Simca’s Pâte Sublime or Sweet Pastry Dough

This “Sweet Pastry Dough with Cream” recipe is a variation of one that I learned to make at La Pitchoune. La Pitchoune was Julia and Paul Child’s home in the south of France. Their neighbors were the Beck family as in Simca (Simone) Beck who was one of the co-authors of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

My friend Kathy lived at La Pitchoune after the Child’s moved. She ran La Peetch, as it was affectionaly known, as a cooking school for many years. I would often visit to be her assistant during those cooking classes. This recipe yields about 1 ½ pounds pastry dough or enough for two 9 or 10 inch tart shells.

6 tablespoons (1/3 cup) heavy cream, beaten with 1 large egg yolk
2 cups (9 oz / 260 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1 oz / 30 g) cake flour, not self-rising
1 teaspoon (1/8 oz) aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons (¾ oz /25 g) super fine granulated sugar
10 tablespoons (5 oz / 150 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Optional additions
Substitute 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice for 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Zest of one orange, preferably organic

In a small bowl or measuring cup beat together cream and egg yolk. Set in refrigerator until ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor weight or measure out dry ingredients. Using the metal “S” blade process 2 seconds to combine.

Scatter butter around flour mixture and pulse on/off for 8 to 10 seconds (about 20 pulses) or until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.

Turn off machine and using a spatula or wooden spoon mound the flour mixture towards the center of the processor bowl. Pour the egg mixture around the parameter of the flour mixture and process just until the mixture starts to hold together.

Turn out onto a floured surface. With the heel of your hand smear the dough away from you at little at a time on the counter, folding it back onto itself with a bench scraper. Once it comes together divide it evenly into two disks. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least ½ hour or even overnight. When ready to roll out, remove the dough from the refrigrator and allow it to sit for a bit to temper. (Attempting to roll it out when it’s too cold becomes an activity of frustration as the dough cracks.)

 Roll out between two pieces of parchment paper or on a lightly floured surface about an 1 ½-inches larger than the tart ring. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin, then unroll over the tart pan. Form the dough evenly in the pan, pressing firmly against the sides.

For a decorative edge leave the sides of the dough slightly higher than the pan. Using the back of a paring knife, score the edges at a slight angle. Pop in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to blind bake or fill and bake.

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Steamed Persimmon Pudding

Growing up we had an Hachiya variety persimmon tree right outside the house. This is the variety that must be fully ripe, i.e. quite soft actually before it is edible. Otherwise, it’s very astringent; like eating an uncured olive. Because of their texture growing up we usually just ate them over the sink.

About fifteen years ago I was introduced to the fuju variety. I scored big time as a dear friend has a tree in her yard. Actually, it’s the only tree left standing in her backyard after the recent Ventura fires. She ships me boxes every November. If you’re not lucky enough to have shipments arrive at your door, you can find them at your local co-op, grocery or Asian market.

Unlike the Hachyna, the fuju variety can be enjoyed while firm or soft similar to the Hachiya variety.  When firm they can be peeled, diced, and added to salads. They can also be peeled, cubed, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted. Serve them this way, for example, alongside a pork roast.

Once they turn soft I cut them in half, scope out the flesh with a spoon, and freeze the pulp in a container until I’m ready to add it to cookie dough or in the recipe below folded into a pudding batter.

Softened butter for buttering mold
1/4 cup (2 oz) Calvados or other brandy
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz / 50 g) golden raisins (sultanas)
2 cups (9 oz / 250 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 – 4 large, very ripe persimmons
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room température
1/3 cup (2 ½ oz – 75 ml) neutral vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans, coursely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup candied ginger chopped (optionnel)

Place brandy and raisins into a small saucepan. Bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat; let stand at least 15 minutes or up to two days. Drain and discard liquid. Set raisins aside. Generously grease an 8-cup lidded pudding mold with soften butter; set aside.

In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Peel persimmons, removing any black seeds and transfer to bowl of a food processor. Using the metal “S” blade, process until smooth. You should have about 2 cups of pulp; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together sugar and eggs on medium-high until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and while mixing on low speed slowly pour in the oil; mix until well combined. Add persimmon pulp and mix to combine.

Add flour mixture to persimmon mixture and mix just until combined and smooth, scraping down sides of bowl once during mixing. Fold in the raisins and if adding fold in pecans, and ginger. Transfer mixture to prepared mold and cover with buttered parchment paper round; cover mold with lid.

Fit a large pot with a rack and place filled pudding mold on rack in pot. Add just enough boiling water to come halfway up the mold. Top with a lid and place pot over high heat and bring to a boil; immediately reduce heat to a simmer and cook until pudding springs back when touched, about 2 1/2 hours, adding more boiling water as necessary to maintain water level.

Remove mold from pot and uncover. Let pudding cool in mold for 1 hour, then carefully run a sharp knife around the top edge of the pudding to loosen from the mold and invert carefully onto serving platter.

 

Lemon Sauce

1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
1 3/4 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup boiling water
2 large eggs
Zest of one lemon, preferably organic
¼ cup lemon juice
4 tablespoon unsalted butter

Whisk together half the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and boiling water in a heat-proof bowl. Set bowl over a bane marie and whisk until syrup is clear. Remove from heat.

In another bowl whisk together eggs and remaining sugar. Set bowl over same band marie and whisk until sugar is dissolved. While continuing to whisk slowly pour in sugar mixture. Add lemon zest, juice, and butter. Whisk until thickened.

Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Serve with Steamed pudding.

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Zaletti

I was in the middle of testing this recipe when I remembered that my friend David was in Italy. I texted him immediately with the mission of locating and taste testing as many varieties of Zaletti as he could find. He discovered that this is a very elusive cookie. It’s truly regional. Folks in Rome and Florence had never heard of this confection.

It wasn’t until he arrived in Venice that he found them, after asking more than one shopkeeper, “Do you by chance have Zaletti [zaaah-let-ee]?” “No”, they would reply. “Do you mean, [tsa-let-ee]?” “Right, that’s what I said.” He finally scored and graciously gifted me with a precious few of authentic zaletti from Venice aka the Veneto region.

Zaletti comes from the word giallo; meaning “yellow”. According to some the real name should be gialletti or “little yellow things”. Here’s my take on this very regional Italian cookie.

Makes about 5 – 6 dozen cookies depending on the size.

3/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup hot water
3 tablespoons grappa or brandy
1/2 cup (2 ½ oz/ 75 g) pine nuts, toasted
1 ½ cups (9 oz / 255 g) polenta, aka stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 ½ cups (6 ¾ oz / 200 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 g) aluminum-free baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
12 (6 oz / 170 g) tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (4 ½ oz / 130 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg, separated
Zest of one lemon, preferably organic
Course sugar for sprinkling on top, optional

Place the currants in a small bowl. Combine the hot water and grappa/brandy; pour over the currants and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. In a small dry pan, toast the pine nuts, stirring occasionally until brown and fragrant. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool. In a mixing bowl sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment mix together the butter and 2/3 cup of sugar. Add one whole egg and the egg yolk; mix to incorporate.  Drain the currants, then add them along with the lemon zest, and pine nuts; stir to combine. Stir in the flour mixture just until blended. You may need to finish mixing the dough with your hand.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat into about a 9-inch flat square, that’s about ½-inch thick. Wrap tightly in the plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes or even overnight.

When ready to bake off, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Beat the other whole egg with a ½ teaspoon of water. Brush the dough with the egg wash. If using, sprinkle with course sugar.

With a knife or bench knife, cut the dough into ½-inch strips. The cut the strips diagonally to form diamonds or parallelograms.

Place the cookies on prepared baking pans. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pan about half-way through the cooking. Continue baking lightly golden. Place the baking pans on wire racks and allow the cookies to cool.

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Individual Tarte Tartines

This recipe is so easy and the best part is that it can be made ahead of time. Actually it should be made at least a day ahead and frozen or can be frozen up to 3 days.  It’s not too sweet and you don’t have to flip an entire tart tartin over onto a platter while it’s still piping hot.

The crust is made separately too. Actually it’s a Sablé Breton but any type of sugar cookie would be fine or bake off rounds of puff pastry. You get the idea — use your imagination.

The crème fraîche and caramel sauce can also be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or, add a scoop of the best vanilla ice cream you can get your hands on!

Makes 6 individual tartins

2 ½ tablespoons (2 oz / 50 g ) honey
2 tablespoons (1 oz /30 g) salted butter
¼ cup (2 oz / 55 g) heavy cream
2 sheets gelatine
4 large tart apples, such as braeburns or other local cooking variety
½ cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup water
6 – 2 ½ inch Sablé Breton or cookies of your choice
Crème fraiche, optional
Caramel sauce, optional

Add honey and butter to a large non-stick skillet. Measure out the cream and have it close at hand. Bloom the gelatin sheets in just enough cold water to cover. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until they are pliable. Remove the gelatin sheets from the water and set them aside. Peel and cut the apples into ¼-inch dice.

Heat honey and butter in the non-stick skillet swirling until melted and begining to simmer.  Add diced apples and cook just until soft and some begin to brown.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan pour the sugar into the middle of the pan. Pour just enough water onto to the sugar to get it wet. Set pan over medium heat and carmelize the sugar until medium amber in color. (The more water you add the longer it will take to caramelize as all the water must first evaporate.) With a pastry brush dipped in a bit of water, brush down the sides of the pan as necessary to prevent sugar crystals of forming.

Swirl the pan so that the amber colored sugar is uniform throughout the pan. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour in the cream, stirring to combine. Stir in the bloomed gelatin. Pour the caramel sauce into the sautéed apples and stir to combine.

Place a 6-portion silicone mold on a small sheet pan. Divide the apple mixture evenly (about 1/3 cup per mold) gently pressing down the apple mixture. Freeze overnight or up to 3 days. A couple of hours before serving (even up to 4 hours ahead) unmold the frozen tartines and place them on a piece of parchment paper to thaw.

Using an off-set spatula set each tartin on a sablé and then plate. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche, caramel sauce and or vanilla ice cream.

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Caramel Sauce with crème fraîche

Caramel sauce can at times be cloyingly sweet and one dimenstional. Adding crème fraîche gives it a bit of tang and cuts the sweetness. It’s delightful served along side a slice of apple tart or topping off a scoop of ice cream. 

1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
About ½ cup or 125 ml water
7 tablespoons (3 ½ oz /100 g) salted butter, cubed
Scant ½ cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) crème fraîche
½ teaspoon flaked sea salt or to taste

Measure out the ingredients and have within reach. Pour the sugar into the middle of a wide, heavy-bottomed pan and pour water over it to get the sugar wet; think wet sand. Set over a medium heat. Keep an eye on it as the sugar will begin to melt and turn amber in color.

Once it turns a deep, but not dark, amber colour (about seven minutes), take it off the heat and whisk in the butter until it is completely melted, then stir in the creme fraiche and ½ teaspoon salt.

Once you have a smooth sauce use immediately, or store in a sealed container in the fridge. You can reheat as necessary, adding a little additional crème fraîche or cream if it is too thick.

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Perfect Sugar Cookies

This recipe makes the perfect sugar cookie and by perfect I mean the dough doesn’t slide outside its edges when baked.  After they cool they’re an excellent canvas for decorating with royal icing. If you decide to forgo the decorating pastry bag they are equally delicious and still melt in your mouth.

cups (9 oz / 255 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 oz / 55 g) almond flour
3/4 cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) cornstarch
1 cup (8 oz / 225  g) cool, unsalted butter, cut into 16 approximately equal pieces
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract

If using convection set the racks on the upper, middle, and lower third of the oven. If using a conventional oven set the rack on the lower third of the oven.

In a medium bowl sift together the flours and cornstarch.  Set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment cream the butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add the sugar and salt and beat until smooth. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time until each is incorporated; then add the extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the flour mixture and mix on medium low speed just until the dough starts to come together. Tip it out onto a smooth, cold work surface, such as a counter-top. Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough away from you a little at a time, turning it back onto itself with a bench scraper. Do this until the dough is combined. This method of “mixing” is called fraisage. Once it’s combined divide the dough into thirds and form each into a rectangle.

Roll each piece of dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to a thickness of a scant ¼ – inch. (I went to the hardware store across the street and found 2 rubber rings that are the perfect depth.) After rolling out leave the dough between the parchment paper and stack on a half-sheet pan. Refrigerate for about an hour or until firm.

Before you’re ready to bake off the cookies allow enough time to preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove a “slab” of dough and cut out the cookies using your favorite cookie cutters. Gently gather the remaining dough back into a rectangle and reroll. Refrigerate the rerolled dough to firm it up and cut as you did the other cookies.  It works to reroll just once, otherwise the cookies start getting tough.

Of course on the last batch I got the idea of using the back of a paring knife to draw an indentation down the middle of the cookie to resemble the vein of the leaf. Just be sure not to cut all the way through the dough. Set each cookie about an ½-inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pop back in the refrigerator or freezer while you are lining another sheet pan with cookies.

Three pans can be baked in a convection oven or one pan on the lower third of a conventional. Regardless, they all bake for 9 – 12 minutes or until just barely beginning to brown.  Slide the parchment paper with the cookies still on it to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before decorating.

 

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Butter Cookie or Sablé Breton

Salted butter (le buerre salé) is the name of the game when baking this popular French cookie. They hail from Brittany (“Bretagne” in French), a region where butter reins supreme. And, sablé translates to sand as they have a crispy, melt in your mouth texture.

Getting the cookies to the exact same size is easy. Just bake off the rolled-out, slab of refrigerated dough. Then, remove the pan from the oven and carefully but quickly cut out as many cookies as you can with your desired size cookie cutter. I used a 2 ½-inch round fluted edge cutter.

The “shards” of cookies of course can be sampled, or crumbled and sprinkled on top of ice cream, or added to a dessert plate as part of the garnish. I’m going to freeze any remaining crumbs and see what happens when using them as the crust of a holiday cheesecake. I’ll let you know how that works.

1 ¾ cups ( 8 oz / 230 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1 oz / 25 g) almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free)
½ cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
1 plump vanilla bean
zest of one lemon, preferably organic (optional)
2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, diced, at room temperature
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup (1 oz / 30 g) confectioners’ sugar
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large egg, plus ½ teaspoon water, well-beaten for egg cash

In a medium bowl sift together the flours and baking powder; set aside. In a small bowl weigh (or measure) the granulated sugar. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape the seed pulp and add it to the granulated sugar. If using lemon zest, add it at now as well. Using your fingers, rub the vanilla bean pulp (and zest) into the sugar until blended.

Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth. Scape down the sides of the bowl. Add the granulated vanilla sugar, and salt and continue beating for about 3 minutes on medium speed, or until smooth. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and then beat in the yolks one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the sifted flour. Mix on low speed until the flour just begins to come together.

Tip the mixture out onto a smooth, lightly floured surface. Using the heel of your hand, smear a bit of dough at a time away from you, then using a bench knife, fold the dough back onto itself. Repeat until the dough has come together in a homogenized mass. This method of mixing dough is called fraisage.

Divide in half and flatten each into of a rectangle. Place each rectangle between sheets of parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a thickness of between 1/4 to 1/8-inch. (The thinner the cookie the crispier they will become after baked and cooled.) I found these rubber rings that are 3/16-inch that I have on my rolling pin. They make rolling out the dough easy and keeps it at an even thickness.

Refrigerate rolled-out dough for at least 2 hours on a sheet pan between the two pieces of parchment paper. When ready to bake, center the rack on the lower third and preheat oven to 375°F. 

From here you can bake them off in one of two ways.
Option 1:  Leave the dough on the sheet pan and remove the top piece of parchment paper. Quickly brush with egg wash. Take the tines of a fork and run them across the dough in a crisscross pattern.

Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven and bake 12 – 15 minutes or until the slab of cookie dough is golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and quickly cut each cookie out using your favorite cookie cutter. 

Option 2:  Cut out the cookies from the cold slab of dough. Use a wide offset spatula to move them onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Bring the scrapes together, roll one more time and continue cutting out as many as you can. Brush each disk with egg wash and make the crosshatch design on each as shown above.

Either way after baking cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Resist enjoying the sablés while still warm. They need to cool so that their texture will set up and become crispy.

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Salted Cultured Butter

I make crème fraîche a lot because it’s delicous as a dollop and as an ingredient. Serve it next to a slice of fruit tart, Gateau Basque, chocolate dessert, or add it to the filling of this Pumpkin Tart. I even include it as part of an ice cream base. You get the idea just how much I enjoy it. If you search crème fraîche on my blog you’ll find even more recipes.

It’s similar to sour cream and mascarpone but different enough that each should have a place in your cooking repertoire. There are times though when I make too much of this good thing and unfortunately it doesn’t last forever.

This is when I make cultured butter. It’s considered cultured because the lactic acid in the cream ferments slightly creating a tangy, creamy, delightful flavor.

 

Crème Fraîche is made with just two ingredients. This recipe makes about 8 ounces of butter and a pint of buttermilk.

¼ cup cultured buttermilk, minimally processed and preferably organic
1 quart heavy cream (not ultra pasteurized, no additives, and preferably organic)

Combine the buttermilk and cream in a saucepan and heat to 85°F on an instant read thermometer. Pour into a clean glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowl. Cover with a couple of layers of cheese cloth or clean cotton towel. Let sit at room temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees F) for 8 to 24 hours, or until thickened. Refrigerate for up to a week.

Salted Cultured Butter
1 batch of crème fraîche from above recipe
½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste

Place the cold crème fraîche in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment (and covering the entire mixer with food film or a cotton towel to help contain the splattering) whip it until the curds of butter separate from the whey (buttermilk). This can take anywhere from 5 to 1o minutes.

Once the buttermilk has separated from the curds pour the contents of the mixing bowl through a fine mesh sieve saving the buttermilk for cooking or to enjoy as a beverage.

Place the butter curds back in the mixing bowl and pour ice cold water over it. Using a small spatula or wooden spoon press out any remaining buttermilk. Keep pressing and rinsing the butter until the water runs clear.

 

Mix the sea salt into the butter according to your taste. Form the butter into a log, wrap it in a piece of parchment paper, then plastic wrap and freeze. Let it return to room temperture before you enjoy it on a crusty baguette, ear of corn, or biscuit.

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