Every semester I promise myself that this is the semester I’m going to take it easy and every semester I don’t do that even a little. This semester, for example, I was supposed to accomodate 35 work hours a week by taking easy classes, but that was before I showed up to day 1 of the most amazing and demanding classes I’ve ever taken in my life. The unexpected final addition to the schedule was a positively life changing class on Shari’a, Islamic law. I decided to indulge my inner nerd, and last night I ended up making baklava at 1:30 in the morning.
While it might be ever so totally true that this wasn’t even kind of a class assignment, we WERE assigned a mock divorce court last week (complete with costumes and props) as an in-class exercise and – what do you know? –the mock plaintiff just so happened to own a baklava company! Unfortunately we were representing her mock husband and bringing in baklava for the other side was too time consuming to be justified. But I didn’t have homework last night and so for class tomorrow I will be setting the mood in style.
Besides, baklava is secretly a perfect fall food. With walnuts, honey, cinnamon and thin sheets of phyllo that could easily represent falling leaves, you could not possibly get more seasonally appropriate. I can’t lie, phyllo is a pain in everyone’s butt to work with, but I can promise the results will be well worth it. I may or may have nibbled on a store bought substitute while I waited for this to be ready and I can assure you, there’s truly nothing like homemade.
Do you have any unexpected fall recipes? Or stories of classwork-turned-recipe? Let me know in the comments below!
This is a perfect dessert to enjoy with friends and family at a summer party or bbq. The meringue is light and fluffy but when filled with sharp yet sweet berries it provides a delicious contrast of flavours.
The roulade is one of my Mum’s favourite desserts to make and everyone always goes crazy for it! She often bakes it for me to bring with to parties and it always goes down a hit. It’s so easy to make and the reward is sweet!
Note from Gabrielle – I can testify to how amazing this is, and I would advise that if you make it for a party you save a piece for yourself before serving it or you don’t stand a chance at getting any!
Summer Berry Roulade
From: Hannah Hayes, Her Mum and a Charity Cookbook
4 eggs whites
8oz castor sugar (Note – castor sugar is a fine sugar sold in Ireland and the UK. It’s not readily available in America, but a perfect substitute is superfine. If you can’t get superfine, or don’t want to run to the store, you can make your own by putting regular granulated sugar in a food processor and pulsing it a few times.)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (extract)
1/2 pint (1 cup) cream
Berries e.g. strawberries, rasberries or mixed berries – as many as you see necessary
Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
Beat the eggs whites until they form stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar a little at a time to ensure full incorporation. Add the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla essence with the last addition of sugar.
Pour mixture into a pre-lined baking tray, ideally 12inch x 9inch.
Bake for 9 minutes at 200 degrees and then at 150 degrees for another 9 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool while covered with a tea towel.
Turn roulade out onto a sheet of greaseproof baking paper that has previously been dusted with icing sugar.
Whip cream and spread gently over the surface. Arrange berries over half the roulade lengthwise.
Roll up the roulade and leave in fridge for about an hour before serving.
Francesca and I have been reading Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events this summer, and we are trying to finish up The Miserable Mill before I go back to school next week. If you are unfamiliar with this series, it is a wonderful set of children’s books in which nothing good happens to anybody ever. But in this installment we have been learning, of all things, about optimism because there is a character named Phil and he is an optimist. It’s a timely lesson because Francesca and are both recovering from surgery and if your house is going to be an infirmary anyway, it’s best to look at it with the most positive attitude possible. So instead of focusing on what we’ve lost (our adenoids and wisdom teeth) Francesca and I are going to focus on what we’ve gained – the right to do nothing for a few days but watch The Flintstones and eat ice cream.
Over the past two years of college I’ve been lucky enough to live with people who care a lot about Haagen Dazs, and would stuff the freezer with quarts of it whenever it went on sale every few weeks. Luckiest of all, these people introduced me to the Haagen Dazs trifecta of perfection – Coffee, Vanilla and Dulce de Leche – that Francesca and I are using to celebrate our recovery period. Usually we make these into sundaes, but since I can’t really open my mouth wide enough for a spoon, we’re going to go with milkshakes. We hope you enjoy our Trifecta Shakes no matter how you’re feeling. And we want to know – when you’re sick, what food cure works best for you? Comment below to let us know!
The other day, over dinner, mom innocently asked Bella and me what our favorite Trashy Junk Food was. On so many levels, that ought to be an easy question for me to spurn: The Omnivores Dilemma is my favorite book, I love the locavore movement, I’m a part-time moral vegetarian, my mom’s a gourmet cooking teacher, and for Heaven’s sake, I write a food blog. On all accounts, I should really be above all that.
But, you may find it refreshing to know, food bloggers (most of us) are people too. From Pringles to Flavor Blasted Goldfish, Green Sour Patch Kids to Snickers Bars, memories and flavors came rushing back to me. I remembered the time at summer camp when Nora and I each ate 3 bowls of Cocoa Pebbles for breakfast, or the many Halloweens when I would trade Ellie for all her Reese’s Pieces (after we’d eaten Nathans Hot Dogs wrapped in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls for dinner…). Then, of course, some of these foods just taste much better than any of us want to admit. Cappuccino Jelly Bellies are almost as good as Tiramisù, and McDonalds French Fries could hold their own at any bistro. We find the Ruffles rrrrrrrrridges completely irresistable, and though many of you may have heard me profess that goat cheese is my favorite food in the whole wide world, I’m sorry to say that is a vicious lie. I’m just too ashamed to admit how much I love Frosted Flakes.
Your list may not be as bad as the one Isabella and I started (57 favorites, and counting) but I *know* you have foods like this too. The problem is, as I’ve already addressed, we are all so (theoretically) above these foods that it’s kind of embarrassing to buy them. Our twinkies are supposed to come from local bakeries, and at the very least we have to pretend that Paul Newman makes milk’s favorite cookie (although to be fair, Trader Joe Joes actually are way better than Oreos). But that brings me to the other issue. A lot of times, when you go back to your favorite junk foods, they don’t taste quite the way you remember. Duncan Hines brownies have yet to disappoint me, but I swear Funfetti is way sweeter than it used to be. So I decided to begin an intermittent series in which we’ll take our favorite junk foods, and we’ll make them ourselves so they’ll taste as good as we remember (maybe better!), and so we can sort of pretend they’re healthier (they’re not). And because the Good Humor Truck has been tempting me at the playground all summer, I thought we’d start with the Chipwich, my all-time Ice Cream Truck favorite.
I didn’t want to change it too much – no Rosewater Ice Cream or Dulce de Leche layers or Almond coatings. Those would be delicious, but superfluous. I trust you (and encourage you) to add them on your own if you want, but my goal was to get the satisfaction of the original, while making up for the few things it lacks. For our version, we adapted the New York Times version of the Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie, which is is the best cookie we’ve ever made or eaten, and to preserve our sanity we filled them with Haagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream. I’ll spare you my rant on Haagen Dazs Five, but the little known secret is that Haagen Dazs Vanilla only lists five ingredients anyway, so it’s pretty much like homemade (only way better) but it spares you the stress of the ice cream freezer. And Haagen Dazs is a level of perfection you can’t improve on anyway.
Bake the cookies, freeze them, fill them, freeze them, roll them in chocolate chips, freeze them… or at any step along the way just eat them. These taste just like the original, but with a creamier filling, a more buttery cookie, more chocolatey chocolate, and top notes of bourbon from the ice cream. And they strike just the right balance of sweet-but-not-too-sweet, because there’s no HFCS! They’re perfect any time you’re yearning for a summer refreshment with an indulgent, nostalgic spirit. Our recipe is not intended as a replacement – the original will always have a place in our hearts. This is simply the chipwich refined, finally reaching its ultimate potential, grown up to be the best it can possibly be.
One of the things I assumed I would miss most when switching careers from journalist to cooking school owner was meeting interesting characters and walking into scenes you never dreamed you’d find yourself in, like walking up the steps of City Hall and interviewing Mayor Ed Koch during an election bid in 1981 at the ripe old age of 18.
But over the last two years, I realized my fears were completely and delightfully unfounded. If you really love to cook you can end up doing the same kind of research and probing as any journalist – you should see my library of cookbooks and magazine clippings! Now, instead of hunting down subjects for a story, I’m hunting down ingredients and sharing recipes with people, from farmer’s markets to subway platforms. People always have a recipe to share, just like they had great leads to tell me in the past.
Of course you probably wonder how this relates to recipes and cooking, so I’ll step off memory lane and get to the point. Recently we started a new series of cooking classes called Spice Market, where we teach how to blend spices and herbs for exotic cuisines. Our first class took us to India, Morocco and Turkey, and we had to learn about ingredients even we rarely, if ever, used before, like asafoetida, preserved lemons and rosewater. Where do you get such ingredients? Some you can make yourself (come back soon and you’ll see a post on preserved lemons), but others, like rosewater, you may have to hunt for.
I googled preserved lemons and rosewater and was lucky enough to find a store called Sayad International specializing in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, not far from our house. The store was filled with exotically flavored ingredients, such as pickled wild cucumbers, Moroccan sardines, and dried hibiscus flowers. The store, which smells like Persian tea, dried fruits and spices was cramped and dark but full of discoveries. It’s the kind of place you say, “I hope I remember this place next time I’m looking for [blank].” I can’t imagine we’d ever need Moroccan sardines, but I was thrilled to know that I wouldn’t have to travel long distances (or pay high shipping charges) if I did.
We’ve all passed over recipes because we don’t want to deal with finding a weird ingredient or an odd kitchen gizmo. Take these moments as opportunities for adventure. You can always order these things online, but your life will be so much richer if you jump in the car and track them down yourselves.
In honor of these adventures, I’m going to share a recipe inspired by the research I did for our first Spice Market class. The rosewater and mint really makes the watermelon come alive, and it’s the perfect, refreshing way to end a highly flavorful meal. So bring this tiny adventure into your home, and try to find mini food adventures where you live. You are almost guaranteed to have a great story to tell and maybe even a new recipe when you return.
Pomegranate-Watermelon Salad with Mint and Rosewater
1 small watermelon, weighing about 3 1/2 pounds (or a wedge of a larger watermelon)
2-3 tablespoons of rosewater, depending on how strong a flavor you would like
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
4 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1-2 tablespoons fragrant honey (such as wildflower)
12-15 small to medium sized mint leaves, for garnish
Cut watermelon into bite-sized pieces
Add the pomegranate seeds
MIx rosewater, pomegranate juice and honey in a bowl
Ever since the macarons, which sort of represent an excess of streamline and precision, I’ve felt a need to kind of make up for it with something you might actually want to make. I mean, let’s be honest: it’s summer time, the living is easy, why should our sweets be so hard? Besides, last week, my sisters and I ate a half gallon of blueberries that were so good that Francesca has sworn off sweets for the rest of the summer. And they weren’t even from the farmers market.
When even Costco’s blueberries take on a sort of magical flavor, you know the time has come to leave delicate pastries and (dare I say) even chocolate behind us, and let summer’s bounty speak (mostly) for itself. And so, when I was flipping through this month’s Bon Appétit and saw a recipe for portable, hand-held “pies,” I was inspired. The only thing in the whole world I like better than pie, is food I can eat with my hands. For as long as I can remember, my vacations have been filled with forkless indulgences – pizza from Pepe’s, burgers with crispy cheese from the Shady Glen Diner, and black cherry vanilla ice cream cones from Pralines. Summer is a time to relax and have fun, not a time to wrestle with those super pesky knives and forks (I mean seriously, you have to wash them and everything…). So not only is a hand pie the ultimate food, it’s about as seasonal as you can possibly get.
These days, pie is my favorite dessert, but for a long time there was only one pie in the world I would eat, and that was my mother’s blueberry-lime pie, known affectionately in our house as The Best Blueberry Pie Ever. She found the recipe years ago in an old newspaper clipping, which itself cited another newspaper clipping. It’s simplicity perfected – graham cracker crust, mounds of homemade whipped cream, and blueberry-lime filling on top. She’d make it after our trips to Lyman Orchards, and back in the days when I shunned apple, peach, pecan, key lime and strawberry rhubarb, there was always a place in my heart (and my stomach) for an extra piece of this pie. I still do shun all other blueberry pies, because nothing compares to this.
And so I took the hand pie, and filled it with my best childhood memories. These are ridiculously simple to make. You simply prepare the filling, and roll out store-bought puff pastry while it cools. Cut the puff pastry into nine pieces, place filling on each, and fold them over. Cut designs on each of them (extra points for creativity)…
Sprinkle them with raw sugar…
Chill, and bake. That’s it! And unlike some recipes we know, these need no explanation other than the recipe below. Also, with all these Independence Day picnics coming up, I hope you do realize that these are blue on the inside, and that they are positively heavenly with whipped cream and strawberries. Just saying.
Happy 4th of July! And as always, Happy Baking.
Blueberry Lime Hand Pies
From: Adapted from Bon Appétit, July, 2011 and an old, long lost newspaper clipping
1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
grated peel of one lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4-1/2 cup water
2 pints (1 quart) fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 14-17 oz package of puff pastry (preferably Pepperidge Farms), thawed in refrigerator
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1.5 teaspoons (or about 2-3 packets) raw sugar
In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, lime peel, lime juice, and 1/4 cup water.
Add 2 cups of blueberries and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, and blueberries are softened, about four minutes. If mixture is thick before it turns dark purple, add the other 1/4 cup of water. Your kitchen should be smelling like my childhood right about now.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining blueberries. Let chill for 15 minutes.
Flour a baking surface, and roll out puff pastry into a 15 x 18 in rectangle. Pepperidge Farm comes in two sheets, so be sure to lay them down next to each other and roll them into one sheet. You’ll create a small seem, but that doesn’t matter because you’re going to fold it over there anyway.
Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut rectangle into 3 columns and 3 rows, creating 9 5×6 in rectangles.
Combine egg white with 1 tablespoon water together, and, working with one at a time, brush the edges (approx. .75-1 inch wide) of a rectangle with the egg wash. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of blueberry filling on one end, and fold over the other side, so edges meet. Seal edges by crimping with a fork, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat for the rest of the rectangles. If you have leftover blueberries after this, just eat them with whipped cream or ice cream, or waffles, or whatever you want.
Make a few cuts on the top of the pies, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375°F (or 350°F on convection).
Brush with remaining egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool on sheet for 10 minutes, and then on baking rack.
Serve with whipped cream, strawberries, or nothing at all. Enjoy!
After making the gelato for The Crostata, and subsequently 12 Lavander Crème Brulées for Isabella’s French class, I had to find a home for about 25 egg whites. I obviously believe in somehow using up the other part of the egg after separating it, but on a normal day that belief just inspires me to feel a little guilty while I pour the excess down the sink. Baking is time consuming, and egg whites are fussy, and it just never seemed worth the pain and suffering (because clearly my life lacks perspective). But sometimes extremes are the best medicine, and two things happened that made me change my ways. First I learned that you can freeze egg whites, which easily solved the I-have-no-time problem (rumor has it they last about a month, maybe longer). Second, I remembered that a few days before I acquired all these egg whites, a good friend of mine from Berkeley, who is an excellent baker, texted me a picture of 8 beautiful, perfect, homemade macarons. Even on my phone they looked good. Unfortunately, I live nowhere near Berkeley. I have no money for a plane ticket and I have no car to drive myself. The Google Maps walking directions take 39 days, 17 hours, which I certainly don’t have, and they involve tolls, ferries, and a treck across Canada. They don’t involve sleeping. I was not in the mood for any of that. If I was going to get macarons like hers I was going to have to make them myself.
The blogosphere is teeming with macarons. Macarons at their best are beautiful, charming and perfect. I hadn’t actually had one until very recently, but I was shocked to discover that they even taste good! They are, as a food, everything a blogger could ever want. I was hesitant to join in the trend so late in the game (and so soon after a red velvet cake…) but again, 25 egg whites. What could I do? But I quickly discovered that, behind the blogs, there is a secret side to the macaron. They can be crinkly, they can get burned, they can be runny and turn into blobs, they can forget to rise, they can stick to the pan, and they can migrate all over the place. Even with Francesca’s help, my first rounds turned out like this:
(Clockwise from top right: The Sea Turtle, The Island of Manhattan, The Funny Crinkle Face, The Empty Shell, The Pancake, and The Duckbill Platypus)
You know you’re in a bad place when The Pancake and The Funny Crinkle Face kind of look like victories. I should warn you, Ladies and Gentlemen, your first few rounds may very well come out like one of these. A lot of websites will give you alternative uses for the macarons that don’t come out, but that’s silly. Fill them anyway. They will look terrible, but everyone in my family agreed that these ones tasted the best.
If you want to leave yours right there, that’s fine, skip to the last paragraph. If not, here are some tips to make perfect macarons of your own.
First of all, don’t overmix the batter – the protein in the eggs breaks down so the batter won’t hold together. That’s the difference between Crinkle Cuts and perfect domes, and also the difference between circles and blobs. On a related note, you should sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together after you process them, so you can avoid creating lumps that may have to break up.
I don’t recommend using a convection oven. If you do, remember to lower the temperature by about 25°F, though this can vary by oven. Convection reportedly brings mild advantages with rising (though I didn’t notice a difference), but even on lower temperatures it can cook the top of the macaron too fast, leaving the bottom sticky (the inside may remain on the pan, leaving you with a paper-thin shell). When I made them on conventional, they came out perfectly without any adjustments.
Fourth, very few people or books note this trip, but baking on top of several preheated baking sheets can do wonders for ensuring a crisp bottom, that doesn’t stick too much to the baking sheet. Bread bakers do this all the time to ensure a crisp bottom crust on hearth breads. I used four preheated sheets, but for best results I’d actually recommend using as many as six. This too, however, can vary a lot by oven. You may find your macarons bake better without any sheets at all, and sometimes if my macarons are sticking to the parchment and browning too fast, I find it helps to lower the temperature to around 225°F and stick the parchment directly on the rack so they can crisp up without burning. (Thank you to Duncan, from Syrup and Tang, for clearing this one up. Check out his definitive Macaron guide for more information.)
The most important thing to do learn the rhythm of macarons based on your kitchen. If it’s humid, leave them out to dry longer, because the skin will take longer to form, if your oven tends a little hot, lower the temperature a little bit, because they may burn.
The gods of French Pastry will probably smite me for saying this, but these actually have a lot in common with chocolate chip cookies. Yes, they’re delicate and sensitive and pretty too, but when you get down to it, they’re really just a fancy comfort food – gooey, crispy and fun. And no matter where you are on your macaron journey, you can experiment and personalize them. I decided to make macarons in the style of the Poire Belle Helène – a classic flavor combination of pear, chocolate and almonds – because we had pear liqueur on hand, but you can add any liqueur or extract, and fill them accordingly. If you want to make a more authentic Poire Belle Helène, serve them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or scrape some vanilla bean into the batter, but again, that part doesn’t matter. To be perfectly honest, none of this does really matter. These tips will help you make the perfect macaron, which is rewarding beyond belief. But even if they don’t come out, they will be less photogenic but just as (maybe more) yummy. And that’s the true secret behind macarons: if you don’t feel you can make them perfectly, you can and should make them anyway. Your taste buds will be none the wiser.
Macarons Belle Helène – Pear Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
From: Gabrielle Siegel, Adapted from the French Culinary Institute
115 grams (4 ounces) almond flour
200 grams (7 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon pear liqueur
yellow food coloring
green food coloring
90 grams (3 1/4 ounces) egg whites, preferably old, at room temperature
8 grams (2 tablespoons) confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (or chocolate chopped up in to smaller pieces) (you can use milk, dark, or semisweet too, whatever you like)
Preheat oven to 325°F, and place 3-6 baking sheets, stacked, on a rack in the middle of the oven (make sure you’ll be able to put the one with the macarons on top of that though)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Combine the almond flour and 200 grams sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for about a minute, until very fine. Sift through a fine sieve, and set aside.
Place egg whites and liqueur in the bowl of a stand mixer, with 2 drops of yellow food coloring and one drop of green. If you prefer a deeper color, use 4 drops of yellow and two drops of green. Beat on low speed (about 2 on a Kitchenaid) until aerated. Add 8 grams sugar and raise speed to high, and beat for about 3 minutes, until soft peaks form. Don’t overwhip the egg whites, or they’ll be harder to fold into the rest of the ingredients and you may end up overmixing.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the almond mixture in 2-3 additions, to prevent clumping Add next addition when first one is mostly, but not entirely folded in.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag with a #2 tip.
Pipe fifty 1-inch rounds onto the parchment lined baking sheet and set aside for 20 minutes-1 hour, until a skin forms on the surface.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until firm, and just slightly beginning to brown around the edges. If you nudge a macaroon, it shouldn’t shift off its foot. If it does, it’s not done. Watch them very carefully as they bake so they don’t burn.
Transfer macarons to cooling rack. If they don’t come off the sheet easily, transfer the whole sheet of parchment to the cooling rack and leave there for a few hours, then carefully peel off.
While they’re cooling, pour the chocolate for the ganache into a bowl, and bring cream to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.
Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute, then stir.
Let ganache cool until spreadable. Then spread, or pipe, ganache in a circle just inside the edges of one of the macarons. Place another macaron on top, and there you go! You made it! Photograph extensively, text all your friends… or just eat and enjoy.
My roommate this year had a pair of purple Crocs that followed me everywhere. If I was at my desk, the Crocs were underneath, if I was by my bed, they were under my ladder, and if I was walking across the floor, I could be sure that the Crocs would be right smack dab in the middle. I think most people would be annoyed, or creeped out, if a pair of shoes were stalking them. But I’m a big believer in fate (one day I’ll tell you the story of how my parents met, and you’ll understand), so I knew it must be a sign of… something.
So it made perfect sense when, in March, I got an email from John Moore, who works with none other than Mario Batali, asking me to write a post on one of Mario’s recipes. At the time I was still in New York – so close to Eataly but so far from my kitchen – but I hurriedly immersed myself in the vibrant Babbo Cookbook so I could get cooking as soon as I got home.
Picking a recipe was next to impossible. Goat Cheese Tortelloni with Dried Orange and Fennel Pollen sounded so decadent, but then again homemade Gnocchi with Oxtail Ragù was reminiscent of the first meal I ate out in New York. I read about Duck with Chicory, Preserved Lemons and Kumquat Vinaigrette, Asparagus Vinaigrette with Black Pepper Pecorino Zabaglione, and even a Saffron Panna Cotta that sounded perfectly indulgent. It wasn’t actually until I got home that I could even make a decision. But when late May came around, and the sun began to shine, and the thermometer hit 90, and I got out my shorts and skirts and began to spend my days building fairy houses in the backyard with Francesca and Isabella, the answer was clear. “This weather clearly calls for a Peach Crostata with Honey Butter and Honey Vanilla Gelato,” I thought to myself, “I wonder if Mario has a recipe for anything like that…”
And you can imagine my utter shock when Mario had a recipe for exactly that…
(Just kidding) (I fudged the details of that story a bit)
I ran out to pick up some beautiful Georgia peaches, turned on Andrea Bocelli Radio (which is the only thing you can listen to while making Italian food, or really just while making food) and got to work baking. And I should warn you – making all the parts of this recipe will take you a good part of the day. But I can promise that it is ridiculously worth it. And even if you can’t, for example, make the gelato because you haven’t got the time (or the gelato maker), please make the Crostata. It is the perfect Italian twist on Peach Pie (or to use Mario’s words, what happened when “the perfect summer pie happened to take a little ride uptown”) and it brings summer wherever you are.
I began a bit scared because I have very little experience in tart doughs. But this one, to my shock, took about 10 minutes, and it smells and tastes, like an amazing cookie. I kept on calling my family over to smell it while I was making it. Which is a weird thing to do with a tart dough. But it really smelled that good. And, in fact, I actually made cookies out of the extra dough, and filled them with spekuloos (although in the spirit of Italy, I’d actually recommend using Nutella instead). They’re a bit tougher in texture than the tart shell, since you have to knead them and roll them out again, but it’s so much better than letting the dough go to waste.
There are just a few important things to remember. First of all, freeze your butter after you dice it so that your crust will be nice and flaky. It’ll only take a few minutes, but it makes a big difference. Second of all, if your refrigerator has a tendency to freeze things, as ours did the day I made this, then only chill the dough for three-four hours, rather than overnight, so it doesn’t have a chance to freeze. Otherwise you will have a very interesting time trying to roll it out. If it does for some reason, freeze, you have little choice but to let it thaw a bit, so just be careful to make sure the thawed dough doesn’t stick to your work surface. Put down a little flour underneath when you roll it out, but if it does still stick, carefully run the blunt end of a chef’s knife underneath the dough to separate it from the countertop. Then just pick it by draping it over your rolling pin, and lay in the tart pan.
With the crust behind me I moved on to the filling and the gelato. Everything went off delightfully without a hitch. The almond filling is about as simple as a buttercream (and the process is very similar), and the peaches just need to be tossed with a few things to accentuate their flavor and texture. And as for the gelato, just remember – making gelato is quite a bit like making a creme brulée, or a creme anglaise – it’s very important to temper your eggs by whisking in a little bit (1/3 cup or so) of your cream, before slowly pouring the yolks into the cream, whisking all the while. That’s the best way to avoid fancy scrambled eggs (unless you like that kind of thing). But that’s the hardest part of the recipe, and it’s really not as scary as it sounds. Then just freeze the gelato in a better gelato maker than my $30 disaster (there are horror stories, but you don’t need to hear them… they involve cursing and a kitchenaid), and you’re done!
I hate to say it, but I always expect to have to change something when I use a restaurant cookbook, because professionals often don’t measure when they cook, making their recipes difficult to transcribe. So you can imagine my actual surprise (as distinct from the fake surprise of before) when everything came out the first time, without editing anything. This recipe translates beautifully from restaurant kitchen to home kitchen, which I think is one of it’s chief successes. The other thing I love, is that while there are many steps, none of them are too difficult, which perfectly illustrates the Fig philosophy, that a recipe doesn’t need to involve ridiculous techniques and liquid nitrogen to be absolutely perfect. The essence of good cuisine lies in knowing the best way to accentuate an ingredient, or in understanding how to blend flavors, which this recipe does perfectly. So whether your summer is here, or right around the corner, this Crostata is the perfect way to welcome it in. Serve it warm, or chilled, with a scoop of gelato and a drizzle of honey butter. Put on your favorite pair of Crocs, turn up Andrea Bocelli, and love your life. If you can get local fruit, even better – I can’t wait to make this after the first time I go peach picking. But even if you can’t, this quintessential, sophisticated summer dessert is tutto delicioso e tutto perfetto. Buon Appetito!
Peach Crostata with Honey Butter and Honey Vanilla Gelato
From: Reprinted with permission from Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook
1 recipe Tart Dough (see below)
1 1/2 cups blanched, sliced, almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup blanched, sliced Almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 medium ripe peaches
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 pints Honey Vanilla Gelato (see below)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Roll the chilled Tart Dough into a 12-inch circle, large enough to line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press the dough into the sides and trim the top so that the dough is flush with the tart pan. Place the pastry shell in the refrigerator and chill until completely firm, about 30 minutes.
To make the filling: spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until light golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not powdery.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the confectioners’ sugar until very smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla and the salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Thoroughly beat in the ground almonds. Set aside.
To make the streusel: Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Place the flour, almonds, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the melted butter and pulse to form pea-size crumbs. Spread the streusel out onto a cookie sheet and chill briefly.
Peel the peaches and cut into 1/4-inch wedges. In a large bowl, toss the peach wedges with the lemon juice, vanilla, flour and sugar. Spread enough of the almond filling on the bottom of the tart to completely cover it, and arrange the peach slices densely on top. Sprinkle the streusel crumbs over the tart. Place the tart on a baking sheet to catch any juices and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the crust and streusel are nicely browned and the juices are bubbling. Allow to cool completely before removing the tart from the pan.
To make the honey butter: In a small saucepan, combine the honey and the insides of the split vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the hone is reduced by 2 thirds. Whisk in the butter until it is completely incorporated.
Serve with a scoop of the Honey Vanilla Gelato and drizzle with the honey butter.
From: Reprinted with permission from Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook
2 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small cubes
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons heavy cream
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and orange zest.
Add the cold butter cubes and toss lightly to coat. Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and heavy cream, and add it to the flour-butter mixture.
Pulse to moisten the dough, then pulse until it begins to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand.
If the dough is too dry, add a few drops of heavy cream.
Shape into a small disk, wrap, and chill thoroughly for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
From: Reprinted with permission from Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook
9 egg yolks (*note from Gabrielle – save the whites, we’re going to do something with them in an upcoming post)
1/2 cup honey
pinch of kosher salt
2 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 plump vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons sugar
Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk together with the honey and salt.
Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla bean and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. When the milk and cream come to a rolling boil, quickly whisk some of the boiling milk into the egg yolk mixture, then return the egg yolk mixture back tot he pot. Whisk well to combine the rest of the milk with the egg yolk mixture. Strain through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer and save the vanilla bean for future use.
Chill the custard completely, then freeze in a gelato maker according the the manufacturer’s instructions.
Mom and I once took this great class on canning in Chestertown, MD. It was, in fact, extremely educational and highly inspirational. But somehow we clearly missed the memo that you’re supposed to can your fruits and vegetables and not your… sometimes foods.
You see, today was Francesca’s fake birthday, so her class could celebrate her turning six exactly two months before she actually does, and I was assigned the task of the red velvet cupcakes (I know, we’re so typical, but at least we use the best red velvet recipe ever). But since it was early in the morning, 9:30 I believe, I wasn’t thinking straight and I joyously underestimated the momentous quantity of batter a doubled version of this recipe can make. Twenty-four servings of cake, you see, is not the same as twenty-four cupcakes. And so rather than face seventeen kindergarteners with a pile of cupcakes the size of Mount Everest, I decided to keep the excess and get creative. I started with the classic cake-in-a-cup I’ve wanted to try for so long. And while it was fun (and in my mind ever so clever, which I can say because I didn’t come up with it), the only oven-proof mugs we had were white, and oh so opaque. I knew that if I covered the top with frosting, nobody would ever get to see the beautiful red we love so much. Because seriously, what’s the point of using a whole bottle of food coloring if nobody gets to see it?
And then I remembered. Tucked away in the next room was a huge box of Ball’s Canning Jars. I bought them to use as drinking glasses in my suite next year, but if I’m going to take ownership of the glasses, certainly nobody would object to me baking a little cake in them first, would they? And thus the canned cake was born. (Question – does anyone know why it’s called canning when it’s clearly done in jars?) These cakes are pint sized, which seems to lend itself perfectly to large individual servings. Any smaller would be sad, any larger would take a millennium to bake.
To make these fill the jars up approximately 1/3 with batter and then just bake them for approximately 35-40 minutes. (The original recipe called for 30 minutes for a normal cake layer in a pan. You can bake these with any kind of cake you want, but remember to add 5-10 minutes to cooking time, and monitor them closely because it may vary by cake). And they’re fine to put in the oven because canning jars are made to be boiled! Just don’t dip them in a pool of ice water when they come out of the oven and you shouldn’t have to worry about cracking. Then just fill the last third with whipped cream or frosting and screw the top back on for nostalgic effect. The end. As easy as cupcakes, and so much easier than pie.
College is a never ending whirl of excitement. Classes are crazy but fascinating, the weather in New York is beautiful and perfect for exploring, and most importantly of all, Restaurant Week was extended to Restaurant Month, so I’m finally full (albeit out of money).
But most exciting of all, this weekend my friend Alex has commissioned me to feed his film crew! Which means I’m cooking! For people! In a kitchen! Last night they had their first production meeting, tomorrow they’re shooting and by Sunday they’ll have a movie. Team Fishmonger is entering a 48-hour eco-friendly film contest for an opportunity to screen at Cannes. They’ll receive prompts tomorrow morning and in two days they have to have a film. I’m responsible for making sure they don’t die of hunger along the way.
To celebrate the project, I started them off with a pair of Miss Mary’s [Multipurpose, Magic] Fudge Pies, a remnant of our trip to Tennessee. Last night they were good luck pies, but they can serve every purpose, from “please be my friend” to “sorry you just got dumped.” I’ve used them in every situation possible. And they never fail. They’re magical.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t even a little bit make up this recipe – all credit goes to Miss Mary Bobo and Jack Daniel, for creating something that cannot be improved upon. Once you try this pie you will never make any other pie again. It puts a positive spin on the world. And that is how I know this team is going to win. And why I will accept full responsibility when they do.
Stay tuned for more photos and recipes from the set!
Miss Mary’s Fudge Pie
From: Adapted from Jack Daniel’s Website
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
1 (9-inch) graham cracker pie crust (See Below)
Heat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Pour in bowl and stir in sugar and cocoa powder.
Stir in eggs, evaporated milk, and Jack Daniel’s.
Pour into the piecrust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until set.
Serve slices with a dollop of whipped cream sweetened with sugar and a little Jack Daniel’s.
Graham Cracker Pie Crust
From: Gabrielle Siegel, Adapted from Epicurious
10 Graham Crackers
5 Tablespoons Butter
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Break graham crackers in food processor until they reach a sandy consistency.
Don’t over process them.
Melt butter in saucepan and stir in graham crackers.
Press graham crackers into a 9-inch pie pan and pre-bake for 10 minutes.
If you’re making this for a pie that doesn’t go in the oven, bake for around 15 minutes, or until golden brown.