I’m not sure what led me to make a tart for Battle Strawberry. It was clearly poor planning on my part. Although I should insert here, that I used to be a really good, I mean really really good, planner. I just plan a lot less now than I used to. Ask Chris, and he might tell you that it’s utterly frustrating. But that’s because he pretends to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants-kinda-guy and in the past has gotten away with that by hiding behind my organization. Well now, now he whines because we don’t plan, or at least we don’t plan as good as “we” used to.
Don’t let that confuse you – I will glady admit that one of my best traits is (well, are) multi-tasking, organizing, and planning. That may be one of the many reasons why I love cooking so darn much – if you make anything crazier than pasta you have to think a little about what you’re doing. And menu planning? Good times. Nothing’s more exciting than a trip to the g-store (which by the way I am just dying to hit up the new Whole Foods). Is that lame? Well, whatever. I’ve been lame before, but only a couple of times.
But when I was deciding what to make for the Iron Chef party, I forgot that this week in school was “tart & pie week”. I also forgot that I’d be eating a (frozen) goat cheese & asparagus quiche I made a couple weeks ago for lunch all week. You may be wondering what the real problem is here. tsk tsk. There isn’t one, really. It’s just that almost every meal this week (and snack) is in “pie-form”. I suppose it’s just plain weird is what it is. And it’s a lot of butter… especially before a beach weekend. Yikes!
It all started with the strawberry tart
on Saturday. [Did I mention this was a second place winner next to the first place pizza I made?!] And Monday, that was really
the beginning of the end. We made little key lime mini-pies, and we made our dough for the cherry pie and lemon meringue tarts that we finished on Tuesday. I’ve had the quiche for lunch for the last 4 days, and snacked on the tart for lunch one day (okay, you got me – two days). Fortunately, Chris’ coworkers love my baking class, and they gladly ate the pie and mini-pies.
If that wasn’t enough, I made another pie last night. But not to worry – I wasn’t craving pie or anything. My coworker’s boyfriend was in surgery earlier this week, and I got word that key lime pie is his favorite. Well, I’d already sent the minis from class with Chris. I had no choice but to whip one up at home. No choice at all.
Luckily, I do love pie. And they really are easy to throw together. If you’re scurred, you can buy the pre-made shells, but they aren’t gonna be as flaky or as tasty as what you can make at home. You could always go for a graham cracker shell (or any other cookie crumb), which is just the crumb, a little sugar, and melted butter. Easy peezy. But seriously, if you’re making a regular pie crust, just make sure you don’t overmix, hence melt, the fat (butter or shortening) and when you roll out, make sure your rolling pin and surface are well-floured. Other than those minor challenges, you are practically dumping fruit into a pan and baking. The end result: a delightfully flaky, buttery crust underneath a myriad of possibilities – sweet or savory – warm or cold – streusel topping, naked, or pie shell.
Really – what is better than pie?
Strawberry Mascarpone Tart w/ Balsamic-Thyme Glaze
Pâte Brisée shell
1 1/4 cups AP flour (+ flour for rolling)
8 T butter, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t sugar
2-4 t ice water, very cold
filling & glaze
2 lbs strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 T orange zest, divided
8 oz mascarpone cheese
4 oz ricotta cheese (or 12 oz mascarpone & no ricotta)
1 t lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 T balsamic vinegar
1. cut butter into cubes and put in freezer until ready to use
2. In food processor (or by hand), mix flour, salt, sugar together. Cut in butter until pea-sized – pulsing. Add in water, by pulsing, until mixture starts to clump together.
3. Remove dough from processor and place on clean surface. Roll into mound and place in fridge covered with plastic wrap for ~30 minutes. You should still see specks of butter in the dough.
4. Combine strawberries, 1/2 of orange zest, sugar. Macerate in fridge for ~30 minutes.
5. Mix cheese, confectioners sugar, other 1/2 of zest, lemon juice, vanilla. Refrigerate until needed.
6. Preheat oven to 375. Take dough out of fridge and let sit ~5 minutes. Flour surface and roll dough into 12 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Gently fold in half and onto the roller. Place atop pie plate/tin and unfold onto other half.
7. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork multiple times. Cover with parchment paper or tin foil and place pie weights, dry beans, (or spare change, which is what I use) atop and bake about 15 minutes. Remove weights and paper. Bake bare for another ~20.
8. Drain macerated strawberries, and put juice in small saucepan. Add balsamic vinegar and thyme and bring to boil over med-hi, reduce to syrupy consistency and let cool.
9. Once tart is cooled, spread mascarpone mixture over bottom. Top with strawberries. With brush, spread balsamic glaze atop strawberries.
Classic Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition; serves 6-8
4 oz graham cracker crumbs
2 oz sugar
2 oz melted butter
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
5 oz key lime juice or lime juice (freshly squeezed, but bottled works too)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
whipped cream, optional
Preheat to 350. Mix sugar and crumbs in bowl. Add butter and mix with hands until all is wet. Press into sprayed pie plate/tin, and press up the sides. Use another shell to place on top to even out the mixture. Bake alone for 4 minutes.
Mix milk with lightly beaten eggs. Add in juice. If you want color, add food color too. Pour into baked shell and bake for 20-25 minutes, until “jiggly but firm”. Let cool. Add whipped cream, if using.