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Archive for the ‘almond’ Category

apricots2

I got a little crazy in the baking department this weekend.  There was a baby shower for a good friend of mine planned (god bless her precious little socks) and I got myself up to my elbows in cake for the occasion.  I thought, momentarily, about making the ever-appreciated chocolate cake, a safe bet for people whose tastes you don’t quite know.  And I thought about a Victoria Sponge too for it’s crowd pleasing qualities.  And then I thought about the friend whose baby we were showering and about how I just know, deep down, that these good folks would want their precious bebe well versed in the language of foods, various, exotic and experimental, and I knew I had to offer a few flavours not always found on a party board.  Now, if you haven’t already met her and found out for yourself, there really is only one place to go for inspiration for a splendid, voluptuous, mouth-watering Bake of some kind. Dear Debs at Smitten Kitchen has the trump up her sleeve every time.  Having scoured the ends of the earth and the bottom of every food magazine pile and waded her way through a sea of recipes she finds the best, the most sumptuous, simple the most mouth-wateringly delicious cakes out there.  This time, after an hour or so having to dab delicately at my mouth to keep my salivations from the keyboard I found a masterpiece of baking: a Pistachio Petit Four cake.  My dear friend, Ms A, is of a Persian bend and I thought that the pistachio, apricot and almond trio were a perfect tribute.

Having overwhelmed my senses at Deb’s place, I thought I’d leave some space for some other inspiration and dawdled over to Bea’s at La Tartine Gourmand.  Bea has an ability to wave her magic French wand over everything she does and give it that certain je ne sais quoi. I fell in love, instantly, with her Lemon Yogurt cake for a few reasons, not least of which was that it was her dad’s favourite.  I’m a bit of a dad-o-phile myself here and it tugged somewhat on my homesick/family-sick heartstrings.  Also, it’s kind of like a cheese cake, but much lighter and it comes in a pastry.  Pastry?  I’m in!

For the third plate I stayed a little closer to home.  I did a gorgeous walnut banana bread, which I sliced in half through the body, scooped a little bit out of the bottom half and filled with dulce de leche.  So there you go, ma petite belle bebe S: something from your home, something from my home and something half way between the two.  May your life be beautiful and delicious.

Okay, I promise that this is the last catch-up-on-summer post I’ll put out here.  It’s nearly December, for goodness sake, and I’ve a plethora of Autumn cooking to catch you up on and I really don’t want this to end in the Summer next with me still waffling on about Christmas baking.  But how, I ask you with cake in my mouth, could I not tell you all about this?  Look at it, don’t you just want a piece?  And, to be honest, with the November rain-snow-yuck glooming down all around us at the moment a little bit of sunny coloured apricotiness can’t do too much harm.

apricot-almond-pie

Apricots are something I actually seldom buy, perhaps only once in the season.  The reason is that they are such a sensitive, delicate little fruit that by the time they get from the tree to the store they always seem to have lost their lovely, translucent glow and their flesh turns to powderiness or mush far quicker than is convenient.  Growing up in South Africa meant, among other things, having access to very fresh, delicious fruit and I can’t help but compare the apricots I’ve bought here with the firmer, juicier ones I remember from childhood.  Nonetheless, there are times when, luck in hand, I run into a crop of apricots so blushing, so sunny and full of optimism that I simply Must Have Them.  This particular lot were simply lovely, a rare treat in a rainy summer.  And having bought far more than I knew we’d manage to eat before they tipped over on to the other side of ripe I knew the best way to use them up would be in a tart. I thought a great compliment to the tartness of the apricots would be the delicate fragrance and flavour of almonds  I achieved this not only by using almond flour in the pastry, but also by fashioning new stones for the halved fruit out of marzipan.  It not only looked quite precious, it tasted, let me tell you, Delicious.

apricot-almond-pie3

Almond Apricot Tart

For the pastry:
1 cup plain flour
⅓ cup quinoa flour (or use more plain four to the same value)
¼ cup almond flour (ground almonds)
⅓cup demmerara sugar
¹⁄⁄₈ tsp tumeric powder
big pinch salt
⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
⅓ cup cold water

12 apricots, halved and stoned

60g marzipan

2 Tbsp honey
¼sp ground cardamom

– mix all three fours and the sugar, tumeric and salt.

– add the oil and mix until the mixture is crumbly and looks like oats and wet sand

– add the water and combine to form a dough.

– rest at room temperature for one hour

– preheat the oven to 375˚F

– roll out the pastry and line a greased pie dish with it, trimming the edges.

– arrange the apricot halves, skin side down, in the pie base

– pinch of marble size pieces of marzipan, roll between your palms to form a ball and place in the centre of each apricot.

– warm the hone a little over a low heat, add the cardamom and drizzle over the apricots.

– Bake for about 35 mins until the pastry is golden and the liquid from the fruit and honey is bubbling.

apricot-almond-pie-comb

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basler brunsli

These little hearts of joy were a new thing for my cookie collection this year. This is traditional Swiss cookie-making at it’s best, if you ask me. Chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and almonds, what’s not to like? And with no butter or other fat in it, it’s a conscience-soothing nibble at this cookie-glut time of the year. Goodness, it doesn’t even use the yolk of the egg, so you have a great excuse to make real custard for your Christmas pudding this year as well. I’m just so in love with these cookies, I made two batches instead of one and intend to extend their seasonal allocation right past Christmas Nibbles on to Spring Snack and Summer Ice-cream Garnish.

A friend gave me lovely gift of fair-trade cocoa and vanilla sugar, which I used to make the second batch. Just too yummy.

basler brunsli 2

The dough can seem a little tricky the first time you make these, not being quite so doughy as crumbly, but just keep the batches you work with small, the rest in the freezer, and keep working the crumble, nutty, chocolatey mass together one cookie at a time if need be.

*note: I used turbinado (Raw) sugar for the top sprinkling because I like the slightly golden colour and the texture, but you can get large sugar crystals in all sorts and colours so don’t feel limited.

**note: for the first batch I used Callebaut Couverture, chopped up and on the second batch I got a little lazy and used Callebaut Choc Chips. I found the chips a little harder than the couverture and ended up having to warm them, along with the cocoa and spices, over a bowl of warm water until just before the chocolate started to melt in order to grind the chocolate up.

***note: if you don’t want to use the alcohol, substitute water or apple juice. Although, the actual alcohol will evaporate during cooking, so it’s perfectly fine for children. Also try using Kahlua for some fun.

basler brunsli 3

Basler Brunsli

250g good dark chocolate, 70%, chopped
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
2 egg whites
¼ cup icing sugar
3 cups ground almonds
3 Tbsp Brandy or other
Course sugar for sprinkling (about ¼ cup)

– blend the chocolate, cocoa and spices in a food processor until finely ground

– add almonds and mix well

– in a large bowl, whip the eggwhites until frothy. Add the icing sugar in two batches, whipping well between additions, until firm peaks form

– fold in the chocolate-almond mix and the brandy

– form into two logs, wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 mins

– preheat the oven to 325˚F

– working with one batch of dough at a time, sprinkle your pastry board with sugar and roll dough out carefully over sugar until 1cm thick. Cut shapes (traditionally 2″ hearts are used) and place on a cookie tray. Sprinkle each cookie with sugar crystals, pressing slightly on each cookie to embed the sugar a little.

– bake in the oven for 18 – 20 mins

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Green beans with cranberry and almonds

Finally I have a few recipes up the sleeve to share. Although, to be honest, these aren’t so much recipes as food combinations we’ve been having for dinner. It’ll have to do, though, until something more inspiring comes along. I’ve had a string of culinary disasters in the kitchen recently and while part of me (the part that is still trying to remember which cupboard we unpacked the measuring cups in to) knows it’s the teething period of cooking in a new and untested kitchen, part of me just wants to go down to the pub on the corner and get their soup of the day for dinner. Again. Oh well, we keep trying. A dry broccoli and pepita pesto can’t really be blamed on the too-hot hob (unlike the burned-on-the-outside, soggy-on-the-inside pumpkin fritters I tried making for tea on Sunday) but it certainly goes well with the theme of over-crispy offerings and charred remains I’ve been serving from that kitchen this last week. So I decided to stop the train and dish up something so simple it needed but a few minutes anywhere near that hob of hell. Oh, bear with me while I sort out these annoying little glitchettes in the Kitchen. Le sigh. Ca ne va pas!

Green Beans with Cranberries and Almonds

a big handful of green beans (about 200g)
⅓ cup dried cranberries
boiling water
⅓ slivered, unblanched almonds
1 Tbsp Grapeseed oil (or other veg oil)
Fleur de sel
Fresh black pepper

– put the cranberries in a small bowl and just cover with hot water. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 mins.

– clean and trim beans

– heat oil over a medium heat and add beans, stir-frying for about 3 mins until bright green

– add cranberries, with water, and stir until water has mostly evaporated

-add almonds and cook for minute more

– season with salt and pepper.

Green beans with cranberry and almonds 2

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Autumnal Stuffed Squash

I love squash. I was brought up eating gem squash a couple of times a week, steamed in a pot and mashed up in the half shell with a slathering of salted butter and black pepper. Yum. I don’t know why we don’t eat that many any more, but when I saw these beautiful, variegated, stripey squash in amongst the first autumn pumpkins I knew just exactly what I was going to do with them: stuff ’em! And even though it’s still warm out (amazingly, thinking back to the wet, chilly September we had last year) I’m filled with the excitement and energy autumn seems to bring me and a really, truly Autumn meal is just what the doctor ordered, especially when served with a divine, meaty South African Cabernet. Oh, my!

Stuffed Autumn Squash

1 Kale leaf, chopped
2 Beet leaves, chopped (use the ones from a bunch of beets if they’re fresh and not wilted)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, finely chopped
⅓ – ½ cup mushrooms, finely chopped
5 – 6 meat balls ( or a bit of cooked mince, or some pancetta, chopped)
handful chopped parsley
2 – 3 Tbsp chopped Almonds
salt and pepper to taste

1 or 2 squash, halved and deseeded
Camembert cheese, enough for a chunk on each squash half

– preheat oven to 400˚F

– simply mix all ingredients in a bowl, seasoning to taste, and fill the cavities of each squash. You might have filling left over. Bake this in a bowl along with the squash for a great lunch treat. Top each squash with a generous chunk of Camembert.

– bake the squash for about 40 – 50 mins or until squash is tender when poked with a fork. Serve with polenta or mashed potato

Autumn Kale

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Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream

I love a dinner party. We used to host them quite frequently back home and loved getting return invites to others’ houses, whether it was for a long slaved over butternut and sage risotto with home baked bread and butter pudding or a heat and eat from Woolies with Magnum sticks for dessert. We all loved the food, but the evening was made truly special not so much by the cuisine as the friends and the laughs and the celebration of friendships. Isn’t that why we eat in any case? Since moving to these Northern Climes, we’ve not had much opportunity to host our own parties but have, from time to time, enjoyed the hospitality of some wonderful new friends in their homes. We were invited last night to a somewhat unusual dinner party by some good friends, Ms M and her lovely Mr S. The theme? Orange! The meals were split by course over the guests with the only proviso being that the food had to be orange! We all wore orange, drank orange and felt decidedly Sunny the whole evening.

What luck that in season right now are a fabulous selection of orange fruit and veg, or we might all have had to resort to slipping drops of Moir’s food colouring into everything! We started off with an orange salsa made from bright orange tomatoes and a dash of Cilantro, sliced orange peppers and Beamster cheese , a mature, hard cheese with little lumps of salt in it, part of the Gouda family. We drank Tangerine Martini’s, expertly prepared by our host, and less successful cocktails of Malibu with fresh peaches (my decision and one I don’t think I’ll repeat). For the mains our honourable hosts prepared a sunset coloured feast of spicy pepper pasta with orange tomatoes and peppers in a superbly tasty olive oil and garlic, with a side salad of fresh orange tomatoes and Mimolette cheese, which, incidentally, is favoured by Charles de Gualles, and I can see why. Thanks to Ms M and Ms B, our other Orang-er, for introducing us to two fabulous new cheeses! I’m always so excited to meet a new tasty treat!

Dessert was my contribution to the meal. After messing around with a few radical ideas involving all sorts of freezing and moulding, I went with something a bit easier to transport in the summer heat: an open peach tart flavoured with almonds and Saffron. I’m having a little love affair with Saffron, it’s delicate, subtle flavour fills the mouth and transports one to exotic places. Also, it helped turn the dessert a more pleasing shade of orange than the pale almond cream on its own.

For the pastry, I used half vegetable shortening, which I don’t often do (in fact the only time I usually allow hard veg fats is in mince pies at Christmas time) but wanted a pie a little more delicate to suite the saffron. Acidity in the Grapefruit juice also adds to the tender crumble of the crust.

Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 2

Peach Tart with Almond and Saffron Cream

for the pastry:Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 3

1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp Fleur de Sel
small pinch plain salt
½ Tbsp Sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces, chilled
¼ cup vegetable shortening, cut in to small pieces
2 Tbsp Grapefruit juice in about ¼ cup chilled water

for the almond saffron cream:

pinch saffron strands
2 Tbsp just boiled water
⅓ cup ground almonds
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar

2 or 3 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced

2 or 3 Tbsp sugar

– preheat your oven to 400˚F

– make the pastry:

– combine all dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and work with your fingers gently until mix resembles oats porridge. OR place dry ingredients ands fats into your food processor and blitz a couple times to form porridge texture.

– add liquid, half at a time, until dough just begins to form. Heap onto a sheet of cling film, cover and form into a disc. Refrigerate, covered in plastic, for about half an hour.

– when dough is chilled, roll out on a floured surface and line a greased and floured pie dish (about 10 – 12 inches). Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 mins.

– blind bake the tart shell for 10 – 15 mins until just firm (to blind bake pastry: cover the raw pastry with a piece of baking parchment, cover with dry beans or rice to weight the paper down and bake for a few minutes. This stops the crust turning soggy once the filling is added)

– make the almond cream:

– in a little bowl (a soy sauce sushi bowl is perfect) soak the saffron strands in the hot water for about 10 mins

– beat together the ground almond, egg and sugar. Add the saffron water and one or two strands. mix well and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to firm the cream a bit

-pour chilled cream into tart shell, arrange peach slices on top, bake 30 – 35 minutes in your hot oven until the peaches are bubbling slightly and the pastry is a golden brown.

-Allow to cool to room temperature

-Just before serving, sprinkly top with sugar and caramelise using a blow torch or under a hot grill for afew minutes. Be careful not to burn the pastry!

– serve with a little dulce de leche or caramel sauce. We used a Butterscotch sauce with Jamacian Rum for something a bit more sophisticated. 🙂

*thanks to Jane for the use of her camera and some lovely pictures taken by herself

Peaches

Orange Dinner 1

Orange Dinner 2

 

 

Orange Dinner 3

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Wild Blueberry tarts with Marzipan

It’s been a busy weekend, jam packed (ahem, excuse the pun) with picnics, parks and outdoor activity. After a birthday party picnic on Saturday Mr P and I met with friends on the Toronto Islands for a day of sun and tennis and food. There’s something about picnicking, where you you snack all day and never really know just how much you’ve eaten or not, that leaves you feeling satisfied with life and full of the goodness of the earth. It is good to let your bare toes curl and flex in fresh, soft grass, and to let your skin turn golden in the sun under the SPF. I’m having a complete berry love affair at the moment, in case you hadn’t noticed, and my pet favourite has always been the wild blueberry, impossible to get back home or any time but Now, here in Toronto. One had better make the most of it! I throw them by the handful into cereals and buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, snack on them during the day and love doing up a batch of little tarts (or pies as they’re called here). Great for picnics, non? With these ones I threw a slice of marzipan on top of each before baking. Wow. Delicious. Just be sure to mention it to your feed-ees in case of nut allergies, advice I could almost have learned the hard way this weekend.

I was overcome with the berry-fever at the farmers market on Saturday. Everywhere you looked berries flooded the vision. I found myself unable to concentrate on anything the blue and red and yellow and magenta and black of berries berries everywhere. I arrived, as often happens, with a small list of things I need to pick up: just raspberries in this case, but end up, after am entranced, hypnotised hour, with almost more than I can fit into the basket of my bicycle. Now, again, I find myself in the predicament of what to do with all the berries I have sitting in pretty, green cardboard punnets on my counter. Berries don’t keep as long as, say, apples. I spent a couple hours yesterday making up a fresh batch of flavour-packed, irresistable on a spoon black currant jam and still have a couple punnets of small, green and maroon gooseberries to do coax into submission.

Blueberry tarts with Marzipan

Pate Brise:

1 cup all purpose flour
1½ cups Whole wheat flour
¾ tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
250 g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into small pieces
¼ – ½ cup ice cold water

filling:

3 cups wild blueberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
juice from ½ a lemon
12 slices of marzipan, about 5mm thick

Preheat oven to 420˚F

for the pastry:
– combine sifted dry ingredients and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs. The trick with pate brise is to work lightly and not blend the mixture too well, leaving chunks of butter. This keeps the pastry texture light when it bakes.

– add water, a bit at a time, until the dough only just comes together. Again, don’t mix too much. Divide dough into two pieces, flatten each into a round disc, cover in plastic and refrigerate at least half an hour.

– on a floured surface, using one disc at a time from the fridge, roll dough out to about 3mm thick and cut rounds to fit inside 12 well greased small pie or muffin tins (I used both)

– place lined tins in the fridge.

for the filling:
– mix berries, flour and sugar. Add lemon juice and mix until berries are coated in mixture.

– divide mixture between between pastry shells and top with a slice of marzipan.

– bake pies at 420˚F for 10 mins, then lower temperature to 350 and bake a further 15 mins or so, until the berries are bubbling and their juice starts to run.

Blueberry tarts with Marzipan

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