Steaming hot simple white bread fresh from the oven. Creamy lemon tarts. Flaky almond croissants. Seedy multigrain bread. Jam-filled hand pies. Really, there is nothing from the carbohydrate family that doesn’t make my mouth water.
So when invited to join the “Baking By Hand” blog tour, you could assume my mind reeled at the thought. So many delightful carbohydrate recipes to make, so little time! “Baking By Hand” is a new cookbook that is full of artisan bread and pastry recipes designed to be made without a mixer. Yet investing yourself in a new cookbook is a gamble, especially when you are unfamiliar of the authors.
After reading this book cover to cover, I get exactly where Andy & Jackie King are coming from. (Yes, I read my cookbooks like novels.) They have a very clear tone and attitude towards their food, their business and their writing. The introduction divulges some of the highs and lows of working in the food industry and owning your own business. And the recipes are written in a very descriptive manner that guides the reader along the process, whether you are making puff pastry or starting your own sourdough starter. And they are refreshingly frank with you. This thing called artisan bread making takes time. But you CAN do it!
Honeyed Ricotta Pistachio Tarts. This recipe caught my eye while perusing the book. The beautiful edible flower, the contrast of colors and the creamy ricotta looked fantastic. And it did not disappoint. I truly adore pistachios but the ricotta stole the show. This technique is something that I will refer to in the future – the silky smooth texture of the filling is perfection. Infused with honey, sitting on the nutty pistachio base and topped with the crunchy candied pistachios, this recipe is an understated dessert that is perfect for any season.
For my experimentation, I had to make do without tart forms. So the pistachio dough was rolled out to about 3/8″ and cut into 1″ squares and larger circles. The finished cookie is a nutty shortbread-like texture, which holds a dollop of ricotta and candied pistachios. The one-bite dessert cookies are very enjoyable and require less commitment than a full tart, both for the baker and consumer. So dive into this recipe and enjoy a pastry (or three)!
These tarts are quite beautiful. The contrast of the bright white filling, the green pistachios and the brightly colored edible pansy really catches the eye. Your belly will also take notice. This tart is lightly sweetened with orange blossom honey from Maine, but any honey will do. The candied pistachios on top help to give a special little bonus crunch.
- 1.25 oz/35 g pistachios, chopped
- 5 oz/140 g cold unsalted butter
- 7.75 oz/220 g all-purpose flour
- 1 oz/30 g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp/7 g fine sea salt
- 1.25 oz/35 ml ice water
- 1 egg white, beaten with a fork
- 1 cup/115 g pistachios
- 4 tbsp/50 g turbinado sugar
- 1 oz/30 ml hot water
- 1 oz/30 g granulated sugar
- 14 oz/400 g high-quality, self-draining whole-milk ricotta cheese such as Calabro Ricotta cheese
- 1.75 oz/50 g orange blossom honey (or your favorite honey)
- 8 food-grade fresh pansy blossoms (or other small edible flower)
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F/180°C. Toast the pistachios for 10 minutes. When cool, finely chop them and set aside. Next, cut your cold butter into ½-inch/1-cm cubes and keep cold until you are ready to mix the dough. Measure out about half of the flour and add the sugar and salt to it, toss to combine and throw in your butter as well. Break the butter in with your fingers by rubbing it between your thumb and fingers. Do this until no lumps are present and a dough has formed. This will take some time and working with your hands.
- Add the chopped pistachios to the other half of the flour. Add this mixture to the butter-flour mixture and work it all together with your hands until the flour is mostly incorporated. When the dough has lost most of its dusty appearance, add the ice water and mix until completely combined. Then, press the dough into a circle or rectangle and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour. This dough can be wrapped tightly and refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for longer storage.
- Roll the dough out to ⅛ inch/3 mm thick and cut eight 5-inch/12-cm circles out of the dough. Set them into fluted tartlet pans and trim the tops so they are flush with the top of the pan. Chill the shells for another 30 minutes, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F/190°C.
- Prick the bottoms of the tart shells with a fork, place all the tart pans on a sheet pan and then fit aluminum foil or parchment paper into the shells and fill completly with dried beans or rice to weight them down. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the sheet pan after 15 minutes. Remove the beans and foil and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes. The shells should be golden brown and completely dried out. Remove them from the oven and cool for 2 minutes. Brush the surfaces with the beaten egg white, and return them to the oven for 2 minutes more. This helps to seal the shells against the wet filling. Cool completely before removing them from their pans and assembling.
- Combine the pistachios with the turbinado sugar in a bowl. Put the hot water and granulated sugar in a bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Next, add this liquid to the nuts. Toss to coat the nuts thoroughly. Pour the entire mixture on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake at 350˚F/180°C for 10 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes. Cool the nuts and break them apart. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- Put both ingredients in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and process until the cheese is shiny, there are no lumps and there is no grainy texture. Stop halfway through and fold the cheese once in the food processor in order to blend it evenly. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Fill the tart shells evenly with the ricotta filling, about 2 ounces/50 g each. Place one flower in the center of the tart and then place five candied pistachios staggered next to one another coming out of the flower. Chill for 1 hour before serving. The tart can be assembled (except for the flowers and pistachios) the night before; simply add the garnishes before serving.
Pictures & Recipe from Baking By Hand by Andy King and Jackie King (Page Street Publishing; August 2013) Printed with permission