Copy Cat. Or, if Baklava had a Sister.

Even though I’ve completely saturated myself with sweet indulgences this holiday season, I’ll never deny a good pastry. My oh so lovely friend Donna sent me a link a few week’s back to an online zine that featured a couple of pies from the famed Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. She’d made a pear pie with juniper berries that sounded fantastic. You can find the link, here.

Honey almond pie; aka Baklava's sexy sister

Honey almond pie; aka Baklava’s sexy sister

Once I saw the recipe for a salt-studded honey pie, I knew I had to make it mine. It looked simply stunning. And yet…I thought I could personalize it a bit with a few enhancements. I’d recently been gifted a jar of fabulous local honey.  I wanted to do right with it, and this pie seemed like the perfect vehicle to transcend it into something extraordinary.

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The recipe called for vanilla paste. I thought I could do a bit better by using whole vanilla bean. I scraped the seeds out of the bean and set them in sugar, with a bit of freshly-grated lemon zest. I love the sensuous feeling of using my fingers to combine the sugar with aromatics, the sugar crystals unlocking the essential oils and perfuming the air with vanilla and lemon-scented goodness.

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I added sliced almonds to the top, to accentuate the crunch of salt and contrast the silky filling. This pie and baked went from a pale sandy yellow to a dark caramel brown; the almonds developing a tan as the crust bubbled and spit.

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Drizzled with a bit of thyme and vanilla-infused honey, sprinkled with flaky Maldon salt and crunchy toasted almonds, this pie is pure heaven. Probably one of the flakiest pastry crusts I’ve made in some time, which I attribute to a bit of old-school pastry cutter technique. A quick blitz in the food processor flirts a bit too much with the gluten in the flour. If nothing else, this crust inspired me to go back to my humble ways of tactile experience with the dough. When you work with your hands, the hands become the intuitive barometer of when something is near completion. The bits of butter strewn throughout the dough formed delicate air pockets that left layers of flaky, meltingly-tender crust.

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Oh! And the flavor! The filling, similar in consistency to pecan pie, but without the cloying, one-dimensional sweetness of corn syrup. The elements of buttery pastry, crunchy almonds, and sweet honey reminded me instantly of baklava, the incredible Turkish sweet.

I am already dreaming of when I’ll make it again.

Much Love,

J

Honey Almond Pie

Note: I used a basic recipe for pate sucree; you can find recipes and techniques in previous blog posts, however I encourage you to try to make the crust without using a food processor. There are excellent tutorials for basic pie crust techniques available online.

For the filling:

3/4-cup sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

Seeds of one whole vanilla bean pod (reserve pod for later)

3/4-cup honey

1/4-pound (one stick) butter, melted

1/2-cup cream (not half and half)

3 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp cornmeal

2 tsp white vinegar

You will also need:

1 prepared pie crust, frozen

~2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds

1/4 c honey

Several sprigs fresh thyme

Vanilla bean pod

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, rub together sugar, lemon zest and vanilla seeds until aromatic. Set aside.
  3. Combine honey, salt, and cornmeal; whisk together, then add melted butter, cream and eggs, one at a time, whisking until well-incorporated.
  4. Add scented sugar and whisk again well, then pour through sieve into prepared crust.
  5. Bake for ~35 minutes, then sprinkle with slivered almonds. At this point, you may need to cover lightly with parchment to prevent excessive browning. Bake for another 20 minutes until set. This is best tested by giving a gently nudge to the pan; it’s okay if the filling is slightly jiggly; it’ll continue to cook once removed from the oven. However, if it’s sloppy, keep pie in the oven and check at ~5-minute intervals until set.
  6. Remove from oven, sprinkle with a flourish of sea salt and let it cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

When ready to serve, warm honey with a few sprigs of thyme and the vanilla pod, then let steep for ~10 minutes. Strain into a jar, then drizzle over pie and garnish with a few fresh thyme leaves.

Aplets and Cotlets.

Remember those classic confections? You know; the ones that stuck to your teeth and left you with no choice but to lick your fingers clean? They were a favorite of my father’s. Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve outings to the Pike Place Market, followed by a stroll along the waterfront and a visit in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, ending the day with some fish and chips at Ivar’s. It was customary while at the market to pick up a box of aplets and cotlets, which rarely made the trek home unopened.

So that’s what I thought of when I envisioned this tart. I’d received a special request for apple pie, however I was thinking I could do a bit better and really wanted to “wow” with presentation. Tarts are fantastic that way, as the fruit is really the star, all caramelized and glistening to perfectly baked perfection. I’ve made many pies, and have gotten the basics of a good flaky pastry down. Always, always start with ice-cold ingredients, minimal handling, and appropriate rest. It’s like nurturing a new relationship: love the pastry. respect it. don’t interfere too much.

It’s quite simple really. I used a basic recipe for pate sablee ( you can find a link here), which I proceeded to roll out and tuck into a fluted ceramic tart pan, brushed generously with melted butter. It could easily be rolled out flat; placed directly on a cookie sheet, folding up the edges for a bit of rustic appeal. A tart pan with a removable bottom is also an option.

Pate Sablee

Pate Sablee

I then coated my apples with bits of butter and a mix of sugars for caramelization, along with lemon zest for fragrance and brightness. The perkiness of apricots complement the apples wonderfully; I found several examples that combined apples and apricots in turnovers, or using apricot jam as a glaze. Another consideration would consist of a simple glaze made with a reduction of honey, lemon and fresh ginger, though I would use a sweeter apple as the base.

Something to keep in mind: the crust may start to get a bit brown, and that’s okay. an interim solution is having strips of foil at the ready to fold around the edges. If you have a piecrust protector, then you’re a bit ahead of the game. Laying the dough flat and covering with apples end to end will also alleviate the concern for excessive browning, however, the perfectly browned, fluted borders really make a statement. In any case, this crust is cookie like, buttery, crisp and perfectly lovely in every way. Enjoy!

Sparkles, Alight.

Sparkles, Alight.
~happy birthday, David.

For the tart:

1 recipe pate sablee

4 tart apples (example: granny smith)

1/4 c each granulated sugar and brown sugar (muscovado is nice)

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 tbsp. butter, frozen and then grated or chopped into small bits the size of peas

For the glaze:

~1/2 c apricot jam

2 tbsp. apple juice, liquor, or water

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, or if you are using a mold, brush bottom and sides generously with melted butter.

Measure the diameter of the tart pan you’re using. I used a pan that was ~8″x11″ at the base.

Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and press into pan, allowing the dough to come up the sides. Pierce several times with a fork, then let rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.

Mix the sugars and lemon zest together with your fingers until fragrant; set aside.

Peel and core apples; slice into 1/4 inch lengths.

Fan apples onto the tart dough in rows, or if using a round pan, fan along the outer edges, working toward the center.

Sprinkle apples generously with sugar, then dot with butter.

the pre-bake.

the pre-bake.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Note: About mid-point in the baking, warm jam and liquid over medium heat until lightly bubbling. Strain into a bowl or measuring cup (I use a sieve to remove the fleshy bits of fruit). Set aside.

Remove from oven and brush with apricot glaze.

Serve warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream or crème fraiche.

Much Love,

J

When life gives you cheese…

What does one say when offered a couple of pounds of fresh chèvre? An exuberant “Yes!” of course. David’s mother had a bit of chèvre left over from an event and thought I might be able to make good use of it. I had no idea what to do with such generous bounty, however I found myself envisioning something baked, and sweet. It was not long before I started scouring my books and the Internet for cheesecake recipes, however I never found exactly the right one.

See, I rarely follow recipes verbatim, rather, I use them as a template and let my intuition and the ingredients take their own form. I have a bit of experience making quiche; the marriage of eggs and dairy yielding a savory, creamy custard. Cheesecake has similar components, so it was just a matter of getting the right proportions so the whole thing didn’t end up a liquid mess. Or worse. I have had my fair share of quiche coming out of the oven, gently caramelized with the appearance of perfection, only to find it runny in the center.

I avoided adding lemon, as I thought tanginess from the goat cheese would lend the perfect balance to the sweet, richness of the cake. I also wanted to keep it as un-fussy as possible, using minimal ingredients. So many recipes called for additions of sour cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone…in the end I went for a good old-fashioned ratio of two parts goat cheese to one part cream cheese. I also learned something along the way. It is a bother to separate eggs, beating and aerating the whites into gentle wet clouds, only to have them flatten completely while trying to incorporate them into such a rich base. I’ll save you the trouble with this recipe.

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In order to make this bad boy, I strongly recommend reading the recipe through, so as to be prepared for the steps involved. While they may seem a bit laborious at first glance, it’s totally worth taking the time to do this right. This recipe uses a bain-marie, or water-bath technique, which moderates the heat and promotes even baking and consistency. When using a spring form pan, it may be necessary to wrap a layer of foil around the bottom and sides of pan to prevent any water from making it’s way into the lovely cake.

And lastly, unless you plan to serve this cake at 2am, it’s best made a day before serving, as it takes several hours to set and chill.

Must haves:

9-inch spring form pan

roasting dish or other large dish that will accommodate the pan

For the crust:

3 oz graham cracker squares

3 oz ginger snaps

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

16 oz chèvre

8 oz cream cheese

3/4 c unbleached cane sugar

Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla (though I prefer the former)

4 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Blitz graham crackers and ginger snaps in a food processor, or if you prefer a messier route, crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. You’ll want about 1 ½ cups of crumbs. Put into a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Combine the crumbs with melted butter and press into pan, allowing a bit to inch up the sides.

    Ginger-graham crumble

    Ginger-graham crumble

  4. In a large bowl, cream together the cheeses, sugar and vanilla seeds/vanilla; beat until light.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating fully.
  6. Pour into springform pan. If there are any gaps in the seal, wrap the pan with a layer of tinfoil.
  7. Set pan into roasting tray; fill tray with water to within an inch of the rim.
  8. Gently place the tray in the oven and bake for ~1 ½ hours.
  9. Give the cheesecake a gentle shake; it should be somewhat yielding, but not loose. If it is, add another ten minutes to the baking time.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for least an hour, then chill in the refrigerator several hours further.
  11. Serve as-is, or garnish with pomegranate seeds, fresh berries, quince paste…the possibilities are endless!

Much Love,

J

Cheesecake with chèvre

Cheesecake with chèvre

Love in the Time of Pastry.

Often, I feel a natural pull toward the kitchen to get creative and make something sweet. I have an insatiable sweet tooth, admittedly. This desire generally peaks after I’ve gotten home from a full day of activities, donned my sweats and T-shirt, and simply cannot bear the thought of leaving my cozy apartment to be assaulted by the bright lights of a grocery. Oh, and people. Not that I am an unsociable person, quite the opposite. It’s just that once I’ve expended my mental and emotional energy of the day, I need a respite. That’s when having a somewhat decently-stocked pantry comes in handy.

Given that it’s Fall, I naturally turn to more things like pastries and pies and cakes; something fruity and not too sweet. I surveyed my cupboard and had odds and bits of different types of flours, a few apples in the refrigerator and a stick of butter. What emerged is destined to repeat, for sure.

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These apple galettes are quite possibly one some of best mini pastries I’ve made; perfect for breakfast, after dinner, or pretty much any time of day, really.

Feel free to substitute a combination of flours with this one; I’m thinking rye flour might be a nice addition.  However, if using a dense whole-grain flour, don’t add more than ~1/3 cup, or you’ll need to play with the fat and liquid components of the pastry dough.

Ooh! And adding some candied ginger to the filling might be nice as well. I would go for about two tablespoons, and cut back on the sugar by equivalent volume. And I would hold off on adding the grated ginger, as is it might be a bit overpowering.

~Mise en Place

~Mise en Place

Apple Ginger Galettes

For the pastry:
2/3 c unbleached pastry flour
1/3 c whole wheat, rye, or Emmer flour
1 tbsp unbleached sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
8 oz (1 stick) butter
For the filling:
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced about 1/4 inch wide
1/4 c unbleached sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tap cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
Additional ingredients
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
2 tsp coarse sugar, such as demerera
Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
1. Combine all of the filling ingredients; set aside.
2. Prepare the pastry; refer to this link for basic dough prep http://redflowerjlhcooks.com/2013/07/25/or-how-to-make-a-pie/
  1. Cut chilled dough into four equal pieces.
  2. Roll into ~1/8-in thin circles, You’ll want them to be about 8 inches in diameter.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment for the pastry, or put each circle onto individual parchment squares.
  4. Give the filling a quick stir to redistribute the juices, then scoop into the center of each pastry.
  5. Gently fold up about 1-2 inches, pinching each fold together to ensure a decent seal.
  6. Brush the edges of crust with egg, then sprinkle galettes with demerera (or other sugar on hand)
  7. Bake 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 350 degrees F.
  8. Check the pastry in about 20 minutes; if the crust is browning excessively, cover with foil.
  9. Cook another 15-20 minutes; apples should be juice and bubbly at this point.
  10. Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve.
Bon Apetit, and much love,
J

Kitchen Therapy.

I’m constantly balancing work and play, ensuring adequate self care, investing myself fully in being a mother, a partner, a colleague; a friend. I keep lists of ‘to do’s, deleting my accomplishments as I go. Vitamin: Check! Pick up kid: Check! Pedicure: Check! Run – no need to make a list for that one. It’s a part of my operating system now.
Mediation I still struggle with. So, as I sit here with consciousness-invoking tunes streaming through my headphones, I naturally relax into creativity mode.
Which brings me back to Sunday:
I love casual Sundays; the rain in Seattle really helps invoke that nurturing and creative side in me. Most recently, I wanted to make a dinner that would really impress. And of course, dessert would be involved.
I have a thing for citrus cakes; last year I was on a grapefruit-olive oil cake run that I made multiple times, inspired by the incredible Yellow House blog post. I served it at dinners, I made it for friends. Be sure to take a gander, if you have time.
This cake is similar in its density, with citrusy bitters mingling with syrupy sweetness in a dense almond flour base. I loosely followed a recipe for clementine almond cake found in the Jeruselem cookbook (again – planning to cook my way through this one!), however while out procuring ingredients, my eyes wandered over to the giant globes of grapefruit.
Grapefruit Almond Cake

Grapefruit Almond Cake

A combination of citrus would work really well here; I’m thinking blood oranges would be lovely, once in season. Feel free to play around with sweeteners; this cake is quite forgiving. It’ll keep several days, and makes an excellent breakfast, topped with a bit of plain Greek yogurt or cultured cream.
Mmm. Already fantasizing about when I will make this again!
Grapefruit Almond Cake
2.5 c almond flour (finely ground almonds)
3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c butter
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 c sugar (I used unbleached cane sugar)
Zest of one grapefruit
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Syrup:
1/3 c sugar
Juice of one grapefruit and one lemon
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Butter and line a 8.5-9-in springform pan with parchment
3. Combine all dry ingredients; set aside.
4. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, along with lemon and grapefruit zest.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating into the batter.
6. Add almond extract.
7. Work in dry ingredients, about a cup at a time; beating until just incorporated.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for ~50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
(note – monitor cake ~40 minutes in, as it may need to be covered with foil or parchment to prevent excessive browning)
While cake is baking, prepare syrup:
Bring sugar to a boil, then simmer on low for just a few minutes, stirring to prevent burning. You’ll want to have ~1/2 c of the juice/syrup.
Pour over cake immediately, once removed from oven
Let cake cool completely, then remove from pan. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or whip cream.

I won’t go into great detail about dinner, however I must share a teaser, as it was a truly stunning meal:

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Lamb Kofta with Tahini Sauce

Much love to you!

jlh

Gimme Some Sugar…

Berry-Peach Tartlet with Elderflower and Lemon Cream

Berry-Peach Tartlet with Elderflower and Lemon Cream

Recipes showcasing summer berries abound, however, second to tasting a fresh berry off the vine, I find their marriage with pastry so effing satisfying. Berries erupt when heated, creating this saucy, syrupy goodness, when soaked into a rich buttery flaky pastry…there’s nothing like it.

I found myself with a small treasure of fresh berries and a couple of perfectly ripened peaches and that’s how it all started. See, I don’t typically enjoy fruit on it’s own, so when faced with bounty, I will either make jam, or some sort of crisp, biscuit, shortbread or pie.
I had a modest idea where this is going when I started. While my tart dough was resting away in the fridge, I peeled and diced the peaches and combined them with the berries, then let them macerate with a little bit of sugar, lemon and freshly grated ginger – lots of it.
Macerate. I use the term loosely, as I had intentioned to make this these little babies the same day. However, the sudden onset of a gastrointestinal bug sent me to bed for much of the afternoon.
Moving on…
frangipani (almond-custard)

frangipani (almond-custard)

 

 

Once I’d recovered my energy (and my insides), I set to work. I discovered a bit of frangipani in my freezer from a previous experiment, and thought that the almond flavor would make a nice addition to my tartlets.
Rather than encrust these beauties with another layer of dough, I set on a crumble that would be light enough and provide the right crunch, while not taking away from the juicy bits in the middle. I prepared a mixture of two parts oats, one part cornmeal one part sugar (demerara to be specific), maybe a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, a good dose of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and some lemon zest. To combine it all, I took a couple tablespoons-ish each of butter and coconut oil, incorporating it all with a pastry cutter.
mini berry tartlets

mini berry tartlets

 

 

I lined about 6 mini-tart tins with dough, then blind baked at ~400 degrees for 12 minutes. Next I removed the tart shells from the oven and filled with a spoonful of frangipani, some berries, and lastly, packed the crumble on top. This baked for ~30 minutes at 350 degrees, until bubbly and golden.

For this recipe, you will need
~3 cups berries (fresh, or thawed from frozen, but seriously, use fresh right now because it’s summer)
2 peaches peeled sliced and diced
~2 generous tablespoons sugar (again I prefer the raw stuff)
~1 tablespoon of freshly-grated ginger
1 batch prepared pie dough (see earlier post)
crumble topping (see descriptive above, or just create one on your own!)
Serve with lemon-elderflower cream, or basic whipped cream.