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Lemon Meringue…One Last Time

I don’t know if you are like me but I seem to have two kinds of shopping trips. There is the "quickie", as in quickly in and quickly out (depending who’s in front at the cash register) to get a couple of items I may have forgotten for dinner or something. The second kind, my favorite, is the one in which I have my baking plans carefully thought with a list of ingredients necessary and where I have and take the time to perouse the aisles checking out new products, picking up, touching, smelling fruits and vegetables, talking with the fish guy or my salad guy. He calls me "papillon" because like a butterfly I go from one bin to the next but can’t make up my mind on anything. It is during those longer shopping outings that I often get sucked into buying a case of fruits or other because it is a one day sale, and you probably figured by the title of today’s post that this is what happened when I found myself hauling a case of lemon out to my car.
I tried to do everything possible, lemon curd, preserves, cocktails, but irreversibly found myself drawn to the citrus recipes I found in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours.

I had a difficult time settling on one and I promised myself to try the others fairly soon,as they look and sound so tempting: Pierre Herme’s Lemon Cream tart, Fresh Orange Cream Tart, Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie, Florida Pie,….and the one chosen today: Tartest Lemon Tart.

I decided to make individual tarts and changed the ingredients only very slightly.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Dorie Greenspan.

2 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
1 1/2 Tb. cornstarch
Sweet Tart Dough or your prefered pate sablee.

For the dough: in a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 stick of butter, pulse until it ressembles coarse meal, add 1 egg yolk and pulse until combined into a ball. I flattened it into a disk in between sheets of plastic wrap, refrigerated it and rolled it out to cut rounds big enough to fit into my mini tart pans. The dough gets soft very fast so you can flour your fingertips to push it up and down the sides and bottoms of the pans.You can also sub. 1/4 cup ground nuts for 1/4 cup of the flour for added flavor.

For the filling: juice the lemons and strain if necessary. Combine the egg, yolks, sugar and cornstarch, add lemon juice and pour into the tart shells. Bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the meringue: whip the egg whites to a foam, slowly add the sugar to form a shiny meringue. Pipe on top of the baked and cooled tarts. Put under broiler for a couple of minutes or until lighlty browned.

Serve, and pucker be ready…these are tart!

Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding

I meant to post this last night but my computer went on strike, just got it back working this afternoon.

I realized there had not been a banana post in a while and figured it was about time, now that I have been reading this book for a couple of days and found a yummy recipe. The original one is for a dark chocolate bread pudding with raisins, but with hubby having an aversion to the little critters and a never ending love for bananas, the decision to swap them quickly became a requirement. The recipe calls for stale bread but with my parents visiting there never seem to be any left around the house so I took some brioche and let it dry in the oven at 200 for 30 minutes. The resulting dessert was delicious and is only tempting me to make the original and compare.

Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding, adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking From My Home To Yours.

12 oz. stale bread (brioche, white, challah)
2-3 bananas,sliced
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
5 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter the bottom and side of a 9×13 inch baking pan, and put it in a roasting pan. Spread the stale bread and bananas evenly on the bottom.
Heat the milk and cream to boiling point. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale. Slowly add the milk and cream to the mixture. Add the chocolate and stir until incorporated and batter is smooth. Pour on top of the bread and the bananas. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour hot water halfway up the side of the baking pan, so you have a nice water bath (bain marie) going on. Bake 35-45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clear.

The pudding was light yet rich, consistent but not stuffing. The chocolate and cream added great depth to all the flavors.

Gateau Aux Pommes

When Stephanie sent an open invitation to her Kids' Blog Party, I decided to play with fairy tales and came up with caramel apples. To find the perfect one, I had to buy a whole bag. Every self respecting blogger knows what I am talking about, we have to go through an entire stack of anything just to find the perfect one: not too big, not too small, not too bumpy, not too lumpy, and so forth. It is still summer weather here and my baking spirit is still thinking of plums, nectarines and other stone fruits. As a goood shopper, I just can’t let an entire bag of good apples go to waste, so I started to perouse several cookbooks… until my mom pulled out yet another trick out of her suitcase: about 10 handwritten recipes that I used to make regularly as a kid. I took a trip down memory lane reading about Lenotre’s fruit cake, chocolate mousse, yogurt cake and my beloved Gateau Aux Pommes.

I had it! We were saved! My bag of apples would not encounter a tragic end (without baking) but would rather find its fate in a light cake topped with a buttery crust. I remember copying this recipe from an old Tupperware brochure that came with a set of containers my mom had purchased.

Gateau Aux Pommes, Apple Cake, adapted from Tupperware:

1/2 cup flour
1/8 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
pinch of salt

for the glaze:
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg

Mix together the flour, cornstarch and sugar. Incorporate the milk, oil and eggs so that you get a smooth batter. Pour the batter into a buttered 9 inch pan. Layer the apples on top and bake at 350 degrees until light golden. In the meantime, prepare the glaze. Whisk the egg and sugar until very plae, incorporate the butter and vanilla extract. When the cake is lightly golden, pour the glaze ontop and put the cake back in the oven until completely baked through. It should have a nice crunchy top from the glaze but stay moist thanks to the apples.

Very easy, comforting and satisfying. I guess we are getting ready for fall after all.

Can’t say goodbye

I just can’t say goodbye to the flavors of summers, especially lemons or nectarines. As I mentionned before, I have to tailor my desserts to a diabetic and a heart patient for the next couple of weeks. After (over) indulging in creme brulee the other night, we needed a little break. When asked "what would you like for dessert" nobody could give me a direction : "Oh, anything you want, it’ll be great". Thanks! Now I know where I get my indecisions from! I needed better than that so I went with the questionning game: mousse, fruit, chocolate, citrus, cake? Come on people, help me! After a 5 minute conversation we all agreed on citrus and mousse. I gave a look in the pantry and noticed a pack of "boudoirs" or ladyfingers, also known as Savoiardi. It would be easy in this house to have straight lemon mousse, so I thought about layering it with the biscuits and there it was:


The core of this recipe is lemon curd and I had noticed a lighter version in Alice Medrich’s Chocolate and the Art of Low Fat Desserts that seemed more appropriate for my guests than the usual one finished off with butter. I usually double up on the ingredients to make lemon pie but faced with a spur of the moment decision I did not have enough lemons to do so, and altough my glasses are not full, the servings were perfect for a light dessert.

Here is the recipe for the lemon curd, slightly adapted from Alice Medrich:

– grated zest of one lemon
– 1/2 cup strained lemon juice
– 5 Tb. sugar
– 1 egg

Combine lemon zest. juice and sugar in a small saucepan on the stove and bring to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until light.
Beat some of the hot lemon mixture into the egg. Scrape the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook, stirrring constantly and reaching all over the bottom and sides of the saucepan. Continue to cook and stir for 15 seconds. Pour through a strainer set over a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent forming a skin, allow to cool before use.

For the mousse; whip 2 egg whites to a foam, slowly incorporate 1/4 cup sugar, one Tb. at a time, until you get a glossy meringue.Fold gently into the lemon curd.
Layer ladyfingers and mousse in glasses or dishes and serve.
Nice, refreshing and perfectly appropriate to watch the sunset.

Untitled Post

No recipe tonight, enjoying the parents and my new acquisition, this book by Dorie Greenspan. I see trouble on the horizon as there are no recipe I do not wish to make!

Improv

My parents' suitcases are real treasure troves when they come and visit. My mother usually brings me a couple of cookbooks, some spices, some baking ingredients I have a difficult time finding here. There is a collection of Lindt chocolate bars, with nibs of macarons, tiramisu, Irish coffee, or nougat, bar after bar of Valhrona chocolate, you get the drift.

We spend countless hours at the table reminiscing about family dinners, holiday parties and other gatherings. They have gotten very involved in my blogging in the last few months and always bring interesting comments about the photographs but mostly about the food and the items I bake. The main questions are "what do you do with all of that? Who eats it?", to which my husband answers by rubbing his belly and the neighbor pokes his head out the window around 6 pm. for a sugar fix!

What does this has to do with "improvising"? Well, I don’t have much time to sit and read blogs, or play around in my kitchen because every minute of my time is devoted to them. I love them visiting don’t get me wrong, but I pretty much have to put "selfish" activities on the back burner for a while. And there you have it, my blogger’s dilemna: I have just enough time between our outing, indulging my craving for chocolate with an easy to put together recipe and the last of the good light outside to take a semi descent shot.

I decided to make hazelnut shortbread cookies and to fill them with a dark chocolate and carambars ganache. Carambars are really cool caramels, wrapped in colorful paper with jokes on the inside. I guess you could substitute any semi soft caramel candy you like, these have kind of a toffee flavor. At first glance, the recipe does not seem to comply with my time restriction but on the contrary! You can make everything in the morning and finish the assembly in the afternoon or before dinner. You can also make throughout the day if you have more time around the house.

Shortbread cookies: adapted from Chocolate Passion, by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty

(By the way, run to get this book, everything I have made was amazing!)

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
2 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 tsp. cognac

Ground the hazelnuts with 1/2 cup of the sugar. In mixer bowl, cream together the butter and remanining sugar, add the hazelnuts and flour until the dough comes together. Divide the dough into 4 balls and shape each piece into a disc of 4 inches in diameters in between two sheets of plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm.
Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut rounds with plain or scalloped 2 inch cookie cutters. Gather scraps, form a ball and refrigerate. Roll out dough and start the whole cutting process again.
Bake in a 35o degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the ganache:
12 ounces sewisweet dark chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chopped carambars or any caramels you like

Heat the cream until it comes to a boil. Lower the heat down and add the caramels, stir until they are melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Let stand for a couple if minutes and then stir until all the chocolate is incorporated and the ganache is smooth. Let it cool 15-20 minutes until spreadable but not stiff.

At this point you can spread the ganache with a spatula between 2 cookies and call it a day or fill a pastry bag with it and pipe rounds between 2 or 3 cookies like I have done. These were more than a bite full but were thoroughly enjoyed instead of dessert with a good espresso.

It is my 100th post! Champagne, here I am!

Look What I Found In My Egg!

Now that I am hooked on blogging events, I get really worried when we lose our Internet connection. Such was the case last night and I got really nervous about not making the deadline for this month SHF "Surprise Inside". Now that it’s back, this is the third post I write about it. I write it up all the way to the end and hit the wrong button and lose the whole thing. I am getting frustrated. Nothing than a shortbread cookie can’t fix…feeling better already!

When I read the word "surprise" I thought "how fun" and I knew exactly what to make. Years ago at the restaurant we had a banquet for some big honchos from Grand Marnier and I had to make a bite size dessert plate incorporating the flavor. I’ll never forget that day: the anxiety of coming up with creative, intense and somewhat light spirited (no pun) desserts because these guys were gourmet big suits with a sweet tooth. I made bite size Grand Marnier cheesecakes, cream puff swans with Grand Marnier mousse and Grand Marnier creme brulee in egg shells. Out of all the desserts presented that night, the creme brulee got the highest praise. Not only did they taste great (if I may give myself a pat on the back) but they SURPRISED everyone by being baked and served inside an egg. After all, what is a creme brulee if not an (elaborated) egg custard.

I love creme brulee, but since the days I used to make 50-75 a day at the restaurant, I seldom serve one for dessert. Not because of the egg yolk/cream factor but because it is so simple of a dessert that I often overlook it. Really, it is not a complicated thing if you respect all the steps, and I often think that the reason why I don’t make them is because I have no willpower when I see one, and two, and three…you get the picture.

There are several ways to make brulees, I learn this one from the pastry chef I replaced at the restaurant. It worked everytime so I never changed it. You can flavor it any way you wish, in this case I did the good old Grand Marnier version.
For 8 shells:
1 cup egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup liquor if using

Prepare the shells: break the eggs you will need for the recipe very carefully. Separate the yolks and whites. Rinse the shells under cold water and leave to dry.

Prepare your pan: take a muffin pan and put a small piece of sandwich bread in the bottom of each cabity and make an indentation with your fingers to create a nest for the egg shells. Make sure your pan will fit in a large roasting pan.

In a bowl, whip the egg yolks and sugar until very pale. Heat the cream almost to boiling point. Slowly whisk the cream into the yolks, stirring constantly. Let cool 10 minutes and park in the fridge until completely cold. Pour the batter through a sieve to eliminate foam. Divide among the shells.Put hot water in the bottom of your roasting pan and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

For the burnt sugar tops: mix equal part brown sugar and white sugar and sprinkle about 1/2 Tb. on top of each shells. Put under the broiler until nicely browned.

Dainty Not Quite Donuts

My parents have arrived and brought along with them a suitcase full of goodies and a couple of restrictions. See, I now have a diabetic and a heart patient living in Zee House of Sweets (!), thus my cooking and baking has to adapt. In the meantime, they surely did not come empty handed bringing a dozen of gourmet chocolate bars, caramels, hazelnut praline powder and other delicacies to bake with. More challenges!

Everybody in my family loves donuts, cakey or yeasty does not matter as long as they have that particular flavor of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. I have been wanting to make batch for a while and thought that their visit was a great opportunity to do so…. but I love them and surely want to preserve their health! I looked for a while for the recipe that would allow me to make baked donuts without losing texture and flavor. I decided upon a recipe fro Martha Stewart and tweaked it so I would send my mom’s insulin pump into a frenzy and my dad’s heart into shock.

I love that the recipe starts with a sponge one day, sat overnight and more yeast was added along with the flour and some buttermilk… all these words sounded like the end result could be quite light and airy if modified properly.

After following her recipe, I added enough flour to have still a sticky dough, but one that could be handled and kneaded a little bit, allowing me to form some nice little balls. I let them rise again and baked them with a light sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.

The result: just perfect, we can’t stop eating them! Great way to have some dounuts without taking that deep fryer out.

Here is her recipe and my adaptation:

Dainty Doughnuts, adapted from Martha Stewart

2 envelopes (2 scant tablespoons) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm (110°) water
3 1/4cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface , ( I added 1 cup )
2 tablespoons buttermilk, warm
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large egg yolks , (I used 3 whole eggs)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Peanut or canola oil, for deep-frying, (I passed)
1 cup superfine sugar, for coating
Nonstick cooking spray

1. In bowl of electric mixer with paddle, stir 1 envelope yeast into 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup flour; beat with paddle on low until combined. Cover; chill this “sponge” overnight.
2. Remove sponge from refrigerator; bring to room temperature. In separate bowl, mix remaining envelope yeast, 2 tablespoons warm water, and the buttermilk. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
3. Mix remaining 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, and salt. Add buttermilk mixture, egg yolks, and cooled melted butter. Beat on low until dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Add sponge; beat until dough is soft and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes. On clean surface, knead a few turns into a ball. Coat bowl with cooking spray; add dough smooth side up. Cover; let stand in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 3 hours.
4. Cut dough into thirds; cover with plastic wrap. On lightly floured surface, roll out each piece 1/4 inch thick. Using 2-inch and 3/4-inch cookie cutters, cut out doughnuts and centers. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand in a warm place to rise, 15 minutes.
5. Sprinkle some sugar combined with cinnamon (to taste) on top of them and bake at 35o degrees for 10 minutes. Add powdered sugar if desired. (I only did it for the picture).

BBM: My Package Has Arrived!

As you know I have been participating in the second Blogging By Mail organized and orchastrated by Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness. I had a lot of fun putting some goodies together to send off to a far away country (I’ll give you only this bit in case that blogger wanders on this site), but I had even more fun receiving a package from Lisa at La Mia Cucina. She included a lovely note with a bunch of goodies.

Let me tell you what we are going to be lucky to enjoy and actually already have:

Local honey, bell pepper and romano dressing, vidalia onion and peach salsa, a Valhrona dark chocolate bar, a roseberry and dark chocolate bar, local honey roasted peanut butter and homemade buckeyes. I have to say that the peanut butter and candies suffered from the heat during the delivery process so they were quickly put in the fridge. We had a couple of buckeyes last night and they are sinfully delicious. We enjoyed the peanut butter on some toast this morning. Lisa, hubby thinks you rock because honey roasted is the only kind he likes. I think you rock because everything was so thoughtful.

I made salmon last night and put a spoonful of the salsa on top of a couple of fillet after searing them and it was AWESOME! I plan on trying the dressing on m salad tonight and I am sure my parents will enjoy the honey with their brioche tomorrow.

Thank you, thank you! Hop to pop one more buckeye in my belly!

Blog Party 14: Snow White Got Invited

I always seem to do the same thing when Stephanie throws a party: I get caught up with not so fun things to do and end up watching from the sideline while everybody brings a lovely dish and a drink. After the last one, I told myself that I would participate no matter what the theme was. I kind of bit my tongue and waited anxiously for this month' s theme.

Usually when I throw myself challenges I always wish I had put my foot in my mouth. Yep, that’s how I ended up challenging the neighbor to push ups and hurt for 3 days afterwards, or got myself enrolled in a 5K (albeit for a good cause), and last but not least making 3 wedding cakes in our old tiny kitchen for the same day….Now you understand why I sit quietly for a while before jumping in. But revenons a nos moutons, let’s get back to our topic.

This month’s theme is all about the kids. Seems quite easy at first glance, but when you have been an adult for a while and you don’t have children it can seem quite intimidating. My first inclination was to cheat and sit this one out again, but then my inner child woke up.

I was always the kid with her nose burried in books. I even used to read in the darkness of my room, only using the light of the fading sun reflecting on the white closets; it actually is often bright like this in the South of France. I must be quite a romantic because I loved (still do) fairy tales. Enchanted forests, fantastic heroes, dark and dramatic castles. I would spend hours imaginaing dresses, attires, dialogues. My parents had these great books on tapes with all the famous fairy tales that they would play on road trips and I could recite them in my sleep.

Charles Perrault, the Grimm brothers, Stahl, Madame d’Aulnoy,…I loved these stories because as a gourmande, I was always fascinated by the opulent descriptions of the kings and queens tables and feasts. I would imagine each dish, create a smell and a taste that could only be found in the imaginary. It struck me as an adult how much food is a central theme of fairy tales, rich or poor, everybody used it, ate it, gathered around it. Penachio and his 200 bread rolls and 200 chocolate mugs, Alice in Wonderland and her Eat Me Cake, Hansel and Gretel and their gingerbread house, Little Red Riding Hood and her biscuits for grandma. It is no wonder that my childhood friends came back to pay me a visit and all wanted to get invited to this Blog Party #14!

Which one to pick? I wanted to bring them all to the party! Here in South Carolina, Summer is still lingering and Fall is barely making an appearance, yet beautiful red and gold apples were everywhere at the market. Hence, only Snow White made the cut and got an invitation. Her only requirement was to bring one of her delicious apples, except I got her the spot so no poisonous ones , thank you very much, but drenched and nested in beautiful caramel.

Snow White Caramel Apples (serves 4)

4 small apples, washed and toweled dry

500 gr. sugar

juice of half a lemon

125 gr. water (125 ml)

In a saucepan, combine sugar, lemon juice and water. Boil until a candy thermomether reads 155 Celsius (very light amber color). Pour over each apples. I set mine on a cookie rack over a sheet pan.

Reheat the caramel a bit and using 2 forks, dip them into the caramel and drizzled caramel strings over parchment paper. Gather around the apples and enjoy!

Note: I wanted more strings of caramel but I forgot that I was in the South and today was particularly humid, even in the house, so aramel work almost turned into caramel shmuck!

I got really nostalgic making these and craved my favorite kid drink, a hot chocolate with whipped cream and dusted with nutmeg.
Thanks Stephanie for the invite. Can’t wait to see what everybody brings!