Avocado Pancakes

Pancakes for me, are not just a breakfast food. I could eat them at any time of day … hot or cold. Originally, pancakes were made from wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk. At one point in time, they were often flavored with rose water, various spices, sherry and apples.

The name ‘pancake’ became a standard name in the 19th century. Before that, they were often referenced as johnny cakes, journey cakes, buckwheat cakes, hoe cakes, griddle cakes and flapjacks. Most early North American pancakes were made with buckwheat or cornmeal.

Pancakes exist all throughout the world, but each culture has their own unique way of preparing them whether its for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Avocado seems to be a trend that will ‘never’ die. This versatile fruit is found in guacamole, on toast, stuffed with fillings, etc., etc. Since I’m a lover of all things avocado, why not put them in pancakes?!

Finding a ripe avocado at the supermarket is hit and miss most of the time. Here’s a suggestion I hope you find helpful. Because ripe bananas or apples release a lot of ethylene, the hormone that triggers ripening in mature fruit, place one in a closed paper bag with your under ripe avocados and it will speed up the process.

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Avocado Pancakes
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Servings
small pancakes
Servings
small pancakes
Votes: 1
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Instructions
  1. In a blender, whisk avocado & milk until creamy. Slowly add the dry ingredients, blending & scraping sides down with a spatula until mixture is smooth. Add the whole eggs & blend just until combined.
  2. Heat a large skillet or pan on the stove to a medium-low heat. Melt butter & spread evenly across the pan (or spray with cooking spray).
  3. Pour or ladle batter onto the pan forming round cakes about 3-inches in diameter. Allow to cook about 3-4 minutes, flipping carefully & pressing down on each to get more surface area on the pancakes to cook. Cook opposite side for 3-4 more minutes, & flip one more time. Gently press pancakes down with back of the spatula. The avocado wants to remain in its creamy state, so the center of the pancakes may be just slightly doughy.
  4. Serve immediately with some crispy bacon & a soft fried egg.

Veggie Shrimp Pasta w/ Garlic Knots

As I was preparing this meal today, the same question that I’ve pondered many times, came back to me. Why do we serve (garlic) bread with a pasta meal? It makes no sense! Pasta and bread are both starches so why do we eat them together?

After a lot of research on this subject, I now think I have the answer. When the first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in America from Southern Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they couldn’t get good quality olive oil, the right produce or arborio rice, but were instead able to afford ample quantities of cheese and meat. They pioneered a culture of ‘abbondanza’ (meaning in abundance), building on traditional recipes and creating new ones; always sure to use as much of a good ingredient as possible. The result … a hearty, delicious cuisine that has never seen the light of day in the land that inspired it. ‘Italian garlic bread’, as found in North American restaurants and grocery stores, does not exist in real Italian cuisine. It is an Italian-American creation that nobody in Italy would recognize.

Ok, so now I have the answer and you’ve probably noticed, I made Garlic Knots to go with our pasta!

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Veggie Shrimp Pasta w/ Garlic Knots
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Garlic Knots
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt; whisk well. Add yogurt, mixing with a fork until incorporated. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough about 15 times. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces & roll into strips about 9-inches long. Tie each strip into a 'knot-like' ball; place on baking sheet. Bake about 18 minutes or until golden then allow to cool 5 minutes.
  3. In a saucepan, melt butter, add garlic & cook until golden about 2 minutes. Brush the knots with the garlic butter & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Veggie Shrimp Pasta
  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until tender but firm; drain & set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, peppers & mushrooms; cook for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, spices & shrimp; stirring for another 3 minutes or until shrimp is opaque.
  3. In pasta pot, place soup & milk; when hot add half of the Parmesan cheese, pasta & shrimp/veg mixture. If necessary, cook a few more minutes just to make sure everything is hot. Sprinkle with remaining cheese before serving.

Blueberry Custard Tarts w/ Candied Lemon Curls

This is a spring version of summertime fresh blueberry tarts. Even though we are a long way from blueberry season, nothing wrong with using some frozen ones. At our house we use a lot of lemons which means there are always lemon peels available. Candied lemon peel is an excellent way of using up the flavorful but not as tasty peel.

Candied or crystallized fruit, has been around since the 14th century as a method of food preservation. It seems to have started out in the Arab culture, being served at banquets. Candied fruit as a whole, would reach the west where they became the key part of some of the most well known cakes and breads of European tradition, such as Italian Panettone and German Stollen.

Candied lemon peels are a very versatile ingredient. Chopped up, they can be used in baked goods for a lemony flavor boost, whereas whole strips can be dipped in chocolate and used as an edible gift.

For my blueberry tarts, I thought some candied lemon curls would make a pretty garnish not to mention the additional flavor they give.

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Blueberry Custard Tarts w/ Candied Lemon Curls
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Custard
Shortbread Crust
Blueberries
Candied Lemon Curls (MAKE ONE DAY EARLIER)
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Custard
Shortbread Crust
Blueberries
Candied Lemon Curls (MAKE ONE DAY EARLIER)
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Custard
  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk sugar, eggs, yolks, & cornstarch together until smooth. When milk is simmering, whisk half of it into the egg mixture then gradually add the egg/milk mixture to the rest of the milk.
  2. Return saucepan to the heat & cook, whisking constantly until very thick. Whisk in the butter & vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate. Be sure the plastic is touching the top of the custard to prevent it from forming a film over it. When custard is cooled & you are ready to use it, whip with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes.
Shortbread Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine butter & sugar; cream well. Add vanilla & combine. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Blend well. Divide dough into 8 portions. Press each portion into a 4 X 3/4-inch mini tart pan. Using a fork, poke some holes in the bottom of each shell. Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & cool before filling.
Blueberries
  1. In a saucepan, whisk all ingredients together & cook over medium-high heat until thickened.
Candied Lemon Curls
  1. Cut the ends off of the lemon. Carefully cut down ONE side of the lemon. Continue the same cut through the FRUIT of the lemon, stopping at the peel. Do NOT cut through the peel.
  2. Carefully open up the lemon & make more cuts through the FRUIT so that it will lay flat; remove the fruit from the peel. Turn the peel over & trim the edges & carefully remove all of the white pith from the inside of the peel. Cut the peel into strips about 1/8-inch wide.
  3. In a small saucepan, add sugar & water & bring to a simmer. Add peels & gently simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lay peels on a cooling rack. Allow to cool slightly, then toss in a bit of granulated sugar. They will slightly curl as they cool.
Assembly
  1. Divide custard between tart shells, top with blueberries & garnish with candied lemon curls.
Recipe Notes
  • I find this recipe works the best if everything is made a day earlier than needed. That way each component has a chance to cool well before you assemble & serve.

Hot Cross Bun Loaf

When I think about Easter, one of the first foods that comes to mind are hot cross buns. I’m sure you think I’m going to have a nostalgic memory of my mother’s hot cross buns, but strangely enough, I don’t. The memory I do have from that time in my life is of some very yellow, cylinder shaped loaves. They were soft, sweet and yellow from the many eggs used in the dough. My mother just called it ‘Easter Bread’. It didn’t have icing, candied fruit and nuts or extra spices, it was just plain and gloriously good.

Each year, at Easter time, I really enjoy to make some version of Easter bread or buns (of course, trying to make it just a bit better than the year past). This year I’m going to make a hot cross bun ‘loaf’.

While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. There is no one clear explanation … some theories rest in Christian symbolism while there are also more than a few stories that indicate hot cross buns were baked on Good Friday for superstitious reasons.

No matter what the reason, Brion & I have always loved these soft, spicy little buns. No doubt, this ‘loaf’ will probably make some good french toast for an Easter brunch.

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Hot Cross Bun Loaf
Votes: 1
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
large loaf
Ingredients
Dough
Paste for the Crosses
Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
large loaf
Ingredients
Dough
Paste for the Crosses
Glaze
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, oil, eggs & sugar. Sprinkle yeast over mixture. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, combine 4 cups flour with 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Add to yeast mixture & combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover bowl with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  3. In a small dish, combine 1/4 cup sugar with cardamom & ginger; set aside. In another small dish, combine paste ingredients for crosses, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag with a small opening; set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour with baking powder, baking soda & salt. When dough has risen, add this mixture & combine. Move dough to a lightly floured surface. Press to slightly flatten dough.
  5. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp spiced sugar & a third of the fruit mixture over the dough. Fold dough over on itself & flatten again. Repeat the process two more times, ending by folding the dough in on itself. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. With floured hands, quickly roll the pieces into balls.
  6. In a buttered, OVERSIZE loaf pan, place 6 rolls then top with remaining 6 rolls. Pipe whatever cross design you prefer on loaf. Cover & allow to rise for about 10 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30-40 minutes. If the loaf is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil over it to prevent this.
Glaze
  1. Combine sugar & lemon juice. When loaf is baked, warm glaze for a few seconds in microwave then brush over loaf.
Recipe Notes
  • If you do not have an oversized loaf pan, a bundt pan will work just fine.

Vegetable-Bacon Squares w/ Baked Bagels

I guess if I were trying to classify this meal, I would put it somewhere between a crustless quiche and a frittata. Sometimes you just put together ingredients you like and it tastes amazing. There’s no incredible back story or cooking revelation, its just turns out to be a great meal.

Quiche and frittata are both egg dishes but they’re not just for breakfast anymore. The difference is the quiche, crustless or not, is made by adding ingredients to a custard base of eggs and heavy cream, milk or half & half that is poured into a baking dish and baked. With frittatas, eggs dominate and little or no cream or milk is used.

Usually they are first cooked in a pan on the top of the stove and then finished in the oven. These vegetable-bacon squares need only to be baked in the oven. For a nice compliment to this meal, I made some quick 5-ingredient bagels … no yeast or boiling required.

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Vegetable-Bacon Squares w/ Baked Bagels
Instructions
Veg-Bacon Squares
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a 9 X 9-inch baking dish; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until a little bit frothy. Sift in the flour & beat until well combined then whisk in oil. Add zucchini, carrot, onion, bacon & cheese; gently mix to combine.
  3. Pour into prepared baking dish, smooth the top & bake for about 30-35 minutes or until 'set'. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into serving pieces.
Baked Bagels
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place parchment over a wire rack on a baking sheet.
  2. In a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder & salt. Add yogurt & mix with a fork until combined. It should resemble small crumbles. Lightly flour work surface & knead dough a few times until tacky but not sticky. Dough should not stick to your hands at this point.
  3. Divide into 4 equal balls. Roll each ball into 3/4-inch thick ropes & join the ends to form bagels. Top with egg wash & sprinkle with a topping of your choice or just leave plain. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Homemade ice cream …the ultimate old fashioned treat has a very worldly history that stretches around the globe.

When I was growing up on the farm, we had one of those ice cream makers with a hand crank that featured an inner canister and churn. The canister and churn held the ice cream custard, which was placed in a bucket that salt and ice or snow could be added to. My siblings and I would take turns churning until the custard magically transformed into the heavenly frozen dessert.

Ice cream is the perfect treat for any season. In the summer you can cool off by enjoying a scoop of ice cream and in the winter you can pair it with a warm dessert. Let’s face it, if you are an ice cream lover, the possibilities are endless.

The first ice cream sandwich was basic: cold, creamy with a little crunch on either side. The purpose was to make the ice cream better than if it stood alone. My original idea for today’s blog dessert was to replicate the flavors of the classic ‘Bananas Foster’ dessert of the 50’s. The ingredients in it were very simple, such as butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla & rum. The end result today became a combo of caramelized bananas & banana cake turned ice cream sandwich!

My inherited love for ice cream has never left me to this day and I might add, Brion has the same ‘affliction’ (which doesn’t help).

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Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Bananas
Banana Cake
Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Bananas
Banana Cake
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Caramelized Bananas
  1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter then stir in brown sugar. Divide evenly between 6 custard cups; slice the 3 ripe bananas & place over sugar/butter mixture. Set on a baking sheet.
Banana Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter & sugar; add eggs, Greek yogurt, mashed bananas & extracts & combine. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to wet batter & mix only until combined.
  2. Pour the batter over the caramelized bananas in the custard cups. Bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  3. Let cakelets cool in custard cups slightly, then invert on a plate. You may have to gently coax the caramelized bananas to loosen with a spatula. Slice each cake half so you can add a layer of vanilla ice cream to the bottom halves. Top each with the other half of the banana cake.

Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins

A little touch of exotic seems like a good idea in late February. When you think of bananas and papaya, doesn’t tropical come to mind? I never seem to have much luck when I bake with bananas. I would rather eat them raw, in fact you might say they are a staple at our house. But, I have hung on to this muffin recipe for a long time and never tried it. Papayas are not something I usually buy, but that soft buttery texture and slight musky undertone paired with banana should work magic in this recipe.

You will notice the name of the recipe says ‘spiced’ and when you read it there is only one teaspoon of cardamom spice in it. A little bit of this pungent spice packs a big punch so it is good to use it sparingly. The flavor of cardamom is wonderfully complex … herbal, spicy, floral and slightly sweet.

Cardamom is a spice that’s used in both sweet and savory cooking in many cuisines all over the world. No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic and that exactly what I was aiming for.

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Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins
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Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cardamom & baking powder. In another bowl, combine mashed banana, papaya, oil & beaten egg.
  3. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently, then fold in pistachios. Stir ONLY until batter is combined.
  4. Put batter in muffin tray cups lined with paper cups, filling each to about 3/4 full. Top with remaining chopped pistachios.
  5. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until baked through. Remove from oven & let them cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then put the muffins on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe makes either 7 large muffins or 14 medium size.

Bailey’s Strawberries & Cream Fudge Pudding Parfaits

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

One thing for sure, Valentine desserts most often center around chocolate and strawberries. To celebrate the occasion, Brion came home with a bottle of Bailey’s Strawberries & Cream liqueur. This is the companies second seasonal flavor following their Pumpkin Spice liqueur. To put it in their words, ‘ the drink combines Bailey’s Original Irish Cream with delightful ripe strawberry flavor and delicious vanilla’.

After we had enjoyed it as a drink it got me thinking about how I could incorporate it into a ‘special’ dessert as well. Do you recall those classic Hot Fudge Pudding Cakes from the 60’s? They were the ultimate comfort food, fancy enough for a parfait and homey enough to be a spur of the moment indulgence. I could see nothing wrong in swapping out the milk in the original recipe for some strawberries & cream liqueur!

Speaking of pudding cake, its really kind of a culinary miracle, how pouring hot water over a thick batter can create this warm, fudgy concoction that lies precisely at the intersection of cake and pudding.

OK, on with my dessert … I had some strawberries in the freezer so they became a nice strawberry sauce to compliment the liqueur in the pudding. Serving this dessert parfait style with some ice cream or whipped topping adds a bit of elegance and I’m sure you will love the taste.

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Bailey's Strawberries & Cream Fudge Pudding Parfaits
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In an 8 X 8-inch baking dish, combine first 5 ingredients. Add liqueur, margarine & walnuts, combine well. Batter will be very stiff (if you find it easier to mix the cake in a small bowl instead, do so). Spread batter evenly in the baking dish.
  2. In a small dish, combine brown sugar & 1/4 cup cocoa powder & sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over all & bake for about 40 minutes or until batter rises to the top & is baked through.
Strawberry Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Mix well. Add water & sliced strawberries. Cook until sauce is clear & bubbly. Remove from heat & cool.
Assembly
  1. Place some strawberry sauce in the bottom of each parfait glass. Spoon fudge pudding over sauce & top with ice cream or whipped topping. Serve with a glass of liqueur!

Kiwi Walnut Mini Cakes w/ Strawberry Coulis

Not only does kiwi look and taste like no other fruit, its also available when some of the other fresh fruits aren’t. The month of February is a good time for this favorite duo. Ever since the 80’s, when the world first fell in love with the kiwi/strawberry flavor, the combo is in everything. I guess its because they are the perfect complement to each other’s flavor profile.

Since there are just the two of us at our house, I always like the idea of making individual desserts. Upside down cakes are so versatile, quick and uncomplicated. You can make them plain , fancy, sweet, savory, large, small …. your choice!

Today, my plan is to make some kiwi/walnut cakes with a strawberry coulis. A fruit coulis (pronounced koo-Lee) is a thick sauce made from pureed and strained fruit. They may also be made from fruit jams or preserves that are strained and diluted with water, liquor or simple syrup. Additional seasonings such as spices may be used as well as acids like lemon juice, but they are typically kept simple to avoid ‘muddying’ the flavor with too many ingredients. Coulis originally referred to the juices from cooked meats and may also be made with cooked vegetables.

Coulis can be used in many different ways such as plate decoration or just for a burst of complimentary flavor. My strawberry coulis certainly worked its magic on these little kiwi cakes.

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Kiwi Walnut Mini Cakes w/ Strawberry Coulis
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Cake
Strawberry Coulis
Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Cake
Strawberry Coulis
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. lightly butter 6 custard baking cups. From parchment paper, cut circles to lay on the bottom of each. Divide melted butter between the 6 cups. Sprinkle with the brown sugar & walnuts. top with kiwi fruit slices.
Cake
  1. In a small bowl, beat together eggs & sugar until thick; gradually beat in oil. In a small dish, combine flour, baking powder, spices & salt. Stir flour mixture into egg/sugar mixture, then add orange juice & vanilla. Stir ONLY until combined.
  2. Pour the batter over fruit in custard cups, dividing it evenly between them. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Allow cakes to cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling.
Strawberry Coulis
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar & lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat & cool for a few minutes. Transfer to blender; puree until smooth, strain & set aside until ready to serve.
Assembly
  1. Place some coulis on individual dessert plates & top with a kiwi cake. Store any leftover coulis in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Spiced Kumquat & Greek Yogurt Tart

It’s that time of year when in our part of the country we start seeing kumquats in the grocery stores. If you have never tasted them, they are a little deceptive. Like many things in life, its all about expectations. Their diminutive size makes them seem harmless, but they have an intensely tart flavor. Kumquats have a sweet skin with a very tart flesh and are filled with a lot of seeds. The skin is often times more appetizing than the flesh itself making them perfect for candying.

This kumquat tart is such a beautiful presentation at Christmas gatherings. Thick Greek yogurt is an ideal filling to mellow the intensity of the candied citrus.

Yogurt often surpasses whipped cream as a topping for all kinds of sweet and spicy desserts. Greek yogurt has a smooth, rich and thick consistency. Part of what makes it different from regular yogurt is that it is strained to remove the whey. When whey is removed, so is water, which creates a thicker, more substantial yogurt product.

I blame it on inheritance, but I’ve always been one of those people who need something sweet after dinner. Doesn’t need to be fancy, just something to satisfy the craving. Of course, anything that seriously satisfies that craving isn’t going to be the epitome of a ‘healthy meal’. That being said, enjoy the tart.

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Spiced Kumquat & Greek Yogurt Tart
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Tart Pastry
Tart Filling
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Tart Pastry
Tart Filling
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Tart Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. With fingertips, cut in cold butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring cup, whisk together water, egg & vinegar. Make a well in dry mixture & pour wet mixture into it all at once. With hands, mix until JUST combined. Roll out pastry to about 1/8-1/4" thickness Cut out 8 - 6-inch circles with a pastry cutter. Press into tart forms. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Pierce the tarts with a fork across the bottom, line with parchment paper (paper should overflow the edges) & fill with pie weights to prevent dough from rising. Bake for 10 minutes, remove weights & paper & bake another 5 minutes more. Cool completely.
Tart Filling
  1. Make sure the yogurt has any extra liquid strained from it by using a cheesecloth if necessary Do this before making the candied fruit.
  2. In a small, heavy bottomed pot, place sliced kumquats, Grand Marnier, sugar, honey, water, star anise, cinnamon stick & vanilla extract. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat slightly & cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until the syrup thickens & the kumquats are very soft. Remove from heat & discard the anise stars & cinnamon stick.
  4. Arrange a sheet of parchment paper over a cooling rack. Using tongs, remove fruit from sugar solution & lay flat on the parchment paper to cool.
  5. When ready to assemble dessert, add a tsp of sugar solution per 1/2 cup of strained yogurt. Divide yogurt between the tart shells, spreading evenly. Arrange the candied kumquats on top & sprinkle with chopped pistachios.