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Thursday
Sep112008

Plum Tart


Plums are really fantastic right now and my local farmer's market has tons of them. Even the ones in the grocery stores are very good right now.  I really wanted to make a plum dessert and specifically a tart. So I turned to Alice Waters and her beautiful book "Chez Panisse Fruit". This book is a must if you love to go to the market, see what fruits are in season but can't think of what do with them. Alice Waters has the book divided by fruits with interesting discussions of each fruit and how to buy them, store them and cook them with really wonderful recipes.  In fact, when Chez Panisse opened in 1971 and served their first dinner, plum tart was the dessert.  I've loved all the tarts from Chez Panisse and this one is outstanding.


Plum Tart

makes one 10" tart

for recipe only, click here

Ingredients:
  • 8 large plums
  • 1 prebaked 10-inch pâte sucrée tart shell (recipe below)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp plum brandy, grappa or kirsch (or plain brandy if that's all you have)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the plums in half, remove the pits, and slice into 1/2 inch wedges. Arrange the wedges in concentric circles in the prebaked tart shell. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Let it bubble gently and cook until the milk solids turn a toasty light brown. Remove the butter from the heat, add the lemon juice to stop the cooking and set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until the mixture is thick and forms a ribbon when dropped from the beaters, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, brandy, vanilla, salt, flour and cream. Stir just until mixed. Pour the mixture over the plums, filling the tart shell. Cover the tart crust with a pie crust shield or, if you don't have one, just use strips of foil. The crust will be too brown if you do not. Bake in the top third of the oven until the top is golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove tart ring. Serve warm or at room temperature.

for the Pâte Sucrée

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1.25 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Instructions:

Beat together the butter and sugar in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Add the salt, vanilla and egg yolk and mix until completely combined. Add the flour and mix until there are no dry patches. wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and press into a 4" disk. Chill several hours or overnight until firm.

Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, lightly dusting the dough with some flour. Roll out the dough into a 12 inch circle. The parchment paper will make the dough easier to roll out. Chill the sheet of dough inside the parchment paper for a few minutes.

Remove the top sheet of paper and invert the dough into a 10 inch tart pan. Peel off the remaining piece of paper, press the dough into the corners of the pan and pinch off any dough overhang. Use the dough scraps to patch any cracks. Let the tart shell rest in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the the tart directly from the freezer to the oven. Bake until slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Check the pastry halfway through baking and pat down any bubbles that may have formed. Let cool before filling.


 

For Chez Panisse's Almond Tart, click here

Tuesday
Sep022008

Tomato Harvest


The farmer's markets are full of tomatoes right now and I've made tomato soup and tomato sauce but one of my favorite things to do with fresh tomatoes is to roast them. If you have a lot of tomatoes that you want to put to use, try using them this way. I usually use Marcella Hazan's method - slow roasting them in the oven with garlic and chopped parsley. The slow roasting dries them out and concentrates their flavor. You can't believe how intense they taste. I love to eat them as a snack or serve them as a side dish at dinner but you can also put them on sandwiches and salads. It's a super easy method with amazing results.

All you need to make this dish are any kind of tomatoes (I used Early Girls in this post), garlic, parsley, olive oil and salt and pepper. Slice the tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet. Chop some fresh parsley and and mince some garlic and combine. Sprinkle this mixture over the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and pour some olive oil on the tomatoes. Place the baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven and back at 325 degrees. Marcella bakes hers for one hour. I like to bake mine for two hours. They should be a little blackened around the edges when they are done. Delicious!

Wednesday
Aug272008

Daring Bakers - Chocolate Eclairs


It's time for the Daring Baker's Challenge! I recently joined this incredible group of food bloggers who challenge themselves to create the same recipe every month. It's a group that was formed by Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. This group has grown to over a thousand members! We all make the same recipe each month, which is kept a secret, and then at the end of the month, on the same day, we all post our creations. It's interesting to see the differences in all the dishes, even though they are the same recipe.


This month's hosts are Tony Tahhan and Meetka of What's For Lunch, Honey? in Germany. They have chosen the recipe of Chocolate Eclairs from the book by the world renowned pastry chef, Pierre Herme called "Chocolate Desserts", written by Dorie Greenspan. I was relieved to see this as the baking challenge because for eclairs you need to make pâte a choux dough, which I have made many times before, using Julia Child's recipe. I was interested to see how Pierre Herme's recipe would differ. It was a little different with the ingredients, but the technique was exactly the same. Pate a choux dough is very easy to make. Don't be afraid to try it! I usually make the dough into round cream puffs , bake, split in half and fill with ice cream and drizzle chocolate sauce all over. Easy. This recipe is much more complicated to make the eclairs with the filling and the glaze, but the dough is still very easy.

Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

 

Recipe from "Chocolate Desserts" by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Choux Pastry Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

Instructions:

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.


Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

 

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes:
1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:
1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

for the Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough

Ingredients:
• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

 

Instructions:

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Notes:
1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

for the Chocolate Pastry Cream

Ingredients:
• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

Instructions:

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Notes:
1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

for the Chocolate Glaze


(makes 1 cup or 300g)
Ingredients:

 

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

Instructions:

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Notes:
1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

for the Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

Ingredients:

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

Instructions:

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Notes:
1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.