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11.22.2017

Mascarpone Tart with Cranberry Cider Compote & Pecan Crust


  This Thanksgiving is a little strange. Back in the day, I'd be going to one of my grandparents' house and feasting with my family and crazy sisters. But now there's only one set of grandparents, and this year half of my family isn't even going there/doing anything for the holiday. I could be making the trek, but instead I'm going to my significant's Thanksgiving...

  I guess that's the thing you do when you've been dating for a spell, but it's my first holiday away from "home", if you will.


  I'm torn between feeling nostalgic, wanting to impress people with a tasty dish, and doing my best to get into the holiday spirit.

  A couple years ago we had our family Christmas Eve in our then mobile home while my parents were building a new house. I made this tart for it. It's a good memory, everyone sitting in the living room admiring presents while I was in the kitchen slathering homemade cranberry sauce onto a chilled mascarpone tart.


  Annalise of Completely Delicious (great blog, been following it for years) calls this a lovely alternative to the classic Pumpkin Pie for a Thanksgiving dessert, or perhaps an nice accompaniment.  I think it does well on both the Thanksgiving and Christmas table, the mascarpone and berries are a complimentary refreshment after a particularly heavy meal.


  The process for me (with some speed chillings in the freezer) took about 3 hours, but if you can I really recommend doing this over the period of a couple days so you don't spend so much time waiting on it and get the best tart you can. I'm a busy bee these days and got a rare Wednesday off to fiddle around with this, so I did a more compact recipe-making (along with 8 zillion loads of hand-washed dishes).

That being said, I made this the day before Thanksgiving with a head cold, so it's not a difficult recipe by any means.

  If you were to divide it up, I'd say do the cranberry sauce and bake off the pecan crust on one day (so they have time to cool and be set), then make the filling and sugared cranberries (if you're feeling so decoratively inclined, they're optional) the next.


  The sauce smells amazing while it simmers, and it's packed with spices, brown sugar, orange zest, and apple cider (do local if you can!).

  

  My tart pan was a little smaller than what Annalise was using, so I ended up going a little heavier on the pecan crust than I intended to. But, it will still taste amazing. The crust comes together quickly in a food processor, make sure your toasted pecans are cooled off enough so they don't melt your butter.


  And because I'm extra, I made sugared cranberries and additional toasted pecans for garnish. They're not hard to make at all, they just take a bit to dry before you can toss them in sugar. But since I was waiting on 2 other things to chill, I had a bit of down time to play with. Even regular cranberries are also a nice topper. If you're interested in trying your hand at them, check out Everyday Annie for her succinct and thorough tutorial.

  I'll miss my family tomorrow, but I'm happy to be bringing a little piece of the Brandts with me in this conveniently aesthetically-pleasing tart. Happy Thanksgiving all <3


Mascarpone Tart with Cranberry Cider Compote & Pecan Crust
Yield: one large tart (if using anything smaller than an 11-inch tart pan, note that you'll have some leftover crust/filling)

Ingredients for the compote:
  • 1 (12-oz bag, 340 grams) cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • A few grates of nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I didn't have time to get whole spices, ground will do in a pinch)
  • Dash of ground ginger

Ingredients for the crust:
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted (be sure they're cool!)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice cold water

Ingredients for the filling:
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese, chilled
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:
To make the compote, in a medium saucepan combine cranberries, brown sugar, apple cider, orange zest, nutmeg and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have burst and sauce is thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely. (be sure to remove the cinnamon stick before topping the tart)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg and pecans. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the pieces of butter are broken up. Combine the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of ice water and add to the food processor while it is running. Pulse until the mixture starts to come together (the processor will make a loud sound).
Press the mixture into a large greased tart pan. Chill in freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line chilled crust with greased foil and fill with pie weights or dried rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove weights and foil and bake until barely golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let cool completely.

In a medium bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. In a large bowl, beat heavy cream to soft peaks (if your handheld mixer comes with a whisk attachment, use it). With mixer on low, slowly spoon mascarpone cream mixture into whipped cream until incorporated and smooth. Spread onto cooled crust.

Top with cranberry compote (you'll likely have extra, save it to serve on the side). Garnish as desired. Keep in fridge.

Sources: adapted from Completely Delicious



11.16.2017

Just a Li'l Wedding Cake


  Emma and I didn't have the smoothest of sisterhoods. Remarkably different personalities and behavior traits when we were young caused a good amount of clashing—especially when we shared a room. Her walls were always painted black, mine had every color under the sun. She liked the dark light-blocking curtains, I liked lava lamps and was outside as soon as the sun was up. God, I bet she hated me for that.


  But something weird happened when she graduated and left home. I started getting letters and emails from her--and then when I got a phone, texts and birthday calls. Maybe it was the 4 hour distance between us, or that we both matured remarkably. Then somehow, I found out just how similar we were. Every messy situation with a boyfriend, every frustrating math problem, and mental breakdown about my future...she was always there. I started seeing my sister as a friend, and she is still the first one I call with good news, bad news, or what have you.


  So we've had our ups and downs, and the in betweens. But my family is something that I have grown to be very thankful for. They've seen me through 2 different colleges, breakups, moving across the country for 2.5 months, and so many indecisive breakdowns. Getting to celebrate my sister's marriage with them was priceless. 

  Making the cake, however, was incredibly daunting.


  I tested, I tasted, I drowned in caramel and butter and chocolate. When everything was as prepared as it could be and in the freezer, I made myself a humongous fresh salad and watched Netflix. Fresh veggies and good dressing are exceptional after hours of being surrounded by nothing but cake and frosting.


  I'm so pleased that my little test cake went so well. If you're wondering about my sources for all of this, it's basically all Martha Stewart with a smattering of Sweetapolita and Everyday Annie.

  I pinterested and googled all things "semi-naked cake" and how-to's on tiering, frosting, freezing, assembling...because I've never done anything so massive in my life. But with some wooden dowels, many chillings in the fridge, and my brave/strong father carrying the massive beast out to the wedding tent...it all came together somehow.


  With an audible sigh of relief, I had done it. Caramel from scratch, frosting from scratch, cake from scratch, mocha chocolate beer from Southern Tier...it all came together. Emma's sweet tooth for all things salted caramel and Mercedes' love of all things coffee/stout were united into one beautiful masterpiece.

  I had so many people pull me aside with nothing but praise for this non-traditional (and very rich) treat.



  And, you know, that's all great and well and good...but that look up there, on my sister's face? That's what makes me so proud that I was a part of any of it. Her happiness has been long awaited and is much deserved. And I love her and her sweet lady so much.

  Happy cake-ing, and marriage-ing <3


PC for all Mercedes'/Emma photos goes to Cumberland Weddings

9.02.2017

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup


  There's something funny about this past August. Things were all topsy-turvy, and somehow things were also just the same. Right now it's averaging 70 degrees and things are weird and chilly in my drafty li'l apartment.


  I came home last Sunday with an armload of fresh tomatoes from my man's mom's garden. God I love fresh produce. I love the smell, the taste, the everything. Maybe I'll have a garden one day when I'm a real adult with a real yard. 

  But for now, I mooch off of other people's labor. And fresh tomatoes are what I eat all summer long.

  That being said--I still can't eat 3 lbs. of tomatoes in the short time window in which they remain fresh.


  So some went towards a fresh mozzarella, corn and tomato salad. The rest (which included a lively blend of orange cherry and red romas) were roasted and boiled into this delicious, slightly time-consuming, but totally worth it soup. With a grilled cheese or some avocado toast in hand, you've got a real delightful little meal on your hands. And with some to spare for the freezer for those chillier months. 


Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Yield: 10-12 servings
  • 3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, halved with seeds scooped out (if using some cherry tomatoes, just roast 'em whole)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or dried)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream, if desired
  • fresh mozzarella chunks for serving, if desired

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Combine the tomato halves, ¼ cup of olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl; toss well to combine.  Spread the tomato halves out on a large baking sheet.  Roast the tomatoes for 45 minutes.

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the butter and heat until the butter is melted.  Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly soften, about 7-10 minutes.  Add in the canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, 40 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until completely smooth.  (Alternatively, you can use a blender or food processor.  If you do, be sure to vent the steam and be very careful not to spill the hot liquid!) Return the soup to the stove and add the heavy cream. Heat on medium-low until well incorporated and warmed through. Enjoy!

Sources: adapted from Everyday Annie, originally from Baking Blonde