Posted in Food, Fruits, Ice Cream and Frozen Treats, Pastry, tagged Almonds, Foam, Ice Cream, iSi, Peach Ice Cream, Streusel, Summer Dessert on August 7, 2011 |
Leave a Comment »
When I think of Texas fruits, two immediately come to mind, ruby red grapefruit and peaches. That’s fairly narrow thinking, since Texas is so huge and offers a large variety of climates and vegetation. It’s those two fruits that always pop to mind though. Recently on a road trip outside of Houston, I noticed a stand (one of several on the sides of the Hill Country area roads) advertising fresh Texas peaches. The couple at the stand had some amazingly fragrant peaches. The fruit was not much to look at, they are not the large plump and blemish free specimens you see at the supermarket. They were smaller. Some were almond-shaped, others were rounder and others somewhere in between, but they smelled amazing and were sweet and juicy. So, I bought a few pounds and intended to eat half out of hand and make some peaches and cream combo with the rest.
First up was the ice cream. I broiled a few peaches, cut side up until fairly dark and burnished. I pureed those into a classic custard ice cream base along with a few tablespoons of Maker’s Mark bourbon. This made some fantastic burnt peach-bourbon ice cream. I blanched a couple more peaches for a few seconds just to loosen the skin and then peeled them and sliced them into large segments. These were tossed with a little Turbinado sugar so they could macerate for a while before serving.
For a crunchy sweet component I made streusel shards or cookies. This is basically classic streusel made with butter, flour and almonds. Instead of sprinkling it on top of some fruit and baking it like that I spread it in an even layer on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. I topped that with another baking sheet and baked the mixture. As soon as it’s out of the oven and before it turns too hard, I cut it into rough circles with a cookie cutter.
We are in the middle of cherry season and the fruit is delicious, goes great with peaches and is very reasonably priced. So I macerated cherries in red wine, very much like the ones from the calf heart confit dish. I used a portion of their sweet syrup to make a delicate whipped topping. That’s done by mixing the syrup with a little gelatin, pouring it into an iSi canister and charging it with two NO2 cartridges. The NO2 gives the syrup the “foaming action” but without some structure we won’t end up with nice blobs of tasty cherry flavored whipped topping. We’ll more likely end up with something closer to a soda foam. That’s why the gelatin is there. It sets the mixture slightly and gives it the proper texture. In addition to the cherries and whipped cherry topping I also made some plain, lightly sweetened whipped cream. Afterall, this is peaches and cream.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Baking, Book Recipes, Bread, Food, Pastry, tagged Artisan Breads Everyday, Butter Block, Laminated Dough, Peter Reinhart, Puff Pastry on May 30, 2011 |
Leave a Comment »
Croissants were the very first food I posted about in my little blog here. It only seems fitting to update that post with a more picture-rich post. I’ve been using that recipe from Nick Malgieri since then and until now. For Mother’s Day this year, I made Diana some Croissants for breakfast and decided to try a new recipe. This one comes from Peter Reinhart’s “Artisan Breads Everyday“. The general idea behind making the pastry is the same, but where this recipe just triumphs is in the level of detail Reinhart goes to while explaining the process. The result was the most perfect, gorgeous croissants I’ve ever made…to date. Glorious
The dough is made with flour, water, yeast, salt and a little butter. Then the recipe tells you exactly, with pictures, how to properly form the butter “filling” block that gets wrapped in the dough. The butter filled dough gets rolled and folded several times, making for alternate layers of dough and butter. This makes what is called a laminated dough. When the croissants bake the butter melts and the water in it turns to steam, the pastry puffs and crisps making for those lovely layers (same concept as puff pastry, but that has no yeast).
Another important detail in the instructions that for some reason I never caught on when making other recipes is how important it is to have even squared sides. Reinhart instructs several times to trim the dough to get even sides that lay perfectly on top of each other when the dough is folded.
After the last roll of the dough, the dough gets cut into triangles with a short base. A notch is cut into the center of the base of the triangles and the croissants are formed and allowed to proof and rise. When they are ready to bake, I brushed them with an egg wash and baked them. We enjoyed them as usual with Oeuf Cocotte (eggs baked in a ramekins with cream, bacon and herbs), a selection of jams and -a croissant’s best friend- Nutella.
Read Full Post »
I’ve been trying to eat a little better and working out some more lately. When my son has soccer practice, I go jogging along the trails in that area. The trails wind and twist in the semi-wilderness in the back of our neighborhood where the soccer, basketball and baseball fields are. As per usual, even when I am working out, I cannot help but look for food. Foraging for wild ingredients seems to be on the uptick recently and it makes sense. Why leave the spoils of the garden and wilderness to go to waste. Some of these are very tasty and interesting. Two sources I use frequently for ideas when it comes to foraging are Hank’s great blog, honest-food.net, and for a more local source and to id edible plants, Merriwether’s guide.
So while jogging I noticed thorny bushes all along the trail and the soccer field with nice little flowers. I kept and eye on them through the weeks to see if they might be blackberries. Well, I was close. They are apparently Dewberries. They look very much like blackberries, but are a bit smaller. They taste more tart than sweet but the overall balance is very nice. So, along with my son, we picked a couple of pints the other day.
Ice cream came to mind first, but I wanted to eat them that evening and not wait till next day. So, I went with a very straightforward crisp. I tossed them in some sugar and topped them with a streusel made from almonds, brown sugar and butter. It was delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I was hoping to go pick some more and make the ice cream with them, but unfortunately due to the bad drought we have been suffering from (I’m guessing that’s why) I have not been able to find more than a few here and there. Oh well, the season is over by now, but I am keeping my eyes open for next year’s crop.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Baking, Food, Lebanese Food, Lebanese Recipes, Pastry, Recipes, tagged Almonds, Filo Pastry, Lebanese Dessert, Orange Flower Water, Rose Water, Walnuts on February 10, 2011 |
2 Comments »
All of the Baklawa (or Baklava) versions are made with filo, a nut filling and a sweet syrup. However, what makes Lebanese Baklawa different than Greek or Turkish ones and – in my biased opinion – better, are a few details. There should be no spice in the nut filling. No cinnamon, no cloves, no mace or nutmeg. The filling is just nuts, a little sugar and a pinch of salt. That’s all. Spices just distract from the flavor of the roasted nuts.
Lebanese Baklawa also does not have honey. No honey at all. Honey syrup makes it heavy and a bit cloying and again imparts its own flavor. This Baklawa is soaked in a syrup made from water, sugar and a couple of aromatic extracts namely rose water and orange blossom water. The first one is distilled from a specific kind of rose that is usually pink, not much to look at but so fragrant. The second one is distilled from the blossoms (flowers) of orange, preferably bitter (Seville) oranges.
Last but not least, there are only two layers of filo in a Baklawa. This is not a club sandwich. The construction should look like this: filo+nuts+filo. I’ve seen many versions that are more like filo+nuts+filo+nuts+filo. Not so good.
So, here it is. My favorite simple Baklawa recipe. This one is based on the recipe from Sonia Uvezian’s book Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen
- 2 Cups chopped toasted walnuts
- 0.5 to 1 Cup chopped toasted almonds
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lb filo pastry
- 1 Cup clarified butter
- 2 Cups sugar
- 1 Cup water
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp rose water
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
Mix the nuts with the sugar and salt set aside.
Generously brush a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with some of the butter. Lay half the filo sheets in the pan brushing each one with clarified butter as you put it in the pan. Spread the nuts mixture on the filo sheets and lay the rest of the filo on top, again brushing each one with the butter.
Preheat the oven to 350F. With a sharp knife cut the baklawa while in the pan into squares of about 2 inches. Place the pan in the oven and reduce the temperature to 300F. Bake it for about an hour, or until a nice golden color and puffed a little bit.
While the baklawa bakes make the syrup by boiling the water, sugar and lemon juice together for about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the rosewater and orange blossom water. Let it cool slightly (this can be done a few days ahead and kept well covered at room temperature).
When the baklawa is out of the oven, pour on the syrup and allow it to soak through. Let it cool to room temperature and enjoy.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Baking, Book Recipes, Food, Fruits, Pastry, tagged Caramel, French Laundry, Mint, Pineapple Chop, Sable, Thomas Keller, Yogurt on February 4, 2011 |
3 Comments »
It all started with the honey-yogurt panna cotta. I wanted something light and creamy and had a lot of yogurt on hand so the idea to make this luscious and refreshing pudding was a natural. Panna cotta is an Italian pudding usually made with cream (after all, its name translates to “cooked cream”) and is set with gelatin as opposed to eggs or a starch. The recipe I used does not eliminate the cream but instead uses yogurt for a big part of the dairy in the base. The tang and lighter mouth-feel from the yogurt makes for a delightful dessert. The recipe I used is based on this Honey-Yogurt Panna Cotta from Martha Stewart.
Pineapple, for some reason, was the first ingredient that came to mind to accompany the panna cotta. At first I wanted to dice and quickly sautee the fruit with butter and sugar. Then I figured I’d make it more substantive by quickly pan grilling and butter basting thick rings of pineapple. That’s when I remembered Thomas Keller’s pineapple ‘chop’ dessert from “The French Laundry” cookbook. It sounds weird but it makes perfect sense and looks fantastic. The idea is to cut the pineapple in a way it would resemble a small rack of meat with bones attached (pictures really help with this). Really, it’s very natural to cut the pineapple like that by splitting it in half, removing the core and half of the pineapple flesh. The pineapple rack is cooked much like a meat rack, it’s seared in butter and vanilla, roasted in the oven for a while till golden brown. Before serving, the pineapple is reheated in a light caramel and basted continuously before trimming and dividing up into thick “chops”.
The last two components both involved pistachios. I made pistachio cookies that are inspired by French sable cookies. These are rich, crumbly and have excellent pistachio flavor. The other component is a pistachio-mint coulis. The pistachios are cooked until tender and the mint is blanched then the two are blended till smooth with simple syrup. This is one tasty dessert that works on every level. It looks beautiful, smells fantastic and the flavors just pop.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Dairy, Food, Fruits, Ice Cream and Frozen Treats, Pastry, tagged Albert Adria, iSi, Orange Blossom Water, Passion Fruit, Pears, Ricotta, Rose Water, Sponge Cake, Strawberry Ice Cream on November 8, 2010 |
2 Comments »
Pastry chefs have been using this method for making quick sponge cake for years. As far as I know Albert Adria invented it years ago at El Bulli in Spain. I saw him “cook” it in a microwave on Anthony Bourdain’s ”Decoding Ferran Adria“. I’ve never managed to give it a shot because until recently I did not have an iSi canister and that is essential. The idea is to make a loose cake batter and fill the cream whipping canister with it. Then the canister gets charged with N2O. The N2O produces the bubbles essential for the cake to rise. These bubbles are normally produced by leaveners in traditional cakes like whipped egg whites or chemical agents (baking powder and/or baking soda). To “bake” the cake, some of the batter gets dispensed into a small plastic cup and microwaved for 40-50 seconds. The result a light and very airy sponge cake with a perfect texture. Of course due to the size of the cake it is usually either served whole as an individual serving or in creative chunks as part of a plated dessert.
I tried it out in two variations. The first was a chocolate flavored version from the playing with fire and water blog. I served it with strawberry ice cream cherry red wine reduction and marinated pears.
The other version is based on Albert Adria’s recipe via Michael Laiskonis and I flavored it with orange blossom water. I served this one with passion fruit pudding (set with Agar), cinnamon-rose water flavored sweet ricotta and toasted almonds. This one felt more moist than the chocolate version. However, both recipes’ cooking time will vary based on the cup used and the microwave. I found this one worked best with holes in the cups and a cooking time for about a minute.
Read Full Post »