Tartelette trio - some classics

Lemon  feuilletées  / blackberry / lemon mascarpone

Lemon feuilletées / blackberry / lemon mascarpone

Dark chocolate ganache / brownie cube / whipped milk chocolate ganache

Dark chocolate ganache / brownie cube / whipped milk chocolate ganache

Fresh berries / pastry cream / raspberry  gelée  (yes - you’ve seen these before!)

Fresh berries / pastry cream / raspberry gelée (yes - you’ve seen these before!)

After my last couple of posts on Americana themed baked offerings, I’m turning back to my French pastry loves for the summer months. So much to talk about!

You know I’m always one for tart making, especially the petite versions of my favorites. This time around it was for a special luncheon for a group of former co-workers who gather once a year at Heron Woods/Manor, a local independent/assisted living facility just down the street from my home. Deftly orchestrated by Kim and David, it was a fine repast of salads, soup, fresh croissant (made by yours truly!) and topped off with the tartelettes for dessert.

These three babies were so fun to put together. The lemon consisted of baked quick puff (more on that in an upcoming post) feuilletées, one of the coolest twisted versions of a puff pastry case that there is, filled with my new favorite version of lemon curd (from the book “Sweet” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh), then baked a second time to set the curd. Follow that with a whipped lemon curd mascarpone garnish and fresh blackberry and it’s done!

Waiting for a short bake

Waiting for a short bake

Garnishing in process

Garnishing in process

The chocolate ganache offering was my usual chocolate pâte sucrée and dark chocolate ganache filling, but this time I cut small brownie cubes to tuck in so they would be a hidden surprise under the whipped ganache garnish.

Trust me - there’s a brownie cube hidden in there!

Trust me - there’s a brownie cube hidden in there!

Of course the fresh fruit choice follows the classic approach of a blind baked pâte sucrée crust filled with crème pâtissière lightened with some whipped cream and then topped with fresh berries coated in a raspberry gelée. Mmmmm good!

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I must say I never tire of these and I hope you don’t either!

All toted up and ready to go

All toted up and ready to go

What a delicious trio! The followup up report from the luncheon-ers was a huge thumbs up! Yay, I love that!!

A quick end note: I walk regularly and so enjoy seeing nature in its various forms - the birds, the wild flowers, the flowering trees, and especially now the aroma of the lilac bushes I pass at various points in my route. It’s my time for thinking and reflection and helps me keep my head straight. This morning it was a scattering of simple wild daisies amongst the “ weeds” that caught my attention. Lightly coated with dew and looking so content, it made me smile. The simple things are often the best, don’t you think? Enjoy.

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A couple of autumn tarts

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Apples! Pears! Berries! What better way to celebrate autumn, eh?

On the prowl for a couple of Sunday desserts, as well as a way to use some of the local Michigan pears and apples I had on hand, tarts were definitely on my mind. Natch! This project involved two versions of tart, one apple/pear/blackberry with classic brown sugar crumble topping and one apple/pear/raspberry with crunchy almond topping. Ooooohhh how delicious.

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I’ve been a fan of Bosc pears for some years now, and, on the apple side of things, this season I’ve taken quite a shine to Jonagolds too.

I typically poach my pears soon after purchase as a way to avoid the ripening wait as well as to hold them in the fridge for use when needed. But after reviewing some of my numerous pastry books I opted for the slice/dice/sauté in a little butter and sugar approach. Works like a charm!

For a couple of full sized tarts I peeled, halved, cored and thinly sliced about 4 pounds of apples. That would normally be a decent quantity for one tart, but, since I was mixing in pears and berries, it worked very nicely for two.

Then on medium heat melt 2 ounces/56 g unsalted butter in a sauté pan or Dutch oven large enough to hold all of the apples, then stir in the slices until coated. Add 100 g dark brown sugar, a large pinch of salt, the zest of one lemon and a large squeeze (a tablespoon or so) of lemon juice, increase heat to medium high and stir about a minute.

Now here’s where I took Elisabeth Prueitt’s advice from her “Tartine all Day” book - cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and let the apples cook for about 10 minutes until softening and juice-releasing has happened. Then scoop the apple slices out with a slotted spoon (I placed them in a large strainer over a bowl to allow dripping then transferred them to a clean bowl) and cook down the juices for a few minutes until very thick - apple caramel! Mix the thickened juices in with the apples and you’re good to go. You can add a little cinnamon and nutmeg here if you’d like - I kept mine au naturel. Set aside to cool until you’re ready to fill your tart shell.

For the pears, again using about 4 pounds, I peeled, halved, cored and diced them into 1/2 inch cubes then followed a similar sauté approach in butter and sugar. For these, simply cook them over medium high heat until they start to soften and become lightly caramelized (maybe 5-8 minutes) then set them aside to cool until ready to fill the tarts. No juice reduction here.

I used two of my favorite tart doughs - pâte brisée for the blackberry version and pâte sucrée for the raspberry - blind baking them before filling. Once baked I brushed the bottom with egg white and popped ‘em back in the oven for a couple of minutes to “dry”. That provides a seal to the dough and reduces the chance for a soggy crust.

Pear apple blackberry waiting for assembly

Pear apple blackberry waiting for assembly

I mounded the apple/pear mix in first then tucked my blackberries into the various nooks and crannies. These were plump frozen berries that I broke up into pieces for more efficient cranny-ing.

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The brown sugar crumble is equal weights flour, brown sugar (you can use light or dark, whichever you prefer) and diced cold butter sanded into the dry ingredients. I usually make a bunch and store it in a zip-top bag in the freezer to use at a moment’s notice.

Loaded with crumble!

Loaded with crumble!

Since the crust is already baked and the fruit “cooked”, the primary task here is to brown the crumble and get the fruit to juicy-up. Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes until the crumble is golden and some juicy bubbling is visible.

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The approach to the raspberry version is pretty much the same. Fill the blind baked crust with the pear/apple/raspberry mix.

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But this time the topping is made with 2 large egg whites, 100 g/1 cup confectioner’s sugar and 125 g/1.25 cups sliced almonds all mixed together and spread over the fruit.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

This one also bakes at 350ºF for about 25-30 minutes until the nuts are browned and have taken on a certain luster and there’s some fruit juiciness visible around the edges.

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Talk about a treat! Whether it’s crunchy toasty almonds or a more classic crumble that melts in your mouth, both of these tarts delivered with the lovely fall flavor of pears, apples and berries. And a side of vanilla ice cream doesn’t hurt either!

Now don’t hesitate to make your own version of a delicious autumn tart.

Happy baking!

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