Pistachio and Berry Gratin

 

 

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I have to admit when I first read the title of the recipe I wasn’t that excited.  I just didn’t know how berries and gratin went together and then throw in some pistachios??  However I learned this really is closer to an inside out fruit tart…although there is no crust and the cream goes on top.  You also have to use the term “almond cream” loosely  because it isn’t cream at all but rather a sweetened blend of butter, ground nuts, flour and egg that is baked into tarts, croissants and other pastries. See how I was confused? 🙂

Well, I was skeptical but let me tell you…this dessert was simple fantastic!  I don’t know if it was that we all didn’t know what to expect or it is the perfect spring/summer dessert or what.

What I do know, is that I will be making this again…for sure!!  I think already for Mother’s Day.

There is so much flexibility in this recipe. I used blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries but you can use what ever berries you would like. I also went with almond cream instead of pistachio as the recipe gave us this as an option.  I had almond flour on hand so that seemed like a logical choice. The only difficult part, if you want to call it that, is you need to make the almond cream at least an hour ahead of time so it can chill. Otherwise, super simple and super good!

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Delicious!!  This one is a keeper for sure!

 

 

 

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Lemon Meringue Tart A New Way

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I finally learned…we used the “Sweet Tart Dough” that we have used a few times before…every previous time, I have cooked it according to the directions at 400 degrees…and over cooked it…even with foil tenting.  THIS time I remembered, and set the temp at 375…still tented…and wow, perfectly browned tart crust.  YAY!  I will take this as a personal victory haha!  Sometimes it is the little things. 🙂

I found this recipe easy to work with, and loved by all. The most repeated comment was a version of:

“Wow…this is better than Marie Callendar’s Lemon Meringue Pie and with waaay better crust!”

I do think the crust made it such a hit…tasted more like a sugar cookie with great lemon filling and meringue.  I am sure true pie lovers might have a stronger opinion on the difference with the crust but hey, when I am compared to “Marie Callendars” which is famous for their pies, I will take that as a great day.

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Pithiviers

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Pithiviers…how is that pronounced you ask?  No idea.  I made up my own way when describing it to my tasters…one of them said, that just doesn’t roll off the tongue very well haha!

It didn’t seem to matter that none of us could pronounce the name, it was loved by all!  We are told in our recipe that it is a forgotten French Pastry.  This dessert is basically a double crusted puff pastry with an almond cream and jam filling.  We are given instructions to make a prune jam, but I opted to use a blackberry jam…which my tasters thanked me for…we are not the prune eating bunch so much.

I thought this recipe came together quite nicely…there are some waiting periods for chilling and resting but nothing to overly involved. I actually liked the precision of creating the cream disc that would fit precisely into the calculated circles of the puff pastry…had my ruler out and everything.  I used Dorie’s suggestion of gently wrapping the pastry around the interior disc as we were completing the dessert.  I scored my top, chilled, and then baked.

Having not too much experience with puff pastry, I was thinking it was a good thing mine “puffed” so much.  I am not sure that was so great.  It was so strange, once I cut into it to hand off to some of my tasters, I saw that inside the cream/jam disc had somewhat shifted and there was a giant air bubble of puff pastry.  Ugh.  I am not even sure how that happened and thankfully this was for my tasters and we just managed and spread the jam out a bit, BUT this would have been very embarrassing if I had taken it somewhere.

I guess next time I would just press harder on the pastry surrounding the cream disc but honestly I don’t even know if that was the problem.  I do think I will be making this again though as it seemed to be such a hit and I couldn’t freeze a piece for my husband and I for after Easter.

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Embarrassing is what this is…but I can’t show only the pretty pictures haha…this is the reality of what I cut into.  Ugh!  So weird.  I will be curious to see if any other bakers had this happen to them. 🙂

Happy Baking!

Black and White Madeleines

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These were fun, easy, and delicious…or so I’ve heard.  My husband and I gave us sweets for Lent again this year so we have two in the freezer waiting for us. :). The only issue I would have with this recipe, is that you can only make 12 at time…unless you have multiple Madeleine pans.   It would be hard to manage all the chilling if you were making multiple batches, but if you only needed a dozen of something, these were terrific.  Everyone loved them and were really excited about the chocolate center.  I didn’t have any milk chocolate I could melt, so I used the dark I had on hand.  I don’t know if it made a difference, but everyone said how they loved that they weren’t overly sweet….that they were the perfect combination.  I thought they looked plain, so I added the powdered sugar…made it look more festive. 🙂

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I have a fun story to share!  I am out on my morning hike and I get a text from my mom.  It has a picture and she says, “you made the Register this morning.  This could be at your house!”  Now where I live the Register is the Orange County Register…our newspaper.  I look at the picture she sent and I am like, WHAT?!!  You see it was very confusing because we had JUST made beignets and my last name is Ramos.  I just couldn’t figure it out at first…I mean what are the chances haha!…I thought someone was using my blog info.   I sent the picture around to family and my tasters and everyone had the same initial reaction.  It was worth quite a few laughs.  We decided we will be making a trip down to San Juan Capistrano to give this place a try. 🙂

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Nun’s Beignets

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If I am being honest, I wasn’t too excited about baking this recipe.  I mean if I was in New Orleans I would try their famous beignets but for the most part, I don’t eat or make fried food.  I will have the occasional French fries, but a funnel cake, onion rings, or these beignets…doesn’t happen.  But then after some thinking, I came back around and reminded myself why I got in this group in the first place…to learn, to step out of my comfort zone, to experience new things…got myself back on track and here you go. 🙂

The recipe is surprisingly easy…I only came across one problem with not having a deep-fat thermometer.  I do have my candy thermometer from other recipes we have made so I figured maybe that would work…and it did!!

I didn’t want to use so much oil in a big dutch oven…and picturing oil splattering as I tried to contain it all, I used my 5 quart saucepan with my candy thermometer attached to the side…just like I was making caramel. ;). I was able to make 5 beignets at a time with no problem.  I was surprised at how much oil that took even in such a small pan…almost my whole bottle!

I have to say, it was pretty fun watching the ping pong sized dough puff up and get their trademark “fissure” that we were looking for to know they were done.  I had no problem with them cooking properly or with the oil getting too hot or splattering.  All in all a very easy project and one I am glad to say I accomplished!!

I tried one of the beignets after it was rolled in the cinnamon sugar and although they didn’t seem too greasy at all, it just isn’t my type of dessert.  My family and tasters on the other hand all LOVED them…like LOVED them.  They even ate them later heated up…which I actually preferred strangely.  My tasters were saying things like:

“This is a three thumbs up recipe”

“When can I put in a request for a dozen?”

“I say this is “strongly” a keeper”

“The beignets were so delicious…so fluffy and airy!!”

I am once again reminded that we all have our ways that we do things, experience things, and like to take on new tasks…and we are usually really good at accomplishing those things because they probably “fit” into some sort of comfort zone we have for ourselves.  I have to make a conscious effort sometimes to get out of my routine, get out of my way…shake things up a bit for life is full of new and exciting experiences the we might miss if we didn’t veer off of our own path once in a while.  My daughter always says she notices I become someone else when we travel..that I take it all in because it is all new and different and I don’t want to look back and feel I have missed out…I need to bring some of that out in my daily life haha!

Cheers to beignets…who knew?!  haha 🙂

Sunday in Paris Chocolate Cake

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Intriguing name right??  We are told in the recipe that “A Sunday in Paris” is the name of a pastry shop on an old cobblestone street off the Boulevard Saint-Germain…oh makes sense now…and can’t you just picture it? 🙂  Apparently the store and it’s pastries are quite modern and chic.  This cake comes in a special long, very slender loaf…packed in a snug box and topped with whole peanuts and squares of caramel candy.   The real surprise is an ingredient rarely found in French pastry: creamy peanut butter…they prefer Nutella.  This recipe Dorie created, is an adaption of this cake.

Dorie suggests we make these in small rectangular molds or in a loaf pan.  Since I was hosting Book Club, I figured I would make mini cupcakes so I can get them out to all my regular tasters and still have some left for my book club to try out. (BTW, my main dessert was the BWJ White Chocolate Patty Cake we made a few years ago…I have made that several times and it is always a hit!)

These mini-cakes were destined for greatness…I mean chocolate and peanut butter, how can you go wrong??  They are a fairly simple, straight forward dessert.  Mix up the batter, bake, and then top with ganache, chocolate shavings, and chopped peanuts.  They look amazing and very gourmet!!  Perfect for a gathering!  The only problem was…they were just ok.  They look great and you want them to be great but they fell short for most all of us who tried them.  They were more on the dry side…like a muffin or scone.  It isn’t that they were bad, but just not the rich, moist bite of cake you were expecting.  It was a little disappointing but you know, oh well…always fun to try these new recipes and I am always grateful for the experience.

Granola Cake

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My family says that “Granola Cake” is a misleading name…that they pictured something more like a trail mix cake; in other words more healthy than dessert haha!  They said it should be something more like “Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars”.  Some of my tasters who don’t love granola were surprised by this cake…and ended up loving it.   They really do taste more like a really good chewy oatmeal cookie.  It was LOVED by all.

There is a lot of wiggle room in this recipe to customize it to what your group might like.  I used a vanilla almond granola from my local produce store.  I was able to buy it in the quantity that I needed which was great.  There are so many more flavors of granola to try and I sure they would each be great and change up the flavor of the cake.  I used mini chocolate chips and white chocolate shavings and also boosted the spices by doubling the cinnamon and nutmeg amounts.  It turned out perfect.  We loved the chewy inside and the crunchy outside.  The granola gave the bars an interesting texture that we really enjoyed.

I also loved that it was easy to make with ingredients that you can have on hand.  I am planning on making this again.  It is a keeper!