Friday, August 19, 2016

Lemon Bar Tart

We do not have a 9 inch pan, we do not have it, Sam I am.


We do not like them in a square, it's so passé I wouldn't dare.


A round pan works, 'cuz in a pinch, you just pull out your bag of tricks.


Like cutting bars in the form of a kite, or sifting powdered sugar oh so white.


This tart, alas, dirties many a bowl, but the creamy custard's got me sold.


The crust's a very good bake, it's crisp for heaven's sake!



Lemon Bar Tart
Yield: One tart and one nibbling pan (4x4). Alternatively, a 9 inch square pan of traditional lemon bars.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) powdered sugar, plus more for decoration
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
For the filling:
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 7/8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice (2 1/2 lemons gave me more than enough, but you might need more if they're small or dry)
  • 1/4 cup lemon zest (I needed 4 lemons for this)
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, cold
Method:
  1. Prepare the pans. If you're using a tart pan, butter the inside of the dish and disk, and butter a small, ~4x4 inch ramekin of some sort (this is for snacking, because the recipe is not designed for a tart pan!). If you're using a 9x9 inch pan, butter it and make a parchment or aluminum foil sling so it's easier to take them out of the pan.
  2. For the crust: In a food processor, pulse the flour, powdered sugar, and salt a couple of times to combine. Add the butter chunks and pulse a few more times until the mixture looks like crumbs. Press into prepared pans, going up the sides if you're using a tart pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 mins.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position the rack in the middle of the oven. Bake crust for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling: whisk eggs and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and whisk again to combine. Add butter and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture reaches 170 degrees F, or until it thickens significantly (you'll feel it).
  5. Strain custard into a medium sized bowl, then stir in the cold cream. Pour directly into the hot crusts and bake again for 10-12 minutes, or until the filling still jiggles a bit.
  6. Cool on wire racks to room temperature, about 45 minutes, before taking out of the pan and cutting. 
  7. *While it looks beautiful to sift powdered sugar over the whole tart, it won't last in the fridge overnight so just sift over the pieces you're going to serve (ignore the pictures above which I did for beauty's sake sifting over the whole thing). Keeps in the refrigerator a few days, but top will get wet. Just blot off the moisture, sift some sugar over the whole shebang, and serve!
Recipe from Baking Illustrated, modified for pan size.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Soda Bread: Or, reconnecting with my roots

Have you seen that video of the two Irish rowers being interviewed at the Olympics? It's great. "...got to put on the podium pants as well, so that was quite nice" like yes you did! They keep it real on the urine sampling too.


Well, I'm part Irish, and though I've never been to Ireland the rowers have me feeling a bit proud of me heritage. So, I made Irish soda bread, and loved it. It's a round loaf of bread risen without yeast--just with baking soda and buttermilk...basically, a large biscuit with slightly less butter, but you can slather as much as you want on a slice.




The bread is best the first day, but toasted the second day with butter and jam it does quite nicely for elevensies. The recipe I used calls for whole wheat flour and wheat bran, which adds a nice nutty heartiness to the bread.


Brown Soda Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (6 7/8 ounces) whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for brushing the loaf
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place a rack in the upper middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment, silpat, or greased foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk all of the flours, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and kosher salt. Rub in 2 tablespoons butter with your fingers until the mixture looks sandy/like crumbs.
  3. Add buttermilk and mix together with a fork until the dough comes together in shaggy clumps. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead just a few turns, until it comes together into a lumpy but cohesive dough (Baking Illustrated says 12-14 turns).
  4. Pat into a 6 inch diameter round and place onto prepared baking sheet. Score with a serrated knife in a cross, cutting about 3/4" into the loaf (pretty deep). 
  5. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown on the outside and a tester comes out clean from the middle. If you're using an instant-read thermometer, cook until the center is 190 degrees F. 
  6. Brush with melted butter immediately after taking the loaf out from the oven. Let it cool on a wire rack until room temperature, 30-40 minutes, before slicing in.
Recipe from Baking Illustrated.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Chocolate Almond Crinkle Cookies

I remember, growing up, hoping there was some minor business (a check to cash, something to deposit or withdraw) at our local bank Saturday morning. Any other morning, they had the crusty lollipops in the straw bowl they kept near the deposit slips.


But Saturday mornings, they had doughnuts and/or doughnut holes.

I was definitely that kid that sneakily said "Don't you have something to do at the bank, Dad????" at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, hoping we could go early and snag the treats.

Experimenting with my dad's lightbox...kind of cool to have a solid black background!
How does this relate to the cookies shown in these pictures? Well, these cookies are rolled in not just powdered sugar but also granulated sugar. I'm not sure why, but I'm sure my 7 year old self would be all over it.


They're also fudgy and chocolatey, without being as dense and greasy as a brownie or extra chocolaty cookie sometimes is. The dough is different from your standard cookie dough because ground almonds are a substantial addition to the dry team (flour, baking soda, salt).


And, rather than being creamed with butter, the eggs are whipped into a frenzy with some sugar until the whole thing is pale and thick. Melted chocolate, a small gob of butter, and some coffee or liquor finish off the whole shebang, transforming it into a chocolate cloud.


It is worth noting, however, that this is not a one-bowl kind of recipe. There's the food processor (to break down the almonds), a stand mixer (to beat the crap out of the eggs), and then a double boiler (to melt the chocolate, but I said "ENOUGH!" and went with a microwaveable bowl instead). Let it be known that these steps are worth it, and the end product is delicious!

After 1 bite, it's all over...

Chocolate Almond Crinkle Cookies
Yield: 25 cookies (note: the original recipe said it made 40. Apparently I make big cookies...but no one ever complained about that!)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brewed coffee (or reconstituted from espresso powder, which is what I used) or liquor (Grand Marnier or dark rum would work)
  • 1 cup (125 g) almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (this is apparently important...to do it quickly, put the eggs in a bowl with warmish tap water for 5-10 minutes, then change it and let it sit for another 5-10 minutes)
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) sugar, plus more for coating
  • powdered sugar for coating

Method:

  1. Melt chocolate, butter, and coffee/liquor together in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring and checking every 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
  2. Process almonds, flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until they are as finely ground as possible.
  3. Whip eggs and 1/3 cup sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on high for approximately 5 minutes, or until a distinct ribbon forms when you lift up the beater. 
  4. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture with a rubber spatula. Next, fold in the almond-flour mixture. Chill dough for 1-2 hours, until firm (dough can be chilled for up to 5 days for frozen for up to a month).
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare baking sheets with parchment, silicone, or greased foil. 
  6. Pour some granulated sugar into a bowl, then sift some powdered sugar into another bowl. Scoop 1-inch balls of dough and roll in your hands. Roll in the granulated sugar first, then the powdered sugar and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. 
  7. Bake for approximately 12-14 minutes, or until cookies are just starting to firm up at the edges but still very soft in the middle. Let cool on baking sheets until cooled enough to transfer to wire racks.

via Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

Monday, August 1, 2016

Peach and Blueberry Freeform Tart

This week I meditated on how some food combinations seem inevitable. Sure, chocolate and peanut butter, strawberries and cream, steak and potatoes, the usual suspects.


But then there're the ones we don't really think about. They're convenient and they just seem right.
Nectarines and Raspberries
Peaches and Blueberries
Apricots and Blackberries.
(these are basically the combos suggested by Cook's Illustrated, who wrote this recipe...so I don't take full credit, but I do agree wholeheartedly that they are good and somewhat inevitable combinations).

Maybe it's just the slight seasonal shifts in what the two-week peak season is for each fruit. Any subset of pitted fruit and berry is delicious, but somehow peaches feel like they go with blueberries.


And throw it all in a homemade flaky pie crust, no crimping skills required, and straight into the oven. It's like, I can do crimping, and I can do making homemade pie crust dough, but doing both at once is pretty overwhelming. Let's side with taste and throw caution to the wind today.


The other nice thing is that they're a bit smaller than most pies. The whole thing is basically gone by the time you're done with dinner and breakfast the next day. It has no time to go soggy. If you're three people, maybe you can eke out another dinner dessert from it, but I dare you to let it last that long!



Choose whatever combination of summer fruit your heart desires...just adjust the sugar as you like. You can add a vanilla bean, or lemon zest, or other fanciness. Or not - I didn't miss a thing in this simple version.

Peach and Blueberry Free Form Tart
Yield: 1 tart (6 good slices)

Ingredients:
For the dough:

  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7½ oz)
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 3 - 6 tablespoons cold water (I put an ice cube in mine)

For the filling:

  • Fruit for about 3 cups of filling - I used 3 medium peaches sliced into ½-inch wedges and a few handfuls of blueberries
  • 3-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling the crust
Method:
  1. Note: this dough uses a food processor, but my favorite trusty method of grating frozen butter into the flour and salt and then working in the liquid by hand would probably also work well! Just jump to step 3 in that case.
  2. Combine flour and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Sprinkle butter cubes over and pulse until most of the flour is the texture of bread crumbs and some pieces of butter are the size of peas. Add the water a tablespoon or two at a time, pulsing to combine, until you can squeeze a bit and it sticks together (dough will still be sandy/dry in places. That's okay!).
  3. Dump out the dough onto a countertop and gather into a rectangle taller than it is wide, about the width of your two hands. Farthest from you, press 1/6th of the dough away from you, then repeat with the next 1/6th until all the dough has been pressed into the counter (this creates butter flakes!). Gather back up into a pile and smear the dough against the counter once again. Now, when you gather it up it should form a pretty cohesive dough. Form into a 4-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.
  4. With 30 minutes to go on the dough, slice up your fruit but don't sugar it yet. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and put a rack in the lower-middle position. 
  5. When the hour is up, take the dough out and roll on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Just fix the cracks on the edges as they appear and keep rolling until you have a circle approximately 12 inches across. Put this, parchment and all, on a baking sheet and place the whole assembly back in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes. 
  6. With 5 minutes left on the dough, sprinkle sugar on fruit to taste, then pull out the dough and mound the fruit in the center. You should aim to have a 2½-inch border all around the fruit. Fold the edges in over the fruit, leaving a bit of dough space for the fruit to slide into as it cooks (about ½ inch). Fold over but don't pinch the dough or press it down.
  7. Working quickly, brush the dough with water and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over the crust. 
  8. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until crust is golden and fruit juices are bubbling. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet, then slide off onto a rack to finish cooling. Dig in in half an hour for warm tart or an hour for room temperature. 
Enjoy! Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mini Apple Crostatas

Mini pies...perfect. No weepy slices, no soggy bottom crust. The recipe multiplies the crust to filling ratio by about 5 which is just enough to be majorly delicious and still very apple-y.


Honestly the streusel topping turned into a sort of soft dough in the oven, so I've suggested another crumble that I've used before. It would hold up better, I'd think. These would also be great sans crumble. Then you'd see the apples from the top, which would be beautiful!

My dad was really excited!
While a little labor intensive, each step only takes a few ingredients, and you can prep all the parts for assembly later. It's a great way to start with pie crust since your circles are smaller, so they're easier to move around. If they're a weird shape, no biggie.


Fun to make, fun to eat, and a perfect landing pad for a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Mini Apple Crostatas
Yield: 8 mini pies

Ingredients:

  • CRUST:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup cold water

  • CRUMBLE:
  • [this is not the crumble pictured, but I think it would be better... from Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp]
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • APPLES:
  • 4 apples (all granny smith or granny smith and another kind)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (eyeball it!)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • granulated sugar to top
Method
  1. Make the pie crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Work quickly to cut the butter into the flour with your fingers, a pastry cutter, a food processor, whatever floats your boat. Butter bits should be some the size of oats, some the size of pebbles.
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and dump in the water. Use your hands to fold the flour over the water and start mixing gently until the water is all absorbed and the mixture is somewhat homogenized. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a rectangle, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. Make the crumb topping: Don't wash your bowl! In the same bowl, put all ingredients for the topping except the butter and mix to combine. Add the butter, then work in with your fingers (or whatever you did before) until the mixture resembles wet sand (moist clumps). 
  4. Peel and slice the apples into thin, even pieces. toss with all other ingredients and let sit while you wait for the dough to chill. 
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment. (you'll need two racks in the middle ish of the oven)
  6. Remove the crust from the refrigerator, and cut dough into 8 approximately equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. On a lightly floured countertop and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll to about 1/8 inch thickness. Watch so that they don't stick to the counter! Set on prepared baking sheets. Brush each with beaten egg.
  7. For each round of crust, put about 1/3 cup apples (and the juices they made), then crimp up the sides. Brush the crust edges that you've folded up with egg again, then sprinkle with granulated sugar. Put about 2 tablespoons of topping on each, trying to keep it inside each crostata.
  8. Bake for 20-35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving, a la mode if desired. 
  9. Crostatas keep in the fridge for a few days. To reheat, either microwave if you're lazy or reheat, wrapped in foil, in a 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes. 
Recipe from the Joy the Baker Cookbook.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Caramel Macaroon Thumbprint Cookies

Or, what I wish Caramel deLites were.

Tea for two, and two for tea...
These cookies are almost candy. And they're made especially easy by the purchase of dulce de leche, a confection of boiled sweetened condensed milk sent by the gods. It's in a can, right next to the sweetened condensed milk, and for basically no extra charge they caramelize it for you.


You make basic coconut macaroons and form into disks, except after baking you push a little well into the center and fill it with delicious dulce de leche. A drizzle of chocolate seals the deal and will make you the most popular kid in high school.

If you've never made macaroons, this is a great chance to try. They're not too tricky, and the ingredient list is short. You start with egg whites, sugar, and flavorings (salt and vanilla), and whisk it until frothy. Then just dump in the coconut, shape, and bake!


Of course, if you're looking for extra credit, extra flavor, or extra fanciness, you can lightly toast the coconut before mixing it in. A billion points extra credit, as one of my professors likes to say.

Also pictured: "guard" dog Sally, in the background, watching for intruders
Whatever adventure you pick, these are quick cookies that look fancy. They're chewy and sweet and sticky and everything wonderful. Make a batch, make some friends!

Caramel Macaroon Thumbprint Cookies
Yield: About 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can dulce de leche (available by the sweetened condensed milk or in the hispanic foods section)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper, silicone baking sheets, or foil and nonstick spray.
  2. On one of the baking sheets, put coconut. Toast in the oven 5-7 minutes, or until just starting to color around the edges. Let cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until frothy and completely combined. Add coconut and stir to combine. If it seems like there's a lot of extra liquid, add some more coconut (I didn't do this and some of mine were too soppy) until the mixture doesn't have extra liquid in the bowl.
  4. Scoop by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten with the bottom of a glass (dipping your hands and the glass in water help keep them from sticking) and shape into nice round disks.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown around the edges. Immediately after taking out of the oven, use two small spoons or your thumb to press an indentation in the middle of each cookie.
  6. Melt about half a cup of dulce de leche in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds, then spoon into the divots. I didn't do this but I wish I had!
  7. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second bursts. Use a fork to drizzle over cookies.
  8. Serve with tea or as dessert! Cookies keep stored in an airtight container for 4 or 5 days, but they sure didn't last that long in my house.
Inspired by Bakers Royale, recipe from the Kitchn



Friday, January 1, 2016

The Best Lentil Salad


Happy New Year!

Of course, it's January 1st and everyone's all about resolutions. But that's not really why I'm writing about vegetarian salad.

See? I made cake too!


Well, the cake was for Christmas dinner. Joy the Baker wrote the recipe, so all due credit...her baking brain is on point! It's a soft cake lifted entirely by separated eggs (no flour), intensely chocolately with melted dark chocolate, and gussied up with orange zest and freshly grated nutmeg. I highly recommend it!


But this salad...this salad!! It's my favorite kind of salad. Legumey protein, all the flavor, and everything chopped up into the same size small pieces.

Does it ever bother you how hard it is to get a bite of salad with each component on it? Like, trying to get a toasted pecan, a sliver of dried apricot, greens, and a crouton on a fork is an unduly trying challenge.

You can eat this salad with a SPOON! Forks work too. I bet a spork would be splendid. I might stay away from eating off a knife if I were you, but hey...whatever pickles your caper.


Speaking of which! This salad also has capers, which you can't see because they look just like overgrown lentils. But their bright brininess, combined with earthy lentils, bitter and crunchy radish, sharp red onion, salty and tangy goat cheese, and herbaceous parsley make an awesome combo. It helps that the dressing has 10 different spices, almost as many as KFC chicken.


Got that? This salad is once spice away from being as delicious as fried chicken!

Not.

Anyway, the combination is the brainchild of Sarah at My New Roots. There's all the warm holiday spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and even cardamom!), plus cayenne, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. The combination is unexpected, leaning towards curry but not quite, a delicious and unexpected melange. It will seem like a lot of spices for the salad, but trust me when I say it makes a ton.

Cheers!
I had New Years dinner with 5 friends from high school, a tradition we've been doing since, well, high school! Everyone brought their A-game to the potluck, and we ate like queens, including making just a small dent in the bowl of lentils. It was lovely to see them all again and reconnect!

Chicken tacos, fruit salad, parmesan risotto, and of course, LENTILS!
Here's the recipe, with a few modifications! But use what you have, and what's in season, and what you like.

The Best Lentil Salad
Yield: 8 or 9 cups of salad. It's like a LOT. My friends and I hardly made a dent in the bowl.

To cook the lentils:
  • 2 1/4 cups (1 lb.) Du Puy lentils, cooked (French green lentils from the bulk bins at whole foods did the trick...they need to keep their shape, so red or yellow lentils won't work as well)
  • 32 oz box of vegetable or chicken stock
Rinse and sort the lentils to make sure there are no stones mixed in there. Put lentils and stock into a pot and add water to bring liquid level a few inches above the surface of the lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, checking for doneness frequently near the last 5 minutes. Strain and rinse, then put in a big mixing bowl with...
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup dried currants (soak in hot water for 5 minutes if they're old and crusty like mine were)
  • 1/3 cup capers (basically a whole jar)
  • 5-6 radishes, thinly sliced (I used a food processor, but a mandoline would also work)
Vinaigrette: While the lentils are cooking, shake all ingredients in a leak-proof container. Then, toss with salad ingredients
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Before serving, add in, or top each bowl as desired with:
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
Recipe adapted slightly from My New Roots.