Talk of Spring, Cold Weather, and Just Desserts

It is already Thursday, March 7th.  For me it is 1:00a.m.  I am sitting here writing and listening to the wind howling.  The first day 
of spring is 12 days away.  But, it seems that winter will never end.
I believe that statement is even truer for my friends up north 
as the snow drifts continue to get ever higher.  I live in 
Georgia where the weather is fickled (one day it is 62 degrees and the next it is cold and rainy).  So, really I should not complain. 
On a lighter note, I wanted to continue my
 review of Claudia Fleming’s wonderful book on desserts:  
 “The Last Course: The Desserts of 
 Gramercy Tavern”.
I don\’t know too much about Claudia Fleming other
than the short biography written in the book (and yes,
I do read my cookbooks.)  I have learned
that she is creative, loves being a pastry chef,
and in her own words \”I want my desserts to be
extra special.\”
As I have read and poured through each chapter, 
reading recipes – I can honestly say,
\”that each dessert looks and sounds as special as 
the dessert that was on the page before.
There are 14 chapters and my goal is to share, with you, 
2 of my favorite recipes from each.  The first
chapter is all about \”Berries\”.
  The first recipe is a blueberry tart.  This is no ordinary tart; it\’s more
like a little bit of heaven.  The crust tastes like graham crackers and the cream cheese custard is light, creamy, and sweet.  Then to add a hint of fancy, top with blueberry compote. 
Blueberry-Cream Cheese Tarts with Graham Cracker Crust
Graham Cracker Tart Crust
 *1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
 *1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
 *1/4 cup granulated sugar
 *1/4 cup honey
 *2 cups all-purpose flour
 *1/2  cup whole wheat pastry flour
 *1 teaspoon salt
 *1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Pastry Cream 
 *1 cup milk
 *5 tablespoons sugar
 *4 large egg yolks
 *2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
 *3/4 cup (6 oz.) cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened.
 *1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Blueberry Topping
 *2 1/2 cups blueberries
 *1 tablespoon sugar
1. To prepare the graham cracker shells; in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugars until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the honey and beat until well combined..
 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and cinnamon .  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.  Mix until the dough is well combined..  Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a disk..  Chill until firm, at least one hour.

 3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick, about a 13 x 16-inch rectangle.  Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles of dough and press the into the greased 2-inch tart cups or mini muffin pans, trimming away any excess dough.  Prick the dough all over with a fork.  Chill for 20 minutes.
4. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  (the tart shells can be made up to 1 day ahead and frozen for up to 3 months) 

5.  To prepare the pastry cream, combine 3/4 cup of the milk and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk into the egg yolk mixture.  Remove the milk mixture from the heat and add a little of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture to warm it, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from cooking.  Pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly as you pour.  
6. Return the custard to the stove and bring it to a boil, whisking constantly.  Let the custard cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until it thickens.  Add the cream cheese and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.  Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean bowl.  Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  When it is chilled, whisk the pastry cream until smooth and fold in the whipped cream. 
7.  To make the blueberry topping; in a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup of the blueberries with the sugar.  Cook over low heat until the berries have all popped and broken down, about 5 minutes.  Strain the cooked berries into a bowl and discard the solids.  Add the remaining
1 1/2 cups whole berries to the cooked berry syrup and toss together to combine.  
8. To assemble the tarts, spoon the pastry cream into each tart shell and top with 2 tablespoons of the blueberries.  Serve soon after assembling.   


Another reason the love Claudia’s dessert book is there are 
many sorbet recipes and I plan to try them all.
So, for the second dessert I have chosen her “Strawberry Sorbet”.
The sorbet recipes are very simple and a perfect ending to a
wonderful meal.
Strawberry Sorbet
        Yield: 1 quart
 1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup sugar
1 1l4 cups Simple Syrup (recipe at the bottom)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1.       In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar.  Let the mixture rest for 2 hours.
2.    Transfer the berries to a food processor or blender and puree with 3/4 cup water until very smooth.  Strain through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids to extract all their juice, then discard the solids.
3.   In a large bowl, whisk together the strawberry puree, Simple Syrup, and lemon juice.  Cover and chill until cold at least 3 hours, or overnight.  Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Simple Syrup:

   Yields: 2 1/2 CUPS
   2 cups sugar
   1 1/2 cups water
    1 1/2  cups water.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring
   until the sugar dissolves.  Let the syrup simmer for 1 minute,   
   then turn off the heat and allow to cool.  (Simple syrup will
   keep almost indefinitely in a tightly sealed bottle in the


Thanks for Reading
Hope you enjoy the wonderful treats!


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