Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb was still available at the Farmer’s Market last week.  Actually, it’s still available in my garden. I’ve tested this recipe four times and since practice makes perfect, it’s time I got this recipe posted before the season is over for another year.

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Tart Dough, Pâte Sucrée
1 large egg yolk
4 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) sugar
1/4 teaspoon koaher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Frangipane (Almond Cream):
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (4 ounces/112 grams) almond flour*
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg, preferably organic
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of one lemon

To Finish:
About 15 stalks of rhubarb, cleaned of leaves and washed

For the tart dough:
In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of cream. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor using the metal blade, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse a couple of times to combine. Toss the pieces of butter evenly over the flour. Pulse until the mixture looks crumbly and the butter pieces are about the size of peas. Don’t over-process or your crust will be tough. Add the egg yolk mixture and pulse just until the dough comes together.

The dough should begin to hold together. Stop before it forms a ball around the blade. Turn the dough out onto a counter. With the palm of your hand smear the dough away from you. Using a bench scraper, fold it back onto itself and smear again until the mixture is combined. Flattened and form it into a rectangle, wrap with the plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 10 minutes or until it becomes malleable for easier rolling. Lightly dust a smooth surface as well as a rolling pin. Roll out a 10 x 13-inch rectangle of dough. Use your bench scraper and flip the dough over on occasion to prevent it from sticking. The trick is to work quickly so that the butter does not start to melt. Once rolled out to the correct size carefully place it in the tart pan. Fold the overhang back into the pan and pinch to form a ¼-inch rise above the pan. Return the tart shell to the refrigerator or freezer for at least 1/2 hour.

When ready to blind bake the tart dough preheat the oven to 400ºF.  After the oven has pre-heated, remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and place it on a sheet pan. Line it with parchment paper and pie weights. Bake for about 15 minutes or until it just begins to brown. Take out of the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper and set on a cooling rack. While the tart shell is cooling make the frangipane.

For the frangipane:
In the bowl of a food processor, using the metal blade whiz the butter and sugar together until the mixture is smooth. Note that if you make the frangipane soon after making the dough there’s no need to wash the processor bowl before making it.

Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended.  Add the flour and cornstarch, process again and then add the egg.  Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is is smooth and fully combined.

Add the almond and vanilla extracts, salt, zest and process just to blend. Scrape the frangipane into a container and either use it immediately or refrigerate it until ready to use.

To finish the tart:
Set the cooled tart shell on a sheet pan. With and off-set spatula, spread the frangipane evenly in the cooled tart shell.  Cut the rhubarb to fit the size of the tart. Bake at 375ºF for about 1/2 hour or until the rhubarb can be easily pierced with a knife and frangipane is puffed and golden brown.  Allow to cool before serving.

*If you are unable to find almond flour is can easily be made. In the bowl of a food processor using the metal blade, combine the 4 ounces of blanched almonds with 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Pulse until the almonds are finely ground.  Be careful not process so long that it becomes oily. Proceed with recipe above where the butter and sugar are combined.

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Tarte citron et de fromage blanc (Lemon and fresh cheese Tart)

Besides a sauce pan, colander, cheesecloth, spatula, and tart pan, you know the usual; there are what some would consider “specialty” equipment items that are needed for this recipe. One is a calibrated thermometer and the other is a kitchen scale – one that can weigh in ounces and grams. My theory is to always invest in quality tools and they should last you a lifetime. They will also make your baking life much easier.

I tested the fromage blanc recipe at least a 1/2 dozen times sometimes with cream and other times without, adding more or less vinegar, as well as adding salt or eliminating salt.  The recipe below is the result of all the testing and what I consider just the right amount of creaminess and salinity.

For the tart shell, I also tested several dough recipes. So far this one from BakeWise seems to hold up the best after baking, especially if transporting. Be sure that the prepared tart shell is well chilled and that the oven is preheated. Otherwise, when it starts to bake the butter melts out before the dough sets.

David Schmit was the photographer.  Check out his work at David Paul Schmit Photography.

061215_GreatBowls_B6566 (1)For the tart dough:
Pâte Sablée* (adapted from BakeWise, by Shirley Corriher)

1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon cold water (original recipe suggested apple cider vinegar), plus additional cold water if needed
½ cup plus 5 tablespoons (184 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ cups (187 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (38 g) confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl beat together the egg yolk, cream, and water. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Cut the butter into pieces, set them on a plate, and place in the refrigerator as well, until ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor using the metal “S” blade, pour in the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to evenly distribute the dry ingredients.

Scatter the pieces of butter on top of the flour mixture. Pulse until each piece of butter is about the size of a pea. Don’t get caught up that every piece has to be exactly the size of a pea.  It’s okay that some are larger or smaller in size.

Remove the lid and pour the egg mixture over the flour/butter mixture. (I found that when pouring the egg mixture while the motor is running, the liquid tends to collect under the blade.) Pulse until the dough just begins to come together. Remove the lid and (being careful of the blade) press a bit of the dough with your fingers to determine if it will stick together.  If not, sprinkle a teaspoon of cold water over the mixture, return the lid and pulse again to further combine the dough.

When the dough comes together remove it from the processor bowl onto a clean counter. With the palm of your hand smear the dough away from you to incorporate. With a bench knife gather up the pieces and smear again until incorporated. This simple technique is called fraisage.  It allows the dough to come together without using an excessive amount of liquid. Once the dough is in one mass form it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

When ready to finish making the tart preheat oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough into a circle about 13-inches in diameter. Line a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan with it. Prick the bottom of the pastry shell all over with a fork and chill for at least 30 minutes or until the dough is firm. Remove from the refrigerator, line with parchment paper, add pie weights and bake for about 30 minutes.  Check for doneness and continue until the crust is beginning to brown.

For the filling:
1 pound (500 g) fromage blanc* or ricotta cheese, drained
1/3 cup (1 dl) heavy cream or crème fraiche
3 large eggs, room temperature and separated
2/3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons (40 g) corn starch
zest of 2 lemons, organic if possible
¼ teaspoon pure lemon extract
pinch of kosher salt

About 10 minutes prior to the tart shell having finished baking, using the metal “S” blade, mix together in the bowl of a food processor the drained cheese, cream, egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, zest, extract, and salt. Set aside.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites (either with the whisk attachment using a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, or like I do with a balloon whisk and a copper bowl) with a pinch of salt to the soft-peak stage.  With a large spatula quickly stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cheese mixture to lighten it.  Then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites. (Don’t dilly-dally when folding as you don’t want to deflate the air that you just beat into the egg whites.)

As soon at the tart shell is out of the oven and the weights are removed, pour the filling into the shell and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden. Let the tart cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.  I imagine it would be great with sliced seasonal fruit.

For the fromage blanc:

1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized and preferably organic
1 pint heavy cream, not ultra-pasteurized and preferably organic
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar, separated, preferably organic
pinch of kosher salt

Line a colander with 4 single layers of cheesecloth.  Place over a large bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan add the milk and cream.  Slowly bring the mixture up to 190°F stirring constantly.  Once the mixture has reached the temperature remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Almost immediately, the curds should begin to separate from the whey. If the curds seem slow to separate, stir in the remaining tablespoon of vinegar.  Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth lined colander.  Sprinkle with salt and carefully mix into the cheese. Bring the four corners of the cheesecloth over the handle of a wooden spoon and tie off to create a bundle thus allowing the cheese to drain.  Draining for about an hour should result in a pound of cheese. Reserve some of the whey so that if the final weight of the cheese does not equal a pound, add enough whey back in to do so.

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Goat or Cow’s Milk, Caramel Chocolate Truffles

IMG_0045 (1)For the first batch of these decedent chocolates, I made them with Kalona SuperNatural cream and butter.  But then, I came across a can of goat’s milk and butter from my caramel-making.  Finding these these ingredients inspired me to delve into another experiment.  I figured if Goat’s Milk Caramels are delicious why not truffles as well.  Low and behold they are luscious with just a bit of tang.

It’s important to have all the ingredients at the ready as the caramelized sugar will continue to cook even when off the heat.  It waits for no one and will quickly go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds.  But with the ingredients at hand, all that is needed is to do is pour in the cream and add the butter to stop the cooking process.

As far as which chocolate to use, seek out such brands such as Callebaut, Ghirardilli, Scharffen Berger, or Valrhona.  I used Valrhona Manjari 64% Dark Chocolate disks. If you’ve ever considered enjoying a side by side taste test, here’s a perfect opportunity to hone in on which one(s) you like best.

I’ve also crossed the line whereby I now caramelize sugar without the addition of water.  There’s no going back as it takes considerably less time than if water is added as it must evaporate before the sugar will caramelize. If you are not ready to venture into this territory by all means add a bit of water to the sugar, say 2 tablespoons. This will give additional security and control of the caramelization process.

If using goat’s milk and butter:
12 ounces canned goat’s milk
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 g) goat butter
7 ounces (200 g) dark chocolate, 64%, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 120 g) granulated sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup give or take (100 g) unsweetened cocoa powder

Pour the goat’s milk into a small saucepan.  Place the pan on medium heat and reduce the milk to 1/2 cup (4 ounces).  It should take about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it.  Trust me, it will boil over if left unattended.

As it’s reducing, check for volume by pouring the milk into a glass measuring cup. If it’s not quite 4 ounces, pour the milk back into the saucepan to reduce a bit more.  Once it measures 4 ounces in the liquid measuring cup, set aside.  (This mixture is in place of the cream.) From here continue with the method given below the next list of ingredients.

If using cow’s cream and butter:
7 ounces (200 g) dark chocolate, such as 64%, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 120 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water, optional*
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 g) unsalted butter
Pinch fine salt
1/2 cup (12 cl or 125 milliliters) whipping cream
1/2 cup give or take (100 g) unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the  chop the chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set aside.

If NOT using water:
Place a medium-sized heavy bottom saucepan on medium heat and carefully sprinkle about 1/3 of the sugar across the bottom of the pan. As the sugar melts, swirl the pan so that it starts to melt evenly. Add another 1/3 of the sugar and continue swirling the pan to melt the sugar, then add the remaining sugar and keep swirling.

If using water:
Off heat, in a medium heavy bottom saucepan and add the sugar and water.  Stir the water into the sugar until it resembles wet sand.  Place the pan on medium-low heat and continue stirring until the sugar melts.  Once it melts stop your stirring.  It’s okay to swirl the pan but you don’t want the sugar to splatter on the sides of the pan.  If that happens take a pastry brush dipped in water and wash the sugar back into the pan.

As the sugar melts it will caramelize, have a toasty aroma and look like the color of a copper penny. Once this occurs quickly pour in the cream, salt and butter. Be careful as the cream will bubble up and create quite a bit of steam. Stir with a heat proof spatula until the caramel as completely re-melted. Then pour it directly onto the chocolate and allow the caramel to melt the chocolate.  After it has cooled a bit stir the mixture to melt the chocolate completely. Refrigerate until the mixture becomes firm to the touch.

After the chocolate has set-up, scoop out portions with a small spoon or tiny spring loaded scoop to make small balls. (They don’t have to be perfectly round as they should resemble the other kind of truffles that are found buried under oak or hazelnut trees.) Place them on a parchment lined pan or plate and return them to the refrigerator until they are again firm.

After they are firm roll them in cocoa powder.  Allow them to come to room temperature and enjoy by themselves or with a glass of port.

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Poires en Croute or Pears Wrapped in Puff Pastry

I was recently introduced to a cooking show called, The Great British Bake Off, which is currently airing on the BBC.  During the episode that I happened to watch the contestant challenge was to make poached pears wrapped in puff pastry.  Granted they made a blitz or quick puff, but they only had 3 hours to complete the entire dessert.   The “ribbons” or strips of dough were to be wrapped around the poached pears and then baked off.

If remembering correctly, only one poor soul accomplished the task with any dignity remaining.  I felt their pain as I know how hot it can get when cooking in the summer, and even more so, when the scenario includes baking in a tent.  Since it’s not summer, but instead the dead of winter, I thought I’d take a stab at this recipe and see how my outcome might fare.  The show referred to the recipe as a “Mini Pear Pie”.  I’m not convinced that that name does any justice to the results.

9 pears is not a magic number.  I just happened to be going to a party where 8 would be in attendance.  I’ve also learned the hard way that it’s advantageous to make an extra – of anything – just in case.  You could poach 3 or 5 or 7, but then you might have some champagne left over.  That wouldn’t be all bad since you should taste it anyway to ensure that it’s worthy of being used for poaching.

Baked Pear on Plate

9 slightly under ripe bosc pears, washed and stems attached
1 lemon, cut in half
1 bottle demi-sec Champagne or Prosecco
1 or 2 blood oranges, washed and organic if possible
1 3 to 4-inch cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
Boiling water at the ready, just in case it is needed
1 3/4 pounds puff pastry, preferably home-made
1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water for an egg wash

Use a non-reactive pan, with a lid, that is just large enough to snugly hold the number of pears that are being poached.  It should be deep enough so that the fruit can be completely submerged in liquid with at least 3-inches of head room.

Cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit just inside the circumference of the pot.  Cut a small hole in the center of the circle to allow air to escape.  Set aside until ready to use.

Slice the oranges about a 1/4-inch thick and place them in the poaching pot – one slice for each pear that is being poached.  Pop the cork and and after having a taste, pour the champagne or prosecco in the pot.  Of course, depending on the size of your pot, all of the liquid may not be necessary.  Add the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, and 1 cup of sugar.  Set the pan on medium heat and bring to a boil.

While the liquid is coming to a boil, cut a sliver (in other words; just enough) off the bottom of each pear to allow it to stand upright.  Peel each and rub one of the halves of lemon on them to prevent browning.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to barely a simmer and add the peeled pears.  I picked them up by their stem, but you may want to use a ladle to get them safely in the poaching liquid.

Once all of the pears are in the poaching liquid, add enough remaining champagne, prosecco, or boiling water to cover the fruit.  Place the parchment paper circle on top to cover the fruit.  This step is additional insurance to prevent the fruit from being exposed to air and browning.  Place the lid on the pot, leaving it slightly ajar and allow the pears to simmer in the poaching liquid.

Start checking for doneness about 15 – 20 minutes after the pears begin cooking.  Of course the cooking time depends on how ripe the pears are in the first place.  The more ripe they are, the quicker they will cook.  Test each one.  Once the pear can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, remove it to a rimmed plate.

Soaking Pears

After all the pears have been removed and are cooling, taste the poaching liquid for sweetness.  Add additional sugar, up to one cup to suit your taste, realizing that the liquid will be reduced to a syrup.  After the syrup starts to thicken, ladle a bit over the pears and let them continue to cool.

Once the pears are cool you are ready to proceed.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Roll out the pastry dough to between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick and about 18-inches long.  You don’t want to roll it so thin that it doesn’t puff nor so thick as it takes too long to bake.  Cut long strips of pastry about 1/3-inch wide and the entire length of the pastry.  When all the strips have been cut, brush them completely with the egg wash.

Pick up one strip of dough and starting at the bottom, wrap the pastry around the pear, overlapping it just slightly as you wind the dough up the pear.  When that strip comes to an end, overlap the next one and continue winding up until you reach the top of the pear.   It takes about three 1/3 x 18-inch strips to encase one pear.  As you finish each pear, set it on a pan in a cool place to dry.

Wrapped Pears

After all the pears have been wrapped in pastry and dried, carefully brush the outside of each with additional egg wash.  If you want to get extra fancy, and there a few scraps of dough remaining, cut out leaf shapes from the dough and attach it to the pears with egg wash.  The egg wash was my trick to keep the dough adhered to the pear.  It’s not something that they did on the show, but had they, the dough might have not slid off the pears while baking.

Pears BakedIt should take between 30 minutes to 1 hour to bake depending on the thickness of the dough.  Keep an eye on them if they start to brown too much, reduce the heat.  After the pastry is a golden brown, remove the pan from the oven to cool them a bit.  If desired, using a pastry brush, brush each with some of the reduced poaching liquid.  It will make them shine!  The Pears can be served warm or at room temperature.  Serve with the candied orange slices and any combination of the following:  reduced poaching liquid, ice cream, and/or whipped cream.   Many thanks to the TGBBO for the inspiration.

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Classic Puff Pastry

Don’t be dissuaded by anyone who tells you that it’s difficult to make puff pastry.  It takes basically two things – time: most of which is the dough chilling in the fridge and patience: the process cannot be rushed.

Here’s the reason for not rushing it.  The butter needs to remain cold to stay within the dough while you roll it out.  If it starts to seep or ooze through – STOP – wrap it back up and put it in the refrigerator for awhile.  If you take these two details into account, the likelihood of success is greatly increased.

Here’s another tidbit of information.  I have made puff pastry for years, but most recently happened upon a recipe calling for lemon juice.  I couldn’t for the life of me find the reason why acid would need to be added.   All it took was an message to a friend who is a pastry chef/instructor to learn something new.  The lemon juice denatures the gluten strands in the flour, giving them greater strength.  When it comes to puff pastry, having robust gluten is an asset.  Some recipes call for bread flour, which makes sense due to its higher gluten content;  however, bread flour is not always readily at hand, even in my kitchen.

The following is a classic recipe for puff pastry.  It involves creating a block of butter and flour, which is then encased in pastry dough.   The encased block of dough is then rolled and folded six times.   I’ve never done the math, but I’m told that after the “six turns”, 729 layers of dough/butter are created.  However, sept-cent-vingt-neuf-feuille is definitely more complicated to pronounce than simply saying “mille-feuille” or 1000 layers.  Other times it is called “pâté feuilletée”, which means pastry made leaf-like.”

Regardless of what you call it, homemade puff pastry is amazing.  Make two batches back to back.  Dividing each batch in half, two batches will give you about four 1½ pound blocks of dough.  These can be individually wrapped, frozen and ready to use later.

If you do freeze the dough, remember to thaw whatever portion you want to bake off overnight in the refrigerator.  Thawing it on the counter is not the best option.  It tends to sweat and then become a sticky mess; much like me in the summer.  Also, do not attempt to thaw in the microwave.  You will regret that you even attempted such a thing.

The block of butter
1 lb 1½ oz (500 g) cold unsalted Butter
2 teaspoons (10ml) fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons (1/4 oz or 10g) kosher salt
1 cup (4.5 oz or 130g) unbleached all-purpose flour

 The dough
2 ½ cups (11.25 oz or 320 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup (2 oz or 60 g) cake flour
4 tablespoons (2 oz or 60 g) soft unsalted Butter
pinch salt
1 cup (240 ml) ice cold water

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix butter, lemon juice, salt, and flour into a smooth mass.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap down on the counter that is about 24-inches in length. Using a spatula scrape the butter mixture from the mixer and plop it near the middle of the plastic wrap.  Fold the plastic wrap over onto the butter and form it into an approximately 6-inch square.

Peel off the plastic wrap when it starts to wrinkle and place it back over the butter.  Flip the block over as well if it starts to wrinkle on the bottom.  The end result is a block of butter with obviously no plastic wrap incorporated in it only wrapped around it.  I only mention this from my own experience.  After you’ve got the butter evenly squared up and wrapped, refrigerate it until firm.


While the block of butter is firming up in the fridge, it’s time to make the dough.  In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade pour in the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt.  Pulse to mix.  Scatter the 4 tablespoons of butter around the flour mixture and pulse again to evenly incorporate it.  Remove the lid and all at once, pour the water near the outside edge of the bowl but over the flour mixture.  It’s been my experience that if you pour the water through the feed tube with the machine running, some of the water collects under the blade.  This is not the result for which you are aiming.  Return the lid and run the processor again until the dough forms a ball on the blade.

Dough in Processor

Be careful of the blade as you remove the dough from the machine.  Form it into about a 4-inch disk and using a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about ½ hour.

You are ready to proceed when the block of butter is firm and your dough has rested a bit under refrigeration.   Unwrap the chilled dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour.  Pat out the dough into about a 6-inch square.  Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad that has “ears” or flaps at each corner.

Dough with Ears

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the “ears” over the butter, stretching as needed so they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely.  It should be about 6-inches square.  The first time I saw that huge block of butter on the dough I thought to myself, “there’s no way all that butter is going to fit in such a small amount of dough.”  Have no fear, it will fit just fine.

Butter on ears

It’s now time to make the first of six turns.  Using a rolling pin, press the dough 5 or 6 times to create creases across the block.  This helps distribute the butter and makes is easier to start rolling.  It should look like a piece of  corrugated cardboard.  Then, keeping the work surface and dough well floured, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square with which you started, say about 24 inches in length.

Especially with this first turn, check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along the entire length and width of the dough.  If it’s not adjust accordingly, by rolling with more or less pressure; more evenly or whatever is necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter “sandwich” or lamination.  (Another term for this pastry is “laminated dough“.  I just thought I’d throw that in, in case you see this definition somewhere.)  With a pastry brush, remove the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter.  Brush off any excess flour that was on the bottom as well prior to making the final “business letter” fold.  You have completed one turn.

Turn One

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book.  Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24 inches and then folding in thirds.  This is the second turn.

 It might be time to chill, either you or the dough; or maybe not.  If the dough is still cool and no butter is seeping  out, you can give the dough another turn or even two turns.  If the condition of the dough is sketchy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.  Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed. You will think you will remember, but you trust me you won’t.

Turn Three

The dough can also be to refrigerated 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, say if you have laundry to finish.  However in the end, the total number of turns needed is six before it’s ready to be rolled out one last time to make your favorite tart shell, turnovers, palmiers, or pot pie crust.


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Brothy Poached Chicken with Mushrooms and Fresh Chile

My reading (0r lack thereof) of the numerous cooking magazines I get every month is backing up.  I could cancel every subscription and still have plenty to read for a good two years (don’t tell Cooks Illustrated, Saveur, Food & Wine, and Bon Appétit and those are just the major ones).  Therefore, one of my New Year’s resolutions (maybe the only one) is that every month I will cook a recipe from at least one of the magazines.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I have a tendency to improvise in the kitchen.  That’s what I’ve done here with Alison Roman’s recipe from the January 2015 issue of Bon Appétit.  I picked up the main ingredients at the grocer, but then looked in the pantry and freezer to see what I might add.  If I do say so myself, the results were delicious.

My version:
2 pounds bone-in, organic chicken breasts (about 2 large)
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 bay leaf (that’s all I had)
8 whole allspice
3 organic carrots, 1/4-inch, dice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut in half and sliced from “pole to pole”
11 ounces maitake or shiitake mushrooms, sliced (my schrooms came in 5 oz containers, plus I had a few in the fridge)
1 fresh red chile (such as Fresno), thinly sliced
1 1″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas (from the freezer)
1/2 cup “sun-dried” tomatoes (from the freezer)
1 tablespoon Pedro Ximenez Vinegar (dry) (I didn’t have any white distilled)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Sliced scallions (for serving)

Why not purchase bone-in chicken breasts?  They are less expensive, take minimal effort to de-bone and said bones add an abundance of flavor to the broth.

Remove bones and tendon from chicken breasts.  Place bones, chicken, garlic, bay leaf, allspice, half the diced carrots, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium pot.  Cover with 8 cups water (six cups didn’t seem like enough – see recipe below) and bring to a bare simmer over high heat.  Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and cook 8 minutes, skimming off any coagulated protein that forms on the surface (I’ve seen it referred to as scum, but that doesn’t sound very appetizing).  Remove chicken breasts fromthe liquid and let cool slightly.  Then, using two dinner forks shred into bite-size pieces.

While the chicken is cooling, continue simmering the broth for another 10 minutes.  Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl; reserving the garlic (which will need to be peeled) and discarding remaining solids.

Return the pan to medium fire and heat the olive oil (yes, the one from which you just poured the broth.  No, it doesn’t have to be washed, unless for some reason you burned something in it).

Sauté the onions for about 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms, chile, ginger, peas, remaining carrots, vinegar, and soy sauce to the broth.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth tastes to your satisfaction, 8–10 minutes.  Add the soba noodles and cook according to the package directions (my said to cook 5 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper, then add shredded chicken and simmer just until meat is warmed through.

Divide soup among bowls and serve topped with scallions.


Original recipe:
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large)
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
2 bay leaves
4 whole allspice
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
8 ounces maitake or shiitake mushrooms, torn into bite-size pieces
1 fresh red chile (such as Fresno), thinly sliced
1 1″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Sliced scallions and cilantro sprigs (for serving)

Place chicken, garlic, bay leaves, allspice, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium pot. Cover with 6 cups water and bring to a bare simmer over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook 8 minutes. Remove chicken from liquid and let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces.

Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot; discard solids. Add mushrooms, chile, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce to stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth tastes rich and flavorful, 8–10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add shredded chicken and simmer just until meat is warmed through.

Divide soup among bowls and serve topped with scallions and cilantro.

Do ahead: Chicken can be poached 2 days ahead. Let chicken and broth cool separately. Wrap up chicken and transfer broth to an airtight container; chill.

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Chocolate Shortbread Cookie

Chocoalate Shortbread Cookie

I tested this recipe first, using a food processor to mix the dough.  I found however, that it created too much air, allowing the cookies to puff up when cooked, but then deflate when cooled.  I guess the divot that was created could be filled with caramel sauce or ganache, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, and something to consider another time.  This time around I mixed all the ingredients by hand and if you have a kitchen scale, the entire recipe can be measured and mixed in one bowl.

As far as baking off the dough, it can be accomplished in a number of different ways.  The dough can be patted into a buttered 7 x 7-inch pan or a buttered 7-inch diameter cake ring.  Or, as I did in the recipe below, by forming the dough into a cylinder, cutting the dough into disks, and baking them off in individual 1 3/4-inch ring molds.  The dough can also be baked off without the rings; the cookie will just spread a bit.

Makes about 2 dozen depending on desired cookie size

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (1 ounce) blue corn meal
5 tablespoons (2 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
9 tablespoons (4 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into at least 9 pieces

In a large bowl, using a wire whisk, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  With your fingers, rub in butter until mixture comes together when squeezed with your hand.  Form into a cylinder of desired length and wrap tightly in parchment paper.  I formed mine into a cylinder that was 1 3/4-inches in diameter.  Refrigerate overnight.  The dough can also be frozen, but first wrap tightly in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap.

When ready to bake, set a rack on the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.  Line a sheet pan or two with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and using a sharp knife cut the cylinder into disks of desired thickness.   Set disks on parchment paper (about an inch apart, if not using rings) and bake right way so that the cookie dough sets before the butter melts.  Let cool completely then store in a container with a tight fitting lid.

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Marcona Almond Biscotti

BiscottiI like adding herbs to many different kinds of desserts.  Of course, it was only after I had made a batch of these biscotti, that I thought adding a few chopped sprigs would give them a delicious overtone with a hint of savoriness.  Next time, I might add about 1 1/2 teaspoons or so of chopped fresh rosemary or even oregano to the dough for a different twist.

Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup marcona almonds, toasted
1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375°F or 350°F convection.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper; set aside. Place almonds in a food processor and using the metal “S” blade, pulse about 10 times or just until coarsely chopped.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring together with a whisk.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time so that each is incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture before adding the other egg.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined; then stir in chopped almonds.

Divide the dough in half and roll into logs about 12-inches long; flatten slightly. Bake until firm and lightly browned about 30 to 35 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack about 15 minutes.

Transfer each log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut log crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking pan.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until slices are just turning brown around the edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


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