A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

As it turns out, mercifully, all I had to do was make dessert for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. So, instead of giving you a lot to read – everyone’s time is short around the holidays it seems – I hope the pictures (along with some witty and helpful captions) will speak for themselves.

Pink Lady Apple Galette The ladies getting ready for action. I ended up using the peeled ones. Pâte brisée dough topped with a mixture of sugar, brown sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, fresh ground nutmeg and a dash of salt. I think I added some allspice as well. And maybe ground cloves. I forget. Anyway, it’s up to you – add any spices you want!Layer the apple slices over the dough, brush them with melted butter, sprinkle some sugar on top and fold the dough over the apples. I’m giving myself some props on that design, but next year I think a turkey design is in the cards. Yes? No?Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, and, voila! The French answer to good, old-fashioned American pie. (What? We shouldn’t include the French in our Thanksgiving celebration? Now that’s not nice. We have much for which to thank the French…when it comes to dessert, anyway.)

Pecan Pie, Anyone?
Correction, all-American pecan pie straight out of the Joy of Cooking cookbook. It doesn’t get any easier or classic than that, people. (Okay, fine, if you are from the South, you might take offense to this statement, but I don’t have a grandmother’s grandmother’s recipe, so Joy of Cooking it is.)

Last, but not least…Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake. Bourbon. Pumpkin. Cheesecake. Really, need I say more?

Wait, one last thing.

In Season: Tomatoes and Zucchini

July 18, 2012.

Here it is, the inaugural edition of In Season! And I think it’s especially fitting that the first edition focuses on tomatoes and zucchini because if you have a garden, shop at a farmers’ market or visit a local produce stand, then you know ’tis the season for tomatoes and zucchinis (especially zucchinis, right now).

While options are seemingly endless for cooking with tomatoes (zucchini, not so much), one of my favorite ways to combine them together is in a tomato and zucchini tart. I love this tart for its rustic simplicity, yet it’s so versatile.

Just make up a batch of pâte brisée, roll it out into a tart pan, and while it blind-bakes for about 30 minutes, carmelize some onions, lightly sauté the zucchini in olive oil, add some herbs (I like to use thyme and rosemary), choose a cheese (ricotta, goat, Gruyère or parmesan are nice, to name a few), slice the tomatoes and then layer them all together in the tart shell once it has blind-baked. Bake for about 10-15 more minutes and there you go. Really, it’s that easy. A tasty appetizer for a party, a delightful summer’s lunch or dinner al fresco with a nice green salad and a glass of rosé. The beauty of this tart is you can make the dough in advance (it will last three days in the refrigerator or up to a month frozen), then simply mix and match ingredients at will. No matter what combinations I’ve come up with, this tart has always worked out wonderfully for me.

If you need additional inspiration or want specific instructions, here are some recipes you might enjoy:

Bon Appetit’s Roasted Tomato and Herb Tart recipe calls for first oven-roasting a mix of heirloom and plum tomatoes and lots of garlic cloves. Sounds good to me.

If nothing else, this Heirloom Tomato and Lemon Mascarpone Tart from Food52 is gorgeous. I adore the color mix of the different heirloom tomatoes and the basil pesto drizzled on top. The use of mascarpone is intriguing. I’m putting this one on my list of recipes to try.

Leave it to Martha Stewart to make a unique tomato tart. In her recipe for Tomato Tart fontina cheese is the unexpected choice. This Zucchini Tart recipe looks interesting with its quiche-like qualities, though I’m on the fence about the phyllo dough.

And one other recipe you might be interested in (but, there are gobs more out there in the interwebs, magazines, cookbooks – you just have to look): Summer Squash and Ricotta Galette from Serious Eats.

So, go. Make a batch of pâte brisée (it takes all of about 15 minutes, plus resting time in the refrigerator), get some tomatoes, grab a zucchini, rifle around in your cheese drawer and tart away!

(Editor’s note: Numerous recipes I came across call for frozen puff pastry as the tart base. Unless you’re really into store-bought puff pastry, I think you would be safe in substituting the pâte brisée for the tart base. Some modifications to cooking time and other instructions might be necessary, but I’d give it a try anyway.)

Tarts Redux and Brioche

Week Three.

Using the pâte brisée [paht bree zay] and pâte sucrée [paht soo-KRAY] that the teams made during week two, we learned that we would be making two types of tarts. To refresh your memory, pâte brisée (PB) is used for savory tarts and pâte sucrée (PS) is used for sweet tarts. We would use our PB to make a quiche tart and our PS to make a frangipane raspberry jam tart. Yes!

Before actually making said tarts, though, we needed to learn the finer points of working with tart doughs. First, it is important to use dough that is as cold as possible (without being frozen). So, the additional dough chilling time needs to be factored in when making a tart. On the plus side, though, tart dough can be made a week or two in advance, kept in the refrigerator and then used. One should also try to use as little dough as possible on the table to fill the pan. Although one may re-chill and re-use dough that’s already been rolled out, I believe the idea is to work it as little as possible (thus maintaining its consistency and properties) by properly measuring just what is needed.

When rolling the dough, put minimal flour on the rolling surface. Chef showed us the proper rolling technique, which can be summed up as “keep the dough moving.” The idea is to not handle the dough too much. This is achieved by rolling a little the dough, picking it up and turning it clockwise a tad (or counterclockwise if one happens to be in the southern hemisphere), rolling it a little, picking it up and turning it a tad, and so on until the dough has reached the necessary size to fill the pan. Aim for about 1/8 ” thickness.

To carry the dough to the pan, roll it up on the rolling pin, and then drop it over the pan. This technique alone explains many of my past bumbles and near failures. Until now, my method involved picking up the whole rolled out piece of dough, juggling it into the pan, and then wondering why it cracked, had a hole or two and generally looked pretty bad. Once it’s been placed in the tart pan, go around the pan, lifting the dough and pushing it in along the bottom edge of the pan. This is to make sure the dough is sitting cozily in its new home. With PB, an additional step is required: creating a double wall. The double wall is created along the top edge of the tart pan using the extra, overhanging dough. Take the extra dough on the outside edge with one finger and fold it over and inward, then press this extra dough to the existing edge. Does that make sense? Maybe I’ll get high-tech and fancy and create a video for extra explanation (like I know what I’m doing).

When using PS, follow all of the steps above sans the double wall step. There are two additional specific notes about PS. One, when getting ready to use the PS, cut it into pieces, and then smash the dough together. The issue is that PS can become extremely hard when chilled, so breaking it up first and then smashing it back together makes it a bit more malleable. Two, having said that, though, one should work quickly with PS, and not keep one’s hands on it too long as the butter in the dough will quickly warm up, messing with the dough’s consistency and workability.

Two final crucial items to note: pâte brisée is always chilled after going into the pan and then “blind baked” (which basically just means it’s baked before filling it); and pâte sucrée is always very well-chilled after going into the pan and prior to filling (it is not baked before filling).

After learning these finer points and watching Chef demonstrate the finer points, we followed suit with our own dough. It took a little getting used to rolling and turning the dough (I always just rolled it and moved myself around the dough. Dumb.) as well as successfully creating a double wall for the PB. But once cooked and chilled, my tart doughs seemed to be alright.

We proceeded to assemble the filled tarts. Quiche is a custard tart. I have in my notes that it is very important to know that quiche is a custard tart, but regrettably, I didn’t write down why it is important to know this. So, just know that quiche is a custard tart and that is a very important fact about quiches. Also know that quiche custard is incredibly easy to make. All it takes is a little elbow grease to whisk together half and half, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mustard, and voila! The quiche is then made using a light layer of Gruyere, followed by a light layer of cooked onions, followed by a little more Gruyere, and then the custard is poured in until the tart is about three-fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees just until the custard sets – about 25 – 30 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature and then…chow down.

(I neglected to mention this earlier, but Chef actually made both tart fillings, and we used what he made to fill our own tarts. So, these were really easy to make – ha! However, watching Chef make the fillings, I could tell they were easy to make, okay? Cut me some slack.)

Frangipane is a filling made with butter, sugar, almond flour, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, rum (optional…or not) and APF. Note, Chef says frangipane can be made using any nut flour and that it freezes very well. Assembling the frangipane raspberry jam tart couldn’t be simpler: Take the chilled sucree tart and spread a very thin layer of raspberry jam on the bottom. Add the frangipane to the middle of the tart and gently spread it out so as not to disturb the jam. That is all, my friends. That…is…all. Bake the tart at 350-375 degrees for about 25 – 30 minutes or until it is lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool a bit, then unmold the tart. Finish it by using a pastry brush to brush the tart with a thin layer of apricot glaze, which is made by warming up apricot jam and a little water so the jam thins out a bit. Decorate the tart with a cherry half and some almonds in the middle (this is the traditional decoration, but I suppose one could do whatever one wants. It is America after all, dammit.) And voila! Dessert is ready.

You may be hungry now…or tired…or overwhelmed…or bored. If so, you’re experiencing how I usually feel at this point in class (except for the bored part). But class was not over at this point which means this post isn’t over. Dig deep like I do and tough it out. It’s worth it.

Brioche [bree osh]. I think of brioche as a bread, but that isn’t accurate because this is a pastry course after all. I also know it isn’t accurate because I validated my thoughts by researching Wikipedia, and Wikipedia doesn’t lie. Regardless, I am going to continue to think of brioche as a bread product as it is made similarly to bread – yeast, dough rising, punching down dough, dough rising, etc. – and it has a bread consistency to it. Chef even acknowledged it makes delightful toast. Ah ha! Toast = bread.

According to Chef, the key to brioche is patience. Patience is required because the process to make brioche involves numerous steps over the course of at least one night. Once the dough is assembled, which is relatively easy and quick, it subsequently goes through three rises. The first rise is at room temperature until it doubles in size, approximately two hours. One knows it has completed the first rise when one pokes the dough with a finger and the dough doesn’t rise back or fully close. After knocking down the dough (basically punching it with one’s fists until it’s deflated), it goes back into a bowl, covered with a towel or plastic wrap, and is refrigerated overnight.

And that’s as far as we made it with brioche during week three’s class. Anticlimatic, perhaps, but you’ll just have to wait for the post on week four. Just like Chef said about brioche…patience.