Monday, July 30, 2012

Simple Stone Fruit Tartlets

stone fruit tarts-9

Take a trip to the market and pick up the most luscious stone fruit you can find, but let it sit on your counter in a bowl for a few days, admire it, arrange it, enjoy its sweet smell. Then, when it is ripe and juicy and in danger of bruising, slice it up and make a tart.

stone fruit tarts_2
stone fruit tarts-2-2

Heck, make a whole bunch of little tarts to share with your friends. Pretend you're Swedish and invite everyone over for fika. I don't know about you, but sharing a cup of coffee and a few bites of something sweet and buttery sounds like a perfect little break in the day to me, but it's summertime so let's keep it nice and easy. Less than 5 ingredients easy.

stone fruit tarts-4-2
stone fruit tart

Roll out some pastry, maybe homemade (maybe not) make sure that it is made from butter and only butter (til death do us part). Cut it into little squares or rectangles or circles if you want, just make sure the pieces are large enough to cradle half of an apricot or a few slices of fuzzy peach. Sprinkle the whole mess with sugar, bake until golden, and enjoy the simple goodness of fresh fruit in a buttery crust.

stone fruit tarts-1

If you've never tried making your own puff pastry, give it a go with rough puff pastry. It takes a little time, but it's not too difficult and the final product will make you feel like a pastry genius. Plus, when your freezer is stocked with a few sheets of the good stuff, it makes recipes like this a cinch to pull together on the fly. The recipe below makes quite a bit and just think how fancy you'll feel when you tell your pals you made it yourself.

What you'll find below is more formula than recipe, easily adaptable to stone fruit in the summer and apples and pears in the fall and winter. Add some spices or serve these tarts with whipped cream, they're good any way you slice it (pun intended).

Simple Stone Fruit Tartlets
inspired by Not Without Salt
yield 18-20 tartlets (depending on size)

It's super important that you make these tarts with very cold pastry and a very hot oven. I've made them a few times now and had the greatest success baking the pastry when it was just shy of frozen. The ones pictured above were baked in an oven that wasn't quite hot enough and while they were delicious, the next batch was quite a bit flakier.

1/2 recipe rough puff pastry (recipe and photo tutorial here) OR 1 sheet store bought puff pastry (all butter please!)
Assorted stone fruit, a pound or so
 - 1 apricot will yield 2 tartlets
 - 1 small peach will yield 3 tartlets
 - 1 small nectarine will yield 3 tartlets
about 1/3c crunchy sugar: turbinado sugar works great, as does organic cane sugar which is generally a bit coarser than granulated sugar, vanilla sugar works well here if you have it
1 egg or 2T milk, cream or even water
Confectioner's sugar to finish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400º

1.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 1/4'' thickness. With a knife or pastry cutter, cut the pastry into 2 1/2''-3'' squares or circles (they don't have to be perfect, this is supposed to be easy!). You want them large enough to fit half of an apricot or about 1/3 of a piece of stone fruit. Place the cut squares on a parchment lined baking sheet and put them in the freezer for at least 20min while you prepare the fruit.
2. For apricots: gently tear them in half. For peaches and nectarines: remove the pits and thinly slice the fruit into 1/8'' slices. Try to keep the halves together while you are slicing them, it will make it easier to fan the slices on top of the tarts.
3. Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and brush with a beaten egg (or milk or cream or water in a pinch), sprinkle with sugar, and place the the apricot halves or fanned slices of peaches or nectarines on top. Finish the fruit with another light sprinkle of sugar (if desired) and slide the pan into the oven. Bake until the puff pastry is golden brown and the fruit has softened, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature. Dust with confectioner's sugar if desired.

stone fruit tarts_3 stone fruit tarts-6 Bonus watermelon smile. Because it's summertime.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fresh Apricot Compote with Vanilla

stewed apricots

The apricots available at my local farmer's market are of the rosy cheeked variety, and this time of year it is impossible to ignore them. Their blushing faces stare up at me from their baskets every time I walk by, making them completely irresistible to my produce loving heart and I pick up a handful or two every chance I get.

stewed apricots-3

Like most fruit this time of year, fresh apricots require very little to make them sing. Prepared this way, they are not as sweet or smooth as jam, but a bit of sugar (or honey), vanilla, and gentle heat coaxes out all of their wonderful rich, buttery flavor without losing their distinct tartness. They slump over in the pan and release their juices making them the perfect topping for all sorts of dishes. 

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The day I made this compote, we piled big spoonfuls on top of a batch of "Waffles of Insane Greatness" which were so tasty and easy to put together on the fly, but if you can anticipate your desire for waffles the night before, give Marion Cunningham's Yeasted Waffles a try. You have to let part of the batter rest overnight, but the reward of crisp, full flavored breakfast treats will far outweigh the little bit of effort required to put the batter together. Both recipes can be found in this post (with far more poetic descriptions) by Molly from Orangette if you're curious.

I can also say with authority that the compote is great eaten by the spoonful, straight from the fridge or with yogurt for breakfast or an afternoon snack. I imagine it would also be delicious spooned over some crispy baked puff pastry and garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche for dessert.

See how I used apricots last summer in this Apricot Jam with Saffron and Rose.

Fresh Apricot Compote with Vanilla
yield about 1 1/2 cups

1 pound/453g rosy cheeked apricots
1.5-3 ounces/36-72g sugar or honey depending on the sweetness of the fruit
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1, 1/2'' wide strip of lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

1. Remove the pits from the apricots by gently tearing the fruit in half. Add the pitted apricot halves, sugar, vanilla bean seeds and pod, lemon zest, lemon juice and water to a medium saucepan and stir gently to combine.
2. Cook the mixture on medium low heat until the sugar dissolves and the apricots begin to release their juices. Turn the heat up to medium and gently simmer the apricots, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and beginning to fall apart, but not completely mushy. About 10-15 minutes. Taste the apricots and add a bit more sweetener if desired.
3. Remove the vanilla bean pod and reserve it for another use, remove the strip of lemon zest and serve the apricots warm or cold. If there are any leftovers, store them in the fridge.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Whole Wheat Plum Crumb Bars

plum bars

I know it's boring to talk about the weather, but here I am, bringing it up againLiving in a place with four distinct seasons forces me to stop and reflect upon what each season brings. Maybe this tendency (along with the grey hair that has started sprouting out of my head) is just another sign that I'm getting older, who's to say for sure? All I know is that this summer, NYC is bringing the heat. It has been a hot, humid summer tempered only by an occasional epic thunderstorm and lots of cold watermelon.

plum bars-3

Despite my general dislike of east coast summer temps, I've found a way to ease myself right into the season this year. I find myself in the kitchen most days, weighing flours, cutting butter into even hunks, dropping cubes of ice into a measuring cup of water. I make pie dough and puff pastry and crumbles like this one to house all of the gorgeous summer fruit that I can't stop buying. I make endless, floury messes and clean them up countless times. I turn on the oven when it is far too hot for any sane person to bake. Then, I load my camera with film and try to capture some of this season's essence to remember later in the year when I am complaining about how my toes just won't get warm no matter how many pairs of socks I put on. And if I'm lucky I get to escape the city every once in a while for wide open spaces, hopefully to gather more of summer's bounty.

These perfectly tart crumb bars were baked for just such an occasion, when a group of city kids migrated upstate for the day to drink icy cold beers and make pizzas in a wood fired oven that I had a hand in building. Next time I get up there I am going to do some wood fired baking. Wish me luck!

Whole Wheat Plum Crumb Bars
yield 1 9x13 pan

For the Bottom Crust

6 ounces/170g butter, melted and cooled
3.5 ounces/100g sugar
4.5 ounces/127g all purpose flour
4.5 ounces/127g whole wheat flour
3/4t salt
2t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º and line a 9x13 baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Lightly grease the inside of the pan.

1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add in the melted butter and  vanilla extract. Stir gently until a dough forms.
2. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling and crumble.

For the Filling
The plums I used for this recipe were quite tart. The amount of sugar listed below sweetened them gently while leaving some of that lovely tartness behind, which was perfect. If you are working with sweet juicy plums, you might want to cut back on the sugar a bit.

1lb plums (I used a combination of red and black plums)
1.75 ounces/50g sugar
1/2t ground cinnamon
1t ground cardamom
2t vanilla extract
.5 ounce/14g flour

1. Pit and roughly chop the plums. Put them in a bowl and add the sugar, spices, vanilla and flour. Toss gently to combine. Pour over the cooled crust.

For the Crumb Topping

6 ounces/170g soft butter
3.5 ounces/100g rolled oats
2.25 ounces/64g all purpose flour
2.25 ounces/64g  whole wheat flour
5 ounces/120g sugar
1/4t baking soda
1/2t salt

Preheat oven to 375º

1. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add in the butter and use your hands to work it into the mixture until it holds together in medium clumps. Sprinkle it evenly over the plum filling.
2. Slide the bars into the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown and the plums begin to release their juices, 30-40min. Cool completely before slicing

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Out West and Cherry Berry Pie

cherry berry pie out west-1-10 out west_2 out west-1-4 out west-5 out west-2 out west_1 out west-1 out west out west-1-8 out west-1-3 out west-1-9

A trip out west, some Daytrotting, a puppy named Garp, bug bites, a dilapidated farmhouse turned art gallery, a rock and roll show in a barn, and a family reunion capped off with a cherry berry pie that was baked in an unfamiliar kitchen then served to familiar folks, with this no-churn ice cream and devoured in seconds.

Where is your summer taking you? I'd love to hear.

Cherry Berry Pie
Sweet cherries and tart berries are combined to make this super summery pie. I used my favorite pie crust recipe, but feel free to use your own favorite recipe if you have one.

For the Crust
This crust comes to you from Brandi Henderson of I made that! and The Pantry at Delancey where she teaches a class called "How to be a Pie Ninja" and she is not messing around. Brandi uses a technique called fraisage which creates long sheets of buttery flakes throughout the dough instead of little pockets of butter. Delightful!

12 oz pastry flour 
8 oz cold butter 
4 oz ice water 
1t apple cider vinegar 
1/2t salt 

1. Mix the flour and salt together, then pour the whole lot on a large cutting board or countertop.
2. With a bench scraper, cut in half of the butter until it is the size of lima beans, then cut in the other half of the butter until it is the size of quarters. Add the apple cider vinegar to the water.
3. Using your fingers, flick the water on to the butter flour mixture and gently fold it in with your bench scraper. You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it together without it falling apart.
4. Then, get this, you smear the butter into the dough. With the heel of your hand push a section of the dough down and away from you. Congratulations, you have just created a sheet of butter which is going to turn delicious flaky crust. Scrape your sheet off of the board and place it in a bowl to the side. Repeat until you have worked through all of the dough, pushing it down and away from you in sections. Once you've gone through all of the dough gently remove it from the bowl, press it together, then split it in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and form into a disk. Chill the dough for at least one hour before using. I chilled mine overnight.

If this sounds confusing, check out the link above for a really helpful photo tutorial.

For the Filling

1 pint blueberries
1 pint blackberries
2 pints sweet cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
2-4 ounces sugar, depending on the sweetness of your fruit
zest of one lemon
2T lemon juice
1.25 ounces flour
1/2t almond extract
pinch salt
pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the Topping

1 egg, beaten
A few tablespoons of coarse sugar like turbinado or light demerara

To Assemble and Bake

Preheat oven to 450º 1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough into a 12'' circle about 1/8'' thick and place it into a 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the pie.
2. Roll out the other piece of dough into a 12'' circle about 1/8'' thick and place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling.
3. In a large bowl,  combine the fruit, sugar, lemon zest and juice, flour, almond extract, salt and nutmeg. Toss gently to combine. Fill the prepared pie shell with the berry mixture and top with the second crust, crimp the edges and cut a few vents. Alternately, you can top the pie with a lattice-style crust as I've done in the photo above. Here is a link to a great photo tutorial on Simply Recipes. When I make a lattice topped pie, I like to use nice thick strips of dough, the strips pictured above are about 1'' wide.
4. If the crust seems soft or warm, slide the whole pie into the fridge or freezer for about 15min before you bake it. When you are ready to bake brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a healthy dose of coarse sugar.
5. Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 15min on the lowest rack of your oven, then lower the oven temp to 350º and bake for 40-50min or until the crust is deep golden brown and the berry juices bubble. Cool at least 2 hours before serving, preferably more.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Raspberry Coconut Fool and a Few More from the Farm

raspberry fool

I hope you don't mind if I share a few more snaps from my raspberry picking day. I guess I really am a city kid now because that day in the fields thrilled me to the core. I can't help it, I am a fruit nerd and it has been an unusually fruitful summer so far in Apt. 2B (I also love puns, sue me). Don't worry I'll reward your patience with a super simple summertime recipe for a vegan and gluten-free fool (pictured above) and how I used the rest of my raspberries at the end of this post, sound good?

raspberry fool
raspberry fool_1
raspberry fool
raspberry jam-syrup-9

I picked about five pounds of raspberries two days before I packed up and headed out of town for over a week, so I had to make use of the berries right quick. Here's my raspberry scorecard (á la Autumn Makes and Does).

- Most of the five pounds of berries went in to this killer Raspberry Currant Jam that I am looking forward to eating all year long.
- Then I took a few pints and canned some Raspberry Syrup using Marisa's recipe for strawberry syrup from the Food in Jars Cookbook subbing raspberries for strawberries, naturally.
- There were a few handfuls eaten out of hand (ahem, every time someone opened up the fridge and spotted the berries) or tossed into smoothies.
- I made a quick tart with a scrap of puff pastry topped with a few spoonfuls of raspberry currant jam and a generous handful of raspberries and currants sprinkled with coarse sugar. Easy and so good.
- And last, but certainly not least came this fool which is just about the easiest dessert I've ever made. The only drawback is that it does require some advance prep, but just a little. All you have to do is remember to chuck two cans of full fat coconut milk in the fridge the night before you want to make these delicious, creamy (and vegan!) desserts. Easy, easy, easy.


Oh, and one last thing before we get to the recipe. A few months ago the fine folks at Houzz.com asked me to share how I make the most out of my city kitchen. So, I sent off some photos and this week Apt. 2B is featured as the kitchen of the week! I have to warn you, it is small and artificially lit, but it is mighty! 

Check out the feature here.

Raspberry Coconut Fool (Vegan)
serves 6-8
This dessert is best prepared and served immediately. If it sits too long the raspberries and coconut cream will begin to separate.

3 cups raspberries (about 2 pints) plus a few more to garnish
1 3/4 ounces sugar plus 1 tablespoon
2, 14oz cans full fat coconut milk (chilled overnight!)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1/2 teaspoon rose water (optional)
toasted coconut flakes to serve (optional)

1. Gently mash two cups of the raspberries and 1 3/4 ounces sugar in a medium bowl, set aside while you whip the cream.
2. Remove the top layer of cream from the cans of coconut milk, being very careful not to get any of the liquid below. Place the cold cream in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl and whip on medium high until the cream thickens and stiffens to a whipped cream consistency, about medium peaks. Whip in the remaining tablespoon of sugar, vanilla or almond extract and rose water (if using).
3. Fold the raspberry mixture into the whipped coconut cream.
4. To serve, layer the coconut raspberry mixture with the fresh raspberries in clear glass dishes. Top with toasted chopped coconut if desired and a few berries. Serve immediately.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Raspberry Currant Jam

raspberry currant jam

A trip upstate a few weekends ago to help some friends build a clay oven (more about this exciting development later!) quickly turned into a raspberry picking spree after we saw a sign on the side of the road advertising U-Pick berries. I don't think I've even seen raspberries sold in anything larger then a half pint since I moved to the East Coast so as soon as we pulled over I grabbed a basket and booked it out to the fields with my pals. 

raspberry currant jam

We walked up and down the raspberry rows and picked and picked until our arms were scratched from the brambles and our fingers stained from the fruit. It was a glorious summer day and I couldn't help but smile to myself and dream up all of the ways I was going to use the pounds and pounds of raspberries I was picking. Growing up, a corner of my parent's garden was always dedicated to the raspberry bushes that my dad grew from sad little twigs and the smell of raspberry jam boiling away on the stove (a few times per summer) is a smell I haven't experienced in years. When I got home, I knew that a batch of jam was my first order of business.

raspberry currant jam - 2

My mom always made a simple jam with raspberries, sugar and pectin. She never bothered to strain the seeds out so I don't either, but I have adapted the recipe so it no longer requires pectin. I also threw about a pint of tart red currants to add a bit of zing to the jam but by all means, if you can't find currants where you live, you can certainly just use raspberries. If you'd like to make your batch of jam a bit more refined feel free to strain the seeds and be warned that you'll end up with a smaller yield, maybe six half pints instead of seven. 

raspberry currant jam - 3

Raspberry Currant Jam
yield, roughly 7 half pints jam

8 ounces red currants (or raspberries if you can't find currants)
40 ounces raspberries
32 ounces sugar
juice of 2 lemons

1. Add the raspberries, currants, sugar, and lemon juice to a large, wide, non-reactive pot.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. As the jam comes to a boil, skim the foam that rises to the top of the pot and discard.
3. Raise the heat to high and boil for 10-20 minutes or until set, being careful not to let the bottom scorch. Begin checking for doneness at 10 minutes. I generally use the wrinkle test to check for doneness with this type of jam, but if you like numbers you can cook it to 220ºF. If you prefer seedless jam, quickly transfer the cooked mixture to a mesh strainer and force as much as the jam through as possible, discard the seeds and proceed with canning.
4. Pour the jam into sterilized jars, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

raspberry jam-syrup-14