Archive for the ‘Blind baking’ Category

It’s hard to imagine that 2012 has arrived!  2011 has flashed by quicker than either of us expected, and both of us have loved writing entries for gourm(eh?).  Neither of us could guess how rewarding this blog would prove to be.  We are so grateful for our reader’s supports and comments, and hope you will continue to enjoy our posts in the year ahead! In the meantime, we wanted to share with you our 10 most popular recipes from 2011.

To a wonderful 2012!

10. Coconut Turnovers – A  recipe Sitelle invented while reminiscing about her travels in Belize — these turnovers are mouth wartering.

9. Okra, Potato and Cauliflower Curry – Who doesn’t love Indian food?  Madhur Jaffrey spotlights okra is this spicy dish.

8. Pesto Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Asparagus, and Zucchini  – Pesto is a favourite of Catherine’s, and this pasta dish (or a variant) features at least once a month in her kitchen.

7. Mocha Chip Meringue Cake – Our very first gourm(eh?) post!  This is a little taste of meringue heaven.

6. Crispy Baked Mac and Cheese – The more cheese, the better in our opinion.

5. Chocolate Zucchini Cake – One of Catherine’s top secret family recipes, she has yet to meet a picky eater who didn’t love this chocolatey, moist cake.

4. Flaky Pastry Crust: Savoury or Sweet! – A cornerstone of both our baking inventories, delicious buttery pie crust is our foundation for most pies.  And if you need a filling, may we recommend Catherine’s two favourites from 2011:

3. Cream of Broccoli and Spinach Soup – Concocted during Catherine’s month of vegetarianism, she’d eat this any day of the week!

2. The ultimate Canadian butter tarts! – We wrote developed gourm(eh?) partially to explore Canadian cuisine.  This here is Sitelle’s take of this delicious Canadian treat.

1. Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch – The post that saw us freshly pressed (!!!!), this rich pasta casserole is keeper.

You'll devour the pine nut crunch topping!

– Catherine & Sitelle

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 With Christmas lights sparkling on the street, I was recently inspired to make a fancy Christmas desert.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that The Three Tarts Bakery makes some of the most divine tarts in Ottawa, and one of my particular favourites is their white chocolate cranberry pistachio tart.   This tart recipe, which infuses orange zest in the shortbread crust, looked like it could challenge The Three Tarts’ recipe – both for taste and for prettiness.  The added hint of citrus reminded me of oranges in my stocking on Christmas morning, the cranberries of turkey dinner, and the pistachios of eating nuts around a fire.  I could not have hoped for a better Christmas desert.
The tart exceeded all expectations: creamy and smooth, the sweetness of the white chocolate was balanced beautifully by the tartness of the cranberries, the nuttiness of the pistachios, and the zestiness of the shortbread crust.  I’ll have to find another excuse to make this again over the holidays!


White Chocolate Cranberry Tart with Toasted Pistachios
(1 10-inch tart: serves 12)


1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons whipping cream
Finely grated zest of one orange


4 ounces shelled unsalted pistachios (or a generous 1/2 cup)
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup whipping cream
12 oz white chocolate, finely chopped or white chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
Splash of milk


Cut the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.  Whist together the egg yolk, whipping  cream, and orange zest together, and combine with the flour until the dough clings together.  Pat into a disc, wrap, and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll our tart pastry on a floured surface and transfer to 10 inch tart pan.  Trim edges. Cover with parchment paper and weigh down with beans or pastry weights. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the pie weights, and bake for 10 minutes more, or until golden. Remove the tart shell from oven and allow to cool.


Shell pistachios and toast if necessary.  Blanch cranberries in a large pot of boiling water.  Shock the blanched cranberries in an icebath and allow to dry on paper towel.
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Add the white chocolate, wait a minute, and then stir until incorporated.  Add the butter and stir until smooth; avoid over-stirring since it will result in air bubbles in the tart.
Randomly scatter the pistachios and cranberries in the tart shell, and carefully pour the white chocolate cream filling overtop until the fruit and nuts are completely covered.  You will have a little extra chocolate cream filling left over.
Microwave the bittersweet chocolate in a small splash of milk for 45 seconds.  Stir until smooth and the chocolate is completely melted.  Dribble the dark chocolate over the tart.
Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. One hour before serving, remove the tart to allow it to soften and enhance the flavours.  Cut with a hot dry knife.


Bon appetit!
– Catherine

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Although this particular recipe is my own invention, it is based on an idea my mother came up with. And the best part is that it’s more delicious, easier, and more novel than the usual crumble (well, perhaps not after this post – but I’m ok with that). With this dessert, not only do you have the delicious crumble topping and the warm apple, but you also have a flakey crust. And the trick is that the crumble topping is made primarily with wholesome granola!

All the pies I made 20 minutes ago have already vanished – which I take to mean it was a success.

In September I moved to Montréal, and I shared these pies with my new house-mates. They were made with apples I picked right off a tree during my lunch break while working in the field at a switch-grass farm. I hope you can enjoy these pies often during the cold winter months!

Ingredients – makes 6 small 4-inch pies

-1 quantity sweet shortcrust pastry

-4 apples, cored and diced
-1 tsp cinnamon
-2 Tbsp brown sugar
-1/4 cup pecan pieces

-1 cup granola
-1 Tbsp flour
-1-2 Tbsp brown sugar
-1-2 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces


Prepare your sweet shortcrust pastry 30 minutes in advance. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 6 small tart pans (I used the small 4-inch tin pans available at the supermarket). Roll out dough after it has rested, and cut it into 6 circles to fit into the pie shells. Prick the crust on the bottom and sides, then place in the oven for 15 minutes to partially blind-bake it.

Meanwhile, crush the pecans into small chunks. Mix with the cinnamon and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the granola, flour, brown sugar, and butter. Once the crusts are set, quickly cut the apples and mix into the brown sugar, pecan, and cinnamon mixture. Place 1/6 of the apple mixture in a heaping pile in each pie, then top with the granola topping.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the apples are in their melt-in-your-mouth stage. Serve alone, with vanilla yogurt/ice cream, or lightly sweetened whipped cream!


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I’m sure that most will agree with me when I say crust is key to the success of pies and other delicious treats.  The crazy thing is, it only takes 5 minutes to make (well, once you’ve done it a few times).  I swear it is no more efficient to buy it in the grocery store ready-made, and it is definitely tastier home-made.  Plus, if you like making things in doubles, you can freeze half the dough in a ziplock and use it a week or two later.  Just take it out 1/2 an hour before rolling it out!

There are few ingredients in crusts, so the key is less them and more how they are handled.  Too much work and/or heat results in a rubbery mess that can be very disappointing.  To avoid this, use the coldest ingredients possible (if I use the food processor, I like to freeze cubes of butter 1/2 an hour in advance!), and I use water that I chill in the freezer while preparing the rest.  I’ll give both my machine-free and my food-processor variations so that everyone can indulge!


-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 Tbsp granulated sugar (*OMIT For savoury crust)
-2/3 cups cold cold cold butter, cut into 1-2 cm cubes (put them back in the fridge or freezer after cutting them if it gets soft before being incorporated in the flour)
-1/2 cup cold cold cold water
-pinch salt


By hand

Cut butter into cubes, then refrigerate or freeze.  In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.  When ready, cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or two knives.  Cut the butter quickly, mixing it into the flour, until it forms pea-sized lumps.  At this point, add 1 Tbsp of water at a time as you try to form a ball with the dough.  Do not overwork the dough.  At the first real signs that it can form into a ball, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

By food processor

Cut the butter into cubes and place in freezer, as well as water.  Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of the food processor.  Pulse to mix.  Add the butter, and pulse several times until pea-sized lumps remain.  Turn this out into a bowl, and add water 1 Tbsp at a time, until a ball can be formed, without overworking it.  Place the ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

Then, the easiest method I find for rolling the pastry out is between 2 sheets of wax paper, using a rolling pin (or, as was often the case in the first years of university, a wine bottle).

Some recipes require blind baking, which is just cooking the pastry alone before filling it.  A simple blind-bake can be done by preheating the oven to 375F, rolling out the crust, and placing it into a greased pie dish.  Then, just prick the crust, and cover it with a sheet of parchment paper (make sure there’s at least 1 inch of overlap all around).  Place baking weights, or, if you’re like me and don’t happen to have any of those you can just as easily substitute uncooked rice or beans or lentils, onto the parchment paper.

Cook it for 10 minutes, then remove the weights and parchment paper (carefully, because you can reuse the weights an infinite number of times if you don’t spill them), and cook for another 10 minutes uncovered.  This allows the crust to be extra flaky in recipes like lemon tarts.



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