End-of-the-world Fruit Tarts

This weekend, Mike and I decided to make fruit tarts for an end of the world barbecue.

Just in case you guys were unaware, we’re all still here, so it really just turned into an average weekend shindig. Which was just fine with me! I stole a recipe from Joy of Baking, and we whipped these up in no time at all! Well, they took several hours, but we were also making a batch of soap at the time. More on that later.

This recipe is incredibly simple, but there’s a lot of steps. First, you need to make the crust. Start by softening

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter

and mix in

  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg

Finally, add

  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt

Flatten into a round shape, and store. I made mine the night before, and the next day it was just fine and flaky!

Next, place the dough into your pan, pastry ring, etc. We wanted to do minis, and we couldn’t find small rings anywhere, so we used a cupcake tin! Simply butter and flour your tins, roll the dough out, cut (we used a large coffee cup to make circles), and place in your tin. I will say, my biggest qualm was the thickness of our final tart, so if you roll yours try to get them nice and thin (but sturdy enough to hold the cream). This recipe yielded about 18 small tarts.

Cover the dough and let it chill in the fridge for 15 minutes, then prick the bottom(s) with a fork to keep it from puffing too much. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and let it bake for five minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake them for another 10-15 minutes. Make sure to keep your eye on them so they don’t burn! If you’re worried about time, these can be made a day or two in advance.

On the day you want to serve them, you’ll have to create your pastry cream. Mike took over this part, and it turned out wonderfully. To start, mix together

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c. sugar

Sift together

  • 2 tbs. all purpose flour
  • 2 tbs. corn starch

and add to the egg mixture, stirring until you get a smooth paste.

Then you’ll want to heat up

  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • approx. 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat until it just starts to boil, then combine slowly with your paste, whisking the entire time so the egg doesn’t curdle. Return it to the heat, and continue to whisk until it thickens. You can then add more vanilla if you want, or maybe a splash of liqueur (I’m honestly not sure what Mike added, but it was great. Have fun!).

Now you’re almost done! You’ll need to heat up

  • 1/2 c. apricot jam
  • 1 tb. water

Yes, I bought jam in the store for the first time in a long time. If you want to be really hardcore, make your own. That’s a whole separate blog post (oh, spiced apricot jam, how I miss you). Anyway… Heat those up, strain to get rid of any large fruit pieces (save those for munching!), and glaze the inside of your tarts. This’ll keep them from getting soggy.

Give them 2o minutes or so to dry, then fill with your pastry cream (easier said then done).

Finally, top with your favorite fruit (we used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries). Arrange them however suits your fancy. Once all your fruits on, finish off with a layer of glaze on top.

All in all, I don’t think these were bad for our first attempt. They really are the perfect treat for a picnic or barbecue: bite-sized, and topped with delicious seasonal fruit. And there was only one left over, so I think they turned out just fine!

We know that Jesus will return someday (and not on a day predicted by the Mayans or Harold Camping), but until then we’ll keep on creating and enjoying delicious things.

Maranatha!

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Fat Fryday!

This past weekend we had our annual start-of-Lent fry party, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed it more. I made a delicious strawberry syrup that started a syrup frenzy (it’s like jam, but not!), and we deep fried everything imaginable. Some of my favorite items that I recreated tonight were mozzarella sticks (beer and breadcrumb battered, of course) and doughnuts. Yes, homemade doughnuts. Or fasnachts, as my Pennsylvanian friend so persistently reminded me. I haven’t even considered eating a doughnut in years, but these were so good I made them twice in one weekend! I was a little nervous about the dough at first, but it turned out to be really simple. In Pennsylvania Dutch country everyone has their own special recipe, but here’s a pretty basic one that my same friend sent me, credit to Alice Faust of Kempton, PA.

Start by scalding

  • 2 c. milk

Now, if you’re like me, and you have to look up what exactly scalded milk is, let me save you the trouble… It’s milk that’s been brought to about 185 degrees on the stove, to kill any bacteria and destroy enzymes that keep milk from thickening when you bake with it. Basically, if you’re buying modern, pasteurized milk, it’s unnecessary. It makes sense that a lot of older recipes call for “scalded milk,” but it’s debatable whether or not it actually affects the quality of your final product. For the sake of trying something new, I scalded my milk for this recipe.

Next, add

  • 1 c. plain mashed potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. lard or shortening

…here’s where things got interesting. I didn’t have any lard on hand, and I don’t like the idea of putting hydrogenated oils in my body, but I did have a jar in my fridge full of saved bacon grease. So, I got resourceful.

I was a little nervous about my decision, so I did some quick forum hopping and found out that not only are lard and bacon grease pretty different, there’s a lot of people out there rendering their own lard! More power to ’em! Back to my immediate situation though, I had already gone out that day and really wanted an excuse to use some of my bacon grease, so, I did.

Then, I let the liquid mixture cool off to a nice lukewarm, and added

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 package yeast (typical 1/4 oz. size, already proofed, needless to say)

Now that all that’s done with, start addin’ your flour! Add about

  • 7 c. flour

and then start kneadin’. I usual shoot for an 8 minute knead. Then let it rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 hours. It will get gigantic. I also gotta say, at this point I was pretty sure my bacon grease substitute had done no harm. Now comes the fun part! When you’re ready to enjoy your doughnuts, roll out your dough to about 1/4 in. thick and cut ’em out! I used a large mug and a pill bottle for the holes (which are called timbits in Canada, I learned from my new friend Tony).

I should also say, the batch that’s pictured was made tonight, with refrigerated dough from Friday, and they turned out perfectly. This recipe makes about two dozen, so it’s good to know you can always save some for later. Two days later. Anyway…

All that’s left now is to fry ’em! Get a pot of oil going (we used corn oil, gross!) at a nice medium heat, and fry until golden brown. I recommend testing the temperature with a doughnut hole. And then testing the doughnut hole, by eating it.

I rolled most of them in cinnamon sugar, sprinkled some with confectioner’s sugar, and left a few plain ones for my roommate. I would have included a timbit or two in this picture, but there weren’t any left. I’m excited to try some jelly-filled doughnuts, whenever my next frying session happens. For now though, I’m all fried out. Goodnight.

(Not Red) Velvet Cake


Oh red velvet, where do I begin? I hate red velvet. Probably because working in a bakery that doesn’t carry any, in the middle of New York City, is apparently unacceptable to about 50% of people that come in. These days, everyone wants red velvet. Seriously asshole? You just like it ’cause it’s red. In any case, I then calmly explain to them that we don’t use any artificial coloring in our products, but we do carry a chocolate cake with cream cheese icing that is very similar.

But it’s not. Not totally. I’ve known for a while that red velvet is it’s own special brand of cake, but that almost made me hate it more. Really, what’s the point? It’s a stupid half-cocoa, half-vanilla freak with some vinegar thrown in for good measure. Why do I care? …but everyone seems to love it, so I figured it’s worth making and trying, just to see what all the hype is about. Without the food coloring, of course. It’s been on my to-do list for months, and last night I finally got around to it! And just in time for Lady Katherine’s show at the PIT… Thank God, ’cause the two of us have recently been forced to consume the same amount of baked goods that I was churning out when we had four people in the house. Anyway, here’s the reason I no longer detest red velvet cake… Although mine wasn’t red, so I’m not sure if it really counts (did you catch my eye roll there?).

Combine

  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • splash of vanilla

and set aside. Next, mix

  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar

in a large bowl. Mix in

  • 2 eggs

one at a time. Stir together

  • 4 tb. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • about 6 tb. warm water

and form a paste. Add to batter. Now you’ll need

  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Add half your flour, all of the buttermilk mixture, and then the other half of your flour.
Mix gently until just combined. Finally, stir together

  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar

and fold into batter. Did I mention I made cupcakes? After your batter’s done, put it in whatever pan you like and bake at 350. For cupcakes, about 25 minutes. Maybe add 5-10 more for a whole cake. And I know cream cheese icing isn’t the “real,” “traditional” icing for red velvet, but who cares?! It’s delicious!

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 4 c. confectioners sugar
  • splash of vanilla

Frost and enjoy! The more I ate, the more I liked them. And everyone at the show seemed to think they were delicious too! I think there may be a future for me and this “velvet cake” after all. How about you? Which side of the red velvet controversy do you fall on?

Impromptu beef stew!

Today is Monday. I think my Mondays are pretty relaxed compared to the average American experience. I woke up, threw on an adorable wool dress (why did those ever go out of style?!), rode my bicycle to the subway, caught up on the Brothers Karamazov, and spent the early morning hours churning out cupcakes. Today just about felt like spring, and our shop door stayed open all day… I had to keep resisting the urge to run outside. I eventually got to, and went out to get ingredients for making deodorant (more on that later). At some point while I was browsing, I saw some delicious looking stew meat and got an irresistible urge to use it. So I did!

Also, quick note, I probably only use measurements half the time.

Blame my Italian nanny.

I coated the bottom of a large pot with olive oil, and added

  • stew meat (in this case, beef)
  • salt and pepper
  • basil
  • thyme
  • fresh parsley
  • garlic (I only had 2 cloves, but I wanted 10)

I sauteed until the meat was browned, then added

  • vegetable broth
  • some beef stock
  • fresh rosemary
  • sugar (about 2 tb.)
  • several splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
  • a veggie bouillon cube

Next, I chopped

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 5 russet potatoes
  • carrots
  • celery

and let it all simmer in a pot with a ton of butter and a million spices (salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, basil, dried bay leaf, celery salt, etc.) for about 20 minutes until it was golden, then I added it all to the stew and let it all cook together for about an hour. Once the veggies were all nice and soft and the beef was tender enough, and I’d added way too much salt, I whisked in a small amount of flour to thicken it, and enjoyed with a slice of homemade bread!

Perfect thrown-together meal! And I’ve got plenty to last for the rest of the week. =)

White bread

Or, if you prefer, faux whole grain bread (as my roommate referred to it).

Incredibly simple and tasty, this bread is perfect for all your sandwich-makin’, jam spreadin’, soup dippin’ needs. Makes two loaves!

Proof

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2/3 c. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tb. dry yeast

Add

  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix in 6 c. bread flour, knead, and let sit in a warm spot for one hour (I preheat my oven and then turn it off once it’s toasty). Once it’s doubled in size, cut ‘er in half and shape your loaves, then let rise another 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. I melted equal parts honey and butter, and covered the hot loaves with the (mostly clean) paintbrush I’ve been using to glaze with. I also added some rolled oats and flax seed to the dough, hence the “whole grains.” Get creative!