Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beat the heat


Here's a little something for the hottest of summer days( two little somethings actually), for all you gourmands out there.
Some of us won't refrain from preparing and enjoying some quality chow just because it's hot outside. And some of us will. If you're part of the latter group, see you in the fall! If you're still here, you must try this refreshing mango and cucumber soup. I've already made it at least five times this summer. Yes, it's that good. There's a bit of prep work involved, but all in all it's easy, fast and there's no cooking involved.
Summer meal planning is easy, really. Especially if you stick to the basics. Cold soups, grilled meat or seafood with nothing but salt, pepper, garlic and lemon juice, throw in some fresh veggies with a cool yogurt sauce and you're home free! As for the sweet part, you have fresh fruit, ice cream or sorbet. My freezer is laden with mango, red currant and raspberry sorbet throughout the season. Now, if you want to take it a step further make a nice tart crust, fill it with whipped cream, mascarpone, ricotta or some pastry cream and top it off with fresh fruit of your choice. And you're done!
Making the perfect tart crust has been somewhat of an obsession of mine lately. If you share my obsession, search no more.
I think I found the one, courtesy of Fran Bigelow, author of Pure Chocolate. This tart crust has a crumbly dough that won't shrink or puff when baked, eliminating the need for the pie weights. Low gluten cake flour makes the dough short and crisp. Not to mention that it's nice and thin and not at all mealy, which most tart shells tend to be.
The key to making perfectly tender tart shells in temperature. Make sure to thoroughly refrigerate your oeuvre. The dough needs to be chilled when it hits the oven. The heat makes the butter expand, forming air bubbles that create a light pastry.

Chilled mango and cucumber soup


4 ripe mangoes
2 English cucumbers, peeled and deseeded
2 tbsp finely chopped red onions
fresh lime juice to taste
2 tbsp chopped coriander
2 tbsp chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop 2 mangoes and 1 cucumber. Set aside. Coarsely chop remaining mangoes and cucumber. Add to a food processor along with the rest of your ingredients. Blend until almost smooth. Add 1 cup pf water. Blend again.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl, add the finely chopped mango and cucumber. Stir well and chill for a few hors before serving. If you desire a thinner soup, add more water. For a creamier texture, take 1 cup of your finished soup and puree it with an immersion blender. Pour it back into the soup and stir well.
Try adding chopped chillies or fresh ginger for some kick.
Recipe adapted form Gourmet magazine.

The best sugar tart crust (so far)


3/4 stick (6 tbsp) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup cake flour
all purpose flour for dusting

Cream together butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk. Continue mixing until completely smooth. Add cake flour and mix until just blended. Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Lightly butter a 9 inch round tart pan (this is very important). Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and let it warm on the counter for about 20 minutes until pliable but still cool to the touch. On a floured board knead the dough a few times. Pat into a ball and flatten with your hands to a 5 inch round disc. Begin rolling from the center out until an 11 and 1/2 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick is formed. It the dough gets difficult to work with, just return it to the refrigerator for a few minutes. Gently place the dough to the buttered pan. Press it onto the bottom and around the edges of the pan, keeping the sides even and thick.Trim excess dough along the edges. Pierce the bottom with a fork and place in the refrigerator until well chilled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the chilled tart shell on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.
Recipe adapted from Pure Chocholate, by Fran Bigelow.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mon cherry amour


Cherry season is upon us and while I'm sure most of you would rather eat them as they are, crisp, juicy and straight from a bowl (or from a tree if you're lucky), I urge you to try this recipe. Even if it's 40C outside and the last thing on your mind is baking. It honestly takes no time at all to make. You just do some mixing, pouring, scattering and finally devouring copious amounts of these "black beauties".
A few weeks ago I was introduced to what I think was a new kind of cherry (investigation in process), somewhere between a black cherry and a sour cherry, deep red, a tad softer than your regular cherry and with some much needed sourness thrown into the mix. Upon returning from the market the two of us finished off almost the entire contents of a 7 litre basket in one sitting. When I returned next week for seconds and possibly thirds, the cherries in question where nowhere to be found. So I settled for these black cherries, which are almost as delicious but a lot easier to sacrifice for treats such as these cake squares, maybe pickled cherries or even some luscious, silky jam.
This is the stuff summer dreams are made of, along with lemony ice tea, a cozy porch and this song.

Black cherry cake squares


3 whole eggs
350 ml full fat yogurt
250 ml sugar
100 ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp baking flower
1 tbsp vanilla extract
500 ml all purpose flour
500 g pitted black cherries

Preheat oven to 375C.
In a bowl mix well eggs, sugar and yogurt. Add oil, baking powder, vanilla and mix well. Finally add flour and mix until just combined. Spread batter in a 9"X13" metal baking pan, lined with baking paper. Scatter cherries over the batter and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar, cut into large slices and serve while still warm. Or not. Either way, you'll be happy. I promise.