Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fruit Tarts

Whenever I go to my favorite grocery store I always stop and drool over the goodies in the bakery cases. The large tortes, decorated cakes, tarts, specialty desserts and more always look so beautiful and delicious. Yesterday I went in search of indgredients for a special lunch today. While walking by the case, I was inspired by their little fruit tarts and decided to try my hand at them.
I searched around for a recipe and came up with this one. These tarts are fun to make, although it can take a bit of time to pull together all of the components. Last night I made the pastry cream and the dough. These chilled out in the fridge until this morning. I then let the dough warm up for half and hour then blind baked the little tart shells until golden. They then had to chill. While that happened I cut up the fruit. The assembly was the best part of the process. I decided on strawberries. kiwi, and mango...mainly because that's what is available in October! These tarts turned out beautiful and delicious. The pastry cream inside was good - just sweet enough - and the crust was very yummy. I used apple jelly to give the whole thing a nice sheen.
These got great reviews and there was enough to send some along with our guests so they can enjoy them with dinner as well! (We even have some left to go with our dinner!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Last of the Raspberries - Angel Food Cake

I had to work quickly to make use of all the raspberries that I got last weekend. We ate as many fresh ones as we could and then I finally put the rest in the blender with 1/2 cup of sugar and blended them up. Then I strained the seeds out...added a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and made 1/2 into Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream and the other half I used to top Angel Food Cake (as well as pancakes, waffles, crackers, and my fingers!)

Angel Food Cake
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

2 cups sifted superfine sugar, divided
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups egg whites at room temperature (10-12 eggs)
3/4 t kosher salt
1 1/2 t cream of tartar
3/4 t pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar with the flour and sift together 4 times. Set aside.

Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachemnt and beat on high speed until the eggs make medium-firm peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites. Whisk for a few minutes until thick and shiny. Whisk in the vanilla and continue to whisk until very thick, about 1 more minute. Sift about one fourth of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour by fourths by sifting and folding until it's all incorporated.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, smooth the top, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, until it springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack until cool.

This Angel food cake turns out better than any store-bought version. It isn't "sticky" like the ones I'm used to. It was extra-delicious with the raspberry puree.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fresh Eats - What I did with my garden fresh produce

On a recent trip to visit family I happened to acquired a variety of fresh ingredients to bring back to my own kitchen. My dad gave me venison from a deer he recently got and an entire fresh ham from a pig he had butchered. My mom gave me a large bag of apples from her orchard. My aunt and grandmother gave me many quarts of freshly picked raspberries and another jar of that wonderful raspberry sauce. Finally, my mother-in-law gave me a box full of freshly canned tomatoes, salsa, and ghee. I think I have my work cut out for me these next few weeks!
So, today I started with the most perishable items...the raspberries. I wanted to make something simple that would bring out the raspberry flavor and this tart certainly did. I parbaked the pastry shell and then spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the bottom followed by a spoonful of sugar. I then arranged the raspberries and finally drizzled on some of the raspberry sauce. Then I popped the tarts into the oven until hot and bubbly. (The picture was taken before this final step because I thought they were so beautiful when fresh.) These were wonderful...slightly sweet but with a great bite from the berries.
Later I started on dinner. I sliced off about a 3 pound cut from the fresh ham I had. Then I covered it in rosemary, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. This baked at 325 for about 1 1/2-2 hours...the internal temp should read around 160. (I finally got to use my thermometer I won at my last cooking class for this!) I also made some mashed cauliflower to go along with the pork. This was really really good. I think I've mentioned it before, but I really love the combination of rosemary and pork. Really, I think I love rosemary with just about anything!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bread Day

Years ago when I went away to college I made my first loaf of bread by hand. I had never actually seen anyone bake bread in anything other than a bread machine before and I was excited about experiencing the kneading process and anticipated the smell of my bread in the oven. For my first attempt I chose a baguette...I waited hours for it to rise and when it finally came out of the oven I was thrilled. I had managed to make a loaf of bread out of a few very simple ingredients. I have made many loaves of bread since then but I always remember how excited I was at that moment. As I started my baguettes today I thought back to that moment and smiled...I think my first year in college was the first time I veered away from my mother's kitchen and set out on my own. From there I slowly tried new things and developed my own repertoire of recipes and methods.
Today's batch of baguettes were sliced and toasted into little crostini, perfect for holding the topppings I had prepared today. Grilled mushrooms, pesto, and roasted red peppers were spread atop and made for wonderful crunchy bites.
As if two baguettes were not enough I added in some Naan, a Punjabi flat bread, which was new to me. I was interested in it because it reminded me of the bread my mother-in-law bakes and uses to dip into hummus, zatar, and baba ganoush. Earlier I had prepared hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, and some zatar spiced chicken and I thought this bread would go especially well with this meal. It is much different than the other breads I have made because it does not use water, instead it calls for milk. It is also formed into four tear-shaped loaves reminicent of the shape the dough would form as it was baking on the side of a hot tandoor - a dome shaped clay oven. These were easy enough to make and baked quickly under the broiler.
Once we sat down at the table we realized that we could pull the breads open and fill them with hummus and the spiced chicken to make sandwiches. We both noted that the array of dips, spreads, breads, and meat were fun to eat and we experimented with combinations as we went.

adapted from Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno

2 t dry yeast
1 c milk
4 c all-prupose flour
1 1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
3 T plain yogurt
2 T ghee or unslated butter, melted

1. Sprinkle the yeast into 1/2 c of the milk in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the dissolved yeast, sugar, yogurt, and ghee.
2. Mix in the flour. Stir in the remaining milk, as needed, to form a stiff sticky dough.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth, stiff, and elastic, about 10 minutes.
4. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 3-4 hours. Punch down, then let rest for 10 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece to form a round, 6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Pull one side to form a tear shape; strech the dough until about 10 inches in length. Preheat the broiler on the highest setting.
6. Preheat a baking sheet for about 2 minutes. Broil the dough on the hot baking sheet in 2 batches for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until puffy and golden.
7. Stack the grilled breads on top on one another and cover with a clean, dry cloth to keep the crusts soft and to prevent from drying out.

I smeared one round with a little ghee and sprinkled on a bit of zatar before grilling and found that this variation was quite good.

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