Thom & Aimee

Two Hobbits. The Kitchen. The Garden. And trouble ensues.

Tag: tart

Chocolate and Coffee Crème Brûlée Tart

The reason of why we made this dessert was quite a simple one: we had one in a shop and just had to make one in case of sudden cravings. The first time I had it was when a friend bought a slice of a Brazilian Coffee Tart for my birthday and I swear it was the best thing I have had for a long long time. In fact, it was sitting quite plainly beside the Lemon Meringue Tart. But the moment I popped a piece of it into my mouth, I thought I died and went to chocolate-y coffee heaven.

The luscious fudge-like chocolate just melts in your mouth and the creamy bitter coffee melds perfectly with the sweetness of the chocolate. Are you salivating yet? Because I am. Most chocolate desserts tend to overpower with its cocoa but this manages to be subtle and allow an amazingly balancing act alongside the coffee. After which, I told (more like raved to) Ned to give it try. Well, to cut long story short, she went to the same piece of heaven and here we are, trying to create the foods of angels.

Lucky for us, we managed to get hold of the recipe from Eric Kayser’s book of tarts. We’ll be honest here: heaven was not in our grasp yet. The tart base used was a chocolate shortbread pastry instead of the plain shortcrust used in the shop, and this resulted in a far too crumbly texture. The chocolate and coffee layers thankfully came through fine. Although instead of singing a duet together, it was like watching two contestants pitting each other in an episode of The Voice. The flavours were amazingly strong and powerful. Not that it was bad, but after gobbling half the tart, it seemed a little too rich for any more. We figured the tart base could have contributed to the chocolate-ness of the pastry.

Overall, it was still an amazing dessert but improvements could be made. Can I just complain how difficult it was for me to slice the dessert? Well, that’s just me because I was being spoilt. (Ned happened to be busy and I was left with the cutting.) But at least I learnt how to handle such desserts – have patience and more patience. Ned is adamant in making another batch until she achieves that slice of perfection. I’m all for it as long as I don’t have to cut it.

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Pear and Frangipane Tarts (Tarte Bourdaloue aux Poires)

You would think we would be bored of baking tarts by now. On the contrary, I think we’d never stop popping them into the oven. There is a quiet sense of satisfaction knowing that slowly but surely, improvement could be tasted after every bake. Kudos to Ned who persevered despite it all and once again, delivered a tray filled with petite tartlets of crisp golden brown pastry, luscious fruits and delightful almond filling.

Frangipane is a filling made from almonds and acts like a pastry cream. Back then when I was clueless about baking and culinary terms, I always thought frangipane was made from frangipani flowers. That is, you have to admit, really quite an interesting flavour should it be true. (Technically, you can actually consume frangipani or plumeria flowers in salads, teas and even candy. My brain is raging with ideas now.) Now that I have grown a little wiser, visits to the local pâtisserie won’t have me leaving red-faced with my silly questions.

The almond acts like a base and pushes the honeyed sweetness of the pears in every bite. What I love is the burst of juice from the fruit against the dense frangipane filling – a mouthful of pure indulgence! For which, I am not ashamed to say that I ate two in one sitting.

Off to the gym…

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Tarte au citron (Lemon Tart)

It’s amazing how many tarts we have done the past year. If we continue at this rate, we can open a tart shop. Plus, Ned’s confidence in tart-making has grown and the consistency of the crusts are getting better each time. If you place a tart made now with one made before, the difference would be obvious.

Where’s the challenge then? Well, every bake can turn into a bad one without practice and a little luck. But really, I specifically requested for a tarte au citron because the image of Mary Berry slicing a knife through that perfectly baked lemon tart has been engrained in my mind since GBBO season one. And what a perfect excuse but to get Ned to make one for me. *evil cackle*

This is a quintessentially French dessert and a mainstay in many patisseries. How do we know if the patisserie has good pastries? We sample the lemon tart. (We do the same for dim sum restaurants, except it’s the har gao.) Whether it comes with meringue or not, if it’s custard or curd, when done properly, the sublime zingy flavours of the lemon will come through with bursts of sweet and sour.

Michael Roux made the famous tarte au citron in which a custard filling is used, and Pierre Hermé’s version had it in a curd-based form. Both were equally delicious but with varying textures. We have plenty of tarte au citron, and found that the tartness of the citrus had a stronger presence in a curd as compared to custard.

So voila, we did a custard version with our favourite Chef Blanc. (Sadly, we couldn’t find Roux’s recipe in his book.)

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Raspberry and Pistachio Tarts

Ned has been pretty obsessed with tart tins recently, resulting in a much unnecessary amount of tins in our kitchen. They come in all shapes and sizes: big, not so big, small, super small, fluted, non-fluted, round, rectangular, removable base and the unremovable ones. I expect this collection to grow even more. It’s pretty odd for someone who used to run away from tart making. Now, all Ned loves doing are tarts. Not that I’m complaining, when there’s always something delicious at the end of the day.

It’s not uncommon to see a variety of immaculate mini tartlets sitting behind a clear glass of most patisseries. They usually are round and at about 8cm in diameter. (No idea why 8cm became the standard measurement for individual tart portions.) And Ned managed to get her hands on some of these particular tart tins after plenty of searching.

Most tarts that feature fruits usually do not incorporate them into the filling (not including my all-time favourite tarte au citron) which I find it rather odd. Be it apple, pear or apricots, the fruits are often made to do their most natural duties of adding a tartness to the dish and being wonderful decor pieces. The raspberry tarts we have made here are no different. But what is interesting here is that the crust contains pistachio, which is a great pair with the raspberries. Having just three raspberries on each tart really is not enough. We kept popping on more of the scarlet jewels into our mouth as we dug into the tarts.

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Tarte à la Rhubarbe et Citron (Rhubarb and Lemon Tart)

Not tarts again?! Well, why not a tart? There is always something welcoming and cosy about tarts and pies. At the back of my mind from my childhood, there is an image of a young Edwardian lady who baked a tart and left it by the windowsill to cool. She came back only to find half the pastry was gone and the story ends with her finding out which child steal the tart with some wit and charm. It stayed with me till now because it brought romance and beauty from a lost time. If I could time travel, I would love to go back into the past and see how people lived then. (WHERE ARE YOU, DOCTOR?)

Anyway, I digress. The tart is a simple way to let rhubarb shine and do its natural job of pushing its flavours through. By pairing the tart-y rhubarb beside the citrus sourness of lemon, it already did not sound like a dessert without squeezing one’s face in distaste. But really, both ingredients melded very well together and instead of having a gastronomic battle in the mouth, one is treated to a surprisingly slightly sharp nectar-like tang. Maybe it was because N reduced the amount of sugar than specified as there are parents who don’t partake to sugar overdoses very well.

Can we just make it official that rhubarb is the prettiest vegetable to cook? The moment the stems are heated up with sugar, a deep vivacious fuchsia blossoms and bubbles. The rhubarb pieces dazzle like precious jewels from inside the lemon custard. Just seeing the colours just bring a smile to one’s face. If this doesn’t scream the herald of spring with so much ecstasy, I don’t know what else can do the same. With this being our first experience with rhubarb, there will be plenty of fond memories and more to come in the future.

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Chocolate Tart with Bourbon Vanilla Cream

Tarts have become our go-to dessert recently. If you look at it simply, it really is just a crust casing with a filling. But that’s where the fun begins. The crust itself is so versatile, be it puff pastry or shortcrust, or with added flavour. And what goes into the tart really is one big playground to work one’s creativity.

Despite the many faces of the pastry, there always be the classics that people turn to when they seek familiarity and nostalgia. Like the apple tarte tatin, blueberry pie, bakewell tart, tarte au citron and of course, tarte au chocolat. It is not difficult to envision a little cafe in Paris boasting an array of immaculate miniature pastries baked with an almost military precision. The presence of lovely round chocolate tarts sit among them with subtlety and quiet lust. It doesn’t shout its presence, but it ultimately seduces the hungry customer with good old childhood memories. (Well, I would just devour everything on sight.)

This tart in particular has a fudge-y filling, making it rich but not too cloying. Although the hazelnuts gave the base a certain aroma, it did not do wonders for us. A basic shortcrust pastry would have done the job as well. To give it a little edge, we served it alongside bourbon-spiked vanilla cream and loads of orange peel. Chocolate and orange are wonderful companions, and this dessert speaks volumes about this perfect pairing. For the record, I ate three whole slices, with slight remorse. The waist line really needs some work out now.

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Coconut Tart

N is going to kill me.

Getting N to make tarts is like asking the Doctor not to travel in his Police Box. Every time I mention the ‘T’ word, unintelligible words of rejection and detest just flows out of her mouth. Its not that she doesn’t like making them. Tarts just rake up too much painful memories of failed puff pastries and uneven bakes. I don’t remember how she even agreed doing this. Perhaps it was just odd to have coconut in a tart, much less a tart that doesn’t require a ‘sticking’ agent in the filling.

When it came out of the oven, I did my best Paul Hollywood stare, with one hand on the hip and dug in. Enters long excruciating silence.

It is truly very odd. This is a relatively dry tart that has nothing to bind the desiccated coconut flakes. The shortcut pastry was well-baked (no soggy bottoms!) and had a lovely golden brown colour. The cardamom and cinnamon that were mixed into the coconut flakes were a delight to taste, but the fact that it just didn’t sit in the tart when you cut into it was a little upsetting.

We probably screwed something somewhere despite looking through the recipe about hundreds of times. Well, if you think a coconut tart would be perfect for a lovely sunny day, do give this a shot. Then maybe tell us why ours was given the stink eye by Mr. Hollywood (or we thought he would if he tried this). And i hope N will still make tarts after this.

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Le Noël Blanc

Christmas came and went like a ghost from a Charles Dickens novel. We have been planning for our first dessert table for more than a month now. Different state of emotions ran through us: excitement, fear, calmness, confidence then the usual freaking out. The funny thing about Christmas was that there was always not enough time whether you were feeding six or 50 people. Something was probably missing or not done. (That was always solved with a glass of pinot noir and a small amount of charm.)

Dessert tables can be daunting. Just google it and you can find plenty of different inspirations and examples. The beauty of a dessert table at its most basic and importance is that it must be an aesthetic masterpiece. Some might disagree but we have a reason of saying so. A lot of colour coordination comes into play, alongside complementary props. Many use icing and fondant to achieve that level of thematic consistency, which is something we as bakers are not keen on. To all cupcake and fondant lovers, sorry, we are just not that into them.

But as all dessert tables, yes, there was still a theme to abide to.

Working with an upcoming events boutique The Magpies, we were given a small brief: White, Rustic and French. The France that everyone knew well were the chic streets of Paris with their high-fashion houses and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. To achieve rustic charms, we decided to drop ourselves into a region famous for its rolling lavender fields and charming bastides (country houses): the south eastern part of France, Provence.

When one speaks of a Provençal Christmas, the famous 13 desserts come to mind. Here was the difficult part. As fascinating and mouth-watering 13 desserts could be, churning out so many types of sweets could become literally a Nightmare before Christmas. There were a number of other factors that came into play: the need of balance between the savoury and sweet, dietary specifications, a tight baking schedule and availability of ingredients and recipes.

So, many recipes were tried and tested. Those you see on the table above are the successful bakes after weeks of homework. We tried to keep the Provençal spirit alive with or without the 13 desserts. It may not be the best representation, but it was still as delicious. We hope to execute the real Provençal Christmas desserts one day. Someone, please let us know where we can find a good Calissons recipe in English!!

Here was the menu that was served:

Two types of hassle-free tea sandwiches, one with eggs and chives, and the other was roasted chicken with cranberry sauce. Lovely roasted potatoes served with mustard mayonnaise. And a personal favourite – mini Caramelised Onion and Gruyère tarts.

The sweets were fronted by a magnificent chocolate Gugelhupf cake (I’d call this the show-stopper), toffee nut macarons, dainty orange blossom crème caramel cups with meringue, and a dark chocolate fondue served with marshmallows and bananas.

To quench one’s thirst, we had Lemonade and Pastis de Marseille. (Yes, it’s a summer drink but pastis is such a fixture of the Provençal culture that we had to serve it.) We also gave Ginger nut Biscuits as a little gift to the guests.

At a glance, the menu does not seem extensive or difficult. To be honest, we did not meet with any major mishaps other than some burnt caramel. This was our first dessert table after all, we could aim for the stars but it was better to get it right for a start. As with many beginnings, it can only get better the next time.

Pictures are from our friends at The Magpies. (Thank you girls!) For the recipes, just scroll down to the end of the entry!!

By the way, The Hobbit came out 2 weeks ago and we were very very happy and satisfied fans. If you have yet to watch it, go catch it (especially in HFR 3D, it’s eyegasm galore)!!!! WE INSIST.

Now that Christmas is over, there is only 3 more days to the New Year…. we feel old already… *sobs*

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Apricot Tart

The Apricot Tart. This got us snowballing into chaotic mad bears. It just screams at you to make it, hence the overzealous purchase of apricots.

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Issue 1: Apricots

Why apricots? There is no real reason why N and I chose it. It was just an accumulation of ideas thrown back and forth, and it was either them or peaches. But we were very gung-ho, or  just plain naive. Either way, apricots became our first experiment for Thom & Aimee.

Apricots are strange little fruits. They look like peaches with their yellow pinkish bottoms, and that’s probably where the similarities end. They are like Robin to Batman (Peaches). Important but always the sidekick.

Since they are rarely used in Asian cooking, we have never really eaten them before. Both of us being apricot virgins, it was new territory for us and knew not what to expect. (And made our fair share of mistakes.)

Verdict of the Taste Test: “Oh. Right…..”

We were slightly underwhelmed by its flavour – a tad too shy and mildly bitter. Suddenly, we wondered if it was a good decision lugging tonnes of them home. (Mr. Nigel Slater did say that they tend to disappoint.) But do give these apricots a chance; they like to surprise the doubtful after some cooking as we found out. I’ll let N talk about the recipes…

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