Monday, July 27, 2009

Milan Cookies

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of Food Network.

To be perfectly honest, this month's daring bakers challenge wasn't really a success for me. I didn't love the batter recipe for the cookies - they turned out kind of elastic-y, and something about the whole texture was just off. It's always a sad moment when you take the time to get your ingredients, pipe batter, sandwich cookies and the end result doesn't seem to add up to the effort. The only remedy is to get in the kitchen again as soon as possible and bake again to start fresh!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Red Berry and Basil Granita

This summer, it's all about berries! I managed to salvage enough of the strawberries I picked to make fresh red berry granita. Granita is an easy way to make a frozen treat in the summertime: all you need is fresh berries, simple syrup and a good freezer! It really has a great intense berry flavor, and you can easily play around with additional flavors to complement the fruit. I love the subtle tones of the basil leaves in this particular recipe I've developed, but it's also delicious with a little sweet balsamic vinegar, or some fresh mint.

I love these recipes that you can make in advance, that can be made with very little ingredients but really showcase the freshness of the produce you use. What has been your favorite dessert recipes this summer?

Red Berry and Basil Granita

Recipe (serves 4)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
2 cups of strawberries
2 cups of raspberries
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
10 basil leaves

In a small saucepan on medium heat, add the sugar and water. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the heat and let the simple syrup cool.

In a blender, add the fruit, basil, lemon juice and simple syrup. Blend until just smooth. Pour the mixture in a shallow pan, cover with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should touch the top of the berry mixture to avoid water condensation). After about an hour, scrape the mixture using a fork to form crystals. Make sure to scrape the entire mixture. Scrape again before serving, and garnish with basil leaves. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strawberry Tarts

Growing up, my parents' family house in the South of France had a small fruit and vegetable patch where I would escape to in the summer to pick and taste that summer's berries. A couple days ago I rediscovered the pleasure of berry picking by visiting a little farm outside of Montreal. Seeing the farmers work the land brings up an array of questions surrounding what we choose to put on our tables everyday. I always catch myself when I'm at the butcher's looking at the neatly packed meat and pushing away the thought that the meat was once part of a living animal. In an effort to better understand where our food comes from, I've made the necessary effort to confront the facts about the origins of our food. Even piking strawberries for a couple hours in the afternoon, in the middle of a farmed field, gets you thinking about the journey from the farm to the table.. and isn't it always better when that trip is as close as can be?

Picking your own vegetables or fruit from a trusted farm also gets you thinking about what we've been fed (pun intended!) to think about food. Tomatoes in the supermarket are generally perfectly round, uniformly red and as shiny as can be. Sure, this may fit our idea of what healthy, nutritious produce should look like, but it's really not how nature intended it. Fruit and vegetables should not be perfect, they should have little bumps and imperfections and come in different shapes and sizes. I had fun picking out all the different kinds of strawberries I could find. The strawberries I used for the tart were all very petite (about the size of raspberries) which worked out well for individual tartelettes. I am planning on making a mixed berry granita with the rest.. although I must admit that at the rate we've been munching on them, I'm not sure I will be able to do so!

See here for my tart dough recipe (I added a tablespoon of cocoa powder to my paste sucree recipe this time), and my pastry cream recipe. At cooking school, we used to finish off all fruit tarts by glazing them with an apricot glaze. You can do the same at home by melting down apricot jam in a small saucepan with a couple tablespoons of water, and gently brushing the mixture on top of the fruit. Enjoy!
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