Friday, October 31, 2008

Baguette:s Take 2

My husband ( and I decided we wanted to make baguetts over the weekend. They turned out pretty well. I'm learning that making bread is a seriously labourious task. Full of: waiting around, seemingly random rearranging of the dough and pampering the yeast. However, it is immensely satisfying to have a fresh loaf, stick whatever from the oven and know that you made it work. 

Caramel Pear (should have been poached figs...) Tart

I have a confession to make, the one fruit I've had serious issues with is figs. I adore dried figs, I grew up with a friend having a fig tree and remember standing around her backyard with watching her dog go a little loopy due to the fermented figs it was consuming. But I never really tried figs, and so it is one of the rare fruits that I don't know how to choose. 

I worked for years in a fruit and veggie shop in Australia, helping customers go through the produce and decide what is ripe, and what is tasty. So usually I feel pretty confident choosing good produce. Bar figs. We never really had them at the shop and so I feel that I have this void in my fig knowledge. I know they come from tree's with funny shaped leaves, they come in various colors and sizes, that their season is nowish (though it seems that now is a little late). But I'm not sure which ones to eat and how I go about cooking them, because poaching them makes them taste and smell like the one room at an airport people can smoke. Any advice would be appreciated. 

Anyway back to the tart, this is from my current favorite book 'Mes Tartes'. I love caramel, and I have a friend who loves caramel AND figs so I thought this was a winning combo until I smelled the stinky an alternative I used beautifully ripe Williams Pears, peeled, cored and sliced to around 4mm thick. They worked pretty well with the caramel. The base of the tart was as always a pate sucre, with an almond cream with creme fraiche incorporated, then it was baked until firm, caramel (with a amazingly subtle hint of vanilla bean in it) poured on top, then a layer of pears and then some more caramel. That's it, a really good tart. However, I think I'd like to use the caramel again with a more simplified (read cheaper base: almonds = expensive and creme fraiche = crazy expensive) because you can't really taste these with the caramel being so dominant. So I'll have to research and alternative. 

Honestly though, you can't really go wrong with caramel. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Basque Cake

A cake with some interesting textures and flavors. I first made this cake at school. It's a cake with a crunchy textured top and bottom, and then a soft middle. The filling is simply pastry cream. The cake we made at school consisted of a cake that was basically dripping with rum, a vanilla pastry cream, and dried cherries and slivered almonds on top of the pastry cream. 

When I made this cake at home I used pear liquor instead of rum, I made the pastry cream a star anise pastry cream, and then I caramelized apples in sugar, star anise and butter. Instead of almonds, I used roasted walnuts. It was strangely savory, bar the sweetness of the cake proper the anise certainly added some savory element that I wasn't expecting. 

The braeburn apples, the cake flour and  eggs (which had gorgeous deep orange yolks, which contributed to the crazy yellow color of the pastry cream) were from a local farmers market. It's so exciting going to farmers markets, I seriously love them. Everything is so amazingly fresh, and you get to know the people working there, really recommend you try some if you haven't already!

Basque Cake; not the prettiest cake, but an interesting one to make, and an easy one to play around with. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pain Rustique or the Beasts 1st child

Ok, I'm not saying I didn't have some serious issues making my first bread at home, using my own oven and levain (the beast). What I am saying is it's not bad, not at all. 

This has a crunchy top, and a soft, uneven crumb. I was scared to make this for many reasons: we don't have a steam oven, the oven is super hot (460F) and I'm a total novice. But once again the Hamelman book came to the rescue, nice details, bar one. When do I add the second batch of yeast and the salt? Two huge issues. Needless to say I forgot about both. But you know what the bread still tastes like bread but needs a salty spread, topping or something to be truly tasty. It does cut a good figure though!

Mini Mix Tarts Cranberry, Raspberry, Pear, Ginger and Clove

I had a lot of cranberries left over from the bundt cake and so I decided to make a small tart using them and some pears that had lingered a tad too long in our kitchen. I also had a smidge left of the pate sucre, so I simply rolled it out, popped it in small tart pans, and baked them until golden brown. 

The filling was stewed pears, cranberries, raspberries, a little bit of finely chopped ginger, a splash of pear liquor, some cloves, a bunch of sugar and a thyme sprig that was removed once I had finished simmering the filling. The consistency was like that of a jam, and so I added a little bit of corn starch to thicken it. I popped it into the ready shells, garnished with finely chopped ginger and a sprig of thyme. Easy as that. 

The tarts were well, tart but the combination of the sugary, buttery sucre meant that they weren't an unpleasant tart. I was quite pleased with these. 

Sauerkraut and Munster Tart

This is a beautiful tart, the smell of it baking was intoxicating in the best possible way (when isn't the smell of melting cheese intoxicating?). Once again from Mes Tartes, by Christine Ferber and amazing tart. 

I adore sauerkraut, totally love it. It's the sourness that makes my nose sweat that I appreciate, and the weirdly dank (for lack of a better word) taste that I totally adore. This recipe due to all the cheese in it kind of dumbed down that sour sauerkraut experience and made it a rich, crispy, textural experience.  Really amazing tart, but very very rich. 

It is made from sauerkraut (I simply use Bavarian wine sauerkraut, add a finely diced onion that's been sautéed until tender in a bit of butter and olive oil, some juniper berries and a few caraway seeds and call it good. If you eat meat you can and should use speck, or double smoked bacon instead of the oil and butter - it imparts a wonderfully rich flavor). Then you slice up some munster cheese place it on top of the sauerkraut, make a simple egg custard and pour it on top. Bake and voila! An amazing savory tart. Delicious!

Someone made it at school using a stinky cheese (maybe an aged Munster), but man did that stink up the kitchen. All morning people were asking what died. When we got to try a piece however, it was utterly amazing. Stinky cheese = good cheese. 

Cranberry and Spice Bundt

This past week I have been working on cakes. And, I have to say I don't love them half as much as I love making tarts. There seems to be far less fresh produce used, and this week we made many cakes that seemed, well, very similar. We basically stuck to using a kugelhopf pan (basically a smaller version of a bundt). So, I wasn't utterly thrilled with cakes, but I thought I'd attempt to apply my knowledge at home. I found this lovely recipe in this months (well I guess technically next months - November) Bon Appetite. From one of my favorite bakers Dorrie Greenspan. 

It consists of a spicy cake with Chinese five spice, which unfortunately I didn't have. So I simply used a mortar and pestle to grind up cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and ginger and called it good. The U-districts farmers market had fresh, beautiful cranberries. So I bought a punnet, and used some in Dorries recipe. I also used dried cherries instead of dried cranberries because that's what I had hanging around in the cupboard. I changed the icing as well, because I don't like orange, so I used a cherry liquor, a bit of milk and then a bunch of sifted icing sugar for the recipe. 

This was a seriously nice cake, packed full of goodies. Highly recommended!

More Tarts: Quince and Raspberry Tart

We've been using a really nice book at school for our tarts. It's called "Mes Tartes" by Christine Ferber. It's divided into seasons, which is great because it gives me an indication what is in season. So on the weekend we went to another farmers market, this time the University district's one and we bought the majority of the ingredients there, including the crazy colored eggs (the yolks were incredibly vibrant - a deep orange color and so it made the custard a really bright yellow!).
This tart is called 'My Father's Quince Tart with Raspberries and Kirsch'. Quite a bit of prep, you make a pate sucre, blind bake it for 15min, then you poach pieces of quince in a sugar lemon syrup until they are just tender. Then you line the base with fresh raspberries, and make a custard out of egg yolks, sugar, kirsch, milk and cream. Pour this over the raspberries, then place the sliced quinces on top and bake. I did have an issue with time on this one, she says to bake it for 40min, but mine required longer then that. So make sure to check for the custard setting in the middle of the tart. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pear Almond Tart

I know it's such a cliche, but I do love the combo of pears and almonds, sweet and crunchy. Once again this tart was born from the farmers market excursion. There were pears there that I hadn't heard of the description read: 'Conference Pears: Pale yellow flesh tinged with pink. Tastes like the best canned pears when fresh'. Seriously how could I pass these up? My curiosity was piqued when I read tastes like the best canned pears. Now, I don't know about you, but to me a good canned pear is sweet, supple and a little firm. These were as they described, they smelled incredibly good. 

I made a simple pate sucre dough and then got the recipe for a pear almond tart from the March Gourmet magazine. I simple chopped up the pear into slim slices and baked them after I had baked the crust to a golden brown, right on top of the crust. Then I poured on the custard, baked that, then I added chopped roasted almonds, sugar and egg whites then popped it in the oven. 

Unfortunately, after I had cooled down the tart I placed it on a wooden chopping board that had at some time in it's past had onions cut on it. So to me the tart tasted very like pears and onion- not a great combo. However, other people did tell me it was good! 

Farmers Market Beauties

We went to a farmers market on Sunday after a dismal weekend of attempting to find interesting mushrooms,. By this I mean we heard about a mushroom exhibition, and we were all excited to go and then when we did go it was all very academic. I just wanted to go buy some mushrooms, and hear about where they grow and how to prepare them not necessarily look at alllll the possible mushrooms that are available locally that are edible or not (or in some cases haven't been tested). By the way it's a scary mushroom world out there - full of mushrooms masquerading as other types of tasty mushrooms so be careful when looking for some in your backyard. 

Anyway the upshot of this was we were totally biting at the bit to buy some local wild mushrooms. And, ladies and gentleman we found them at the west seattle farmers market. A small stall called "Foraged and Found Edibles". They took all the guess work out of the whole 'deadly' or 'wonderfully edible' mushrooms, and so we bought up big. I decided that I wanted to make a quiche out of some porcini - locally known as king bolete as I adore the rich, whole flavor that these guy's have. I also decided that chanterelles would be good and I felt a little sorry for their ugly coral shaped selves at the stall. But seriously, chanterelles for 'yall who haven't tried them have an incredibly meaty texture - almost sinewy, really interesting and hearty. 
So I made a quiche, another one from Julia Childs"'Mastering the Art of French Cooking" pretty good with the weird assortment of mushrooms if you enjoy textural differences. 

Framers Markets Rock! 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Last week of Tarts: Apple Tart

I have adored making tarts. Finally I have learned that I can roll out dough, and that I can carefully place it over the top of the tart base and make it work. I love that tarts have different bases, and that you can mix sweet and savory or keep sweet base with a sweet filling. I love using fruits, whatever is in season. I love that you can achieve different flavors and textures by adding something to a tart base thats been fully cooked, or cooking an entire tart, fillings and all, at the same time. 

We made an apple tart at school on Thursday, and so I made one at home on Thursday night. The base is a simple pate sucree dough, not baked or anything. For this really simple tart all the time is taken up by cutting apples.

Apple Tart 
Ingredients: Pate Sucree (makes 1-2 Tarts)

1/8 recipe for 1-2 tarts

12oz flour

3oz sugar

1/2lb butter

2 yolks

1/2 oz cream

Ingredients: Filling
3 Granny Smith or equally tart firm apples
1/8 cup sugar (you may require more depending on the taste)
1lon, thick piece of lemon zest
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 Tbs. of water (you may require more depending on how dry it gets)

Ingredients: Topping
4 Granny Smith Apples cut to be around 2-3mm thick 
A few Tbs of cinnamon sugar 

Ingredients: Glaze
4 Tbs apricot jam 
2-3 Tbs of water 

Method: Pate sucree

1. Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy (use the paddle attachment of your kitchen aid).

2. Add the eggs and mix in. 

3. Add the cream and mix. 

4. Add the flour in two parts. 

5. Mix until it just comes together. 

6. Press into 2 small rectangles and wrap in glad wrap. Put in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour. 

7. Roll out on a well floured bench (use bread flour for rolling). Use very quick rolls, two up, two down with quite a bit of pressure. Drag the dough through the flour without lifting it up. 

8. When 1/8 inch thick (3mm) fold in half and place in the flan pan. Make sure you push the dough right into the corners of the pan, try and make a 90 degree angle between the base and the sides.

9. Trim excess dough off if needed (this dough can be reused and made into new tarts if refrigerated). 

10. Place the tart base on parchment paper thats on a sheet pan. 

11. Place in the fridge while you make the filling and topping.

Method: Filling

1. Peel and core the apples.

2. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and set over medium heat. If the stewed apples get too dry add some more water. You want a mixture that is fairly dry, and fairly even in consistency. 

3. Check the sugar level, and add sugar if you think you need to. 

4. Remove the pot from the heat and remove the cloves, cinnamon and lemon zest. 

5. Let cool. 

Method Topping

1. Peel the apples (try peeling in a long spiral from the top to the bottom to make sure you keep the round shape of the apple). 

2. Core the apples using a melon baller and a paring knife. 

3. cut the apple into very fine slices, try and keep them even. Make sure you cut them with the hollow core facing to your sides, rather than towards you. 

Method: Assembly

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Spread the stewed apples on the base of the tart. 

3. Starting at the top of the tart place a piece of apple and then another piece on top of it so they overlap quite a lot (see picture). Do this all the way around the tart. 

4. For the center of the tart dump some of the apple pieces in the center and then surround the center with apples halves, building a type of flower out of the apple halves. You can make it as high as you like. 

5. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. 

6. Bake for 45 min or until the pate sucree looks a light golden brown and the apples look baked. 

7. Cool.

Method: Glaze

1. Mix together the jam and the water. 

2. Microwave for 30sec. 

3. Using a pastry brush, brush onto the cooled tart (try and avoid the lumps). 

4. Enjoy!

Day One: The Beast aka my Levain

I'm growing a beast, a pet that requires feeding regularly and for the next 6-10 days it needs to be fed every 12 hours and then every 24 hours after that day in and day out. Yes my beast is a levain. Something that when I start to make breads at home will add to the complexity of the flavors. 
At school I hear "David, have you fed the levain?" "Sarah, have you fed the levain?" everyday the beast requires feeding. Then you rip a portion off add it to your bread and Bam - instant sour goodness! 
I'm using a book that one of my teachers recommended called:  "Bread: A Bakers Book of Techniques and Recipes: by a crazy obsessed bread man called Jeffrey Hamelman. Heaps of recipes, lots of great advice. The books geared to both the home bakers as well as professional bakeries, and the portions show it (for instance 23 loaves of roasted garlic levain vs. 2 loaves).

Anyway, everyone meet the beast. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Week 3: Tarts a mistake or two

I tried making three tarts on the weekend and succeeded in 1.5. I have issues with crust. In class we're using flan rings, aka tart rings. They have no base and are essentially what they sound like - a ring of metal that's about 2cm high . They have no base. This is why I have issues (or maybe it's why I'd like to think I have issues). I made a pate sucree - the sweet dough for well, sweet things. I made a pear tart with brown butter filling, and a walnut one with vanilla alcohol and molasses. 

In the oven the bases on both broke, so I managed to have a puddle of baked stuff on the outside of the flan ring rather than in it. This was a big deal with the pear tart, as it was basically islands of pears with very little surrounding them. On the other hand, the walnut one wasn't so bad, you couldn't really taste the punchy inside 'gravy' as it had all leaked out. Instead it was sort of like a giant walnut cookie, that ended up being pretty tasty. 

I asked my teacher what I'd done, and he suggested that I hadn't pulled the dough in enough on the edges of the base to create a 90 degree angle. This basically means that I had a really weak base and so it broke aka exploded. So I will try it again this week some time, probably with different filling and see how I fair. 

I do love tarts! Having better luck this week with rolling the dough. Pate sucree can be a bit of a bitch. Word. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week 2: Tarts

We have rotations - two weeks of tarts, two weeks of doughs, two weeks of cakes and two weeks of bread. In some unknown order and grouping. This week was tarts and next week will be the same. We've made pate sucree and pate brisee. Pate sucree is a sweet shortcrust sort of dough used for sweet things, and the pate brisee is a standard dough for savory things. 

The kitchen is really hot, I'm talking hot enough to melt the butter in pate sucree really quickly, so when we've come to rolling out the refridgerated dough we have some serious issues. Mostly it falls apart when it comes ready for us to line the flan tins (tart tins - the type without any bottom so the dough kind of falls right through). So this weekend I've decided to make some tarts using the scaled down doughs (we usually make batches of dough that make between 4-6 tarts). 

I made a onion quiche from Julia Childs amazing book "The French Chef" using the altered pate brisee recipe we use at school. I'm currently in the middle of making a pear tart with brown butter filling and slivered almonds, as well as a walnut caramel tart. 

We spent Friday morning tasting around twenty chocolates, all different quality, and with differing  amounts of cocoa matter and butter. We were told to describe each piece in terms of taste and texture. Which, I learned is surprisingly hard when usually all it takes is "good" or "bad". A nice sugar high for the morning. 

Still loving school.