brushed with egg wash and topped with demerara sugar. Claire said to be generous, and Julia absolutely took this instruction and ran with it!

The pie had to bake at 425 for about 20 minutes to get everything nice and crisped up, and then for another hour and a half or so at 350. We think our parents’ oven probably runs on the hotter side, because the outside edges started to brown up really quickly; we took the pie out after about 40 minutes and covered the edge with some tinfoil to prevent browning.

 

We tried to look for Claire’s visual cue of looking for bubbling at the center before taking it out, and let the pie sit at room temperature for a few hours as recommended.

 

 

 

Later that night, we cut into the pie to share with our parents and Lauren’s boyfriend. As Lauren sliced into it, the filling started to run out quite a bit so we think our impatience (and by “our” we mean mostly Julia’s in this case…) got the best of us with this one. We probably should have kept the pie in the oven a little bit longer, even though we were concerned about over-baking our crust, and the pie probably would have benefitted from another hour or so resting at room temperature.

Despite the filling not being quite as set as we could have liked, everyone was so happy with how this pie tasted! The crust was so incredibly flaky—maybe our best results so far with this recipe—and even the bottom stayed so firm and crispy.

The flavour of the filling was also amazing; it would have been great to get the tartness from the sour cherries, and this definitely ran a touch sweet, but the big, fresh cherries made for an incredible filling and there was just the right amount of almond which added that something special.

Most of all, the experience of being together again after so many months, getting to tackle a recipe together as a team, and sharing it with some of our family made this one of our favourite bakes to date. This pie is a 10/10 for process and a 4-star bake from both of us!

Next week, we’ll be back to our trademark side-by-side comparisons as we take on the Quince and Almond Tart!

foolproof tarte tatin

We’ve made it all the way to the Foolproof Tarte Tatin, our 32nd bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This recipe felt so far away and so daunting when we first started this project but with Loaves and Single Layer Cakes and over half of Pies and Tarts under our belts, we’re really starting to feel our confidence levels grow.

Lauren’s Take

GONE CANOEING. Check back for updates!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

We made a Tarte Tatin! This was the very first Dessert Person video Claire put out when she started her YouTube series, and it looks and sounds so fancy, that I kind of can’t believe I made one. It looks and sounds really intimidating—puff pastry, dry caramel, multi-step preparation of different components, flipping delicate layers of apple and crispy pastry in a piping hot cast iron skillet—but five months in to this Dessert Person journey, I realize I’ve done most of these things already. Make rough puff from scratch: check. Make caramels: check. Create glazes: check. While this bake was definitely time-consuming, it wasn’t as scary or difficult as I thought it might be. Minus the flip. That is no joke.

Baking a Tarte Tatin feels like a master class in patience—something I am typically NOT very good at, but honing my baking skills has definitely helped. The first step is preparing the apples, and while this might seem pretty basic, even that requires that you just sort of slowww down. Trim both ends of each apple; peel the apples; cut the apples in half; core and trim the centre of each apple. This part alone took a good half hour I would say. Once you have all your apples, you place them upright in a cast iron skillet, pour brandy, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar over them with a dash of salt, and roast for an hour to an hour and a half until they’ve softened. Anyone who knows me knows that I am the farthest thing from a picky eater—I’ll try anything and typically really enjoy all types of foods—but the one thing that really grinds my gears is mushy fruit. If it’s veering on under-ripe, I’m into it. The crunchier and crispier the better. If it’s even slightlyyyy soft and edging on grainy or overly sweet, I’m not touching it. So, suffice to say, I went with roasting my apples on the lesser end of the suggested times. I was still able to poke through them, and they’d softened up nicely, but I wanted to make sure that after the second round of baking, they still had some structure to them.

After roasting the apples, they cool on a plate in the fridge while you bring the remaining juices to a solid simmer until they’ve thickened into a glaze. Once you have your glaze, it is poured into a container and set aside. Then, the skillet gets a quick rinse and you move on to making the dry caramel. See what I mean about patience?

 

While we’ve made wet caramel a few times already, this was my first stab at a dry caramel, and I thought the process was so cool! With a dry caramel, there’s no water or other liquid to help the sugar along. The sugar is sprinkled in an even layer into the hot skillet and gradually melts down into a liquid, amber-coloured form. You continue to add another layer of sugar over the melted sugar bit by bit (again… patience) until you have a fully liquefied, thick, beautiful caramel. It’s hard to imagine sugar and heat coming together in this way until you’re standing over your skillet watching it happen yourself, but man is it satisfying. At the very end, the skillet comes off the heat, and salt, vanilla, and cubes of butter are added in (again… bit by bit…) to add richness and bring the whole caramel together.

At this point, you let the caramel sit in the skillet for a little while, in an even layer, until it has hardened. Claire says you can do all of these things in stages over many days, and I can see why because there is a LOT of wait time involved in this recipe; I had a rainy day on my hands so I just went with it and made everything at once while I was chilling around the house. At this point, you take your roasted apples out of the fridge and place them on top of the cooled caramel layer rounded side down. Squeezing them in nice and tight and slightly overlapping is how you end up with that gorgeous top layer once the tart is flipped over.

Now it’s time to bring out the puff pastry. If we had to make more rough puff from scratch, I probably would have done that the day before or earlier that morning (adding on another 3+ hours to the full bake time of this tart), but luckily I still had a batch of the pastry in my freezer from when Lauren and I made the other Apple Tart a few weeks ago. All I had to do was take it out and let it defrost in my fridge that morning and it was ready to use! Massive time-saver. I rolled out my defrosted rough puff, cut it into a circle, poked the whole thing over with a fork, and then gently placed it over the apples, tucking the pastry in around the edges between the apples and the skillet.

I had a slight moment of panic as my tart was baking. By this point, a massive thunderstorm had started and the power was starting to flicker. The last thing you want when you’ve spent HOURS patiently preparing all of these little elements of this fancy tart is to have it all go down the rails at the very end. I had about 20 minutes left of baking time when I lost power and had a mini heart attack, but luckily it flipped back on after a minute or so and all was not lost.

Speaking of mini heart attacks, one of the final steps in this bake is flipping your tart over. This was STRESSFUL. There are so many juices floating around because of the apples and the caramel, and the puff pastry is so delicate, that you just never know what you’re going to end up with. The skillet is also SO heavy and so hot that you really need to work quickly. I’d watched Claire’s video earlier that day to psych myself up and followed her method of placing a wire rack over the skillet, holding the rack and skillet together at both ends with a cloth, holding the whole contraption over the sink, flipping quickly, letting the juices run out, and then placing it down on the counter and slowly removing the skillet to reveal your creation. For as stressful as this process is, wow is the thrill of that reveal ever worth it. This tart is BEAUTIFUL and looks so impressive. My thin, crispy layers of puff pastry had curled up nicely around the edges, the apples were perfectly plumped up and roasted, and the caramel coated the whole thing in this amazing colour and shine.

You’d think this would be the end but, alas, this tart requires ONE MORE STEP after the flip, and that’s bringing out the glaze you made 500 years ago and gently brushing it over the warm apples. According to Claire, the tart is best served warm and I had some friends over that night, so we were able to enjoy it together fresh from the oven!

It’s always a good feeling to be really proud of something you’ve done, and with this being such an involved recipe and one of the more technical bakes we’ve done so far—simply because of all the steps and methods required—I really felt great about the results. It’s such a wonderful combination of textures: the flaky pastry, the sweet caramel, the warm, soft apples, and the finishing touch of the glaze on top. It’s not too sweet, super comforting, and just all around delicious. I think I would choose the previous Apple Tart over this one, but would still bring a Tarte Tatin to any dinner party (assuming I have a billion hours to kill beforehand!). 4.5 stars from me!

Next week we’ll be making the Sour Cherry Pie and—SPOILER ALERT—we may or may not finally be baking together in person!! Stay tuned for a potential Sisters&Saffitz reunion!

meyer lemon tart

We’ve made it through our 30th and 31st recipes from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—the Lemon Curd, another Foundational Recipe from the book, which is then used to create the incredible filling for the Meyer Lemon Tart. The Pies and Tarts chapter continues to blow our minds!

Lauren’s Take

Yay! We finally made it to the Meyer Lemon Tart! I was very excited to do the bake this week and had been looking forward to it since Claire released the video of it on her YouTube channel. My Dad has always had a love of lemon tarts, so growing up I quickly developed a fondness myself. What’s not to love about a lemon honestly? It’s yellow, tart, sweet, bright…can’t go wrong. And then put it in a bake good? Girl, recipe for success.

The bake this week was definitely not super challenging; there are just lots of steps that need to be done ahead of time, so time management and planning (which I’m slowly getting better at) is key. The two main components for this dessert are the Sweet Tart Dough (which Julia and I have become experts at), and the Meyer lemon curd. I made both components the day before and let them chill in the fridge overnight before doing the bake.

For the lemon curd, I could not find Meyer lemons for the life of me, so I just used normal lemons instead. And then the wildest thing happened. I made the curd while watching Claire’s video for moral support and entertainment. And as I started juicing the lemons, I winced in pain because I realized I had a tiny paper cut that I didn’t know was there…only to discover 15 seconds later in the video that Claire experiences the EXACT same thing…coincidence? …Probably.

The curd starts off by combining sugar and lemon zest, and then whisking in many egg yolks to create the mixture. And you really have to whisk it. My suggestion would be not to make this recipe after an arm day, because man, you need some strength. It’s a lot of whisking and it doesn’t end for some time. Once the mixture has thickened and lightened, you whisk in the lemon juice.

You then heat it on the stove and, you guessed it, CONSISTENTLY whisk, until it begins to thicken. I used a thermometer and cooked my lemon curd to 170 degrees like it says in the book, but in all honestly, I think I could have left it longer because it seemed a bit thin in retrospect. Once the lemon curd has cooked to this point, you remove it from the heat and slowly whisk in pieces of butter one at a time. Once this has all incorporated, you add a bit of vanilla and then put it in a container to chill in the fridge.

The next day, everything was chilled and ready to go so I assembled the tart! First, you fill the tart pan with your dough and parbake the crust. Once it has cooled, you add a layer of jam (I used raspberry) to the top and bake this for 5-7 minutes, just to solidify the jam so you don’t get a bunch of mixing in the layers. Once the tart has baked with the jam, you add your lemon curd mixed with a bit of plain Greek yogurt to the top, smooth it out, and then bake! I was a bit over zealous with my lemon curd so it spilled over the top a tiny bit, but it still ended up being okay! It was just a stressful trip over to the oven!

The tart bakes for about 30 minutes, and you are looking for the sides to have puffed up and the centre to have a nice wobble. I let the tart cool overnight in the fridge because I finished baking quite late. The next morning, I decorated the top, and cut into it for a casual piece of lemon tart for breakfast (why not right?!). Friends, this tart spoke to my soul. It is PERFECTLY well balanced. The addition of Greek yogurt to the lemon curd is genius and adds a perfect level of tang to the tartness to balance it out. The tart dough is a winner once again, and the cookie-like crust combined with the smooth curd is also excellent.

My boyfriend’s mom also really wanted to bake this dessert this week, so we both baked it on the same day and did a side-by-side taste test! Hers also turned out beautifully and was a bit more tart than mine. It was really cool to have an in-person comparison side by side other than just the pictures that Julia and I do each week! Thanks for joining this week Jackie!!

In conclusion, my love of the lemon tart holds true and this is 100% a dessert I would make again and again. 5 stars!

Julia’s Take

Hi friends! We’re back with another beautiful tart recipe. Do they have a name for that universal rule that you can find something in a store every time up until the moment you actually NEED it for something? Well, whatever it is it definitely applied here; there are a couple of grocery stores that seem to always have bags of Meyer lemons regardless of the season, and I thought for sure—despite the fact that it’s July and citrus is in season during the winter—that I’d be able to snatch some up for this recipe. Alas, this was not the case. I hopped around to a few different grocery stores and they were all Meyer lemon-less. So, Claire’s Meyer Lemon Tart is just a Lemon Tart today. Speaking of citrus being in season in the winter, anyone else feel like this shouldn’t be the case? Citrus is so refreshing that is always screams summer to me, so I loved that we were able to make this tart at this time of year regardless of some issues with ingredient sourcing, but I digress.

The base of this tart is the epic Sweet Tart Dough. We’ve made this so many times now (for the Salty Nut Tart, the Pistachio Linzer Tart, and the Blackberry Caramel Tart) that I feel like I’ve learned the recipe by heart. I sped through all the steps, parbaked my crust, and then realized that I had barely looked at the book. Five months in to this project and feeling like a true pro 😉

Like several of these last few recipes, once the base dough comes together the rest of the bake is super straightforward—there’s just a bit of timing involved. As my tart shell was baking, I worked on the lemon curd, which is a combination of mostly egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and, once that is whipped together and slowly heated through until thick, a whole bunch of butter and some vanilla. My curd mixture felt a little loose to me once I was finished, so I was worried it wouldn’t set properly, but after the required 3 hours in the fridge, it was nice and thick and beautifully smooth.

This wait time for your curd is really the longest part of the whole process. When your curd is ready, it is mixed together with Greek yogurt. While this filling comes to room temperature, a layer of raspberry jam is spread over the base of the cooled tart shell and bakes for just a few minutes until it’s set. Afterwards, the filling is poured over and the whole tart bakes for 30 minutes until the filling has fully set, puffs up around the edges, and has a good wobble to it. There is again a bit of a wait time here, as the tart cools fully at room temperature and then chills again in the fridge for at least an hour.

The results are just perfect. The sweet tart dough is just so wonderful—it’s crisp, and buttery, and just sweet enough, and so easy to cut through. I love it so much. The thin layer of raspberry jam is also such a great addition to a lemon dessert; I love me some lemon meringue pie or a classic lemon tart, but this extra little dimension of flavour breaks up the straight tartness of the lemon perfectly. And then, of course, the curd filling is the star of the show—bright, tangy, smooth. SO GOOD. My love of lemons remains strong. I definitely plan on making this tart again this winter once Meyer lemons are in abundance and maybe also swapping out the raspberry jam for blackberry. How good would a grapefruit curd filling be too?! The ideas are swirling!

The Pies and Tarts chapter can do no wrong in my eyes and this is yet another 5-star bake for me!

Next week we’ll be taking on a bit of a challenge: it’s Tarte Tatin time!

apricot and cream brioche tart

Hi everyone and happy Sunday! We checked off THREE more recipes from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person with this week’s bake—numbers 27, 28, and 29! This latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter of the book was the Apricot and Cream Brioche Tart, which also called on two more Foundational Recipes in the book: Claire’s Brioche Dough, and what she calls “the easiest recipe in the book,” the Honey Almond Syrup.

Lauren’s Take

Wow, what a week this was for us here at the Sisters&Safftiz kitchen. I was pretty nervous going into the bake this week for a few reasons…

1. We had to make 3 recipes

2. I had never worked with apricots before and did not know how to tell if they were ripe

3. I can barely spell Brioche, never mind bake it

So, safe to say we had a healthy amount of fear and excitement going into this week’s bake. It has three components like I mentioned; the brioche dough, the apricot tart topping, and the honey almond syrup.

The first component I made was the brioche dough, due to its long rising/chilling time. I had never made brioche before and because it sounds so fancy, I was pretty nervous. But once I read through the recipe and the steps, it became less intimidating. Brioche is essentially an egg-y bread with TONS of butter (so really what can go wrong?). As I was making and baking it, it reminded me a lot of the Italian Easter bread my mom makes! So maybe I’ve been eating bougie brioche my whole life and didn’t know?

While I was making the dough, I played the video on YouTube of Claire making her “Pigs in a Brioche Blanket” video in order to have a real-time example of making the dough, which I found super helpful. You start the dough by heating milk to lukewarm and then pour it over the active dry yeast to proof it. So, I ended up doing this a couple times because I thought I kept messing it up; I would find that the yeast would start to dissolve and then sort of clump together. At first I thought maybe it was because the milk was too hot, but I was careful to not heat it over 105 degrees. I did a bit of research and found that it is very common for yeast to clump when you proof it in milk versus in water. I did see some foaming and it smelt yeast-y so after the third try with similar results I just went for it (and spoiler alert, it worked out so don’t panic too much if this happens to you!)

Once the yeast is proofed, you put in into the mixing bowl with the flour, sugar, salt and 6 (!!!) room temperature eggs. I used my stand mixer, like Claire recommends, to slowly mix this massive batter together until it comes together, pulls away from the sides of the mixer easily and looks soft and shiny. This took a lot longer for me than expected and I had to keep adding small amounts of flour throughout because my dough stayed pretty sticky for a while. During this first mix, make sure to stop the mixer periodically to scrape dough off the hook and down the sides of the bowl. Once the dough looks soft, supple, and shiny, you can start adding the pieces of room temperature butter. And it’s a lot of butter friends. You have to add the pieces of butter one slice at a time, only adding the next piece once the previous has fully incorporated into the dough. It took me about 15-20 minutes to add all the butter pieces, but once you’re done, you are left with the softest, smoothest, shiniest dough I have ever seen. You then remove your dough from the mixer, form it into a ball, place it in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. You let the dough sit out at room temperature for about an hour until it doubles in size, and then place it in the refrigerator to chill and proof for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. My little brioche grew so well both out at room temperature and then again in the fridge. I was so pleased that I named it Joiche (like Josh but fancy) the brioche.

After my dough had chilled overnight, I removed it from the fridge and separated it in half since that’s all you need for this recipe. I took one half and shaped it into a roll, put it in a loaf pan and let it proof at room temperature. Then I took the other half to use for my apricot tart. You take the dough and roll/stretch it out to a 16×12 inch rectangle and place it on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You then fold the edges over-top of the dough to make a border and press it down. This dough, once shaped, also needs to set for about half an hour. During this time, I made the crème fraiche topping and sliced my apricots which were PERFECTLY ripe (side story: I had to buy apricots twice because my first ones rotted instantly. Life lesson – don’t buy apricots from Walmart).

After half an hour, my brioche dough was ready. I topped it with the cream and then placed the apricots wedges over-top. You then brush the edges with egg wash and then sprinkle the whole thing with white sugar. Then place in the oven and wait for magic to happen!

The tart bakes for about half an hour, until the brioche is golden brown and the apricots start to soften and brown as well. While it was baking, I make the honey almond syrup/ the easiest recipe in the book (WE MADE IT). It was easy. That’s all I gotta say on that guy.

This smelt amazing while it was cooking and it was so neat to watch the dough rise in the oven (it got a lot more height than I expected!). This was a unique week because Julia and I were essentially baking at the same time and texting each other about how beautiful they looked in the oven. Once your tart has baked, you remove it from the oven and immediately brush it with the syrup, brushing more syrup on it every 10 minutes or so while it cools. I used all the syrup as Claire suggests, but found it was definitely a bit much so you could get away with using less. Once my tart was done, I put my brioche loaf in the oven and made some bread (love a 2-for-1!)

I brought this tart to a BBQ for my friends’ 10-year anniversary and was a bit nervous. There’s something a bit scary about bringing a dessert you have never made or tried before to a gathering of people, but I trust Claire and I was feeling reckless. This tart did not disappoint and people ATE it up, literally and metaphorically. I got so many compliments about this dessert, and they were well warranted in my opinion. This tart was unreal. The brioche dough was so light and buttery, the cream was delicious and the jammy apricots glazed with the honey almond syrup…oh man, there is literally nothing wrong with this dessert. It may take a while to do because of the brioche dough, but it is WELL worth it. I will never be the same. 5 stars for me.

Julia’s Take

Hi friends! I truly cannot believe we are already almost at recipe number 30 out of 105. I know both Lauren and I are so grateful for all of you that have been following along on this little project of ours. I have been enjoying this chapter of the book so, so much. The timing of working on pies and tarts through the summer when there is so much beautiful fresh fruit in season worked out perfectly (minus the slightly trippy experience of having pumpkin pie in June, but is there ever really a bad time for any kind of pie?). All of the different flavours, ingredients, and types of dough we’ve been able to work with over the last few weeks have been really, really fun!

We’ve already checked off Claire’s pie dough, sweet tart dough, graham cracker crust, and rough puff in this chapter, and this week’s bake brought us a new one: the brioche dough. I’ve only made brioche one other time, at the very start of the pandemic, and absolutely loved the process and the fluffy, buttery texture so I was excited to try Claire’s version. The idea of using it as the base of a tart was also super intriguing to me.

Overall, this is a really easy bake! The brioche has some long rest times, but other than that it came together in less than an hour. I decided to make my dough the night before so that it could rest in the fridge overnight before assembling the rest of the recipe. This dough is not for the faint of heart—there is a LOT (A LOT) of butter in this. The base ingredients are your standard AP flour, some sugar, and some salt. You then add in yeast that has been proofed in warm, whole milk and 6 eggs (yes, you read that right—there isn’t just a lot of butter but there are also a lot of eggs. There’s a reason brioche tastes so good). Once all of these ingredients are incorporated, you slowly add in (wait for it) two whole sticks of butter (yup), adding just one chunk at a time until it is fully blended in before adding the next. This gradually enriches the mixture and makes for a super soft, supple dough that’s so beautiful and so great to work with.

Your stand mixer is truly the MVP here. The dough mixes for a good 15 minutes while the butter is added in and my mixer was HOT by the time I finished. The bowl gets pretty lodged in there too over the course of all the kneading—so much so that as I write this, my dirty bowl is still stuck on the base of my mixer despite all my efforts. Sooooo we’ll have to figure out how to deal with that at some point.

The dough sits and rises for about an hour and a half until doubled in size, and then goes into the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 24. Mine sat in the fridge for about 12 hours and really expanded overnight! From here, it’s a quick process: the dough (this recipe uses half of Claire’s brioche recipe, so I ended up making a loaf with the second half) is rolled out into a large, thin rectangle and rests under a damp towel for 20 minutes. While it rests, I mixed together sugar, an egg yolk, and crème fraiche. Exciting turn of events: I actually managed to find crème fraiche (for those who have been following along from the beginning, I’ve always had to sub in sour cream but lucked out this time!). This mixture is spread over the dough, and then topped with wedges of fresh apricots. Can we just take a moment to appreciate the apricot? They have to be one of the more underrated fruits and, when you find them in season, they’re such a great balance of tart and sweet. The border of the dough gets an egg wash, some granulated sugar is sprinkled over the whole tart, and then it bakes for 30 minutes.

The final step is to make the Honey Almond Syrup. Could not be more simple—honey, almond extract, pinch of salt, some water, and shake. Once the tart comes out of the oven, you brush the border and the apricots with the syrup every 10 minutes until it’s all used up (about a half cup’s worth). This gives the whole thing a really beautiful shine.

I was surprised at how much the dough puffed up while the tart was baking. My house smelled absolutely amazing while this was in the oven and it tasted so, so incredible—the combination of the buttery dough, the sweet cream, and the jammy apricots was like nothing I have ever had before. This is a pretty hefty tart, so I happily shared it with some friends. Nothing has been better for my soul (aside from all this baking) than being able to see people I love again, now that I’ve been lucky enough to have my second dose of the vaccine and Ontario continues to gradually reopen. The weekend kicked off with patio beers and a tart drop-off, and ended with my best friend and her family (who I haven’t seen in a year!) coming up to see me from Toronto. Such a sweet reunion, made that much sweeter by this delicious tart. It is—you guessed it—yet another 5-star bake for me!

Next week we’ll be baking a recipe that we’ve heard can be a bit finicky—the Meyer Lemon Tart. Wish us luck!!

blackberry caramel tart

It’s July and we’ve reached our 26th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. Since Concord grapes will be in season in Ontario in a couple of weeks, we decided to hold off on the crumble pie until they’re available. This latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter brought back the Sweet Tart Dough, which we used for the Salty Nut Tart a few weeks back. This served as the base for the delicious Blackberry Caramel Tart.

Lauren’s Take

Well, well, well—here we are with our 26th bake! Thank you to everyone who has been sticking with us on this tasty journey since the beginning and all the people who have joined since! I get so inspired every week seeing everyone else’s bakes and creativity and feel so much love from your comments and compliments. Now that we’re in the thick of it and about a quarter of the way through, I’m starting to notice that I’m beginning to have baking instincts and not needing to double or triple check the recipe as often (not to say that I don’t make mistakes anymore because I sure do). It’s a pretty cool feeling though and I can’t wait to see it develop more over time!

This week we made the Blackberry Caramel Tart. What was fun about this recipe was that we had made most of the components before, so it was nice to feel that level of familiarity but be able to expand and try it with different flavours. Step 1 of this recipe is making Claire’s Sweet Tart Dough which is honestly one of my favourite discoveries from this book. It is so delicious cooked and raw. You make this dough by combining toasted almond flour (I burnt mine on the first go so make sure you keep a close eye), all-purpose flour, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, water, and egg yolk together and then let it chill. The consistency of this dough is so smooth and it has such a great balance of nutty and sweet flavours. Once the dough is chilled, you press it into the tart pan using a strip technique (check out Claire’s Meyer Lemon Tart video to see what I’m doing a bad job of describing). Now, for those of you in Ontario/Canada, you know that we’ve been having some of the hottest June weather ever recorded in the last few days, so safe to say, it was tricky even with the AC on full blast to keep this dough cool. It got super soft very quick which I think contributed to some snags later on. Anyways, after letting the pressed tart shell chill again, you bake the tart first with foil on top and then uncovered for about 30-40 minutes in total. For this recipe, the tart shell had to be fully baked, so you’re aiming for a deep golden brown colour throughout. Mine needed to bake less than the suggested time.

One thing Claire suggests is saving your extra tart dough so that you can fill in cracks that occur after the tart has baked in the oven. I ended up having a bunch leftover; I think it was because the heat was causing the butter to melt again and making the dough a lot softer and more easily spreadable. Suffice to say, I was glad to have so much left because I had a full long HOLE in the middle of my tart (basically it looked like my tart had been cut in half). I patched it all up though so no harm done. If you do need to patch up your tart, you do not need to bake it again.

Once the tart was finished baking and cooling, I got onto the blackberry caramel portion of the bake. You first make the caramel which is always such a fascinating experience. For this recipe, you combine the sugar with some light corn syrup and water, letting it boil down until it is a medium amber colour. What is so cool and so stressful about caramel is it literally goes from being white with nothing happening for so long to burnt in 0.5 seconds, so you gotta watch that bad boy like a hawk. I think I might have over cooked mine by like 0.0005 seconds, but hey, I’m only human. You then add in the heavy cream, vanilla, salt and blackberries to the caramel, and place it back on the stove to cook for another 5 minutes, breaking down the blackberries as you go. This smelt and tasted amazing and the combo of the caramel and blackberries made such a rich, beautiful colour.

While the caramel is cooling, you arrange your other full blackberries onto the tart shell. Claire says to use over 2 cups of blackberries, but trust, you do not need that much for a 9-inch pie shell. I stuffed mine with blackberries and still had a decent amount leftover. Once the caramel has cooled, you strain it to remove the solids and add in liquefied gelatin powder. This mixture is then stirred over an ice bath until it reaches heavy cream consistency (how legit does that sentence sound?)

Once your caramel, blackberry, gelatin mixture has cooled and reached that thickness, you pour it into your tart shell with the blackberries, making sure to pour it evenly around the berries. Once that is done you place it into the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours to let the mixture set. And voila. Honestly, not too difficult of a bake if you’ve done a lot of these components before (tart shell, caramel, gelatin).

The tart is GORGEOUS. Definitely a showstopper at any family picnic. The colour is such a beautiful deep purple and the way the blackberries sit throughout the top looks very satisfying. The tart shell is also beautiful, especially when you look at it from the side and it has that quintessential colour and pattern. In terms of taste, this tart is definitely tasty but I found it wasn’t anything too spectacular. The tart shell is a winner, no doubt, and the combo of the almond with blackberries was a good combo, but I found the caramel a bit too bitter. Now this might be because I over cooked mine a bit or because of the blackberries I used, but I found the same issue when I made the mango caramel as well. So maybe it’s me and maybe I just don’t like caramel? Who knows. But regardless, this is a fairly easy to whip up dessert that I think is perfect for a summer get-together and really highlights the blackberry. 4 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

After a week of rain, the sun finally decided to come out again this weekend, making it the perfect time to make this no-bake tart full of beautiful summer berries. I was really excited for this recipe (do I say that every week? Probably) because I loved the Sweet Tart Dough the last time we used it, and because of how unique and beautiful it looked in the book.

After a few weeks of making more intensive flaky pie doughs, bringing the tart dough together felt like a breeze. It’s still heavy on the butter—I would love to count up how many sticks of butter in total I’ve used by the time I reach the end of this chapter—but the ingredients come together really quickly in a food processor. The wait time for the dough is so much quicker too; instead of 2+ hours, plus folds, plus more waiting, the dough sets in the fridge for just half an hour. After pressing the dough into the tart pan, I baked it fully and let it cool while I moved on to the other components. If anyone remembers, the last time I made this I only had an 11” tart pan instead of a 9”—this meant my crust was so much thinner and required a second round of dough to fill in some of the cracks. The right equipment can truly be a game changer; this time I had the size recommended in the book, and getting the dough to press into the shell was a WAY quicker process than last time. Because the crust wasn’t as thin, it also baked up so much better and wasn’t as tough as the shell of the nut tart ended up being, giving me more of that buttery texture you want to get from a tart shell. Might seem like the most obvious statement in the world that better equipment = better results, but when you’ve made enough of these things, an easy and simple bake always feels like a huge win.

The rest of the tart was really simple to make. You start off making a caramel with sugar, corn syrup, and water—a slow process that can be a tad stressful but really rewarding. Once you have that signature amber colour, you stream in the heavy cream and then add salt, vanilla, and some blackberries. This was a really similar process to how we made the mango caramel for the Rice Pudding Cake; we’ve now made two versions of a fruit caramel and it’s truly life-changing. I don’t know how I made it this far without ever having a fruit caramel before, and I don’t know where/how Claire got the idea, but it is brilliant. There are a few things we’ve made so far that I might not necessarily make the effort to bake again “just because” but the fruit caramels are something I absolutely see myself making again and again, to top ice cream or as sauces for other types of dessert. Can’t recommend enough.

Once the blackberries have cooked down, the whole caramel sauce is strained to remove the seeds/remaining chunks of berry. The gelatin powder we used for the Cranberry Pomegranate Mousse Pie makes a comeback for this bake; it’s softened in a bowl of water, then warmed up until translucent in the same saucepan you use for the caramel, and then stirred in to the blackberry mixture. Since the tart is no-bake, this is what helps the filling set. By this point, the crust had cooled, and whole fresh blackberries are arranged throughout the inside of the empty shell; after the gelatin is added, the sauce is poured in around the berries. The amount is just enough to fill up the tart shell and cover the fresh berries about half way up. The colour contrast of the deep purple caramel filling and the pops of bright black berries was so pretty.

The tart chills in the fridge for at least 2 hours, allowing the caramel filling to set. The results were not only beautiful, but—shocking to no one, I’m sure—also incredibly delicious. The combination of flavours and textures, between the buttery tart shell, the smooth, sweet caramel filling, and the pops of fresh berries was so, so amazing. Every component balanced out and complimented the others perfectly. My only complaint is that I would have loved a tad more filling because this caramel was BOMB, but I also think that too much more of it would have made this dessert as a whole a touch too sweet, so ultimately Claire knew what she was doing on this one. I feel like I’ve been heavy on the 5-star ratings lately, but what can I say… we just keep winning over here. 5 stars!

We still won’t be quite ready for the Apple Concord Grape Crumble Pie next week, so check back for the Apricot and Cream Brioche Tart!

caramelized honey pumpkin pie

We are back with our 25th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person as we continue moving through the Pies and Tarts chapter. How have we already made it to recipe number 25??! Our bake this week is extremely non-seasonal, but that’s just one of the pitfalls of stubbornly deciding to bake the whole book in order. On this lovely June day, we bring you Claire’s Caramelized Honey Pumpkin Pie!

Lauren’s Take

I’ve always had mixed emotions about pumpkin pie. As a purest and lover of traditions, I want to love pumpkin pie because it’s the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. But every time it was offered to me after a delicious meal of turkey and stuffing (mad ups to my Mom for making the best stuffing ever), I would say yes and think I was excited, but then just be kind of disappointed? Once I got more into baking, I would ask my family if I could handle the Thanksgiving dessert, and would make pumpkin pie cheesecakes, pumpkin and cranberry pie…simply trying to retain the tradition but improve it. But it still felt wrong to me. I wanted to love pumpkin pie as much as I love fall and Thanksgiving stuffing (this is the most pathetic sob story and I apologize and will now move on).

All this to say, I felt a connection to Claire when in the intro to this recipe, she mentioned similar qualms with pumpkin pie and used this recipe as a chance to improve such a popular dessert. To balance out the typical sweetness of store-bought or traditional pumpkin pie recipes, Claire adds brown butter (um hello greatest thing in the world) and caramelized honey to deepen the flavours and add a nutty-ness to the pie. As soon as I read this I was on board and intrigued to see how this would change the pumpkin pie I have come to know and tolerate.

Every time we get to bake a pie and make pie dough, I feel more at ease than I usually am with these desserts. Pie is my favourite thing to bake and allows me to feel competent and not super sweaty and stressed the whole time (like I feel with every other bake we do). We got a chance to make Claire’s flaky pie dough recipe once again. I love how she combines cubes of butter with thin sheets of butter and how she encourages doing a letter fold before rolling out completely to achieve the flakiness. Genius. When I’ve made pie dough in my past, I usually refrigerate the dough in a circular mound which makes rolling it into a circle fairly simple; Claire on the other hand encourages you to refrigerate the dough in a thin square. Once I got ready to roll, I paused for a LONG time trying to figure out how to make this a circle. I called on my mathematically minded partner who yelled over some instructions that didn’t make sense so I just did my best and make a kind of circular thing? You then place your pie dough into your pie plate, press the dough firmly down to prevent shrinking and then crimp the sides. I really like Claire’s technique on how to do this (she even did a video of it on her YouTube channel). You use your thumb to create the intends which makes them larger than what I’ve typically done but I really like the shape it creates. The pie dough is covered then with aluminum foil and weighted down with pie weights. It bakes for about 25 minutes with the foil/weights on top, and then for another 20 minutes without to par-bake the crust. Claire warns for this step to lean on the side of over-baking the crust to a deeper golden brown because of the wet filling of this recipe. I found 20 minutes was perfect and I got such a beautiful golden colour and NO SHRINKAGE. I think this is my first time making pie ever where the dough did not shrink at all. Colour me impressed.

While the pie dough was cooling, I made the pumpkin pie filling. First you brown the butter and honestly nothing is more satisfying. I love watching butter brown and the smell once it’s done is so delicious. You add honey to the browned butter to stop the cooking process, mix them together, and then bring the mixture back to a boil to caramelize the honey. As it cooks, it releases such a beautiful, nutty flavour. You remove this from the stove, and slowly add in some heavy cream and set it aside. Then you make the custard base by whisking the eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin puree and spices. Once this is mixed, you whisk in your butter honey mixture, and voila, there’s your custard.

The mixture gets poured into the pie crust and then bakes in the oven until the sides are puffed and the centre wobbles. The time frame Claire gives is 45-60minutes, and I think I left mine in for about 65minutes or so because the centre still seemed too liquid until then. In order to prevent cracking, you left the pie fully cool in the oven before removing it. Now I made this pie right before I had to leave for a cottage weekend so I couldn’t let it FULLY cool in the oven, but even before removing it, it had already cracked. Thank goodness for whipped cream and its ability to hide mistakes.

This pie went on a journey. From the oven, my partner and I carefully placed it in our back seat and drove 2 hours with it to a cottage. Once we arrived, I softly whipped the cream and served it. First things first, this pie looks beautiful. The custard has such a deep, rich orange colour versus the artificial orange you get with some pumpkin pies, and the golden brown crust compliments it very well. Cutting the pie is also super satisfying as the knife easily goes through the custard and then faces some resistance to the flaky pie crust below. So 5 stars for aesthetics for sure. In terms of the taste, the pie crust was once again flaky, buttery and delicious.

Now for the custard…I will say, it was less sweet and less gummy then other pumpkin pies I have. The custard was super smooth and had just the right amount of sweetness. But I didn’t really feel like I got a huge sense of the brown butter and the honey, and I think that’s just because pumpkin and all the typical spices (nutmeg, ginger, cloves), are fairly overpowering flavours and kind of overtook everything else. If I made it again, I would maybe add a bit more honey, and put less of the spices in. This pie didn’t blow me away, but I will say that it was better than any other pumpkin pie that I’ve had. I’ll give it 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

Does anything scream summer more than a beautifully custardy, warm spice-filled pumpkin pie?! I am all for the argument that “pumpkin spice” flavoured things should be enjoyed all year long, but there was something about making this pie in 25-degree weather (that’s Celsius for all our confused American friends) in shorts and a t-shirt while the sun beamed in to my kitchen, looking out at my patio garden, that just felt off to me. Today also happens to be my 34th birthday (oy…) and while I do enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie with tons of whipped cream post-Turkey dinner, it is far from my favourite dessert, so wouldn’t have been my first choice of birthday week bake.

All that aside, the experience of baking this pie was pretty straightforward and a lot of fun. This recipe called once again for Claire’s Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, which I previously dubbed the all-time best pie dough recipe ever when we made it for the Plum Galette a couple of weeks ago. I stand by that statement. I also noticed this time around that, with two rounds of pie dough and a round of Rough Puff under my belt, I am getting a lot quicker and more comfortable working with buttery doughs. I found I had to check the book less, doubted myself less, and just generally worked a lot faster to bring it all together. Win!

I made the dough and parbaked my crust the night before. Claire mentions in the recipe that if you’re using the crust for a custard-filled pie (like this one), you should err on baking longer until you get a deep golden brown to avoid the dreaded “soggy bottom.” Anyone who’s a fan of the Great British Bake-Off (or the equally delightful Canadian version, previously hosted by true Canadian legend and all-around adorable human Dan Levy) knows there is absolutely nothing more shameful than a soggy bottom. So I kept that crust in the oven a good 15-20 minutes longer than it called for in the book. I may have gone a bit far, but more on that later.

The next morning, I got to work on the custard filling. This was super simple to make. Adding that special flare that every Saffitz recipe seems to have, you start off browning butter (there is nothing better than brown butter) and then adding in honey and heavy cream to create what is basically a honey caramel. It smelled AMAZING – sweet, nutty, delicious. While that mixture sits, you whip together eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, and all the warm spices (your standard blend of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and the extra little twist of all-spice). Slowly stream the honey and brown butter caramel into the pumpkin mixture, and you have your custard. It gets poured into the cooled pie crust, and the whole thing bakes for about an hour. Similar to the Goat Cheese Cake, the pie needs to fully cool in the oven with the door slightly propped open so that the filling can properly set. I topped the pie with some freshly whipped cream and grated nutmeg.

The combination of the honey and brown butter caramel and the quantities of warm spices means that you end up with a filling that is so much richer not only in flavour but in colour as well. I was so pleasantly surprised to pull the pie out of the oven to see this deeply golden, almost amber brown instead of the brighter orange colour you’re used to seeing for a pumpkin pie. There was also so much more depth of flavour—not straight up “pumpkin” or “sweet” but something that definitely still read as fall vibes while also being nuttier, slightly caramel-y, and perfectly balanced. The custard was so smooth and rich in the best way.

Back to that pie crust: I think I definitely took it a tad too far in the parbake. While I did avoid the soggy bottom (yay) I did find it a bit tough to cut through. There’s crispy, and then there’s just straight-up rock solid. I do think, though, that less time in the oven would have absolutely meant soggy pie, so I don’t know which is worse. It’s a difficult balance to achieve and I haven’t quite mastered it yet.

It’s no surprise that this is one of the best pumpkin pies I’ve had. It wouldn’t be the first thing I go to grab (especially after last week’s epic Apple Tart), but if I had to choose between this and other pumpkin pie recipes, I’d choose this one every time. After trying a slice, I put the rest in the freezer because something about passing around pieces of pumpkin pie to friends and family in June felt bizarre to me, so I’m hoping it will hold up well for Thanksgiving. Will report back. I give this bake 4 stars!

Next week, we’ll be making the Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie. See you then!

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!