home button

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rustic Apple Tart

I have received many questions as to whether or not I make pie. The simple answer is: yes.
The more complex answer is: it doesn't always take the traditional pie shape.

Traditionally, what constitutes a pie is fruit encased in a crust, which is so delicate that it requires the support of a tin. There is the traditional circular pie, with an upper crust and a bottom crust (i.e. apple pie), and then there is the traditional single crust pie (i.e. pumpkin).
Then there are the rustics. A rustic pie and a rustic tart are interchangeable terms to me. The biggest difference (if you wish to become a technical know it all like me) is the type of crust. A tart crust typically is more of a shortbread type of pastry. It is called pâté sucrée, or "sweet pastry," and because of the high sugar content which makes it sweet, it is sturdier and doesn't need a tin to hold it up. In fact I use a pâté sucrée aux noix (sweet nut pastry) for my Bleeding Heart cookies.

A rustic pie, also called galette, crostata, or free form pie, uses traditional pie crust (buttery, flakey and all) to make the pie. The difference is that the filling is not piled on a mile high, instead it is arranged in a fashion which is pleasing to the eye, and pleasing to the fork. Because there is no top crust you get the perfect ratio of crust to filling. You also avoid the big air gap which can occur in traditional bottom and top pies as the fruit cooks down. And also because the top is open, the steam which is released from the fruit during cooking does not get trapped  by the top crust and create the dreaded SOGGY BOTTOM. You can tell I'm slightly biased towards this type of pie, but, I do love a good slice of a well made traditional pie.

Other forms of what I might constitute as pie, are really other fruit desserts: cobblers, brown betties, slab pies, crumbles, crisps and pandowdies. But let's save those for another post, shall we?

My rustic apple tart (or, if you prefer, rustic apple pie)

uses a traditional pie crust, and is folded around sliced and spiced granny smith apples. Once the crust is brushed with an egg wash and turbinado sugar graces it's frame, it is baked until the juices are bubbling and overflowing and the crust is a beautiful golden tan. Apricot jam is brushed over the grannies to enhance their appleness.

It has a delightfully crisp bottom and a not too sweet, as to miss out on a scoop of vanilla ice cream, filling. It serves two people. As long as apples are in season and available, I will be making these Rustic fruit desserts/breakfast/snack/enter your preferred designation.

 I can always make one in a larger size, if you'd prefer. Just let me know by email, this blog, or my phone number (805) 440-3456

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Caramel Cashew Cookies

I have been dreaming of creating  something with caramel and cashews
 for quite a while.   Recently, lightening struck in the form of a vintage 
recipe I came across while browsing the web.   The original cookie
from 1976 was called the Dutch Caramel Cashew Cookie.  This   
 cookie, with shards of homemade praline, was just the right base
 to get me started on my quest.  With some updates and Sweet Pea
 Bakery enhancements, it  became just the cookie I was looking for:
 sweet, salty and chewy.

The cashew praline is made and left to cool and harden.
(Thank you Silpat!)

The nutty dough is topped with chunks of praline

And here it is just out of the oven a buttery chewy cookie
with little pockets of caramel and nuts-Delightful!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Morning Buns

By now many of you are familiar with Morning Buns--somewhat incorrectly named because this baker tends to enjoy them with her cup of afternoon tea or even for supper.
Morning Buns getting their sugar coating

What are they? you ask. In generalities they are cinnamon rolls made with croissant dough and a touch of orange zest added to the filling. Sounding good yet? They are not your average Cinnabun, although those are delicious in their own right. They are flakey and slightly crispy and the filling cooks down into an orange-cinnamon-sugar syrup which coats the bottom of the bun and caramelizes.

For this creation I have two sources to thank: Tartine and Julia Child. I first tried a morning bun at Tartine in San Francisco, and thought to myself "I need to learn how to make these." I found Tartine's recipe which called for croissant dough, butter and the filling. After several batches, I came up with a variation of their ratios which suited my taste (I believe I have told many of you that I make that which I crave). I still had to figure out croissant dough though.

This is where Julia Child came to the rescue. Page 100 in volume 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking details the first recipe I tried. For a novice bread maker, looking at a recipe which takes 12 hours to make seemed a little daunting, but I don't think my first attempt was too bad if you were just expecting a dinner roll. The basic  steps are as follows:
        1)Make dough.
        2)Let it rise, and punch down, let chill
        3)Perform the beurrage (butter layering technique involving a heavy rolling pin and REALLY cold butter)
        4)Fold the dough like an envelope, and roll it out again and chill, Repeat 3-5 times
        5)Ready for use as croissants, pigs in a blanket or Morning buns

The Folding of the dough is what makes it so special. In essence what is happening is that you are tripling the number of layers of butter for every fold you make. Each time the layers between the butter and dough are getting smaller and more wafer thin like. After so many folds you have a dough which will make delicate layers.

Because of Julia's guidance I have created the recipe I use today