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Archive for the ‘sweets’ Category

Well, here we are on the shortest day of the year, and I’m just getting around to writing about the sweeties I made for Rosh Hashanah. The recipe started out as a cake actually – the apple cider doughnut loaf cake that I tore from September’s Bon Appétit – but magnificently transmorphed into little nuggets of caramel, slightly tart from intensely concentrated cider syrup and punctuated by crunchy pyramids of salt.

First I snagged an early batch of late summer cider from the apple farm at my Friday greenmarket. Then I actually read the cake directions and skimmed the comments and realized I wasn’t up for the fuss. Next I let the jug hibernate in the coldest back corner of the fridge until the unfiltered pulp settled to the bottom. Finally, I bought a carton of heavy cream and summoned up the courage for candy-making.

I say courage because my last candy adventure (testing the recipe for the caramel lacquered apple pie in the Sprinkles cookbook – insanely good!) ended up with a hot, sticky phone and some very burnt fingers after brilliantly prying said phone out of the pot of boiling sugar. My phone survived. My fingers healed. And I was ready – five years later – to again try my luck. Turns out, when you’re not trying to take to capture bubble rate and size on video, making caramel is a whole lot easier.

Apple Cider Caramels

Recipe (barely) adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Deb likes her caramels cooked just over the edge of the firm ball stage, so they’re fairly soft at room temperature. I kept my first batch in the fridge for a firmer, chewer texture and decided to push the syrup further into the hard ball stage for subsequent batches. Translation into English: I heat the caramels a few degrees higher (256-260F) than the original recipe calls for (252F).

I know it seems annoying to use parchment paper (to line the pan) and wax paper (to wrap the candies), but bear with me here. Parchment handles hot hot sugar better for when you pour out the caramel into the pan (wax paper could melt) and is stronger to allow for easy transfer of the candies to a cutting board. Wax paper is more delicate so it’s easier to twist around the individuals caramels and will also not stick over time. You can sub heavy duty foil for the parchment but it might rip during transfer and is harder to peel off the cooled caramel.

Yields 64 candies if you cut as directed; I wing it so I never know how many I’ll end up with

Ingredients
– 4 C (945 ml) apple cider
– 1/2 t ground cinnamon
– 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
– 1/2 C (115 g, 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
– 1 C (200 g) granulated sugar
– 1/2 C (110 g) packed light brown sugar
– 1/3 C (80 ml) heavy cream

Boil. Boil apple cider in a 3- to- 4- quart saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup (about the consistency of molasses) between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume. This takes about 40 minutes to an hour, but you do need to check periodically particularly at the end.

Prep. Meanwhile, measure out the other ingredients, because you won’t have much time once the candy is cooking. Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment. Try not to leave any any exposed areas at the corners because if caramel seeps under the parchment, it makes it difficult to remove the candy to cut. I found it helpful to use binder clips to keep the parchment in place. Set the pan it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.

Boil again. Once the apple cider is reduced, remove it from heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 258 degrees (252 if you prefer your caramels softer), only about 5 minutes. Keep a close watch on the thermometer.

Stir. Remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and give the caramel several stirs to distribute it evenly.

Pour and wait. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge.

Cut. Once caramel is firm, use the parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Cut the caramels into 1-inch by-1-inch squares. There are 2 ways I’ve found to make cutting easier. 1) If the caramel is on the harder side or you’ve cooled it in the fridge, heat up your knife under hot water and wipe clean and dry between each cut or two. 2) If the caramel is on the softer side and at room temperature, lightly coat your knife with oil – I use spray oil and then wipe off any excess – between each cut or two.

Wrap. Wrap each caramel in a 4-inch square of waxed paper, twisting the sides to close. I don’t have the patience to measure, so I waste some too-small wrappers or have to cut down some too-large wrappers.

Store. Depending on how soft or hard you like your caramels, store them in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I keep them in the fridge where they have lasted several weeks if I hide them from myself.

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two spoons

My first trip to Paris as an adult, boyfriend in tow in lieu of parents, began with an immense pedestalled bowl of chocolate mousse and two spoons. We arrived from London on Bastille Day, la fête nationale, and I had visions of light shows over le tour Eiffel, spontaneous dancing along the Seine, the rusty bellows of an accordion.

Instead, Dave and I cowered in a Metro station near Montmarte, hesitating to ascend the stairs as firecrackers were thrown down the well. I was scared, he put on a brave face, and we eventually covered our heads with our arms and ran up to street level pushing our way through throngs of laughing teens. OK, so I realize this sounds somewhat melodramatic, but this is the memory etched in my head. The fear, the flight, the rush, the calm that followed, and then, of course, the hunger.

We escaped to a blessedly quiet street and a blessedly near-empty restaurant. Dinner was nothing memorable, but we ate it right next to a floor-to-ceiling window, our own reflection mingling with the rare passerby. 

Dishes cleared, the waiter set down that vast bowl of mousse, rivulets of condensation racing down to the table,  and those two spoons – deux cuillères – with a grandiose “ce que vous voulez” – have how ever much you want. Now that etched memory, however faulty it might be, does not include a serving spoon or plates. Just the two of us dipping our spoons into the vat of dense chocolate, to be returned to le frigo for the next customer after we payed our bill. 

I can’t imagine that being the case then, and I sure can’t imagine that being the case these days. But I like to remember that gesture of generosity, the idea that we’ll give you as much as we made for the day, for all of our guests, and you’ll eat as much as you want and save some for everyone else.  

Six years ago today, I tasted chocolate mousse that reminded me of that evening. I was at Buvette here in New York. Actually, I was stood up and treated myself to a solo Bastille Day drink, dinner, and dessert at the bar. The waiter lifted a silver footed bowl from the lowboy and plated a haphazard heap of nearly-noir mousse and a just-as-haphazard heap of barely-sweetened whipped cream, then stuck two spoons in and slid it over to me. I licked one spoon, then the other, digging in with one, stirring coffee with the other.

Fast forward to today, and I finally made Buvette’s chocolate mousse for myself. I shared with my neighbor and my favorite doorman (don’t tell the others!) and still have some left in le frigo for another day or two. 

Buvette’s Chocolate Mousse

From Jody Williams’ Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food (and published online here). I used Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate which is my go-to. You need 4 eggs, but only 3 of the yolks, so freeze the extra yolk with a pinch of sugar or salt or crack a few more eggs and make ice cream right away. 

Despite having so few ingredients, this recipe does require three bowls and a stand-mixer. Unless you have the arm strength of my Bubbie who could whip egg whites into snowy peaks for fluffy matzah balls and delicate cakes on Passover, in which case the recipe requires three bowls and a bubbie. 

Serves 4-6

– 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
– 1/2 lb (8 oz) semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
– 1 T water
– 3 large eggs separated, plus one additional egg white
– pinch coarse salt (I used kosher)
– 2 t superfine sugar (I pulsed regular sugar in a coffee grinder, cleaned of coffee)
– Crème fraîche or lighlys weekend whipped cream, for serving

Melt. Put the butter and chocolate in a stainless steel bowl along with the spoonful of eater and set over a small pot of barely simmering water. Stir until completely melted. Set the chocolate mixture aside to cool slightly. 

Whisk. Whisk the 3 egg yolks together in a large mixing bowl with the salt. Set aside.

Beat. Meanwhile, place the 4 egg whites in a large mixing bowl, or into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk again. Whisk the yolks, one-third at a time, into the chocolate mixture, making sure each addition is completely combined before adding the next. Don’t be tempted to add the egg yolks all at once – adding it in batches will help regulate the temperature of the egg yolks and keep them smooth and uniform. 

Fold. Next carefully fold the stiff egg whites into the chocolate mixture, being as gentle and careful as possible so as not to lose any of the volume you have worked to so hard to create in the egg whites. Coer the bowl with plastic wrap and set in teh refrigerator until form, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days in advance.

Serve. Scoop the mousse, which will have become a striking combination of fluffy and dense, into serving bowls and serve with crème fraîche or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

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for snacking

Enough with the vegetables folks, let’s eat some cake.

Since it’s just me in my apartment, I’ve been making mini ones – easier to share with neighbors or freeze for cake emergencies. These are chocolate yogurt ones, not overly sweet, and the perfect size for snacking for two to three days each. Maybe even a distanced picnic, separately packaged for each friend joining so you can share dessert without it becoming a viral cesspool (appetizing, n’est-ce pas?). I make them in mini-loaf pans and they look just so cute, with their round bellies protruding – much more appealing in baby pans that adult ones.

My regular go-to cake is a French yogurt one – phenomenally moist from the dense dairy with a hint of tang and the scent of lemon. But change is good every once in a while, and I recently stumbled across a French chocolate yogurt cake which, in case you’ve noticed the photos, went from page to oven in less than an hour since I always have yogurt and chocolate on hand.

With so much indoor time, I’ve been rearranging my apartment and about a month ago, I created a reading nook. I had gotten rid of my rickety old desk last year (actually half a repurposed oval table from a friend, balanced on 2 legs and a small filing cabinet and a thick cookbook) which opened up a corner. I moved both of my bookshelves to line the walls (thanks for the idea, Robyn) and wedged in an arc lamp with the shade spotlighting my Bubbie’s rocking chair. It is a non-work zone: I call friends, read books, and sometimes eat dinner rocking away. I like to turn the chair around sometimes and face the books, imagining that I have a small library.

I rearranged my cookbooks in rainbow order, spent a few hours flipping through old favorites that had gotten buried over the years. The paperbacks were particularly well-hidden, typically slid on top of lined up heavier tomes, pushed to the back as the piles grew, under the shadow of the shelf above. David Lebovitz‘s The Sweet Life in Paris – the story of his move to Paris from California interspersed with recipes he picked up or developed along the way. Stuck midway through the book was a stainless letter opener twisted and reminiscent of a Möbius strip, prying the pages apart at bouchées chocolate au yaourt, aka chocolate yogurt snack cakes. As Lebovitz explains, “The French call things that don’t neatly fit into any other dessert category bouchées (mouthfuls), and these little cakes certainly fit that description). I didn’t make them in a cupcake tin, as you can clearly see, so I doubt you can shove one of these mini loaves into your mouth, but I wouldn’t blame you for trying.

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes (bouchées chocolate au yaourt)

Adapted from David Lebovitz‘s The Sweet Life in Paris. Lebovitz makes these as cupcakes, which cuts the baking time down to 25 minutes. My mini-loaves take 35-40 minutes and a standard loaf takes 45-55 minutes. While my old stand-by yogurt cake uses only one bowl, this chocolate version requires three: one for the warm chocolate, one for mixing wet ingredients, and a third for the dry ingredients. I tried my go-to shortcut of mixing the dry ingredients in a large bowl, making a well in which to mix the liquid ingredients, and then stirring it all together, but I couldn’t mix the yogurt and eggs thoroughly enough before the flour started sliding in, resulting in some pretty major lumps. So, sorry about the dirty dishes, but these cakes more than make up for it. Light, not too sweet, and just enough to satisfy a craving without making you feel like you need to wait a few minutes to take a swim.

Makes 3 mini-loaves (5.75 X 3 inches) or 1 regular loaf (8 X 4 inches)

– 7 oz (200 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
– 1/2 C (125 ml) vegetable oil, divided
– 1/2 C (125 ml) plain, whole-milk yogurt
– 1 C (200 g) sugar
– 3 large eggs, at room temperature
– 1 t vanilla extract
– 1 1/2 C (200 g) flour
– 1 1/2 t baking powder
– 1/2 t kosher salt

Prep. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil and line loaf pan(s) with parchment paper (I find a little bit of oil helps the paper stay in place).

Melt. In a double boiler (or, a metal bowl set over simmering water), melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup of the oil. Once melted and smooth, remove from the heat. (Alternately, you can do this in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, then in 15 second increments, stirring well between each until smooth.) Allow to cool slightly (but not too much – you want it to be pourable) before adding it to the rest of the batter.

Mix. In another bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup oil with yogurt, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

Mix again. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yogurt mixture. Stir lightly a couple times, then add the melted chocolate and stir until just smooth.

Bake. Divide the batter among pans (or pour all of it into a regular loaf pan) and bake 35-40 minutes (more for a loaf pan – about 45-55 minutes) or until they feel barely set in the middle and a tester or toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving. If you want to freeze, allow to cool completely and then wrap in one layer of plastic wrap and another of heavy-duty foil.

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Right in the middle of Passover, my Girl Scout cookies arrived from California. Thin Mints, and they went straight into the freezer. There’s only one sleeve left. Thank you, Mia, for sending them!

Also in the box, nestled delicately in bubble wrap, lay several stunning citrus specimens. Meyer lemons. Thin skinned, some more spherical than ovoid, smelling of sunshine. Mia’s mom Joanne – whom I’ve known since high school – really knows how to spoil me. 

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Unless you have a tree in your backyard like Mia and Joanne and Evan and Jordan do, in which case you can use them with abandon, these lemons aren’t for just any old recipe. 

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In my home – sans tree – these lemons deserve to be the main event. And so, for now, I’ve zested and juiced enough lemons for three batches of lemon curd. I’ve got just a few left, and they’ll either make their way into more curd, or lemonade, or a cake that uses peel, pith, and pulp (similar to Claudia Roden’s orange and almond cake).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaking curd during Passover is perfectly logical because after baking macaroons and granola with egg whites, I had frozen over a dozen yolks in ice cube trays. But before we get to the recipe, we have to review a tiny bit of science so that you don’t make the same mistake I did. 

An egg yolk that has been frozen and thawed undergoes “gelation.” Essentially the water in the yolk freezes into ice crystals which causes the surrounding proteins (largely LDL) to cluster tightly into a 3-D matrix. When thawed, the proteins stay clustered and the yolk itself remains a gel, nearly solid with barely a jiggle. When you use these gel yolks for curd, you end up with a lot of small yolk chunks that don’t make it through the strainer. And your curd is a bit less silky. And straining is pretty messy. Not the end of the world, but still.

To deter ice formation, you need to add a cryoprotectant to the yolk before freezing. You can use sugar or salt. Different solutes work to varying degrees, so there’s something more than just freezing point depression. My understanding – after reading some of the scientific literature (I’m such a nerd) – is that sugar prevents denaturing (the uncoiling of long proteins which enables them to bind with other proteins and form a matrix) while salt ions prevent protein molecules from aggregating (the salt ions match up with the protein’s charge groups, blocking the proteins from hooking up). 

Conventional wisdom is that you need to create 10% sugar or salt solution with the yolks,  but despite calculating weight and volume concentrations, I can’t reconcile this with the most commonly cited recommendations (e.g., America’s Test Kitchen and the Egg Board) of 1.5 teaspoon sugar or 1/8 teaspoon salt to each 4 yolks. I’m tired, so I’m content to trust the food scientists, and call it a day. 

Now, I give you lemon curd. Thanks for attending this week’s session of food quasi-science and incomplete analysis.

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Lemon Curd

Makes approximately 1 cup

When not eating this by the spoonful, I love it layered with berries and Greek yogurt or spread on buttered, toasted bread with a sprinkle of flakey salt. 

Adapted from Glorious Treats, the recipe that Joanne sent me. 

– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 Meyer lemons)
– 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 4 egg yolks
– 3 T butter 

Whisk. Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler (I use in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water). Heat over low to medium flame, while stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens. It’s done when thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, or reaches 170F on a candy thermometer. 

Strain. Allow the curd to cool slightly and then strain it into a bowl or jar. 

Store. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. 

***

Freezing egg yolks

To freeze one yolk at a time, whisk it with 1/3 t sugar or a pinch of salt, and then pour into your ice cube tray. 

For bigger batches, whisk 1.5 t sugar or 1/8 t salt into 4 egg yolks. Divide equally between 4 cells of an ice cube tray (~1 tablespoon per yolk) and freeze.

Make sure to mark whether you’ve used sugar or salt. 

Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using. 

NOTE: no special treatment is needed to freeze egg whites. 

 

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I was speaking with my friend Veronica over the weekend, comparing stories about our daily COVID lives. In Lima, Peru, her family is in strictly-enforced lockdown with no outdoor excursions allowed. To get some exercise and fresh air, she and her husband and their kids run around – masked, of course – in the garage of their apartment building. And while I’ve been able to go outside for walks in Central Park and get groceries, I too spend most of my time indoors.

Another thing we share: we were both cooking while we chatted. Her, a prune cake for Easter. Me, oat-free granola for Passover.

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of granola, not having oats?” Veronica laughed, the same distinctive cackle that I’ve known since high school.

“Well, I guess it does. But it has everything else that I put in my granola and I like it on yogurt, so I’m calling it granola. Maybe it’s faux granola. Or faux-nola?”

She laughed again.

Anyway, I present you Passover granola. Faux-nola if you insist.

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Passover Granola (of Faux-nola)

Makes 6 cups

Adapted from Epicurious. Mix and match large coconut flakes with whatever nuts (and seeds if you eat kitniyot) you like. My regular granola uses a 1:1 oat to nut ratio, and here I replace all oats with coconut, same ratio. This year’s nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, and pine nutsI add egg whites to help the granola clump because though I like it as a topping for yogurt, I tend to eat it out of hand much more over Passover, and it’s less mess to eat large pieces than tiny ones. Though, I’m vacuuming and sweeping up matzah bits all day anyway, so what’s a few more crumbs?

Don’t overcrowd the baking sheets or the granola will burn on the edges before it crisps in the middle. And, you do need to watch it in the oven closely because the granola goes from a toasty burnished brown to burnt if you’re not paying attention as the last few minutes count down.

I tend to scale the recipe, but if you follow the basic ratios, you can make as much or as little as you want – 1 C coconut : 1 C nuts : 2 T sweetener (honey, brown sugar, maple syrup) : 1 t fat (olive oil, butter). A few drops of vanilla, pinches of salt, and an egg white or two for clumping are optional. 

– 3 C unsweetened raw coconut flakes (sometimes called coconut chips)
– 3 C assorted nuts, rough chopped
– 2 egg whites
– 2 T olive oil
– 4 T honey
– 2 T brown sugar
– 1/2 t kosher salt (or more to taste)
– 1 t vanilla

Prep. Heat oven to 300ºF and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix. In a large bowl, mix together the coconut and nuts. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl, and then pour them in, mixing until coconut and nuts are evenly coated.

Cook. Stir olive oil, honey, sugar, salt and vanilla in a small pan over medium-low heat until hot and easily pourable (but not bubbling).

Pour. Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until evenly coated.

Bake. Spread the mix thinly and evenly across the baking sheets and bake for 25-35 minutes, until the mix is dry and the coconut flakes are as brown as the nuts. After 10 minutes, swap the sheets top to bottom, front to back. At the 20 minute mark, stay close and check the color every few minutes. There’s about a 3-minute window between perfect and burnt.

Store. Store in an airtight container, in freezer if you want to keep it around longer.

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I just got back from vacation (more on that soon, pinky swear) and while I miss having a made-to-order omelette (tomato-mushroom-cheese, thank you very much) every morning draped over a pre-split English muffin (all I had to do was lower the halves into the toaster) and sidling up to a rainbow of orange, green, and pink melon slices, it’s still good to be back in the kitchen.

Most of my meals since coming home have been no-cook affairs, essentially lots of salads. But Sunday morning felt like pancake time and I begrudgingly fired up the stove. (My apartment layout is such that even with the a/c on full blast, the kitchen is warm and stuffy, even before I start cooking.)

In an attempt to detox after snacking on fries everyday for a week, I created a higher-ish protein breakfast, replacing buttermilk with yogurt and using a bit of garbanzo flour. I dotted the pancakes with a pint of blueberries threatening to shrivel if they sat one more day on the counter.

The result was a little less fluffy than my go-to pancakes, but otherwise a great addition to my weekend breakfast repertoire. I was feeling pretty proud of myself until I realized I had eaten half the batch. I put the remainder in a bag and in the freezer. Detox schmetox, I say.

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Blueberry yogurt (higher-ish protein) pancakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. In trying to up the protein content of these, I substituted chickpea flour for rye. The batter is very thick – thicker than my normal pancake recipe – and it doesn’t bubble very much after a couple of minutes on the pan, so you’ll need to peek underneath to see when it’s time to flip. The pancakes aren’t very sweet, and I lightly sprinkle with white sugar rather than maple syrup which would hide the blueberry flavor.

Makes 12-14 4-inch pancakes

– 2 large eggs
– 1 C plain yogurt (I used 2%, a mix of regular and Greek because that’s what I had)
– 3-6 T milk
– 3T canola oil (plus extra for pan – I used a spray)
– 1/2 t vanilla extract
– 1/2 t lemon zest or 1/4 t lemon extract
– 1/2 C all-purpose flour
– 1/2 C whole wheat flour
– 1/4 C garbanzo (chickpea) flour
– 3 T sugar
– 1 T plus 1 t (i.e., 4 t) baking powder
– 1/2 t sea salt
– 1 C blueberries, rinsed and dried

Whisk. Whisk eggs and yogurt together in a medium/large bowl. If you use regular yogurt, you don’t need to add any milk; a thick Greek – add enough to thin it out to the consistency of cake batter, dripping from the whisk in a thin (not skinny) stream. Whisk in oil, vanilla, and lemon zest or extract.

Layer. Add the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a layer over the wet ingredients. Gently stir them to mix just the dry ingredients. (Or you could dirty another bowl for the dry ingredients).

Stir. With a spatula, stir the dry into the wet only until the dry ingredients are moistened. A few lumps are ok. If you over-mix, the pancakes will be dense. The batter will be thick and when you drag your spatula through it, it will leave behind a trail of bubbles, the action of the baking powder.

Cook, flip, repeat. Heat a pan (I used a cast-iron one) over medium heat and spray sparingly with canola oil (or use whatever fat you’d like). The pan is hot enough when you flick a few drops of water on the surface and they jump around and dance. Drop a scant 1/4 cup (about 3 tablespoons) of batter at a time, leaving space between each pancake. Press a small handful of berries into the top of each pancake. When the pancakes are dry around the edges and golden brown on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes, flip them and cook for another 3 minutes until golden underneath as well. (Start by making one small pancake at a time so you can adjust the flame to the right temperature before making the rest of the batch. Despite what they say about the pancake, I just think of it as the cook’s treat.) Continue to adjust the heat as necessary.

Serve. Pile the pancakes high and serve with plain white sugar.

 

 

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Dorie Greenspan shared a recipe for Ispahan sablés in her New York Times column earlier this month, and it reminded me of the first time I tasted anything Ispahan almost exactly a decade ago. It was in Paris where I was spending several weeks taking dance classes and trying to figure out what to do after losing my job. While the flavor combination of rose, raspberry, and lychee is a signature of pastry chef Pierre Hermé (Dorie talks about him here), I first experienced it in the Ladurée salon on the grand Champs Elysée.

I was on a date with this guy, Reuben was his name. It wasn’t our first date, but our second.

For our first, we walked around the Latin Quarter, the Left Bank neighborhood where I had swapped apartments, checking out the Vélib’ bikes that sat dormant, ready for their grand opening the following week. We perched on the still stationary bikes and pretended to ride around town. We sat next to statues, emulating their poses. We got crêpes and I was schooled on the best way to order them: citron sucrée – a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.

For our second date, Reuben wanted to share a classic Right Bank experience. We sat in a dim corner on a robin’s egg blue tapestry-covered banquette, voyeurs to the choreography of waiters, the bustling of the tourist-filled dining room in the Ladurée salon I mentioned earlier. Some food and a few glasses of wine in, it was time for dessert. I had never tried a macaron, so Reuben ordered what he said was the best one in the city. (Parisians are opinionated about their food, non?) It arrived: two bright pink meringues sandwiching rose cream, lychee bits, and the most perfect specimens of raspberries. This was a knife and fork kind of macaron, more cake than cookie and almost too pretty to dive into. Almost. The contrast of textures, the complement of flavors was quite possibly magical.

Reuben and I went out one more time, but then I moved on to Nice for the rest of the summer. His parting words: “I’ll always remember you as the girl who was lost in Paris.”

When I visited Paris this past June, one of my first stops was for an Ispahan macaron. It was a mini-one in a random patisserie with mere hints of rose and raspberry, mediocre at best, but the cookie is how I orient myself back to the city and it’s always on my day-one list.

My prior visit two years ago was a brief one, but I still managed to grab an Ispahan or two. I spent most of the time with Laurence and Gerald, sticking close to my Airbnb and their 17e arrondissement apartment. I was there to see them and to remind myself that I could visit the city of romance alone and do just fine.

And then this time, this summer, I made Paris my own again and could almost imagine myself living there. I stayed in Laurence and Gerald’s second bedroom in their picture-perfect Parisian apartment with floor to ceiling windows that let in dramatic shadows and sunlight, rooftop views, a strong cross breeze to cool everything down without air conditioning, shallow balconies, stairs spiraling an elevator whose door you have to push open, wrought iron everywhere, one (and only one) friendly neighbor, and one very cranky lobby attendant.

After snacking on that first mac of the trip, I made myself right at home in the city, hopping on the métro like a champ (indeed, google maps does help quite a bit), exploring parts of Paris that I know (le Marais) and those that I don’t (Montmartre, les Halles, the 11e). I joined a few food tours to get the lay of the land because the last time I really spent much time there, I wasn’t as into la cuisine as I am now.

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And yet, we didn’t eat out in many of the newer hot spots. I made it to Miznon and Fish La Boissonnerie and a neighborhood gem for couscous, but otherwise we ate at home. Gerald likes to cook – he owned a Lebanese restaurant in Strasbourg back in the day – so he treated Lau and me to dinner most nights. He even cleaned up – she’s got herself a winner, folks. Over the weekend, I popped to the outdoor market and overfilled my bag with peak fruits, croissants, and an obscene number of pastries, and we had a serious brunch before heading out to Clignancourt flea market – one of les puces – where I picked up some art and silverware and we mostly wandered through a maze of antique furniture.

It felt good. It felt comfortable. It felt normal. I felt like I could return without fanfare, without worry, without expectations. It was no longer a big deal.

Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan Sablés

This recipe comes straight from Dorie Greenspan’s in the New York Times, and I added a few small instructions based on my experience. The dough is really easy to work with. I’ve made roll and slice cookies in the past (another Dorie recipe) and ended up with holes in the middle from trapped air, but these cookies roll between your hands and the counter into perfectly solid cylinders. I wrapped the logs well and have frozen two of them when the need for a little sweetness strikes. 

There are a few ingredients that may require a special trip to the store (or Amazon). Sanding sugar is coarser than what you normally use, with crystals slightly smaller than sugar in the raw; it’s white and a little bit shimmery and often comes dyed. I dyed mine red with McCormick. Rose extract is much more intense than rose water and you need it here because sablés can’t take much moisture or they’ll lose their texture. I used Star Kay White brand – it’s pricey but you can use it in baking where you might normally use rose water, but a much, much smaller quantity. I used Whole Foods 365 freeze-dried raspberries, Dorie uses Trader Joe’s.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

For the sugar:

– ¼ C (60 grams) sanding sugar

– ¼ t pure rose extract 

– Red liquid food coloring 

For the sablés:

– ½ C (10 grams) freeze-dried raspberries

– 1½ C (204 grams) all-purpose flour

– 11 T (155 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

– ⅓ C (67 grams) sugar

– ½ t pure rose extract

– ¼ t fleur de sel

Color. Put the sanding sugar, extract, and 2 drops of coloring in a small zipper-lock plastic bag, seal the bag and shake until the color is even. Add more color if necessary to get to bright pink.

Crush. Put the raspberries between sheets of wax paper or in a zip-top bag, and crush them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet. Don’t expect perfection — it’s fine to have mostly powder and a few small nuggets. Whisk the raspberries into the flour.

Beat. Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, but not airy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, extract, and fleur de sel, and beat 3 minutes more. Turn the mixer off, scrape down the bowl, add the flour mixture all at once and pulse the mixer on and off to begin incorporating the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until the dough forms soft curds and then starts to clean the sides of the bowl (i.e., it wraps around the paddle and no longer sticks to the bowl). Give it a few last turns with a spatula, then scrape it out onto the counter.

Roll. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and roll each into an 8-inch-long log. If you don’t have a ruler, use the short edge of a piece of paper (8.5 X 11 inches) as a guide.

Coat. Spread the sugar out on a piece of wax paper, and roll the logs in the sugar until they’re completely coated. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.

Prep. When you’re ready to bake, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat it to 325ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice. Unwrap the logs, trim the ends if they’re ragged and cut the logs into ½-inch-thick rounds. Place them on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each round.

Bake. Bake the cookies for 19 to 21 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back after 10 minutes, or until the cookies are firm around the edges and golden brown on the bottom; the tops will remain pale. Rest the sablés for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Serve – or pack into a container – when the cookies come to room temperature.

 

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skyrversary

I called Natasha last month to wish her a happy one-year skyrversary. On our trip to Reykjavik, we ate the thick creamy yogurt-like deliciousness at least once a day, often twice, once even thrice. Yes, it was lovely for breakfast but it really shines in dessert. Each of the restaurants we went to had a sweet skyr course, typically layered with something frozen and something crunchy. One night, blueberry sorbet and oats. Another, strawberries and green strawberry granita. And also, sorrel granita, hazelnut gelato, merengue, and blondies. I mean, seriously people, the desserts were insane.

Just a few days after returning home, I took a first step at reproducing our desserts: I pulled out Cheryl Sternman Rule‘s Yogurt Culture to start from scratch. I inoculated a heavy pot of warmed milk with a dollop of skyr starter (Icelandic Provisions because they use “heritage cultures” and I was aiming for authenticity) and let the whole mix incubate overnight in an oven warmed only by its light. (Am I sounding overly scientific with all this inoculation and Incubation? Yeah, a little. And I’m OK with that.)

In the morning, I pulled the heavy pot from its oven incubator and was pleased to see that the curds had sunk to the bottom and the liquid whey had risen to the top. My plan was to strain the curds as if I were making Greek yogurt (not that I’ve made that), and then strain them a little bit longer.

I lifted the pot and tipped it over a bowl to pour off the whey, but the curds slid out and I lost hold of the pot and the floor was soon a slick puddle of yogurt. Warm yogurt. Turns out, the scent of warm fermenting yogurt is not only unappealing but it permeates everything. After I mopped up the floor, I had to change outfits. And after a day outside, I thought I was coming home to a dairy farm.

I’d like to say I got back on the horse, but I didn’t. I just moved on. One by one, I pulled together the components for an approximation of the simplest of our skyr desserts. There were blueberries to roast. Sorbet to churn. Cookie crumbles to bake. I then layered and layered and layered to compose a ridiculously complicated dessert.

Fancypants blueberry and skyr dessert

– Skyr

– Roasted blueberry compote

– Blueberry lime sorbet

– Oatmeal cookie crumble

Layer. Fill a glass two-thirds with skyr. Cover with blueberry compote. Top with a scoop of sorbet. Sprinkle with cookie crumble. Drizzle with a few more roasted blueberries.

***

Roasted blueberry compote

Just barely adapted from Cheryl Sterman Rule‘s Yogurt Culture. This is actually the first time I’ve roasted fruit – strawberries, you’re up next! – and I like how the flavors concentrate differently than stove-top compote, making a more soup-like (as opposed to stew-like) compote. The berries wrinkle up as the oven dries them out and because they’re not crowded together in a pot, they don’t reabsorb their released juice. 

If your blueberries are tart (for example, the tiny ones from Maine), add up to a tablespoon more of sugar.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

– 2 1/2 C fresh blueberries

– 2 T white sugar

– 1 T lime juice

Roast. Heat oven to 350°F. Toss 2 cups of blueberries with the sugar and spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 minutes until the skins burst, the berries shrivel up a bit, and the released juices thicken and slightly caramelize.

Mix. Using a bench scraper, pull the berries and juices into the center. Carefully lift the long edges of the parchment towards the center and tip the berries and their juices into a bowl. Don’t wait too long or the juices will harden. Stir in the lime juice and let cool.

Serve. Mix with yogurt (or skyr), drizzle over ice cream, or put a jar on a cheese plate.

***

Blueberry lime sorbet

This recipe follows the guidelines for Any-Fruit Sorbet from The Kitchn. While making simple syrup is a bit fussy and not necessary for a berry sorbet, I added this step so I could infuse mint into the sugar water concentrate. Just a tiny bit of vodka helps lower the freezing point so that the sorbet doesn’t get too hard. Depending on what type of ice cream maker you have, you might need to put the canister in the freezer the night before. 

– 1/4 C sugar, plus extra if needed

– 1/2 C water

– 4 sprigs fresh mint

– 2 lbs (about 5 C) blueberries

– 1 t lime zest

– 1 T vodka

– 2 T fresh lime juice, plus extra if needed

Simmer. Make simple syrup by combining sugar, water, and mint in a pot over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring periodically, until the sugar dissolves. This is a very concentrated 2:1 sugar syrup as I didn’t want to add too much water. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Puree. Use a blender, immersion blender, or food processor to puree the simple syrup, berries, lime zest, and vodka until smooth.

Strain. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of any pesky blueberry skins and larger pieces of lemon zest.

Taste. Add the lime juice and taste the mixture for sweetness. It should be a bit sweeter than you want because the sweetness dissipates during the freezing process .(How? I have no idea.) Way too sweet? Add lime juice, teaspoon by teaspoon. Too sour? Add sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon.

Chill. Chill the base in the fridge until very cold, at least an hour.

Churn. Pour the cold base into your ice cream machine and churn until the consistency of a thick smoothie. This takes about 25 minutes in my Cuisinart.

Freeze. Transfer to a container or two, cover well, and freeze for at least four hours before serving.

***

Oatmeal cookie crumble

Makes 1 1/2 cups

– 1/2 C flour

– 1 C oats

– 1/4 C brown sugar

– 1/4 C cold butter

– 1/2 t salt

– 1 egg

Pulse. In a small food processor, pulse together all ingredients until the mix resembles cornmeal.

Bake. Spread evenly on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake in a 350ºF oven until it starts to brown, about 10 mins. Use 2 forks to break up chunks and return to oven. Bake for about 10 more minutes until golden brown, checking every 2-3 minutes to break up chunks and make sure that the pieces aren’t burnt. Once cool enough to handle, break up chunks until the size of grape nuts.

Store. Store in an airtight container.

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I was gifted a sourdough starter right before Passover. My family was visiting Pirch to look at kitchen designs —  we’re renovating the Lower East Side apartment where my mom grew up — and I struck up a conversation with Chef Tracy Justynski over a fig-studded loaf of bread and gluten free chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. I’m not sure what prompted my chutzpah, but I asked her if she had any sourdough starter to share.

She did.

Tracy told me that her starter is over two years old, and she drove it cross-country from San Diego, leaving a trail of blobs with friends along the way. She disappeared into the prep kitchen, and came out with a plastic quart container filled with a cup or so of a flour water mix inoculated with Southern California yeast. Inscribed on the top, in Sharpie: “Starter – feed me flour + water every 2 weeks.”

I slipped it in my bag and would have skipped home if I weren’t a decade of blocks away. I kept the starter in the fridge, keeping it alive with a one-to-one (by weight) ratio of flour to water (approximately 1 cup flour to 1/2 cup water) every other weekend.

Finally I attempted to bake bread using an adaptation of Chad Robertson’s (of Tartine) recipe. It was a five-day process: three days to wake up the starter; one day to mess up the first attempt; two days to get it right. Well, sort of right. The bottoms were burnt. The crumb was spongey. The taste lacked oomph. But at least it sang.

I fed the starter and returned it to the fridge for another weekend project. In the interim, I had amassed a quart worth of starter discard. See, before your feed your starter, you pour out about half (if you don’t, the starter will take over your kitchen). I can’t bear to throw out the discard — especially since I suspect I’ll eventually name mine. So I collected it and searched for recipes. I mostly found English muffins and pancakes, but I tracked down one for blueberry muffins that seemed simple. Also, it used up a lot of excess starter.

My first attempt yielded blueberry-less muffins that were tough. Yesterday I made a second batch, this time with cut up strawberries, a bit more liquid, a lower oven temperature, and a longer bake. Success.

In light of the disaster of a healthcare bill that recently passed the House, I can’t help but find meaning in valuing what some may discard, in cherishing what gets left behind.

Sourdough discard muffins – strawberry version

Adapted from King Arthur. This is a very simple recipe to use up discarded sourdough starter that you just can’t bear to throw away. The sourdough flavor isn’t particularly pronounced. This is essentially a quick bread, and you need to mix the wet ingredients into the dry very quickly (like pancake batter) and then immediately spoon it into the muffin pans. This allows you to capture the rising action of the baking soda. You can substitute 1½ cups of any other berry or fruit (the original version has blueberries and cinnamon). You can make these in mini muffin tins – bake for 20 minutes – which will yield about 3 dozen.

Makes 1 dozen muffins

– 1 C all-purpose flour, plus more to toss with the berries

– 1 C yellow cornmeal, fine

– ¾ t salt

– 1 t baking soda

– 1 C sourdough starter, fed or unfed

–  1/3 C milk

– 1 large egg

– ¼ C melted butter of vegetable oil, plus more to grease the pans

– 1/2 C maple syrup (or honey)

– 1 t vanilla extract

– ½ t rose water (optional)

– ½ lb strawberries, cut into small pieces (about 1½ cups)

– Demerara or coarse sugar, for sprinkling tops

Prep. Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease the wells of a muffin pan (or use cupcake liners).

Stir. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk. In a second bowl, beat together the starter, milk, egg, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and rose water (if using).

Toss. Coat the cut strawberries in a few tablespoons of flour.

Blend. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and blend together quickly, about 30 seconds or so, until just combined. There may be a few lumps – that’s OK. Gently stir in the berries.

Fill. Fill the greased muffin cups to the top, and sprinkle the tops with Demerara sugar. Try not to get too much sugar on the pan itself or it will caramelize and make it difficult to remove the muffins.

Bake. Bake the muffins for 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minute and then remove to continue cooling on a rack.

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a potschke

My Passover cooking philosophy – with the exception of matzah brei and matzah ball soup – is to avoid matzah in all of its permutations (farfel, matzah meal, cake meal). Rather than attempt to construct a facsimile of a leavened sweetie (or even worse, use a boxed cake mix), I like to find ways to use naturally Passover-friendly ingredients in ways that I’d gladly eat the rest of the year.

Which is why I found myself nodding as I read “Don’t Make Passover Too Easy,” the New York Times op-ed that my friend Jeff Yoskowitz wrote last week. In it he makes a compelling argument that  “embracing the holiday’s tedious dietary restrictions, not working around them, is critical to appreciating this holiday on a deeper level. And to eating well.” He encourages readers to go back to basics, to cook the way they did generations ago before there was a Passover aisle with its ersatz cookies, its pizza and s’mores kits. To turn to seasonal produce and cook from scratch and have fun with the challenge.

Yes!

Or, if I were cooler, I’d probably say yaaaaaaasssss!

The article reminded me of how when I met Jeff with his beard and skinny jeans and artisanal gefilte fish company where his title is “chief pickler,” I knee-jerk dismissed him as a hipster and joked that he probably lived in Brooklyn. He does. He then guessed that I lived in the conspicuously Jewish enclave known as the Upper West Side. I do. Touché, Jeff, touché. (I have no idea whether Jeff remembers this conversation, but we’ve moved past any early awkwardness.)

In the article, Jeff doesn’t use the word nostalgia, perhaps because it’s gotten a bad rap in its association with hipster-ism* or its tendency to devolve into excessive sentimentality. But in my book, Passover is the nostalgia-ist of all holidays because it requires a week of stringent food restrictions, and a reliance on recipes passed down through the generations is often the only way to make it through. Even more, the preamble to the seder dinner involves a retelling and symbolic reliving of our communal history. What better way to relive an experience than by immersing ourselves in the foods that our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents ate**, and if you go back far enough (or, in many cases, not that far at all) what our ancestors ate in the country they came from that’s not our current country, because weren’t we all – Jews, Americans – immigrants at some point?***

It’s not surprising, then, the holiday prompted my friend Gabi to coin the term “granny chic” in another recent Passover food-related article in the Boston Globe. Gabi writes about her first time making her mother’s version of her grandmother’s favorite spongecake (10 eggs!) and dried fruit compote. In the article, she addresses the nostalgia issue head on, sharing Jewish cookbook author (most recent: King Solomon’s Table, more on this as soon as I can get it down on paper) and food storyteller Joan Nathan‘s perspective that strict adherence to authenticity can be overrated and improving upon the nostalgic recipes of our past is the way to go.

The Passover recipe that’s most nostalgic for me, that most reminds me of my own Bubbie, is her Passover “bagels.”  They are essentially dense heavy rolls with a thumb print in the middle, heavily sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon (so their belly button fills with the sweet mix), and baked for at least an hour until they finally dehydrate enough to hold their shape and develop of crust. I’m not sure why we didn’t just call them doughnuts, but tradition is tradition and my mom continued making them until just a few years ago when we opted for lighter fare. I can’t help but wonder if we should bring them back next year, keeping the cinnamon sugar but using some non-matzah meal flour alternatives to free them from their hockey-puck heft.

All this has been a really long-winded introduction to the recipe that I have for you today. And perhaps an explanation – to myself at least, since writing and reading often help me figure out what’s behind what I do – for why I opted for such a potchke (translation: fuss in Yiddish) of a recipe for this year’s seders. All the talk of nostalgia got me thinking about what Bubbie might have wanted after dinner and before the afikoman. She was a woman who orchestrated setting the cloth-covered table with dishes for every eventuality, a thematic centerpiece, and pitchers to hold seltzer. Never, ever were we to have a plastic bottle displayed.

So I decided to make a showstopper of a dessert: a lime curd tart on a coconut crust. Something that, after the dinner plates had been cleared and everyone had sat down again, could be presented to the table on a special platter. The Passover equivalent to my bubbie’s Thanksgiving Jell-o mold.

This was a major departure from my tendency to make petite sweets – chocolate cakelets, macaroons, mandelbread. And in my quest to develop a recipe that would work, I followed the advice of Anna Gershenson (she’s Gabi’s mother and has a lifetime of catering and teaching experience) and did something I’ve never done: I broke down and bought potato starch. Using an ingredient that I wouldn’t normally use during the rest of the year was hard for me to stomach, and I stubbornly researched recipes for over a week to avoid it. Eventually I realized that to make the dessert I wanted without laborious recipe testing would require borrowing a failsafe technique developed over many Passovers: potato starch to provide structure to both the crust and curd of the tart I had been dreaming of.

Sure, the crust takes an hour and a half to make, but most of that time is waiting. And, yes, the curd requires a lot of zesting and juicing and tedious stirring over the stove. But the result was exactly what I was looking for. The potschke is worth it and I think I can pat myself on the back and say that Bubbie would have been proud.

FOOTNOTES (seriously, who writes a blog post with footnotes?):

* My working definition of a hipster as someone who “manifests nostalgia for times he never lived himself” comes from an opinion piece in the New York Times that I read back in 2012. Here, Christy Wampole (a Princeton professor of French literature and thought) argues that living ironically (as exemplified by hipsters) is a form of frivolity (my words, not hers) that is worth reconsidering in favor of seriousness. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of reading a bunch of Wampole’s articles and interestingly, after last year’s election, she wrote a follow-up essay about the political destructiveness of this ironic living and the importance of “good” seriousness in the face of a current administration that demonstrates an unapologetic, un-self-reflective, taking-itself-too-seriously brand of seriousness.

** The Jewish Food Society, founded by Naama Shefi, has as its mission to honor and revitalize Jewish culinary traditions. I wrote about their first public event, “Schmaltzy,” which was a Moth-like evening during which five different people shared food stories and their favorite dishes. The organization and event were also covered in NPR and Food and Wine.

*** Here’s another article that seems particularly relevant these days: David Sax of Save the Deli argues for welcoming immigrants at the very least for the sake of dining diversity.

Coconut macaroon crust

Adapted from Tori Avey. This is essentially one big macaroon that dries out in the oven to get completely crispy. I initially tried to use my own macaroon recipe but I didn’t make enough to fill the tart pan, and while cooking the egg white coconut mix on the stovetop first is helpful for shaping the macaroons, it’s not necessary for this crust. I scooped it into macaroons.

My crust was very difficult to remove from pan. Next time I plan to line the removable bottom with heavy duty aluminum foil so the tart can be easily removed (like I do for brownies). I’ll report back once I do this to update the recipe.

– 3 C shredded unsweetened coconut

– 4 egg whites (reserve yolks for lime curd filling, below)

– 1/2 C sugar

– 1 T potato starch (or cornstarch)

– 1/4 t salt

– Coconut oil for greasing

Preheat. Preheat oven to 325° F.

Stir. In a bowl, stir together coconut, egg whites, sugar, potato starch, and salt until thoroughly combined.

Wait. Allow the mixture to sit for 20-30 minutes so that the coconut soaks up the liquid.

Press. Grease with coconut oil a 9- or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the coconut mixture into the pan. Use a measuring cup of the bottom of a glass to smooth out the coconut and to press it into the sides of the pan. Wet the bottom of the cup or glass if it’s sticking to the coconut.

Bake. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the edges turn a light golden brown, but the center is still white. Allow to cool for a few minutes until you can gingerly handle the pan, and cover the edge with aluminum foil to stop the browning.

Bake again. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes or until the center turns golden brown. The center might be a bit darker than the edge. Allow to cool. If you’re going to make the whole tart, keep the oven on.

Lime curd filling

Adapted from Gourmet. I amped up the lime zest and replaced the butter with a quarter the amount of coconut oil. This curd is on the puckering side which is how I prefer it, but you can add a bit more sugar if you’d like. 

Makes approximately 1½ cup

– 4 large egg yolks (leftover from the crust)

– 3/4 C fresh lime juice (my limes weren’t very juicy, so I needed 9)

– 2 T lime zest (if you have any left over, use it for the tart topping)

– 3/4 cup sugar

– 1 T potato starch (or cornstarch)

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 2 T coconut oil

Whisk. In a 2-quart heavy sauce pan, whisk together egg yolks, lime juice and zest, sugar, potato starch, and salt until the potato starch is dissolved.

Cook. Whisk the mixture over medium-low heat, using a silicone spatula to reach into the corners and scrape the sides and bottom of the pan until the mixture is thickened and beginning to bubble around the edges, about 5 minutes. Whisk for another minute and remove from heat. At this point, the curd should be thick and jiggly.

Strain. Place a strainer over a bowl. With the spatula, scrape the curd into the strainer, pressing gently on the solids – this will remove any egg that might have cooked as well as most of the zest. Scrape any curd clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl. This whole process may take a few minutes.

Store. If not using right away, store the curd in the fridge.

Coconut lime curd tart

While the crust is baking, you can make the lime curd, or use whatever curd you’d like – either homemade or store bought.

I played around with a lot of decorating ideas, particularly since lime curd is really yellow from the egg yolks and I wanted to make sure you could tell it was lime rather than lemon. I initially candied lime peel but I allowed the peel to boil for too long (boiling removes the bitterness) before shocking it, so it turned an ugly shade of khaki. I was going to sprinkle it over the curd after the tart baked, but I didn’t feel like making a second batch. Ugly or not, I managed to eat almost the entire batch. In the end, I toasted some coconut and mixed it with lime zest and a little sugar – next time I’d probably sprinkle it over the entire tart so it doesn’t look like a fried egg.

– 1/4 C shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)

– 1 T lime zest (optional)

– 1 T sugar (optional)

– 1 coconut macaroon crust, baked (see above)

– 1 ½ C lime curd (see above)

Preheat. Assuming you’ve just made the crust, the oven should already be at 325° F, but if it’s not, turn up the heat.

Toast. While the crust is baking, pop the coconut into the oven to toast, no more than 2 minutes until it just starts to brown. Watch closely because coconut burns very quickly.

Mix. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut, lime, and sugar.

Fill.  Spread the curd evenly across the crust. Sprinkle liberally with coconut-lime mixture.

Bake. Keeping the pan on the baking sheet, bake for 10-12 minutes until the curd is just set and no longer wobbles if you tap the pan.

Chill. Once the tart comes to room temperature, carefully wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. I like it right out of the fridge.

 

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