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Posts tagged ‘desserts’

Sweet Solutions III: Local Strawberry Tart with Basil-Infused Mascarpone Custard and Cracked Black Pepper

Sweet strawberries with a touch of spice and an herbal hint.  So summer.

Last Saturday after the farmer’s market Jaime and I decided to walk down to the il laboratorio del gelato on Houston St. We were already in need of a cool refresher, but the walk escalated the effects of the sticky summer afternoon– at least we were heading to the perfect spot. Picking out which flavors we were going to get was probably the most difficult decision of the day. With so many fruity, sweet, and even savory options– the combinations seem endless!

I was immediately drawn towards the honey-lavender, but at the last minute I decided on the basil gelato with raspberry sorbet. The mix of puckering tartness from the raspberry and the mild, creamy, herbal finish of the basil was everything one could hope for on a humid day. Not too sweet, but amazingly refreshing, cooling, and my favorite summer colors– pink and green.

My inspiration.

The treat inspired my own take on the flavor combination later that weekend, with my farmer’s market purchase of some tiny (more tart than sweet) local strawberries. I sliced the berries and tossed them in just a bit of sugar and freshly ground black pepper, and let them soak while I made pate brisee tart shells, and the basil-infused mascarpone custard.

For the custard I brought 1 cup of heavy cream to a boil, and then removed it from heat. I added 1/2 cup of roughly chopped basil to the cream, covered it, and allowed it to steep until the tart shells were baked-off and cooled. When I was ready to fill the tarts, I strained the basil cream and set it aside. Then, over low heat, I combined 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan, and whisked them until they were light yellow in color. I slowly added the cream, whisking well until the mixture was thickened, and then I folded in one container of mascarpone cheese. I filled the tarts, and let them chill overnight, before I topped them with the sliced strawberries. The syrup from the strawberries makes a beautiful decorative and delicious sauce for serving with the tart, top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Martha Stewart also has an excellent strawberry galette recipe in her Pies and Tarts cookbook if you don’t have any tart molds on hand. She pairs the rustic tart with a basil whipped cream. This elegant flavor combination is really something special to share over the summer when fresh ingredients are available.

The perfect summer bite.

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Sweet Solutions II: Strawberry Rhubarb & Ginger Pie

Slightly over-baked, but still oh-so-delicious

Sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb are a classic combination, and one of my all-time favorites– but the addition of ginger makes this pie stand out from the crowd. With an ultra-flakey lard and butter crust, and ingredients right from the farmer’s market, this summer treat is one that your friends and family are sure to love. It was difficult not to cut right into this pie as soon as it came out of the oven with it’s delicious red juices bubbling up out of the lattice-top, but I brought it into class to share instead.

Strawberry Rhubarb and Ginger Pie

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 stick cold butter, cubed
1 cup lard (or shortening)
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1/4 cup ice cold water

In a food processor, pulse dry ingredients a few times just to mix. Add butter and lard or shortening and pulse until dough begins to come together, adding water as needed. Divide into two, and flatten dough into discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Filling:

1 q strawberries, hulled, and cut in half or in quarters if large (small local in-season strawberries are best!)
5 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, grated
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon juice
1/2 cup sugar
pinch cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch or tapioca

Combine all ingredients.

For the Pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough into an 11″ circle, place in a 9″ pie pan, and fill with mixture. Roll our other cylinder of dough, cover pie, and crimp edges with fingers. Brush crust with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 T cream if desired, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden-brown and juices are bubbling.

Sweet Solutions I: White Chocolate Lime Cake with Watermelon Sake Sorbet

After deciding on a sorbet flavor to work with from David Lebovitz‘s Ready for Dessert (Watermelon-Sake), Chef Anna and I had to think of what we would serve it with for the dessert special at L’Ecole. Angel-food and sponge cakes are already featured on the menu, so we were originally thinking of a pound or tea cake, but Chef Anna had an even better idea. We used her recipe for the classic Austrian Sachertorte cake— an airy chocolate cake with warm apricot preserves under the frosting– and lightened it up for summer by using white chocolate in place of milk or dark in the batter. I also mixed in lime zest and lime juice, which really complemented the intense sweetness of the watermelon. I served the sorbet on a thin sliver of the cake with candied lime slices. It was light, cool, refreshing, delicious, and very pretty (not to mention my favorite summer color combination– pink and green). As my friend David from class described it, it was really “summer on a plate.” Try this one at home to add an elegant finish to even the most casual summer dinner party, whether by the beach, air-conditioner, balcony, rooftop, or window.

Watermelon-Sake Sorbet (From David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)
Makes 1 quart

4 cups (1 1/14 lbs) seedless watermelon, cut into small chunks
2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups sake
fresh squeezed lime juice

In a food processor or in a blender, puree the watermelon with sugar and sake until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl, add lime juice to adjust the sweetness to your liking. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Freeze in an in ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also try freezing it in popsicle molds if you do not have an ice cream maker.

White Chocolate Lime Cake

165 g butter, room temperature
130 g sugar, plus another 130 g sugar
9 large eggs, separated
150 g flour
160 g white chocolate, melted and cooled
zest of 4 limes
juice of 1 lime

-Cream butter and 130 g sugar with paddle attachment of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. This step is very important in achieving the proper texture of the cake. Especially if the butter is still cool, make sure it is mixed enough.

-Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add chocolate. Mix just until combined. Set mixture aside.

-Beat egg whites with whisk or stand mixer on med-high. When mixture begins to turn white/opaque add 130 g of sugar. Continue to beat until stiff glossy peaks form.

-Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture, being careful not to over mix. Sift in flour.

-Spread into a 9×13 cake pan, and bake for 15-20 minutes turning once. Cake will form bubbles, and should be golden brown.

Easy as Pie… (Well… Kind of…)

Cold Rainy Day... Perfect for Warm Apple Pie!

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I figured it was time to start experimenting a bit with pie. Pie, especially apple, is such a classic New England dessert, and the favorite of so many people– that’s why it is really such a shame when a delicious holiday feast is finished up with store-bought or frozen crust pies. Because that is what really separates a good pie from a bad one, after all– the crust.

While I really enjoy baking, I’ve always been a bit intimidated by making my own pie dough. My mom told me she attempted it in the past, but I had never seen her do it, and my grandmother had always bought decent apple pies from the orchard down the street from her home in Connecticut. Whenever I baked pies while in school, I would use Vermont Mystic Pie’s frozen pie crusts. When baked, it’s really difficult to tell these crusts are store-bought. They are so good, I’d always bring them back with me for the holidays. But I have not been able to find these crusts outside of Vermont, and expectations for Thanksgiving this year are high because of my culinary schooling, so thus, I broke out some flour, butter, and a rolling-pin, and had at it.

We have a pie and tart dough lesson at the FCI in two weeks, but I asked Chef for advice any way. I thought it would be difficult without a food processor, but Chef assured me it wasn’t. On a clean countertop, I cut the cubed cold butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until it was the size of small peas. I then made a small well in the center to which I added my cold wet ingredients a little at a time. I had read in last months Cook’s Illustrated that by replacing some of the water with vodka, because gluten won’t readily form in alcohol, you are able to add more liquid to the dough which makes it a little easier to work with. (The flavor burns off during baking). I had plenty of vodka in stock, and was looking to make things as easy for myself as I could, so I decided to try this method.

I then fraisaged the dough, a technique Chef emphasized in ensuring a really successful flakey crust. To do this, you form walnut-sized pieces of dough and smear them against your work surface with the heel of your hand. This makes even thin layers of butter within the dough.

It is important to refrigerate your dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. I didn’t have a lot of free time this week, so I ended up keeping mine in the fridge for two days. I let it sit for a few minutes before starting to roll it out on my floured work surface.

The rolling wasn’t easy. Every recipe I’ve read stresses applying even pressure and rolling from the inside out, but I found my dough did crack a bit, which forced me to handle it a little more… warming it up further, and making it even more difficult to work with. I guess it just takes a bit of practice.

I keep my filling fairly simple and not overly sweet. My favorite apples to work with are cortland. They are tart, crisp, and hold their shape well. I couldn’t find any locally grown cortlands at the Union Square farmer’s market, so I bought macintosh apples which tend to lose their shape and are better for apple sauces. I took the advice of Lucinda Scala Quinn from her cookbook Mad Hungry and balanced the sweet flavor of the macs with some tart granny smiths. I cut the apples into fairly thin, even wedges, (about 1/4 cm), I usually use about 8 apples. I go easy on the sugar, keeping it to under 1/2 cup (I use organic cane sugar), because I also add some Vermont maple syrup for sweetness. I add lemon juice, lemon zest, and for spices I use a good amount of cinnamon, and just a pinch of allspice, ginger, and some freshly grated nutmeg. I covered the pie and refrigerated it for about a half hour before baking for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Here is the recipe for “Foolproof Pie Dough” I used from Cook’s Illustrated. In the original recipe it called for 1/2 cup vegetable shortening in addition to the butter, because it is a pure fat with no water (water encourages gluten development), but I just had butter, so that’s what I used.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks COLD unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in cubes
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup cold water

I topped my warm apple pie with a few thin slices of Shelburne Farms 2 year cheddar… and I have to say… it was pretty amazing. I think for my next pie I will try a different dough recipe, and hopefully learn a few more tips in class to pass on before thanksgiving. Please comment with any advice you might have! And of course to keep in theme with last post… Both Quinn and my friend Annie’s grandmother agree… Men love desserts, but pie is their favorite. Didn’t get to have this one tested as planned, but hope to get some input on next weeks experiment.