Lemon ricotta blueberry tarts

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It’s definitely blueberry season here in West Michigan - love it! We’ve been deep into it for the past few weeks and they’re still coming. Of course I simply had to create something with these luscious orbs so I turned to some of my favorite base recipes.

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I love choosing my components and flavor profiles while giving myself plenty of time to make each part, assembling the final result when I’m ready to serve and enjoy. The freezer plays an important roll here folks and is one of the most useful tools in the baking and pastry armamentarium. Hip hip hooray for freezers!

I recently purchased a set of 80 mm square perforated tartlet forms that came with a 6-well silicone mold to create fillings that fit oh so nicely in or atop the tart shell. They’re made by my favorite Italian silicone flexi-mold maker Silikomart. What a cool way to create a composed tart - right up my alley. And let’s not forget - soooo many possibilities.

Of course I’ve been itching to try them out and what better way than creating a blueberry lemon flavor combo to help celebrate our summer’s berry bounty.

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Perforated tart forms have been available for some years now, the idea being that the tart crust will brown ever so golden-ly since the dough is exposed to more oven heat via the numerous little holes.

For this project I started with a version of pâte sucrée based on a Claudia Fleming recipe from her book “The Last Course”. It’s very reminiscent of a honey graham cracker: cream 227 g (2 sticks/8 ounces) unsalted softened butter with 50 g granulated sugar and 50 g dark brown sugar until smooth; add 84 g (1/4 cup) honey and beat until well blended; in a separate bowl mix together 195 g (1.5 cups) all purpose flour, 125 g (1 cup) whole wheat pastry flour, 1 teaspoon salt, a pinch of cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg; add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/honey mixture in two additions and blend just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least an hour before rolling out.

NOTE: this makes more than needed for the six square tarts; the extra dough will be OK wrapped in the fridge for a couple of days (if you have another use for it soon) or in the freezer for several months. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge before using.

I lined my square tart forms, blind baked them and filled them with my favorite lemon tart filling á la Jacques Genin, pouring the still warm mixture into the baked shells (note: the baked shells don’t have to cool all the way before adding the lemon filling). Bake at 300ºF for about 10-15 minutes until the filling is set (look for just a hint of jiggle in the center). Let cool and store covered in the fridge for a day if you’re planning on serving them soon or freeze for several days or up to 1-2 weeks. If frozen, you can top with the ricotta custards right out of the freezer (more on that coming up!).

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It’s all about the components - work on them step-by-step then put it all together for the pièce de resistance!

Now for the lemon ricotta filling (makes plenty for six 80 mm square tarts plus a number of additional flexi-mold shapes of your choice - I did a bunch of ingots which are just waiting in my freezer for the next creation!).

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Blend 2 cups whole milk ricotta with 150 g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon lemon zest (or lemon/lime zest combo), 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 large eggs. In this case I also blended in 1/4 cup of leftover lemon tart filling to add a bit more tang.

Heat the oven to 325ºF. Fill your chosen flexi-molds and place the mold(s) on a sheet pan. Carefully pour hot water around the base of the molds so as to create a shallow water bath around the molds. Bake about 20 minutes until set.

Remove from the oven, gently lift the flexi-mold(s) and place on a wire grid to cool. Once cool, place the molds in the freezer to firm up, at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to assemble, pop the frozen ricotta custards out of the molds and place on top of the lemon filled tarts.

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Once this step is complete, place the assembled tarts in the fridge for several hours to allow the ricotta custards to thaw. The custards will hold their shape in the fridge and be ready for the blueberry topping for serving. Yes!

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For the blueberry topping: place 2 cups fresh blueberries, 50 g sugar, 2 tablespoons water and the zest of a lemon in a saucepan over medium heat until the berries pop (4-5 minutes). Cook another few minutes to jam-ify a bit, transfer to a clean bowl, stir in a splash of lemon juice and chill. When ready to garnish your tarts, stir in an additional 1 cup fresh blueberries and spoon the topping over the chilled lemon tarts. You’ll have plenty - the leftovers will keep in the fridge in a covered container for 2-3 days (hmmm . . how about on top of your favorite vanilla or berry or peach ice cream?). Sounds deelish.

Et voilà! You are ready to enjoy a delicious summer treat. The combo of the honeyed whole wheat crust, tart and tangy citrus filling, smooth ricotta custard and luscious berries is absolutely stunning!

And yes - Steve gave it a thumbs up!

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Ooooo - next time how about chocolate pâte sucrée, dark chocolate ganache filling, topped with an orange hazelnut custard and garnished with crunchy hazelnut praline? Sounds like a great autumn/winter project to me!

Raspberry-currant cream berry tart

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Planning a dessert for the recent Bastille Day celebration with the local GR chapter of L'Alliance Française, my thoughts turned to tarts (of course!). I had fresh raspberries, blueberries and even currants from the Fulton Farmer's Market, and it was definitely time to incorporate those goodies into a delicious tart.

I've previously written about Breton dough (one of my faves), the most recent post being in early July using a céréales version to support some fresh pastry cream and strawberries. Besides the flavor and delicious texture of Breton dough, on the more practical side, it calls for egg yolks which I always see as the perfect opportunity to accumulate egg whites for financier batter or meringues. Love it.

My Breton dough was already made and in the fridge, as was a batch of raspberry currant cream that I had used the previous day for some petite fresh berry tartlettes. The plan - layers.

First I rolled the dough out to 1/4" thickness, trimmed the edges as needed and pressed it into my lightly buttered 4"x11" rectangular tart form. (Side note: this is the one tart dough I use that I butter the tart ring or form - otherwise it sticks). I wanted to build up an edge that would bake up around the filling and fruit, so I cut narrow strips of additional dough and placed them around the periphery. Then I spread a thin layer of raspberry jam on the dough within the borders. 

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Next up - a layer of raspberry currant cream. Now here is just one of the wonderful things about pastry cream - you can replace 75-80% of the whole milk in your favorite pastry cream recipe with fruit purée(s), proceed with the usual preparation and voilà - fruit cream! For this one I used equal weights of fresh raspberry and fresh red currant purées made with some of my farmers's market booty. So tart yet creamy and delicious.

I found it easiest to pipe thin stripes of the cream over the raspberry jam, so as not to mess it up by trying to gently spread it. Piping makes things so neat, doesn't it? 

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Then comes a nice sprinkle of berries - in my case raspberries and blueberries. Another cool trick is if you freeze your raspberries a few hours ahead, you can easily break them up into halves or smaller pieces while still frozen to distribute them over the cream. You try that with fresh raspberries and you'll have a juicy mess! And you can pop the tart right into the oven - no need to wait for thawing, just go for it.

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For the final touch I brushed the dough edges with a bit of cream, sprinkled on some raw sugar and added chopped pistachios over the whole kit-n-kaboodle, not only to provide a wonderful color contrast but also some added crunch for the tasting portion of the program.

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This one baked at 325ºF (convection) for about 25 minutes. I always check things half way through, rotate my sheet pan to provide even browning (yes, even in a convection oven!). You want the crust to be nicely browned and the cream to be set.

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Let it cool for 15-20 minutes, gently slide a knife or offset spatula around the edges to loosen the tart form and lift it right off.

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Part of a dessert buffet for the Bastille Day L'Alliance gathering, I sliced it into strips and added a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream to each portion. Oh my, I love this dough sooooo much! Light, buttery and a wonderful complement to the tart, fruity cream and berries. And, to top it all off, I had some extra components to make another petite blueberry tart for Steve and myself to enjoy the next day. Scrumptious.

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Michigan fruits galette

Here we are in the thick of summer, and the beautiful fruits of Michigan are in abundance (with more to come!)

The rustic galette is one of my favorite fruit offerings during these not-so-lazy days, for life has a way of taking us on a whirlwind whether we like it or not.

While we've been busy with some home remodeling, I continue teaching at Sur La Table and baking my shortbread cookies at Patricia's Chocolate in Grand Haven, a lovely Lake Michigan community that attracts many tourists during the summer.

Yet in spite of the busyness of our days there is something that gives me pause - the ever ongoing passing of the generations. Our Aunt Fran Van Halsema (wife to my mother's brother Gerard) died on July 14 - the same day as the birthday of my sister Mary and our maternal grandmother Nellie. In the past 15 months we have experienced the loss of now five aunts and uncles on both my mom's and dad's sides of the family tree.

Let's remember to make the most of our days and seek out those things that give us a sense of peace and accomplishment. It's important, oui?

Baking is one of those things. The feel of the dough, the aroma of a lovely tart as it comes to the end of the bake, the luscious fruit and browned, buttery crust as one takes a bite and the sense of a job well done. Yes.

A galette (crostata in Italian) is so easy to prepare. Simply use your favorite pâte brisée or pâte sucrée, roll it into a circle of about 10" (or choose what size you'd like - bigger, smaller, it's up to you) and place it on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan. Then, in the center of the dough, pile about 4.5 cups of fresh fruits (I used blueberries, sweet succulent yellow plums and sweet cherries) that have been tossed with sugar to taste and a bit of flour as thickener, along with some lemon zest and a grate or two of nutmeg. Give yourself a good 2" edge of dough and pleat it up around the of the fruit which should remain visible in the center.

Brush the dough edges with egg wash or a bit of cream, sprinkle with raw sugar and place in the freezer to firm up and stabilize the butter in the dough while you heat your oven to 425ºF.

Bake about 20-25 minutes (don't forget to watch what's going on in there!) until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly and juicy.

Let cool for a bit and serve still warm or cool all the way and eat later. It's best the day it's made but will reheat in the oven (no microwave please) pretty nicely the next day too.  And don't forget the vanilla ice cream. Yeah boy.

A wonderfully delicious and straight forward summer dessert. And it's even good for breakfast.

Now my kitchen awaits, eager for the next baking adventure and blog post. In the meantime, as my husband Steve so often says, "life is short - go to Paris". Well said Steve.

Cherry blueberry yogurt cake


Recently my mom and I took a drive to my childhood hometown of Fremont, Michigan to visit former neighbors and family friends, Gerry Frens and her daughter Mary.  Gerry will be 100 years young this fall, and she and my mom (who will turn 90 in August) love reminiscing about those days of yore.

Just a few years apart in age, Mary and I chat away about all manner of things while our mothers talk and talk.

We planned to share afternoon tea with them, so, of course I volunteered to bring something baked to accompany our beverage. Always looking to use up the odd lingering ingredient in the fridge, I decided on a cherry berry cake to which one of said ingredients, yogurt, would be added.

Some years ago I developed a collection of fresh fruit cake recipes that I used to bake at Gerrish's cafe in Winter Harbor ME during my first summer job out of pastry school. They're easy, versatile and allow one to mix and match ingredients and fruits depending on your whims.

Even though we're anticipating the arrival of local Michigan fresh fruits at the farmer's market, we are getting some beautiful Washington state cherries and some decent Georgia blueberries in our go-to Meijer grocery store.  So cherry blueberry just had to be the choice!



This is a pretty basic cake made by the usual method of whisking the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, creaming the butter and sugar/citrus zest until fluffy, adding eggs one at a time along with vanilla. Then fold in the dry ingredients alternating with yogurt.

In this case, once the batter is smoothed into a buttered and parchment-papered 9" cake or springform pan, it's baked at 350ºF for 15 minutes. During that time the fruit topping is put together by tossing about 7 ounces fresh fruit with a tablespoon each of granulated sugar and all purpose flour.

The fruit then goes on top of the partially baked cake with the idea that the batter will have set enough to allow the fruit to stay pretty much on top. In my case I also sprinkled some pistachio crumble over the fruit.

Here you see it ready to go back in the oven.


Pop it back in and bake for another 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Here's what happened to mine! Sunken fruit. Oh man.


Not to worry. Once I unmolded it I could at least see some fruit around the edges.



And once sliced there was plenty of fruit in each piece. Yay!


Served with a dollop of Chantilly cream with a fresh cherry perched on top, this was lovely, moist and delicious. And the group liked it. Double yay!!


Here's the recipe, quick and dirty.

Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9" cake or springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together 143 g all purpose flour, 30 g almond flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon coriander.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment cream 85 g unsalted room temperature butter and 200 g granulated sugar into which the zest of one lemon has been rubbed (LOVE citrus zested sugar!!).

Add 2 large eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Blend in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

With a rubber spatula fold in half the dry ingredients followed by 2/3 cup plain yogurt (choose your own fat content). Fold in the remaining dry ingredients.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.



Meanwhile toss a total of about 7 ounces fresh fruit(s) of choice with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon flour. Fruit prep will depend on the fruit you choose. For example halve and thinly slice fruits like peaches or plums. Blueberries or raspberries can be left whole. I pitted and halved my cherries. You get the idea.

Place the fruit on top of the partially baked cake then bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for about 15 minutes then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. I like a light dusting of powdered sugar to give it that je ne sais quoi.

The cake keeps well in a covered container for several days. It's great with whipped cream or even ice cream if you want to be a bit more decadent. Or eat it plain as an accompaniment to your morning coffee or tea. Not bad at all.


Here are just some of the ways you can make this recipe your own: substitute corn meal or a different nut flour for the almond flour; add different spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger (you decide); sub in sour cream or crème fraiche for the yogurt; use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar; add orange or lime zest instead of lemon; and of course choose your favorite fruit.  

Summer's here and it's time!



Cherry-berry feuilleté and peach buttermilk ice cream


The summer annuals are showing off their colors here in Grand Rapids MI . . . .

lovely coleus in our little garden courtyard

and the summer peaches are out in full force!


Fresh Michigan peaches are one of my favorite fruits.  So of course I've been thinking of the many wonderful ways to use them.  This time I was inspired by a peach buttermilk ice cream recipe from "Food and Wine" magazine.


I followed the recipe for my usual ice cream base (2 cups heavy cream, 1 cup whole milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 5 large egg yolks, pinch of salt) replacing the cup of whole milk with buttermilk.  I blanched 1.5 pounds of peaches, then peeled, pitted, sliced and blender-ized them with a squeeze of lemon juice, folding the purée into the cooled base.

peach purée at the ready

ice cream base finishing its chill down

I usually chill my base in the fridge for a day or two, then process in my ice cream maker and transfer to a freezer container several hours before serving.

I also wanted to use some cherries and blueberries I had on hand to complement the peach ice cream in a dessert I was planning for a family meal.  And, to top it off, there was some reverse puff pastry in my freezer just waiting to be made into something oh-so-delicious.

The beauty of the feuilleté preparation is that I can roll, shape and bake them ahead of time and hold them either at room temperature if using the same day, or in the freezer for a number of days if planning a bit farther ahead.




When ready to fill them, I simply push down the center layers of puff to make room for the fruit mixture that will be mounded in the feuilleté.

I mixed 4 cups of fruit (cherry/blueberry combo) with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar (I like my fruit on the tart side) and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. I then cooked this concoction on med-low heat until bubbly and thickened.

Note:  this quantity of fruit filling was enough for 7-8 feuilletés about 3.5 inches square.

Then I scooped a mound of filling in the center of each feuilleté and baked at 350ºF for about 10-15 minutes.  Since the puff pastry is already baked and the filling already cooked, it's really just a matter of heating everything up.

Once cooled, I topped each one with previously baked matcha crumble (really more for color contrast than taste) and gave them a light powdered sugar dust.

the end result!

I know I've mentioned crumble before in this blog.  It's a great thing to have on hand and is so easy to make.  Make as much or as little as you'd like.  

Simply mix equal weights flour and sugar in a medium bowl, sand in the same weight of cool, diced butter to form coarse crumbs.  In this case I added some matcha powder with the flour and sugar (you don't need much).

Spread the crumbs out on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake at 325ºF, stirring and breaking up clumps every 5 minutes or so until lightly browned and crisp, 10-15 minutes total.  Let cool.

Store in a zip-top bag in the freezer and use at will!

For serving I simply placed a scoop of peach buttermilk ice cream atop each feuilleté (no muss, no fuss) and handed 'em out.

Mmmmmm!

While the ice cream was a bit more icy in texture than I had hoped (I suspect due to using low fat buttermilk rather than whole milk, plus the water content of the fruit purée), the contrast of the tangy peachy coolness with the tart cherry-berry filling and buttery, flakey puff was oh-so-good indeed.

Three cheers for summer fruits!  Hip hip hooray . . . .