Thursday, January 26, 2012

Take Tart

The bakery case at Local Roots has been looking a little roomy this month, so I've been trying to do my part by contributing a little more in the way of good desserts with local ingredients. The last two cakes I've made -- apple spice streusel and cherry-almond -- have been received so well that I had to make second cakes each week.

This week, though, I wanted to make something a little different.

Last week I had made almond croissants, and I had some almond filling left, so I thought that a tart combining the filling with some pear slices (and topped with almonds, of course) would be a nice, elegant treat. I used the crust from my tarte tatin variations (with spelt pastry flour) and ended up with a dessert that looked, smelled, and tasted divine:

Yes, I was proud of my effort. How kind of you to think so!

I had enough crust dough left for a potential second tart, but as the week progressed and sales of bakery items were a little slower than usual, I decided on another fate for it. After baking my apple strudel breads this morning, I had a good bit of apple filling left over, and the idea of combining it with the crust and the last of the almond filling struck me as not only deliciously brilliant, but also an excellent way to avoid waste.

Not enough dough remained for me to make a full lattice top, but I thought a little extra decoration would be nice. And oh! did this make a heavenly addition to morning tea time!

(Though I suppose that cutting a slice out now makes me broken-tarted...)

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

These Roots Were Made For Talkin'

Winter has been quite the tease so far this year. A burst of flurries is followed by a warm day or two, the temperatures fluctuate wildly, and blizzards give way to thunderstorms or sleet. I just don't know what to expect any more.

But even though there still hasn't been much snow to enjoy, I'm definitely into my winter eating habits: lots of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and -- of course -- root vegetables.

I was feeling rather worn out on Sunday and needing a spot of comfort food for lunch, so I cleaned a few things out of the vegetable drawer: the last of the season's parsnips, a bartered turnip, a couple of carrots from the garden. I had spotted a recipe for root vegetable latkes in a book I recently reviewed, and since I have been downing more than my fair share of hash brown potatoes lately, I thought I'd give this variation a try.

Luckily, I also had some onion tops from the market, and a couple of those snipped into the shredded vegetable and egg mixture gave it a little extra savory kick. I also cleaned out a bit of cheese, adding that to the top of two of the latkes once the first side had browned.

The mixture was a little heavy on the turnip side, giving it a strong mustardy taste that normally I don't enjoy, but the whole combination turned out pretty well and satisfied my craving.

Today, since the snow had cleared the way to the back of my little garden plot at the Renaissance Man's place, I decided to pull the remaining two scarlet turnips (a sweeter variety). After the first one, however, I thought the second could remain in the ground a little longer.


Well, considering that that first turnip turned out to be a pretty hefty creature -- compare it to the quart jar of stock here! -- I thought it might stretch through a few meals before I needed to harvest its companion.

And I was right. I added not even a third of it (sliced) to a small dish of gratin dauphinois for dinner this evening, and I think it will take some time to finish off the rest!

Would Winter please hurry up and get here so I can enjoy my roots in truly cold weather? Not complaining, of course, but this just doesn't seem right...

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Filling a Knead

As I started to pick up steam in teaching cooking classes at Today's Kitchen Store, the kitchen manager asked if I could offer some classes on baking with whole grains. I pondered it for a bit, then said, "Sure!" I scheduled two classes to start the New Year -- one on the difference between traditional kneaded doughs and the new no-knead breads, and one on the difference between wheat and spelt.

I spent a good bit of time researching the whys behind bread baking, and I ended up learning quite a lot that I was then able to share with the classes. Reading up on the mechanics of gluten development gave me a clearer understanding of how yeast doughs work -- and helped me explain it better. And did you know that spelt has four times the fiber of wheat? Well, I know now.

I arranged the classes to be hands-on for the students since I really wanted them to get a tactile sense of the differences I talked about, from the raw dough right out of the mixer to kneaded dough and then the final loaves. It certainly seemed to help them grasp the nuances between the different recipes (in week 1) and grains (week 2).

For the Need to Knead? class, we made a traditional wheat sandwich loaf and two different no-knead wheat loaves (about half whole wheat in each case). My timing was not perfect -- the sandwich loaves, though I had given them a bit of a head start, weren't quite done before the end of class -- but most of the students were able and willing to linger for a taste of the final batch.

I organized my prep a little better for the Wheat vs. Spelt class, getting the sandwich loaves into the oven well before class began. By the end of the hour and a half, they were able to sample fresh wheat and spelt breads, pizza made with wheat or spelt crusts, and wheat and spelt crackers. (In the photo above, the wheat bread is on the plate while I slice the spelt.)

(More photos from each class are at the links, on the TKS Facebook page.)

The participants all seemed excited and ready to go home and bake more bread, which, really, was my hope. (Though I think there will still be a couple who buy my bread at the market.) And I think I might just have to come up with other whole grain baking classes, because I had a lot of fun.

And because, you know, someone kneads to do it...

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