Temporary Indulgence.

Write. just….write. Tasking myself in this art that is my therapy, can be challenging. Writing sometimes feels like a beast; words don’t readily reveal themselves, and yet there is a fluidity in movement, in ideas, in form and inspiration; so much activity that begs to be shared.


It’s easy in the kitchen, creating; weaving beauty into the flavor and fabric of the food I make and share with loved ones. This past month has been full of inspiration from the farmer’s market parcel that arrives at my doorstep weekly. Urban living doesn’t preclude me from wanting to enjoy local, seasonal foods. There’s a fair amount of diversity in the PNW, and it’s relatively easy to eat within the seasons, though I do get smitten by the pomegranates and Fuyu persimmons when they hit the local brick and mortars. Disassembling a pomegranate to unearth those sweet and juicy-jeweled orbs is worth a bit of splash along the counter and apron.


And the persimmons! I give each one a daily squeeze until they’ve got just enough give before my teeth into their glossy skin and inhaling the succulent flesh beneath.


I’ve been incredibly indulgent with them, eating one nearly every day. It’s such a short season. And I need little excuse to bake. With a party on the calendar, I readily offered to bring dessert. As usual, inspiration comes when I am out on a run, or in the mountains, away from the daily grind. There is such clarity in those moments of pure movement, fresh air; it primes me for new genius. Last Friday, for example, I was in the woods when the idea of a persimmon frangipane confection came to mind. Simply an adaptation of the pear and almond tart from this post  I’d made a while back and have served more than once, to welcome recipients.


Pistachios have also been my jam lately, and the exotic persimmon pairs well with their distinctive flavor. A few mini-tarts with some pistachio cream and fresh persimmons seemed the next logical creation.


For the pastry cream, I just borrowed M.S.’s pastry cream , omitted the vanilla bean, whisked in 1/2 cup finely ground salted pistachios and proceeded with the cream. I used about three persimmons for the almond tart, two thinly-sliced for the mini tarts with pistachio cream.


What makes these desserts so comely is the love behind them. Made with good intention and beauty, they are an extension of gratitude and sweet indulgence to be shared with good company. Let this ignite your passion to create and serve beautiful food. (And for those with more exacting inclinations, I promise to include recipes next time).


Enjoy, and much love,

J

…and it was like she never left.

In a more relaxed moment, I found myself scrolling through pictures and finding several that were part of a vision unfolding; scenes I’d meant to post and then got waylaid by frenetic holidays and activities that were heartfelt and fulfilling, yet left me a bit emotionally spent.
Savory Bread Pudding with Wilted Chard and Mushrooms

Savory Bread Pudding with Wilted Chard and Mushrooms

With the new year, and clear(er) vision, I’ve created goals and aspirations, and been taking steps toward achieving them. All well and good, however it’s so important that I get lost in the process of Being at least for a small amount of time daily.
And the truth is that I haven’t dedicated time to my craft; writing about my experience, that spark that ignites when I have an idea and run with it. That bit of cleverness and openness; that flexibility that comes (truly) from an aversion to running back out into the cold for another stick of butter, fruit or cream.
That Delectable Poached Pear and Almond Tart

Poached Pear and Almond Tart

It’s time to get back on the proverbial horse. Writing, creating, sharing and remembering these experiences  are an essential aspect of my self-expression. It gives me great joy to make beautiful food and share it with friends and family.
Pork Dumplings (Star Anise-Scented Broth)

Pork Dumplings (Star Anise-Scented Broth)

Raspberry Balsamic Preserves

Raspberry Balsamic Preserves

I’ve included a few visual samplings of things made recently that are worthy of a nod.
And so when overcome by the need for a bit of something sweet, I consulted past repertoire for this salted almond and honey pie. 
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Being a fan of tiny things, I thought I’d make tartlets, so as to enjoy and share more readily. I filled half of the tartlets with honey custard, and the remaining with homemade raspberry balsamic preserves; the latter lovingly gathered from my father’s garden this past summer.
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Recipes for pâte sucrée (aka: tart crust) abound on the internet, however I’ll include a simple recipe that I’ve been using reliably for some time. Feel free to let the imagination go wild with the fillings. These baked up nicely in a 375-degree oven in ~40 minutes.
Enjoy, and much love.
J
Pâte Sucrée
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, very cold, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
ice water, as needed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pulse dry ingredients in a food processor, or combine well in a large bowl.
Add butter and either process or use a pastry blender to cut into flour just until the mixture resembles fine peas.
Add egg yolk and pulse or mix until combined.
Add just enough water (no more than a tablespoon) to bring mixture to a somewhat cohesive mass; it should still be a bit crumbly.
Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours, or overnight.
Press into well-buttered tart pan(s) and fill as desired.
Bake filled tartlets until set, ~40 minutes

On cabbage, pie and time…

I don’t know how time passes so quickly, but it does. One minute, I’m looking over the Seine, the next I’m daydreaming over a pot of wilting cabbage. I realize it’s not nearly as romantic, and totally unrelated, however that’s where I found myself this past week, trying to maintain a slow(er) pace as I dutifully prepared a batch of Marcella Hazan’s Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup.

The dish exceeded my expectations such that I had to make it twice. I also managed to produce a batch of dulce de leche, since I knew I’d be spending a couple of hours at home. 
But back to Paris…

Sacré Cœur!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect week. Spring in full effect, brightly-colored flowers demanding my attention, giant blushing cherry blossoms, the freshness that comes after a good Spring rain. Oh! It was lovely.
It began a little like this, with my constant peppering of questions such as “What are we supposed to do today? What’s on the Excel spreadsheet?! What time are we supposed to be at the Grand Palais? If we take time here, we will miss…”
The expectations we’d made, along with our rigid itinerary devolved, quickly becoming an inside joke as we relaxed and settled into full vacation mode.
La fontaine Médicis

La fontaine Médicis

the Seine

the Seine

Without a rigid agenda, we were free to wander and really experience the city. We peeked into galleries and boutiques, quirky private museums and of course, lots of specialty food and tea shops.
Clockwise, top right: chilled cream of fennel soup from L'epi Dupin, gorgeous heart-shaped macaron's from Laduree, duck foie gras with fig compote from Le Comptoir du Relais

Clockwise, top right: chilled cream of fennel soup from L’epi Dupin, gorgeous heart-shaped macaron’s from Laduree, duck foie gras with fig compote from Le Comptoir du Relais

At one point, I was banned from lugging anything else home. We’d been trying to avoid checking luggage, and as it were, were ushered through with just a bit over the weight maximum and a handbag bursting with chocolates and other treats.
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Birthplace of the macaron.

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E. Dehillerin, where I spent a good two hours geeking out on all things kitchen.

 

My heart lies in the kitchen, nestled into a good pastry. And so at the request of a certain young lady and after an intense day at work, I spent the bulk of an evening making an apple almond crostata that is likely one of my most favorite pastries yet.
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I’m fairly adept at making pie crust and had intentioned to make a straightforward, simple dough, when a bit of cornmeal in the cupboard caught my eye. I recalled a blueberry pie with cornmeal crust that I’d made over the Summer; the rustic crunch of cornmeal strewn throughout buttery pastry…yet I wanted to make something more than pie; I wanted to make something serious, a pie that wouldn’t crumble or yield too much when pierced with a knife.
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Front: Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust top left: apple tart bottom right: apple custard

A layer of frangipane (almond cream) soaked up all of the juices as it snuggled up with each apple slice; providing a cake-like consistency. Leftover odds and ends were folded into a free-form pastry, and the extra egg was poured into a sort of apple custard. I’m so glad this crostata was destined for sharing, otherwise I’d have finished the whole thing off in a few days, unapologetically.
The crostata comes together rather quickly.
Wait a minute – scratch that.
This is going to keep you home for a few hours, however once the nutty aroma of butter and pastry, notes of cinnamon and apple hit your nostrils, you’ll realize it was totally worth it (and probably get a bit of laundry done while you wait).
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust
*This pie will keep for 1-2 days on the counter, or 3-4 days in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
10 tbsp butter
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
Ice water (as needed)
Almond Filling:
2/3 c almond meal (I used blanched almonds, ground finely in a coffee grinder)
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each vanilla and almond extract
Apple filling
5 apples, such as granny smith, honey crisp or pink lady or a combination, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/3-inch wedges
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one-half lemon
1 beaten egg, and 1 tbsp Demerara or other coarse sugar, for finishing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Brush insides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter using a pastry brush, or paper towel, if necessary. Set aside.
Using a food processor, pulse together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
Butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles small peas.
Add eggs, one at a time, giving a few quick pulses to combine.
Pulse another 15-20 seconds until the mixture just starts to come together, adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Wrap in plastic or parchment and allow dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
While dough is resting, prepare almond paste. Mix all ingredients together using a food processor, stand mixer, or whisk; if the butter is soft enough, it should be easily combined by hand. Set aside.
Sift together the dry ingredients; toss with sliced apples and give it a squeeze of lemon juice. Allow to sit for ~15-30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Divide dough into roughly 1/3 and 2/3 portions; you’ll want slightly more dough for the base than the top.
Roll dough into a large disk ~1-1 1/2 inch wider than the diameter of the pan.
Tuck dough into pan, inching up the sides.
Spread almond filling into base, then arrange apples in concentric patterns, keeping them somewhat close together.
Roll out remaining dough to ~1/4 inch thickness and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Cover apples with remaining dough in a lattice-type arrangement (you can find instructional how-to’s here).
Brush pastry with beaten egg, then adorn with a bit of coarse sugar.
Bake for ~1 hour, until golden and bubbling.
Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for ~15 minutes before removing sides of pan. Allow to cool for at least 1/2 hour.
Serve either warm, or at room temperature.

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

…or how to make a pie

As mentioned previously, I like to do a bit of foraging in the city. While I consider myself an amateur, I think today I may have happened upon some purslane. Of course, I took a nibble, and then proceeded to take a handful to nosh on the way home. This is probably not the wisest of choices, however I’m fairly certain my ID was accurate. Take note however, as this may prove to be my second and last post!

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Moving on…

One of my most favorite things to make is pie crust. Something marvelous happens with the simplest of beginnings. Those tiny bits of butter, strewn throughout the flour which, when heated, burst into little pockets of air that buoy the dough, rendering it tender, flaky, crisp and golden. Pure heaven.

Pie crust involves a small amount of effort, however it does not require any special equipment. One can use  a food processor, a pastry cutter, or simply a fork. I find the latter extremely gratifying, especially if you like the tactile experience of working with pastry dough. I admit that most often I use a food processor, if only for expediency.

The key with pastry dough is to work the flour as little as possible; you do not want to activate the gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and becomes elastic when worked. Fantastic for bread, terrible for pie.

Note:

  • chilling butter in the freezer will keep intact when incorporating into the flour
  • This recipe yields one pie crust. For a top crust, make two batches
  • For sweet pies, add 1 T sugar to the dough

You will need the following:

1 cup + 2 T pastry flour (OK to substitute standard unbleached flour)

1 tsp salt

1 cup (8 T) very cold unsalted butter; roughly cut into ~1/2-inch chunks*

3 T ice water (plus more, if needed)

Method (Makes One Crust)

  1. Pulse flour and salt in food processor, or sift together in large bowl
  2.  butter to flour/salt mixture and pulse for ~20-30 seconds, or cut in with pastry tool/fork. The flour should take on a sandy texture; you want small beads of butter evident throughout; no larger than a bb.
  3. Add ice water, and pulse a few times, or work in with pastry tool. This is where being conservative is key; you want to work the dough only until it comes together when pinched. It should look a bit on the dry side, but have some cohesion. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve this. Pulse about five more times and pinch it with your finger. Does t stick?
  4. Turn onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment; knead a few times, then press gently and quickly into a disk; this makes it easier to roll.
  5. Now – leave it alone! Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes
  6. Turn oven to 425* and lay out piece of parchment dusted with flour. Top with another piece of parchment and roll until it resembles a disk slightly larger than the diameter of the pie dish; ~1/4 inch thick

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  1. Loosely fold in half and drape over an 8-inch deep or 9 inch buttered pie pan
  2. Press gently into base and crimp the edges toward the dish to for a ring. You can get fancy if you like; I prefer a more rustic appearance.
  3. Prick a few times with fork and set back in the freezer for ~10 minutes
  4. Proceed with recipe, or follow blind baking technique below:

Blind Baking:

This is a key step in making any kind of pie that holds fruit that yield liquids (peaches, berries rhubarb), or for savory pies such as quiche. So termed Blind Baking, this technique of par-cooking the pastry ensures crust and bottom that is fully cooked, not soggy. Well worth the extra few minutes of effort.

There are pie weights available for purchase, however I find dried beans a more ready and reasonably inexpensive alternative; look for a larger, heavier bean, such as garbanzo or kidney beans; they may be saved for repeat use; store in a glass jar once cool.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. While pie is chilling in the freezer, pull a piece of tinfoil slightly larger than the widest diameter of  the pie plate. Butter one side.
  3. Lay buttered side down in pie dish; press lightly into dough.
  4. Fill the foil/dish with pie weights or dried beans completely.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for ~12-15 minutes, just until crust has a faint golden hue
  6. Remove from oven. Pull foil/pie weights (gently!) from crust. Proceed with recipe.

Stay tuned for…Berry Tartlets

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