Mercurial

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“I have been ten days in this temple
and my heart is restless.
The scarlet thread of lust at my feet
has reached up long.
If someday you come looking for me,
I will be in a shop that sells fine seafood,
a good drinking place,
or a brothel.”

-Ikkyu,
fifthteenth-century Zen Buddhist high priest

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Mercury is no longer in retrograde, and I could not be more grateful.
I welcome March and spring and this change of heavenly bodies with a smile and a sigh.

It has been a long and harsh winter, both emotionally and weather-wise.
I am weary.  My soul, my mind, my third eye, are weary.
Three more weeks, and I have the chance to rebalance, reignite, refocus, relax.  

As I urge myself onward, through ninth, tenth, and finals week, I am comforted by the knowledge that it will all be over soon.  Thank god.  I am ready for this quarter to be over.

Mercury being in retrograde (I know it’s all hokey, but…) has seriously funked with me.
Mercury rules clear thinking, communication, and truth, and is supposedly closely linked with Virgos (das meee).
Needless to say, I don’t fully believe in astrology, but honest-to-Pete, this Mercurial retrograde has affected my life.
Things inexplicably going wrong, brain feeling fuzzy, tired, worn-out; life feeling stagnant and shallow, a shell of what it should be.
A veritable smorgasbord of bad things, a series of unfortunate events.
But it’s over!  Now Mars is in retrograde.  Hallelujer.

(I have been ten weeks in this college
and my heart is restless.)

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This is a recipe for those of you who are weary, too.
Those of you who want dessert with minimal effort and maximal results.
Who want to be reassured of Mercury’s reappearance with a perfect tart, an almost foolproof recipe.
This tart is so so simple, fast, and easy, yet manages to be show-stopping and jaw-dropping all the same.

A brown sugar tart shell, crisp and buttery, encases chewy, decadent and heavily-salted caramel studded with a mélange of crunchy, toasty nuts, served with softly whipped cream.

Crisp, chewy, crunchy, sweet.  Buttery, sticky, salty, satisfying.

It’s a finer mixed bag than the past month has been, and much tastier to boot.

Welcome back, Mercury.  Glad to have you.  Now please stop fucking with my life. xx

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Caramel Nut Tart
makes 1 6-inch tart; easily doubled for a 10-inch

ingredients:
for the brown sugar tart crust:
115 grams (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) butter
50 grams (1/4 cup packed) brown sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk
120 grams (1 cup) flour

for the caramel:
125 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
30 mL (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
40 mL (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) heavy cream
generous pinch sea salt

to assemble:
generous 1 cup mixed nuts

to serve:
freshly whipped unsweetened whipped cream

directions:
Make the shell: in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 2 minutes, until softened.
Add the brown sugar and salt and cream for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the egg yolk, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
Lightly grease a 6-inch springform or tart pan, and press the dough in evenly and firmly (the dough will be cohesive, but will spread easily when pressed).
Prick all over with a fork, and freeze for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the frozen tart shell with aluminum foil, then place pie weights, dried beans or rice inside to weigh it down.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden, then remove foil and bake for approximately 15 more minutes, until shell is deeply tanned and golden.
Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the filling.
First, toast your nuts in your warm oven: place the nuts on a heavy baking sheet and toast for 7-10 minute, shaking the pan quite often to prevent burning.
Allow to cool completely, then place them in your tart shell (do not overfill!) and save some for pressing into the top.
Make the caramel: Place all ingredients except heavy cream in a small pot, and heat until golden and bubbling, about 7-10 minutes.
Quickly remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream; mixture will splatter and bubble, so be careful.
Pour caramel over nuts in tart shell and shake the pan very well to allow the caramel to seep down through the nuts.
Press the reserved nuts into the still-warm top.
Allow to cool completely.
Serve with freshly whipped, unsweetened cream.

Dulcia

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“Carpamus dulcia, nostrum est
quod uiuis, cinis et manes et fabula fies.”

May we pluck sweet things, for after death we will be but ashes and a story.

-Persius 5.151-2

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Henceforth, I think it should be called drool-ce de leche.

I mean, really.

Soft, smooth caramel, rich with milk and always with an extra pinch of salt.
Could there be anything better?  Drizzle it on ice cream, put it into chocolates, sandwich it with cookies, fill cakes with it, stir it into coffee, eat it with a spoon… ahem.

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Other than eating it from a spoon, these cookie bars are the best use for dulce de leche I have encountered.

A thick layer of brown butter shortbread, redolent of vanilla is bathed in salty-sweet dulce de leche, then topped with more brown butter shortbread crumbs.

7 ingredients.  One bowl.  By far the best bar cookies on this blog.

My favorite parts were the caramelized, crunchy edges, which I maximized by making these bars in a rectangular tart pan.  Seriously addictive.  I love desserts with more than one texture.
Between the crunchy edges lie bites of super soft caramel sandwiched with crumbly shortbread.  Transcendent.

Best eaten with strong coffee or tea.  With friends.  It’s the only way to ensure you won’t eat the whole pan.

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The dulce de leche I used in these bars was my first attempt at making it on the stove top, with a shortened simmering time and no water bath.
I added about a 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a few hefty pinches of salt to a can of sweetened condensed milk, and cooked it in a heavy pan until it caramelized.  However, it hardened into (delicious) caramels, so I rewarmed it with 6 tablespoons of butter and another pinch of salt.  The dulce de leche didn’t want to absorb the butter, even when it was warm and pliable, so I added 2 tablespoons of skim milk and blended it with my immersion blender.

What resulted was the creamiest, smoothest dulce de leche I’ve ever tasted in my life.
It was thick and spreadable, like  La Salamandra (no joke) and was much richer than dulce de leche made with just sweetened condensed milk.  It also took a tiny fraction of the time (somewhere around 30 minutes, versus 2 hours in the oven).

Since it was the result of dumping a bunch of unmeasured things into a sauce pot, I can’t give you a solid recipe.
Yet.  It is in the works.  I promise.

But! These bars are way too important not to share.  Use some other recipe for dulce de leche, or even store-bought.(Do go for La Salamandra-type quality rather than Nestle, though…)

Here are some options:
the best way to make dulce de leche from a can (this is what I usually do)
completely homemade dulce de leche (omg.)
La Salamandra

See?  There are no excuses for not trying these cookies.

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Brown Butter Dulce de Leche Crumb Bars
makes 1 13 3/4x 4 1/2 inch tart pan; double for a 9×9 or 8×8 pan

ingredients:
1 cup dulce de leche
16 tablespoons (1 cup) butter
2 scant teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 13 3/4 x 4 1/2 inch tart pan.
Place your butter in a heavy sauce pan and cook until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Scrape the brown bits and the butter into a large bowl; add the salt and sugar and whisk until fully combined, about 2 minutes.
Quickly whisk in the egg to prevent scrambling, then stir in the vanilla extract.
Dump the flour on top and stir with a large spoon until the dough comes together.
The dough will be cohesive, but you should be able to crumble very easily.
Press half of the dough into the bottom of your tart pan, firmly pressing to make an even layer.
Spread the dulce de leche all over the shortbread layer, then crumble the rest of the dough on top, pressing the crumbs slightly into the caramel to ensure that they will stick.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crumbs are deep golden and the edges are caramelized.
Allow to cool, then slice and serve.

Kiss Kiss

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Coucou!  Bisous bisous!

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Because what good is Valentine’s day without chocolate?

No good!  Must have chocolate.  Certainly.  Surely.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or fussy.  But you best believe it better be present somewhere.

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 If you need chocolate, these tarts are just the ticket.
They are chocolate taken to the max, pushing the boundary of being too rich, too ridiculously chocolaty.

They’re dead simple (Keep It Simple Stupid) but have serious wow factor.

Dark, fruity chocolate is spiked with a pinch of cinnamon and maple syrup, whisked into luxurious ganache with hot cream, and then poured into buttery tart shells.  

As the ganache sets, it becomes like the interior of a good truffle: soft and creamy, but with substance you can actually sink your teeth into.  Chocolate gets all over your mouth, but not a drop will be lost to the front of your shirt.

Hello, total date food in my eyes.

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This pâte sucrée is such a dream to work with.
I’ve been developing this recipe for ages; it’s my go-to.  I’ve probably made 20+ tarts using this dough.

It’s easily adaptable; swap in a different flour (even GF), add some ground nuts, some cocoa powder, press it in or roll it out.
It’s equally good when you need to parbake and when you don’t; it’s rich and buttery, but not too sweet.
Not brittle, but sturdy, and yet not heavy.  It’s light and crispy and melts on your tongue after you’ve taken a bite.

It’s not made in the way you might expect, but that’s okay.
Butter, salt, and sugar are creamed together for what feels like ages (around 5 minutes at high speed), then flour is gently mixed in as an egg yolk is simultaneously added.
The whole process takes about 10 minutes, and then you’ve got a chunk of tart dough to stick in your fridge (it’ll last a couple days) or your freezer (wrapped well in foil, it’ll last for a month or so) and use whenever your heart so desires!

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This recipe simple by design.  (KISS, people, KISS)
9 ingredients, huge return.
Easy, fast prep and long down time means these can be prepared ahead to share with your sweetheart later.
These will score you major sweetheart-points because, people.  They’re truffles in tart form.
I mean, c’mon.  It’s almost unfair how good these taste for how easy they are.

Also, we know chocolate + salt + cinnamon = devilishly good.
(Previously, in cookie form)

P.S. These truffle tarts would be greatly appreciated by anyone in the place of a box of truffles… Just sayin’.

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Chocolate Truffle Tarts
makes 6-8 small tarts, or one 8- or 9-inch tart

ingredients:
for the pâte sucrée:
114 grams butter
50 grams sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
140 grams flour
1 large egg yolk

for the ganache:
256 grams dark chocolate, chopped
200 grams heavy cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

to assemble:
flaky sea salt
{pine nuts}

directions:
Make the pâte sucrée: beat butter, salt, and sugar together for 5 or so minutes, until incredibly fluffy and pale; there should be no grit left to the mixture.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour, as you are slowly mixing the flour in, add the yolk and allow to dough to come together into a homogeneous ball.
Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
To roll out, use a very well floured surface and roll to 1/4 inch thickness before pressing into desired pans.
Prick all over with a fork and freeze for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the tart shells with aluminum foil and weight with dry beans or rice.
Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly golden, then remove beans and bake for 5 more minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool while you prepare the filling.
Chop chocolate and place in a large, microwave-safe bowl with heavy cream and cinnamon.
Microwave until 2/3 melted, then remove from microwave, add maple syrup, and whisk until ganache is totally smooth and shiny.
Pour into cooled shells and refrigerate until set, about an hour.
Top with pine nuts and flaky sea salt.

MTL

I’m posting this from the internet void… Spooky, huh?
Well, actually, I am just in Montreal, for the weekend.
(It’s still my summer, ok?  I can do what I want on a whim.  Labor Day be damned.)
But I didn’t want to leave you guys with that last post, which didn’t even have a recipe (the nerve!) for the next few days or so.
Thus, I am here.  Sort of.  Here in spirit.
I love writing posts ahead of time and then scheduling them.
I usually forget about them… but then, when I come back to blogger, it’s like I gave myself a gift!
Surprise!!!
The Blog Fairy came and left you a nice little Post Present!
I’m going to do another (shorter) link-peppered post.
Similar to this one, but more rushed and with fewer links.
Sounds great, right?  Let’s get into it then!
 
I’ve just started reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
(The books are gigantic.  Holy mackerel!)
Obviously, I’ve watched all the seasons of the HBO show, which I am completely obsessed with (currently rewatching season 2), but now I’m getting into the books.
Mostly because I’m impatient and greedy, and waiting until next year to find out what happens next will literally kill me.
 
Speaking of literally, they augmented the definition in Merriam-Webster.
Now, literally means literally, as well as virtually.
Which doesn’t make much sense, but whatever.
I have listened to this poem about OCD around 50 times.  
No, I’m not joking.  It moves me.  I cry every other time.  It’s haunting.
 
Have you heard this remake of Miley’s song?  
It makes me actually like the darn song, and not be afraid to admit it.
Soooo good.  On repeat.
 
How about this parody of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video?
I’m literally dead from laughing and smiling so hard.
Go, girls!
 
I’ve lost/misplaced one of my camera lenses.
I’m worried I did something like Heather did!
(How crazy is it that that post is from 3 years ago?!  I remember when she first posted that…  Yes, I have stalked her blog for that long.)
Speaking of SprinkleBakes, did you see these cookies?
OHMAGAH.
This tart was inspired by the 8-inch cast iron pan I found at an antique store the other day.
Up in the attic, they had hundreds of antique cast iron pans.  
Since I’m wistful that I don’t have a cast iron pan handed down for generations (I don’t even get a wok.  Like, come on.), I of course snatched one up.
It didn’t need much seasoning; I cleaned it with a little bit of vinegar/water, then rubbed it with coconut oil and set it in a hot oven briefly.
I then recoated it in more coconut oil, and made this crostata/tart/galette.
 
It’s a buttery shell filled with sweet-tart Italian prune plums, which I topped with lemon thyme infused sugar.
It’s divine still-warm (or reheated), topped with a fat dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.
Italian Prune Plum Galette
ingredients:
1 pound Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
big pinch salt
1/4 cup buttermilk
directions:
Cube the butter into tiny pieces.
Toss with the flour, sugar, and salt, and then smash all the little cubes with your fingers, kneading and tossing all the while.
Once they are the size of peas and smaller, switch to stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add in the buttermilk and stir until dough comes together.
Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead once or twice.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease an 8-inch pan, or prepare a sheet pan with parchment.
Roll out the dough and place it in the pan.
Arrange the plums on top, and sprinkle them with 3 tablespoons sugar.
Fold the dough over the plums, and bake until golden and bubbling, about 45 minutes in a cast-iron pan.
Enjoy while warm!

Make It Work

Watch out, because whether you like it or not, I’m sharing some shi stuff that I’m loving right now.
This post is peppered with links.  Click ’em!
Meow.
Reading Blood and Beauty, a fabulously intricate novel about the Borgia family in 15th century Italy, by Sarah Dunant.
This book is right up my alley. I love historical-fiction novels about European monarchies. (Speaking of which, I’ve just binge-watched the first season of the Tudors.)
Also reading Dash and Bella, a new-to-me blog that makes me laugh and cry and cry and laugh.
Seriously, I read every single post in the span of two days.
I cried three times and laughed the whole way through.
Phyllis is an amazingly personable writer who has a way of transporting her reader into her kitchen.
In other words, she is not a terrible writer.
Watching Pirate Radio, a movie set in 1960s Britain on none other than a pirate radio ship.
I’m actually writing this right after having finished this movie, so it’s still fresh in my mind.
My final thoughts- they did an awesome job with the music and the actors captured the very British and very raucous, racy mood perfectly.
Also watching the new season of Project Runway… Gosh how I love Tim Gunn.
I’ve been watching Project Runway with my dad since the second season.
It’s one of our shows, among the ranks of GoT, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Top Chef, Veep, etc.
Carry on!
Listening to lots of the Rolling Stones- I love rock n roll in the summer time. It makes me feel extra free and fun.
Also listeningthis song by Ellie Goulding. Love!
Making these tarts, for a little dinner party, filling them with luscious lime curd and deep dark chocolate ganache.
Also making ice creams and summer succotashes served with hot sauce and scrambled eggs, dreaming of making malasadas and hand pies and ice cream cakes. (I’ll back quite soon with some of these delights!)
Raspberry Tartlettes
makes 5 or 6 small tartlettes or 1 9-inch tart
for the pâte sucrée shells:
ingredients:
12 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 medium egg yolks, or one large/extra-large
directions:
Cream the butter, salt, and sugar together on high for 5 minutes, until very fluffy and extremely pale.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the flour, mixing only until the mixture is starting to form large curds.
Add the egg yolks with the mixer running and mix until a cohesive dough comes together.
Press into tartlette molds or a 9 inch tart pan.
Prick all over with a fork, then freeze for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the shells until they are golden and slightly tanned, 15-18 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
for the lime curd:
ingredients:
3/4 cup lime juice
scant 1 cup sugar
zest of 2 limes
pinch kosher salt
5 medium egg yolks, or 4 large/extra-large
8 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
directions:
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, rub the lime zest and sugar together until fragrant.
Add in the egg yolks, lime juice, and salt and whisk to combine.
Heat over medium-low heat until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.
The mixture should be thick enough to leave a trail when a spatula is dragged through.
Either transfer mixture to a blender or blend with an immersion blender.
Add in the butter chunks one at a time, blending to emulsify. (If you use a real blender, you can throw half of all the chunks in and just do it in two additions.)
Allow the curd to cool completely before using.
for the salted dark chocolate ganache:
ingredients:
3/4 cup dark chocolate, either chips or chunks, at least 70% cocoa
3 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed
pinch sea salt
directions:
In a microwave or over a double boiler, melt the chocolate until it is 2/3 of the way melted. (In a microwave, nuke it in 25 second blasts, stirring between each.  You will probably need 3 blasts, but it depends on the wattage of your microwave.)
Stir in the heavy cream and sea salt and heat just a little more, to melt it 3/4 of the way.
(In a microwave, this will probably be a 15 second burst.)
Finally, stir the mixture very well until it becomes shiny and glossy.
Allow to cool to body temperature before using.
to assemble:
Fill each of the tartelette shells with a scant 1/2 cup of either mixture.
Smooth out with a small offset spatula or a butter knife.
Decorate with raspberries (you’ll need about 2 pints) and dust with powdered sugar.

I Do My Best

 … to keep it 100.
 
Guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
^100 exclamation marks.
 
^100 slices of stone fruit.
(Okay, it’s 97.  But I’m the only one crazy enough to count.)
 
100 posts.
That’s right! This little blog isn’t so little anymore.
*sniff*
 
It’s hard for me to believe that “Caramel Craze and Memorial Daze” was 100 posts ago!
 
We’ve covered cakes, pies, tarts, ice cream, molecular experiments, cupcakes, candy, heartbreaks, birthdays, celebrations, and goodbyes.
But what better way to celebrate this milestone than with peaches and pastry, two of my greatest loves.
In case it has escaped you, this blog is named after a peach.
Why?  I dunno.  It rhymes.
Just kidding.  It’s because I love stone fruits.
Plums, apricots, cherries, peaches, and all the variations.
The appearance of local stone fruits is always an indicator of summer, one that leaves me with drool juice dripping down my chin and a big smile perched right above.
 
I eat summer fruit like it’s my job.  It pretty much is my job.
The other day, I had a bowl of yogurt with a maple-nutmeg-strawberry-rhubarb compote, an apricot, a plum, and a peach.
I could eat our entire farmer’s market. 
Remember how I said that those patriotic shortcakes were devastatingly summery?
Well this tart goes above and beyond those lil biscuits.  
Just looking at it wraps me up in summer like a towel warmed by the sun after a bracingly cold dip in the lake.
 
A truly simple summer dessert, the star here is the fruit, so be sure to choose ripe, fragrant ones.
You can use any combination of stone fruits here; use whatever looks, smells, and feels best in your area.
A ripe stone fruit should be very fragrant- floral and a touch almond-y- should yield slightly to gentle pressure, and should separate from its pit quite effortlessly.  
If you struggle to pull the pit from your first peach while making this recipe, put it off for a few days.  
Put your fruit in a brown bag with a banana, which gives off copious amounts of ethylene, the fruit ripening hormone.
The crust will wait patiently in the freezer (wrap it well in aluminum foil) for the leading lords and ladies to take the stage.
I chose plums, peaches, and apricots because I wanted to showcase as many stone fruits as I possibly could, and I love the way their juices bleed colors into one another.
They all bring a certain flavor to the party: peaches are floral and fresh, plums are tart and crisp, and apricots are sweet and velvety.
In addition, all three work marvelously with almond, thanks to the noyaux in their pits.
I refurbished my favorite pâte sucrée to include plenty of almond meal; enough that you can taste it in the crust.
I also added a fine dusting of a buttery crumb with sugar and almond; it coaxes more flavor out of the fruit without overpowering the tart.
 
A note about the crust and the weather: in humid weather, tart crusts absorb moisture quickly.  
They will be no less delicious, but markedly softer after a few hours in a humid and hot environment.  If this is an issue, I suspect that storing the tarts in a refrigerator would help to diminish the softening.
Serve this tart with the simplest vanilla ice cream (recipe below).
Seriously, simplest ever!
Make it with cold half and half and it literally takes 3 minutes to put together, plus the 20 minutes for churning.
No eggs, no cooking, just cold, creamy, vanilla goodness.
It’s homemade ice cream for us impatient folks with a warm tart that needs accompaniment! 
So, in conclusion, this peach grows!
And may it continue.
Once again, a shout out to you, my readers.
You rock.
 
P.S. I typed this with 9 fingers, which is surprisingly difficult as a touch typer who is accustomed to going a mile a minute.
RIP finger.
*sniff*

Simplest Stone Fruit Tart
Makes 1 11-inch plus 2 4-inch tarts
ingredients:
16 tablespoons (8 ounces, 2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (sub AP or whole wheat)
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons almond flour
pinch salt
1 tablespoon softened butter
thinly sliced peaches, plums, and apricots (I used 3 yellow plums, 2 apricots, and 3 peaches)
directions:
Cream butter, sugar, and salt together on high for 5 minutes (if butter is softened, cream for 3 minutes; if it’s cold, 5), until fluffy, pale, and shiny.
Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add in the flours and mix until almost entirely combined.
Add the egg yolks and mix until completely homogeneous.
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes and up to a day.
Roll out your dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and place in pan.
Alternately, press dough into pan.
Prick all over with a fork and freeze for at least 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons almond flour, and a pinch of salt.  
Using the back of a spoon, smush the tablespoon of softened butter into the dry mix until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Remove your crusts from the freezer and arrange your fruit.
Sprinkle the fruit with the sugar mixture, sparingly if you want your design to show through.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the fruit is juicy and the crust is golden. 
Serve with the simplest vanilla ice cream, below.
 
Simplest Vanilla Ice Cream
ingredients:
1 3/4 cup half and half, cold
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons sugar
pinch sea salt
1/2 a vanilla bean
directions:
In a blender or with an immersion blender (shudder), blend all ingredients together until the vanilla bean is in tiny chunks.
Churn in an ice cream maker.

Clafir

It’s not lazy, it’s French.
Clafou-what?  
Clafoutis is derived from the Occitan word clafir, to fill.
And yes, there is an s, even for the singular version of the word.
 
(L’Occitane, anyone?  L’Occitane means “a woman from Occitania.”  
Occitania spans Southern France, Monaco, the Val d’Aran, which is the only part of Catelonia north of the Pyrenees, and the Occitan Valleys of Italy.)
 
According to Wikipedia, Occitan is comprised of 6 dialects, 2 of which are definitely endangered and 4 of which are severely endangered.
 
When I first discovered the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages, I thought it was a little ludicrous.
However, the more I thought about the real meaning of an endangered language, and the implications of such, the more saddened I became.
The fact that a language, something so deep rooted in history and culture, can disappear within a few generations thanks to globalization and modernization, not to mention lazy teenagers/future generations, is upsetting to me.
 
I spent more time than I probably should have exploring UNESCO’s map of endangered languages (here).
The number of languages, ranging from vulnerable to extinct, is mind-boggling.
2471.
231 fully extinct.  And that’s just in recent memory.
Cleopatra spoke 9 languages.
Nowadays, many are lucky to speak two, let alone three.
The broad scope of what we are losing is arresting, but not surprising.
We disregard our history and heritage, both intellectual and physical.
We are letting our environment fall to pieces and our culture, too.
My!  I guess I’ve been feeling a little disconnected after discovering trash strewn all over a state forest.
After hiking down a long and winding path to discover that it ended in a dumpster.
Poignant or repugnant?
I don’t know.
Back to your regularly scheduled program.  (…L’album Noir; The Black Album…)
 
This is my take on a classic French (hailing from Limousin, within Occitania) pastry, the clafoutis.  It consists of an eggy custard surrounding sweet, juicy cherries.
I added a rye crust because I love rye pastry crusts.
And because I felt that the nutty richness of rye complemented the sweet stone fruits well.
 
Traditionally, the pits are left in this dessert, for two reasons.
One, it preserves the beautiful shape of the cherries, and prevents much of the juice from escaping, ensuring a lovely pop of flavor from each little fruit.
Two, the centers of the pits of the cherries, the noyaux, give a wonderful almond perfume to the whole tart.
The kernels in the pits of any stone fruit have a flavor reminiscent of almonds, and are indeed related to the nut.
(And third, albeit not traditional: I was lazy.)
I already had to pick through the cherries to ensure that none were past their prime, let alone try to remove their stubborn little pits with a paper clip.
 
These tarts are delicious, and despite the pits, they were all gone by the next day.
This clafoutis is ridiculously easy to make, gorgeous, delicious, and can be served at any temperature: warm, room temp, or chilled.
AKA fresh out of the oven, for an afternoon snack, and dessert.
Parfait!

Rye and Cherry Clafoutis
ingredients:
for the crust:
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup coarse rye flour
for the filling:
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup half and half 
1 tablespoons sugar
2 or so cups of fresh sweet cherries, picked over and cleaned
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: beat butter and sugar together until shiny, fluffy, and smooth, about 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the salt and flours, and mix on low until a ball forms.
Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface and transfer it as best you can into your pans. (I used a 9-inch, a 41/2 inch, and two 3 inch cake rings.  I think that you could use a 10 or 11 inch pan and fit everything in one, but I wanted to have some smaller tarts on the side.)
Do not worry if it rips; it is extremely forgiving.  
Just press and patch the dough into the pans as evenly as possible.
Prick all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, pull the shells out of the freezer and place the cherries in the bottom. (Put as many as you can humanly fit.)
Bake for 10 minutes, until you can just hear the cherries sizzling.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg, egg yolk, half and half, and sugar together.
After 10 minutes, pull the tarts halfway out of the oven and pour the custard into the shells, until it comes up the sides nearly to the top; you probably won’t use all of the custard, especially if you filled your crusts up with cherries.)
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the custard is set and the edges of the pastry are browned and fragrant.
Allow to cool (or don’t!) and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Cheeky

I’ve made you something,
dearest and belov’d readers:
marshmallows, for you!
 photo output_fp8R4W_zps6e0218f4.gif
Big, fat, and fluffy,
sweet, tangy, tart, and fruity
marshmallow pillows.
 
Candy in candy-
this is what Willy Wonka 
wanted all along.
 
Powdery and white,
with passion fruit and sweetarts,
maple syrup, too.
Crunchy surprises,
awaiting your eager teeth,
hidden in this treat.
 
Cushioned outside
yields to even gentle bites;
so tender and sweet!
 
 
Sweetart and Passion Fruit Marshmallows
further adapted from my snobby krispie treats
ingredients:
1/2 cup passionfruit purée, liquid
2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 egg whites
1 box sweetarts, crushed
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
directions:
Oil and dust a 13x9x2 pan with confectioner’s sugar (not too much oil!).
Sprinkle the gelatin over the passionfruit in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
Stir to ensure all the gelatin is wet.
Meanwhile, stir the sugar, salt, water, and maple syrup together in a large pot.
Heat over medium-high heat until the syrup mixture reaches 240 degrees F.
Pour over gelatin mixer and stir on low to combine, then raise speed to high and beat until fluffy, white, and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes on the very highest speed.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.  
Once the gelatin has reached triple its original volume, add in the egg whites and mix until completely combined.
Add in the sweetarts and mix to combine.
Pour the mixture (it will be extremely thick and sticky) into the pan and smooth it out the best you can.  Sift a thin layer of confectioner’s sugar over the top of the marshmallow, ensuring that the entire top is covered in sugar.
Refrigerate for 3 hours and up to a full 12.
The marshmallow should be firm and springy to the touch.
Flip the marshmallow onto a cutting board and cut into cubes.  Toss with a bit of confectioner’s sugar, making sure all 6 sides of each marshmallow are covered.
Store in an airtight container.

Moody Blues

When I woke up on Friday, the sky was covered with clouds heavy with rain, and a thick fog had settled low to the ground like a lush carpet.  Not the kind of morning that makes me want to jump out of my warm, cozy bed and run straight into the cold, cold rain.  
 
The past two mornings, however, have been utterly glorious.  People.  Take a moment to look around and take in the beauty that is autumn.  I mean, come on.  The hues of the trees are so brilliantly rich, it’s hard to believe they’re real.  I gather that the extra gorgeous colors are due to the strange growing season this year.  I can’t get over them.  
 
But there will be plenty more of that later on in this post.
 
Firstly, I bring dessert!  I’ve been baking a lot lately, but have been too lazy chosen not to write about most of them; “they” being a maple, walnut, and brown butter caramel cake (whew), a nutmeg maple cream tart, coconut chocolate banana bread, potato chip and dark chocolate bark… 
 
I did, however, save the best for the blog (but of course!).
 
Inspired by a classic cheese plate, I set out to make something that would reflect all the best elements of one:  crunchy crackers, slightly bitter nuts, smoky meat (if you’re into that sort of thing), tangy, salty, and rich cheese, sweet fruit, and just a whisper of honey.  
 
A few weekends ago, my family had bo ssam, a Korean lettuce wrapped, brown sugar encrusted-pork shoulder dish.  Though I (obviously) did not eat the meat, I was sure to save the rendered fat and gelatin (Why?!? Because I’m weird.)
 
And because I just knew it would come in handy sometime soon.  And it did!  Clearly I am learning to utilize some sort of frugality and foresight (neither being my… um… strong suit).
 
This tart is comprised of a brown sugar, wheat cracker, walnut, salted butter and pork fat crust, a mascarpone and blue cheese filling, figs, pears, and a drizzle of honey.
 
Blue cheese tart.
The revolution is coming, people.
Granted, I couldn’t taste all of the elements together because of the pork fat, but I know it was good.  I think everyone who has tasted it has had two pieces.   
 
Victory is mine.

 

And because I can’t resist… Here are some autumnal pictures I’ve taken.

Blue Cheese Tart
ingredients:
1 cracker crust, baked (I used equal parts wheat crackers, graham crackers, and walnuts, added 3 tablespoons of flour, then added half a stick of melted, salted butter, about 3 tablespoons of melted pork fat and gelatin, two tablespoons of brown sugar, and a hefty pinch of salt.  Mix it together, press into a buttered tart pan, and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 or so minutes, or until golden and slightly crunchy.)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 ounces good quality blue cheese (taste as you go)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (again, taste as you go.  Palettes vary.)
1/2 cup cream, whipped
figs, pears, and honey, for garnish
directions:
Once the crust is cool, whip the mascarpone and blue cheese together.  Add in the powdered sugar, slowly, tasting as you go, until homogeneous.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Spread into crust, and chill until set.  Top with fig and pear slices, and drizzle with honey.