Friday, June 11, 2010

Strawberry Jam

A quicky post about Strawberry Jam. My good friend, Ronnie, and I went strawberry picking earlier in the week and I picked ten pounds of strawberries. The strawberries are early this year in CT due to warmer spring temperatures. You could have fooled me. Except for a few days I was freezing all spring. I'm not complaining though since we have early strawberries. I wanted to make Strawberry Jam but couldn't find a recipe I liked. I only wanted to use a small amount of sugar so I experimented and came up with my own recipe. If you are using strawberries from the grocery store and not fresh picked ones you may need to add a little more sugar to sweeten them up more.

Strawberry Jam
3 quarts fresh strawberries, small ones cut in half, large ones cut in quarters
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs. orange zest
2 Tbs. orange juice
1.75 pkg. pectin powder

Bring the strawberries and the sugar to a boil. Reduce the temperature and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the orange zest, orange juice, and pectin powder. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Spoon into jars and cool. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. I used 4 oz. canning jars and empty jelly jars I had saved. Makes approximately eight 4 oz. canning jars.

Add a handful of blueberries when you add the orange zest.
Use Grand Marnier instead of orange juice for great flavor.
Use lemon zest and lemon juice in place of orange.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse Napoleon

Finally, the third installment of my series on frozen puff pastry. This should have been up last week but due to work and being exhausted from work it never got done. Such is life. I'm just glad to be back at work after not having any work for most of the winter. The old body is taking some time to adjust to being on my feet all day. I don't think people would ever imagine how physically demanding being a Pastry Chef really is. On your feet all day and lifting heavy pans and ingredients. The rewards are so tasty and beautiful though, to say nothing of how yummy pastries can bring a smile to people's faces and make them very happy. So, here is a very easy plated dessert that I know will make your guests and family smile, Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse Napoleons. Layers of puff pastry are filled with fresh raspberries and white chocolate mousse. The plate is garnished with raspberry coulis. The combination of the sweet white chocolate mousse and the raspberries is devine. Add the slight crunchiness of the puff pastry and you have a win, win combination. I must confess, that while I was making this I took pieces of the puff pastry, slathered it with extra white chocolate mousse, squirted it with raspberry coulis and was devouring it. This is one of those combinations where you think you've died and gone to heaven. This dessert was adapted from Chocolate Ephiphany by Francois Payard. It is very easy to make and will give a big wow factor to your next dinner party. Serves 8
Puff Pastry
3 sheets of frozen puff pastry
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Flour a board and the top of the puff pastry. Roll slightly to even out the seams.
*Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 2 1/2" x 4" pieces for a total of 24 pieces.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lay each piece of puff pastry on the pan. Depending on the size of your pan you will need at least 2 pans. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the puff pastry. Then place another sheet pan on top of the parchment paper. Bake the puff pastry for 20 to 30 minutes until they are a nice golden brown. *Note: You can make the puff pastry any size you want. You may want to have a slightly smaller dessert but I don't think you would want to go any larger for an individual dessert.

Raspberry Coulis
1 pound raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Combine the raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and puree. Strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, to remove the seeds. Set aside. This can be made ahead and refrigerated for 2 days. I like to place it in a plastic squeeze bottle.

White Chocolate Mousse
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
8 ounces white chocolate, melted
Whisk the cream with a hand mixer or standing mixer until it holds soft peaks. Set aside.
Whisk the egg and egg yolk with a hand mixer or standing mixer on high speed.
While the eggs are being whipped, combine the sugar and 2 Tbs. water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. After the syrup has boiled for one minute, pour it into the eggs in a slow stream, with the mixer running on low, down the inside of the bowl. Continue whipping the eggs on medium-high speed until they have doubled in volume and the bottom of the bowl is cool. They will be pale yellow.
With a spatula, fold the melted white chocolate into the egg mixture. Then fold the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, or up to one day.

Place the white chocolate mousse in a pastry bag fitted with a #806 round tip. Pipe a dot of mousse at the center of a plate. Place a puff pastry rectangle on top of the mousse. Starting at one end place a raspberry on each corner of the puff pastry rectangle and pipe a 1/2" mound of mousse in between them. For the next row pipe two mounds of mousse and place a raspberry in between them. Continue with alternating rows of mousse and raspberries until you have five rows and have filled the rectangle.
Place another rectangle of puff pastry on top of the raspberries and mousse. On this layer start with two mounds of mousse and a raspberry in between them. For the next row place two raspberries and a mound of mousse in between them. This will give you an alternating look from the first layer. Continue piping alternating rows until you have five rows.
For the last layer of puff pastry sieve some powdered sugar on top of it and place it on the last layer of mousse and raspberries. Place two raspberries with a mound of mousse in between in the middle of the top puff pastry. Place a sprig of mint in the mousse.
Take the squeeze bottle of raspberry coulis and drizzle on the plate in whatever design you would like. Serve immediately and sit back and wait for the oohs and aahs.

I hope you'll give this easy but impressive plated dessert a try. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to email me. Up next will be the final installement of this series of sweets and savories with frozen puff pastry. Quick and easy Sweet and Savory Palmiers. 


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Roasted Tomato Goat Cheese Dill Tart

Here is the second installment of my recipes for Quick and Easy Puff Pastry. Once again I have used frozen puff pastry which can be found in the frozen section of your grocery store. These would be wonderful served for lunch with a baby green salad or could be made in a smaller version for appetizers. They are made with parmesan cheese, carmelized onions, goat cheese with dill, and roasted tomatoes. The first thing you have to do is roast the tomatoes, carmelize the onions, and take the goat cheese out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. This recipe makes eight tarts.
Roasted Tomatoes: Take four Roma tomatoes and cut them in half. Place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with one Tbs. olive oil* and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Turn them over the last 10 minutes of roasting. Let cool.
* A word about olive oil: I use extra virgin olive oil for all of my cooking. I know they say you don't need to do this when the olive oil is going to be cooked but I feel it does give a much better flavor. I never buy regular olive oil, only extra virgin. The choice is up to you.

Carmelized Onions: Take 2 medium sized onions, peel, and cut them in half. Thinly slice each of the four halfs. Heat two Tbs. olive oil and one Tbs. unsalted butter in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, one tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and a 1/4 tsp. sugar. Saute the onions on medium heat until translucent and just starting to turn slightly brown. About 10 minutes. Let cool.

Goat Cheese with Fresh Dill: Let eight ounces of goat cheese come to room temperature. Stir in one Tbs. fresh chopped dill, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Reserve.

After letting the puff pastry thaw for about twenty minutes on my counter, I floured a board and rolled it a little bit to smooth the folds. (You can also let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator.) I then cut out eight four inch rounds. You then take a smaller cutter, I used a three inch, center it on the cut out circle and make a slight indentation. You do not want to go all the way through the dough. Place these on parchment on a baking sheet. All of the ingredients that you're going to put on the tarts must be kept inside the inner circle. You want the outside rim to be able to rise up around the filling.

Fill the tarts in the following order:
Place 2 tsp. grated parmesan cheese on the bottom of each tart.
Divide the carmelized onion evenly between the 8 tarts. About 1 Tbs. each.
Divide the dilled goat cheese evenly between the 8 tarts. About a Tbs and a half for each.
Place a half of the roasted tomatoes on the goat cheese for each tart.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. The last five minutes of baking sprinkle on some grated parmesan cheese. Garnish with a fresh sprig of dill. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Other cheese could be used such as fontina or gorgonzola.
Other fresh herbs could be used such as basil or thyme.
They could be made smaller for appetizers by using smaller round cutters. Adjust the amount of your fillings as necessary.
Try a square or even oblong shape.

I hope you enjoy these Roasted Tomato Goat Cheese Dill Tarts. They are really delicious and not difficult to make. Stay tuned for the third installment, Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse Napoleans. If you have any questions please email me.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quick and Easy Puff Pastry Danish

Quick and Easy Puff Pastry Danish are made with frozen sheets of puff pastry. Puff pastry made from scratch is the ultimate in puff pastry but for a quick and easy jam and cheese danish these look and taste great. I've made three shapes for you, the pinwheel, the envelop, and the diamond. They are filled with a cream cheese filling and jam, then brushed with an apricot glaze while they're still warm. Make them the night before, cover and refrigerate, then pop them in the oven first thing in the morning. Your guests and family will think you've made a quick run to the local bakery.

Puff pastry is found in the frozen section at the grocery store. It should be thawed in the refrigerator preferably overnight. If you're in a real hurry you can leave it on the counter but make sure you use it as soon as it's thawed enough to handle. Puff pastry should be kept cold. Flour your board and unfold the sheet. You want to have a square sheet so you may have to flour and roll it a little bit. Mine was almost a 10 inch square so I only had to roll it a little bit. You can make any size you want as long as they are square. Adjust the amount of cream cheese filling and jam accordingly. I cut it into four 5 inch squares. The first shape on the left is the envelop. You take two opposite corners and fold them overlapping in the middle. The second shape is the pinwheel. From each corner you cut in two inches. After you have filled it you will fold every other point to the center. The third shape is the diamond. Fold the square into a triangle. Then cut one half inch in from the sides of the triangle stopping one inch from the tip of the triangle. Unfold the square and bring the cut sides to the opposite points. Make sure the sides line up evenly.

The next step is to fill the puff pastry with the cream cheese filling and jam. I used strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry jam. For the envelop place 1 1/2 Tbs. cream filling down the middle of the square from point to point. Don't go all the way to the edges because it will spread some. Place 1 Tbs. jam on top of the cream cheese filling. Fold one point over the filling and egg wash the top, then fold the opposite point over the egg washed point. For the pin wheel place 1 1/2 Tbs. cream cheese filling in the center of the pin wheel. Place 1 Tbs. jam on top of the cream cheese filling. Start with any point and fold it to the center. Egg wash the top, skip a point, then fold the next point on top of the first one. Continue folding every other point to the center egg washing the top of each one. For the diamond shape place 1 1/2 Tbs. cream cheese filling in the center of the diamond and place 1 Tbs. jam on top of the cream cheese filling. After all the pastries are filled egg wash the tops of all exposed puff pastry. Do not egg wash the sides of the puff pastry.

Cream Cheese Filling

16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. flour
1 egg yolk

Mix all of the ingredients together in a standing mixer with the paddle or mix with a handheld mixer. Makes enough for about a dozen pastries.

Egg Wash

1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
2 tsp. water

Whisk together in a small bowl.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes and brush with Apricot Glaze. Place apricot jam in the microwave, or in a pan on the stove, and heat until it becomes more liquid. I usually have to add a little water to it. If you have large pieces in the jam put it through a sieve. Brush on the pastry while it is still warm and liquid. Keep in the refrigerator so you have it the next time you need Apricot Glaze.

Use orange zest instead of lemon zest in the cream cheese filling. Or use both.
Use flavorings in the cream cheese filling such as lemon, vanilla, or almond.
Use any kind of jam you like, apricot, fig, or other berry jams.
Add chopped up almonds to the cream cheese filling or sprinkle them on top.

I hope you'll give these Quick and Easy Puff Pastry Danish a try. They really are very easy to make and give a real wow factor to your breakfast. If you have any questions please feel free to email me.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

What's It All About?

Now that I created this blog at midnight last night, what will it be about? Well, mostly baking related, both sweet and savory. Along with a little bit about what's going on in my life. I guess I had better start doing something exciting because my life can be a bit boring. The first exciting thing is that I'm going to be a Grandma for the first time in Nov.! As for the food stuff, I think I'll start with puff pastry. Yes, the frozen kind. Homemade puff pastry is wonderful, if not time consuming, so I'll start with frozen. There are endless possiblilities with puff pastry both sweet and savory and it's so easy to use. So I guess I'd better get crackin' if I'm going to have something to share with everyone. Meanwhile, here are some adorable hat cookies you can make for Mother's Day. They are just two round sugar cookies in two different sizes, frosted with buttercream and some piped on decorations. Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My First Blog

Wow! I think I've started a blog! I'm pretty quiet and a person of not too many words so we'll see how this goes. Also, I think, what could I possibly have to say that anyone would be interested in. Is that low self esteem? Lack of confidence? Maybe, this will really do me some good. One other problem, I know very little about computers and have literally spent hours trying to figure out how to do stuff on the computer. I want to tell you about myself, but isn't there supposed to be a special place for that? I'll have to see if I can find it. So for now, I'm going to play around with this blog thing a little more and then get to bed. If anyone stumbles across this and has any advice for me I'd really appreciate it. I'm entering a new world!
Goodnight! Martha