Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream

Berries! They are everywhere. Not too long ago, Frances and Matthew gave me a lovely cookbook from a winery that we had visited together a couple of years ago on a trip through Napa and Sonoma. It has recipes and wine pairings which is wonderful for anyone asking the question of what goes well with [fill in the blank].

I’m always looking for new desserts that are easy and delicious. This one caught my eye because it uses fresh thyme along with the now ubiquitous berries. I happen to be growing a bumper crop of lemon thyme on my terrace and it pairs beautifully with the blackberries. The cookbook gives a recipe for making your own pistachio ice cream but I a) don’t own an ice cream maker; (b) have zero freezer space to make ice cream; and c) don’t want to spend so much time making dessert, so I simply purchased a very good quality “Mediterranean” Pistachio ice cream. If you want to make your own ice cream, buy the book. DO NOT OMIT the ice cream and do not buy that phony strange green stuff. This dessert really needs the pistachio ice cream to play off of the berries. “Crisp” is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. I might consider doubling the topping next time I make this since it sort of disappeared as a topping, simply melding with the berries and giving the berries some heft.

The dessert is not impressive looking (which could be why there was no photo of it in the cookbook…) and you won’t think this is the greatest thing you have EVER eaten. I’m just being honest. However, after taking that first bite, you will say “Wow, this is REALLY good.” It’s also surprisingly filling, so you could get 6 portions out of it. And once I added the pistachio ice cream and took that first bite – well, it was just a bit of perfection.

I don’t happen to live where wild blackberries grow, but if you do, they would be wonderful here. My blackberries came from the produce section of my local market.

Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream from the Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna

Blackberry Thyme Crisp6

Yield: 4 to 6 servings with ice cream

Ingredients

4 cups/455 grams fresh blackberries, washed and drained

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 cup/65 grams granulated sugar

1 generous teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (preferably lemon thyme)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blackberry Thyme Crisp1

For the topping 

6 Tablespoons/45 grams unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup/100 grams packed brown sugar/Demerara sugar

1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar

Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine salt

6 Tablespoons/85 grams cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes

For serving

Good quality pistachio ice cream

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/190 degrees C. Lightly butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the berries with the sugar, cornstarch, thyme, lemon juice and vanilla. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes, while you make the topping and the oven heats up. Blackberry Thyme Crisp3 (2)
  3. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until combined. Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Blackberry Thyme Crisp2
  4. Turn the fruit into the prepared baking pan and spread the fruit to an even layer. evenly spread the topping over the fruit.Blackberry Thyme Crisp4Blackberry Thyme Crisp5
  5. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with the ice cream.

 

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Rhubarb season is brief and, therefore, especially sweet. This galette combines two of my dessert favorites – rhubarb and frangipane. Frangipane is an almond-flavored cream, although I have made this galette using hazelnuts instead. Either will work. [If you are looking for a vegan frangipane recipe refer to my recipe for Apple Frangipane Tart.] 

Don’t be scared off by the length of ingredients or directions. This galette is quite simple to make if just follow the steps. The dough can be made ahead and it makes enough for two galettes, so you can freeze one half for a last minute dessert. I was admittedly somewhat skeptical about the method for making the pastry but I followed it to the letter and it worked absolutely perfectly and was flaky and buttery.

I love making galettes because they are free-form and flexible. And if you REALLY don’t wish to make frangipane, you could simply roll into a disk a 7-ounce tube of almond paste for a similar taste but without the inherent creaminess of the frangipane. I also decided to throw in a 1/2 pint of raspberries – well, because I could. Make this soon while rhubarb is in season!

NOTE: I did go a bit overboard on my fruit, using closer to a pound of rhubarb in addition to the raspberries. While delicious, the galette might have been a little prettier with slightly less fruit, so that the dough could have been folded over more.

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette from Alexandra’s Kitchen

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette11 (3)

Yield: 1 approximately 9-inch galette

Ingredients

for the rhubarb:

3/4 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 2-inch lengths

1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup)

zest from one orange

1/2 pint washed and dried raspberries (Optional)

for the pastry:

2½ (320g) cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon kosher or table salt

2 sticks (16 tablespoons | 8 oz | 227 g) unsalted butter

½ cup + 2 tablespoons ice water

for the frangipane:

1/2 cup almond or hazelnut flour or finely ground almonds or hazelnuts

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

pinch salt

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 egg (small if possible)

2 teaspoons vanilla, rum, brandy or bourbon (I used Armagnac)

for assembly and serving:

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling, turbinado or Demerara sugar is nice

vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and place a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Prepare the rhubarb:Toss the rhubarb and raspberries, if used, with the sugar and orange zest in a large bowl and set aside. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette
  3. Make the pastry:In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt together. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the food processor. Pulse at 1-second intervals until butter is the size of peas—should be about 10 quick pulses. Add the ice water and pulse again about 10 times until the mixture is crumbly but holds together when pinched. Lay two clean tea towels on a work surface. Dump half of the crumbly dough mixture into the center of each. (Don’t wash the food processor!) Grab the four corners of the towel together and twist to create a beggar’s purse, pressing the dough into a round. Use your hands to pack and flatten the round. Store one of the rounds in the freezer for a future use. Keep the other nearby handy or ideally refrigerate the dough for 1 hour to overnight.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12- or 13-inch round. Use as much flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking, and every few rolls, flip the dough over. Transfer dough to a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan. If you have space in the fridge, chill the pastry while you make the frangipane. [I just rolled my dough out onto the parchment so I had one less thing to clean up.] Rhubarb Frangipane Galette1
  5. Make the frangipane: Combine almond flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg, and vanilla in the uncleaned bowl of the food processor. Purée until smooth. This can also be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. You may need to allow it to warm to room temperature to make it spreadable.
  6. Spoon the frangipane into the center of the rolled out dough leaving a 1- to 2-inch border. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette4 Heap the rhubarb and all of the juices into the center of the frangipane and spread out to cover. You can cherry pick the really red pieces and arrange them on top — the bright red stalks look so pretty in the end. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette5 Fold the exposed edge of dough towards the center to make a rustic enclosure. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette6
  7. Brush the edge of the dough with melted butter. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette9Drizzle the remainder over the exposed rhubarb. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. [Do NOT panic if you see fruit and butter leaking from the galette. That is totally normal.] 
  8. Remove pan from the oven and let rest on cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes or until Silpat or paper is cool enough to handle. Grab the edges of the paper or Silpat and slide to a cooling rack to cool further or to a cutting board to serve. Cut into wedges. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette14

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust8 (2)

It’s rhubarb season again! Growing up my mother always made a strawberry or raspberry rhubarb compote that always hovered on the edge of sweet-tart flavor that was so refreshing on a hot summer day. I wanted to capture that flavor again but in a slightly more complex dessert. It is especially wonderful topped with a little Greek yogurt sweetened with agave syrup or honey or some lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The resulting dessert is light, a little bit tart, a little bit sweet, with that distinctive rhubarb flavor and a crumbly, nutty crust.

Since everyone’s taste is a bit different and fruit also varies, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar. I also made dough for a 9-inch shallow tart with enough left-over to make about 4 individual tartlettes if you wish. I made my dough with a mix of butter and Crisco for the shortening, but you could use all Crisco (a solid vegetable shortening) if you wish to keep this vegan.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Yield: One 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the filling

4 cups (about 1 pound) of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust2

1 cup granulated sugar

Scant 1 cup water

2 teaspoons arrowroot

pinch of Kosher or sea salt

1 cup of sliced strawberries

About 1/4 cup of red currant jelly

For the crust

2 cups finely ground walnuts

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

12 Tablespoons very cold solid shortening OR 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter plus 8 Tablespoons of solid shortening

About 4 Tablespoons ice water

Directions

For the filling

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust1

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Add the rhubarb, cover the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the rhubarb is very tender. This only takes about 3-4 minutes so watch it! Drain the rhubarb, reserving the liquid. Add the sliced strawberries to the hot rhubarb and add the pinch of salt, mixing through gently.
  2. Return the liquid to the pan and add the arrowroot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid clarifies and begins to thicken – about 8 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool somewhat. When it has cooled a bit, add only enough (about 1/4 cup) to the rhubarb-strawberry mixture to give it a “sauce” but not so much as to drown the rhubarb or to make it soupy. You will eye-ball this since it is not an exact science. (The arrowroot will thicken the liquid but will not become gloppy, something I HATE in fruit pies and desserts.) Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. It can also be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to use it. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust3

For the crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust4 (2)

  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the cold shortening in small cubes. Using your fingers, work the shortening into the dry mixture until you have pieces about the size of peas.
  2. Add the water and continue working the mixture until you can form the dough into a solid ball. I didn’t need to add any additional water, but if you must, add it in very small amounts at a time. Gather the dough together and flatten into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This can also be made ahead and should keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  3. When the dough has been chilled, remove it to a well-floured board, counter or pastry cloth and roll it out so that it fits into the bottom of the 9-inch flan pan. I only used about 2/3 of the dough. Place the round into the ungreased pan and using your fingertips or knuckles, carefully push the dough into and up the sides of the pan. While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake it until well browned, about 30 minutes. Ovens vary, so just keep checking it. You want it to look like this: Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust6

Assemblage

  1. Once the crust has cooled, pour in the rhubarb-strawberry mixture and spread it evenly across the crust.
  2. Warm the red currant jelly and spoon it over the top of the filling. If the jelly had actual currants in it, pour it through a sieve before putting it over the rhubarb mixture. Spread it evenly with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush. Only use enough to give a nice sheen to the tart. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust7
  3. Refrigerate the tart in the pan for at least 2 hours to allow everything to set up nicely. This can be made a day ahead. Once the tart has chilled, carefully remove the tart from the fluted flan pan and place on a serving plate. Serve as is, maybe with a sprig of fresh mint for color. I like it with a bit of sweetened Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or whipped cream, but if you wish to keep it vegan, it is also delicious plain. I’m personally not a fan of vegan whipped toppings, but go for it if that is what you like. Just enjoy!

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake

I LOVE Passover. I love that it means Spring is here. I love the story of my People’s deliverance from slavery to freedom. I love sharing our table with family and friends and I love the food. Baking for Passover was always challenging but not insurmountable and I make wonderful cookies and cakes that would be delicious anytime, but which I save for Passover to keep them special. However, our godson is deathly allergic to eggs and THAT is a real challenge.

Sephardic Jews i.e. Jews who originated from Spain, always considered legumes (pulses) and rice Kosher for Passover, but Ashkenazi Jews i.e. Jews from Eastern European traditions considered these foods forbidden. Thankfully in the last couple of years this has changed if you follow the Conservative or Reform Jewish traditions. Some Orthodox Jews now eat quinoa during Passover and others do not. Yes, it’s complicated, so before you get too excited about this cake, find out if your community’s traditions allow for the use of quinoa and aquafaba (the liquid from cooked chickpeas). Some allow one and not the other. I am not a rabbinic authority. However, if you follow Sephardic traditions or the Conservative or Reform movement then this cake may just be a revelation to those of you who cannot or do not eat eggs but wish to observe Passover traditions.

I saw a recipe for Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake on the Food52 website and was intrigued. I wondered if I could take the recipe and “veganize” (is that a word?) it. I made the cake 3 times until I was able to get what I wanted. And unlike the original, I did not make this in a bundt pan but chose to make it as a layer cake. I then went on the hunt for a vegan Kosher for Passover option for a chocolate mousse and purchased a Passover chocolate spread. Just follow the steps and this works. There are no tricks or special skills required, but it does take some patience. Thankfully I worked out all of the kinks for you. I made the cake layers a few days ahead of when I needed them but I didn’t assemble the cake until the morning of the Seder. Please use only the best baking chocolate and cocoa. There are many excellent Kosher chocolate options available now. I used a 70% cacao chocolate from Elite but there are others. I wouldn’t go below 60% cacao or above 70% for best results. Assuming you have any left-overs, they will last refrigerated for several days. This can easily be made a couple of days ahead.

I wish that I could have had this recipe ready sooner, but keep this in your file for next year and/or make it during one of the remaining nights of Passover. Why do you think there are 8 days in which to celebrate?!

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake (Good anytime!)

Death by Chocolate Cake1

Yield: One 8-inch layer cake (It’s rich so this should feed at least 10 people.)

Ingredients

For Cake:

3/4 cup (130 g) quinoa

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water

Coconut cooking spray or melted coconut oil, for greasing the pan

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the pan

Zest of one large orange (optional)

1/3 cup (80 ml) orange juice

Aquafaba from one 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, beaten until it turns white and has begun to thicken but before real peaks form

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla if for Passover)

3/4 cup (180 ml) melted coconut oil

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

2 Tablespoons of strong black coffee

1/4 cup matza cake meal

1/4 cup almond or hazelnut meal (ground nuts)

1 cup (80 g) dark unsweetened cocoa

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3.5 ounces (100 g) bittersweet chocolate

Vegan Chocolate Mousse by the Minimalist Baker and tweaked by me

1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder

3/4 cup chopped cocoa butter 

3.5 ounces dark chocolate (64-70%)

1 14-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk or coconut creme

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of Kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon of Powdered or Confectioner’s sugar (Kosher for Passover)

6 pitted medjool dates (you could substitute maple syrup but the mousse will be thinner)

Garnishes (Optional)

2 Tablespoons 70% dark mini-chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

Directions

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 8-inch cake pans (preferably non-stick) and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. Either use quinoa that has already been rinsed or rinse your quinoa. If you don’t, there can be a slightly bitter aftertaste. Place the quinoa and water in a small pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Open the pot and allow the quinoa to cool. This can also be made a day ahead.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Give it a stir and then microwave for an additional 38 seconds. Set aside.
  4. Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor and process until the quinoa is broken down almost to a paste. Now add the sugar and pulse a few times. Add the zest, if using and coffee and pulse a couple of times.
  5. Add the cocoa powder and pulse about 5 times. Then add in the baking powder and salt and pulse twice. Add in the orange juice, melted chocolate and vanilla extract and pulse a few times. Now add the melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated. Lastly add the matza cake meal and nut meal. Just leave everything in the food processor, covered while you prepare the aquafaba.
  6. In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the strained liquid from a 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas. I like the ones that have salt. It just always seems to work better for me. Using the whisk attachment, beat the aquafaba on high until the liquid turns completely white, has increased in volume and begun to thicken. This takes about 15 minutes so be patient. You do not need to beat until actual peaks form.
  7. Add the aquafaba to your food processor and process until it is completely incorporated. This can be done by hand if your processor isn’t big enough. Divide and pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with just a couple of crumbs on it.  Remove the cake to a cooling rack and allow it to cool in the pan for about 12 minutes or until you can touch the rim of the pan with your fingers.
  8. Place a cooling rack over the pan and flip out the cake. Allow it to finish cooling completely. This can be made a couple of days ahead or even earlier if well-wrapped and frozen. If frozen, defrost the cake layers before assembling. 

For the Mousse

  1. In a small saucepan, combine cocoa or cacao powder, cocoa butter, chocolate, salt, and (180 ml) coconut milk. Begin warming over medium-low heat, whisking to combine.
  2. Once the mixture is melted whisk until fully combined. Then remove from heat and add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar to taste (or just add more dates). I found 3/4 teaspoon sugar to be perfect.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add dates and blend on high until creamy and smooth. 
  4. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more cacao powder for rich chocolate flavor, dates for sweetness, or salt for saltiness.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and cover. Refrigerate until cold and thickened – at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  6. To serve on its own, divide between serving glasses and top with coconut whipped cream, raspberries, and chopped vegan dark chocolate or cacao/cocoa powder (optional).
  7. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days. 

Assembly

  1.  Place one cake layer on a cake plate or cake board with the flat side facing up. (The flat side will have sunk slightly as it cooled but don’t worry since it will be filled with mousse and won’t show.) Spread with softened chocolate or chocolate hazelnut spread. How thickly you do this is between you and your cardiologist. I used about 10 ounces. 
  2. Now spread half of the chocolate mousse over the chocolate spread. If you like, you can sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons of shopped walnuts and 2 Tablespoons of mini-dark chocolate chips over the chocolate spread for a bit of extra decadence. Place the next layer with the flat side facing up over the first layer and the fillings. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining mousse. Using an off-set spatula, just smooth around the sides of the cake to catch any bits that may have oozed. You should see the filling, but it shouldn’t be oozing out. You need to refrigerate the cake at this point to keep things from softening and to make cutting the cake easier.
  3.  Add chocolate curls or sprinkles or piece of candied orange to the top if you wish but frankly nothing more is needed. Take the cake out of the fridge about an 45 minutes to an hour before you wish to serve it. This incredibly rich and decadent cake reminds me of a Chocolate Marquise cake that a wonderful French Bistro in Chicago used to make. No one eating this will think that they settled either for a Passover dessert or for a vegan dessert. This is  one INTENSE chocolate experience.

Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Kheer2My husband LOVES rice pudding. In fact, when I first met him almost 35 years ago, one of the very few things that he knew how to cook was a CrockPot version of rice pudding. My father also loved rice pudding and my mother made a wonderful custard-style baked rice pudding. However, a number of years ago, I came across this Indian version of rice pudding that did not use any eggs and is cooked on a stove-top. I won’t lie to you – it’s definitely labor-intensive (although not difficult) because it needs to be stirred very frequently for almost 1.5 hours. But if you love rice pudding and cannot use eggs for health or ethical reasons, then this is the recipe for you. Indians would eat this somewhat more liquidy than I personally like, but I will let you know in the directions when to stop cooking for a traditional kheer and when to stop for a somewhat more custard-like consistency. My husband prefers to eat this warm, although I personally prefer it cold. This is one time when I can report that we are both right! It is often made for special occasions since rice is a symbol of both happiness and good fortune. And who couldn’t use a bit of both?

While this time I did not make this a vegan version – using milk, butter and honey – I have successfully made it using non-dairy milk, sugar or agave syrup and either a non-dairy buttery spread or coconut oil. (My preference is for vanilla soy milk but any creamy non-dairy milk will work.) This version uses Indian flavorings, which we happen to love, but you can easily swap out the cardamom and saffron with 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract, zest of one lemon or orange and a few drops of a vegetable-based food coloring. Pistachios can be used in place of the almonds or the nuts can be left out entirely. In that case I would double the amount of raisins or whatever dried fruit you preferred.

Rice Pudding (Kheer) from Flavors of India by Shantra Nimbark Sacharoff and tweaked by me

Yield: 8-10 portions

Ingredients

1 cup of uncooked long-grain, white rice (I like Basmati)

8-10 cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads

2 quarts milk

1 cup of sugar or honey (I like to use a nice Greek honey, but any lighter floral honey will do.)

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, ghee or coconut oil

1/2 cup of golden raisins (also known as Sultanas)

1/2 cup of slivered blanched almonds (plus about an 1/8 cup additional that have been lightly toasted for decoration (optional))

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to directions in a heavy pot that will be large enough to take the 1/2 gallon of milk that you will be adding to the cooked rice. I like to just under-cook my rice slightly, but mostly you just don’t want it to stick to the pot.
  2. In the meantime, remove the cardamom seeds from their pods and using a rolling pin or bottle turned on its side, crush the seeds. Set them aside with the crushed saffron threads. In a small skillet, melt the butter and saute the almonds and raisins in the butter just until the nuts begin to gain a bit of color. 

  3. As soon as the rice is finished cooking, add the 2 quarts of milk. Turn the heat to medium high, continue cooking with the pot now uncovered and using a non-metallic spoon, stir the milk and rice from the bottom of the pan to prevent the rice from clumping and sticking and the milk from forming a skin. This needs to cook for 1 hour, stirring every 2-3 minutes. (I know it can be a bit tedious, but the end result is worth it. Read a book while you cook!) At the end of the hour, the volume will be reduced by about one third and the milk will have thickened. Kheer10
  4. Now add in your cardamom and saffron and stir well to distribute the seasoning and to color the milk and rice evenly. Then add in your sugar or honey and the nuts and raisins along with any butter to the pan. 

    Continue to cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 more minutes. The rice pudding is done at this point. However, since I like mine to be a bit thicker, I continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes (total of 30 minutes after adding in the raisins and nuts). Kheer3Immediately pour the pudding into your serving dish (glass is best I find) and decorate the top with the optional lightly toasted almonds. Even if you want to eat this warm, it is best if it sits for at least 2 hours before serving. It will continue to thicken some as it sits. Refrigerated it can last up to a week. Kheer

 

Chocolate Amaretti Torte

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

I was going through some old recipes and came across this one on a sheet of yellowing newsprint. It was from a December 1991 New York Times Magazine. The article was titled “True Confections.” The one that caught my eye and which seems perfect for Valentine’s Day is by Dorie Greenspan from her cookbook Sweet Times. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate, and this one is ready to eat in about an hour. Of course you don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day to serve this little slice of chocolate heaven.

Chocolate Amaretti Torte

Yield: One 8-inch cake

Ingredients  Chocolate Amaretti Cake8

1 ounce of high quality unsweetened chocolate

3 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate (about 64% cacao)

6 large, crisp double amaretti cookies

3/4 cup sliced or julienned blanched almonds

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

Pinch of either Kosher or fine sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with waxed paper. Butter that and dust the inside of the pan with flour, tapping out any excess. Alternatively use one of the baking sprays with flour.
  3. Melt the chocolates over a double boiler set over hot water or in the microwave and set aside. Chocolate Amaretti Cake5
  4. Place the amaretti cookies and almonds in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is evenly ground. Set aside. Chocolate Amaretti Cake6
  5. Place the butter, sugar, salt and eggs in the food processor bowl and process until the mixture is satiny smooth – about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl as necessary.Chocolate Amaretti Cake4Chocolate Amaretti Cake3
  6. Now add the amaretti/almond powder and the melted chocolate. Pulse to combine well. Chocolate Amaretti Cake2
  7. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven on the center rack for 25 to 30 minutes. The top will look baked and perhaps a little cracked and the center will still be moist. Chocolate Amaretti Cake1Cool on a rack for 30 minutes. Then run a thin metal spatula or blunt knife around the edge of the pan and carefully turn out the torte. I place a cutting board over the pan and turn it out onto that. The cake is too soft and moist to turn out onto a cooling rack. The indentations will eat right into the cake. You could also use a large plate but I find that the flat cutting board works best. Then peel off the waxed paper and invert the torte onto a serving dish. I do this by placing the serving dish over the torte and then carefully flipping the serving dish over while holding onto the cutting board. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or cocoa. Serve at room temperature with a little vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.Chocolate Amaretti Cake9.

Dulce de Leche Tart

Dulce de Leche tart (2)

There are some desserts where after step 1 (in this case making the crust) you think, “I’m never going to make this again – what a hassle” but then by the time you’re eating it you think “oh my goodness I will never find another dessert as good as this and cannot stop eating it” — this qualifies as exactly that. While I had cooked other wonderful recipes from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, I had yet to tackle a dessert.

This ended up being served at a dinner party where a conversation about “what really is ‘dulce de leche'” came up, followed by a passing around of the near empty jar of the caramel like filling that party guests had no compunction about just dipping their fingers into and wiping it off clean. I used the Stonewall kitchen Dulce de Leche as it was the only one in my local grocery store, but I’ve also heard you can make it with condensed milk if you’re feeling adventurous.

Ingredients
Chocolate Crust
6 tablespoons (3 oz./85g) salted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (35g) powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (35g) Dutch-process or natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt

Filling
8 oz. (230g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (310ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon dark rum
1 cup (240g) dulce de leche
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling over the tart
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Instructions
1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on low speed just until smooth.

2. Add the yolk, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until it’s fully incorporated.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and coca powder.  Add them to the butter mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together.  It will feel very crumbly, so just keep mixing until it holds together better.

4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

5. Once it’s rested, take the dough and using the heel of your hand to press the dough into a 9-inch (23cm) tart ring with a removable bottom, getting the bottom as flat as possible and pressing the dough up the sides of the pan until it reaches the rim.  If it’s still crumbly, just try to spread it around as best you can and be sure to try to remove any gaps (as this is where the dulce de leche will ooze out of after you bake if you’re not careful).

6. Sprinkle the salt over the bottom of the dough and press it into the pastry.  Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).  Line the chilled tart crust with aluminum foil and cover with a layer of pie weights or dried beans.  Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights, and then bake for 5 minutes more, until the tart shell feels set.  Remove from the oven and decrease the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).

8. While the tart is baking, make the chocolate filling.  Melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and set a fine-mesh strainer over the top.

9. Whisk the eggs in a bowl.  Heat the milk in a saucepan, then gradually whisk the warm milk into the eggs.  Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until it’s steamy and thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.  (If it separates a bit, remove it from the heat, and whisk it vigorously to bring it back together.)  Pour the custard through the strainer into the chocolate.  Add the vanilla and stir until smooth.

10. Spread the dulce de leche over the hot tart shell in an even layer, being careful as you spread to make sure you don’t break the flaky bottom of the tart.  (If the dulce de leche is very thick, let it sit in the tart shell for a minute or so to let the heat soften it, which will make it easier to spread.)  Set the filled tart shell on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then pour the chocolate custard over the dulce de leche, smooth the top, and add a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

11. Place the tart on top of a baking sheet (just in case the dulce de leche leaks) and bake the tart for 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat and leave the tart in the oven with the door closed to glide to a finish, 25 minutes more.

12. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.  Serve the tart with softly whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or just as is.

Amish Apple Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Since I have never been able to replicate my mother’s deep-dish apple pie to my satisfaction, I keep trying to find a recipe that will take its place. I made this pie for Thanksgiving along with my Bourbon Pecan Pie. It was a hit with everyone, although it still won’t fill the void of my mother’s pie for me….

NOTE: A few of the changes that I am mentioning here are not reflected in the photo but are what I would do when making this pie again. I have also given the non-vegan version of ingredients as well.

Amish Apple Pie from Cooking from Quilt Country by Marcia Adams and adapted by me

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

For the Streusel

1/2 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of Kosher salt

8 Tablespoons cold unsalted buttery vegan sticks (I’ll be honest – nothing truly is a substitute for butter, in my opinion, but if you want this to be vegan…) 

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats OR 1/2 cup coarsely chopped English walnuts

For the Pie 

1 unbaked 10-inch pie shell, chilled (I used my go-to double crust vegan Crisco pie crust recipe.)

4 large apples (I used Honey Crisp, but other apples such as Granny Smith or McIntosh could also be used.)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 Tablespoons instant Tapioca

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of Kosher salt

1 cup thicker non-dairy milk (I used the full-fat vanilla soy milk. If you are not going vegan, the recipe calls for heavy cream or half & half.)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Using a food processor, mix the first 5 streusel ingredients. Add the cold butter with the oats or walnuts and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Don’t over-process. Set aside. (I used a different process which had me pulverize the oats and melt the butter, which is why my streusel looks wetter and less streusely than it should. The taste was fine, but it will be prettier if you do it the way I have instructed.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. You should have at least 4 cups.
  3. Place the apples into the chilled pie shell, arranging them to fill most gaps.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, Tapioca, salt and cinnamon. In a glass measuring cup, add the vanilla to the non-dairy milk. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture to thoroughly combine. Pour the mixture over the apples.
  5. Bake the pie for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes carefully remove the pie from the oven and working quickly, sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top, covering all of the apples. Return the pie to the oven for another 40 minutes or until the top puffs and is golden brown. Allow the pie to cool before serving. If you are not vegan, this is especially delicious with some good vanilla ice cream on top.

Plum (or Apple)and Almond Paste Tart

IMG_3638

The French and Italians learned a long time ago that more does not always mean better. While I love a really good “mile-high” apple pie (and my mother still made the best, in my opinion) there is definitely something to be said for a simple fruit tart with just a thin, but very flavorful filling. This recipe (and I use the term loosely) is very flexible. I made it with golden delicious apples for Rosh HaShana and it would also be delicious with other stone fruit such as apricots or peaches. It is easy to throw together and the resulting tart will draw surprised looks and oohs and aahs with that first bite. The surprise comes from the layer of almond paste that lines the pastry shell and makes this seemingly simple dessert so decadent and satisfying. This tart was made with some end of season plums that were available in the market.

Lisa’s Plum (or Apple) and Almond Paste Tart

Yield: One 9-inch tart that serves 6-8 (A little goes a long way)

IMG_3642

Ingredients

One unbaked 9-inch pastry shell (This is my go-to crust, which is also vegan)

About 4 medium plums or about 3-4 apples

7 ounces of almond paste (I like Odense brand)

1/4 cup of granulated, raw, or Demerara sugar

2 Tablespoons sliced natural almonds (optional)

1 Tablespoon of Amaretto (optional)

2 Tablespoons of good margarine or unsalted butter (My preference is for butter, but a good margarine will do)

About 2 Tablespoons apple or red currant jelly

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a shallow pie plate or fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (If you are going to be baking , you really should buy one of these.) Roll out the almond paste into a 9-inch circle. Don’t worry about being perfect. A little patching won’t show. Refrigerate or freeze the dough while you prepare the fruit.
  3. Wash, dry and slice the fruit into thin (but not so thin that you see through!) slices – between 1/8 and 1/4 inches. Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer. Lay out the slices of fruit so that they slightly overlap and form concentric circles. Sprinkle with the sugar and scatter the almonds, if using, and then generously dot with the butter.
  4. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any oozing that might occur. Bake for about 45-55 minutes. Ovens vary so watch the tart. You want the fruit giving off some juice and the pastry should be golden.
  5. Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the tart with the Amaretto, if using. While the tart is till warm, carefully brush the fruit with a little of the apple or red currant jelly. It isn’t essential to do this step, but this not only adds a bit more fruit flavor but it also gives the tart that gem-like glisten you see in professional tarts. I was able to buy a wonderful apple jelly online that is very clear and which just melts beautifully over the fruit. If you can’t find a really clear jelly you might need to heat and strain the jelly before using it.
  6. Allow the tart to completely cool before removing it from the tart ring. You should slice relatively small wedges for serving. It may not look it, but this is quite rich and a little goes a long way.

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler1

Even though fresh berries are now available year-round, nothing says summer quite like a fresh berry dessert. I make a great blueberry pie and so does Frances, but sometimes you want a blueberry cobbler and this one is it! I came across the recipe from the website kitchn – another favorite food site that I frequent. I don’t know if its claim as the “ultimate blueberry cobbler” is accurate, but I will say that it is darn good. And best of all, it can be thrown together in a few minutes. All you need is some really good quality vanilla ice cream for serving and summer dessert doesn’t get any better than this. One thing I love about this recipe is that it is neither gummy nor overly sweet. And the biscuits are a real treat; they are both light and moist and just perfect for soaking up the blueberry liquid. The recipe’s originator talked about the secret ingredient of the coriander. I honestly didn’t taste anything in particular that I could identify, but the overall effect was just lovely.

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler by Sheela Prakash of the kitchn and tweaked ever so slightly by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 pints or 5 cups fresh blueberries (24 ounces total), washed and dried well
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Sanding or casting sugar for garnish
Vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions   IMG_3371

  1.  Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F.
  2.  Toss together the blueberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and coriander in a large bowl.  (I mixed the dry ingredients together first and then sifted them over the berries so there wouldn’t be any lumps. Then I added the lemon juice and gently tossed everything being careful to not break up the berries.) Transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8-inch baking dish or divide among 8 (6-ounce) ramekins.
  3.  Mix the flour, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt for the cobbler topping in a separate large bowl. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the cream and stir until the dough is shaggy.
  4.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough just until it all comes together, about 30 seconds.
  5.  Pat the dough into a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 8 square pieces or pat handfuls of dough into thick palm-sized disks if using ramekins. (I used a star cookie cutter because it was the 4th of July and because it was fun.)
  6.  If baking in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, overlap the disks on top of the blueberries to make a “cobblestone” look. If baking in individual ramekins, top each ramekin with a disk of dough. If you have any extra topping, crumble it and sprinkle it over the surface of the cobbler. Sprinkle the biscuit dough with the sanding or casting sugar.
  7.  Place the baking dish or ramekins on a baking sheet to catch drips, or place aluminum foil beneath it in the oven. Bake until the topping is turning golden-brown around the edges and the fruit filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes for the individual ramekins, or 45 to 55 minutes for the 8 x 8-inch baking dish.  The blueberries will bubble up quite a bit and then will settle down once it is out of the oven.IMG_3372
  8.   Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Everything needs to settle down. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with vanilla ice cream.