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.
Tags: baking, fruit, tarts
A full-on fruit tart is never one of my go-to desserts. I don’t know why, since I’m big on the combo of fruit and crust…I can certainly get behind a good slice of pie or a big scoop of crisp. But I just don’t really think of fruit tarts. It takes the peer pressure of organized group baking to get me to make one, like this Apricot-Raspberry Tart, and remember how spectacular they can be.
This tart is really all about the apricots. Luckily, they’re in season now where I live, and at the farmers’ market I found baskets of the tiniest blushing apricots. Even though I made a small tart using a half batch of sweet dough, I was able to stuff it full of the little guys. At the bottom of the tart shell. a layer of cake or brioche crumbs (or even ladyfingers) acts as a sponge to absorb any juices from the baked fruit. At the restaurant where I work, cakes for specials orders are usually baked off as sheets that are then punched out and assembled in ring molds. That means there’s always some cake off-cut or trim in the walk-in that’s up for grabs. I took home an square of hazelnut cake last week with this this tart in mind. My apricots and raspberries held shape pretty well and didn’t release too much juice, but I liked the added flavor that the hazelnut cake crumbs gave. Having used it, I garnished my tart with some candied hazelnuts instead of the pistachios Dorie suggests.
Really, this tart was so pretty I hesitated to cut it! It’s a fine treat to celebrate Bastille Day today. Even though it may be best eaten up the day of baking, we had a couple of slices left over and I don’t think they suffered too much from a night in the fridge. 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, dessert
Over the years, I must have seen the Baking with Julia TV episode where Marcel Desaulniers makes his White Chocolate Patty Cake a dozen times. Normally, white chocolate doesn’t really float my boat, but for some reason, I could tell by watching the episode that this cake would be fabulous. I’m so glad that we’ve finally gotten to this recipe– and that my decade-long cake daydreams came true!
The white chocolate here is melted into the cake batter– a whole 12 ounces of it. Two layers of cake are dressed up with raspberry sauce (made from pureed frozen berries) and fresh raspberries. I made this with the Fourth of July in mind, so I used a combo of blueberries and raspberries in the sauce and on top. You know, for that whole red, white and blue effect. I think blackberries would shine in this cake as well. In addition to all that white chocolate, the cake also has lots of eggs, so the texture is luxe and velvety. Snappy berry sauce keeps it from being to sweet.
The cake rises in the oven and then shrinks a bit as it cools. If you make the recipe (which you should!), you might be concerned that the layers look a little schlumpy. Don’t worry because once it’s stacked and decorated with the sauce and berries, it looks like a million bucks. The cake will slice neater after it’s been refrigerated for a bit and the sauce has time to firm up.
Tags: baking, fruit, tart
Okay, so this recipe isn’t from BWJ, BCM or even BFMHTY, but it is from another Dorie book, Around my French Table, so I’m trying to pass it off as a rewind this week and hope no one calls me out on it. Also, I’ve made it before, but I liked it enough to play around with it again.
I don’t have a lot of new insight or commentary to add here. It’s still so tasty! I just wanted to show that, even though cherries (which I used last time) are the traditional Gâteau Basque fruit filling, you don’t have to be bound by tradition. Here, along with pastry cream, I used roasted strawberries that I had leftover from last week’s shortcake. The delicious cookie-like double crust would be great sandwiching so many different fruits. Using fruit that’s cooked in some way, whether that be candied, roasted, jammed or sauced, is most ideal, since the fruit is concentrated and you’ll have less liquid seeping into the crust. I plan to try jammy plums next time.
Tags: baking, shortcake
I grew up in Virginia, where strawberry shortcakes are definitely made with biscuits. My husband grew up on Long Island, where he’s said he’d only ever had them with spongecake. Should strawberry shortcake be a biscuit or spongecake? To each her own, I guess…the star of this show is really the fruit more than the vehicle anyway. With Bastille Day coming up, we TWDers put a Franco-American twist on the spongecake version and gave homemade ladyfingers a try. It’s a softer concoction than the biscuit version I’m used to but it’s delicious, as anything with strawberries and cream really should be.
Hubs and I had a little u-pick fun (at least I thought it was fun!) on a recent trip to the farmlands and beaches on the North Fork. The fresh strawberries we brought home were beauties, each one carefully chosen before going into the box. But– my love of roasted strawberries has been documented here already. If you are looking for a saucy berry, they are more intense and delicious when roasted than any stove-cooked strawberry sauce I’ve ever made. I used a combo of the fresh and the roasted for my shorties.
You can fancy up the presentation and pipe on your whipped cream with a star tip. I just scooped it on and let the berries run down the sides. I used a golden spoon though, just so you don’t think I’m not classy! For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, choux, savory
If you are looking for a little nibble for early evening rosé hour on the deck, might I suggest Norman Love’s Savory Puffs? I love making pâte à choux— sweet or savory, I think it’s one of the most fun classics. This particular recipe is actually a little unusual…instead of just plain old water as the liquid ingredient in the dough, it uses cucumber and onion juice, along with a bit of milk. I made a reduced-size batch (I skipped the éclair version) so rather than actually juice the cuke and onion, I just grated some of each on a box grater, salted the mix lightly and left it to drain for a while over a sieve. Then I gave it a final squeeze, measured out the juice that drained off and used it in my choux paste.
I set aside those shreds of veg in the sieve (now relieved of excess moisture) and used them in my puff filling. Waste not, want not– am I right? First I chopped them up a bit finer and then stirred them, along with some herbs and seasoning into a mild, soft cheese curd that I like called Cloumage. The smoked salmon version of the filling sounds delicious, but will have to wait for another rosé hour…perhaps next week, as I still have a few empty puffs in the freezer (and another bottle of rosé in the fridge). Want to come over?