May 31, 2015

fruit tarts to make now (3): spring

...In other words, as I always seem to be implying, fruit tarts to make a liiiiiitle before now.  Or, tarts with strawberries and/or rhubarb of some sorts.

After two installments of what I started as the "fruit tarts to make now" series in editions Autumn and Winter, I fully intend on posting you what should obviously follow - Spring.   Hopefully while it is still, well, spring.  As I write this I've got all the photos sorted out, but haven't got enough time to do the writing bit, not for another week or so.  

So as a compromise, I've decided to do a sort of teaser, or perhaps more accurate word might be a placeholder, which I am hoping to finalize as soon as possible.  For now, I'm posting some of the images of the spring fruit tarts I've made, and in the coming week or so I'll complete with descriptions and links to the recipe sources where applicable.  

If you happen to find something that interests you, hopefully you can come back later and find more details.  Sorry about this haphazard approach and hope you'll at least enjoy some of the photos up here.  Thanks and see you soon! -cx

- lemon thyme and yogurt tart

- meyer lemon tartlets

- yuzu and mint tart with coconut

- amanatsu citrus cream tartlets

- fresh orange tart with strawberry yogurt

- strange orange tart

- blood orange sables bretons with mascarpone and pistachios

- orange rhubarb galette

- rhubarb tarts with vanilla-ginger yogurt

- rhubarb and almond tart

- rhubarb coriander tart with almond crunch

- rhubarb and cream cheese tart

- rhubarb pistachio tart

- (another) rhubarb pistachio tart

- rhubarb brioche tart

- sugared brioche tart with apple, rhubarb and raspberries

- rhubarb, mascarpone and hazelnut tartlets

- cream cheese tart with rose wine poached rhubarb

- rhubarb tarts with cornmeal crust

- strawberry and rhubarb tart

- rhubarb and ricotta tart

- (another) strawberry and rhubarb tart

- strawberry and apple tart

- (another) strawberry and apple tarts

- sakura berry tarts

- strawberry and cream tartlets

- strawberry pistachio tart

- roasted strawberry and ricotta tart

- mini strawberry tarte tatins

- strawberry caramel cheesecake tart

- vanilla loquat tarts

- roasted mango tarts

- mango lime tart be completed before it's full-on summer!!! thanks for putting up with this. x

February 28, 2015

fruit tarts to make now (2): winter

living in the world with little color and sound as the woods stand still, deep in sleep over the coldest mounts of the year... why not add some color and a little whimsy to your treats.

As of the end of February / beginning of March, it is decidedly still winter in our neck of the woods (literally) here in Nagano, and I feel amply justified to do a post about winter foods at this point of the year.  Well, perhaps not amply.  Okay, not at all.   But like the last time, I will attempt to defend this not entirely well-timed piece of blogging with that time-honored dictum, namely: "better late than never".

If you happen to have read my last post even if only for the first few paragraphs, you would know how I went on and on and on about my love and appreciation of fresh produce, particularly fruits, that are available here in Nagano, how I threw myself into the world of making tarts (and tartlets) of all sort using all those gorgeous fresh fruits of the season (which, in the case of that post in question, was autumn), and how I found it fascinating to try different types of tarts and ingredients as I baked my way through over the period of a few years.
So I skip that introductory part here, and get straight to the point: tarts. Lots of them, all made with fresh fruits of the season: winter.  Well, most of them.  Due to the fact that there are very few fresh fruits that are seasonal in this cold countryside where green markets are all but half asleep, if not completely closed down, until it becomes warm, the kind of fruits you get to use are often those with a long shelf-life (i.e. picked in late autumn and stashed away for long-term storage) or else come from somewhere warm, where things grow and ripen even in the middle of the winter.  So in a sense, what follows is not so much a collection of tarts I made with winter fruits as that of tarts I made with fruits in winter, if you know what I mean.

Now if you are ready, let us all go back to the end of November, when our fleeting spell of autumn leaves was over and the mountains turned all into brown...
As a shower left the place covered in fog.

I wrapped up my autumn tart post with apple tarts, and said you'd find a lot of them in the then-yet-to-come winter post as well.  I thought that'd be inevitable; apples, after all, are the only fruit you can actually find at our local green markets (those that are open, that is) from around December through March or even April.  Apple tarts for days, I thought.
As it turned out, that wasn't the case.  By mid December, the only decent apple you can get is Fujis, and come January that's the only apple you can get, decent or not.  Truth be told, the apple isn't my most favorite fruit in the first place, and I am extremely picky about apples; I know exactly what I want with them - crisp, firm, and juicy.  And the kind of apples you can get for the most part of the year simply aren't up to scratch by me.  At least not for snacking.  In reality, we almost always find ourselves with a stock of apples throughout the winter, so I do use them every now and then, cooking some into hot cereal or baking cakes and tarts.

And here are apple tarts that I managed to make in these last few winters...

November 11, 2014

fruit tarts to make now (1): autumn

The season of harvest, fruits or otherwise.  But mostly fruits.

One of the things I greatly appreciate about Nagano here is a bounty of fresh local produce.  It is particularly gratifying that certain kinds of fruits, such as apricots, nectarines, Italian plums, and rhubarb (technically not a fruit, but still) that would be hard to come by or pretty expensive when I was in Tokyo, are abundant over here.  I have always been big on fruits ever since I was little, but I've come to bake a lot more with fresh fruits these last years being in here.
From the beginning of summer through the mid fall, in particular, the green markets and grocery stores are positively flooded with fresh fruits, and so is my place; so these times of the year I would be seen busy baking with the heaps of fruits, as well as eating them.  I think things may have gotten a little crazy two summers ago.

And it was in that summer when I suddenly found myself in the mood for baking fruit tarts, among other things, for some reason.  In fact, it was most likely because of the small tart pans I'd bought in Paris a little earlier.
Now, tarts.  I love eating them.  I always have.  But making them?  Not so keen on it, I should say.  I'm a pretty lazy baker, and all that making the dough, lining a pan (a lot of times, more than one) with it, and making a filling (again, sometimes more than one kind) would seem a little too fussy to me.

And it actually does involve a little more than what I would get when making my usual suspects, such as scones and crumbles.  But in spite of it all, I was suddenly ready to roll.
What I found after I had done a few batches was the unexpected fact that making a tart suits my lifestyle rather well if I divide the work into two or more short stages; making the dough this evening and make the filling and bake the tart tomorrow, and so on.  Also, once you got used to it all, the multi-stage tart-making process doesn't feel as daunting as it used to. 

And the more you make them, the better you get at it, right?  That, I'm afraid to say, doesn't seem to be the case with my tart-making skills - or at least not where rolling the dough and lining a pan with it is concerned.  But I quickly learned to be forgiving of all the uneven, cracked, and/or flimsy-edged tart shells I bake, and not to let my less-than-perfect pastry get me down too much.

Even when they are not looking perfect, tarts loaded with fruits of the season are perfectly delicious.  Besides, some types of tarts are totally allowed to look more or less misshapen.

Now, what exactly is it that makes a tart, well, a tart?  How is it different from a pie?   You can google it away, but there seems to be no definitive, I mean DEFINITIVE, definition of a tart, or a line that sets a tart apart from things like a pie, or even a cake.   Not all tarts have a crusty crust; some are like a thinly-baked cake, and others have a yeast-raised dough.  It would seem that you can basically call anything a tart if it is thin-ish.  And I'm perfectly alright with that.
Speaking of the ingredients, I've been trying out different things, a bit of departure from the usuals, i.e. butter, wheat flour, sugar, and eggs.  I've always interested in baking (and cooking) with 'alternative' ingredients, and as much as I adore classic tarts made using good butter and eggs, it's been both fun and liberating an experience to try and bake tarts with 'different' ingredients such as rice flour, buckwheat flour, oat flour, rapeseed oil, coconut oil, soy milk, nut milk, maple sugar, and coconut sugar, among other things.

As a curious baker, I've always been game for baking with different ingredients and recipes, and am always drawn to healthier options.  I've enjoyed baking from some macrobiotic books, and vegan and gluten free recipe books, among other things, and the latest addition to my collection of those lines of the baking books is a Japanese title called かんたんお菓子 ('Simple Treats') (Wave Publishers, 2012) written by Hiroko Shirasaki, a cooking instructor and author who runs organic (and egg- and dairy-free, mostly vegetarian) cooking school called Shirasaki Chakai.
Tarts and tartlets featured in this book are built on a dough made using rapeseed oil (I use a good, cold-pressed kind) and a tiny bit of white sesame paste, filled with such interesting things as a 'custard' that consists of soy milk and rapeseed oil in place of milk and eggs, an almond cream made with silken tofu, ground almonds, and natural beet sugar.  All of them can be prepared in a snap, and are quite open to substitutions as I've found out having tried different kinds of flours and milks.  Not all of my attempts have been successful, but hugely fun nonetheless.  You will find a lot of them in the following.

So there are already so many recipes for tarts out there, and when you are playing around with the ingredients, the possibilities are endless. 
And THAT, my friends, is how I got myself deeply into the world of tart baking in the summer of 2012, and I couldn't really include all those tarts and tartlets I'd made in that humongous post about baking with summer fruits which without them was already waaaaaay too long.

So I decided to do a separate post focusing on the tarts, and it's been a very long time coming but it's finally here, dedicated to tarts and tarlets starring fresh fruits of the season: autumn.