Diving Back into Sweets with a Pecan Tart


For the first few weeks after the holidays I avoided sugar, a rarity indeed for me. It’s no secret that I have a sweet tooth and seldom is it satiated, however this month I found myself saying more than once:
“I don’t feel like anything sweet”
followed promptly by:

“It’s OK, sit down. No, I am not ill, I feel just fine”
as Danny would inevitably leap up, concerned that I must be very sick indeed!
But that didn’t last for long, and soon I was back battling my usual sugar cravings and whipped up this sugary treat. Not just one, but three different sweeteners – sugar, corn syrup and molasses – make this decadent tart a plunge back into the wonderful world of desserts!


A touch of rum adds an extra punch of flavor to this ever-popular classic. The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.

Pecan Pie
Pate Brisée or pie pastry for one pie shell 5 large eggs 1 ¼ cups packed light-brown sugar 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1/3 cup light corn syrup 1/3 cup molasses 1 tablespoon bourbon or dark rum 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon salt 1 2/3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped, plus 1/3 cup whole pecan halves
Set a 9-inch cake ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; set aside. If you don’t have a cake ring, you can use a 9-inch springform pan.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie dough into a 13 inch round. Fit dough into cake ring or springform pan, gently pressing into the edges and up 1 ½ inches of the sides. Freeze until firm, then trim dough flush with the top edge of ring. Chill until firm.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Line chilled pie shell with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fill with pie weights (I use dried beans). Bake until the edges begin to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Remove parchment and beans and leave to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, rum, vanilla and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans. Pour filling into the cooled pie shell and arrange pecan halves on the top. Reduce oven to 350F. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Tart can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered with foil, for up to four days.

Summer Peach Galette or A Country Party

Under the High Chair Travels: Northern British Columbia


As my three week return visit to my British Columbia hometown drew to a close, things were heating up for a party we were throwing in honor of my parents 35th wedding anniversary. We’ve never done anything like this for them and so we wanted to make it special, poignant, personal and beautiful. Fortunately, between my three siblings and I (and let’s not forget our amazing partners) we have the combined skill sets to create a memorable evening, so all we needed to do was put them to good use!

To my delight, the morning of the party dawned with sunshine and I was up almost as soon as those early rays. Before the first pot of French press coffee had even been drunk, I had turned out a few fruit tarts from the oven, a cherry and a peach, and the place was already starting to smell wonderful. I sat down with a muffin and listened to the grandchildren, ages 4, 2, almost 2 and 1, practice their special song for Nana and Grampa. With all the kazoos, maracas, drums and shakers it was a little hard to hear the words, but I was confident the guests of honor would be touched.

While others spent the morning cutting grass, trimming trees, hanging outdoor lights, scrubbing little hands and faces and a hundred other jobs, I was looking over a bountiful selection of home grown veggies, fresh berries and newly-caught fish and humming and hawing over the menu.

Finally it was decided upon: simple, fresh, and full of flavor:

Canapes

Fresh Garden Crudite with Chive Dip
Parmesan Straws
Green Pea and Curry Samosas
Sautéed Shrimp New Mexican style with Tequila, Lime and Cilantro
Crostini with Wilted Spinach and Asiago

Buffet

Bacon-Wrapped Maple Sage Pork Loin
Queen Charlotte Islands Halibut with Wasabi Cream
Roasted Chicken with Ethiopian Berberé Spices
Potato & Rosemary Strudel
Roasted Baby Beets and Carrots
Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon Butter
Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecans & Dried Cranberries
Fresh Mixed Greens with a Roasted Tomato & Balsamic Vinaigrette
Rosemary Baguettes


Dessert Table

2 Rustic Summer Galettes: Summer Peach and Okanagan Cherry
Vanilla Bean Panacotta with Strawberries
Dark Chocolate & Wild Strawberry Cupcakes
Citrus & Cointreau Cheesecake
Gingersnaps
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Great, now with the menu decided upon and the prep well underway, there was only one thing I was worried about: Noah. The poor little fellow had received three simultaneous black fly bites around his left eye the evening before while we were dining al fresco. To our dismay, his eye had swollen nearly shut during the night and by lunch time on party day, half of his face was looking an angry purple color and hot to the touch. Not good.

We administered an antihistamine, but by 4 PM, an hour before guests are to arrive, and with my oven full of roasting birds and pork loins, yet my son’s condition worsening, we made the decision to take him to emergency.

Now if anyone knows me, they know I do not enjoy giving up control of my kitchen at any time, and it’s especially difficult when there are 26 guests coming and I’ve got the gist of the menu in my head. However, my baby’s health is unquestionably my number one priority, so I handed my apron over to my sister, Haidi, and off we went.

While Danny distracted Noah in the waiting room, I was outside the hospital on a cell phone trying to get my other minor emergency under control. I didn’t care if I was getting some funny looks, if I could still be at the helm from a distance, so be it!
I barked orders at her like a drill sergeant:

“Take the chicken out of the oven and cover it with foil.
Baste the pork loin with the maple syrup mixture. Do NOT forget to bring the strudel up from the basement so it can temper! Remember, the cheese straws HAVE to bake at 450F or they won’t crisp nicely”
“Oh and take the halibut out of the fridge so it can come to room temp. And if people start arriving, send a batch of samosas as appys BEFORE you send shrimp, because once people see seafood, they won’t eat anything else, OK?”

“Are you doing OK??”

I knew she would be fine and when we returned an hour and a half later (with antibiotics) we drove up on a picturesque, perfectly executed little country party…


Guests milled about near the blue delphinium beds and sipped summer drinks selected from an outdoor bar. They seemed to be contented as they munched on canapés, including some crispy Parmesan cheese straws offered my adorable niece, Lyra. Jazz tunes floated out the French doors, and onto the deck, where the children played together-their clothes clean for now. The sun was just starting to slant behind the gigantic Hudson Bay Mountain and there was no rain in sight!

Hay bales and snowcapped mountains make for an idyllic setting as Lyra offers treats.

In the kitchen, things were moving along nicely. I grabbed an apron and kicked it into fourth gear with the goal of having the buffet served in half an hour. No sweat!

The evening was a great success, unfortunately I was too busy rushing around trying to keep a buffet hot for 26 guests, and I forgot to shoot any photos of it, but it was lovely and people were appreciative.

Dessert was popular with the children…

To my surprise (and despite being stalked by nephew Marley) the cupcakes lingered on the dessert table, while the peach galette with whipped cream disappeared quickly and people were looking for another. Sorry folks, but below I have included the recipe for your baking pleasure.


After dinner, the children sang for their grandparents and it brought tears to a few eyes.

We toasted my parents and their inspiration to us all and gathered for one big photo before the babies went to bed. Danny, Noah and I were to fly out the next morning, so it was a bittersweet moment, but one I won’t soon forget, nevertheless.


A Rustic Peach Galette ½ lb Puff Pastry
7 ripe peaches
¼ cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg, beaten Roll out puff pastry in to about a 14 inch round. Refrigerate until chilled. Half peaches and slice in to ½ inch wide wedges. In a heavy sauce pan on medium heat, melt butter and add sugar. Let sugar dissolve and bubble for a minute or so, then add peaches and stir to coat with butter mixture. Cook gently for a few minutes until the peaches soften slightly and release some juice.Combine cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon juice together and add to peach mixture. Stir gently as the cornstarch thickens and coats the peaches. Simmer for a few minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 375F
Remove puff from fridge and arrange peach filling in the middle, leaving a good 2 inches around the edge. Fold up sides of puff party into the peaches, overlapping slightly until peaches are enclosed within a circle of puff. Brush pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until pastry is golden, about 25 minutes.