Saturday, June 11, 2011

button birthday

Imogen turned one in March. She loves buttons (although now she loves dogs more).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

calvados toddies

Wow, it's been ages since I've posted here. I am currently embarking on a mission of using up my pantry and my liquor cabinet in anticipation of our moving. We're not 100% sure about where we're moving to, but our days in Ottawa are ending. Hopefully some interesting baking will come out of the project.

The first entry in our project were these calvados toddies. It was too late to bother with pictures, but if you want something warm, sweet, and boozy to ease the cold winter nights I highly recommend these.

Monday, September 20, 2010

sweet corn & blueberry tartlets

This tart is the result of a bad decision. For me, there's always this moment at the end of summer, when summer has actually become fall but I don't want to admit it yet, when I know that winter is lurking but I'm not ready to face cold reality, this moment when I want to buy every last fruit and vegetable at the farmer's market for fear that I may never taste anything fresh and bright ever again. There's this moment when I want to linger with the stickiness of peaches on my fingertips, the crunch of carrots between my teeth, bits of sweet corn on my chin. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I think, if I could taste these flavors all winter long? What if I bought a lot of sweet corn, yeah, a really big bag, a bag you sort of need two people to carry, and shuck it and blanch it and pack all of the kernels into freezer bags and then I could eat it all winter? That would be perfection.

Let me just say, winter is long in Canada. And it is not made any shorter by apparently endless bags of sweet corn in your freezer. Look, there are only so many ways you can saute corn or make a corn soup. And then it's summer again and there are new, fresh, sweet ears of corn so you're clearly going to eat that instead of the corn that is still in your freezer. And you're left with a lot of corn, and a little bit of guilt over the impending waste, and a sense of self-loathing at your failure to plan realistically. But still, there are only so many ways you can saute corn or make a corn soup. This has led me to explore new uses for corn, namely desserts. Earlier this summer, I played around with corn and blueberry popsicles, which were pretty tasty. And now, these corn and blueberry tartlets. (obviously, I need to work harder at this get-rid-of-the-corn project because I'm stuck on the corn/ blueberry combo). To be honest, I thought these tartlets would be at best fine, a fun experiment for a Saturday afternoon; I reasoned that even if they were disgusting I would be able to move some corn from the freezer to the bin in a guilt-free way. But, much to my surprise, these tartlets were seriously delicious--"thank god I froze so much corn last summer so I can make some more" delicious. The combination of sweet corn pastry cream and fresh blueberries is far more than the sum of the parts. It really is end of summer perfection.

Sweet Corn Pastry Cream*
500 grams whole milk
500 grams sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen & thawed/drained)
6 large egg yolks
100 grams sugar
45 grams cornstarch, sifted
50 grams unsalted butter, room temp

Put milk and corn in a medium saucepan and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let steep for an hour. Puree milk/corn mixture until very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Get an ice bath ready (fill a large bowl with ice and water). Return corn milk to the medium saucepan and reheat just to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Once the milk is warmed, slowly pour a small amount into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the remaining milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, back into the saucepan. Cook the mix over medium heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. Cook for another minute or so, still whisking, until it thickens. Pour into a clean bowl, set into an ice bath and let cool to 140 F, whisking occasionally. Remove the bowl from the ice bath and whisk in butter a bit at a time, making sure each piece melts thoroughly. Return to ice bath to cool completely. When cooled, cover with plastic wrap and let set in the fridge.

Sweet Cornmeal Crust
80 grams butter, room temperature
100 grams confectioner's sugar
2 large egg yolks
140 grams all-purpose flour
80 grams cornmeal
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. heavy cream
(sorry for the mix of measurement styles here; I always weigh big amounts and measure small bits)

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely. Stir in flour, cornmeal, salt, and heavy cream. Gather dough into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for two hours.

To Assemble:
This recipe makes one 9-inch tart or 6 3-inch tartlets. For the tartlets, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out 4 inch circles and press into 3-inch tart rings. Trim off any overhang. Gather up the dough scraps and re-roll for remaining tartlets. Put a small piece of parchment paper or foil in each tart shell and fill with dry beans. Bake tart shells at 350 F for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool. Fill tart shells with pastry cream. Top with fresh blueberries (a pint should suffice). You can serve the tarts as-is, or you can finish them with a jam glaze. Heat apricot or red currant jelly over med-high heat until boiling. Brush the jelly over the fruit and allow to set.

*My recipe is adapted from the Pierre Herme/ Dorie Greenspan vanilla pastry cream which I always find gives me the best results.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

strawberry hazelnut muffins

Poor strawberry. For a little while every year, you're everybody's darling. The first real fruit of the season--except for rhubarb, which despite all of our efforts to dress it up is still just a vegetable--is bound to get all of the love. And surely the strawberry deserves it, especially the rich red ones you can get at the Farmer's Market, the shiny ones that practically melt when you pick them up, the ones with a hint of perfume. Strawberries are joyous after the winter's dearth of luscious fruit. But then the other fruit comes: the cherries (sigh), the plums, the raspberries, the currants. I'm already distracted. I'm still buying strawberries, but I'm not sighing so much when I pop them in my mouth. I'm not gobbling them down in a couple of days, but leaving them to linger in the back of the fridge where their mushy edges will have to be hidden in a smoothie. I like you, strawberries. I just don't like like you.

Looks like it's time for strawberry muffins, a sad use for strawberries I must say. Really, strawberries should be in a tart, carefully arranged atop sweet and silky pastry cream and a flaky crust. Oh well. Time is short these days and sometimes muffins are all you can manage. These muffins certainly don't convey the glory of strawberries, but they are delicious. And maybe, like me, you and strawberries are ready to part ways anyhow.

Strawberry Hazelnut Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
8 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sliced strawberries

Hazelnut Streusel:
3 T. unsalted butter, room temp
6 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
1/4 cup sugar
(Blend together all of these ingredients; I just use my fingertips)

Oven at 400 F. For muffins, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, until just combined. Gently fold in strawberries. Divide batter into muffin tins (I usually make 8) and top with hazelnut streusel. Bake for 20 minutes.

Note: For ground hazelnuts, spread whole hazelnuts on baking sheet. Roast at 350 F. for about 10 minutes. Let cool. Rub hazelnuts with a kitchen towel to remove skins (you won't be able to get them all off, but no worries; I often just rub the hazelnuts between my hands). Grind the skinned nuts finely in a food processor.

Strawberry on Foodista

Friday, June 18, 2010

rhubarb, orange blossom & anise vacherins

This dessert is sweet and tart, with a hint of perfume. Smooth, with just a bit of crunch. And it's pink. This would be perfect for a bridal shower or a baby shower or a solo lunch on a hot summer day, which is when I've been enjoying mine.

Vacherin is a lovely warm-weather dessert composed of a baked meringue, ice cream, fruit, whipped cream. My version is a lightly anise flavored meringue topped with rhubarb sorbet and orange blossom ice cream. So delicious. I thought about the flavors for a few days, not sure if they would work together, but it was lovely. Simple, but sophisticated. It took a little effort to create each part and put them together, but they've been making me happy all week. Certainly worth the time.

And FYI, the orange blossom ice cream blended with milk and fresh strawberries makes a killer strawberry milkshake.

Note: the beautiful rhubarb for this sorbet came from Acorn Creek Farm. You can find them at the Ottawa's Farmers Market on Thursdays and Sundays.

Rhubarb Vacherins with Anise and Orange Blossom Water

This recipe can be made in single servings or as one large dessert. I used 3 inch ring molds for mine.

Anise Meringue
60 grams egg whites, room temperature
60 grams (about 5 T.) granulated sugar
60 grams confectioner's sugar
3/4 tsp. finely ground anise seed

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace your ring molds (unless you have a good eye), then turn parchment paper over so the ink won't bleed.

Heat oven to 150 F. In the bowl of a stand mixer w/ whisk attachment, begin whipping the egg whites on low speed until frothy. Turn the speed to medium-high, adding granulated sugar a little at a time until egg whites are stiff and glossy. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and sift confectioner's sugar and anise seed over the egg whites and fold them in. Scoop meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip (I used #803). Using the circles you traced as your guide, pipe the meringue in concentric circles from the outside in. Bake the meringues for about an hour. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Rhubarb Sorbet

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 T. fresh lime juice
1 lb. rhubarb cut into small pieces
2 T. corn syrup

Combine sugar, water, and lime juice in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until rhubarb is soft (10-15 minutes). Puree until smooth. Add corn syrup. Cool in refrigerator, then freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Orange Blossom Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
6 egg yolks
1 tsp. orange blossom water

Put a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl. Set this aside. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks. Warm cream, milk, salt and sugar over medium heat. Slowly pour warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Pour the custard through the fine-mesh sieve into the bowl. Stir in orange blossom water. Cool the mixture over an ice bath, then chill in the refrigerator. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

To Assemble
Before assembling, make sure that the sorbet and ice cream are relatively soft to aid scooping and molding. Place a meringue disk into the bottom of each ring mold. Add a 2 oz. scoop of sorbet, smoothing it into the mold. Freeze for two hours. Add a 2 oz scoop of ice cream, smoothing across the top. Freeze for two hours. To unmold the vacherins, rub the outside of the mold briskly. The vacherin will slide out. Top with whipped cream, if you like.

Note: You can make individual vacherins without the ring mold. Just drop mounds of meringue on a baking sheet and make a well in each with the back of a spoon. Top with a scoop each of the sorbet and ice cream.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

summer afternoon tea

Summer afternoons are bliss, especially lazy Sunday afternoons when you can sit on a sunny patio (made a bit too sunny by my over-pruning), chatting with a friend and sipping cool iced tea.

Cranberries are certainly more fall than summer, but it's clean-out-the-freezer season around here. I've had some beautiful cranberries from the farmer's market sitting in my freezer since last fall, so I figured it was about time to use them. And cranberry iced tea seemed like a perfect accompaniment for gianduja ice cream sandwiches. Not the most traditional afternoon tea menu, but lovely for a sunny summer afternoon.

cranberry iced tea

make cranberry simple syrup:
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Bring ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Simmer until berries pop, about 15 minutes. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl, pour cranberry mix into sieve, and let sit for about an hour. Chill syrup.

make tea:
Boil 2 cups water. Pour over four bags English Breakfast tea. Steep for five minutes, remove tea bags. Add 2 cups cold water. Chill.

Mix tea with 1/2 cup syrup (or to taste). Serve over ice.

gianduja ice cream sandwiches

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 T. ground hazelnuts
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
7 oz. unsalted butter, room temp.

In the bowl of a stand mixer w/ paddle attachment, stir together sugar, flour, hazelnuts, baking soda, and salt. Add butter, a little at a time, and mix on low speed until the dough just begins to come together. Form the dough into two balls; flatten these into disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for two hours.

Heat oven to 350 F. Roll chilled dough between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick. Cut w/ round cookie cutter. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for 12-15 minutes.

ice cream:
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
4 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
5 egg yolks

Rub off as much of the hazenuts' papery skin as you can. Grind the nuts finely in a food processor. Warm the milk, 1 cup cream, sugar and salt. Remove the mixture from the heat, add ground hazelnuts, cover and let steep for an hour. Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a fine-mesh sieve and squeeze nuts to get as much liquid as possible out. Set milk aside.

Warm the remaining cream. Add to chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely smooth. Whisk yolks in a medium bowl. Re-warm the hazelnut milk mixture in a medium saucepan. Pour slowly into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour this egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Pour this mixture into the chocolate through a fine-mesh sieve. Stir the mixture, and set the bowl into an ice bath to cool. Cool the mix thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze in an ice-cream maker.

To assemble the ice cream sandwiches: Before assembly, chill the cookies in the freezer. The ice cream should be firm, but still malleable. Place a scoop of ice cream on one cookie, top with a second, and push down gently. Put the assembled sandwiches on a baking tray and let them firm up in the freezer before serving.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

daytime ottawa: pistachio rhubarb linzer cookies

If you've been reading this blog for a while this recipe will be a repeat for you. Hopefully you'll forgive me for the repetition. I'll be baking these on Daytime Ottawa tomorrow, June 9th so I wanted to make the recipe available to any new readers. Welcome!

I hope to be doing more baking and blogging soon! I've been busy learning how to be a mother to my beautiful 3-month-old girl. Look for a recipe for chocolate-hazelnut ice cream sandwiches later this week.

Pistachio Rhubarb Linzer Cookies

These cookies are a great way to use some of the rhubarb that's abundant this time of year. Chances are someone you know is growing some in their backyard! The jam for these (recipe below) is easy-peasy, but you could substitute your favorite store-bought flavor. If you can't find pistachios, you can use hazelnuts or almonds; you can find ground almonds at nearly any grocery store which will make the process that much easier.

2/3 cup unsalted roasted pistachios
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 oz. unsalted butter, room temp
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Rhubarb jam

Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon). Set aside.
In a food processor, finely grind pistachios with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Set aside.
Beat butter and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add nut mix and beat until combined well. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Mix in flour mixture. Form the dough into two balls. Flatten each ball to a 5 inch circle, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.

After the dough has chilled, heat the oven to 350 F.
Put one disk of dough between two sheets of parchment paper to prevent sticking and roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick (you’ll get a circle that is around 11 inches). Use a 3-inch fluted cookie cutter to cut as many rounds as you can. Using a 1 inch cookie cutter, cut the center from half of the cookies. Put the cookies on a parchment-covered baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. Note: For the dough you don’t use in the initial cutting, reroll the dough and chill it for 10-15 minutes, then roll again. If the dough ever gets difficult to work with, just throw it back in the fridge to chill a bit more.

Once the cookies cool, sprinkle the windowed cookie with powdered sugar. Spread rhubarb jam on a full cookie and then sandwich with the windowed cookie.

Quick Rhubarb Jam
1 cup sliced rhubarb
1/4-1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch

Mix 1 tsp. cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water, then mix with rhubarb and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and boil for about 5 minutes. Set aside to thicken.