Tuesday, September 20, 2011

lemon cream tart

Oh my, this dessert, adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours, was so G-O-O-D!  Silky smooth lemony cream.  Not too sweet, not too sour.  So perfect for spring.  I just love all the yellow goodness.  And when you think it can't get any better, the chilled lemon cream is placed in a pâte sablée, the richest of the French short pastry crusts.  It's a sweet dough, basically a shortbread cookie.  Rich and crumbly.  Please don't let the 30 tablespoons of butter scare you away.  After all, you'll be sharing such an impressive dessert with family and friends.  

ingredients for the lemon cream...simple and good
zesting and juicing

cut the butter into tablespoons, all 21 of them

oh, the sweet smell of lemon

adding the eggs to the zest and lemon juice

whisking in the eggs
just starting to heat up the cream

starting to whisk, starting out light and foamy

ready to pour into tart shell

mixing the ingredients for the sweet tart dough

getting ready to press the dough into the pan

sweet tart dough ready to be baked...saving a little for patching
the most extraordinary french lemon cream tart
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell (see recipe below)
Mise en place:  Have an instant-read or candy thermometer, microplane grater/zester and a blender on hand.  Don't use a food processor, only a blender will do here.  Fill a soup pot full of water and bring it to a boil.
Place the sugar and lemon zest in a large heatproof metal bowl that can be set over the pot of boiling water.  Off heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.  Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the metal bowl over the pot of boiling water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water, and start whisking like crazy so the eggs don't scramble.  You cannot take your eyes off the cream, not even for a few seconds.  At first the cream will be light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger.  As soon as the cream shows the slightest signs of thickening, it will start to leave tracks, measure the temperature.  You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180 degrees fahrenheit. Heads-up at this point -- the tracks mean the cream is almost ready.  Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. Just realize that getting to 180 degrees can take as long as 10 minutes. 
At this point, remove the cream from the heat and pour it into the container of a blender.  Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees fahrenheit, about 10 minutes.
With the blender on high speed, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time.  Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter.  Once the butter is in, keep blending on high speed for 3 minutes to get the light and airy texture of what lemon cream dreams are made of.  If your blender gets hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the blender a little rest.
Pour the cream into the baked tart shell, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Serve cold with whipped cream.  It can keep in the refrigerator for a few days abut it's best to eat it the within 24 hours.

Sweet Tart Dough
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons)
very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-about 10 seconds each-until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed-press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Liberally butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress-it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.
Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Friday, April 22, 2011

abby's banana bread

Time has a way of getting away from you, and before you know it winter has turned to spring...at least in some parts of the country.  We're still in the midst of finishing up one of the wettest springs on record, and it's almost May.  

I've decided to change the direction of my blog just a little.  I really was excited about cooking the recipes from "Around My French Table," the cookbook by Dorie Greenspan, but just found I couldn't keep up with the weekly recipes.  I want the freedom to post the actual recipes in my posts, not just a picture and whether I liked the recipe or not.  I mean, what's the point of somebody looking at a food blog, finding a dish they're inspired to make themselves, but there's no recipe?  So here you go, a recipe for banana bread.  Credit goes to my sweet niece Abby for the recipe.

¾ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 or 3 very ripe bananas, coarsely mashed (about 1 ½ cups)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Preheat an oven to 350°F.  Grease and lightly flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the bananas and eggs and beat until smooth. Add the buttermilk and beat just until combined.

In a bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and beat just until combined. The batter should be slightly lumpy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. It should be no more than 2/3 full. Bake until the loaf is dark golden brown and dry to the touch and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan, about 40 minutes, but it depends on the oven (I start checking around 30 minutes). A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Let the bread rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into thick slices to serve.

Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf.  You can also pour it into a muffin pan and back for 18-22 minutes for banana bread muffins for busy mornings when you need to take it with you.

I used three bananas.  I mixed the first two bananas in.  For the third banana I just tore it into chunks and mixed it in with a spoon so some bites were sweet and gooey.  This is good basic recipe, but next time I'll be sure to add some walnuts. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

gnocchi a la parisienne

I have to admit, I didn't know much about gnocchi before this recipe.  Now I know there is a difference between French gnocchi and Italian gnocchi.  Italian gnocchi is made from potatoes.  French gnocchi is made with pate a choux, a cream puff dough, which is poached, topped with a creamy bechamel sauce, Parmesan and Comte cheese, then baked.    

This was a timely comfort food recipe with the cold weather we've been having lately.  It was very rich and cheesy...an adult version of macaroni and cheese.  I felt that the bechamel sauce was way too thick, though.  I had to thin it down with some more milk and some water from poaching the gnocchi.  Although this was very good, I don't think because of the time involved I would make it again.  

Next week: My Go-To Beef Daube

Thursday, January 13, 2011

paris mushroom soup

Finally a recipe to get excited about after the last three or four recipes were, in my opinion, forgettable. This soup was so good my husband, who has never finished a bowl of soup in his life, had two bowls!  Granted, he loves mushrooms, but this soup was really, really good. The flavors of butter, onion, garlic, white wine, parsley and rosemary combined so well together.

This soup uses champignons de Paris for its base, otherwise known as plain white or button mushrooms. This recipe originates from a small Paris bistro called Les Papilles.  There it is served in a shallow soup plate with a small mushroom salad. The salad consists of thinly sliced raw mushrooms seasoned with salt and pepper, chopped chives and parsley, all topped with a tiny bit of creme fraiche. Then as the hot soup is poured over the salad the mushrooms are cooked slightly.  There is a nice contrast between the cooked soup and the raw mushrooms.  I suggest you make sure you serve this soup very hot.  And do not skip the creme fraiche...it sends this already fantastic soup over the top.   

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

spiced butter-glazed carrots

Still trying to catch up on the recipes for the month of December with the group French Fridays with Dorie.  These carrots were a lot quicker to prepare than I anticipated.  I don't eat cooked carrots often, but these were good with the butter glaze.  Good, but not great. I've never cooked with cardamom before, but these seeds really stepped up the flavor here, along with the ginger and garlic. I'm really enjoying learning some new techniques and using ingredients I've never used before.  These carrots would be a nice side dish for chicken.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

leek and potato soup

Happy New Year.  Here's to 2011!

I haven't posted since the beginning of December.  The holidays just kind of overwhelmed me this year...Well, if I'm honest, I guess every year they overwhelm me.  So this was nothing new, but trying to keep up with posting here took a back seat.  I hope to get on track with the French Fridays with Dorie recipes, but to do that I'll have to post two recipes a week for January.  Hope I'm up to the challenge.

This leek and potato soup is another recipe from "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan.  I have to admit, this just didn't do it for me.  To my taste, very bland and boring.  On the upside, I got to try out the new immersion blender I received as a Christmas gift and it worked great!  

Next up:  Paris mushroom soup

Friday, December 3, 2010

sweet and spicy cocktail nuts

Looking for a spicy-sweet and salty treat to pass out to family and friends this holiday season?  Wrap these  scrumptious bite-size morsels in a little holiday-inspired package so you don't show up empty-handed when visiting family and friends.  Maybe even partner them with a favorite bottle of wine. The recipient of your holiday spirit will surely be pleased.  

before baking...

This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's best-selling cookbook Around My French Table.  I followed the recipe exactly.  I have to say I liked them, but didn't love them.  Dorie suggests the recipe in the book should be considered a base recipe and you're encouraged to tweek it to your personal tastes.  I'd add more salt next time.  Then it would be a keeper recipe for me.

Next week:  Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots