Archive for the 'sweet' Category

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

March 16, 2012

You know about the freshman 15, right?  When you gain 15 lbs. during your freshman year of college because, all of a sudden, you have no idea what to eat, and live off of soft serve ice cream, french fries, and Lucky Charms.  Well, that never happened to me, thankyouverymuch.  I was able to bypass the freshman 15, only to have it haunt me later in the my college days.

Later meaning my study abroad semester.  In Argentina.  Because of dulce de leche.

At first, I thought of it as a special treat.  But then I suddenly realized that I will never again live in a country where it is perfectly acceptable to eat a luscious caramel sauce with every meal, and I panicked.  I started eating it all day, every day, because I could – in cookies, with toast, out of the jar with a spoon!  And justified it by saying that it’s a milk product!  With calcium!  And vitamin D!  It was practically health food!

25 pounds, people.  In a single semester.  I may have gone overboard.  But, boy, it was worth every pound.  And here we are again, taking something ridiculously decadent and adding even more deliciousness.  Cheesecake with dulce de leche baked right in, with even more dulce de leche poured on top.  This is basically my study abroad semester on a plate.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares (from Bon Appetit)

Do ahead: to make dulce de leche at home: pour two 14 oz. cans of sweetened condensed milk into a glass bowl and let it sit in a double boiler, over medium-low heat.  Stir occasionally until the color of the milk has turned a deep caramel color.  This will take about 2 hours.  You can also buy your dulce de leche from any store.  It’s quite readily available.  I clearly did not know this when I lived in Argentina.

For Crust:

  • cooking spray
  • 2 1/4 cups finely ground graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 13×9 baking pan with nonstick spray. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir until well-combined. Transfer crumb mixture to pan. Press evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake until crust is light golden, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on rack.
For Filling:
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche, recipe above
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Blend cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, mixing between additions. Add dulce de leche and vanilla and mix until well blended.  Spread batter evenly over cooled crust.  Bake until just set in center and edges are puffed and slightly cracked, about 35-40 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.
For Topping:
  • 2/3 cup dulce de leche, recipe above
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • sea salt, for sprinkling
Heat dulce de leche cream in microwave-safe bowl in 10-second intervals until melted. Stir to blend, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls if too thick to pour.  Pour glaze over cooled cheesecake and spread evenly.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Slice into 24 squares.
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Honey Cake

March 13, 2012

I love birthdays.  Love love love them.  I like the cake and the celebrations and the surprises.  I also like the idea of starting fresh.  And because honey signifies new beginnings, I thought that this would be appropriate for my birthday that just passed.

Turns out that I also like to go on vacation for my birthday.  To places with unstable internet that is not conducive to posting blog entries in a timely manner.  I mean, who was I kidding, look at the place:

But you will enjoy this incredible moist and spiced honey cake, even though it’s a week late, I promise!

Honey Cake (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm strong tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup dark rum

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease and flour bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, applesauce, honey, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, tea, orange juice and rum, if using.

Using an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter.  Use a rubber spatula to ensure that everything from the bottom has been mixed in.

Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Place cake pan on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).

Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center, about 65-75 minutes.  Let cake cool completely before removing from pan.

King Cake

February 16, 2012

I don’t observe Lent.  It’s hard for me to remember when Fat Tuesday is.  I’ve never lived in New Orleans.  I’ve never even been to a Mardi Gras celebration (except for once in 5th grade)!  But did I make a king cake this year?  Um, of course I did.  Will I have a Mardi Gras party?  I’m definitely considering it.

This is what I do, people!  I like to make traditional dishes for holidays I don’t even celebrate just because it’s festive!  I’m willing to take my entire evening to make a scary yeast risen cake dough just so we can have a multi colored sprinkled concoction to eat.  You know, on the Thursday before Mardi Gras.  I will myself to get through these recipes just because it’s…fun!

I also like tradition, you see.  And traditionally there is a fava bean or a plastic baby hidden inside the cake.  Whoever gets that in their piece must throw the party the following year.  This is also fun!  I thought I had fava beans, but I didn’t, and finding a small plastic baby is much more difficult than one can imagine.  So we are bean/baby less in this king cake.  I would be upset about this, but likely I will be throwing the party next year anyway.

King Cake (ever-so-slightly adapted from My New Orleans via The Today Show – because the Today Show is awesome)

I kid.  This cake is really not all that difficult to make.  It’s time consuming, sure, and a bit messy.  But, c’mon, it’s Mardi Gras!  You must make it.

  • 1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110 degrees
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved. Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise, for 1½ hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes. Once it’s doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars
  • 1 fava bean or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking

For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it’s a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar. Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Tuck the fava bean or plastic baby into underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.

White Chocolate Brownie Hearts

February 9, 2012

I really wanted to post something super chocolatey this week.  It’s just the lay of the land around Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate this and chocolate that, and the more indulgent the better.  Not that I have anything against indulgence, let’s not kid ourselves.  But I’m about to tell you something about myself that I never thought I would admit here.

I don’t really like chocolate.

Ah!  Stop!  I don’t mean it!  Well, I don’t mean it completely.  Of course I like chocolate.  But…sparingly.  You know, in different types of cookies, or flavored with other things.  But a deep, dark, totally chocolate dessert?  I would likely pass for something else.  You know, for something fruity!  Or nutty!  Or honey-y!  Don’t hate me.

But if not completely chocolatey, at least make heart-shaped desserts, I say!  Because that’s still festive.  And these lovely brownies are still studded with chocolate.  And flavored with white chocolate, which isn’t chocolate at all, but I’ll throw it out there anyway.  They have balance.  And, hello, they’re hearts.  You’ll love them!

White Chocolate Brownie Hearts (adapted from Bakers One Bowl Brownies)

4 oz. good quality white chocolate

3/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt (to sprinkle on top)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, in the microwave, melt together the white chocolate and butter in 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until completely melted.  Let cool slightly.  Whisk in eggs and vanilla.  Fold in the flour and 1/2 tsp. salt and mix well until fully incorporated.  Stir in the mini chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are turning golden brown and a tester comes out clean.  Cool completely in the pan, on a wire rack.  Lift the aluminum foil out of the pan and using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out the desired shapes.

Homemade Samoas

February 2, 2012

I’m from Pennsylvania, so naturally, I take Groundhog’s Day very seriously (obviously, you know that Punxsutawney Phil is from Pennsylvania).  In elementary school, our teachers would take bets of whether or not we thought the groundhog would see his shadow (we had a 50% chance of being right) and then watch the whole thing unfold on tv.  It was an unspoken rule that you never, ever say that there will be 6 more weeks of winter because who doesn’t want spring?!  But as it more often than not turned out, we would never get the nice weather until the snowed cleared away in April anyway.

But this year, no one’s going to be wrong!  Is anyone else as concerned with this perfectly pleasant, non humid, gorgeous spring time weather that we’ve been getting in the dead of winter?!  As much as it was taboo in elementary school, I’m secretly hoping that the groundhog will catch on and change things back around so seasons can take their course as they are supposed to.  It’s February, people!


But the one truly seasonal, unaffected-by-the-weather event that is occurring is the selling of girl scout cookies.  After a winter like this, I very much appreciate that those girl scouts are dependable and will sell me a box of unassumingly delicious cookies around this time of year.  Things are as they should be.

But, let’s be honest: we have already jolted our bearings of time.  So while waiting for your box of girl scout cookies to arrive, you should just make your own.  I mean, as much as it bothers me that winter has taken a little vacation, it’s hard not to take advantage of this 60 degree weather, and as much as I love to buy my box of cookies every year, the homemade ones are just so so yummy.  So there we go.  Good luck, groundhog.

Homemade Samoas (recipe from Baking Bites)

I’m not gonna lie to you: these are time consuming.  And messy.  But are just so good!  And so worth the time it takes to make them.  I needed to sit afterwards though.  So I encourage that.  Sit outside, even!  The weather’s nice.

Cookies

1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Stir in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla.  The dough should come together into a ball.  Divide the dough in half and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using 1/2 the dough at a time, roll the dough to just over 1/8 inch thickness and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, the end of a wide straw, or a smaller round cookie cutter to cut a smaller center hole (I used the cannoli tubes that I needed for these). Repeat with remaining dough.
3. Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set.
4. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Topping

3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
12-oz chewy caramels
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp cream
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate, divided

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

2. Melt 5 oz. of the chocolate in a double boiler.  Dip the base of each cookie into the melted chocolate and let it dry on a wire rack, chocolate side up.  You can also place them in the refrigerator to set up.

3. While the chocolate on the cookies is setting up, melt the unwrapped caramel candies in a double boiler with the cream and salt.  Heat until it has become a smooth sauce.  Add the toasted coconut and stir well.  Place about a tablespoon of the coconut mixture on top of the cooled cookies (chocolate side down).

4. Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds.  Place in a squeeze bottle or a zip-lock bag.  If using a bag, cut off the corner, and pipe lines on to the coconut side of the cookies.  Let the chocolate set.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Granola

January 26, 2012

My mom does not bake.  Oh sure, she is an excellent cook, and she can whip out those delicious Indian desserts like the best of them.  But a baker, she is not.  So what did she do when her child needed homemade cookies for a bake sale for her tiny school where it would be more than evident when something was clearly store-bought?  She looked on the back of her cereal box.  (This was decades ago.  There was no internet, people.)

Yup.  I’m posting cereal box chocolate chip cookies today.  Because it’s my mom’s recipe!  Well, my mom’s recipe in that she copied it directly from the back of the box.  She followed the directions exactly, wrote the precise recipe in her notebook and whipped it out whenever we ever needed cookies.  But this cookie recipe is far from standard.  I mean, along with the butter, flour, chocolate chip combo in any cookie recipe, you’ve got the oats, nuts and raisins.*  This is a pretty amped up chocolate chip cookie.

And it’s the cookie recipe that I turn to whenever I’m feeling nostalgic.  My mom always left out the vanilla and salt, because she didn’t think they added flavor (wrong.).   But besides that slight switch in the recipe, I left it exactly how she made them.  No portioning out of the dough into perfect balls so they bake evenly.  No refrigerating the batter to ensure that the flavors have melded.  No weighing of the ingredients to get the perfect balance.  Nope, I made them just like she always used to.**

Rustic.  Homey.  You know, mom-ish.  Delicious.

*I don’t like raisins.  Never did, never will.  In these cookies, I just think of them as squishy chocolate chips.

**This is mostly because my mom has given up baking even this one cookie recipe.  She refused when I asked her to make them for me.  Apparently, no more bake sales = no more cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Granola (from the Quaker 100% Natural Granola Box)

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt (optional – no, really, the exact recipe said this.  I think you should add it)

1 tsp. vanilla (optional, according to Mom.  Again, you’re better off adding it, methinks)

1 1/2 cups cereal (Quaker 100% Natural Oats, Honey and Raisins Granola)

12 oz. pack of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs (and vanilla) and beat until combined.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Mix it into the wet ingredients.  Add the cereal and chocolate chips and stir to combine.  Drop tablespoon-fulls of dough onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes, until a golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Pudding

January 12, 2012

To me, January screams pudding.  I know, I know, just last week, I went on about how this is a resolution-filled time of year and that you should be healthy.  And I know that so many of you are so tempted to break something that you have kept up for 12 whole days, but are determined not to.  And then here I come, luring you with my chocolate pudding, telling you to have it just because I think that it embodies a month?!  It’s just soooo good.

No, really.  It’s so good that I dare say that you should forget about those resolutions.  It’s creamy, extremely satisfying, and warming,  especially during this time of year when you would rather sit in the car because of the seat heaters than make the frigid 3 minute walk to the apartment.  It is so very cozy and delicious.

And the real best part, it’s not even that bad for you!  Well, relatively.  I’m no calorie expert, but I think when you swap out 2% milk for whole, and dark chocolate for the milk variety, we’re doing our hearts a real favor.  Maybe even adding years!  And, a little goes a long way with this pudding.  Oh and, you can eat it with fruit!  This is practically health food.

This pudding – it will make you feel taller.  Which is good because my resolution is to have better posture.

Chocolate Pudding (adapted from Scharffen Berger)

1/4 cup cornstarch

scant 1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

3 cups milk (I used 2%)

6.5 oz. dark chocolate

Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler.  Slowly whisk in milk.  Stir constantly until slightly thickened, coating a spoon, about 30 minutes.   Mix in chocolate until incorporated and keep on top of double boiler for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour into ramekins or bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Granola

January 5, 2012

I have this thing.  It’s slightly embarrassing, really.  But whenever I go to a new place or a new environment for whatever reason, I have to have a cry.  Like a big, loud, ugly, homesicky cry.  And then I’m great!  I get it out of my system and enjoy the rest of the time I’m in that new place.  It happened during a middle school trip, when I first went to college, during a summer internship, and shamefully when I got my first apartment.  It has become an expected, albeit slightly ridiculous, routine.

When I went abroad for a semester in college, my mom thought that it would be a good idea to send a care package before I even got there.  You know, in the hopes of preventing the ugly cry.  In the package, she included a huge container of homemade granola that my family has been making for years.  It embodies everything that is homey – warm and cinnamony and cozy.  My roommate grabbed one handful of the crunchy stuff and immediately called it magical.  Actually, what he really said was “magical Indian granola” but we don’t call it that.

Turned out that the magic didn’t stop the cry, but it made me feel better.  Oh, and!  Its crunchy wholesomeness is especially appropriate for this resolution-filled time of year!  Homey and wholesome and quite tasty.  Feel the magic.

Read how my sister inspired Kira to make this recipe.  And as a teaser (because who doesn’t love those), this granola is even delicious in butternut squash soup (recipe coming soon!).

Granola

4 cups rolled oats

3 cups of any combination of nuts (I usually use 1 cup slivered almonds, 1 cup chopped pecans and 1 cup shredded coconut)

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, including cinnamon and salt.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is well coated.  Evenly spread out on to a baking sheet.  Bake for about a 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure even baking.  Let cool completely.  Enjoy with milk, yogurt or soup.

Chocolate Cream Pie

December 29, 2011

I had these big plans to try to convince you why chocolate cream pie is the perfect dessert for the new year.  I was going to tell you about how it represents new things; how it’s a good dessert to bring to a new year party; I was even going to try to say that you should have this one last indulgence before new year resolutions begin.  Are you convinced?  Sigh, neither am I.

Make this pie because it’s delicious!  It’s chocolate and whipped cream piled into a sweet crust!  It’s this totally old school, comforting dessert, but all fancied up with high quality chocolate that is barely sweet and so grown-up tasting.  People!  You don’t need another reason.

But if you do need another reason, I say pretend.  Pretend that it represents the new year, pretend that you have a party to take this to, have this one last indulgence before resolutions begin, and just make it this weekend.  And then try to think of why you would ever need a reason to make this.  Really.  Try.

Chocolate Cream Pie (recipe from Flour)

This recipe is actually relatively simple to put together, but does use several plates and bowls to get to the finished product.  So prepare yourselves.  But have I mentioned that it’s worth it?  Which you really shouldn’t be surprised about because, let’s be honest, this cookbook never fails.

For crust:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup all purpose flour

1 egg yolk

Cream together the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the flour and beat on low for 30 seconds.  Add the egg yolk and continue to beat for an additional 30 seconds, or until dough comes together.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Remove dough from the fridge and let soften for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle flour on the dough, and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.  It should be about 10 to 11 inches in diameter.  Carefully lift and place the dough in a pie plate.  Cut off any excess pieces.

Place the prepared pie shell in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.  As soon as it comes out of the oven, place 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate (ingredients listed below) onto the crust.  Place the pie shell back in the oven for about 1 minute, until the chocolate has melted.  Spread the chocolate all over the crust to form an even layer of chocolate.  Let cool completely.

For pie filling:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided

3/4 cup half and half

2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

slab of milk chocolate, for decorating

In a pot, combine half and half and 1 cup of the cream and heat over medium high heat until bubbles form on the side.  Make sure that the liquid does not boil.  Meanwhile, melt the remaining 5 oz. chocolate in a double boiler until it has melted.  Take off the heat.  Pour the cream mixture over the melted chocolate and whisk to incorporate.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.  Slowly incorporate the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, a little at a time, making sure that eggs will not cook.  Return the entire mixture to the pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 6-7 minutes, until the mixture thickens.  Strain through a sieve.  Stir in vanilla and salt.  Pour the filling into the shell and refrigerate, uncovered, until set, about 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, beat the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream with powdered sugar and cornstarch.  Whip until stiff peaks form.  Pour onto the chocolate pie and spread to the edges of the pie.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate on top of the whipped cream.

Date Butter Tart

December 15, 2011

I know.  The amount of tart recipes that I post on this blog is pretty much uncanny.  Tart this, and tart that, sweet and savory.  All I post is tarts!  I’ll let you in on a little secret, though: I don’t own a pie pan.  But I do own a big tart pan and six cute little mini tart pans.  It’s inevitable.  Alas, another tart. Here we go.

But this is kind of a fake tart.  I mean, sure, you have to make a crust and roll it out and go through all of the hassle of any other tart, but these are pretty incredible because when it bakes up, the crust and the filling all kind of meld together into this warm sugar cookie tasting concoction that, quite frankly, was unlike anything I have ever tasted before, but could not stop eating.  Which is precisely the reason why I do not have a picture of an actual piece of this tart – it was eaten too quickly.  Gobbled, in fact.  And I made them for Thanksgiving!  Ha, funny.

All I could think of were the other amazing add-ins that these tarts could have.  Nuts or other fruits or pieces of chocolate!  But the dates in this tart were so complimentary to the filling that I’m quite satisfied with exactly how it is.  I tell you, this tart is so good that you’ll want to make tarts all the time!  Clearly, like I do.

Date Butter Tart (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques via The New York Times)

Though normally I think that vanilla extract is a fine substitute for vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste, I think that this for this tart in particular, the beans are worth it.  The vanilla is such an integral part of the flavor of the tart and extract will simply not give you the the same depth.  If you are like me and are just worried that you will not know how to store vanilla beans and all of your money will go to waste, just get vanilla bean paste.  It can exactly replace vanilla extract in any recipe, and has a long shelf life.  But if, after all of this, you still just want to use the vanilla extract that you already have, I have given you instructions below.

For the pastry crust:

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 egg yolk

1¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter.

For the filling:

about 30-35 dates, (not dried – I used Medjool dates)

½ vanilla bean, or 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

9 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 eggs

2⁄3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Make the crust: Whisk the cream and egg yolk together in a small bowl. By hand, or in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter until you have a coarse meal.  Gradually add the cream and yolk and mix until just combined.  Do not overwork the dough. Transfer to a large work surface and bring it together with your hands to incorporate completely. Shape it into a 1-inch disc and put in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up a little.  Place it on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle a little flour over the dough and roll it out into a ¼-inch-thick circle, flouring as necessary. Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over a 10-inch tart pan. (Or arrange the smaller tart pans in a circle and place the dough on top of all of them to gently mold.)  Gently fit the dough loosely into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. To remove the excess dough, roll the rolling pin lightly over the top of the tart pan for a nice, clean edge. Chill for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and line the tart shell with a few coffee filters opened out, or with a piece of parchment paper. Fill the lined tart shell with dried beans or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and gently lift out the paper and beans. Return to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside on a rack to cool completely.

3. Make a vertical slit in each date and carefully remove the pit. Use your fingers to press the dates back into their natural shape. Place the dates, slit side down, in concentric circles in the tart shell, leaving ½ inch between each date.

4. If using a vanilla bean, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter.  If not, add the vanilla bean paste to the butter.  If using vanilla extract, skip this step, and heat the butter without any flavorings.  Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the vanilla-streaked butter and the vanilla pod to the pan and cook 6 to 8 minutes, until the butter browns and smells nutty. Discard the vanilla pod.   If using vanilla extract, add it to the melted browned butter.

5. Whisk the eggs and ⅔ cup sugar together in a bowl. Whisk in the flour and salt and stir in the warm butter to incorporate.

6. Pour the batter over the dates in the tart shell. Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake 30 minutes, until the filling puffs up, browns and is set. Cool the tart at least 20 minutes before serving.