almond and rosemary tarts with cherries and saskatoon berries

This is the time of year when the summer is drawing to a close and everyone starts separating again.

I’ve realized how scarily easy it is for some friendships to start to fade and erode. Maybe it’s because I usually seem to make friends through brute exposure (if I’ve said “hello” to you 470 times, I probably consider us friends and I certainly hope you do as well), but after not seeing someone for a while, sometimes things change. One of the most disappointing ways is when I somehow forget that we used to be friends. A while back I saw someone and we talked a bit and it was only after we parted ways that I realized that we use to be Rather Good Friends. We texted each other occasionally, even when I only had my ridiculously cheap prepaid phone and it took me at least a minute to type “hello.” We had talked in classes and done school work together.  But when I saw them and spoke to them, I was thinking of them as an acquaintance. One that I was very fond of, and veering more on the friend-acquaintance end of the spectrum, but I had completely forgotten that we used to get along so well.Things like this remind me that I need to take initiative to keep in touch and occasionally contact others (I prefer to placidly wait, myself). Some friendships just require more effort than others to maintain. It was a lot easier when everyone I knew was in the same class, or at the very least, in the same city, but now people have started to spread out. It makes things a bit more complicated…particularly when there are close friends that you might meet on your own, and then there are only sort-of friends who you might only meet in groups. In the end you can’t keep up with everyone, and at least not all the time.And so sometimes I might stay in contact and sometimes I might not. And some friendships will fade. And for some it’s as though you can just pick up where you left off and no time has passed at all. A friend suggested the flavours: rosemary and almond and some sort of fruit (which I turned into cherry to match what I had). I’ve become quite fond of the combination.

I find saskatoon berries a bit challenging. They’re rather dry and so few in number they feel very insignificant in this tart, but the cherries cooked up soft and lovely (just watch out for the pit, or carefully pit then through the side). The rosemary is only in the tart crust, but I think it would have been nicer to have rosemary distributed throughout the filling as well for a stronger flavour.

Still, the combination of almond cream and fruit remains irresistible.

Oh and I’m bringing these tarts with me to Fiesta Friday. It’s been quite a while (if I set myself a deadline for Friday I usually meet it by the next Wednesday, you see) but I’ve been missing the party quite a bit and so finally(!!) I’ve cobbled a post together out of my 30 (now 29) drafts. Angie of the Novice Gardener is as always a wonderfully welcoming host. This week is co-hosted by the enthusiastic and lovely Jhuls of the Not so Creative Cook and the inspiring and kind Elaine of Foodbod.

almond and rosemary tarts with cherry and saskatoon berry

red fife pastry

Should make enough to line around 16 4-cm diameter tart pans when rolled thinly. Or you could line 8 small tins and then another, larger tart pan!

100 g red fife

100 g all purpose flour

a few sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

salt

1 stick butter

60 mL cold water or less

Combine the flours, rosemary, and salt. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Mix in the water. Chill.

 

almond cream

Makes enough to fill 6 tarts–the almond cream will rise to the top with this amount. To fill 8, make a 1.5 recipe. Adapted from Pastry by Richard Bertinet.

50 g butter

55 g sugar

pinch salt

70 g ground almond

15 g flour

40 g egg

1 tsp Triple Sec (could be increased)

Beat butter until light, add sugar and beat until fluffy and pale. Mix in almond, flour then the egg and Triple Sec. Beat some more, keeping the mixture light and full of air. Chill for only around 15 minutes before use–it will be cold but still malleable.

 

assembly

cherries

saskatoon berries

sprigs of rosemary

Roll out the crust on a floured surface until very thin. Cut into pieces and line 6 tart pans. Reserve the rest or line some additional tart pans.

Fill each tart with a layer of almond cream, place a cherry, some saskatoon berries, and a sprig of rosemary on top.

Bake at 375F, 20-30 minutes. Let cool and dust with icing sugar before serving.

vanilla and anise iced honey plum cake

I found this lovely bottle of Galliano in the bottom of one of the cupboards and decided that I had to make a cake with it.

Galliano, as it turns out, is sweet and mostly flavoured with vanilla and anise. I decided I wanted to make it the base flavour of the cake by incorporating it into a syrup and an icing.

vanilla and anise iced honey almond plum cake

honey almond black plum cake

This cake was freehanded by using a great deal of whole numbers. It turned out surprisingly decently, though not great–a bit too wet. It is not very sweet at all because I wanted to top it with an excess of icing.

75 g spelt flour

75 g all purpose flour

50 g ground almond

1.25 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

115 g butter

25 g sugar

15 g honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

100 mL milk

3 black plums, chopped with sliced reserved for top of cake

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour an 18-cm cake springform cake tin, and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

Whisk together flours, almond, baking powder and salt.

Cream butter and sugar together with wooden spoon. Beat in honey. Switch to a wire whisk and whisk in the eggs, one at a time.

Alternate mixing the flour mixture and milk into the butter mixture. Lastly, gently fold in the chopped plum.

Scrape batter into the cake pan. Top with reserved plum slices. Bake for around 50 minutes.

 

honey and galliono syrup

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp water

good splash Galliano (~ 0.5-1 tbsp)

Place water and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, cooking for a minute or so to slightly reduce. Remove from the heat and stir in the galliano.

Once the cake is out of the oven, and still in the pan, brush the syrup generously over the plum slices on top of the cake and pour the remaining syrup evenly over the cake.

 

galliano icing

I think this came out a bit thinner than I wanted it to actually. 

80 g icing sugar

15 g milk

1/2 tsp Galliano

Whisk everything together.

Once the cake has cooled, pour the icing over top and let it drip down the sides.

rhubarb and sage éclairs

I seem to spend a great deal of time looking at food. I look at food on the shelves in grocery stores and in the cases of bakeries and on the menus of restaurants. I look at pictures in cookbooks and oh gosh so so so many pictures on food blogs.

The thing is, I enjoy it.

I had a lot of fun doing just that last Saturday (or so it was when I wrote this… now I think it’s been a month or two. Huh.). We ended up visiting three bakeries, each with so many tantalizing pastries on display…and I just continued to look at things. Partially because I was too busy being jealous of how beautiful the pastries were and thinking about making them myself and of course because of the price. There was one bakery/restaurant we went into that was so beautifully well-designed–the roof had angled windows letting in some lovely diffuse sunlight. It felt like a greenhouse. I wanted to sit there forever, but to do that I’d have to buy something. And so I looked at the éclairs.

I found them to be a bit much. I couldn’t justify the price for one lone éclair as absolutely lovely as it looked (and much better piped than my attempts). My imagination started racing. Was this bakery a mere pretty facade on some sort of extortion scheme surrounding overpriced pastries?

Anyways, I will refrain from getting into whether or not that was a reasonable price. Especially as now that I’ve thought about this eclair for long enough I don’t know what to think. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t really matter any more.

This is not at all to put down the bakery (to call it pretentious only makes me the pretentious one). I’d like to go back now that I’ve gotten over my surprise at the prices.

Though it does seem a bit passive aggressive of me to have made some éclairs the next day, doesn’t it?

Somehow piping the éclairs–a straight line–was very challenging for me. However the pastry cream went a bit better…I quite recommend this way of piping. It may not look very pretty from above, but I think it looks quite nice from the side and doesn’t require anything tricky like changing the amount of pressure you apply (I really should learn how to do this and stop coddling myself).

The rhubarb keeps coming in so it was the obvious choice, and I also thought it was about time I give baking with sage a go. The sage flavour came out very, very well in the pastry cream, and I cooked the rhubarb down into a thick jam with some dried rose flower.

Visually I preferred the ones dusted with icing sugar, and also the lightness they had as the pastry cream ended up quite rich–I think I would recommend this. However I also quite liked the éclairs that I dipped in white chocolate as I did not sweeten the jam and pastry cream excessively, so the additional sweetness was welcomed.

And one more thing: happy Fiesta Friday!

Rhubarb and sage eclairs

Pâte à choux

The pastry is adapted in equal parts from David Lebovitz and from the kartoffelkage recipe in Scandinavian Cooking by Trina Hahnemann to something vague and in between. I did two batches as in my first I piped the éclairs too wide–and found that I used rather different quantities of egg each time. Makes 10 éclairs.

150 mL water

pinch sugar, salt

60 g butter

75 g flour

2-3 eggs (I used 2.5 first time, then only 2 the second time)

Heat the water, sugar, salt and butter in a saucepan until the mixture is boiling.

Remove from the heat, pour in the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon until it has formed a cohesive ball.

Beat in the eggs one at a time. If you need more than two eggs, beat the third in a small bowl and then pour it in a little bit at a time. The pastry should be shiny and drop from the spoon into the saucepan, though still hold its shape.

Fill a piping bag fitted with a large ridged tip. Pipe 10 éclairs–try to keep your pressure constant in order to pipe even lines. I discovered from batch number one that your éclairs should be relatively thin (i.e. don’t pipe any thicker than how thick your large tip pipes already); otherwise the explosive hollow considerably deforms the éclairs.

Bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes. Make a hole in the bottom of each with the tip of a paring knife to let the steam escape and let cool on a wire rack.

 

Sage pastry cream

Another pastry cream adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation further adapted to fit the egg bits I had leftover. I was impressed with how well the sage flavour came out. Makes more than enough to generously fill 10 éclairs.

200 mL cream, divided

200 mL milk

handful sage, sliced and rolled between palms to crush

1.5 eggs + 2 yolks

3 tbsp sugar

25 g cornstarch

Heat 100 mL of the cream and the 200 mL milk in a small saucepan until steaming. Add the sage, cover, and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 30 minutes.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar and cornstarch until there are no more lumps. Reheat the infused milk mixture, then gradually pour into the eggs, whisking to temper. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the pastry cream is well thickened.

Press through a sieve with a rubber spatula. Cover and chill.

Whip the remaining 100 mL of cream until stiff. Beat the pastry cream with a spatula until softened and smooth. Fold in one scoop of the whipped cream to lighten, then the remaining cream.

 

Rose and rhubarb jam

Should make enough to fill 10 éclairs. 

4-5 stalks rhubarb

a couple small dried rose flowers

sugar

Thinly slice the rhubarb and place in a small pot along with the dried rose and a good spoonful of sugar. Heat gently until the juices have started to come out of the rhubarb. Cover and let it cook until completely softened, a couple minutes. Remove the cover and stir, letting the jam simmer to cook off the excess liquid. Cook until thick; taste for sweetness and add sugar as desired.

 

Assembly

sliced strawberries

sage leaves

white chocolate

icing sugar

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the pastry cream. Melt some white chocolate, if desired, in a bowl.

Slice each éclair in half. Press a spoonful of jam into the bottom of each éclair and spread evenly. Pipe a generous layer of pastry cream overtop, and some sliced strawberries if desired.

The top half of the éclair can be dipped in white chocolate and then garnished with sage leaves. Or simply put the top half in place and dust generously with icing sugar.

caraway and nutmeg souffle with roasted rhubarb (answer to a challenge! or is it a party?)

First of all, thank you to the ever-talented, sweet and enthusiastic Lili of Lili’s Cakes for organizing this souffle challenge! The tres leches challenge was plenty of fun as well… it always seems to be something I’ve considered making in a vague non-committal manner and so I’ve been very pleased with these challenges giving me the motivation to see it through!

Ah, and now I will take a brief break from food-related writings to mumble about some slightly serious busyness going on. August 5th was a popular day all around. It involved deadlines for a eulogy of sorts, an abstract, and, or so I had thought, a lovely souffle challenge! Luckily the souffle challenge ended up actually being August 6, so in the end I’m not actually late!

There’s also been a great deal of this stay-late and go-in-early sort of thing, which culminated in one glorious day that was fuelled by three hours of sleep, coffee and a bad chocolate bar masquerading as a granola bar. It was horrendous but surprisingly manageable, probably because it was a one-off. Now things have calmed down (sort of not really) but at least I seem to have a lot more time on my hands!

It’s given me a bit of time to put together this answer to the challenge (or should I say, gift for the party?)!

But on to the souffle: I used Lili’s cherry and almond souffle recipe. I’ve only had good experiences  using Lili’s recipes (the previous time was the Italian meringue macaron shell…and I’ve really got to get around to the babka some day!) which can be chalked up to her careful explanations and detailed procedures (and pictures!).

I’ve been wanting to use some of our caraway seeds for a while. We recently bought some newer (and considerably more fragrant) caraway which I was pleased to use over the potentially-few-decades-old seeds. The caraway seeds have a very distinctive seedy-spicy taste to them, and at first I was slightly hesitant. However, the addition of nutmeg rounds it out into a more gentle spice taste. (Spices do work well together, don’t they…and I worry they might feel a bit lonely on their own.)

I really loved the taste of the pastry cream, but in the end it was too gentle for me to taste it in the souffle itself.

Rhubarb is, as always, tart and pleasant. However I found it a bit dry actually after it was baked…I might consider making a compote or poaching some rhubarb instead of roasting it…I think having a nice pool of juice in the bottom would be fun to eat with the souffle.

And thank goodness, the souffles rose! Some rose more evenly than others but they all got a bit of a lift. I suppose I never should have doubted it!

Caraway and nutmeg souffle with roasted rhubarb

This is adapted from Lili‘s cherry and almond souffles; I substituted a different compote for the bottom and some different spices as well. The spicing of the pastry cream should be strengthened in order for it to come out in the souffle itself. I had just enough batter for four small souffles.

 

Roasted rhubarb

a few stalks rhubarb

sugar

lemon zest

Chop rhubarb, toss with sugar to lightly coat. Pile together on a parchment lined pan and roast at 375 until softened and juices have been released. Let cool and chill in fridge.

 

Caraway and nutmeg souffle

200 g milk

teaspoonful caraway seeds

3 eggs, separated

45 g sugar + extra

15 g cornstarch

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Butter four small ramekins with softened butter and dust with granulated sugar, evenly coating the surface. Refrigerate.

Place the milk and caraway seeds in a small saucepan and heat until it simmers. Cover, remove from the heat, and allow to steep for one hour. Pass through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thickened and lightened. Add the cornstarch and nutmeg and whisk until pale and fluffy. Start warming the infused milk until steaming, then whisk into the egg yolks. Return the whole mixture to the stovetop and cook, whisking constantly, until nice and thick. Cover and let cool to room temperature.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until foamy. Add a couple spoonfuls of sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks.

Fold a spoonful into the cooled pastry cream to lighten, and then fold in the remainder until just combined.

Take the ramekins out from the fridge, add a small scoop of roasted rhubarb on the bottom of each. Top with a dollop of souffle batter and scrape the top level with the side of an offset spatula. Clean the edges.

Bake at 350F for 20 or so minutes, or until risen and lightly browned on top.

Dust with a bit of icing sugar and serve immediately with additional roasted rhubarb.

apricot and white currant pavlova

This is a bit of nostalgia for me–weird camera angles and odd framing (which still persist to this day), it was this pavlova that I made around one year ago. I never got around to posting it at the time, but after my one year anniversary post it seems a fitting flashback.

We do not have an excess of marvellous farmer’s (farmers’?) markets here. They come in a couple varieties: there are ones that are open all year round with who-knows-what in the winter, and others that are open only every summer — and most of the indoor markets do come with an outdoors summer extension. But it can be a bit hit and go.

They all have their merits though. Some are better for boreks and breads and pastries, others for sausage and venison and slow roasted meats, others for more unusual heirloom vegetable varieties, and others for buying cabbages and potatoes en masse.

That day I had been volunteering at a very small farmers market and then impulsively bought some fruit before leaving: the lone box of white currants and a heavy carton of apricots, just ripe.

I ate apricots on my walk to the station, throwing the pits into the grass along the side of the road. The whole thing felt so poetic a way of littering in my head, but I was probably just being a nuisance.

The remaining apricots that I brought back were gradually eaten over the week and put into this pavlova.

I really wanted to keep the white currants on their stems for aesthetics, like elegant strings of pearls. But in the end my practicality won out (but not before I snapped a couple of photos).

I remember very clearly welcoming the tartness of the white currants as the meringue was very, very sweet (nowadays I would cut down on the sugar a little bit as I did in this roasted rhubarb and black plum pavlova). Otherwise it was a refreshing pavlova, replete with fresh fruit, a bit of floral orange blossom water and some orange liqueur in the cream. The outside of the meringue was thin and crisp, and the inside was fluffy and homemade-marshmallow-like, really just how a nice pavlova should be.

I think my favourite way to eat a large pavlova like this is set out a handful of forks and spoons and let everyone eat it together (though I suppose it does depend on your company… keep it to family and close friends!).

I’m bringing this ancient one year-old pavlova (with all the perishable cream and egg and fruit, it doesn’t sound so appetizing anymore, does it?) to Angie‘s Fiesta Friday. This week it is kindly hosted by Jess of Cooking is My Sport and Loretta of Safari of the Mind.

apricot and white currant pavlova

 

Orange blossom meringue

2 egg whites

1/2 c sugar

3/4 tsp orange blossom water

Whip egg whites until foamy, gradually add sugar and whip until very thick and stiff and glossy. Whisk in the orange blossom water.

Spread into a 5-6″ diameter circle on a piece of parchment paper. Bake at 250F for 1.5 hours.

 

Assembly

1/2 c heavy cream

2 tsp Triple Sec or other orange flavoured liqueur

4-6 apricots, sliced

handful white currants

Whip until thick, whisk in the Triple Sec. Spread over the cooled meringue. Top with apricots and currants.

a freeform onion and goat cheese loaf from selma’s table

Selma‘s passing reminded me of two seemingly contrary things simultaneously. It reminded of how much goes on beyond the blog. Some share more than others but a blog can only reveal a few facets of a persons life. And yet from all the dear friends that Selma has made, it also reminded me how evident it is that blogs also contain the incredible power to touch and connect to others. Selma’s blog, a blog that I had only been following for a few months before hearing the news, was exceptional in this way.

She brought all her readers, friends and the casual peruser, to her table, set them down, and told them a story over a bite, a meal or a sweet treat.

I’m a bit late to this tribute, as I was, unfortunately, in getting to know Selma. This is what this tribute will be about for me–coming to learn a little bit more about an amazing blogger who has touched so many lives.

As a food blog tributes go, making some food is often appropriate. It took a while to decide what I would make; at first I considered making a sourdough bread after reading about Twinkle and her many children that Selma shared.

But in the end I decided to do something I don’t do often enough: I decided to try one of Selma’s own recipes. I’d like to call it a trust exercise: a slightly uncertain foray the first time around, where you set off a bit blindly, relying only on another’s ability to convey their expertise in written directions…but perhaps that’s getting a bit melodramatic. However, it is certainly a way of getting to know a bit about someone.

We already learn so much about someone from just reading their posts. It might be the ingredients they choose, the methodology, or even the way the steps are explained and the recipe is written. All of Selma’s recipes come with a story–conversational, witty and effortless to read. But you can go one step further– because sometimes you come to understand this story even better when you make the recipe yourself.

Selma not only excelled at flavourful and creative vegetable dishes but also heartier and meatier fare and sweet desserts. I chose a quick bread–it sounded stunning in its description and somehow managed to look even better.

Selma described this loaf as a humble one, and it is humble in its majesty. It produces a very unpretentious and rugged freeform loaf, generously topped with spring onions, thyme and chunks of goat cheese. It is rich with the generous amount of cheese and forthcomingly flavourful.

I love the generous amount of cheese in the loaf, especially that one third is saved for the top. It browns and crisps and tastes lovely toasted, whereas the cheese in the loaf itself stays soft and creamy.

I made only a couple changes, using the soft unripened goat cheese I had in place of the more ripened cheese Selma used, and substituting part spelt flour and a zucchini in place of the potato.

zucchini, spring onion and goat cheese loaf

300 g zucchini, grated, tossed with a pinch of salt, allowed to sit for 30 minutes in a sieve before squeezing the excess water out

125 g all purpose flour

75 g spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cayenne

a few good pinches salt

4 long and skinny spring onions, sliced thinly for inside the bread and 1 bulky green onion with a bit of bulb sliced on the bias for the top of the bread

150 g soft unripened chevre

handful fresh thyme

1 egg

3 tbsp milk

1 tsp grainy mustard

I’ll direct you to Selma’s Table for the methodology and full recipe.

Finally, a thank you to Angie, Sue, Jhuls and Elaine for organizing this tribute to allow everyone to take part. And a thick buttered slice of bread and a hug to all missing dear Selma xx