Tags: baking, cake, fruit
I have to say that I wasn’t too sure about this Apple Kuchen when I started putting it together. I did not doubt that it would be tasty…I mean, apples and custard inside a sweet crust….yeah, that’s good, obvi. This sounded like it would be the high-rise cousin to the low-rise Alsatian Apple Tart. It’s just that I did not get off to a very good start making it.
The crust was easy enough to make and roll out, but let me tell you that getting a soft, delicate crust pressed neatly into a tall springform pan is a pain in the you-know-what. It was frustrating enough that the dough cracked into like a 1,000 pieces, but while I was pressing them back together into something crudely resembling a crust, the clasp on said springform decided to pop and now will not stay closed (actually, now it’s in the recycle bin). Ugh. I needed to go with it at that point, so I put a tight rubber band around the pan to hold it closed, dusted cookie crumbs on the bottom, piled it full of apples and chucked it in the oven to par bake. Not my most brilliant idea, as within a few minutes, the rubber band popped in the heat and the buckle opened up again, cracking the crust. I scrambled around and found a small pie pan that was big enough to hold the springform but tight enough to keep the buckle in the closed position. The dough was still soft at that point and seemed to come back together when the pan was re-closed, but with all those apples in there, I really couldn’t tell what condition it was in.
After the par bake, I poured in the crème fraiche custard (confession:I replaced 1/3 of the crème fraiche amount with buttermilk to lighten the calories a bit) and scattered on some plumped raisins. I was amazed that the custard did not immediately leak out the pan, so I hoped for the best. I was just making a half-recipe (6″), but I left it in the oven the full time. A knife poked into the center still didn’t come out completely clean after an hour, but I took it out away. After it came to room temp, I popped my springform-in-pie-plate contraption it into the fridge for extra insurance that the custard would be fully set. And then the moment of truth…
Guess what. The crust was perfect. There was not one spot torn or cracked and not a drop of custard had leaked out. How this happened, I do not know. It’s like it self-healed in the oven. It was very handsome, actually, and delicious…chockablock full of chunky apple pieces with rummy custard seeped around them. Now that I know to relax about the crust, next time, I’ll either mix the raisins in with the apples at the start or I’ll skip the final step of running the kuchen under the broiler with extra sugar and butter on the top…or maybe I’ll do both. The raisins were a little too brûléed for my tastes…they started off as golden raisins, but you can see in the picture what happened to them under the broiler!
Tags: baking, bread, breakfast
After making the dough for Nancy Silverton’s Brioche Tart with White Secret Sauce, I had enough of it leftover for a brioche loaf to tuck into the freezer. Twice-Baked Brioche, or bostock, is just the thing to make with extra brioche, especially if it’s a little stale. It’s the brioche equivalent of an almond croissant. Take slices of brioche, douse them in a orange flavored syrup, smear them with almond fangipane and sprinkle them with sliced almonds. Then pop them in the oven until toasty brown.
With a cup of strong coffee in the morning or warm, with a little scoop of ice cream for dessert, this is really good…yup, really good. Going on the repeat list. I may even keep a little pot of frangipane in the freezer to have on hand whenever I crave bostock.
Tags: baking, bread, tart
Nancy Silverton’s Brioche Tart with White Secret Sauce is known as “the tart that made Julia cry.” If you don’t know why, then you’ll just have to watch the end of this video to see. We’ve used brioche before to make tarts, back in the BFMHTY days. Seems unusual and maybe it’s just called a tart because of its shape, but brioche is a good base to hold up to juicy fruit. This tart has a quick and easy crème fraiche (although I really used labneh) custard filling and is topped at serving time with a “secret sauce” and poached fruit. I didn’t need a box of tissues to eat this myself, but it’s plenty good, thankfully, as there’s a lot to do to if you make all the components.
Formed in a ring or a cake pan, the brioche bakes up golden and fluffy, with a tall back crust. I was a bit worried that the custard in the center wouldn’t set, but it did. “White Secret Sauce” sounds a little dodgy to me, but really it’s innocent enough…a sabayon folded with whipped cream. The sabayon is made with caramelized sugar and wine, but if you didn’t want to take the time to make it, the tart would be absolutely fine, and a bit less sweet, with just some fruit for garnish. I quick-poached some ripe apricots and plums in a portion of my caramel-wine syrup, but again, if you can’t be bothered and have nice fresh fruit, just use it as-is or macerate it with a light amount of sugar. You can also use dried fruit, in which case I do think they would be better plumped in liquid.
Tags: baking, choux
I love making pastries with choux paste. The dough is so fun to make, and then when you open the oven the oven and find a tray of chubby golden puffs, well, I think it’s just delightful. These Bubble Éclairs are like cream puffs piped (I used a pastry bag and tip rather than a cookie scoop or spoon) snuggled up together in éclair form. Cute!
You can get fancy with these éclairs, or keep them simple like I did. I just sprinkled a little Swedish pearl sugar on the tops before baking and filled them with coffee whipped cream after (flavored with the espresso syrup I still have in the fridge from BWJ’s Cardinal Slice). I did make a couple of fancier ones with white chocolate glaze and passion fruit whipped cream, but it was such a hot, muggy day that they became a drippy mess when I tried to photo them. Whatever, you get the idea. I sure wouldn’t mind an éclair served profiterole-style, with ice cream and chocolate sauce…next time.
Homemade Pita Breads are something that wouldn’t normally be on my baking radar. I admit that most pitas from the grocery store are half-stale and fall apart when I split them, but I do live within walking distance of a shop called Damascus Bakery, where I can (and do often) get great pitas that are fresh made. Those pitas in the picture are actually ones I made a couple of years ago, back when we did Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas, a recipe that used the same dough as its base.
This was a pretty easy bread dough to make (and apparently, it can even be made a week ahead and kept in the fridge till you’re ready to pita). It does use a sponge, but by now that no longer feels like an advanced technique. The recipe gives instructions for mixing the dough fully by hand…I of course cheated and used the mixer. You can bake the breads in the oven on a stone, as I did, or there are instructions for cooking them on a griddle on the stove-top. In the middle of August, the latter may have been the better choice! These puffed up really well and have a good pocket for tuna salad for lunch or a fried egg sandwich for breakfast. They are also perfect for warm pita and hummus snack, obvi, and since they’re about half whole wheat flour, they have real flavor.
Tags: baking, fruit, tarts
We’re on a roll with tasty tarts from Baking Chez Moi and this week we’re continuing to make the most out of summer fruit with a Cherry Crumb Tart. Here, we have our old friend STD (sweet tart dough, that is) housing lots of fresh cherries that are nestled in an almond frangipane filling and topped with streusel crumbs. Yum, right!?! This tart sounds like it has a lot of components, but you can make your dough (and roll and pan it, too), frangipane and crumb topping all a day or two ahead of time. Then when you’re ready to go, just par-bake your crust, pit your cherries and follow the bake-off instructions.
When I came home from vacay, I was pretty sure the summer’s cherries were a thing of the past (just like that gorgeous Montana view…boo) and I planned to pick up a punnet of blackberries to use in this tart instead. But lo and behold, I found some sour cherries at the greenmarket and snapped them right up. Sweet cherries would be just as good here, btw. My streusel didn’t really keep it’s crumbly, piecey shapes in the oven but kind of melded together into a (quite sweet) crispy shell. Not sure why, since I used cold ingredients and chilled it overnight, but it was still delicious. I flavored it only with cardamom, no orange zest, and thought it was the perfect subtle flavoring to go with the cherries and almonds. I liked the tart with a little whipped cream and thought it held up just fine in the fridge for a couple of days, as we cut off slices after dinner and whittled it down to nothing.
I’m wishing now that I’d taken a side view photo of a slice. It really was full of red cherries! For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake
I make a lot of petits fours at work, but it’s not often that you’ll see something like Flo Braker’s Miniature Florentine Squares or Glazed Mini-Rounds making an appearance at my house. I don’t usually get that old-fashioned fancy here. If I serve up anything post-dessert, it’s typically just a healthy-sized complaint about having to do all the dishes myself.
The Florentine Squares and the Glazed Mini-Rounds are two different recipes in the book, but they are both made the very same way, just cut and decorated a little differently. They are both ladyfinger genoise layers soaked in sweet wine syrup, sandwiched with jam (I used blackcurrant), glazed with white chocolate ganache and decorated with designs of melted dark chocolate. I made one cake and cut and decorated some of each style.
They weren’t so hard to make (I watched the video first, and got some tips on chilling the cake before cutting to prevent too much crumbage) and they were pretty fun to decorate. It’s so hot in my kitchen that my dark chocolate designs got a little droopy as the petits fours sat for their photo shoot. I thought they were still charming though. These were tasty little bite-sized treats, but they were quite sweet. They would have been good with a strong cup of coffee.
Panna cotta is one of those chilled, wobbly, creamy desserts that a lot of people seem to love. Okay, I am not one of those people…cooked cream sounds like it should be right up my alley, but the secret to this eggless Italian pudding is usually gelatin, something that I avoid whenever possible. I want to love it though, and I am continuing my quest for a vegetarian gelatin substitute anyway, so I decided to try out powdered agar-agar in this week’s layered Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta recipe. The only other time I’ve experimented with agar-agar at home was with this mirror thing several years back, and it did not go so well. I still didn’t really know what I was doing here, but I did a little more research and decided to use 1 tsp of agar powder in place of the 2 1/4 tsp gelatin in the recipe.
I first blended my frozen mango with lime juice and honey and spooned that puree into glasses. I then cooked my vanilla sweetened cream and milk with my agar powder for a few minutes to activate the agar-agar and poured that on top of the puree. Then I put the everything into the fridge to set and crossed my fingers. And when I opened the fridge an hour later, it was really firm…like, nothing delicate about it…not what I was hoping for.
Besides the mirror thing, my only other agar-agar experience is an entry-level molecular gastromy technique that we used at the fancy-pants restaurant I worked for in Sydney called a “fluid gel.” We’d boil fruit juice with enough agar powder to make it set hard (practically so hard it could bounce) when cooled. Then we’d blitz it in a high-speed blender until it turned into a gel the consistency of toothpaste (remember Close-Up?) that we could use to make dots and squiggles for plate decoration.
I thought about my fluid gel days with a hint of nostalgia and decided to scrape my not-panna cotta (notta-cotta?), mango puree and all, into the blender and I whizzed it up into a very creamy and luxurious soft pudding. I had a bit of extra mango puree that was meant to go with my morning yogurt, but plans change, so I divided it up into my glasses and topped it with my vanilla-mango pudding and some blueberries. I couldn’t call it panna cotta in the end, but it was cold, creamy and tasty anyway.
Tags: crackers, snacks
I admit that is was pretty hard to turn on the oven to make crackers in this sticky summer heat. My main motivation for doing so was really to have cheese and crackers with a cold glass of white wine at the end of the process. At least Beatrice Ojakangas’s Swedish Oatmeal Hardtack recipe doesn’t use yeast, or I’m sure I would have had an overproofed dough-blob situation going on in my kitchen.
This was actually an easy, make-by-hand dough to knead together. It has oatmeal in it to give it a rustic texture. Technically, it calls for quick oats, which I didn’t have. I approximated them by plusing my regular rolled oats in the food processor a couple of times to break them up a little, and then hydrated them in the buttermilk for a few minutes while I gathered everything else together. Since the dough uses oatmeal, I thought a little whole wheat would be good, too, and swapped 1/2 cup of AP flour for WW. With some chilling time and good amount of flour, I was able to roll and cut the dough right on the sheet tray. I had a hard time getting my first tray to color and crisp in the oven (especially in the center) so I upped the temperature to 350ºand increased the baking time by several minutes.
I’ve never had hardtack before and, based on the name, anticipated a trip to the dentist with a cracked tooth! The texture, however, is not rock hard but a bit sandy. There’s a little sugar creamed into the fat in the dough, so they are slightly sweet, slightly salty. I bumped up the salt factor a bit by sprinkling a pinch of fleur de sel on top before baking. They were good with cheese, and also with peanut butter. As separate snacks, I mean…not too sure about a cheese and PB combo.