Apple-Goat Cheese Quickbread

27 10 2011

A play in one act

Scene 1: Sunday evening, 5:00 pm.  Nick and Camille return home after a much-longer-than-anticipated outing.  Nick is carrying a baguette.

Snoopy: Mew!

Nick: Hey, Snoopy. (Goes to the kitchen to set down the bread and pour glasses of water.)

Camille: Hi kitty! Did you miss us?

Snoopy: Mew!  (Runs away to the living room, where she lies down on the floor.)

Camille: Oh, you need to be petted. (Kneels down and pets the cat.)

Nick: Did you have a hard day, Snoopy?

Camille (Looking at clock): Holy crap, is it five already?  How long was that bike ride?  Three hours?

Nick:  I guess so.

Camille: Damn!  I know I planned on writing a blog post, but now I don’t feel like writing anything.  I want to bake a cake!  And make chicken stock.  That just feels more important right now.

Nick: Go for it.  Do what makes you happy.  I’m not going to complain about any of that.

Camille: I saw this recipe for apple-cream cheese bread on emiglia’s blog.  And we need to use up some of these apples.

Nick: Who?

Camille: You know, we went on the hike and picnic?  And it rained?

Nick: Right.

Camille: Anyway, we don’t have any cream cheese, so I’m going to use the rest of that goat cheese in the fridge.

Nick: Fine, and if you want to write about it…

Camille: I’m not going to write about it, I’m just making her recipe with one little change.

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Choucroute, Simplified

12 03 2011

It’s no secret that I love me some choucroute garnie.  Sometimes, though, the laundry list of pork products required to make it feels both too heavy to eat and too time-consuming to make.  So I cheat: I braise some red cabbage with smoky sausage and call it dinner.

It starts like this...

I’ve written up my recipe for this shortcut choucroute, which is a favorite in my kitchen for busy weeknights when I still want something hearty.  Check it out on Girls’ Guide to Paris.

On this day in 2009: Rendez-Vous Bars (a recipe for one of my favorite treats)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Simplest Apple Tart

17 01 2011

When I’m at a loss as to what to cook or bake, I start by going through my pantry, fridge, and freezer.  I’ve had a puff pastry shell lurking in the freezer – taking up valuable space – for quite a while now, and I’ve been wanting to use it, but then a better idea comes along for those vegetables and I end up making dal again instead of that curried vegetable potpie I liked so much last winter.

Sliced apples and puff pastry...

I also tend to have a surfeit of apples in the fruit bowl in the winter.  (We are largely in the season of  storage vegetables these days, and apples keep for months in the cold.)  Two birds?  One stone.

...plus butter, brown sugar, and honey

We were already making tamales that weekend (Nick’s promised me a guest post about them, but let me assure you, they were fantastic) so I didn’t want to do anything too fussy.  A simple paste of butter, brown sugar, honey, and a pinch of vanilla salt was all I needed to turn these two pantry staples into a rustically beautiful dessert.

Apple tart, baked to a lovely golden-brown

The secret ingredient melts over the sliced apples as they bake, giving them a burnished beauty and creating a gooey filling to the tart.  Really, there are few things I’ve made that have such an incredible effort-to-payoff ratio.

What can you cook out of your pantry right now?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Like Flies To Honey?

11 09 2010

Disclaimer: This is not the post I originally intended to write today, but sometimes things happen and you just have to share them.  There may be swearing in this post.  I can’t help it – it was an exciting day- though I usually subscribe to the Arrested Development school of thought, where the bleeps are funnier than the actual cursing.

I am in the process of making the most exciting dessert I’ve made in a long time.  Maybe ever.  And I haven’t even tasted it yet.  But wow, my heart is racing.

Mmmm... caramelized honey

So there I was, innocently caramelizing some honey, taking its temperature because it’s hard to tell by color with honey and I’d hate to burn it.  Suddenly, something flies in the open window.  This, in itself, is not an unusual occurrence, and I saw no cause for alarm.  Until it started heading for me, standing at the stove.  A bee!  I stepped back, dripping honey on the floor, and it hovered around a bit before flying back out the way it came.  Whew!

The bee attacks!

The first bee attack. I wanted to get a picture of the bee, because I thought it was funny that the minute I start boiling honey a bee appears. Where am I, cartoon land?

I returned the honey to the heat and began peeling and slicing apples, when I heard a buzzing sound emanating from the window, near the ceiling.  “Damn it!  Go away!” I yell at the intruder.  “Just. Get. Out!”  Heedless of my warning, the bee aims for my sticky, apple juice-covered hands, and I become acutely aware of the bareness of my feet.  (The one time I’ve been stung by an insect it was on the bottom of my foot, and I am in no hurry to repeat the experience.)  Again I back away, knocking over the garbage can in the process, only to be ambushed on the other side by ANOTHER bee, who has sneakily entered via the other window.  It is about now that I notice the cat staring rather intently at the third window, this one closed because it is blocked by the dining table.  She seems to have cornered a third bee.  I say a brief prayer that she isn’t allergic to bee stings, because I really don’t want to make an emergency trip to the vet today, before one of the bees flies at me and manages to chase me into the hallway.

ring of apples

I find a safe haven in the WC (like many French apartments, mine has a separated bathroom: one room with the toilet – the WC – and another with the shower and sink) and close the door.  Ah, safety.  Now the Rational and Irrational parts of my brain have a chance to talk.

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Pie Therapy

22 03 2010

I know I said I wasn’t going to bore you with any more apartment-hunting stories, but it has become my main activity outside of work.  I have little else to write about, which is one reason my posts have been fewer and farther between lately.  The seemingly endless search for an apartment with a good kitchen (because really, what I do is cook) leaves me feeling tired and depressed, never mind trying to find a location that suits Nick’s and my rather disparate commutes.  Anyway, after yet another disappointing apartment visit on Sunday morning, I needed to work out some of my anxiety.  I needed to get in my kitchen.

pre-pie

Fortunately, Ann had invited us to a cheese-tasting party, the star of which was a wheel of Fromage de Citeaux, a cheese made only by monks in Burgundy (well, and cows, too).  I volunteered to bring dessert, and Nick suggested I make an apple pie, considering how many apples we have amassed this winter thanks to the CSA panier.  So after breakfast I set to work.  I made the pie dough and let it rest while I showered.  Once I was clean and the dough firm but pliable, I rolled it out and lined my pie dish.  I put it back in the fridge to rest some more (lazy stuff, that pie dough) while I peeled, cored, and sliced all the apples in my pantry.  What a great task for forgetting your troubles – I didn’t think about apartments the whole time! A couple small handfuls of brown sugar, a sprinkling of cornstarch, a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche, and dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt rounded out the filling.  Into the lined pie dish the apples went, preceded by a thin layer of hazelnut meal (to help soak up any extra juices) and followed by a light coat of egg wash around the edge of the crust.  I rolled out the top crust and placed it over the apples, pressing the edges to seal.  Trim, fold, pinch, vents, more egg wash and a sparkle of cassonade sugar for the top.

all ready for the oven

Again, the pie got to rest in the fridge while the oven finished preheating.

And now for a minor digression: my last post, the one about corn dogs, prompted a number of comments admitting fear of deep-frying.  Frankly, this puzzles me.  As long as you have good common sense and maybe a thermometer, there is no guesswork involved in deep-frying.  Baking is a different story.  A lot of people have anxiety about baking.  Strangely, I find this more understandable.  You spend all this time measuring and mixing, cutting and rolling, and then you put your creation in the oven where your pie or cake or cookies may or may not behave the way you want them to.  You could have made a hundred pies in your life (or in my case, many, many more) but there is still a slight sense of mystery about the baking process.  What if I didn’t rest the dough long enough?  What if the filling oozes out everywhere and makes a huge mess?  What if I overworked the dough and it’s tough instead of flaky?  The thing is, you won’t know until you take it out of the oven, at which point it’s too late to fix those problems.  But maybe that’s what makes it exciting – the potential for failure.  And then when you succeed, oh, the joy in overcoming adversity!

Pie and flowers

So if making and assembling the pie was therapeutic, pulling the masterpiece from the oven was pure triumph.  I may not be able to control Parisian landlords, rent prices, or kitchen designs, but I can harness the laws of physics and chemistry and use them to create beautiful and delicious things to eat.

On this day in 2009: Fairy Tale Dessert

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





The Maiden Voyage of La Sorbetière

26 02 2010

Caramel Apple Ice Cream with Bourbon-Pecan Caramel Sauce

Today’s gray, rainy, and windy morning somehow managed to turn into a still windy but wonderfully sunny, blue-skied afternoon.  Since it was Friday, and I already had the pictures edited and recipe typed for today’s post, I thought I’d take a walk up in Montmartre after work.  I mean, what’s the point of living in Paris if you can’t take some time to get out and enjoy it every now and then?  Besides, I’M ON VACATION!  (WHOO-HOO!  Excuse me.)  It just seemed like an appropriate celebration of a sunny, almost-Spring day to take a walk in one of Paris’ hilliest, most convoluted neighborhoods.  Oh, I had a reason, and a purpose to my visit, which you’ll learn about soon enough, but I resolved not to just head-down, look-at-the-Google-map-on-my-phone my way to where I was going.  No, I wanted to get a little turned around (which I definitely did), look at some beautiful architecture (I think my favorites are the elaborate apartment buildings built in the first decade of the 20th century), and maybe even get some exercise (thank you, rues Lamarck and Caulaincourt and your intervening staircases).

Custard, left; caramelized apples, right.

Sorry, none of this really has anything to do with ice cream.  I made ice cream.  I’ve done it before.  But not in my own ice cream maker in Paris.  I wanted to try something new to christen the new appliance, and I wanted to use apples, because that’s the only fruit we get in the CSA this time of year, and they tend to pile up.  So I caramelized a whole bunch of them, and pureed them with a standard, less-sweet vanilla custard, to which I’d added a soupçon of bourbon.  The sorbetière worked its magic, and now I have a big container of original ice cream in my freezer.  I wanted a sauce to go with it, so I whipped up a quick caramel sauce with toasted pecans.  I didn’t write the recipe, because it’s too simple: caramelize sugar, add cream, stir in toasted pecan pieces and salt.  Spoon over ice cream and eat.

Digging in

Click on through for the ice cream recipe, if you want it.

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Gâteau Tatin

7 10 2009

Apple season is rapidly approaching full swing, and for the time being, I’m full of apple ideas.  (Give it a few months.)  One of my very favorite things to do with apples is carameleize them à la tarte Tatin.

Apples like to spoon.

Which I did, Saturday morning.  However, I just couldn’t get excited about making the puff pastry for a tarte Tatin.  Also, I only had four small apples, which wasn’t going to be nearly enough.  What I wanted was a poundcake, but lighter, maybe made with some yogurt.  So I tweaked the Ratio, a lot.  As in, changed the leavener, removed some butter, added some brown sugar and bourbon, and of course the yogurt is not a traditional poundcake ingredient.

Awaiting the cake batter

And it worked!  Astoundingly well.  We ate it for an afternoon snack and a few subsequent breakfasts, but it would be an excellent dessert, served warm with some crème fraîche or Greek yogurt alongside.

Like tarte Tatin, but cake!

Apple Cake, Tatin-Style

For those fall days when you’re craving tarte tatin, but puff pastry or even pie dough seems like too much work, a quick brown sugar pound cake makes the perfect base for buttery, caramelized apples.  (Which are also excellent on their own, or over ice cream.) A hit of bourbon feels right.

For the Tatin apples:
4 apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup / 50 g sugar
Splash of bourbon (optional)

  1. Melt the butter in a medium nonstick skillet.  Add the sugar and cook until the sugar starts to melt.  Place the apple quarters in the sauce and cook over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until evenly caramelized.  Pour a little bourbon (if using) over the apples and cook a few more minutes to evaporate.  Remove from heat.

For the cake:
4 oz. / 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz. / 115 g sugar
3 oz. / 85 g brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. bourbon
8 oz. / 225 g all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
4½ oz. / 125 g plain yogurt
Tatin apples (see above)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.  Butter an 8”x8” / 20×20 cm (or approximate equivalent) baking dish.  Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter, sugars, and salt until fluffy.  (You can use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment or your arm with a wooden spoon attachment.)  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and bourbon.  Gently stir in half of the flour – I recommend doing this part by hand – then the yogurt, then the rest of the flour.
  3. Arrange the apples in the bottom of the baking dish, being sure to pour any excess caramel sauce over them.  Pour the cake batter over the apples and even out the top.
  4. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through baking.  Remove from oven and cool 10-15 minutes.  Loosen the sides of the cake with a small knife and turn it out onto a plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature, for dessert, breakfast, or a snack.  Cover leftover cake with foil – it will keep 3-4 days on the counter.

Serves about 8.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





A Panier Improv That Worked

5 02 2009

I was very excited last week when we got two HUGE parsnips in our CSA panier

Tasty winter produce

I had never once tasted a parsnip before I spent Christmas in England a few years back, but it was love at first bite.  Roasted crisp with carrots and potatoes, I loved their crunchy caramelized outsides and subtly sweet, tender insides.  I am such a fan of roasted parsnips that I have rarely strayed from the straightforward recipe I first fell in love with.

But the panier encourages experimentation.  Ever since we started getting it, we’ve been long on apples.  It’s a different kind every week, from sweet goldens to the tart, perfectly-sized-to-fit-in-your-palm snacking apples we got yesterday.  But still, that’s a lot of apples.  I’m trying to come up with new ways to use them, so when I got out the parsnips and noticed the giant (we’re talking softball-sized) apples reposing next to them, I thought, why not?

And a new favorite Winter side dish was born.

Roast Parsnips and Apples

 

This is a delicious, simple side dish that is fantastic with roast chicken.  For something a little more substantial, you could make it into a gratin by crumbling some blue cheese on top after the parsnip is tender, and baking until the cheese has melted a bit.  A little bacon in there would definitely not suck.

 

2 very large parsnips (or about 4-5 medium or 6-8 small)

1 large apple

Leaves picked from one stem of rosemary

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C / 375 F.
  2. Peel the parsnips and cut into bite-size pieces.  Dice the apple, but don’t worry about peeling it.
  3. Spread the parsnips evenly on a baking sheet or in a small roasting pan.  Season with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. 
  4. Roast for 20 minutes, then add the apple and stir.  Continue roasting another 20-25 minutes, until the parsnip is tender and beginning to brown at the edges.  Serve hot.

 

Serves 2 hungry people as a side dish.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Baking Extravaganza, Act IV

31 03 2008

A week or two ago, I was browsing Doughmonkey’s website to see what I was missing.  The Goat Butter Caramelized Apple Strudel struck a chord, and I knew I would be attempting my own version in the near future.  Because I like to play around with flavors, I wondered how a caramelized apple and goat cheese strudel would be, and decided it was worth a shot.

The first step, obviously, is caramelizing the apples.  I thought that nice thick slices, à la tarte tatin, would be best, so I peeled two apples (they were Braeburns, I believe) and cut each into eight wedges, removing the core as I went.  Meanwhile, I was melting butter and cassonade in a pan, so when the apples were prepped, they went straight into the hot butter/sugar mixture.

Apples before

I cooked them over medium-low heat, turning them occasionally, until they were evenly browned on all sides.

Apples after

At this point I threw in another tablespoon or so of butter, to slow down the cooking and bump up the buttery flavor (let’s not forget the title of the dessert that inspired this one).  I let them continue browning until they were deep golden brown in color, then removed the pan from the heat and let them cool.

I wasn’t about to try to make strudel dough on my own, but I know from experience that it is similar enough to phyllo dough that the latter can easily substitute.  At the store I found phyllo without a problem, and next to it were packages of brick paper (feuilles de brick), a thin pastry dough which I believe is North African in origin.  It is quite similar to phyllo dough, but slightly easier to work with and perhaps even closer in texture to the strudel dough I was trying to emulate.  since brick paper is sold in round sheets, I had to figure out what shape I wanted the final dessert to be.  I decided that triangles would be easy and less likely to involve a huge mess than a roll- or beggar’s purse- shaped pastry was.  So I cut the circle of dough in half, brushed it with butter (and when I say “brushed,” I mean “smeared with my fingers,” since I don’t have a pastry brush yet), and folded it in half lengthwise.  I placed two pieces of caramelized apple at one end of the resulting strip and topped them with a dollop of fresh goat cheese.

Step 1

Then I folded it up, spanakopita-style, into a neat little triangle.  Note: this was just the right amount of filling – any more, and I would have had real trouble getting the dough to fold all the way around it.

Apple triangle, unbaked

I debated frying them in butter on the stove, but ended up opting for the less greasy (and cleaner) baking method for cooking my apple-goat cheese triangles.

Apple triangle - baked

They came out smashingly.  The crisp pastry surrounding the buttery-soft caramelized apples and the gently tangy goat cheese worked really well together.  We ate them unadorned, and enjoyed them quite a bit, but an apple gastrique sauce and a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream would have pushed these babies over the top.








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