Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Tarte Fine

In the summer of 2008, I learned of Tuesdays with Dorie, an extraordinary group (led by Laurie of slush) working their way through Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I loved all the recipes I saw them making, and it sounded like such fun. The problem was, you had to have a blog to join and I hardly knew what a blog was. Nonetheless, I resolved to join as soon as my new kitchen was completed. But before the kitchen project even began, Laurie announced she was closing the membership of the group at the end of the following month. Panicked, I quizzed savvy (younger) coworkers, and my blog was born.

Fast forward to July 2010. We were picking dates for our vacation and M. pretended to be astonished that I would schedule our vacation around my turn to pick the recipe. Since I thought my turn would fall the first week of October, we decided on mid-October. Imagine my surprise to get an email from Laurie telling me I'd be the host this week. It was time to pick the recipe the group would make.

I knew my ideal pick would be one that had no chocolate (shockingly, since chocolate is a favorite) so that my friend Kayte could enjoy making and eating it. It would have no nuts, since so many of my fellow bloggers (or their kids) don't like nuts. Ditto coconut. It wouldn't have ingredients that are out of season for bakers in the southern hemisphere. There would be no custard, caramel or pie crust to stress out those who feel angst over these things. It would photograph well. It would be easy, not requiring expensive ingredients. And it would be delicious. So I chose tarte fine.

What could be easier? Frozen puff pastry, sliced apples, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sugar, cream and egg and it's in the oven. It looks impressive, tastes fabulous, and carries you away to Paris. Which is where we'll be vacationing next month. We'll stock up on memories, buy many pastries at Pierre Herme, indulge in our favorite treats at La Maison du Chocolat, fill up on pain Poilane and their punitions, nut oils from J. LeBlanc (I'll definitely be trying the pistachio oil), fresh Maille mustards... And we'll surely have this tart in various guises.

The recipe truly couldn't be easier. Here are my suggestions:
  • Unless your kitchen is very warm, get the puff pastry out and let it defrost as you peel and slice the apples. If your kitchen is hot, peel and slice the apples, toss them with a squeeze of lemon, then get out the puff pastry. 
  • I rolled my puff pastry on a Silpat with a sheet of parchment on top. That way, I didn't roll flour into the puff pastry. It's also easier clean up (laziness is one of my primary drivers). Don't think that the paper that separates the pieces of puff pastry is parchment and you can roll with that. Not that I made that mistake. Well, just once.
  • As you roll the puff pastry, start from the middle and roll out toward the edge, but don't roll over the edge repeatedly. You want the pastry to puff around the edges and if it's been compressed by the rolling pin you'll get less lift.
  • Move the puff pastry to a sheet pan before arranging the apples.
  • I made the tart once with Golden Delicious apples, which Dorie recommends, and once with Gala apples. My Galas were a bit mealy and I had a lot of angst over using them. But they melted into the pastry and the mealiness was not detectable.  My tasters liked the tart with Golden Delicious apples but LOVED the one with the Galas. Use whatever apples you like and adjust the sugar accordingly.
  • The love of the Gala apple tart may have something to do with using Dorie's playing around suggestion for a sweeter tart: bits of butter, then a sprinkling of sugar on the pastry before arranging the apples. Then brush with melted butter and sprinkle with more sugar. Delicious! 
  • I didn't glaze either of my tarts, and nobody seemed to mind. The tart I made with the Golden Delicious apples (no butter) could have used a glaze but the version with butter didn't need it.
  • If you live close to a Trader Joe's, rejoice! After 18 months of no puff pastry, they are finally stocking their excellent all-butter puff pastry again.
  • Although apples are the classic topping for this tart, it should work equally well with any fruit that isn't excessively wet, such as pears or apricots.
  • The technique can be just as easily used for savory tarts. Instead of dotting the puff pastry with butter, brush on a little pesto (basil or sun-dried tomato) and top with sliced Roma tomatoes, slivered basil and a sprinkling of cheese, or sliced artichoke hearts, olives and roasted red peppers.

Getting to pick the recipe was an emotional experience for me.  This group, this cookbook, its author, and my fellow TWD bloggers all mean the world to me. Dorie is always with me in the kitchen. I imagine her calm, encouraging voice giving advice and reassurance when I need it most. Because of her book I have grown so much as a baker and tried things I never would have attempted before. Dorie, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this cookbook. The recipes I've tried from Around My French Table have exceeded my expectations. French Fridays with Dorie will be a new adventure, and I know you'll be there with me, calmly guiding and encouraging me.

This is Pearl, my co-author

Tarte Fine - makes 6 servings
Printer-friendly recipe

Dorie says: In France, tarte fine is a chic, slender tart made from a slim layer of puff pastry topped with paper-thin slices of apple. In this country, it is often called apple pizza, a name that aptly describes the tart's looks, but not its elegance. In the end, the name is thoroughly unimportant--it's the taste and texture that mean something, and this tart gets a perfect score on those counts.

This tart is an easy treat to put together on short notice, since all it requires is store-bought puff pastry, a couple of apples, an egg, sugar and 15 minutes or less of active cutting and arranging.

The tart can be made with any sweet but lightly acidic apple, but I always make it with firm Golden Delicious apples, because they are most like the apples used for a tarte fine in France.

Note:  Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets are available in every supermarket across the country. However, I can't encourage you enough to search out an all-butter puff pastry at a local specialty store. If the store doesn't carry frozen all-butter puff pastry, perhaps it will order it for you. The pastry I buy--which is so good I stopped making puff pastry at home--is made by Dufour pastry.

3 medium-size firm sweet apples, preferably Golden Delicious
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 sheet (about 8 ounces) frozen puff pastry, preferably all butter (see above), thawed
2 teaspoons milk or heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten with about 1/2 teaspoon water, for egg wash
3-4 teaspoons sugar

1/3 cup apricot jam, for glazing

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the apples, slice them in half lengthwise and core them. Cut the apples halves in half again and cut about 7 lengthwise slices from each quarter. Put the slices into a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice.

On a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, roll the sheet of puff pastry out into a rectangle that is about 9 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches. If the dough is warm, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes. If it's still cool, just lift the paper or mat and place it on a baking sheet. Arrange the apple slices in slightly overlapping rows on the pastry, making sure to leave a border of 1/4 to 1/2 inch bare. Brush the borders lightly with the milk or cream, then brush the egg wash over the apple slices. Sprinkle the apples and the borders with the sugar.

Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden around the edges and the apples are soft and brown at the borders. Remove from the oven. If you want the edges of the apples to be even darker, you can run the tart under the broiler; be very careful not to overbake the pastry border. (To avoid burning the edges, you can cover the perimeter of the tart with aluminum foil.)

Boil the jam with a smidgen of water until it liquifies, then brush the glaze over the apples (if the jam has any chunks of apricot in it, avoid them).

Serve the tart hot or warm.

Playing Around:
If you'd like a sweeter tart, before you arrange the apple layer, scatter 2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits, over the pastry rectangle and sprinkle over 2 tablespoons sugar. Omit the egg wash, and once the apples are in place, brush them with 3-4 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons sugar. Bake and glaze the tart as directed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

BBA - Multigrain Bread Extraordinare

It's been a while since I've made or posted a bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. No bread making means there hasn't been any bread around here, so no sandwiches. No toast. No grilled cheese. Pretty sad.

That's behind us now as I made these lovely rolls a few weekends ago. This is a two stage bread, with the soaker made the first day and mixed with the rest of the ingredients to make the bread dough. As with all breads in this book, the flavor was rich and deep. Definitely a repeat-worthy bread.

I'm baking through The Bread Baker's Apprentice with the Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA challenge. There are a lot of talented bakers in our little group, including Nancy (of Corner Loaf), Cathy (of The Tortefeasor), Jessica (A Singleton in the Kitchen), Melissa (of From Laptop to Stovetop), Kayte (of Grandma's Kitchen Table), Sarah (of Blue Ridge Baker), Di (of Di's Kitchen Notebook), Margaret (of Tea and Scones) and Natalia (of Gatti Fili e Farina. We even have Nicole of Pinch My Salt (she started the BBA challenge) baking with us. You should join us! We're flexing our bread making muscles and surprising ourselves with all the types of bread we've mastered.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gingered Plum Raspberry Preserves

I almost skipped this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe, and that would have been tragic. If it hadn't been picked by my one of my favorite bloggers, Margot of Effort to Deliciousness, I might have skipped it, but then I saw my dear friend Hanaa urging us not to skip it on the P&Q. I got three lovely plums in my CSA this week, which I paired with raspberries I froze when they were in season a month or so ago, plus lemons from my tree.

I added sliced ginger to give the fruit an additional depth of flavor, and it added complexity without being a dominant flavor. The flavor of the jam was so delicious that I burned the roof of my mouth testing it. It was worth it. If you'd like the recipe, Margot will have it for you here.

Thanks, Margot, for choosing this wonderful recipe. It was truly surprising and has become a favorite here.

NOTE: After reading Margot's post, I just realized I made the recipe wrong. I was supposed to add 2 cups of apples along with the plums and raspberries. It turned out so well that I wouldn't change a thing next time, though, so feel free to make it either with or without the apples. There was enough natural pectin in the fruit that I didn't have a jelling problem.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coffee-Break Muffins

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous. I'd already made (and posted) this recipe, but there was never a doubt in my mind that I'd make them again (and again...) Moist, tender, redolent of coffee, these muffins smell amazing while they're baking and taste even better.

Dorie's muffin method for these is super easy. Mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients--strong coffee (I saved leftover coffee in the freezer at work for a few days), eggs, melted butter, vanilla, and combine. I added some chocolate chips for extra yumminess.

Doubling the recipe yielded 24 minis and 17 regular-sized muffins. Just enough for the people in the office to nab one to snack on with their morning joe. Since I made these during Ramadan, I saved mine for after I broke my fast and thoroughly enjoyed it. This recipe will be made again and again. Thanks, Rhiani, for a super pick! If you want the recipe, Rhiani will have it for you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Caramel Crumb Bars

I have long been a fan of caramel. At my old office, the little deli downstairs sold wonderful carmelitas, dangerous indeed on stressful days. I've looked for a comparable recipe but most of them involve unwrapping store-bought caramels. That's a non-starter for me.

So when I saw this recipe on beurrista, I had to make it. This isn't a recipe for carmelitas, but it is delicious nonetheless. I was making another recipe the same day, and I confused the directions and mixed the crust in the food processor. It worked well, and I will do it the same way in the future. The crust was difficult to spread in the pan, so I covered it with plastic wrap and used the rounded handle of my bench scraper to coax it into an even layer. I froze it while preparing the filling, which is basically heating the filling ingredients in a pan. Easy!

Although the recipe doesn't call for chocolate chips, they'd be a perfect addition, as would a sprinkling of flaky sea salt in the caramel filling.

This one is a definite repeat. The bars are delicious, dangerously so, and are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Give them a try soon!

Caramel Crumb Bars
Adapted from The Modern Baker
Printable recipe
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour, divided

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (optional)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13x2-inch pan with parchment paper.

For the dough:
In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed, beat the butter with the sugar and salt until soft and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla.

On the lowest speed, beat in 2¼ cups of the flour, scraping the bowl and paddle with a rubber spatula and continuing to mix just until the dough is smooth, and the flour has been absorbed.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape ¾ of the dough into the prepared pan. Use the palm of your hand to press the dough down evenly, without compressing it too much. Chill the dough-lined pan. Work the remaining ¼ cup flour into the remaining dough with your fingertips, so that it forms 1/8- to 1/4-inch crumbs. Set aside at room temperature.

For the filling:
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, optional salt and condensed milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to boil gently, stirring often, until it starts to thicken and darken slightly, about 10 minutes. Pour into a stainless-steel bowl to cool for 5 minutes.

Remove the dough-lined pan from the refrigerator and scrape the cooled filling onto the dough, using a small offset spatula to spread the filling evenly on the dough. Scatter the crumb mixture on the filling.

Bake until the filling is bubbling gently and is a deep caramel color and the dough and crumb topping are baked through, about 30 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack until lukewarm, 15 to 20 minutes. Lift the slab of baked dough out of the pan and onto the cutting board before it has cooled completely. Cut the slab into 2-inch squares.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was chosen by Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen. Melissa picked Ellie's whole wheat pancakes with strawberry sauce. I've never successfully made pancakes. I've made macarons, but pancakes? No way. Too difficult. Too finicky.

Given that pancakes are full of refined flours, have virtually no redeeming nutritional value and are basically a delivery vehicle for maple syrup, I've never sweated not having mastered them. But Ellie's are made with part whole wheat flour, and the strawberry sauce makes it easier to rationalize having them for breakfast. When my friend Kayte tweeted me a reminder that they were the pick for this week, I still hadn't had breakfast. They were quick to make. I used strawberries I froze earlier in the summer, which I defrosted in the microwave. The sauce gets made in the food processor, and the pancakes are a dry ingredients + wet ingredients = batter recipe. I used my crepe pan instead of a skillet or griddle, and it was a little tight fitting in three at a time. But little bubbles formed on the top, just as they're supposed to, and they flipped easily and intact, a first for me!

From beginning to end, it took 20 minutes to make this recipe, which is perfect for a spur of the moment weekend breakfast. Make sure you serve your strawberry sauce warm, or it will cool off your pancakes before you can eat them. Even better, prepare the strawberry sauce the day before and heat in the microwave.

Thanks, Melissa, for a wonderful pick! I learned how to make pancakes without trauma. You can conquer your pancake fears, too. You can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peach Upside-Downer

How many of us have looked at the picture of this cake (a cranberry upside-down cake in its original form) and longed to make it? The photo in Baking From My Home to Yours is so inviting. But I never seem to stumble on the photo when cranberries are in season, an obstacle which didn't deter Sabrina of Superflous from making this her pick for Tuesdays with Dorie.

That I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer won't surprise anyone who knows me outside of this blog, but I never noticed Dorie's Playing Around suggestion to make this a peach upside-downer. Serendipitously, I had two peaches left after making this crumble for the umpteenth time, so a peach upside-downer was easier than finding cranberries in early September.

I had some second thoughts about using brown sugar instead of granulated, or deepening the color of the caramel before pouring it in the cake pan, but I did it the way Dorie said to. In the end, it was great, but I think I'd like a more developed caramel flavor. Or maybe even a brown butter caramel flavor...just because brown butter makes everything better. I'd suggest serving it warm with ice cream. It was fine later in the day, but people who ate it warm out of the oven were much more enthusiastic than those who saved it for later.

If you'd like the recipe to create your own upside-downer, Sabrina will have it for you here. You can find the other TWD members, and their upside-downers, here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Perfect Dinner Rolls

Deliciously buttery, super easy and quick enough for a weeknight, these rolls deserve to be a regular in your dinner rotation. I first saw them when Nancy posted them on her bread blog here. She found them on Holly's site, and Holly saw them here. I made these twice in one week, weighed them out in 30 gram portions and got 30 rolls. Brushed with butter before baking, they are a richly delicious addition to your weeknight meals. Don't hesitate to change the butter to garlic butter, snip some chives and grate some lemon zest into the dough, or swap out up to a third of the flour for white whole wheat flour, or use your hazelnut or walnut oil instead of the vegetable oil. And so on.

The rolls can be formed and frozen in the pan you plan to bake them in. Just let them defrost and rise in either the refrigerator or on your counter. Just make sure to spray them with some vegetable oil spray, wrap the pan well in plastic wrap and then foil (and remove both before baking).

Perfect Dinner Rolls
Printable recipe
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups/484 grams all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into measuring cup, then leveled off
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes.

Add the oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour and mix on on low speed with the paddle attachment and incorporate the flour to create a wet, sticky mixture. Add 1 cup of the remaining flour and incorporate. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining 1 cup flour. On low speed, mix the dough to incorporate the final addition of flour until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the speed to medium and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding additional flour 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough reaches the desired consistency. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and turn the dough to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 20 - 30 minutes (you can also let it rise in the fridge, which will take about 90 minutes)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate into a rectangle. Cut it in half vertically, then each half vertically again into thirds so you have 6 equal strips of dough. Cut each strip of dough into fourths by cutting horizontally to make 24 little squares of dough. Take each piece of dough and cup it lightly under the palm of your hand on a clean surface. Press lightly and start rotating and rolling the dough ball quickly so that it forms a nice little ball of dough.

Place each rolled piece of dough into a lightly greased 9" x 13" or 12" round baking pan in rows of 4 about 1/2-inch apart. Cover the rolls in the pan with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap and let rise to double while your oven is preheating to 400 degrees - about 20 minutes. Brush them with the melted butter before baking. Bake for 13-15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 24 - 30 rolls.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Criss-Crosses

Before we get on with the recipe for this week, have you seen Dorie Greenspan's new book, Around My French Table? You must check this book out. I want to make virtually every recipe I've seen. You can find it on Amazon here. Go ahead, I'll wait here while you're away.


Fall baking is definitely on the menu for the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers. This week's recipe, peanut butter criss-cross cookies, was chosen by Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine.

I have a love affair, a very unhealthy love affair, with peanut butter. I love it on toast, in cookies, brownies, sandwiches, with celery, spread on chocolate fèves, from a spoon. Yeah, baby. Especially that last one.

The rapture that I read on the Internet about Dorie's peanut butter cookies recipe got me very excited. There is lots of peanut butter in her recipe, plus bonus chopped roasted salted peanuts to heighten the peanut flavor. You roll the cookie dough in sugar before smashing it with a fork (which she brilliantly recommends you dip in sugar...no more cookies stuck to the tines of the fork).

The first time I made it, I doubled the recipe, and some semisweet chocolate chips fell into half of the batch. Both were well received, but the peanut butter cookie purists eschewed the chocolate chips (what?!? and I bake for these people?) So I made the recipe again. This time I made the recipe with chopped honey roasted peanuts and this time some bittersweet chocolate chips found their way into half of the recipe. I hoped the honey roasted peanuts would provide the crunch and pop of flavor they did in this torte. While my tasters liked them as much as the roasted salted peanuts batch, they couldn't discern the difference.

The other change I made was to reduce the baking time for the second batch. I found the full 12 minutes made the cookies a little dry and crumbly, and I wanted a chewier cookie. Baked for 11 minutes they were fully baked but perfectly chewy, just about ideal in my book.

Check out what the other TWD bakers thought here. And many thanks to Jasmine for picking a great recipe!