Tag Archives: Pies and Pastries

Lemon Honey Tart With Salted Cardamom Shortbread Crust

January 2013

How do you conclude a winter dinner menu inspired by cardamom?

Lemon Shortbread Tart

With a burst of tart lemon and a salty, cardamom-spiced, shortbread crust! Add a lemony fleur for a touch of décor!

Lemon Shortbread Tart 02

In addition to concluding a dinner party, this tart taught me an inconsequential lesson about over baking citrus tarts. I say “inconsequential” and not “utter failure” because I still enjoyed every bite of my slice, and I felt confident enough to share this with friends. See how my version, though decorated with care, is just a little too cracked? I traced these cracks back to the recipe and realized I should have removed the tart earlier, when the lemony center still appeared very gel or liquid like. Had I done that, the tart would have continued to set with the residual heat. Now I know for the next time, and fortunately, you can do as I say and not as I did!

Lemon Honey Tart With Salted Cardamom Shortbread Crust
(plus Snap & Maple Whipped Cream)
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Special Equipment
9-inch-diameter springform pan

Crust Ingredients

Olive oil for pan
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cardamom

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Filling Ingredients

1 Meyer lemon or thin-skinned regular lemon

1 cup raw sugar
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

3 large eggs (local/free-range)
2 large egg yolks

1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, preferably Meyer lemon

For the Crust

Coat springform pan with olive oil.

Whisk flour, cornstarch, salt and cardamom in a small bowl; set aside.

Place butter, raw sugar and almond extract in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth.

Add dry ingredients to food processor and pulse until mixture resembles medium-size pebbles (dough will not come together completely).

Transfer dough to prepared pan. Using your fingers, press dough evenly onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of pan.

Do Ahead: Crust can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For the Filling & Assembly

Slice lemon into paper-thin rounds. Remove seeds. (If using a regular lemon, blanch slices in boiling water for 4 minutes, drain, and let cool before proceeding).

Mix sugar, honey, and lemon zest in a medium bowl.

Add lemon slices and toss to coat. Let sit until lemon is softened and sugar is dissolved, 30-45 minutes.

Do Ahead: Lemon slice mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Place rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 325°.

Bake crust until center is firm to the touch and edges are beginning to turn golden brown, 30-35 minutes.

When crust is almost done baking, whisk eggs and egg yolks in a medium bowl to blend.

Whisk flour, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl; add to egg mixture and whisk to combine.

Whisk in lemon juice. Add lemon slice mixture; mix gently to combine.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°. Pour filling into hot crust.

Bake until filling is set and slightly puffed around edges, 25-30 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Chill for at least 4 hours, then unmold. Serve cold with Snap whipped cream (recipe below).

Do Ahead: Tart can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Snap Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons Art in the Age Snap Liquor, to taste

Directions

In a chilled bowl, use an electric mixer (with chilled blades), to beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining ingredients, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Time Flies When You’re Having Galette!

January 21, 2013

On Friday, a coworker gave me an early birthday surprise in the form of a Galette des Rois from La Gourmandine. The surprise of the cake warmed my heart, but the cake itself made me so [unreasonably?] happy. I was beaming, and people were noticing. First of all, this is what I call the almond croissant of cake, and everyone knows how obsessive I am about almond croissants. Secondly, my memories of France are flavored with this cake.

Galette and Lessons

As I strolled down my almond flavored memory lane, it finally dawned on me how much time had passed since I lived in France, and admittedly, I felt a little bleu.

Galette and Figurine

However, my Special One quickly assured me I most definitely have more French adventures in store. Furthermore, I can’t complain about six years that have been filled with friends, family and adventures to other parts of the world. Even furthermore, my birthday is starting with a slice of my favorite cake, a mug of French pressed coffee and an attempt to make my brain think en français again! January is all about daily French diligence (on one very big sheet of paper)!

Galette French Lessons

Additionally, this year’s galette bestowed upon me a little female baking partner for the little baker from last year. Allow me a moment of musing, and I propose these figurines are a sign! My next French adventure will be with my Special One, and it will be better than a birthday slice of galette (ie: most amaaaaaaaaazing!).

Galette Open Slice

I hope you all have a cake that makes you this happy, and I hope someone surprises you with that cake!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Ushering in the New Year with Donuts (Part I)!

January 2013

New Year’s brunch seemed like an appropriate time to crank up my production of donuts (via this gift from the Goodwill gods). My special one is prone to pick bacon donuts when we buy them. Since I am picky about the origins of my bacon, I don’t usually partake in his selection. However, when you make your own donuts, you have the power to raise your own pigs! No, I didn’t go that hog wild [yet?], but I did bake my favorite Black Forest Bacon from Whole Foods in the spirit of good luck for the New Year!

Maple bacon Donuts

Maple Glazed Cake Donuts with Black Forest Bacon
makes approximately 12 donuts

Dry Ingredients

1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup half and half
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 Tablespoons olive oil

Maple Glaze

1 cup organic confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup pure maple syrup

3-4 strips of Black Forest Bacon, prepared to your liking (I usually bake my bacon)

For the Donuts

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.

In another large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient mixture and whisk until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix.

Preheat and grease your donut maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

For the Glaze

In a bowl, combine confectioners sugar and vanilla.

Gradually whisk in enough maple syrup to make a coating consistency. Dip the donuts in the glaze to coat. Then set them, glazed-side up on a rack over wax paper. Add the bacon, and let the glaze set.

One Maple Bacon Donut

Enjoy!

Embracing Failure: An Apple Crisp Of Sorts

October 2012

Want to talk about failure?

No? You’re probably not alone. Most people don’t want to talk about failure. I happen to be a person who fears failure quite a bit, maybe even runs away from it, maybe even runs quite fast and quite far away from it. BUT the beauty of this big, wide world is that it is FULL of people and examples and conversations that have taught me failure isn’t the end. The beauty of this big, wide world is we are capable of changing how we fit in it. I am learning failure is just the brink of decision making; it teeters between settling and determining, between defeat and discipline.

A failed body image can transform into a culinary embrace. A failed marriage can become a display of strength and a fresh start. A failed yoga class…is the one I don’t attend for fear of “failing.” A failed business might be the very best example of how to start the next. A failed apple crisp can still be a crisp…of sorts!

I have a book, whose title I shall not mention, filled with pie, tart, crisp and crumble recipes. Being that it was fall, I thought it would be lovely to bring an apple crisp to the dinner party I was supposed to attend that night. The problem with the recipe I was referencing was the inclusion of the volume of the topping, as a whole, right above the total for the light brown sugar. Was I supposed to add all of those measurements together? They were in the same block of the ingredient chart, so I assumed yes. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I stared at a bowl containing an obvious abundance of brown sugar already mixed with the other ingredients.

Not to panic. An abundance of brown sugar isn’t the end of the world, but it could very well mean a trip to the dentist, so I developed a new plan. I compensated with butter! I added lots more butter, thinking I could turn the crumble into a crust, but when I pre-baked the “crust,” it began to melt and slip away from the pie plate. FAIL FAIL FAIL!

I had a mess of apples, ooey, gooey, spiced apples sweetened with the reduction of their juices. I had a melted crust. Slightly discouraged, I decided the slip ‘n slide crust could be an ugly but delicious base. I poured the apples atop the “crust” and returned the mishap to the oven, where it all began to bubble over the pie plate. I stared and stared at it, thinking of all the wasted ingredients, all the meaningless photos, and the failed attempts at winging it. The waste factor kept nagging and nagging, so I tried a scoop….not too bad. I tried another spoonful…not bad at all!

I stirred the juicy, apple mess into a container to take to the dinner party. I whipped cream into a Kraken Rum whipped cream, which incidentally had the very best consistency I have ever whipped to date! I offered a bit of an excuse when I presented the warm, apple mess to the table, and you know what happened to my failed crisp? It disappeared!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
-Thomas A. Edison

Frozen Berry Dessert, Part Deux: The Delivery (sans celebrities this time around)

July 2012

My fascination with food is not limited to the how. I’m curious about the who, the what, the where and perhaps most importantly, the why. We associate memories with food. We bond over food. We pass our stories as we pass our plates, and we make friends via our tastes. I already showed you the how for a very memorable frozen berry dessert. It was a failure of sorts, but the revisions succeeded in a way that utterly surprised me! However, the dessert’s story did not end there. I was making that dessert for a summer Sunday-the type of summer Sunday that perfectly reminds me of the happiness growing underfoot!

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” ~ James Oppenheim

(A summer Sunday can be downright torturous for a dog who has eyes only for saaaaaausages!)

If we don’t make time, summer’s golden ears will quickly disappear, and grills will enter dormancy.

If we do make time, we might use more butter on golden kernels than we should, just because it’s fancy butter. We might sip more sangria than we should, just to reach the wine-soaked, sangria peaches, bursting with the flavors guarded best by local growing.

If we don’t make time, we might miss the show (sometimes the show is a little racy)…

If we do slow down, we might see what a cold beverage can do to a lady on a hot day. ;P

If we do slow down, we can learn more of our own food story from those who taught us, and we can pass it to those who who care to share it.

If we do slow down, the sky might put on a show in our honor. In our case, the Pittsburgh sky sure was feeling fancy!

The show transitioned to flickering candles and second rounds of adult root beer floats then a downhill stroll to fall asleep to the hum of a fan.

May your hot oven be worked minimally. May your frozen desserts refresh you maximumly! May you enjoy summer’s best hues and lights until a quiet stroll leads you peacefully home!

Frozen Berry Dessert & How A Failed Meringue Led To A Celebrity Encounter

July 2012

The Agenda:
A BBQ/Potluck on one of the best decks in the city, hosted by a loyal and true friend.

The Plan:
A more summery version of this maple mousse pie.

The Fail, the EPIC FAIL:
The mousse pie recipe has a meringue component. Oh that meringue! I totally bombarded it with hot honey, and the poor, fluffy cloud didn’t stand a chance! It collapsed like an uncapped air mattress under a sleepy soul.

The Recalculation:
I pride myself on being the Daughter of Invention, but try though I did, the meringue had failed. There was no salvaging the eggy mess, so I had to “click” undo a little farther back into my history. What I had was a perfectly good crust, a fresh fruit puree and a new idea borrowed from the very woman who inspired me to improvise- my mom. What I didn’t have was more heavy cream. What I did have was my special one’s car!

Recalculating Route…:
To Whole Foods! To the dairy aisle! (I also tried to buy an air conditioner at Home Depot, but that effort lingered on the fail side of the spectrum).

The Moment That Made Me Grateful the Meringue Had Failed So Miserably:
As I walked to retrieve a cart, I saw a tall man with thick, thick, thick glasses and dark hair. Could it be…no…but…is it? His voice even sounded familiar as he spoke to his shopping companion who was retrieving a cart. She looked familiar as well! It was them! It was! My heart raced a little bit and fluttered with glee.  I worked up the courage to be that dorky fan girl and approach them in the produce aisle.

The Celebrity Encounter:

“Excuse me, I have to ask. Were you in Party Down [ie: one of the best shows ever!!!]?”
“Yeah…yeah, I was, and so was she [points to Kristen Bell as she picked berries].”
“It was such a great show! It got me through the winter! You guys were amazing!”
“Thanks, thanks very much! I’m Martin.  What’s your name?”
“Quelcy.”
“Nice to meet you, Quelcy.”

I was blown away by his sincerity and humility. Not only had he introduced himself, but he had taken the time to ask my name, repeat it, and furthermore, he had pronounced it correctly! I asked about the rumors of a comeback movie, and he said they had to keep pushing the writers! Meanwhile, the two of them were in Pittsburgh “to pick up some food at Whole Foods” and to shoot a movie together. Between Anne Hathaway in my yoga class and Party Down cast members at Whole Foods, Pittsburgh is becoming quite the little Hollywood.

The Uplifting Moral of the Story

Have you ever noticed how most life lessons have at least one kitchen counterpart? Susan Sarandon (and others probably) said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.” Had I not failed my meringue but persevered with my dessert, I wouldn’t have had the serendipitous encounter in the produce section. Silly as it may seem, that little twist in my day really set a positive tone for my week. On top of the encounter, my friends really enjoyed the dessert.  All in all, I am a really lucky girl, and it pays to appreciate these moments in life!

Coconut Walnut Crust

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts
3 Tablespoons organic light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 Tablespoons organic coconut oil
1 teaspoon organic almond extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the walnuts on a parchment lined baking stone, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, brown sugar, nutmeg and almond extract until the nuts are finely chopped.

Add the coconut oil, and pulse to incorporate.

Press the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan in an even layer.

Refrigerate until firm.

I know science would say otherwise, but I prefer to see the making of whipped cream akin to the making of magic. Suddenly cold, heavy cream turns into fluffy clouds.  The bowl of clouds holds the imagination if you stare and allow yourself a spoonful of creativity while the mixing blades spin. What do you see, friends..?

Whipped Cream Filling

Ingredients

1 pint organic heavy cream, chilled
8 oz organic Neufchatel cheese
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup wildflower amber honey
3 Tablespoons Kraken Rum (or the like)

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream and the Neufchatel cheese until soft peaks form.

Add the vanilla, honey and rum and beat until combined.

Scoop the filling onto the crust, and spread evenly.

Fruit Filling

3 cups cherries, pits removed
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

Puree the cherries and blueberries in a food processor. Either set the fruit puree aside or strain to drain off some of the excess juices.

Add the fruit in dollops, and use knife to swirl the fruit with the filling.

Freeze until the top begins to set slightly. Remove from the freezer, and add the fruit garnishes. Return to freezer, and freeze until firm.

Garnish

4-5 large strawberries, sliced
Blackberries to your aesthetic liking

The revised and rather improvised dessert remained in the freezer until the kielbasa was grilled, loaded with fixins on a bun and eaten with corn on the cob and fancy butter. The dessert remained in the freezer while the band played atop a neighborhood hill. The dessert remained in the freezer until the happy neighbors returned to the deck with the beautiful views of a sky changing from blue to pink.  Stay tuned, and I’ll show you what that all looked like.

-QTK

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Third Time’s A Charm: The Kinfolk Dinner Series

May 2012

Once upon an internet stroll, I happened upon a beautiful, blossoming endeavor entitled Kinfolk.  Beneath a video that admittedly moves my overly sentimental side to watery eyes, was a manifesto that spoke straight to my sensibilities:

Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. We recognize that there is something about a table shared by friends, not just a wedding or once-a-year holiday extravaganza, that anchors our relationships and energizes us…. Kinfolk is the marriage of our appreciation for art and design and our love for spending time with family and friends.

Thus, I made a habit of regularly visiting the pages of Kinfolk.  What impressed me beyond the refined design and the enviable places and products (and they are enviable!), was the way the site seemed to preserve  meaningful moments in time.  Reading Kinfolk feels like a quiet visit to a memory.  

Beyond the awe inspiring posts and publications, Kinfolk began a dinner series tour! When I noticed Philadelphia on the list of cities in the tour, at Terrain specifically, my mind began whirling. Before I knew it, my finger was clicking the option to enter the lottery for tickets. Fortunately, whimsy and practicality worked in a harmony entitled Memorial Day Weekend!

This harmony almost did not come to beautiful, burlap accented fruition. The lottery for dinner tickets did not favor me, but the Monday before the dinner, I received an uplifting email.  Due to a few cancellations, there was room for me and my guest should I still want to attend. Should I still want to attend?!?  Of course I did!

Beyond the excitement of taking part in a Kinfolk dinner, I was especially thrilled with the choice of location.  This marked my third attempt to eat at Terrain.  Please excuse what will surely sound like the “woe is me” ramblings of first world problems when I say my first attempt to visit Terrain (not just Terrain but a craft beer and local honey festival!!!) was thwarted by the heavy rains of a passing hurricane (on the up side, I prepared this meal for my friends, and they’re still talking about it!).  On the second attempt, I took my good old time meandering through the store then joined my place in line to be seated.  As my turn came, I looked at the hostess hopefully, and she announced my second failure- they were no longer taking names.  Hence, attempt number two was a beautiful fail. As I arrived at Terrain, yet again, the other two fails felt purposeful, as if they had led me to this third time, the beautiful, enchanting charm!

And oh, was it charming!

If you, like me, associated Pennsylvania wines with the taste of communion, then you, like me, will be thrilled to discover a wine that proves us wrong.  From what I gather, what distinguishes Galer wines is the intentional choice of which exceptional grapes are suited for PA soils versus existing PA grape varieties turned into wine. Dr. Galer also sought experts in the field of viticulture when he began his endeavor, which you can read about here.

To Start

Flower Pot Bread:  tarragon honey butter, smoked sea salt

Mixed Field Greens:  sliced radishes, wild strawberries, toasted almonds, micro basil, balsamic vinaigrette

Main

Rosemary Honey Mustard Leg of Lamb

Quinoa:  sugar snap peas, baby carrots, english peas, pea tendrils

Kennett Square Mushroom Skillet:  wild mushrooms, organic eggs

Sauteed Lancaster County Vegetables:  Fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, dwarf bok choy

Sweets

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pecan Pie

To see the beautiful menu in its full glory, click here.  The design came all the way from a talented artist in the Netherlands named Anja Mulder.

Even the napkins added a clean and rustic touch, so I adorned my lap very proper like.

Do you spy the brilliant idea in the photo on the right?  I shall soon try my hand at gardening little pots of soft, fluffy and slightly sweet bread.  Beyond the brilliance of the idea, the bread was one of the most delicious breads I have ever sampled (and I have sampled quite an array of breads!).

One benefit of eating with foodies and photo fiends is the patience given to the documentation of beautiful meals.  These weren’t just any foodies either!  I’ve been a fan of Something’s Hiding in Here ever since I saw the tour of Shauna and Stephen’s Philadelphia loft, so meeting the incredibly enthusiastic and humble couple was much like a celebrity encounter for this dorky blog reader.

Sitting directly to my right was Sullivan Owen, who had adorned the Terrain barn with her floral designs.  Aside from being very friendly and talented, Sullivan offered me lots of business inspiration!  I hope to spend more time learning from Sullivan in the future, and if that time is accented by one of her stunning arrangements, all the better!

That wasn’t all!  Across the table were Andrew and Carissa, the lovely couple behind many a Kinfolk video, specifically the Manifesto video that drew me to Kinfolk in the first place!  I can’t wait to see what they culled from this dream dinner.

Quite the plate!  My favorite main was the Kennet Square Mushroom Skillet. The mushrooms were quite meaty!

One might expect the coffee to be prepared with utmost care at a dinner focused on bringing people together, and one would be right.  Two Rachels served coffee prepared specially for each and every coffee partaker.

They even sent us on our merry ways with a creatively packaged single brew sample.

Additionally, Sullivan offered her floral displays as a generous token of her talents, and the very stylish farmers of Happy Cat Farm bestowed organic tomato plants upon us and an extra pack of seeds in the little totes on a big mission from Nest.  The night just continued to impress!

It was a beautiful dream dinner, and I was so grateful to be a part of it!  My third attempt at Terrain was beyond a charm. Kinfolk shared their own account of the night through the multiple lenses of this talented and personable photographer. I love how dark and saturated Parker’s images are, and I was especially excited to see this photo made the cut.  ;)

Here’s hopin’ many of us cross paths again!

My Special One’s Birthday: The Finale!

April 2012

The table was dressed its nerdy best!

There were beakers, bright sea creatures and science fiction stars of chocolate and ice.

There was food!

The Speck & Burrata Appetizer
The Roasted Beets & Celery Root w/ Goat Butter
The Lamb Shank (my FIRST lamb shank!)
The Simple Syrup accent to our bourbon
The Maple Mousse Pie!

It was all for my special one…



Then there were presents!

He likes to point out that he doesn’t obsess over Star Wars any more than the next nerd. He also likes to point out that I am not a normal human being for making it this long in life without seeing Star Wars [I thought I had seen enough of it to put it together.  I was wrong]. I like to point out that his appreciation for the film is a bit above and beyond the average person.  I also like to point out that I said I would watch it if he procured it.  In the meantime, I just keep instigating…

Once upon a Valentine’s Day Observed, I told my special one how I Like Him Like I Like..., but for his birthday, my message was all about love, love, love….


They’ll be love in the bodies of the elephants too!  I’ll put my hands over your eyes, but you’ll peek through.  

And there will most definitely be love!

Happy Birthday To My Special One!

ps:  Pop Chart Lab

p.p.s:  Brainstorm

Cupcake Quiches with Buckwheat, Herb & Cheese Crusts

February 2012

When we were little girls fabricating great adventures on the swingset, my neighborhood companion would threaten “Well, I’m not going to be your friend anymore” in that way that little kids do on a quotidien basis.  Yet, that little girl, the one who made big threats, is still in my life (maybe I’m as stubborn as she is indignant?)!  When we come together, we spend a good deal of our time returning to that swingset and those grand adventures.  This time our memory lane was to commence at my brunching table, and one aspect of my menu planning began with blank buckwheat canvases….

I have a “disability” which prevents me from serving omelettes (ie:  I suck at flipping foods in pans), which translates to an overall lack of egg dishes at my brunches.  In further pursuit of the sweet and savory brunch balance, I decided I needed to focus on my egg game.  I started with something more familiar and in my case, alliterative:  Quiches!

Cupcake sized quiches to be precise!  With this batch under my apron strings, I’d like to make these for a larger gathering and offer several flavor combinations.  Big payoff with little extra investment (did I just type that??).

In this initial baby quiche endeavor, my brunchers were only going to number three total (including yours truly), so I stuck to one filling composition:  black forest ham, spinach and blue cheese.

Cupcake Quiches with Buckwheat Crust

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (St. Vincent Gristmill)
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
1 organic lemon, zested
Dash of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground rosemary
1-2 Tablespoons of honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cubed)
6-8 Tablespoons ice water mixed with Apple Cider vinegar, chilled

Filling

All Natural, Black forest ham
organic spinach
Danish blue cheese
fresh goat cheese
7 eggs (local/free-range)
3 Tablespoons organic whole milk
Salt & Pepper, to taste (Keep in mind the crust is on the saltier side)

For the Crust

Mix flours and salt in a large bowl.

Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add ice water a tablespoon at a time until you can knead it together without it crumbling.

Form the dough into a disc, cover with tin foil or plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Transfer the dough to a well floured surface. Roll until about ¼” thick. Use a circle cutter to cut dough into as many circles as possible. Roll the remaining dough, and cut more circles until you have 12 circles.

Press each circle into the cupcake tin, and prick the bottom twice with a fork.

Chill the dough.

For the Filling

Add chopped ham, cut spinach and a few blue cheese crumbles to each cup.

In a medium bowl whisk together all 7 eggs, 3 Tablespoons milk, salt and pepper. Pour into a measuring cup with a lip for easy pouring.

Pour egg mixture just to the rim of each quiche.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, turning half way through baking.

Remove from oven when eggs are set and firm.

Allow to cool for a minute or two before using a knife to loosen and remove quiches.

Cool on a wire rack.

Prior to my friend’s arrival, I sent her a message asking if she avoided any major foods.  Her responses all centered around not wanting to eat any baby animal or poorly treated animal.  I didn’t have any veal or foie gras plans for the morning, but I hesitated on my choice of blue cheese.  For whatever reason, there are people out there who find it unappetizing.  As a precaution, I made an extra miniature tart-sized quiche with some plain goat cheese instead of the strong blue option.  Fortunately, my babyhood friend/brunch guest is on the blue cheese team, so my precaution merely translated to an extra dose of variety.

The added perk of making baby quiches is the leftovers make an easy, packable lunch option for the rest of the week!

Stay tuned for how the entire menu came together at the brunching table!

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Valentine’s Day Observed: The Finale

February 2012

From the dinner, we settled onto the couch, to put my birthday present projector to use. You see, part of the present was a video, to him, from me!  (Did you catch that wee little rhyme?)

ps:  I really like almond croissants!

p.p.s:  That J.R.M is pretty special! On the grossest, grayest, NJ-spitting-upon-us day, he helped make my mecca come true even though this is how he feels about New Jersey. Why?  He knew how much that giant, lovable elephant meant to me!

La Galette des Rois/The Best Way To Start The Work Day

January 2012

Once again, thank the bon Dieu for La Gourmandine‘s presence in Pittsburgh and their adherence to tradition.  January 6th began with my youngest coworker under the kitchen table while many coworkers gathered around a flaky, almondy cake.  Why?

‘Twas the season of La Galette des Rois!

I learned about this tradition firsthand, when I studied abroad, in Aix-en-Provence, in the South of France.  My cultural liaisons were not steeped in Catholicism, so my understanding of this Epiphany cake tradition lies more heavily on the flaky, butter, baked side of the spectrum.

On January 6th specifically (though often repeated during the month of January throughout France), the youngest person present hides under the serving table containing the Galette des Rois.  The cake is cut evenly into slices for each person awaiting the rich, almond decadence.  Without viewing the parcels, the hidden young person announces who shall receive the first and subsequent slices.

The young buck must remain hidden so as to prevent any sort of bias, for one of the slices contains the la fève.  Literally, this translates to bean, but a small, ceramic trinket is today what the bean was to the French of old.  The recipient of the slice containing the hidden trinket is crowned King for the day.  With such an honor comes great responsibility- the obligation to provide the next Galette des Rois.

Unfortunately, the lack of Americans who are familiar with this tradition equates to an increased risk of a lawsuit.  In our case, the little toys were not baked into the layers of the cake, but rather, they were sent in a small bag accompanying the cakes.

When I first experienced this tradition, it was the day of my 23rd birthday.  The birthday gods smiled upon me, and I found a little seashell ornament in my slice, thus warranting my crowning.  This year, I did not win, but I did manage to snag a little baker.  Our kindred spirits belonged together, and he and his neckerchief were bound for some journeys With The Grains.

Bon Appétit!

Revoir

December 2011

Pittsburgh isn’t a huge city by any means, and its propensity for French fries on salads and sandwiches (and maybe anywhere and everywhere else in between) really narrows the dining options for this foodie.  I also tend to obsess when I really find something that speaks to me.  Rather than call my affinity for Brasserie 33 an “obsession,” I offer a brief French lesson and a glimpse of why reviews are useful [read:  delicious], especially when my review is a first learn for my dining companion.

revoir /ʀ(ə)vwaʀ/ (conjugate⇒)

  1. transitive verb
    1. (voir de nouveau) to see [sb/sth] again;
      il ne l’avait pas revu depuis 10 ans he hadn’t seen him for 10 years;
    1. (en pensée) to see;
      je la revois encore dans sa robe bleue I can still see her in her blue dress;
    1. (réexaminer) to go over [devoir, épreuve];
      to review [méthode, action];
      to check through [compte];
      ‘à ~’ ‘go over again’;
    1. (corriger) to correct;
    1. (réviser) Scol to revise GB, to review [matière];
      to go over [leçon].

B33 Tarts
Warm Brie, goat cheese and caramelized onion tarts

I was imagining a larger tart with a softer, more pastry like crust, so while these petites were tasty, I would like to see a revamped version.

Les Huitres Rockefeller
7 Traditional oysters Rockefeller

We weren’t sure what Rockefeller had to do with oysters, but as it turns out, this preparation method included greens, ham and cheese and tasted as though the oysters had been baked.  In my quest to understand and enjoy seafood for what it is and not with what it is garnished, this version did nothing to advance my pursuits.  However, it did confirm my affinity for high quality ham and cheese combinations. 

I’ve shown you the lamb shank special and frites before, but what this photo is speaking to now is how amazing both menu items are!  A very clean bone and a few french fry scraps attest to the meal that constantly lures me to this corner of Shadyside.

Brandy + Profiterole

Our waiter told us this was his first go at plating this dessert, so I hereby declare, “well done!”  What a lovely little puff of honey drizzled divinity!  A splash of brandy made us feel like we might return home to a large fire in our library, don burgundy colored robes and maybe even smoke a pipe, which is to say, we were drinking a painted picture of the noble sort of brandy aficionado.

Voilà qui conclut notre leçon de français pour aujourd’hui.
That concludes our French lesson for today!

Another Look at PGH: A Pastry Pique-Nique

October 2011

One of the perks of working for the quirky start-up that is my day job is what we call “French Pastry Tuesday.”  On Tuesdays, the company and Ed, the volunteer pastry fetcher by default of being a neighbor of the bakery, brighten our day with pastries from La Gourmandine.  I made the mistake of disclosing my zeal for almond croissants which make a limited appearance, so Tuesday mornings at work now feature a mad dash (and the occasional fisticuffs) to the pastry delivery to snag the coveted croissants with the moist, almond filling.

I have also alluded to the pastry source of happiness when I talked about my “Me, Myself et Moi” moments.  The choice for a Saturday morning breakfast during the Heather & Jess visit was clear!  Mind you, when you stay up extremely late on a Friday night catching up with an old friend and forming a bond with a new friend, Saturday “morning” and “breakfast” come around 1pm, which explains why these late birds missed the almond croissants.  Luckily, the bakery offers plenty of other delicacies.

La Gourmandine
4605 Butler St,
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Neighborhood:  Lawrenceville

Since the sun was shining on the beautiful Allegheny Cemetery just across the street, we went on a Pastry Pique-Nique.

Paris-Brest x deux
Choux dough filled with hazelnut cream

Those coffee cups held hot beverages from one of the finest espresso purveyors on the Pittsburgh scene (and even beyond the Pittsburgh scene):  Espresso A Mano.  The combination of their cappuccino and La Gourmandine’s pastry makes for a moment that transcends the borders of this steel town.

Jess took a slightly more savory route to our French “morning” and chose a brie tart.

Animated-Pique-Nique

The pastry gods were shining upon Heather and her hazelnut selection.

After ample digestion and relaxation time, the ladies were due for a Lawrenceville tour.  The adventures continued.

Finally…The Fall Dinner!

October 2011

I talked about A Bread For A Fall Dinner, A Beverage For A Fall Dinner and lastly A Pie for A Fall Dinner.  I wasn’t talking about just any fall dinner.  I was talking about this fall dinner.  It was a night of autumn leaves, candlelight, sweaters and cinnamon scents for the sake of good friends who just so happen to be great neighbors as well.

Squash soup might be one of the biggest factors in my embrace of fall and chilled air.  I would love to share my perfect squash soup recipe, but this was not the perfect soup recipe.  It wasn’t even a recipe.  In a nutshell?  It was an experiment.  Then it was an onion overload disaster.  Then it was quick and inventive flavor thinking.  Then it was salvaged.  Lastly, it was delicious.  In lieu of a recipe, I offer this garnish idea:  naturally dried cranberries, chunks of honey crisp apples, chopped pecans and a sprig of thyme.

Look who snuck into dinner in all her calculator watch glory…

We cut into that squash pie with its bourbon rosette and surprise chocolate layer, and then we headed to the neighborhood dive for the warm feeling of sipping bourbon.

Have a very festive fall y’all!

A Pie for A Fall Dinner: Squash Pie w/ Cinnamon Crumble & Bourbon Whipped Cream

October 2011

Who died and made pumpkin the princess of the pies?!?  There are so many other viable squash options for pie making.  I had dinner plans on the horizon and plenty of squash around the house.  Whether or not my friends were expecting dessert with dinner (they should have been if they know me at all), I had pie on the mind… then I had a little bourbon craving!

The Grand Recipe

With the exception of the bourbon whipped topping, each component of this recipe made a little more than necessary for one pie.  I put the extra dough in the freezer, the filling in the refrigerator and the crumble in an airtight container.  I have plans for these leftovers!  Remember my motto?  Leftovers are just new opportunities, and on top of that, I am the daughter of invention.  Stay tuned for the fall dinner I keep mentioning and maybe even a creation with those leftovers.  Ahem…most positively a creation with those leftovers!

Crust Ingredients
*Makes enough for two crusts

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks organic, unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup local chevre
2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon organic almond extract
1 1/2 Tablespoons organic agave syrup
2 Tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar
3-4 Tablespoons cold water
Chocolate Chips, to taste

For the Crust

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

Cut the butter into the flour until it resembles course meal.

In a separate bowl, whip together the maple syrup and chevre.

Cut the chevre into the flour mixture.

Add the vanilla, almond extract, agave syrup and apple cider vinegar.  Without over kneading, use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine until the dough starts to form.

Add the water, one Tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together.

Form into a disc, cover with foil or plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Turn the chilled dough onto a floured surface.  Divide it in two.  Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough.  Keep the other disc chilled until ready to use.  Press the dough into a buttered pie plan.

Chill the pie pan thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the chilled pie crust for about 10 minutes, until slightly golden.

Remove from the oven, and spread a layer of chocolate chips over the crust.  Return to the oven to melt the chocolate slightly.

Cinnamon Crumble Ingredients

1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup organic quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, cold

For the Cinnamon Crumble

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.

Add the butter cubes to the flour mixture.  Use your fingers to roll the butter until the butter and flour are well combined.

Pat the mixture evenly onto a small, parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes.

Remove and let cool.

Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small pieces.

Keep the oven on.

Filling Ingredients

3 large eggs (local/free-range)
3 large egg yolks (local/free-range)
3/4 cup organic light brown sugar
1/4 cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses

1 1/2 cups fresh butternut and acorn squash puree
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for the top
1 Tablespoon fresh ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Pie

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

To make the filling, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, both sugars and the molasses together in a medium bowl.

Mix in the squash puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

Whisk in the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla extract.

Whisk in the butter.

Pour the squash mixture into the shell (there will be extra).

Bake until the filling is set around edges but the center still jiggles slightly when shaken, 45 to 60 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream

1 cup local heavy cream, very cold
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons bourbon

For the Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream

Combine the cream, vanilla, maple syrup, and bourbon, in a large chilled bowl, and user an electric mixer to whip until soft peaks form.

Pipe onto the pie.

Serve to two lovely ladies over candlelight!

Me, Myself et Moi

September 2011

Recently over a picnic dinner, some friends asked me, “do you eat like this all the time?”  What did they mean by this?  Maybe it was the tablecloth or the glassware.  Maybe it was the vintage wood grains or the repurposed fishing basket.  However, my guess is this meant the overall love and care put into the shared meal.  Would I do the same for myself each night?

Another friend recently listened to my woes over the coming wanderings that will lead my inspirational yoga instructor away from this gray town.  This beautiful friend told me, “Don’t ever make any person bigger than yourself, Quelcy.”

When I put those questions and the advise together, this is what emerged:  quiet, beautiful moments for me, by myself et avec moi.

A friendly fella named Steve recently started selling fresh juice at the yoga school.  He will also be vending his vitamin-filled, jam jars at the Pittsburgh Public Market.  Significantly boosting my produce intake with such bold colors immediately brightens my day.  Steve and the rest of the juicing yogis have inspired me to invest in a new kitchen contraption.  I can’t wait for my very first elixir!

Beets and Bonne Maman and little, local plums turned leftover rolls into something brand new.

Same rolls on a different quiet occasion…

If I could preserve only two memories from all my time in France, one would be mon aventure avec un accordéoniste, and the other would be the flavor of crème d’amande.

Almond croissants are the perfect pastry in my baking book, but for whatever reason, they are really hit or miss on American soil.  Thankfully, there is a a “true taste of France in Pittsburgh,” and La Gourmandine actually tastes like France!  This almond croissant was the most perfect pastry in the bakery basket, and it made the ideal addition to a quiet brunch for one.

On a slightly different note, another friend told me the world would soon drench me in metaphorical champagne and pearls!

Dear World,

I am ready, and I can hardly wait!

xoxo,

QTK

6:30pm (Strawberry Lemon Basil Meringue Pie)

August 2011

It is a work in progress, but I have this habit of trying to do it all and cramming in everything possible.  On this particular Saturday, “all” meant a lazier start to the day, picking out French pastries with the Sig Fig, sharing said pastries with our newly wed friends, who had the coffee waiting for us at the perfect temperature, lounging and showing them the ridiculousness of Children’s Hospital and then nearly buying out the remains of the farmer’s market.

By the time I returned to my kitchen to complete my main goal for the day- a meringue pie- the afternoon was waning.  The other pastry/coffee loungers and myself had been invited to wine and dine with the founder or our day job in honor of the newly weds.  Wanting to play my Martha Stewart houseguest card, my vision was to arrive at the household with an impressive pie of substantial, meringue height.  Well guess what, it just didn’t happen.

Sig Fig:  “Quelcy, be ready by 6:30pm.  We’ll pick you up outside.  Be at the street because J- wants us to come a little earlier to have time to drink a really good bottle of wine before the dinner reservation.”

Moi:  [panic]

We were supposed to be there at 7pm originally!  7pm!  I was already cutting it really close planning on 7pm, hoping to leave at the very last minute from my house to arrive on time.  Sans that extra twenty minutes of cramming, my Martha visions ended on a cooling rack.  The pie was just too hot to transport, and I feared an utter meringue flop.  My frenzied baking also made me question whether or not this pie was worth presenting.

I sadly left the pie cooling on the dining room table at exactly 6:30pm and met my ride, only to arrive and find our host slightly unprepared for us and shocked to see us so early.  As it turned out, the pie was not missed.  We partook in the delicious dessert offerings of the Brasserie.  More importantly, I still had a pie, and as it turned out, it was a pretty successful failure at that.

Give yourself some time on this one, folks, and you’ll be a much happier baker than I was.

Strawberry Lemon Basil Meringue Pie

Crust
Makes a 9” Tart

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces Neufchatel cheese
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ice water
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon organic almond extract
Fresh Basil, finely chopped

For the Crust

Place a medium, mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.

Cut the butter into cubes and place refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the cream cheese and rub with your fingers to blend the cream cheese into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.

Add the butter using a pastry cutter.

Sprinkle the mixture with the water, vinegar and almond extract.

Use the pastry cutter to combine to the consistency of coarse meal.

Add the chopped basil as the dough begins to come together.

Finish forming by hand, do not overwork.

Form into a disc, cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and turn dough onto a floured surface.  Roll until large enough to fit the tart pan.

Press into the tart pan.

Place the tart crust in the freezer while preparing filling.

The Filling Endeavor

Lemon Curd Ingredients

1 cup organic lemonade
3 large eggs (local/free-range)
3 large egg yolks (local/free-range)*
*Use the egg white for the meringue
¾ cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon organic lemon extract

Strawberry Compote Ingredients

1 cup fruity red wine
½ cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
3 cups local strawberries, cut in pieces
1 Tablespoon corn starch

Meringue Ingredients

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
2 Tablespoons local maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Lemon Curd

Stir lemonade, eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl.

Set the bowl over a large saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch water)

Whisk until mixture has thickened and your muscles have been toned, about 15 minutes.  The curd should leave a path when lifted with the whisk.

Stir in the lemon and vanilla extracts.

Add the butter to the curd, one tablespoon at a time, whisking to blend between additions.

Cover the curd with plastic wrap or tin foil and chill for at least 2 hours.  Can be made two hours ahead.

For the Strawberry Compote

Bring red wine, sugar and ½ cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to ½ cup, about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool.

Add the sliced strawberries, and fold gently to coat.

Spread the cooled compote in an even layer over the crust.

For the Meringue

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (vintage style in my case).  Beat the whites until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

Stir sugar, maple syrup and ¼ cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.

Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a spatula or pastry brush, about 6-8 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 238 degrees F.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Beat in the salt.

Slowly pour the hot sugar mixture down the side of the mixing bowl and beat until meringue is firm and glossy.  Continue beating until cool, about 4 minutes.  Set aside.

Bringing It All Back Home
(As Bob Dylan would say)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bake the tart with the compote layer for about 30 minutes.

Add the lemon curd and return to oven.

Bake until the curd begins to set, about 20-30 minutes more.  Cover with tin foil if the crust begins to darken too much.

Remove from oven.  Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

Spoon the meringue over the lemon curd layer, leaving about a 1” border.  Use a spoon to sculpt decoratively.

Return to oven.

Bake until the meringue is toasted in spots, 3-5 minutes.

Chill before serving… to yourself.

A Belated Bastille Soiree

Juillet 2011

It was time to celebrate July birthdays at my day job, and what better way [for a Francophile party planner] to commemorate than with a French Fête in honor of Bastille Day?!?

(Click on the invitation to see the party pics)

To really motivate the potluckers’ French brainstorming, I sent an inspirational food collage prior to the party:

I may have both drooled and cried over my keyboard when assembling the above collage (click the collage to enlarge).

As for me, I decided to try my hand at a nutty Breton cake.  I must confess, this cake did not match all my memories of the motherland version.  I may have been guilty of slightly over mixing, but I also venture that my fatigued food processor just didn’t hack into those hazelnuts enough.  Thus, I still encourage following this recipe thanks to some really rave reviews, but really grind those hazelnuts and mix lightly.  Suggestion number deux:  this cake is quite lovely (and maybe more appropriately) served with coffee or tea.

Voila.  Bon courage!

Hazelnut Gâteau Breton

Cake Ingredients

1 ¼ cups organic, evaporated cane juice sugar
1 ¼ cup local honey
1 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, husked
12 large egg yolks (local/free-range)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, divided
2 Tablespoons potato starch
2 large egg yolk beaten with 4 teaspoons water (for glaze)

Layer/Garnish

Fig Compote (or jam of your choice)
Whole strawberries with stems attached for garnish

Whipped Topping Ingredients

3 cups organic heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the Hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange hazelnuts on a stone baking pan and place on middle oven rack.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until toasted and fragrant.

Allow to cool slightly.

Rub the hazelnuts together in a linen towel to remove the husks.

For the Cake

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F.

Butter and flour a 9 x 13 rectangular pan.

Combine ½ cup sugar and hazelnuts in processor; blend until nuts are finely ground but not pasty.

Combine 12 egg yolks and remaining ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl; whisk until well blended and slightly thicker, about 2 minutes (do not use electric mixer).

Whisk in honey and then the hazelnut mixture.

Gradually whisk in the melted butter.

Combine the flour and potato starch in a separate bowl and then sift over the batter; stir just until blended (batter will be thick; do not over mix or cake may be tough).

Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with offset spatula (layer will be thin).

Brush top generously with egg glaze.

Using back of tines of fork, deeply mark crisscross pattern atop cake, marking 3 times across in 1 direction and 3 times in opposite direction.

Bake cake until deep golden on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes, then remove pan sides and cool cake completely.

*Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.

For the Whipped Topping

Chill a medium-sized bowl in the freezer.

Remove the bowl from the freezer.  Combine the heavy cream and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer (unless going for forearm glory) to beat until stiff peaks form.

Chill until ready to use.

For the Assembly

Cut the cake into two layers.

Spread a thick layer of fig compote followed by whipped cream.

Add the top layer of cake.

Pipe whipped cream onto the sides and garnish the top.

Add the strawberries with stems for the final touch.

It’s not a French Fête without CREPES!

I made crepe batter, but I knew better than to attempt the batter splatter portion of the process.  I’m just not all that seasoned at spreading and flipping.  I am, however, very well versed at eating crepes.

The Crepes
Makes approximately 20 crepes

2 ½ cups organic, unbleached all purpose flour
2 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
10 eggs (local/free-range)
2-1/2 cups organic whole milk
2-1/2 cups water
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs.

Gradually add in the milk and water, whisking to combine.

Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.

Relinquish the bowl of batter to the crepe master at the griddle and then transition to this important question:  What type of crepe combination do I want (first)?

Fin.

A Whati? A Clafouti!

June 2011

A whati?  A clafouti!

The “Mantis” was in a cycling fanatic frenzy, sleeping, breathing and most importantly for my appetit, eating the Tour de France!  His fanaticism called for a French inspired potluck and projection of the cyclists hauling their sinewy bodies and streamlined bicycles up the mountains I would prefer to cruise in a vintage Peugeot, scarf streaming in the provincial winds.

For all my Francophile tendencies, I rarely bake French inspired desserts.  Whether it be intimidation, bittersweet nostalgia or over reliance on the authentic, local French pâtisserie, I rarely enter the baked realm of my adopted motherland.  After much mulling, I decided upon a clafouti for the potluck.  When my friends looked at me confusedly, “a whati?” I responded, “once you see and taste it, you’ll probably remember having eaten something similar.”  Then I ended up making my clafoutis look quite untraditional.

Ingredients

Crust
2 cups organic almond slices
3 cups local whole milk
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup evaporated cane juice, organic sugar

Filling
Dark sweet cherries, pitted, halved
Organic strawberries, sliced
Blueberries
6 large eggs (local/free-range), at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour

Whipped Topping
1 cup organic heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup local honey

Décor
Leftover fruit compote from this perfect Sunday

Directions

Blend the almonds in a food processor until ground but not pasty.

Transfer to a small saucepan; add milk and bring to simmer.

Remove from heat; let steep 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Butter two 9 to 10-inch-diameter glass pie dishes; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.

Scatter fruit evenly over the bottom of the pie dishes.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, almond extract, salt, and remaining 1 cup of sugar in medium bowl until well blended.

Add almond milk and beat to blend.

Sift flour into egg mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour mixture over cherries.

Bake until set and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely.

*Can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Whipped Topping Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a chilled bowl.  Use an electric mixer on medium high and beat until stiff peaks form.

The “Mantis” made a huge slab o’ lamb that melted in the mouth.  Forget the crème, it was the lamb of the lamb!  A hush fell over the potluck participants as the meat masterpiece was served.

Sunset and smoke.  Wine and cheese.  Lamb and more lamb. Clafouti and crème.  

C’était parfait!

Dear The South, I Miss You. (Chocolate Pecan Pie w/ Bourbon Whipped Cream)

June 2011

It was time to celebrate the June birthdays at my day job, and though I was pretty freshly returned from my Southern Sojourn, I was already missing the South.  Accordingly, I rather selfishly picked the theme, so I would, in the least, vicariously return to my road trip state of being.  The party did not disappoint.

(Click on the above image to see the party pictures)

I even propose that it was our best fulfilled theme so far… fried chicken, fried fish, homemade cornbread, chess pie, buttermilk biscuits, beans ‘n greens, science ice cream (not so much Southern, but we are an R&D group, so science has to creep in somewhere) and this decadent pie by yours truly…

Southern Style Chocolate Pecan Pie
with Boozy Bourbon Whipped Cream
*makes two pies (one w/o cream for the kids, one w/ cream for the adults)

Crust

Leftover and frozen from the birthday pies
Keep frozen until the filling is ready.

Filling

2 cups local, pure, maple syrup
2 cups organic, light brown sugar
*1 ½ Stonyfield chai ice cream, melted
2 Tablespoons molasses
8 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
10  large egg yolks lightly beaten (local/free-range)
3 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 bar of Ghirardelli’s chocolate (72% cacao)

*Most pecan pie recipes will call for heavy cream.  Being very short on both heavy cream and time, I looked into the freezer at an ice cream option that was admittedly a little freezer burned.  Not wanting to waste it, the little tub had sat idly in the freezer door until this new daughter of invention moment!

Bourbon Whipped Cream

2 cups organic heavy cream
4 Tablespoons bourbon (Bulleit)
½ cup organic, light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat the maple syrup, sugar, ice cream and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the butter and salt into the syrup mixture until combined.

Whisk in the egg yolks until they are incorporated.

Scatter the pecans evenly in the pie shell(s).

Break the chocolate bar into chunks and disperse over the pecans.

Carefully pour the filling over the pecans.

Place the pie in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Bake until the filling is set and the center jiggles slightly when the pie is shaken gently, 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool for one hour, then refrigerate until set, about 3 hours to one day.

Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

For the Bourbon Whipped Cream

Place a large bowl in the freezer until chilled.

Remove the bowl, and add the cream, bourbon, sugar and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the mixture until stiff peaks form.

Pipe onto one pie (the adult pie) and store additional cream for the big kids who dip into the kid-friendly pie.