Posted in baking, candy, dry heat, wet heat

Pear Frangipane Tart

pear tart

I used this recipe to make a Christmas Eve dessert.

I adapted it slightly. I definitely poached my own pears. I’m not snobby about all ingredients, but the difference between fresh and canned pears is huge. I followed David Lebovitz’s recipe for that, and added ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and whole cloves (maybe a tablespoon of each? I didn’t measure) to the syrup, which I made double the amount of.

Double the pear poaching syrup might have been more than I needed, especially since you don’t actually need 4 pears to do this recipe. Only two quartered pears will fit on the top of my tart, although I squeezed in one more quarter.

I also don’t have baking beans or parchment paper handy, so I blind baked the crust without anything on top of it for 15 minutes and that seemed fine. It didn’t brown.

I haven’t tasted the finished product yet but I think the crust might turn out too floury tasting. It’s somewhere in between a cookie crust and a flaky buttery crust. You might want to try a pate sucree recipe instead. But I’ll report back after tonight. Edit: The crust was tender but a little too floury tasting for me. It wasn’t bad but I’d just as soon eat the filling and the pears without the crust. Making it either more buttery or sweeter would probably be better. The almond meal in the crust probably helped keep it tender but I don’t think it added much flavor-wise.

I also added some vanilla to the frangipane, and right now I’m boiling down the syrup I poached the pears in to make a sauce for the tart, especially important if it turns out to be not sweet enough. I also thought a caramel sauce would go well with it, but since I already have this syrup I’ll try that first. Edit: the frangipane was delicious. My sister doesn’t like pears so I just made her try a bite of the frangipane and she said “It’s like a little angel!” She then apologized for not being good at talking about food but I thought that was pretty great! I do think adding spices to it would be good, though. The syrup didn’t pack the punch I had hoped, but the tart didn’t really need it, either.

The whole thing took me two hours. I made the crust, let it rest while I prepped the pears, blind baked, poached, and made frangipane simultaneously, and now I’m baking and boiling down the syrup. You could do the crust ahead of time, of course.

One thing I learned from doing it is that you want to grab the pears out of the syrup either without piercing them, or piercing them from the bottom! When they dry up in the oven the fork marks really show!

Cinnamon and cloves are my obsession this winter since I tried a cocktail with Fernet Branco (but it didn’t taste bitter at all!). I’m thinking about using the syrup in a cocktail, too.

Posted in baking

Daring Baker Challenge: Cranberry Spice Stollen


The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

The Recipe: I altered the flavors and mix-ins.  I used 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of cardamom, 1/2 tsp of allspice, and a 1/2 tsp of nutmeg.  I kept the vanilla and orange extracts.  For mix-ins I used slivered almonds, candied ginger, and Craisins, and I mixed them in differently.

    Mix-ins, evenly distributed
  1. Mix yeast and water, wait five minutes.
  2. Add other wet ingredients.
  3. Add dry ingredients.
  4. Add dried fruit and nuts. (I didn’t yet.)
  5. Knead.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. Let come to room temperature for 2 hours.
  8. Roll into a big rectangle. (Mine didn’t make it to 16×24 in.  Also, I learned that rolling gluten-full dough on top of wax paper doesn’t work, because it shrinks and pulls the paper with it into lots of crinkles.  It worked so much better on a clean bare countertop.)
  9. My way of mixing in: Put mix-ins on top of rectangle and then run a rolling pin over them.
  10. Roll dough like a jellyroll, starting from one of the shorter sides so you end up with a long log.
  11. Bring the ends of the log together, and fit one into the other.  Shape into a nice circle.
  12. Dough ready for the oven.
  13. Slash the outsides of the circle every 2 inches or so.
  14. Let rise for 2 hours.
  15. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350F, rotating pan halfway through, until bread is 190F.
  16. Cool.
  17. Brush melted butter on top.
  18. Sift powdered sugar on top.

My method of mixing stuff in was probably nicer to my hands and the gluten since there weren’t slivers of almond involved in the kneading.  But I did seem to underestimate how much to use.  I guess the bread rose enough that the amount of mix-ins got diluted.  It was good, though, and the flavors were not at all overpowering.  In fact, I wish I had tasted more cardamom.  But it was a really fun challenge, to make something so seasonal and have it come out looking like it should.  Happy holidays!

Posted in baking

Peach Cobbler

peach cobblerMy friend had an awesome birthday party today.  We went tubing on the Deerfield River, then went home and showered and changed, and reconvened for a barbecue and finally, a bonfire.  Now there’s a dude who knows how to celebrate the passage of time.  He mentioned that peaches were in season when I asked him what I could make, so at first I was thinking of a peach pie, but I’m not great with pie crusts and I was low on time to experiment, so I decided on a peach cobbler.  I haven’t actually made a cobbler since I was pretty young and made a blackberry one with my grandmother in North Carolina (fond memories), so I was a little iffy on what I was shooting for.

I used Paula Deen’s recipe, reprinted here in baker’s percentage and all that good stuff:

257.1 B%        383.3 g        2 cups sugar, divided
79.4 B%            118.3 g        1/2 cup water
77.0 B%            114.8 g        1/2 cup butter
100.0 B%        149.1 g        1 1/2 cups flour
5.7 B%            8.4 g        2 1/4 tsp baking powder
245.2 B%        365.5 g        1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups (7-8) peeled, sliced peaches
Ground cinnamon, optional

I threw in a little ground nutmeg and changed the self-rising flour to flour and baking powder.  Her recipe doesn’t have salt, but my butter was salted.  Here’s my paraphrase on the instructions, plus my instructions for the peaches:

  1. Blanch and shock peaches.  (Put them in boiling water for 45 seconds to a minute, then put in ice water to cool.)
  2. Peel off whatever skin will come off.  Cut off the rest; it will still come off more easily than if they weren’t blanched.  But, they will have a slightly cooked outer layer that might not be as pretty as if you had just peeled them.  Your call.
  3. Slice peaches.  I tried slicing one radially, you know, like how canned peaches come sliced, but it’s hard to do thanks to the pit.  So I hacked off one cheek, the other, then the sides, and then the bottom.  Sliced the cheeks in half.  Works for me.
  4. Turn oven on to 350F.  Put butter in pan and pan in oven.
  5. Put peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Mix flour, baking powder, 1 cup sugar, and milk.
  7. Put batter, then peaches and syrup, in the pan with the butter, without stirring.
  8. Bake 30-45 minutes.  I baked mine for 35 minutes.

I think it needed to be baked longer.  I was skeptical about this but thought the top looked and felt done, but when I tried some at the party it was definitely doughy beneath the surface.  With no eggs, it’s not dangerous, but I imagine doughy isn’t the goal.  I should really eat more cobblers.

That said, get yourselves to Whole Foods and buy some ripe peaches pronto.  Eating the leftover bits of peach was magical.  I don’t think I have properly appreciated peaches in the past because I haven’t normally had really good, really ripe ones.  I also got rainier cherries after 1) having them stare at me on my computer background for months and 2) not finding any at the store until recently, when my usual grocery store started having them, but first they looked really bad, and then they looked ok but where EIGHT dollars a pound, and 3) finally happening upon them at Whole Foods, looking perfect and costing something I could stomach. And man. are. they. good.  I can’t even tell you.  You’ll just have to go buy some yourself.