November 22, 2009

chocolate pecan galette

I get to have two Thanksgivings this year, which I think is impressive for someone who isn't even American. First up was Friends Thanksgiving, imported from Montana by dear friends with the motto "all the food and none of the family". It was one enormous, delicious, Thanksgiving-themed pot luck, and dessert was partly my responsibility. Both of my contributions were Australian - a pavlova, which I know is only controversially Australian and which I completely failed to photograph before it vanished, and this chocolate pecan galette, which seems more Franco-American than anything else, but which came from the website I'm going to more than any other for recipes at the moment: Australian Gourmet Traveller.

It doesn't look quite like the pecan pie you'd expect on the Thanksgiving dessert table; more like something in a Parisian patisserie. I wish I had better photos of the finished product, but I'm planning to make it again for real Thanksgiving, so maybe I'll update with something prettier. It's simple to make, too - just store-bought puff pastry (all butter, preferably) encasing a filling of ground pecans and semisweet chocolate. Rich and gorgeous.

Chocolate & Pecan Pie
adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller

Serves 10

250g pecans
185g dark chocolate (at least 61% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
25g (1/4 cup) Dutch-process cocoa
200g raw caster sugar (or raw sugar)
100g unsalted butter, softened
5 egg yolks
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 butter puff pastry sheets (375g each)
1 egg, lightly whisked with a splash of water, for egg wash

Process pecans in food processor or blender until finely ground and transfer to a bowl. Process chocolate in food processor or blender until finely ground and add to pecans. Add cocoa, sugar and butter and, using your hands, work butter into dry ingredients until well combined. Add yolks and 1/2 tsp sea salt and mix to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled (at least 1 hour, or overnight).

Line an oven sheet with baking paper. Place one sheet of pastry on the baking paper. Shape the chocolate mixture into a disc, then place it in the middle of the pastry. Use your hands to shape mixture into a 22cm / 9in diameter dome. Brush pastry edges with egg wash, then cover with the remaining pastry sheet. Trim pastry to a 25cm / 10in circle, folding edges and pressing to seal. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220°C / 425°F. Pierce a small hole in the pastry top for steam to escape, then use a sharp knife to score a pinwheel pattern on top of the galette. Brush with remaining eggwash. Bake until golden and puffed, 20-25 minutes. Cool on a tray for 20 minutes, then serve with double cream or vanilla ice cream.

November 14, 2009

banana maple upside-down puddings

November in Texas, it turns out, makes up for August in Texas. It's warm and sunny every day, as opposed to infernal and sunny every day. Trees are still green; birds are arriving from the north; I'm not even close to thinking about coats and scarves. All of this is wonderful, and I love it, but it means I have no business making autumnal, comforting things like these banana-maple upside-down puddings. But it's just that this time last year I was in chilly New Hampshire, walking in the turning woods and buying maple syrup from the farmer's market and roasting things and drinking tea, and I sort of miss it.

So here are some autumnal/fallish puddings for you, sweet with caramelised maple syrup but ever so slightly summery with bananas. Maple syrup and bananas are so extraordinarily tasty together, but then, maple syrup is extraordinarily tasty with everything.

Banana Maple Upside-Down Puddings
adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller

Serves 6

200 ml maple syrup
160g soft butter
80ml (1/3 cup) pouring cream (heavy cream)
3 ripe bananas, peeled
1 tsp lemon juice
220g (1 cup) raw caster sugar (or just raw sugar)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1 tsp bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
80ml (1/3 cup) milk

Cook maple syrup in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes or until starting to caramelise, add 35g butter and all the cream and swirl to combine. Pour 2 tbsp of maple-caramel into bases of six 1-cup capacity metal darioles, swirling to coat sides slightly and reserving remaining caramel mixture. Thinly slice 1 banana widthways, layer slices over caramel and set aside.

Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F. Using a fork, coarsely mash remaining bananas with lemon juice, to yield 3/4 cup, and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat remaining butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add eggs, mashed banana and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Sieve over flour, bi-carbonate of soda and cinnamon, stir to combine, add milk and mix until smooth.

Divide pudding mixture into moulds to 1.5cm below rims (there may be a little mixture left over), smoothing tops, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and firm to the touch. Unmould immediately onto serving plates, drizzle over reserved maple-caramel and serve with double cream or ice cream.

November 9, 2009

vanilla & raspberry cheesecake tart

Three months since posting! The time has flown, which I guess it has a habit of doing when you move to another city and start graduate school. At first I had no time to cook; now I have time to cook but no time to post; soon, I hope, everything's going to settle down and I'll have time for everything (also, I should point out, there's a lot more to do - and eat - in Austin than there was in small town New Hampshire).

So, to apologise for my absence, I'm giving you this delicious object: Tamasin Day-Lewis's raspberry and vanilla cheesecake tart. It isn't a cheescake, except that it is; it's a cheesetart, which is a grown-up kind of cheesecake: crumbless, slender, elegant, and very, very good to eat.

Raspberry & Vanilla Cheesecake Tart
adapted from Tamasin's Kitchen Classics, by Tamasin Day-Lewis

For the shortcrust pastry:

170g / 6oz plain white flour
pinch of sea salt
85g / 3oz unsalted butter, cold, chopped into small pieces
1-2 tbsp ice cold water
2 tbsp sugar

For the filling:

140g / 5oz cream cheese, room temperature
150ml / 5 fl oz double (heavy) cream
1 heaped tbsp unflavoured Greek yoghurt
3 small eggs and 2 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla pod, the seeds scooped out from the split pods with a teaspoon
340g / 12 oz raspberries

Sift the flour into a large bowl with the salt and sugar, add the chopped butter, and work as briskly as you can to rub the fat into the flour. Use the tips of your fingers only, or a pastry cutter. Add the water bit by bit until the mixture coheres into a ball - you may not need to use all the water, and remember that the more you use, the more the pastry will shrink when you bake it blind. Form the pastry into a disc, wrap it in plastic, and chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Flour your work surface, your hands and a rolling pin. Roll the pastry out to fit a 20cm / 8in tart tin. Grease the tart tin, then lift the pastry with the rolling pin and place it in the tin. Don't stretch it, or it will shrink back. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / gas 6. Tear off a piece of greaseproof paper a little larger than the tart tin and place it over the pastry. Cover the paper with a layer of dried beans or baking weights. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and prick the base of the pastry. Return the tart to the oven for 5-10 minutes to dry the pastry base.

Meanwhile, assemble and make the filling. Turn the oven down to 180°C / 350°F / gas 4. Scrape the cream cheese into a bowl and add the cream, yoghurt, eggs and yolks, and vanilla to the bowl. Whisk all together until smooth. Scatter the raspberries over the base of the pastry shell in a single layer, then scrape over the cheesecake mix. Bake for about 45 minutes until golden and set. Cool on a rack.