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.
Blueberry Custard Tarts w/ Candied Lemon Curls
Candied Lemon Curls (MAKE ONE DAY EARLIER)
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.
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.
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.
In a saucepan, whisk all ingredients together & cook over medium-high heat until thickened.
Candied Lemon Curls
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.
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.
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.
Divide custard between tart shells, top with blueberries & garnish with candied lemon curls.
- 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.
With Valentines Day almost here, I decided to do a prelude post with a few dessert ideas.
In the food industry, this day was always fun to prepare food for. Definitely a more intimate occasion, all revolving around chocolate, ‘hearts’ and roses. Strangely enough, every time Brion and I have tried to go out for supper on Valentines we usually come home wondering why we did that. The restaurants were packed, the wait is long, the music is loud, etc, etc. Nonetheless, I’m always happiest if I can prepare a ‘special meal’ for us to enjoy at home. That being said, my choice of dessert for this Valentines Day are Strawberry Yogurt Parfaits with Chocolate Cheesecake Squares.
The fresh strawberry compote has a nice lemony tang that pairs well with the creamy Greek vanilla yogurt. Brion isn’t much for cheesecake but just loves these chocolate cheesecake squares.
Strawberry Yogurt Parfaits / Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Rinse, hull & slice strawberries. Zest & juice lemon. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, water, lemon juice, zest & cornstarch. Add strawberries, mixing gently while bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool.
In parfait glasses, spoon layers of strawberry compote & Greek yogurt. Garnish with a strawberry leaf if desired. Refrigerate until serving time.
Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Line a 9-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper so cheesecake can easily be lifted out later. In a small bowl, combine the graham crumbs, pecans & butter. Press into prepared pan; set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar & sour cream until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in vanilla. Pour over crust.
Bake at 325 F. for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until chilled. Freeze overnight.
Melt chocolate & shortening; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Using parchment paper, lift cheesecake out of pan. Gently peel off paper; cut into 49 squares. Remove a few pieces at a time for dipping; keep remaining squares refrigerated until ready to dip.
Using a toothpick, completely dip squares, one at a time, in melted chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; spoon about 1 tsp chocolate over each, reheating chocolate if needed to finish dipping. Let stand for 20 minutes or until set. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Yield 49 squares.
When I was 2 and my older sister was 6, my parents made a move to a farming community in southern Alberta. The farm my parents were able to purchase had been neglected for many years and took strong commitment and perseverance to renew the land and dwellings. The morning after we arrived, we had our first snow storm, which caught us without any coal. Fortunately my father was able to get some for our winter use. Soon after, Dad made a trip back to our old homestead. He drove the tractor pulling the combine all the way to our new farm with only one stopover in a city half way in between, a distance
of 231 km (144 miles).
One of my mother’s brother’s had gone ahead driving a grain truck loaded with what furniture and possessions my folks were trying to move. Along the way, being the truck was not covered, the metal lid flew off Mom’s flour storage container. Another traveler came upon it lying at the side of the road and stopped and hung it on a fence post. When my father making his long journey on the tractor came by and recognized the lid, picked it up and brought it the rest of the way home.
In the spring, my folks had to burn weeds and brush from 8-10′ (2-3 m) high in order to find a suitable area to plant a vegetable garden. ‘Mixed’ farming was truly a necessity as success was totally dependent on ‘Mother Nature’ when it came to grain crops.
Cattle, pigs and chickens all came into the equation, meaning my parents never had any part of the year that could be a bit more relaxed. As a teenager, I never realized what a special privilege growing up as a farmer’s daughter really was. Coming home on the school bus and having to do ‘chores’ seemed so boring as opposed to being able to spend after school hours with your friends. As I look back on those times now, it all comes clear as to how treasured and valuable those life lessons were.
My parents farmed until 1974 when they retired. They have since both passed away leaving my three sisters, one brother and I with many treasured memories.
I remember my mother making this orange bread loaf. I thought it was so unique because it used the fresh orange zest. The flavor was so distinct along with the bread being wonderfully moist. This recipe was one that has remained with me over the years, long after I had left my parents home. One year, on a holiday in Hawaii the restaurant we were at was serving orange loaf made into french toast complimented with a strawberry compote. I brought the idea home with me and used it numerous times over the years in my food service career. This year my husband and I enjoyed it on Valentines Day, but I’m sure you will find it great anytime.
Orange Bread French Toast with Strawberry Compote
Flavorful orange bread loaf with strawberry compote topping.
Peel oranges thinly and finely chop rind (zest).
Boil with sugar and water for 10 minutes; cool
Add egg and margarine
Combine flour, salt, and baking powder
Add flour mixture alternately with milk
Pour into buttered 8 x 4 x 3 inch loaf pan
Bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes or until bread tests done.
In a shallow bowl, beat eggs; whisk in the milk, salt and spices.
Soak the slices of orange bread for 30 seconds on each side.
Cook on hot greased griddle until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.
Rinse, hull and slice strawberries.
Zest and juice lemon.
In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, water and corn starch.
Add strawberries, mixing gently while bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, cool slightly.
Serve with French toast. Top with French Vanilla Yogurt if desired.