Category Archives: Baking
Argh! My blog is so neglected. It’s the time of year where I’m cooking all the time. I’ve even kept up with the Cook the Book Fridays assignments. Alas, I’ve become an expert procrastinator when it’s time to write a blog post. So, without further ado, here goes.
I was SO EXCITED to make Panisse Puffs. I can remember leafing through My Paris Kitchen when it first came out. That must have been around the time I made popovers for a rare participation in Tuesdays with Dorie because I had popovers on the brain. It’s this recipe that tempted me to buy My Paris Kitchen. Of course, I never made them. When this recipe was selected for the Cook the Book Friday schedule, I finally had the motivation I needed, no excuses allowed.
Again, I marveled at how simple popover batter is. A few staples whirred in the blender and it’s time to rock-and-roll. The pan preheats along with the oven, so the pan is buttered and then filled with batter when it’s blazing hot.
The puffs puffed. What they didn’t do is get all that brown. I’ll admit that the glass window in my oven is not very easy to see through. After 35 minutes, the puffs looked brown, but I think the baked-on splatters disguised the true color. They also were stubborn about coming out of the pan. I used a muffin tin because I don’t have a special popover pan, though I’m not sure it would have made a difference.
These looked much better in the pan. After prying them out, my puffs were rather disfigured and deflated, no longer “souffléed”. They tasted OK, but after years of anticipation, I was a little disappointed.
Soupe au Pistou
Typically, I don’t make hot soup in the summer. Gazpacho, sure, and the occasional “other” cold soup, but little compels me to heat up the kitchen with or hang around to watch a simmering pot of soup. For these reasons, I was ambivalent about making vegetable soup with pesto. Trying to stay on schedule with the Cook the Book Fridays gang, I forced myself to soak white beans overnight and move ahead.
As crazy as it seemed to me, this really is a summer vegetable soup. All the vegetables called for were part of my CSA share that week: carrots, zucchini, fresh sugar snap peas, and loads of basil. The beans simmered while I chopped everything else up. Vegetables were added in stages, depending on how long they needed to cook to tender.
While the vegetables cooked, I made pistou (nut-less pesto) in my mortar and pestle. I’d never done that before, always using the power of the food processor instead of my own muscle. The result was much rougher but pleasing when dolloped on top of the soup.
So, I was wrong to doubt the delight of a hot summer soup. This one was delicious. I’d even make it again with the vegetables of the week if the weather isn’t too hot outside.
Herbed Fresh Pasta
Another first. Those of you familiar with tales of my bottomless (Mary Poppins-like) basement won’t be surprised to know that there’s a pasta machine down there. I bought it decades ago at a now-defunct discount store for the bargain price of $15. I must have made pasta a few times back when I first bought the machine, but I don’t think it’s left the basement since we moved to this house almost 25 years ago. (Packrat? Are you accusing me of being a packrat?)
Pasta is not something I ever think to make myself. It seems intimidating, especially when making the dough by hand rather than in the food processor. I was home alone the night I made this, so I made a smaller batch. Always divide by the eggs, so I made 1/3 of the recipe. I used a variety of herbs from my garden and just followed the recipe.
No tools required! I used my fingers to incorporate the eggs into the flour. Once the eggs were absorbed, not all the flour was incorporated, so I kept sprinkling the dough with water until it all came together.
It rested for about an hour before rolling it into sheets and then cutting the sheets into strands.
I was surprised that the process was so easier than I expected. I don’t intend to wait another quarter century before the next time I attempt my own fresh pasta.
I made a mélange of pea tendrils, sugar snap peas, and shell peas to top the pasta for a seasonal spring meal (at least, seasonal in June, when I made this). Delicious!
You can find all the recipes in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Panisse Puffs is on page 245, Soupe au Pistou on page 92, and Herbed Fresh Pasta on page 230. My friends at Cook the Book Fridays were more timely in their execution, but go back and check out their posts for Panisse Puffs, Soupe au Pistou, and Herbed Fresh Pasta.
We’re headed into the season of holiday indulgence. Usually, the week before Thanksgiving, I try to watch what I’m eating because from Thanksgiving until the end of the year, there are a myriad of temptations to enjoy and, though I exercise a fair bit of self control, my threshold for resistance is low. This week’s selection for Cook the Book Fridays, Chocolate-Dulce de Leche Tart from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, threw that plan out the window.
Chocolate is not normally my thing. Certainly, it’s never my first choice in the dessert department. This recipe with a chocolate crust, a layer of caramel-y dulce de leche, and a layer of chocolate custard is one that I’d never pick on my own. In fact, I’ll admit I dragged my feet on making it. But, even though I waited until the last minute, I knew Howard would like it so I soldiered on.
The first step was to come up with dulce de leche. What fun! I skipped the supermarket and turned it into a simple DIY project. All that’s needed is a can of sweetened condensed milk, a mason jar, and a slow cooker. I poured the milk into the jar, screwed on a two-part top, placed the jar in the slow cooker and covered the jar with water and turned the heat to LOW. Ten hours later, the milk transformed from ivory to a golden brown. Plus it tasted amazing.
I love press-in crusts, and that’s what this recipe called for. The chocolate cookie crust came together easily in the stand mixer and pressed into the pan just as easily. There was no salt in the pastry, but a light dusting of fleur de sel before par-baking added the right touch.
To pull it all together, the dulce de leche is spread over the warm crust, then topped with a chocolate custard that was made while the crust baked. Finally, another sprinkle of fleur de sel to cut the sweetness before returning the filled tart shell to the oven.
The tart is baked, and then, after turning off the heat, it sits in the oven some more. I thought it was rather wiggly, so I left it there even longer. I got a late start. By the time the tart was done, it was bedtime, so I put it in the refrigerator where it set up nicely. I had extra custard, which I put in a ramekin for a chocolate pudding snack. It also firmed up nicely in the fridge.
I was so glad I made this tart. It was rather indulgent and very delicious. As expected, Howard really liked it, but not so expectedly, so did I. Though we will enjoy it for an after-dinner treat for a few days, there are better ways to showcase it. It would better appreciated as a contribution to a holiday pot luck or dessert for a dinner party.
I encourage you to try out this tart over the holiday season. You can find the recipe here on Williams-Sonoma’s website. You can also find it on page 289 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. This book has more than its share of winners, so it’s worth treating yourself if you haven’t already. And to see how my friends enjoyed their own tarts, follow links to their posts here.