Archives for posts with tag: baking

I thought to myself that I better get this post up before cherries go totally out of season and I will look like an idiot putting this post up in the dead of winter when cherries are hard to come by.  So here I am doing you all a favor by not taunting you with a cherry post in December.  Jokes aside, I love cherries and anything cherry flavored, including those artificial candies with not a lick of real cherry in them.  I’m ashamed of this but, cherry “flavored” food  and me go back a long way.  I remember being a big lover of cherry blowpops, gummy bears, if there was a candy I had to eat it was always the red one.  To this day, I have a secret addiction to all things gummy.  My husband’s niece has a big sweet tooth and whenever I go over to her place, I ask her to share some gummy-type candy with me from her stash and she never disappoints!

I was supposed to entice you all with a cherry custard pie and here I am talking about cherry-flavored candies – some food blogger I am.  Let me sidetrack a little more and tell you all how I am always reluctant to eat fresh cherries.  You see, whenever I eat fresh cherries, the next day I wake up with a sore throat.  This also happens to my sister so I am definitely not making it up as my husband thinks I do.  But this summer I have seen so many cherries in the markets that I had to try and make something with them.  If I got a sore throat then I would be off real cherries forever.  (Never the artificially-flavored gummy candies, mind you.)

I eagerly made this cherry custard pie.  I love fruit pies and tarts.  The flaky crust with a little custard or cream and some ripe fruit is an amazing combination.  And perfect for a summer day.

This cherry custard pie was a success and I steered clear from any signs of a sore throat so this will be part of my repertoire from now on.

(PS – I have two more posts photographed, so hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me on this space! 🙂 )

Cherry Custard Pie with a Corn Meal Crust

Serves 8

for the crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup corn meal

1 teaspoon salt

tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 sticks of butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

2-4 tablespoons ice water

for the custard:

1 cup mascarpone cheese

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

10 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.

1 cup pitted cherries

Method

To make the crust: In a food processor pulse together the flour, corn meal, salt, and sugar.  Next add in the chilled butter and pulse until combined.  Through the feed tube stream in the ice water tablespoon at a time until the dough just begins to come together.  Put the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it just comes together and wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.  After it is chilled, roll-out the dough so that it fits into a 10-inch pie dish and then blind-bake the crust in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  If the dough expands and rises just use a spoon to press it down.

To make the custard:  In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the mascarpone, and eggs on medium speed for 2 minutes until fluffy.  Next add in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and the pinch of salt.  Beat together for another minute and add in the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Mix until just combined.  Take the bowl off the mixer and fold in the pitted cherries.

At this point preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Next, pour the custard mixture into the baked pie crust and place the pie pan on the cookie sheet.  Bake the pie for 45-55 minutes, or until the custard is set.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Advertisements

I’ve totally lost touch with my blog.  I’ve been trying to write a post for ages, but something was stopping me.  I have no idea what it was, but I put my foot down finally and decided I really want to resume my posts.  They are fun for me and I love the interaction with all of you!  I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but my resolution this year is to get back into blogging and stop making excuses about why I’m not, because there’s no valid reason except my own laziness.  I’m so silly, I will buy things thinking I’ll use them for my blog and they sit untouched.  I’m sure some of you with blogs know what I’m talking about.

I didn’t really fall off the wagon from cooking, but I haven’t been as enthusiastic about it as I used to be.  It’s slowly coming back and I’m ready to start up again.  Maybe it’s the winter – winter blues, I guess.  I know there’s lots to cook during the winter, but until recently I was totally uninspired.  Summer produce and colors inspire me.  This is probably also probably why I’ve been thinking once my husband is done residency we NEED to move somewhere warm.  It’s been on my mind for a few weeks now.  I’m craving sun and warmth.

Despite my love for summer, I do have a few winter produce favorites.  Most notable are beets.  I almost always have them on-hand.  Must have something to do with the color, I suspect.  As I’ve said before I’m a sucker for vibrant colors.  To the same effect, I buy watermelon radishes ALL THE TIME, not because I love thetaste, but more that I love the way they look.  For this dish there were no watermelon radishes, unfortunately.  But this tart is good with whatever you have on hand: mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions – you name it.  I used to be daunted by making dough, but now I’ve formulated my own proportions and it works every time like a charm.  This sort of tart is one of my go-to dishes.  Although it does take some time, it is by no means difficult to make.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Tart

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

for the crust:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, frozen

up to 1/4 cup ice water

filling:

6 ounces goat cheese, softened

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence

salt and black pepper, to taste

for top:

2 golden beets

2 carrots

1/4 cup chopped parsley and chives, or any herbs of your choice, for garnish

Method

Roast the beets in the oven (at 350 degrees) in a foil pouch on a baking tray drizzled with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for 45 minutes or until cooked.  At the 30 minute mark add in the  whole carrots, also tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Once cooked, slice the beets and carrots into thin slices.

To make the tart dough: in a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until they turn into a fine grind, add in the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse until combined.  Grate the frozen butter and add it to the flour.  Pulse until the mixture forms pea-sized clumps.  Next, through the top, stream in the ice water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball.  Once the dough comes together, cover it in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least an hour.  After the dough has chilled, roll it out and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and blind bake (cover it with foil and use pie weights or dried beans to weigh down the crust, so that it doesn’t puff up while baking) it in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

For the filling: whisk the goat cheese, ricotta, and egg together.  Add in the salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.  Pour it into the partially baked crust and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  After 15 minutes, take it out of the oven and arrange the cut beets and carrots over the goat cheese and ricotta and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and chives, or any herb of your choice.  You can also sprinkle the final product with some flaky sea salt and drizzle with olive oil, if you like.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

I often go through the dilemma as to whether I’m a city girl or a country girl.  I grew up in the country and always wanted to live in the city.  Now that I’m living in a city I love it.  I’m busy there’s way more to do and I think I see myself as someone who always needs to live near a big city.  But I do appreciate the beauty and peace the country has to offer.  Ultimately, I need to be close enough to a rural area that if I get the urge to unwind the option is there.

I had been urging my husband to go apple picking with me for years now.  I remember there was a farm very close to my house that I used to go to as a child.  We would all sit on the back of a large tractor and go off into the orchard picking apples and pumpkins and coming back to the farm to drink warm apple cider and munch on freshly baked pies.  Just thinking about it is making me all warm inside.  It was those simple things I enjoyed, I see some children now who would think such an outing would be lame.  In this day and age everything has changed and it makes me feel old.  Taking a drive 45 minutes out of the city brings back so many memories and sort of gives you a reality check.  We let go of our selfishness and just enjoy nature.

My husband eats up country living, he would have been content to stay in the country-ish city we were in before.  He says it’s because he grew up in the desert (the Middle East) so everything there was man-made and new.  No greenery, no trees, just sand and more sand.  We’ve come to the compromise that once we settle wherever we will end up permanently has to be within 45 minutes of the countryside.  I think I can handle that.  After all, I am a country girl at heart.

Back to the apple picking, I have with so many apples I don’t know what to do with them.  We got a little over zealous and picked way too many.  I started off by making this caramel apple cake.  Though it was delicious it only used up about 5 apples.  If I make about 10 more, I might be able to use up all the apples.  This cake is actually worth making 10 more times.  It’s easy and the apple flavor really shines through.  I added crushed nuts on top, which not only added extra flavor, but also made the cake look even prettier.  It’s a rustic cake, it sort of reminds me of a clafoutis – very light and airy.  Give it a go and make it with apples you’ve picked yourself.

Salted Caramel Apple Cake

*The consistency of reminds me of Dorie Greenspan’s Apple Cake.

Ingredients

1 cup Salted Caramel*

3 cups chopped apples, preferably baking apples, I used Spartan and Cortland

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

squeeze of lemon juice

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

crushed nuts (any that you like – pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans), for garnish

confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Method

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside.

Mix together chopped apples, cinnamon, and lemon in a bowl.  Next, combine with the caramel and set aside.

In a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until light an airy.  At this point, add in the eggs, one at a time and beat until combined.  Add in the sour cream, milk, and vanilla.

Next, with the mixer on low-speed, slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the batter and beat until just combined.

Lay the apple and caramel mixture on the bottom of the springform pan and then lay the batter on top of the apples.  Spread the batter evenly on top.  Place the springform pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  When done, remove the cake from the oven and let it sit at for 30 minutes before removing the springform pan.  Invert the cake on the serving dish so that the apples are on top and then garnish with the chopped nuts and confectioners’ sugar.

*for the caramel I use this recipe and replaced the kosher salt with fleur de sel.


I’m trying to get my groove back in the kitchen.  Once you’ve lived in one place for a few years, you have your own routine however mundane it is.  You know where you like to buy your tomatoes from, where the best bread is, and that Reinick Farms has the most delicious eggs.  Now that I’m in a big city, I have a lot more to choose from.  Despite this advantage, I’m stumped as to where to get my groceries, which farmers’ markets are the best…I’m giving them all a trial run.  I will soon learn which places fit me.

It’s funny how these things enter some peoples’ minds.  I’m picky about these matters, going into X supermarket isn’t going to cut it for me.  It does make things a little more difficult, but way more fun.  Who doesn’t like to explore a city looking around for the best food it has to offer?  So I’m enjoying myself right now-getting a feel for the city until I find a job.

I picked up strawberries at a farmers’ market.  A fresh strawberry is a thing of beauty.  They bring back many childhood memories for me.  I remember sitting in our garden where wild strawberries would grow, basking in the sun and feasting away on those tiny gems.  Finding local strawberries always excites me, the taste is completely different and on top of the great taste, the little green stems are ever so cute.

I decided to make strawberry crumble bars inspired by a grocery store near my parents’ house in Rhode Island.  Layered bars are a favorite of mine- the different layers, textures, and crunch are quite appealing to me.  These bars are so very delicious, especially with that heavenly dollop of melting whipped cream on top.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Crumble Bars

Makes 9 large bars

Ingredients

for the crust: (adapted from Ina Garten’s lemon bar crust)

1 cup flour

1/4 cup  cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

pinch of salt

for the strawberries:

1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered

sugar, to taste (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup crème fraîche

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the crumble topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup oats (not instant)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

4 tablespoons butter

pinch of salt

Method

Prepare the crust by combining the brown sugar and flour in an electric mixer on low-speed for a minute.  You should use the paddle attachment.  This can also be done in a bowl if the don’t have an electric mixer.  Add in the seeds from the scraped vanilla bean and then the flour and mix until just combined.  Press the dough into an 8″ by 8″ baking dish and chill for at least one hour.  After it has chilled, bake it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until it just starts to turn light brown.

While the crust is chilling, prepare the strawberries by heating them in a saucepan over medium heat with the sugar and remaining vanilla bean seeds.  Add in the vanilla extract and allow the strawberries to wilt slightly.  Cook for 5-7 minutes.  Let the strawberries to cool and once cool mix in the crème fraîche.  Set aside in refrigerator until assembly.

Before the final assembly; mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, and walnuts together.  Using your fingers knead in the butter until the mixture is a crumbly texture.  Set aside.

Before baking the crumble bars preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, Take the prebaked crust and layer the strawberries on top, followed by the crumble topping.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the crust turns golden.  Allow the bars to cool for 15 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream.  They’re also good at room temperature or chilled.

I haven’t baked in ages.  I can also say it’s been a long time since I’ve cooked anything special.  As I mentioned before, we’re moving, things are starting to be packed up and the kitchen is about to be boxed up.  I want to post more frequently on my blog. After all, I squealed and acted like an annoying brat until I got my new dSLR back in November for my birthday.  I haven’t used it as much as I would have liked.  Hopefully, with the warmer weather coming up, I will spend more time with the camera.  I’m looking forward to the summer months where produce will be abundant and I will have forgotten how long this year’s winter was.  In all honesty, it’s still winter here.  It’s only a few degrees above freezing today, not exactly what you expect on April 18th!

Where are the tulips and daffodils?  My husband and I drove back from Toronto to Kingston last Friday, all the trees were barren-gray and more gray.  The buds were not even visible yet.  Is it December or April?  To make myself feel better, I baked.  Baking is a therapeutic process for me.  My usual neat freak self takes a little break and I make a mess in the kitchen (only with baking).  I did my thing, and in the process took pictures.  I felt like I was back into the swing of things.

The cake tastes bright and fresh.  It’s all lemony and cheery.  I wanted it to be a swirl cake, but I learned that brown sugar just blends in.  No swirls.  That’s alright though, it tasted good.  Super moist and not too sweet.  Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee, but the child in me loves milk with cake.  I also made a lemon zest sugar that I incorporated into the cake with cream cheese. It was divine.  I had to stop myself from eating it as is.  In the process, I also learned it could work as a great skin scrub (before the addition of cream cheese), food and beauty all in one. Yay.

In these 2 weeks before we move out, I hope I’ll manage to do some more cooking and photographing.  Until then, this cake serves as a good start.

Lemon Brown Sugar Cake

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar+ 2 tablespoons

1/2 cup brown sugar

zest of 2 lemons

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup cake and pastry flour, sifted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9″ by 5″ by 3″ loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a food processor, add the lemon zest, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the regular sugar and pulse until combined.  Once combined, add in the cream cheese and vanilla extract and run the food processor until the mixture is smooth, set aside.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer (and bowl) cream together the butter, oil, and sugar and 1/4 cup of  the brown sugar, until light and fluffy.  Next, beat in the eggs until combined, and then, add in the greek yogurt.  Beat for a minute and then pour in the lemon juice and the remaining 1 teaspoon of  vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder in another bowl and gradually beat it into the egg and butter mixture.  Once the flour is incorporated, swirl in tablespoonfuls of the cream cheese, lemon zest mixture into the batter.  Once the cream cheese mixture is incorporated pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.  Once cooked, allow to cool for 30 minutes and serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Any weekend my husband and I are free, I always suggest we head over to Montreal because it’s only a two and a half hour drive from us. This is funny because I went to McGill University for my Master’s and while I was studying there I wasn’t much of a fan of the city.  I guess you can say it was another point in my life-life as a student with deadlines and endlessly writing papers and stressing out about my thesis.  My friends and I would stick together in a corner of the Institute of Islamic Studies library typing frantically away about political and religious movements in British India.

We rarely ate out at “nice” places.  We stuck to student joints and areas in and around our student ghetto.  I wish we had done some further exploring.  Montreal is a gem of a city and the food is no less than spectacular.  I’m glad we were smart enough to try many of Montreal’s ethnic selections-Pakistani, Lebanese, Syrian, Turkish, Greek, Persian, Thai.

Some of the best Pakistani food is found in Montreal’s Parc Extension. The places are not exactly what we can call glamorous, but the food is superb. Whenever my parents would visit, my dad was eager to only eat Pakistani food–Lahori charga (steamed then fried chicken with spices), spicy fried fish, sarson ka saag (mustard greens/broccoli rabe), nihari (spicy slow-cooked beef stew), haleem (beef and lentil stew)…My mom and I would roll our eyes, as delicious as the Pakistani food was, we wanted “bistro” food.  Usually, we would just appease my dad because we are more easygoing when it comes to food. *hehe*

Now, when my husband and I make our weekend trips, we don’t know where to start.  It’s pure overload.  L’express or Lemeac…Alep or Daou, Le Local or Toque´, Au Cinquième Péché…Croissants, Poutine, Duck Confit, Montreal Smoked Meat, St. Viateur Bagels, Marche´ Jean Talon, Atwater market, chocolate, baguettes, and brioche.  See, it’s overload.  I could go on and on about Montreal’s food scene.  I don’t think I need to mention that Montreal is my favorite place in Canada.

Despite everything we’ve tried, we never made it to Au Pied de Cochon. After all, it is a Montreal landmark.  Anthony Bourdain loves it and even featured it on “No Reservations.”  I saw the episode where he took part in the APdC gluttony–tray after tray of foie gras and pork this and that.  We don’t eat pork, so that is why we never tried it out.  The menu is very pork heavy.  However, there are options for people who don’t eat pork.  We figured we had to try it once.

We indulged in foie gras and black truffle terrine, magret of duck, and instead of pork gluttony, we engaged in duck gluttony. Everything was good, but what was absolutely divine was the pouding chômeur. After a $50 slice of foie gras and black truffle terrine, we were wowed by the unassuming maple syrup, flour, and butter dessert.  You know something is good when my husband even utters that he might enjoy it as much as my vanilla bean cheesecake.  That is his dessert and to him nothing ever compares to it.  He absolutely loved the pouding chômeur, as did I.

If you are not a fan of maple syrup, don’t fret.  The maple syrup transforms into a nutty and delicious caramel, which soaks the cake. It’s spongey, warm, and gooey, the perfect winter dessert.  I never thought I would be saying this, but I am not heralding the coming of spring quite as much as I was before because I want to savour this dessert in the cold weather.  I wish I discovered it before.  Now, there are all the more reasons for us to visit Montreal.

Pouding Chômeur

makes 4-4 1/2″ ramekins (each ramekin will serve two, if you don’t mind sharing) or an 8″ by 8″ glass dish

recipe very slightly adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, I use this one

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

pinch of kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup cane sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

crème fraîche, for serving

confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and make sure the rack is at the placed at the upper third of the oven.

In a small saucepan on medium heat, bring the maple syrup, heavy cream, and the pinch of salt to the boil, stirring the mixture until it boils. Once it begins to boil turn the heat off and set it aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until creamy. Gently beat in the egg and add in the vanilla extract.

In another bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Fold the flour into the egg/butter mixture until just combined. The dough will be of the consistency of crumbly biscuit dough.

If you are using ramekins, pour in about 1 inch of the maple syrup mixture into each ramekin and then press in 1/4 of the dough and top with the remaining maple syrup mixture.  If you are using 1 baking dish then pour 1/3 of the maple syrup mixture into the bottom of the dish and divide the dough into  6 balls and place them into the dish and top with the rest of the maple syrup mixture.

It will be all soupy and won’t look right.  Don’t worry, it will come together in the oven. Place in the oven and bake the ramekins for 20-22 minutes, or until just set.  If you are using the 8″ by 8″ dish bake for 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and a dollop of crème fraîche.

Other blogs/sites featuring Pouding Chômeur:

Let Her Bake Cake

Lottie and Doof

Feisty Chef

food 52

Everyone needs their share of chocolate-y goodness.  We all crave that pick me up that only chocolate can give us.  I’ve had a hacking cough for the past week.  When I say hacking, I feel like a barking dog or howling wolf as I try to clear the congestion in my throat.  The cold weather up here in Canada can be brutal.  Earlier this week it was -17 F, arctic tundra temperatures in my books.

Now, I am getting back to my normal routine after being sick and the first real thing I wanted to make is a chocolate tart of some sort.  Getting over a cold is something to celebrate, right?  And celebrate I did…with chocolate.  I dug into my “good” chocolate stash that I pick up every time I go back to the States because it is hard for me to find it in Kingston, and if I do it’s more expensive.  So, I am guilty of some cross-border chocolate smuggling.  If the Immigration Officer asks about food, I do say, chocolate and I usually get a smirk.  Let me tell you, I have seen some strange foodstuffs being examined at the Immigration-Customs area, but I don’t want any of you to lose your appetites.

This chocolate tart won’t make you lose your appetite, it is layered with a nutty caramel.  I used flaky puff pastry as a base.  I love the combination of chocolate, caramel, and nuts.  Therefore, I did some experimenting and came up with this recipe.  It is relatively easy, so if you are pressed for time, it might serve as a good option.  Translation: if you need chocolate within 1 hour, this will work for you.

I also wanted to mention that I am a finalist for the food52 contest, “Your Best Salad with Apples.”  I am extremely flattered and honored to be chosen as a finalist and recommend any of you who like to challenge yourself and meet a very supportive community to join.  It’s great fun to come up with a recipe suited to each week’s contest.  I made a “Shades of Green Chopped Salad.”  Feel free to check it out and check out the other finalist, whose salad looks fabulous.  Voting ends next week, so I will let you know if I win.  Either way, I’m thrilled to be a finalist.

Chocolate Caramel Triple Nut Tart

(I made something similar before, pictured here)

Serves 6

Ingredients

for the nutty caramel:

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon water

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup of chopped mixed nuts, I used almonds, pecans, and walnuts

pinch of kosher salt

for the chocolate:

6 ounces good-quality 70% dark chocolate, chopped

2 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 eggs, at room temperature

crust:

7 ounce piece of puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator overnight, if frozen

garnish:

fleur de sel, I love it, my husband hates salt in his desserts, but I usually win.

extra chopped nuts, optional

whipped cream or ice cream, optional

Method

Make the caramel first by heating a small saucepan on medium heat.  Add in the brown sugar and water and mix with a rubber spatula.  Keep stirring the sugar until it starts to melt and, about 5 minutes.  Once melted, mix in the butter and allow it to form a caramel.  Make sure the sugar is dissolved.  Turn the heat up slightly and let the caramel bubble.  Be very careful as to not let the caramel splatter or burn you.  After about 2 minutes, turn down the heat to low and add in the heavy cream and vanilla extract.  Mix in the nuts and turn the heat off and sprinkle the caramel with a tiny pinch of salt.  Allow the caramel to cool while you melt the chocolate.

Over a double-boiler (use a heat-safe bowl) on medium heat, melt the chocolate (both kinds) together.  Once melted fold in the butter so that the chocolate becomes glossy.  Take the bowl off the heat and mix in the vanilla extract.  Beat the 2 eggs in another bowl and whisk in a little of the warm chocolate into the eggs so that they won’t scramble when you add them to the larger bowl of chocolate, i.e. temper the eggs.  Once you have tempered the eggs, fold them into the chocolate so that they are well mixed in.  Set aside.

Roll out the puff pastry so that it will fit a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  I rolled it about 1 inch bigger than the pan so I could create a sort of rustic, messy look for the crust.  If you prefer a neater look, that’s fine as well.

Once the puff pastry is properly in the tart pan, layer the nutty caramel on the bottom in an even layer.  Then smooth the chocolate over the caramel.  If you rolled out the puff pastry larger than the pan, then fold over the edges, sort of like a galette.  Brush the exposed pastry with some milk.  Put the tart in the fridge for 10-15 minutes so that it sets.

At this point, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

After 15 minutes, bake the tart in the oven for 30 minutes or until the puff pastry turns light golden brown.  When you remove the tart from the oven, let it sit for 15 minutes because the caramel will be a little gooey.  If you prefer it to be gooey, eat it straight from the oven!  Sprinkle a little fleur de sel over the top, if you wish.  Serve with any of the above mentioned garnishes, if desired.

*After baking, you can put the tart in the fridge for 15 minutes as well.

I would like to wish everyone a very blessed Eid.  Eid is a time for family, friends, and celebrations and I hope all of you are fortunate enough to be close to your loved ones.  Usually, we eat meat that has been slaughtered in a ritual sacrifice.  We prepare dishes like yakhni pulao (meat stock based rice pilaf), kharay masalay ka gosht (meat cooked with whole garam masala pieces), karahi gosht (a tomato/chili based meat dish), and many more.  Unfortunately, this is not a vegetarian friendly holiday, I suppose it could be though.

However, meat is not the only focus.  Desserts are prepared in copious amounts.  Kheer (rice pudding), sewayyan (sweetened vermicelli), zarda sweetened rice) are part of the dessert spread.  Yes, we are very serious about food and prepare a feast even if it’s just for your immediate family.

One of my favorite Pakistani desserts is Shahi Tukray.  Let me tell you, it is literally heaven.  Fried bread slices soaked in a sugar syrup infused with saffron and cardamom and then dunked into a rich and creamy milk pudding, so good.  So, so good.  Usually, I don’t swoon like this for other Pakistani desserts, sure I like them, but for me, Shahi Tukray are on a completely other level.  It’s almost like you take a bite and you are so consumed in the utter deliciousness that you can’t think for a minute.  Or maybe I’m just an odd one and this is only the case for me.  Regardless, this dessert is befitting to its name, which means royal pieces or morsels.

I added a twist to the recipe here, being Autumn I thought pumpkin might work in this dish.  I added pumpkin purée to the rabri (reduced milk pudding) and the combination of pumpkin with cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves (the last two another nontraditional addition of mine) was divine.  Of course, if you want to stay true to the original leave the pumpkin out, but I really enjoyed this new combination.

Eid Mubarak and even if you don’t celebrate, find some Muslim friends and I’m sure they would be more than happy to include you in their celebrations and share the yummy food with you.

Shahi Tukray with Pumpkin

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

1 cup canned pure pumpkin purée

2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3-4 whole cloves

1 teaspoon cardamom powder

5 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

a nice pinch of saffron threads

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup canola oil or clarified butter, for frying (you might need slightly more oil/clarified butter, but I try to use as little as possible)

1 loaf (8-10 slices) day-old country-style white bread, crusts removed (optional) and cut into 2 pieces on the diagonal

edible silver leaf, for garnish (optional)

1/2 cup toasted and chopped mixed nuts-pistachios and almonds with skin, for garnish

fresh whipped cream, for garnish

cinnamon powder, for garnish

softened butter, for greasing the baking dish

Method

In a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat, bring the milk, half and half, cardamom powder, 2 cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and pumpkin to a simmer. Mix the ingredients every minute or so.

Once the milk/cream mixture comes to a simmer turn the heat to low and let the mixture thicken to the consistency of a loose pudding/custard. Keep stirring every few minutes so that the cream does not burn. This should take 35-45 minutes. Once the milk/cream mixture is done, remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pods.

While the milk/cream mixture is simmering, make the sugar syrup by combining the remaining sugar, water, saffron threads, and 3 cardamom pods in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. The syrup will be done once the sugar and water have dissolved into a uniform liquid after about 10 minutes. Leave the sugar syrup on low heat until the milk/cream mixture is done.

At this point preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and butter an 8″x8″ inch baking dish.

Once the cream mixture and sugar syrup are done, start frying the bread triangles in a fry pan on medium heat with the oil or clarified butter until all the pieces are golden brown on both sides. Lay the bread on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Once all the bread pieces are fried, dip each bread piece into the sugar syrup then into the milk/cream mixture so that the bread is coated well and then arrange the bread into the baking dish. I like to arrange the bread on the diagonal. Repeat this until you have used up all the fried bread.

Next, take any remaining milk/cream mixture and pour it over the bread slices in the pan and use a rubber spatula to make the top smooth.

Bake the bread slices in the oven for 15 minutes or until the top just starts to slightly turn golden.

Remove from the oven and garnish with the chopped nuts and silver leaf, if you are using it.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon, if you like. I like to eat it right from the oven but it can also be eaten at room temperature or even chilled.

*This can be made a day in advance and baked the day of serving.

I also posted this recipe on food52 here.