Desserts

Mini Lemon Tarts

Mini Lemon tarts Lemon is the singular best dessert ingredient.  Its tangy and sour punch is the best complement to a sweet dessert. Besides, how can you appreciate all that sweetness without a little something to make your lips pucker?! While driving through our sleepy neighborhood while in Louisiana on Christmas break, I came across a sign taped to a box: "Free Lemons." Organic Louisiana lemons?! Naturally, I couldn't help myself and I gathered all of the lemons I thought I could feasibly fit in my carry on for the journey back to New York.

Anyone with a lemon tree will tell you that their lemon tree produces way more fruit than they can stand to eat. And besides, it's not like someone is having a whole lemon with their breakfast every morning! One lemon goes a long way.  Plus, organic lemons are the only option for someone who's serious about lemons. Organic lemons are unwaxed. This means when you use their lemon zest, you aren't getting a layer of wax along with it!

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Thrilled to have a supply of lemons, I got to thinking about what I would make with my bounty. I settled on a classic: lemon tarts. Lemon tarts are nothing more than a par-baked pie crust filled with chilled lemon curd. If you’re feeling fancy, you can top them with meringue and toast the meringue.  These lemon tarts are deceptively simple for how unbelievably packed with flavor they are.

There are two parts to this recipe, and you can do them in any order you wish: preparing the lemon curd and baking the pie dough.  I used my favorite pie dough recipe and fit the dough into mini tart pans.  I then pre-baked (“blind baked”) the pie crust completely in advance because the lemon curd is completely cooked once it goes into the pie crust—no additional baking is needed. I lined the bottom of the crust with parchment paper, and then filled it with dried beans or rice (or pie weights if you’ve got them). I baked them for 10-15 minutes, removed the parchment paper and beans/rice, and continued to bake for another 10 minutes until the crust was lightly golden and completely cooked.

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Next, I prepared the lemon curd. Homemade lemon curd is such a treat and way easier than you’d think. I simply cooked eggs, sugar and fresh lemon juice in the top of a double boiler until it thickened. Then refrigerate. That’s it! Once the lemon curd has chilled and thickened, you can place it in the tart shells.

Now, here’s where you can get fancy. Lemon zest? Sprinkle it on top. Want to make a meringue? Go for it! Whip out the kitchen torch and brulee that meringue. Or just put in the oven on broil and toast the tops!

Meringue or not, these tarts are a hit! They have completely wrecked my diet this week. And I may have even had one for breakfast ;)  Enjoy!

Mini Lemon Tarts

Pie Dough (makes a double recipe)*

2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar 1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt 2 1/2 sticks (280 grams) unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold water 8 mini tart pans (three to four inches)

*You only need half of the dough for this recipe to make eight 3” mini tart shells.

Lemon Curd

3 large eggs at room temperature 150 grams granulated sugar 3.25 ounces fresh lemon juice 180 grams unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces grated zest of two lemons

Prepare and Chill the Dough

Combine flour with sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer. Pulse or mix to incorporate. Add the pieces of butter. Pulse or mix using the paddle attachment until no dry flour remains and dough just begins to collect in clumps. Sprinkle the water in while mixing.

Fold and press the dough until it comes together into a ball. Divide ball in half (because this recipe makes servings of pie dough). Form each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and baking.

Pre-bake (“Blind Bake”) the pie crust

Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out one of the discs to a round large enough to fit 6 mini tart pans. (Reserve the remaining disc of pie dough for use at a later date). Press the dough into the six mini tart pans. Gather the remaining dough and roll it out. Fit it into the remaining two mini tart pans. Line each tart with parchment paper.

Fill the parchment paper with pie weights or dried beans. Make sure they’re distributed all across the bottom and partly up the sides of the parchment-lined crust. The weights ensure that the crust holds its shape during baking and doesn’t slump in the pan or bubble up. Place the mini tart pans on a cookie sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is no longer raw and the paper no longer sticks to the bottom of each shell. Remove from the oven, carefully lift up the parchment paper and remove the beans or pie weights, as well as the parchment paper. Return to the oven for an additional 8-12 minutes, until the bottoms of the crust are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Prepare the Lemon Curd

Combine the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler. Whisk to combine.

Fill a small pot (but large enough to balance the heat-proof bowl) halfway with water. Bring to a hearty simmer, and reduce the heat to medium. Place the bowl on top of the simmering water. (Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, otherwise you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your lemon curd!)

Whisk constantly to ensure that the curd cooks evenly for seven minutes, or until the curd thickens and lightens. You may need to reduce the heat or turn it off completely—be very careful that the bowl doesn’t get too hot or the eggs will scramble.

Remove the curd from heat and pour it into a bowl. Place plastic on top so that it’s touching the lemon curd, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Assemble the lemon tarts

Pour the curd into each baked pastry shell. You may sprinkle lemon zest on top or add meringue and toast, if desired.

Serve immdiately.

Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches

IMG_5203 I’m kind of obsessed with these red velvet cookie sandwiches. This is probably because I love red velvet anything. Red velvet is the perfect chocolate-ish combination. There’s just a hint of chocolate—far less than you’d use for a chocolate cookie. Plus, the cream cheese icing complements the cookie perfectly.

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Red velvet is festive. It reminds me of Christmas and celebrations. So, I knew these cookies would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. Plus, they’re super easy to make. I’ve certainly had my hands full since the start of the year. I’ve been planning a trip to Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival, as well as physically preparing for Carnival—smoothie bowls and cardio circuit training. I’ve also been busier than usual by becoming more active in my community. So, I haven’t had much time for baking, and I easily whipped these cookies up one evening. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches

Makes 24 cookies, 12 cookie sandwiches

For Cookies:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon red liquid food coloring
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Icing:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 and ¼ cup powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Beat softened butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, about three minutes. Add egg and food coloring; beat 30 seconds.
  2. Sift flour with next 2 ingredients in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until combined. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press each ball down into a round disc. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. Bake at 325°F for 10 to 15 minutes or until cookies are fragrant and dry. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.
  5. Beat softened cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, until smooth and creamy.
  6. Place the icing in a piping bag. Pipe icing on half of the cookies. Place a second cookie on top to make a sandwich. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to three days. Serve at room temperature.

Twice Baked Yams

IMG_4985 In honor of Black History Month, I'm joining a virtual potluck with other food bloggers, featuring our favorite recipes, from soulfood to Kenyan cuisine. I wanted to feature something that tastes good and makes me feel good, so I’m sharing these twice-baked yams! I love candied yams (like, love them).  But, the problem with candied yams is sometimes they’re just too… candied. There is such a thing as too sweet (and I’m a desserts girl!)

My cousin Karan is the one person in the family who is allowed to make candied yams on Thanksgiving, and I noticed that each year, the yams got a little less candied but even more delicious. These twice-baked yams are inspired by my cousin’s candied yams. They have the just the right amount of sweetness—enough brown sugar to still be sweet, but not too much so that you can enjoy them guiltlessly any time of the year! (And not just when you have on your special Thanksgiving-Day-Stretchy-Waist pants.)  Plus, I add just a splash of pineapple juice. The acidity from the pineapple juice balances out the sweetness.

Did I mention these are also super simple to make?! To make them, I thoroughly washed 4 small  sweet potatoes. (ok, I know sweet potatoes and yams are different, but you can use either in this recipe!)  I then wrapped them in foil and baked in them in a 400F oven for one hour.  I removed them from the oven and allowed them to cool for about 10 minutes.  I then cut them in half lengthwise and carefully scooped out the flesh (be careful so that you can maintain the boat-like structure).

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I added the flesh to my stand mixer (a food processor, hand mixer or potato masher also works), and mixed ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 ounces cream cheese, a tablespoon of pineapple juice, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and a dash of salt.  I used the paddle attachment and mixed on medium for about a minute.  I then filled the sweet potatoes with the mixture, topped them with chopped pecans, and baked them for an additional 20 minutes.

I hope you enjoy these twice-baked yams as much as I have! Also, see below for more amazing recipes celebrating black history month!

Twice-Baked Yams

4 small sweet potatoes ¼ cup brown sugar 2 ounces cream cheese 1 tablespoon pineapple juice ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon dash of salt chopped pecans (optional) pomegranate seeds and flat leaf parsley to garnish (optional)

Wash the sweet potatoes with water.  Dry them with a towel. Wrap them in foil and bake them in a 400F oven for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh. Place the flesh in a stand mixer.  Add the brown sugar, cream cheese, pineapple juice, cinnamon and salt. Using the paddle attachment, mix for about one minute, until all of the ingredients are well combined.

Fill the sweet potatoes with the mixture, sprinkle with chopped pecans, and bake in the 400F oven for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. (You may garnish with pomegranate seeds and flat leaf parsley if desired.)

More amazing recipes below!

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