Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I've had Tarte Tatin on the brain lately. Many a "Tatin for Two" passed through these hands during my time in England. I had an urge to revisit this classic, but with a slightly different approach. Still apples. Still puff. Just a change in assembly. Nine out of ten recipes for tarte tatin will instruct one to tuck a round of pastry over a bed of apples resting in caramel, and bake the whole thing into one bubbly upside down pie. I love this version, because the pastry has a chance to absorb the buttery caramel, which creates a deliciously gooey chew. As a professional, this version also bothers me, because as soon as the apples turn right side up, the pastry's lifespan is invariably shortened before it dies a soggy, ugly death. Of course, there are ways to keep tragedy at bay. After baking and cooling, one can just flash the pastry topped tin in the oven and invert a la minute before getting on the plate. But what if we want to display this beauty on a bakery counter? How can a tatin linger and still have integrity?
That's where the tenth recipe comes in. Some smart guy out there thought to bake the two components separately and marry them later down the line. This one gets fuji apples basted and confited in buttery vanilla caramel, then left to chill in the fridge overnight. A disk of "ruff puff" is docked and baked to golden flakiness, then egg washed top and bottom. The egg wash will help protect the pastry from getting too soggy once the apples hit it. The cold caramel apples are arranged tightly in a pie plate and get compacted with another pie plate and a little brute strength. Flash in the oven to melt out any hardened bits of butter and drain excess juices into a pot. Invert apples onto pastry and glaze top with some neutral glaze boiled with the jus in the pot. If you are like me and bake the pastry a little too large for the round of apples, trim away the excess, contouring the knife around the fruit. And also if you're like me, you will like the way the flakiness of the pastry exposes itself upon cutting.
This method makes the perfect "counter-top tatin", sitting perfectly un-soggy for hours. I also prefer the crisper texture of the pastry against the melt in the mouth apples. Large and hectic banquets also benefit from this technique, because who wants to be dealing with flipping over 100+ hot caramel pies to order?
Thursday, January 31, 2013
The winter doldrums really hit their stride this time of year. We're all tired of the cold and ready to feel some warmth, hopefully just over a month away. Citrus is always a lifesaver for pastry chefs during the season, not only in its bright flavors and colors but also in its versatility. A quick grating of zest over a dessert make for nature's sprinkles. Confits and marmalades pair with just about everything, from chocolate, to nuts, to booze, to ice creams, etc. And of course, you can't beat biting into those fat segments that explode with juice in your mouth. This standard frangipane tart turns awesome with meaty pink grapefruit segments baked into the filling. The concentrated bittersweet-ness really plays off the mellow almond of the frangipane. A little grapefruit glaze makes it extra pretty.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
I don't know what's gotten into me: maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's my easy work schedule at the moment; but I've been inclined to bake at home a lot recently. I really thought I had put my home baking days behind me, especially since moving to an apartment with a much smaller kitchen (14" of counter space, people!!). In the past month, there have been a couple banana breads, a large batch of cookies, a chocolate loaf, and now this tangerine bundt.
And of those homebaked conquests, this one has turned out the most stunning. Originally, I thought I would just bake a smaller recipe of batter in my standard loaf pan, but I knew I might be gifting this to a friend so I was yearning for something a little more sophisticated. I'm lucky to have many awesome second-hand shops just steps away, and I found an angel food pan in great condition at The Goodwill (a steal at $4.99!). In addition to the obligatory sexy drizzle of white icing, I was feeling in the mood to make the presentation extra fancy. With a couple extra tangerines on hand, some confited zest was in order. Not wanting the cake to look too "chef-y", instead of a micro fine julienne, ripped & ragged ribbons of zest were blanched and candied, along with some segments still in their membrane.
420 g a.p. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
250 g soft butter
360 g sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
grated zest of 2 washed tangerines
3 large eggs
60 g freshed squeezed tangerine juice (about one tangerine)
170 g sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sift together flour with leavening. Set aside.
Cream butter with sugar, salt and zest until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping between each addition.
Combine juice with sour cream and vanilla.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and sour cream mixture, scraping the bowl often.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Run your spatula around the center of the batter, creating an indented ring on the surface. This will help the cake rise and crack evenly.
Bake in a 350F still oven about 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and immediately pierce several holes in the top of the cake.
Pour over hot tangerine syrup (recipe below) and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.
Remove from pan and place on serving plate. (I did not invert my cake because I like a rounded top, but do as you like)
Brush the sides of the cake with some of the confit syrup to make for a glossier finish.
Drizzle with icing (recipe below) and allow to set before arranging confit zest and segments on top (recipe below).
Gift to a friend or neighbor.
90 g tangerine juice
45 g sugar
Boil together until sugar dissolves. Keep hot until ready to soak cake.
Confit Tangerine Zest and Segments
250 g sugar
250 g water, plus more for blanching
Peel tangerine and rip the larger pieces into narrower ribbons. Set aside.
Break apart tangerine segments without puncturing or tearing the membrane casings. Remove any additional pith from segments.
Blanch peels 3 times, using fresh water every time. On the third blanch, throw the segments in too.
Separate peels from segments and put peels in a pot with the sugar and 250 g water. Bring to a slow simmer and continue cooking until peels are translucent, about 1 1/2 hours.
In the last 5 minutes of cooking, throw in the segments to lightly candy.
Pour into a clean bowl and allow to cool.
150 g powdered sugar
15 g milk
squeeze of tangerine juice
Whisk together to make a pourable consistency. If too thick, squeeze in a little more juice. If too thin, add a little more sugar.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Tarts have always had a special place in my heart. I love how they look. I love their neat & sturdy portability. Filled with fresh cream and fruit, it can only make the perfect afternoon snack or dessert. My only problem: I hate lining tart shells. I used to actually enjoy the act of coaxing the chilled dough into its mold, but that part of me died long ago (probably after lining the million and first) and will take a miracle to ressurect. For those of you who still love lining tart shells, more power to you.
This macaron tartlet is my way of eschewing one of the few things in pastry I dread; and the task I actually feel guilty about delegating to cooks. The softer, chewier texture of a macaron base also makes, in my opinion, a better eating specimen; meaning there is no forcing your way through a solid sucree base. A macaron also requires less equipment; no more reaching for tart rings, no need for blind-baking weights, blah, blah, blah. Another advantage is that you can be in total control of the size and shape of the tart just by how it is piped: micro tarts, tarts for two, tarts for a bunch, square tarts, heart shaped tarts, even trapezoids. I suppose the only disadvantage I can see would be its shallow capacity for filling, so maybe a ganache tart would be better suited to the classic vessel.
I also love that I can color coordinate the shell to compliment the filling, not that one couldn't drop a few bits of dye into a batch of tart dough, but that's just weird! For those worried about a nut allergy, the almond flour can easily be substituted for another ingredient to make it nut-free, graham cracker crumbs is an example. With this summer berry version, a rose-scented pink macaron is indented to make room for a thin layer of strawberry ganache. Once set, an artful piping of barely sweetened vanilla cream cheese adds a little height and makes a sturdy bed for the fruit. And not a single ring mold in sight.
Monday, August 13, 2012
What is a kolache? I still don't even know exactly what it is, but the word was thrown at me a few days ago, and so I was inclined to do a little research. Granted, I have never actually eaten one, so this post is only how I think a kolache might taste. From my research (as in Googling the word and clicking on the first link), its origin is Czech and thrives as an endeared pastry in Texas...who knew?
From my findings online, the base looks to be an enriched white dough, so I went with my own tried and true recipe.
A couple variations of cherry kolache is what I've got here, the simplest one being a bun dropped in a brioche pan and punctured with the fruit. With another tray, I tried to get fancy by braiding the dough before coiling and filling them. Although my favorite presentation may not be authentic to the world of Kolache, I love the landscape of golden bumps of what I would call 'kolache for a party'. I actually did bring it to a friend's house that night, and everyone had fun getting their fingers sticky pulling apart the sweet mouthfuls.
So kolache or not, these ended up still being pretty and delicious, and are a great vehicle for poached fruit and jam. I hope to one day have the real thing.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Please excuse the over-filtered photo, but it's the only one I have for the moment. I picked up a few tri-stars at the market the other day and had some friends over at the restaurant. When it comes to beautiful produce, less is undoubtedly more. A petite pile of perfectly sweet & tart berries dusted with cream powder makes for an easy summer pre dessert. A light drizzle of green basil oil and a single twist of a peppermill are the only other components.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Liquid sable is definitely not a new idea in the dessert world, but it was definitely a new experience for me. I don't know why I waited so long to try it out, but I'm glad I finally did. I had in mind a dessert that
would emulate the look of slate or shards of flagstone, and this is my first attempt. This is basically an inverted cheesecake, with a center of goat cheese cremeux completely enrobed in a liquid graham cracker crust. Blueberries and anise hyssop play a part here too.
I'm not going to include a recipe here because I didn't use one myself. I baked off a few sheets of homemade graham cracker dough until done. While still hot from the oven, the cookie bits get thrown into a Vita Prep with some walnut oil and blended until a pourable consistency is reached. If you're doing this for the first time, you, like me, will be surprised by the amount of oil that's needed to make this (that's to say - a lot!). My first concern was "with this indecent amount of oil, how is this sable ever going to set?". I used it anyway and poured the mixture over super frozen pieces of cremeux. The liquid graham set pretty much immediately. The true test, however, would be transferring the coated cheesecake to the fridge and allowing the cheese to fully defrost. Would I find a cheesy, graham-y blob on a tray, or would this stuff really hold up to its rep?
Et voila! Everything kept its shape! With the blending and addition of oil, the graham is obviously going to take on a different texture, but I liken it to the slightly and pleasantly soggy texture of a true "graham cracker on the bottom" crust of a traditional cheesecake. My husband just told me my cheesecakes look like two pieces of meat on a plate, so I think I need to work on the color and visual aspects of the dish. Overall, I'm glad to have a new technique to play around with.