Summer Tarts

This week I went tart crazy! I had an opportunity to cook for a friend who had surgery recently and who also happens to have a gluten intolerance. I cooked a full meal of stuffed bell peppers and rice, and for dessert I made these fruity tarts. The crust is gluten-free and made with almonds, walnuts, and cashews. It’s nutty, crunchy, and more flavorful than a traditional pastry crust in my humble opinion. The filling is passion fruit pastry cream.

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You are probably familiar with passion fruit which can be found in juices, desserts, teas, and much more. This tropical fruit tastes a little bit like guava, but less intense, and it has a bit of tartness like kiwi. Growing up in El Salvador I became familiar with a few different kinds of granadillas, which is a general name for any fruit that resembles passion fruit. It looks like a maraca and it has pulp and seeds inside. I’ve been looking for fresh passion fruit to photograph and add to this post without much luck. My quest isn’t over yet though. But for now, frozen pulp will have to do. You can find it in Latino grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can use actual juice that has passion fruit in it.

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I meant to make mango tarts to compliment the tropical flavor of the passion fruit, but my mangoes were not ripe enough, so I had to improvise and use other fruit I had in the fridge. As a cook you have to improvise all the time and make things work with what you have available. It’s impromptu experimentation that leads to new discoveries. My inspiration for part of the recipe was Pati Jinich’s Mango Tart, especially the apricot and wine glaze.

Passion Fruit Tart

Nut Crust:

1 ½ cups mix of nuts like walnuts, cashews, pistachios, or pecans (peanuts are fine if you’re not allergic)   
1 cup almond flour (or grind your own almonds)
¼ cup maple syrup or honey (sugar is fine, too)
1 egg
¼ cup cold butter, cubed (½ stick of butter)

Passionfruit Pastry Cream:

½ cup milk (I had 2% in the fridge)
¾  cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-5 egg yolks (I used the leftover yolks from this Swiss Meringue Recipe)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup thawed passionfruit pulp or juice

Fruit:

Any fruit you have available such as strawberries, mango, canned mandarin oranges, berries, kiwi, etc.

Glaze:

½ cup apricot jam
½ cup white wine or orange liqueur (you can use sub orange juice)

Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350F. Grind the nuts in a food processor. Next, add the rest of the crust ingredients and pulse until the mix gets crumbly. You do not want a ball of dough.

Use mini tart pans with removable rings. This mix makes 8 4 inch tarts or 1 large 10 inch tart.

Press some of the nut mix into the bottom and up the sides of each tart pan. Bake the crusts on a large cookie sheet for about 15-17 minutes or until slightly golden. Allow to cool completely in the pans.

You can work on the next two steps while the crusts are baking and cooling:

Glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the apricot jam and wine. Mix to fully dissolve and simmer on low-medium heat until it reduces and becomes syrupy. This will take about 10 minutes. Cool and set aside. It thickens up a bit more when it cools.

Passionfruit Pastry Cream: In a bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Measure the milk and cream in a measuring cup and add the egg yolks. Whisk to combine the egg yolks and milk. Add the milk and egg mixture to the the sugar and cornstarch and whisk to combine. This is the easy method. No need to heat the milk first to temper the eggs.

Pour the cream mixture into a saucepan and set over medium heat and mix consistently with a wooden spoon until it thickens.  Add the passionfruit pulp at the end and stir the cream a little more to incorporate into the cream. Cool and place in the fridge until ready to use.

To assemble your tarts, begin by filling the crusts with a couple of tablespoons of cream. Arrange the fruit on top however you wish. Have fun with the process. If making 1 large tart you may want to arrange sliced fruit in a circle starting from the edges and working your way towards the center.

Brush the fruit with the glaze. Refrigerate the tarts overnight to set. Gently remove cooled tarts from the tart rings before serving.

Light & Easy Peach Tart (Gluten Free)

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You Need:

Nut Crust 
Filling: About 2 cups of peach yogurt or greek yogurt mixed with a little honey (for 8 mini tarts)
Sliced peaches or plums
Glaze: ¼  cup honey & ¼ cup orange juice (no need to cook or reduce)

Follow the steps above to make the crusts for 8 tarts. Allow the baked crusts to cool to room temperature.

Fill each tart with yogurt and top with peaches and/or plums. Brush with honey/orange juice glaze. Sprinkle with some crushed nuts and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

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Milhojas

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Milhojas, a thousands leaves, are desserts made with puff pastry and filled with velvety and pearly white meringue. It’s a piece of heaven in your mouth. As a young kid I used to look forward to going to my grandpa’s house in El Salvador because he had a small store where he sold groceries, snacks, cheese, and pastries, including milhojas. Going there I knew he’d want to spoil his grandkids so I would always ask for a milhoja. On the long bus ride to get there, all I could think of was getting to his house quickly so I could ask for my long awaited opportunity to eat milhojas. As a kid, my favorite part of a cake was always the frosting and a milhoja is about 90 % percent frosting. Wow! What a perfect dessert.

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Milhojas have their roots in French cuisine, better known in France as millefeuilles. Here in the U.S. they are known as Napoleons and there are many variations of this yummy dessert. Milhojas are popular in Spain and in different parts of Latin America, and can vary in different types of fillings and creams used. Here’s my Salvi version. The pastry cream isn’t traditional in Salvadoran milhojas but I think it’s a nice addition, but you can certainly omit it.

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You will need:

Kitchen Aid stand mixer and whisk attachment or hand mixer
2 or more baking sheets
Parchment paper
Candy thermometer
About 3 cups of ice cubes or crushed ice
A few mixing bowls
Serrated knife

*Tip: Start by preheating your oven to 350 F and separating egg whites and yolks. Save at room temperature until ready to use.

For the puff pastry:

2 boxes store-bought puff pastry sheets

Powdered sugar (to dust pastries at the end)

Roll out the thawed pastry sheets over a floured board and cut out 12 rectangles. Working in batches, arrange the pastry sheets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover them with more parchment paper, and put another baking sheet on top to prevent the dough from puffing up. Bake at 350 F degrees for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Continue the process with the rest of the dough. Let baked puffed pastry sheets cool on a wire rack until ready to use.

For the meringue:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 room temperature egg whites
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (strained)

Combine egg whites and  lemon juice in the bowl of your stand mixer. Start mixer on low speed to break up the protein in the egg whites. Gradually increase the speed to medium and mix until soft peaks form.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Heat over high heat. The sugar will melt and turn into a boiling syrup. Cook until sugar syrup registers 240°F on a candy thermometer. With the mixer running, carefully and slowly drizzle in hot sugar syrup using a spoon or funnel. Increase speed to high and whip until the meringue is stiff like frosting. Decrease the speed to medium until the meringue cools. You may continue to mix on low speed until ready to use. This will prevent the meringue from losing its volume and stiffness. The process of making meringue requires some multi-tasking so make sure you don’t have any interruptions or ask someone to assist you.

For the pastry cream:

1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar (divided)
2 cups whole milk (divided)
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract or one vanilla bean, scraped
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter (if using salted butter simply omit pinch of salt listed above)

*Tip: Prepare an ice bath in  a large bowl or simply fill a bowl with ice cubes.

Combine the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the milk in a bowl. Add this mixture to the the yolks mixing with a hand whisk or spoon until completely smooth. Combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Add the vanilla bean or vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat and bring the milk to a boil. Remove pan from the heat as soon as it starts to boil.

Temper the egg mixture by slowly adding the hot milk mixture with a ladle, whisking constantly. This will prevent the eggs from getting shocked with heat all at once and becoming scrambled eggs. Add the rest of the milk mixture slowly and continue whisking. Return mixture to the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat.  Mix the cream with a whisk, until the cream thickens up and you feel like it’s a real arm workout, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter, until fully combined and melted. Place the saucepan on the ice. Whisk occasionally until the pastry cream is cool and ready to use. This cream can made up to 3 days in advance and kept refrigerated in a container until ready to use.

To assemble milhojas:

Each pastry will have three layers of puff pastry with one layer of pastry cream and one layer of meringue in between. Spread pastry cream on a cooled puff pastry sheet to create the first layer. Next, place a second puff pastry sheet on top and spread with meringue. Place a third sheet of puff pastry over meringue. Repeat the process with all the puff pastry sheets you have left. Finally, dust with powdered sugar. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting the milhojas into smaller rectangles with a serrated knife. This can be a little messy because the frosting will tend to slide out. But don’t worry. They’ll still look fancy even if they’re not cut perfectly like in the pastry shops. Your guests won’t mind. These milhojas won’t last very long.

*Tip: It helps to rinse the knife often in hot water. Make sure to dry it with a towel though. A wet knife will melt the meringue. When you’re cutting the milhojas, it also helps to hold the pastry down firmly, without breaking it, to keep the meringue from sliding out.

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En Español

Las milhojas son un tipo de repostería hechas con hojaldre y llenas de un turrón de merengue blanco y aterciopelado. Es un pedacito de cielo en tu boca. Cuando era niña íbamos a la casa de mi abuelo en El Salvador y él tenía una pequeña tienda donde vendía comestibles, dulces, queso y repostería, incluyendo las milhojas. Yo sabía que le iba a dar a sus nietos lo que quisieran, así que siempre le pedía una milhoja. En el largo viaje en autobús para llegar allí, lo único que podía pensar era en llegar a su casa pronto para mi tan esperada oportunidad de comer milhojas. Cuando era niña, mi parte favorita de un pastel siempre fue el glaseado o turrón, y una milhoja salvadoreña tiene un relleno que es aproximadamente 90% de turrón. El postre perfecto. Las milhojas tienen sus raíces en la cocina francesa, más conocidas en Francia como millefeuilles. Aquí en los EE.UU. se les conoce como Napoleones y hay muchas variaciones de este delicioso postre. Las milhojas son populares en España y en diferentes partes de América Latina, y pueden variar en los diferentes tipos de rellenos y cremas utilizadas. Pues aquí está mi versión. La crema pastelera no es tradicional en milhojas salvadoreñas, pero creo que es una buena adición, pero puede ser omitida.

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Necesitará:

Una batidora Kitchen Aid equipada con un accesorio batidor o batidora manual
2 o más bandejas para hornear
papel para hornear (no encerado)
termómetro de caramelo
Alrededor de 3 tazas de hielo
Unos tazones
Cuchillo de sierra

* Sugerencia: Comience precalentando el horno a 350F y separe las claras de huevo y las yemas. Guarde a temperatura ambiente hasta que esté listo para su uso.

Para el hojaldre:

2 cajas de láminas de hojaldre (de las venden congeladas en la tienda)
Azúcar en polvo

Estire las láminas de hojaldre descongeladas sobre una tabla enharinada y corte 12 rectángulos. Trabajando en tandas, ponga las láminas de hojaldre en una bandeja para hornear forrada con papel de hornear. Cubrirlas con más papel para hornear, y ponga otra bandeja de hornear encima para que no crezca la masa. Hornee a 350 F grados durante 15-20 minutos, hasta que estén ligeramente doradas. Continúe el proceso con el resto de las láminas de hojaldre. Deje que las láminas de hojaldre se enfríen sobre una rejilla hasta que esté listo para su uso.

Para el merengue:

1 taza de azúcar
1/2 taza de agua
4 claras de huevo (temperatura ambiente)
1/2 cucharadita de jugo de limón (colado)

Combine las claras de huevo y jugo de limón en el tazón de su batidora. Comience la batidora a velocidad baja para romper la proteína en las claras de huevo. Poco a poco aumente a velocidad mediana y bata hasta que se formen picos suaves. Mientras tanto, en una olla pequeña, combine el azúcar y el agua. Caliente a fuego alto. El azúcar se derrite y se convierte en un jarabe hirviendo. Cocine hasta que el jarabe de azúcar registre 240 ° F en un termómetro de caramelo. Con la batidora en marcha, con cuidado y lentamente agregue el azúcar caliente con una cuchara o embudo. Aumente la velocidad de la KitchenAid al número 8 y bata hasta que el merengue esté como turrón. Siga batiendo a velocidad mediana hasta que el merengue se enfríe. Puede continuar batiendo en velocidad baja hasta que esté listo para su uso.  Esto ayudará a que el merengue no pierda su forma y volumen. El proceso de hacer merengue requiere un poco de multitarea así que asegúrese de que no tenga ningún tipo de interrupciones o pídale a alguien que le ayude.

Para la crema pastelera:

1/4 taza de maicena
3/4 taza de azúcar (dividida)
2 tazas de leche (dividida)
4 yemas de huevos, ligeramente batidas
1 pizca de sal
2 cucharaditas de extracto de vainilla o una vaina de vainilla, raspada
2 cucharadas de mantequilla sin sal a temperatura ambiente (si utiliza mantequilla salada simplemente omita la pizca de sal antes mencionada)

* Consejo: Prepare un baño de hielo en un tazón grande o simplemente llene un recipiente con cubitos de hielo.

Combine la maicena con 1/4 taza de azúcar y 1/2 taza de la leche en un tazón. Vierta las yemas en la mezcla de la maicena, mezcle con un batidor de mano o una cuchara hasta que todo esté completamente incorporado. Combine el resto de la leche con la 1/2 taza de azúcar restante en una olla. Agregue la vainilla o el extracto de vainilla y una pizca de sal. Cocine a fuego medio. Retire la olla del fuego tan pronto como empiece a hervir.

Para templar la mezcla de huevo, añada la leche caliente poco a poco con un cucharón, batiendo constantemente la mezcla. Esto evitará que los huevos se cocinen de repente y se conviertan en huevos revueltos. Añada el resto de la  leche lentamente y continúe batiendo.  Vierta la mezcla de regreso en la olla y siga cocinando a fuego mediano. Mueva la crema rápidamente con un batidor de mano hasta que la crema espese y usted se sienta como si fuera un entrenamiento muscular, unos 4-5 minutos. Retire la olla del fuego y agregue la mantequilla y mezcle hasta que se derrita. Coloque la olla en el hielo. Mueva la crema de vez en cuando hasta que la crema pastelera esté fría y lista para usar. Esta crema se puede hacer hasta 3 días con anticipación y se mantiene refrigerada en un recipiente hasta que esté listo para su uso.

Para ensamblar milhojas:

Cada milhoja tiene tres capas de hojaldre con una capa de crema pastelera y una capa de merengue en el medio. Cubra una lámina de hojaldre horneada con crema pastelera para crear la primera capa. A continuación, coloque una segunda lámina de hojaldre sobre la crema pastelera y cubrala con turrón. Coloque una tercera lámina de hojaldre sobre el merengue. Repita el proceso con el resto de la láminas de hojaldre. Por último, espolvoree con azúcar en polvo. Refrigere por lo menos 1 hora antes de cortar las milhojas en rectángulos más pequeños con un cuchillo de sierra. Esto puede ser un poco complicado debido a que el turrón tenderá a salirse. Pero no se preocupe. Todavía van a verse muy gourmet aunque no se corten a la perfección como en las pastelerías. No les importará a sus invitados. Estas milhojas no va a durar mucho tiempo.

* Consejo: Ayuda mucho lavar el cuchillo a menudo en agua caliente, pero asegúrese de secarlo con una toalla. El cuchillo mojado derretirá el merengue. Ayuda también sujetar la milhoja con firmeza, sin romperla, para que el turrón no se salga cuando las esté cortando.

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