Grapefruit Lemon Tart

Tender, buttery crust is filled with vibrant Grapefruit and Lemon curd before being topped with clouds of hand-whipped cream.  Bake this sunny tart to chase away those winter blues as we await spring's arrival!

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

It was probably the promise of a zesty, vibrant filling, the dreamy clouds of whipped cream, or the hope of spring in the near future that caught your attention.  Yes, all of these are important parts of the narrative, but the story of this Grapefruit Lemon Tart actually revolves around the crust.

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream
Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream
Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

My go-to tart crust was already close to perfection.  But in true Tessa form, I wanted to test out a few recipes to see if I could come up with something better.  The pate sablée that I’ve used in the past is tender, sandy, buttery and almost cookie-like.  It has a great “snap” to it and reminds me of shortbread.  Pretty great, right?  But unlike most other pastry dough, this recipe called for softened butter.  

Since I primarily work with cake and buttercream, I usually have a few sticks of butter coming to room temperature on my kitchen counter at all times.  The idea of working with softened butter is very familiar to me, but not usually when it comes to pies and tarts.  Even though I love the taste and texture of this pastry dough, I started to question why I was softening butter just so I could turn around and refrigerate it, not once but, twice before it finally went into the oven?

There must be another way!!  After a bit of research, sure enough, there is another way.  This method, like most pastry and pie dough, calls for super cold butter.  It too comes together in a shaggy mess, but instead of rolling it out smooth, you press the crust crumbles into the pie tin before baking.  Voila!

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream
Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

Truth time guys – I still prefer my old way.  Maybe it’s because we are creatures of habit or perhaps I just haven’t perfect the “press into the pan” technique just yet, but I kind of like my softened butter way.  One of the biggest turn-offs for my original recipe is probably the fact that you have to roll out the dough, but in the end, this is what I prefer.  If you roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, then it doesn’t stick (usually the first headache that comes to mind when you think about rolling pie dough).  Rolling the dough creates even thickness in the baked crust.  Trying to press in the crumbly dough pieces was difficult for me since I couldn’t tell/feel how even it was until after it baked.  I tried my best to create even thickness, but in the end the bottom was fairly thick (especially the corners) and I ended up handling the dough waaaaay more than if I has rolled it out.  And since with pastry the more you mix and work the dough the tougher it bakes up, this was not a good thing.  And, there is still some chilling involved.  Of course I will give you both methods to try out, but personally, I prefer waiting for my butter to soften and even then having to roll it out as opposed to uneven, thick tart shells.  The taste is great and it browned beautifully, but I will leave it to you to decide which recipe to choose.  Lastly, I prefer to make my pastry dough in the stand mixer or by hand.  I know by hand may seem like more work, but I prefer it over having to take out and wash my food processor, hehe.

Okay, now onto the filling!  I thought spring was near, but Mother Nature decided to give us another round of snow.  Snow in March?  In Vancouver?  This is not normal.  I decided to make the most of it and bake up one last winter citrus dessert for the season.  Inspired by Yossy Arefi’s incredible book, Sweeter of the Vine, I put together this Grapefruit Lemon Tart.  The filling comes together like lemon curd then endures a short bake until it is slightly puffed and set.  The sweetened whipped cream is optional, unless you let plastic wrap touch the top of your tart (like I did) and you need to give it a last-minute make over.  I mean, I meant to do that!  Enjoy!

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

Grapefruit Lemon Tart
adapted from Sweeter of the Vine
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and softened
par-baked tart shell (recipe to follow)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt.  Stir in the grapefruit and lemon juice.  Place the butter in a heat-safe dish or large glass measuring cup and set aside.

Place the saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly but slowly until the mixture thickens and registers 170 degrees (about 8 to 10 minutes).   Do not let the mixture come to a boil or it will curdle.

Once hot and thick strain the curd with a mesh sieve over the butter.  Stir until combined.
Pour the citrus curd into the partially baked crust.  Bake until the edges of the curd puff up but the center still wiggles when you move the pan (about 20 minutes).  Cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes before refrigerating.  Allow the tart to set in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight before slicing.  Top with whipped cream, if desired. 

 

Sweet Pastry Dough
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and chilled
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 tablespoons ice cold water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut in the butter until the bits of butter are about the size of a pea.  Stir in the egg yolk.

Working with only a teaspoon or two at a time, gradually add just enough water so that when you press the dough together it stay intact. The dough should still be shaggy and crumbly when done.  Do not at too much water.

Press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan.  Start by pressing the dough up the sides as evenly as possible, then fill in the bottom.  Reserve a bit of the dough to repair any cracks that may occur during baking.  Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes as you pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Once chilled, line the tart pan with foil, shinny-side down.  Fill with pie weights or dry beans and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the tart pan from the oven and very carefully take out the weights and foil.  At this point, patch up any minor craks with the reserved dough.

Return the tart back to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is light golden brown.  If the center puffs up during baking, gently press is back down with a piece of foil or parchment paper.

Resume recipe for the Grapefruit Lemon Tart, or cool completely before wrapping in plastic.  The tart shell may be stored wrapped well in the refrigerator for a couple of days or frozen in the freezer for a few months.

 

Whipped Cream
¾ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
splash vanilla extract

By hand of with an electric mixer, whip the cream until it begins to thicken.  Add the sugar and whip until soft peaks.  Add the vanilla and whip until medium/firm peaks.  By hand, this will take about 3 to 5 minutes.  Do not over-mix.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Layers of lightened-up coconut cake have been soaked in tres leches, or "three milks."  Inspired by the Latin American dessert, this layer cake version is frosted in clouds of whipped cream sweetened with condensed milk and then garnished with toasted coconut for added flavor and texture.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Living in California, most everything thing “Spanish” growing up was associated with Mexico.  I remember my high school Spanish teacher giving lessons on Latin and Hispanic culture, beyond just the language and Mexico.  She explained to the very Caucasian, suburban co-eds in my class that in Spain, some Spaniards even have light eyes/hair and could even look like some of us (as she gestured right toward me).  I replied, that in fact, I am part Hispanic.  Puerto Rican, in fact, with roots all the way back to Barcelona and Madrid.   

I’ll be the first to admit that I am pretty pale.  Living in Canada and using a liberal amount of sunscreen doesn’t help, but I’ve spent most of my life with people assuming that I am just white.  To be fair, I look just like my dad (who is 100% German) so it is hard to tell until I talk about my family or you spot me with my mother.  My mom is Filipino and Puerto Rican.  I’ve shared stories about my Filipino family from Hawaii and my island-inspired recipes many times before, but not many from my grandmother's side until now...

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Long ago, my great great grandmother Amelia (my middle-namesake) grew up in Barcelona, but eventually migrated to Puerto Rico where she met and married my great great grandfather from Madrid. Once they started a family, they found themselves in New York before eventually settling down in Arizona, where my grandmother was born.  My grandma used to joke about getting the raw end of the deal and not getting to grow up in Spanish Harlem like most Puerto Rican immigrants at the time – assuming that living in New York City would have been much more fun than working in the agricultural fields of Arizona. 

At one point, my grandma lived with her own grandmother who spoke only Spanish.  In the end, my grandmother was fluent in both Spanish and English and turned this skill into her career.  She taught at the elementary school for years, helping the ESL students learn to read and write in English.  I would love to be fluent in Spanish too, but I remember her teaching me some basics in the car ride down to Southern California to visit great great grandma Amelia when I was a child.  I remember this actually coming in handy with Amelia when hanging out and watching game shows together in her late 90’s.  She would end up living to the age of 103!

The Puerto Rican branch of my family tree is a mixed bag.  I have aunts with red hair and other relatives that are even paler than I am.  Some have darker features, but it really goes to show that you never really know what someone’s background is sometimes.  Take me and my brother - I look just like our dad and my bro a bit more European.  One thing is for sure though, I got my crazy, unruly curls from my Puerto Rican side!

Like I mentioned before, we sadly didn’t celebrate this part of our heritage as much growing up.  However, the parts I do remember were always full of music and dancing.  My grandmother LOVED all types of music.  It must run in the family, as her grandmother was always playing music as does my own mom, typically accompanied by dancing all around the living room.  Without sounding horribly stereotypical, but maybe all Puerto Ricans enjoy music? Perhaps that is why West Side Story and In the Heights are soooo good, hehe. I guess I’ll have to bring Ev down to Salsa Sundays in Robson Square and teach him the merengue.

One piece of our culture that I really wish I knew more about is the food.  We ate paella in Barcelona when we took my grandmother to visit when I was a teenager, but beyond that, I am pretty unfamiliar.  Luckily, that’s where this Coconut Tres Leches comes into play.  Although not necessarily native to Puerto Rico, this creamy, dreamy cake hails from Latin America and is becoming increasingly more popular by all.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Tres Leches Cake

I made this recipe for The Cake Blog.  Here is a bit more of what I have to say about it:

The Latin American dessert, the Tres Leches Cake, inspired this culinary creation. It gets its name, meaning “three milks,” from the tree different types of milk that the cake is soaked in. This version in particular is of the coconut variety, calling for full-fat coconut milk in the cake and as a replacement for the heavy cream in the milk soak. Top the assembled cake toasted coconut flakes, if desired!

Tres leches is typically baked in a sheet pan, but you know I had to go and give a layer cake twist!  Instead of an airy sponge laden with three types of cream, I used a lightened-up butter cake for a bit more structure but paired it with clouds of freshly whipped cream.  A bit of leftover condensed milk from the soak helps sweeten up and stabilize the cream. 

Find the recipe on The Cake Blog!

Chocolate Cherry Pavlova

Baked meringue provides a light and crispy bed for pillowy, almond-scented whipped cream, fresh cherries, and a shower of chocolate shavings.  A heavenly treat for summer!

Pavlova with almond cream, fresh cherries, and chocolate shavings.

That 16-hour plane ride to Sydney surely gives you a lot of time to build up expectations.  Thankfully, the trip did not disappoint – even in July (their winter). 

After I graduated from university, my family and I went way down under.  A trip to Australia!  How freakin' amazing is that?!?!?  I honestly didn’t know what to really except.  Would it be like cities in America or parts of Great Brittan but with a different accent?  Is it more tropical island-like with its many beaches and abundant wild life?  And why did we come during our summer – would it rain the entire time?  The trip was a decade ago this summer, so please forgive any lapses in my memory or ignorant generalisations. 

The best way I can describe the experience was that is was similar to going to a clean, modern, English-speaking country in Europe, where everything feels almost the same as home but then you turn the corner and see a peculiar food item or hear an unfamiliar phrase in an accent that is not your own.  Kind of like living in Vancouver and it feeling almost like any other major city in the US, until you spot the colourful Monopoly money or a bag of ketchup chips while hearing someone say "decal" instead of sticker, but pronouncing it de-kel instead of di-kal.  In fact, Vancouver reminds me of a mixture of Melbourne’s cosmopolitan city life and the scenic, waterfront of Sydney.  Both have similar climates, modern glass high-rises, and friendly locals, too!

Pavlova with almond cream, fresh cherries, and chocolate shavings.
Pavlova with almond cream, fresh cherries, and chocolate shavings.
Pavlova with almond cream, fresh cherries, and chocolate shavings.

I wish I could say that I saw a koala bear or a kangaroo in the wild, but most of our time was spent in the cites of Sydney and Melbourne.  Some of the highlights include: climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, taking a harbour boat tour, standing in awe in front of the opera house, attending a rugby match then running for the train after (as we learned that when the first train fills up, it may take forever until another arrives), hitting up the Lindt Chocolate Café, Bondi Beach (I snapped an awesome pic that was the desktop photo on my old computer for years!), the river walk in Melbourne, and more.  I know I didn’t even scratch the surface and mostly indulged in touristy things, but it was truly an amazing trip in a gorgeous country.  I’d go back any day – despite the longest plane ride ever (although I have to say that those Melona popsicle Kiwanis gives out mid-flight is a nice touch).

Food wise, I remember eating passion fruit EVERYTHING with reckless abandon.  Judging from this cake and these popsicles, you can probably tell that I have a thing for tangy passion fruit.  I recall going to a market for breakfast that was kind of like a fancy food court and ordering yogurt covered in fresh passion fruit pulp and my first ever flat whites daily.  

Pavlova with almond cream, fresh cherries, and chocolate shavings.

One of my favorite Aussie foods that I still enjoy baking today is the pavlova.  Some say it originated in New Zealand while other claim Australia.  All I know is that it is down right delicious.  The light and crisp meringue shell, sweetened whipped cream, and fresh, seasonal fruit – what is there not to love? When the cooler months have us craving more comforting treats laden with caramel sauce or decadent ganache, summer calls for something on the lighter side.  This recipe in particular calls for flecks of real vanilla bean, almond cream, fresh cherries, and a shower of chocolate shavings, but feel free to change up the flavor of the cream and use your favorite fruit.  There really is no reason why we shouldn’t be making these pillows of glory goodness all summer long!  Head on over to the West Elm Blog for the recipe.

Surely I am not giving Australian or its cuisine much justice.  How much can you really learn and appreciate about a culture in such a short amount of time?  Two of my favorite dessert bloggers just happen to hail from Australia.  I strongly urge you all to go check out Sarah’s The Sugar Hit blog and Thalia’s Butter and Brioche blog. And please forgive me ladies for not doing anything remotely “cool” while I was there.  Next time, will you please show me around? 

 

Pavlova with almond cream, fresh cherries, and chocolate shavings.

Matcha Strawberry Genoise Cake

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake layered with strawberry jam and cream cheese whipped cream.  The cream cheese adds some bulk, stability, and a touch of tang to traditional whipped cream.  A modern twist on a classic sponge cake!  

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

True story: when I had the opportunity to go to Japan in 2008, I didn't really know what matcha was.  At the time, I had just deiced to turn my hobby of baking and pasty into a career.  I wanted to use the experience to take home some new inspiration from all of the cutting-edge pastries as well as traditional Japanese sweets.  Before heading home, I threw in a tin of matcha into my suitcase – the packaging and instructions entirely in Japanese characters.

That tin of matcha ended up sitting in the back of my pantry for at least a year or two.  I knew how to order a matcha latte, but I had no idea what to do the matcha powder in my own kitchen.  Like I mentioned before, the packaging was in a langue that I didn't understand.  Funnily enough, by the time I got around to baking with it, I didn't need "instructions," or at least not for its typical use (making tea).

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

Since then, matcha and I have gotten to know each other quite well.  I've used it in macarons, cake, and even ganache in my new book.  So fast-forward 8 years since out first meeting, and I've combined matcha with a classic genoise for a new, modern twist.  Aaaaaand, it just so happens that it's cherry blossom season in Japan right now, so it found it very appropriate to make this cake for spring!

A genoise cake, you ask?  I know I've already thrown in some possibly new words like "matcha," but how about a another to add to your vocab too?  Even though genoise is used in a lot of french pastries, it is actually Italian, named after the city Genoa.  It is very similar to a classic sponge cake, using only whipped eggs to lift and lighten the cake, meaning without chemical learners, but with butter instead of oil. 

In all honesty, genoise cake is kind of a pain to make – especially for something kind of, well, plain.  I think "mild" and "versatile" might be more appropriate words for the fancy-pants sponge cake.  It's not very sweet nor flavorful, yet that does make for the perfect cake layer in a pastry or something that can take on a multitude of other flavors (matcha, in this case).  

22.  22 is the number of eggs I wen though when recipe testing.  The first two batches did not blend well enough, resulting in cake layers that were split: dense, rubbery cake on the bottom and light, flavourless cake on top.  The butter did not incorporate well enough (I was too afraid to over-mix the perfectly whipped eggs) and it sunk to the bottom of the pan.  Of course I questioned if this finicky sponge cake was even worth it, but I was determined to master the classic pastry.  In the end, decreasing the amount of butter, sifting in the dry ingredients, and mixing a bit of the batter into the butter before adding it back to the rest of the mix helped out the most.

Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

In typical layer-cake fashion, this matcha genoise has been paired with sweetened strawberry jam and tangy cream cheese whipped cream.  Here's a bit more of what I have to say about this fabulous flavor combo:

Genoise cakes are fairly mild in flavor yet very versatile. In this case, even the delicate flavors of the added matcha powder are able to shine through. They can be subject to drying out, but act like sponges to simple syrups and other flavouring agents. I brushed on a generous about of vanilla bean syrup to add extra flavor and moisture to each layer before I spread on the strawberry jam and cream cheese whipped cream. Now, if you thought the star of the this cake was the fancy-pants matcha genoise, then let me introduce you to this cream cheese whipped cream! I wanted to frost the cake with something that was not going to weigh down the delicate sponge or subtle matcha flavor, but plain whipped cream is sometimes a bit too light and unstable. Mixing some softened cream cheese with sweetened whipped cream was the answer! Not only does the cream cheese add fabulous, tangy flavor, it “bulks up” the whipped cream and even stabilizes it enough to frost the cake without headache. Try it – it’s amazing!! Top with fresh berries and there you go! I bet you could also use raspberry jam with fresh raspberries if you’d prefer.
Matcha (green tea) genoise cake with strawberries and cream cheese whipped cream.

Head straight over to The Cake Blog for the full recipe!