Cranberry, Pecan and Dulce de Leche Tart


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People always seem to come up with a reason why they think they wouldn't like this tart. I don't like pecans. Dulce de leche is too sweet. Cranberries aren't my thing. But somehow, everything comes together in a way that just works. The cranberries and dulce de leche balance each other out, and the whole thing is so delicious the pecans probably won't even bother you…unless you're prone to anaphylactic shock upon contact with them.

Anyway, this is a dessert I've made several times since I saw cranberry caramel almond tartelettes on Smitten Kitchen years ago. I go to Argentina often so I always think of dulce de leche instead of caramel. And since my sister is allergic to almonds, I've started to use pecans instead. I also make one big tart instead of several smaller ones like Deb did.

What is amazing about this recipe besides the trifecta of nuts, cranberries and dulce de leche is the rich crust that tastes like a shortbread cookie. The dough comes from chef/owner of City Bakery, Mary Rubin, and it's…divine is the word that comes to mind, even though I'm not the type of person who normally says divine.

But this tart is, whether you follow the original City Bakery recipe or try my version. I'd say Valentine's Day would be a prime time to get one in the oven. It makes a nice holiday tart — I made it for Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve — but, hey, any day ending in Y is occasion enough.

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Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies with Dulce de Leche

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These cookies need a milk chaser, and that's a good thing. I prefer desserts that demand a cold glass of milk.

By that I mean, rich, dense and chocolatey. For me, there is definitely such a thing as “too sweet” — many commercially made desserts fit this category — but there is no chocolate “too rich.”

The cookies are bittersweet with subtle cinnamon and cayenne pepper. They're okay on their own, but the dulce de leche adds a needed creaminess. I have had the recipe bookmarked for two years, but you shouldn't wait anywhere near that long to make a version of these.

Chocolate and dulce de leche previously: Chocolate and Dulce de Leche Layer Cake and Chocolate Dulce de Leche Custard Puffs

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Banana Milkshakes, or I Can't Believe It's Not Ice Cream

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People laughed when they found out I packed an immersion blender for my stay in Buenos Aires. Well, I'm happy to report that it has been getting plenty of use. Pureeing butternut squash and whipping cardamom cream, but most often to make banana milkshakes.

Now, I wouldn't normally consider a banana and half a glass of milk to be dessert. In fact, I would have scoffed at the idea two months ago. But, folks, it's just like ice cream! When you blend a frozen banana with milk, it comes out thick and creamy like any great shake. Many others have probably learned this before me, but in case you haven't tried it, get some bananas in the freezer, stat!

Sometimes I put a spoonful of dulce de leche in it, and it's still the healthiest dessert I love to eat.

The immersion blender, by the way, has been a great thing to have. It makes frozen drinks easily and without the mess of a larger appliance. And if you've ever tried to puree soup in batches using a regular blender, as I did once, you know it's not a fun process. My immersion blender has a whisk attachment and another attachment for chopping. It's pretty snazzy, and doesn't take up much room in your suitcase, you know, should you ever have the need…

(And no, this isn't a paid endorsement. If anything it's an extra thank you to my mom for last year's Christmas gift.)

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Chocolate Dulce De Leche Puffs

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Today is my friend Marissa's birthday, and in her honor I created this dessert: chocolate choux pastry filled with dulce de leche custard.

Marissa lives in Kansas now, but our nightly chats on Skype have kept me from feeling lonely while I am on my own in Buenos Aires. She deserves something spectacular, and I think this dessert qualifies. The pastry is light, the custard is thick and creamy, and it's all covered with chocolate and dulce de leche. Totally decadent without being overly sweet.

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I wasn't able to make these look refined, but I think they match our friendship more this way. Marissa and I write silly raps, wear hats while we do Mad-Libs and generally cause a playful ruckus wherever we go

I've already enjoyed a few of these on the birthday girl's behalf, but I've got some in the freezer for when she comes to visit in two weeks. So Marissa, if you weren't looking forward to your trip enough already…here's one more thing to get excited about. I can't wait to share this with you. Happy Birthday!

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Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cake

Chocolate and dulce de leche. I don’t even have to say much more to convince anyone this is a great idea, but I’ll get a little more specific: Three layers of dark chocolate cake loaded with thick Argentine dulce de leche that permeates what had been an extra springy cake, then covered, as everything should be, with creamy bittersweet chocolate ganache.

You shouldn’t need any other reason to make this, but I came up with this decadent idea because today is my friend Kat’s birthday. If you read He Cooks She Cooks fairly regularly, you know her name comes up often. While I was in Missouri, I cooked dinner with or for her nearly every night this summer and many times during the school year.

Now we’re a hemisphere apart, but I wanted to make something to celebrate her birthday.

No, she can’t eat any of this and that’s sad, but I hope she appreciates the thought. I’m not much of a baker because I’m no good at following recipes and I don’t have much patience. This is the first three layer cake I’ve ever made — my family makes a lot of bundt and sheet cakes because we’d rather get to eating cake than wait around for multiple tiers to cool so they can be properly frosted. But for this cake, I cooked each layer individually (I have a small oven and only one cake pan), waited for them to cool, and tried my best to be neat with the ganache.

Since you can’t taste the cake, Kat, I hope the effort means something to you. And trust me, the cake is as amazing as you are imagining it right now. Happy birthday!

See also: Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

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Buenos Aires Street Food… or Reasons Why I Cook Less Lately

I believe that if you want to know a city, you have to embrace the streets. In Buenos Aires, I walk between three and 12 miles each day, venturing to different corners of the city

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and using new routes all the time. And if Anthony Bourdain has taught me anything, it's that street food is often some of the best a city has to offer. I've been taking advantage of BA's cheap and delicious options, so I thought I'd share.

Argentina is well known for the parilla, the grill. There are many stands serving up asado, whether it's grilled flank steak, blood sausage, burgers or chorizo. The photo above is choripan, a chorizo sausage on bread. Chorizo here is a pretty plain sausage, not the spicy stuff from Spain or Mexico. But it's got smoke from the grill, classic chimichurri sauce and is enveloped in a perfect baguette. This 4-peso meal (just over $1 US) from Palermo is still one of the best I've had here.

Also at the portable parillas are hamburger patties that are otherwise unextraodinary until you realize how many topping options you have waiting for you. I dressed my burger with two varieties of chimichurri, mayo, a pepper and onion salsa of sorts, tomato, pickled cabbage, lettuce and fried shoestring potatoes. Six pesos in Puerto Madero.

When you're less in the mood for grilled meat, pans rellenos are a great option. People walk around craft markets selling these stuffed breads out large baskets. If you're lucky, yours will still be warm when you get it. Common fillings are ham and cheese or mozzarella, tomato and basil. I got this massive one filled with pumpkin, corn and cheese in San Telmo for 8 pesos yesterday, and I just finished the other half for lunch today.

There are many possibilities for dessert, too. The majority involve dulce de leche. These churros are filled with the heavenly stuff and are 1 peso each (about equal to a quarter) in Recoleta.

There's much more, but consider this an introduction.

Read Part Two here.

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