Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Ginger Snap Girl Turns 1!

About 2 months ago I realized that I was approaching the one year anniversary of The Ginger Snap Girl.  Had that much time passed already?  I remember last year when I accidentally stumbled into the food blogging world and thought I had struck the motherlode!  How were there so many talented cooks and bakers out there sharing their stories, recipes and stunning photos and I never knew stuff like this existed?  I felt a little like a kid in a candy store and couldn't wait to sit down in front of my laptop each evening to peruse the eye candy for the next cool sweet treat to try in my own kitchen.  It was a bit obsessive really.  My Hubby thought I had been abducted by aliens because my myriad of TV shows were piling up on the DVR, unwatched.  Gossip Girl would have to wait. 

After about a week of engrossing myself in my new playground I started thinking about starting my own blog.  Why not?  To be honest I was actually scared and nervous.  What would I make?  What would I write?  What if it required technical computer skills? Who would read it?  What if no one reads it?  That would be kind of sad.  Then I thought, it really doesn't matter since I was pretty sure at least my Grandma Jane would read it.  Ok, let's do it!  Plus I was super excited to join an online baking group--Sweet Melissa Sundays which required having a blog. And so The Ginger Snap Girl was born (check out my first post). 

I floundered a bit in the beginning.  Trying to figure out how to use Blogger to get things to look right with the right spacing between the photos and text was a challenge.  It took me about 3 whole days just to figure out how to link to another website within the blog (this was pre updated Blogger editor).  Thankfully I got past the technical difficulties and was able to focus on what tasty creations I would be sharing with my Grandma Jane.  ;)

This past year has been quite a journey.  Starting a blog.  Finding out that Grandma Jane isn't the only one reading it.  Building new cyber friendships.  Learning soooo much.  It feels like my skills have increased exponentially, but yet I still have so many more I want to tackle.  The year was filled with lots of delicious desserts, such as this one, some not so delicious desserts, a few tears and a swear word or two.  I have learned more than I would have ever imagined when I set out to start this blog.  I have been humbled by it as well.  Apparently the ability to bake a few kinds of cookies doesn't make one an experienced baker.  I didn't even realize how many facets of baking and confections there were to accomplish until I started this adventure!

This past year I also fought a personal battle that caused me to take a brief break from blogging.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36.  Thankfully it was a slow growing cancer, stage 1, and I was successfully treated with surgery and localized radiation.  I feel incredibly lucky.  No chemo was needed and I have been officially cancer free for 6 months.  I haven't talked about that part of my life much in this forum, but will be planning to give it a little more air time in the coming year.  Since my diagnosis last September, I know 2 other women who have been diagnosed during that time, both with far more aggressive cancers than I had.  It's something that can touch all of us...whether it's you, your friend, sister or mother.  I look forward to the opportunity to bring more awareness to this form of cancer that affects so many of us.      

With all that has been accomplished in the last year I'm excited to celebrate my 1 year blog birthday milestone today.  And this also happens to be my 100th post.  I look forward to what is to come in the next year for The Ginger Snap Girl. 

So let's get to the good stuff now and eat some cupcakes!

One type of cupcake just wouldn't do for this celebration.  I started with my favorite cake flavor--chocolate.  I decided to make 3 chocolate cupcake variations encompassing some of my favorite flavor combinations.  Chocolate and chocolate.  Chocolate and strawberry.  And chocolate and peanut butter.  And to make things even more exciting I decided this would be a true adventure by trying out all new (to me) recipes. 

I used a chocolate cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking book called, "Cocoa Buttermilk Birthday Cake".  sounds fitting, right?  Another blogger, Laurie (founder of the online baking group Tuesdays with Dorie), described the cake as, "The cupcake as a whole is by far the best cupcake I have ever made. Ever."  I was sold!  I made the cake and frosting Laurie made as one of my 3 cupcake variations.  The frosting was great!  The cake didn't turn out like Laurie's I'm afraid.  It was too dense and was on the dry side.  I'm not sure where I went wrong with the recipe.  But this is the risk you run when trying a new recipe for the first time (a subject for future thought).

(For the best chocolate cake I personally have ever made click here or here.  Another top chocolate cake contender is this one.)

In the meantime, the real stars of today's celebration are the frostings. 

May I present you with.....

Mr. Whipped Chocolate Cream Cheese Delight

The chocolate cream cheese frosting is packed with chocolate (cocoa) and has a light silky texture, finished with a little tang from the cream cheese.  Yummy.

Mr. Peanut Butter Buttercream Dream

This frosting packs a solid peanut butter punch but has such a light, airy, texture.  It has enough body to pipe and holds its shape beautifully.  It is peanut butter frosting perfection and is begging to paired with chocolate.  In fact I was thinking this would make a great filling for a homemade oreo cookie. Really delicious!  

And finally, my personal favorite...

Ms. Sassy Strawberry Cream Cheese Queen

The strawberry cream cheese frosting is divine.  The strawberry flavor comes from homemade strawberry preserves, which really "make" this frosting.  The texture is soft and luscious.  It doesn't have as much body as most cream cheese frostings because of the moisture of the preserves. I wanted it to have a more than a "light" strawberry flavor, so I was generous with the amount of jam I used. 

All three of these frostings are definitely keepers and will go into the arsenal of make again recipes.  The recipes can be found at the end of the post. 

Since this was a special occasion I had to fill these cupcakes too...

Ms. Sassy Strawberry was filled with same homemade strawberry preserves used to make the frosting. 

Mr. Peanut Butter was filled with the chocolate cream cheese frosting and chopped bits of Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, before the frosting went on, he got a coating of chocolate ganache after the cupcake was filled (you can see it clearly in the peanut butter cupcake photo up above).

And finally, Mr. Chocolate was filled with more chocolate cream cheese frosting inside.  My original intention was to fill it with ganache...but since the cake was on the dry side I decided the frosting would help add a little extra moisture that ganache would not.

I have to give a huge thanks to my sister Katie who helped me make all the elements of this cupcake trio.  And thankfully she helped me eat them too as did many of my co-workers.  Though they weren't perfect, they were the perfect way to celebrate The Ginger Snap Girl turning 1!

Thank you to each one of you that takes the time to read my blog (especially those of you that have made it all the way through this post--I'm quite certain it takes the prize for longest rambling to date).  I hope you are inspired to get into your own kitchen and make some tasty creations. 


For the Cocoa Buttermilk Birthday Cake recipe seen in the post click here.

Whipped Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder (I used regular unsweetened cocoa powder)
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (about)
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used 1)

Cream the cream cheese and butter until fully incorporated and smooth. Add the cocoa powder, mix to combine. Add the powdered sugar until desired sweetness and consistency is reached. Add 1 tablespoon heavy cream, whip until light. Yields enough to lightly frost 24 cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Frosting
by Ina Garten from her book Barefoot Contessa at Home

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.  Yields enough to frost 12 cupcakes.

Chocolate Ganache
from Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

6 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1. Coarsely chop the chocolate and place it in a medium bowl.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream until scalding, or until the cream is steaming and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges. Do not boil.
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup.

Strawberry Preserves

2 cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup of sugar (or more depending on the sweetness of your berries)

In a medium saucepan bring the berries and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to a low boil or simmer and cook down berries until they are thickened...about 20 minutes or so. 

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from You Made That?

8 oz. of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup homemade strawberry preserves (see recipe above)

In a large bowl put room temperature cream cheese and butter together and mix until light and fluffy.  Add sugar 1 cup at a time and then add strawberry preserves and mix well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chicken and Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice Casserole

I'm not good at planning ahead.  Especially when it comes to dinners during the week.  You see, I'm in charge of dinner in our household.  Most days I don't decide what to make until the morning of (if I'm lucky) or afternoon that day.  It can be stressful at times.  And it doesn't really allow any pre-preparation such as marinating when you take a frozen piece of meat out of the freezer a few hours before you want to cook it.  Hubby has suggested a little strategic planning to make things go more smoothly during the week. Can you say procrastination?

A few weeks ago I made my first real attempt at true dinner strategy.  I was inspired by my friend Shannon who gave me some plan ahead tips and one of her recipe successes.  I had my big cook day on a Sunday and made enough food for 7 meals for the two of us.  Granted, it wasn't 7 meals to eat in the same week, but it was multiple portions of two dishes, most of which went into the freezer for future weeks.

I started off with Shannon's recipe recommendation for Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole.  It makes 6 that's 3 meals for Hubby and me.  I kept one portion out for the current week and froze the other 2 portions. 

The second dish I made was actually a sauce.....this delicious tomato cream sauce.   I tripled the recipe and it made 4 pouches.  Each pouch is enough to generously sauce 1/2 pound of pasta.  I kept one pouch out and the other 3 went into the freezer.  I was a little concerned that a sauce containing cream might not freeze well, but it fared pretty well.  The one thing I would change next time is to hold the fresh basil until the day the sauce is used. 

Back to the chicken dish.  I'm going to be frank.  It didn't turn out perfectly.  Well half of it was perfect and super yummy.  The creamy, mushroom, wild rice half.  It was almost like a wild rice risotto.  Just a note about the wild rice....this is pure, straight up wild rice.  Not a rice blend with a few grains of wild rice tossed in.  The real, healthy (and somewhat expensive), deal.  Apparently wild rice takes FOREVER to cook.  It cooks for an hour on the stove top.  Then it goes into the casserole dish and gets topped with smoked paprika chicken and a delicious creamy mushroom wine sauce.  The casserole goes into the over for another 55 minutes.  The rice was creamy perfection.  And I'm sure you can guess that after 55 minutes in the oven, the chicken was not so perfect.  It was dry.  Super dry.  So next time I have to make some tweaks on the chicken portion.  I think I cut the chicken in too small portions and cooked it too long before going into the oven.  Or next time maybe I'll just make wild rice mushroom creamy goodness!  Who needs protein?

Lite Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
Adapted from

1 cup wild rice, uncooked
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 (4 oz.) chicken breast halves, skinned, boned
Vegetable cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained, cut in half  (I omitted the artichokes)
4 cups fresh sliced cremini mushrooms
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons flour
2 chicken broth
1 cup dry sherry or dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)

Rinse wild rice and drain. Combine rice and 3 cups water in medium pan, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Spoon into 7x11x2 inch baking dish, set aside.

Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt, paprika and pepper over chicken, set aside. coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray, add butter, melt over medium heat. Add chicken, cook 4 minutes each side until lightly browned.

Arrange chicken on top of rice, top with artichokes, set aside. Add mushrooms to skillet, saute 5 minutes.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, flour, next 3 ingredients. Stir well. Add to skillet, cook 3 minutes until thick and bubbly. Spoon over chicken. cover and bake at 375 degrees for 55 minutes. 6 servings.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Katie's Green Chile Fries

A few weeks ago my sister posted this on Facebook,  "making some delicious Poblano chile fries, nachos, and guacamole :) MMMmmm!" 

What?  What are poblano chile fries?  I need details. 

Luckily my sister came for a visit for a few days and made us these tasty fries.  Like traditional potato fries, these are addicting.  Chile fries are deliciousness.  That's what they are. 

Do you like jalapeno poppers?  Chile fries are jalapeno popper-esque in flavor with thin strips of green chile coated in flour, egg  panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  They have a cheesy, crunchy exterior and a tender mild green chile interior.  Dip one in a little lime adobo sour cream concoction...even more delicious!

These fries are easy to make.  So easy that I made them the day after Katie left.  I couldn't resist.  No official measurements are required.  You can use any type of chile that suits your taste.  Green chiles (also known as Anaheim chiles) are very mild in flavor, poblano (also known as pasilla) chiles have a little more spicy going on or go for the jalapenos for an even spicier kick.

Katie's Green Chile Fries

Anaheim green chiles (or you can use your favorite chile, such poblano/pasilla chiles or jalapenos)
Panko bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about the size of the bread crumbs)
1-2 eggs, beaten
Garlic salt to taste
Flour, for coating

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with non stick cooking spray.  You will need 3 bowls or dishes large enough to fit the chile's length.  Fill one bowl with enough flour to coat your chiles.  Fill the second bowl with the beaten eggs.  Fill the third bowl with enough panko bread crumbs to coat your chiles.  Add parmesan cheese to the panko in a ratio of about 4 parts panko and 3 parts cheese.  Season the breadcrumb/parmesan coating with garlic salt to taste.

Quantity of chiles depends on the type you choose.  For our green chiles Katie allotted one large anaheim chile per person.  I would say 2 jalapeno per person or 1 poblano chile for every 2 people.  Cut chile in half lengthwise and remove ribbing and seeds with a knife.  Cut halves into 1/4 inch strips, lengthwise.

Dredge the chile strips in flour, then egg, then the breadcrumb mixture and place on the baking sheet.  Arrange coated chiles at least 1/4 inch apart.  Bake chile fries for 18 - 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp on the outside and you can easily pierce the chile with a fork.  Serve immediately.

For Lime Adobo Cream: Combine 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons of finely chopped chiles in adobo sauce and the juice of 1/2 lime.

Friday, March 18, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Salted Butter Break Ups

Check it out.  It's Friday and I'm actually posting this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe on FRIDAY.  I think that's only happened one other time since I've been participating in this online cooking/baking group starting back in October 2010.  Miracles do happen.  This isn't so much a miracle, but I'm pleased to be on time once in a while!

The group cooks/bakes once a week from recipes in Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.  The recipes for each month are selected by a group voting process and there is typically always one sweet treat during the month.  I am not as consistent as I would like to be with participating every week, but I always try to make at least the sweet treat for the month.  This month the sweet is Salted Butter Break Ups.  What in the heck is a salted butter breakup?  It's a giant shortbread-esque cookie with a slightly salty finish.  There seems to be quite a trend with salty/sweet goodies these days. 

This recipe is very similar to pie dough recipe but with a generous addition of sugar.  It has an egg yolk wash on top and a little cross hatch pattern that you make using a fork.  The giant cookie gets baked for about 35 minutes until the edges are browned and the center is golden and springs back a little bit when you press in the middle.  The cookie cools and then you just break it up in free form pieces.

How is it?  Good??  I am on the fence to be honest.  I did enjoy the crispy edges.  But in all fairness, I'm not big on shortbread and sugar cookies in general.  I'm more of a Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie girl or a.....Ginger Snap girl. ;)  But I did think I could make these my kind of cookie with a little Nutella love.  Or a little touch of jam. 

So how was it slathered in Nutella?  Good!  But who are we kidding?  Nutella makes everything taste better. 

I also had a few pieces with raspberry and strawberry jam along with cup of hot tea.  Yep, that was my breakfast this morning.  Dessert for breakfast always makes me happy.  Crumbled salted butter break ups would be a great topping on your favorite ice cream.

To see how the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie bakers fared this week click here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Banana Bread

Last Sunday I used up the last of our brown bananas by making a classic banana bread.  I normally add in chocolate chips to my banana bread and bake it in 4 mini loaf pans.  This time I decided to make a large loaf and go pure with straight up banana bread.  No chocolate chips this time. 

The wonderful smells of the baking bread brought my husband downstairs to investigate.  He was so looking forward to having a piece.  Needless to say he was not pleased when I told him this bread was destined for the freezer and would be brought out later in the week for our friend Shannon who was coming to visit us for several days.  Sorry honey!

To store the bread I wrapped the cooled bread in tin foil and then placed it in a ziploc bag (removing as much air as possible) and then it went into the freezer.

I took the bread out the night Shannon arrived and let it sit on the counter overnight (still wrapped up) so it would be ready for our breakfast the next day.  I will say that the first day the banana bread was not as moist as I wanted it to be.  The secret is patience (which I'm not always good at).  The second and third days it was more and more moist.  Make sure you keep it tightly wrapped in foil and inside the ziploc bag at all times to maximize moisture.  The recipe comes from my mom and I added a twist by adding in 1/4 cup of sour cream.

The bread was the perfect thing to have on hand for breakfasts for us and our house guest and it pairs nicely with a cup of hot tea. 

If you have ripe bananas you need to use give this banana bread a try.  You might also like banana cupcakes, or banana chocolate chip cookies.


Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large bananas mashed (about 1 cup)
Optional add ins - 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips or chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a large loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans. 

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together.  Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in eggs, sour cream, vanilla and mashed banana until fully combined.  With mixer on low add in dry ingredients in 3 batches until just combined.  Batter will be thick.  Pour it into your prepared pan(s) and bake for 50 - 60 minutes for a large loaf pan until a toothpick comes out clean.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

Baked melty cheeses.  Fresh oniony chives.  Baked into a savory bread (or mini muffin in my case) sounds like pure deliciousness.  That's why I was excited to bake this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe for Savory Cheese and Chive Bread.  When it comes to bread I love bread that has a crispy, chewy outside and my Hubby likes the soft pillowy inside.  So when I made this bread, I knew mini muffins would be perfect for me.  I could maximize the chewy, crispy cheesy exterior with each little muffin.  Check it out!

How do these mini muffins rate on the deliciousness meter?   They get high marks across the board.  This would be the perfect accompaniment to a chili or a soup.   This is no cakey "muffin".  It's a hearty bread.  I used 3 types of cheese, grated gruyere, small cubes of sharp cheddar and grated parmesan.  For extra flavor I used basil flavored olive oil.  And they get a nice little kick from white pepper.  These savory treats will definitely make a repeat appearance at our house.  Next time I plan to add pancetta or finely diced bacon.  That would make these just about perfect.  My mouth is watering just thinking about how they will taste with salty yummy bacon!  Mmmmm.

The dough is simple.  There is no yeast in this bread.  It's a quick bread.  Which really means dry ingredients (flour, salt, white pepper and baking powder) are mixed together (gently) with the wet ingredients (eggs, milk and olive oil) and then you stir in the mix ins (cheese and chives).  Easy. 

I halved the recipe and ended up with 14 mini's. 

My Hubby, who doesn't really like cheese, or crispy bread, ate 4 right off the bat.  Either he was starving or he really liked them.  Hard to tell.  I baked them for about 19 minutes.  The truth is the interior of the muffin was done at 15 minutes but I left them in a few minutes longer to get more browning on top. 

Next time I will take them out at 15 because they were just a touch on the dry side.  Though these aren't intended to be "moist", they would have benefited if they came out of the oven a few minutes earlier.

To see how other French Friday's with Dorie bakers did click here.  The recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan's book, Around My French Table.

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate pudding baked in the oven?  Definitely a first for me.  Making pudding that didn't come from a box is also a first for me.  When I read through this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe for chocolate pudding it sounded a lot like a pot de creme.  Melissa Murphy describes it as "so thick and creamy on your tongue, one of the richest desserts I have ever eaten--and one of the best."  Sounds like my kind of dessert.

I decided to half the recipe because hubby won't eat chocolate desserts.  But my friend was in town visiting from Chicago and she helped me make it and helped me eat it.  The half recipe ended up making 4 small ramekins of pudding.  The only modification I made to the recipe was to use 72% cacao chocolate.  To account for that I added a touch more sugar. 

The result?  I don't think it turned out quite the way it was supposed to.  First off, mine was not as silky and creamy as I was hoping.  I think I may have overcooked it because the texture of the top of the and outer edges was much more dense then the pudding at the bottom of the ramekin.

Will I make this again?  I'm torn.  I was really sold on Melissa Murphy's description of this dessert.  I might give it another shot after reading about the great success from my fellow SMS bakers.  In the meantime I have some other tasty chocolate creamy desserts I want to try out like the Triple Chocolate Pudding on Tracey's Culinary Adventures and the Chocolate Pot de Creme on A Cooking Life. 

Thanks to Leslie of Lethally Delicious for picking this week's recipe.  Pop over to her site for the recipe.  To see how other SMS bakers did with their pudding click here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Creamy Lemon Almond Tart

Do you own a tart pan?  I recently went from owning zero tart pans, to owning 5.  Way to ease into it, right? I bought 4 mini tart pans and a large 10 inch pan.  I couldn't decide if I wanted to make mini's or a full tart, so I went with both options.  Last week I used the 10 inch pan to make my very first tart.  It was a moderate success.  The filling was a delicious almond cream.  But the tart dough was a little tough.  It did not live up to the description of being like a tender a shortbread.  I pressed the dough into the tart pan.  I am pretty sure I manhandled it a little too much.  So I thought I needed to give the tart another go this week.  I used my mini tart pans and a little more love and care with the dough.

I flipped through, Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan and found there were many tarts to choose from.  At this point it came down to what ingredients were in the house.  Lemons? Check.  Eggs?  Check.  Butter?  Check.  Sugar?  Check.  "The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart" it is!  

The lemon cream is a mixture of sugar, eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest cooked in a bowl over a saucepan with a few inches of simmering water in the bottom.  Just whisk, whisk, whisk until the mixture reaches 180 degrees.  The problem is the 2 thermometers I was using wouldn't go above 140 no matter how long I waited and whisked and no matter how much I turned the heat up.  Dorie says that it could take up to 10 minutes to bring the mixture up to temperature.  After 20 minutes, I finally resolved to the fact it wasn't going to get to 180.  But the good news was it did thicken and take on the characteristics that were described in the recipe.  The creamy filling gets pushed through a fine mesh sieve or strainer to discard the zest.  After it has cooled a bit the lemon cream goes into a food processor to slowly get emulsified with room temperature butter, making it even creamier.  A brief 4 hour rest in the fridge and the filling is ready. 

Meanwhile I started working on the dough.  I decided to go with a sweet tart dough with ground almonds.  I followed the recipe to the tee....except I snuck in some vanilla extract for some extra flavor.  The dough consists of powdered sugar, flour, salt, butter and an egg yolk and comes together in a food processor.  I was careful not to over process and not overwork.  I separated the dough into 2 disks and refrigerated it for about an hour.  Dorie says she always presses her dough into the tart pan.  But I decided to roll it out instead since the pressing method didn't yield good results for me last time.  Dorie warns that rolling tart dough can be tricky because of the powdered sugar content in the dough, making it sticky.  I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on each side of the dough and then rolled it between 2 pieces of parchment paper.  I worked fast and, though the dough was delicate, I was able to gingerly lay it into the tart pans.  The mini tarts baked in the oven for 20 minutes to a nice golden brown.  Check out my tender, shortbread-like crust.  Take two on the crust was a success!

Even though the filling was a little finicky, it had a nice creamy texture and just the right amount of lemon.  Topped off with fresh whipped cream, it made for a pretty nice Sunday afternoon dessert.

There are more tarts in The Ginger Snap Girl's future.

The Most Extraordinary Lemon Tart
from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours

Tart Filling

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons (I used 1 1/2 lemons)
4 large eggs
¾ c fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons) (I used 1/2 cup lemon juice)
2 sticks plus 5 T butter (10 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature.
1 9-inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough (see below).

Have a instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (1st choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture fees tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk- you whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling- you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point- the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience- depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp may take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the lender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going- to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to bend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests, and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)
When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.  Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

Sweet Tart Dough

1 ½ cups all purpose flour (or 1/4 finely ground almonds or another nut and 1 ¼ cups flour)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour (and ground nuts), sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal fakes and others the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses- about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate and dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy handed- press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferable longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, against the crust. (Since you froze it, you can bake it without weights). Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, carefully press it down with the back of a spoon. For partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack. To fully bake the crust, bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.