Monday, July 18, 2016

Cherry hazelnut clafoutis tart

More Michigan cherries comin' your way!

As the season continues and other stone fruits and blueberries are starting to show their faces, I just had to make something using Michigan cherries before they're no longer available.

We were slated to attend a Bastille Day celebration put on by the GR chapter of L'Alliance Française, and I had promised to bring a dessert.  Cherry clafoutis came to mind, this time as a tart.

I lined a 240 mm tart ring with a standard pâte sucrée and blind baked it first.

going into the oven

The filling is very straight forward.

les ingredients
Place 3 large eggs into a bowl; whisk in 100 grams sugar, 25 grams almond flour, 150 ml heavy cream, 25 grams melted butter, 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1/2 tablespoon flour and 30 grams hazelnuts (coarsely chopped).

Place 300 grams pitted and halved cherries into the blind baked shell . . .

pour the egg/cream mixture over them . . . .

and bake at 350ºF for 30-40 minutes until the filling is set.

et voilà!

For serving I topped the tart with a hazelnut crumble which I had baked ahead of time and had in my freezer.


FYI:  a basic crumble is equal weights flour, sugar and cold, diced butter - make as much as your heart desires.

Add in the same weight of your favorite chopped nut (or less as you see fit) and you have a delicious crunchy topping to complement your tart.

Or add in some citrus zest and your choice of spice like cinnamon, coriander, cardamom or  nutmeg - you get the idea.

Baked or unbaked, you can freeze it to have on hand for lots of things.

Here's to a beautiful summer in Michigan and lots more fruit to come!!  Yes.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy July 4th!!!

Here's to a wonderful Independence Day for all!

It's a beautiful day here in West Michigan and Steve and I look forward to celebrating the holiday this afternoon at Clear Lake with the extended TenHave clan.

Cherry-berry cobbler is on the dessert menu.

I'll give you a quick narrative (hmmm - do I ever do anything quickly in this blog?) of the recipe, my take on a peach blackberry cobbler from Emily Luchetti's book "Four-Star Desserts".

And since this is, after all, a classic American holiday, I'm giving you the ingredients in traditional American measures.

The cobbler topping is a delectable cornmeal dough made by combining 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal (I used fine yellow), 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and a pinch of salt.

Sand in one stick (4 oz) cool, diced butter to coarse crumbs, toss in 1-2 tablespoons ice water and mix just until it comes together.  Easy-peasy!!

Roll the dough out between sheets of parchment or plastic wrap to a thickness of about 1/4 inch then chill in the fridge.

Cut desired shapes (I opted for a stars and stripes motif bien sûr) and hold them in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

Heat your oven to 350ºF.

For a 9x13 clear Pyrex dish I prepped about 8 cups of fruit, about half of which was a combo of Rainier and dark sweet cherries that I had purchased at the Fulton Farmer's market.  Blueberries and raspberries filled out the mix.

Toss the fruit with a mixture of 1/2- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (see NOTE), 4 tablespoons cornstarch, a large pinch of salt and a half dozen or so grates of fresh nutmeg.  I also added about 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander.  Squeeze a bit of lemon juice in to help brighten the taste of the fruit.

NOTE:  when adding sugar, consider the natural sweetness or tartness of the fruit you are using; start your sugar addition on the lower end of the scale and add as needed to taste.

As you can see above, I have my dough cut and ready to go.

Place the fruit mixture in the Pyrex dish, drizzle 6 tablespoons melted butter over it and top with the dough shapes.

Egg wash the dough and sprinkle with sugar.  I like raw sugar - it gives the finished product a nice crunch.

ready for the oven

Bake at 350ºF for about 40-45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the fruit filling is bubbling.

et voilà!

You can be sure we'll be enjoying this later in the day with some vanilla ice cream, oh yeah.

And a Happy July 4th to all!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Michigan cherry charlotte

It's Michigan sweet cherry season!

There are so many delicious things to make with sweet cherries, and, since I had some petite lady fingers in my freezer, my mind turned toward a cherry version of a classic charlotte.

A charlotte is a dessert assembled in a mold lined with lady fingers, sponge cake or bread and then filled with a fruit mousse, Bavarian cream, whipped cream or custard.

I remember making a pear version in pastry school and recall it was quite tasty indeed.  I don't believe I've made one since.
It was time.

First a brief note about lady fingers.  They belong in the category of sponge cake and are really quite straight forward to make.

To prepare for piping the lady fingers I marked a half sheet pan in 3 inch wide increments as a guide for my piping.  You can make your lady fingers any size your little heart desires!


The base recipe we used at Le Cordon Bleu calls for 4 eggs, separated; 125 grams sugar and 125 grams all purpose flour.

The egg whites are whipped to medium stiff peaks along with half the sugar.  The yolks are then whisked with the other half of the sugar until pale and thickened and are folded into the beaten whites.

beaten yolks and whites plus flour ready to be added

Then half the flour is gently folded into the egg mixture, followed by the second half of the flour just until blended.  Don't overwork it.

all folded and ready to pipe

Pipe the batter in rows . . . . .

and dust with powdered sugar before baking in a 375 F oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

ready for the oven
Et voila!

I had served some of the lady fingers sandwiched with lemon curd and strawberry jam at a recent demo presentation, but the rest went into the freezer (they freeze very well!) just waiting to be incorporated into a luscious, creamy charlotte.

I used a 16 centimeter round ring mold for my charlotte assembly and opted to bake a round of tart cherry shortbread as my base.

ready for the oven

Once the shortbread base was baked and cooled, I lined the ring rather rustically with waxed paper sheets, put the shortbread base in and coated it with a brushing of chocolate ganache.  This was meant to protect it from the soon-to-come cherry mousse filling and keep it crisp.

I then lined the ring sides and base with the lady fingers and imbibed them with vanilla simple syrup.

I wasn't quite ready to make my cherry mousse so I popped the assemblage into the freezer to await the final stages.

For the mousse I needed cherry purée, whipped cream and Italian meringue (boy, I haven't made THAT in forever!!).

I puréed 130 grams of pitted and halved cherries with about a tablespoon of sugar, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a couple of teaspoons of water.

yup - looks like a purée

I made a small batch of Italian meringue by cooking 50 grams sugar and 20 ml water to 118ºC . . . .

then pouring the sugar syrup over one whipped egg white and whipping until cooled and nicely shiny and stiff.

(Note to self - plan ahead for various uses and make a larger batch of Italian meringue next time!)

Then I whipped 150 ml heavy cream to soft peaks.

Below are all three components ready to be blended.

Once the mousse was blended I filled my lady finger lined charlotte ring and smoothed the top.

I placed the charlotte into the freezer to set.

For my garnish I used 120 grams of pitted and halved cherries, cooked them with a little sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice until thickened, then let them cool.

Once the mousse was set (after an hour or so in the freezer), I topped it with the cooled cherries and added a rim of crushed chocolate shortbread cookies to give it a bit of flair.

Michigan cherry charlotte
Mom came over for a delicious summer supper of grilled chicken, fresh green beans with broccoli and sliced almonds thrown in for good measure, and couscous (all prepared by head chef Steve!).

And, of course, for dessert we three simply had to sample the cherry charlotte.

We agreed that the mousse was SOOO . .  light with a clear taste of cherries.  The shortbread crust, cherry topping and dashes of chocolate all made for a tasty combination.

And after an overnight in the fridge it was still delicious the next day - yessirree!

Here's to summer!!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Back to basics - pâte brisée

now THAT's flaky

In the wake of a tart class that I taught a few months back, when my apple tarts baked with pâte brisée came out soggy and under baked, I was determined to revisit the techniques involved in making this classic dough.

(SIDE NOTE:  in my defense the apple filling prepped by an eager culinary student was way too soupy, and the oven I used was not familiar to me, but I still felt the need for a refresher!)

Known to pie and tart bakers as flaky pie dough, pâte brisée can cause the most confident baker to question why, why, why doesn't this dough come out perfect EVERY time?!

Some years ago I compared a number of recipes and methods for pâte brisée and came away with a version that was delicious and seemed to be just the thing.  But since then, even though I've used the same recipe and technique every time, I've had my share of less than stellar results.  Maybe it's just me, eh?

I proceeded to look at recipes from Christophe Felder (one of my favorite tart makers) and Thomas Keller of French Laundry/Bouchon Bakery fame.  In addition I obtained the recipe that the bakers at Nonna Cafe in Ada use (I've had their quiche many times and the crust is always deeelish!).  The last addition to my test quartet was the recipe I've been using for years.

Truth be told, many pâte brisée recipes are very similar, but what intrigued me about these four was the difference in ratios of butter to flour, how much water is added and how the ingredients are brought together.

Here we go!

Pâte brisée is simply flour, cold butter, salt and ice water ( some recipes add a bit of sugar too).  In the photo below I've provided the amounts of butter and flour for each of the four recipes. From left to right you see the following ratios:  Felder (CF): butter:flour at 1:2; Keller (TK) 1:1.35; me (SV): 1:1.44; Nonna (N): 1:1.18 (getting much closer to 1:1!).

In this test I'm using Challenge unsalted butter, made in California with the claim that it is from cows not treated with growth hormone rbST.  I've been using it for some months now and it's good.

I've discovered over the years, working with various tart and shortbread doughs, that the closer the weight of butter gets to the weight of flour in the dough (butter weight is typically about 2/3 flour weight), the more tender and delectable the end result.

At any rate, this promised to be interesting.

Below are the four finished doughs with all ingredient amounts listed.  The Felder recipe makes a larger quantity than the other three, but you can still appreciate the ingredient ratios.

Just a note - the TK, SV and N recipes are typically double (enough for two 9" tarts or pies) what I note below.  I made smaller recipes for testing purposes.

So how are these all put together, you might ask?

I've always followed the "flaking" method when making pâte brisée by hand.  This involves working pieces of cold butter into the flour and salt, purposely leaving large "flakes" or flat pieces of butter in the mixture.  Cold water is then added in increments and mixed lightly and quickly until the dough holds together.  The dough is then wrapped and chilled before rolling it out for use.

Here are the differences in technique for the other three doughs.

Felder calls for soft butter to which is added the salt, sugar and flour.  The mixture is sanded by hand to coarse crumbs, then 120 gm ice water is added and mixed gently until the dough comes together.  The amount of water to flour is much higher in his recipe.  He claims that this dough holds very well after baking, doesn't soften and is great for juicy fruit fillings.

Keller's method involves mixing half the flour with the salt, adding butter pieces on low speed in a mixer until NO butter is visible.  Then on med-low speed the remaining flour is added, followed by the water.  Mix until just combined, wrap and chill.

Nonna's dough is made with a food processor, although I chose to sand the butter in by hand.  Place the flour and salt in the bowl, pulse in the cold, diced butter to achieve coarse crumbs, then add the ice water and pulse just until it comes together.  Wrap and chill.

All just a little bit different!

Once the four doughs were chilled I rolled them out to make 80 mm filled and baked blueberry tarts and blind baked and filled lemon tarts.

destined for blueberry tarts

Here's what I observed when rolling these doughs.

The Felder dough, even after a good chill, felt weirdly spongy and soft (NOT in a good way).  It was sticky and didn't hold its shape well when lining the ring.

The Keller dough was smooth, firm and tight, rolled beautifully and held very nicely when lining the ring.

My SV dough felt a bit rougher and drier than the others, although rolled well and held when lining the ring.

The Nonna dough felt soft (in a good way) - not too wet, not too dry- rolled nicely and held well when lining the ring.

I popped the lined rings into the freezer to firm up before baking.

First the blueberry tarts.  I sprinkled some fine, dry bread crumbs in the bottom of the tart shells - this is meant to create a barrier between the filling and the crust to help reduce the chance for sogginess.

Then I filled each with fresh blueberries that were tossed in a little lemon juice, sugar and flour ( for four 80 mm tarts I used a generous 3 cups of berries with 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, 4 - 6 tablespoons sugar (or to taste) and 2 tablespoons of flour).

Heat the oven to 425 F.

ready for the oven

I gave these 5 minutes then decreased the oven temp to 400 F.  Continue baking another 20-25 minutes or so until the berries are bubbly and the crust is nicely browned.

all baked and bubbly

I sprinkled vanilla sugar atop the blueberry tarts once out of the oven.

I also rolled out some scraps of each dough to bake all by themselves. I wanted to see how they puffed and tasted sans filling.

a sprinkle of vanilla sugar before baking

nicely browned

It's a bit difficult to see from the photo above, but all of the scrap pieces puffed up nicely, except the Felder dough.

the Nonna dough - nice!

Now for the blind baked tarts with oven temp at 400 F.

the lined rings

Freeze the lined rings for 10-15 minutes then fill with parchment rounds and dry beans.

weighted down and ready to bake

Bake with weights for 15 minutes, remove weights and bake an additional 5-8 minutes until nicely browned.  Always pay attention to what's going on inside your oven!!

all baked up

All four doughs held their shape pretty well during baking with the usual amount of shrinkage away from the rings.

After reducing the oven temp to 300 F I filled them with my current favorite lemon filling and baked  them until the filling was set, about 10-15 minutes.

Check out my post from 2/16/16 on lemon-lime tart.

out of the oven and cooling

Now for the tasting.  Steve was on hand for the event, my ever present tasting guru.

First the blueberry.

I realize you can't appreciate the difference in the doughs visually, but the first thing I checked was how they all felt when portioning them with a serrated knife, followed by how easily they cut with a fork.

Felder's crust was tough, both when slicing with a knife and when cutting with a fork.  It was chewy in the mouth, was not flaky or tender and the flavor was dull.  No thanks.

Keller's cut very easily with both knife and fork, was tender and crisp with a pleasant and agreeable flavor.

Mine was just a tad resistant to cutting compared to Keller's, slightly less tender but crisp in the mouth with good flavor.

Nonna's cut easily with great flavor and texture.

All of the above observations held when tasting the plain baked scraps of dough.  Felder's was chewy and tough, broke apart with a bend rather than a crisp snap without any flakiness.  The other three were flaky, crisply tender and delicious.

When cutting and tasting the lemon tarts, the same observations held true. (Love that lemon filling!)

Felder was the obvious loser.  However the other three were all good, leaving me with the question - now what?!

As if you haven't already had enough, I decided to do just a bit more reading and research and came upon one more technique that sounded promising.  I'll credit this one to Kristen Rosenau who writes the blog "Pastry Affair" (

First I tweaked my recipe (it's coming at the end, I promise!) by increasing the butter to bring the butter:flour ratio to 1:1.25 (in between TK and N).

In Kristen's by-hand method she takes half of the diced cold butter and sands it into the flour and salt.  Then she adds the other half of the butter in larger diced pieces and "flakes" them, leaving flat pieces of butter visible.

Add the ice water incrementally and once the dough holds together, turn it out onto a piece of parchment or plastic wrap.  There may very well be some crumbly pieces at the edges.  Don't worry.

Using the plastic wrap as an aid, fold the dough in three.

looks a little rough and tumble

Flatten and turn it 90 degrees then fold in three again (basically a rustic version of puff pastry).

Flatten, wrap and chill for a good hour or more.

I then performed the same steps as with the quartet of doughs already described, making a filled and baked blueberry tart, a blind baked and filled lemon tart and baking a piece of the dough all by itself.

ready for the oven

bubbly and browned

nicely browned
lemony goodness

Of course while the blueberry and lemon tarts were cooling, I just had to snitch a taste of the plain crust - YUM!  Tender, flaky and all around delicious.

Once they were cooled, Steve and I tasted the blueberry and lemon versions and found the crust to be wonderfully tender, flaky and buttery.

And, to top it off, they were still delicious the next day!  I like that.

So here's my version that I intend to use from this day forward.

Pâte brisée (makes approximately 645 gms of dough, MORE than enough for two 9" tarts; just freeze what you don't need)

325 grams all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
OPT: one tablespoon granulated sugar
260 grams cold, unsalted butter (1/2 small-dice, 1/2 large-dice)
60 ml (4 tablespoons) ice cold water

Mix the flour, salt and sugar (if using) in a large bowl.

Sand in the small-dice butter with your finger tips to achieve coarse crumbs.

Flake in the large-dice butter leaving flat, largish pieces in the mixture.

Add 1/2 the water, toss with a fork then toss and gently squeeze with your hands.  Add additional water by tablespoon until the dough holds together.

NOTE:  if your dough still seems dry and too crumbly to hold together (as it might on a cold, dry winter's day), continue to add additional tablespoons as needed but don't exceed 120 ml (8 tablespoons).

Place the dough onto a piece of parchment or plastic wrap; using the wrap as an aid, flatten the dough and fold into thirds.  Turn 90 degrees, flatten and fold in thirds again.  Flatten, wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.

If you don't intend to use the dough for a couple of days, freeze it.

Freeze well wrapped for up to 2 months.  A day before you wish to use it remove it from the freezer and place in the fridge to thaw overnight.

While this may not have been the most scientific of studies, it was indeed illuminating.  I love experimenting and learning, especially when I get to work with dough.  Yeah.

Have lots of fun folks!!