Tag Archives: special occasion

Happy Tau Day!

Today, 6-28, is Tau Day. Who knew? Tau is like pi: Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter; tau (τ) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius. The radius is half the diameter, and τ has only half as many legs as π. Pi, briefly, is 3.14; Pi(e) Day is celebrated on March 14 with pie. Tau, briefly, is 6.28, so I thought I’d celebrate with a τarτ.

Coincidentally, yesterday in the Serious Eats newsletter there was a slideshow about spices to use with fruit. Apparently, aji panca is just the thing to perk up blueberries. Aji panca is a chili pepper, and I find chili peppers painful to eat. However, you can temper the heat with dairy, so my Tau Day tart is blueberry custard tart with aji panca.

Aji panca, if you can find it, is available as fruit, paste, and powder. I got aji panca powder at Christina’s in Inman Square. They had a good-sized jar for $3.27. You can find aji panca in stores that carry Peruvian groceries, and Amazon has it in all three forms.

A jar of aji panca powder from Christina's

A jar of aji panca powder from Christina's

Blueberry Custard Tart with Aji Panca
Pâte Sucrée Crust
7 oz all-purpose flour (about 1½ cups by the spoon-and-sweep method)
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 oz (2 Tablespoons) cold vegetable shortening
2½ oz (4 Tablespoons) cold butter cut into chunks
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cold water

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and baking powder to combine. Add the shortening and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the egg, vanilla, and water, and pulse until the dough comes together into a ball.

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 10-inch tart pan. (You could also use a 9-inch pie plate.) Put the tart shell in the freezer (or refrigerator) until you’re ready to fill it.

Preheat the oven to 375℉.

Blueberry Custard Filling
⅔ cup sugar
½ teaspoons aji panca powder
2 eggs
8 oz (1 cup) whole milk
1 pint (maybe a little more) fresh blueberries (1½ to 2 pints if you’re using a 9-inch pie plate)

Whisk together the sugar and aji panca powder.

Sugar and aji panca powder (not whisked together)

Sugar and aji panca powder (not whisked together)

Whisk in the eggs.

Eggs whisked in

Eggs whisked in

Whisk in the milk.

Milk whisked in

Milk whisked in

Distribute the berries over the tart shell.

Blueberries distributed in the tart shell

Blueberries distributed in the tart shell

That 1 pint didn’t quite cover the shell, so I added more from a second pint. (You don’t need to cover the shell, though.) Pour the custard over the berries.

Custard added

Custard added

Bake at 375℉ for 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 325℉ and continue baking until the custard is set but still jiggles in the center, about another 45 minutes.

Cool the tart on a rack.

Tart cooling on a rack

Tart cooling on a rack

Remove the tart from the pan. Serve and enjoy.

A slice of tart

A slice of tart

I found the aji panca gave the tart a little nip, the way cinnamon does when you use the right amount, without tasting like hot pepper. Possibly it could take 1 teaspoon because the milk takes the edge off the pepper. It would be interesting to see how it works (instead of cinnamon) in a regular blueberry pie.

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Science!

Dr. Science is from Oregon, and in his family they get pie for their birthdays. No surprise, then, that Dr. Science traditionally gets blackberry pie for his birthday:

Blackberry birthday pie

Blackberry birthday pie

Happy birthday, Dr. Science!

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Bachelor Party!

Our niece Lynn was awarded her bachelor’s degree today with a double major in molecular biology and biochemistry. She’s following in the footsteps of Dr. Science, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, decided he didn’t want to be a chemist, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, and then went to graduate school for the PhD in molecular biology. Lynn’s path is more efficient, I think.

I got out of sitting through the ceremony by offering to put on a little party. It’s just family, but I’m taking the opportunity to go a little overboard. Lynn really likes Boston cream pie, so that’s obvious, and she’s seen a few of the photos of the French-style fruit tarts and suggested that one of those would be good. I’ve also wanted to try (yet again) Sherry Yard’s fruit curd method, so I made a batch of lime curd.

My problem with using the double-boiler method for the curd is that the steam seeps out from the saucepan and burns my fingers. Next time I’m going to see if there’s any harm in just cooking the curd right in the saucepan. It’d certainly be safer. It turned out really well. I didn’t add butter to the lime curd, and it’s very lime-y. That went into a spelt crust:

Lime curd in a spelt crust

Lime curd in a spelt crust

I made ahead as much as I could at home and brought it along: the tart crusts and the Boston cream pie cake base, the chocolate glaze for the Boston cream pie, and the lime curd. While everyone else was sitting through the ceremony, I made a batch of pastry cream, and when it was cool enough I used some in the fruit tart:

Frut tart with blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries

Frut tart with blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries

Then I made up the rum syrup for brushing the cake and tried to split the cake. The cake was a disaster. I have no idea what happened. It was very cakey, and not in a good way. Fortunately I had several hours, my own equipment, most of the ingredients, and the pie plate.

On the KAF recipe site, I found a recipe for a basic yellow cake. I had eggs and butter left over from the pastry cream, and Lynn had flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder but no milk, only soy milk. I ran out to the convenience store a few blocks away and bought a pint of milk, and by the time I got back, my ingredients were at room temperature. The instructions call for an electric mixer, but I got it all mixed by hand with my sturdy wire whip. The whole time I was making the batter I was feeling like it was a good thing I have some idea of what I’m doing, even as I hoped that this cake would turn out. The instructions want you to mix the dry ingredients, then add the butter and mix that in the electric mixer to a sandy consistency; I did that with my hands, just like pâte sablée. The milk and eggs went in okay, and I just hoped I was mixing them enough. I have memories of troubleshooting charts that identify the cause of various cake disasters as “undermixing.” The cake took a little longer to bake than they said it would, but it turned out fine. Whew!

After the cake cooled, I split the cake, brushed on the rum syrup, filled the cake with pastry cream, and glazed it with the chocolate glaze I had made up at home:

Finally, Boston cream pie

Finally, Boston cream pie

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Hot Cross Buns

Our friends Michele and Dave are living in England temporarily, and Michele keeps me updated on English baking adventures (sticky toffee pudding!). Yesterday she told me it’s traditional to bake hot cross buns on Good Friday, so this morning, that’s what I did.

Hot cross buns

A dozen hot cross buns, half the batch

Then I took them to Dr. Science’s office, where people seemed to like them. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a hot cross bun; I know I’ve never had a traditional English one, which is what these are, but I got a bite of one this morning. This recipe is from Jeff Hamelman’s book Bread. The mixing instructions begin, “Small quantities of up to 12 dozen buns,” which sets up a cognitive dissonance for me. He does give measurements for 1 dozen (which I doubled). Technically this is not a straight dough because there’s a sponge, but the sponge only ferments for 40 minutes. The cross on top isn’t icing, it’s a dough paste. The dough and paste have butter, sugar, and eggs, and the paste has vanilla, and when you take the buns out of the oven, you brush them with simple syrup, so they’re somewhat sweet. I think icing would be overkill.

Traditional English Hot Cross Buns
(for 1 dozen buns, 2.7 oz each)
Sponge
1.3 oz bread flour
6.7 oz milk
3 oz granulated sugar
0.26 oz instant yeast (2¼ t)

Whisk the ingredients together and cover; ferment for 30-40 min.

Dough
12 oz bread flour
2 oz soft butter
1 egg
2 oz granulated sugar
0.1 oz salt (I used 2¼ t Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
1 oz ground allspice
all of the sponge
4 oz dried currants
1.3 oz candied lemon or orange peel

In a stand mixer, mix the flour and butter until the butter is dispersed. Mix in the egg, sugar, salt, and allspice, then add the sponge. Mix for 3 min on the first speed and then for 3 more min on the third speed. Add the fruit and mix until it’s evenly distributed. Cover and allow the dough to rise for 30 min. Give the dough a turn, as you do with puff pastry: Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter, turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it in thirds again. Let it rise another 30 min. Divide the dough into 12 2.7-oz balls. Arrange them on the baking sheet and cover them with plastic. Allow them to rise another hour. While the buns are rising, make the crossing paste.

Crossing Paste
4 oz butter
3 oz milk
1 T vanilla
4 oz sugar
1 egg, beaten
zest of 1 lemon
8 oz all-purpose flour

Heat the butter and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in everything but the flour, then stir in the flour. (This is a very stiff paste and a lot more than you need; it’s probably enough for 3 or 4 dozen buns. If you have liquid eggs, you can halve the recipe easily.)

When the buns are ready, pipe the paste onto each bun in two lines at 90 degrees to each other. (I used a cookie press with a Berliner tip. This is a stiff paste, and I have no idea how you’d pipe it with a pastry bag, which I tried first and couldn’t get to work.) Bake at 440℉ for 14-16 min. While the buns bake, make the simple syrup (or get out what you have).

Simple Syrup
Heat equal weights of water and sugar until the sugar dissolves; 2 oz of each is plenty for a dozen buns.

When the buns are done, brush them with the simple syrup. They’re best eaten the day they’re baked, although according to tradition, if you bake them on Good Friday they’ll stay fresh for a year.

Note: To my astonishment, I’m out of allspice. (Either that or I couldn’t find it on my spice shelf, but I’m probably out.) So I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I meant to use 2 t of cinnamon, ½ t of nutmeg, and ½ t of cloves, but it was early and I hadn’t had any coffee yet, and I used 1½ t of cinnamon, 1 t of nutmeg, and ½ t of cloves. That’s a lot of nutmeg, but people liked the result, so I guess it wasn’t too much. I have to remember to buy more allspice.

Reference
Traditional English Hot Cross Buns. Jeffrey Hamelman: Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2004, p 266.

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