5/18/14

Brown Sugar Cinnamon PopTarts

I've wanted to make these for a while now, and since I had some left over pie crust from the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, I knew this was the perfect opportunity. I got the recipe from the lovely fellow food blog, Smitten Kitchen, however I didn't use her recommended pastry dough, because I just wanted to use the pie dough I had. I'll have to try her version later, but these turned out so well. They taste just like real brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts, which are my favorite, only better!

Ingredients:
Pie dough
1/2 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, to taste
4 tsp flour
1 large egg, to brush

Total time: 1 hour
Bake time: 20-25 minutes

Instructions:
1. Roll out the pie dough to 1/8 inch thick, and divide into 3 1/2 x 5 inch rectangles.
2. Beat the egg and brush over the surface of one rectangle, this will be the inside of the dough, used to bind the edges together.
3. Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Scoop 1-2 tbs of the mixture into the center, leaving an inch around the edge.
4. Put another rectangle of dough on top of the first and press the edges together with you fingers, than with a fork.
5. Poke holes into the top and place it on a lined baking tray. Repeat for the rest of the squares.
6. Allow to chill in the fridge while you preheat your oven to 350 F. During this time, you can bake any dough scraps with cinnamon and sugar for 15 minutes (I highly recommend this.)
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, and cool on the pan.

Enjoy!

Optional Icing:
Mix 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon, then add 1 tbs water, to form a smooth paste.
Spread or pipe on top of the pastries and wait 20 minutes to allow to set.
Super good!

5/17/14

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

I'm not really a soup person. Especially at this time of the year. But when I saw this roasted tomato soup on The Delicious Miss. Dahl, I figured I should give it a shot while fresh tomatoes are so abundant and delicious right now.

Ingredients:
7 plum tomatoes
1 red or white onion
1 garlic bulb
7-8 fresh leaves of basil or thyme
1 tbs sugar
a pinch of salt and pepper
1-2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup milk or cream (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Slice the tomatoes in half, quarter the onion, and split the garlic in half. 
3. Place in a deep pan with basil leaves, and sprinkle on the sugar, salt, and pepper. Spread the olive oil liberally over everything and toss lightly
                                 
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, turning the convection roast on after about 40 minutes if necessary.

5. Allow to cool a few minutes, then pour into a blender and blend till smooth.

6. Add the balsamic and any extra salt to taste. If too thick, put back on the stove and thin with cream or milk. 

Voila! Sweet, tangy, and bright this was a soup that brightened my day. And it was so simple to make. I paired with a cheese souffle, but it would also be scrumptious with a baked potato or just some crusty bread!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie

This is a classic spring pie; sweet and sour and deliciously pink. To make it, I combined two recipes; the filling from the book Pie It Forward, which was a lovely birthday present, and the crumble and bake time were from my trusty Martha Steward Pies and Tarts. Together they've created a pretty awesome pie. A few of my family members were pretty wary when they saw the raw stalks of rhubarb, but I think I changed their minds with this one.

For the Crust:
1/2 pie crust
1 egg, separated

For the Filling:
8 stalk of rhubarb
4 tbs butter
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup cream
2 tbs bourbon
1 tbs vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup corn starch
1 pint of strawberries

For the Crumble:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tbs sugar
6 tbs cold butter

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Chop up the strawberries and rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces.

2. Roll out the pie dough and press into a 9-inch pie dish, adding fluting as desired. Place it in the fridge to chill.
3. Heat the rhubarb in large skillet with the butter, on medium-high until soft.
4. Add the brown sugar, cream, bourbon, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest.

5. Sprinkle the corn starch onto the mixture and stir until it has completely dissolved. Take it off the heat and stir in the strawberries.
I'll admit this does not look appealing, but trust me,
it smells amazing.
6. Make the crumble: combine the flour, brown sugar, sugar, and butter in a large bowl until combined. You can use a pastry cutter, knives, or your fingers. It should look like very thick sand.
7. Take the egg whites and spread it along the bottom and sides of the pie dough. Mix some cream into the yolk and spread a little onto the top of the crust.
8. Pour the slightly cooled filling into the crust, and then sprinkle the crumble all over the top.

9. Bake at 350 F for 45-55 minutes, until the filling in bubbling and the crumble has browned. I raised the temperature to 375 at the end, so that the top would brown completely, and covered the edges with a tin foil.
And there you have it. So good, it'll shake all the haters off.

*You can always put a top crust on if you want, anything works with this one!

My Favorite Pie Crust

This is a tried and true crust that I have used multiple times, and each time it has turned out perfectly. I found it in a recipe online for a Peach and Blueberry pie that I love. You can use a food processor to form the dough, but I usually do not have access to one, or I don't want to bother cleaning it. So I use either a pastry cutter or my hands, but anyway works great. This recipe makes enough for a double pie crust; one on the top and one on the bottom. Every time I make it, my room mates nearly faint at the sight of all the butter and shortening, but this is baking. If you're going to make a pie, you want it done right.

Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 tbs sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
8 tbs vegetable shortening
4-5 tbs ice water

To make:
1. Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
2. Add the butter and shortening and combine until it is the consistency of coarse sand.
3. Next add the ice water and continue mixing, until the dough just comes together and forms a ball. You don't want it to be too sticky! Add just enough for the dough to form.
4. Knead the dough a little, for about 30 seconds. This will build up some gluten and will prevent the dough from being too crumbly.
5. Separate the dough in two, and form each into a 2 inch thick disk. Wrap each in cling-wrap and place in the fridge for at least one hour (freezer helps here). Four is best, and it can keep for 2-3 days.


Cheese Souffle


Light, fluffy, and aromatic, a cheese souffle is a particularly glorious dish to make for a special lunch, brunch, or dinner. Souffles are often stigmatized as very scary, fancy things, that are finicky and impossible to keep fluffy. False! Souffles are very hearty and simple dishes, made with the basic ingredients of egg, cheese, and milk. They will stay aloft as long as you keep the oven nice and hot. I got this recipe from The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook.

Ingredients:
3 eggs, separated plus 1 egg white
A pinch of nutmeg and salt
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbs flour
1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 oz gruyere, or another sharp cheese, grated.
2 Tbs butter, softened
1/4 cup bread crumbs
A few drops of lemon juice

Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Bake: 15- 20 minutes

To make the Cheese Sauce:
1. Beat the egg yolks with the nutmeg, salt, and mustard until frothy:
2. Add the flour and mix thoroughly.
3. Heat the milk to a boil, then slowly add it to the eggs. Keep pouring in a steady stream while continuously beating. This may take some practice, but you need to keep the eggs moving.
4. Put the mixture back on to the heat, in a clean pot if you can. Continue to mix, scraping the bottom and sides so it doesn't burn. Once the sauce thickens and releases a few bubbles, take it off the heat.
5. Stir in the cheese until it's completely melted. Place in a bowl and press cling-wrap onto the surface of the sauce. Chill in the fridge till cool.

To make the souffles:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Prep the ramekins (or any thick oven-proof mug will do): Rub butter over the sides and into the corners, then run a teaspoon of breadcrumbs around the sides to cover each (I used parmesan cheese, which worked great.)

3. Beat the 4 egg whites and lemon juice till stiff peaks form.
4. Take the cooled cheese sauce, and stir it till it's smooth.
 5. Add half of the whipped egg whites, until the mixture is well combined. Then carefully fold in the rest of egg whites.


6. Divide the batter into the ramekins, and scrape off the top with a palate knife or a large knife. Create trenches around the sides of the ramekins with your finger to help it rise.
7. Bake these bad boys on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes, dropping the temperature down to 350 F. If the tops still need browning after 20 minutes, turn it to fan and give them another few minutes. Once they've risen twice their size, pull them out.
Voila! So yummy and fragrant, these are well with the special prep time. Serve immediately, and don't worry if they deflate a little, they'll taste delicious all the same. I made mine with a Roasted Tomato and Basil soup and it was utterly divine. Happy eating!

5/15/14

Meringue

A simple meringue is the main ingredient to thousands of recipes; from cakes to cookies, frostings to mousses. Essentially it is whipped eggs whites with sugar. This sugar can be granulated, golden, castor, icing, or incorporated in a simple syrup. Though simple, meringue is very tedious to make by hand; it requires a lot of beating to incorporate all of the necessary air, and stand mixers and hand mixers work best. When it's finished, the meringue should be glossy and smooth, with a thick, cloud-like texture. While making a meringue, it's important to know certain descriptions:
Soft peaks:
This is when the egg whites have been beaten enough to create a foamy and white mixture, that is just coming together. The term "soft peaks" refers to lifting the whisk and seeing a drooping tip. It is after this stage that the sugar can begin to be added slowly.

Firm peaks:


This is when the meringue is complete. It's thick and wonderfully fluffy. When the whisk is lifted, the meringue can stand up on its on. Watch the eggs carefully! If you over-beat them, they will become grainy and not fold well into a batter or pastry cream.

You can stop at any stage between soft and firm peaks, depending on what you are making or what texture you're going for.

Pate a Choux


Pate a Choux, or Choux Pastry, is a special form of pastry dough that can be used to create profiteroles, eclairs, beignets, and really an endless number of French pastries and desserts.
A page from my vintage French cook book.
All are made from the same base, and transformed
with different decorations!
Very simple to make, and much quicker than many other doughs (like all of them), this is one of my favorite things to make and use.
The key elements of choux pastry is its extremely soft texture and that it's created over heat. The heat allows the butter and water to be completely incorporated by the flour, which allows a lot of liquid to be released when baked. This steam causes the blobs of goo to puff up magnificently, without a leavening agent like baking soda or yeast.

Ingredients:
1 cup water
1 stick butter, unsalted
1 cup flour
4 eggs, beaten

How to make the pastry:
1) In a small pot, heat butter and water till almost boiling on medium-high heat.
2) Take the mixture off the heat, and add in all the flour at once. Beat until smooth, then place back on the heat and continue mixing vigorously until it forms a single ball.
3) Remove from the heat again and add the eggs slowly, beating continually till it's a smooth, thick mixture.

4) Wait till it's cool before putting into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Pipe the choux onto a cookie sheet, in any shape and size that works for what you'd like to make, and bake in a 425 F  oven for 15, then drop the heat to 350 for another 25-30 minutes more.
5) After the pastries have risen and are a medium brown, poke holes in the bottom to allow them to vent. Cool completely on a baking sheet and decorate as you wish!

5/13/14

Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat


I've always been a Wes Anderson fan, but The Grand Budapest Hotel is by far one of the most delightful films I've seen by him. A particular pastry is featured quite often in it that epitomizes the whimsy and elegance of the film; the Courtesan au Chocolat. I walked out of the theatre itching to make these delightful looking treats. Luckily, there's a handy short film that gives you the basic instructions. Thanks internet!

The Courtesan is a little complicated to assemble, but if you break it down into parts it's totally doable.

Ingredients
The Choux Pastry:
1 cup water
1 stick of butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs, beaten
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs sugar

The Filling:
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3 oz chocolate               
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs cocoa powder
1 Tbs corn starch

The Decoration:
1 1/2 cup of icing sugar, divided
1 tsp water
1/2 stick butter
Pink, purple, blue, and green food dye
Chocolate or sugared almond

Instructions:
The Choux pastry:
1) In a small pot, heat butter and water till almost boiling on medium-high heat.
2) Take the mixture off the heat, and add in all the flour at once. Beat until smooth, then place back on the heat and continue mixing vigorously until it forms a single ball.
3) Remove from the heat again and add the eggs slowly, beating continually till it's a smooth, thick mixture. Wait till it's cool before putting into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip.
4) Pipe large, medium, and small balls onto a cookie sheet, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Watch carefully 'cause the smaller pastries will bake faster. Poke holes in the bottom of the pastry to allow to vent.

The Filling:
1) Heat the milk and chocolate over medium-high heat, stirring gently until the chocolate has melted.
2) In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, flour, sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch till smooth.
3) Pour half the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and stir quickly until combined, then add to the rest of the milk mixture and place back onto the heat. Heat till the mixture has thickened and bubbles gently.
4) Allow the filling to cool before piping it into the cooled puffs.

The Icing:
1) Mix the water with 1 cup of icing sugar until smooth, then divide between several bowls and dye pink (small pastry), mint (medium), and purple (large). You don't need very much water here!
2) Dip the pastries in each color and place aside to set.

The Buttercream:
1) Beat the softened butter and 1/2 cup icing sugar until fluffy and smooth. You can do this with a stand mixer, hand mixer, or a whisk. Dye blue if desired.
2) When the pastries have set, decorate filigree around each. Use a dollop of buttercream to hold them in place, and stack them on top of another, largest on bottom and smallest on top.

Tricky to eat, but delicious all the same! Enjoy!

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