February 2009 COTM Schneider: Desserts
February 2009 COTM: A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider
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I made the flaky tarts (once again, page escapes me--I'm on the road). The dough was easy to make (and I don't bake) and fairly easy to portion and roll out. The tarts cook up nicely, but two comments. One, they don't brown particularly (perhaps some egg wash might help?), and two the crust isn't as sweet as say a pie crust. Dusting with powdered sugar helps, but the dough just isn't very sweet. Anyone else notice that? Any other desserts worth making?
I tried making a tart with apricots and the dough, while easy to make, was slightly tough and not very tasty. It wasn't bad, just wasn't something I was excited about. Part of the problem could be that the apricots I used, while "fresh" were probably from South America, so they weren't sweet or tasty to begin with.
I should add that I am not a seasoned pastry baker, so that could have contributed to my very mediocre results.
I am interested in trying to make some of her fruit gelatins, those sound very interesting!
Rustic Free Form Tarts (p. 481-482)
I’ve made this before. Since I had the elements ready in the freezer, I assembled one for our Valentine’s supper last night, which in this case was made sour cherries we picked from our tree and froze last summer.
The tarts use her Foolproof Flaky Butter Pastry (p. 490), which is an ‘enlightened’ pastry dough recipe that replaces some of the traditional butter with sour cream. I had made three batches of it late December 2008, and froze two. She recommends freezing it for up to 1 month or to refrigerate it for up to three days. You probably want to wait less than that if you freeze it.
The recipe offers several ideas on how to handle the filling. Three cups of fruit, some fresh lemon juice (I also used some of the zest), a teaspoon or two of some eau-de-vie (Calvados for me: it was the only one we have), along with suggested variable amounts of sugar, flour and spices.
Basically, roll out the dough, chill it, and then pile up the filling in the centre and flip the edges over and pinch.
I also like to apply some milk wash with a little corn starch and sprinkle coarse demerara sugar on the crust for a extra sweet crunch.
Since our cherries had been frozen, I drained off the juice and boiled it down to a few tablespoons. I was pressed for time, but I really should have put them in a colander and squeezed them a bit more, because the filling was still very juicy and overflowed. The recipe works a bit better for solid or as of yet unfrozen fruit! I’ve learned to not quite let it be ‘free form’ after a few spills with juicy fillings, so I use a springform to hold it at first and once the dough is set, I unclip and remove the side. Bake at 400F for 40 or so.
The key aspect of dealing with the dough is to keep it very cool, and refrigerate it after rolling it out. I didn’t leave it long enough in the fridge (too rushed) and rashly worked on the stove surface to assemble the tart because I had run out of counter space. So if you use this dough, KEEP IT COOL!
This might also be the reason for the slight rubbery pastry, along with overlong storage in the freezer (I think despite my efforts that it was not entirely well wrapped). Because I’ve had good experiences with this recipe before, using other fruit, I think the problem here was with a rushed cook and not a bad recipe (I posted about the apple-rosemary tart in December: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583947)
Still a darned good tart with those home-grown cherries… it was gone at breakfast!
EDIT: darn it, the photos failed to attach. Will add a post with photos.
I did make some changes to the cake - OK a lot of changes, but I think I kept the general spirit alive.
First I increased the recipe by 50% to feed more people and baked in a 10 inch springform.
Second, when I increased I put in 2 eggs, instead of the 1.5 that would have been called for, since I was baking it gluten-free, and an extra egg white often helps.
Third, I made it with gluten free flours - a mix of almond meal, millet and rice flour, potato, tapioca and cornstarch. Added a bit of xanthan gum.
Fourth I used a loose yoghurt instead of buttermilk because that is what I had on hand
Finally, added about a teaspoon of almond extract - next time I think vanilla would be nice. I didn't use the cloves and used thyme instead because my husband isn't a big clove fan.
This cake only uses 2 T of butter per 6 servings, and no other fat besides the 1 egg yolk. It relies on a lemon syrup to make it moist.
The lemon syrup is good and rather tart (the way I like it). If you like sweet lemon desserts, you might want more sugar. I didn't measure my lemon juice, so perhaps I just had juicier lemons.
The cake baked and rose well, accepted the syrup. Without the syrup (on the edges that didn't get it), it is very dry. Wtih the syrup, at least the gluten-free version, crumbled some when cut. Overall taste was good - a good healthy cake. Served with fat free greek yogurt - it helped with the dry edges. I think I tend to prefer the sponge cakes with more eggs in them, or the now famous orange-almond cakes made with meyer lemons.