Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Connecticut









Every year that I've lived in New York I've done something different for Thanksgiving. I quite enjoy going from place to place, seeing how other families celebrate and I always feel honored when I am asked to participate in their traditions. This year we spent the holiday at the home of a dear friend in Connecticut and it was amazing. The house has the most incredible kitchen with a big, solid cast iron stove, a larder, and even a butler's pantry full of dishes from all over the world. Its one of those places that is so full of positive warm energy that it is impossible not to have a fabulous time. When my hosts found out that I was a baker by trade they asked me to dream up some desserts for a few dinners including Thanksgiving and I was more than happy to pitch in. I kept my Turkey Day pies pretty traditional, two pumpkin and apple with all butter crusts, and topped them with freshly whipped cream. So what if the crusts got a little burnt because my designated oven turner-downer got distracted while engrossed in a good book, the apple pie pictured here fared far better than the pumpkin. These weren't my best looking pies ever, but the plates were licked clean and we were all contently stuffed and in bed before 10pm. The next day we made brownie sundaes with hot fudge and salted caramel sauce (for 20) but it was too dark to snap a photo. Needless to say, they were a big hit.

All Butter Crust from here
Apple Filling from here
Pumpkin Filling from here plus a few grates of nutmeg

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cranberry Quince Preserves






I don't know about you guys but come Thanksgiving Day I am all about the sides. I usually skip the turkey all together, opting to pile my plate high with stuffing, potatoes and veggies while making sure to save lots of room for pie and ice cream. Cranberry sauce tends to be an overlooked and generally unliked part of turkey day dinner, but for me, no holiday spread is complete without a big bowl of the vibrant red stuff. This year I can't wait to crack open a jar of this sweet, spicy, tart preserve and slather it on some parker house rolls and I am going to send my family in Seattle a jar so they can do the same. What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

Cranberry Quince Preserves
yield, about 4 pints

3/4lb fresh or frozen cranberries
1 1/2lbs peeled, cored, and diced quince (1/2'' sized pieces)
4c sugar
3c water (ed 11/12)
2 oz peeled and grated fresh ginger, about a 3'' long piece, less if you would prefer a less spicy preserve
Zest and juice of one lemon
Zest and juice of one orange
cleaned and sterilized jars and lids

1. In a large pot over medium high heat dissolve the sugar into the water, then add the chopped quince, grated ginger, lemon zest and juice, and the orange zest and juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the quince is soft. About 15 min.
2. When the quince has softened, add in the cranberries and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 15-20min.
3. Ladle the hot preserves into prepared jars, wipe the rims with a clean towel and process in a hot water bath for 10min.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quince Frangipane Tartlets







I know I just mentioned it, but my family really does send the best care packages. Last week I got a sweet smelling box full of quince straight from my ma and pa in Seattle. If you've never had the pleasure, quince are a magical little fruit. They are lumpy and bumpy, sometimes covered with fuzz and totally inedible when raw, but when cooked they turn a rosy hue and taste kind of like a tropical, floral pear. Fancy! Theses guys were a little worse for wear from the trip across country so I took the prettiest of the batch and simply poached them to use in these fab tarts. I know frangipane sounds complicated, but its really just some ground almonds mixed with sugar and eggs, and the tart dough is a cinch to put together too. Just mix up the ingredients in a food processor or with your hands and pat it into a tart pan, no rolling required. Oh, and the gnarliest quince of the batch became a preserve perfect for the Thanksgiving table that I will share soon.

Poached Quince
makes enough for the tarts, plus some extra for snacking

5c water
2c sugar
1/2 lemon, cut into 1/4'' wedges
1/2 vanilla bean or 1t vanilla extract
4 medium quince, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each

Over medium heat, combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon, vanilla bean and quince and stir gently to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook the quince gently until they are soft and fork tender, but not mushy. This can take from 20-40 minutes depending on how ripe your quince are and how thickly they are sliced

Store the quince in their syrup until you are ready to use them. Serve the extra with yogurt or ice cream, or enjoy them as they are.

Pate Sable, Sweet Tart Dough
from Dorie Greenspan
for 1, 9'' tart or 6, 4'' tartlets

1 1/2c flour
1/2c confectioner's sugar
1/2t salt
9T cold, cubed butter
1 egg yolk (save the white for later)

1. In the bowl of a food processor or with a pastry blender, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the yolk and pulse until the mixture begins to clump a bit.
2. Lightly butter your tart pan or pans and gently press the crumbly dough into the pan. Make sure to evenly coat the bottom and the sides while being careful to not compact the dough too much. You may have a bit of extra dough, save it just in case you have to repair any cracks later on. Freeze the tart shell for 30min.
3. Preheat your oven to 375º and bake the tart shell (no need for pie weights) until it is lightly golden, repair any cracks that may have formed with your leftover dough. Cool the shell on a rack while you prepare the rest of the tart.

Frangipane, Almond Filling
Again from my girl, Dorie Greenspan

6T soft butter
2/3c sugar
3/4c ground, blanched almonds
1 egg plus one egg white (leftover from making the dough)
2t flour
1t cornstarch
1t vanilla extract
1t almond extract
pinch salt

In the bowl of the food processor, combine the butter and sugar and pulse until smooth. Add the almonds and blend. Then add the flour and cornstarch followed by the egg and egg white and finally the extracts and salt. Mix until just combined.


To assemble

Spread the frangipane into the cooled tart shell or shells, it should come up just below the edge of the shell. Remove the wedges of quince from their poaching liquid and lightly drain them on a paper towel. If you are making mini tarts, I suggest slicing the wedges even thinner before placing them on top of the frangipane in a decorative pattern. If you are making one large tart, arrange the quince wedges in a decorative pattern on top of the frangipane, you will need about 2 total quince for this.

Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350º oven until the crust and frangipane are golden and set, 20-30min for tartlets and 45-50min for a large tart. Cool on a wire rack and dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.

Notes:

- I always grind the almonds for the frangipane in the food processor before making the dough and I don't bother washing out the bowl in between recipes. A little ground almond residue won't hurt the crust at all and then get this, I make the frangipane in the same bowl without washing it. So now you know my little secret, I hate doing dishes in my teeny tiny sink.
-This recipe is also fantastic with poached pears instead of quince.
-Do you love quince too? Here is another great quince recipe from the archives.