Cuban Nights and a Tropical Rum Tart

On Saturday some friends from school and I got together with our significant others for a nice dinner.  At my somewhat joking suggestion, we had a Cuban theme to the get-together.  My friends John and Cassie graciously hosted, and everyone brought a dish.  Not surprising, I brought the dessert.  We had chicken with flaming pineapple, beans and rice, a cucumber and avocado salad, the tropical rum tart, and mojitos.  Everything was wonderful.

I decided that we should dress a little tropical for the dinner, although not required.  We got Lucy dressed in a cute little flowered dress.


Here are a few other photos from the night:

Here is Katie and Dave making Mojitos.  Katie made a pretty fantastic drink.

Here is Katie and Richard who will be tying the knot this July, yay!

And here is John and Dave bringing in the tart.  Apparently Dave wasn’t enjoying the picture taking.  And that is about when Lucy started getting fussy, so that is where the pictures stopped.

Here is the recipe for the tart:

I was looking through books trying to find a recipe that I thought would work for this dinner, and I couldn’t find anything just right.  So, I decided to make up a recipe.  I used the basic shortbread tart shell which I used in the tarte noire (I am going to add that to a basic recipe section on the site soon, so it will be easier to fine).  Then I made a rum flavored pastry cream for the filling, and topped it with mangos and kiwis.

The Run Pastry Cream:

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup corn starch

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 1/2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons rum

Method:

Bring the two cups of milk to a boil.  Meanwhile mix together the egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch in another sauce pan.  Once the milk boils, add about 1/4 cup to the egg mixture to temper the eggs.  Slowly add in the rest of the milk, stirring constantly.  Once mixed together, put back onto the burner and boil for a minute or two until thick.  Add the vanilla and the rum.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Because this recipe makes enough pastry cream for two tarts, I decided to split the cream in half and add rum to one and Chambord to the other.  In the above picture the rum is on the left and the Chambord is on the right.  I will come back to the Chambord cream in a bit.

After you add the vanilla and liquor, let sit for five minutes.  Add the pieces of butter and whisk in.  Put in the fridge to cool for 4 hours.

Once the cream is cooled, spoon the mixture into the baked and cooled tart shell.  Smooth out with a spatula.  Add fruit to the top.  For the rum tart I cut up kiwi and mangoes.

To the Chambord tart I added fresh blackberries.

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Lemon Cream

I wish someone would have told me about Lemon Cream earlier in life.  It is a bit like lemon curd but silky and smooth.  You can use it in a variety of ways.  Since I have been into tarts lately, I made a lemon cream tart.  However, you could use it in between layers in  cake or use it in a pie.  With a little imagination, I am sure you could find plenty of uses for this delicious sweet.  If you are a fan of lemon, you need to try this recipe.

The recipe is actually a little easier than it sounds, but you need to have about 30 solid minutes where you won’t be interrupted to make the cream.  It is a bit temperamental and you need a thermometer, a double boiler, a fine strainer, and either a blender or a food processor.  I almost did not make it yesterday because I thought it seemed like too much trouble, but I am glad that I did it.  It is worth the work.

Ingredients:

I cup sugar

Zest of 3 lemons

4 large eggs

3/4 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

2 sticks, plus 5 tablespoons butter (I know that is a lot of butter), cut into tablespoon sized pieces

Have all your equipment ready: food processor, strainer, thermometer.

Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a sauce pan.  Get a heatproof bowl that fits into the top of the pan.  This will make the double boiler.  Do not put the bowl on the heat yet.  Put the sugar and the zest into the bowl.  Using your fingers, rub the zest and the sugar together until fragrant.  Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice.

Now set the bowl over the saucepan.  Attach the instant thermometer.

My thermometer didn’t attach to the side, so I tried to tape it.  That really didn’t work very well.  I will do something different next time.  It kept falling off.  This is the part that is a little tough because you need to stir until the mixture reaches 180 degrees.  As it gets closer to 180 degrees it will thicken.  Once you hit that mark, take if off the heat and strain it into the food processor/blender.

The cream is thick at this point so it take a little work go get it through the strainer, but you want to get the zest out of it.  I used a spatula to push it through the strainer.  Now once the cream has cooled to 140 degrees, which for me was very quick, turn on the processor and add the butter about 5 pieces at a time.  This is the step that actually makes the cream creamy.

Let it blend for three minutes after the butter has all been added.  Remove the cream from the processor and put it in a bowl.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set it.

Before it was chilled
After it was chilled

For the tart, I made the same shell as I did when I made the Tarte Noire (see a few posts ago).  Make the shell and let it cool completely.  The cream recipe makes enough to fill two tart shells.  It would be enough to fill one pie crust, pre-baked and cooled.

Dinner Party: Recipes for French Onion Soup, Homemade Crackers, and Tarte Noire

Last night we had our friends Anna and Chris over for dinner.  They are a fun couple to entertain for because a) they are great people b) they are totally foodies, so it is fun coming up with a meal that I think they will enjoy.

Before we get to recipes, Anna made Lucy this beautiful giraffe.  This is Lucy looking him over this morning.  The giraffe is really going to be fun for her.  It is so cute, I think I am going to keep it in our living room instead of her room.  Plus, to be honest, once you have a baby, your living room kinda becomes a giant play room.

Now to the food, we started our meal with a cheese and sausage plate.  I got a nice assortment of cheeses that I like: brie, manchego, jarlsberg, and a blue.  We also picked up two artisan salamis made with wine at Trader Joe’s.  We had that with some French bread and these crackers I made.  This recipes is adapted from one in the America’s Test Kitchen Baking book.

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 T. olive oil

1/2 T. honey

1/4 t.  instant yeast

1/4 t. kosher salt

1/4 c. warm water

Put all the ingredients, except the water in a standing mixer fixed with the dough hook attachment.  With the mixer on low, pour the water slowly into the mixture.  Keep mixing until the dough becomes a ball.

Left: Dough before the water

Right: Dough after water was added and mixed

Let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your house is.  Because I live in a perpetually freezing house, I usually let my dough rise longer than a recipe says.

Once the dough has risen, roll out and place on a baking sheet.  Put a clean towel over it and let rise for another 10-20 minutes.  Once the dough has sat, brush on some olive oil and toppings of your choice.  I sprinkled mine with pepper, kosher salt, and a little parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Watch it closely at the end.  At 20 minutes my cracker was still a little pale, and the next time I checked it, it was a little darker than I wanted, though it still tasted fine.  Sorry I didn’t snap a picture when it came out of the oven, I forgot and now the crackers are gone.  Once the giant cracker has cooled, break into pieces and serve.

French Onion Soup:

My next recipe comes from the master of all French cooking, the great Julia Child.  This recipe comes from her classic 1961 cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The recipe is actually quite simple, though it takes a bit of time to make, about an hour and a half to two hours.

1/2 pound (or about 5 cups) onions sliced very thin

3 T. Butter

1 T. Oil

Cook the onion with the butter and oil over low heat with the cover on for 15 minutes.  It is important to have a nice heavy pan for this.  I used my Le Creuset, which works perfect.  Note, if you do not want to invest in such an expensive pan, there are other cheaper brands that I have heard work quite well.  Although I have not used it, the Lodge brand, which price about $50 gets good reviews.  Sometimes you can find Le Creuset and other less expensive brands at Marshall’s or TJ Max at a good deal too.  I do think that a large cast iron pot is essential for cooking.  I have two and I use them all the time–I do not think I could possibly be without them to be honest.

1 t. salt

1/4 sugar

Once the onions have cooked for 15 minutes, remove the cover and add the salt and sugar.  Cook uncovered over low-medium heat for 30-40 minutes.  I did mine for 40.  Once they are done they will look nice and brown, and they will smell just fabulous.

3 T. flour

Add in the flour and stir constantly over heat for three minutes.

2 quarts brown stock (It is important to use stock and not broth.  Broth is much to salty and strong for this recipe)

1/2 cup white wine (a dry wine–nothing too sweet)

salt and pepper to taste

Add the liquid and bring to a boil.  Drop the heat down and let the soup simmer for another 30-40 minutes.

The soup is done at this point.  To garnish, put soup into oven-proof bowls.  The only ones I have are fiesta wear bowls, which worked well.  Put a piece of french bread into each bowl and cover with shredded Swiss cheese.  Pop into the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.  Serve immediately.


Anna and Chris brought a wine that paired amazingly well with the French Onion soup.  Here is a picture of the label; I highly recommend it.

Tarte Noire:

I was awfully excited to make this dessert.  My mom recently bought me a tart pan in exchange for a promise of future desserts.  I looked through my Dorie Greenspan baking book looking for the perfect tart to try for my first tart.  So many looked wonderful, but I finally decided on a simple French classic–the Tarte Noire.  You make this recipe in two steps, first the shell then the filling.  You need a number of hours to complete the recipe, so make it ahead of time.  This recipe is for a 9 inch tart pan.

Sweet Tart Dough (the shell which is essentially a shortbread)

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/4 t. salt

1 stick plus 1T. unsalted butter very cold or frozen cut into peices

1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, sugar, and salt into the food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in.  Stir up the egg yolk and drop in little by little, pulsing for about 10 seconds after each drop.  Once the dough is starting to come together, pour out on a smooth surface and knead a little bit.  Press into the buttered tart pan (I use Baker’s Joy which always works fantastic though it is actually for bundt pans I believe).  When pressing into the pan make sure you don’t loose the crumbly texture of the dough.  Freeze for at least 30 minutes

Heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cover the tart with tin foil. The book says you do not need to use pie weights because the dough has been frozen.  I decided to use them anyway.  If you do not have actual pie weights, dry beans work just fine, though sometimes it makes the house smell a little like cooked dry beans.   Bake the crust for 25 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and pie weights and cook for another 8 minutes.  Transfer the shell to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Note: This crust can be used for just about any sweet tart.

The filling:

8 ounces bittersweet chocoate, finely chopped (make sure this is good quality chocolate and not something like Roundy’s brand chocolate chips [although just fine for cookies].  You will really taste the quality of the chocolate in this recipe).

1 c. plus 1 T heavy cream

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Put the chopped chocolate into a heatproof glass bowl

Bring the cream to a boil and pour half over the chopped chocolate.  Stir in small circles in the middle of the bowl working outward until all the chocolate is melted and mixed with the cream.  Add the rest of the cream and mix in the same manner until all is combined.  Stir in the butter pieces one by one until incorporated.  The less you stir, the darker and creamier your mixture (a ganache) will be.

Pour the mixed filling into the tart shell, and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.  Remove after the 30 minutes and let sit a room temperature until you are ready to serve the tart.

Here are a couple of picture of the finished product:

It is as easy as that, and in case you are wondering the tart is on a plastic parrot plate in the top picture–very classy.