Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers' Challenge: Bakewell Cluster Tart…er…pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

A Bakewell Tart consists of three parts: a shortbread-crust, a jam layer, and a sponge-like frangipane.

I had high hopes for this challenge. The shortbread crust came together nicely and the scraps baked up into lovely cookies when topped with a bit of jam. I made the jam with strawberries I bought from my CSA; it, too, was delicious.

And then there's the frangipane. I don't know where I went wrong, but I began to suspect a problem when the frangipane starting poofing up on oneside and staying flat on the other. By the time it came out of the oven, the top of the tart looked like a mountain range. A mountain range oozing butter. Once it cooled, the rough-terrain flattened out a bit, but still: atop it sat a buttery Lake Titicaca. I poured off the liquid and let the tart cool fully.

Sure, it looks normal but the taste ... well, let's just say I can see where the dessert was supposed to go, but am keenly aware of what its lacking.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Orange Maple Butter

Sometimes when flipping through a magazine, I'll see a recipe and think, "I have to make that." And sometimes, it actually happens.

I spotted this recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes in last month's Martha Stewart Living and the next morning -- a Sunday (is there a more perfect day for pancakes?) -- I was up, bright and early, making stirring, pouring and flipping.

It was well worth it. The blueberries burst lustfully with each bite of pancake, and the orange maple butter -- a concoction so delicious you'll be desperate to find uses for it if there are any leftovers -- just makes breakfast that much better.

There are two small changes I might make next time. The first is adding zest to the pancake batter itself (this is in addition to the zest in the butter). I love the bright sunshine-y flavor of orange paired with the sweet muskiness of the berries so much, I really can't get enough.

The second is eliminating orange juice from the orange maple butter. I couldn't get both the juice and the syrup to fully emulsify into the butter so while delicious, it was a bit "weepy" and unappealing to the eye.

The recipes for the pancakes and the butter appear without these changes.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Orange Maple Butter

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar, divided in half
1 1/4 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups fresh blueberries

Orange Maple Butter (recipe follows)
Pure maple syrup

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, salt and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, butter and egg. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (mixture will be lumpy).

Preheat oven to 200 degrees (for keeping pancakes warm). Heat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Toss blueberries with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Brush griddle with melted butter. Spoon batter onto griddle 1/3 cup at a time. Sprinkle with sugared blueberries, about 2 tablespoons per pancake. Cook until edges are set, 3 to 4 minutes (bubbles won't appear as with traditional pancakes). Flip, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and blueberries, adding more butter to griddle and keeping prepared pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven. Serve with orange maple butter and pure maple syrup.

Orange Maple Butter

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Using a rubber spatula, combine ingredients in a small bowl. Orange maple butter can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Strawberries are in season, and in abundance! They're tempting in pies, jams, shortcakes, cookies, muffins and scores of other sweets. But perhaps this season, you'll try them as part of a savory dish.

Paired with soft cheese and fresh greens top a hot, crispy pizza crust, strawberries find a new home as dinner, not dessert. It's a light and lovely meal for a summer's evening.

Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza

1, 12-inch prebaked pizza crust (store bought or homemade)
1/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled goat cheese (or other soft cheese)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup greens (watercress, mizzuna, arugula, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Dash of salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons shelled dry-roasted pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Place crust on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes or until hot.

Remove crust from oven and arrange goat cheese evenly over crust.

Combine strawberries, watercress, olive oil, juice, salt, and black pepper; toss gently to coat. Arrange strawberry mixture evenly over goat cheese. Sprinkle pizza with Parmigiano-Reggiano and nuts. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest Post: Marcia Rice

From friend-of-the-blog, Mark Pescatore:

Marcia Rice: pronounced MAH-SEE-AH, not like the older sister on the "Brady Bunch."

My brother was singing the praises of his rice cooker a couple of years ago and eventually bought one for me as a Christmas present. And yes, when it comes to cook and reheating rice, it's swell. But seriously, how much plain white rice or brown rice can you eat? Then, we went to a party being thrown by Marcia and discovered her delicious rice. It's ridiculously simple to prepare, but you will be amazed at how flavorful it is.

Marcia Rice

2 cups rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Goya Adobo all purpose seasoning with pepper (yellow label, red top)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse rice, then put in rice cooker with normal amount of water required by your rice cooker. Add in all ingredients, stir, turn on rice cooker and cook as normal.

Notes from Laura:
You can make Marcia Rice without a rice cooker; simply add the Adobo and olive oil to the cooking water before adding the raw rice, and proceed as normal.

As Adobo seasoning already contains salt, you also may want to reduce or eliminate the additional salt.