Skip to main content

Jahresarchive: 2007

Lemon Almond Blueberry Tarts

Lemon Almond Blueberry Tartlets" Chaos"… that’s the word that comes to my mind when I think about these little tarts. They are not difficult to make, although they will take you some time if you make everything from scratch, but the results are really worth the effort. What I meant by "chaos" is all the noise, movements, tribulations that took place around them while they were getting their shiny coats and lemon dots.

I decided to make my tarts for Hay Hay It’s Donna Day, created by Barbara of Winos and Foodies and hosted this month by Sarina of TriniGourmet this past tuesday. My day was pretty skimpy on training appointments so I figured I would have ample time to make these and a couple of other pastries for orders. I started with the dough right before I left for work, inspired by one that did the rounds of the French bloggsophere last year. A sort of easy and fast mock puff pastry, which originaly calls for "petits suisses" as a moisture source but I’ll say "hot dang!" (because I love them) the day I find those here, so I subbed sour cream and everything worked out fine. Once back home, the dough got a little resting time on the countertop before being tooled out. Smooth as a baby’s bottom and soft as a pillow I almost wished our rolling time would have to come to an end in a pie plate…Have you ever kneaded a bread dough or other that was so nice to you, so pliable that you wish you could do it forever?…Ok, if it wasn’t official before, now you can definitely see how weird I can be about my doughs!

Anyway, I disgress…I was about to fill my mini pie pans when I heard kids’ voices in the garage. Our neighbors’ twins were down there figuring a way to get in the middle if the action with B. You bet, for two 7 year-old boys, our garage is like a treasure cave of trouble to get into with tools galore, boating equipment, golf clubs, crab and shrimp nests, etc….They are so bubbly, it sounded like there were 6 kids playing around. My dear husband sent them upstairs to get some water and a treat and that’s when chaos ensued…I love baking with children, I think their take on things is honest and down to earth. They are also very creative and bring good ideas to the table when it comes to ease of preparation and decorations. If you are calm enough to understand that within 10 minutes your kitchen is going to be splaterred with flour, sugar and your utensils flying in every directions, then you are going to have a serious good time!

One of the boys looked at the shells filled with the almond filling coming out of the oven and started to blow on them so they would cool faster and they’d be able to fill them with the blueberry compote. They even suggested holding them over the AC vent for quicker cool down time, not practical but smart for sure!
Once filled with the blueberry compore, the twins proceeded to help me out with dotting the tarts with lemon curd cream. I believe they were quite proud to get about one cup in the pastry bag and not on their shoes. The dots were another story… The three photographed tarts are actually the ok looking ones, the others much ressemble the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, and I even recall one tart attempted to smile. They ate 3 mini ones right then on the spot, too happy to show my husband their blue tongues! Within the nest couple of days, the tarts kept disappearing at great speed, so much so that I think I only ate one… not fair!

Lemon Almond Blueberry Tartlets
The recipe given by Sarina to illustrate this month "Tarts" theme starts with a puff pastry and I wanted to keep with this idea but was pressed for time visiting with the parents so I tried this quick puff pastry I mentioned above. The filling is my "go-to" frangipane (almond cream) filling that I used last month with fresh figs. The blueberry compote is nothing else than cooked down fresh picked blueberries (there is a patch 15 minutes down the road), and the lemon curd is leftover from the Meyer lemon curd I made for a Ricotta Cake and that I had in the freezer. All the parts can come together over several days, so there is no feeling of waiting or rushing if you spread the work over 2-3 days. You can also keep everything unbaked for 3-4 days.

While talking to Veronica a couple of weeks ago about the Meyer lemons Mary had sent us, I was talking to her about possible uses and tart options for HHDD. As it happens when most cooks and bakers talk together the conversation quickly moved from "lemon and blueberry tarts" to "Meyer lemon curd, blueberry compote on frangipane cream in mini shells"…I can see how a simple Sunday dinner could turn into a New Year’s Eve Party. I exagerate of course, but you get the point. Thanks Veronica for the tasty brainstorming!

Lemon Almond Blueberry Tartlets

Lemon Almond Blueberry Tarts:

Quick Puff Pastry:

180 gr. flour
180 gr. sour cream
90gr. butter
pinch of salt

Process all the ingredients in a food processor until the dough comes together. Remove and knead a couple of times until smooth. Roll out and fold in three like a business letter. Repeat a couple of times and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Roll the dough and fit into pie shells of different sorts or one large 12 inch one. Blind bake for 10 minutes at 350F. Let cool.

Frangipane Cream:

1/3 cup whole almonds (about 2 ounces)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons rum or brandy

Finely grind almonds with sugar in processor. Add egg, butter and 2 teaspoons rum. Process until batter forms. Pour filling into crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F. Let cool completely.

Blueberry Filling:

1 pint fresh blueberries
zest and juice from one lime
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 Tb. cornstarch

In a heavy saucepan, combine all the ingredients and heat over medium until the blueberries release their juices and the whole mix start to thicken, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Lemon Curd Cream:

grated zest of 2 (Meyer) lemons
1 cup strained lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tb powdered gelatin set to bloom in 3 Tb water
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Combine the zest, sugar, juice in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs until light.Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the gelatin in the microwave until dissolved, about 30 seconds. Remove the curd from the heat, let cool completely. Gently fold in the whipped cream.

Spoon the blueberry filling into the tart or divide evenly among the mini ones. Pour the lemon curd cream into a pastry bags and dot the blueberry filling with it.

The combinations of all the flavors is truly outstanding. Just plenty to make it sweet and just enough of a little pucker with the lemon.

Quince Tartlets And One Happy Tartelette

Quince Tartlets
I am telling you I am truly spoiled. Right before my parents got here with suitcases full of pans, molds, chocolates, nut pastes, extracts and other baking ingredients, I received a box filled with quinces, freshly picked by Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms. Back in June, I had a sudden craving for quinces and for some reason stores here carry them year round, regardless of the season and for the whopping price of $1.99 a quince (price does not change either!)…Ouch!! I was nostalgic enough of my mother’s quince jelly that I caved in and bought one little quince and tried to make the most out of it. A couple of days later, Elle sent me an e-mail telling me that she would be happy to send me some from her own backyard as soon as they were in season. I let a little "yippee" of joy and started to wish for September already! Kept busy by other baking project I kind of put the mighty quince out of my mind, although tempted to sneak one in my apple basket at the store…Yes, I admit I sometimes planned an escape route for my beloved fruit, free of being set on the back of the exotic fruit stand because no one knew what it was or what to do with it.

My mother makes the best jams…really hands down the best, and I am not saying that because she is my mom. Her method is at the complete opposite of all the recipes you read about lately, where the fruits may be marinated for a while but cooked rather briefly. My mom cooks her jams until it is almost caramel fruit. Hours of foaming and skimming, followed by days of the greatest scented house on the block. What does this have to do with Elle’s quinces? Well, one of my earliest food memories is of my mom perched high over a big copper jam and jelly pot, stirring quinces for hours on end, filling long stockings with the mixture and letting those drip until the coveted jelly is ready to be canned. The lengthy process, the pervading aroma, and to see the final product….my mother was a magician, a goddess, an artist (she really is but that’s for another post)…and I was so lucky that someone thought about using all of earth’s bounty and share it with the rest of her acquaintances, much like Elle when she remembered to send me the quinces. I aim to be as generous in sending "thank you’s" and "how are you’s", and trust me if it seems to take me forever to do so it has everything to do with the state of my pocket book and nothing with the gratitude of my heart.

Back to quinces and the tartlets…. You can’t expect to serve a dessert with quince in 30 minutes. First reason being that raw the fruit is reallytough and sour, then you would be missing on the deep amber colour you get after cooking it down. The natural high pectin content allows the fruit purees, jams or jellies to set very well on their own, require very little from you other than stirring…and stirring.
I had already used two of the quinces to make baked quinces, much like "baked apples" filled with nuts and cranberries. I originally thought about an quince tarte Tatin (upside down tart) but was afraid that the caramel would burn before the quinces had the chance to cook through. Instead I looked at the 8 remaining and decided to make "compote" with 4 of them and dice and slice the last 4 and caramelize them on the stove. The crust is inspired from an olive oil dough recipe found on a French blog I read daily, Eggs and Mouillettes, to which I added a pinch of cardamom…because I put this spice anywhere I can since I love it so much!
I have so many mini, medium and big tart shells, homemade (it is amazing what I have B. do with leftover Lowe’s materials, as well as cardboard and foil!) bought and borrowed that I took the liberty to play around with shapes and sizes of both the tartlets and the fruit.

Quince Tartlets
Quince Tartlets With Olive Oil and Cardamom Crust:

Makes 6 3.5-inch tartlets plus 2 4-inch tarts

For the crust:

200 gr. all purpose flour
50 gr. ground almonds
10 cl. cold water
10 cl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. round cardamom
75 gr. sugar

In a food processor, mix all the ingredients together and pulse until the dough comes together. Take the dough out of the mixer and knead a couple of times, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out shapes for your molds as desired.

For the quince compote:

4 medium sized quinces
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup of water

Peel, core and dice the quinces. Put them in a heavy saucepan with the sugar and the water. Cook, covered over low heat until the fruit becomes all mushy and almost red, about an hour. Add more water if needed and watch that the fruit does not attach to the bottom of the pot.
Let cool to room temperature. When cooled, divide the mixture evenly among the shells.

For the caramelized quince:

4 medium sized quinces, peeled and cored
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter

Cut 2 of the quinces in small dices and slice the remaining two very thin.
Heat the butter and the sugar in a large heavy saute pan until the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down and add 2 quinces that have been diced. Cook until soft and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and divide them evenly among the shells of your choice.
Cook the remaining quince slices in the same fashion, adding a little sugar and butter if necessary. Remove with a slotted spoon, layer them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and let cool a couple of minutes before you handle the slices to make the rose pattern on the tartlets.
Starting from the outside, layer the slices overlapping the edges slightly, working your way to the the middle of the tartlets. Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes until the pastry shells are cooked through.
Serve warm.

Thank you Elle! I spend the afternoon with mom in the kitchen again, except that this time I was the one doing the cooking and stirring! Ah, to be a kid again!!

Meyer Lemon Cake Roll – Coming Full Circle

Meyer Lemon Cake Roll
I have to warn you guys that you may have to wait longer than a couple of days in between my post for the next month. My parents are visiting from France and staying until the middle of October. I already employed mom tonight to help me out in the kitchen while I could work on a couple of pastry projects and dad is in charge of hopping in the car in case we need something last minute from the grocery store. They have been here so many times before (14) that within a couple of days they had found their marks. Mom even exclaimed as soon as she got in the house "it’s good to be home", which made me beam with joy, of course. I hope you will understand if I don’t post too often, we have a few things planned (dad is a General after all), but a lot will be left to the weather and the temperatures (pretty hot and muggy right now).

Where am I going with this paragraph, those pictures and that title? Well, when I received Mary’s box of Meyer lemons, I was on the phone with mom and I had to spend the next 10 minutes explaining her about that group of wonderful people I knew and how we sometimes exchange much more than comments on our blogs, as well as trying to describe to her a Meyer lemon as I was cutting one open. She made me promise to save her some cake "or something"…Well between B., the neighbors and me, there was no cake left within a couple of days but there was plenty of lemons for another batch of curd. Since my parents were visiting, I decided to make my dad one of his favorites, a jelly roll cake, but with Pierre Herme’s signature lemon cream inside instead of jam or preserves. My paternal grandmother passed away when I was 4 so I never got the chance to share baking time in the kitchen with her (unlike my "mamie Paulette"), but I have always heard about her "strawberry jelly roll cake" and the way my dad closes his eyes when he reminisces about it is a pretty good indication it had to be something!
Mary’s lemons went a long away in satisfying both my family both native and French.

Now let’s really talk business: that Herme’s lemon cream…boy oh boy! Since I last made it, it must be on regular supply at the house, and we think as highly of it as we do Nutella. We put it on everything, mix it with everything. Some people, and I was too at first, are concerned, afraid, surprised at the amount of butter that goes into it, but let me tell you that it is absolutely worth and the magic of pastry is that you forget about how much there actually is once you put that spoon to your mouth….you’re hooked…you want more… This time around though I reduced the amount of butter as I was adding gelatin for a firmer hold inside the cake roll.
For the cake itself, I used another one of Herme’s recipe, from a book my mom brought me this trip and that I am already devouring (no pun intended). Nothing fancy about it, it is a plain sponge cake but I added grapefruit zest and a dash of almond extract, as I love the two together.

Meyer Lemon Cake Roll
Meyer Lemon Cake Roll:

Serves 12

For the Cake:

50 gr. butter
3 eggs, separated
100 gr. flour (I used White Lilly all purpose, which is naturally soft, but you could use all purpose or cake)
2 Tb grapefruit zest
1 tsp pure almond extract
100 gr. powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
In a microwave safe container, melt the butter. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, almond extract and the sugar until pale and thick. Add the grapefruit zest.
With an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold the whites and the flour, alternating, in the yolk/sugar mixture. Add the butter fold until incorporated.
Spread the batter onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, invert onto another sheet of parchment paper. Let cool. Fill the cake with the lemon cream and roll. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

For the Meyer Lemon Cream:

1 cup sugar
zest of 3 Meyer lemons
4 eggs
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tb gelatin, softened in 3 Tbs water
1 stick butter, cut into 1 inch pieces, softened

Make a water bath by putting a saucepan of water over heat to simmer and placing a metal bowl over, without the bottom touching the water. Rub the sugar and lemon zest with your fingers and add to the metal bowl. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice.
Cook the mixture over the water bath, whisking constantly until the cream reaches 180 degrees. It can take up to 10 minutes. Once the cream reaches 180 (your whisk will leave ribbon tracks in the cream),remove the cream off the heat and put it into a blender, with the gelatin. Pulse a couple of times, until the gelatin dissolves. Let the cream cool to 140. Add in the butter and process until perfectly smooth. Pour into a container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Goat Cheese And Fig Cake with Fig Mascarpone Verrine

There is something about blogging that is quite exceptional. I don’t mean all the wonderful friendships, mail exchanges, meetings, packages and other benefits of creating strong bonds over the internet. There is something in the air it seems, whether we get inspired by the same author, recipe or share our discoveries of the “in” food item of the moment. It has been happening to me lately, I come home from the market with a fruit, type of chocolate or a load of yeast and flour. I turn on the computer, check out my favorite blogs, discover new ones through comments left here and elsewhere and find delicious pictures that incorporate exactly what I just brought back in my basket. What has put this sort of cosmic/kismet feeling over the top recently is when I just pulled out something from the oven, set it out to cool on the countertop, read a few blogs, waiting impatiently before things cool enough for me to take a bite, and found that someone has just posted about it…and I made it without even knowing. When it comes to seasonal produce I can understand but a specific item….makes you wonder what water bloggers are drinking…(insert Twilight Zone music here).

Let me illustrate that thought. I was slowly working my way through a giant bag of figs when my favorite Cream Puff, Ivonne announced she was hosting Sugar High Friday “The Beautiful Fig”…Uh, it’s not like she is my neighbor and she is trying to help me go through my loot, but in this case her post was received with both a sigh of relief , “Yes! Something I have, and plenty of it!” and excitement “Yes! I have another excuse to make something fancier than jam on toast!”.

I knew exactly what I wanted to bake. From the day I got Richard Leach’s book last year, I have been wanting to make every single dessert in it. Not only are the pictures exceptional, but the quality of his work is outstanding. I want to push it as to say that I equate him to my sugar daddy Pierre Herme: talented, innovative and funky. I have had my eye on one particular page in the book where one simple item, the Black Mission fig, becomes three impressive creations. Had I had the luxury of time last week, I know I would have tried to put my spin on them but I had to rely on my own creativity to capture the essence of the pages before me and come up with my own interpretation.

The goat cheese cake is so easy to make and so fragrant, I want to make it every single Sunday brunch. It would be fantastic with egg dishes such as omelettes and Benedict but also perfect served as is with a good drizzle of maple syrup. It has a nice crumb, made with both semolina and all purpose flours, and don’t be tempted to skip on the orange zest in it, it really enhances the flavor. The figs on top are simply sliced and drizzled with a little bit of local wild flower honey. Instead of paring the cake with fig sorbet and a fig flan as suggested by Leach, I went for something that would enhance the fresh figs instead of pulverizing them (nothing against sorbet) or cooking them. They were perfectly ripe and very tasty so I just made a little mascarpone cream and pomegranate and cardamom syrup and layered them in a “verrine”, and the spice instantly puts it in another dimension. A bite of cake, a bite of cream and we were in heaven. It may seem like a lot of work, but you can make things over several days as I did: the cake was made early in the week then cut and frozen, the pomegranate sauce keeps easily for a week and the verrine comes together in five minutes top. Eating it took even less time!

Goat Cheese and Fig Cake with Fig Mascarpone Verrine in Pomegranate Syrup:

For the Cake (serves 8)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tb baking powder
½ tsp. grated orange zest
½ tsp. salt
4 egg whites
½ cup milk
1 cup fresh goat cheese
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
6 to 8 Black Mission Figs, sliced
¼ cup honey (your choice)

Preheat oven to 300F.
Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, orange zest and salt. In a small bowl, combine the egg whites, goat cheese and milk. Whisk until smooth, then add to the dry ingredients. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the batter into a buttered and flour 9×9 inch baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until firm and lightly golden. Allow to cool. With a 4 inch cookie cutter, cut out 8 rounds, cover with fresh fig slices. Drizzle with the honey.

For the Pomegranate Cardamom Syrup:
In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring 4 cups of pomegranate juice to a boil with 3 whole cardamom pods, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. It will thicken as it reduces.

For the Fig and Mascarpone Verrine:
6-8 Black Mission figs, diced
1-11/2 cups pomegranate syrup
8 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
½ cup heavy cream, kept cold
¼ cup sugar

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks with the sugar and fold it in the mascarpone cheese.
In a 8 glasses, layer the cream, fresh figs, syrup twice, finishing with the figs and syrup. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve: pour a small pool of remaining pomegranate syrup on a large plate, set the goat cheese cake on top and serve it with the verrine on the side.

Ivonne, are you seduced yet?…

Plum Meyer Lemon Jam Coffee Cake

Not to worry, this cake is only a mouthful in its pronounciation as it is actually neither dense nor dry, even after a few days parked in your fridge. I made it on friday morning before work and we left for the weekend (and a bad sunburn made me turn as red as a Strawberry Mirror Cake)to enjoy some alone time before my parents get here. When we got back tonight and wanted something to snack on after dinner, I pulled it out of the refrigerator and it was just as good as the first day.

I have a bad weakness for coffee cake and I am always on the lookout for a good recipe. I see one I like just about everyday but when Belinda from What’s Cooking in a Southern Kitchen posted this one, my tastebuds got excited again. I wanted to use one of the 9 jars of Plum-Meyer Lemon jam I had made after the Ricotta Cake instead and beside keeping the proportions of solid to liquid the same, I departed from the recipe and made it my own according to what I had in the fridge. Coffee cakes are like good friends: strong and familiar, present and comforting.

You could use any combination of jam or marmelade that you want, but Sunny my market man gave me five pounds of Italian plums for only four dollars the other day and they got fast chopped up for jam! Since I wanted to use my Meyer lemons to their full capacity I kept the rinds of the ones used in the lemon curd for the ricotta cake and infused the jam with them. The flavor of the plum is now out of this world! For the topping I added finely ground almonds to enhance the plum flavor in the middle of the cake. Where the recipe called for cream cheese I opted for mascarpone cheese. I also substituted buttermilk and sour cream for the milk as I had ran out of bakig powder and only used baking soda for the leavining agent which only works if used with a sour ingredient. Since I sometimes have a difficult time putting my best English forward, go read Veronica’s post about it, she said ten times better than I would!

I followed a basic jam making method from Christine Ferber (our French June Taylor): put together in a large pot (I use a big Dutch oven) same weight of fruit to sugar, juice and zest of 4 lemons (I used the rinds of mine) and a vanilla bean. Bring to a summer, turn off the heat, cover the top with parchement paper and refrigerate overnight. The next day, take off the parchement paper, bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. Skim the top foam if necessary. Laddle in sterilized jar, cover with the lids. Submerge the cans in boiling water for 10-25 minutes, remove and let cool. If the top pops while they are cooling, you have canned them properly, if not, refrigerate and use within the week.

The only problem with the cake? I think I already ate too much of it to have enough left to share with my parents…Well darn, I’ll have to make more…hehehe!

Plum Meyer Lemon Jam Coffee Cake
Plum Meyer Lemon Jam Coffee Cake:

Serves 12 (in theory)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons butter
8 oz mascarpone, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
10 oz. plum lemon jam (or other)

Combine first 4 ingredients; cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle in a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan; set aside.
Beat mascarpone cheese, butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour and baking soda, add to the mascarpone cheese mixture alternately with the buttermilk and sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Spoon half of batter into prepared pan, spoon jam over batter, being careful not to allow the jam to touch the sides of the pan, top with the remaining batter.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for about an hour or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on a wire rack for ten minutes; remove from pan, and cool on wire rack.

Ricotta Cake With Meyer Lemon Curd

Ricotta Cake With Meyer Lemon Curd

I realize it could sound cliche or a little simple but this cake should really be called "Friendship Cake". It would not have been made, eaten and shared without the giving spirit of great friend:

Over the summer, Mary wrote several posts and shared recipes with Meyer lemons, each more tempting than the next. What started on my part as an innocent "I wish I could find Meyer lemons here" became a tortured "Mary, please send me some, I’ll pay for shipping!". Believe me, I searched everywhere in town for the coveted lemon and nothing…people would even give me the odd "why is it so important?". Well, if you have been reading this blog for a while you know by now how much I love anything and everything lemon, sour, tart, tangy and if bloggers on the west coast keep waxing poetic about the fragrant Meyer lemon, then I need to know what one tastes like.

Well, the postman rang the doorbell the other day handing B. a pretty heavy box and he exclaimed "It’s for you! From California"….Oh gosh, did I make a Recchiuti purchase in my sleep? Did I sleep walk to the computer and ordered Banana Cream Pie from Tartine?…No peeps…even better: Mary had sent me a box full of Meyer lemons! My eyes grew bigger, my tastebuds all awaken by the fragrance coming out from under the newpaper padding. I am aware that we all make food discoveries throughout our life but when you are of age to really enjoy what is under your nose, the experience is quite intoxicating. I have never had a lemon that tasted like a sour clementine with a faint smell of cardamom before. I am sure others will find that funny, but yes, I smell that spice everytime I bring one of those lemons to my nose…and it makes me happy!
I received Mary’s gift on friday and I have already put them to good use, not only with this cake, but in a batch of plum jam where I used the rinds to flavor the preserve, in sauces, ice creams and other cakes…just to give you a preview of things to come.

I was craving my beloved yogurt cake sunday afternoon but I wanted to try another recipe, something of the same substance but that would allow me to use the Meyer lemons as well as other ingredients. I was thinking ricotta instead of yogurt, and before following my usual recipe I decided to browse the web. Boy am I glad I did! I think I spent over an hour on both Sigrid’s blogs, looking at her magnificient photography and pretending to speak Italian fluently (!) and stumbled upon a recipe for a lemon ricotta cake from the sardinia region of Italy. Bingo! Fate!Kismet! or whatever else you find appropriate. I did not change much but reduce the sugar a bit. I also baked the cake in a rectangular pan and cut it in 5 long pieces, cut these in 3 separate layers and layered them with a light lemon curd filling(no butter in the cake or the curd). Perfect for an afternoon tea. I have to say that this is one of the desserts that never made it to the neighbors: I cut and froze slices so I could savour my precious loot for special times. You know, when you feel like bringing a friend closer to you although they are miles away, like tonight.

Mary, thank you. I truly hope that one day our paths do cross, in the kitchen and around a homemade meal. Yes folks, I have a wonderful friend, and I have never met her.

Ricotta Cake With Meyer Lemon Curd
Ricotta and Lemon Cake, adapted from here:

300 gr flour
200 gr sugar
300 gr. ricotta
3 eggs, separated
1 lemon , zest and juice
2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and sugar. Add the egg yolks, the lemon juice and zest, then the flour and baking powder. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff and getly incorporate them to the egg/flour batter.
Butter and flour a 13×9 inch baking pan and pour in the batter. Bake for 40 minutes or when a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. Let cool completely.
Divide the cake in three lenghtwise and 5 crosswise. (you may have leftover slices…just eat them plain or with a touch of jam). In a large loaf cake pan line with plastic wrap, layer slices of cake and Meyer lemon curd. Refrigerate. Slice and eat when you are ready!

Meyer Lemon Curd Filling:

grated zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1cup strained lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 packet gelatin, dissolved in 1/3 cup of water

Combine the zest, sugar, juice in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs until light.Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the gelatin in the microwave until dissolved, about 30 seconds. Remove the curd from the heat, stir in the gelatin and whisk until well incorporated. Let cool to room temp and use to fill the cake.
Strain and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Update: I realize I forgot to tell you what I used on top of the cake. I took about /2 cup to 3/4 of mascarpone and mixed in some honey and iced the top with this. I have done similar cakes with sour cream or cream cheese instead, worked as well.

Tartine’s Banana Cream Pie…With Caramel and Chocolate

Banana Cream Pie
I am nowhere close to Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and yet I get to have their Banana Cream Pie for dessert! Actually, it would be like going to Paris for a patisserie from my sugar daddy at that point! Except….one very generous blogger and friend, fellow Daring Baker, emailed Lisa and me one day saying she had an extra copy of Tartine and Balthazar and if we could decide which one we wanted she’d be happy to give them a new home. If I recall my email back was something along the line "I woul love the Tartine one, of it is okay with Lisa"…"please, please, please Lisa…." secretly crossing my fingers, hands and toes! As you can see I received the coveted one! Thank you Veronica…(and Lis!) I am enjoying it a lot and so is everyone else in the neighborhood!

It took me a while to decide what to make first. Really, all their pies look gorgeous, the cakes and cookies sound all so mouth watering and the pastries would make anybody drool (be right back, I forgot to wipe page 149 !).
Anyway, I had my in-laws over for dinner a couple of days ago and decided to end dinner with a very Southern treat, banana cream pie. I admit I am not a big fan of banana pudding, or pudding textures in general, except for my beloved pastry cream, but I wanted to make something that would show them my appreciation for all the wonderful things they have one for B. and me over the past 10 years. I looked online, I called my neighbor C., thinking that this good Southern girl would have a recipe for it somewhere…except that I had forgotten that C. is the one calling me for desserts so no luck there. I was started to think I would have to change my plan or come up with a botched up version of it, aka French banana cream pie – sacrilege!Nah! Can’t have that! I started daydreaming barely noticing I had my elbow propped up on Tartine. I looked down at the cover and saw the cutest pie…oh could it be?! Maybe they have a great non-pudding recipe for it! Sure they do, page 54: Banana Cream Pie, with caramel and chocolate…

Allright, so it’s not the speediest of pies to make, especially of you make individual ones, but you will be rewarded by a table of well fed, content, and well sugared guests. Just listen to this: flaky pie crust, layer of chocolate ganache, layer of caramel, pastry cream, bananas and if that was not enough a dollop of whipped cream! No pudding! No fake banana flavor!
I did change a couple of things (sorry, can’t help myself), that in my opinion only worked in its favor. Instead of the bakery’s caramel sauce, I used my beloved salted butter caramel sauce, and skipped the extra whipped cream on top as the pastry cream makes it rich enough and I think it would have masked the banana flavor. From what I can tell no one missed it…you know you did something right when there is pure sweet silence at the table!

Banana Cream Pie
Banana Cream Pie, with caramel and chocolate, adapted from Tartine.

Serves 8-12 (10 inch tart)

Flaky Pie Crust:
1 tsp / 5ml salt
2/3 cup/ 150ml very cold water
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons / 455 gr. flour
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons / 300 gr. chilled butter, cut into 1 inch cubes

In a small bowl, dissolve salt in water and keep cold.
To make dough with a food processor: put flour in the work bowl, scatter butter over flour, and pulse until the mixture forms large crumbs, but some of the butter is the size of peas. Add salted water and pulse for several seconds, until the dough comes together as a ball, but is not completely smooth (you should see some butter chunks).
On a floured surface, divide dough into two balls, shape into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
To fill a 10 inch tart pan, roll out one disk on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick, rolling from the center toward the edge in all directions, lifting and rotating the dough a quarter turn every few strokes. Cut out a circle 1½ inches larger than the tart pan and carefully transfer dough round to the pan (folding in half, if necessary), easing it into the bottom and sides and pressing into place, and trim the edge with a knife.Line with parchment paper and pie weights or dry beans.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Bake until the surface looks dry with no opaque areas left, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and remove parchment and weights or beans and return shell to oven for another few minutes. If the center starts to rise, gently pierce with a knife tip. Let cool completely.

Ganache Layer:
1 cup/ 250 ml heavy cream
3 oz/85 gr. bitter sweet chocolate

Set the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the heavy cream to boiling point and pour over the chocolate. Let stand a couple of minutes an gently stir until fully incorporated and glossy. Cool to room temperature. Pour over the cooled pastry shell and refrigerate.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce:
240 gr. sugar
80 ml water
115 gr salted butter
150 ml heavy whipping cream

In a heavy saucepan set over low heat, combine the sugar and water and heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter. Let it come to a boil and cook until it reaches a golden caramel color. Remove from the heat and add the cream ( it will splatter and get crazy, but do not fear and trust the recipe). Whisk to combine and put back on the stove. Let it come to a boil again over low heat and cook 10-15 minutes until you reach a nice creamy consistency. Let cool to room temperature.Pour over the cooled chocolate ganache and refrigerate.

Pastry Cream:
2 cups/ 500ml whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut open down the middle, seeded
1/4 tsp of salt
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 cup/ 110gr. sugar
2 large eggs
4 Tb/ 55 gr. butter, cut in small cubes

Heat the milk, vanilla seeds and salt in a pan and put over medium heat, and bring to a boil.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and eggs until smooth. Slowly add 1/2 of the milk mixture into the egg and whisk constantly to temper them. Add the remaining milk and return the whole thing to the saucepan. Cook until you get a thick consistency, whisking non-stop. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl, let cool for 10 minutes and then incorporate the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until smooth . Cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the cream, let cool completely.

Layer the pastry cream on top of the chocolate and caramel. Cut 2 ripe bananas in medium-thick slices (you know, not a mouthfull but not disintegrating when you pick it up), and arrange them over the cream, lightly pressing down. Decorate with chocolate shavings and if you really need it, some whipped cream.

Ok…there is something else that makes me beam with joy beside the pie: I will be wearing the 3rd Brownie Babe apron very soon! Go check Myriam's blogs for some seriously delicious brownies recipes. Wow! Just wow! There are so many incredible recipes I want to try soon, it is a great honor to be chosen among all these fine bakers. Ya’ll went all out! I have to thank Guillemette and Loukoum for this one, I stumbled onto the Marbled Ricotta Cheesecake Brownies one day by accident and decide that my friends on this side of the pond ought to have the recipe too!

Dark Chocolate Financiers

Dark Chocolate Financiers
I can hear you read the title "No Helen! Not another Financier recipe….please!" I know, I know, I have made them plenty of time myself, I have also seen them successfully baked and talked about on other blogs, so why would I subject my house to the wonderful aromas of dark chocolate and almonds on a sunday afternoon? To help a reader in search of a good recipe, that’s why… About a month ago, I received an email from A. asking me if I had a good recipe, easy enough for her to reproduce for dark chocolate financiers she had sampled at a local bakery and especially for a version in which the chocolate was not overpowering, but just "in the right amount".

First, I felt very flattered that a reader would come out and ask for help (everyday somebody new comes out of lurkdom, and that is always appreciated). Then I thought I had the perfect excuse to bake and sample many variations of one of my favorite mini cakes as I don’t lack financiers recipes. I could not tackle this project right away as I was entertaining a guest last month (and I have to admit, myself at the same time) and we had already decided on a few items to bake together. I decided that this past week was the perfect time to try different chocolate financiers recipe and finally nailing the one that had the perfect balance of chocolate to pastry. I know that everybody’s taste vary greatly in that regard but I think I have achieved success and hope that A. likes the outcome as much as we did.

I found a great recipe in a magazine I brought back from home this past Christmas and it was already adapted from Master Chocolatier Jean Paul Hevin. With such a source I felt confident to be steered in a good direction. Financiers are so easy to make, only the name makes them seem fancy. Not having the classic rectangular molds to make them (but they are on their way…thanks mom!), I used mini rectangular tart molds. Really people, do not hesitate making a recipe just because you do not have the "appropriate" or "classical" pans….what is more important?….Taste! Right!
I also made a hapy discovery while baking and sampling various recipes. Financiers are traditionally made with ground almonds and somehow in the middle of all that baking frenzy, I ran out….well, I found out that ground graham crackers make a suitable substitute, (in the same quantity) when you are in that predicament.
both in taste and flavor….who would have thought?! Anyway, on with the recipe…

Dark Chocolate Financiers
Dark Chocolate Financiers, adapted from Jean Paul Hevin:

Makes 12-16 depending on your molds

150 gr. semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped block)
150 gr. heavy cream
55 gr. powdered sugar
60 gr. butter (melted)
40 gr. flour
40 gr. ground almonds
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 egg whites

It is best to do everything by hand as you can control the folding of all the various ingredients better, and really it requires only a minimum of elbow grease.
In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat the cream to boiling point, pour over the chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Gently stir to melt the chocolate and cream together until smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, flour, ground almonds, baking powder.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites for a minute, just to break them up. Add them to the flour mixture carefully, before they are completely incorporated, add the melted butter. Finally, fold in the chocolate/cream mixture and fold until smooth.
Divide the batter into the molds (preferably coated with cooking spray or buttered), and bake at 350F for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven.
Let cool 5 minutes before you unmold them.

Well, the only issue I have with this recipe is that it does not make enough!!! So, A. I hope you get to try them soon and tell me what you think.

Baked Doughnuts…Baked Goodness

Baked Donuts

I know, it seems very strange to put "baked" and "doughnuts" in the same sentence and then expect you to believe me when I say they were good…but they were! But why would I turn a completely good fried piece of Americana into a baked good? Well, for once I was curious to try another recipe after my first success last year. I also have the same reason as last year for trying baked doughnuts yet again. My parents are coming to visit for a while and they love waking up to the scent of nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon….and my dad can’t resist the attraction of a good doughnut. However, they both have health issues that I have to take ito consideration when baking and cooking (heart and diabetes). Thus, the reason why I wanted to make a healthier version, and made this other version as a test run.

Looking online you will find dozens of recipes for baked doughnuts but how would you know if they are any good? Well, first you can always send me an email and I will force myslef to help you out and make a few batches, just to be on the safe side. On a more serious note, among all the interesting recipes I found online, I recognized two bloggers I had already followed in marbled chocolate cake goodness so I felt confident they would not stir me in a bad direction. One thing neither of us will tell you is that they "are exactly like doughnuts". The obvious reason being that they are not frying involved and like my predecessors I went for the cinnamon sugar topping instead of a powdered sugar glaze….sounded lighter. The resulting treats were not as soft and buttery to the mouth as the ones you get at Krispy Kreme for example but they make a good substitute when the craving hits. They are a tad chewier and more like soft pillows of dough but they were quickly devoured by our guests sunday morning, which is always a good sign.

Baked Donuts

Baked Doughnuts, adapted from this recipe:

1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
A pinch or two of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the yeast and sugar and set aside for five minutes or so to let it proof. Stir the butter into the remaining cup of warm milk and add it to the yeast mixture. With a fork, stir in the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt – just until the flour is incorporated. With the dough hook attachment of your mixer beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. Adjust the dough texture by adding flour a few tablepsoons at a time or more milk. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth. Turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead a few times (the dough should be barely sticky), and shape into a ball.
Transfer the dough to a buttered (or oiled) bowl, cover, put in a warm place, and let rise for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on your floured countertop. With a 2-3 inch cookie cutter, stamp out circles in the dough . Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stamp out the smaller inner circles using a smaller cutter. If you cut the inner holes out any earlier, they become distorted when you attempt to move them. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.
Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes – start checking around 8. While the doughnuts are baking, place the butter in a medium bowl. Place the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
Remove the doughnuts from the oven and let cool for just a minute or two. Dip each one in the melted butter and a quick toss in the sugar bowl. Eat immediately if not sooner.
Makes 1 1/2 – 2 dozen medium doughnuts.

– as Heidi suggests, it is best to do them the day you plan on eating them and not too early.
– remove them from the oven before you think they are done, they will continue to bake a little.
– make sure the holes in the middle are cut out pretty big as the donuts contine to rise as they bake and tend to swallow them back.
– you can make your dough, roll and cut out the donuts the night before and let them do their second rising in the fridge, covered. Set them out on the countertop an hour before baking so the yeast can wake up again….and you by the same time.

P.S: Last month I woke up to an early Christmas present: a nice lady named Tammy Wood emailed me with a beautiful collage of my pictures as a banner/header for my blog. She took pity on my attempts at spiffying the blog and "just made it one night"….Turns out she had come here via a common acquaintance, Aimee from Under The High Chair. I was beaming, fidgeting, amazed at her generosity. She is a professional who took the time to help me out, just because….! I quickly put it up and after much internal debate on my part I asked her if it were possible to change the pics to some of my favorites, which she promptly did upon her return from vacation. So peeps, look up, the images are different….I like both but this one is my favorite. Thank you Tammy…It is with people like you that humanity still goes round.

Walnuts Honey Tartelettes

Walnut Honey Tartelettes

I made these to satisfy a craving and to help a family member in need of satisfying hers. I know, it is difficult but I feel I should sacrifice my thighs to help family and friends….! When Sophie came to visit this past month, we tried to make her sample as many local delicacies as possible. We could not get okra and hot sauce to pass her lips but she acquired a taste for tortilla chips, chow-chow, Moose Tracks ice cream, and pecan pies…Yummmm! Of course, as godmother extraordinaire I promised her I would hunt for a recipe in French, using ingredients easily available for her and I would make a batch for the blog so she could get an idea of things to come. While my tree is not quite ready to give me the pecans I needed to come up with a substitute.

I was happy to provide her with a recipe and teach her how to make them but we were faced with a couple of problems. It would be difficult for her to find pecans and corn syrup in France to duplicate the recipe. I admit that I rarely use corn syrup when I make mine and I usually substitute maple syrup or honey without a problem. I don’t really have anything against corn syrup, I just don’t understand the concept of an odorless and tasteless syrup when I can use more flavorful ones. Don’t raise your arms up in the air people and scream "food snob", it is just my opinion, my palate, my tastebuds! The extra boost of flavor after that first bite is really something! As far as the pecans, I told her not to worry if she could not find them easily back home and that walnuts made a great substitute. Since I made them a couple of days ago, I have tried them again with pine nuts, pistachios, cashews and I am happy to report that each nut bring an new dimension to the tartelettes (or tassies as they are often called).

Walnuts Honey Tartelettes

Since I found this recipe on a French blog, La Petite Cuisine, written by the lovelie Elodie, I will provide the measurements in grams but feel free to convert using this site. Like her, I usually use a shortbread crust for nut pies. They are already quite rich so why not continue with the idea and make them even richer?!

Walnut Honey Tartelettes, adapted from La Petite Cuisine.

Makes 4 4-inch tartelettes, and 8-10 mini tassies.
For the tart shells: (not provided by Elodie, but this is my go-to recipe)

1 stick plus 1 Tb. butter, cut in small pieces

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 egg yolk

In a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and pulse again. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. Roll between sheets of plastic wrap and cut out circles larger than your tart shells, fit the dough into the molds and cut out the excess. Set them on a sheet pan and bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Because the dough has a tendency to puff up, I take the shells out halfway through the baking process and pat the bottoms flat with the back of a spoon.

For the filling:

150g chopped walnuts
2 eggs
75g butter, melted
100g light brown sugar
100g honey

In large bowl, whish the eggs with the brown sugar an the honey. Add the melted butter.Divide the walnuts among the tart shells. Slowly pour the filling over the nuts, trying not to move them around too much. Bake at 350 for about 20 mits or until deep golden brown.

Walnut Honey Tartelettes

I know I liked them a lot…I ate a obscene number of the mini ones but in an attempt to be completely fair for Sophie, I had B. and the neighbors try some and they all approved of the honey/walnuts combo. So go ahead dear and have fun!

In the meantime, I am taking a fresh batch to Lisa’s and Ivonne’s Festa Al Fresco coming up on September 3rd…what are ya’ll bringing?!