Plum Tarts

Hello again! It’s been quite a long time. But here I am, back with new recipes!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like fall – which means my un-air-conditioned apartment is just about comfortable to bake in again. My landlord has an Italian plum tree in our garden and I’ve been waiting 2 years to remember to pick plums when they’re right at that perfect stage of ripeness. Today, I braved the bees beginning to nest in half rotten plums to pick a basket full.

basket of fresh picked Italian plums

My grandmother used to make a phenomenal plum pie – the inspiration for my current recipe. Like all aspiring baking bloggers, I take inspiration where I find it – often from the internet. The crust today comes from David Lebovitz, the filling is a hodge podge of ideas from Martha Stewart, Allrecipes, and what I was able to find in my kitchen cupboards…

Plum Tarts (*practically perfect…)

French Tart Crust

6 1/3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup of flour
Optional: 1 tsp Cake Spice (a mix of cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves from Penzey’s)

Put all but the flour and spice in an oven safe bowl. Place bowl in pre-heated 420F oven for 15 minutes. The butter should be bubbling and starting to brown a little. Immediately stir in flour and spice until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl. Divide evenly into 12 small tart pans (approx. 3 inch diameter) and flatten slightly. Allow it to cool enough to mold with your bare hands. Press the dough into the molds and prick all over with a fork. Bake for ~5 minutes.

Plum Tart filling

40 Italian plums (small, firm fruits)
6 Tbsp. Lemon Curd
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

While the tart crusts are cooling, turn the oven down to 325F.

Cut plums in half – remove the pits. Slice each half into quarters.

Spread 1/2 Tbsp of lemon curd in the bottom of each crust (or more – they’re your tarts).

Arrange slices of plums evenly in the tarts – however prettily you feel like. I tried making mine very pretty and gave up on about half of them.

Microwave honey with spices for about 20 seconds, stir, then using a small pastry brush, glaze the plums generously.

Bake tarts at 325F for about 15 minutes. The plums should be tender.

Allow tarts to cool fully before eating.

*Mine came out delicious but a bit juicier than expected. The crust seemed a little thin and soft on the bottom – I probably should have made 10 tarts and baked the crusts a few minutes longer.

plum tart on a blue plate plum tart with a bite taken out

Italian Easter Bread

My grandmother on my mother’s side is a full blooded Italian Catholic, so Easter was always a big deal. I remember having this for Easter as a kid – mostly I remember it because I wondered “How did Grandma get the eggs in the bread like that?” This year I wasn’t able to spend Easter with her but I was able to send her half of my first ever loaf of Easter bread. I wish this was my grandma’s recipe, but I found a pretty good one – from another blogger who has an Italian mother-in-law. I made this with my brother who is pretty good at making bread, so we fiddled just a little with the directions.

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Ingredients:

1 cup milk
2 packets active dry yeast (two 1/4 ounce envelopes)
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for working the dough
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temperature (cut into 1 inch pieces)
4-6 dyed eggs

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water

Directions:

Start by dying your eggs so they’ll have time to dry before you bake the bread.

Warm milk on the stove to 110F, mix in 1 Tbsp. of sugar and the yeast – whisk together and let sit for about 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. You should get a nice filmy bubbly-ness on top.

While the yeast is getting bubbly go ahead and mix all the dry ingredients together – the rest of the sugar, the flour, salt and lemon zest – and set it aside.

Next, whisk 4 non-dyed eggs and the vanilla into the yeast mixture.

Pour the yeast and egg mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the dry ingredients in a little at a time. Now mix in the butter one cube at a time. You may need to add more flour to get your dough to come together – it should pull away from the sides of the bowl when it’s ready.

Dump your dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, just enough to get a smooth texture and form a ball. Place dough ball in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to rise for 1-1.5 hours. When it’s ready it should be doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface. Divide into 3 equal size pieces and roll into ~15 inch long snakes. Lay the snakes out parallel to each other and pinch together at one end, then braid them together and pinch the other ends. Now tuck your dyed (raw) eggs into the braid wherever you find space. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise for another 45 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Whisk together the egg and water for the egg wash and brush it on the braid avoiding the dyed eggs as best you can. Finally, pop it in the oven for about 25 minutes, at this point your braid should be golden brown.

I wasn’t sure how to tell if bread was done (and my brother had gone to bed at this point) so I put mine in for an additional 5 minutes. It didn’t hurt my Easter bread, but it was definitely unnecessary – it wound up just a little too dark on the bottom, you can sort of see it in the last photo.

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Peanut Butter Truffle Pi

For Pi Day this year I asked my brother for suggestions. All he gave me to go on was “not a fruit pie”… I started searching around and remembered how much I’d always loved peanut butter pies. Betty Crocker happened to have a good one. But I was also feeling lazy, not at all interested in pie crusts – which to be honest, I’m usually uninterested in making a pie crust. There’s something about them that I just find unappealing. So this year I “cheated” and used a store bought shortbread crust. Which I imagine wouldn’t be too difficult to make using my own shortbread recipe next time.

Peanut Butter Truffle Pi slice

Recipe:

1 pie crust, prepared according to directions

Truffle bottom:
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 oz. dark chocolate
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Heat whipping cream and chocolate until melted, stirring frequently. Stir in vanilla and mix until smooth. Pour into bottom of pie crust. Freeze ~15 minutes, or refrigerate ~1 hour.

Peanut Butter Filling:
1 cup whipping cream
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form and set aside. Cream together peanut butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar. Gently fold in whipped cream and spread over truffle bottom. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Topping:
1.5 oz. dark chocolate
1 Tbsp. shortening (or butter)
coarsely chopped peanuts
additional whipped cream

Melt chocolate together with shortening, stirring till smooth. Drizzle over top of pie or use it to draw whatever you want, like the symbol for pi. Slice, top with additional whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.

Peanut Butter Truffle Pi

Chocolate Amaretto Cupcakes

For my birthday, I decided to try something chocolate-y and a little different. I found two different recipes and took part from each. The cake comes from maede for you, and the frosting is based on a recipe from over here. The cupcakes are far better than these photos might lead you to believe as I took the photos several days after making them. These are soft cupcakes with a delicate crumb and with this frosting they are suuuper chocolatey. I was a bit worried about being able to taste the amaretto/almond, but a friend assures me you can taste it.

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Cake:

Ingredients:

1 cup cocoa power
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
3 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Amaretto liqueur
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Dissolve cocoa powder in hot water and set aside. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in another bowl and set aside. Melt butter and pour into bowl of your mixer. Mix in the sugar until thoroughly combined, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl. Add Amaretto, vanilla and cocoa powder mixture. Slowly add half the flour, then mix in the sour cream. Mix in remaining flour.

Divide between 36 cupcakes, mine filled almost to the top of the papers. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:

Ingredients:
12 oz. good chocolate – chopped (or high quality chocolate chips)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
~3 Tbsp. Amaretto liquor
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. sour cream
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
toasted almonds for decorating (optional)

Directions:

Melt butter with heavy whipping cream in a saucepan. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until fully melted. Stir in Amaretto and allow to cool until barely lukewarm, roughly 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream and almond extract, then add powdered sugar. The original said to refrigerate until thick enough to spread, but I found mine was quite thick just from adding all the sugar. If yours feels a bit thin go ahead and stick it in the fridge for a bit. Otherwise, start frosting your cupcakes :)

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Celebrating 3 birthdays :)

Celebrating 3 birthdays :)

Red Velvet Cookies

Or as my sister dubbed them for Christmas “Rudolph’s Noses”! These are pretty quick and easy, and a bit of a cheat since you use a box of Red Velvet cake mix. In my opinion that makes them great for Christmas when you have a bunch of baking to get through :)

Red Velvet Cookies

Top: rolled in granulated sugar, Bottom Left: no sugar, Bottom Right: rolled in powdered sugar

Ingredients:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 box Red Velvet cake mix
sugar for rolling

Directions:

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix well. Slowly mix in the cake mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate *at least* 2 hours before baking!

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll in your choice of powdered or granulated sugar (or none). Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Immediately remove to a wire rack to cool. Makes ~3 dozen cookies.

We found that the powdered sugar absorbed almost completely into the cookies, so we started rolling them in granulated instead, it just gives a different look to the cookie. We also did a few with no extra sugar.

Even my kitty wanted these cookies!
IMG_4798 Red Velvet bite

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