Archive | August, 2011

Sour Cream Blackberry Pie Bars

8 Aug


I’ve only been blogging for a few months but I followed various food blogs for a long time before starting my own.  Even so, there are so many facets to the food blogging world that I’m only now being introduced to.  One of those facets is the Project Pastry Queen, a group of extraordinary bloggers who are baking their way through Rebecca Rather’s The Pastry Queen, and a group I am pleased to say I am joining!  Each week one of the members chooses a recipe, we all give it a shot and share the hopefully fabulous results with you.

I received my copy of the cookbook last week and this week’s challenge for the group was inconveniently a brownie recipe…there’s still a batch of brownies sitting on my counter slowly disappearing, so for the sake of my waistline, I dove into Rebecca’s recipe collection with one I knew I could pass off to the boyfriend who would happily devour it all himself.  Strategy is everything, right?

This recipe falls somewhere between a pie, a cobbler, and a cake.  If you don’t want to wait for it to cool so you can cut it into bars, Rebecca suggests you can just spoon it out of the pan warm like a cobbler.  Either way sounds good to me!



Sour Cream Blackberry Pie Bars
Recipe from The Pastry Queen

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) chilled unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 16-oz bags of frozen blackberries, defrosted and drained
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×13″ baking pan with butter or spray.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse for about 45 seconds until fully combined.  Cut butter into 1/2″ cubes and drop into the flour mixture.  Pulse the butter-flour mixture it looks crumbly.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can cut the butter in using two knives, a pastry cutter, or an electric stand mixer.
  2. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the crumbly mixture to use as the topping.  Press the rest of the crumbly mixture evenly into the greased baking pan (could pie crust ever get any easier??).
  3. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes until it is golden brown.  Note: my crust barely browned on top but it turns out it was dark brown on the bottom and very crunchy.  Daniel said it was the perfect crunchy texture, so just be aware that you don’t need to get it super browned on top.
  4. Let the crust cool for at least 10 minutes and in the meantime…
  5. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, add sugar and whisk until completely combined.  Add sour cream (whisk), flour and salt (whisk again).  Gently fold the blackberries into the mixture.
  6. Pour the blackberry mixture over the baked crust and make sure it is spread into the corners evenly.  Sprinkle the reserved crumbles evenly across the top of the blackberry mixture–I thought it would be a pretty light sprinkling, but it ended up being a complete crust and you couldn’t see any of the blackberry mixture underneath.
  7. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the top is lightly browned.  Let cool for at least 1 hour if you want to cut it into bars.  If you want to spoon it out like a cobbler, let it cool for about 30 minutes or as long as you can stand it!

I think whipped cream was a great compliment to this recipe.  For about 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream, you’ll need 3/4 cup of chilled heavy cream, 3/4 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a chilled bowl is suggested.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, medium speed for about 30 seconds, and then kick it up to high speed until it’s the consistency you want it. (Cooks Illustrated, March 2005)

Roasted Peaches with Oatmeal Streusel and Creme Anglaise

5 Aug


I don’t think I could have found a simpler, more delicious way to eat my favorite summer fruits (peaches and nectarines), aside from just directly biting into one.  The peaches and streusel alone are fantastic–the warm cinnamon and nutmeg flavors complement the fruit perfectly.  When you add the creme anglaise, though…I don’t know if words can even describe how much I LOVE creme anglaise.  This was my first attempt at making it and, while not perfect, I was eating it straight out of the bowl and had to stop to make sure I would have enough to spoon over the peaches.  The original streusel recipe called for chopped almonds for crunch, but I switched in oatmeal instead–I’m a BIG sucker for oatmeal streusel.  Best of all, the ingredients were all in my fridge and pantry already, so it was a quick treat to whip up.  It’s not overly sweet either, so I may be making it for brunch pretty soon here.  In fact, I’m not even going to talk any more, I just want t
o get right to the recipe:

Roasted Peaches with Oatmeal Streusel and Creme Anglaise
Peaches recipe adapted from Eat Well
Creme Anglaise recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Dec 2006
Serves 2 (Creme Anglaise recipe makes about 2 cups)

  • 2 firm peaches or nectarines
  • 1.5 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces (plus extra for buttering dish)
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1/4 cup of oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

For the Peaches:

  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly butter any baking dish that will accommodate the peaches (I used a glass pyrex).
  2. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.  On the round side of the peach, cut a thin slice off  to create a little flat space so that the peaches won’t roll around in the baking sheet.  Arrange them in the dish with the pit side up.
  3. In a food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add the butter pieces and pulse about 5-10 times until the mixture is crumbles.  A word of warning: I over pulsed mine and accidentally made it into cookie dough.  If this happens, it’s no biggie; it will taste the same.
  4. Stir the oatmeal into the mixture.
  5. Press small handfuls of the mixture onto the tops of the peaches.  Like I said, mine was more like cookie dough, so pinched off bits and pressed them onto the peaches.
  6. Pop the peaches into the oven and bake 20 minutes.  Peaches will be tender and the streusel will be baked and browned.  In the meantime…

For the Creme Anglaise

  1. Warm the milk in a medium sauce pan over low heat until steaming.
  2. In the meantime, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl about 1 minute until pale yellow in color.
  3. Measure out 1/2 cup of the steaming milk (leave the rest in the pan over the low heat) and, while constantly whisking, slowly pour the 1/2 cup of milk over the egg mixture. (This is called “tempering”, you’re warming up the eggs so they don’t freak out when poured into hot milk and turn immediately into scrambled eggs.)
  4. Pour the warmed egg mixture into the pan of milk and constantly stir the mixture for the next 8-10 minutes.  Using an instant-read thermometer (do you have one yet?  If not, they’re something like $12 at Bed Bath & Beyond; go get one!), keep stirring the milk until it registers 175-180 degrees.  Be patient.  If you turn the heat up, the milk will curdle.  Make sure to keep an eye on the bottom of the pan–be quick to break up any curdled milk that forms along the bottom of the pan because it will make the creme grainy.  I was disappointed, seeing that my creme was turning out super grainy and decided that I would eat it anyway and just not give you guys the recipe until I had figured out what I did wrong but it turns out I had no reason to panic because of the next step here…
  5. Once you reach 175-180 degrees, take the pan off the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer.  I was worried I wouldn’t have a strainer fine enough, but just your average mesh strainer will do–it got rid of all the little grains and I had a beautifully smooth Creme Anglaise!

The creme can be refrigerated until you want to use it (put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the creme so that you don’t get a skin on it later), but I spooned it still warm over the warm peaches.  I thought I was in heaven.  I still have a lot of strawberries left (I’m eating them as fast as I can!) and can’t wait to eat them with some of the creme tonight after dinner.

Garlic Corn on the Cob

3 Aug

For those of you who didn’t see my ecstatic posts on Facebook this weekend (follow A Gilt Nutmeg on Facebook here!), I was at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA last weekend.  The boyfriend and I can actually eat garlic raw and were disappointed with the lack of garlic at the entirely garlic-centric menu at “The Stinking Rose.”  So finally we were going to get a proper dose of garlic!  And proper dose we did: garlic bread, garlic tamales, deep fried garlic, garlic pesto, garlic ice cream (which is actually one of my favorite flavors of ice cream ever)…but one of the best things we ate was garlic corn on the cob.

Daniel and our friend, Rhianan, enjoying their corn.  I was digging into the deep fried garlic at the time, but I snuck bites of Daniel’s corn whenever he wasn’t looking.

So home we went, stopping on the way for those amazing strawberries from Monday’s post and fresh picked corn, 6 for $1.  Is there any need to guess what my plans for the corn were?  It was my mission to try to recreate the amazing clean, clear butter-garlic flavor on the sweet fresh corn we ate the day before.

One of the cooking tricks I pulled out of the hat for this one was something called “blooming”.  As spices get older, they lose flavor and heat (if they’re spicy).  The remedy for this is to “bloom” the spices by heating them in oil or butter for a minute or so.  It magically brings back all the flavorful oils in them and your taste buds will thank you!  I’ve also discovered that clarifying your butter really set the garlic and sweet corn flavors off the best–I’m never going back to slapping a cold pat of butter onto my corn again.

Aim for farmers markets or farm stands for your corn.  Dad taught me long ago that there are few things better than fresh farm corn–he used to drive all the way to New Jersey to get fresh corn from the farm stands.

Garlic Corn on the Cob

  • fresh ears of corn, stripped of leaves and “silk” (the stringy bits)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of butter per ear of corn
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
  • high quality salt
  1. Set a large pot of water boiling and toss in approx 2 sliced cloves of garlic.  Set ears of corn into boiling water and boil for approx 15 minutes or to desired doneness.  I remember growing up we just turned off the burner and left the corn in the pot of hot water until we went back for seconds, so I don’t think there’s really a danger of overcooking it.
  2. In the meantime, gently melt the butter in a small saucepan.  After it’s completely melted, tilt the pot forward and carefully use a spoon to remove just the white floaty bits–these are called the milk solids.  Voila, clarified butter!  You’re ready for lobster…or really amazing corn.
  3. Add the rest of the sliced garlic plus the garlic powder to the butter and stir.  Remove from heat after a few minutes and brush the butter over the ears of corn.  I leave the garlic slices behind, but if you want to brush them over the corn as well, be my guest–there’s really never too much garlic in my book!  You’ll probably want them minced instead of just sliced if you plan on doing this, so the garlic bits can stick to the ears of corn.
  4. Sprinkle with some good salt and get ready for a delicious treat!  On one final note: I mentioned that there is never enough garlic for me.  This recipe will give you a delicate, even garlic flavor for your corn.  I absolutely kicked it up an extra notch by sprinkling additional garlic powder directly on the corn as well, but that level of garlic is not for everybody 🙂

Strawberry Genoise

1 Aug

I don’t know about where you are, but here in California it’s strawberry season with a vengeance!  Strawberries that are normally $4 a box are now just 88 cents a box and the smell of those ripe berries hit you in the face as soon as those sliding grocery store doors open.  That said, I got my strawberries for the week on the way back from the Gilroy Garlic Festival this weekend.  There are eleventy million farm stands along the road from LA up north–fresh corn, 6 ears for $1 and a half a flat of strawberries (SIX of those little green plastic fruit baskets) for only $5!!  Besides, it’s such a fun (and healthy! and economical!) gesture to buy directly from the actual farm that grew and cared for the food you’re eating.

With the over-abundance of strawberries, I knew I’d have to make something special and out of the ordinary this year (although if I said I could ever get tired of strawberry shortcake, I’d be lying).  Enter: Strawberry Genoise, a cake technique I had yet to try.  There is no leavening in the cake, so any height you get out of it is strictly from how much air you whip into the eggs.  I admit, my cake wasn’t as tall as I had hoped, but it made up for it in being a light, airy sponge cake that wasn’t too sweet–it certainly lets the strawberries shine!

Strawberry Genoise with Whipped Cream
adapted from Williams Sonoma

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar/confectioners sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced into chunks
  • halved strawberries for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon kirsch*

*note: Kirsch is unfiltered cherry brandy that is very expensive to purchase.  I chose to forgo it.  However, David Lebovitz, pastry chef extraordinaire, has very strong opinions on kirsch, naming it the most important ingredient in his dessert repertoire after the obligatory flour, eggs, butter and sugar.  Read more about his thoughts on kirsch here.  I’ll leave it up to you whether or not to include it.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line the bottom a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper.  I did this by placing the pan on a square of parchment paper, tracing around it, and cutting the circle out.  Also fill a large pot with an inch or two of water and set simmering.
  2. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the first 1/2 cup of sugar and the eggs.  Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk the mixture gently until it reads 140 degrees on your instant read thermometer, which should only take 5 minutes or so (this apparently helps the eggs to whip up better).
  3. Once it reaches 140 degrees, take the bowl off the heat and beat the mixture on high until it is nearly tripled in volume, which took me almost 10 minutes with my hand mixer.
  4. Sift 1/2 the flour over the mixture and gently fold it in.  Repeat with the other 1/2 of the flour, gently folding it in.
  5. Gently mix a dollop of the whipped mixture into the bowl of melted butter, then pour that into the large bowl of whipped good stuff and fold it gently in as well.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake until the top of the cake is  browned.  The original instructions say 20 minutes but I took mine out closer to 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it.
  7. Put the last 1/4 cup of sugar and the 1/4 cup of water into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Stir constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Mix in the kirsch after its cooled, if you choose to use it.  (Without the kirsch, this is called “simple syrup”, great for mixed drinks so you don’t have sugar granules pooled at the bottom of your drink.)
  8. Add the heavy cream and confectioners sugar to a large bowl, whip to soft peaks.  Remember that this will serve as the frosting, so if its too runny, it will run right off the cake.
  9. Slice the strawberries–I went for chunks to give the filling some good body, but you can cut the strawberries into slices so that they lay flat between the slices.  Mix about 1/4 -1/3 of the whipped cream into the bowl of strawberries.
  10. Once the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool on a wire rack, run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan, then flip it out and slice it in half so that you have two flat cake rounds.
  11. Take the top layer and invert it on the cake plate so the crumby cut side is facing up.  Brush the cut surface with 1/2 of the sugar (and kirsch) syrup.  Add the strawberry-whipped cream mixture on top and spread it around evenly on the cake.
  12. Add the remaining layer of cake on top, making sure the cut face is, again, facing upward.  Brush the remaining 1/2 of the sugar syrup over the surface.  “Frost” the cake with the whipped cream, spreading it evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
  13. Decorate as you please with strawberry slices, halves, however you choose to garnish!
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