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Archive for the ‘baked goods’ Category

chocolate-cherry-pie1

Oh, don’t shoot me.  Another recipe I diligently wrote down while making and have since misplaced somewhere in the maelstrom of my kitchen notes over the last few months.  Listen, people, do as I say and not as I do.  If you’re going to be making up recipes and fabricate wonderful new concoctions in the kitchen, keep a whole notebook, bound and sturdy and without loose pages in which to write said culinary experiments.  Do not, as I do, keep a post-it pad in the cutlery drawer on which to scribble, somewhat illegibly and often covered in some un-named sauce, your moments of cuisinary Eureka.  So bear with me here as I try to back track in my mind and remember what went into this little morsel of yumminess you see before you.

The shell, I remember well, is a simple shortcrust.  No difficulty there.  If you need a recipe, this is a good one, but make only half the required amount as you don’t need a lid for this pie.

The filling was a pint, at least, of dark, almost black, Bing cherries; pitted and halved, or halved and pitted whichever order you like to do that in. 

Next would have been a little bit of flour and a little bit of sugar.  Again, I can’t give you exact measurements, but I’d estimate ⅓cup sugar and a ¼cup plain flour. 

Then a generous amount of dark chocolate, cut into chunks.  Hmmm.  Lets guess at 100g, 70% cocoa.

Of course, the rest seems fairly simple.  Preheat the oven to, oh, 375˚F.  Line a springform cake tin with the pastry and chill in the fridge for 10 mins.  Fill the shell with the cherry/chocolate mix and bake for about 30 mins, or until the pastry is turning a golden brown and the filling is bubbling merrily away.

Chill for about 10 mins outside the oven before removing from the springform.

Brilliant eaten still warm with a good dollop of vanilla ice-cream.

Good luck!  And please, if anyone can see a major blup in my thinking here, shout shout shout.

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strawberry-pistachio-tart-combo1

On a balmy, sensual, early summer night in the season now past the dashing Mr P and I were invited to a dinner, eaten out doors in the charming garden on a very good friend.  She asked for a dessert for 6 and, it being the season of all things fresh and lovely, what better than an ensemble exploding with fresh strawberries.  Now, I’m not going to give you an ingredient by ingredient recipe for these little tarts. It’s simply a version of a typical little fruit tart, not dissimilar to these, or these, using a pate sable and a type of nut custard, like frangipane but with pistachios instead of almonds in both cases.  I love including a fruit in puddings, as you’ve no doubt noticed.  I tend to keep the sugar content a bit lower on the rest of the dessert and rely a lot on the sweetness in the fruit instead.  I think the ultimate difference with these tarts is that the tart shell is baked with the pistachio-cream, then when the tarts are cool the fresh strawberries are added on top.  Somehow, a fresh strawberry is infinitely better than a cooked one on a hot summer evening, don’t you agree?

*note: if you’re battling to get the strawberries to stand nicely on the cool tarts, heat a little strawberry jam and use as a type of glue between the fresh strawberry pieces.

strawberry-pistachio-tart-52

Strawberry Pistachio Tarts

for the pate sable:
200g butter, softened
pinch salt
⅓ cup icing sugar, sifted
⅓ cup shelled pistachios
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
400ml plain flour

for the pistachio cream:
½cup shelled pistachios
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar
60 ml unsalted butter, softened

Punnet fresh strawberries
3 or 4 Tbls strawberry jam (preferably an all fruit jam)
¼cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped

– first, grind or blend or process the pistachios, in two separate batches for the pastry and the creme, until they are very fine (think ground almonds)

make the pate sable:

– beat the butter with the ground pistachios, salt and sugar until creamy.

– add the egg, vanilla and 1 Tbsp of the flour and beat until smooth.

– add the rest of the flour and combine to form a sticky dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour

make the pistachio creme:

– beat ground pistachios, egg, sugar and butter until smooth. Refrigerate 10 mins until firm.

– preheat the oven to 375˚F

– grease and flour 6 individual tart tins (about 5″ diameter) or, alternatively, one large 9 or 10 inch dish.

– when the pastry is well chilled, roll it out on a floured surface to about 5mm thickness.  Line each tine with pastry, trimming away excess. Keep combining and re-rolling the scraps of dough until all the tins are lined.

– prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork a couple of times.

– divide the pistachio creme between each tart Shell and smooth out.

– bake for about 20 mins until the pastry and the top of the pistachio creme is a lovely pale gold.

– allow the tarts to cool for 10 mins before removing from tins.

– wash, hull and halve the strawberries. Gently heat the strawberry jam.

– when the tarts are completely cooled top with halved strawberries.   Brush a little jam onto the berries of each tart. Top with a sprinkle with the chopped pistachios.

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peach-w-meringue51

No, you are not imagining things and I have neither moved to the Southern Hemisphere, where peaches are undoubtedly about to come into a gorgeous new season, nor have I lost my love for all things seasonal.  This is merely another of my catch up posts for the recipe’s I never got around to posting over the Summer here in Toronto.

At the St Lawrence Market there is a produce stall on the upper level where, from the end of June, you can see people poking there noses around, lowering their glasses to read the hand written signs on the fruit displays, sighing a little, disappointed, and carrying on with their shopping.  They’re waiting, you see, for The Peaches.  The Peaches I speak of are no ordinary peaches.  Ontario abounds with peaches from it’s Niagara Region through the Summer, but this little, owner run stall in the market has found peaches of such good, consistent quality that they have people asking for them specifically.  And when the famous Peaches do eventually arrive, in baskets and boxes, they are pounced upon (gently, of course, to avoid any bruising) and bought in hoards.  People can be seen leaving the market, one hand weighed down by pounds and pounds of peaches, the other delicately eating a fresh, ripe peach right on the spot, juice running down their chins and a happy, far away glint in their eyes.

What to do with such peaches?  They seem to lovely to be turned into sticky jams and are far best eaten just like that, with the aforementioned juices running down the chin.  But sometimes one likes to, uh, tart a peach up a little, if you know what I mean.  This is a great way to make the best of the season’s hero’s while delivering a dessert that smacks just enough of glamour and decadence.

One of the best things about serving fruit for dessert is it’s ease of preparation and this little gem is pretty darn simple.  Other than a little whipping for the meringue and a little stirring of the custard there’s really not much to making this.  I must add here that I’m using the word “Custard” rather loosely since there’s neither milk nor cream in the mix.  But it turns out so creamy and velvety in any case that I couldn’t think of anything else to call it.

*note: I baked this for two, hence the 1 large peach, halved.  Multiply for more people. Also, I know it’s not always that easy to get great quality juice in North America. I use Ceres fruit juices from South Africa, available all over the place here, but alternatively you could juice a fresh peach.

peach-w-meringue-combo

Baked Peaches with Meringue and Peach Custard

For the Peach:
1 large, ripe, white peach, halved and stoned
1½ Tbsp Vanilla Sugar
Drizzle of Basalmic Vinegar per peach

For the Meringue:
1 egg white
2 Tbsp caster sugar

For the Custard:
½ cup peach juice
1 tsp corn starch
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter

– Preheat the oven to 300˚F

– Place the peaches, cut side up, on a baking tray.  Sprinkle the vanilla sugar and balsamic vinegar over them.

– Whip the egg white untill stiff, then add the sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time, beating between each addition.

– Top each peach with the meringue mixture.  Bake in the 300˚F oven for 25 mins, then lower the temperature to 250˚F and bake for a further 10 mins.

– To make the custard, stir the corn starch into the cool peach juice.  Add the yolk, vanilla and salt and mix well.

– Over a moderately low heat, stir the peach custard untill it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

– Before serving, stir the butter into the warm custard until melted.

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Okay. I’m sorry for the awful pun. Although, I know that once you taste this scrumptious little mound of deliciousness you’ll forgive me in an instant. I’ve been holding on to this little gem for a while now, not because I didn’t want to share, but because it somehow, as things occasionally do in the manic digital mayhem that can be our lives, got lost in the ether, so to speak. Having finally surfaced from wherever it is that pear puddings go to holiday, I’m finally getting around to sharing it. This pudding seemed to be thwarted at so many points in it’s short life at it’s time in the lime light. Having been originally made to appear as a piece de resistance at the end of one of more decadent dinners the ever fabulous Mr P and I hosted, it was politely refused it’s place of glory when a second dessert appeared, as if by magic, in the hands of one of our guests. Not having been the first time a guest has brought a dessert to the table (and let me tell you, what a dessert it was! A pear pudding knows when to gracefully bow out to superior forces) I was well versed at organising a suitable Sunday Tea for the consumption of said pudding. However, a pear pudding’s prime not being as long as Madonna’s, a new set of Tea Guests were sadly disappointed with a somewhat dry, if tasty, bit of pud. Not to be out done, Pear Pudding was dutifully recreated to it’s original glory and enjoyed by all. I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Having the visual idea in my head of what I wanted my pear pudding to look like, but no recipe to follow or adapt, I did the next best thing and combined a couple of different recipe’s. I used the basics from a Women’s Weekly Pear Tart Tatin (from their New French Food cookbook) to caramelise the pears and a basic pudding recipe for the rest (thanks grandma). Best served with clotted cream.

Caramelised Pear Pudding

for the caramel pears
3 large Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
90g butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup cream

for the pudding batter
½ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon

– slice the pears length ways into 1cm (½”) wide slices, keeping their peary shape. Keep the middle, pear shaped slices whole and chop the remaining bits into cubes. You need about 10 of the pear shaped slices for the sides of the pudding basin.

– heat the butter, sugar and cream slowly in a large, heavy based saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pear slices and chopped bits to the caramel and bring to the boil.

– simmer over a low heat, turning the pears every so often, for about 25 minutes, until the pears are tender. Remove from heat, drain pears from caramel, reserving sauce.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 500ml pudding basin

– for the batter, beat the butter and sugar until creamy.

– beat in the eggs, one at a time.

– sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to the egg mixture and mix until just incorporated.

– stir in small, chopped pear pieces

– line your greased pudding bowl with the pear shaped slices, alternating head to toe. Us two slices to line the bottom of the basin. (chop up any remaining pieces and add to pudding batter.)

– coat the pears in half the reserved caramel.

– fill the basin with pudding mixture and top with the rest of the caramel sauce.

– bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes (checking often after 25 mins) until set in the middle.

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You know the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemon aide”, well my philosophy in life runs in the same vein: When the banana’s of your life turn black, make banana bread.” Which is my way of saying, when life’s being a little rough with you, eat cake. Also, it ties in rather neatly with my Waste-not-want-not upbringing. For a change, however, it being The Season of Great Changes and all, I eschewed all things expected and made something a little crazier. When asked to provide, and I quote, A Simple, No Fuss (with a pointed raised eyebrow, Ms Vickers) Dessert for an evening of screaming and gasping over the new series of Battlestar Galactica, what better remedy to such an unnatural request than brownies; and with those last two, very black banana’s staring at me from the bottom of the dusty fruit bowl, what else could I do but provide Banana Chocolate Brownies? These turned out to be a bit drier than my normal brownie recipe, which I usually diligently obey Nigella’s instruction on, but that made them just perfect with a big, yummy scoop of banana ice-cream.

*note: I put a cup of walnuts on top of the mixture before baking to make a walnut-like crust, but go ahead and mix them into the batter before baking. Ditto with the white choc chips, or go super wild and use dark choc chips for extra punch.

Banana Chocolate Brownies

adapted from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

80 ml butter (⅓ cup)
185g dark chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of 60 and 70%)
150ml sugar (⅔ cup)
2 eggs
Heaping, oozing ½ cup mashed, ripe banana (the blacker the better)
2 tsp Vanilla
150ml flour (⅔ cup)
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, broken up

– pre-heat oven to 350˚F

– line an 8″ square baking tin (or equivalent)

-in a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt chocolate and butter. Let cool a bit, then whisk in the sugar.

– in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the banana and vanilla. Add to the chocolate mix.

– whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, sift into chocolate and mix well.

– scraped into baking tin, top with nuts.

– bake for about 30 mins until set in the middle. Remove from oven, top with white chocolate chips and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

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Manicotti Spinach Ricotta

Manicotti are much larger than cannelloni and therefore much, much easier to stuff.  Personally, I approach the whole stuffing process with joyless abandon.  Not for me the delicate process of cake forks and backs of teaspoons to get the stuffing in the tubes; it’s a roll up the sleeves, hands in the bowl affair in my kitchen.  Although, I must confess, it was the ever resourceful Mr P who beat the prissy out of me one afternoon and a cannelloni stuffing competition, which he won hands down, if you’ll forgive the pun and since then I’ve followed his example.

This is a lighter version of the usual pasta al fourno, foregoing the buttery bechemel in favour of an extra wop of tomato sauce.  And that tomato sauce comes out of a jar, mind you.  I don’t think I’ll be the type to be making bathtubs of my own tomato sauce any day soon and a good quality jar of ye olde tomato sauce does the trick perfectly.

*I used provolone on the top because it’s what I had on hand, but a good mozzarella would be wonderful as well.

** This recipe makes a full lasagna dish worth, enough for 4 – 6 people, so divide proportionately if you want, although it makes great left overs and freezes well too.

Manicotti Spinach Ricotta2

Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives 

Olive oil
1 Onion (I used spanish red) finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch spinach (about 250g), washed and chopped
¼ tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Nutmeg
10 sundried tomatoes (in oil), drained and chopped
2 Tbsp ground flax
⅓ cup black olives, chopped (I used little nicoise)
½ cup pine nuts
500g ricotta, drained
salt and white pepper to taste
1 jar tomato pasta sauce (I used tomato and basil)
provolone and parmesan, grated – enough to cover dish

– heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute onions and garlic until tender. Add spices and cook until fragrant.

– add spinach in batches, to reduce size, and saute until wilted.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

– transfer spinach mix to a large mixing bowl, add tomatoes, flax, olives, pine nuts and mix well.

– mix in ricotta with a wooden spoon, breaking it up as you go to form a creamy mess.  Season to taste.

– butter a large casserole or lasagna dish and pre-heat the oven to 350˚F

– spread about ⅓ tomato sauce on bottom of dish.

– stuff each manocotti with spinach filling and place on tomato sauce base.  Continue until dish is full.

– top dish with the rest of the tomato sauce and top with the two cheeses.

– bake in the oven for 45 mins, until pasta is tender.

Manicotti Spinach Ricotta3

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Pear Patina

A small group of friends gathers now and then, on a rotation of residence basis, to toast a toast and marvel at each others themed cooking. You might remember a colourful affair a while back. We’ve had a lemon theme and a Childhood Memories evening, where we reminisced about such delights as Three Bean Salad, Tuna Casserole, Mac ‘n Cheese and Pineapple Upside-down Cake. The latest exploration was for Roman Food, and my, did we eat like Caesars, one and all. With stuffed grape leaves, and large, fragrantly cooked dishes of lentils and beans and cauliflower we stuffed ourselves just short of, well, you know…

A little space was left, thankfully, for dessert. Pear Patina, voila. Simply put, a sublime, slightly fragrant and utterly pear-y baked custard served with a white wine honey sauce. Perhaps this is what the Hun was looking for on his little trip through Rome? Thank goodness something is helping me get out of my cooking funk. The fresh, sweet taste of pears in this velvety concoction, after such a beautiful and flavoursome meal, has refreshed my cooking soul a bit.

Poached pears

Roman Pear Patina

2 large, ripe Bosc pears
500ml white wine
2 eggs
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp white pepper
pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp best Olive oil

For the honey sauce:

2 big, oozing Tbsp honey
¼ cup white wine

– poach the pears, whole, in the white wine in a heavy based saucepan for 20 – 25 mins, or until very tender, turning the pears every few minutes.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and sugar a 500ml Pudding basin (or souffle dish/caserole)

– allow the pears to cool slightly before pealing and coring them. Mash/process the pears until smooth.

– beat the eggs and add to the pear pulp along with the cream, milk, cardamom, peppers, honey and olive oil.

– Pour mixed batter into pudding basin and bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top, but still jiggly in the middle.

– To make the sauce, warm the honey until it’s quite liquid, add the wine and mix.

– best served slightly warm.

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