Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mango Meringue Tartlets

As I have mentioned before, I have belonged to a dinner club for about 23 years. When we started our group, we were all trying to challenge ourselves with impressive gourmet meals. We have always set a theme…French, Russian, Italian etc. We have even done a few of those mystery dinners! However, today we are less formal.  I'm certainly not talking about the kind of food we serve…we always have such wonderful meals. But, we are long time friends and are very comfortable with each other.  Last week our group met for a Caribbean dinner party.  I've also mentioned that when we have our dinners the host couple picks the theme and determines who will bring what. Someone brings an appetizer, someone brings soup or salad, and someone brings dessert. 
We started our evening with Watermelon Margaritas and two appetizers.  One was a really flavorful Crab Dip.  Soup came next…a lovely spicy Crab Soup with spinach. Our hosts did a wonderful job on an awesome chicken dish with plenty of Caribbean sides. Then it was time for dessert…my contribution! I searched all my dessert books and also went on line. That's when I found it…on Epicurious!  One of my favorite food sites.  Mango Meringue Tartlets! The recipe is from Bon Appetit. This was a really fun recipe and was wonderfully delicious!

 Mango Meringue Tartlets

Caribbean ingredients make these beautiful little tarts something special.

 Yield: Makes 6 tartlets
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, lukewarm
3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut
3 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, sliced, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
6 large egg whites
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
6 fresh mint sprigs
Preheat oven to 350°F. Using fork, mix flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, melted butter, and coconut in medium bowl until dough forms. Divide into 6 equal pieces. Press each piece onto bottom and up sides of 4 1/2-inch-diameter tartlet pan with removable bottom. Chill crusts 30 minutes. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Bake crusts until golden, pressing down with spoon if bubbles form, about 25 minutes. Cool.
Purée 2 mangoes in processor. Measure 13/4 cups puree; mix in spices. Transfer to bowl; cover and refrigerate.
Pour lime juice into small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes. Stir over low heat just until gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in condensed milk, then spiced mango puree. Divide filling among cooled crusts. Chill at least 3 hours and up to 5 hours.
Using electric mixer, blend egg whites and coarse salt in large bowl. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar; beat until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Spoon meringue atop tartlets or pipe atop tartlets using pastry bag fitted with large star tip. Using butane torch, lightly brown meringue. (Alternatively, place tartlets in 500°F oven until meringue is golden in spots, watching carefully to prevent burning, about 3 minutes.) Garnish with remaining mango slices and mint sprigs.
notes: Add more mango to make at least 2 full cups of puree. Add more coconut to crust along with a bit of coconut extract.

Finished dough ready to use

Pressing the dough into the tart pans

Mango filling

Crust baked and ready to be filled

Bon Appitit!  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge- Baklava with Home Made Phyllo

 Baklava made with home made phyllo….great challenge!

 Erica of Erica's Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker's June Challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly Daring by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.
 I was very excited to have my first bakers challenge! I have been anticipating this challenge since I first joined Daring Bakers. I had to miss last months venture due to my vacation. They reveal the challenge on the first of the month. I kept checking the site to make sure I wouldn't miss it. The day finally came for the reveal and, I couldn't wait to see what we would be making.  As I clicked to the forum that had this information I was a bit nervous…how difficult would this be? Will I be able to live up to these Daring Bakers? And then I saw it…Baklava! Really?  I have been making baklava for about 30 years! This will be a cinch! Then I realized, as I read further, we were making the phyllo…not such a cinch but bring it on! 
I am of Lebanese heritage and grew up with baklava. However,  I have never seen anyone make their own phyllo. My cousin told me even her grandmother bought the pastry. I don't remember what my grandmother did. This was going to be a Challenge! 

The making of the dough is easy. Put all the ingredients into the bowl of your mixer and beat on medium till it holds together.

Switch to dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes. 
Remove from mixer bowl and continue to knead for  2  more minutes.

Form into ball and lightly coat with oil…wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for about 2 hours.

My first attempt at rolling out the dough…ugh! This was not easy and was very time consuming and frustrating!

But with perseverance….It was coming together. One tip I want to give…Separate each sheet with wax paper…my dough started to stick together after it sat for a while…and that was quite upsetting after I rolled  dough all day long. I sprinkled  them with flour but, evidently not enough!

Layering the baklava…this is my middle layer.

This is my last layer, first sheet…you can see how thin this dough is…note the nuts!

Finished with the layering and ready to cut.

Cut into diamonds and ready for the oven.

My nuts were a mixture of pecans, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. I didn't have any walnuts in the house so I decided to go with what I had. My flavorings were orange blossom water, cinnamon and nutmeg. These are the flavorings I always use.

My syrup is made with 3 cups sugar and 2 cups water. I add slices of orange and lemon and a cinnamon stick to the pot and bring to a boil…simmer for about 10 minutes. When done, I strain the syrup and add a teaspoon of orange blossom water and a teaspoon of  lemon juice.

Right out of the oven I pour cold syrup over the hot baklava.

My beautiful Baklava…I have always wanted to try and make phyllo. Thank you, Erica for the challenge! It was fun and frustrating! I truly enjoyed this challenge even though I might never make it again. This was very time consuming and  I don't think the results were any better then the store bought! 

The Recipe and directions:

Preparation time: The recipe may seem simple but it is a little time consuming
Phyllo Dough Mixing/Kneading: 15-25 minutes
Resting time: 30-90 minutes (longer is better)
Rolling Phyllo: varies, approx. 2 minutes per sheet
Syrup: 15 minutes plus cooling
Baklava: 30 minutes
Resting: Overnight
Equipment required:
Measuring spoons
Wooden dowel or rolling pin
Sharp knife
Measuring cups
Stand mixer (can knead by hand)
Baking dishes – 9” x 9” is recommended
Plastic wrap
Medium pot
Pastry brush
Food processor /blender

Phyllo Dough:

*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)


1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt

2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes

6.Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)
Rolling your Phyllo

** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**
Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can.A wooden dowel, use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
 2.Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out
4. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
5. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent.
NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
 Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.
Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
 Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

Ingredients for the Filling: 

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon

15 to 20 whole allspice berries
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter

1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside

3.Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan

4.Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet

5.Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)

6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top

7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times

8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top

9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times

10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top

11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.

12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.

13.With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge

14.Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.

17. Serve at room temperature

This is a wonderful video on how to roll the phyllo!

Friday, June 24, 2011

FFWD Mozzarella, Tomato, and Strawberry Salad

Well, here we are! It's Friday, and again we have a wonderfully simple recipe for FFWD. Days have been hot and humid here, and I have been so busy in my garden. It was great not to have to spend a lot of time preparing a meal. After all, summer is the time for quick meals, easy entertaining and barbecues! Easy is always the primary goal! I had just gone strawberry picking last week, so it was great to use up some of those beautiful ripe strawberries. The flavors in this salad are so bright and complimentary.
This is the kind of salad I love eating during the summer.  I bought some lovely fresh mozzarella cheese, at the market the other day, anticipating this salad. I love the creaminess of fresh mozzarella!  I then gathered my strawberries and tomatoes, sliced them and put them in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt, some fresh cracked pepper and a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil. That's it for the prep of the berries…slice the cheese, arrange on a plate, put a helping of the berry mixture on the plate, sprinkle some shredded basil leaves (which I picked from my garden) over the strawberries! A quick sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper and a bit of olive oil. That's it! Beautiful! Satisfying! And oh so delicious!  Dorie suggested cracked red pepper. I didn't have any in the house so black had to do! So if you're looking for something easy for a nice lunch or a nice salad to serve along with dinner, this may be it! You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspans cookbook "Around My French Table". You can buy it at Amazon using on my link!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Picking Strawberries and Making Strawberry-Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

Strawberry-Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

Today is the first day of summer and I spent the day making jam. There is something about standing, barefoot in my kitchen, on a warm sunny day, with the breezes blowing from the open window, as I prepare the fruit for my jam. It seems to fill all my senses! It is a right of passage that happens each summer as the new crop of berries come to maturity. It is something that I do that totally emulates my mother. Something that brings back wonderful memories of summers past. Picking berries and peaches, barbecues and trips to the lake. During the summer the air in our house was always filled with the thick sweet aroma of cooked peaches, as my mother made jam and canned peaches from my grandfathers orchard.  I don't do canning…I have always been a bit afraid of killing someone off with botulism.  I do make Jam!!  It brings me joy to make it and to give it away! So today, I made Strawberry and  Strawberry-Rhubarb Vanilla Jam. I use Sure-Jel to make most of my jams. My strawberry recipe is from the Sure-Jel brochure. We are in the midst of Strawberry season here in NJ.  A few days ago I went out Strawberry picking. I go every spring to this wonderful "pick your own" farm located not far from my home. I picked two beautiful baskets and will be making a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie tomorrow.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

2 1/4 cups crushed strawberries
1 3/4 cups finely chopped rhubarb (about 6 stalks)
61/2 cups sugar
1- 3 oz. packet of Certo
1 vanilla bean 

Before you start have your jars washed and sterilized. Add the lids to a pot with water and bring to a boil and simmer until ready to use.
Stem and crush berries one layer at a time. Finely chop rhubarb in food processor. Combine prepared 
fruit with sugar and place in an 8 quart pot. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil, one that cannot be stirred down, stirring constantly. Add certo all at once to pot and then boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim any foam if necessary. Then scrape the vanilla bean into the pot and stir.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars…leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims with a wet clean cloth and place the lids onto the jar and then add the bands. Tighten the bands on the jars, and turn upside down for 5 minutes. Then turn right side up and let rest. You should hear them start to seal…you will hear them popping. After 24 hours check for seal and store in a cool dry place. I keep mine in a second refrigerator.  I do not use a water bath…I have been making jam for years and these are the instructions that I have always followed.

Rhubarb processed 

Crushed strawberries

Jars in pot of water being sterilized 

Lids and bands in pot of water

Jars taken out of boiling water and ready to fill

Filling jars

Delicious and ready for giving away!
Strawberry picking….Start here ⇑

Strawberry Fields 

Strawberry plants were loaded with lovely berries

Children picking berries…eating more then they were putting in the baskets

My gorgeous berries that will be made into jam and pies

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings…Rosemary Apricot Squares

 Rosemary Apricot Squares

Over the years, I have accumulated quite a few different types of baking pans. My family would tell you "there's not a baking pan mom doesn't have". Then why, when I go into my cabinet, could I not find a 9 inch square baking pan?  I did have an 8 inch square pan and thought…what's an inch? As an experienced baker, I know an inch could make a big difference. It was going to have to do!
This week is "Baked Sunday Mornings"!  The recipe chosen was for these beautiful Rosemary Apricot Squares. The idea of adding the rosemary to the crust did not appeal to me, even though I really love the flavor.  I wasn't sure I would like it in a sweet pastry.
Making the crust was fairly easy... everything in the mixer and pressed into my 8 inch square pan,   refrigerate and then bake.
The apricot filling took more time, easy to put together but, almost an hour to simmer on the stove. Finally, scraped into a food processor and blended until smooth.  Now, prepare the crumb topping by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl on the stand mixer and it's ready to use.  Spread the filling on top of the baked crust…sprinkle on the crumbs and bake.
Here's where the 8 inch pan made a difference. Mine were fatter and would definitely be difficult to eat out of the hand. These are a dessert I probably would not have chosen to make, but I'm so glad I did. These bars were delicious and I really enjoyed the merging of the different flavors. The shortbread crust was wonderful. The apricot filling so good it was worth the time it took. I will definitely be making these again...when I get my 9 inch pan!
This recipe can be found in the book Baked Explorations or here at Baked Sunday Mornings!!

Rosemary shortbread pressed into pan

Apricot mixture 

Apricot mixture ready to be spread onto baked crust

Crumbs on top and ready for the oven


Friday, June 17, 2011

FFWD Roasted Rhubarb

Ice cream with Roasted Rhubarb….YUM!

Happy Friday! This week on French Friday's we are making Roasted Rhubarb! When I first saw the name of this recipe, I didn't think sweet and I wasn't really excited about making it. Don't get me wrong, I love rhubarb! When I was a child I used to pick stalks and nibble on them. They always made my mouth pucker like eating a sour apple or sucking on a slice of lemon. I have always enjoyed that tart sour taste. One of my favorite desserts happens to be strawberry-rhubarb pie. My lack of excitement with the name of this dish came more from what I assumed this was going to be. But when I read the recipe through (which I should have done before I passed my judgement) and saw it was roasted with sugar, I was delighted. I thought of ways to improve it…like adding strawberries! Remember, one of my favorite desserts is strawberry-rhubarb pie. In the end, I followed Dorie's recipe and was so glad I did! This was very easy to put together!  Yesterday afternoon, while I was in my garden, I picked some rhubarb to use in this dish.  It felt so good not to go to the store to make a Dorie recipe! Before I made dinner I washed and trimmed the rhubarb. I placed the rhubarb in the casserole dish and added the sugar and zest.  I used both orange and lemon zest. I let it set for 5 minutes, covered it with foil and popped it in the oven. It was that easy! It was done in 15 minutes. I let it cool and used it as a topping on our ice cream for dessert! OMG!! Delicious! I have never made any thing like this before.  I consider this more of a stewed rhubarb rather then roasted. But whatever you consider it…consider it worth making! I know it will be making an appearance on my summer table quite often!  Dorie was right, a healthy topping for anything! Put it on cake, ice cream, yogurt, the possibilities are endless….Well you know what I mean! Ok, I know...I'm getting carried away!

This recipe is from the Dorie Greenspan cookbook "Around My French Table" and you can find it Here where Dorie shared it on her blog. To see how other FFWD cooks made theirs...check out French Fridays with Dorie!

The rhubarb in my garden

Rhubarb with zest

Sugar added

Just out of the oven….Yum!