Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tartelettes aux myrtilles et tarte aux prunes

Petite blueberry (myrtillestartlelettes
Plum (prunes) tarte
While I'm still on the summer fruits kick, I'd like to introduce you to just two of the many fruit-custard tarts that you can create pretty easily. Pâte brisée on hand in the freezer, summer berries or stone fruits of choice, a straight forward custard filling and off you go!

Michigan blueberries have been in plentiful supply (and wouldn't you know - I now have a number of bags stashed in my freezer).  They're especially tasty when baked into custard, so why not some tartlettes!

First I made my favorite pâte brisée using the by-hand flaking method with a couple of three folds for good measure. The process makes for such a wonderfully buttery, crisp yet flaky crust that is simply fantastic with custard and fruit. Visit this post for ALL the details.

You can make double or triple recipes of the dough, divide, wrap and stash in your freezer so you're ready to create to your heart's content. How great is that?!

For the custard, as is typically the case, one can find many versions of fillings out there in cyber space. Some involve simply whisking the ingredients together, pouring the custard over the fruit in your blind baked shell then baking til set. No stovetop prep there.

I opted for the stovetop method for a classic crème brulée type of custard. Heat the dairy (can be all cream or a cream/milk combo) in a saucepan, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl, temper the yolk mixture into the dairy, then strain and set aside until ready to fill your tart. I went a step farther and cooked it to the anglaise stage before straining.

I just had to grate some fresh nutmeg and throw a pinch of coriander into the mix - so good with blueberries.

For my tartelettes I blind baked the pâte brisée in small brioche molds, popped in three berries, poured the custard over and baked them until the custard was set.

Once cooled, a dusting of powdered sugar adds just the right touch. Serve and enjoy.

Local yellow plums

My plum version came about due to the NEED to use up some ripe plums in my fridge. When browsing at the Fulton Farmers Market, I try sooooo hard to buy only the fruit that I'm pretty sure I'll use up quickly. Best laid plans  . . . .

I went with a variety of greenish-yellow, peachy and red fleshed plum varieties for this project . . .

and had just the right amount of dough on hand for my 16 cm square open tart form.

Lining a square form takes just a bit more finesse than a circle, since it's important to get the dough properly tucked into the corners. Dock the dough with a fork . . . .

then place the pan into the freezer while heating the oven to 400ºF.

Line the frozen dough with parchment, fill with dried beans or ceramic weights and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment then pop back into the oven for another 5-7 minutes until lightly golden.

Reduce the oven to 325ºF and proceed with final assembly.

Blind baked and ready for final assembly

I sprinkled some almond flour on the crust, placed the multi-colored plum slices just so . . .

and poured the custard over until it reached just below the top edge of the dough.

A final sprinkling of vanilla sugar and into the oven it goes.

Bake about 25 minutes until the custard is set and there's some browning and a hint of bubbling from the plums.

Just out of the oven

After a few minutes, lift off the tart form and finish cooling to room temperature.

Check out that flaky dough

Steve and I had a small sample after our pizza supper. Wonderful buttery, crisp crust, luscious custard filling and tartly sweet plums - yes indeed.

In a nutshell, here's the recap/ custard recipe.

  1. You choose what size and shape you'd like your tart or tartelettes to be.
  2. Have your pâte brisée ready to go (Visit this post).
  3. Roll your dough to about 3 mm thick and line your chosen tart tins or forms. Prick the dough all over with a fork and place in the freezer while you heat your oven. Pâte brisée bakes best at high heat, 400-425ºF.
  4. In general, blind baking requires 12-15 minutes with weights, then another 5-10 without until nicely golden (watch what's happening in that oven of yours!!!).
  5. Decrease the oven to 325ºF.
  6. You'll have to eyeball the fruit quantities you'll need for your given size. The tartelettes are easy - a few berries each. For the 16 cm square I used about 350 g of fruit - choose your favorite berry, stone fruit or combination thereof and have it prepped and ready to go.
  7. For the custard, heat 1 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup whole milk to barely simmering. 
  8. In the meantime whisk 4 large egg yolks and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a separate bowl; temper in half of the heated dairy, then return all to the saucepan and cook to the anglaise stage (82ºC or 180ºF). NOTE: I added a skosh of freshly grated nutmeg and good pinch of coriander.
  9. Strain into a 2 cup Pyrex-type pour spout container and set aside.
  10. Sprinkle a shallow layer of almond flour on the bottom crust, arrange the fruit to your liking, then pour the custard over til it reaches just below the top edge of the crust.
  11. Bake about 8-10 minutes for tartelettes and about 25 minutes for larger tarts until the custard is set with a hint of a jiggle in the center.
  12. Let cool.
  13. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature.
  14. Best eaten the day it's made but will keep covered in the fridge for a day or twol

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Jalousie aux abricots et pêches

Hints of fall are in the air here in West Michigan - perfect baking weather. Yes sirree.

But even though we've turned the corner into September, there are still plenty of delicious Michigan summer fruits just calling out to be baked into something wonderfully luscious. Apricots and peaches to name just two.

Jalousie is literally translated as jealousy, but, in spite of my attempts at finding out why this particular pastry carries that label, the answer eluded me. I did see one reference to it being of Provençal origin, although when I went back to review that reference, I couldn't find it again. My oh my.

There's another version known as dartois that is usually filled with crème d'amande along with fruit, although dartois appears to be used interchangeably with jalousie.  Call it what you will, it's tasty.

In a nutshell it's a puff pastry case with slatted top, filled with fruit that is usually macerated or caramelized on the stove top with a bit of butter and sugar. Apricot is a classic and that's what I went for.

I reviewed a number of recipes and came up with quantities of puff pastry and fruit that suited my vision of the final product. The fact of the matter is that you decide how large or small you'd like to make your jalousie so there isn't really a specific recipe one has to follow.

I planned to use about 800 g of fruit and, since I didn't have quite that amount in apricots, I supplemented with a couple of peaches that were just waiting in my fridge.

I pitted and sliced the apricots and peaches . . . . 

then sautéed the sliced fruit in 70 g butter and 70 g vanilla sugar to caramelize it. The apricots were so ripe that they broke down and produced a lot of juice, so I ended up straining the fruit-butter-sugar liquid off and cooling the fruit on paper towel to absorb any remaining liquid. I didn't want my jalousie to be soggy.

Oh my! Now what could I do with this bowl of deliciousness? I think I'll blend some into my homemade caramel sauce and see what THAT's like. Why not, eh?

While the fruit cooled I rolled out my favorite from scratch puff pastry and cut 2 rectangles approximately 28x11 cm each. Each piece weighed about 150 g, rolled out to about 3 mm thick. 

Start with slightly more than you need so you can trim up the edges as necessary. And be sure to save any scraps - they're great for making palmiers or rolled out as a crust for quiche or flan.

This should give you some guideline to determine how much dough you might use for a larger or smaller end result. Sometimes it simply a matter of experimenting and figuring it out. 

Fold one of the pieces in half lengthwise and cut slits about an inch or so apart, leaving the edges uncut.

Unfold it and set aside.

Place the other piece of puff on a parchment lined sheet pan, sprinkle with some almond flour (to help absorb any juice and protect the bottom crust) and top with the cooled fruit, leaving about 2 cm clear around the edges.

 Brush the dough edges with a little water, place the slatted top over the fruit, press the edges together to seal and crimp with a fork.

I like to brush mine with a bit of milk and top it off with a sprinkle of vanilla sugar.

Freeze it for 20 minutes or so while heating the oven to 425ºF.

Bake about 25 minutes until puffed, golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Steve and I enjoyed a piece with some of my homemade peach ice cream - buttery, flaky, a hint of tartness to the apricot yet married so nicely with the sweetness of the peach - SO GOOD.

I kept the rest covered lightly with parchment paper at room temperature over the next couple of days. It was still good with morning coffee, especially warmed for a few minutes in the oven.

This one's a keeper.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Angel food cake

For the week of my mother's 90th birthday she had requested angel food cake with ice cream and fresh peaches for dessert. So it was absolutely time to make my first from-scratch angel food cake, something I've been contemplating for months!

I used my mom's classic angel food tube pan that's been in her hands for I don't know how many years - at LEAST 55 is my best guess. Maybe even 60!! She even has the small glass bottle that used to hold Welch's grape juice, a favorite drink of ours when we would take our sandwiches to eat outside in the summer time.

Even though the little metal tabs around the rim of the pan allow one to perch the cooling cake upside down, the bottle has that certain je ne sais quoi that seems to go with baking an angel food cake. Right Mom?

The tradition exists in our family of being able to choose our birthday meal, including cake of course. My sisters Joyce and Mary (and perhaps ME?) used to choose confetti angel food cake with colored frosting - pink or blue were faves. Truth be told I was more of a pound cake fan and would follow Mom's lead on the necessary ice cream and peaches accompaniment when it was time for my special day. 

Back in those days the confetti creation came out of a Betty Crocker box and was all the rage. After a bit of research I learned that BC's angel food cake mix was first introduced in 1953, followed by a "one-step" version in 1960, the one I suspect my mom made fairly regularly, at least for birthday requests.

I used a recipe from Mary Berry of "The Great British Bakeoff, Master Class" series and found it very straight forward. It's basically a stiff meringue to which some flour and additional sugar is added. It's all about beating the meringue to the right stage and being gentle with the folding in of the flour and sugar.

Now THAT's a stiff meringue

Ready for the pan

The batter goes into the UNgreased tube pan, since you want the cake to cling to the sides of the pan as it bakes.

Ready for the oven

It bakes for about 45 minutes at 335ºF conventional OR 300ºF convection (or "fan" as the Brits say on the GBBO).

Out of the oven and ready to be turned upside down

The pan was a bit tippy sitting on top of that little glass bottle, but I was able to support the pan edges with a couple of upturned drinking glasses that were just the right height.

Once cooled completely, out of the pan it came.

Sliced and served with my own homemade peach ice cream and fresh sliced peaches, it was delicous. The crumb soooooo light and airy and the cake with just the right amount of sweetness. A perfect accompaniment to creamy ice cream and one of our favorite local fruits.

Here's the recipe.

Have a standard ungreased 10" tube pan at the ready.

Heat the oven to 335ºF conventional or 300ºF convection.

Do your ingredient mise en place:

  • 10 large egg whites (remember meringues beat better when the eggs are at room temp).
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 200 g caster (superfine) sugar (remember you can whiz standard granulated sugar in a grinder briefly to make your own superfine version).
  • 125 g all purpose flour
  • 100 g caster sugar

Follow the steps:

  1. Place egg whites, zest, cream of tartar, salt, lemon juice and 200 g caster sugar in a mixer bowl and beat on high using the whisk attachment until frothy.
  2. In a separate bowl mix the flour and 100 g caster sugar together and gently fold into the meringue.
  3. Place the batter in the ungreased tube pan
  4. Bake approximately 45 minutes (remember all ovens are different - pay attention to what's going on in there) until golden brown.
  5. Cool upside down.
  6. Remove from pan, slice and enjoy!
Happy Birthday Mom!!

And a big THANKS to Mary Berry too!!

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!