Tarte Aux Fraises

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My all time favorite classic french dessert made with a buttery, crumbly pâte sucrée then topped with a silky rich vanilla crème pâtissière and delicious strawberries!

Pâte Sucrée (recipe from Hint of Vanilla)
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
112g icing sugar
1g salt
50g eggs whisked (roughly 1 medium egg)
250g all-purpose flour
20g cornstarch

1. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and cream together. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then add the salt and egg. Mix until combined.
2. In a medium bowl, sift the flour and cornstarch. Slowly add to the butter mixture while paddle is turning until just incorporated.
3. Remove from the mixer, shape into a large flat circle, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight).
4. Take out the disk of dough and let it warm up slightly so it is easier to roll out. Lightly dust a work surface with flour (I like rolling it out on a large sheet of parchment paper for easier transfer). Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 3mm and line your 9″/23cm tart tin, then cut the overhanging dough around the edges (If the dough is too soft to work with, pop it in the fridge to harden). Using a fork, prick the surface of the dough to prevent the surface from rising while baking and refrigerate it again until firm.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Crumple up a piece of parchment paper and then smooth it back out again. Place it in your tart tin and fill it with rice or pie weights. Make sure to press it into the corners of the tart.
6. Blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, remove the weighed parchment, and bake for another 10 minutes until the pastry is an even golden color. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Crème Pâtissière
250ml milk
25g granulated sugar
25 granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean scraped and pod saved
17g corn starch
20g butter, cubed at room temperature

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk with the scraped vanilla bean seeds and the pod. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight to intensify the vanilla flavor or proceed to the next step.
2. Whisk in half of the granulated sugar in the saucepan and put on a stovetop on medium heat to slowly bring it up to barely a simmer.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch. When the milk is hot (don’t let it boil), very slowly pour it over the egg mixture while whisking constantly and fast to prevent the yolks from curdling.
4. Working quickly, strain the milk-egg mixture through a fine mesh sieve back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat whisking continuously.
5. Cook the pastry cream for 2 minutes until it thickens then remove from the heat, and add the butter one at a time, whisking until fully incorporated.
6. Transfer the pastry cream to a glass container and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Store in the fridge to cool completely.

Assembly:
Take out the cooled pastry cream and give a quick stir to make it homogeneous and spreadable. Spread it on the pâte sucrée and top it off with thinly sliced strawberries or any summer fruit of your choice!

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Brioche with Mahleb Date Paste and Walnuts

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There’s something about making brioche from scratch that brings comfort and pleasure: the rich smell of butter and yeast, the pillowy soft dough beneath your hands, the quiet hours of the kitchen, the dark golden loaf rising in the oven. The whole process calms me and makes me forget about stressful weekdays and the constant buzz of people in this chaotic yet charming city.

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The flavors I used here are inspired by K’aak bi M’aamoul, these little round semolina cookies filled with dates, nuts, and orange blossom water. They remind me of home – Beirut – and my family’s traditional recipes. What I love about this combination is  the thick pockets of mahleb date paste layered with crunchy walnuts and the soft aerated brioche dough.

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A freshly baked warm slice of buttery brioche brings a smile to my face but if you end up with leftovers the next day, go ahead and make french toast. The bread is naturally sweetened with dates so there’s no need to douse it with honey or maple syrup.

Brioche dough recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook
Makes two 9″x4″ (23 cm x 10 cm) loaves

Ingredients:

Date Paste
250g pitted medjool dated
30g butter
3 Tbs water
1 tsp orange blossom water
¼ tsp ground mahleb

Make the Date Paste:
1. Place the dates and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, and stir until the dates get really soft.
2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Blend until a smooth thick paste is formed. Cover and set aside.

Roasted Walnuts
1 cup, chopped roasted walnuts (reserve a handful to sprinkle on top of the loaves)

Brioche
372g bread flour
8g instant yeast
45g granulated sugar
5g fine sea salt
186g eggs, room temperature
63 g whole milk, room temperature
170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/8th inch dice
1 small beaten egg with a dash of water  (for the egg wash)

Make the Dough:
1. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray.
2. For the brioche, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly.
3. Add all of the remaining dough ingredients except for the butter and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.
4. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating after each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Mix for a total of roughly 20 minutes on low speed. (it is ready when the dough is elastic and holds together in one piece)
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold the left side over to the right, the right over to the left, then the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top so you have a “package” with the seam at the top. Place the dough seam-side down in the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it ferment for 1 hour.
6. Repeat the folding process, place it back in the bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours).

7. Grease a 9×4 inch (22 x 13 cm) loaf pan. Line the tin with parchment paper, making sure to let it slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.
8. Remove the brioche from the refrigerator and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Work with one piece of dough at a time while keeping the other half in the refrigerator.
9. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a rectangular shape, about 10 x 15 inch (25 x 40 cm).
10. Spread half of the date filling onto the brioche using an offset spatula, reaching all the way to the edges but leaving half an inch (1.3 cm) of dough bare on one of the long sides. Sprinkle with half of the chopped walnuts.
11. Brush the bare part with water. Starting from the other long side, roll up the dough tightly and evenly. Refrigerate the dough for 15-20 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet.
12. Using a large knife, make a cut in the dough log. Place the right half of dough over the left, then repeat until you have a “braid” of dough. Gently press the ends of the dough together them together, then place in the prepared loaf pan.
13. Place a piece of oiled plastic wrap lightly on the surface of the brioche and let it proof in a warm place for 2 hours. (Note: I turn the oven for a minute and place boiling water in a cup to add some steam – make sure the oven is not too hot!). Take the brioche dough out of the oven.
14. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly brush the brioche with egg wash, sprinkle with more walnuts, and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
15. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing. (Repeat the process for the second brioche dough).