Baked Sunday Mornings: Malted Crisp Tart

Has it really been two weeks since I posted here? Blimey. It’s been pretty busy around these parts, what with SXSW and the home stretch of my dissertation. But things are slowly getting back to normal, which is nice.

This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings project is the Malted Crisp Tart. This is another one of the recipes from the book that I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise, but the project “forced” me to confront. I’m not usually one to go too far out of my comfort zone with cooking; I have to be feeling pretty darn adventurous to try new techniques, and I am lazy and don’t like to make things with a bunch of steps. So this recipe wasn’t really up my alley, but I rolled up my sleeves and did it anyway. Took me two days, but I did it!

I made this in a springform pan because I still don’t have a proper tart pan. The one I borrowed is ceramic and I wasn’t comfortable using it because the recipe calls for you to chill the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes before transferring it directly to the oven. I didn’t want to risk cracking Laura’s pan, so I used the springform instead.

This was my first time making a diplomat cream (pastry cream with whipped cream folded in), and I’m not sure what the consistency was supposed to be. It was light and fluffy, maybe not terribly flavorful, but not unpleasant. Every layer of this tart — crust, chocolate malt, and diplomat cream — contained malted milk powder, but it didn’t have a strong malt taste. I’m not sure what I was expecting; maybe a giant Whopper (a favorite candy of mine, which I don’t often indulge in)? It basically tasted like a thick layer of chocolate with a nice crust on the bottom and an airy cream on top.

The recipe called for milk chocolate for this middle layer but 1.) I don’t really care for milk chocolate and 2.) 8 ounces of high quality milk chocolate was going to set me back about $6-8 and I wasn’t willing to spend that kind of money. So I got some semi-sweet chocolate chips from the bulk section of the Whole Foods Mothership and called it good. This chocolate ganache layer has crushed Whoppers and caramelized Rice Krispies pressed into it, which is where the “crisp” part of the name comes from. It’s also very thick and WOAH CHOCOLATE. It reminds me of Toll House Pie, actually, especially with the semi-sweet chips.

I was just finishing up shooting the pictures of the tart when my sister and her husband came to pick up my nephew, who is a few months older than the Big Kid and who had been staying with us this weekend. I offered them each a slice (who can say no?). My sister LOVED it (and gladly accepted a piece to take home), my brother-in-law described it as “sweet” and said that he doesn’t like chocolate, and my husband was kind of “meh” on it. I liked it alright; enough that to keep it in the house for any length of time will seriously undermine my Weight Watching, but I don’t know that I’d make this again. I’m really more of a brownie/cookie kind of gal; you get just as much YUM with a lot fewer steps!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Salt and Pepper Sandwich Cookies

I love Oreos. LOVE. THEM. I almost never eat them because they are part of the horrific industrial food system, not to mention being fattening and devoid of nutrients. (But! They are [possibly] vegan!) That said, these cookies did not capture my interest the first time I flipped through Baked Explorations, and I was ambivalent about their spot on the Baked Sunday Mornings calendar. I’m glad I made them, though, because these are gooooood.

The cookie part has a pleasant depth of flavor thanks to the double whammy of Valhrona cocoa and Dagoba dark chocolate; the white pepper creates heat on the back end. The filling (I omitted the rum because a.) I didn’t have any and b.) my husband wouldn’t be able to take the cookies to work with him if they had “live” alcohol in them) is exactly the consistency of an Oreo filling. The only thing I would change about the filling is that I would also leave out the 1/2 t of salt. Then again, I’m sensitive to salt and tend to find things too salty that others don’t notice. (For example, my husband didn’t think they were too salty at all.)

I let the Big Kid have one before nap and I heard him ask, “Daddy, does this have pepper in it?” I was certain that once he got an answer in the affirmative, he’d stop eating, but he finished the whole thing and even said he wanted one in his lunchbox tomorrow.

(HA! As I write this, Matt Lewis is making the Sweet and Salty Brownies on The Best Thing I Ever Ate! I need to make those again soon.)

Anyway, I only used half of the dough; the first half made 28 sandwich cookies. When I make the second half of the cookies, I might experiment a bit with the filling, maybe throw some blueberries or blackberries in there to complement the pepper.

Big Mama’s Banana Pudding

My great-grandmother, Fanny (otherwise known as Big Mama), was a formidable woman. She was opinionated, kind of cranky, and blunt to the point of being brutal. She was also extremely loving (I remember her bursting out of her tiny house in Trinity, Texas, when we would come to visit; she’d smother us in kisses and pull us close for tight, tight hugs), a gifted quilter (I still mourn the loss of the quilting frame that hung above us in her living room), and a brilliant cook. In fact, both of my great-grandmothers were fantastic Southern cooks — my Granny made fried chicken that none of us has been able to replicate. Her secret? “You’ve got to hold your mouth right while you do it.”

I remember rambling through Big Mama’s house when I was a girl, exploring the big front bedroom no one ever slept in (except for napping children) and its huge iron beds with the knobbly, old-fashioned white coverlets; the old dresser with the pitcher and bowl on top; the old family photos of people long dead. I used to love to go in the washroom at the back of the house and play with the hand-cranked clothes wringer, even though I wasn’t supposed to.

But the thing I associate most with Big Mama is her banana pudding. I would be bitterly disappointed when we went to her house and she didn’t have it at the ready. I have tried to make banana pudding in the past, where you put a layer of Nilla wafers in a bowl with banana slices, then pour in instant pudding, but it’s just not the same. First, you’ve got to have really, really, really ripe bananas. And you can’t skimp on the Nilla wafers. And you simply CANNOT use instant pudding. There’s an alchemy there that depends on the bananas infusing the custard with their flavor and on the Nilla wafers absorbing the custard as it cools. And the longer the pudding sits, the mushier and more pudding-y the cookies get. Not that the pudding lasts that long.

Big Mama left us long ago, and I wasn’t really much of a cook back then, so I didn’t have her recipe to work with. So, I scoured the internet, looking for scratch banana pudding recipes that looked like they might approximate the beloved dessert of my youth. I must say that I was shocked to learn that some people eat banana pudding with MERINGUE on top? Uh, no. Just no. And that Chick-fil-A makes a banana pudding milkshake (22 POINTS!) BLASPHEMY.

I whipped this together in about 15 minutes last night, including slicing bananas and feeding extras to my tiniest monkey. I waited until this morning to tuck in — it was a long, arduous wait, believe me.

Big Mama’s Banana Pudding

1/2 c sugar
1/3 c flour
3 egg yolks
2 cups 2% milk (you can use whole if you want something a bit richer)
pinch salt
1 box Nilla wafers
4 bananas
1/2 t vanilla extract

Build three layers each of Nilla wafers and sliced bananas in the bottom of a large bowl, starting with the cookies first and alternating the two. Pour all of the remaining ingredients into a double boiler or saucepan (I used my small Le Creuset stoneware pot) and cook it over medium low, stirring constantly, until it thickens, 10-15 minutes. (And by “thickens,” I mean, “all of a sudden is the consistency of pudding, so pay attention to what you’re doing.”) Once the custard has come together, pour it over the bananas and cookies and smooth the top. Give it a good, gentle shake to ensure that the custard seeps into all of the nooks and crannies. Take about a dozen Nilla wafers and crush them over the top of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Hat tip to Southern Plate.