October 10, 2010

Baking Extravaganza

The last few weeks were indeed occupied by much baking in Kimberly's kitchen. In a single night the proceeds were tiny blueberry pies, Thick and Chewy Triple-Chocolate Cookies, and Caramel Apple Cheesecake bars. There was also the lemon tart. Another night I made two Pineapple Upside Down Cakes which served as the groom's cake at a wedding.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

On Wednesday night I baked a cake for my annual South Plains Fair entry. This year, I chose to bake a chocolate cake (using the Cook's Illustrated German Chocolate cake recipe) and my favorite chocolate frosting (Ina Garten's recipe).

Chocolate Cake for South Plains Fair

Chocolate Cake for South Plains Fair

I delivered the cake on Thursday morning. Katie went to the fair on Friday and sent me a picture of my chocolate cake in the Best of Show display case. Good news!

South Plains Fair 2010 Culinary Competition

I visited the fair the following Monday to confirm that the win was legitimate and that the photo hadn't been Photoshopped. In what I thought would be a Scandal of Great Proportions, I noticed while scoping out the other entries that the first prized Red Velvet Cake looked very familiar. It looked a little too squat, a little too greasy... yep, it was made by last year's winner.

South Plains Fair 2010 Culinary Competition South Plains Fair 2009

Isn't there a rule about not entering the same type of cake consecutively after winning 1st place? I could have sworn there was, but I couldn't find such a rule in the premium book, so I won't tattle on my competition.

Oh, and after the fair ended, Mom picked up my chocolate cake and fed it to her goats. I must say if I were going to eat a cake that had sat uncovered and unrefrigerated in a un-air conditioned building for 9 days, it would probably be this one.

October 7, 2010

A Pretty Little Tart with a Dirty Little Secret

Since I met Dorie Greenspan this summer, I've made a few of her recipes, and there hasn't been a loser in the bunch. The latest trial was a recipe from her cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours for a lovely lemon tart. (The recipe can be found online in several spots, including here.)

If I'm going to make a dessert without chocolate or peanut butter, I think lemon is my next favorite flavor. I love lemon curds, cakes, glazes, pies, you name it. Flipping through Baking, the recipe titled "The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart" caught my eye. Dorie wrote that she learned to make this cream from Pierre Hermé, and "it is the ne plus ultra of the lemon world."

The filling starts out like a lemon curd recipe, but the twist is that you pour the curd into a blender and blend in a fair amount of butter, creating a light and creamy texture quite different from your typical curd.

The dirty little secret is just how much butter you add to that curd: 2 full sticks plus 5 tablespoons! It makes the filling akin to a Hollandaise sauce but with sugar. When you consider that the tart crust contains more than a stick of butter already, bringing the total amount of butter in the 9" tart to about a pound, it makes you realize just how special this dessert is.

Lemon Cream Tart

And it is very special. Simple. Delicious. Irresistible. Extraordinary.