Shortbread Tart

May 20, 2007


Here’s a dessert pastry, made with pretty much the same techniques we’ve been using all week. DON’T TELL TIM, but this one has twelve tablespoons of butter. It takes so little time you can stir it up at the last minute. It’s better, though—richer, denser—if you let it sit in the fridge overnight. The bitter-orange marmalade is a wonderful foil for the butter, honey, and flour. Plus, here’s your chance to whip crème fraîche. If you have Herculean muscles, do it with a hand whisk. Otherwise, use the balloon whisk on your mixer. You might never go back to regular whipped cream. Sam

PS Switch out the marmalade for jams matched to fresh fruit: peach jam with Georgia peaches, raspberry jam with spring raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, whatever’s in season. But you’ll still need the crème fraîche.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, cold (1 1/2 sticks)
1 tbsp honey
8 ounces bitter orange marmalade
1 tbsp toasted, coarsely ground hazelnuts or almonds
Crème fraîche for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes and sprinkle over the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until mixture is pale yellow and forms very fine crumbs, 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and drizzle honey evenly over the surface. Beat again until dough forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Set aside 1/2 cup of dough.

With floured knuckles, press the remaining dough into a 10- by 1-inch, fluted tart pan with a removable rim. Spread the marmalade evenly across the bottom. Sprinkle with ground nuts and crumble the reserved pastry across the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 or 15 minutes before removing the rim. Serve topped with whipped or regular crème fraîche or drizzle with heavy cream.
Makes 6 servings.

Leek-Potato Soup

May 19, 2007



Here’s something else you can stir cream into, as long as you DON’T TELL TIM. Leek and potato is one of the all-time classic combos. Serve it for a weekend lunch or as a soup course before your pissaladière swirled with generous spoonfuls of crème fraîche or heavy cream. You could even use half-and-half, if you’re counting calories—but I wouldn’t. Toast the cumin seeds in a heavy, dry, hot skillet until they turn fragrant and start to darken; then grind them in a coffee mill. Chicken stock gives the soup more depth, but the flavors are so well balanced no one will notice if it’s made with water—and your vegetarian friends will adore you. SAM

4 large leeks (1 1/2 pounds after cleaning)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons toasted, ground cumin
1 tablespoon Marsala wine
1 pound new potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock or water
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Crème fraîche or heavy cream for garnish

Discard the dark green leaves of the leeks. Pull off and discard the outermost layer of green and white. Wash thoroughly. With a sharp paring knife, cut the leeks into quarters from root end to tip, leaving roots intact. Wash again and soak upside-down in a large bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the potatoes and cover with cold water in a small saucepan. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Peel and press through a ricer on the fine disk or mash with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons oil.

In a large chef’s pan over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cut the leeks into 1-inch pieces. Reduce heat to low, add the leeks, and sweat, covered, until soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high, add the cumin and sauté until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Add the Marsala and reduce, about 2 minutes.

Add the potato mixture to the leeks, along with the butter, bay leaf, stock or water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a low boil and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 1/3. Discard the bay leaf. Serve hot with generous spoonfuls of crème fraîche or heavy cream stirred in.
Makes 2 quarts.

Classic Pissaladière

May 18, 2007



Now that we’re on a roll with this dough, try a classic pissaladière. So simple … there’s not any cheese, but with all the rich, sweet onions and anchovies you don’t even notice. I learned to make this from Elizabeth David, my favorite cookbook writer. If you don’t know her, go straight to your local bookstore or Amazon and get her French Provençal Cooking. Traditional Provençal pissaladières were made with black olives, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use green or a mix. I read recently that anchovies packed in salt are infinitely better than tinned, but I’ve never seen them outside of French markets. If anyone has a source, I’d love to know about it. I can’t imagine, though, how this could be any better. I’ve seen friends fight over the last piece. SAM

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
2 (10-inch) rounds flatbread dough (Rosemary Flatbread without the rosemary)
1 cup pitted black olives (or green or a mix)
2 ounces tinned anchovies, plus oil

Place a large pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 550 degrees F.

In a covered chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon oil until translucent, about 30 minutes.

Place the dough on two 12-inch rounds of parchment paper on two pizza peels or heavy baking sheets. Spread evenly with anchovy oil, then onions, then olives. Criss-cross with anchovies. One at a time, slide each pissaladière and parchment paper onto the stone and bake for 10 minutes or until browned. Slice with a pizza cutter.
Makes two 10-inch pissaladières.

Spinach Pissaladière

May 17, 2007


Pissaladière is the ancestor of the modern pizza. It’s Mediterranean, originally made with nothing but onions, black olives, and anchovies on a thin pastry crust. This is a fresh spinach spin-off. The toasted pine nuts and Gruyère are fabulous, but crumbled feta would be just as good. Be sure to put the cheese under the spinach so it won’t burn. SAM

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
2 ounces pine nuts
10 ounces fresh spinach
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, finely grated
2 (10-inch) rounds flatbread dough [Yesterday’s recipe without rosemary]
Freshly grated nutmeg

Place a large pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 550 degrees F.

In a covered chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon oil until translucent, about 30 minutes.

In a small, heavy skillet over very low heat, toast the pine nuts, shaking frequently to prevent burning.

Wash the spinach, place it still wet in a large chef’s pan over medium high heat. Cover and steam until wilted, rearranging frequently with tongs, about 4 or 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon oil.

Place the dough on two 12-inch rounds of parchment paper on two pizza peels or heavy baking sheets. Spread evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the Gruyère, onions, pine nuts, and spinach. Sprinkle with nutmeg. One at a time, slide pissaladières and parchment paper onto the stone and bake for 10 minutes or until browned. Slice with a pizza cutter.
Makes two 10-inch pissaladières.

Rosemary Flatbread

May 16, 2007


This is a gem of a flatbread. Serve it as an addictive, last-minute appetizer or tuck it into a salad of mozzarella bufala and roasted red peppers. The better the sea salt, the more it will rise. You must use high-gluten flour. DO NOT try this with soft-wheat flour like White Lily. White Lily is fabulous for biscuits—remind me to post my buttermilk biscuit recipe—but it turns flatbread into a dull, dense cracker. If you don’t have a pizza stone and peel, you can bake it on parchment paper on a heavy baking sheet. The basic recipe has endless variations. More to come on this one. Sam

PS For flatbread, I always use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. You can find pizza stones and peels at places like Williams-Sonoma. See Blogroll for links.

2 cups all-purpose, high-gluten flour
1 tablespoon stone-ground cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided [preferably Guerande fleur de sel]
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup warm water

Place a large pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 550 degrees F.

In a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and rosemary. With the processor running, slowly pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil, then just enough water to form a ball.

Cut two 12-inch rounds of parchment paper and place on two pizza peels. Knead the dough two or three times and cut in half. On a lightly floured pastry board, roll or stretch each half into a 10-inch round and transfer to parchment paper. Spread evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Slide the flatbread and parchment paper onto the stone and bake for 10 minutes or until browned. Slice with a pizza cutter.
Makes two 10-inch rounds.

Crème Fraîche

May 15, 2007



Crème fraîche is a wonderfully rich and versatile cream that’s slightly thickened. The French translation is ‘fresh cream,’ but it’s actually heavy cream lightly soured with live culture. You can whip it, cook with it, pile it on anything from Tomato-Onion Pie to pizza to chocolate pudding. I’ve been known to eat it off a spoon. Even the cheapest chain-store brand in France is good. In the US, unless you have a good, local diary, it tends to be sticky and dense. Happily, you can make your own. Here’s how. Sam

1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk

In a one-pint glass jar, combine the cream and buttermilk. Cover tightly and shake thoroughly. Set in a warm place, outside in summer or on a sunny windowsill, and leave for 6 to 8 hours. Once the crème fraîche has congealed, store it in the fridge.
Makes 1 pint.

NOTE: You can substitute live-culture sour cream for the buttermilk, but commercial sour cream has no live bacteria and will not work.

Savory Pastry

May 14, 2007


My favorite pie crust—and the world’s easiest. You can make it in two minutes, tops. There’s no high-tech. Let the flour take up as much liquid as it wants and handle the dough as little as possible—otherwise it’ll be tough. Blind-baking makes it crisper, especially with soupy fillings. Minus the cornmeal, I even use it for desserts. If you don’t want the nutty olive oil taste, substitute a neutral oil like safflower. SAM

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons ice water
4 tablespoons olive oil

Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan or shallow baking dish.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt in a small bowl and make a well in the center. Into a small juice glass, measure the ice water, then the oil. Beat rapidly with a fork to form an emulsion and pour into the center of the flour. Stir gently with the fork just enough to form a ball. Discard any extra flour. Knead the dough two or three times and place in the center of the pan. With your knuckles, spread evenly across the bottom and up the sides.

This crust may be used unbaked or blind-baked. To blind-bake, prick bottom and sides with a fork and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.
Makes 1 (9-inch) pastry shell.