Tag Archives: baking tips

Baking Pies & Tarts for the Home Baker

Desserts, pies and tarts are a popular choice for entertaining or just to enjoy after dinner. They are always a great idea for a food gift  or for a fast dessert when entertaining. I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t resist the crispy, flaky crust of a perfectly baked pie and its creamy, sweet and heavenly filling. Same thing with tarts. These two classic desserts are really timeless and always make such a great dessert when family or friends are visiting or you’re looking for that special food gift that just says enjoy!

The timeless beauty is evident our  Dello Mano Brownie Pies and Tarts. See how gorgeous it is? Wait until you taste it. And of course if you have no time to make one, then just pop in to the Dello Mano store or buy dessert cake online.

If you have the time though, handmade pies and tarts are simple pleasures. We make them here at Dello Mano with both a brownie base and the more traditional pastry base.

Baking Pies & Tarts

citrus pie

Dello Mano Handmade Citrus Pie

A good pie always starts with a good crust. So what makes a good crust? The answer is simple: butter. Even better, good butter. Sure, shortening or lard is a good fit for pie crusts and is likely to produce a tender and flaky crust, but the flavour is never the same as with butter. Quality butter offers a creamy, rich and yes – buttery – taste that you won’t get from shortening.

So how do you go about making your butter crust texture light and flaky? No, you don’t need pastry blender, mixer or food processor. An old-school technique, which really works, involves running cold chunks of butter between your fingertips, and incorporating them into the flour (you want your flour-butter mixture to turn into pea-sized crumbs). Such technique allows you to monitor the size of the butter pieces, so it would create flakes, not lumps as you roll it.

Why use cold butter? As your crust bakes in the oven, the cold butter melts, creating steam pockets that produce a beautiful flaky texture.

From there, the next step is simply a matter of choosing the filling for your pie. Well, maybe not so simple because they range from the most popular apple and pear, to dried fruit and cranberry, coffee-toffee, spiced pumpkin, pecans, and of course – the irresistible – chocolate filling. If in doubt we say, the best food gift is always chocolate!

Another good strategy is to chill the dough at least 30 minutes (up to two days) before you roll it and bake it. Once assembled in the pan, chill it again before you finally put it in the oven. This ensures that the butter pieces will not melt until they are heated. Most pastry chefs would blind-bake crust or pastry shell first before pouring in the filling and baking the entire pie. Doing so keeps the size and form of the crust. To prevent the dough from rising, line the crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans, rice or pie beads (which you can buy from a kitchen supply store).

Brushing the top of the pasty with egg wash will give it that beautiful golden shine. Not only that. It will also make your pie cover crispier.

Fruits as Filling

Fresh fruit on tarts makes simply a work of art! And of course the fruit does provide healthy antioxidants. 🙂

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The natural sweetness and distinct flavour of fresh berries blend perfectly with the creaminess, flakiness and sweetness of the pastry shell.

If you’re using fruits as filling, it is important that you are aware of their baking/cooking properties. For instance, apples are normally used as pie filling not just because they are so common, but mostly because apples have natural pectin content (which acts as a binder), so your filling won’t be runny. Meanwhile, blackberries have high levels of acid on the skin, which does not go well with starch, so you want to add the starch and sugar from the start. Cherries need to be pitted if using fresh, and peaches must be peeled first.

Baking delicious pies and tarts may take some effort and practice, but as you get used to it, and as you discover more techniques (which you will as you slowly become addicted to baking), you’ll find it a very rewarding task. And after a day of baking, when you finally present your food gift, you’ll be showered with compliments!.

And of course you can be experimental. Our love of brownies and our clients wanting to buy brownies in all different forms, led us to invent the Luxury Brownie pie. Our Dello Mano Brownie Pies were recently noted in the SBS Food Trends for 2016 as something yummy and new for this year.  We handmake our delicious brownie pies in a number of different flavours from Dulce de Leche through to Crunchy Walnut and  a beautiful Belgian Chocolate Ganache.  There are so many alternatives that suit a chocolate brownie base.

Cheers to the pie and tart lovers around the world! These wonderful pastry creations are too good to resist and make a huge splash as a food gift or just as simply a great share treat for family and friends.

Baking 101: Working With Sugars

Brownie & Caramel Tarts

Mini Brownie Tarts made perfect with great sugar!

Sugar is a staple in baking. For many recipes, besides a sugar replacer, you won’t be able to bake without some sugar at hand. We often think of this very common ingredient only as a sweetener. But actually, it does more than sweeten up our baked good.

Sugar has diverse roles in the world of baking. This is why too often, recipes would call for a specific type of sugar, and sometimes, a combination of two or three.

More than a Sweetener

While the primary purpose of adding sugar, in most cases, is to add sweetness in the food, in baking, sugar has a more complex role. More than boosting the taste and flavour of the baked good, sugar also adds volume, colour, texture and tenderness, and acts as a preservative.

Sugar is used to incorporate as much air in the batter (like when making sponge cakes). When a recipe calls for creaming the sugar and fat, you don’t simply mix the two ingredients together, but incorporate air into the mixture by whisking hard to produce a light and fluffy mixture. During the creaming process, the sugar molecules rub against the fat, producing air bubbles.

Sugar also has a role in making your baked good tender and lighter. That is because sugar absorbs moisture in the batter, thus reducing the amount of gluten formed in the flour. This results to a batter which has a tender crumb. And since less gluten is formed, the batter will rise more and a lighter and thicker baked good is produced.

The ability of sugar to hold moisture makes it a great preservative. Liquid sugars have better ability to absorb moisture, like brown sugar.

The sweet stuff also has an effect on the colour of the batter when baked. The browning of the baked good is the result of sugar reacting with the protein present in other ingredients like milk and egg. The more sugar the recipe calls for, the darker the baked good becomes.

Pina Colada Cake

Dello Mano hand made cake- Pina Colada

Sugar also adds ‘crunch’ in baked products. In the oven, moisture evaporates from the surface of the batter, allowing the dissolved sugar to re-crystalize. This, in turn, creates a crunchy, sweet crust that you have probably enjoyed in brownies, muffins, cakes and more.

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The Ultimate Brownie Cheat Sheet

Luxury Belgian Chocolate Brownies by Dello Mano

Dello Mano Luxury Brownies

Use this ultimate brownie cheat sheet we’ve developed over our nine years of baking brownies to help  you make the best brownies possible every time.

If you’re after satisfaction (not just fulfilling your brownie craving), homemade brownies are the gold standard. Nothing taste better than a batch of freshly made brownies made from scratch, using quality ingredients, and cut into perfection (plus the extra crumbs that are to die for!) Like these:

brownies with mousse

But when it comes to brownies, we don’t mess around. It isn’t enough that you’ve got the perfect recipe. The process is much more important. You could be doing a few little mistakes that are actually sabotaging the ‘could-have-been’ perfect brownies.

If you’ve tried many times and still trying to make the best brownies at home, you’ve come to the right place. Being the leading provider of premium luxury brownies in Australia, Dello Mano has a few secrets to share with you. After reading this post, you are sure to make your own perfect brownies at home!

We call this the ‘ultimate cheat sheet’ on brownies. Ready? Let’s get started.

Know what you want in a brownie.

You can’t just start baking right away. Remember that brownies come in different variations and to achieve the specific type and texture of brownie that you desire, there are going to be some tweaks in the recipe. So decide now. Do you want your brownies to be thick and fudgy? Do you want it cakelike? Or do you want it chewy? What about blondies? Fudgy brownies require less flour and no leavening like baking powder. On the other hand, cakelike brownies have more flour and leavening agent to produce a lighter and softer texture. Meanwhile, chewy brownies call for more eggs, a combination of chocolates, plus some cocoa powder.

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