Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chocolate and Plum Galette

I went to San Francisco last summer and Tartine bakery was one of the places I couldn't wait to visit. The tiny bakery/cafe was the perfect place to go to on a sunny morning and Oliver and I happily indulged in beautiful stone fruit bread pudding and large foamy cappuccinos. It was pure heaven. I spent quite some time eying the open bakery in the back and looking at the trays of delicious freshly baked goods as they made their way from the oven to the store. I wanted to try so many of the treats (the banana cream pies, the brownies, the lemon tarts, the perfectly buttery croissants..). When I got home, I knew I had to purchase the Tartine cookbook - San Francisco is unfortunately a little too far to go back to on a whim!

After eying the book for inspiration for a while, I decided to start with this dough, and it surely didn't disappoint! This dough recipe has to be one of the best doughs I've made in a while: it's perfectly flaky, buttery yet not heavy and reminds you of the difference that 'homemade' makes. Making dough is one of those times where I really feel like traveling back in time: it's one of those rustic, back to earth activities that makes you marvel at how a pile of flour and a few cubes of butter can transform into such a beautiful end product.

The dough does take a little bit of time to make though, but most good things do, right? Some cookbooks, especially those that divulge recipes from famous restaurants around the world can be a little disappointing. You try the recipes at home and it's really just not the same. This dough, however, really is bakery-quality and can be mastered at home with just a little practice. I filled these galettes with chocolate ganache and plums, but try it with pears, blueberries, strawberries, apple or rhubarb - it all works!

Chocolate and Plum Galette
(Adapted from the Tartine Cookbook)

1 pound or 455 g unsalted butter, very cold
1 cup of water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
2 2/3 cups of pastry flour

Egg wash
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of cream
Brown sugar, for sprinkling

To make the dough, cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and put them in the freezer. Measure the water, dissolve the salt into it and put into the freezer as well. Chill both for about 10 minutes.

Measure the flour onto a large, flat work surface and spread into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour and toss a little flour over the butter so that your rolling pin won’t stick, and begin rolling. When the butter starts flattening out into long, thin pieces, use a bench scraper to scoop up the sides of the rectangle so that it is the size that you started with. Repeat the rolling and scraping 3 or 4 times.

Make a well in the center and pour all of the water into it. Using the bench scraper, scoop the sides of the dough into the center, cutting the water through the dough. Keep scraping and cutting until the dough is a shaggy mass and shaped into a rectangle.

Lightly dust the top with flour and roll out the rectangle until it is half as large again, then scrape the top, bottom and sides together to the original size and re-roll. Repeat 3 or 4 times until you have a smooth and cohesive dough. Transfer rectangle of dough to a large baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.

When you are ready to roll the dough, divide it into 2 equal portions if making large galettes or 12 equal portions for small ones. Roll the dough into circle shapes by rolling from the center to each end, not flattening the end points. Turn the pastry so the flattened out corners are at the top and bottom. Again, roll from the center towards the points nearest and farthest to you, stopping short of the top and bottom. Roll the thicker areas and you will begin to see a circle forming. Transfer to baking sheets and chill for 10 minutes.

Spread a layer a think layer of chocolate ganache on the bottom of each circle of dough, fill the center of each dough circle with fruit, leaving a 5cm edge uncovered on the large galettes or a 2cm edge on the small ones. Taste the fruit for sweetness and determine how much sugar you want to use to sweeten it. Sprinkle with brown sugar, typically using 2-4 tablespoons for large galettes and 1-2 teaspoons for small ones. Fold in the sides of the circle to cover the fruit partially. Chill for another 10 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF). To make the egg wash, whisk the egg yolk and cream in a small bowl. Crush the egg wash over the pastry edges and then sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake the galettes until the crust has visibly puffed and baked to dark brown and the juice from the fruit is bubbling inside – 45-60 minutes for large galettes and 40-50 minutes for small galettes. Rotate the baking sheets at the midway point to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pea, Mint and Feta Orzo

I have a newfound love for orzo. Regular readers of Chocolate Shavings will know that I absolutely love simple pasta dishes. I've developed most of my pasta recipes to take no longer than the pasta takes to cook. This minty, lemoney spring orzo does just that - it' s light celebrates the warmer weather (although we haven't really been seeing much of the beautiful spring days just yet) and makes these wonderful peas come to life.

I'm leaving for a month-long trip to London in a couple weeks, with an interesting food project ahead - stay tuned to hear more about it, and come along for the ride as I discover the great London eats. I've started making a list of restaurants, markets and specialty food stores to visit, but I'm definitely up for any advice from the locals!

In the meantime, enjoy the flowers starting to bloom and a good, healthy dose of minty orzo.

Pea, Mint and Feta Orzo

(for 2)

Orzo for 2
3 shallots, finely diced
2 green onions, finely diced
1 cup of frozen peas
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of cubed feta
10 mint leaves coarsely chopped
1 good handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Cook for orzo according to package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, set a pan on low heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced shallot and green onion and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the shallot mixture on low heat, making sure it doesn't burn. Keep the shallots cooking during the cooking time of the pasta.

When the pasta has 5 more minutes to cook, add the frozen peas to the pasta water.

In your serving bowl add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, zest and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Once the pasta is cooked, add the drained orzo and peas directly in the serving bowl. Fold in the cubed feta and Parmesan, and top with the mint leaves. Drizzle with a little olive oil, add some cracked pepper and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lime and Ricotta Cheesecake

I happened to see this recipe featured on the Today Show last week and as soon as I saw the look of the final cake I knew I had to try it at home. I had never had a proper American cheesecake before I moved to North America, and yes, as shocking as it may seem to anyone who has always lived on this side of the world, France does not carry Philadelphia cheese. I've seen it a couple times in the last couple years, but it's definitely not a staple of French every day cooking!

My mom grew up eating traditional Eastern European cheesecakes. Those are the real thing! They are sky-high fluffy, airy and creamy cakes, with no base, incredibly moist and deliciously rich. This recipe comes quite close to those cheesecakes, it uses ricotta and can be flavored with any type of citrus, or just a nice subtle vanilla flavor.

I flavored these babies with some lime (juice and zest) and made small cakes and individual portions, but you could make it a traditional 9-inch cake pan. They rise wonderfully in the oven - much like souffles would - and then nicely cave in when they cool looking rustic and bueatifully uneven. I really loved these cakes, and this was the perfect excuse to use a batch of fresh whole milk ricotta I had bought at the market.

Lime and Ricotta Cheesecake

(Adapted from Martha Stewart)
Makes one 9-inch cake

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan
1 1/2 pounds fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese, pureed in a food processor until smooth
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 2 limes, plus juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter and sugar a 9-inch springform pan (3 inches deep). Whisk together ricotta, egg yolks, flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, the lime zest and juice, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk egg whites with a mixer on low speed until foamy. Raise speed to high, and gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, whisking until stiff, glossy peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Gently fold a third of the whites into ricotta mixture using a rubber spatula until just combined. Gently fold in remaining whites until just combined.

Pour batter into pan, and bake until center is firm and top is deep golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; release sides to remove from pan, and let cool completely.

Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sugar Shack Time!

I've been in Montreal for over 6 years now, and for some odd reason had never made my way to a sugar shack. This spring, it was time to remedy this and what better place to go than Martin Picard's sugar shack? For all of you readers in the Montreal ares (or those of you who have visited Montreal at some point in the last few years) you have probably made a stop at Pied de Cochon, the quintessential meat-lover paradise. Set in a casual but quaint setting, the restaurant serves generous portion of perfect comfort food from foie gras poutine to homemade boudin and duck in a can. Martin Picard's Sugar shack, located a short drive from downtown Montreal, was similarly full of charm, with a lovely wooden and warm interior, casual communal tables and large potions of food to be shared.

Sugar Shacks are a great way to experience Quebec food culture, with platefuls of maple-syrup infused foods, juicy meats, crispy pieces of pork, and more food than most dream of. Here are just some of what we enjoyed - it's been almost a week but I can still feel kind of full looking at these pictures!

Menu, top down, from left to right:
Sturgeon Omelette with Fork-Tender Pork Shoulder, Fried Pork Rind Salad with Cheddar and Ham, Meat Pie (Tourtiere), Cabbage Stuffed with Lobster, pork and Foie Gras, Maple Chicken with Beans, Maple Mille Feuille, Maple Taffy, Banana Split with Cotton Candy, Maple Ice Cream and Maple Pecans.

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