Friday, May 28, 2010

Roasted Apricots with Sour Cream Ice Cream

Apricots! Apricots are finally appearing in the markets and I couldn’t be happier. These are among my favorite fruit and since they have such a painfully short season, we need to seize the day.

At the beginning of each season, I always buy a bunch of apricots and wait for their ripening aroma to fill my kitchen. I usually don’t like to do too much to them for my first tasting, so today is about simply roasting them to a jammy lusciousness using a recipe from Claudia Fleming, who adds a touch of chamomile for a slightly floral backnote. Roasting the apricots brings out the intensity of their flavor and acidity, making them truly irresistible.

To complement the apricots, I’ve made a Sour Cream Ice Cream that reminds me a bit of the taste of cheesecake without any of the heaviness. It’s a simple mixture that does not contain eggs and isn't cooked, so it has a very fresh taste. The sour cream is enhanced with buttermilk for another layer of tang and richness. I also add a snippet of cream and milk to mellow and round out the flavor. It can be put together in a minute or two and then chilled overnight before churning. I think the result is a super delicious creamy match for the stewy goodness of the apricots. I love the snow white color against the rich and bright sunset blush of the fruit. I’m still thinking about how good this tastes.

I truly hope you have fresh apricots where you live. We have such a fleeting encounter with these gems each year and for me they are among the best joys of the season. Time to stock up and savor every bit of them for this all too brief period of time. I’ll hurry on to make my favorite pastry, an Apricot Galette, as well as try some new ideas. Here’s to glorious fresh apricots!

Bench notes:

- Baking or roasting apricots accentuates their tartness, so Claudia Fleming’s chamomile syrup is very sweet. The resulting fruit is tender and succulent.
- I made only half the quantity of syrup and I thought it was plenty, but I've included the full recipe here. If you don't have fresh chamomile, you can use 6 good quality chamomile tea bags.
- I like to chill the ice cream base overnight to give the flavors time to ripen.
- The recipe for the ice cream makes about 1 pint and should be doubled if you want to have some left over. I think it would be really wonderful with any and all spring and summer fruit. In winter, it would be luscious with Fleming's Roasted Dates with Sherry and Spices or Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorn.
- I always save apricot pits to make Noyau Ice Cream, an indescribably delicious ice cream with the subtle taste of beautiful almond, perfect for cuddling up to fresh peaches or nectarines, figs, raspberries and just about everything else.
- Claudia Fleming's cookbook is out of print and I see that copies are now going for around $149. There are some very good cookbooks that retain their value but it's astonishing to see these prices. Better to follow your instincts while your favorites are in print and purchase these beautiful cookbooks in good time!
- Another must have every apricot season is Cornmeal Cake with Apricots. Once you try the apricot compote, you won't be able to think of anything else every time you see an apricot!

Roasted Apricots with Sour Cream Ice Cream

Serves 4

Sour Cream Ice Cream

Makes about 1 pint

1 C sour cream
1/2 C buttermilk
1/4 C heavy cream
1/4 C whole milk
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t lemon juice
pinch of salt

Roasted Apricots with Chamomile
adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 C water
1/4 cup fresh chamomile flowers
1 vanilla bean (I used 1/2 vanilla bean)
8 apricots, halved and pitted

For the ice cream, whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, cream and milk. Add the lemon juice and salt. Chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Churn according to your machine’s directions. Pour into a clean airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap into the surface, cover and place in your freezer to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make a heavy syrup by placing the sugar and water in a pan and bringing to a boil. Split and scrape the vanilla bean and place the seeds and the pod along with the chamomile into the syrup and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. It will have the consistency of honey.

Cut the apricots in half and remove the pits. Place the apricots cut side down in a baking dish. Strain the syrup over the apricots, pressing on the chamomile flowers to extract the flavor.

Roast for about 10 minutes. Turn them over, baste with the syrup and roast for another 5 minutes. Remove from syrup and serve with Sour Cream Ice Cream.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Apple Crumble Tart

As I wait patiently for the arrival of more spring fruit, I return again to my favorite staple, apples. I always have apples on my table so they quickly became the focus of this great little tart.

This is a very easy crust that envelops apple slices lightly sugared and sautéed in a bit of butter. To that I’ve added one of my favorite flavor combinations for apples, vanilla bean and lemon zest. Just before putting the tart in the oven, I sprinkle a very tiny bit of crushed fleur de sel over the top. The end product reminds me of a French apple tart without having to chill and roll out the crust.

This tart is rather simple and rustic but very delicious in its own way, not too sweet or heavily spiced. The flavor and texture of the apples balance each bite nicely. It would be perfect for brunch, an afternoon snack or as a dessert course with some great cheddar cheese.

Bench notes:
- For more flair, you can add a little bit of finely chopped thyme or rosemary to the apple sauté in place of the vanilla bean. If you prefer a more American treatment, use brown sugar to sauté the apples and add a pinch of cinnamon. Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon sugar on top of the assembled tart before baking.
- Fleur de sel (flower of salt) is a special salt harvested by hand. It has a flaky texture and a softer flavor. For this pastry, I crush it with a rolling pin for a fine sprinkle.
- I'm often asked about baking pan substitutions. You always want to try to substitute a pan that has the same volume so you don't have to adjust the baking time and you can still wind up with a similar presentation of height. The Baking Pan has a very good list of dimensions and volumes that they've accumulated from several authoritative chefs and cookbooks. It has lots of different sizes and types of baking pans for easy comparison.

Apple Crumble Tart

1 1/2 C flour
1/4 C + 2 T sugar
1/4 t salt
1/4 t lemon zest
4 oz (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks
1/4 C sour cream

2 small apples or 1 1/2 large apples
1 T butter
2 T sugar
1/3 vanilla bean
scant 1/4 t lemon zest

tiny pinch of crushed fleur de sel (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the apples by peeling, coring and slicing them 1/4” thick. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the sliced apples, sugar and lemon zest. Slit the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds and add them and the bean casing to the mix. Sauté the apples for about 5 – 8 minutes or until they are softened a bit and the aromas of the vanilla and lemon zest have permeated the fruit. Set aside to cool.

Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Mix the yolks and sour cream together and add to the food processor. Pulse just a few times until the mixture looks like it’s coming together. Do not overmix. The dough should be very crumbly. Pour into a large bowl and toss gently with your hands.

Pour about 2/3 of the dough crumbles into a 14” x 4” tart pan or a 9” tart pan. Gently spread an even layer without compressing it. Just make sure that the pan is covered and there aren’t any holes. Layer the cooled apples on top. Sprinkle the remaining dough crumble over the top of the apples. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of fleur de sel, if desired.

Place the tart on a sheet pan lined with parchment and bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the tart pan to serve.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Turkish Coffee Ice Cream

I love coffee flavored desserts and coffee ice cream is right up there among the best. Some people would walk a mile for a really great cup of coffee, one that is steaming hot and brimming with robust flavor and aromas. Coffee ice cream is just another extension of the desire for a great cup of that same coffee bean flavor au lait. It seems so sophisticated and so satisfying, just like a good cup of coffee always does.

I put this ice cream together from a sense memory I have of tasting a super delicious Turkish coffee anglaise prepared by a chef I once worked with years ago. It was one element of a complex dessert that included lots of other flavors and components but I thought about that sauce for years. I finally realized I just needed to make this ice cream to get it out of my system and I’m glad I did. The flavor is of delicious robust coffee with a backnote of cardamom, which only sneaks up on you at the end.

This is a simple preparation of some good coffee steeped in milk and cream along with orange zest and cardamom pods. Once it’s cooked to a custard, I add an extra shot of espresso just to keep things lively. I think this will hit the spot for those of you who love coffee ice cream and are looking for a slight twist.

We so often savor the ritual of tea and coffee with friends and family. I’ll add this to the list of coffee rituals in our world of pastry and desserts.

Bench notes:
- I used 15 cardamom pods. You can start with 10 and taste after steeping to see if you want to add more. It may seem like a lot, but remember that the coffee flavor is fairly overpowering.
- You don’t want to boil the custard, so the stirring is necessary to keep the custard moving, preventing it from heating too fast and turning into scrambled eggs. I use a wooden spoon in the shape of a spatula when I’m cooking ice cream bases. It’s perfect for making sure you're scraping the bottom of the pan continuously.
- Salt is really important in this mix. It makes the flavor pop. Keep adding a few sprinkles until you get it right. You’ll know as soon as it happens.
- I resist the temptation to garnish this ice cream with anything else for fear of losing the subtle spice that is fairly delicate.
- Fresh ice cream will keep over time but it may become quite solid due to the fact that it doesn’t contain any artificial stabilizers or emulsifiers. Let your homemade ice cream sit at room temperature for a few minutes to enjoy the full flavor and texture.

Turkish Coffee Ice Cream

1 1/2 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C whole milk
3/4 C sugar
1 C whole coffee beans
10 - 15 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
zest of 1 large orange or 2 small oranges
4 egg yolks
1 t instant espresso powder
salt, to taste

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, coffee beans, cardamom pods and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to a slow simmer over low heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Do not boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 1 hour. After about a half hour, taste the mixture to be sure you have the right level of cardamom. Add more if you prefer, reheat gently for just a minute or so, remove from heat and continue to steep.

After steeping to the desired strength, strain the coffee cream mixture into a clean saucepan and warm gently.

Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly add the warm coffee cream mixture, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling. Return the mixture to the saucepan and medium heat. Cook, stirring and constantly scraping the bottom of the pan until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Pour the custard through a strainer into a clean container, pressing the beans to be sure you get all the liquid.

Place the instant espresso powder in a small bowl and stir in some of the cream to dissolve. Add the espresso and whisk thoroughly. Add a good pinch of salt to taste. Chill the ice cream base overnight.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to instructions. Pour into a clean airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface, cover and place in your freezer to firm up.

Pastry Studio Recipe Index

                                     Pastry Studio Flickr Photostream

Almond Buckwheat Berry Cakes
Almond Cake with Peaches & Cream
Ancho Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Cake
Angel Food Cake Roll with Strawberries & Cream
Apple Cider Sauce Cake
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake
Apple Rum Upside Down Cake
Applesauce Oatmeal Bread
Applesauce Spice Cake
Apricot Almond Upside Down Cake
Apricot Cinnamon Tea Cakes
Banana Cake
Banana Cream Cake with Cinnamon Caramel Syrup
Banana Sauce Cake
Beaumes-de-Venise Cake with Grapes
Bill Yosses' Orange-Glazed Olive Oil Cake with Fleur de Sel
Blood Orange Five-Spice Baby Cakes
Blueberry Buckle
Blueberry Cream Cakes
Brown Sugar Cake with Peaches & Cream
Brown Sugar Chocolate Crumb Cake
Café Beaujolais Coffee Cake
Cherry Almond Buckle
Chocolate Almond Cake
Chocolate Almond Raspberry Cake
Chocolate Almond Toffee Cake
Chocolate & Balsamic Strawberry Cream Cake
Chocolate Banana Cream Cake
Chocolate Banana Upside Down Cake
Chocolate Cake with Bananas and Curry Cream
Chocolate Cake with Spiced Cherry Compote
Chocolate Cakes with Pears and Caramel
Chocolate Cherry Cake (flourless)
Chocolate Cherry Cakes
Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Cake
Chocolate Date Nut Cake
Chocolate Loaf Cake
Chocolate Prune Cardamom Cake
Chocolate Pudding Cake with Bananas
Chocolate Rum Cake
Chocolate Rum Raisin Cake with Brown Sugar Caramel
Chocolate Spice Cake with Figs
Chocolate Stout Cake
Cinnamon Plum Cake
Coconut Lime Cake with Raspberries & Cream
Cornmeal Cake with Apricots
Cornmeal Cake with Balsamic Cherries
Cornmeal Peach Upside Down Cake
Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake
Double Chocolate Cake
Drunken Apple Cake
Ginger Cakes with Chocolate Glaze
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Coffee Icing
Goat Cheese Cake with Berries
Hazelnut Cake
Honey Spice Loaf
Lemon Berry Roulade
Lemon Cakes
Lemon Cherry Pudding Cakes
Lemon Curd Cake
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Lemon Semolina Jam Cake

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Cherries
Linzer Cake
Marble Spice Cake
Mendocino Coffee Cake
Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Cake
Molten Chocolate Caramel Cakes
Nectarine Streusel Cake
Oatmeal Banana Cake
Oatmeal Date Walnut Cake
Oatmeal Plum Crumb Cake
Oatmeal Stout Cake
Olive Oil & Sherry Pound Cake with Peaches in Honey Lemon Syrup
Olive Oil Cake with Candied Orange
Olive Oil Cake with Fig and Orange Honey Compote
Warm Double Chocolate Brownie Cakes
Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake
Whole Wheat Apple Spice Cake
Whole Wheat Honey Cake
Yogurt Cake with Strawberries
Yogurt Cake with Strawberries & Cream

Panforte Sienna
Peanut Butter Crunch Bon Bons

Almond Toffee Shortbread
Apple Toffee Bars
Apricot Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Slices
Apricot Oatmeal Bars
Apricot Swirl Cheesecake Bars
Baby Buttons
Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
Blue Cheese Cookies with Fresh Fig Jam
Brown Butter Baci di Dama
Brown Butter Walnut Shortbread
Brown Sugar Brown Butter Cookies
Plum & Kiwi Pavlova
Plum Handkerchiefs
Raspberries with Sabayon and Hibiscus Granita
Rhubarb Compote with Strawberries and Cream
Rhubarb Soup
Roasted Apricots with Sour Cream Ice Cream
Roasted Dates with Sherry and Spices
Roasted Figs with Fennel Ice Cream
Roasted Grapes with Yogurt Cream
Roasted Peaches with Almond Filling
Roasted Peaches with Mascarpone Ice Cream
Roasted Pears with Bay Leaf Sabayon
Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns
Spiced Poached Pears
Strawberries in Black Pepper Meringue
Strawberry Rhubarb Napoleon
Strawberry Rhubarb Pandowdy
Strawberry Tarte Tatins
Summer Pudding
Wine Roasted Pears
Winter Fruit Crisp

Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Granita and Sorbet
Almond Coffee Brittle Gelato
Ancho Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Cake
Apple Crisp Ice Cream
Apricot Ice Cream
Banana Caramel Pecan Ice Cream
Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
Blueberry Red Wine Sorbet
Brown Butter Ice Cream
Cardamom Ice Cream with Almond Crumble
Cheesecake Ice Cream with Strawberry Rhubarb Granita
Cherry Crisp with Buttermilk Ice Cream
Chocolate Coconut Sorbet
Chocolate Ice Cream with Hazelnut Coffee Caramel
Chocolate Spice Praliné Ice Cream
Cinnamon Toast Ice Cream
Fig Swirl Ice Cream
German Chocolate Ice Cream
Ginger Ice Cream with Plums in Caramel
Goat Cheese Ice Cream
Honey Almond Ice Cream with Roasted Peaches
Honey Frozen Yogurt
Honey Nougat Ice Cream Provençal
Honey Rosemary Ice Cream
Jasmine Peaches with Lime Sorbet
Leche Merengada
Lemon Almond Ice Cream
Lemon Frozen Yogurt
Lemon Sherbet
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
Lime Ice Cream with Ginger Crumble
Maple Walnut Ice Cream
Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Cake
Mocha Sherbet
Noyau Ice Cream with Nectarine Sauce
Oatmeal Ice Cream
Oatmeal Vanilla Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich
Orange Date Ice Cream
Orange Sesame Tuile Ice Cream
Orange Spice Sherbet
Panna Cotta with Red Wine Granita
Peach Soup with Lemongrass Sorbet
Pine Nut Rosemary Ice Cream
Plum Sorbet
Profiteroles with Eggnog Ice Cream and Rum Sauce
Provençal Sundae
Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
Pumpkin Gingerbread Ice Cream
Raspberries with Sabayon and Hibiscus Granita
Red Wine and Raspberry Sorbet
Ricotta Ice Cream
Roasted Apricots with Sour Cream Ice Cream
Roasted Figs with Fennel Ice Cream
Roasted Peaches with Mascarpone Ice Cream
Roasted Plum Ice Cream
Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream
Saffron Ice Cream with Figs and Orange Gastrique
Sage Ice Cream
Samoas Ice Cream
Sour Cream Pineapple Swirl Ice Cream
Spicy Caramel Pear Ice Cream
Strawberries and Cream Ice Cream
Strawberry Balsamic Sherbet
Strawberry Citrus and Champagne Granita
Peach Pecan Galette
Pineapple Ginger Slices
Plum Almond Streusel Tart
Pumpkin Pie Pecan Squares
Raspberry Chocolate Tartlets
Rhubarb Raspberry Tart
Rustic Chocolate Pie
Spiced Sweet Potato Pie
Strawberry Galette
Strawberry Tarte Tatins
Tarte Tropézienne
Torta di Ricotta
Walnut Spice Tartlets with Coffee Cream
Yeasted Apricot Almond Tart
Yeasted Pear Tart with Chamomile Anglaise
Yeasted Plum Tart

Yeasted Pastries
Baked Lemon Ricotta Doughnuts
Challah Knots
Cherry Roll
Chocolate Orange Cardamom Pull-Apart
Espresso Cinnamon Buns
Fruit Rolls
Hungarian Kuglof
Lemon Blueberry Rolls
Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Yeast Bread
Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Rolls

Other Pastries
Almond Shortcakes
Apple Cinnamon Scones
Baked Brie with Berries
Baked Lemon Ricotta Doughnuts
Banana Maple Pecan Muffins
Banana Walnut Scones
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Turnovers
Blue Cheese Walnut Biscuits with Pear Compote and Cream
Buckwheat Shortcakes

Friday, May 7, 2010

Panna Cotta with Red Wine Granita

I love the interesting combination of panna cotta and granita. The texture of panna cotta is creamy, the flavor is beautifully basic and spare. The granita is icy and the flavor is usually quite concentrated. As one begins to melt into the other, you wind up with a playful exchange of both.

Panna cotta has all the virtues of an eggless custard, which can be put together in a matter of just a few minutes. Granita also has the advantage of quick preparation without the need for any extra machinery. So there's really nothing to prevent you from having a little bit of Italy on your table if you're feeling up for the journey.

This dessert matches a simple vanilla panna cotta with a spiced red wine granita. Each component is delicious on its own, but together they make for an unusual and enjoyable treat, perfect for the coming warm weather where there will be lots of occasions to share delicious meals with friends and family.

Bench notes:

- I use a minimum amount of gelatin to make the panna cotta because I don’t unmold it and I like the silkier texture for this dessert.
- Sprinkle the gelatin into the cold water rather than the other way around to keep lumps from forming.
- This granita is based on a pear poaching liquid from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells
- Use your favorite red wine. I chose a Tempranillo wine this time around and it was great, but any fruity Zinfandel, Cabernet, Syrah, Pinot or Merlot will work.
- You might also enjoy Panna Cotta with Fig Compote and Orange Granite

Panna Cotta with Red Wine Granita
Serves 6

Red Wine Granita

1 1/2 C fruity red wine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 C water
2 T crème de cassis liqueur
1 T lemon juice
1/2 sprig rosemary
2 cloves
4 black peppercorns

Panna Cotta

1 1/2 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C half and half
1/3 C sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 1/2 t unflavored gelatin
2 T water

For the granita, combine all ingredients into a saucepan and simmer on low for about 10 - 15 minutes to concentrate the flavors. Cool completely. Strain into a shallow airtight container, cover and place in your freezer. After about 2 hours, take a fork and scrape the surface of the granita to form icy crystals. Place back in the freezer and repeat again in an hour or so.

For the panna cotta, place 2 tablespoons of water in a small dish. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let sit for a few minutes to bloom.

Bring the heavy cream, half and half and sugar to a slow simmer over moderately low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and whisk thoroughly.

Set the bottom of the dish of bloomed gelatin in a pan of simmering water to melt, then whisk into cream mixture. Pour the panna cotta into parfait glasses or dessert dishes and chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight until firm.

To serve, garnish the panna cotta with a couple of tablespoons of the granita and enjoy immediately.