Monday, June 29, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies, by Martha Stewart
These tender cookies are made with cream and studded with sweet strawberries for a portable version of a classic dessert.
Makes about 3 dozen.
* 12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
* 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining
7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.
2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Temper's Take:
They pretty much live up to their description a portable version of Strawberry Shortcake. I love real strawberry shortcake. During the summer we use to pick strawberries in 5 gallon buckets. There were evening when that was supper. And none of that sponge cake stuff you get from the unenlightened. Ah those were the days.

for an on the go treat these weren't bad, they went together quick which is good considering their short life span, but really I prefer the real stuff. maybe with some other fruit...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

DB: Bakewell Tart

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Temper's Take:
I chose to make a chocolate-cherry tart and mini-tarts with chocolate, lemon or black and blueberry jam. All were good, some were just better than others, more on that later. Would I make it again? Definitely (with some adjustments) it is pretty simple and looks and tastes fancy, whats not to like?

The best flavors where the lemon curd and the plain chocolate. I also preferred the mini-tart size, it was just so cute and bite sized! The almond flavor of the frangipane is so simple and delicate that the more complicated flavors overwhelmed it and the Morrelle Cherry jam was just to rich. The simple tartness of the lemons and the rich smoothness of the chocolate was a wonderful match. There are definitely other flavor combos out there I am going to have to play with.

I especially love the way the frangipane turned out, I was afraid it would have a puddeny texture but it was closer to a cake texture wise. The mini-tarts showed this better and I liked their color better, the tart fell a little when I removed it from the oven and got a bubbly top which wasn't as pretty. I think that is just an experience thing. I am thinking of using a pie pan instead of a tart pan next time so I can have more frangipane.

The crust had an exorbitant amount of butter in it and as I did not make a thick crust I couldn't see where it added that much to the flavor. Next time I may just go with a regular crust or try a different shortbread crust (I have one I use with cheese cake that is very nice).

Monday, June 8, 2009

4 stars and mushrooms

My love affair with mushrooms started in my childhood with Morels. Every spring my father and a bunch of friends would go morel hunting. Later while they were enjoying an orgy of mutual grooming (morel season is also tick season) Mom cook up the days bounty.

I will never forget the taste of those mushrooms. They were sweet and nutty and meltingly good. I have no idea what Mom did to them (other than use butter) but it was good. Every spring I still get the craving for morels but alas they are not to be found here in Texas and dried is just not the same.

It should there for come as no surprise when the Mushroom Council invited me to attend an event at Abacus to discuss mushrooms and their changing roles in cuisine and the food industry with recipe demo and 3 course meal by chef Kent Rathburn I jumped at it. I mean 4 star restaurant, Iron chef winner (take that Flay) and mushrooms, how could it be better?

I will tell you how, I got to meet Kelly of Evil Shenanigans, she was the other blogger present. The pictures in this post are from her since my camera batteries died after 1 picture. To be honest she did a better job then I ever could have. Go see her post about the event here.

Actually this post is just a teaser, I am writing an article about the experience for Blake Makes magazine that will have actual recipes and other cool information in it (but probably not alot of me gushing about how great it was).

Chef Kent Rathburn demonstrated three techniques for cooking mushrooms in three recipes featuring 6 diffrent readily available mushrooms. He did a 'Wood Grilled Portabella and Oyster Mushroom Pizza with Gorgonzola, Rocket Greens Salad', a 'Pan Roasted Shitake and Button Mushroom Linguine with Braised Veal Shank, Port Demi' and a 'Crimini and Maitake Mushroom Ragu with Grilled Romano Cheese Polenta'. It was easy to see why Chef Rathburn beat Flay on Iron Chef, all three dishes were fantastic and show cased the mushrooms beautifully. I have made up my mind it is worth saving the money for truely fine dining as opposed to eating out more often at chain resturaunts.

I will admit that the Pizza was my favorite (and with any luck it will be the recipe in the magazine). Two things in this dish reduced me to happy sounds and silly smiles. The first was of course the mushrooms, delicately smoked and oh so tender, good lord I could have eaten them straight up and been happy. The second thing was the oven roasted cherry tomatoes. They were like little savory raisins, sweet, tangy and a hint of herbs. These are definitely going on my make them often list and Indra can just suffer in her little tomato free zone, cause they are just that good. (I will put the instructions for these at the bottom of this post). He topped the pizza with a rocket and gorganzola salad, somehow all the flavors came together to make me like gogonzola and rocket salad with a lemon vinigret (not something I thought possible). This dish has made me rethink all those fancy cookbooks I have been shunning as pretensious and overly complicated.

The second dish was very good but just did not wow me. I will admit the veal was melt in you mouth smooth and flavorful, and perhaps that was the problem I wanted more of the delicious sauteed mushrooms darn it! Now I know veal is a bad word and I can understand the objections, I just am not sure I support the cause 100%. I definitly support eating tasty food, and veal fits that catagory, but all things considered it may be one of those foods that is just not worth the price for me.

The final dish was a revelation to me, the polenta cake was light and fluffy in texture, not something I thought you could do with polenta. Add some maitake mushrooms (Kelly and I both swore they had a sweet floral / honey note to them) and I was sold.

I learned that mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable that contains vitamin D. Mushrooms are a very eco friendly crop (lots of recycling) and wasn't the video fun as it tried to avoid saying exactly what the major component in the growth medium was. We also learned that most mushroom growers would love to give you a tour of their facility. Definitely something I am going to try.

Don't forget to check out the Mushroom Councils website and Blog for recipes, news and contests.

To make Oven roasted Cherry tomatoes heat your oven to the extreemely high temprature of 180. cut your tomatoes in half and toss them with a little roasted garlic oil and herbs. spread face up on baking sheet and roast for about 1.5 hours. Nothing should get crispy. remove and enjoy, they will stay good for a week or so with proper care put they are not like raisin that you can stuff in the cupboard and will still be good months later.