Strawberry Tartlets


A strawberry tart - or any other fruit tart - with a crème pâtissière filling is not only a French classic but it is such a scrumptious cake.  It is a tart - I usually make tartlets instead of a big tart - I make a lot in the summertime.  
I have been very hesitant posting this recipe for a long time since it is a classic. Who needs another strawberry tart recipe? Can I add anything to it? The answer is no. However. writing about my experience with pastry dough or rather sharing my tips from a passionate amateur baker point of view has been on my mind for a long time. There are quite a few recipes that include pastry dough on my blog and I often thought I should go more into details how I make pastry dough. So here I am chatting about pastry dough and at the end I am sharing a classic recipe for strawberry tartlets. 
Making pastry dough can be very intimidating, in particular when you have had bad experiences. Fortunately, I have never had a bad relationship with pastry dough but my pastry dough skills have improved a lot over the years. The reason is not only practice but also tools and methods that I learned and helped me along the way. I, personally, love making tart shells and there are so many different delicious tarts such as a tarte au citron or a tarte au chocolat.
I hope some of my tips are helpful to you and perhaps I can tackle your fear making your own pastry dough and tart shells. 


Shortcrust Pastry Dough
There are different kinds of pastry dough. Pâte brisée is a dough without eggs and sugar, used for savory dishes such as quiche. Pâte sablée is a dough with eggs and sugar, the sugar ratio is 15%,  and the dough is used for sweet tarts. Pâte sucrée is similar to the pâte sablée but more sugar is added to the dough.
Besides the different kinds of pastry doughs, there are also two different methods of making the dough. 
One method is rubbing cold butter into a flour and sugar mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs and then adding the remaining ingredients. The other method of making the pastry dough is mixing soft butter and sugar until creamy and then adding eggs and flour. I prefer the latter method because I think this method makes the dough smoother and easier to roll out.

Rolling Pin
I use a French wooden no-handle rolling pin. I used to work with a rolling pin with handles but I am so happy I switched to a no-handle rolling pin because it gives me more control over the dough and it results into an even texture of the rolled out dough. 

Thickness Strips
I have a selection of wooden thickness strips and this is another tool that I do not want to miss anymore. Though the no-handle rolling pin creates an even texture, the thickness strips help making an even more even texture. 
You place a strip on each side of the dough and then you roll out the dough until the rolling pin glides across the surface of each strips and voilà you have the perfect even thickness of the dough. 
When making tart shells I usually make the dough 3 mm / 0.1 inches thick.  

Tart(let) moulds
I like using tart rings.
You do not have to use tart rings; tart pans work just as well. I personally like the simple shape of tart rings a lot and it is used in professional kitchens as well.
If you are making tarts very often I do recommend investing in tart rings. Unmolding the tartlet shell is very easy, maybe this is the one advantage over tart moulds. 

Flour
Since there is no standardization of flour types - the grind and blend is different in each country - it is impossible to duplicate the same flour to another country. Having lived in different countries I know how difficult it can be to find "the flour" that you are used to. 
I am using a flour with a very fine texture and a very low protein content. In some countries this kind of flour is called pastry flour. 
Maybe you are curious where I get my flour. I buy my flour from the mill "Kunstmühle" in Munich which is the only mill producing flour in the city and the quality of the flour is outstanding. It is always such a joy visiting the tiny store next to the mill which is hidden behind a façade of a 19th century beautiful building and it is situated right in the city center. 
There is so much to say about flour and about this mill in Munich but I will save this for an upcoming post. 




Makes about 12 tartlets (Ø 8 cm / 3 inches)

INGREDIENTS

Pâte sucrée
100 g  / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
100 g / 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1 (15 g) egg yolk
1 pinch of salt
250 g / 2 1/2 cups pastry flour, sifted *
25 ml / 1 tablespoon whole milk

Crème pâtissière
1 vanilla pod
200 ml / 3/4 cup whole milk
4 (120 g) egg yolks
75 g / 1/3 cup  and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
100 ml / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon heavy cream
20 g / 3 tablespoons pastry flour *
20 g / 2 tablespoons corn starch

Assembling
150 g / 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon freshly whipped heavy cream
Small strawberries
Strawberry jam or red currant jam
Mint leaves, optional 

* If you are using all-purpose flour: 2 cups instead 2 1/2 cups and 2.5 tablespoons instead of 3 tablespoons. 

DIRECTIONS

Pâte sucrée
Mix sugar and butter until creamy. You can do this with your hands, a standing or electric mixer (I have not noticed any differences between these methods). Add egg yolk and a pinch of salt and mix until well combined. Add 1/3 of the flour and mix. Then add the remaining flour and milk and stir.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead dough until smooth. Try to work as quickly as possible. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour and if too dry add more milk. Form the dough to flat disc and wrap the dough into cling wrap. Let the pâte sucrée chill for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. You can keep the dough in the fridge for a few days. If you are not using up the entire dough you can also freeze the dough. 
When you take the dough out of the fridge you will notice that the dough is very hard. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature, then roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Try to use as little flour as possible. While rolling out the dough lift the dough regularly, if needed dust your surface with flour, so the dough do not stick to your work surface. 
If you have thickness strips - as described above - place one stripe on each side of the dough in order to get a perfect even thickness. I like my dough 3 mm / 0.1 inches thick. 
Butter your tartlet moulds/ rings. This helps that the dough sticks to the moulds and prevents that the dough does not shrink unevenly while baking. 
Cut out big circles; I use a little bowl. Gently place the circles into the tartlet rings or pans and gently press the dough into the corners of the moulds or rings. Be carefully that you do not stretch the dough.
Trim excess dough with a sharp knife. This also helps that the dough is pressed to the edges. 
Prick the bottom of each tartlet with a fork. Place tartlet moulds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze the tartlet shells for at least 30 minutes. You can also leave the tartlets in the freezer overnight. Freezing the unbaked tartlets help preventing shrinking while baking, so do not skip this step. 
Preheat the oven to 160 °C / 320 °F.
Line each tartlet with parchment paper (cut out circles) and fill dry beans (I often use almonds or nuts) to the tops of tartlet moulds.
Bake tartlets for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the dry beans or nuts and parchment paper and bake the tartlets for another 10 minutes or until the tartlets are golden in color. The baking time can differ due to the thickness of your pastry dough. As I have mentioned above, I like my dough 3 mm thick but if you like your tartlet shells a little bit thinner the baking time will be shorter and a thicker dough means a longer baking time. 
Let the tartlet shells cool. If your edges of the your tartlet shells are not perfectly even, take a sharp knife and gently scrape to even out the edges. Be careful that you do not break the tartlet shells. 
You can store the tart shells in an airtight container or a cookie tin up to a month. 

Crème pâtissière
Pour milk into a saucepan. 
Split vanilla pod lengthwise and scrap out the seeds (use the tip of your knife or the dull side of a knife). Add the vanilla seeds and the empty vanilla pod to the milk. Bring vanilla milk to a soft simmer. Set aside and remove the vanilla pod. 
Whisk egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Add heavy cream and whisk well. Add flour and corn starch and whisk until smooth. Slowly pour the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture and whisk. 
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and over medium heat bring to a boil, whisk continuously . You will notice that the crème pâtissière thickens. Cook the crème for one minute, continue to stir. Now you should have a thick custard. Remove saucepan from the stove and immediately place the crème into a flat bowl or a casserole dish. Cover the surface with cling wrap which prevents skin forming. Let the crème pâtissière cool at room temperature; it takes one to two hours. 
Give the crème pâtissière a strong stirring in order to break up any lumps. Add whipped cream to the crème pâtissière. In a classic fruit tart one does not add whipped cream but I like the combination of whipped cream and vanilla custard and it makes the vanilla flavor more subtle. 
Use the crème on the day of preparation. If you are not adding the whipped cream you can store the crème pâtissière up to two days in the fridge. 

Assembling
Wash strawberries and pull off the leaves.
Mix strawberry or redcurrant jam with a few drops of water, it depends on the thickness of the jam, and mix well. Brush the strawberries with the jam mixture which gives the strawberries a glossy glaze. 
Fill the crème pâtissière into the tartlet shells. Place the strawberries onto the crème pâtissière and garnish with mint leaves. 
Keep the tartlets in the fridge until you serve them. Consume the tartlets on the day of assembling, preferably within 4 -6 hours because the tartlet shells get soft.


Chocolate Mini Cakes With Strawberry Jam



It is such a pleasure sauntering around farmers' markets in the summer months and spotting blueberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, cherries, blackberries, black and red currants or strawberries at the farmers' stalls. I love looking at all the colorful fruits and vegetables that the vendors offer and I usually end up buying more vegetables and in particular fruits that I intended. On my last farmers' market visit I bought 4 kilos of very sweet and juicy strawberries - which were the best strawberries of this season that I had so far - along with a big bag of cherries, peaches and blueberries. As much as I love eating fruits it was impossible to consume all the fruits that I purchased. So I made a few jars of strawberry and peach jam and I made countless of little tartlets that I filled with a classic crème pâtissière and topped with strawberries. But I needed a break from fruit tartlets and I created delicious little chocolate cakes that I filled with my strawberry jam that I made myself.
I was very pleased with the result of the cake. It is a very moist chocolate cake - at the same time the cake batter is very easy to prepare - and the strawberry jam compliments the chocolate flavor very well. Of course feel free to use any other jam that you like. Apricot jam is a classic and used in the Sachertorte cake but I do recommend giving strawberry jam a try. It is delicious. The chocolate glazing makes the cakes look extra fancy. To me it looks like big pralines; I think it is beautiful; I like it a lot. 
Enjoy the summer time my dear readers. Enjoy all the delicious fruits that summer has to offer. And of course enjoy these delicious chocolate cakes. 





Makes 8-10 chocolate cakes

INGREDIENTS

175 g  / 3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
100 g / 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room-temperature
2 eggs, medium size
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 g / 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100 g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon yogurt, full fat
50 ml / 1/4 cup milk, full fat
15 g / 2 tablespoons unsweetened cacao powder

Liqueur or orange juice
Strawberry jam
200 g dark couverture chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 175 °C / 350 °F.
Grease and flour a muffin tin. 
Beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add vanilla sugar or extract and eggs and beat until smooth and creamy. 
Mix flour, baking powder and cacao powder in a separate bowl. Sift the flour mixture over the butter-egg mixture, add yogurt and milk and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Do not overmix the batter. 
Fill cake batter 2/3 into the muffin tin. 
Bake chocolate cakes for 20 to 25 minutes. Let cakes cool completely, unmold the cakes. 
Cut cakes in half (if your cakes have little "bumps", slice off the "bump"). Soak cake halves with liqueur or juice. 
Spread strawberry jam on the top halves and place the bottom half on top of the jam filling. 
Melt chocolate with coconut oil in a double boiler. 
Pour the melted chocolate over the cakes. I set the cakes on a wire rack and place a plate under the wire rack; then I pour the melted chocolate over the cakes. 
Let chocolate glaze set at room temperature. Do not place the cakes in the fridge, otherwise the chocolate glaze might get dull.


Bondkakor ~ Swedish Farmer Cookies


Whenever I stayed at my uncle's house as a child my brothers and I ate cookies before breakfast. We did this every single morning. It was part of our morning routine. We sneaked into the kitchen, opened the drawer that was on the very right corner of the kitchen where my uncle stores his pots and pans and we took cookies from a large square shaped cookie tin that was black and decorated with beautiful flowers on the lid. My uncle always stored Bondkakor in this particular black cookie tin. no other kinds of cookies. Other types of cookies were stored in a different drawer but we always chose Bondkakor. I cannot tell you why we never switched up our "before breakfast cookies"; perhaps we loved these cookies so much. While munching on Bondkakor my brothers and I (most of the time I was only allowed to watch because you know I was a girl) made little wood sailboats which they let sail on a lake in the afternoons; of course I was, again, only allowed to watch. 
Whenever I eat Bondkakor which are still one of my very favorite Swedish cookies I have to think about the fun mornings that I spent with my brothers at my uncle's house. 
Like many Swedish cookies Bondkakor are crunchy cookies - neither soft nor chewy - with a hint of caramel that pairs so well with the roasted almonds. Bondkakor are a classic and a favorite among many Swedes. The name Bondkakor derives from the word bonde which means farmer, kakor is the plural for cookies (kaka is singular in case you are wondering). So Bondkakor can be translated as farmer cookies in English. 



Notes:
I tried different ways to make these cookies. I rolled out the dough and cut out cookies in order to get a perfect round shape. I rolled out the dough in different thicknesses. I was experimenting with the baking time of the cookies. I was also experimenting with the amount of water that I added to the cookie dough. I came to the conclusion that the cookies taste the very best when not rolled out but made into a log and slice the cookies. The amount of water that is used in the dough makes a difference as well. If the dough is a tiny bit crumbly the dough is " perfect" in my opinion.
In Swedish baking syrup is a very common ingredients. The syrup is made of 100 % cane sugar (no additives). There is dark syrup which is often added to bread and there is light syrup which is used for baking. I use this brand, but organic, which is the most common one in Sweden. You can substitute Swedish syrup with golden syrup or light corn syrup. You might even replace it with maple syrup which I have not tried out yet. If you live in Germany you can replace syrup with Zuckerrübensirup.
Please do not omit the syrup or replacement because this gives the cookies the hint of caramel that makes the cookies so delicious.

Makes about 35 cookies

INGREDIENTS

50 g / 1/3 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon lukewarm water
100 g  / 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
75 g / 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
25 g / 1 heaped tablespoon light syrup
200 g  / 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 200 °C / 390 °F.
Place almonds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast almonds for 5 to 7 minutes until the almonds have a golden brown color. Let the almonds cool, then chop the roasted almonds.
Dissolve baking soda in one teaspoon lukewarm water.
Whisk butter and sugar until creamy, Add syrup and whisk until well combined.
Add flour, chopped almonds and baking soda water and stir until the dough comes together.
Place the dough onto a floured surface and form dough into a log, 4-5 cm / 1.5 -2 inches in diameter. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap. The dough is a little bit crumbly but do not worry.
Refrigerate dough for at least one hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200 °C / 390 °F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice cookie log into 3 mm / 0.1 inch thin slices with a sharp knife. Place cookies onto baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes until the cookies have a tan or light brown color.
Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.
Store the cookies in a cookie tin or in an air-tight container up to one month.

My Favorite Scones













Sometimes it is good to go back to the beginning.
On a library visit eight-year old Marianne scribbled down on a little piece of paper a scones recipe that she found in a children's cookbook. Two decades later I still have this tiny piece of paper which has grease spots and is wrinkled. It seems like it was only yesterday that I was standing in the corner next to a book shelf and asking my mom if she had a pen and a piece of paper, so I could copy a scones recipe. The only paper that my mom found in her bag was a receipt from a bakery which she handed to me and I wrote down the recipe on the back of this receipt.
I also have very vivid memories making the scones for the first time and the moment eating my homemade scones. From that moment on I made these scones at least once a week and over time I altered the recipe a little bit. Over the years - while I was trying out more and more new recipes - I was making these scones less and less and some day I stopped making these scones and forgot about my scones recipe.







Last year, two decades later, I made my scones recipe again and I was transported back to my childhood. The taste, the texture, the smell, the atmosphere: everything was right there in front of me. I was shocked;  I did not expect this at all. It was truly a Proustian moment.
Now I made it a tradition again and make these scones once a week and I am always looking forward to the moment when I take a bite from a freshly baked scones. It truly feels wonderful to go back to the beginning of my passion for baking.

I like my scones best when they are still warm and the caramelized sugar top of the scones are still very crunchy. I also like to serve the scones with homemade rhubarb strawberry jam and crème double. Or just plain, in particular when making petite scones with a cup of tea, of course.
You can also make these scones vegan. I tried it out and to my surprise I was quite impressed by the result. The vegan version tastes slightly different but not in a bad way. Replace the milk with unsweetened almond milk. Try to use a plant based butter and almond milk that is not full of additives which, unfortunately, are often the case.
I hope you will like these scrumptious scones as much as I do. It is such a simple recipe - it does not take longer than 30 minutes, including baking time - with basic ingredients that you probably have on hand and you do not need any fancy kitchen equipmentSo simple, easy, delicious and comforting. Enjoy. 





Makes 6 or 12 petite scones

INGREDIENTS
225 g / 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
25 g / 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
50 g / 1/2 stick unsalted butter (or plant based butter)
120 ml / 1/2 cup whole milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
50 g / 1/3 cup raisins, dried cherries or cranberries
1 tablespoon milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
2 tablespoons brown sugar

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 200 °C / 390 °F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a big bowl. Add butter and rub the butter into the flour mixture, use your fingertips, until it resembles bread crumbs.
Add dried fruits and milk and mix until ingredients forms together. It is important that you do not overmix the dough.
Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface. Form the dough to a disc, 15 cm / 6 inches in diameter, cut into half and cut each half into three wedges. For the petite scones: divide the dough and form each dough to a disc, 8 cm / 3 inches in diameter. Then cut into half and cut each half into three wedges.
Place the scones onto baking sheet.
Brush the scones with milk and sprinkle with brown sugar.
Bake scones for 10-12 minutes.

Rhubarb Almond Streusel Tartlets

Before the rhubarb season comes to an end, I would like to share my rhubarb cake recipe that I created for the first time this season. Every year I make a few jars of rhubarb strawberry jam, a rhubarb strawberry compote which I serve with panna cotta (it is the perfect picnic food), a rhubarb crumble and rhubarb tartlets with a meringue topping which is a German classic. This year I wanted to try something new and I created a rhubarb cake that consist of a shortcrust shell filled with a marzipan cream and rhubarb strings that are hidden under a almond streusel topping. I love the combination of the crunchy and sweet almond streusels and the tart rhubarb flavor and the combination of the crunchy shortcrust and the marzipan cream. It is the perfect pairing. And I am in love with this rustic streusel tartlet creation. 


Serve the cake with freshly whipped cream (I was running out of heavy cream when I served the cake and photographed the cake the other day). It does not only taste better but it is better for you, too. As you may know rhubarb contains oxalic acid but paired with a dairy product, the oxalic acid combines with calcium and therefore makes the oxalic acid  "harmless".







Makes 8 tartlets (8 cm / 3 inches in diameter, I use tart rings)

Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)

100 g / 1/4 cup / 1/2 stick unsalted butter
50 g / 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 egg (large)
150 g / 1  1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

Mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and mix until well combined; add flour and knead to a dough. Do not over knead the dough. Wrap the dough into clingwrap and let the dough chill in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.
Take the dough out of the fridge and let the dough sit for a few minutes at room temperature. In the meantime butter and flour tartlet moulds or rings.
On a floured surface roll out the dough until 3 mm. Cut out circles, gently press the circles into the moulds. Trim away any excess dough with a sharp knife. Prick the bottom of each tartlet with a fork. Place tartlets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze tartlets for 30 minutes (you can also freeze them overnight as well).

Almond Streusel

100 g / 1/4 cup / 1/2 stick unsalted butter
100 g / 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
85 g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
100 g / 2/3 cup almonds, chopped

Knead all ingredients with your hands to a dough. Form the dough into little balls (1 cm / 0.4 inches in diameter). Place the balls on a plate lined with parchment paper and place them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. It is important that the streusel balls are chilled. In the meantime prepare the marzipan cream and rhubarb.

Marzipan Cream

75 g / 2/3 cup powdered sugar
75 g / 1/3 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 1/2 eggs
75 g / 3.5 ounces marzipan, grated or roughly chopped
35 g /1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Mix powdered sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs and mix well; add marzipan and flour and mix until it has a creamy and smooth consistency.

Rhubarb

150-200 g rhubarb

Wash rhubarb, remove strings and trim the ends of the stalks.
Cut rhubarb stalks lengthwise, 1/2 cm / 0.2 inches thick, then cut rhubarb into strings.

Assembling

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350° F.
Take the tartlets out of the freezer.
Spread the marzipan cream on the tartlets. Arrange rhubarb strings on top and on top of the cream arrange streusel.
Bake tartlets for about 25 minutes until the streusels are golden in color.
Let cakes cool. Carefully remove tart moulds or rings. Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar.
The cakes taste the best on the same day or the next day. Store the cakes at room temperature; do not store the cakes in the fridge, otherwise the shortcrust of the cakes will become soft.