Saturday, March 3, 2018

Crostata

One of my all time favorites is the Crostata, or Italian Fruit Pie.

In days gone by, pasta frolla (pie dough) was rolled and filled with homemade jam.
There would be some with fancy lattice, some quite rustic with just the ends turned up.

My personal favorite is filled with fig jam.  The traditional in Tuscany is blackberry jam.
Right now I have peach jam- filled Crostata in the oven.  The house smells delightful!

This is a dessert that is so basic, so simplistic and so very delicious!

I make a batch of the dough and put it in my freezer so I am ready at a moment's notice
of friends coming for coffee or luncheon.  It does not take long to defrost and I always
make sure I have a jar of jam in the pantry.

The pasta frolla must be very cold.  Many recipes will say to chill for 30 minutes but I
have found that is not near enough time.  The dough is still too soft and will fall apart.  I
allow the dough many hours, even overnight, to get a proper chill.

You can prepare a free form tart with the ends rolled in over the filling or you can use a pie
pan.  I use a French tin with a removeable bottom for my Crostatas.

You can fill the tarts with the traditional blackberry jam, or peach, apricot, raspberry.....
whatever suits your taste.  You can also use Nutella, which my grandchildren love!

The dough:

1-1/4 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C. granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
dash salt
2 C. all purpose flour

I put butter in mixer (yes! the mixer!) and then add the sugar.  I then add the eggs, dash of
salt and, finally, gradually add the flour.  Pop the dough out onto the saran, wrap it up and
give it a good chill.  (there is no water in this dough! and it rolls like a dream!)

Fill the tart with the jam (or Nutella) of your choosing.  Add some lattice strips. (I like
to brush some eggwash on the strips but be careful!  They can brown very easily!)

Bake in a preheated 350* oven for about 30 minutes.  The dough should be golden. The
jam will be bubbly.

Let cool and enjoy!  I sprinkle a bit of 10-x when serving.




This is a peach jam filling




This is what it looks like with 10-x sugar sprinkled on top





This is a Fig Jam filling (my favorite!)




The classic blackberry jam filling from Tuscany






Saturday, February 24, 2018

Christmas Pavlova

Meringues have always fascinated me.

Dottie Lonardi, who lived next door to us when we lived in the City, used to bake a zillion cookies
at Christmas and always made "meringue kisses" with the leftover egg whites.  She would put
nuts in them.

Those were my very favorite cookies!

As I would research meringues as I became older, I was amazed to discover how the Australians
are the absolute masters with meringue!

This dessert was created in the 1920's when the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, was touring
Australia and New Zealand.

It should have a crisp crust with a soft, marshmallow-y inside, and is usually served with
fresh fruit and whipped cream.

When in France and Ireland I was surprised to see meringues in every bakery in both countries!

It has only been in recent years that I have discovered Mary Berry, the Martha of Great Britain.

This past holiday season I was trying to decide on a special dessert for one of my dinner parties.
I was already making the croquembouche for the one dinner party and then decided on the
pavlova for the other.

Thank goodness berries of all kinds are available for the holidays!  (I do remember once,
however, when we were catering that there was a scarcity of berries, for whatever reason,
and I was hard pressed to make the fruit presentations look palatable!)

I had made individual meringues for pavlova over the years but never the large ring.

I turned to Mary Berry and the results were raves and bravos!





One tip:  do not attempt meringues when it is raining outside!  Meringues and Rain
do not mix well!


Flounce, Coverlet or Bedspread?

 It is the time of year when we want to purge, organize, make clean, re-do.

It is also the time of year when bedding linens, towels, etc. all are on sale.

So, what better time than to purchase a new bed covering since the old one has pulls
and I am just plain tired of it.

It was one of those great bed-in-bag buys with the bedskirt (aka dust ruffle), shams,
comforter and even some accent pillows.  It has definitely served its purpose and has
definitely seen its day. I am just not crazy over the comforter look any longer.

For the new bed covering, I was thinking of  the lovely matelasse quilts (coverlets).
I started looking all over the internet and, to my dismay, I discovered there is quite a
range in the measurements for coverlets for king size beds.

I was always of the opinion that the coverlet should extend 3" below the mattress.  If you
have a bed skirt, the mattress will be covered and you have a well dressed bed. Hmmmmm,
sounds good but that is not the reality.

I purchased a lovely quilt and was so excited to see how it looked on the bed.  Well, it
did not even cover the mattress sides.    I had to return it.

A king mattress with a pillowtop (and a quilted mattress protector) requires a lot more
material than the linen industry is providing!  It seems they have not yet caught up with
the puffy, high bedding we all now desire.

So, the coverlet is out.  How about a bedspread?

That too is problematic in that the widest bedspread seems to be 120" (and that is termed
oversized!)  and I need 138"!

I seriously thought about going back in time with a 1950's chenille bedspread.  However,.
there would have been a 10" shortage on both sides and I just didn't think that was
going to look right, even with the bedskirt.

Who knew this was going to be such an ordeal?  Remember in those "good ol' days" when
you just purchased  twin or full and all bedding linens fit just fine?  You really didn't have
to give it a second thought.

Now sheets have to be extra deep or you will be having a "Lucy" moment trying to make
the bed!  And the bedskirt has drops of 14", 16", 17".......


Voila!  I found a flounce!  with a 30" drop!!!!  It could not be more perfect!  I just
ordered it tonight.  It is velvet though.....not my first choice,  but velvet is so on-trend right
now....oh well.  This can be the Winter Bedding.

Thank goodness this is something we don't do all that often.  This turned into such a major
project!

Here is store photo of my new  (retro) "Hollywood" bed:









Sunday, February 11, 2018

Trish Giordano: Creme Brulee

Trish Giordano: Creme Brulee: Creme Brulee is one of the most famous custards to come out of France.   However, England, Spain and France all claim to have creat...

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee is one of the most famous custards to come out of France. 

 However, England, Spain and France all claim to have created this Classic Dish. 

 The first printed recipe for a dessert called creme brulee is from the 1691 edition of the French cookbook Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois by Francois Massialot, a cook at the Palace of Versailles.

Creme Brulee means, simply, "Burnt Cream".

Made with simple ingredients of eggs, sugar, heavy cream and fresh vanilla bean, this dish
could not be more basic.







After the baking process, extreme heat via broiler, salamander or good old plumbers
torch is applied to sugar on top of the custard to form a hard crust.



One year, a very large, prestigious law firm we catered for requested this dessert for  their 
Secretaries Appreciation Day Luncheon.  The law firm was so large, we, in fact, had to make
this a two day affair.

They had a lovely office building  overlooking the Susquehanna River.  We were on the top floor for the luncheon festivities.  The Maintenance Supervisor advised me that  an open flame (pumblers'
torch) would wreak havoc and cause a gazillion gallons of water to overcome us should I attempt
to "torch" these creme brulee desserts inside.

Since there was a terrace, I figured that we could "torch" the desserts outside.....what choice did
I have?

Ok, ok, so maybe I didn't think that one through!!!.....First day of event, we are outside attempting
to torch these desserts and the wind is whipping all around us!  The flame is going everywhere....
but not on the wonderful desserts I have prepared!  What a joy that was .....to get a hard crust
on these desserts!

My bottom line advise is:  do not attempt this outside with the wind whipping all around you!!!!








Trish Giordano: Learning the Crock Pot

Trish Giordano: Learning the Crock Pot: Everyone swears by the Crock Pot.  Even Martha has relented and published a book on how to use and enjoy this invention!  However, you will...

Learning the Crock Pot

Everyone swears by the Crock Pot.  Even Martha has relented and published a book on how to use
and enjoy this invention!  However, you will need to purchase a new one to follow most of her
recipes if your crock pot does not have the browning capability.

My husband always gives very personal Christmas gifts.  However, whenever I was pregnant the
gifts were geared more to household conveniences.  More years ago than I remember, (pregnant with middle daughter I believe), he presented me with a crockpot.  It was still a "newfangled" thing back then.

It was an orange-ish color and all one piece without the removable insert most have today.  I think
he had purchased it at J. C. Penney.

Since it came with a small booklet of recipes, I began using it right away.  Everything was fine but my husband was not real fond of the meals.  Since everything had a sauce (most recipes back then called for throwing a can of soup in, yes, usually that awful mushrooms stuff) he preferred his food more "clean".

So, the crockpot was relegated to the back of the pantry and only brought out on a rare occasion.

I purchased a new crockpot for myself and my one son-in-law several years ago.  However, I did not have much success.  There seemed to be a hot spot and most of the foods I cooked in the crock pot
ended up being overdone or dried out or even burnt!

I contacted the Crock Pot company and they informed me that the pot must be at least 2/3 full in
order to work properly.  Smaller amounts just are not meant for this type of slow cooking.  Aha!
That explained a lot since I was using small amounts of food just for me and my husband.  They
did admit however, that most of the pots do indeed have a hot spot.  Again, this pot was sent back to the shelf in the garage.

Fast forward many years and a dear school chum  (Hi Carolyn!!)  posted a photo of her beloved crockpot, which looked exactly like the old one I had.  She noted that she received a new one and was not using it since it did not work as good as her original crock pot.

That spurred me to action.  I retrieved the newer crockpot I had purchased in recent years from the
garage and proceeded to prepare a pot roast.  First, I seared the meat, after putting salt and pepper on both sides. Then placed the meat in the crockpot on a bed of carrots and onions.  (no potatoes since
I was going to served mashed) and turned the dial to high for four (4) hours.

So excited was I!  A bit after the four hours, I checked the meat and, to my dismay, it was not done!
It was not falling apart when poked with a fork.  Now what to do?  I transferred the meat and a bit
of juices to my dutch oven (which is what I would normally use for a pot roast) and put it into a
375* oven.  It took under an hour, but the meat was then perfect and I was able to proceed with my
meal.  I was serving this to my husband, my mother and a plate to a neighbor recovering from a
stroke, so it had to be good!

Luck be with me, it did turn out to be wonderful!

Was that a beginner's luck?  Time will tell as I am about to try recipes out in the crockpot on a more regular basis.

What is your favorite recipe for the crockpot?  I would love to hear from you if you care to share!