Skillet Lemon Cake

 

imageDaniel is in a cook off with another boy in another fraternity, to raise money for charity.  They are allowed a hot plate, a grill and a sous vide, since they both have one.  I have to chuckle here as it’s not the customary possession of a college boy and yet, Daniel found possibly the one other boy in this huge University that owned one as well.

The boys were to prepare an entree using pork tenderloin, a side dish and dessert.  Daniel is making prosciutto wrapped tenderloin which he will cook to temperature in the sous vide and finish in a hot pan.  We discovered this technique at one of Jean-George Vonderrichten’s New York City restaurants, “Nougatine”. We had some unbelievable Berkshire pork chops which were tender with a crisp surface.  The sous vide Is perfect for tough cuts of meat, like pork chops, because you can cook them for a long time to tenderize them without overcooking them. In addition to the pork, Daniel will make a butternut squash risotto with rosemary and sage.

I was tasked with finding a desssert that could be made solely on top of the stove, that didn’t require any pre made items or special equipment and could be cooked in 30ish minutes. Hmmm!

My immediate thought was poached fruit served with creme fraiche or Greek yogurt, sprinkled with some lightly toasted nuts for crunch.  Too easy!  Serious Eats has a skillet cobbler that sounded good but I wanted something that was more Mediterranean in nature.  I’d been looking at Mark Bittma’s skillet lemon/almond tart and decided to try that.  However, it would have to be adapted as it was cooked for a few minutes in a skillet and spent the rest of the time in the oven to which Daniel would have no access.  I’m going to refer to the Bittman tart as a cake because in my mind it’s closer to a cake than a tart. There was also a discrepancy between Mark Bittman’s video and the recipe published by the New York Times that would have to be addressed.  The article gives you the option of using 1/2-3/4 cup of sugar and the video calls for 1/2 cup.  Since I was going to bake this entirely on the stove top I opted to go with 1/2 cup of sugar in the batter and save the 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top and caramelize. The recipe calls for the juice of one lemon, which I find to be unecesarily imprecise.   I did in fact use the juice of a lemon but it was a huge freakin lemon and I think it was more juice than necessary.  When I looked at the video it looked like there was twice as much cream as lemon juice and the recipe called for 1/2 cup of juice, so, I figure, 1/4 cup of juice is fine.

The next issue was the cooking method.  My Italian grandmother never used her broiler and taught me how to make a frittata using only the stove top and a covered pan. I thought that might work for this dessert which seemed to be essentially a sweet frittata.  They key is to put the batter in  a non stick pan with sizzling fat (butter or olive oil) so it doesn’t stick and so you can slide it out and flip it back into the pan to brown the other side.  Now, if you don’t want to mess around with flipping the cake I don’t think it’s critical.  Just make sure you place the cake in the plate so that the browned side is up.  This can easily be done by placing a plate on top of the pan and flipping the plate and pan as a unit so the pan ends up on top, the plate on the bottom and the cake drops out of the pan in one piece.  If if the cake does’t come out in one nice piece, don’t panic.  Smoosh it together, sprinkle some toasted almond slices on top and dust it with powdered sugar, or place the reserved sugar on top and hit it with a blow torch.

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds plus more for decoration
  • 1/2 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar for batter plus 3 tablespoons for the top
  • 1/4 cup cold lemon juice
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1.  Mix eggs until well combined, but not fluffy, into a homogeneous yellow mixture.
  2.  Add the cream, salt, and lemon juice to the eggs and mix well.  (Combining lemon juice and cream can curdle the cream. Keeping the ingredients cold reduces the likelihood that will occur. Also, the longer you let the cream and juice sit together the more chance you give the juice to curdle the cream so don’t let the mixture sit around).
  3. Rub the lemon zest into 1/2 cup of sugar and add to the eggs along with the almond meal and sliced almonds. Combine well
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to an 8″ skillet and melt over medium heat foaming subsides
  5. Pour batter into the pan and cover it.
  6. Lower the flame to low.
  7. Cook for about 5 minutes and check it.  You are looking for the liquids to be set.  If you stick a wooden skewer into the mixture it should come out with mois crumbs but not wet.  If it’s not ready, cover the pan for another 5 minutes and check again.
  8. When the tart is completely set, loosen the edges from the side of the pan.  Take a plate and place it on top of the pan.  Take a deep breath, cross your fingers and flip the plate and pan unit upside down so the pan is now on top.  With any luck, the tart will release cleanly.  If it’s doesn’t scrape out the remainder in the pan and pat it on top of the cake.
  9. Now you have two options:  you can scatter some toasted sliced almonds on top and dust it with powdered sugar or you can sprinkle the top with granulated sugar and caramelize it with a blow torch.

Caramelized Walnuts

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Caramelized nuts are a staple, in my opinion.  They can be used in pastry applications and also in salads.  They’re easy to make either with a dry caramelization method or a syrup.  I love the ease of just throwing a bunch of sugar in a pan and caramelizing it but for the nuts, I’ve had more success with using the method below.  For some reason, I seem to get a smoother coating over the nuts.  The ones in the picture I did with the dry pan method.  As you can see they’re a bit gloppy  although still delicious.

  • 200 grams of room temperature walnut halves
  • 70g (1/3 cup) superfine sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  1. Place sugar in a small pot and moisten with the water.
  2. Place pot on a low flame and swirl the pan by the handle until the sugar is completely dissolved and liquid is clear. Bring syrup to a boil. Dip a heat proof pastry brush in cold water and wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot. Cook until the syrup reaches 248 degrees Farenheit.
  3. Pour in all the walnuts at once and stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to coat nuts with the syrup. The syrup will turn white and crystallize on the surface of the nuts. Keep stirring until the crystals melt and turn a light brown.
  4. Pour the nuts out on parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  5. Try and separate the pieces after a few minutes.

Earl Gray Ice Cream Cakes

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My family loves Earl Grey tea and begged me to try and tackle an ice cream cake with that flavor.  Earl Grey tea is a black tea flavored with Bergamot, a citrus fruit. I love the combination of Earl Grey and chocolate.  It also works well with other citrus fruits and with nuts, particularly walnuts.  So I thought a moist walnut and chocolate cake would be a nice base for the cakes.  If you don’t want to make a cake and prefer something crunchy, you can make a chocolate cookie crust.  Or, you can do none of the above and just scoop some in a dish and eat it plain or drizzled with sauce

Finding a chocolate cake recipe proved tricky. I didn’t want something too rich, like a brownie.  I thought about using my favorite chocolate butter cake recipe but butter cakes don’t like to be cold. They get hard and dry with refrigeration and I wanted to be able to assemble the ice cream on top of the cake and freeze the whole thing. So I started trying chiffon cakes which use oil instead of butter.  Oil doesn’t freeze so I figured the cake wouldn’t freeze hard. One recipe by Rose Levy Barenbaum in “The Cake Bible” caught my eye.  Apparently when her mother gave  her the recipe she told her the texture was perfect even right out of the freezer.  So I gave it a shot but it didn’t have a deep enough chocolate flavor and the texture was too fluffy so  I tried again, adding another 25 grams of cocoa powder and that seemed to do the trick. It had a deeper chocolate flavor and the texture improved as well.

This recipe makes about a quart of ice cream.  The number of cakes you get depends on the size of your molds. 

Earl Gray Ice Cream Cake Componants

  • Earl Gray Ice Cream
  • Chocolate walnut chiffon cake
  • 1/2  cup Caramelized walnuts ( see my post on Caramelized nuts)
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel (see my post on candied fruit)
  • 1 cup Bittersweet chocolate sauce

Chocolate/Walnut Chiffon Cake

  • 38g (7 Tablespoons) Cocoa powder
  • 88g (6 Tablespoons) water
  • 87g  bleached cake flour
  • 187 (3/4 plus cup 2 tablespoons)superfine sugar
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 tsp  baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 80.5g (3 Tablespoon) walnut oil
  • 27g (1 Tablespoon) Canola oil
  • 3 eggs separated (55g)
  • 2 egg whites (150g)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Wisk together flour, salt, baking powder and all but one tablespoon of sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl pour 3/4 cup of boiling water over the cocoa powder.  Wisk until smooth.  Wisk in egg yolks, oils and vanilla.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the chocolate mixture in the middle
  5. Beat for 1 minute until smooth and glossy.
  6.  In a clean, grease free bowl beat egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar. When egg whites are at soft peaks add sugar in a slow stream. Raise beater speed to high and beat to whites to stiff peaks.
  7. With a balloon wisk fold one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen up the batter.  Fold in the rest of the whites just until blended.
  8. Pour batter gently into the sheet pan. Keep the bowl close to the pan so your not deflating the batter by pouring from a great height.  Even out batter with an off set spatula.
  9. Bake for 13 minutes until a tooth pick crumbs out with a few moist crumbs attached to the toothpick.  image
  10. Cool to room temperature.
  11. Cut to fit the bottoms of your molds.
  12. Freeze the rounds, separating each one with parchment paper.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

  • 3 Tablespoons Earl Grey loose tea (I like the Earl Gray Royal from the Tea House which I buy on line. It has real pieces of dried bergamot as opposed to bergamot oil. I think it makes a difference).
  • 400g (2 cups) whole milk
  • 300 g (1.5 cups) cream
  • 50g (1/4 cup) glucose
  • 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 100g (5) egg yolks
  • 1 tsp commercial stabilizer pereferably Cremodan 30 (optional but recommended)
  1. Wisk together stabilizer, if using, and sugar.  Place milk, cream and glucose in a pot and wisk in sugar.
  2. Bring to a simmer and stir in tea leaves. Remove from heat, stir in loose tea and cover. Let steep three minutes
  3. Strain dairy through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot.  Press firmly on tea to release as much flavor as possible. Discard tea leaves.
  4. Wisk egg yolks in a heat proof bowl. Stir about 1/4 cup of the base into the egg yolks to temper them and gradually wisk in the rest of the base.
  5. Place mixture in a clean pot and stir constantly on a medium low flame.  Cook the mixture at least until 145 degrees to pasturized the yolks. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line down the center of the spoon’s back and the edges don’t flow back together, the base is done. I’ve seen a lot of ice cream books say you need to cook the mixture until 180 degrees but I don’t think that’s necessary.
  6. Strain once again through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any particles of yolk.
  7. Chill overnight in a covered container.

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

i halve other hot fudge and chocolate sauces but this one is good for this dessert because it’s a little thinner and has a more de,I ate chocolate flavor

  • 8 oz fine bittersweet chocolate ( not chips but callets are fine.  For this sauce I like Callebaut semi sweet chocolate callets)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup glucose or corn syrup (I prefer glucose as it’s not as sweet and is more viscous)
  1. Chop chocolate into fine pieces and place in a heat proof container.
  2. Place glucose and cream in a pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Pour hot cream over chocolate.  Cover and let sit about five minutes.  With a wisk, start from the center of the bowl and gently mix together the chocolate and cream, widening the circle as the mixture begins to amalgamate.  The purpose is to get a smooth mixture without air bubbles.
  4. Refrigerate until needed but warm it up before using.

Assembling

  1. Freeze whatever molds you are using whether it’s silicone or a stainless steel loaf pan or ring. I love, love, love silicone as the ice cream pops right out.  If I use a loaf pan, I line it with parchment paper. I prefer it to plastic wrap, which wrinkles. Of course, you can go commando and not use a liner but then, in order to unfold, you need to blast the mold with a blow torch or dip it in hot water. Too messy!
  2. Churn the ice cream and fill the molds.
  3. Take the cake and presss it gently on top of the mold. When you unfold, the cake will be your base.
  4. Freeze at least 6 hours
  5. Unfold and plate.  Garnish with toasted walnuts and candied orange peel.
  6. You can garnish with other sauces as well: fresh oranges poached in orange marmalade and fresh juice, rhubarb compote perfumed with lemon or orange zest.  Anything with citrus will work. Just don’t use too much or it will overwhelm the flavor of the tea.  In the top photo I used some pink grapefruit which I poached for a minute in some of my blood orange marmalade and a bit of fresh juice. If you don’t have blood orange marmalade hanging around strain some Seville orange marmalade, thin it with a bit of fresh juice until you have a saucy consistency and throw in some supremed orange segments.  Easy, peesy.

 

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Deconstructed Banana Split

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I love ice cream, almost more than anything. Almost any dessert can be enhanced by a scoop of gorgeously silky cold ice cream.  A crisp, a tart, a pie, even a cookie is better with a bit of ice cream especially if the dessert your pairing it with is hot and crunchy. Cold, hot, creamy and crunchy is irresistible.

I recently purchased an ice cream book called ” Hello, My name is Ice cream “, by Chef Dana Cree. Its a wonderful book, laid out in a logical way with clear instructions.  She is very thorough in her discussion of the science of ice cream with useful information on stabilizers, emulsifiers and other elements necessary for turning out silky ice cream.  She goes over the variety of frozen desserts: sorbets. sherbets, Philadelphia and custard style ice creams.  At the beginning of each chapter she gives you what she calls a blank slate recipe. This allows readers to create recipes beyond those that Chef Cree has offered.  For me, that’s the best kind of book because it allows me to create.

Chef Cree’s recipe for banana ice cream is amazing and has inspired a few iterations.  I have spun it and added a thin stream of melted bittersweet chocolate at the end so I get a banana stratiatella. I have served it with a rum caramel ribbon and a fudge ribbon. But the prettiest plate I’ve done is a rif on a banana split. I love the flavor of bananas in a banan split but not the incorporation of banana slices.  This banana split has banana ice cream as the base, scooped up into three little scoops and each served with its own sauce: caramel/rum, bittersweet chocolate and fresh strawberry.

A word about ice cream machines.  I use an ancient Simac Gelataio Boy.  It churns ice cream in about 15 minutes. The day it dies will. be a sad, sad day for me. It has a built in compressor which keeps the base chilled while you are churning it.  Since my Simac was manufactured, they EPA made it illegal to use this particular type of freon in non commercial ice cream machines, or so I was told by Simac.  I had purchased another Simac  a few years ago with a removable bowl, thinking it would be easier to clean and I did not like it. It didn’t get as cold and took longer to churn the ice cream. Therefore, the ice cream was not as creamy. I can’t recommend another built in compressor machine. Perhaps Lussino or Lello or another Italian company.

I also have a freestanding Cuisinart  unit where you need to chill the bowl before you use it. For some ice creams they may be interchangeable but for at least one of my ice creams, the Simac gives it a much better texture.  So, I used the Simac for this banana ice cream and I don’t know how it will turn out with the Cuisinart.  Let me know if you try it. The advantage of the Cuisinart is that if you freeze multiple bowls you can make several quarts of ice cream. My Simac heats up so I can do two batches and then I have to let it cool down before I can use it again. Yep, I need a commercial ice cream maker. I just don’t happen to have 10k lying around.

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Banana Split Componants

  • 1 quart banana ice cream
  • Strawberry sauce
  • bittersweet chocolate sauce
  • caramel/rum sauce
  • chopped roasted almonds
  • whipped cream

Banana Ice Cream

  • 500g bananas (Roughly 4 medium bananas.  Bananas should be very ripe with mostly dark brown and black skins)
  • 300g /1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 400g/2 cups whole milk
  • 50g/1/4 cup glucose syrup (one could potentially use light corn syrup but I have not tried it with this recipe)
  • 150g/3/4 cup superfine or caster sugar
  • 100g egg yolks (5)
  • 1g/1/8 tsp sea salt (Chef Cree uses 1/4 tsp but I find it a bit salty)
  • 5g/1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3g/1tsp Cremodon 30 ( this is a stabilizer/emulsifier you can buy on Amazon)
  1.  Peel and place the bananas in a 2 quart heat proof container.
  2. Wisk together the Cremodin 30 with the sugar.
  3.  In a heavy bottom saucepan wisk the sugar into the dairy and add the glucose.
  4. Place the pan over medium high heat.  Wisk the mixture and bring to a full rolling boil then immediately remove the pot from the heat.
  5. Pour the hot base over the bananas and place the container in the refrigerator. I steeped my bananas for 24 hours for a full banana flavor but you can do less if you prefer or if you are in a hurry. I would advise doing no less than 4 hours.
  6. After steeping,  pour the base, including the bananas through a fine mesh sieve. Pick out any large pieces of bananas and discard.  Gently shake or stir the remaining contents of the sieve to allow as much liquid as possible to pass through. I used very ripe bananas and some of them fell apart in the base. I didn’t want any of the loose bananas particles in the base so I didn’t mash them through the strainer.
  7. Place the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl and wisk together.  I like using stainless steel because I find that when I add the hot milk it thickens almost immediately and shortens the cooking time. Bring the base to a simmer and pour slowly over the yolks, wisking constantly so they don’t curdle. Place the mixture back in a clean pot and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens.   Cook the mixture until it coats the back of a wooden spoon and the edges of the mixture stay separate when you draw a line down the back of the spoon with your finger.
  8. Place a heat proof ziplock bag inside a heat proof container and fold the edges back over the rim. Pour the base through a fine mesh sieve, into the bag. Zip up the bag, expelling as much air as possible and place it in the ice water bath.  When the mixture is cool take the bag out of the ice bath, add the vanilla and place the bag in the fridge and chill overnight.
  9. Pre chill your ice cream machine.  Pour the contents of the bag in the machine and churn until the ice cream has the consistency of soft serve ice cream and holds its shape.

Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 quart strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons of superfine sugar and more to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice and more to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Purée sugar, salt and berries until puréed.  Push through a fine mesh sieve

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate ( I like Lindt 70% or Valrhona)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. Chop chocolate into fine pieces and place in heat proof bowl
  2. Heat cream to a simmer
  3. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir gently until combined

Caramel/Rum Sauce

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup superfine or caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tsp dark rum
  1. Place cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cover pot so cream stays warm.
  2. Place water in heavy 3 quart sauce pan.
  3. Pour in sugar and stir so sugar is evenly wet.
  4. Put pot on a medium high flame and bring to a simmer. Pick up the pot and swirl it around so the contents swirl as well.  If the sugar is not all dissolved, related the process until the syrup is clear and you can’t see crystals of sugar.
  5. Place lid on pot and raise heat to high. Let it cook for a few minutes and remove the lid. If you see sugar crystals clinging to the side of the pan, wash them off with a heat prof pastry brush dipped in cold water. The syrup will become thick and bubbly. When the syrup starts to color, pick it up and swirl it from time to time. When the syrup is a light caramel color remove it from the heat. Add the cream slowly.  Be careful it will bubble up and may splatter.  Stir over low heat until the caramel is smooth and any hardened bits are melted.  Pour into a heat proof container and let it come to room temperature.  Stir in the rum and a pinch of sea salt.

Assemble

Place three little scoops or quenelles of ice cream on a plate and put a bit of sauce around each scoop. Garnish with fleurettes of whipped cream, chopped toasted almonds or bits of strawberry.  Or, put three scoops in a glass, pouring each sauce over the ice cream and garnishing with whipped cream.image

Michigan Grape Tarts

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I rarely buy grapes in the supermarket. While they are sweet, they have no flavor. Occasionally I find Muscatel grapes at Whole Foods and those are wonderful. For the past few years I’ve found a Michigan variety of a petite, seedless grape with a lovely, delicate flavor. I believe the variety is called Candace. Each grape is the size of a hazelnut: rosy red with touches of pale green.  Right now, I am finding these grapes in my Midwest farmers market.  Go buy some and try this tart!

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These little grapes make great tarts and provide a nice change from berries or stone fruits. You can make all of the components in advance and the assembled tart will hold up in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours.

Pate Sucree

  • 2 oz unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 5 oz unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3.5 oz 10X powdered sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Eight 3.5″ non stick tart shells.
  1.  Slit open vanilla bean and scrape out seeds. Place on top of the butter. Whisk together sugar and salt. Cream butter until lightened in color and airy. Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in flour  just until blended. Press dough  into rectangle about one inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to 3 days.
  2.  If you don’t have non stick tart pans don’t worry. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and mix in 1 tablespoon of flour. Paint the tart shells with this mixture .
    Place your tins on a rimmed baking sheet. Line them up in the shape of a rectangle, two by two, with their edges touching.
  3. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it soften. Roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap, keeping the rectangular shape like the formation of your tart tins. Roll to 1/8″.  Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap and invert it over the tins. You will probably only be able to do 6 tins and then you can make the remaining two from re rolled scraps. Peel off the top layer of the plastic wrap. Run your rolling pin over the top of the tines. This will cut off the excess dough. Take a ball of dough, dipped in flour and use this to press the dough into the tins. It’s best to start at the center of the bottom and work your way around to the sides.
  4. Let chill at least another hour. Even better, freeze the shells and bake from frozen.  The tend to hold their shape better.
  5. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees farenheit. Bake the shells blind: line your tins with parchment paper or do what the ingenious Rose Levy Berenbaum suggests and use 3.5″ basket style coffee filters as liners. Line your tins and fill them to the top with pie weights or small dries beans.  Bake the tarts for 7 minutes on the rimmed sheets in the lower third of the oven. Remove them from the oven. The dough should not look raw anymore but it will still be pael. Try and gently remove the liners with the beans. If they stick put the tarts back in the oven for 1 or 2 minutes.  Pull them from the oven and try again to detach thenliners.   Once you remove the liners, lower the temperature to 375 degrees farenheit and bake until the shells a browned, roughly 13 more minutes. remove them from the oven and cool them in the tins.
  6. When they are cool, invert them. They should slip out of the pan.

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Pastry Cream

  • 8 oz whole milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • pinch of salt
  1. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Slit open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk.
  2. Bring the milk to a simmer and turn off the heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Scrape out the contents of the vanilla bean and mix into the milk. Discard the bean.
  3. Wisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until light and thick. Sift the flour/cornstarch mixture over the eggs and wisk until smooth.
  4. Bring the milk back to a boil. Temper the egg yolks with a little milk, wisk together and pour in the rest of the milk.
  5. Return the mixture to the pan and bring it to a boil, while wisking. When it starts to thicken whisk vigorously until it is thick, creamy and spreadable.
  6. Push it through a fine mesh sieve and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Flavor with
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. If you need it faster, put it an ice water bath

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Glaze

  • 4 oz Apple jelly
  1. Melt apple jelly over low flame until it is completely liquified. Set aside and reheat if necessary. It should be quite liquid when it is used.

Assemble

  1. Spread each tart shell with roughly 2 tablespoons of pastry cream.
  2. Starting with the outside of the tart shell, place grapes around the perimeter. Make another circle inside that one and another until the bottom is filled. Place more grapes on top to get a mounded look.
  3. Brush a thin glaze of apple jelly over the grapes.
  4. Return to the refrigerator until the jelly sets up. Serve any time after that although I do think it benefits from ripening in the fridge for an hour or two.
  5. You can enhance the flavors of this tart with a little glass of Muscat Beaumes de Venise, a sweet wine made from Muscatel grapes.

 

Lemon Semifreddo with Strawberry Sauce

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The first time I ate a Semifreddo was at Vivoli Gelateria in Florence Italy many years ago.  While the gelato was wonderful, the Semifreddo had a unique texture that was silky, light and completely captivating.   Semifreddo means ” half cold ” and it feels less cold than ice cream or gelato.  Personally I feel that I taste the flavors more intensely because there’s no numbing effect of your tastebuds as there is with colder confections.

Semifreddo consists of a flavored base folded together with Italian Meringue and whipped cream.  The base can consist of a  Crème Anglaise (yolks cooked with milk and sugar), Pâte à Bombe (a base of  yolks beaten with cooked sugar syrup) or a base of puréed fruit.  However, the key component which needs to be included for the best texture is Italian Meringue.

So, as I often do, I tried to find Semifreddo in my hometown to no avail.  Then I began to collect recipes and try them, still without success.  Finally I stumbed upon the answer to my failures in an article authored by Marino Marini titled ” More Perfect than a Parfait”.  According to the article a semifreddo derives its origin from a French Parfait which is a Pâte à Bombe (egg yolks and sugar syrup beaten to a creamy consistency) into which whipped cream is folded. The Semifreddo can be differentiated from a Parfait because it includes Italian Meringue, the missing ingredient in all the recipes that I had tried.  Italian Meringue doesn’t freeze at zero temperature and has a silky mouth feel. Without it, you never get the correct texture.  This history feeds nicely into my narrative that the Italians (me and my ancestors) taught the French (my husband and his ancestors) how to cook, which began when Catarina d’ Medici brought her pastry chefs to France when she married Henri II of France. Clearly the Italians continued to school the French into the early 20th century  when the Italians transformed a very nice desert, the Parfait, into a spectacular dessert, the Semifreddo. Ha!

This is a dessert that you can definitely play with. An easy modification would be to do a raspberry coulis or a blueberry sauce.  Other flavor combinations come to mind: lime Semifreddo with blackberry coulis, passion fruit Semifreddo with mango coulis, orange/Cointreau Semifreddo with candied walnuts or pine nuts and caramel sauce; grapefruit Semifreddo with, well, I leave that up to you.  You can also forgo the daquoise and place the semifreddo directly on the plate or use a thin shortbread cookie, a ginger snap or cookie crumbs.  Try different combinations and make this recipe  yours.

A special thanks to blogger and author Grace Massa Langlois of gracessweetlife.com for inspiring the design of this dessert.  Check out her book and her blog.  Her recipes are well written and trustworthy. 

Lemon/Limoncello Semifreddo Dessert Componants

  • Whipped Cream
  • Italian Meringue
  • Pâte à Bombe 
  • Strawberry sauce
  • Limoncello bubble sugar

Whipped Cream

  • 238 grams (1 cup) heavy cream
  1. The cream, beaters and bowl should be pre chilled
  2. Whip cream to soft peaks and place in the refrigerator until needed.

Pâte à Bombe 

  • 108 grams (6 large) egg yolks, room temperature
  • 80 grams (1/4 cup) subtle flavored honey (I like Acacia)
  • 80 grams (1/4 cup) glucose
  • 81 grams (1/3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) Limoncello {Italian Lemon Liqueur}
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (use microplane)
  1. Beat honey, glucose, lemon juice, egg yolks and rind in a heat proof bowl.  This forms the top of your Bagno Maria aka Bain Marie. 
  2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (this the bottom of your Bagno Maria) and wisk mixture with a balloon wisk until the mixture is 138 degrees Fahrenheit at which point the yolks will be pasteurized and the base will be thick and fluffy.  For my Bagno Maria, I use a large glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water. The bowl should be round and fit snugly in the pot.  The walls of the pot should come roughly half way up the sides of the bowl.  Make sure the water does not touch the bowl.  You should be able to simmer about 4″ of water in the pot. 
  3. Once off the heat, wisk in Limoncello and strain out the lemon rind.  Let cool in an ice bath (a bowl of ice and cold water in which you put your bowl of flavored base) stirring occasionally.  Cooling it quickly in an ice bath discourages bacteria from developing. 

Italian Meringue (use only half of yield)

  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
  • 100 grams (1/3 cup) glucose
  • 80 grams (1/3 cup) water
  • 90 grams egg whites ( 3 large), room temperature

I suggest you read my page on Italian Meringue and also take a look at Martha Stewarts video (although I don’t like her instruction to pour the syrup down the side of the bowl). Cooks Illustrated has a good article as does Serious Eats.com. The goal is to pour 240 degree syrup onto egg whites which have been beaten to soft peaks and then to beat the mixture until it is cool.

  1. Clean out the bowl of your stand mixer with vinegar to make sure there’s not a trace of fat in it.  The fat can inhibit development of your egg whites. You can turn the bowl upside down to dry or dry it with a lint free towel. Place egg whites in the bowl.
  2.  Place sugar in a small, long handled pot and pour water on top.  Place pot on a low flame and swirl the liquid in the pot until the sugar is dissolved.  Stirring can develop the formation of sugar crystals which is why the liquids should be swirled, not stirred. Once the sugar has dissolved (liquid should be clear) add the glucose and stir until dissolved.  I dissolve the sugar first because I find that when I add the glucose and sugar at the same time it takes the sugar longer to dissolve. Raise heat to high and cook until 230 degrees fahrenheit washing down the sides of the pan with a heat proof rubber basting, brush dipped in cold water, to remove any sugar crystals. You don’t have a lot of syrup so it won’t take that long to come to temperature.
  3. While the sugar syrup is cooking turn on your stand mixer to low and whip whites until frothy.
  4.  When the syrup heats 230 F degrees crank up the mixer and beat the egg whites to soft peaks. 
  5. When the syrup is at 240 F quickly detach the bowl from the stand mixer and switch to a wisk or a hand beater with wisk attachment.
  6. Turn the wisk to medium speed and slowly pour the syrup over the whites while beating them.  Beat a few minutes and then switch back to the stand mixture and beat until cool.

Make Semifreddo

Using a balloon wisk, fold together the Pâte à Bombe and 1/2 of the Italian meringue that you made (save the other half for something else) Then, fold in whipped cream. Pour in loaf pan or twelve 1/2 cup flex molds.  Chill at least 8 hours before unmolding.

Daquoise

  • 5 egg whites
  • 100 grams superfine sugar (in addition to the tant for tant)
  • 200 grams tant for tant made with blanched, grated almonds. 

Tant for tant is 50 per cent nuts and 50 percent granulated sugar. If you can’t find almond flour you can grate your own blanched almonds. I use the medium grating disc on my food processor and then I finish chopping the nuts with the sugar.  This helps keep your mixture from getting oily.  So 200 grams of tant for tant is composed of 100 grams of sugar and 100 grams of almond.

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.
  3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks and gradually add the sugar.  Beat until stiff peaks.
  4. Fold in tant pour tant with a large balloon wisk.
  5. With a number 7 tip pipe out 12 circles of Meringue to fit the size of the bottom of your molds.  Alternatively, spread the meringue in a sheet pan to a thickness of about 1/4″.
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes, changing the position of the trays once.  The dacquoise should be an appealing tan color.
  7. Remove from the oven and immediately cut out your shapes if you used a sheet pan.  Let cool until you can easily pull the dacquoise off the parchment paper.

Strawberry Coulis

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries or unsweetened frozen if fresh are not good.
  • 56 g (1/4 cup) superfine sugar
  • Fresh lemon juice to taste
  1. Puree strawberries, sugar and juice in a cuisinart  and purée.
  2. Then push through a fine mesh sieve or tami (flat sieve).
  3. Chill.

Limoncello bubble sugar

  • 183 g (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) superfine sugar
  • 95 ml (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) water
  • 2 tablespoons liquid glucose or light corn syrup
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) Limoncello {Italian lemon liqueur}
  • 2 drops yellow liquid food colouring
  1. Heat sugar and water until sugar dissolves then add glucose.
  2. Take parchment paper and crumple. Smooth it out on a sheet pan leaving some wrinkles.
  3. Cook sugar to 310 degrees farenheit.
  4. Sprinkle or mist limoncello on to parchment.
  5. Tip sheet pan and pour sugar syrup across the top, letting it run down the pan.
  6.  Let cool and break into shards

Assembling and Plating

  1. Place some sauce on a plate.
  2. Pop the semifreddo out of the molds, place on the daquoise
  3. Place on the plate with an offset spatula. 
  4. Garnish with a slice of strawberries and a shard of bubblesugar.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Scones

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The first recipe a cook masters holds a very special spot in their hearts. For me this spot is reserved for these lemon-lavender poppy seed scones. It was the first recipe I designed and remembered by heart and remains one of my specialties. A few years ago, I was flipping through Baking Illustrated when I saw a recipe for british cream scones. I became inspired and for the next month I spent any free time I had experimenting with scones. I love how scones are a great vessel for an infinite number of combinations. I must have made more than 15 batches of scones during that month ranging from classic plain to bizarre (but still yummy) strawberry with balsamic vinegar glaze. The lemon-lavender poppy seed stood out among the others, combining a classic flavor profile with a little twist. The top of these scones is crisp with a tangy and sweet glaze that has a tantalizing hint of lavender that keeps you coming back for more. The flaky crust is contrasted by a moist, buttery, cloud-like interior with a little bite from the poppy seeds and bright lemon zest studded into the crumb.  These scones are without a doubt one of the best confections I make, and now you can make them too.

Daniel

Ingredients:

  • For Scones
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • For Glaze
  • 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons very soft warm butter
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender (optional)

Instructions:

IMG_03051. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Put sugar and lemon zest into a small bowl and rub the zest into the sugar to release the oils.

2. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl and whisk together

3. Use a pastry blender, or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps.

4. Stir in sugar and poppy seeds.

5. Stir in heavy cream with rubber spatula or IMG_0306fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. Then with your hands knead the dough a little in the bowl to pick up some of the dry bits. ProTip: The dough should look dry, crumbly and dense.

6. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough ball.

7. Flatten into an even disk 8 inch disk. ProTip: Flatten into a disk in an 8 inch cake pan to make a perfect circle. Using a bench scraper cut into 8 even wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

8. Bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

IMG_03079. While scones are baking, start the glaze. Warm up the lemon juice in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds. Rub the lavender in your hands to release the oil then let it sit in the lemon juice for at least 10 minutes. ProTip: The lemon juice should start looking purple before you use it in the glaze.

10. Put the butter, lemon zest, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Strain out the lavender from the lemon juice.

11. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the purple lemon juice. Add more lemon juice as necessary until the glaze is thick but pours, about the consistency of ketchup. ProTip: If you want big lavender flavor, add back in 1 tablespoon of the strained lavender to the glaze.

12. Glaze the scones while they are still warm and serve.

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