Fruit Crostata (Galette aka Free Form Tart)

Let’s start with the exciting news! My blog was nominated for the Blog on Fire Award by One Picture, A Million Words! I’m so honored to be nominated! Thank you! There are official rules to accepting this nomination, including nominating eight other blogs and sharing eight things about yourself. I’m still working on that part (hey, I need to be thorough! Don’t rush me!) but I just wanted to formally say “thanks” for the nomination! Post coming soon with my eight nominations.

I love The Chew. Yes, I’ve mentioned that before but every week I laugh at their antics, drool over the food, and get inspired by this show. It’s so genuine and so unlike any other cooking show!  We’ve made dozens of recipes from the show and most have been fantastic. Last week I made Carla’s Blooming Onion (or rather, “Flower Power”). We’ve done several Sunday Suppers from The Chew as well.

I didn’t tweak this crostata at all, except for the type of berries I used. Mario used all blackberries, but I used strawberries and blueberries, along with peaches of course, because that is what I had available. You could use any fruit and it would be delicious. I’m looking forward to trying it with apples and cranberries this fall. The dough is so easy to work with and actually one of my favorite doughs that I’ve had. I’m not a big fan of pie, I mean, I ‘ll eat it, but the crust is my least favorite part of a pie. Not for this crostata! I probably could have eaten it all by itself. Ok, maybe a little fruit.

Don’t skip the honey and egg glaze…makes it oh so irresistible!

Crostatas (galette) are a lot easier and more forgiving than a pie. If you are afraid of making pie because of the crust looking crazy, then this is for you! It’s supposed to look a little crazy! That makes it “rustic” and therefore cool. Don’t you love that? I sure do.

Peach & Berry Crostata

From Mario Batali

One year ago: Lime & Blackberry Italian Meringue Pie (funny that a year ago was a pie, don’t you think? It’s a good one too!)

Yield: One 12 inch crostata

Difficulty: Easy

Time: Hands on 20 minutes; chill time 30 minutes; bake time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • For the Dough:
  • 2 1/2 cup Cake Flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 3 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Grated Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted Butter (cut into small chunks)
  • 1/4 cup Ice Water plus more if needed
  • For the Filling:
  • 5 Large Ripe Peaches (pitted and cut into 16 slices each)
  • 2 pint Fresh Blackberries
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 3 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon All-purpose Flour
  • To Finish:
  • 2 tablespoons Honey
  • 1 Large Egg (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup Mascarpone or Freshly Whipped Cream

Directions

1. Add flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zet to food processor or stand mixer with paddle attachment. Mix briefly to combine. Add butter and mix until coarse crumbs (if using food processor then pulse quickly). Add water 1 TB at a time, allowing plenty of time between additions to be absorbed. Add until dough comes together but is not wet or sticky. Should be easy to handle. If you add too much water, add a tablespoon of flour. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 365F. Slice your peaches into approximately 16 slices each. If you are using strawberries, slice them too. Add  the lemon, sugar, and flour to the fruit and toss gently to combine. Set aside.

3. Remove dough from refrigerator. If it is too cold, let soften at room temperature a little. But, colder dough is easier to work with so don’t let it warm up too much. Colder dough will require less flour to dust. Dust your work surface and rolling pin very lightly. The more flour you add, the tougher your dough will be so refrain from constantly dusting your dough. Move it around frequently to keep it from sticking. And, don’t worry about it being perfect. We’re going for rustic, remember? Roll it to about 16 inch circle and 1/4 inch thick.

5. If you have a 12 inch tart pan with removable bottom, you can use that. I only have a 9 inch and that would have been too small. Thus, I just used a sheet pan and did free form. Do whatever is easiest for you. If you do free form, just place the dough on your sheet pan (lined with parchment or silpat). It may hang over a bit at first but you’ll fix that in a second.

6. Dump your fruit into the center. I actually had to take some of my fruit out because it was too much! Once the fruit is in the center, fold the edges in, leaving plenty of the fruit to show, but make sure it is also folded over enough so the fruit doesn’t fall out. There’s no rule on how to do this, just fold it over so that it stays together and the fruit stays put.

7. Mix together the honey and egg and brush over the entire crostata, including the fruit. It will act as a delicious glaze and help the crostata brown nicely.

8. Bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Start checking about 50 minutes. Once it is golden brown and the fruit bubbly, it is ready!

9. Top with fresh whipped cream (I’d avoid adding sugar to the whip cream…otherwise it will be too sweet) and enjoy!

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Seedy Crisps (Crackers)

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

I know I just did  Parm Herb Crackers, but can you really have too many cracker options? Nope, I didn’t think so either. This dough is very easy to roll out nice and thin with very little muscle involved. That makes me happy. These are also crackers that you can just break into random pieces. Fun, right? Oh, and they go great with cheese, which is a requirement for a good cracker. If a cracker can’t hold a piece of cheese and taste good, that cracker is failing in its cracker duties. What’s that? I’m not making sense? Well, blame that on too much coffee and not enough wine. Oh, look, a cracker!

I used White Wheat flour again but otherwise didn’t change the recipe at all. These come together in no time at all. You’ll definitely spend more time standing around the oven waiting for them to cook. Or maybe don’t stand around the oven. It’s hot out, after all. Go hang out by the freezer.

On a side note, I do not like taking pictures of crackers. I don’t think they are photogenic. Good thing they are tasty.

Here’s what they look like before baking:

In the time I spent writing this post, I could have made another batch of crackers. So, what are you waiting for?

Seedy Crisps

One year ago: Homemade Oreos

Yield: A lot of crackers

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 10 minutes to prep and roll; 15 minutes to rest;  30 minutes to bake

  • Ingredients
  • 2 cups (280 grams) White Wheat Flour (or split half wheat and half AP)
  • 1/3 cup (50 grams) poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup (50 grams) sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup + 1 TB (6 1/2 oz) water

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Line four sheet pans (or just work in batches) with silpat or parchment. Note: My oven takes forever to preheat, but if yours doesn’t, you can wait until the dough is finished before you turn on the inferno.

2. Mix together flour, seeds, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the olive oil. Then stir in the water slowly until a dough forms. You may not need it all, you may need more. I needed all the water, but not more. Knead a few times on the counter to form a smooth ball. Should come together fairly quickly. Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

3. After resting, diving into four pieces. Roll each piece thin. It should be about the length of the sheet pan. Don’t worry about the shape – you will just be breaking it into pieces later.

4. Bake each pan for about 7 minutes, flip, then 7 minutes more. At this point, break into pieces and bake for another five minutes if needed. These crackers are supposed to be crispy.

5. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Eat and enjoy!

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Basil Olive Oil Gelato – Where Have You Been All My Life?

I know what you are thinking. “She’s lost her mind. Gone completely coo coo. Basil olive oil gelato? Huh?”

Oh it is so good. After one bite you’ll wonder why you haven’t had it before.The basil makes it a bit minty and the olive oil adds a fruity and peppery side. Combine the two and flavors explode in your mouth. It’s refreshing. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s unique and it is delicious. We first had this at a local restaurant and now it has become one of our favorite flavors.

I did a lot of research trying to find a recipe that would be as close to the real gelato (Italian style ice cream) I once had in Italy. It’s hard to find here, and it is hard to find solid info on how exactly gelato should be made. Two things are certain: gelato has less fat than American style ice cream and has less air. That combination gives you more bang for your buck with each bite. The flavor is more concentrated.

Now, as for the whether or not gelato should have eggs is rather dependent upon the region. Either way, it should have far fewer eggs (4 yolks is about the max per batch) and it should not have cream. When researching recipes, those that had too many yolks and cream were out. Yes, I’m certain those recipes would have been delicious, that’s not the point. That would have made it American style ice cream. I’m going for Italian here.

I was a bit surprised to find many recipes use corn starch as a thickener instead of egg yolks. Corn starch doesn’t exactly bring “tasty” to mind. But, it does make sense. Egg yolks have a strong flavor and they distract from the flavor of the gelato, in this case, basil and olive oil. The best part, in my humble opinion, about using corn starch is that you don’t have to worry about tempering those eggs. Sure, it’s not that difficult, but it does make for a much more relaxing experience when you aren’t worried about curdling your eggs and checking the temperature frequently. It. Was. Easy.

I actually rarely make ice cream because when all is said and done, it’s not cheaper to make it at home and it can be tedious. Egg yolks and cream add up. This gelato was not expensive and it was so much easier to make. So I’m hooked.  I will be using this recipe as my base for other flavors.

I finally decided on this pistachio recipe from Saveur. I obviously didn’t add the pistachios. I steeped a vanilla bean and basil in the milk overnight, then added olive oil the next day. To finish I folded in minced basil. I’m so happy with how it turned out. At first I was worried it was too much olive oil, but after freezing the flavor is perfect. It is very easy to adjust to your liking.

It’s very important to use a good extra virgin olive oil here, otherwise you won’t taste it. And if you can’t taste it, what’s the point?

Basil Olive Oil Gelato

Modified from Saveur

Yield: 6 cups of gelato

Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Time: 20 mins to make mixture; chill overnight; 20 to 30 minutes in ice cream maker

Special Equipment: Ice cream maker

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 TB cornstarch
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 4 to 6 fresh basil leaves, divided, leaving 2 to 4 whole and the rest finely minced
  • 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil, plus additional 2 TB if needed
  • Tiny pinch of salt

Directions

1. Heat 3 cups of milk to a simmer. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, mix the remaining 1 cup milk with the sugar and corn starch.

2. Stir sugar mixture into the hot milk. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly (using a spoon not a whisk!), for 8 to 10 minutes. Mixture will thicken, but not much.

3. Stir in 2 to 4 whole basil leaves and the vanilla bean. Pour into heat proof bowl. Let cool slightly, stirring frequently, then cover and chill completely overnight.

4. The next day, remove the basil leaves and vanilla. Add in 1/4 cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix according to your ice cream makers instruction, stopping after about 10 minutes to taste. Add additional olive oil if desired. Flavor will be less pronounced as it freezes.

5. After the mixture is done in the ice cream maker, fold in your minced basil and freeze. Enjoy!

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Sweet & Spicy Herb Cashews

This might be the easiest recipe I’ve posted on here, and it is quickly becoming a staple in my house. These cashews are sweet when you first taste them then the heat from the cayenne kicks in. I’ve made it a couple of times before, usually as a football snack. We’d end up devouring all of them by the end of the game. Oops.

A funny thing happens when you make a dish frequently.  You feel less of a desire to eat all of it in one sitting. It’s there as a quick and delicious snack. It’s not a novelty anymore that must be eaten quickly or it will disintegrate. This treat will now last a week. It’s not the cheapest of treats though. I do pay $10 for a pound of raw cashews, which hurts a bit. But a couple times a month is doable.

This is one of those times you do not want to substitute dry herbs for fresh. The fresh rosemary really shines and dried will not be the same. I buy raw, unsalted cashews. You can buy roasted ones but if you buy salted and roasted, omit the salt from the recipe. Oh, and it will take about 10 minutes to make. That includes standing around waiting for the cashews to roast and pouring a glass of wine. These are of course best warm but I enjoy them room temperature and cold too!

Rosemary Cashews

from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris

Yield: 1 lb of delicious cashews

Difficulty: Very, very, very easy

Time: 2 minutes to mix ingredients; 10 minutes for cashews to roast

Ingredients

  • 1 lb raw or roasted cashews (unsalted is best)
  • 2 TB fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 TB kosher salt (omit if you use salted cashews)
  • 1 TB unsalted butter, melted

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Pour yourself a glass of wine or beer (optional but recommended!)

2. Spread the cashews on a half sheet pan. Roast for about 10 minutes, or until lightly golden and fragrant.

3. While cashews are roasting, mix together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. When cashews are done, toss in bowl to coat thoroughly.

4. Eat and enjoy!

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Skillet Cornbread

My first memories of cornbread are in Southern Ohio where I have family. My great uncle and great grandma would make all the fixin’s with fried chicken, beans, cornbread, and I’m sure other things (Mom, what else?).

But I am from much farther north where this kind of food doesn’t really exist, at least in my world. So it was weird to me. I wasn’t a terribly adventurous eater as a kid either. And I just thought cornbread was strange and I assumed I didn’t like it, even though I don’t recall ever trying a bite until I was an adult. And I love it.  I wonder what I missed by not trying my great uncle’s cornbread from years ago.

Now this Yankee is living in the Deep South where cornbread is king, and you absolutely do not ever put any sugar or anything sweet in your cornbread. Because that is wrong and only Yankees do such terrible things. So of course I make cornbread with honey. That’s how I like it.

For a long time I made jalapeño cornbread from Ina Garten. I still love that recipe, but it is less cornbread-y, makes a lot, and takes a little more effort. I’ve recently adapted this simple recipe to meet our needs. It makes a small amount and the mix comes together in less time than it takes the oven to preheat. I’m sure that any additions like cheddar and chives would be delightful, but I haven’t tried  yet. If you do please let me know how it turns out. And making cornbread in a cast iron skillet just makes it oh so good. It gets that nice brown, buttery crust but the rest is light and airy. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t like cornbread when trying this fresh out of the oven with a slab of butter, and maybe even a little more honey!

Skillet Cornbread

Adapted from Alex G. 

Yield: 1 six inch pan of cornbread

Difficulty: Very easy

Time: 10 minutes to prep, 25 minutes to bake

Note: If you look at the original recipe, it is designed for a 9 inch skillet. My recipe is not exactly halved and changes have been made so doubling my recipe will not yield the same as the original. I’ve not made the original so I can’t vouch for it but I’m sure it is still delightful.

Another Note: A reminder that I always bake with unsalted butter and whole milk. You should too.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup + 2 TB coarse cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup + 2 TB flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (to make your own add a splash of vinegar to your milk and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TB honey
  • 4 TB melted butter, slightly cooled, plus one more for the pan

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Place a six inch cast iron skillet in the oven to warm up.  After the oven is almost preheated, add a tablespoon of butter to the cast iron pan and return to oven until completely preheated. (Don’t have a cast iron skillet? They are dirt cheap on Amazon and a really wonderful pan. I use mine all the time for just about everything. All natural non-stick, no icky Teflon. So I recommend getting one. Still not convinced? A cake pan will work fine, but no need to preheat it for as long.  And make sure you butter the sides too. It will stick to a cake pan.)

2. In a medium bowl mix together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, eggs, honey, and melted butter. Pour the wet into the dry and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix.

4. Remove the cast iron from the oven (carefully…it’s obviously hot!). Pour the mixture into the pan.

5. Lower the oven temperature to 375F. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out completely clean. You want the cornbread to have a nice brown crust and hold together. Let cool for just a minute, then flip onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and enjoy!

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Christmas in July: Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwiches

I know it isn’t quite July, but close enough. I assume you have planned out your 4th of July menu? No? Well, dessert is now decided. It’s easy, delicious, and a bit surprising: gingerbread ice cream sandwiches.

Gingerbread need not be reserved for just Christmas.  But no one really wants a rich, spicy cake when it is 100 degrees out. Gingerbread just seems way too heavy all by its lonesome. But freeze it and add some ice cream? Well, that is a whole different ball game.

This treat is fast and easy to make. You do have to turn your oven on, but only for 30 minutes, tops, including preheating.  It doesn’t have to be perfect (I think it looks better if it is not), can be cut to any size you want, and you can even use whatever ice cream you want. Although I think vanilla is best, but that’s just me.

Thanks to Gourmet Live Blog for suggesting this in the first place. Apparently June 5th is “National Gingerbread Day.” Yes, that does make perfect sense. I just don’t know why.

This recipe is also a one bowl wonder. One more reason to love it, right?

P.S. Did you notice I have a Facebook page now? Yes, I know, way to join the 21st Century. Just click “Like” over there on the right and join in the fun!

One year ago: Blackberry Buttermilk Cake

Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwiches

From Gourmet Live

Yield: One half sheet pan of cake; sandwiches will depend on how you make them

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 10 minutes to make batter; 15 minutes to bake; 10 minutes to spread ice cream and cut into sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 qt ice cream (vanilla is my preference)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a half sheet pan (cookie sheet) and then line with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, molasses, and egg. Then add the ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and flour. Mix until combined. It will be a bit thick at this point. Add your boiling water and stir. It will thin to a nice cake batter.

3. Spread on your sheet pan. Try to make it even, but not a huge deal if it isn’t perfect. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely. To speed things up, put it in the freezer.

4. Let your ice cream soften at room temperature. It will be easier to spread when it is soft.

5. Cut the entire sheet in half crosswise, basically into two squares. One will be your top, one will be your bottom. Spread the ice cream on one side. Top with the other. Freeze until ice cream is set again. Cut into desired sizes and shapes. Yes, a cookie cutter would be just fine here. You’ll just have to eat the scraps though. So terrible, huh?

6. Freeze until ready to eat. You can wrap them in parchment and freeze or just use a freezer bag. They keep quite nicely.

Enjoy!

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Cinnamon Vanilla Granola

I complain about the heat all summer long. It’s just what I do. Normally I’d be whining about how it is 95 out, but it is hotter in other parts of the country so I’ll just keep my pretty little mouth shut. And being the perfectly reasonable person that I am, I still turn my oven on during the hottest time of the day to make yummies that bake for over an hour, like granola. I mean, 250F isn’t that hot for an oven, so what’s the big deal?

 

I know it would be better for my electric bill to scale back on the oven use over the hot summer months, but I still need my treats. And granola is a staple in this house, usually with dried fruit. We are never without it. I sprinkle it on my yogurt. My hubby takes it to work everyday for a snack. We eat it as cereal. We take it with us whenever we travel. So, you see, I can’t just stop making granola because it is hot outside. I could stop whining, but what fun would that be?

Put into jars for easy little homemade gifts! 

One year ago: Best Ever Banana Bread

Cinnamon Vanilla Granola

Inspired from Alton Brown

Yield: About 6 to 8 cups depending on the nuts you use

Difficulty: Really Easy

Time: 10 minutes to prep; 1 hour 15 minutes to bake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped nuts (I usually use a combination of almonds and walnuts, but anything goes here)
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey, maple syrup, or a combination
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dried fruit, optional. (I prefer cranberries or cherries)

Notes: I’ve made this recipe so many different ways over the years. It is very flexible and you can add or delete things to make it yours. You can adjust the sugar to suit your needs: more will obviously make it sweeter but will also cause it to clump together more, kind of like bars. Less will make it looser, which isn’t bad either, but I’ve found it is harder to snack on that way. Olive oil may seem strange but it is a better fat than canola oil and I think the taste is better. Flaxseed is optional, but a great way to add some heart goodness to your food without knowing it is there! If you omit it, I’d add another 1/2 cup of nuts or oats. It is pretty sweet by itself but is a wonderful compliment to tangy greek yogurt.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250F. Prepare one or two sheet pans. One if you want your granola to clump together a bit more (this is what I do) or two if you want it to be looser and roast a bit more.

2. In a large bowl combine the oats, nuts, flaxseed, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Toss together to combine well.

3. In a small bowl combine the oil, honey or maple syrup, vanilla, and pinch of salt. Whisk together.  Pour over the oat mixture and stir until well combined.

4. Spread onto sheet pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Your house will smell intoxicating. No need for candles today!

5. Let cool in the sheet pan. If you want really big clumps, don’t touch it till it is cool. It will then break nicely into large pieces (if you used just one pan). If you want it to be more cereal like, let it cool for just a minute then take a spatula and start stirring it up. You can add dried fruit at this point, but I usually don’t add the fruit until right before serving. I may use fresh fruit, especially this time of year, or dried fruit.

What’s your favorite granola? I  need some ideas to mix it up a bit!

Enjoy!

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