I’m, by definition, a planner, but when it comes to this blog, I feel utterly clueless and disorganized. Let’s take last week, for example, which was a banner week for any food blogger, containing TWO perfect opportunities for very relevant posts. Tuesday, March 14, was Pi day, one of the baker’s high holy days when, had I been properly prepared, I might have been crimping, latticing, and baking with my brethren. Instead, I posted a recipe for chicken stew (not even a pot pie!). Then, St. Paddy’s day made an appearance, the ideal opportunity to post a recipe for traditional corned beef (learning too late it requires salt peter and a week to prepare), or if I was to pick lower-hanging fruit, anything mint, green or containing Irish Cream. Nope – missed that occasion as well.
The sad thing is that I have an ersatz posting calendar – I’m obviously underutilizing its potential. Now Easter is a mere two weeks away and I haven’t posted anything resembling a bunny or baby chick, haven’t focused on uses for surplus hard boiled eggs or incorporated Peeps into any of my desserts. Today’s recipe is a lime tart with almond crust. I guess it’s kinda Spring-like – fresh and pale chartruse, I suppose I can claim it’s a timely Easter Sunday dessert though I’m not sure what limes have to do with Easter. In truth, I wasn’t inspired by Spring or Easter, but something decidedly more practical – an overflowing bowl of homegrown limes languishing on my kitchen counter.
An almond crust gives this Springtime tart the added benefit of being gluten-free.
2 ½ cups almond meal
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
28 oz. sweetened condensed milk
½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
¾ cup lime juice
1 ½ Tablespoons grated lime zest
Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together almond meal, sugar, ginger and salt. Add melted butter and stir until fully combined. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan and, using your fingers, pat crust firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
Place the crust in the oven and par-bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. If the crust puffs up too much, you can carefully and gently pat it back into the pan with your fingers. Careful, though, it will be hot.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, Greek yogurt, lime juice, and lime zest. Stir until combined and pour into crust. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. Do not brown. Chill pie thoroughly before serving. Garnish with whipped cream, shaved white chocolate or grated lime zest. Happy Easter!
Oh, little-known gibassier, how I adore thee!
I’ll never forget the December 2013 morning when I met my first gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) over cappuccinos at Portland’s Pearl Bakery. While I devoured these knots of breakfast bread goodness in mere seconds, their sugar-crusted memory lingered with me long after. Best consumed with a steaming hot drink, these yeasty little fists of dough are subtly flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water and studded with candied orange peel and anise seed. Once they emerge hot from the oven, they are given a bath of clarified butter and coated with granulated sugar, giving them a sandy crust worth licking from one’s finger tips. If I could pop one of these in my mouth every day along with my morning cuppa, life would be grand.
But, alas, my waistline doesn’t allow such indulgences and, with an overnight pre-ferment and almost 4 hours of proofing time, my usually hectic schedule does not either. So, starting in 2014, gibassier has become a special Christmas morning tradition – a crackling fire, Ray Coniff Singers’ “Sleigh Ride”, mugs of not-too-sweet mochas, and a heaping platter of oven-warmed gibassier (as well as a loaf of gratuitous marzipan stollen).
Pure contentment – It’s no wonder we’re always late to the mid-day holiday festivities.
2 pinches from a packet of instant yeast (I use Fleishman’s)
1 large egg
Remainder of packet of instant yeast
2 Tablespoons water at 107⁰ F
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoon orange flower water
200 grams all-purpose flour
200 grams bread flour
100 grams granulated sugar
85 grams unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons anise seed, toasted and slightly crushed
70-90 grams candied orange peel, cut into ¼” dice – it’s worth making your own
50 grams granulated sugar (don’t use superfine)
113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
Night before baking: Combine overnight starter ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Combine on low speed until well combined. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm place (can be on top of an oven that is cooling from previous cooking) draft free place. Let ferment overnight. It will not rise much.
Day of Baking: Bloom yeast in 2 T. water at 107⁰ F. All remaining liquids (eggs, oil, and orange flower water) should be about 60⁰ F.
In the bowl of a mixer, combine eggs, olive oil and orange water. Mix with paddle attachment. Add starter dough and beat slowly until loose and fairly uniform. Change to dough hook and add flour, sugar, salt, and yeast (don’t let salt and yeast touch). Mix for 4 minutes. Add softened butter to dough in 4 stages, incorporating each before adding more. Mix dough until gluten fully develops – the dough will be smooth and soft. When you pull off a piece, it will pull into a “window” rather than breaking. Add the anise seed and candied orange peel and mix on low until combined. When you remove the hook, it should come out completely clean.
Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic. Let proof 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place.
Divide dough into 18 parts 65-70 grams each, shape into rounds, and let rest for 20 minutes covered by plastic or a dishcloth.
Shape into semi-circles about 1/2 inch thick (To make shaping easier, I shape them into a torpedo and then pat them into a semi-circle).
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and cut each semi-circle with three long slashes on the outer edge curved side, and then with four short slashes (one in between each of the long ones)*. Gently spread the “toes” and place on the baking sheets (8 each). Let proof for 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft-free place, covered with plastic.
While gibassier proof, clarify 1 stick of unsalted butter for topping. Set aside. Place oven racks on two top positions. Preheat convection (fan) oven to 350⁰ F. Bake gibassier 12-15 minutes, switching baking sheets half-way through baking. When the gibassiers are golden brown (some parts may be lighter than others), remove to a cooling rack.
While still warm. brush generously with clarified butter (once), and roll in sugar (twice). I freeze leftovers and rewarm them in a 200⁰ F oven for 10-12 minutes. Before serving, I give them a final sugar roll.
*The traditional way to shape gibassier is with the three long slashes in the middle and the four shorter slashes on the curved edge.
Stollen is a bit lazy. It needs A LOT of rest, plenty of naps on its way to being eaten, a good 12 hours of sleep in the beginning AND at the end, four days of vacation after that. Stollen takes its time. I begin the process the night before baking by making the soaker (all the good bits soaked in dark rum), making the sponge (a bit of flour, water and yeast allowed to party overnight) and candying my own peel. The stollen is packed so full of good stuff, a long, slow rise is essential the next day. After baking, the cooled stollen rests again overnight and then benefits from a rest at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for at least 4 additional days. A clear calendar is essential to ensure the process isn’t rushed:
Night 1: Make candied peel, make soaker and make sponge (Steps 1-3 below)
Day 2: Make dough, proof, bake, coat with butter and sugar, rest overnight uncovered (Steps 4-12 below)
Day 3-7: Wrap tightly in foil at room temperature and allow to rest for at least 4 days (Steps 13-14 below )
Heat milk to 105-110 degrees, add the yeast, stir and let set for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker, peel and marzipan. Mix on slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated, about 5 minutes.
Continue mixing at medium speed until the dough comes together around the hook and no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 10 minutes. It’s important to create a strong gluten network.
Add the soaker and peels and mix by hand until they are evenly distributed through the dough. The fruit/peel to dough ratio will be high.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise in a warm location until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into four even pieces, pre-shape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
Shape the loaves into blunt end batards (country loaf shape). With a wooden spoon handle placed lengthwise and just off center, press down firmly making a long trough. Roll the marzipan into a rope about ½ in shorter than the batard and place in the trough. Tuck the short sides of the dough up around the marzipan and fold the smaller section of dough over the longer and seal well (it should look like a hoagie roll when finished). Pick off any fruit on the outside to avoid burning. Place batards on parchment-lined insulated (helps the bottoms from over-browning) baking sheets (two per sheet). Cover and let rise for 90 minutes in a warm location.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. You will need steam during the initial phase of baking, so place a shallow pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape and carefully remove the pan of water. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. You will need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning. Cover loaves with aluminum foil if they are browning too quickly. Cool slightly.
While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter and dredge them in granulated sugar. When cool, sift powdered sugar over the loaves. Leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry out and the sugar to form a crust.
To store, wrap tightly in foil at room temperature. Stollen should be allowed to rest for at least 4 days before eating, so plan accordingly. After the 4-day rest period, stollen can be frozen.
To serve, unwrap, re-heat stollen in the oven, dust with additional powdered sugar if needed, slice and enjoy.
Yes, I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of an Anglophile. And, with the holidays just around the corner, I don’t simply dream of a white Christmas, but a Dickensian one. I imagine a holiday with Victorian carolers strolling snow-covered cobbled streets, a cozy Cotswold cottage lit with candles and scented with crackling roast goose and steamy figgy pudding, pulling Christmas crackers with family and friends around the table, and nibbling treats like these very British Eccles cakes.
The Eccles cake may have been created about 20 years before Dickens was even born, yet these are just the type of sweetmeat I imagine gracing Mr. Fezziwig’s overladen Christmas Eve party table.
An Eccles cake is a small, heavily spiced pastry filled with currants and candied orange peel wrapped in a flaky (rough puff) pastry. The origins can be traced to the town of Eccles, formerly within the Lancashire boundary, but now a suburb of Manchester. Weights are in grams, nodding to their British origin.
Stir together all filling ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute until butter is melted. Cover and set aside for the flavors to meld and currants to soften. Refrigerate. Once cold, the filling should bind together without extra liquid. Drain if necessary.
Pulse flour, salt and butter in a food processor until butter pieces are pea-sized. Gradually pulse in about 100-125ml cold water until mixture comes together into a dough. Do not overwork.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle three times as long as it is wide. Fold the top third down into the middle, then the bottom third up over the top, then rotate the pastry 90 degrees so the fold is now vertical. Roll out again and repeat then wrap in cling-wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Repeat the rolling, folding, rotating, rolling and folding one more time. Chill for an hour.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface a little thicker than 1/8th of an inch, then cut out rounds about 3 ½ inches wide. Put a half-tablespoon of filling in the center of each, then dampen the edges of the circle and bring the edges into the middle, pinching together to seal well. Put on a baking tray smooth side up, and squash slightly until flattened. Repeat with the rest and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Remove pastries from refrigerator, brush with egg white and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut three slashes in the top of each and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden and well-risen. Allow to cool before eating – the filling will be hot.
Me: “What are some of your favorite things to eat?”
Him: “I dunno, I like lots of things…I think I told you, Chocolate soufflé.”
Me: “Yeah, but it’s difficult to keep and photograph a soufflé without it collapsing. It’s more of an à la minute dessert. What about nuts? Do you like nuts?”
Him: “Sure, I like nuts. What about a tart – a fruit tart?”
Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I could bake a tart with autumn fruit…”
We had “the talk.” That’s the talk where I explain baking for him doesn’t mean he’s earmarked for fathering my children. A cake doesn’t mean I want him to put a ring on it. Sometimes an éclair is just an éclair. I bake – it’s what I do. I bake for people I like – it makes me happy. It’s the perk of knowing me – don’t overthink it; enjoy it.
I decided on this impressive looking yet relatively simple autumn apple and dried cherry tart flavored with warming Chinese 5-spice – an ideal holiday dessert to provide the wow-factor to any table. Plus, it’s a good classic dessert when baking for a guy for the first time – who doesn’t like apples and buttery pastry?
Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated French Apple Tart. This easy no-roll, no-chill crust is my go-to crust for many types of tarts.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
5 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
10 Golden Delicious apples (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cored
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 Tablespoon water
½ cup apricot preserves
¾ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
¼ teaspoon salt
To make the crust, adjust 1 oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack about 5” from the broiler element. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press dough smoothly and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and bake on lowest rack until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Set aside.
For the filling, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and soften until ready to use. Cut 5 apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 5 minutes. Spread apples on a plate in a single layer to cool. Pour any accumulated liquid from the skillet.
While the apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Strain 3 Tablespoons of preserves through a small mesh strainer and set aside for step 7.
Cut remaining apples into ½” cubes. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add drained cherries, remaining un-strained apricot preserves, cubed apples, Chinese 5-spice and salt to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash apples to puree with a fork or potato masher. Continue to cook, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and puree is reduced to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
Transfer puree to tart shell and smooth. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo above). Bake tart, still on wire rack in baking sheet, on lowest rack for about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
While broiler heats, warm reserved strained preserves in microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool for 1 ½ hours before removing ring and slicing.