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Archive for August, 2011

Tarts & fruit

Tarte bourdaloue

Time for more tarts! The good thing is, I’m not sick of them. Nope, not one little bit. Although it is becoming tougher to transport all of these sweets from school to home. My school bags and multiple cake carriers tend to be quite the conversation starter on the train.

First up is the Tarte Bourdaloue (pear and almond tart, Bourdaloue style). I was really excited about making this tart.  First of all, it looks beautiful, and secondly, I was excited to taste the pate brisee (flaky crust) that I so carefully slaved over on Monday. It didn’t disappoint.

This tart is comprised of a pate brisee dough, almond cream, poached pears and raw sliced almonds. Originally, this dessert was a mixture of poached pears, almond paste and crushed macarons. It was created at the beginning of the 20th century by a patissier who owned a shop on Rue Bourdaloue in Paris.

We poached the pears in white wine with fresh lemons and plenty of vanilla beans. They smelled fabulous when we removed them from the pot. On their own, they are great as part of a cheese plate (blue cheese, yum…) or served with ice cream or whipped cream.

Tarte aux fruits frais

The second tart is a Tarte aux Fruits Frais. This is your common fruit tart, my sister Jocelin’s favorite.

It’s made with a pate sucree (sweet dough) that’s topped with a thin layer of almond cream and blind baked. Once the crust was cool, it was spread with a layer of pastry cream infused with Cointreau and topped with a combination of fresh, seasonal fruit. In this case, we used oranges, kiwi, strawberries and blueberries.

My husband Tom’s evaluation of this tart was that topped with just strawberries, it would be the perfect strawberry shortcake. Sounds good to me!

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Tarte aux Bananes et Creme

I survived day 3 – yippee! As we bake our way through the first unit of the program, aptly named “Tarts, Cookies & Sanitation” (I know, I’d prefer to leave that last bit out as well. It’s not very sexy), I’m here to present you with a lovely Tarte aux Bananes et Crème.

While this dessert may seem quite simple and basic, there were a lot of lessons learned here. As you might assume, this was our first introduction to custards and in this case, pastry crème. It was also a lesson in blind baking, proper whipping cream (and its many stages), alcohol flavorings (rum=yum), knife skills (bananas – easy!), preparing a pastry bag and rosette decorations. Not exactly rocket science, but all skills that we’ll certainly need to master for more complicated creations later in the program.

I think my biggest take away from this class had to do with the pastry crème. I have to admit, it’s something that’s been plaguing me for quite some time.  The flavor is great, but how do you get those darned lumps out of the batter?!? Well, now I have the answer. You whip it, as hard and as fast as you can.  And when you think you’re whipping it so fast and hard that you’re arm might fall off, you need to whip about 10x faster. Luckily, in school you have a partner and the luxury of taking turns (thank god!).

Therefore, I’m still perfecting my pastry crème technique.  This was, however, the best batch I’ve made yet.  Fantastic flavor and very minimal lumpage.  My husband is not much of a banana (or tart) fan, and his piece was gone in mere seconds. I guess that’s a good sign.

Next up: Gingersnap cookies!  Plus two tarts, of which I don’t yet know the names…

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Tarte aux pommes

Tarte aux Pommes

My first culinary creation was a success – phew! I am pleased to present the Tarte aux Pommes, or apple tart. It’s composed of a Pate Sucree, or sweet dough, that’s filled with a vanilla bean infused apple compote, topped with thinly sliced apples and finished with an apricot nappage (apricot jelly glaze).

I love the sweet dough crust, which is also one of the easiest doughs I’ve ever made. No pastry cutting or kneading required. It’s a creamed technique and tastes like a crispy, crumbly cookie.

Lesson learned – Slicing apples is not as easy as it looks.

Dinner

Up next: Tarte aux Bananes et Creme!

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A new adventure

I’m excited to report that I am officially enrolled in the Classic Pastry Arts program at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.  My first class was Friday, August 19 and I’ll be attending classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

As I juggle my full time job during the day and pastry duties most nights of the week, I’m going to do my best to keep up my blogging duties, however, apologize in advance if I miss an update here or there due to sugar overload and complete, utter exhaustion…

The best part is that I should have PLENTY of fantastic photos to post here, as I bake and pipe my way through each section of this fantastic program.  Check out the new “Pastry Scoop” tab, which will catalogue my culinary adventures.  I couldn’t be more excited (and anxious!) to share my trials, triumphs and new French vocabulary with you.

First up – Tarts.  My first accomplishment will be a Tarte aux Pommes made with a Pate Sucree.  Stay tuned for photos of that, and much more…

My new wardrobe for the next 9 months

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Bourbon peach hand pies with a cinnamon drizzle

You know I love pie, especially fruit pies and the juicy peaches at my local farmer’s market have been calling my name…

I wanted to kick things up a bit and make hand pies in place of a standard peach pie (although I nearly abandoned this plan after finding a terrific recipe for a ginger peach pie with a crumb topping…but that’s another blog post for another time).

I’ve never made hand pies before, but thought it might be similar to making calzones, which I do pretty regularly.  Yes, it’s true that the folding, crimping and slicing are the same, but pie dough is much more finicky than pizza dough.

I decided to use a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs.  It was exactly was I was looking for – fresh peaches and bourbon – simple, straight-forward and delicious.

Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon

As you’ll read in these very detailed instructions, there is significant chill time required after each step, which is the key to success for this recipe.  The chill time is what gives this dough its flaky, fluffy consistency that works perfectly with fruit pie filling.  It’s sturdy without being tough.

These pies would be great with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or fresh whipped cream. I mixed 1 cup powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to make a cinnamon drizzle.  I though the sweet sugar topping balanced the pie well and the touch of cinnamon complemented the peach filling just perfectly.

If you love a strong bourbon flavor, substitute your favorite bourbon in place of the milk in the drizzle.  I prefer Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon, which has a nice smoky flavor.

Bourbon peach hand pies with cinnamon drizzle

Happy peaching!

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Bouchon bakery

The time has come!  Bouchon Bakery opens the doors to its first Los Angeles bakery today, well Beverly Hills technically.  I know, us New Yorkers already have had the privilege of being home to not only one, but two Bouchon bakeries.

It  guess it just makes me happy to know that even more Americans now have access to this special outpost by culinary wizard, Thomas Keller.

And I am certainly excited about some of the new tastes that will come from Pastry chef Roy Shvartzape, including a much rumored Kouign-AmannEater has a great description of this flaky, sugary creation and a sneak peek of the bakery’s interior here.

Bon appetit Angelenos!

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The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport

I was lucky enough to get a few days away recently and headed 5 hours north to the lovely area of Ogunquit, Maine.  A long, scenic drive through New England with bikes in tow led us to a beautiful bed and breakfast called The Trellis House, where Pat and Jerry offer mouth-watering breakfasts accompanied by friendly conversation and an adorable Bijon Frise, Sophie.

The Candyman in Kennebunkport, ME

Most of my vacation itineraries are determined by food – where and what I plan to eat and when – and Maine is no exception.  From lobster rolls and oysters to clams and ice cream, the small town of Ogunquit is filled to the brim with fantastic food and restaurants.

"Best Lobster Roll in Maine" according to the The Travel Channel, Food Wars

Of course I had to share some of my favorite eats…

Pick-you-own lobster at the Lobster Pound in Ogunquit, ME

One of the trip highlights was definitely dinner at the Lobster Pound in Ogunquit.  As the name implies, you get to choose your own lobster, hard or soft, which is then boiled in fresh sea water, keeping the lobster soft and succulent and giving it a rich flavor.  Add sweet baked beans, a piping hot baked potato and fluffy coleslaw and you’ll need to roll yourself out of there.

Bread + Roses bakery

And now on to the sweet stuff…

Yummy treats at Bread + Roses bakery

One of the best cupcakes I've ever had - chocolate coffee oreo

Sweet Pea's, one of many ice cream parlors

Although I don’t have a picture that shows off the fantastic dishes, MC Perkins Cove is a must-eat destination.  My favorite dishes are the lobster roll, lobster mac n’ cheese, cheesy potatoes and the stellar carrot cake.  I’m drooling now just thinking about those candied carrots and tart cream cheese icing…

Love those early Maine mornings...

So, if you haven’t been to this area of Maine – go!  And let me know when you’re on the way so I can recommend even more places for you to rest your feet and grab a blueberry juice mimosa.

Sophie, guardian of The Trellis House

Oh, and definitely stop by The Trellis House to say hi to Sophie.

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