With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pine Nut Tart

Stop.  Take a step back.  Breathe.  Re-focus.

Today was the first time in a long time I had a chance to do just that.

Mary Quite Contrary Bakes is, at its core, meant to be joyful.  A place for me as well as you to come and have a moment of fun.

However as of lately, with all the tragedy and mourning the country has been in over the shootings in Connecticut, it seems more than ever a place to come, pause, and reflect.

And remember what is really important.

Because as much as I love baking at its heart, it'd be nothing without the people I share it with.  And that includes you.

Every once in awhile a flavor or ingredient catches me off guard, and it's a surprise when I fall head over heels for it.

Pine nuts definitely qualify.

They're rich, buttery, and when mixed with a sweet and custard like caramelized honey filling on top of an italian cookie crust, they go to the next level.

It may seem daunting at first glance, but truly it's not.

This was our Thanksgiving treat this year and in addition to being a nice change, it was also to die for.  And maybe I enjoyed a slice every single day after Thanksgiving until absolutely none was left.

And maybe it's making an appearance on my Christmas table this year around as well.

A fun twist and something different, for whatever holiday you celebrate this season.

Pine Nut Tart
Servings: 1-10 inch tart


For the Crust:
-1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 10 Tbsp unsalted butter (cold, cut into pieces)

For the Filling:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 12 Tbsp unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 6 oz (1 1/2 cups) pine nuts

Make crust. (Make crust at least 1 hr before baking tart.  Note: this recipe yields two crusts.)  Whisk together cream, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla in a bowl.  Pulse flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse until mixture is course.  Add in cream and pulse until dough comes together.  Split dough in half pat into two disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  On a lightly floured surface roll out 1 disk of dough into a 14-inch round.  Reserve second disk for another use.  Fit dough to a fluted 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, removing any excess and patching any tears.  Freeze tart dough while making filling.

Make filling.  In a saucepan bring sugar, honey, and salt to a boil. whisking until sugar dissolves  Add butter and whisk until incorporated.  Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool for 30 minutes.  Whisk in cream, egg, and egg yolk until combined.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place tart on a parchment lined baking sheet (to catch any overflow) and scatter pine nuts in the bottom of the tart.  Slowly pour filling over nuts.  Bake until golden brown and center is set but slightly wobbly, approximately 1 hour.  (If it looks burnt - don't fret, it won't taste it!)  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gingerbread Muffins

I've talked before on occasion about how sometimes when I bake something, snapping a perfect picture of it isn't the highest on my chain of priorities.

Often times it's about sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying without worrying about the perfect shot.

Especially around now, when things seem to get a little bit overloaded with the holidays getting more into swing.

With photo sharing websites such as Instagram and the high quality aspect of the IPhone 5 camera this is hardly an excuse anymore, and often times I still find myself shooting off a quick picture regardless and sending them out through venues such as these.

But then it dawned on me.

If there is any time to sit back and relax and share without worry of perfection, it's these same holidays.

And all of you who don't see my Instagram pictures of treats would definitely enjoy these as well.

On a morning with minimal time and minimal supplies, I vowed to whip up the first muffins I had all the ingredients on hand for.  And that just so happen to be gingerbread.

Perfect timing they say.

Spicy and subtly sweet, easy to dress up with jam or butter or great left all on their own - an easy treat that makes even the hurried holiday morning that much more special.

And with a view into my completely un-styled holiday kitchen: recipe booklets, pretzel jars, random teaspoon measures, half-used molasses jars and all, they're ready to be enjoyed immediately.

And truthfully, sometimes that's just what I need.

Gingerbread Muffins
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Servings: 12

- 2 cups flour
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.  Set aside two separate medium sized bowls.  In one bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, ginger, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk to combine.  In the other bowl combine melted butter, sugar, molasses, milk, and eggs.  Whisk.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredient bowl and fold in until no streaks of flour remain.  Divide between muffin cups and bake 19-22 minutes (or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean).  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from:  Food Network