Posts Tagged December Baking project – holiday desserts

Holiday Desserts – Julia Child’s Pear Tart

Pear Tart

A delicious blast from the past.

Last Sunday I had my book club over for an afternoon of Julia Child, chatting, and food. We were reading Julia Child’s memoir, “My Life in France,” about Child’s first years in Paris and her education at the Cordon Blue Cooking School. Back in July when I watched Julie and Julia I had the bright idea that I should have the book club over in December and make lunch from “Mastering The Art of French Cooking.”

I have to say, I was so focused on making the lunch that I actually didn’t read all of the memoir (okay, I stopped at page 70). And I had no idea that the recipes in “Mastering” were so damn labor intensive – I wanted to make a sauce to go with my chicken, but I didn’t have the four hours that it would require. I read somewhere (and I can’t now remember where, otherwise I would link to it) that Child’s techniques reflected classic French restaurant cooking – her laborious methods reflect the technique of a restaurant chef rather than those of a home cook. I believe it.

Even if looking through the Mastering the Art of French Cooking transports me back to the 1950s, I was surprised at how great all the food was. The butterflied chicken, bathed in butter and tarragon, was delicious, and the cauliflower, cooked in cheese sauce and spread with bread crumbs, was one of the most perfect things I’ve had in a long time.

But I was really surprised at how much I loved the dessert. It seemed so staid and boring – a poached pear tart with a sugar cookie crust and frangipane (almond pastry cream) filling. But the simple flavors were perfect. I poached the pears in a wine syrup flavored with cinnamon and spices, which made them sweet and spicy and even more pear-like than before. The almond cream was sweet and creamy and paired perfectly with the pears. And the cookie crust was crunchy and sweet and fresh. It was a perfect dessert.

Really, this Julia Child person really knew what she was talking about. And some classic things – even if they feel stuffy, actually are classics for a reason. The only problem I had with the tart was that the pears were a little too big to fit in the tart shell – I guess pears were probably smaller in Julia Child’s time.

Pear Tart 2

So yeah, my pear slicing skills are not so hot.

Recipe: Julia Child’s Pear Tart


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Holiday Desserts – Double Chocolate Mint Tart (And An Unfortunate Event)

Double Chocolate Mint Pie

It did not arrive at the party this way.

There are some desserts that you make to please, and there are some desserts you make to impress. Lately, I’ve been wanting to make the latter kind. It’s finally the holiday season, the time for fancy desserts – in fact, given my current baking inclinations, holiday desserts are going to be my December baking project. But last weekend my desire to impress was thwarted by my general clumsiness – well, that and some new jeans that are a little too long, and a pair of stilettos.

So there it is, above – a double chocolate mint tart. A chocolate cookie crust, filled with chocolate ganache, topped with a layer of white chocolate mint mousse, and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was my own creation, which I was taking to one of the many pre-Thanksgiving parties I attended this year.

Too bad I tripped on my walk to the metro carrying this tart – in classic Jenna fashion, I fell flat on my face, arms and legs akimbo (I trip like this at least twice a year, if not more). My tupperware container flew from my hands and landed upside down, several feet away. One passer by stopped his bike, exclaiming in a worried tone “Oh my god – are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m okay,” I replied. “But I don’t think my dessert is okay.” After all, bruised knees will heal. I could not say the same for my tart.

Most of the tart ended up on the roof of the tupperware container, and I was able to scrape the filling back into the tart shell when I got to the party. But folks, it was not the same. Instead of lovely layers of cookie, ganache and mousse, everything was mixed together – more like a trifle scraped into a tart pan.

It wasn’t all bad – even in its uncomposed state, the tart was pretty delicious – in fact, it a hit at the party. Part of my problem with a lot of chocolate desserts is that they’re too heavy, so intensely chocolatey that I can only eat a couple bites. But this is a chocolate dessert that doesn’t overwhelm – the intense chocolate ganache layer and the rich chocolate sauce is offset by the creamy, minty, white chocolate mousse. The crunchy chocolate cookie crumb crust is the perfect foil to filling – in fact, every time I make a crumb crust, I fall a little more in love with them.

I guess that’s another point in this dessert’s favor – it was suprisingly resilient, even in the face of klutziness. But I really want someone else to make this for a holiday party – so it can be served in its proper, impressive fashion.

And if you do, I suggest you save your stilettos for another night.

Double Chocolate Mint Pie - Post Flip

It arrived this way.

Recipe: Double Chocolate Mint Pie

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