Sunday, September 29, 2013

White Bread and Plum Custard Tart

This is what I did last night. I picked up a whole lot of plums from Costco, and I've been trying to find ways to use them. This, again a Martha recipe, was what I chose. It is a simple partially baked tart shell filled with the plums, which are then partially baked within, and topped with a custard. The whole thing is put back into the oven until the custard sets and voila! The custard is flavoured with brandy and has flour to prevent curdling and to give it a slightly more cakey texture.

The bread is one of my standby recipes from Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia. It is a butter enriched dough, and makes absolutely divine toast. The King Arthur bread flour gives it a lovely chewy texture while maintaining a fine crumb. This time I did a messy job forming the loaves, thus the imperfect grain. If you watch that the dough doesn't rise too long the bread has no yeasty qualities, but instead a sweet nutty flavour from the wheat and butter. I had two slices this morning with homemade red currant jam and my Earl Grey tea.

Steamed Persimmon Pudding

Thanks again to Martha Stewart for her wonderful recipe. I've linked it below. I enjoyed making it very much, I think I accidentally went a little heavy on the nutmeg though. I would recommend it. I think it does need to be paired with a slightly tart cream though. I would use 50% cream and 50% sour cream mixed together with some icing sugar and vanilla extract or paste. It has the texture of almost yoghurt with an irresistible flavour. It comes across as very light, despite the cream.

Persimmon Pudding by Martha

Applewood Smoked Salmon Steak with a Morel Cream Sauce

I got this lovely recipe from one of my many Martha Stewart cookbooks. I smoked the salmon in a grill. I put a tinfoil bag of soaked applewood chips on the heating element. The salmon was hot smoked, and therefore cooked thru. Adam was in charge of removing the steaks from the grill, and accidentally let them go a little long, thus the singing of the edges. But they were still delicious! The morel sauce has shallots, butter, cream, morel, dill, salt and pepper. It was very good.

Adam loved this dinner. I personally prefer fresher flavors. I think if I make this again I will pair it with a slightly bitter salad. Perhaps arugula. It is my intention to continue to experiment with meats, especially smoking and curing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Easy Fresh Peach Tartlet

Looks good, right?! This is one of the easiest tarts ever. I adapted this from Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts.

I blind baked pate brisee in a tart pan. I used small ones but you could just as easily make a large one. I poured some sweetened cream into the bottom, arranged the peeled and sliced half of a peach on top, and spooned strained apricot jam loosened with grand marnier on top. TA DAA! Done. Enjoy! I wish that I'd had a spring of mint or something for garnish. 

Ricotta Cheesecake with Black Currant Jam

I've been creating a lot of my own recipes lately. I've gotten ahold of a lot of basics which has given me the opportunity to experiment. This recipe was born out of a sweet tooth and a limited fridge.

Honestly, I'm not sure about the amounts; I just kind of eyeballed it. This is my best guess:

I began by fashioning the bottom of a 6-inch pan with a round of pate brisee, which I blind baked, baked without filling. I baked it at around 415ºF until it was golden. 

During that time I mixed about a cup and a half of nonfat ricotta with one egg and a scant quarter cup of heavy cream. I added a pinch of salt, vanilla extract, and just enough sugar to give it a dessert feel. I poured this over the crust and baked it at 350ºF until it was firm and didn't wiggle too much when I shook it. If my memory serves me this took around 40 minutes. I heated up some of my homemade black currant jam in the microwave and poured it over the fully cooked cheesecake. I put this under the broiler until the jam boiled, but before it burned. I let it cool and turned it out onto a plate. 

It was delicious! I was especially glad I only used one egg. Ricotta can become rubbery with too many eggs. This filling was creamy and not too hard. I really enjoyed the little bit of tartness from the jam too. It was a lovely cheesecake. The best bit is that it doesn't have to be baked in a bain marie, or hot water bath. 

It was so creamy that the slice was a little messy, and so too, apparently, was my photography.
No time for photos when there is dessert to be had!

Biscotti Macine

I recently came home from a three month adventure in Italy. I spent one month working on a farm where, every morning, I had a bowl of tea and two or three of these little barely sweet and crunchy cookies. At Fattoria L'Aurora, the wonderful farm where I worked, the cookies were purchased. But, in Alaska we don't get Macine, so it was up to me to make them. I found an excellent Italian recipe online. I have translated it here, but I have not converted the measurements to volumetric. I personally prefer going by weight.

 I just hope I can go back and work with my new friends on the farm again soon! Although my morning routine is much the same in Alaska, the cookies taste far better when eaten in Fabbrica Curone, at the Fattoria, with kind intelligent people, and a day of hard work ahead.

I hope you enjoy these lovely tea biscuits as much as I do.


485 grams “00″ flour, or all purpose flour
200 g granulated sugar
200 g softened unsalted butter
65 g cornstarch
85 g whole egg
40 g heavy cream
20 g glucose syrup, light corn syrup, or a light honey such as acacia
2 g salt
4 g baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Cream the butter, sugar, and syrup. Next add the egg, cream, salt, and vanilla. Beat until they become smooth and creamy.
2. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. 
3. Mix them together until they come together and form a smooth dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
4. Roll out the chilled dough until it is 1 cm thick. Cut it out into these doughnut shapes. they should be about 4 cm in diameter. Gather the scraps and keep rolling and cutting cookies until all the dough is used. Transfer them to a lined and insulated cookie sheet.
5. Bake for around 15 minutes at 320ºF or 160ºC. The cookies should be dried and a uniform light gold. Not browned. 

This recipe makes about 30 cookies. 

Old Fashioned Green Tomato Pie

Just because something is weird, does not mean that it won't be delicious. Green tomato pie certainly falls under that umbrella. Green tomatoes are crisp and slightly tart, much like an apple. This pie closely resembles a Granny Smith apple pie in flavor and texture. The differences are welcome though, and with its speckling of sultanas, and dash of cinnamon and ginger it is heavenly.

I got this recipe from my staple cookbook Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts. You must be getting sick of hearing that is is a fabulous book. Well it is.

I made this pie in a small dish which is 1/3 that of a standard pie. It is excellent for two people. We cut it into 6 pieces and eat it over a few days. It fills my need for pie without having to allocate 99% of my daily caloric intake to dessert. :)

Next time you come  across some green tomatoes, please, make this pie!

Peach Trifle with Savioardi, Crème Patisserie, Rose Chantilly Cream, and Brandy Simple Syrup

Um.... YUM! I just finished eating this and I keep eyeing the trifle bowl weighing whether or not I should have more. Here's what I did:

I began, thinking I would make a charlotte. I got a new mould and I really wanted to use it. But, I also didn't want to make a huge amount of dessert.  Unless company comes over, I cook for only two people. So I made a small trifle instead of a large charlotte. 

(I apologize for not taking photos of the process. I got "in the zone" and totally spaced it.)

Savioardi aka Lady Fingers:

3 eggs separated
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
*optional confectioners sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment draw out three 6-inch circles. 

2. Beat the egg whites, adding around half the sugar halfway thru beating. Beat to stiff peaks.

3. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they are light yellow and hold a ribbon.

4. Add the yolks to the whites, add the vanilla, and lightly fold them together. Sift the flour over the mixture and fold that in too. Be careful not to mix out the air which you have so lovingly incorporated. This cake has no chemical leavening; it is only the fluffiness of the eggs which gives it structure.

5. Transfer the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip. Fill in the circles you drew starting from the center. Bake the rounds for 15 to 20 minutes. I cracked the oven open halfway thru cooking to let the steam escape (Thanks Martha Stewart for that tip!). They are done when they are very lightly golden and lightly dry. 

Crème Patisserie:

I use often use Martha Stewart's recipe from Pies and Tarts. It is wonderful, but it uses only egg yolks. There are whole egg varieties, but I stick with what I like. I also made 2/3 of this recipe for the dessert. Strange perhaps, but it was just the right amount. 

1 cup milk (I only had nonfat and it worked well)
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1/2 Tbs of vanilla bean paste)
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs all purpose flour
1 tsp butter *optional*

Scald the milk with the vanilla bean. Mix the yolks, cornstarch, flour, and sugar in a little bowl. Briskly whisk in a good slosh of the milk into the yolks to temper them. Then pour this back into the pan and cook, whisking constantly, until the cream thickens. Don't let it boil or the eggs will curdle and the bottom may scorch. Pour it into a bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap, and allow to cool. 

Simple Syrup:

1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. I just heated it in the microwave minute by minute until the sugar was completely dissolved. I let is cool off and then added a few tablespoons of brandy. 

Chantilly Cream:

Heavy whipping cream with a tiny bit of sugar. "Just enough to convince it that it's a dessert," as Jamie Oliver says. I also added a pinch of salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of rose water.

PEACHES: I used two. I also peeled off the skin. You can either dip them in boiling water to loosen the skin, or, as I do, you can wash them in hot water and lightly massage the skin until it feels loose. Then you can peel it off easily with the help of a pairing knife. I sliced them thinly in order to fan them out.

So, now comes the easy bit. You layer it. Take a round of the cookie, and brush it with the syrup to soften and flavor it. Then put a layer of the crème patisserie, then a layer of peaches. Nest the Chantilly cream. Then the soaked cookie again, pastry cream, peached, whipped cream, and finally top it off with a cookie. 

I was having a little too much fun with the pastry bag, so I made some traditionally shaped lady fingers instead of making a third round. That is why mine doesn't have a nice "hat" in the photo.

The components of this dessert can easily be made ahead of time and put together at the last minute. I wouldn't stack it too much ahead of time as the peaches will begin to release their liquid. 

This is super duper delicious. I'm making it again. Definitely. 

Quince Tarte Tatin

A tarte tatin is basically an upside down pie made in either a special pan, or a cast iron skillet. It usually begins with caramelized sugar, butter is then added, then fruit, and finally pate brisee. The whole arrangement is then baked, let to cool slightly, and then inverted. It is a beautiful dish. There is something really stunning about a bringing a plate of glistening golden fruit to the table. I served this quince tarte tatin with some creme fraiche. I serve apple ones with some lightly whipped cream.

Here is my lovely quince tarte tatin. The quinces were first peeled and cored, and then poached with some spices, white wine, and a light sugar syrup.

Here is a tarte tatin pre-inversion. I wish I'd brushed the top with a glaze. Even though it goes on the bottom I still want it to be pretty. I think a sprinkle of sugar would be good too.

There are many kinds. Don't be afraid of the fancy name. They are delicious and easy!

Sea Scallops and Samphire in Beurre Noisette over Risotto alla Milanese

This dish was both delicious and colorful! Not to mention pretty quick and easy.

I began with the risotto. 1 cup for two people. I think 1/3 cup per person would be better. I cooked it with leek, white wine, and vegetable broth that was infused with saffron. I finished it with a tablespoon of butter and, gasp, about a quarter cup of grated parmesan. I know that seafood and cheese aren't normally paired, but it wasn't cheesy, it just rounded out the flavour, so it worked. 

I blanched the samphire before adding it to the scallops. The butter was first browned in a skillet. I poured out most of it, and cooked the scallops in what remained, they were salted lightly and I added some pepper and nutmeg. I served 4 per person, but three is really enough. When they were done I added the samphire and beurre noisette. I plated it and then dinner happened. It was really good! 

Try it. If you work better with specific amounts let me know. I'd be happy to make a more formal recipe.