This She-Devil Pastry creation tastes as good as it looks
A gorgeous tart with cranberries and nuts enfolded in luscious caramel, enlivened with orange zest and liqueurs, is bound to make your festive season merry and bright.
The decadent dessert, as delicious as it is pretty, is a favorite of Galveston’s Janina Farias, a French-trained pastry chef who moved to the island a year ago. Her bakery business, She-Devil Pastry, is known for cookies, scones, cakes and other treats for customers who buy direct or from her stand at Galveston’s Own Farmers Market.
“The tart is so pretty to look at — you eat with your eyes first — and it is really easy to make,” Farias said. “I love caramel and think cranberry and orange are such good Christmas flavors. I wanted to add pecans for that Texas touch.”
Farias originally is from San Diego, where 10 years ago she attended culinary school and trained under fifth-generation French pastry chef Yves Fournier.
“He was brutal and made Gordon Ramsay look like a pussycat, but we all loved him,” Farias said. “One lesson, he had made a huge celebration cake for the graduating class. Somehow, I managed to put my elbow in it, and he swore at me in French. I was crying in the oven room when he came to console me by saying ‘It’s just cake.’ I always try to remember that. It’s just cake, you can always make another.”
As a child, Farias always was interested in baking, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she decided to take her hobby more seriously, she said. It was in the early 2000s when the cupcake craze was in full swing. Farias discovered she had a half sister — Debi Beard. They were curious about each other and agreed to meet for dinner and compare notes about their father, she said. After bonding over the meal, they went to a cupcake shop for dessert. While the cupcakes looked beautiful, the sisters agreed the flavors weren’t great.
“I told her I could do better, and she said, ‘Why don’t you then?’ It was such an electric moment, I knew it was life-changing.”
Beard has a thriving do-it-yourself design business and a YouTube channel “Debi’s Design Diary.” The sisters not only keep in touch, but they continue to inspire each other, Farias said.
With her She-Devil Pastry business, Farias loves showcasing traditional techniques and using high-quality ingredients, she said. She likes to make “sinfully delicious” creations that can be naughty or nice, she said. Her two most popular cakes are an example of her creativity. The PB&J cake combines the flavors of childhood with yellow cake, triple berry jam, a peanut butter-flavored butter cream and peanut crumble for a sweet and salty treat. Her 8th Deadly Sin cake features dark chocolate cake — with her own bespoke cocoa powder — caramel-flavored Swiss meringue buttercream, Nutella and Heath bar bits.
“I get inspiration from everywhere,” she said. “It could be from produce that is in season; the shape of some snowflake molds my sister has; reading the book ‘The Flavor Bible’; and thinking about flavor combinations, looking at different colors, or even a meme.”
Her newest baking-related initiative is a YouTube channel called “Baking Therapy with Chef Janina” on which she plans to share recipes and her thoughts on how baking can help your mood and mental health. Baking has helped her cope with her own mental health battles, including many years of depression, she said. Sharing amazing flavors also will be key to the channel with Bacon Chocolate Chip cookies being the first recipe she plans to share.
“Baking and especially making cakes is so special,” she said. “Cakes make a celebration and make the moment special. They remind us this moment is better than the moment that came before.”
She-Devil Cranberry Nut Tart
Recipe and directions by Janina Farias
For the filling:
1¼ cups heavy cream
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
Zest of one orange
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
1 cup granulated sugar
1¾ cup cranberries
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup chopped pecans
For the pie dough:
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
3 teaspoons sugar
½ tablespoon kosher salt
For the pie dough: Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse until it’s sandy with a few slightly larger than pea-sized lumps left in it. Add the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Form into two discs, wrap in plastic and allow to rest in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Your tart shell will need to be partially baked, also known as “blind baking,” before adding the filling. You do this by lining your tart pan with the dough, pricking it all over with a fork, covering it in parchment paper and filling it with baking beads or uncooked beans. Bake at 425 F for 10 to 15 minutes.
You don’t want to skip this step because it will save you from ending up with a soggy crust, as well as keep the walls of your crust from slouching. This recipe makes enough pie dough for two tarts. You can wrap the leftover disc of dough tightly in plastic wrap and save it in the freezer for up to two weeks.
For the filling: Measure the cream, butter and Grand Marnier (if using) into a small saucepan and heat until butter is completely melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
Spread sugar in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch pan and set over medium-low heat. Swirl your pan gently to distribute the sugar once it starts going from straw-colored to a deep caramel. Resist the urge to stir the ever-loving daylights out of your sugar. You will only end up with lumps of crystals and heartache. A gentle nudge with a spoon here and there is fine, only if you absolutely must. Do not walk away from your sugar! It goes from light gold to black and nasty in the blink of an eye.
Remove your pan from the heat and very slowly whisk in your cream mixture. Your whisk should be moving constantly during this step. If your caramel seizes, return it to low heat and stir until it’s smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Stir the nuts, cranberries and orange zest into the caramel and mix until everything is well-coated. Pile all this yummy goodness onto your partially baked shell mounding toward the center.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the juices and the caramel are bubbling around the edges, but before the crust looks overdone. Remove from oven and let stand for 1 hour before removing from tart ring.
Transfer tart to serving platter and smile demurely at onslaught of compliments.