Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Archive for October 2009

For some strange reason, this past week, I have had absolutely NO desire to eat any meat at all.  As a matter of fact, I’ve only wanted vegetables, cheeses, good crusty breads, and some pastas.  This is very strange, but I’ll go with it.  I wonder if it’s the colder weather making me crave hearty vegetables.  Or if I’m finally feeling the need to detox from culinary school and all the rich and delicious food I had while I was there.  Or maybe, I just want my pants to fit a bit better, since I have unfortunately, put on about 12 pounds during culinary school. Eep!

Those who know me know I love food.  I think that swine, in all its forms is divine and freshly made pastas and pastries are like manna from heaven.  But maybe, it’s time for a break and my new veggie cravings are my body’s way of telling me to just chill out for a bit!  So in the spirit of veggie cravings, I bring you two recipes I’ve had that satisfied my new craving very much!  I’m sure I’ll be having some meat again soon enough — my freezer is still well-stocked with some home made sausage I made as a part of my externship!  But, until then, I’ll enjoy the beautiful vegetables in a hearty Ratatouille and Vegetarian Lasagna!

Autumn Ratatouille

This ratatouille is a hearty blend of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.  It’s quick, so it’s great for a weeknight and it’s sure to warm you up on a cold night!  Serve this with some warmed crusty bread and you’ve got a delicious and healthy meal!  If you want to make it vegan, omit the cheese and instead top it with some chopped toasted pine nuts. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, sliced (You can also use cremini.)
  • 1/2 large or one whole small eggplant, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, quartered and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary or 1 sprig fresh
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • grated parmesan or romano cheese (optional
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
  • hearty, crusty bread, sliced and toasted
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it ripples.
  2. Add the onion and mushrooms and sweat for 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. If you have a microplane, grate the garlic right into the pot.  If not, add the garlic, minced.  Cook 1 minute more.
  5. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper and tomato paste.  Cook for 2 minutes, until the tomato paste begins to caramelize.
  6. Add the whole tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until thick and reduced.
  7. In the meantime, toast the bread.  If using the pine nuts, toast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes.  Cool and then roughly chop.
  8. Add the lentils and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. To serve, ladle into a heated bowl and top with cheese or pine nuts.  Serve with toasted bread.

Veggie Lasagna

The key to making sure this is delicious and rich is using fresh mozzarella.  Although my batch came out a bit on the watery side, it was flavorful, rich and delicious.  And since I used oven-ready lasagna noodles, this was quick enough for a weeknight meal.

Ingredients:

For the vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1/2 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 box oven ready lasagna noodles
  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, squash, eggplant, and carrot and cook until softened and the carrots are browned.
  4. Add the garlic, fennel seed, red pepper and rosemary and cook 2 minutes more.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Once the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes, reserve.

For the sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes
  1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and the wine.  Cook until thick and reduced by about 1/3, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

For the cheese:

  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bunches of spinach, washed and torn
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, diced
  1. In a deep bowl, place the ricotta cheese, egg, red pepper flakes and spinach.
  2. Mix thoroughly to combine and reserve.

To assemble:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a rectangular baking dish, add a spoonful of the sauce and spread it evenly.
  2. Add a layer of noodles, placing them close together.
  3. Add a layer of vegetables, spreading the vegetables evenly.
  4. Add a layer of sauce.
  5. Dollop half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the sauce and one third of the mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles.
  6. Add a layer of vegetables on top of the noodles.
  7. Add a layer of sauce.
  8. Dollop the remaining half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the sauce and one third of the mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles.
  9. Top with another layer of sauce and the rest of the mozzarella.
  10. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  The cheese should be melted and the noodles cooked through.  To serve, let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes after removing from the oven and slice.

Sorry for the lack of pictures but I was really hungry!

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In an effort to maintain some skills in a kitchen, I’ve been taking some classes at the culinary school as well as other local venues.  I recently took a cake decorating class at The Brooklyn Kitchen.  This is a small-ish kitchen supply store with great kitchen gadgets, cookware, books, and classes.  I do love going there, since there’s almost always some cool new gadget or book and the staff is very helpful.

As part of the class, we received a small vanilla cake to decorate that was filled with chocolate chips.  We also received buttercream, a kit of disposable pastry bags and tips, a palate knife, bowl scraper and a handout detailing all the fundamentals of decorating.  All this for the $50 tuition!  The class was held in the back of the store, by their on-staff pastry chef who was delightful and patient.  While I didn’t learn anything new exactly, (we did all of this in culinary school) I did get a lot of good practice and of course, a pretty and yummy cake!

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The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

THE DARING COOKS OCTOBER 2009 CHALLENGE: MACAROONS

These were my first batch I made with the recipe that was given. For these I used almond flour I made by blanching almonds and grinding them with sugar. I filled them with green butter cream and added orange zest for flavor. They were sweet and citrusey!

Orange Flavored Macarons

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My next batch were made using some almond meal I bought at my local Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know if there was a difference between almond meal and almond flour and in terms of taste, there didn’t seem to be. However, they didn’t look very appealing. I flavored these with vanilla bean and filled these with buttercream.

Vanilla Macarons

Since I was disappointed about my results, I tried again with almond flour. This time, I tried for chocolate mararons by adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder while sifting. I filled these with an espresso buttercream.  Even though I had to try this recipe twice, each time was an adventure, resulting in different products.  My first batch, while not very pretty, were still tasty.  However, the chocolate macarons were much better. If I were to do this again, I would DEFINITELY use almond flour and not the almond meal I had tried.  Although, I don’t know if I’d use this exact recipe.  I may try one of the others in one of the suggested links.  This was a fun challenge and I’m looking forward to November’s challenge!

Chocolate Macarons with Espresso Buttercream

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In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations.

Famed purveyors of the French macaroon include the legendary Ladurée (http://www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm) and Pierre Hermé (http://www.pierreherme.com/index.cgi?cwsid=7450phAC194316ph5211130) in Paris, Paulette Macarons (http://www.paulettemacarons.com/) and Jin Patisserie (http://www.jinpatisserie.com/) in Los Angeles, and La Maison du Chocolat worldwide (http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/en/index.php#/home/undefined/1). This is by no means a complete listing of patisseries and bakeries that sell macaroons. If you want to check if any bakeries near you sell French macaroons, here’s a good place to start: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/where-to-find-macarons-new-york-city-….

French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you.

Will French macaroon supplant the cupcake as the next sweet trend? There’s no way to know. I couldn’t have predicted the resurgence of leggings, yet here they are.

Recipe Source: I’ve tried many, many recipes, and have discovered that my favorite macaroon recipe comes from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern. They have given me the most consistent results and so, for everyone’s delectation, I present to you an adaptation of Ms. Fleming’s recipe.

Posting Date: Posting date is October 27, 2009.

Note: Macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size. It’s your choice.

Be aware that you are beating your egg whites first to soft peaks. Soft peaks means that the peaks of the meringue curl over when you lift up the beaters. After you add the granulated sugar to the soft peak meringue, you will beat the mixture to stiff peaks, which, true to their name, stand straight up. Be careful not to overbeat your eggs.

You will also be folding the nut flour into the meringue. As with most recipes when you combine something with beaten egg whites, be gentle in your mixing to keep the egg whites light.

Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.

If you plan on using parchment paper rather than nonstick pan liners, be careful when removing the macaroons from the paper, as they can stick and are very delicate. Some recipes suggest lifting up a corner of the paper and letting a drop of water fall onto the hot baking sheet, thus producing steam, which helps the macaroons release.

Variations allowed: Fleming’s recipe calls for almond flour, but you can grind the nuts yourself if you are feeling ambitious or can’t get a hold of almond flour. (It is available at many online sources, however.) If you do grind the nuts yourself, be sure to add at least a cup of the powdered sugar with the nuts before grinding. This keeps them from turning into almond butter. Grind the nuts as fine as possible in your food processor. Maida Heatter suggests grinding nuts for at least 60 seconds, or longer than you think you need. They need to be extremely fine—powdery, in fact, like flour. If using almonds, try and hunt down blanched or skinned almonds. This helps with the texture and color. You might also consider toasting your nuts ahead of time and rubbing off the skins in some clean toweling.

If you’d like to use a different nut besides almonds, you are welcome to substitute them. Hazelnuts or pecans are good substitutes, but feel free to experiment with others. Our own Helen, of Tartlette fame, suggests that if you do want to use a different nut other than almonds, to have half almond, half other nut, as almonds are drier than other nuts and help again with that all-important texture. If you have a nut allergy, you can make nutless meringue cookies sandwiched with a filling, but it would be great if you could attempt to obtain the size and shape of standard macaroons.

Flavor variations are, as I said, infinite. In Fleming’s original recipe, she calls for adding vanilla bean seeds to the granulated sugar, and folds in the zest of a lemon to make lemon macaroons. You can add cocoa powder, instant coffee or espresso powder, green tea powder, fruit zests. You can tint the batter (Helen again suggests using powdered food coloring to keep from adding too much moisture to the batter). The same goes for fillings—anything goes. Ganache, buttercream, jam, caramel, custard. Here in L.A., there is place called Milk (http://www.themilkshop.com/) that bakes extra large macaroons and makes them into delicious ice cream sandwiches. You must make at least one filling, preferably from scratch, but what that filling will be is entirely up to you.

An important note about coloring and flavoring: liquid food coloring can be used, but be cautious! Use 1-3 drops maximum, otherwise, according to Helen, it increases the moisture in the batter, and that can ruin the macaroons. She suggests one trick: mix the liquid color with the almonds and powdered sugar and to let that air dry for a couple of hours. This reduced the moisture a little bit. If you use more than 3 drops of food coloring, you’re going to have a disaster. That means using fruit puree is out. One way to flavor the macaroons is to use 1-2 teaspoons of citrus zest, 1-2 teaspoons of matcha (green tea powder), or 1-2 teaspoons of herbs or freeze-dried fruit powders. If you want savory macaroons, you can try 1 teaspoon of saffron or other savory dry flavorings. If you want to use powdered color, Helen says that up to 1 tablespoon is a safe amount.

To summarize:

Mandatory:
-Make Claudia Fleming’s recipe for macaroons
-Fill and sandwich the macaroons

Optional:
-Flavor variations and decoration
-If you have a nut allergy, find a good nutless meringue cookie recipe but you must make them into cookie sandwiches with some kind of filling

If you are vegan, I don’t know what you can use as an egg substitute. Suggestions are welcome.

Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Ingredients
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami’s note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.


With the nip in the air and all the rain we’ve been having lately, I’ve been craving a hearty meal. You know, the kind of meal where you feel filled, warmed and satisfied after eating it. The kind of meal where you’re not slaving away for hours, but your kitchen is definitely warm for a few hours after. So, I decided to make and easy, and fairly traditional, Shepherd’s Pie. Here’s my take on it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (button or cremini or both)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 (14 ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup plain bread crumbs (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F and butter a rectangular baking dish.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium heat, add butter and heat until it melts.
  3. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until soft and mushrooms have released most of their liquid, about 10-12 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and rosemary, and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Add lamb, breaking up as you cook it.  Cook until it is brown.
  6. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.  Cook until thick and reduced.
  7. Meanwhile, in a deep pot add potatoes and cover with cold water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Cook potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes, and drain.
  8. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and add milk and butter.  With a masher or fork, smash potatoes, mixing in the butter and milk.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reserve.
  9. Add peas and carrots to lamb mixture and cook 2 minutes more.
  10. Transfer lamb mixture to baking dish, spreading it out into an even layer.
  11. Top lamb with mashed potatoes mixture, spreading evenly.
  12. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and dot with butter, if desired.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is browned.
Sheperd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Layers

Layers

Semi Devoured Shepherd's Pie

Semi Devoured Shepherd's Pie

I can’t tell you exactly when I had my first strudel.  I suspect it was about ten years ago, when I was recently out of college and I frequented this little Vienesse bakery in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Everything I tried there was heavenly, but their strudel was extraordinary.  I remember flaky dough, sweet fruit and flavors of nuts and cinnamon throughout the pastry.  The last time I had this delectable treat was at a fabulous German restaurant in Queens called Zum Stammtisch.  This restaurant captured the feel of a Bavarian beer house with its wood decor and interesting accents of animal heads and steins.  But, more importantly, it has some of the best German sausages I’ve ever had and truly, the best strudel.

OK, so what is strudel really?  Basically, strudel is a dessert consisting of layers of flaky pastry encasing a deliciously sweet or savory filling.  Traditional fillings include apples with raisins and nuts seasoned with cinnamon and sugar. This is also traditionally served with a sauce, usually creme anglaise, or  ice cream or whipped cream.   However, if you prefer a less sweet variety, the strudel can be filled with cheese to create an almost cheesecake like textured filling surrounded by flaky pastry.  Here’s a shot of the delicious strudel at Zum Stammtisch which comes with two generous scoops of ice cream!

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After thinking about strudel a lot, I finally enrolled in a class all about strudel and got to make some tonight!  Was our strudel as good as Zum Stammtisch?  I do think it was close, but for a first try at making strudel, it definitely wasn’t bad!  Of course, I had no idea how much work went into making this delicious treat.  The biggest challenge was making the dough.  Ok, not really making the dough, but more the preparation of the dough for the filling.  To make the dough, we basically just mixed the ingredients (all the usual suspects, eggs, flour, oil, water, salt) until they came together as a dough.  Seems easy enough right?

Wrong! The key to making good strudel is developing the gluten for the pastry.  So once the dough has come together it is slapped on the table, hard, 100 times.  The classroom was noisy, but it was a great way to get out any aggressions!  Once that is done, you notice a marked change in the dough–it’s more pliant and less sticky.  You can literally hold one end of this dough and watch the rest of it stretch in the air, watching the gluten at work. Then, the dough is set aside to rest for at least one hour.

During that hour, we prepared our fillings.  These were all fairly simple fillings from the traditional apple-walnut-raisin to a sweet frangipane with sour cherries to a grape-walnut filling.  We also made one with dried fruit and pastry cream.  Once the fillings were finished, we were ready to start preparing our dough to be filled.

This is now the really tricky part to making strudel dough.  This procedure is very similar to making phyllo dough and the two are often used interchangeably.  The table was draped with a table cloth and the cloth was lightly dusted with flour.  We then removed the dough from the bowl, in one piece, and then gently rolled it out to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Then the top of the dough was brushed with oil and we placed flour on the backs of our hands. Now is the tricky part, pulling the dough.  Using the back of our hands, making  a claw-like gesture, we go under the dough and gently pull it in different directions.  As the dough is gently pulled, it becomes thinner and thinner, almost transparent.  Inevitably, there will be some holes, but as long as they’re along the edges, then no one will be able to notice.  Eventually our little piece of dough grew to become a thin sheet of dough that covered most of the table! The dough is then brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.  The dough is now ready to be filled.

Prepared Strudel Dough

Prepared Strudel Dough

Here is one strudel being filled with Frangipane.  It will then be topped with cherries before being baked.

Strudel with Frangipane

Strudel with Frangipane

Here is the strudel being filled with apples & raisins.

Strudel with Fruit Filling

Strudel with Fruit Filling

Now that the strudel is filled, it’s time to roll it. Since the dough was placed on a tablecloth, it will be much easier to roll.  I grabbed the end of the table cloth and pulled it toward me, rolling the strudel onto itself.  Then, it was put on a parchment-lined sheet pan, sprinkled with butter and baked in a convection oven for about 30 minutes.  Here is a finished strudel!

Finished Strudel

Finished Strudel

And a close-up shot….

StrudFin

And now it’s time to eat!

Cheese Strudel

Cheese Strudel

Dried Fruit Strudel

Dried Fruit Strudel

Overall, I really enjoyed this class! The Chef Instructor, Jeffrey Yoskowitz, was patient and extremely knowledgable.  I always enjoy taking classes with him! And the best part was taking home tons of strudel to enjoy for the next few days!

Note: Please excuse the even more terrible quality of my photos.  I forgot my camera and had to use my cell phone instead.

I’ve been slow to make this post this week because I’ve been working hard on different projects from my externship.  I’ve also been trying to get old issues of Gourmet.  I’m sad to see that it’s being shut down and since I didn’t read it for very long, I’ve been trying to see if anyone had issues they would pass on. I’ve been very successful!  So successful, in fact, that I managed to find someone willing to give me a collection dating back to January 1967! I’m excited to be able to see food trends, issues and debates shift throughout the past few decades thanks to the generosity of a woman who saved and clearly, read so many of the issues.  I don’t know if you’re reading, but thanks for your generous gift!

That being said, I did manage to squeeze in one kitchen experiment this week.  I first made an apple crumb pie. It’s the first pie I’ve made with a Streusel (crumb) topping.  That pie however, wasn’t as good as it could have been. If you like your pies, not to sweet, then this is the pie for you. I felt it needed an accompaniment like some ice cream or whipped cream so that it really had nice sweetness and the flavors all would come through.  The tart was a much better attempt at making a nice dessert with a streusel topping.  Both used the same crust, a basic pate brisée and a combination of apples, spices and sugar.

Here’s my basic pate brisée recipe.  It makes enough fora pie that has both a crust on the bottom as well as a crust on top. There will be some extra so you can also use that to make mini-tarts, mini-pies or whatever you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 lb cake flour
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz cold water

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt.  Cut your butter into pieces and add to your flour.  Then using your hands, move from the bottom of the bowl and break the pieces of butter.  (It’s kind of like you’re a miner and you’re digging for nuggets, only you’re breaking up your butter. At least that’s how my pastry instructor explained it.) Once you have cranberry size pieces of butter throughout, add the cold water.  Combine with  your hands until it has come together.  Then, turn out the dough to a lightly floured surface  and knead until it has completely come together.  Shape into a disk, wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.  If at any point while making this dough, you notice the butter is melting, put it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to firm it back up. You want to be able to see chunks of butter throughout the dough.

The dough was the hardest part of making either of these desserts and that wasn’t even very hard!  So, here’s the recipe for the Apple Crumb Pie.

Ingredients for the Streusel topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 T butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and work with your hands until clumps form and everything is combined.  Place in refrigerator while working on the rest of the pie.

Ingredients for the pie filling

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 6 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 T cornstarch

In a large bowl, add the lemon juice and apples.  Then add the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, all spice, nutmeg and cornstarch. Combine thoroughly.  Let the fruit sit and develop flavor while you roll out the dough.

Pre-heat your oven to 350.  On a lightly floured surface, unwrap your dough.  Use a bench scraper to cut the disk in half and shape each half into smaller disks. Wrap and refrigerate one of the smaller disks.  Roll out the remaining disk to about 1/4 inch thick.  Line a 9 inch pie pan with the dough and trim any excess.  Add the fruit to the pie pan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove pie from oven and uncover.  Break the streusel topping into crumbs and use it to top the pie. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Cool for at least 3 hours.  To serve,  slice the pie and serve with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream or both!

Here’s a shot of my pie.

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple Crumb Pie

Since I thought my pie could have used some improvement, I decided to try something similar.  I then made an Apple Crumb Tart.  I used the other half of the pate briseé to make this tart, so I didn’t have to make more dough.  Here’s my recipe.

Ingredients for the Streusel topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and work with your hands until clumps form and everything is combined.  Place in refrigerator while working on the rest of the tart.

Ingredients for the tart filling

  • 4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup raisins (or slivered almonds)

In a large bowl, add the lemon juice and apples.  Then add the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, all spice, nutmeg, cornstarch, and raisins or almonds. (I added the raisins since I thought a nice chewy texture would be a nice contrast to the crunch of streusel.  If you want more crunch, I think slivered almonds would work nicely.) Combine thoroughly.  Let the fruit sit and develop flavor while you roll out the dough.

Pre-heat your oven to 350.  On a lightly floured surface, unwrap your dough.  Roll out the  disk to about 1/4 inch thick.  Line a 9 inch tart pan with the dough and use your rolling pin to trim any excess.  Place your tart pan on a half sheet pan.  Add the fruit to the tart pan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove tart from oven and uncover.  Break the streusel topping into crumbs and use it to top the tart. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Cool for at least 3 hours.  Slice to serve.  You can accompany the tart with ice cream or whipped cream, but I thought this tart was great on its own!

Apple Crumb Tart

Apple Crumb Tart

Sliced Tart

Sliced Tart

Last Saturday, I attended the Chile Pepper Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  The day started off with strong rain showers making the ground at the gardens soft and muddy.  As we arrived (I went with my boyfriend who is a big fan of all things spicy!), we searched for signs that the festival was still going on and we soon found our way to the Chocolate Chile Cabana.  This muddy field was full of different vendors offering up samples of their spicy & sweet treats.  I sampled some delicious treats from Berkshire BarkKumquat Cupcakery, Fine & Raw Chocolate, and Vere Chocolate.  While wandering around I was able to enjoy the sounds of a live bluegrass band playing in the background.

Once I made my way to sample all the lovely treats, I returned to my favorites and made a few purchases.   The Chipotle Chocoalte Truffle from Fine & Raw chocolate had a rich, smooth texture that is characteristic of all high-quality truffles.  The unique thing about this truffle was the delicious smoky, piquant flavor offered by the chipotle.  I also purchased a bar which had cacao nibs throughout for that genuine chocolate flavor.  At Vere Chocolate, I sampled the Cayenne & Cacao Nibs Organic Chocolate Bar as well as the Mint & Nibs Organic Chocolate Bar. When I went back to buy a bar of the Cayenne & Cacao bar, I was given more samples of the mint & nibs bar as well as their Tangerine Organic Chocolate Bar.  I didn’t try the tangerine organic chocolate bar since I really hate the flavors of orange and chocolate together, but my boyfriend happily took that bar home!  I was very glad however to have the mint on hand! And you’ll soon know why!

After sampling all the sweet treats we continued on through the gardens and discovered another tent with live music playing!  This tent had all the hot food at the event.  There was every kind of chili imaginable, Texas Chili, Brooklyn Chili and even an Indian Style Chili. There was also Gumbo and more desserts! Since we had our fill of sweets we went right for one of the hot, spicy dishes, but were unsure of which to get.  My boyfriend got the gumbo and I got the Texas Chili (with cheese!), and of course, we each tried both!  The gumbo was hearty and flavorful–a perfect way to get through a damp rainy day actually!  The Texas Chili was a mixture of beef and pork chunks cooked with different beans (I noticed white and red beans) and many different seasonings.  My boyfriend pointed out the presence of at least three different peppers, a jalapeño, a red pepper and of course some cayenne pepper.  I merely noticed that it was very hot, but also very delicious.

After we had washed down our Chilis with some beer, we then proceeded to look through the other parts of the gardens.  The rain had let up and so we felt we could roam about a bit more.  We found a library where they featured books on gardening and on display, were books all on the care and maintenance of chile peppers.  We also found an area featuring clay pots for sale.  We had unfortunately, missed the chef’s demo.  And of course we happily found more vendors offering up samples!

The first thing we saw were hot sauces.  Finally! Hot sauces at the Chile Pepper festival!  Since the table was inundated with people trying all the samples, we went for the one where there were the fewest people waiting, only to discover that it was the HOTTEST sauce!  It was also extremely delicious! This sauce was a blend of heat and spice that was mildly painful but extremely enjoyable.  The bite from the pepper in the sauce was strong, but the sweetness from the pineapple used in the sauce was a delicious complement.  I now regret that I did not buy the Pyro Pineapple Ha Ha Hotsauce since it’s one of the few hot sauces I’ve ever tried that truly lives up to its name! (If anyone knows where I can find this in NYC, please let me know!)  Of course it was after a few bites of this sauce that I was very glad to have some of that mint cacao chocolate to sooth the fire in my mouth!  I did want more, but I knew that without some dairy nearby, I might be asking for trouble, so I moved on to try some of the other delicious offerings. The pomegranate chutney had a sweet and fresh flavor which made me instantly think I’d love it on a braised chicken dish or roasted lamb.  The pickles, were crunchy, dill bites of goodness.

As I made my way through the botanical gardens toward my car, I realized I had a truly enjoyable day!  The rain was merely an inconvenience as many people were wet, but we were all happy to enjoy all the different treats as well as soak in the beautiful natural surroundings.