Monday, November 17, 2014

Nutter Butter Brownies

I'm having a Nutter Butter moment. It's not nostalgia - my childhood was filled with peanuts ground into sludge at the co-op, not sandwiched between cookies. For me, it's the mouthfeel. There's just something about that creamy, slightly gritty texture of Nutter Butters that's so satisfying. Oreos are iconic, of course, but peanut butter filling is so much less greasy than "creme."

I know I'm the minority on this one - I found an empty package of Oreos shoved back in the pantry, but the Nutter Butters were untouched. I rounded up the usual suspects, but no one copped to it. I'll have to wait for the forensics to come back.

It's just as well that I'm Team Nutter Butter, because chocolate-covered Oreos are happening here in a big way. I'm making them as favors for my son's Bar Mitzvah. We were going to do a candy table, but at last week's festivities, I saw just how far the pitcher on a middle school baseball team can wing hard candy. Far, actually! So, the candy table is out.

Being slightly obsessed with Nutter Butters just now, I've been looking for ways to accessorize. I can sit around in sweats and clogs all day long, but my baked goods always look sharp. But when I consulted my friend Mr. Google, all he had was a bunch of recipes with a layer of goop sandwiched in the middle. Like cookie crust, with half an inch of peanut butter cream, with a chocolate layer on top. Too sweet, too squishy, tootoo much.

So I made these brownies with chopped Nutter Butters in the batter and topped them with a creamy frosting made from crushed cookie crumbs. You can certainly spread the frosting out, instead of piping it on top. But I prefer to eat the frosting without getting it all over my fingers. Plus, look how pretty! Even squirted from the corner of a sandwich bag, it looks dressed up. But, suit yourself. And feel free to use your own brownie recipe sized for an 8" pan. Mine is dense and not overly sweet, so use the one that you love.

Nutter Butter Brownies

7 cookies
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (57g)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (86g)
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 whole egg, plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour (60g)

4 cookies, plus 2 more for garnish
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (57g)
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (32g)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (60g)
2-4 tablespoons of milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection) and line an 8" square pan with foil. Chop cookies into 8 pieces and set them aside. In a medium-sized bowl, microwave the butter and chocolate for a minute on full power. It will still be chunky, but keep stirring and it should smooth out. Mix in the sugar and salt, then the egg, yolk and vanilla. Finish off with the flour, which should be incorporated without aggressively beating it.

Looks just like every other brownie recipe you've made, right? No surprises here. Spray the foil-lined pan with cooking spray. Now stir in the cookie bits and spread it evenly in the pan. If you like a fudgey brownie, take it out at the 25 minute mark. For chewy, give it 30 or so. I prefer something crusty enough to double as a hammer, so I leave it in almost 40 minutes. Listen to the food, it will tell you how to get what you want.

Rest on the counter for at least half an hour before refrigerating until cool enough to slice cleanly. If you skip this step, the brownies will smush and crumble when you cut them. Your brownies will be asymmetrical - GASP. They will still taste awesome, though.

Pulverize the 4 cookies in the processor or with a rolling pin. In a mixer, beat the softened butter for about six minutes until it is very pale and creamy. Add in the peanut butter and beat for another two minutes before working in the crushed cookies and powdered sugar. This will look hopelessly gritty, but don't fret. Add in 2-4 tablespoons of milk, and it will whip right up. If it seems loose, let it set up in the fridge before piping. In a couple of hours, the cookie crumbs will soften, and the sandy texture will disappear.

You can get 12 decent brownies out of an 8" pan, or 9 huge ones. Unless you slice them warm, in which case you get a muddle. At any rate, portion them out before piping the frosting on top. I used an open star tip to apply the frosting, but a snipped-off sandwich bag works just fine, too. Garnish with a chunk of cookie.

Serves 9-12.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Brownie Truffle Balls

Whose idea was it to make hamburger cupcakes for every kid in the fifth grade? They were awesome, but seriously labor intensive. I'll tell you about it later this week. Suffice it to say, pressing out fifty "hamburger patties" from brownie sheets leaves you with a ton of scraps.

Thus, Brownie Truffle Balls. Which is more of a technique than a recipe, really. So forgive me for leaving out the regular recipe formalities. The whole point of the exercise is to use up leftovers, although you could easily bake a pan of brownies expressly for the purpose.

Step 1: Pulverize Brownies
I prefer a crusty, chewy brownie over a fudgey one. My brownies required two minutes in the food processor with a little extra liquid to pull the mixture together. I'm betting your brownies are softer, so maybe you can crumble them with your hands. In any event, you won't need extra fat to bind it like a cake pop, so don't add frosting. Just throw your chunks into the processor and run it until it comes together into a ball. You can add a tablespoon or two of milk, water, rum or whatever if it seems too chunky.

Step 2: Portion
I use a cookie scoop for everything, but spoons will work just as well. Portion out 1-2 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto wax paper or a silicone sheet.

Step 3: Form Balls
Rub a tiny bit of butter between your palms before starting to work. Depending on the softness of your brownie dough, you may need to squeeze the dough several times before the warmth of your hands causes it to come together enough to roll it. Just keep squeezing until you can roll it into a smooth ball. Return the pan of brownie balls to the fridge for half an hour.

Step 4: Dipping
Maybe you are a purist using only the finest tempered chocolate. Maybe you have a pantry full of Wilton melts in every color of the rainbow. Whatever floats your boat, right? I made these to use up brownie crusts and fed them to my kids - take a guess what I used to coat them! If I make them for company, I'll use something better.

Melt your preferred dipping medium as per the package instruction. Using a small fork (fondue fork if you have one) spear a ball and submerge it in the chocolate. Tap the fork at an angle to shake off the excess coating, put your thumb and forefinger under the ball, and lift it off onto the wax paper, setting it down gently on the imperfect side. (It would be nice if your hands were clean for this part. Just saying.) Sprinkle on any solid decorations while the coating is still wet, because it will set up almost immediately.

Step 4: Presentation
These look best in paper wrappers. I know you're not supposed to refrigerate chocolate. But if I leave these on the counter, they'll be gone in an hour. So, I hide them in the fridge because I love my kids. Try to let them warm up a bit before serving - the truffles, not the kids.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hutzler's Potato Chip Cookies

Sometimes a memory attaches to a place. And if you are attached to that place, the memory attaches to you. So, even though I never ate at Hutzler's Tea Room, I remember it because I am a Baltimore girl.

Hutzler's was one of the first department stores in America. The original outlet opened in downtown Baltimore in 1929, becoming a fashionable destination by the 1950s. Just reading the Wiki makes me nostalgic for a time long before I was born. The store pioneered retail practices such as universal pricing, liberal returns, and non-discrimination. It was a beloved fixture in the community. When was the last time you were at your local mall? I was at mine last week. Beloved is not the word that comes to mind. Would exchanging khakis at the Gap be any less unpleasant if I wore a hat and gloves to the store?

Photo from the Maryland Historical Society, 1958

Every Baby Boomer in Baltimore remembers shopping at Hutzler's Department Store and eating at the in-house restaurant. If I had a nickel for every time I heard my mother say that the mashed potatoes there were special because, "the woman had a little ladle, and she would make a well in the potatoes as she ladled in the gravy..." Well, I'd be a rich woman.

In my mind's eye, I can see that ladle. Even though I never walked through that cafeteria line with my mother and her grandparents on Saturday afternoon after piano lessons at Peabody. I was never there, but ... I was there.

People around here are still talking about food served in the cafeteria, particularly the chocolate pie, and nobody's eaten it for a generation. Some time during the 80s, Hutzler's sold its last Potato Chip Cookie. But the memory is still fresh enough that someone wrote into the local paper looking for it. And someone else kept her employee newsletter all this time, and sent it in to the Baltimore Sun. Is this a great country, or what!

This time, I really was there. I made the cookies, and they were terrific. Kind of like Pecan Sandies, in that you eat one, and say, "That was okay." But you find yourself eating another five. Then you finish them off for breakfast the next day, because .... nuts are healthy.

Or perhaps I project.

Anyway, these cookies are great. They're homey and old-fashioned, but the salty chips just make them sing. The original recipe even called for "nuts" of no specific variety, just like all of my grandmother's handwritten index cards. She meant pecans or walnuts, and so do I. Speaking of my Bubbie, she always baked with salted butter, as did the nice ladies in the Hutzler's kitchen, I'd bet. I haven't baked with salted butter in years, so I added salt. I added a little extra sugar as well, since my generation ruined our palates on Twinkies and soda pop. (Also rock-n-roll and the reefer.)

Try 'em, Hon!

Hutzler's Potato Chip Cookies
(from the Baltimore Sun)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (226g)
3/4 cup sugar (150g)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (188g)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (55g)
1/2 cup crushed potato chips (28g)

Preheat the oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection). Cream the butter and sugar in a stand or hand mixer for two minutes. Beat in the yolk and vanilla.

Add the flour and the nuts and mix until well blended then gently fold in the potato chips.

Use a #40 disher, or spoon out heaping tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the sides are just brown. Don't take them out early - these old-fashioned cookies have a high proportion of flour, so they will taste pasty if undercooked. Cool cookies on a rack.

Makes 24 cookies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Candy Corn Buttercream

As a child, I was not allowed to eat candy. My mother served homemade yogurt sweetened with jam (also homemade, obviously) as a treat. With all the love and intention of a woman in a peasant blouse she'd smocked by hand, my mother reasoned that children who didn't grow up eating sweets would never develop a taste for them.


We did go trick-or-treating once, but only accepted coins for UNICEF. No candy. One woman slammed the door on us, and she lived four houses down our block! (I'm over it ... mostly.)

So, I love Halloween candy. The crappier, the better. Save the imported chocolate for New Year's Eve - Halloween is for Candy Corn! And we all know this, even if we don't admit it. Offer an adult candy corn, and you'll get a, "No, thanks." Leave her alone in a room with a bowl of the stuff, she'll empty it.

Don't even pretend you're better than that. Candy corn tastes like the happiest day of childhood. 

Sadly, I cannot just dump a bag of orange sugar blobs in a bowl and call it dessert. I spend quite a lot of time in my Serious Adult costume, you know. So I devised  a recipe for candy corn frosting, which is a completely different thing. Yes, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Happy Halloween!

Candy Corn Buttercream
1/3 cup corn syrup (100g)
1 cup candy corn (170g)
2 egg whites (70g)
pinch of salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (170g)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
orange food coloring

Combine corn syrup and candy corn in a saucepan over low heat. (Corn is a vegetable, right?) Begin whisking the candy corn into the syrup as it heats. Go slowly to avoid scorching the candy; in about eight minutes, you should have a pot of bright orange goop. While you're waiting for syrup to heat up, start beating the egg whites and salt on medium speed in the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Do I need to tell you that, even if it's not visibly boiling, melted sugar is wicked hot? It's melted candy corn, you know what it tastes like. Leave it alone.

About now, the egg whites should be getting pretty stiff. Turn off the mixture and pour a bit of the hot candy syrup into the whites. Beat it in for ten seconds, then repeat until you have added it all. Crank the mixer to high and let it go until the sides of the bowl return to room temperature.

Add the butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. It will look curdled, but don't panic. Beat in half the powdered sugar, then the vanilla and lemon juice, and finish up with the remaining sugar.

Now's the time you beat in copious amounts of orange dye. If you are a person who is offended by food coloring, feel free to skip this part. But you just melted down candy corn, so I'm guessing you're not all that picky.

This frosting is great on chocolate or vanilla cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Remember making fake fudge as a kid? Microwave a bag of chocolate chips with a can of condensed milk, pour into a pan, eat the entire thing in front of the TV before Mom gets home?

Oh, like you never did that ...

Sadly, I am too old now to eat an entire tray of candy with a spoon. There isn't enough Lactaid in the world! Plus the new Scooby Doo episodes are terrible

But truffles are another story. Truffles are sophisticated, especially when you call them Brigadeiros. Named for a Brigadier who ran for President of Brazil in the 1940s, these candies were served at fundraisers by the Brigadier's wife. The name stuck, and so did the sweets; they are still one of the most popular desserts in Brazil.

I learned to make Brigadieros from the wonderful website. I tweaked the recipe a bit, but their adorable video demonstrates the technique.

The candies are really beautiful, but they are ridiculously easy to put together. And you can roll the chocolate in almost anything. Chocolate sprinkles are traditional, but I will definitely have my kids make a batch with crushed candy canes or red sprinkles to take to their teachers before winter break.

I do need to spend a little time with my friend Mr. Google to find out whether Brigadeiros must be flavored with chocolate. As someone who flips out over recipes for challah that call for milk (NO!!), I do understand that some food rules can never be broken. But if not, why not white chocolate, or peanut butter, or chai?

I did make a batch flavored with Japanese matcha powder. They were gorgeous, but not very tasty.

1-140oz can of sweetened condensed milk (396g)
4 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (30g)
2 tablespoons butter (28g)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sprinkles, chopped nuts, coconut, etc.

small paper or foil muffin liners

In a small saucepan, whisk the condensed milk and cocoa powder until smooth. Place over low heat and add butter and salt. Whisk steadily for about ten minutes, until the mixture looks like very thick pudding. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and pour the mixture into a flat bowl. Refrigerate for about half an hour to firm up.

Spread a square of wax paper on the counter. Using a disher or two spoons, drop chocolate in 1-inch balls onto the wax paper. If you have time, slide the paper onto a tray to refrigerate for 15 minutes more.

Roll balls between your palms to smooth, then gently toss them in the sprinkles to coat. Place in muffin liners and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 24.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Apples and Honey Macarons

I bake a lot.

No, really.

And in all my years of baking, there has never been a recipe that has given me more trouble than this one here. Go ahead, Google "Apple Macarons." See if you find any with apple in the macaron shell, rather than just the filling. I'll wait.

Nothing, right?

The closest I got was one that used powdered apple cider mix. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But Wednesday night is Rosh Hashanah, and everyone knows you have to have apples and honey for the Jewish New Year, so that's what I set out to make. Turns out there's a reason that no one makes apple macarons, even though you can get freeze dried apples in every supermarket. And that reason is pectin.

Pectin is like natural fruit gelatin, binding with the water molecules to thicken a liquid. Which is all well and good when you're trying to thicken apple pie filling. But baking macarons is a delicate dance between heat and moisture. Adding pectin is like inviting an elephant to the party.

But the elephant was on the guest list. So, even after throwing out the first six disastrous batches, I couldn't walk away. Then all those ground almond and egg whites would have been pitched in vain. Oh, noes!

I was just about to concede defeat this morning. Then I decided to do the exact opposite of what I've been doing with my normal macs. Essentially, I beat the meringue for twenty minutes on high speed until it was a sticky mass with almost no water left in it. Then, I laboriously folded the dries in to the thick eggs, taking almost twice as long as the normal, lighter version. These cooked for-flipping-ever: almost thirty minutes on a very low heat. Did I mention that the pectin wants desperately to turn your cookies brown? Funtimes!

In short, I finally did get this recipe to work, but I would not recommend it to a novice macaron maker. If this is your first time, you might well stick to plain ones and fill them with apple butter. This is the recipe I have had the best luck with. Don't start the New Year off crying in your kitchen!

Apples and Honey Macarons
70g blanched almonds or cashews
63g powdered sugar
6g freeze dried apples
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
52g egg whites
2g powdered whites
52g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop gel food coloring (optional)

113g unsalted butter, softened
80g honey
93g powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

parchment paper or silicon liner
piping bag
round pastry tip

Grind almonds, sugar, and apples in spice grinder, then sift together with cinnamon. Re-grind any lumps, and discard the last half teaspoon of chunks. Beat liquid and powdered eggwhites on low speed, Kitchenaid 4, for four minutes until foamy. Increase speed to level 6 and beat for eight minutes, adding a tablespoon of the granulated sugar every minute or so until it's all incorporated. You should be at the consistency of whipped cream at this point. Beat on KA 8 for four minutes until the meringue is clotting in the middle of the whisk. Add vanilla and coloring, beat another two minutes on 10.

In three portions, fold the nut mixture into the meringue. This will require a fair bit of elbow grease, but just keep working your spatula and you will get pretty close to the "molten" consistency of normal macarons.

I have a double oven, and I turn both on to cook two trays of cookies at once. If you are only using one oven, then don't pipe the second tray until the first is almost ready to go into the oven. The batter will be fine resting in the pastry bag.

Put a round tip (approx. 1cm) in your pastry bag, and pipe circles onto a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet. You can use this template to pipe 3.5cm circles, yielding two trays with about 28 shells each. Take each pan and use your thumbs to anchor the mat or parchment while you bang the daylights out of them. No gentle tapping here! It should sound like hammering and result in your batter spreading noticeably.

You'll want to rest your macarons for about 35 minutes, or until you can touch them without marring the surface. One advantage of this comparatively gummy batter is that you can gently push in any "nipples" that don't settle in after piping. (Please supply your own dirty joke here.)

Preheat the oven to 270˚ convection (285˚ regular, but convection is preferable). Bake for at least 25 minutes, opening the door a few times to release any pent-up humidity. You will know they are done when you touch one and it doesn't wiggle on the base. Let the shells cool for at least 20 minutes on the pan. After that, they should be ready to fill almost immediately.

Beat together butter, honey, and powdered sugar until they are light and fluffy. Finish with the lemon juice to stop it becoming cloyingly sweet. Using a piping bag or just a sandwich bag with one corner snipped off, dollop a teaspoon of filling on half the shells, then sandwich together. Allow the flavors to develop in the fridge for at least a day before serving.

L'Shana Tova! Happy New Year! May it be sweet for all of you.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Strawberry Macarons with White and Dark Chocolate

Baking a cake is like yoga for me. Breathe in, cream the butter and sugar. Breathe out, crack the eggs. I know the sizzling sound a cake makes when it needs another five minutes in the oven. I know how to change up a recipe without ruining it. I can make chocolate cake in my sleep.

Macarons are just the opposite. With macarons in the oven, I feel like a compulsive gambler: Optimistic that this batch will be the one that comes out perfect. Tense with fear that I'll have hollows, no feet, or cracks. And yet...

I. Can't. Stop. Making. Macarons.

After dozens of batches, they're almost to where I want them.  If I could just get them a little bit more smooth and symmetrical... Le sigh.

On the plus side, you can hide those surface imperfections with a little melted chocolate. Seriously, no one's going to complain!

These Strawberry Macarons are filled with a White Chocolate ganache. If you want to temper the sweetness (or hide a flaw), dip them in dark chocolate. But they are delicious without, too.

Forgive my noting quantities only by weight. But making macarons by volume just will not work. Trust me - it's for your own good!

Strawberry Macaron Shells
90g blanched almonds
120g powdered sugar
4g freeze dried strawberries
70g egg whites at room temperature, preferably aged
2g powdered egg whites (optional)
pinch of salt
40g granulated sugar
1 drop red gel color (optional)

White Chocolate Ganache
110g real white chocolate
60g heavy whipping cream

Bitter Chocolate Dip
100g bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Pastry Bags, preferably disposable
Round pastry tip, approximately 1 centimeter in diameter
Parchment Paper

For the Macaron Shells:
  • Weigh almonds, powdered sugar and strawberries into a fine sieve. If you're using a spice grinder (my preference), work in batches to grind everything to a fine meal, sifting as you go. If you're using a food processor, pour all three ingredients in and grind for two minutes. Decant to the sieve, and push through. Process any remaining chunks until almost all passes through the sieve. Discard remainder.
  • With the mixer on medium-low (Kitchenaid 4), whip the eggs, optional egg powder and salt for 4 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium (KA 5) for another 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and beat for another 4 minutes on medium (KA 5 or 6). Add the optional food coloring and beat for an additional minute at the same level.
  • While the mixture is running, line two baking sheets with parchment and prep the pastry bag.
  • Fold the almond mixture into the whites 1/3 at a time, incorporating fully after each addition. Work the batter ONLY until it just stops coming off the spatula in blobs. If it runs back into the bowl, mounds up and then settles down in about 20 seconds, you're there.
  • Fill the pastry bag with the macaron batter and pipe 1.5" circles on the parchment. Rap pan on the counter several times to release air bubbles, then pipe and bang second pan. Leave macarons to rest for at least 30 minutes. If they haven't formed a skin in 30 minutes, rest for 15 minutes longer.
  • Preheat the oven to 290˚. Bake macarons for approximately 14 minutes, until the bubbles in the little cookie feet go from looking wet and shiny to dry and dull.
  • Remove from oven and rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before peeling off of parchment.

For White Ganache:
Break up white chocolate into a small bowl. In a separate measuring cup, microwave the cream just until it starts to steam. Pour hot cream over the white chocolate, then whisk it until it's smooth. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, whisking again every 10 minutes, until the ganache is firm enough to be piped. Using the same tip as you did for piping the macarons (washed, of course!), pipe about 2 teaspoons of ganache onto half of the macaron shells. Sandwich shells together and, if you have time, refrigerate for an hour before dipping in chocolate.

For Dark Chocolate:
Chop chocolate and microwave it in a glass bowl on 50% power for thirty seconds. Stir and repeat until it is almost melted. Stir and allow the residual heat of the bowl to complete the melting process. Dip tops of macaron cookies into the chocolate, swirling to keep the chocolate from developing a tail.

Refrigerate macarons for a day to develop the flavor and texture.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pear Tart with Chocolate and Almonds

Thank goodness it's finally September! Those last two weeks of August are a sweaty, interminable slog. Don't mistake me - I think my kids are the coolest people in the world. But enough already!

After ten weeks, I ran out of energy to throw my body between them and their beloved xBox. I confess, I hid in the kitchen baking batch after batch of macarons, flinging sandwiches through the door when the noise got too loud.

The children survived, and my macaron skills are getting pretty good, if I do say so.

And, hooray! We won't even hit 80˚ today. Heck, I may just bushwhack out there and yank some of the weeds that took over while I was cowering in the air-conditioning. Yeah, I'm kind of the Indoor Type.

So, time for fall fruits and football. Bye bye, popsicles, and hello, pie. We made it through Labor Day, so it must be time for pears. Or apples, if that's your thing. I'll probably make an apple-honey version for Rosh Hashanah, so stay tuned...

Pear Tart with Chocolate and Almonds

Chocolate Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour (140g)
2/3 cup powdered sugar (80g)
3 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder (20g)
pinch of table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (90g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks, 1 egg white

Almond-Pear Filling
7 oz almond paste (198g)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 teaspoons (108g)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (32g)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (67g)
2 whole eggs, plus one extra yolk, room temperature if possible
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3-4 small, firm pears
1 tablespoon sliced almonds

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection) and use baking spray to coat a 9-10" tart pan with removable bottom. In food processor, pulse flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and butter for 20 seconds. Add vanilla and yolks, then turn the machine back on. (Stop thinking about all those recipes that urged you to handle pie crust gently. They are not the boss of you.) Process for at least a minute, listening for the sound to change from whining to thumping. (Yes, I'm serious!) When it starts to come together in clumps, gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20 minutes. When it has firmed up a bit, roll the dough out onto a piece of wax paper and fit to tart pan. Prick the bottom of the crust several times with a fork, and place in the freezer for at least an hour. Spray a piece of tinfoil and fit it snugly into the crust, making sure to push it into the corners and up the sides to prevent shrinking. Bake for 20 minutes at 350˚, then remove from the oven and use a pastry brush to coat the inside of the crust with egg white. Return the crust to the oven for 5 more minutes before filling.

For the Filling:
You can wash the food processor between the crust and the filling - there's a sucker born every minute, right? I'm just going to throw in the almond paste and sugar and let it run for a bit to break up the chunks. Follow up with the flour and butter, running the machine until almond paste is the consistency of cornmeal. Finish up with the eggs and extracts, processing until there are no visible lumps and then pouring gently into the prepared crust. Peel and slice pears into slivers, arranging them in two concentric circles. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle almonds on top and return to the oven. This should take approximately 20 minutes longer, but you'll know it's done when the top starts to brown and the center stops jiggling when you move it. Let the pie cool completely before removing from the pan.

Refrigerate any leftovers. If you skip the whipped cream, you can call it breakfast the next day with a straight face.