I woke up early yesterday knowing that there was a small dinner planned on my birthday. Best I could figure, my roomate from college 20+ years ago and his wife were guests, as well as a good friend from the days we lived in Jakarta 15+ years ago. So I thought it was a reunion of old and dear friends and I figured Mrs. MM was going to cook a simple pasta dish and we could all catch up on old times. But up at 6 a.m., I noticed there was little or no activity in the kitchen at all, and I was wondering what the dinner menu would include if the ham wasn’t even soaked yet, and there was no serious prep work in progress in the kitchen. Not knowing what the dinner menu would be, I decided to make several desserts, after all, what better day to eat whatever you feel like with a minimum of guilt… First up, I made a classic apple pie, using a tried and true recipe that I first learned from my sister 30+ years ago, and have since made hundreds of pies over the decades. It always sells at the dessert buffet and I figured friends who have known me for 20+ years would appreciate some pie, the way I have always made it…
The night before I had prepared several batches of pate sucre or tart dough and a variation called an almond shortbread dough. Therefor, I had enough dough in stock to make several tarts. But I hadn’t made up my mind which tarts to make. I decided to bake all morning and try and get out of the kitchen by noon so that dinner preparations would not be disturbed. The first tart that I made was a plum tart with lots of ground almonds and cinnamon and butter and eggs. I used a mixture of black and red plums that I purchased days earlier and ripened myself on the kitchen counter. This dessert turned out well and though the plums weren’t the finest (say a 7 out of 10), the overall taste I was striving for was reasonably achieved. Just before serving, The Kid sprinkled the outer edge of this tart with copious amounts of powdered confectioner’s sugar and it looked stunning. The incredible color of the plum skins leeching onto the surface of the pie also made this a visual hit.
With several pounds of 60% Valrhona chocolate still in stock, I chopped up 16 oz worth and made three chocolate tarts a la Payard. As with the apple pie, this is a staple in our home for special events and this recipe always yields a terrific, simple and delicious tart. I have previously posted the recipe on this blog, and I return to it again and again. What would a dessert buffet be without chocolate of some sort? And miraculously, no added sugar in the chocolate filling, but please, do not attempt this unless you have really good chocolate to begin with! Serve this warm, with whipped cream or ice cream, yum!
Lemon tarts are another favorite of mine, and as with the chocolate tart, this recipe is simple and results in a fantastic acidic but flavorful tart that is easier to make than most tart recipes. I was also planning to make a Dayap Pie a la Marketman but just ran out of steam. A dayap tart would have been a nice counterpoint to the chocolate and a great dessert beside the lemon version. The color of this lemon tart was brilliant. I took the suggestion of one cookbook and glazed this with apricot preserve but it looked better WITHOUT the glaze. You can also sprinkle confectioner’s sugar for added visual appeal.
Last but not least, The Kid staggered half-awake into the kitchen at around 10 am and said she wanted to make a dessert so she almost single-handedly created these pecan boats. Patterned after the desserts filled with crushed pili nuts, she made the boats from leftover dough and then we made a simple chopped pecan and caramel concoction that she filled the boats with and baked for say 10 minutes. These were an absolute hit. Just enough pecan taste but not overwhelmingly rich. Brilliant with ice cream or a hot cup of tea. So all in all, we made 5 desserts for that evening. And we could have made several others. We shelved a fresh fruit tart with grapes, nectarines, green and yellow kiwis, etc. We served a huge bowl of fresh fruit instead… Now wait till you see what “simple” meal Mrs. MM and The Kid had arranged for dinner BEFORE these desserts!