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Whoopie Pies with Salted Dulce de Leche

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Is it a pie? Is it a cake? Or is it a cookie? It must be a whoopie pie! These chocolaty, cakelike cookies sandwich a gooey sweet and salty caramel. The result is a decadent dessert that is positively addictive. Dulce de leche is a thick caramel sauce made from evaporated milk that is slowly simmered for a long time. It’s available at most Latin grocery stores and many upscale grocers.

 

Whoopie Pies with Salted Dulce de Leche

 

For the cookies:

6 Tbs. (3 oz./90 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz./105 g) firmly packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup (4 oz./125 g) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) natural cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

 

For the filling:

4 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (3 oz./90 g) confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbs. heavy cream

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) dulce de leche

 

To make the cookies, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended. Sift the flour,
cocoa, baking soda and salt into the bowl and beat just until blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 2 hours.

 

Space 2 racks evenly in the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

 

With dampened hands, shape tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls. Place them firmly on the prepared pans, spacing them slightly apart and squishing them a little. You should have about 20 balls. Bake until the cookies are puffed and slightly firm, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

 

While the cookies are cooling, make the filling: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until lightened. Stir in the cream and salt, to taste, on low speed, then stir in the dulce de leche until the filling is smooth.

 

Spread the flat side of half of the cookies with a big dollop of the filling. Top each with a second cookie, placing the flat side on the filling. (You’ll probably have a bit more filling than you need, but this means you can sneak spoonfuls here and there.) Refrigerate until the filling is set, at least 1 hour. Makes 10 whoopie pies.

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Pear Galette

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A rustic free-form tart, like this one with pears delicately fanned across a layer of frangipane, is a beautiful dessert for the fall table, and will impress your guests at any dinner party or after the Thanksgiving meal. If you like, you can garnish the galette with toasted sliced almonds or finely chopped candied ginger.

 

Pear Galette

For the frangipane:

1 1/2 cups (6 oz./185 g) sliced almonds

2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. almond extract

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

3 firm but ripe pears, preferably Comice or Anjou

1 batch Basic Pie Dough

1 egg beaten with 2 tsp. water

1/4 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) apricot jam

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 425°F (220°C).

To make the frangipane, in a food processor, combine the almonds, sugar and salt and process until the
almonds are finely ground. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts and melted butter and process until the mixture comes together. Set aside.

Cut the pears in half through the stem end and remove the cores with a melon baller. Slice the pears very thinly vertically, stopping 1/2 inch (12 mm) from the stem so the pear slices stay attached at the stem end.

On a sheet of parchment paper, roll out the pie dough into a round 13 inches (33 cm) in diameter and about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Trim off any ragged edges to make an even 12-inch (30-mm) round.

Evenly spread the frangipane over the dough, leaving a 2-inch (5-cm) border uncovered. Fan the pears in a decorative pattern on top of the frangipane, cutting the pear halves in half vertically if necessary to make them fit. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the filling, forming loose pleats all around the edge and leaving the center open. Using the sheet of parchment paper, transfer the galette and parchment to a rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the galette with the egg wash.

Bake the galette until the pears are tender when pierced with a knife and the crust is golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the galette is cooling, in a small saucepan over low heat, warm the jam until it is liquefied. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the top of the tart with a thin coating of the jam. Cut the galette into slices and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

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Banana Cream Pie

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Most people would find it tough to choose a favorite pie, but banana cream pie would surely be on many short lists. The diner classic shines even more brightly when made at home, as each bite features a heavenly medley of buttery crust, velvety vanilla filling, rich whipped cream and slices of ripe, sweet banana.

Banana Cream Pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups (6 1/2 oz/220 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
5 Tbs. (2 1/2 oz./75 g) cold unsalted butter
2 Tbs. vegetable shortening, chilled
About 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) ice water

For the filling:
3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) whole milk
1/3 cup (1 1/3 oz./40 g) cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 large bananas, peeled and thinly sliced

For the chocolate curls (optional):
About 6 oz. (185 g) semisweet chocolate, in a single piece

For the whipped cream:
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) heavy cream
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the crust, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter and shortening into chunks and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas.

Drizzle the ice water over the flour mixture and toss with a fork until the dough forms moist clumps. If the dough seems too crumbly, add a little more ice water.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Or, overwrap with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month, then thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Place the unwrapped dough on a floured work surface and dust with flour. (If the dough is cold, let it stand for a few minutes to soften.) Roll out into a round about 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter and 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Transfer to a 9-inch (23-cm) pie dish, fitting the dough into the bottom and sides. Trim the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch (2-cm) overhang. Fold the overhang under, then flute the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over, then line with aluminum foil and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Place the dough-lined pan on a baking sheet and fill the foil with pie weights. Bake until the dough looks dry and is barely golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the milk and the cornstarch. In a heatproof bowl, beat the yolks until blended. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the yolks.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 2 1/2 cups (20 fl. oz./625 ml) milk, the sugar and salt. Using a paring knife, slit the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds into the saucepan and add the pod. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, then return to the saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, whisking constantly.

Reduce the heat to low and let bubble for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a stainless-steel bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg white and the vanilla pod. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling, and pierce the plastic a few times with a knife tip to allow the steam to escape. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water and let cool until lukewarm.

Spread the banana slices in the cooled pie crust. Spread the filling on top. Press a clean piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

When ready to serve, make the chocolate curls and whipped cream. To make the chocolate curls, warm the chocolate in a microwave oven on medium-low (30 percent) to soften just slightly, about 15 seconds. Using a vegetable peeler, shave curls from the chocolate onto a sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate the curls to firm them slightly before using, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a chilled bowl, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla. Using a mixer on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form.

To serve, remove the plastic wrap from the pie and spread and swirl the whipped cream over the filling. Scatter the chocolate curls over the whipped cream, cut into wedges and serve. Serves 8.