Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pear Tart

'Look, mama! Autumn kissed the leaves!', exclaimed my observant child. Evening walks lend themselves a view long forgotten, when taking them with a child. Colorful red orange hues on maple trees, newly labeled as 'autumn kissed'...that's one to remember!

Recently, my lovely neighbors dropped off a couple of large bags of plums and pears--mmm, another sign of autumn. After 'tiring' of several pears a day for what felt like forever and three days, I decided it was time to do more with them. I found a pretty tempting tart at This gal, by the way, is amazing! The food styling/ photography, the recipes, the humor...fantastic!

I made her frangipane tart, but to my dismay, due to constant distractions and over flopped. Big time. With another notch of culinary disaster under my belt, I took the extra tart dough and tried again. This time I made a sour cream based filling and added Helene's honey roasted pears on top.
Wow! The tart was impressive, somewhat. My son gasped and said, 'Mama, it's sooo purdy! I don't want it. It's too honey-y and pear-y'. A self proclaimed food critic, who doesn't need to taste it in order to come to a conclusion...and so, we move on. It was not only pleasing to the eye, but also to the palate!

The sour cream base is quite versatile. It can be altered to accommodate the moment, as well as seasonal fruit!

Pear Tart
Sable dough and honey roasted apples
by Helene Dujardin,

Sable Dough
1 stick (115 gr) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (93 gr) powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 1 /2 cups (188gr) flour
2 tablespoons (20 gr) cornstarch (makes for a lighter crumb)
pinch of salt

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and mix until combined.
Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and mix briefly to incorporate.
Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between the sheets of plastic. You will need half the amount of dough to make the tartelettes.
The other half can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months.
Cut out rounds with a 3 inch pastry ring. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes. Let cool

Honey Roasted Apples:

4 medium apples
1/2 cup honey
Preheat oven to 350F.
Peel core and cut the apples in thin slices.
Lay them on a couple of parchment paper lined baking sheets and drizzle at will with the honey.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Let cool
Sour Cream Filling
adapted from Tanya Belt,
3/4 cup sugar *
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 pinch salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, flour, spices, and salt.
Add sour cream, mix until smooth.
Beat in egg, and combine until smooth.
Pour filling into cooled prebaked tart shell.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean.
Let cool.
Arrange roasted pears on firm and set filling.
Store in refrigerator, covered.

*Pears and apples have been used interchangably. I roasted pears, under the premise of Helene's honey roasted apple recipe.
* I made an 8 inch tart and increased baking time.
* I will definitely decrease the sugar in the filling, due to the sweetness of the pears and honey.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Simple Biscuits

With intermittent chilly mornings and the scent of autumn in the air, busy weekday mornings yield a need to slowdown and sometimes pause on weekends. Saturday morning equals biscuits, to be enjoyed with jam, creamy country gravy, and even alone! Mmmmm....a great way to end the week and prepare for the week ahead!
This anytime biscuit recipe is a bit on the simple side, no rolling, no cutting, no chilling. Drop biscuits are the easy way to go! Let go of your fears and let go of the Pillsbury dough boy's hand, you can do this all by yourself or with the help of curious little hands! Not only will you be filled with pride, but your body will also thank you for not filling it with harmful preservatives!

I came across this recipe via Cook's Illustrated. With the recipe, came a magnificent tutorial on the need for clumped butter in the batter. When your butter clumps, it's a good thing! You're on the right path, so keep going!
Simple Biscuits
adapted from Cooks Illustrated, December 2007

2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder, aluminum free
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup cold buttermilk
1/4 cup cold milk
8 tablespoons margarine, melted and slightly cooled
plus 2 tablespoons melted margarine for brushing biscuit tops

Preheat oven to 475 degrees

Whisk dry ingredients, first 5 ingredients, together in a large bowl, set aside.
Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons of melted margarine, stirring until large clumps form.
Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula just until combined and batter pulls away from sides of bowl.
Using a greased ice cream scoop or greased 1/4 cup dry measuring cup scoop an equal and level amount of batter onto either a parchment or aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Space biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12-14 minutes.
Brush biscuit tops with remaining melted margarine.
Cool on wire rack, serve warm.
Makes one dozen biscuits. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes, for best results.

* It's very easy to over mix. Over mixing will result in a tough heavy biscuit
* You can omit 1/4 cup milk, I found it made the biscuit heavy and pleasingly dense. That is how the original was written, but I wanted a lighter result.
* Adding 1tsp onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese to dry ingredients and sprinkling with salt and old bay seasoning on baked tops, renders a close cousin to a biscuit served at a certain restaurant known for it's crustacean logo.
* Other variations include adding bacon and cheddar cheese, or rosemary and parmigiana cheese to name a few.
* Amend to your taste and get creative!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Helper

Here are some examples of my son's ideas for the pumpkin mousse photos

Pumpkin Mousse

Autumn's on it's way...I can smell it in the early morning when I go to bed, and later in the early morning when I rise! The leaves are beginning their ascent into the height of nature's fiery trail. I am so excited! Yes, Autumn is one of my favorite seasons.

Transitions are slowly under way, not only with the seasons, but with Life. My son started preschool and his transition from little boy to big boy has begun. Having my little one with me for four years, I grew accustomed to having my shadow with me wherever I went. Mornings are now mine. Though I have reclaimed them, it feels strange, sometimes empty, and a bit lonely. I know he will only be away for a few hours, and we get to share the rest of the day together, but you know, four years is a long time. Reacquainting and reclaiming myself as a woman and as an individual will take some time.
My transition has begun.

On a lighter note, my apologies to my readers for not posting. There are no excuses and fortunately no major horrific events that prevented me from doing so! I enjoyed the remainder of summer by taking camel rides, going to the state fair, farmers markets, cooking out, and complaining that it was too hot. There you go, honesty, that's what it's all about!

I leave you with a pumpkin mousse recipe I found and tried via and of course, made some changes along the way. It was creamy, fluffy, yet rich without that feeling of heaviness and guilt. Perhaps one could say it's an adultified pumpkin pudding. I can see this being a great filling for a pumpkin mousse pie! Diana, this one's for you!
Pumpkin Mousse
adapted from
1⁄4 cup dark rum
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream

Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer.
Pour rum into a small, heat-proof bowl, then sprinkle in the gelatin.
Place bowl in a pot and pour simmering water in the pan, reaching to half the height of the bowl.
Stir to dissolve the gelatin, remove bowl from heat and cool to room temperature.
As the gelatin cools, Place a large mixing bowl over pot of simmering water, constantly beat eggs until thick and reaches 160 degrees. *Do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water.
Gradually beat in the sugar and continue until the mixture is lemon colored and sugar dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Stir in pumpkin and spices, add gelatin mixture.
In a separate bowl, using clean beaters, whip the cream until stiff.**
Gently fold it into the pumpkin mixture.
Refrigerate mousse for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Makes 6 servings. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

* If bowl is partially submerged you will create scrambled eggs due to the higher heat at the bottom of the bowl
**Over whipping heavy cream will yield butter, you may want to save that act for pumpkin butter
***I used light rum, instead of dark, it was all I had on hand--not in my hands, just in case you were wondering!