tea and ginger infused lemon tart

tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

There are several things about winter that make it interesting after Christmas and the holiday season has passed. Citrus is a big one! From blood oranges to big, bright and yellow Meyer lemons, there are a lot of interesting colors to spot in what might otherwise be a pretty drab and cold season. So every winter, I make myself some sort of lemon or orange curd. A jar or two! 95% of the time it ends up in tart or a bar because that's one of my favorite ways to eat it. 

In many ways this filling is an ode to Indian tea, one specific version that is my favorite and includes freshly grated ginger root. It's perfect on a cold wintry day and it goes beautifully, in this lemon tart. I infused the lemon curd with freshly grated ginger root and black darjeeling tea in an odd way. The tea is made up in a concentrate (which is not your normal way to make tea) but it helps to control the water volume in the final ratios when you prepare the lemon curd. The strands of shredded ginger give this filling a nice little kick in every bit but you can strain it out, if you prefer a smooth and even texture. 

I had some issues baking a complete nut crust solely made with sugar, butter and nut flour. The longer you bake the higher the risk for the fat to melt out and drip. The water in the lemon curd starts to get absorbed by the nut and the end crust becomes soggy. To be honest, I'm not completely satisfied with this crust either, it tastes good but the issues I experienced testing different versions made me a little curious. My goal was to make an only nut flour based tart crust but my final version of this recipe ended up with oat flour to act as a binding agent. There's something to be said for the texture and taste of sweet toasted coarsely ground walnuts with lemon curd, it's delicious. The texture of this crust still needs a lot of work and perhaps, I can get some suggestions and help from you. I added oat flour to absorb some of the oils and liquid but waterproofing the  tart base with melted white chocolate is one trick I use often with pies and tarts. A thin layer will work well in this tart without compromising the taste of the lemon curd. My other issue with the only-walnut tart crust, was trying to release it from my tart pan after I chilled it. It's easier to release the tart from the pan while it is at room temperature rather than when it's chilled. 

So far, my experience with nut based crusts has been OKAY! Taste wise excellent but in terms of how it releases from the tart pan or how it absorbs liquid, has me curious. For those of you that bake with nut crusts, do you have any suggestions or tips or even a favorite recipe you like to use. Leave a comment below and I will check it out! I'm going to revisit this crust recipe in the near future because there has to be a way to make it work perfectly! 

tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dessert;

  • Use fresh ginger root. If you don't care for the texture of fresh ginger, strain the lemon curd once it is cooked and use the strained curd for the filling. 
  • This is not a normal method to prepare tea but I prefer to use this method to get a concentrated form of the flavor and in a small volume. 
  • You can use any tart crust you want. I add the oat flour to bind any liquid that might be present in the walnut dough while the sugar not only sweetens but also helps bind the crust together. 
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

tea and ginger infused lemon tart

yields: one 9 inch tart

ingredients

for the lemon curd

1/4 cup boiling water

4 darjeeling tea bags

1 tablespoon cornstarch, powder

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used the meyer variety), squeezed

4 large eggs

1 cup superfine sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, fresh

1 teaspoon grated ginger root, fresh

1/2 stick butter, chopped and softened to room temperature

for the crust (or you can use your favorite/preferred tart crust)

14 ounces whole walnuts

1/4 cup oat flour

4 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature + a little extra for greasing

4 tablespoons fine sugar

a little confectioners sugar to dust (optional)

1. Pour the boiling water over the darjeeling tea bags in a cup and let it steep for 10 minutes. Squeeze the bags and discard. Place the extracted tea liquid in a small saucepan and reduced the volume to 2 tablespoons. It will be very dark and concentrated. Cool completely. Once the liquid is cooled, whisk in the cornstarch to form a slurry and keep aside.

2. Prepare a pot of boiling water. Place a large glass bowl over the pot, the level of the boiling water must be an inch below the base of the glass bowl. This allows the steam to heat the eggs evenly. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl and using a hand whisk or handheld electric whisk, whisk at high speed for about 5 minutes until the eggs become pale yellow and light and fluffy. Whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest, ginger, butter, and tea-cornstarch slurry. Whisk continuously, until the mixture transforms into a thick custard. Remove from heat and transfer to container. Keep aside until ready to use. The lemon curd can be prepared a day ahead in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

3. To prepare the tart crust, place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 325F. Pulse for a few seconds to grind the walnuts along with the sugar in a food processor to form a coarse powder. Remove the ground walnuts and transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Fold in the oat flour and butter and mix using your hands to form a dough. Lightly grease a 9" fluted tart pan with a little butter. Line the base of the pan with parchment paper cut to size. Place the dough in the center of the pan and spread it out to cover the pan and the edges in an even layer, using your fingers. Place the prepared tart pan in a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, remove and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the lemon curd into the tart shell. Level the filling using a small offset spatula. Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the filling start to get firm while the center of the filling jiggles slightly when shaken gently. Remove the tart pan from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature before releasing it carefully from the tart pan. Refrigerate  to chill the tart for at least 3 to 4 hours before serving. Dust with a little confectioner's sugar if desired. 

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table

One of the things I love exploring on this blog is using grains and flours of all sorts of kinds in my recipes. The options are endless, from wheat to kamut and from savory to sweet!  Maria Speck does just the same with her food with passion and her love for whole grains shows. 

Maria's latest book Simply Ancient Grains focuses on cooking whole grain is a spectacular treat> Not only does she include a variety of grains in her book but she eloquently includes them in a refreshing collection of unique dishes that are flavorful and as delicious as they sound. There are rye waffles with parmesan and rosemary, red rice shakshuka and feta, a teff polenta verde, a freekeh soup with spicy harissa, shrimp and dates, jugu cakes (an African-Indian peanut biscotti) and many more such delicious treats to cook at home and enjoy! Maria also shares several helpful tips and ideas on how to plan meals for days ahead for busy weeks that I found really useful.

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, Maria will also be signing copies of her new book in the last week of May but she's also going to visit several other cities around the country and you can find her entire book tour schedule here. The best part, she's even cooking and serving up treats from her book at some of these spots! 

I selected this sweet honey flavored polenta tart to share with you from her book. It's a unique way to look at tart crusts! I find the soft texture of corn in polenta to be very comforting and how it would taste in a tart had me rather curious. So I had to try this recipe out. The flavors in this dessert are simple yet stand out elegantly. There's honey and butter glazed layer of sweet almonds that give a toffee like flavor along with with a delicious cinnamon and thyme flavored fresh plum compote that's served over the polenta tart. A little whipped cream or creme fraîche on the side and it's perfect with a glass of white wine or champagne (which is my drink of choice). 

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dish,

  • I don't have a ceramic tart pan but my metal one worked fine. Just grease the pan well before baking.
  • I used slivered almonds instead of the original sliced almonds as listed in the recipe, mostly because I ran out of them. They work great but note that the texture of the tart will be different.
  • I used lemon thyme over regular thyme in the recipe because I grow some in a container on my terrace. It gives a little hint of citrus to the plums.
  • I like creme fraîche over whipped cream to serve with most desserts but you can go with either. 
  • To prepare the tart before baking, I've listed two ways to do it. One involves spreading the polenta with a wet spoon while the other involves pressing it down with the flat side of a measuring cup and clingfilm (which I used). Both are easy to do. 
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote 

(from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck)

yields: 8 servings

ingredients

for the polenta 

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 cup (150g) polenta, preferably medium grind

for the compote and to finish

2 pounds fresh plums, pits removed and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces (if plums are small cut into wedges)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons honey, or more as needed

1/4 cup dry sherry or apple juice

1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, preferably the European-style

1 cup sliced almonds ( I used slivered)

softly whipped lightly sweetened heavy cream for serving for serving (optional) /creme fraîche can also be substituted

1. To prepare the polenta, add the water, milk, honey and salt to a large heavy saucepan, heat on medium-high and bring to a bare simmer, stirring occasionally. Using a large whisk, add the polenta in a slow and steady thin stream and continue t whisk for 1 minute. Reduce the heat if the mixture starts to bubble profusely. Reduce the heat further, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon every few minutes to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let it sit, covered for 10 minutes, stirring well once or twice. 

2. Butter a 10 inch tart pan and place it on a wire rack. Transfer the polenta to the pan and spread evenly to form a smooth layer. You can dip a wooden spoon in cold water and then spread the mixture. The other way to do this, is to place a large sheet of clingfilm over the polenta in the pan and using the flat base of a measuring cup spread the mixture out evenly in a layer. Set the prepared tart pan aside to firm for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Prick the surface of the polenta with the round end of a spoon about 12 times by inserting the spoon at a 45 degree angle into the tart. Dip the spoon in cold water between each insertion to prevent sticking. This will allow even baking of the tart and prevent heaving during baking.  

3. To bake the tart, place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F.

4. While the oven preheats, prepare the plum compote. Add the plums to a large mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of honey, sherry, brandy and 1 tablespoon of thyme.  Toss gently to combine, taste and add more honey if desired. Cover and chill to macerate, stirring gently once or twice. (I left it to chill for about two hours)

5. Add the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey to a medium skillet. Heat on medium and stir occasionally with a spoon until blended. Fold in the almonds and stir until the almonds are coated and the mixture starts to foam, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately spread the almonds on the surface of the polenta, using the back of the spoon. 

6. Bake the prepared tart for about 20 minutes until the small bubbles appear around the edges and the almonds turn a glistening golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes to allow to set before cutting. 

7. To serve the tart, cut it into 8 wedges with a sharp serrated knife. Place each wedges on a dessert plate and spoon a generous amount of the prepared chilled compote with a little bit of the juices on top. Garnish each serving with a little fresh thyme leaves and if desired a little bit of a dollop of the whipped cream. 

coffee hazelnut tart

Coffee Hazelnut Tart | A Brown Table

Most of yesterday was spent biking one of the trails near our home followed by copious amounts of reading, cleaning and baking. It was pretty routine, nothing out of the ordinary but then this happened! As much as I wanted to, I couldn't attend the IACP:International Association of Culinary Professionals awards in Washington D.C. this year but when I got the news via Twitterverse that I had won the award for Best Photo Based Culinary Blog of 2015, I was shocked and ecstatic. It's an honor and a humbling experience to be included among some of the critically acclaimed people in the food industry and to think that something like this could even happen one day, never crossed my mind. We celebrated with a little feast of homemade pizza topped with barbecue chicken and lots of melted cheese. Your continued support means the world to me, thank you! You can also check out the rest of the winners from this year's awards here at the Washington Post.

Coffee Hazelnut Tart | A Brown Table

Sometime last year, I found out my body reacts badly to high-acid coffee brews. I pretty much reduced drinking coffee to avoid the effects of acid-reflux, the weird "lump-in-your throat" experience but since I'm more of chai drinker, reducing my coffee intake was not too hard. I still find the aroma of freshly brewed coffee very enticing. 

When Califia asked me to try out their new low-acid cold brew coffee, I was more than happy to test it. I've been using it to make a few cups of coffee during the week for us, it tastes good and I haven't had any acid-reflux issues. Because their coffee brew has a nice smooth flavor and taste, I decided to make this tart, that has coffee and hazelnuts. I love hazelnuts and when I do drink coffee, I love a little bit of a hazelnut creamer or even double-dose with a hazelnut coffee brew.

Coffee Hazelnut Tart | A Brown Table
Coffee Hazelnut Tart | A Brown Table
Coffee Hazelnut Tart | A Brown Table
Coffee Hazelnut Tart | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips that you might find useful when preparing this tart,

  • I like to use tart pans with a removable bottom. They're easy to work with and you don't have to stress out too much when lifting the crust. 
  • Use the clingfilm method I've discussed to line the tart pan with the pastry. It will give you a nice smooth and clean surface.
  • My crust is made from oat flour and almond meal. I wanted it to be very neutral tasting against the stronger flavors of the coffee and hazelnuts. 
  • You will notice, I don't add any sugar to the filling because the creamer I used sweetened the filling perfectly. But I still recommend tasting the liquid before you heat it up to make sure you the sweetness to your desired level.
  • I use gelatin the filling but you can surely use agar-agar if you want to make it vegan. 
  • You will also note, I used Califia's almond creamer but they have one flavored with hazelnut too, if you use that you will get a more intense hazelnut flavor. Either works great.
Coffee Hazelnut Tart | A Brown Table

coffee hazelnut tart 

yields: one 9 inch tart

ingredients 

almond and oat tart shell

1 1/4 cups (4 7/8 ounces) oat flour

2 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) almond flour

1/4 teaspoon fine grain kosher sea salt

4 teaspoons sugar

6 tablespoons coconut oil, warmed a little (keep it in a bowl of hot water to liquefy)

about 1/4 cup candied hazelnuts to decorate (optional)

1. Place all the ingredients from the oat flour to the sugar together in the bowl of a food processor attached with the dough blade and pulse a few times until evenly combined. Pour in the warmed coconut oil and pulse until the mixture comes together and forms crumbs. Transfer the dough to a smooth clean surface such as a marble pastry board and bring it together with your hands to form a ball.

2. Take a fluted 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Cover the base with a circle of parchment paper cut to size. Spray lightly with a neutral baking spray. Transfer the pastry dough to the tart pan and spread it out a little just enough to flatten the ball. Then cover the surface of the pan with a large sheet of cling wrap. Using a large flat surface such as the bottom of a small bowl, bottle or a meat tenderizer or pounder start to spread the pastry out in the pan to form a clean, smooth and even crust. Press the pastry against the sides of the tart pan until the entire tart shell is formed. Cover the tart pan with cling film and freeze for at least 30 minutes before use. 

3. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325F. Remove and unwrap the chilled tart shell. Place it on a baking sheet and cover the surface with a parchment paper cut to size (just large enough to cover the top surface). Pour baking beads or dried beans and blind bake the shell for 35-40 minutes or until the crust gets golden brown rotating the pan half-way through baking. Once the shell is baked, remove from oven and place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate the tart shell in the tart pan until ready to assemble. I recommend wrapping the entire tart pan with the shell in clingfilm if you don't plan to use it the day you made it. 

coffee hazelnut tart filling

yields: enough for one 9 inch tart

ingredients 

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) raw hazelnuts

1 1/2 sachets gelatin 

4 tablespoons water or almond milk

1. Place the hazelnuts on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and bake in an oven at 300F for 5-8 minutes. The nuts should be fragrant and turn a light golden brown but should not be burned. Watch them very carefully to avoid burning. As soon as they are lightly browned, transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel and wrap them up. Rub the nuts while they are in the towel to remove their skins. if you're using hazelnuts without the skins then you can skip the towel step. Remove the nuts and transfer the warm nuts to a food processor fitted with a regular blade. Pulse for about 8-12 minutes (depends on the strength of your food processor) until the nuts are converted to a smooth butter. 

2. In a separate bowl, pour in the measured almond milk, coffee and creamer. Whisk to combine. Then stir in the hazelnut butter and mix well with the whisk. (Note: I haven't added any sugar as the creamer is sweet enough, however you can add sugar/sweetener at this point if desired, taste the liquid to determine this). Transfer the liquid to a thick bottomed saucepan and heat on a medium high flame until the mixture starts to boil. Boil for 1 minute.

3. While the almond milk liquid is being prepared, add the gelatin to a large bowl containing water/almond milk and allow to bloom. Once the gelatin has bloomed pour the boiling hot liquid from step 2 through a strainer or sieve over the gelatin and allow it to sit for 1 1/2 minutes before stirring with a whisk. 

4. Unwrap the refrigerated tart shell and pour the filling into it just enough to reach the upper edges of the shell (don't overfill). Remove any air bubbles or foam by skimming the surface with a spoon. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 45 minutes-1 hour before transferring to the refrigerator. Allow to set overnight until firm. Release the tart from the pan by pushing the bottom. Decorate with candied hazelnuts and serve chilled. Cut slices with a clean sharp serrated knife. 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia and all opinions stated here are purely my own.

concord grape tart with almond crust

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

What started off as a pie ended up as a tart! Honestly, sometimes, it can be hard to predict where things can end up, even in the kitchen. I had intentions of making one big jammy grape pie, that would be full of sweet sticking juices overflowing from the sides after it had bubbled in the oven. But, at one last moment when I sneaked in a taste of the fresh concord grape juice, I changed my mind. 

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

Of all the grapes, I think the Concord variety has a robust and unique flavor that makes it stand out. The only thing, I wish it would have or rather not have is the seeds. I once went as a guest to a dinner where they served concord grapes as part of a fresh fruit dessert but having to get rid of the seeds proved to be much more of an arduous task than I'd like to have undertaken. And thank goodness for dark lighting and napkins!

To prepare this tart filling, I blended all the grapes together with the skins and the seeds. You can use a ricer, if you have one but I used a blender and I loved the taste of the fresh grape juice. 

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Tableconcord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

This pie has very little sugar added to it, the filling has none because concord grapes are rather sweet to begin with but if you feel the filling isn't sweet enough, then add about a teaspoon more, just taste and get a feel for things. The almond crust has a little sugar added to it to balance out the flavor of the almonds. So you can feel better about eating this tart! 

I prefer to serve and eat this tart chilled. The crust is similar to that of a shortbread cookie and crumbles easily

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

concord grape tart with almond crust

yields: 1 rectangular tart (14 inch X 5 inch)

concord grape tart filing

1 lb concord grapes or 2 cups concord grape juice, fresh

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water, at room temperature

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1. Pick the grapes and discard any stalks, place the grapes a blender and blend until completely smooth. At this point you can choose to strain the liquid via a sieve lined with moistened cheese/muslin cloth or use it directly (I used it directly). Alternatively, you can also use a ricer to get the juices out of the grapes.

2.  Take 2 cups of this grape juice and place it in a large thick bottomed saucepan. Heat on a medium-high flame and bring to a rolling boil. In the meantime, whisk the cornstarch and water in a small bowl to form a slurry. 

3. Whisk the cornstarch into the boiling grape juice until it is completely combined. Cook for 2 minutes with constant stirring on medium-high heat. It should coat the back of a silicone spatula or spoon. Strain the liquid through a sieve to remove any clumps. Stir in the lemon juice and pour the hot liquid into the tart shell as directed below in step 5 of the almond crust tart shell. 

almond crust tart shell

0.5lbs almond flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature + extra butter for greasing the tart pan

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3 tablespoons brown sugar

zest of one lemon, fresh

1. In a large mixing bowl, mixing all the ingredients together by hand. The mixture will coming together and resemble a cookie crumb like texture.

2. Line a rectangular tart shell with parchment paper at the base and grease the sides lightly with a little butter. 

3. Place the almond flour mixture in the tart pan and using your fingers/or using the bottom flat surface of a measuring cup press the dough up the bottom and sides of the pan to form a layer of even thickness. Cover the crust with cling film and refrigerate for 30 mins. 

4. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.

5. Prick the surface of the chilled crust a few times with the prongs of a fork. Line the top surface of the pastry with parchment paper and place some pie beads or dried beans over it. This will prevent uneven rising during the baking process. Bake the pastry for 30 minutes in the center rack of the oven (this is also called blind baking). The edges will be slightly golden brown at this point. Carefully remove the pie beads along with the parchment sheet paper on the top surface.

4. Once the crust is cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper with the pie beads. Allow the tart shell to cool for another 10 minutes.

5. Pour the hot concord grape filling into the tart shell and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap the tart in the pan with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours before slicing. Unwrap the cling film and remove the tart from the pan and garnish with a little lemon zest before serving.