My daughter turned 20 this week. We celebrated by going out to dinner, then returned home for "cake". Growing up, my birthday cakes were always angel food with seven minute frosting. That was what I wanted... Always! But I have learned every year to ask my daughters what birthday cake, or birthday celebration dessert they fancy... Tradition has been thrown out-the-window by my girls.
Very rarely, any longer, is it a cake. When they were young I consistently made a chocolate-cherry cake with whipped cream frosting for each and every birthday. No more. Many times a tart is requested -- lemon meringue mostly; key lime sometimes.
When I asked my daughter last week what dessert she would like for her birthday she said, "I don't need anything". And I responded with something like...
Not having a birthday cake/dessert in this house -- unheard of!
It was all up to me... the decision rested on my shoulders! What would I bake for the celebratory dessert? I'd never served my family a pavlova, but who doesn't like a baked meringue? And an assortment of fresh berries and lemon curd whipped cream seemed liked the perfect filling for the meringue layers. I assembled it right before leaving for dinner, then placed it in the refrigerator until we returned. This just might be our new tradition. Most of us (me included) were sneaking a second piece.
* I'll be taking a short break to tackle my painting project, host a few guests, and help my daughter prepare for her trip abroad next month. See you again soon!
Pavlova with Berries and Lemon Curd Cream
Meringue Layers (recipe Yvonne Ruperti):
• 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 6 large eggs whites
• 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
• Pinch of salt
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup (2 ounces) ground almonds
Lemon Curd Whipped Cream:
• 2 eggs yolks
• 1 whole, large egg
• 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
• 5 tablespoons cold butter
• 1 cup cold, heavy cream
• Powdered sugar, to taste
• fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries
• • •
To make the meringues:
Follow Yvonne Ruperti's recipe for the meringue layers on Serious Eats.
To make the lemon curd cream: 1. Whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, 6 tablespoons sugar, fresh lemon juice, and finely grated lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Set bowl over a medium pot of simmering water over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Whisk in 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces, a few pieces at a time, until completely incorporated. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover surface with plastic to prevent a skin from forming, and set aside to let cool.
2. In a medium bowl, whip the cold, heavy cream until it holds soft peaks, adding powdered sugar to taste if desired. Fold into the lemon curd and chill in refrigerator.Assembly:
1. Place one meringue disk on a large plate. Spread half of the lemon curd whipped cream evenly overall. Scatter assortment of berries over lemon cream. Place second layer on top and repeat with remaining lemon curd whipped cream and berries. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
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My S'mores Sandwich Cookies are the result of avoidance. I have been meaning to start a painting project; a project that I find over-whelming. Twenty years ago we converted a 3-season sunroom into a year-round space. The tongue-in-groove wood ceiling, walls, and trim, are painted purple, orange, and green -- a phase I was going through. My husband and I laid Mexican terra cotta tiles over newly-installed infloor heat. The brightly colored room has been the perfect backdrop for white canvas slipcovered furniture, old wicker, and plants; with large casement windows surrounding the entire space, it feels more like a screened porch during the summer months.
After 20 years, the paint is showing its age -- plus, I am just tired of it! My entire house has become quieter over the years, transitioning over to creamier historical colors. But as much as I'd like to see this room become what I've envisioned, I'm having trouble getting started on the work. I picked the paint color, but instead of running to the paint store to buy my supplies, I ran to my kitchen and started working on S'mores Sandwich Cookies.
To make S'mores Sandwich Cookies: I started by making Marshmallow Crème. After I had the crème refrigerated, I made the Old-Fashioned Graham Crackers with Turbinado Sugar. Once the crackers have cooled, give the marshmallow crème a stir, and spoon into a pastry bag. Pipe the crème onto a cracker (I used a 2-inch round cutter for my crackers. The marshmallow crème recipe was enough to fill 20 graham cracker cookies). After all of the marshmallow crème has been piped, use either a kitchen butane torch or the oven broiler to brown the crème. Mix semi-sweet chocolate chips with salted butter in a double boiler. As far as amounts go, I probably used 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips and just kept adding butter until good dipping consistency. Dip filled S'mores into the melted chocolate. Place dipped cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. It is best to let the chocolate set up and harden a bit before eating, but you may find it difficult to wait that long ;P Another option: sprinkle marshmallow crème with chocolate chips before torching, and melt your chocolate that way (sans butter).
If I disappear for several weeks you can assume that I have begun work on repainting my sunroom; that is unless I can bribe the painter, who I use for jobs I just don't want to tackle, to trade for a year of desserts?
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A weekend breakfast? Easter brunch? A platter of Bacon & Egg Tarts with Cornmeal and Black Pepper Pastry is perfect for either. Another easily prepared morning meal when you start a day ahead. Make the pastry dough, then line and freeze the tartlet pans overnight. (I recommend freezing the dough-lined tartlet pans for at least 30 minutes even if planning to bake the tarts immediately.) Bake the individual tart crusts the morning you plan to serve. Fry the bacon, fill the baked tartlet crusts and bake another 15 minutes or so, depending on size and depth of tins. Add a fruit or leafy green salad and, Voilà... breakfast!
I made small individual tarts filled with Parmesan cheese, apple-smoked bacon, and eggs in cornmeal and coarse black pepper crusts for breakfast today. I used shallow Matfer tin molds, but muffin tins would also work nicely, and hold more of the ingredients. Since the tart crusts I made were small and shallow, I ended up separating the yolks from the whites,and placing one yolk in each tart shell. I then added back egg whites to the tart shells by the teaspoonfull. Cracking a whole egg into a bacon and Parmesan-filled shell resulted in much of the egg white spilling out and onto the baking sheet. Using muffin tins with deeper cavities would prevent this from happening.
Rectangular Financier Molds (3 7/8-by-1 7/8-inches)
Round Tartlet Molds (3 3/8-inch diameter)
or, Muffin Tins
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup cornmeal
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
• 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 4 tablespoons ice water
FILLING, PER INDIVIDUAL SERVING:
• 1/2 to 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
• 1/2 strip apple-smoked bacon, partially cooked but still pliable; either left whole or diced
• 1 medium organic egg
• minced fresh parsley, for sprinkling
TO MAKE THE TART CRUSTS:
1. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and coarse black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once to combine. Add the butter and pulse briefly, until the size of small peas. Slowly add the ice water while continuing to pulse and stop when the dough just begins to clump. Do not over-process.
2. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap; flatten into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic; refrigerate 2 hours before rolling.
3. Roll the pastry dough, dusted lightly with flour, in between a sheet of wax paper and plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Line the tartlet molds and trim along the edges. There should be enough pastry dough to line approximately 20 tartlet molds. NOTE... a little trick I learned from my niece who attended the French Culinary Institute: Top the dough-lined tartlet mold with an identical mold, pressing together gently; freeze for at least 30 minutes. Turn the tartlet molds upside-down on a sheet pan to bake. This will reduce shrinkage of the tart crust while baking.
4. If using muffin tins instead of tartlet molds, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8-inch and cut rounds with a 4-inch diameter cookie cutter (or use a 4-inch diameter plate as a template and cut rounds with a sharp knife). Gently, and without stretching, press the pastry into the muffin tin. Because of the depth of muffin tins, the dough will crease in places. Be patient and genty press pastry onto the bottom and sides. Place the muffin tin in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake, line each pastry with a small round of wax paper and fill with dried beans. This will help avoid shrinkage of the tart dough while baking. You will get approximately 10 tarts with this recipe if using muffin tins.
5. Place the tarlet molds on a rimmed baking sheet, and/or muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 400˚F oven. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven. Carefully remove the wax paper and dried beans from the tart shells. The crusts should be a light golden color. Reduce oven temperature to 350˚F.
FILLING and BAKING:
1. Sprinkle the bottom of each tart crust with enough Parmesan to cover, 1/2 to 1 tablespoon. If using an entire 1/2 slice of cooked bacon, lay the slice over the Parmesan, bending to fit molds. Separate the egg yolk from the whites and place egg yolk in tart shell; add egg whites to the tart shell by the teaspoonful. If making tarts using the muffin tins, it will not be necessary to separate the egg yolk from the white; but add the entire egg to the muffin tin tart crust very slowly.
2. Bake tarts on the middle rack of the 350˚F oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the egg is done to your liking. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the minced fresh parsley. Serve.
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I could easily say that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day; probably the result of my extreme fondness for eggs. From a simple soft-boiled egg to a baked strata or frittata loaded with vegetables and cheese, I am always content with an egg as my meal.
And I am now making breakfast during the week far more often than I ever did. Before, baked breakfasts were reserved for weekends when my family was home and able to relax. Weekdays, my husband and daughters were out-the-door before 7:30 a.m., never allowing enough time to fully enjoy a proper breakfast. Bagels with peanut butter, bowls of yogurt with granola, and fruit smoothies had to suffice.
But with my husband now home after taking early retirement a little over a year ago, I am more likely to prepare a substantial breakfast -- or, I should say, "brunch". I spend my early mornings with a cappuccino and the paper, then feed and walk my French Bulldog, Pipi. It's usually 10 a.m. before I get hungry enough to even think about starting breakfast.
Baked Eggs in Potato Nests were a recent breakfast-lunch for us. They are similar to the savory tarts and frittatas I often make; filled with whatever I find in the refrigerator. Bake, scoop out the potatoes, and store shells in the refrigerator the day before you plan to fill, twice-bake, and serve. Then, no matter when you start your breakfast, it goes together quickly.
Plan on 1 large or 2 small potatoes per serving
1. The day before you plan to serve the stuffed potatoes, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Wash, dry, and lightly rub the baking potatoes with oil. Pierce the potatoes, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and cool briefly. When cool enough to handle, slice about 1/4-inch off the top of the potato. Scoop out the flesh of the potato to within 1/4-inch of the shell. Refrigerate potato shells until ready to finish.
2. You can be very creative with the potato filling and the amount of filling you will need depends on the size of your potatoes. I made 3 large potatoes and filled them with spinach, smoked salmon, Parmesan cheese, and an egg. I began by warming a drizzle of olive oil in my pan. To that, I added a large handful of fresh spinach which I sautéed until just wilted. I added about 1/3 cup chopped, smoked salmon to the spinach and divided the mixture between the potato shells. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, then add a good sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese to the salmon-spinach mix.
3. Crack 1 or 2 eggs (dependent on the size of the potatoes) over the filling and sprinkle eggs with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the filled potatoes in a lightly oiled, ovenproof skillet or baking pan. Bake in the middle of a preheated 375˚F oven for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, until the yolks are just set, or done to your liking.
4. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.
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It's February, and I am again rifling through my grapefruit recipes. I always crave this bitter, tangy fruit during the winter months. These grapefruit halves are sweetened with the addition of brown sugar and a cloud of baked meringue.
Breakfast at my house! I only wish I owned a grapefruit spoon...
adapted from Gourmet | February 2002
• 1 large pink grapefruit
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 2 egg whites (1/4 cup)
• 1 pinch cream of tartar
• 1 pinch salt
• 3 generous tablespoons granulated sugar
PREHEAT OVEN to 425˚F
1. Slice grapefruit in half and sprinkle flesh with brown sugar.
2. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar, beating at high speed until the meringue is stiff and glossy.
3. Dollop or pipe meringue onto the grapefruit halves and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until meringue is golden.
4. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
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Enter a patisserie in Paris, and you will most likely see chouquettes -- little choux pastry puffs. Chouquettes have no pastry cream or whipped heavy cream filling like a larger choux pastry Cream Puff will have; just a little sprinkling of very large, coarse sugar. And, chouquettes are addictive! They are not sold individually, but by the bagful, making it easy to pop one of these little gems into your mouth while wandering the city.
And why don't I make them at home more often? It took me less than an hour from start to finish. Easy-peasy -- and the most basic of ingredients.
Valentine's Day idea: Make the chouquettes, minus the coarse sugar sprinkles on top; after cooling, slice in half and sandwich a small scoop of ice cream between. Place several on a plate or in a bowl and drizzle with chocolate sauce; Voilà, you've got Profiteroles! They never fail to impress.
• 50 g of unsalted butter
• 125 ml water
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• pinch of salt
• 75 g flour
• 2 large eggs
• chouquette sugar or pearl sugar
1. Combine the butter, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and pour all of the flour in at once. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and forms a ball.
2. Place the dough into the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool for 2 minutes. Turn on the mixer and add the eggs, one by one, until totally incorporated. You will have a nice, shiny dough.
3. You can either drop small mounds of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, or use a *pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip. You should have enough dough for approximately 25 chouquettes. Make sure to leave space between the dough mounds so they have room to expand and puff up. Take the coarse sugar and press grains gently onto the top of each chouquette.
4. Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 425˚F oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375˚ and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. You want the chouquettes to be golden brown and dry. Take out of the oven and pierce each chouquette with a toothpick or wooden skewer to let the steam escape.
* A finger dipped in cold water can smooth the top of the choux mounds before baking.
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We're finally having some bone-chilling, cold weather. Finally. Friday I actually saw a mailman going door-to-door with his satchel, delivering mail in shorts. This is Minnesota, for goodness sakes! It should be cold in January... The weather finally turned this morning and making Cheese & Sausage-Stuffed French Toast was the perfect way to spend a lazy (cold) morning.
It will take a little longer, but Chicken, Apple & Fresh Sage Sausage Patties are a healthy alternative to Brown-and-Serve-Sausages in this recipe. Either way, this stuffed French toast will make a great breakfast or brunch.
Cheese & Sausage-Stuffed French Toast
• 1 8-ounce package brown-and-serve sausages or Chicken, Apple & Fresh Sage
Sausage Patties (recipe here)
• 8-ounch loaf French or Italian bread
• 6 slices Muenster or Provolone cheese
• 5 large eggs
• 1 cup milk
• Pinch of kosher salt
• Warm pure maple syrup
• assorted fresh fruit
1. Prepare brown-and-serve sausages, or make Chicken, Apple & Fresh Sage Sausage Patties
2. Cut six 1 1/2-inch-thick slices from the bread. Halve each slice with a serrated knife, stopping before you have sliced all the way through the piece of bread. The slice should be hinged. Open the pocket and fill with a piece of cheese and sausages. I found I needed 1 1/2 of the chicken & apple sausage patties to fill each bread slice.
3. In a large shallow dish, beat the eggs, milk, and salt until blended. Place the filled bread slices in the egg mixture, turning to coat both sides of the bread.
4. In a large (cast iron) skillet over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Cook the stuffed bread until golden brown on both sides. Add more butter if needed.
5. Remove French Toast from the pan and plate. Drizzle with warm maple syrup and serve with fresh fruit.
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It seems like forever since I've had a quiet, lazy morning in my kitchen -- experimenting and taking photos. But that's what I did today, and the result gave us an incredible Sunday lunch on the patio.
Here it is, already mid-September and this was the first meal I've prepared this summer with figs! I'm always making salads with figs, grilling them, making tarts or pizzas with them. I wanted to use the figs differently today. I have to say, I think these individual Savory Fig Custards with Prosciutto Spirals were extraordinary!
Figs and prosciutto... what could be better?
+ Savory Fig Custards with Prosciutto Spirals
• 8 slices Prosciutto di Parma
• 8 fresh Black Mission Figs
• 3 large eggs
• 3/4 cup Half & Half (light cream)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon coarse cracked pepper
• 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• 2 tablespoons balsamic reduction (also called balsamic glaze)
• 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• salt & pepper, to taste
• 4 ounces arugula
PREHEAT OVEN to 375˚F
1. Take the slices of Prosciutto di Parma and wrap each piece around a wooden or metal skewer, partially over-lapping the Prosciutto while you wrap. It should look like a long cigarette. Place the skewers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. While the Prosciutto is in the oven, rub four 3/4 cup ramekins with olive oil. Line the base of the ramekins with a disk of waxed paper.
3. Quarter the figs and using two figs per ramekin, line the bottom of the ramekins with the quartered figs. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, Half & Half, salt, cracked pepper, Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh thyme. Pour and divide the custard evenly over the figs. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and make a bain-marie (water bath) by pouring hot water in the pan to reach about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
4. Gently slide the baking pan onto the middle rack of the oven and bake the custards for 30 minutes, or until set. When finished baking, remove from the oven and then remove the ramekins from the bain-marie. Cool for 10 minutes.
5. While the custards are cooling, make a vinaigrette by whisking together the balsamic vinegar reduction and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Take about 4 ounces of arugula and toss with the balsamic vinaigrette.
6. Divide arugula between four plates. Using a sharp knife, run the blade around the edge of the custards and unmold. Place custard on top of the arugula and top with two Prosciutto Spirals.
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Using up the last of summer's berries for my breakfast...
Summer Berry Dutch Pancakes
adapted from Martha Stewart Living
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• assorted fresh berries
• Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Combine eggs, milk, flour, granulated sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a blender and mix briefly.
2. The recipe can either be made in 4 small 6 1/2-inch cast iron skillets or 1 large 12-inch skillet. Divide butter if using small skillets and melt over high heat. Divide the batter between the skillets and scatter with berries; bake for 15 to 18 minutes (20 minutes if using a 12-inch skillet). The tops should be puffed and the pancakes set.
3. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with additional fresh berries. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with pure maple syrup.
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• • • • • • •
• BERRIES with RASPBERRY CUSTARD SAUCE
• 4 egg yolks
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 3/4 cups half and half
• 2 tablespoons Crème de Framboise or black raspberry liqueur
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 4 pints fresh raspberries, strawberries, and/or blueberries
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs yolks until thick and pale; slowly add the sugar while whisking. Beat well. Stir in the half-and-half and transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the liqueur and vanilla. Pour the custard into a bowl and cool. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the top of the custard, and refrigerate several hours. Serve with fresh berries (and a cookie!)
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