Friday, August 18, 2017

Ice cream! Glace aux pêches, chocolat-amande, framboise-fraise, noix de coco-citron vert

Summer has certainly been in full swing and what better way to enjoy the season than to make some homemade ice cream. Absolutely!

I was on a major roll with this project, that's for sure. Part of it was spurred on by the fresh peaches and berries available at our favorite Fulton Farmer's Market.

And part of it was the realization that family was coming to visit for my mom's 90th birthday celebration. Having several flavors of ice cream in the freezer seemed like just the thing for any impromptu dessert needs.

I've mentioned in previous posts that I've been using an ice cream base recipe from David Lebovitz for many years now. It's so straight forward and allows one to come up with all sorts of flavor options. He talks about infusing flavors, add-ins before the churning step and mix-ins at the end. SO GOOD.

The base contains 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk, 5 large egg yolks, 155 g sugar and a pinch of salt. The preparation method is that of a basic crème anglaise, cooled over an ice bath and then refrigerated for some hours or over night until ready to process. I love making the bases a day or two ahead so they can cure and thicken in the fridge, plus I have two canisters for my Cuisinart ice cream maker always at the ready in my freezer. 

Bring it on!

Peach was definitely at the top of the hit list.

When incorporating certain fruits in ice cream there's the possibility that the end result may be a bit icy. David suggests peeling and slicing the peaches, cooking them until they're nice and soft then puréeing them. I added just a whiff of sugar and a splash of lemon juice to my pound-and-a-half of peaches and was very happy with the end result. Once my chilled base was ready to process, I blended in the cooled peach purée and churned away.

The peach flavor comes through nicely in this creamy, fresh summery treat. I served this one with my from-scratch angel food cake (YUM!) and some sliced fresh peaches. How can one go wrong with that combo?!

Of course it's great on it's own, one luscious spoonful at a time.

Now for chocolate almond, two of the most lovely flavors that one might put together, whether it's in ice cream or some other delectable baked good or chocolate confection.

This version took a little more time since the warmed dairy is first infused for an hour or so with a cup and a half of coarsely chopped toasted almonds. The only downside is that the almonds are discarded after the dairy is strained. Kind of sad.

BUT!! There's hope after all. Next time I'll rinse 'em, soak 'em in water overnight and make my own NUT MILK! I've been dying to try it. And an even more beautiful thing is once the almonds and water are ground and the milk is strained through cheese cloth, the almond meal can be spread out on a baking sheet, dried in the oven and used in baked goods. Now THAT'S a good deal all the way around.

In this case, once the ice cream base is cooked to the anglaise stage, 4 ounces of chopped and melted bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% is recommended) and 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa are added to the warm mixture before cooling.

In addition, after the ice cream was processed, I mixed in coarsely chopped Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips and some of my ground almond nougatine.

Now THAT made for a delicious finished version of creamy, chunky delight.

Next up - framboise-fraise!

With this version I prepared the strawberries in a similar fashion to the peaches mentioned above. Hull and cut up about 3/4 pound strawberries, add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a splash of lemon juice and cook them on the stove top until somewhat thickened and jam-like. Then purée them and chill.

Since I was going for a strawberry-raspberry combo, I also puréed and strained about 8 ounces of fresh raspberries and added them in to the chilled base along with the strawberry purée. Then it's simply a matter of processing to a shear perfection of summery, berry goodness. YES.

Last, but not least, (although this was Steve's least favorite of the bunch, don't ya know!) is coconut lime.

For this version I infused the dairy with 170 grams of toasted coconut and the zest of two limes. After straining, proceed with the usual base prep, chill it over the ice bath and blend in 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed, strained lime juice. 

After churning, this one also got a mix-in of additional crushed toasted coconut to add another dimension to the mouth-feel experience. Quite frankly, in spite of Steve's lack of excitement, I found it nicely lime-y and coconut-y. I gave it a thumbs up.

There's just nothing like homemade ice cream! Now YOU come up with your own favorite flavor combos. You can do it!

Happy summer everyone!

Monday, July 31, 2017

What? Vegan raspberry dessert!

Steve and I met up with some of my old high school chums for dinner earlier in the summer. I was on the "what to bring" list for dessert and was up to the challenge when I learned that one couple is vegan and another long time friend is following a very restrictive diet, including no gluten. So what's a French style pastry chef to do?! Create of course.

On to the internet to research some options. I decided on a riff of a raspberry lemon chia "cheesecake" from the "Love and Lemons" blog. Curiously enough I also recently taught a vegan class at Sur La Table and found many similarities between this dessert and the one we made in class. The more I read about vegan desserts, the more I realize there are a number of ingredients that act as the base for many recipes. Cashews and Medjool dates are two of them.  While I don't plan to make many vegan desserts, it's good to understand the approach and what goes into them. It's all about learning.

This is basically a three layer dessert, and everything is raw. NO BAKING INVOLVED! Perfect for summer.

It's assembled in a basic 8"x4" loaf pan lined with parchment paper with a 1" overhang on each side.

First the walnut crust. 

This called for Medjool dates, but I used dried apricots instead (had 'em in the house, don't ya know). It's very simple. Measure 1 cup walnuts, choose 4-5 dried apricots and pop them in a food processor with 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Process until crumbly then press into the lined loaf pan.

Pop the pan into the freezer while you make the "cheesecake" layer.

"Love and Lemons" gives two options for this layer. The first involves raw cashews soaked for 4 hours, drained and blended with a variety of other ingredients similar to option two. I chose the second option which utilized a store-bought vegan cream cheeze in place of the cashews.

Blend 8 ounces plain vegan cream cheese with 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, a tablespoon lemon zest and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Pour the filling over the walnut crust and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

The raspberry layer is thickened with chia seeds, but, since I didn't have those in my larder, I researched other ways to set a vegan dessert. Coconut flour is one of those thickening options, and guess what? I had some coconut flour at the ready.

Combine in a blender 12 ounces raspberries (fresh or frozen, either way), 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and 2 tablespoons coconut flour mixed with an equal amount of water. Blend until smooth and pour over the frozen "cheeze" layer.

Freeze 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove from the freezer about 20 minutes ahead, allowing it to thaw a bit. Lift it out of the pan by the parchment lining, slice and place on plates, letting the slices thaw another 15 minutes so they're not icy.

I must admit this was delicious! Cool and creamy with a nice lemony berry tang. And the group loved it too!  


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cherry almond cornmeal cake and pecan toffee shortbread stars

OK. I admit I've been on a cherry kick lately, but we're in Michigan, it's summer and there are lots of fruits to be had. Yum.

Enough said perhaps? Probably not, cuz we're in blueberry heaven right now along with currants, raspberries and blackberries. And we still have peaches, plums, apricots and more coming!

Before July comes to a close I wanted to share the goodies I had made for our July 4th celebration out at Clear Bottom Lake, one of our regular family gathering spots. Better late than never, right?.

With cherries on the brain I opted for my own cherry almond cornmeal cake topped with cherry mascarpone cream. And why not!

As if that weren't enough, I was in the mood for delectable all butter shortbread cookies, thinking stars would be just right for the classic American holiday. Sandwiched with orange honey buttercream? Absolutely!

First the cake. 

A straight forward preparation very reminiscent of many cake recipes one can find out there in the baking world, this one includes almond flour and cornmeal with the all purpose flour so there's a nice hint of crunch going on. Plus there's some buttermilk to add just the right tang. And of course some chopped sweet cherries are folded into the batter.

I baked the cake in individual silicone molds and decided to dress these babies up with cherry mascarpone cream and caramelized almond crunchies.

I puréed some cherries . . . .

and folded the purée into a half and half mix of mascarpone whipped with heavy cream. A bit of added powdered sugar and vanilla gives it just the right light sweetness.

Pipe a nice swirl of cream on the cake and voila!

I made some almond nougatine by cooking 3/4 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of water to an amber caramel, then stirring in 3 ounces of toasted almonds and spreading the mix out on a Silpat to cool.  Then grind it all up and you have a delicious crunchy addition to almost any dessert you can imagine.

It makes plenty for this purpose, but leftovers can be frozen in a zip top bag for other uses.

Now the cookies.

These shortbread came about as a result of my receipt of some leftover pecan toffee crumbs from Patty, the owner and chocolatier of Patricia's Chocolate in Grand Haven MI.

I used a similar base recipe to my standard shortbread, adding in a hint of cinnamon as well as the pecan toffee crumbs. Boy oh boy these are good! 

I wanted to gussy them up and happened to have some orange honey buttercream in my freezer. And thus it was that a stunning combination was born.


Now for the recipes.

Cherry almond cornmeal cake with cherry mascarpone cream and almond crunchies.

  • Heat oven to 350º. Butter a 9" springform pan or use individual silicone molds of choice.
  • Stem and pit 3/4 pound of sweet cherries then cut into quarters. Set aside.
  • Melt 113 g (one stick) unsalted butter, let cool a bit then in a medium bowl whisk together with 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 large eggs and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together 130 g all purpose flour, 32 g almond flour, 70 g cornmeal, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander.
  • Blend the wet ingredients into the dry. Fold in the cherries.
  • Transfer batter to prepared pan or pipe into silicone molds.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. NOTE: if using small silicone molds baking time will be decreased. 
  • Let cool.

Mascarpone cream:
  • Blend 113 g/4 oz mascarpone with 120 ml/4 oz heavy whipping cream. 
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla extract. 
  • Whip as you would whipped cream to achieve medium soft peaks. Don't over whip or it will become grainy. 
  • Blend in 90 g puréed cherries. 
  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

Almond crunch: 
  • Cook 3/4 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons water to an amber caramel. 
  • Stir in 3 ounces toasted almonds. 
  • Spread out on a Silpat to cool then grind in a food processor.

Pipe decorative swirls on cake tops. If serving later, refrigerate and remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving to allow cake to come to room temperature. Sprinkle with almond crunch and serve.

Pecan toffee shortbread cookies:
  • In a mixer bowl blend 212 g room temperature unsalted butter with 75 g granulated sugar.
  • In a separate bowl mix 260 g all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of salt.
  • Add flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture and blend until it comes together.
  • Blend in 100 g pecan toffee crumbs (a gift from Patty so I don't know the exact recipe for these!) In a pinch you could substitute a mix of toasted, chopped pecans and some chopped Heath bar.
  • Wrap dough and chill at least an hour then roll out and cut shapes of choice.
  • Bake on parchment lined sheet pans at 325º for about 12-15 minutes (watch your oven!)
  • Let cool then fill with desired filling. You'll find many recipes on line for Swiss meringue butter creams - use your flavor imagination and create your own!!
Whew! That was a mouthful. Literally.

Both treats were enjoyed by the group at Clear Lake, especially the pecan toffee shortbread. Yes.

Happy VERY belated 4th everyone!!

Thanks for reading Baking with the French Tarte. See you next time around.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Michigan fruits galette

Here we are in the thick of summer, and the beautiful fruits of Michigan are in abundance (with more to come!)

The rustic galette is one of my favorite fruit offerings during these not-so-lazy days, for life has a way of taking us on a whirlwind whether we like it or not.

While we've been busy with some home remodeling, I continue teaching at Sur La Table and baking my shortbread cookies at Patricia's Chocolate in Grand Haven, a lovely Lake Michigan community that attracts many tourists during the summer.

Yet in spite of the busyness of our days there is something that gives me pause - the ever ongoing passing of the generations. Our Aunt Fran Van Halsema (wife to my mother's brother Gerard) died on July 14 - the same day as the birthday of my sister Mary and our maternal grandmother Nellie. In the past 15 months we have experienced the loss of now five aunts and uncles on both my mom's and dad's sides of the family tree.

Let's remember to make the most of our days and seek out those things that give us a sense of peace and accomplishment. It's important, oui?

Baking is one of those things. The feel of the dough, the aroma of a lovely tart as it comes to the end of the bake, the luscious fruit and browned, buttery crust as one takes a bite and the sense of a job well done. Yes.

A galette (crostata in Italian) is so easy to prepare. Simply use your favorite pâte brisée or pâte sucrée, roll it into a circle of about 10" (or choose what size you'd like - bigger, smaller, it's up to you) and place it on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan. Then, in the center of the dough, pile about 4.5 cups of fresh fruits (I used blueberries, sweet succulent yellow plums and sweet cherries) that have been tossed with sugar to taste and a bit of flour as thickener, along with some lemon zest and a grate or two of nutmeg. Give yourself a good 2" edge of dough and pleat it up around the of the fruit which should remain visible in the center.

Brush the dough edges with egg wash or a bit of cream, sprinkle with raw sugar and place in the freezer to firm up and stabilize the butter in the dough while you heat your oven to 425ºF.

Bake about 20-25 minutes (don't forget to watch what's going on in there!) until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly and juicy.

Let cool for a bit and serve still warm or cool all the way and eat later. It's best the day it's made but will reheat pretty nicely the next day too.  And don't forget the vanilla ice cream. Yeah boy.

A wonderfully delicious and straight forward summer dessert. And it's even good for breakfast.

Now my kitchen awaits, eager for the next baking adventure and blog post. In the meantime, as my husband Steve so often says, "life is short - go to Paris". Well said Steve.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Smashed potato rolls

Some weeks back for the Memorial Day gathering at Clear Lake we planned to bring brats and sausages from Kingma's market (good stuff by the way) for the main course. There was also a potato contest in the works to see who might create something that could hold a candle to one of the family favorites, cheesy potatoes.

Steve planned to make his famous potato galette, and I wanted to contribute something potato-y as well. Hey! How about potato rolls to go with those delicious brats? Why not.

Embarking on my potato roll quest, I reviewed a couple of recipes that used roasted potatoes in the dough but ended up with a dinner roll recipe from King Arthur Flour that seemed like just the ticket.

Back during our Vermont days we would often prepare and enjoy food with friends Ross and Candi Walton. Candi always referred to mashed potatoes as "mashies", a term we have used now for many years when referring to that particular dish.

For this roll recipe I boiled up some Yukon Golds and gave them a rough mash - something I like to refer to as "smashed". I think Candi would be on board with that one, don't you?

Let me tell you! This recipe process was molto interessante as the Italians would say. I pretty much followed the KAF recipe (it'll come, don't worry), aside from reducing the egg a bit, but what really tangled me up was the lack of any guidelines for the kneading time of this starchy, enriched dough. Soooooo sticky!

I kneaded it for 8 minutes in my Kitchenaid stand mixer then gave it a 30 minute rest with an every 10 minute stretch and fold over. It was still pretty sticky so I gave it another 6-7 minute mixer knead. Frankly I wasn't quite sure where I was with this dough.

But I plowed ahead, placed it in a lightly greased bowl covered with plastic wrap and let it rise about 90 minutes.

I had intended to make hot-dog style buns, but, when it came to dividing and shaping the dough, I found it simply wasn't behaving the way I had hoped. It remained quite sticky, so I tried both the flouring-the-surface-and-hands method and the oiling-the surface-and-hands method to be able to handle this interesting dough. Both worked - sort of.

First I created 75 g pieces, gave them an initial boule shape, let them rest 5-10 minutes and then attempted to roll them into hot-dog, log-like shapes. Nuh-uh. It was not happening.

So I reverted to the boule roll form and persevered. FYI - I almost gave up on this one.

Once shaped and placed on a parchment lined sheet pan, I gave them a 1.5 hour rise until puffy.

I heated the oven to 350ºF and baked 20-25 minutes until nicely browned.

Hmmmmm. Maybe this will work after all.

They felt REALLY soft once cooled, but, not to be thwarted this far into the process, I decided to let them sit overnight covered with parchment.

Boy howdy! These babies were delicious. A wonderful soft texture, delicate flavor but with enough structure to hold up to a good turkey-lettuce-mayo sandwich. Yum.

Steve declared them unfit for brat use (not the right shape don't ya know), so into the freezer they went and we've been enjoying them since. Burgers, sandwiches. It's all good.

Now for the recipe. Going against my usual grain, I'm providing this in good ole measurements as opposed to metric weights. It just feels right here.

2 large eggs (I backed that off to about 1.5 eggs)
1/3 cup sugar (I made this one a scant 1/3 cup)
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons butter, soft
8 ounces smashed potatoes (unseasoned), at room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water, preferably water in which the potatoes were boiled. I used half potato water and half milk.
4 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (King Arthur of course - after all, this is I recipe I found on their website!)

1. Mix and knead all the ingredients to make a smooth, soft dough. No time frame is given so I winged it as described above.

2. Place dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 90 minutes until doubled in bulk.

3. Gently deflate the dough and divide into desired sized pieces. For a good size hamburger bun I used 2 5/8 ounce or 75 grams with a yield of 16 rolls. Round each ball into a smooth roll.

4. Place the rolls on parchment lined pans, cover lightly with greased plastic wrap and let rise 1.5-2 hours until quite puffy. Toward the end of the rise preheat the oven to 350ºF.

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and feel set. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool. (Option - brush with melted butter)

6. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store well wrapped in plastic for several days at room temperature or freeze (what I did).

All I can say it there is so much to learn about bread baking. I recently purchased Jeffrey Hamelman's book "Bread" and have just begun delving into it. So much detail, so many variables and so many ways to make delicious bread. 

With this recipe I based my kneading time somewhat on the fact that this is an enriched dough with butter, egg, and sugar, reminiscent of lean brioche. It seemed like a longer kneading time was the thing to do. Was that the right approach? I'm not sure. All I know is they taste good and that's what counts!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cherry blueberry yogurt cake

Recently my mom and I took a drive to my childhood hometown of Fremont, Michigan to visit former neighbors and family friends, Gerry Frens and her daughter Mary.  Gerry will be 100 years young this fall, and she and my mom (who will turn 90 in August) love reminiscing about those days of yore.

Just a few years apart in age, Mary and I chat away about all manner of things while our mothers talk and talk.

We planned to share afternoon tea with them, so, of course I volunteered to bring something baked to accompany our beverage. Always looking to use up the odd lingering ingredient in the fridge, I decided on a cherry berry cake to which one of said ingredients, yogurt, would be added.

Some years ago I developed a collection of fresh fruit cake recipes that I used to bake at Gerrish's cafe in Winter Harbor ME during my first summer job out of pastry school. They're easy, versatile and allow one to mix and match ingredients and fruits depending on your whims.

Even though we're anticipating the arrival of local Michigan fresh fruits at the farmer's market, we are getting some beautiful Washington state cherries and some decent Georgia blueberries in our go-to Meijer grocery store.  So cherry blueberry just had to be the choice!

This is a pretty basic cake made by the usual method of whisking the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, creaming the butter and sugar/citrus zest until fluffy, adding eggs one at a time along with vanilla. Then fold in the dry ingredients alternating with yogurt.

In this case, once the batter is smoothed into a buttered and parchment-papered 9" cake or springform pan, it's baked at 350ºF for 15 minutes. During that time the fruit topping is put together by tossing about 7 ounces fresh fruit with a tablespoon each of granulated sugar and all purpose flour.

The fruit then goes on top of the partially baked cake with the idea that the batter will have set enough to allow the fruit to stay pretty much on top. In my case I also sprinkled some pistachio crumble over the fruit.

Here you see it ready to go back in the oven.

Pop it back in and bake for another 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Here's what happened to mine! Sunken fruit. Oh man.

Not to worry. Once I unmolded it I could at least see some fruit around the edges.

And once sliced there was plenty of fruit in each piece. Yay!

Served with a dollop of Chantilly cream with a fresh cherry perched on top, this was lovely, moist and delicious. And the group liked it. Double yay!!

Here's the recipe, quick and dirty.

Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9" cake or springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together 143 g all purpose flour, 30 g almond flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon coriander.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment cream 85 g unsalted room temperature butter and 200 g granulated sugar into which the zest of one lemon has been rubbed (LOVE citrus zested sugar!!).

Add 2 large eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Blend in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

With a rubber spatula fold in half the dry ingredients followed by 2/3 cup plain yogurt (choose your own fat content). Fold in the remaining dry ingredients.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile toss a total of about 7 ounces fresh fruit(s) of choice with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon flour. Fruit prep will depend on the fruit you choose. For example halve and thinly slice fruits like peaches or plums. Blueberries or raspberries can be left whole. I pitted and halved my cherries. You get the idea.

Place the fruit on top of the partially baked cake then bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for about 15 minutes then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. I like a light dusting of powdered sugar to give it that je ne sais quoi.

The cake keeps well in a covered container for several days. It's great with whipped cream or even ice cream if you want to be a bit more decadent. Or eat it plain as an accompaniment to your morning coffee or tea. Not bad at all.

Here are just some of the ways you can make this recipe your own: substitute corn meal or a different nut flour for the almond flour; add different spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger (you decide); sub in sour cream or crème fraiche for the yogurt; use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar; add orange or lime zest instead of lemon; and of course choose your favorite fruit.  

Summer's here and it's time!