March 22, 2009

Blueberry & Sour Cherry Crumb Cake (TWD)

One of my favorite things in our house is the full-size freezer we have in the basement. I love freezing, especially flash-freezing local fruit and vegetables from the farmer's market so that I can pull them out in the depths of winter and get a taste of last summer or last fall. Of course, it helps if I remember that I have stuff in there. And it helps even more if I both remember it and then cook with it.

When I saw that this week's selection for Tuesdays with Dorie was the Blueberry Crumb Cake, light bulb!, I remembered that I still had both blueberries and sour cherries in the freezer from last summer. Yup, that's 8 months ago, but trust me, freezing fruit that long is fine. It hasn't killed us yet. And I was so glad to not be stuck buying tasteless, overpriced berries at the Stop & Shop. Happily, I pulled out New York State blueberries and sour cherries from Summer 2008.

I've made this cake twice before. My friend Hestia had it at a brunch the first time I made it and when her 40th birthday rolled around last year, she asked me to make it as her birthday cake. Crumb cake for a birthday? Well, okay...who can deny a birthday girl? (Not me). We all gorged that night on this cake, along with a lemon almond layer cake (because I had to make a proper birthday cake too).

This time, I used half white whole wheat flour, just to make it a little different. It adds a nice earthiness that goes well with the berries and cherries. I also used almonds instead of walnuts in the topping, and added a touch of almond extract to the cake.

I loved the sour cherries in it, especially in contrast to the sweet blueberries. So once again, my freezer came through for me in the dead of winter, bringing last summer's sweetness to life again on a chilly winter's day.

You can find the recipe for this delicious crumb cake on Sihan's blog.

As for me, I'm going back down to the freezer to see what else might be hiding in there!

March 16, 2009

What I'm Not Showing You (TWD)

This is a first for me in my short life as a blogger with TWD. I'm going photo-less for a post. Yup, I made the lemon yogurt cake. But no, I didn't like it. I didn't even like it enough to take its picture! Isn't that terrible? Am I a bad, bad baker girl now? Go on, you can tell me the truth.

Baked creations are not like children or pets, people. You don't have to love them just because they're yours. Or because they took up some of your time, your money and space in the kitchen. It's okay to say "feh". So there, my response to French lemon yogurt cake: feh. I mean no disrespect, really. And I know I am officially now a blogger hypocrite because I don't like it when other food bloggers totally dis a whole category of foods or one particular ingredient. The whole "if you can't say anything nice" thing and all that. But, so be it. I decided that in this case, a negative post was better than none. It's good to break your own rules once in a while.

My homely lemon yogurt loaf cake looked so sad, with its sunken top and its overly browned sides. Ugly is okay if it tastes good. But ugly combined with a rubbery, bland texture just isn't getting its picture taken.

Determined to triumph despite the little flop, I tried another version. I just finished reading "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. Oh, you must read it! It's terrific. I cried, I laughed, I couldn't wait to read more and I was sorry when it was over. Molly also has a recipe for French Lemon Yogurt Cake. It's very close to Dorie's, almost identical in fact, except she uses one more egg, bakes it in a 9" round pan and makes two simple icings to coat it. I don't know if it was the extra egg, or a lighter touch with my folding, or the shape of the pan, but this second cake was much better than the first. And possibly even worthy of photography. But it's late now and the light is gone and I just don't have the get-up-and-go to shoot it, because a cake like this would still require some food styling to give it any photo-worthiness. And, I still don't love it. I don't know - maybe I need butter in my cakes. Or maybe I should have tried harder to find full-fat Greek yogurt instead of 2%. Or maybe I should admit I don't like lemon desserts all that much. Who knows but I daresay that's my last French yogurt cake. I gave it a good shot, I baked two in two days and I tried really, really hard to like both of them. Honest, I did.

Just because I didn't love this cake shouldn't stop you from trying it. For you, it might be just perfect. You can find recipe on Liliana's blog, My Cookbook Addiction. And you can check out the other TWD bakers' reports by heading over to the blogroll.

March 14, 2009

Dark Chocolate Rosemary Tart for Pi Day

Dark chocolate and rosemary. Rosemary and dark chocolate. Thinking about it, you just can't imagine how utterly transcendent the two are together. At least, I couldn't. Until I dipped a finger into the tart base and just KNEW I was onto something big. Really big. As in, baking-life-changing, big.

For this month's "You Want Pies with That" challenge, we blogger-bakers were invited by Elizabeth of Cake or Death to make a pie with herbs or spices. I knew immediately that I wanted to combine an herb with chocolate. My first idea was chocolate and basil, which I've seen done a few places. But when I mentioned the pie challenge to my good friend Marie, who is a terrific pastry chef-turned-bookkeeper, she suggested chocolate and rosemary together. At first, I wasn't sure about it but when I realized that I already had rosemary in the house and that it's not really basil season anyway, I decided to try it.

All I can say is: you simply must try this combination. The sum of chocolate and rosemary is so much more than either of the parts. I never could have guessed just how much they would complement each other. The rosemary adds a depth to the chocolate and the chocolate brings out a new side of the rosemary. I just could not get enough of it, and I wish I could serve you a taste of it right now through the screen. Because then you would know. You would know this discovery is as big as finding the formula for pi. At least, in my world it is. (Sorry, Archimedes)

As soon as ice cream season hits my kitchen, I am going to attempt a chocolate & rosemary ice cream, based on my favorite chocolate ice cream recipe. And I'd like to try a chocolate & rosemary ganache on top of chocolate cupcakes. But honestly, I could just keep making this same tart over and over again.

The tart is based on the cover recipe from Lori Longbotham's glorious book, Luscious Chocolate Desserts. If you don't own a copy, then I can tell you right now that the dark chocolate tart and the chocolate cheesecake are worth the price of two copies of the book. Lori's book is like a slice of this chocolate rosemary tart: sleek, simple and irresistible.

I got very lucky with the amount of rosemary I used in this. As I was winging it without a recipe, I just guessed that two sprigs would do it. I was almost tempted to add more as I like bold flavors and then I was worried that perhaps I should add less or the herb would be overpowering. In the end, the two sprigs were just perfect.

This is my first entry for "You Want Pies With That" after signing up so many months ago. I'm excited to start off with such a marvelous tart. If not for the challenge, I would never have discovered the combination of chocolate and rosemary -- a flavor that is going to haunt me (in a good way) for the rest of my baking life! See below for the recipe.

Oh yeah, I also made a savory rosemary ham & egg tart, using a recipe from Nick Malgieri's new book, The Modern Baker. As lovely as it was, especially with Framani's rosemary ham, it just couldn't touch the chocolate-rosemary tart. I'm only mentioning it because I'm partial to these photos:

Perfectly Simple Dark Chocolate & Rosemary Tart
Adapted from Lori Longbotham

To infuse the cream (best if done 24 hours in advance):
Place 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 3-4" sprigs of fresh rosemary in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn heat down to low and let cook for a few minutes, then remove to a bowl and cool to room temp. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to proceed with tart, no less than 6 hours later, preferably at least overnight.

For the crust:
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, cooled
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, cut into small pieces

Process the sugar and walnuts in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Add the flour, cocoa and salt and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse just enough until mixture begins to come together when small amount is pressed between your fingers. Do not overprocess. Press dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a lightly butter 10 or 11 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Bake for 15-18 mins in a 350 oven until crust begins to pull away from sides of the pan. Let cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.
(Alternatively, you could buy a premade tart shell or make one with chocolate cookie crumbs).

For the filling:
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 Tbs sweet butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
Good pinch of sea salt, fleur de sel or kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla
Rosemary-infused cream from above

Remove the rosemary sprigs from the cream.

Melt the chocolate with the cream and butter in a heatproof bowl over saucepan with 1.5 inches of simmering (not boiling) water, whisking until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the eggs, sugar and salt until well blended. Add vanilla. Transfer the filling to the warm crust.

Bake in a 350 oven for about 12-18 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center (this actually took about 25 minutes in my oven but it always run slow). It's okay if the top of the tart blisters slightly (mine didn't). Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Before serving dust with cocoa if you like. Serve with whipped cream (also infused with rosemary would be a nice idea!) or creme fraiche.

Update: I have to say I'm tickled that my chocolate-rosemary tart won the challenge for this month on You Want Pies with That. I never win anything! Really, I don't. Okay, I won a Heineken beer sign once at a bar in college but someone stole it from my dorm room later and I won $20 once on a scratch-off lottery ticket. But really, I just don't win stuff. So I guess I was due. I'm glad y'all liked it, blush blush.