23 December 2007

The Wow Factor for Christmas

Some of you might be planning a dinner party for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Depending on how involved your other courses are, you might not intend for an elaborate dessert. Though understandable, since desserts are usually more fiddly and requires more precise measurements, I still try my best to make the dessert shine. Partly because I have a really sweet tooth, but also because being the last item of the night, it helps end the meal on a spectacularly high note.

So when I chance upon desserts which look like I took more time than I really spent to prepare it, I make sure I flag the pages with my bright yellow post-its that scream 'Make me again! Make me again!'

For the Christmas dinner that I spoke about in my previous post, I prepared 2 desserts. A Coffee Syrup Panna Cotta as well as a Pressed-Crust Apple Tart. The great thing about the Panna Cotta is that it can be made a day ahead, leaving you plenty of time to worry about other stuff like how the napkins don't really match the table cloth or how the centrepiece of the table could do with a few more candles.

The latter dessert is really a cheater's way out of making a tart. It doesn't exactly taste like a tart as the texture is more like a cake. It does however look like a tart, except the three components (crust, pastry cream, topping) are missing. Positively speaking, that means you don't have to make three different items just for one course! It's also gorgeous to look at, especially if you have a couple of those marvellous mini tart pans or beautiful rectangular tart pans to use.

It's really easy since it only requires a simple creamed batter that you spread in the tart pan, and some apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/6 segments. The batter will puff up beautifully in the welcoming warmth of the oven, while the apples will yield to the warmth and soften into tender chunks.

If you're looking for a dessert recipe that will wow your guests, yet you don't want something as time consuming as the tiny shots of Coffee Syrup Panna Cotta, this Pressed-Crust Apple Tart aka Cheater's Apple Tart would be it for you. And when you hear the moans of pleasure from your guests, you'll probably never look at baking desserts with the same phobia again.

This recipe is slightly adapted from "Real Simple", one of my favourite magazines. It calls for peeled, cored and halved pears and they do look fantastic when presented with halved pears. Unfortunately, the only pears I could find were humungous conference pears that were too big for my tart pan, and which I eventually used for the jams instead.

If you however, cannot be arsed about how your dessert looks as long as your guests enjoy it, I've earmarked another recipe that I know never fail to please the palate. Jane Lawson's Cocina Nueva has a great, moist and tasty recipe for an Almond Cake that I've used time and again, and that keeps extremely well. Though, I must admit I always use either another variety of nut to replace the almond, or add another nut to the recipe. The combination of almond and peanut worked well the first time I used the recipe. I recently attempted the recipe again, and used almost equal portions of ground peanut and hazelnut, and whaddaya know, I had a mooncake-cake that wasn't a mooncake! It's really amazing.

Pressed-Crust Apple Tart
Adapted from Real Simple, Nov 2007

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 1/2 tbspns
1 large egg
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into sixths each
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup apricot jam (I used the homemade Spiced Pear Jam)
1 tbspn fresh lemon juice
whipped cream (optional)

Special equipment: 14 inch rectangular tart pan

Combine flour and baking powder in medium bowl, set aside.
Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar at high speed in large bowl of electric mixer.
Lower speed to medium, add egg and beat until incorporated.
Gradually add flour mixture until fully incorporated - dough will be very soft (almost like tomato paste).
Push (or in my case, spread) dough into the pan to form an even crust.
Arrange apples on top, sprinkle with cinnamon and remaining sugar.
Bake in a buttered tart pan in oven at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees farenheit).
Bake until crust is golden brown, about 45 mins.
Let cool.
Heat jam and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mixing until combined.
Remove from heat and brush gently over the entire tart.
Serve with the whipped cream, if desired.


MamaBoK said...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays..!

zhengning said...

Merry Xmas and may you have a blessed year ahead!! :D

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to both of you too! =)

aPril said...

Hey Daffy!
I tried the recipe for the apple tart - and you're right it's really easy and tasty! will definitely make it again.. thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Hello my dear April, I'm glad you tried it and liked it as much as I did! A friend just told me he also tried the recipe and loved it. =)Hope all is well on your side!

aPril said...

Yes it's definitely going to be one recipe I'll keep to use in future - where did you get your rectangular tart pan from? I tried looking around in the supermarket but didn't see a rectangular shaped one, used a usual round cake pan instead. Gabe was helping me to chop the apples, so it didn't look as even and nice as yours haha.. though I'm not very skilled at cutting the apple equally yet! Btw, what other jam can I use to glaze the tart - cos pear jam is pretty unusual! Would apricot or one of the berries work? I ended up using honey instead...

I'm halfway through my final placement, it's been tough but the end is in sight! :)

baa the white sheep said...

yo babe
was scrolling thru your blog for more information for my assignment and came across this piece again...:)
im not sure if i thanked u for the awesome dinner
i was wowed by the ambience, lighting, tablecloth n all (:
u're a really good host
and the food was mmmm-yum(:
thanks for inviting me
i didn't expect you to 'cos i'm not like a close friend of urs or anything and u're a food blogger now etc
was quite tired after a long day towards the end so didn't wanna talk much.. hope i didn't come across a rude/ungracious guest
throughly enjoyed the experience at ur place heh and ur rabbit! :D

hey btw do u have specialized cooking equipment eg. special oven, pans, etc? can tell me haha. over email or something thanks so much haha(: