• Fresh Fruit Tart

    So ever since we’ve had a minimum of one nice day a week, I have convinced myself that the warm weather is here to stay, and with that comes an overpowering desire to bake with summer fruits, you know? I’ve been waiting for the rhubarb to arrive at the farm since practically last spring, but thanks to the stubborn cold weather, it won’t be for sale for around another month. A MONTH. I am devastated, as you can imagine, so to try and fill the void left in its wake, I made this tried-and-true fruit tart last weekend and I am happy to say that there was not a crumb left after dessert.

    It begins with a buttery tart shell with just a hint of sweetness, topped with vanilla pastry cream that is literally so good that I ate the leftovers out of the bowl with a spoon, and an artfully disheveled pile of fresh fruit on top. The best part about this is that you can really use whatever fruits you feel like based on what’s in season- blueberries and blackberries alone would make a gorgeous and dramatic looking tart, pitted cherries or mango or some stewed rhubarb- it’s totally up to you what fruits should be featured. For this one, I settled on what I could find at the store because it’s technically not berry season, so I was going to take what I could get, but I would love to hear your flavor ideas as well!

    I’m posting this on a Saturday because this week just got away from me, but hopefully this will give you an excuse to try your hand at this tart right away. As for me, I will be looking for any excuse to use a blowtorch so I think I’m seeing a meringue pie in my future. Happy Saturday!

    Tart Shell Ingredients
    from 
    The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

    2 cups All Purpose Flour
    3 tablespoons granulated sugar
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    10 tablespoons salted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
    ¼ cup ice water

    Pastry Cream Ingredients
    from 
    The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

    3 cups whole milk
    ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
    ¾ cup granulated sugar (divided into ¼ cup for milk mixture and ½ cup for egg yolk mixture)
    2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), or ½ vanilla bean (seeds and pod)
    5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
    1/3 cup cornstarch
    3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

    Plus assorted fruit and berries, to top

    Steps

    1. Using a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and the butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender or mix with your hands until the butter is incorporated in the same way.

    2. Move the mixer from the food processor to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the ice water into the middle and knead with your hands until the dough comes together and looks smooth. At this point, it should not be overly sticky or too wet. Wrap this dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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    All ready to roll!

    While the dough is chilling, start your pastry cream here.

    3. Combine milk, salt, and ¼ cup of the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the vanilla (extract or paste), or add the seeds and the pod of the vanilla bean to the mixture. Heat to a simmer over medium heat- do not let it boil!

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    Confession: I forgot to capture the pastry cream I was making this time, but this is what the beginnings will look like!

    4. Meanwhile, in a glass bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the cornstarch so that they are evenly mixed without lumps. Whisk the egg yolks into this bowl until all is incorporated.

    5. When the milk is simmering, remove the vanilla bean there is one and turn the heat to medium-low. Slowly, and whisking constantly to prevent scrambled eggs, add a little of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture to temper. Then, pour the bowl of egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk and return the pot to the stove, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula until the mixture is thick and just about to bubble, about 5 minutes.

    6. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter until incorporated. Chill in the fridge until cold and set, pressing plastic wrap directly to the surface to prevent a skin forming.

    Back to the tart dough!

    7. Let your dough rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes so that it rolls out easily. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. On a lightly floured surface, roll your dough into one large circle, about 2 inches wider than your desired pan on all sides. Make sure to check periodically to make sure that the dough isn’t sticking to your work surface, and re-flour as necessary.

    8. Very carefully roll the finished dough over the rolling pin, and then drape into your tart pan, pressing it into place and allowing the extra dough to hang over the side. If you’re using a metal fluted pan (like I am), you can roll your rolling pin over the top of the pan, and the excess dough will be cut off, leaving you with a perfectly neat tart.

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    Look at those perfect edges!

    9. To blind bake this crust (bake without a filling in it), cut a square of parchment paper slightly larger than the pan size and place it in the pan on top of the crust. Fill this with dried beans, rice, or pie weights and bake like this for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust starts to turn golden.

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    Ready for blind baking!

    10. Remove the parchment paper and weights from the shell and return the tart to the oven, baking for another 10 minutes until it’s evenly golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with 1 egg white- the heat of the shell will cook the egg white and seal the tart to prevent a dreaded soggy crust. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan.

    11. When the shell has completely cooled, fill with the chilled pastry cream, and top with your desired choice of berries and other fruits. Now, eat the whole thing in one sitting and never look back.

    xoxoxoxoxoxD

     

  • Passionfruit Macarons

    So something BIG happened this week, and that big thing was that someone was brave enough to pay me to bake for them! A few weeks ago after a tough work week, I brought in a batch of these passionfruit macarons as a morale booster, and my sweet sweet coworker then asked me to make some this weekend for a party she’s having. So the pressure was on because macarons are notoriously temperamental, but the gods of french baking were smiling down on me because these cookies went off largely without a hitch.

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    Still some cracks, but it’s okay to be perfectly imperfect because the taste is remarkable!

    Something that I’ve been noticing when I make macarons sometimes is their tendency to crack on the tops, and for so long I couldn’t figure out why. After some research and many MANY trials, it seems that the batter cracks for a few reasons, like a batter with too much liquid, a batter that’s under-mixed, or an environment that’s too humid. But never fear, there are solutions for all of these problems! To keep a batter from getting too wet, switch to gel food colorings instead of liquid. Not only will you get a more vibrant color, but you’ll be using way less food coloring while you’re at it. Next, when mixing your final batter (after the flour mixture is added to the whipped eggs), you’d be surprised how much mixing you actually have to do. I always used to be afraid of mixing too much and deflating the egg whites, BUT it turns out you have to mix the batter until it’s thin enough that when you lift up your spatula, the batter flows off in a v-shape like lava. Lastly, the humidity is a little tricky. If you desperately need to make these on a humid day, keep all the windows closed and crank the air conditioner way up to keep it cool and dry. If this isn’t possible, you may just have to postpone your macaron adventures until a less-humid day. Who knew cookies could be so high maintenance?

    It’s important to remember that no matter what happens, these cookies will taste SO good that no one who eats one will even notice if there are some cracks. The passionfruit is tart and summery and a perfect compliment to the delicate sweetness of the almond cookie base and the rich buttercream. Feel free to make your own passionfruit curd if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, but since the cookies are labor intensive on their own, I figured I’d give myself a break and use store bought passionfruit curd (which, btw, I could eat with a spoon out of the jar). Anywho, let’s get started, happy baking!

    Makes: About 50 2-inch complete macarons (depending on how big you pipe them)
    Prep Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour
    Bake Time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 1.5 hours

    Macaron Ingredients: (adapted from Ladurée Sucré: The Recipes)

    2¾ cups + 1 tbs almond flour (ground almonds)
    2 cups + 1 tbs confectioners sugar
    6 egg whites + ½ an additional egg white, separated and lightly whipped until foamy
    1 cup + 1 tbs granulated sugar
    Yellow gel food coloring

    Macaron Steps:

    1. Begin by prepping your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Do NOT grease your pans for this type of cookie.

    2. In a large bowl, sift together the ground almonds and confectioners sugar to remove all lumps. Set aside.

    3. In the (CLEAN, GREASE-FREE) bowl of your mixer, whip the 6 egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add in a third of the granulated sugar and beat until it has dissolved. Add in another third, beat until dissolved, and then add the last third. Add the food coloring at this point to achieve the desired yellow color. I went for a lighter one this time, but it’s totally up to you! Whip this mixture until the egg whites are pure white and can stand up on their own when the beater is removed, it should be about 5-7 minutes total.

    4. Fold the almond flour mixture into the egg white mixture, continuously mixing until all the flour is incorporated and, when the spatula is lifted out of the batter, the batter flows like lava in a v-shape back into the bowl. If your batter seems too thick, slowly add a little of the extra ½ egg white, a little at a time, mixing until the right consistency is reached.

    5. Pour this mixture into a piping bag fitted with a wide circle tip (or just cut the tip of the piping bag into a 1 inch wide circle or so). Pipe the macarons about 2 inches in diameter, leaving about an inch of space in between each one- they don’t spread very much but you wouldn’t want any to bake together. If you get a little “Hershey Kiss” looking swirl on top, dip your finger in a cup of water and gently smooth it down. Tap your baking sheets on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles.

    6. Preheat your oven to 300ºF now. Let the macarons sit on the baking sheets for 10-30 minutes until a sort of skin forms on the tops of the cookies- when you touch the tops, they should feel smooth and no cookie batter should come off on your hands.

    7. Bake the macarons for 15 minutes and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheets before removing. If you pull them off when they’re still warm, they are more likely to break or fall apart. When they’re cool, gently peel them from the parchment paper and match up your pairs so that they’re ready for filling.
    Passionfruit Buttercream (and Filling) Ingredients:

    3 cups confectioners sugar
    ½ cup salted butter, at room temperature
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3-4 tbs whole milk
    ¼ cup passionfruit curd, plus about ¼ cup more for filling

    Passionfruit Buttercream (and Filling) Steps:

    1. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter, vanilla, and confectioners sugar. Slowly add the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until you reach the desired smooth consistency.

    2. Add in the passionfruit curd and whip the frosting until it’s light and spreadable.

    3. On one cookie from each pair of macarons, pipe a wide circle of buttercream along the edge. Fill another small piping bag or ziplock bag with passionfruit curd, and pipe a small dot in the center of the buttercream for a little surprise bite! Place the second macaron on top and voila!

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    The passionfruit curd is the perfect surprise in the middle!

    These cookies are best enjoyed after a night in the fridge so that the flavors can fully develop, but if you simply can’t wait, they’ll be delicious immediately as well. Enjoy!!!

    xoxoxoxoD

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  • Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

    You know when you get the sudden desire to go to New Orleans? Or is that just me? I’ve never been and I’ve been thinking so much about it lately, but since a trip is out of the question right now, I’ve settled for cooking some classic cuisine to tide me over. This gumbo, borrowed from this recipe from The New York Times, is the perfect treat for when a beautiful, sunny Saturday turns into a cold and stormy Sunday- its slightly spicy, hearty, and chock full of shrimp, andouille sausage, and that savory-sweet mix of slow cooked peppers and onions. It’s SO good.

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    In other news, what a crazy week, huh? I didn’t even work a full week last week and boy was I exhausted. A fancy brunch in NYC with a friend, complete with tomato and polenta baked “Eggs In Purgatory” with a Rose Sangria was exactly what I needed to cure me, and I have a good feeling that a recipe for that will find its way here soon, never fear. Also coming this week will be one of my newest and proudest creations, Passionfruit Macarons! I brought them in to work a few weeks ago on a whim, and they were an overwhelming success, so I’ll be taking a second stab at it later this week.

    Secondly, I have to confess something. I have a serious issue where I collect cookbooks and random kitchen gadgets that only serve one purpose. My poor parents’ kitchen is filled to the bursting point with my pasta maker, various zesters, piping tips, and cookie cutters. The newest addition to that family? A blowtorch. I bought one mostly for creme brûlée, but I also hear it’s good for toasting the meringue on a Lemon Meringue Pie, which I have yet to make successfully, so I’ll keep you all posted. I also got TWO new cookbooks for my birthday, another from Queen Ina Garten to add to my collection of Barefoot Contessa books, and one with the most stunning pictures from Maine, and I just can’t wait to dive in.

    I had so much cooking planned for this weekend and then suddenly it was Sunday afternoon and I had done literally nothing so that’s on me, I promise I’ll be back in the groove soon! But until then, please enjoy this recipe for gumbo and have a wonderful week, you can do this!

    Serves: 8 to 10 dinner portions
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour

    Ingredients: (measurements for 4 to 6 in parenthesis)

    2 lbs. (1 lb.) shrimp, peeled and deveined
    ½ cup (¼ cup) olive oil
    2 (1) red bell peppers, diced
    2 (1) green bell peppers, diced
    3 medium (1 large) yellow onions, diced
    1 cup, 4-5 stalks celery (3 stalks), diced
    3 cloves (1 clove) garlic, minced
    ½ cup (¼ cup) all-purpose flour
    2 tbs. (1 tbs) tomato paste
    2 tsp. (1 tsp) paprika
    ½ tsp. (¼ tsp.) cayenne pepper
    2 cans (1 can) diced tomatoes
    12 oz. (6 oz.) andouille sausage, sliced into inch-thick slices
    8-10 cups (6 cups) chicken broth
    2 cups (1 cup) okra, chopped
    3 tbs. (1 tbs.) salted butter
    3 cups (1 cup) white rice
    scallions, for garnish

    Steps:

    1. Making the gumbo base: in a heavy-bottom soup pot, heat your olive oil on medium and add in the onions and bell peppers. Stir as the veggies get soft and the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix to combine, cooking for another 3 minutes to remove the raw flour taste.

    2. Next, add the tomato paste, paprika, and cayenne pepper and mix so that the tomato paste is fully incorporated. After 1 minute, add the diced tomatoes and liquid, plus the andouille sausage, and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point, season with salt and pepper.

    3. Pour in the chicken broth (use the lesser amount if you want the gumbo to be thicker), and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the flour and browned bits. Simmer the gumbo for 25 minutes with the top off, so that the mixture thickens. Taste and adjust your seasonings as necessary.

    4. At this point, bring 5 cups (2 cups if using the 1 cup of rice) of water to a boil with the 2 tbs. of butter. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low and add the rice. Stir once to coat all the rice in butter, then cover and let the rice absorb the water for 20-25 minutes.

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    4. Stir the chopped okra into the gumbo and cook until they become soft, about 5 minutes, then add the shrimp. Since shrimp cooks so quickly, let this mixture cook for another 2 minutes and then turn off the heat. Fluff the rice with a fork, and scoop a generous amount into a bowl. Top with a heaping portion of gumbo and sprinkle on some green onions if you’d like (I bought some and in the rush to eat I totally forgot, ah well!).

    Tada!!!!!!

    Now close your eyes and pretend you’re on Bourbon Street just like I was doing. Enjoy!!

    xoxoxoxD