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!

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!

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!

salty nut tart with rosemary

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

Lauren’s Take

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Julia’s Take

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

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

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

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

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

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

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