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I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

Pies & Tarts

Key Lime – Vanilla Pie

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My recent trip to Costa Rica was fortuitous in several respects, not the least of which was that one of my favorite tropical fruits was in season and I indulged myself at every opportunity. There are three varieties of passion fruit; the variety I had in Costa Rica is the same as lilikoi in Hawaii. It is a tart fruit but with the lovely underlying flavor of passion fruit. Called Maracuya in Latin America, it is made into a refreshing beverage served icy cold as well as a rich, creamy pie. It occurred to me as I ate a piece, that the recipe was either similar to, or the same as, the one I use for Key Lime pie.

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie

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This is an especially rich and creamy pie, one that is memorably delicious. You remove it from the oven before the custard splits but after it has cooked long enough to set up when it cools. It some respects, this Sugar and Spice Pumpkin pie is more like a cream pie than a regular pumpkin pie. If you bake the pie on a pizza brick in the oven, the bottom crust will get enough heat to remain crisp, one of the challenges when making a custard pie filling. This is a recipe you are likely to reach for more than once during the holiday season.

Easy Pie Hacks for Great Results

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A Quick history of pie
According to historical accounts, pie has been around since the Egyptians, and they probably learned about pies from the Greeks. The crusts weren’t always eaten, however, but acted as a way to encase meats. The first English pies were made from crows and meat fillings are still a popular Pub entree. Crow pie? Not so much.

Blackberry-Vanilla Pie

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Those of us crazy about fruit watch the farmers markets and stores like hawks, waiting for the first berries to arrive as the signal that yes, summer is coming! Similarly, we know that summer is in full swing before blackberries are ripe on the vines and ready to harvest though technically they’re available somewhere in the States between mid-June and early September.

Fruit Galettes and the Crust that Encompasses Them

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When the warm days of late spring arrive, the Farmer’s Markets in California are a veritable cornucopia of early peaches, nectarines, apricots, pluots, apriums, plums, strawberries, rhubarb and cherries! My mind whirls over which to choose and how to use.

My cat feels similarly overwhelmed as he sits in the garden — will it be a gopher, a rat, a mole, a bird?  (Most cats concur that a plump gopher in the mouth is worth two birds in the bush.)

My decision? Begin the season with strawberry rhubarb galettes in honor of my brother who has a May birthday and a love of rhubarb. For fun I also chose some yellow nectarines, brightly acid and juicy.

Flo Braker’s Tangy Lemon Custard Tart with Pomegranate Gelee

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Flo Braker is a fabulous baker and her book Baking for All Occasions is filled with wonderful creations. One of our all time favorites, which is a hit with everyone who tries it, is her Tangy Lemon Custard Tart with Pomegranate Gelee. Decorate the top with halved cherries and blueberries and it makes a perfect dessert for the Fourth of July!

Fresh Fruit Tart

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Courtesy of Anne Baldzikowski, Easy Artisan: Simple Elegant Recipes for the Everyday Cook

Anne says, “This is a favorite dessert at summertime parties when we have such an abundance of colorful and tasty fruits. It was also a favorite dessert of mine that I learned how to make in pastry school. After graduation I was so enamored by the pretty fluted edged French tarts that I started a wholesale bakery called The Queen of Tarts! Coffee houses, caterers, restaurants, and hotels soon called with orders for this eye-catching dessert.”

Apricot Crumble – Tarte Crumble Aux Abricots

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Courtesy of David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen; Ten Speed Press; 2014

I grew up on apricots, both fresh and dried as well as apricot desserts. David had never had fresh apricots until he went to France, at which time he “got it” about how amazing they are when they’re baked. If you haven’t used fresh apricots in desserts, you’re in for a wonderful treat!

Chestnut Jam Tart

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Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.

Chestnut Jam Tart
Makes 10 servings

Alice says, “A jam tart seems like a relaxed, simpler-to-make linzer torte, with an Italian accent instead of a German one. A jam tart is called fregolata in Italian, and it’s pretty and festive and giftable, too. I thought it fitting (and extra delicious) to swap the usual shortbread crust for a chestnut crust. The dough is quick to make by hand and is then pressed flat into a tart pan with no worries about the sides since the dough forms its own edge as it bakes. Any jam will do for the topping, but the prettiest and most flavorful are red fruits like cherry, plum, raspberry, blackberry, or even strawberry. The jam is topped with crumbled bits of dough and sliced almonds and pushed into the oven to do its own thing.”

Exceptional Maple Sugar and Maple Syrup Vanilla Pies

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 I admit I could never imagine Maple Sugar Pie or Maple Syrup Pie. I flat out love pure maple anything, but an entire pie made with maple sugar or syrup and nothing else to offset the sweetness — like pecans for instance — seemed like it would be cloying and a full-out sugar rush. Then a  friend and I drove from Vermont to Quebec City in the early autumn of 2012.  I knew that this would be my best chance to try Maple Sugar  or Maple Syrup Pie. I was ready to convert  —  or not.

Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse Tart

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While this recipe involves some time and dedication, it isn’t difficult. It was inspired by a recipe in Sunset magazine, which I’ve adapted. For instance, the original recipe called for two tablespoons of hazelnut liquor, such as Frangelico. The local liquor store didn’t have any “shooter” bottles and I didn’t want to invest in a large bottle, so I added some extra vanilla extract.

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