Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pastry pro shares recipes and hints

Mocha Glazed Macadamia Caramel Tart. Photo by T. Mike Fletcher
Pastry chef Helen Fletcher has a most generous gift for home bakers this holiday season: European Tarts, a book with recipes for 28 tarts plus variations, all of them impressive to look at and easy to make. And while I've tasted only a small sampling, I've tried enough of Helen's desserts over the years to be sure that all are delicious.

The book's two subtitles tell the rest of the story: Pastries Like a Pro, and Divinely Doable Desserts With Little or No Baking.

For 23 years, Helen's Truffes Bakery provided desserts to some of the top restaurants in St. Louis. (It also was open to the public for a short time.) She's closed the bakery but she's still baking, working as the pastry chef for Tony's, a multiple award winner that has been one of the city's top dining destinations for decades.

Over the years, she has perfected recipes that can be made ahead and frozen. Restaurants loved these desserts, because they could thaw and serve just what they needed each night. Home bakers should love them too, because they can prepare dessert days or even weeks before the party.

One reason her recipes work so well is her attention to detail. Measurements are given in weight (ounces and grams) as well as volume. For best results, buy a digital scale and weigh each ingredient before adding it to the recipe. You'll find that you save time as well as ensure accuracy. 

The book also details the culinary terms, ingredients and equipment necessary for success. Pictures of the finished tarts are mouthwatering, and step-by-step directions to making the crusts and other components are posted on her accompanying website, europeantarts.com.

Helen plans to write five more books, which she will self-publish, as she did this one. (The book is for sale at Kitchen Conservatory and Left Bank Books in St. Louis and through Amazon, which also offers a Kindle version.) Next up is Essential Cakes, the biggest of the series, followed by Small Bites, with recipes for petit fours, American and European cookies, brownies and bars, then Savory Pastries, Cheesecakes and Pastry.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

For crust:
One 11-inch Plain Press-In Shell, partially baked  (recipe follows)

For filling:
10 ounces macadamia nuts (285 grams)
1 small orange
1 stick unsalted butter (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1/4 cup honey (85 grams or 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (25 grams or 1 scant ounce)
1/2 cup brown sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon heavy (40 percent) cream

For mocha glaze:
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup heavy (40 percent) cream   
1  tablespoon light (clear) corn syrup
7 ounces good-quality milk chocolate (200 grams), coarsely chopped or sold in discs

Bake the pastry shell and let cool.

To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toast nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet for 9 to 12 minutes (depending upon the size of the nut), until golden brown, stirring once or twice.  Remove from oven. When cool, chop coarsely and set aside.

Grate rind from orange; set rind aside. (Reserve the orange for another use.)

Combine butter, honey, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil until bubbles cover the entire surface.  Remove from the heat; add the 1 tablespoon cream and grated orange rind.  Stir in the nuts and pour into the pastry shell.  Spread out quickly and evenly.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is covered with bubbles.  Cool; release from the tart pan. (If necessary, insert a pointed offset spatula between the pan and every five or six scallops of the crust).

To make the glaze: Dissolve the coffee granules in the water.  Combine the 1/2 cup cream, coffee mixture and corn syrup in a saucepan. Heat until steaming, but do not let boil.  Remove from heat and add chocolate.  Let sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. Immediately pour glaze over filling.  Spread out, covering the filling. Refrigerate until glaze sets.

(If making ahead, cover with foil and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator, covered loosely.)

Recipe adapted from “European Tarts, Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking” ©Helen S. Fletcher 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Yield: One 11-inch pastry shell

1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (170 grams or 6 ounces)
1/2 cup sifted cake flour (50 grams or 1 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (50 grams or 1 3/4 ounces)
1 egg
1 egg yolk

(Step-by-step illustrations are posted here, on the website for European Tarts.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees if baking immediately.

Mixer Method: Combine the flours, baking powder and butter in a mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment until the butter is cut in very finely. Add the sugar; mix briefly.
Add the egg and yolk; mix on medium speed until the dough comes together in a ball.

Food Processor Method: Place the flours and baking powder in the food processor. Process to mix briefly. Place the butter in a circle over the flours. Process until finely cut in. Add the sugar; process briefly. Add the egg and yolk and process until a ball forms.

Spray nonstick cooking spray on the center of the bottom of an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Divide the dough in half. (Each half will weigh 175 grams or 6 ounces.) Divide one piece in half again (85 grams or 3 ounces). Roll one quarter portion of the dough (85 grams or 3 ounces) evenly into a rope. Lay against one half edge of the pan. Repeat with the other quarter portion, overlapping the pieces slightly. Press into the edge of the pan, sealing the two pieces together. Flatten the remaining half portion of dough into a circle. Place it in the bottom of the pan. With the heel of your hand, press the dough outward toward the edge. Continue to work the dough outward with your fingers and lastly, seal the seam. Be sure to seal the seam well where the edge and the bottom meet so the crust does not crack when baked.

Prick the tart bottom with a fork. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes if baking partially or 18 to 22 minutes (until a rich golden brown) if baking fully.

Cool crust; fill and finish as directed.

Recipe adapted from “European Tarts, Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking” ©Helen S. Fletcher 2012. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a pie! And what a book.... I am convinced and have now added this book to my wish list. Thanks for sharing... and fabulous pie I have to make (and eat)!