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Aunt Suzy says . . .

My friend, Ruth, and I recently read My Life in France by Julia Child and thought it would be fun to cook some things inspired by her.  . . maybe not exactly her recipes from The Art of French Cooking, but similar ones using fresh seasonal ingredients.  We had talked about a souffle, but I’ve always been intimated by them.  Probably should give one a try at some point, but we decided on quiche and chose an asparagus quiche because asparagus is at its peak right now.  I did look in TAOFC to see whether Julia had a recipe using asparagus (no) and to see her methods (interesting and helpful!).  Ultimately, we chose this recipe from Martha Stewart that we modified slightly.   I know the perfect person to buy from at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, so we went Saturday morning to buy asparagus and other items for our menu.  I realized that while I enjoy ordering quiche out or having it at other people’s homes, I had never made one myself!  This was very easy and definitely delicious, so I will make quiche again, experimenting with other types and recipes.  It was fun to cook with friends, with everyone diving in and making light work of the tasks. We served this with a beautiful salad and a glass of chardonnay.

Margaux says…

Quiche is kind of a staple in our house.  My dad made quiche a lot when I was a teenager, so it’s like comfort food to me.  And it’s (relatively) easy, inexpensive (especially if you just use leftover stuff like I do a lot), and really delicious.  This recipe is definitely a little fancier than I usually make, with the Gruyere and leeks, and it’s super good.  We usually have a few leftover pieces for breakfast the next day, but this one we totally polished off that night!

When I make quiche, or any baked single-crust pies, for that matter, I use the Joy of Cooking method with the crust, and I find that it always makes for a better finished pie.  In the Joy of Cooking test kitchen, this was the only way they found that didn’t end in a soggy, under done crust.  The edges may get a little brown, but it’s totally worth it.  I’ve included the instructions for this method after the recipe.

Ingredients

Your favorite pie crust for a single crust pie

1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed

2 medium leeks, white and light green part only

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

4 large eggs

1 1/4 cups half and half

A pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Crust: Roll out the dough and place in a 9-inch pie plate.  Crimp or flute the edges.  Bake at 350° for 7-8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and make a few stabs with a fork to deflate any bubbles.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Leave the oven on. (Or follow Margaux’s instructions below for pre-baking the crust).

Asparagus and Leek QuicheVegetables: Wash the asparagus and pat dry.  Cut in roughly 3/4-inch lengths.  Cut the tops off the leeks so only white and light green part remains.  Slice these pieces in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly under running water, fanning out the layers.  Thinly slice in half moons then pat dry with a towel or paper towels.  Heat the oil in a non-reactive skillet over medium heat.  Sauté for about 10 minutes until asparagus is beginning to soften and the leeks show a few browned bits.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Eggs: Whisk the eggs and half and half together and add the nutmeg along with salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk to completely blend and emulsify a little.

DSC06707Assembling and baking the quiche:  Place the slightly cooled pie crust on a jelly roll sheet pan. Scatter the grated Gruyere onto the bottom of crust.  Place the vegetable mixture in a layer over the cheese. Next pour the egg/cream mixture over all.  Place the quiche on the sheet pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes.  (check at 45 just in case it’s done. At Ruth’s it took an hour in a gas oven and at my house it took 45 min in an electric oven.)  A knife inserted into the center should come out almost clean.  The quiche will continue to cook slightly as you let it rest for 15 minutes (or more) before serving.  You can serve warm or room temperature.

NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS: 

Suzy says…None of us had time to make a crust so we used store bought and it was fine! While I swear by homemade, I have friends who swear by store-bought. Today I was convinced that if pressed for time purchased crust is a good option.  On the recommendation of the cheese department manager, I used half local Gruyere and half imported French.  Her idea was that the French is nutty and flavorful, but not very “melty” and the local is very melty, but does not have as much flavor as the French.  If Gruyere isn’t readily available, you can use regular Swiss cheese.

Margaux says…I have used store bought crust before too, and prefer Whole Foods brand by far.  But I have to be REALLY pressed for time to do it…I always make an all-butter crust and it’s way more flavorful.  🙂

Joy of Cooking pre-baked crust method:

Roll out your dough and place in pie dish.  Crimp the edges as desired, and freeze for about 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the upper third of the oven.  Take the pie dish with crust out of the freezer and smooth a large sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side down, into the pie crust, leaving an overhang all the way around the edges.  Fill the liner with raw beans or rice or metal pie weights, banking the weights along the sides if you don’t have enough to fill the whole shell.  Bake the crust for 20 minutes with the weights in to set the crust.  Take out of the oven, carefully remove the foil by grabbing the corners and pulling it out with the weights, then prick all over with a fork.  Put it back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until its golden brown.  Check periodically for doneness and if there is any puffing up, prick the puff with a fork and gently push back in place with a spoon. Take out of the oven and fill with the filling and bake (don’t forget to turn the oven down to 350).  If your crust edges start to get too brown during baking with the filling in, carefully cover just the edges with aluminum foil pieces.  Or get a vintage crust saver (aluminum ring that you set on the crust) like I have…it’s great!

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Margaux says…

So I entered another Food52 contest, and I think I submitted the wrong entry. The problem is, I waited until the last minute to start testing my recipes, and so it came down to crunch time (second tart was still baking at 8:30 pm on the night the contest entry was due), and I went on blind faith that the one in the oven was the better choice. While it was delicious, I now think that I entered the wrong one…the first one I made was even better.

My main reluctance to enter the first tart I made (Pear-Citrus-Rosemary Tart) was that it wasn’t as original as the second one. It was inspired by a sweet pizza recipe that Aunt Suzy gave to me several years ago, and I didn’t change that much other than using a tart crust rather than sweet pizza dough, and using butter rather than olive oil. The second tart I made was based on this cake recipe, and obviously, since it came from a cake recipe, I changed quite a bit.

The pear-citrus-rosemary tart is very sweet and buttery, and has tons of flavor.  The ginger-pear tart is a french classic with a twist.  They are actually quite different, and I recommend trying both.  But if you have to pick just one, do the pear-citrus-rosemary.  Of course!  It has butter!  🙂

Pear-Citrus-Rosemary Tart
adapted from Italian Country Table by Lynn Rosetto Kasper

1 recipe sweet tart dough (pate sucree)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3-4 medium-large Bosc pears
fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
grated orange peel from one orange
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch black pepper
2 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake tart pastry according to directions, then brush egg yolk onto the baked shell with a pastry brush and bake an additional 2-3 minutes, until the yolk is set and shiny. Drop the temperature on the oven to 350 degrees. Set shell aside.

Peel and slice the pears into 1/8″ slices into a medium bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, orange peel, cinnamon, rosemary and pepper. Sprinkle in the butter, and cut with a pastry-cutter until crumbly like a streusel.

Layer the pears in the tart shell, overlapping them in a pretty pattern (if you’d like). Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the pears. Bake 40-50 minutes, until pears are soft when pierced with a fork and top is golden brown. Place tart on a cooling rack and cool completely. Remove outer ring carefully, then slide a completely flat and thin spatula or knife between pan bottom and tart, and slide onto a completely flat serving plate. Serve the day it is made.

Fresh Ginger-Pear Tart

1 recipe sweet tart dough (pate sucree)
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
3-4 medium-large Bosc pears
1-2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 tbsp)
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake tart pastry according to directions, then brush egg yolk onto the baked shell with a pastry brush and bake an additional 2-3 minutes, until the yolk is set and shiny. Drop the temperature on the oven to 350 degrees. Set shell aside.

Peel and slice the pears into 1/8″ slices into a medium bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and ginger. Layer pears into the baked tart shell, overlapping into a pretty pattern. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until pears are soft when pierced with a fork and top is slightly browned. Place tart on a cooling rack and cool completely. Remove outer ring carefully, then slide a completely flat and thin spatula or knife between pan bottom and tart, and slide onto a completely flat serving plate. Serve the day it is made.

Spiced Chocolate Torte

January 30, 2011

Margaux says…

It’s my birthday!! My husband asked me if I wanted him to get me a cake, or if I wanted to make it myself. I’m a total cake snob, and have yet to really find a bakery in Chicago that has cake as good as homemade. I’ve found decent ones, but still not good enough, so I usually make my own cake. This year was no exception, and I’ve been really wanting to make the cake that was featured on the December cover of Bon Appetit…it looks heavenly!! Maybe a little labor-intensive, even when not making the white chocolate and milk chocolate ribbons to wrap it up in, but hey, it’s my birthday!  Totally worth the work.

The cake part is actually pretty straightforward and easy.  The batter was a little weird before you put in the egg whites…it was more like cookie dough.  But once you put in the egg whites, it’s much more what I’m used to for cake batter.

The buttercream was another story.  I’ve always wanted to make a real French buttercream, but always put it off because it seems too tedious.  It took me two tries, but the second time around I had the hang of it, and it actually turned out pretty perfectly.  I don’t have any photos of the process because you really have to buckle down and stay focused on the task, but if you follow the instructions carefully, it’s actually not that hard.  I added one note to the recipe…the first time around, I used my stand mixer, and I definitely advise against that.  I was pouring the cooked sugar mixture into the eggs with the mixer running, like you should, but because the syrup hardens immediately as it cools, it was splattering into hard crystals on the sides of the bowl.  It was pretty, and looked like spun sugar, but almost half of the syrup didn’t end up in the eggs like it should have!  So the second time around, I used a hand mixer, which was more labor intensive but did the trick.


The glaze was very easy.  The only thing is that I don’t think I stirred it enough to thicken it, so a lot more than I wanted slid off the cake.  So make sure you follow the instructions, and not get too antsy to eat the cake.  🙂


Spiced Chocolate Torte
(without the chocolate ribbons)
from Bon Appetit, Dec 2010 issue

I made this as a 6″ cake, since I wasn’t serving 12-14 people like the original recipe states.  You can halve any recipe for a 9″ cake to make a 6″ cake.  Some of the division is a little tricky, so you’ll have to use a calculator or conversion chart on the internet.

cake
1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
8 eggs, separated, room temperature
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), melted, lukewarm
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, sifted (measured, then sifted)
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar

buttercream
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 jumbo egg yolks
1 1/2 cups butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), melted and cooled (but still pourable)
1/4 cup dark rum
pinch salt

glaze
12 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate(do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 tbsp honey
3/4 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder

cake
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9″ cake pans with 1 1/2″ high sides. Line bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Blend in melted chocolate. Slowly mix in pecans, vanilla and spices. Gently fold in flour in 4 batches (batter will be very thick and dense).
Using an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar in another large bowl until medium peaks form. Gently fold 1/4 of the whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining. whites. Divide batter among prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake until tooth pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Run knife around sides of each cake. Let stand 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks. Cool to room temperature. (Cakes can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Wrap tightly and freeze.)

buttercream
Stir sugar and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat egg yolks in medium bowl until pale and thick. Gradually beat in hot sugar syrup; continue beating until mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes. (I used a hand mixer for this because with a stand mixer, when adding the syrup mixture half of it ended up on the sides of the bowl like spun sugar. I had to scrap a batch and start over.) Beat in butter one piece at a time, incorporating each piece completely before adding next. Blend in melted chocolate, then rum. (If buttercream looks broken or curdled, place bowl with buttercream over medium heat on stove burner and whisk 5 to 10 seconds to warm mixture slightly, then remove from heat and beat mixture again on medium speed. Repeat warming and beating as many times as needed until buttercream is smooth.) Chill buttercream for 30 minutes to firm it up before spreading it on the cake layers.
Reserve 1/2 cup buttercream. Set 1 cake layer, flat side up, on rack; spread top with half the remaining buttercream. Top with second cake layer; spread with remaining buttercream. Top with third cake layer; use reserved 1/2 cup buttercream to fill in seam where cake layers meet. Freeze cake until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours (I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap so that it wouldn’t dry out).

glaze
Place strips of waxed paper under the sides of the cake to catch extra glaze when it runs down the sides.
Stir all ingredients in top of double boiler over gently simmering water until mixture is smooth. Remove from over water. Stir until glaze is thickened, about 5 minutes (do not allow glaze to set). Pour 3/4 of the glaze over the top of cake. Carefully and quickly tilt cake back and forth so glaze coats sides; smooth sides with spatula, adding some of remaining glaze where necessary. Chill cake until glaze is set. Remove pieces of waxed paper.

Cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

Classic Fresh Berry Tart

August 11, 2010

Margaux says..

When I graduated college, my mom and aunt Judy took me on a trip to France: one week in Paris and one week in Provence.  It was an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to go back…Paris is definitely my favorite city, out of all the cities I’ve visited.  The food was probably the best part for me…we pretty much planned our days around meals and restaurant locations.  But one thing that has always stood out to me (besides the croissants that we had in Montmartre) was the strawberry tart that I bought on a whim in a little pastry shop around the corner from our hotel.  Whenever you get a tart in the U.S., it looks beautiful, but there isn’t much flavor.  This tart tasted like it looked.  It was absolutely gorgeous, with ruby red whole strawberries coated in a glossy glaze, rich pastry cream, and the crust was the best of all–it was buttery, slightly sweet, and crispy.  I’ve never had a tart shell like it…it was almost like it was made partly out of graham crackers or maybe brown sugar.  Anyway, it lasted only about 1 minute, and I’ve never had one like it since.

I’ve been wanting to attempt recreating this tart since, but never really had the tools (no tart pan), and was a little bit overwhelmed by it.  I don’t know why…I make cakes from scratch often, and I’ve been making pies since I was about 12…but for some reason a tart seemed too daunting.  But within the past year or so, since my kitchen was remodeled and I’m baking more often again, it’s been on my mind.  Then my mom got me a tart pan for my birthday, so I started looking for recipes.  I went to my favorite source for trying something new, Cook’s Illustrated.  Their instructions are so specific and detailed for everything, so I always like to use their recipes for my new cooking endeavors.  This recipe claimed to be for a tart that tasted as good as it looked, unlike most bakery tarts, which was another reason I used it.

Since strawberries aren’t in season anymore, and the farmer’s market was overflowing with raspberries and blackberries, I went for a mixed berry tart.  It did taste as good as it looked!!  It was absolutely delicious.  The crust wasn’t the same as the one I had in France, and now that I’ve made one tart, I’m going to start trying others…but this crust was pretty perfect (nice and buttery, crispy and slightly sweet).

You definitely have to have some time on your hands to make this.  And the dough is pretty difficult to work with, so have some patience.  I had to stick it in the fridge after rolling it out because it wouldn’t come off the parchment, and then it was too stiff to roll onto my rolling pin, so I had to let it sit for a few minutes to soften again.  Also, next time I might lightly grease the aluminum foil before lining the pan with it and filling it with weights, because it was really difficult to lift out (it stuck in a few places and had me swearing a lot).  But it is all totally worth it, I promise!  Plan on making it for company, because after the first day, it isn’t as good (although it was edible…we had no problem finishing it up the next day.  :))

Classic Fresh Fruit Tart
from Cook’s Illustrated, July/August 2001

Makes one 9-9 1/2″ tart, serving up to 10

Chalazae are cordlike strands of egg white protein that are attached to the yolks–removing them with your fingers is easy and eliminates the need to strain the pastry cream after cooking.  The pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance, but do not fill the prebaked tart shell until just before serving.  Once filled, the tart should be topped with the fruit, glazed, and served within a half hour or so.

Pastry Cream
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks, chalazae removed (see note)
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Tart Pastry (Pate Sucree)
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

Fruit and Glaze
Fruit, unwashed
1/2 cup red currant or apple jelly

1. For the Pastry Cream:  Heat half-and-half, 6 tbsp sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
2. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in remaining 2 tbsp sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
3. When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer mixture to medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.
4. For the tart pastry: While pastry cream is chilling, whisk together yolk, cream, and vanilla in small bowl; set aside. Pulse to combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1 second pulses. With machine running, add egg mixture and process until dough just comes together, about 25 seconds. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 48 hours.

5. Remove dough from refrigerator, let stand at room temp until malleable. Unwrap and roll out between lightly floured large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to 13 inch round. (If dough is soft and sticky, slip onto baking sheet and refrigerate until workable, 20 to 30 minutes.) Transfer dough to tart pan by rolling dough loosely around rolling pin and unrolling over 9 to 9 1/2 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Working around circumference of pan, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough with one hand while pressing dough into corners with other hand. Press dough into fluted sides of pan. (If some edges are to too thin, reinforce sides by folding excess dough back on itself.) Run rolling pin over top of tart pan to remove excess dough. Set dough-lined tart pan on large plate and freeze 30 minutes (can be sealed in gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag and frozen up to 1 month.)
6. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Set dough-lined tart pan on baking sheet, press 12-inch square of foil inside frozen tart shell and over edges and fill with metal or ceramic pie weights (dried beans or rice work just fine too). Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and carefully (VERY carefully) remove foil and weights by gathering edges of foil and pulling up and out. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes longer. set baking sheet with tart shell on wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
7. To assemble and glaze the tart: When tart shell is completely cool, spread cold pastry cream over bottom, using offset spatula or large spoon. (Can press plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream and refrigerate up to 30 minutes.) Arrange fruit on top of pastry cream, following a design on page 22, if desired.
8. Bring jelly to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to smooth out lumps. When boiling and completely melted, apply by dabbing and flicking onto fruit with pastry brush; add 1 tsp water and return jelly to boil if it becomes to thick to drizzle. (Tart can be refrigerated, uncovered up to 30 minutes.) remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between bottom of crust and tart pan bottom to release, then slip tart onto cardboard round or serving platter; serve.

Margaux says

This is a recipe from my “3 Aunts and a Mom” cookbook from Aunt Suzy, submitted by Aunt Judy.  It’s a take on the classic French clafoutis, with chocolate added (yum!).  I’ve been itching for cherry season to arrive so that I could make it, and once it finally got here, every time we’ve had cherries in the house a certain little boy eats them all before I can even blink.  This time I had a plan…bribe him with a popsicle while I pitted the cherries.  Well, the minute I got out the dark ruby little treats, the popsicle was forgotten (who wants frozen grape juice when you can eat these sweet, juicy little guys??).  So it took me twice as long to pit the three cups…

I had to give the cherry monster one for every two I pitted.  Note the cherry-juice chin.

Apparently, purists bake their cherry clafoutis with un-pitted cherries, because the pit releases added flavor to the dish.  I just think that dealing with pits when you’re trying to savor a dessert is not worth it…maybe I’ll try it that way sometime just to see.   But it would have made this quick dessert even quicker, that’s for sure!

I love this dessert because it’s not to sweet…it kind of reminds me of cherry crepes, if you were just to pour the crepe batter over the cherries and bake it all together, or even flan, because of the egg and cinnamon flavors.  It also makes a good brunch treat…I’ve had it for breakfast 2 days in a row now.  🙂

Cherry-Chocolate Clafoutis
recipe from my Aunt Judy Major

2 tbsp melted butter
3 cups fresh dark cherries, or 2 cans, well-drained (although I wouldn’t recommend canned)
1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Grease 10″ iron skillet with 1 tbsp butter. Spread cherries and chips in the pan.

Mix together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Place liquids in a blender. Add mixture of dry ingredients and remaining 1 tbsp butter. Blend until smooth.

Pour batter over cherries and chips.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Be sure its a 10″ skillet. The batter will puff up and fill the skillet during baking, though it falls soon after it comes out of the oven. Serve warm with powdered sugar dusted over the top. (I served with vanilla ice cream…it was perfect).