We are nearing the end of summer and I finally did it. I made a fruit crostata. Kind of waited until the last minute here, but I think I figured out why that is.
I hate to even say it.
I don't really like fruit desserts.
I mean dessert is dessert is dessert, right?
I don't know, I just have never been a fruit dessert ordering type. I tend to order Creme Brulee. Chocolate. A big fat cookie on a plate with ice cream. but, for some reason, I typically scan over the fruit option.
yet, I have made so many crostatas and tarts over the years and I love making them.
Down the street from our house in the city is a wild patch of Blackberries. The other night at dusk, after the kids were tucked in, I grabbed a pail and told my husband that I was going to pick some blackberries. For a minute I felt like I could have been anywhere else. I even pictured living on a farm and heading out into the pasture to pick fruit. There was this smell to the air too, like warm hay. I was transported, even just for a little bit. And, after a full day with crazy kids, it was just what I needed. quiet, fresh air and doing something with the intention of baking something. Baking is something that I am having a hard time getting back into my life post kids. I keep trying, thinking that I am making strides and then I seem to go backwards.
(have you seen the date of my last post?--great example)
anyway, after I came home with a decent amount of berries, I thought of this polenta crust that I used to make. And, then I thought of Ice Cream. A fruit dessert is just a fruit dessert, but offered with a scoop of Ice Cream, for me, is what catapults it to the next level.
Now, I might just order that.
Blackberry Crostata with Polenta Crust.
7 Tabl cornmeal (i used coarse)
1 cup flour
1/4 teas salt
1 1/2 Tabl cream
1/2 teas vanilla
6 Tabl butter, soft
3 T sugar
1 teas lemon zest
combine dry ingredients in bowl. in a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. using your fingers, work the butter into the dry mixture until crumbly. then, add the wet mixture and work the dough lightly, until it comes together.
divide into 2 small disks.
Chill 1 hour.
while chilling, toss the blackberries (I used about 3/4 cup for each small crostata) with a little sugar and a little orange zest.
Preheat oven to 400.
After the dough has chilled, roll it into 2 circles, or one larger if you prefer. Transfer them to a silpat on a tray.
place the berries in the center and crease the sides, folding them towards the center.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is golden.
Philadelphia Style Vanilla Ice Cream
(adapted from the perfect scoop, David Lebovitz)
(ie, easy peasy.)
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 teas vanilla extract (or a bean if you have)
Heat the milk and cream with the sugar and salt to dissolve, and if you have a bean, scrape and add that as well. bring to just under a boil and then turn off the heat and let it sit. let it cool completely and then add it to your ice cream maker. easy!
I keep buying cottage cheese. For some reason, over the last few weeks, I forget to look in the fridge to see if we actually need it, and I buy another. So now, we have about a gallon. I am serious. So, I started looking to recipes to provide some relief. I found one. It is a bread that was really delicious. It may sound strange, to combine cottage cheese with flour, dill and honey, but it was really good. super tender and soft, slightly chewy crust. It really reminded me of this potato dill bread I used to make years ago, but without potato.
I also needed to knead this week. after a week and a half of sick and teething kiddos, I needed a little bread therapy.
And, this was the perfect thing, slathered with some sweet butter.
Herbed Cottage Cheese Bread.
adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
2 1/4 teas dry yeast
1/2 cup water
2 Tabl honey
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 cup cottage cheese, I used large curd lowfat
2 Tabl fresh mixed herbs. I used a mixture of fresh chives and dill.
3 cups Flour
1 teas salt
In a bowl, combine yeast with warm water and honey. let sit while you chop the onion and herbs. To the yeast, add the cottage cheese, egg, onion and herbs and whisk to combine.
then, add the flour, 1 cup at a time until you have a soft dough that can be kneaded by hand. after the 2nd cup is added, add your salt and mix. dust your counter with some of the remaining flour and knead the dough, adding flour to make a dough that is soft and just slightly tacky. (it is a soft dough, but nature, but it should be firm enough to handle, yet a little wet.) knead for about 5 minutes and then let rest in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic, for 1 hour.
Punch down after an hour and knead on the counter, shaping the loaf in a ball. let rest 5 minutes.
At this point, I used a floured bread basket (which gives the lined appearance and held the shape of the dough for the second rise.) If you dont have something like this, use a loaf pan. shape the loaf into a football and let rise for an hour in a greased pan.
preheat oven to 375 and when the dough has risen an hour and is quite airy, bake it for about 40 minutes until dark golden.
Today was just one of those days. Both kids woke up sick, one stayed home from school, the other didn't nap well. It was raining. We didn't leave the house, both kids grumpy and stealing toys from each other. Somehow I kept my cool. But, it was really hard. At 3:30, I found myself debating whether to crack the wine or make more coffee. Did I want to pep myself up for the remainder of the day or mellow out? I decided to wait a half hour, until 4, and then I did crack that wine. But, in the meantime, I decided to do us all a favor and made some cookies. I took an existing recipe and made a wee bit healthier and better, I think. I cut back a little on the sugar, used whole wheat flour and tada...every little bit counts, right?
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies
1/2 cup soft butter
3/4 cup peanut butter, I like chunky myself, but either works
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teas vanilla
3/4 teas baking soda
1/4 teas salt
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup Nutella or TJ's equivalent (Cocoa Almond Spread, which I used)
Pour a glass of wine and preheat oven to 350.
Cream together butter, pb, sugars, egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Add dry ingredients to wet and stir to combine. The dough shouldn't be too dry but it takes a little to combine. And, I am too lazy these days to get my mixers out, so I usually whisk the butter etc and then use a wooden spoon and a little muscle when combining the two. When mixed, add the Nutella and stir in only until it is marbled throughout.
On a silpat or parchment, roll out balls about 1 1/2 inches across, then press them down with a fork in a criss cross. I baked most of the dough tonight, but not all and my guess is that you get about 2 dozen in total.
You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you that summer has arrived in the Pacific NW, would you? Well, I don't really believe it myself, but we have been treated really nicely this May. Maybe it is to make up for last years horrid June? I am crossing my fingers that June doesn't show up like a lion again this year. But, back to summer. I am jumping the gun, but can we still declare the beginning to Ice Cream Season?
Yesterday, I got out my old (meaning 1990's) Donvier crank maker, froze the core, made some Ice Cream custard base and macerated some berries. OK, maybe that took me a few days.
but, when I finally got it all together, I recruited my 3 year old to turn the crank for 20 minutes and look what he made? He was so proud. I see a lot of homemade ice cream in our future.
And, here it is, just before I poured the Magic Shell over the top.
I know, I know. How could I?
it was pretty easy, actually.
Strawberry Ice Cream.
3 cups cream
1 cup sugar
4 cups Strawberries mashed with 1/4 cup sugar.
I mashed the berries and sugar and let it sit overnight.
Heat the Cream to a simmer with 1/2 cup sugar and salt. While heating, whisk the other 1/2 c sugar with the egg yolks in a separate bowl. when the cream is hot, pour it into the bowl WHILE WHISKING the eggs and sugar, when mixed, add back to the pot and stir constantly with a spatula until the mixture thickens slightly. (finger test, just about as hot as you can handle) don't let it boil.
pour the mixture into a clean bowl and try to cool it quickly to stop it from over cooking. Use a larger bowl with ice water to prop the bowl containing the mixture in. let cool completely. preferably overnight as well.
when ready to churn, strain the custard base just in case you got some eggy bits, then stir in the berry mixture. pour into the maker and churn per the instructions.
For my batch, I actually halved the recipe and it churned in about 15 minutes. it made just shy of 4 cups. And, another note, depending on the sweetness factor of your berries, you can cut back a little on the sugar. I wouldn't cut it to more than a 1/2 cup though.
Before there was anything else, there were these. In the early days, post college graduation, before I discovered my true calling and passion for baking, I made these. And they were really good. So good that I kept getting requests for them from my family members.
Conversations went something like this and still do, by the way.
"what do you want for your birthday?"
"just send some biscotti!"
"what about for Christmas?"
"how about some biscotti?"
These were the originals, the cookie from which my passion was fueled. And, yet, after 7 years and some 200 posts, I still haven't paid homage to this little guy.
Well, that all changed last week. After 4 years and nearly 0 care packages sent to my family members,
(can I blame the kids, you guys?)
my parents lost a beloved friend of 13 years. My second thought after hearing the news was, maybe I should send them some biscotti.
Doesn't biscotti make everything feel a little bit better?
Here's hoping it will. xo
Again, so sorry for the terrible pic quality...
4 oz butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 T vanilla
1 T squeezed orange
3 1/3 c flour
3/4 teas baking powder
1/8 teas salt
1/2 teas cinnamon
4 oz shelled salted pistachios
4 oz dried cranberries
cream together butter and sugar.
add the eggs and beat until creamy.
add the vanilla and orange, mix to combine.
In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
add to wet mix and mix to combine. try not to over mix.
then, add the nuts and fruit. feel free to improvise! I have used chocolate and pecans with good results too.
roll into 2 logs. 3in wide by about 15 in long.
bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until the cookies are baked and just slightly golden.
let cool, cut into cookies about 1 inch wide, and re bake, abotu 15 minutes until golden and dry.
(After just posting my last entry, I had to trudge ahead and post a follow up with a good ending.
I learned with my previous post that I needed to trust my gut and not the celebrity pastry chef. In this case, I trusted my gut again but following through on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and I was so so happy I did. It was pretty labor intensive but so worth it.)
Recently, I made these for a cookbook club meeting. With 2 active kiddos, they took me a couple days to complete. They were so worth the wait. I was able to make the chocolate filling and dough in stages and then retard the dough in the freezer, pulling it out several hours ahead of time to proof and bake. I made these rolls below and a huge loaf to share with my cookbook club.
With these rolls below, just roll the dough as you would in step 7 below. then, instead of twisting it or adding the strusel, just cut the rolls from the log using a serrated knife.
Chocolate Babka (from Smitten Kitchen, via Martha Stewart)
When shaping the babka, twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll a full 5 to 6 turns.
*(I made these rolls and a large loaf, which I froze after step 8 for a couple nights, pulled it out and thawed for about 7 hours before baking.)
1 1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar
3 whole large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped*
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Streusel topping (below)
1. Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter, and beat until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. Place chocolate, remaining cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until well combined; set filling aside.
6. Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans; line them with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon cream; set egg wash aside. Punch back the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick.
7. Brush edges with reserved egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the reserved chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Refresh egg wash if needed. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble 2 tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal. Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling.
8. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.
9. Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until babkas are deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, and transfer to wire racks until cool. Remove from pans; serve. Babkas freeze well for up to 1 month.
* After chopping the chocolate into moderately sized chunks, I used the food processor to pulse the rest of the chocolate in two batches to small bits. It saved a lot of time!