Lemon tartelettes + chocolate dipped figs

February 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

In keeping with the theme I seem to be following about trying to keep up one’s spirits in the proverbial ‘bleak midwinter’, we had a party this weekend.  We have kind of a funny tradition of starting a separate New Year in mid-February, and instead of numbering the years, we give them a name indicating what we hope they will be.  It all started just a bit ago with a year that had gotten off to an unfortunate start.  Instead of continuing with the year, we decided to reject it outright, and in mid-February we started a New Year.  We’ve had the “Best Year Ever (BYE);” last year was the “Best Year Imaginable (BYI);” and on Saturday we officially kicked off the “Best Year Conceivable (BYC).”  Maybe we’re banking on the power of positive thinking.  Maybe it’s just another excuse to host a party and bake ridiculous quantities of goodies.

Last year I did a sort-of stone soup, where everyone brought a vegetable, which we added to a pot of broth to make soup (it worked out surprisingly well!).  But, this year I had a mega baking bug and for some reason had an overwhelming desire to spend an entire day in the kitchen creating delicious chocolate nibbles and red colored drinkable concoctions.  This daylong baking adventure led to the production of waaaaay more desserts than we actually could eat amongst the group of us who gathered (and trust me, we’d practically even skipped dinner in order to save room).  But then, since when is a little abundance a bad thing?  I just plan on making lots of new friends or at least earning some good will at the office now by doling out leftover sweets.

The treats line up wound up being: apricot truffles, dark chocolate figs, lemon cream tarts, chocolate raspberry whipped cream layer cake, whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting, hazelnut chocolate squares, and caramel nut torte Ooh, and homemade cranberry syrup for mixing with (cheap) champagne! (Er, no, this is not quite the stuff they recommended eating when I was in nutrition school.  But, um, dark chocolate has antioxidants.)

If I shared the recipe for everything, this one post would wind up being at least the length of War and Peace, if not the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropedia.  So, I’m just going to share a couple of my favorites.  The chocolate figs, which were the easiest.  And the lemon cream tarts, which seemed to be the crowd favorite with their sweet-tart mousse like filling, and amazing sugar cookie like crusts.  I think I’m also the most proud of the lemon tarts because it is the first time I’ve gotten little tart crusts to come out of their molds – in this case a muffin pan.  I’m pretty sure it’s because I used, like, half a stick of butter just to butter the pan.  Of course, then, just as I was congratulating myself for such a great achievement (because this constitutes a great achievement in my world), I managed to tip the cooling rack full of mini pie crusts, and slip slip, plop plop, crunch crunch, there went several of them onto the floor.  I think it might have been divine intervention to at least slightly reduce the number of calories I was putting in front of my guests.

Dark Chocolate Figs

These are so simple it’s almost silly to write anything approximating a recipe for them.  But, they are absolutely delicious, and look quite festive.  You could do this same thing with almost any dried fruit.

  • One package dried figs (I used Kalymyrna, I think), about 60 pieces
  • About 5 oz. good dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (chocolate chips would work too)
  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  If you use the microwave, heat the chocolate in short bouts, taking it out and stirring in between, to make sure you don’t over cook it.  Once it is almost entirely melted, but with a few small unmelted lumps, remove from the heat, allow to sit a few moments, then stir until smooth.  Take figs by the tips, one at a time, and dip their bottoms in the chocolate, lifting and carefully twirling any drips back onto the figs.  Then set them on a sheet of waxed paper on a baking sheet and allow to cool to room temperature.  Serve on a pretty platter.

Lemon Cream Tartelettes

Tart crust (from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow):

  • 6 Tbs. butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup flour (preferably cake flour, but if you’re like me you never have that around, and it seemed to work fine with all purpose flour)

Lemon filling (lemon curd recipe from Epicurious):

  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 Tbs. butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 pint whipping (heavy) cream
  1. To make the crusts, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, until smooth (1-2 minutes).  Beat in the egg yolk on medium high until pale yellow (1-2 minutes).  Then, stir in the flour on low just until mixed in, don’t over mix.  Gather the dough together and press it into a ball, then flatten slightly into a thick disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours, or up to over night. 
  2. Before rolling the crusts out, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm to room temp for 20 minutes.  Place between 2 sheets of wax paper, or use a well floured surface and well floured rolling pin.  Roll the dough from the center into a big rectangle – about 9X13”.  Then find a glass or jar with a mouth just a bit bigger than the tops of the circles of a muffin tin (or your tart pans, if you have them), and use it to measure the size of your crusts, cutting circles around it (of course, if you have a circle cookie cutter that’s the right size, then use that and more power to you!). 
  3. Butter a muffin tin very well (I used a pretty thick layer in each muffin cup, and I’m pretty sure this is the reason the little crusts came out of the pan without breaking into a gazillion pieces).  Carefully place each crust circle over a muffin cup and gently press it into the cup.  When you have cut all the circles you can out of the dough, gather up the scraps, roll them into a ball and roll it out again to cut more.  Hopefully you should have enough to fill all 12 muffin cups, and maybe even one extra.  When the muffin tin is filled, use a fork to prick the bottom of the little tartlets.  Bake them in a 350˚F oven for about 10 minutes – until they’re golden. 
  4. Allow them to cool for about half an hour in the pan.  Then use a knife to carefully loosen the top edge of each little crust.  Put your cooling rack upside down on top of the muffin pan, and then flip them over so that the muffin pan is upside down on the cooling rack.  Give a little whack to the bottom of each of the muffin cups.  Then, carefully lift the pan up.  Hopefully all of the crusts will have come out, and you can turn them right side up to finish cooling on the cooling rack.  If some are stuck, use a butter knife to gently get them out.
  5. To make the filling, first whisk together the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a saucepan.  Stir in the chunks of butter and heat over low to medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the curd thickens enough that the stirring spoons or whisk leaves a trail, and bubbles are just starting to appear on the surface (about 6 minutes).  Transfer to a bowl and chill about an hour (if you want to save time and effort, you could also buy premade lemon curd and use this instead).
  6. When ready to fill the tarts, whip the cream in a standing mixer or with a handheld mixture, until soft peaks form.  Scrape in the lemon curd, and whip a little bit longer until it is well mixed in.
  7. Spoon big dollops of the filling into the little tart crusts.  Then, chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.  You’ll probably have some leftover filling, which would be very tasty spooned over berries, on top of a scone, or slice of pound cake or gingerbread, or anything you think sweet lemony flavor might go nicely with.

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