peach melba tart

We’re coming to you this week with our 37th and 38th bakes from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person: another Foundational Recipe checked off, the Vanilla Pastry Cream, which is used to create the grand finale of the Pies and Tarts chapter, the long-awaited Peach Melba Tart!

 

Lauren’s Take

 

Julia’s Take

When I tell you I’d been looking forward to making this tart since I got the book, I am not exaggerating! First off, the flavours sounded immediately appealing (peaches and raspberries are two of my very favourites!) and the photo just looked so gorgeous in the book, it popped off the page. Once we started this little baking project and began following along with other Dessert People working their way through the book, I heard nothing but rave reviews of this recipe. FINALLY, it was our turn to try the tart that everyone seemed to love so much.

The base of the tart is Claire’s Rough Puff, which we’d made a couple of times already—for the Apple Tart and for the Tarte Tatin. For something that seemed super intimidating when we first came up to it, I couldn’t love it more now and could probably make it without really using the book. While I was really happy with my results previous times, for whatever reason (type of butter? Temperature? Just general improvement in skill level?!) the pastry turned out sooooo much better this time. I was working on this tart during a super busy almost-time-for-start-of-the-semester, meeting-filled work week, and while in preparation mode for a hectic weekend with out of town visitors and our other sister’s bridal shower; thank goodness for long pastry rest times, because I was able to prep, refrigerate, and bake the pastry in between meetings and errand running. The flaky layers were just next level. I don’t think anything will ever be as thrilling as pulling homemade puff pastry out of the oven!

The next component of the tart was the Vanilla Pastry Cream, which came together really quickly stovetop with eggs, sugar, vanilla, and eventually some butter which is whisked through at the very end once your custard comes off the heat. I used Vanilla Bean Paste, which was a slightly less expensive option that still gave me those pretty little black flecks of vanilla scattered throughout. Sometimes aesthetics matter, you know?

Third component: the poached peaches! I’d picked up some fresh, in-season Niagara peaches from the grocery store the day before so the timing of making this tart couldn’t have been better here in Ontario. The poaching liquid is mostly white wine and sugar, with some vanilla and lemon juice/rind for additional flavouring. As the peaches slowly simmer away, the liquid turns into this beautiful pink colour and the smell is just amazing. Definitely hang on to that poaching liquid when you’re done—it’s like liquid gold! The book says you should be able to easily peel your peaches once they’re poached and have fully cooled; I don’t know if it’s because I’d poached mine the night before and put them in the fridge overnight while the poaching liquid was still kind of warm, or if it’s because my peaches weren’t as ripe as they could have been (remember, I HATE mushy fruit), but they were not that easy to peel. Ultimately, it didn’t affect the texture and they sort of looked pretty with the peels still on, so I left them as-is.

Some of the poaching liquid is reserved and mashed up with fresh raspberries to create a sauce and with that, you are all ready to assemble! What was nice about this tart was, once your pastry is baked and cooled, it doesn’t require any more oven time. The pastry cream is spread in a thick, even layer over the puff pastry; the peaches are placed in rows on top of the cream, and then the whole thing is drizzled in the raspberry sauce. Wow, is the finished product ever impressive; there are few things I’ve made in my life that have made me as proud as this one did.

I cannot say enough good things about this tart. How can you not absolutely love this?! The flaky puff pastry was perfect; the pastry cream had the most amazing vanilla flavour and was silky smooth; the peaches not only looked gorgeous but were so soft and delicious, not only from their own peachy ripeness but from the subtle flavourings of the poaching liquid; and then the little bursts of raspberry add an amazing colour and additional pop of tartness and freshness. SO SO SO SO SO GOOD! A 5-star bake without a doubt and the most epic finish to what’s been such a fun, challenging, and delicious chapter of the book!

Next week, we’re moving on to a brand new chapter and will be kicking off Bars and Cookies with Claire’s Marcona Almond Cookies. See you then!

quince and almond tart with rosé

Welcome back friends! Reunion week has come and gone and we’re back with another long-distance, side-by-side bake this Sunday. Since we’ve made the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough so many times already, this latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter allowed us to check off just one new one from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. Bake number 34 on our journey was the Quince and Almond Tart with Rosé.

Lauren’s Take

We’re almost done pies and tarts! Which is equally exciting and bittersweet. Pies and tarts has been such an excellent chapter and it has been very comforting being in my baking sweet spot. Nonetheless, change and challenge are good things and I look forward to the different desserts ahead.

But while we’re still in pies and tarts land—this week we made the Quince and Almond Tart! I learned a few things this week from this bake:

  1. I pronounce quince way too fancy and incorrectly so every produce grocer had no idea what I was saying (I have since learned the correct pronunciation).
  2. Almond paste is super expensive to buy and very easy to make yourself, so just do that.
  3. I have become a master at the Claire Saffitz pie dough and I am not ashamed to say it proudly.

The main snag we hit this week was neither of us could find quince. Julia gave me the suggestion of using Asian pears instead so I went with that! Julia suggested adding lychee to get a closer flavour match; I had considered adding some pineapple juice to the recipe to get the quince flavour Claire describes but forgot, so I ended up just doing a rendition of this recipe using Asian pears instead. They worked out super well and I was really pleased with the taste. So don’t fret if you can’t find quince!

This recipe involves four elements that are each slightly time consuming, so I opted to make all the elements on one day, and then assemble the tart and bake the next day. The first is to make either the pie dough or rough puff; I chose to use the pie dough and please see point #3 to see how I feel about that 😉

The next thing I did was make the almond paste, which again, was very easy to do. You simply mix almond flour, powdered sugar, egg white, and almond extract in the food processor until it comes together and chill. Easy and delicious.

Then I made the poaching liquid and poached the pears. This poaching liquid smells amazing and I was very tempted to just ladle some out and drink it like mulled wine. It’s a combo of rosé wine (full bottle cause that’s how we do), sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, and star anise. Once the sugar has dissolved, you remove from the heat and prepare your pears. To do this, you peel the skin away, core them and slice in half…and keep all these discard pieces in a bowl (this will lead to a magical moment, stay tuned). Once your pear halves are ready, you put them in the liquid, topping up with water until the fruit is submerged. Claire recommends putting a piece of parchment paper and a small plate on top of the liquid to keep the fruit under the liquid. I did it because I’m a purest, but I don’t know if it’s the most necessary thing!

My pears poached for about 25 minutes to get to a good level of tenderness. After you remove the pears, you add your reserved pear skins and cores to the fluid and bring to a boil. This was the most magical discovery of the book so far; the natural pectin from the fruit MAKES THE LIQUID INTO A JELLY. I’m sorry…what?! Mind blown. You reduce this mixture until it is thick and bubbles are slow to pop; the book says 20-25 minutes but it took me about 40 minutes to really get there. I think it may have been because I had to add quite a bit of water initially to cover the fruit. You then strain this liquid, discarding the solids. You should get about 2/3 cup of liquid; mine was slightly less and you can totally get away with that. You leave this mixture in the fridge to chill and become a jelly, letting the pectin work its magic!

The next morning, I had all my components and was ready to assemble! This recipe is basically tarte tatin with pears so it was comforting to already know the techniques. In the cast iron, you layer the chilled jelly, thin slices of Asian pears, rolled out almond paste, and your pie dough. And then bake until golden brown!

The flip of the cooked tart was a lot less terrifying this time so worked out super well with very little spillage. Leftover jelly glazes the warm tart after being removed from the oven and then you’re done! The result is a tart with the deepest golden colour and shiny top! It looks so inviting and beautiful.

This tart tastes great—so many layers and textures and flavours. The pie dough was super flaky because I’m a champion. The almond layer is very rich and savoury, and the poached fruit with the jelly has a sharpness and sweetness to it. When the components balance well, it’s a perfect bite. My only qualm is I think I should’ve used less almond paste or done a thinner layer because it did tend to dominate the flavours. But otherwise, it is delicious, not too heavy, and a pretty ideal summer dessert. 4.5 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

Back to individual baking this week! Honestly, if there was a recipe to tag-team with a baking buddy, this would have been a good one because there were so many steps, pauses, techniques. Alas, Lauren is back in Ottawa and I had to ride solo again on this one. I broke the process down over a couple of days which helped, but it still took a long time to bring together this seemingly easy recipe—partially cause of the instructions in the recipe itself and partially my own doing.

There were four basic components to this tart: the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, the almond paste, the poached fruit, and the fruit/wine jelly. I made basically all of these the day before, left them in the fridge overnight, and then put the whole tart together the following day. The pie dough was a real highlight for me with this bake; I have loved Claire’s recipe every time I’ve used it so far but I have noticed that, even though it always comes out flaky and delicious, it’s always a bit tough to cut through with a fork. After reading some tips from fellow Dessert People on Instagram (shout-out to Karen if you’re reading this!) and after making the dough with Lauren in person last week, I realized I was probably adding too much water—so I resisted the temptation this time and my pie crust has NEVER turned out better! One of the best parts of this project has been noticing a gradual improvement in my skills, knowledge, and confidence as a baker and this was a top moment.

Once the pie dough was ready and chilling in the fridge, I moved on to the poached pears. Now, you might be thinking: “This is called a quince tart. What is quince and what’s with the pears?” Well, I had never heard of quince in my entire life but apparently it’s a pear/apple hybrid that has some tropical undertones. They are native to Western Asia/Eastern Europe, and remain quite hard which I guess is what makes them appropriate for slow, long cooking processes like poaching. From the description in the book, it sounds like Claire is a big fan but there was no way I was finding this ingredient in my small northern Ontario city, especially in the summer, so I had to get creative.

I decided to sub the quince for Asian pear which, to me, would have that similar apple slash pear vibe and a good enough crispness to maintain its integrity during the poaching and baking process. I also decided to add some lychee juice to the poaching liquid since I’d heard that the tropical hints in the quince flavour were similar to lychee. Never having tried quince, I have no idea if this worked; I’d love to try the true-to-the-recipe version of this tart and compare the flavour to what I got, but I don’t see that happening so I’ll just say I’m brilliant and I nailed it 😉

The poaching liquid is made up of a full bottle of rosé wine (I’d actually bottled some myself this summer so I was able to use that!), sugar, a cinnamon stick, star anise, the rind and juice of a whole lemon, vanilla, and in my case of course, the lychee juice. The pears are peeled and cored, cut in half, and then simmer in the liquid for about 25 minutes until softened. Water is added until the pears are just covered as well. Having read that quince is very tough, I was worried about my pears over-poaching so I veered on the side of slightly firmer; I was able to poke through the flesh easily but they still had structure to them. At this point, you need to turn off the heat and let the pears sit in the liquid for a little while until the liquid cools from hot to warm. After THAT, the pears are removed from the liquid and the pot is brought back up to a boil. That was a common theme with this recipe: heat on, heat off, heat on, heat off. Was it necessary? Probably not. But who am I to argue with Claire.

Speaking of unnecessary steps, the recipe says to place a circle-shaped piece of parchment paper over the pears and place a small plate on top to make sure the fruit remains submerged in the poaching liquid the whole time. Did this actually make a difference? I’m not so sure. It was hard to see how much the liquid was actually simmering and how soft the pears were getting, so I took everything off about halfway through the poaching process and they still seemed submerged enough to me. For anyone reading this who plans to make this recipe, I’d say save yourself the piece of parchment and don’t bother with this.

As you bring the poaching liquid back up to a boil, all of the reserved pear skins and cores are added back in. I really loved this aspect of the recipe! I thought it was so cool that what would be considered the “waste” was actually reused and served an important function. Since the skins of the fruit have natural pectin in them, boiling them in the liquid helps to thicken it and ultimately turn it into a jelly. How amazing is that?? Is it just me that nerds out on this stuff?

This stage is where I ran into some snags, friends. Like the dough and the pears, I decided to finish up the jelly component the night before—but it did not go according to plan. I added the skins, brought everything up to a boil, and let it go for about 25 minutes like the recipe called for. Important warning: DO NOT WALK AWAY. I’d looked at the liquid once or twice and noticed it was turning into a syrup so I went on my merry way and waited for the timer to go off. Eventually, I started to smell something burning. Do not ask me how it went from zero to 100 so quick, but the liquid had reduced WAY too much and the bottom of the pot had completely burnt. There was still syrup though, so I naively thought: this could still work. I strained my syrup, put it in the fridge, and hoped for the best. Later that night, I found a dark brown, sticky, almost completely solid mess—aka not the pretty pink soft jelly you’re supposed to have, so I tossed it and went to bed.

Day two (told you that was an involved bake): I hit up the grocery store first thing to buy more pears and went through the whole poaching/reducing process a second time. I kept an extremely close eye on it, kept the heat slightly lower, and stirred very often. After 45 minutes, I had something that was maple syrup consistency, strained, and left it in the fridge to cool for about an hour. When I went to check on it, it was jelly! Success! And so cool.

The last component I had to worry about was the almond paste. Apparently this is actually different from marzipane, and after looking around it was clear that I would NOT find this in the grocery store and it was shockingly expensive to order online. I remembered reading that another Dessert Person had made her own using a recipe from Wild Wild Whisk; it looked easy and I already had all the ingredients so I just went for it. It only takes about 5 minutes—add almond flour, powdered sugar, salt, an egg white, and some almond extract to a food processer, blend until smooth, and then wrap and store in the fridge until firm and ready to use.

FINALLY, I was ready to assemble. Spread most of fruit/wine jelly into bottom of cast iron skillet lined with neutral oil and parchment—done. Cut poached pears crosswise and create pretty design over top of jelly, slightly overlapping—done. Roll out almond paste into 9-inch circle and carefully place over pear slices—tricky, but done. Roll out pie dough into 10-inch round and place over the other tart components, using a spoon to tuck in the sides just like you would for a Tarte Tatin—done. Cut some slits into the dough to help release steam, and then bake. Similar to some of the other pies and tarts, this one bakes at 425 for the first 20 minutes, and then at 350 for the rest of the bake time. It comes out golden brown with the jelly bubbling up around the edges.

You’d think at this point, the hard part is over—but no. We have another adrenaline-inducing hot skillet over the sink flip a la Tarte Tatin here. A tad stressful but otherwise successful flip and reveal. The remainder of the jelly gets brushed over the fruit and wow is this tart ever pretty!! The pink glossiness of the jelly, the rose design of the pear slices, and the curled up edges of pastry all make for such a unique and appealing finish. I also loved how thin and delicate this tart was—it all looked so elegant.

In terms of flavour, it wasn’t like anything else I’d had. I was SO happy with how my crust turned out—perfectly crisp and cut like a dream. The flavour and texture of the pear was great and, I don’t know if I was just imagining it, but there was definitely a touch of tropical. You don’t get an outright flavour of “wine” but there is something slightly sweet, subtle, and aromatic about the glaze thanks to the rosé and poaching spices, and the layer of almond adds a nuttiness that pairs so well with the fruit. The first bite was surprising, and I liked it more and more as I continued to eat. I’m not sure I’ll be itching to repeat this whole process again any time soon, but it’s a tart I’d happily eat again. 4.5 stars!

Only three recipes left in the Pies and Tarts chapter! Join us next week for the Blueberry Slab Pie.

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!

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!

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 😉