Chausson aux poires (Pear turnovers)

Time to confront my fears – puff pastry. I recently watched Bruno Albouze produce several beautiful deserts using quick puff pastry – a King’s Cake, an apple pie and apple turnovers. Besides showcasing upgraded versions of classic French deserts, Albouze was demonstrating the quality results possible with a very fast method of making puff pastry. The method reduced the production of puff pastry from three days to just a couple of hours. I thought, “Now that’s an idea to take with me into retirement.” And, by the looks of things, I surely will.

I had lots of fruit in the house to choose from, especially apples and pears. I chose to substitute pears for this classic French, Chausson aux pommes (Apple Turnovers), pastry. The result has been delicious. Here’s the low down:

  1. 1/2 recipe of Albouze’s quick puff pastry. Follow his directions and you will succeed.

2. Pear Compote. The compote contains the reason for my choice to use pears instead of apples today. The pears were super ripe and needed to be used. I was hungry for lots of flavor, so I searched and found a recipe for Spiced Pear Compote. I knew that this recipe with anise, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg would help create an exotic filling – and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a struggle to save the compote for the turnovers and not just eat it on the spot. But I managed. As usual, added my own small touch to this recipe. First, I was able to use freshly grated nutmeg. Second, I added about an ounce of Poire Williams Eau de Vie for some added depth.

3. The pear filling. I simply peeled, cored and diced enough pears to give me 350 gm fruit for the filling. As per the apple mixture recipe of Chef Albouze, I added sugar and a bit of cinnamon and then sautéed them on high for a few minutes to soften but not disintegrate the small pieces and drive away a great deal of moisture.

  1. 350 gm pear
  2. 80 gm sugar
  3. 15 gm butter
Compote and diced pear mixture to create the filling for the “Chaussons”.

Filling and dough done, time to assemble:

I used a large ice-cream scoop to measuring .
Brushed some of the flavorful juice from the sautéed pears to help seal the turnovers.
Egg wash, score, let rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Then bake.
After 10 minutes at 220 C, then 30 minutes at 180 C.
Brushed with maple syrup for a sweet and glossy finish. Done!

Tomorrow – apple turnovers. The puff pastry is already made.

Have a sweet day.

Tarte aux Poires Belle Helene (avec des noix de Chez Bonneau)

This tart was inspired by that of Beth Dunham. If you follow her link, you’ll see why one would want to do the same. I thought I’d try to replicate hers, but then, up popped my recurring “leftover” them, and I saw some graham crackers that had been in the cupboard too long…. You know the story. So I made a crust detour, and then a filling detour (or two). So, what happened?

IN THE BEGINNING

Visiting my blog, you’ll see that the post just prior to this one was about making crystalized ginger. That was my first step toward making this tart. I didn’t have and couldn’t quickly find any, so, pushing myself to do a bit more on my own, I…. made my own. So, on to today.

DETOURS

This recipe is composed of the following

  1. CRUST: a graham cracker crust made with butter and some quality powdered cocoa.
    1. 150 g graham crackers
    2. 140 g melted butter
    3. 10 g 100% chocolate cocoa powder
    4. 50 g brown sugar

I processed the cookies in a food processor until it was like smooth sand. Then added the chocolate and brown sugar – pulse. Lastly, added the butter and pulsed until homogenous. Press into the tart/pie pan of your choice. I used two “tools” for pressing and shaping: 1) my 1/4 cup measuring cup with square sides for pressing the bottom and sides, and 2) a bench scraper to shape the edges. (I tried using the small glass jar you see but it didn’t work well for me.)

  1. Filling A: a chocolate ganache (not a part of Beth’s recipe)
    1. 140 g dark chocolate (72% recommended)
    2. 100 g heavy cream
    3. 30 g ginger syrup (saved from making the crystalized ginger)
  2. I did NOT follow standard procedure for making this ganache. Just saying.
    1. I melted the chocolate in a microwave until smooth and easy to stir with a whisk.
    2. Heat the cream in a sauce pan till beginning to boil. Take off heat and begin incorporating the chocolate.
    3. I used my whisk to incorporate the melted chocolate little by little, stirring vigorously to incorporate and smooth the mixture.
    4. Added the ginger – duh.
    5. I would move my pan onto or off of the heat on the stovetop as I felt the need to keep things developing into a smooth, homogeneous mixture. It worked really well.
    6. Note: Remember to take a picture of this stage. Oops! Woah! I DID take a video of pouring it into the crust. Let’s see if I can click it in below or link it….
    7. Ganache in tarte shell…. “the pour”
  1. Filling B: pears sautéed in cinnamon, vanilla, butter, brown sugar and walnuts (Should we call this a topping instead?). NOTE: The following recipe follows closely Beth Dunham’s with some note changes. Also, as you can see, I used my measuring spoons for this part.
    1. 3 pears (peel, cut in half, core) – Beth thinly sliced two pears.
    2. a splash of water to prevent carmelization
    3. 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    4. 3 tbsp brown sugar
    5. 1 vanilla bean (cut open and placed in the sautée pan.(Beth: 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
    6. 2 small cinnamon sticks (Beth: 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
    7. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Vue du ciel

As you can see, that’s it. Now we await judgement that only a knife and fork can bring.

I pray that you and your loved ones have a sweet and beautiful day.

Candied / Crystalized Ginger

I ran across a recipe for a Pear Tarte with ginger and walnuts the other day that looked delicious. I didn’t have any candied ginger nor did I see any in the store, so I decided to make some for myself. As it turns out, the process is not difficult but it does take a faire amount of time.

I haven’t decided if I want to bathe them in sugar or not. It depends on how sticky they remain. For now, lookin’ and tasting wonderful. Next stop….. that tart.

I almost forgot. Here is the link to the recipe I followed from The Daring Gourmet: https://www.daringgourmet.com/how-to-make-crystallized-ginger/#recipe

Tarte au Boudin noir

Farm to table comfort food

I spend a good bit of time looking for French comfort food recipes that can come from a small farm and find a place on the table near the fireplace. This is one such dish, Boudin noir. Traditionally, boudin noir (blood sausage) is served warm with sautéed or roasted apples. Happily, we have a number of apple trees on the farm to help us bring this dish to the table. I owe the presentation of this “boudin pie” to Bruno Albouze, a talented chef you can find on YouTube whom I highly recommend.

Leftovers – the gift that keeps on giving.

Why this dish now? Well, chef Albouze had just recently published his “Blood Sausage Roasted Apple Pie” (Ça va, chef, si je traduis le titre en français?), so it was on my mind. Then “low and behold”, I opened our fridge and, to my surprise, we had almost everything on hand ready to go for this recipe. I had some unused pie crust in the freezer, some leftover caramelized onions from a hamburger party, a few Granny Smith apples that were part of a cole slaw recipe and three pears . Oh, “what’s that in the back of the fridge?” Boudin noir? Where did that come from? Not sure. But I knew I had to ask permission to use it from this family’s true chef, my wife. Permission granted. So I got busy.

Le rassemblement

What do to?

  1. Pie crust – Made. I needed to thaw it, shape it in the pan, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes, then bake it (blind bake, 20 minutes, then uncovered 10 minutes at 350 F).
  2. Caramalized onions – Made. Just pull from the fridge.
  3. Compote- Oops, chef! I did not have enough apples for the apple compote AND the apples on top of the pie. Sooooooo, I made a pear compote instead “because they were there” and because I was convinced that the Poire-Williams Eau de vie in the cupboard would bring a flavor that would marry well with this complex set of flavors and textures – and I was right!
  4. Potato prep – As directed by Chef Albouze and recommended by the late Joël Robuchon, I boiled them with skin on beginning in cold, salted water. Peel. Slice. Done.
  5. Sautéed apples – peel, core, slice (6 per apple), sauter in duck fat. Oh. I failed to mention that I had some duck fat on hand too. Sorry, it almost feels like cheating. What to do if you don’t have or can’t find duck fat? Not sure. I am inclined to say “sauter in clarified butter”. I did so for a Christmas meal – and it was very, very yum.
  6. Gastric sauce — a finishing touch that has a great effect on this dish. Please watch the Albouze video for that one.

A few pictures of the process follow…

Crust plus caramelized onions
Pear compote with Eau de vie
Apple, potato, sausage, repeat (as artfully as possible)
Fresh out of the oven (basted once with some melted butter)
Ready to enjoy with a lovely salad and some mulled wine for a mid-winter treat.

La tarte bleue

Look what happens when you clean out the fridge and freezer. This tarte is a mostly standard fruit tarte you might find in a French patisserie. If I were starting from scratch, some things would probably be different. For instance, the crust is a pâte brisé, best for a quiche and not the typical crust for a fruit tarte. It was left in the freezer from a previous recipe and needed to meet its maker.

You can see from the photographs that the layers of this fruit tarte are as follows: crust, crème pâtissière, a gelled fruit compote and finally fresh fruit. The crème patissière is absolutely standard but I made sure to use vanilla from a vanilla bean pod that had spent far too long in the cupboard. Any time you can afford to, use vanilla straight from the bean pod.

The layer of gelled compote was made from frozen blackberries and frozen blueberries from partially used bags of desserts of long ago. I never try to use frozen fruit as whole-fruit toppings on a tart. They tend to fall apart and bleed everywhere. So I help them along by cooking them with a little sugar and cinnamon, reduce the water content and add a gelatin. On top of all of this, I added “fresh” blueberries that managed to stay in great shape in the fridge during our two-week Christmas vacation.

RECIPE

Crust (Pâte brisée) and Crème pâtissière – for ingredients and method go to Bruno Albouze (I did!)

Fruit compote

Ingredients:

250 g frozen blackberries

250 g frozen blueberri

5 g cinnamon

150 g sugar

3 gelatin leaves

Method:

Place frozen fruit, sugar and cinnamon in a casserole, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium low and allow to gently bubble and loose 50% of the water content. Take off heat. Place gelatin leaves in cool water and allow to soften. Squeeze the leaves to remove excess water and place them in the fruit compote. Carefully use a submersible blender to blend and homogenize the fruit and gelatin.

COOLING TIME: For great results and ease of assembling the final product, allow the custard and compote to rest in the fridge over night. Allow the crust to sit overnight, covered, on the kitchen counter. When ready to assemble, vigorously whisk the custard and gelled compote, then layer them with care into the crust.

FRUIT TOPING: It would be great to cover the top of this tarte with a mix of blackberries and blueberries. I used what I had on hand, a handful of leftover blueberries. Fresh fruit could be coated with an apricot glaze or simply left natural if you plan to serve them “today.”

I hope that you have a sweet day with family and friends!

Hawaiian Island Cake

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Traditional White Cake with pineapple-coconut filling and cream cheese icing

Behind the scenes

In the picture above, you see what looks like a chocolate cake layer sandwiched between two vanilla sheets. Alas, such isn’t the case. All layers are actually (supposed to be) of the Old-Fashioned White Cake recipe found in the Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I knew that I wanted to make a cake with strong coconut and pineapple accents, so I took the liberty of substituting a couple of things.

Here’s what happened to the middle layer you see above. First, I doubled Magnolia’s recipe since I was making a 1/2 sheet cake. That was the first mistake. I should have tripled the recipe. Second, I thought I’d ramp up the sweetness and substituted one (of the two) cup milk with a cup of sweetened condensed milk. Third, when checking for doneness  after 30 minutes, I set the timer for 10 more minutes – then fell asleep on the couch – ouch! Well, I woke up well before any burning occurred, but well after the cake had lost its height and started to become a dense, chewy, wavy cookie. It was hours later before I took the courage to use this layer in the final cake. I like dense, chewy cookies, so I got hold of my trusty cake leveler and reduced the overall thickness of this should-have-been cake and took the risk of making it a center layer (see below).

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Here’s how the other two layers (top and bottom) came about. I had to start over. I had contracted to bake this cake for someone, so  there was no getting around it. I stuck with the Traditional White Cake recipe but 1) tripled the recipe and 2) substituted regular milk with organic coconut water. I could tell upon pouring the batter into the 1/2 sheet pan that it was going to be perfect – as long as I didn’t fall asleep and overcook it. Indeed, it turned out beautifully, the most evenly cooked, delicate surfaced white cake I’ve ever baked. I let this cake cool slowly for several hours while I got some sleep. I knew I was going to split it and wanted it to be as sturdy as possible.

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You can see the light color of the two halves of the split cake compared to the earlier cake that became a cookie.

With three sheets of cake ready to go, the assembly went as follows:

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Bottom white layer + filling + middle cookie-cake layer + filling + top white layer-in-waiting.

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Top white cake layer in place + icing + shredded coconut + candied pineapple nuggets.

TRADITIONAL WHITE-CAKE RECIPE FROM The Complete Magnolia Cookbook.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
    • if using all-purpose flour, add 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt per 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk (I substituted this with coconut water because I was looking to concentrate coconut flavors)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites

Directions:

  • Grease and flour your pan
  • Whip egg white to soft peaks, cover and reserve in fridge
  • Cream the butter and sugar
  • Alternatively add flour and liquids; don’t overmix
  • Gently fold in soft-peak egg whites
  • Place in oven at 350 deg F / 180 deg C
  • Bake for 22-25 min – then test for doneness
  • Let cool.

Half-sheet modifications

  • Triple the recipe – will be able to split once safely.
  • Reduce oven temp to 325 (or even 300)
  • I started checking the cake at 30 min. Mine took 40 min.

ICING – Magnolia Bakery Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1 lb cream cheese, softened
  • 3 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Half-sheet modifications

  • Double the recipe above
  • Reserve 1/3 to use in the filling

FILLING – for the half-sheet cake

  • 2 x 12 oz cans of chunked or sliced pineapple in light syrup or in natural juice
  • 16 oz sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/3 of the cream cheese icing
  • Place the pineapple and coconut in a food processor and pulse until combined and there are no large pieces of pineapple. In a large bowl, stir together with icing.

TOPPING – for the half-sheet

  • 8 0z sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 8 oz candied pineapple coarsely chopped

That’s all I can think of.  Have a sweet day!