peanut butter and concord grape sandwich cookies

Bake number 55 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person officially closes out the Bars & Cookies chapter. These Peanut Butter and Concord Grape Sandwich Cookies were the last recipe to check off our list before we officially move on to the fourth chapter of the book: Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts.

Lauren’s Take

Happy New Year to all! As I reflect on 2021 and the challenges it has posed to us all, I am exceedingly grateful to have these bakes to look forward to every week—bakes that continue to challenge me in the culinary arts and introduce me to new flavours and techniques! I am very much  looking forward to a new year filled with layer cakes and fancy desserts! But first, we had to complete the final cookie in the book; the PB& (Concord grape) J sandwich cookies.

My overall thoughts/realizations for this cookie;

-peanut butter and jam is an iconic and always delicious combination

-Claire’s log rolling trick never works for me and always turns into oval shapes rather than a perfect circle and there must be a better method

-If you don’t have a round cutter, use the tip of your pastry bag

-this seems like an almost too long process for a peanut butter cookie

Definitely this cookie is delicious; it has a great balance of sweet and salty from the peanut butter (don’t cheap out and use the good stuff, friends), and the tartness of the Concord grape jam pairs perfectly. But is it leaps and bounds better than your average, back of the peanut butter jar cookie recipe? I would have to say not really. Although the sandwich idea is definitely a nice touch.

Overall, not too complicated and a delicious, but not mind-blowing result. 4 stars 🙂

Julia’s Take

Who doesn’t love a peanut butter and jam sandwich? It is classic nostalgic and a flavour combination that screams childhood and comfort food. I was really excited to see Claire’s spin on the classic PB cookie, and thought it was so creative of her to take this concept of a peanut butter and jam sandwich and turn it in to a cookie!

I also am a huge fan of grape jam; in my opinion, maybe other than raspberry, it is the superior of all jams. I had some leftover concord grapes in my freezer from when we made the Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie a few months back, so I was able to make the concord grape jam from scratch using the recipe in the book. Concord grapes have such an incredible flavour, and the jam turned out great, but overall I’d say it’s not really worth the effort. If you’re making a huge batch of jam, then fine– but just for a cookie recipe, I’d recommend going out and buying the premade stuff and saving yourself the time.

The cookie recipe in general was a bit finnicky and more time-consuming than it needed to be. The texture and flavour was amazing in the end, as always, but I wasn’t convinced by the end that every step was worth it. I would also probably use a circle cookie cutter to shape things next time, because I cannot for the life of me get the log method to work.

All that said, the people I shared these cookies with raved about them. It’s a 4-star bake for me.

Coming up next: we venture in to the Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts chapter, starting with Claire’s Classic Birthday Cake. We’re nervous and excited for the recipes to come. Wish us luck!

earl grey and apricot hamantaschen

Our 54th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person is another recipe from the Bars & Cookies chapter, the Earl Grey and Apricot Hamantaschen. Neither of us had heard of hamantaschen before, but learned they are a cookie traditionally made for the Jewish holiday, Purim. Claire’s take on the classic recipe adds cream cheese to the cookie dough, which makes for a much more tender result. The flavour was unbelievable: a soft and flaky cookie with a hit of lemon zest, tartness and subtle sweetness from the homemade apricot filling, and the special twist of earl grey tea, which is seeped with the apricots to add a new flavour dimension.

Lauren’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fruitcake

Our 53rd bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person was a two-month long process: Fruitcake! We skipped ahead to this recipe from the Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts chapter because we wanted to have it ready for the holidays. The actual bake itself took place in the fall, after which we spent 8 weeks feeding our fruitcakes two tablespoons of brandy or Grand Marnier to preserve them. Once ready, they are covered in raspberry jam, marzipan, and royal icing. We’re not sure the time and effort paid off in terms of taste, but we’re glad to have had this unique experience!

Lauren’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spiced persimmon loaf

Hi everyone! While we’ve stayed active on our Instagram page, we’ve fallen a bit behind on our longer blog posts. Now that the holidays are over, we finally have some time to catch up and post about our most recent bakes, beginning with bake number 51, which took us back to the Loaf Cakes & Single Layer Cakes chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. We were waiting on a key ingredient to be in season, and at long last bring you the Spiced Persimmon Loaf.

Lauren’s Take

 

 

Julia’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

peach melba tart

We’re coming to you this week with our 37th and 38th bakes from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person: another Foundational Recipe checked off, the Vanilla Pastry Cream, which is used to create the grand finale of the Pies and Tarts chapter, the long-awaited Peach Melba Tart!

 

Lauren’s Take

 

Julia’s Take

When I tell you I’d been looking forward to making this tart since I got the book, I am not exaggerating! First off, the flavours sounded immediately appealing (peaches and raspberries are two of my very favourites!) and the photo just looked so gorgeous in the book, it popped off the page. Once we started this little baking project and began following along with other Dessert People working their way through the book, I heard nothing but rave reviews of this recipe. FINALLY, it was our turn to try the tart that everyone seemed to love so much.

The base of the tart is Claire’s Rough Puff, which we’d made a couple of times already—for the Apple Tart and for the Tarte Tatin. For something that seemed super intimidating when we first came up to it, I couldn’t love it more now and could probably make it without really using the book. While I was really happy with my results previous times, for whatever reason (type of butter? Temperature? Just general improvement in skill level?!) the pastry turned out sooooo much better this time. I was working on this tart during a super busy almost-time-for-start-of-the-semester, meeting-filled work week, and while in preparation mode for a hectic weekend with out of town visitors and our other sister’s bridal shower; thank goodness for long pastry rest times, because I was able to prep, refrigerate, and bake the pastry in between meetings and errand running. The flaky layers were just next level. I don’t think anything will ever be as thrilling as pulling homemade puff pastry out of the oven!

The next component of the tart was the Vanilla Pastry Cream, which came together really quickly stovetop with eggs, sugar, vanilla, and eventually some butter which is whisked through at the very end once your custard comes off the heat. I used Vanilla Bean Paste, which was a slightly less expensive option that still gave me those pretty little black flecks of vanilla scattered throughout. Sometimes aesthetics matter, you know?

Third component: the poached peaches! I’d picked up some fresh, in-season Niagara peaches from the grocery store the day before so the timing of making this tart couldn’t have been better here in Ontario. The poaching liquid is mostly white wine and sugar, with some vanilla and lemon juice/rind for additional flavouring. As the peaches slowly simmer away, the liquid turns into this beautiful pink colour and the smell is just amazing. Definitely hang on to that poaching liquid when you’re done—it’s like liquid gold! The book says you should be able to easily peel your peaches once they’re poached and have fully cooled; I don’t know if it’s because I’d poached mine the night before and put them in the fridge overnight while the poaching liquid was still kind of warm, or if it’s because my peaches weren’t as ripe as they could have been (remember, I HATE mushy fruit), but they were not that easy to peel. Ultimately, it didn’t affect the texture and they sort of looked pretty with the peels still on, so I left them as-is.

Some of the poaching liquid is reserved and mashed up with fresh raspberries to create a sauce and with that, you are all ready to assemble! What was nice about this tart was, once your pastry is baked and cooled, it doesn’t require any more oven time. The pastry cream is spread in a thick, even layer over the puff pastry; the peaches are placed in rows on top of the cream, and then the whole thing is drizzled in the raspberry sauce. Wow, is the finished product ever impressive; there are few things I’ve made in my life that have made me as proud as this one did.

I cannot say enough good things about this tart. How can you not absolutely love this?! The flaky puff pastry was perfect; the pastry cream had the most amazing vanilla flavour and was silky smooth; the peaches not only looked gorgeous but were so soft and delicious, not only from their own peachy ripeness but from the subtle flavourings of the poaching liquid; and then the little bursts of raspberry add an amazing colour and additional pop of tartness and freshness. SO SO SO SO SO GOOD! A 5-star bake without a doubt and the most epic finish to what’s been such a fun, challenging, and delicious chapter of the book!

Next week, we’re moving on to a brand new chapter and will be kicking off Bars and Cookies with Claire’s Marcona Almond Cookies. See you then!

apple and concord grape crumble pie

Happy Sunday everyone! Another week and another recipe from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person in the books. This week was bake number 36 and our second last one from the Pies and Tarts chapter. We bring you Claire’s Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie.

Lauren’s Take

Hi again friends! Can you believe we’ve hit over 2000 followers on our Instagram this week?! Just two simple girls and a cookbook—who knew! Very happy to have everyone here! This week we went back a tad to return to one we had skipped previously—Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie! An interesting concept for a pie if you ask me… many components and flavours that I wouldn’t normally consider to put together.

The main challenge this time was finding Concord grapes. Fortunately, it seemed that almost every other lawn in Ottawa had a vine filled with grapes; unfortunately, stealing is illegal. Julia was visiting Ottawa last weekend and we went to a local market that had baskets and baskets of beautiful Concord grapes! My grandma used to have some in her garden and I hadn’t tasted them since I was a kid, so the flavour brought back lots of happy memories.

The actual assembly of this pie was not too complicated but a tad time consuming to prep the fruit as outlined in the book. You need to make and parbake the all-butter pie crust and the crumble. I used the buckwheat variation as recommended in the book (tip for any Canadian bakers, Bulk Barn is your stop for all your buckwheat needs). My pie was still flaky and delicious by man oh man did it sink significantly. The only reason I can find for this was the extreme humidity I was living in all week. Luckily this pie had the crumble topping, so it didn’t matter too much that the sides of my pie crust were virtually nonexistent.

Once your crust is parbaked, you create the filling. The first aspect of the filling is the thin apple slices mixed with cinnamon, lemon juice, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Make sure all the apples are coated evenly and then let this mixture sit in order to let the apples absorb the flavours.

Then you make the Concord grape mixture. For this part, you have to peel each Concord grape, saving the peeled skins for later. I thought this was going to be more time-consuming then it was—and don’t get me wrong, it was still totally tedious, but didn’t take as long as I thought. And I know you may want to skip this part, but you really shouldn’t if you want to get a good amount of Concord grape flavour.

You put all of the grape flesh into a sauce pan and simmer, breaking down the grapes. You then strain this mixture into a bowl with your reserved skins and sugar. You also add any juice that has collected in your bowl with the apple slices. Then this whole mixture goes back on the stove to reduce down. Once it’s gotten thicker and more syrupy, you remove from heat and combine 3 tablespoons of the mixture with cornstarch in a separate bowl. This makes this beautifully coloured and extremely thick slurry, which you add back into the saucepan with everything else to thicken your grape mixture even further.

This completed grape mixture gets poured over the apples and everything is mixed together to make your filling. Then it’s easy: filling goes into the pie crust, crumble goes on top of the filling, and the pie goes into the oven. Really make sure to pack down your crumble topping so it becomes more of a layer of the pie rather than just a sparse crumble on top.

 

 

The pie bakes first for 30 minutes with foil on top, and then another 40-50 minutes without the foil on to brown the crumble. In total, I needed to bake mine for about an hour and a half to get the mixture bubbling and the crumble browned.

So this a definitely a hefty pie; cutting a slice is no small feat because there are just tons of layers. But the cross section of this pie is beautiful! Such a bright, pink-y colour, and the layer of apple slices is so aesthetically pleasing. And the taste? This pie is a masterclass in texture for sure. You get the crunch of the crumble mixed in with the softness of the filling, and then the crispness of the apple comes in with the flakiness of the pastry. It really hits every note. And the balance of the tartness of grapes with the sweetness of the apples is also delicious. Definitely an excellent pie! 4 stars from this baker!

Julia’s Take

It felt like it had been aaaaages since I’d done a bake from the book when I went to go make this pie. I’d made the Blueberry Slab Pie over two weeks ago, purposely making it at the very start of the week since I was going to be heading out of town to see friends, only for us to then skip a post that weekend due to hectic schedules. Cue two more weeks going by after that before I finally got into the kitchen yesterday morning and brought out my copy of Dessert Person. It was a gloomy Saturday after a long night the night before—the perfect day to make a pie in my opinion!

Lauren and I had skipped this recipe a few weeks back since Concord grapes weren’t in season yet so I was glad to circle back to it now as we approach the end of this second chapter. I can’t remember if we mentioned it in last week’s post, but we were actually together in Ottawa last weekend; knowing that Concord grapes may be a little tricky to find here in North Bay, we figured it was a great opportunity to check out some of the markets and see what we could track down. Luckily, one of the produce stands had a TON of them so we picked up a basket each and I brought them back to North Bay with me to put them to good use. I actually have a bunch leftover after making this recipe, so it may be time to make some jam! Our grandmother grew Concord grapes in her garden, and our mom always made the most delicious jam with them every summer. It’s one of those quintessential childhood flavours that will always stand out in my mind. Like Lauren mentioned, I don’t think I’ve had this variety of grape since the days of hanging out in her backyard, and all those memories definitely came flooding back with the taste.

This was not a difficult recipe, and yet somehow it still took me literally ALL DAY to make this pie. I started off with another round of the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, with I think I’ve made more than a handful of times now this summer and can now make without having to look at the book. While the dough sat in the fridge for 2 hours, I started prepping the elements of the filling. I peeled, cored, and sliced my apples which then get mixed with a blend of flavourings (the classic combo of brown sugar, lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, salt) and sit aside to release juices. Then it was on to the grapes. I fully intended to skip the step of peeling each individual grape, because it seemed ludicrous to me, but after talking to Lauren—who had made the pie a few days before me—and hearing that it actually wasn’t that difficult, I decided I better not doubt Claire’s method and went for it. It is definitely time-consuming, but not as painful a process as expected. It sounds like the combination of flesh, juices, and skins is the best way to get the most out of that concord flavour, and separating/re-mixing rather than straining parts of the grape out is the best way to accomplish this. Who am I to question Claire?!

The grape flesh/juice cooks down for a while, is then strained out to remove the seeds, and then combined with the reserved skins and some sugar. This then returns to the stove and cooks down further. I thought it was strange to add skins back in to the fruit, thinking they really wouldn’t break down much and you’d be left with an odd texture, but it really does somehow blend together nicely into a beautiful looking, deep purple, jammy looking mixture. Once it’s reduced and nice and thick, some of the grape mixture is combined with cornstarch to make a very thick slurry-type substance, which is added back to the grapes to thicken the whole thing up even more. This ultimately will help your filling set nicely.

By this point, my pie dough was ready, so I took it out of the fridge, rolled it out, did the recommended fold for extra flakiness, and put it back in the fridge for half an hour to rest. This little window of time was when I prepped my crumble topping (told you there were a lot of steps and that it literally took me all day…). Claire recommends the buckwheat variation of her All-Purpose Crumble Topping recipe so I decided to go with that, figuring that the earthier flavour of the buckwheat flour would be pairing really well with the fruit. The crumble sat in the fridge while I moved on to prepping and parbaking my pie dough.

My crust parbaking and cooling was the perfect opportunity for a quick kitchen clean-up and a shower (I’d been in the kitchen for close to 4 hours by this point…). After I got out of the shower, my crust was ready to be filled. The grape mixture is combined with the reserved apple slices until everything is fully coated; I loved the vibrant pink-ish purple-ish colour that this all turns into thanks to those concord grape skins! It’s easy breezy from here: fill your crust with the filling, top with your crumble (make sure it’s really packed down well), cover with foil and bake (30 minutes with the foil and then another 45 or so without until everything is brown and crisp). The pie then sits at room temperature for 2 hours to cool and set.

I had a friend over for dinner that night (a go-to taste tester throughout this baking project), so she was over when the pie was ready to slice into. It was fun getting to try a bake for the first time with someone else and get those immediate reactions. We both really loved this recipe! The pie dough turned out perfectly flaky—the first few times I made this dough, I added too much water, making the crust too tough to cut through, but I have definitely mastered it now! The colour and layers of the filling were so pretty and the balance of flavours was amazing—who knew apple and grape could taste so good together?! And the earthiness and texture of the crumble on top was perfect. What an amazingly balanced and delicious pie. It’s a 4-star bake for me!

Next week, we wrap up the Pies & Tarts chapter with the long-awaited Peach Melba Tart!

blueberry slab pie

We’re back after taking a week off with our 35th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter is the epic Blueberry Slab Pie.

Lauren’s Take

Hello and happy weekend everyone! Despite the intense heat and humidity in the air right now, there is also that quintessential August feeling of the summer being almost over. And with that, the end of fresh fruit and warm days, so it was nice to be able to bake a very summer-y dessert to commemorate that! And what says end of summer like a nice slice of blueberry pie?

This pie is a beast. When you first glance at the recipe, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a task but then there are a few hints that really allude to the monstrosity… namely that it “feeds 24” and the casual “1.6kg of blueberries” listed in the ingredients. I mean, 1.6kg?! Just wild. I was really praying that this bake would turn out because I would have to give a lot away and wanted it to be worth people’s while. Initially, I was a bit nervous because Claire classifies this bake with a difficulty level of 4, but in all honesty, it truly isn’t that difficult. The hardest part is ensuring you have a large enough work space to roll out these monster pieces of dough, but otherwise, it was fairly simple to put together (as long as you can find 1.6kg of blueberries—clearly I’m still not over that).

The first part of the bake is to make two batches of the pie dough. The dough for this recipe is essentially the same as her other pie dough recipe, just a lot more of it and A LOT of butter. You think 1.6kg of blueberries is a lot, well try 6 sticks of butter…which is what this recipe calls for. You combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter together in a food processor and then slowly add water and mix with a fork/by hand until the dough holds together. This step is repeated twice (because even a large food processor can’t handle this much dough at once!), and then you are left with two large pieces of dough, which are wrapped and chilled in the fridge for at least two hours.

Once the pie dough has chilled, the real fun of rolling begins. No word of a lie, I had my ruler out and was meticulously measuring to make sure I got these pieces of dough to the appropriate size! One piece of dough you roll out to about 18 by 15 inches and cut it into 1.5inch wide strips that are about 15 inches long. I got about 12-13 strips from my dough. Once the strips are cut, you place them back in the fridge to keep chilled. Then you roll out the other piece of dough, which will be for the bottom of the slab pie. This piece is rolled even larger, I believe I did it to about 21 by 16 inches or so. You then carefully place it in your sheet pan, which should be 18 by 13 inches, leaving an inch or so of the dough overhanging.

The oven needs to be pre-heated to 425 degrees, and Claire recommends baking this pie on the lowest rack in the oven. I lined my oven rack with aluminum foil as suggested in the book to prevent any burning from spillage while baking. A tip that Claire gives is to put ANOTHER 18 by 13 pan in the oven while it is pre-heating, and then places your sheet pan with the pie INSIDE the sheet pan in the oven. Now, I do believe this is a great tip, but lord knows it was hard enough for me to find one massive sheet pan, never mind two! So I just baked my pie directly on the oven rack and it worked out fine! No soggy bottoms here friends.

After the pie dough is rolled out, you mix your filling, which was very simple. In a LARGE bowl (and it needs to be large because, remember, you got pounds on pounds of blueberries), you mix your berries with sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and the spices. In this recipe, Claire uses cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. I was intrigued by this blend, since it is very much gives me a pumpkin-pie vibe, but I followed the recipe.

You pour the filling into the sheet pan and even it out all over. Then you brush the overhang of the pie dough with egg wash, and press your chilled strips of pie dough across the filling and into the border. Claire describes placing them on a diagonal in a zig-zag pattern, but you could really do whatever you want, as long as it’s covered. I made sure to place the strips fairly close together but still had spots where you could see the filling pop through. I did end up having two strips left over as well. Once the strips are placed and pressed, you cut off the extra dough and fold the overhang back overtop and press down again. Then the whole pie is brushed with egg wash and covered with Demerara sugar (I was generous here, but not as generous as Julia usually is with Demerara sugar 😉). Then, you bake! One of the hardest parts of this bake was lifting this beast into the oven, so take your time and be careful!

The pie bakes on 425 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, and then the oven is reduced to 375 degrees for the remainder. I baked the pie for another hour and 35 minutes after turning the oven down to ensure a nice golden crust and bubbly filling. I didn’t end up having any spillage in the oven from the filling which was nice. The crust baked beautifully and the design with the sugar on top made it beautiful to look at.

After letting it chill for an hour, it was time to cut into it and try it! I don’t love warm fruit pie, so initially I wasn’t a huge fan. The filling felt too soft and the spices made it taste like pumpkin pie which confused me. I did really love the pie dough, but overall wasn’t a huge fan. Then, the next day, I was getting praise about this pie from people I had given it to, so I decided to take another stab at it, and I liked it quite a bit more. The filling is more set, the spices don’t seem as overpowering, and overall, it feels well balanced and flavoured. I’m still not 100% sure I agree with the spice combo here…I think maybe just cinnamon and cardamon would have been a better choice, without adding the ginger. I also think you could add more lemon funnily enough, since I find Claire is usually too heavy-handed with the citrus, but I think when you’re making a pie large enough to feed a small village, you can be a bit freer with flavour.

So overall, not my favourite pie, but it does get better with age for sure. Definitely a really nice recipe to have if you need to bake something for a large gathering. And the pie dough is never a disappointment as per usual. 3.5 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

Welcome back everyone! It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks over here as I wrap up my summer holidays. Lots of social time and out-of-town visits means I’ve been spending very little time at home (a welcome change after pandemic lockdown life!) and very little time in my kitchen, so our Blueberry Slab Pie was put on the back-burner. But it feels good to be back in action—although I am definitely not ready to go back to work already.

This recipe was HEFTY and the amount of ingredients it called for was no joke. So many cups of flour. So many pounds of blueberries. The six sticks of butter especially left me shaken. SIX STICKS! I was surprised Claire listed this pie as a difficulty level four because other than the measuring out of ingredients (and the heavy lifting) it was actually a really simple recipe to put together. I had set aside an evening to bake this pie last week since I knew I would be out of town for the majority of the upcoming two weeks, and while I thought I’d budgeted out my time well, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. I started out by making my dough in the morning. The ingredients are exactly the same as the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough that we all now know and love so well; the only difference was that—since there was so much of it for this recipe—it came together in two batches in the food processer (one batch for the bottom of the pie and one batch for the strips on top), and we skipped the folding step. Once I had my dough mixed up, I let them sit in the fridge for the rest of the day while I met a friend for lunch and did a bunch of running around.

By the time I got home around 4:00, my pie dough was ready and I could get started on the filling and assembly. I had promised my neighbour I’d go over for a quick glass of wine to wish her Happy Birthday. Little did I know I would not actually return home until 11:30. So when a girl gets home late and has had a few glasses of wine but a pie needs baking, she bakes the pie.

 

 

Luckily, there wasn’t too much work involved in finishing things up. My bottom layer of pie dough was rolled out and placed into the 18×13” pan; the filling came together with tons of blueberries (I used fresh ones which are in season in Ontario right now!), sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest, vanilla, and a spice combo of cinnamon, cardamom, and ground ginger. From my understanding, cardamom and ginger are NOT common in blueberry pie, but we all know our girl Claire LOVES her cardamom. Honestly, I’m sure some people are hit and miss on these flavours, but personally I thought it was such a unique and delicious spin and I really loved the smell of everything as it all came together.

The filling then gets poured into the bottom layer of dough. My top layer had been cut into 1” strips (not my neatest or most mathematically correct work, to be honest—see time stamp on when I started this pie and just imagine how alert I probably was…) but once I placed everything on top of the blueberries it looked fine. The slab pie ultimately has a bit of a rustic feel to it anyway, so this worked out in my favour. Note to self: don’t start croquembouche at 11:30pm after a few glasses of wine.

The whole thing probably came together in half an hour, so then the hardest part was really just trying to stay awake while the pie baked for almost two hours. Claire provides a couple of suggestions to help with the baking: first, cover the bottom oven rack with tin foil in case there’s spillage (I did do this, and my oven came out unscathed), and also put a second pan in the oven to preheat, which the pie can then sit in while it bakes to help with the crispiness of the bottom. I didn’t have a second 18×13” pan so I skipped this step and my results were still fantastic! I almost fell asleep several times, but by 1:30am I had a beautiful, bubbly, crispy blueberry pie sprinkled with demerara sugar (my new favourite thing. See: Sour Cherry Pie). My favourite part of this bake was definitely the smell of the spices that filled up the house; it was sort of like summer and fall coming together—kind of appropriate for end of August and almost-back-to-school/work vibes.

I gave away the majority of this pie: big pieces were dropped off to friends the next morning on my way out of town, and I also brought a WHOLE bunch of it to the friends I was staying with down in Southern Ontario. Everyone really loved the flavour. It wasn’t my favourite thing from this chapter; if I’d just had this pie on its own, I may have felt differently, but compared to some of the epic pies and tarts we’ve had over the last few weeks, this one felt just sort of “meh” to me. Similar to many of the loaves and single layer cakes we made, this pie did get a lot better as the temperature came down and it set a little more. Absolutely delicious, but not necessarily life-changing. It’s a 3.5 star bake from me!

Join us next week as we make the second-last recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter—the much-anticipated Peach Melba Tart!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

quince and almond tart with rosé

Welcome back friends! Reunion week has come and gone and we’re back with another long-distance, side-by-side bake this Sunday. Since we’ve made the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough so many times already, this latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter allowed us to check off just one new one from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. Bake number 34 on our journey was the Quince and Almond Tart with Rosé.

Lauren’s Take

We’re almost done pies and tarts! Which is equally exciting and bittersweet. Pies and tarts has been such an excellent chapter and it has been very comforting being in my baking sweet spot. Nonetheless, change and challenge are good things and I look forward to the different desserts ahead.

But while we’re still in pies and tarts land—this week we made the Quince and Almond Tart! I learned a few things this week from this bake:

  1. I pronounce quince way too fancy and incorrectly so every produce grocer had no idea what I was saying (I have since learned the correct pronunciation).
  2. Almond paste is super expensive to buy and very easy to make yourself, so just do that.
  3. I have become a master at the Claire Saffitz pie dough and I am not ashamed to say it proudly.

The main snag we hit this week was neither of us could find quince. Julia gave me the suggestion of using Asian pears instead so I went with that! Julia suggested adding lychee to get a closer flavour match; I had considered adding some pineapple juice to the recipe to get the quince flavour Claire describes but forgot, so I ended up just doing a rendition of this recipe using Asian pears instead. They worked out super well and I was really pleased with the taste. So don’t fret if you can’t find quince!

This recipe involves four elements that are each slightly time consuming, so I opted to make all the elements on one day, and then assemble the tart and bake the next day. The first is to make either the pie dough or rough puff; I chose to use the pie dough and please see point #3 to see how I feel about that 😉

The next thing I did was make the almond paste, which again, was very easy to do. You simply mix almond flour, powdered sugar, egg white, and almond extract in the food processor until it comes together and chill. Easy and delicious.

Then I made the poaching liquid and poached the pears. This poaching liquid smells amazing and I was very tempted to just ladle some out and drink it like mulled wine. It’s a combo of rosé wine (full bottle cause that’s how we do), sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, and star anise. Once the sugar has dissolved, you remove from the heat and prepare your pears. To do this, you peel the skin away, core them and slice in half…and keep all these discard pieces in a bowl (this will lead to a magical moment, stay tuned). Once your pear halves are ready, you put them in the liquid, topping up with water until the fruit is submerged. Claire recommends putting a piece of parchment paper and a small plate on top of the liquid to keep the fruit under the liquid. I did it because I’m a purest, but I don’t know if it’s the most necessary thing!

My pears poached for about 25 minutes to get to a good level of tenderness. After you remove the pears, you add your reserved pear skins and cores to the fluid and bring to a boil. This was the most magical discovery of the book so far; the natural pectin from the fruit MAKES THE LIQUID INTO A JELLY. I’m sorry…what?! Mind blown. You reduce this mixture until it is thick and bubbles are slow to pop; the book says 20-25 minutes but it took me about 40 minutes to really get there. I think it may have been because I had to add quite a bit of water initially to cover the fruit. You then strain this liquid, discarding the solids. You should get about 2/3 cup of liquid; mine was slightly less and you can totally get away with that. You leave this mixture in the fridge to chill and become a jelly, letting the pectin work its magic!

The next morning, I had all my components and was ready to assemble! This recipe is basically tarte tatin with pears so it was comforting to already know the techniques. In the cast iron, you layer the chilled jelly, thin slices of Asian pears, rolled out almond paste, and your pie dough. And then bake until golden brown!

The flip of the cooked tart was a lot less terrifying this time so worked out super well with very little spillage. Leftover jelly glazes the warm tart after being removed from the oven and then you’re done! The result is a tart with the deepest golden colour and shiny top! It looks so inviting and beautiful.

This tart tastes great—so many layers and textures and flavours. The pie dough was super flaky because I’m a champion. The almond layer is very rich and savoury, and the poached fruit with the jelly has a sharpness and sweetness to it. When the components balance well, it’s a perfect bite. My only qualm is I think I should’ve used less almond paste or done a thinner layer because it did tend to dominate the flavours. But otherwise, it is delicious, not too heavy, and a pretty ideal summer dessert. 4.5 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

Back to individual baking this week! Honestly, if there was a recipe to tag-team with a baking buddy, this would have been a good one because there were so many steps, pauses, techniques. Alas, Lauren is back in Ottawa and I had to ride solo again on this one. I broke the process down over a couple of days which helped, but it still took a long time to bring together this seemingly easy recipe—partially cause of the instructions in the recipe itself and partially my own doing.

There were four basic components to this tart: the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, the almond paste, the poached fruit, and the fruit/wine jelly. I made basically all of these the day before, left them in the fridge overnight, and then put the whole tart together the following day. The pie dough was a real highlight for me with this bake; I have loved Claire’s recipe every time I’ve used it so far but I have noticed that, even though it always comes out flaky and delicious, it’s always a bit tough to cut through with a fork. After reading some tips from fellow Dessert People on Instagram (shout-out to Karen if you’re reading this!) and after making the dough with Lauren in person last week, I realized I was probably adding too much water—so I resisted the temptation this time and my pie crust has NEVER turned out better! One of the best parts of this project has been noticing a gradual improvement in my skills, knowledge, and confidence as a baker and this was a top moment.

Once the pie dough was ready and chilling in the fridge, I moved on to the poached pears. Now, you might be thinking: “This is called a quince tart. What is quince and what’s with the pears?” Well, I had never heard of quince in my entire life but apparently it’s a pear/apple hybrid that has some tropical undertones. They are native to Western Asia/Eastern Europe, and remain quite hard which I guess is what makes them appropriate for slow, long cooking processes like poaching. From the description in the book, it sounds like Claire is a big fan but there was no way I was finding this ingredient in my small northern Ontario city, especially in the summer, so I had to get creative.

I decided to sub the quince for Asian pear which, to me, would have that similar apple slash pear vibe and a good enough crispness to maintain its integrity during the poaching and baking process. I also decided to add some lychee juice to the poaching liquid since I’d heard that the tropical hints in the quince flavour were similar to lychee. Never having tried quince, I have no idea if this worked; I’d love to try the true-to-the-recipe version of this tart and compare the flavour to what I got, but I don’t see that happening so I’ll just say I’m brilliant and I nailed it 😉

The poaching liquid is made up of a full bottle of rosé wine (I’d actually bottled some myself this summer so I was able to use that!), sugar, a cinnamon stick, star anise, the rind and juice of a whole lemon, vanilla, and in my case of course, the lychee juice. The pears are peeled and cored, cut in half, and then simmer in the liquid for about 25 minutes until softened. Water is added until the pears are just covered as well. Having read that quince is very tough, I was worried about my pears over-poaching so I veered on the side of slightly firmer; I was able to poke through the flesh easily but they still had structure to them. At this point, you need to turn off the heat and let the pears sit in the liquid for a little while until the liquid cools from hot to warm. After THAT, the pears are removed from the liquid and the pot is brought back up to a boil. That was a common theme with this recipe: heat on, heat off, heat on, heat off. Was it necessary? Probably not. But who am I to argue with Claire.

Speaking of unnecessary steps, the recipe says to place a circle-shaped piece of parchment paper over the pears and place a small plate on top to make sure the fruit remains submerged in the poaching liquid the whole time. Did this actually make a difference? I’m not so sure. It was hard to see how much the liquid was actually simmering and how soft the pears were getting, so I took everything off about halfway through the poaching process and they still seemed submerged enough to me. For anyone reading this who plans to make this recipe, I’d say save yourself the piece of parchment and don’t bother with this.

As you bring the poaching liquid back up to a boil, all of the reserved pear skins and cores are added back in. I really loved this aspect of the recipe! I thought it was so cool that what would be considered the “waste” was actually reused and served an important function. Since the skins of the fruit have natural pectin in them, boiling them in the liquid helps to thicken it and ultimately turn it into a jelly. How amazing is that?? Is it just me that nerds out on this stuff?

This stage is where I ran into some snags, friends. Like the dough and the pears, I decided to finish up the jelly component the night before—but it did not go according to plan. I added the skins, brought everything up to a boil, and let it go for about 25 minutes like the recipe called for. Important warning: DO NOT WALK AWAY. I’d looked at the liquid once or twice and noticed it was turning into a syrup so I went on my merry way and waited for the timer to go off. Eventually, I started to smell something burning. Do not ask me how it went from zero to 100 so quick, but the liquid had reduced WAY too much and the bottom of the pot had completely burnt. There was still syrup though, so I naively thought: this could still work. I strained my syrup, put it in the fridge, and hoped for the best. Later that night, I found a dark brown, sticky, almost completely solid mess—aka not the pretty pink soft jelly you’re supposed to have, so I tossed it and went to bed.

Day two (told you that was an involved bake): I hit up the grocery store first thing to buy more pears and went through the whole poaching/reducing process a second time. I kept an extremely close eye on it, kept the heat slightly lower, and stirred very often. After 45 minutes, I had something that was maple syrup consistency, strained, and left it in the fridge to cool for about an hour. When I went to check on it, it was jelly! Success! And so cool.

The last component I had to worry about was the almond paste. Apparently this is actually different from marzipane, and after looking around it was clear that I would NOT find this in the grocery store and it was shockingly expensive to order online. I remembered reading that another Dessert Person had made her own using a recipe from Wild Wild Whisk; it looked easy and I already had all the ingredients so I just went for it. It only takes about 5 minutes—add almond flour, powdered sugar, salt, an egg white, and some almond extract to a food processer, blend until smooth, and then wrap and store in the fridge until firm and ready to use.

FINALLY, I was ready to assemble. Spread most of fruit/wine jelly into bottom of cast iron skillet lined with neutral oil and parchment—done. Cut poached pears crosswise and create pretty design over top of jelly, slightly overlapping—done. Roll out almond paste into 9-inch circle and carefully place over pear slices—tricky, but done. Roll out pie dough into 10-inch round and place over the other tart components, using a spoon to tuck in the sides just like you would for a Tarte Tatin—done. Cut some slits into the dough to help release steam, and then bake. Similar to some of the other pies and tarts, this one bakes at 425 for the first 20 minutes, and then at 350 for the rest of the bake time. It comes out golden brown with the jelly bubbling up around the edges.

You’d think at this point, the hard part is over—but no. We have another adrenaline-inducing hot skillet over the sink flip a la Tarte Tatin here. A tad stressful but otherwise successful flip and reveal. The remainder of the jelly gets brushed over the fruit and wow is this tart ever pretty!! The pink glossiness of the jelly, the rose design of the pear slices, and the curled up edges of pastry all make for such a unique and appealing finish. I also loved how thin and delicate this tart was—it all looked so elegant.

In terms of flavour, it wasn’t like anything else I’d had. I was SO happy with how my crust turned out—perfectly crisp and cut like a dream. The flavour and texture of the pear was great and, I don’t know if I was just imagining it, but there was definitely a touch of tropical. You don’t get an outright flavour of “wine” but there is something slightly sweet, subtle, and aromatic about the glaze thanks to the rosé and poaching spices, and the layer of almond adds a nuttiness that pairs so well with the fruit. The first bite was surprising, and I liked it more and more as I continued to eat. I’m not sure I’ll be itching to repeat this whole process again any time soon, but it’s a tart I’d happily eat again. 4.5 stars!

Only three recipes left in the Pies and Tarts chapter! Join us next week for the Blueberry Slab Pie.

sour cherry pie

We’re back with the latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—the Sour Cherry Pie, our 33rd bake from the book and one that will always hold a special place in our hearts.

The Reunion Bake: A Double Take

This week was a special one folks—we are coming to you live from the SAME kitchen! (Our Mom and Dad’s kitchen to be exact…).

With some of the restrictions being lifted in Ontario and thanks to being double vaccinated (#shotgirlsummer), Lauren was able to come to North Bay for a long-anticipated family visit, which meant that sisters&saffitz could be in the same place for the first time ever! We both smiled from ear-to-ear when we put on our matching aprons and were able to cook in the same place, rather than just text each other constantly throughout the bake. It reminded us that the part of baking that is truly special is being able to experience it with others (cue the sappy music).

And what better way to celebrate a reunion than with a cherry pie? We both were excited about this bake: one, because we’d be able to do it together, but also because neither one of us had done a lattice crust before and we were keen to try.

 

 

 

Unfortunately, sour cherries were very elusive in North Bay and we weren’t able to find any, but we did manage to find some absolutely beautiful, fresh local cherries and decided to splurge and use those instead. And when we say splurge, we really went for it folks. No shame.

We made the pie doughs together the day before. The recipe calls for making a double recipe of the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, but indicates doing the almond flour variation. This variation simply involves substituting a small amount of all-purpose flour for almond flour. Lauren forgot to substitute when doing one batch of the pie dough, so we instead had one regular pie dough and one beautifully speckled dough made with almond flour. We decided that doing one of each would be cool both in terms of design but also for helping to balance out the almond flavour.

We also pitted the cherries the day before (shout out to Julia for the commitment to this task—there are still remnants of red juice left on her hands) and froze them as Claire recommends in the recipe. Freezing the cherries helps the pie dough to stay cold while assembling.

 

 

The next day, Julia came back to Mom and Dad’s, and we rolled out our pie doughs. We used the regular recipe for the base and cut the almond flour one into 1-inch strips to be used for the lattice crust. Both of us have become so accustomed to working through the recipes solo that we couldn’t believe how much easier and more efficient it was to tag-team on this one; while one tackled rolling out dough, the other would prep the filling. While one assembled the lattice, the other walked her through by reading the instructions from the book and providing visual cues. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: baking buddies—we can’t recommend them enough.

Once the doughs were prepped, the actual assembly of this pie was super simple. The frozen cherries were tossed with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and almond extract. Since we weren’t able to track down sour cherries, we cut down on the sugar slightly. The base dough is rolled out into a circle shape and laid into the pie plate; the filling is scooped in and pressed down firmly to eliminate as much air as possible; and then the strips of top-layer dough are assembled into a woven lattice pattern over the top.

This was the first lattice for both of us and it was actually really fun to put together; as usual, Claire’s visuals in the book were so easy to follow and made what could seem like a trickier process totally doable and straightforward. Once some of the excess dough is trimmed off, the sides are pulled up and pinched together, the edges are crimped, and the whole pie is brushed with egg wash and topped with demerara sugar. Claire said to be generous, and Julia absolutely took this instruction and ran with it!

The pie had to bake at 425 for about 20 minutes to get everything nice and crisped up, and then for another hour and a half or so at 350. We think our parents’ oven probably runs on the hotter side, because the outside edges started to brown up really quickly; we took the pie out after about 40 minutes and covered the edge with some tinfoil to prevent browning.

 

We tried to look for Claire’s visual cue of looking for bubbling at the center before taking it out, and let the pie sit at room temperature for a few hours as recommended.

 

 

 

Later that night, we cut into the pie to share with our parents and Lauren’s boyfriend. As Lauren sliced into it, the filling started to run out quite a bit so we think our impatience (and by “our” we mean mostly Julia’s in this case…) got the best of us with this one. We probably should have kept the pie in the oven a little bit longer, even though we were concerned about over-baking our crust, and the pie probably would have benefitted from another hour or so resting at room temperature.

Despite the filling not being quite as set as we could have liked, everyone was so happy with how this pie tasted! The crust was so incredibly flaky—maybe our best results so far with this recipe—and even the bottom stayed so firm and crispy.

The flavour of the filling was also amazing; it would have been great to get the tartness from the sour cherries, and this definitely ran a touch sweet, but the big, fresh cherries made for an incredible filling and there was just the right amount of almond which added that something special.

Most of all, the experience of being together again after so many months, getting to tackle a recipe together as a team, and sharing it with some of our family made this one of our favourite bakes to date. This pie is a 10/10 for process and a 4-star bake from both of us!

Next week, we’ll be back to our trademark side-by-side comparisons as we take on the Quince and Almond Tart!

foolproof tarte tatin

We’ve made it all the way to the Foolproof Tarte Tatin, our 32nd bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This recipe felt so far away and so daunting when we first started this project but with Loaves and Single Layer Cakes and over half of Pies and Tarts under our belts, we’re really starting to feel our confidence levels grow.

Lauren’s Take

GONE CANOEING. Check back for updates!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

We made a Tarte Tatin! This was the very first Dessert Person video Claire put out when she started her YouTube series, and it looks and sounds so fancy, that I kind of can’t believe I made one. It looks and sounds really intimidating—puff pastry, dry caramel, multi-step preparation of different components, flipping delicate layers of apple and crispy pastry in a piping hot cast iron skillet—but five months in to this Dessert Person journey, I realize I’ve done most of these things already. Make rough puff from scratch: check. Make caramels: check. Create glazes: check. While this bake was definitely time-consuming, it wasn’t as scary or difficult as I thought it might be. Minus the flip. That is no joke.

Baking a Tarte Tatin feels like a master class in patience—something I am typically NOT very good at, but honing my baking skills has definitely helped. The first step is preparing the apples, and while this might seem pretty basic, even that requires that you just sort of slowww down. Trim both ends of each apple; peel the apples; cut the apples in half; core and trim the centre of each apple. This part alone took a good half hour I would say. Once you have all your apples, you place them upright in a cast iron skillet, pour brandy, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar over them with a dash of salt, and roast for an hour to an hour and a half until they’ve softened. Anyone who knows me knows that I am the farthest thing from a picky eater—I’ll try anything and typically really enjoy all types of foods—but the one thing that really grinds my gears is mushy fruit. If it’s veering on under-ripe, I’m into it. The crunchier and crispier the better. If it’s even slightlyyyy soft and edging on grainy or overly sweet, I’m not touching it. So, suffice to say, I went with roasting my apples on the lesser end of the suggested times. I was still able to poke through them, and they’d softened up nicely, but I wanted to make sure that after the second round of baking, they still had some structure to them.

After roasting the apples, they cool on a plate in the fridge while you bring the remaining juices to a solid simmer until they’ve thickened into a glaze. Once you have your glaze, it is poured into a container and set aside. Then, the skillet gets a quick rinse and you move on to making the dry caramel. See what I mean about patience?

 

While we’ve made wet caramel a few times already, this was my first stab at a dry caramel, and I thought the process was so cool! With a dry caramel, there’s no water or other liquid to help the sugar along. The sugar is sprinkled in an even layer into the hot skillet and gradually melts down into a liquid, amber-coloured form. You continue to add another layer of sugar over the melted sugar bit by bit (again… patience) until you have a fully liquefied, thick, beautiful caramel. It’s hard to imagine sugar and heat coming together in this way until you’re standing over your skillet watching it happen yourself, but man is it satisfying. At the very end, the skillet comes off the heat, and salt, vanilla, and cubes of butter are added in (again… bit by bit…) to add richness and bring the whole caramel together.

At this point, you let the caramel sit in the skillet for a little while, in an even layer, until it has hardened. Claire says you can do all of these things in stages over many days, and I can see why because there is a LOT of wait time involved in this recipe; I had a rainy day on my hands so I just went with it and made everything at once while I was chilling around the house. At this point, you take your roasted apples out of the fridge and place them on top of the cooled caramel layer rounded side down. Squeezing them in nice and tight and slightly overlapping is how you end up with that gorgeous top layer once the tart is flipped over.

Now it’s time to bring out the puff pastry. If we had to make more rough puff from scratch, I probably would have done that the day before or earlier that morning (adding on another 3+ hours to the full bake time of this tart), but luckily I still had a batch of the pastry in my freezer from when Lauren and I made the other Apple Tart a few weeks ago. All I had to do was take it out and let it defrost in my fridge that morning and it was ready to use! Massive time-saver. I rolled out my defrosted rough puff, cut it into a circle, poked the whole thing over with a fork, and then gently placed it over the apples, tucking the pastry in around the edges between the apples and the skillet.

I had a slight moment of panic as my tart was baking. By this point, a massive thunderstorm had started and the power was starting to flicker. The last thing you want when you’ve spent HOURS patiently preparing all of these little elements of this fancy tart is to have it all go down the rails at the very end. I had about 20 minutes left of baking time when I lost power and had a mini heart attack, but luckily it flipped back on after a minute or so and all was not lost.

Speaking of mini heart attacks, one of the final steps in this bake is flipping your tart over. This was STRESSFUL. There are so many juices floating around because of the apples and the caramel, and the puff pastry is so delicate, that you just never know what you’re going to end up with. The skillet is also SO heavy and so hot that you really need to work quickly. I’d watched Claire’s video earlier that day to psych myself up and followed her method of placing a wire rack over the skillet, holding the rack and skillet together at both ends with a cloth, holding the whole contraption over the sink, flipping quickly, letting the juices run out, and then placing it down on the counter and slowly removing the skillet to reveal your creation. For as stressful as this process is, wow is the thrill of that reveal ever worth it. This tart is BEAUTIFUL and looks so impressive. My thin, crispy layers of puff pastry had curled up nicely around the edges, the apples were perfectly plumped up and roasted, and the caramel coated the whole thing in this amazing colour and shine.

You’d think this would be the end but, alas, this tart requires ONE MORE STEP after the flip, and that’s bringing out the glaze you made 500 years ago and gently brushing it over the warm apples. According to Claire, the tart is best served warm and I had some friends over that night, so we were able to enjoy it together fresh from the oven!

It’s always a good feeling to be really proud of something you’ve done, and with this being such an involved recipe and one of the more technical bakes we’ve done so far—simply because of all the steps and methods required—I really felt great about the results. It’s such a wonderful combination of textures: the flaky pastry, the sweet caramel, the warm, soft apples, and the finishing touch of the glaze on top. It’s not too sweet, super comforting, and just all around delicious. I think I would choose the previous Apple Tart over this one, but would still bring a Tarte Tatin to any dinner party (assuming I have a billion hours to kill beforehand!). 4.5 stars from me!

Next week we’ll be making the Sour Cherry Pie and—SPOILER ALERT—we may or may not finally be baking together in person!! Stay tuned for a potential Sisters&Saffitz reunion!