Fruity-nutty-oat biscuits with cheese

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These delectable whole wheat shortbread-style cookies (biscuits for you Brits out there) have just the right hint of sweetness, chock full of toasted nuts, dried fruit and oats. You can read more about the recipe here. Since I wrote about these back in February, I've settled on three flavor variations as an accompaniment to cheese, either as an appetizer or as part of the post dinner cheese course. Cherry hazelnut, apricot pistachio and cranberry almond. Lovely.

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A few weeks back I paired these gems with a mellow, dreamy Saint Angel triple crème from The Cheese Lady here in Grand Rapids. While the cheese is exactly what it should be - buttery, smooth and oh-so-good - it was rather lost when spread on these wholesome biscuits. So I decided to try something a bit more bold and nutty for this episode in my baking-with and pairing-with cheese project.

So back to The Cheese Lady I went.

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This time I went with a couple of Spanish cheeses, one bleu from the Basque region and one 12 month aged Manchego, both of which just had to be given the chance to show their stuff.

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The nuttiness of the aged Manchego wasn't bad with the crunchy-little bit chewy-fruity-nutty cookies, but it was the bleu that really shined for me. Salty and pungent yet smooth and creamy - I'll take it! 

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Alas, while the Steve-meister loves cheese, especially bleus and Manchegos, he couldn't quite get on board with the cookie part (not a shortbread lover - sigh). He'd go for a crispy cracker instead - to each his/her own, right Mr. Steve?

Stay tuned for more cheese adventures!

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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!



Cherry-berry feuilleté and peach buttermilk ice cream


The summer annuals are showing off their colors here in Grand Rapids MI . . . .

lovely coleus in our little garden courtyard

and the summer peaches are out in full force!


Fresh Michigan peaches are one of my favorite fruits.  So of course I've been thinking of the many wonderful ways to use them.  This time I was inspired by a peach buttermilk ice cream recipe from "Food and Wine" magazine.


I followed the recipe for my usual ice cream base (2 cups heavy cream, 1 cup whole milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 5 large egg yolks, pinch of salt) replacing the cup of whole milk with buttermilk.  I blanched 1.5 pounds of peaches, then peeled, pitted, sliced and blender-ized them with a squeeze of lemon juice, folding the purée into the cooled base.

peach purée at the ready

ice cream base finishing its chill down

I usually chill my base in the fridge for a day or two, then process in my ice cream maker and transfer to a freezer container several hours before serving.

I also wanted to use some cherries and blueberries I had on hand to complement the peach ice cream in a dessert I was planning for a family meal.  And, to top it off, there was some reverse puff pastry in my freezer just waiting to be made into something oh-so-delicious.

The beauty of the feuilleté preparation is that I can roll, shape and bake them ahead of time and hold them either at room temperature if using the same day, or in the freezer for a number of days if planning a bit farther ahead.




When ready to fill them, I simply push down the center layers of puff to make room for the fruit mixture that will be mounded in the feuilleté.

I mixed 4 cups of fruit (cherry/blueberry combo) with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar (I like my fruit on the tart side) and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. I then cooked this concoction on med-low heat until bubbly and thickened.

Note:  this quantity of fruit filling was enough for 7-8 feuilletés about 3.5 inches square.

Then I scooped a mound of filling in the center of each feuilleté and baked at 350ºF for about 10-15 minutes.  Since the puff pastry is already baked and the filling already cooked, it's really just a matter of heating everything up.

Once cooled, I topped each one with previously baked matcha crumble (really more for color contrast than taste) and gave them a light powdered sugar dust.

the end result!

I know I've mentioned crumble before in this blog.  It's a great thing to have on hand and is so easy to make.  Make as much or as little as you'd like.  

Simply mix equal weights flour and sugar in a medium bowl, sand in the same weight of cool, diced butter to form coarse crumbs.  In this case I added some matcha powder with the flour and sugar (you don't need much).

Spread the crumbs out on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake at 325ºF, stirring and breaking up clumps every 5 minutes or so until lightly browned and crisp, 10-15 minutes total.  Let cool.

Store in a zip-top bag in the freezer and use at will!

For serving I simply placed a scoop of peach buttermilk ice cream atop each feuilleté (no muss, no fuss) and handed 'em out.

Mmmmmm!

While the ice cream was a bit more icy in texture than I had hoped (I suspect due to using low fat buttermilk rather than whole milk, plus the water content of the fruit purée), the contrast of the tangy peachy coolness with the tart cherry-berry filling and buttery, flakey puff was oh-so-good indeed.

Three cheers for summer fruits!  Hip hip hooray . . . .


Jour de l'Indépendence et les tartes aux saison - cerises et fraises

Happy July 4 tout les mondes!

Steve and I visited the Fulton Street Farmers Market here in Grand Rapids MI yesterday with the express purpose of buying fresh cherries for the tart I was planning for the day's celebration.

Not only did we find cherries, cherries, cherries but soooo much more.  The covered outdoor market is a colorful and enticing destination with all manner of veggies, fruits, perennials, herbs, meats, cheeses and a smattering of local artisans selling their wares.  And surely I've omitted some of the other goods we saw.

Fulton Street Farmers Market

As is often the case, I plan my tarts (and baking in general) around what fridge stock needs to be used up. This time it's ricotta and buttermilk, both perfect complements to fresh summer fruit.

I decided to bake two different tarts as a way to highlight some of the local seasonal fruit.  I was already planning on cherries but when I saw the strawberries, they looked so succulent I couldn't pass them up. I also bought a small box of California lemons for only ONE DOLLAR (such a deal!) - perfect for my lemon buttermilk filling.

So the day's duo includes tarte citron aux fraises and tarte aux cerises/vanille/ricotta.

laying out the fruit

I used my favorite pâte d'amande, blind baked, for both of the tarts.  First up is the tarte citron which is actually a lemon buttermilk tart à la Emily Luchetti.  She makes hers with raspberries baked in the tangy filling, but I baked it sans fruit, saving my fresh strawberries for the after baking garnish.

ready for blind baking

The filling is trés simple and is made by whisking together 3 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, zest of 2 lemons, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground nutmeg.

working on the filling

Pour the filling into the blind baked crust and bake at 325º for about 50 minutes until set.

just out of the oven

Once cooled I garnished the top with fresh strawberries brushed with a hint of vanilla syrup for a bit of sheen.

Next up - the cherry/vanilla/ricotta tart.  This filling is another straight forward preparation, made by whisking together 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean, plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 cups ricotta (whole milk or part skim - your choice).

les ingredients

Pit and halve 1 1/2 cups of sweet cherries and place them on the bottom of the blind baked tart shell.

Pour the filling over . . . .

ready for the oven

and bake at 350º for about 30-35 minutes until set.

just out of the oven

Once cooled I garnished with a central pile of whole, unpitted cherries just for fun.

Nothin' fancy here folks!

Time to eat.

Slicing was a bit messy.  Steve and I shared a sample piece of each.  The lemon buttermilk was tasty with a nice tang that went well with the fresh, ripe strawberries, but we both found the cherry ricotta lacking a little something.  The texture was smooth but there wasn't much bold cherry flavor to complement the ricotta custard, and I would have liked a more intense vanilla component.

All in all not bad but next time I'd roast the cherries in raw sugar ahead of time (as I've done for gateau Basque) to provide a richer cherry experience.

So Happy Birthday USA!  On to the fireworks!!