FRENCH LEMON TART

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This traditional dough recipe for French tart is not difficult to make.  You must use a stand-mixer.  A hand-held mixer is not heavy enough to mix the dough.  The buttery dough makes a  delicate,crisp cookie-like crust.   The recipe makes enough for two tart crusts –  use one now and freeze the other for a delicious tart in your future.

Pierre Hermes is the inspiration for this stunning, sublime lemon cream (think curd) filling.  Pierre Hermes is a French pastry chef famous for his unusually flavoured macaroons.  The addition of a little orange zest calms the sharpness of the lemons.   It has all the ingredients of the  traditional lemon curd but it is lighter and silky smooth.  The secret is the way the butter is added. It is not difficult to make.

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To simplify the recipe make the pastry and bake the tart the day before you plan to serve it.  The next day make the filling and finish your very French tart … worthy of the finest patisserie.

FRENCH LEMON TART
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: Dessert
Cuisine: French
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: 6-8
Pierre Hermes is the inspiration for this stunning, sublime lemon cream tart.. It has a delicate sweet buttery crisp cookie-like crust with a rich, smooth, puckery lemon filling topped with whipped cream.
Ingredients
  • 10 oz. (2 l/1 cups) all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 3½ oz. (3/4 cup plus 2 tbs.) confectioners' sugar
  • 6 oz. (12 tbs.) cold (not frozen) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, l separated and egg white set aside
  • LEMON FILLING;
  • ½ cup (4 oz.) sugar
  • Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
  • Finely grated zest from l orange
  • ⅓ generous cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs whisked to combine
  • 5 oz. unsalted butter room temperature cut into 5 pieces
  • To finish:
  • 1 cup( 8 oz) whipping cream
  • 1 tbs. confectioners' sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
Instructions
  1. Whisk whole egg and egg yolk in small bowl just until combined and set aside
  2. In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment combine the flour, sugar, and salt
  3. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter begins to break up, about one minute
  4. Increase the speed to just below medium and continue beating until the mixture looks sandy with butter pieces the size of tiny pebbles, about two minutes more.
  5. Turn the mixer off and add the whipped whole egg and egg yolk (reserve the remaining white for baking the crust).
  6. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
  7. Increase the speed to medium and mix just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about thirty seconds. DO NOT OVER MIX
  8. Divide the dough in half, press each half into a disk about four inches across, and wrap in plastic .
  9. Refrigerate one disk for at lease three hours and up to 25 hours.
  10. (Freeze the other disk for up to a month; thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  11. SHAPE AND BAKE THE CRUST:
  12. Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin.
  13. Rub a 9½ to 11-iinch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with butter
  14. Working quickly, roll the dough disk into a ⅛-inch-thick round.
  15. Transfer the dough to the tart pan and gently coax it into the pan. Do not stretch or pull the dough to fit.
  16. Allow the excess dough to hang over the sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to cut off the excess dough. This will give you crust a professional looking edge.
  17. Patch any tears or cracks with the scraps.
  18. Gently ease the dough a little above the tart pan to allow for shrinkage when baking.
  19. Refrigerate the crust for at least 20 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes.
  20. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400F.
  21. Line the crust with a generous amount of parchment paper and fill it TO THE VERY TOP with beans, or pie weights.
  22. Put the pie crust on a baking sheet and put it into the oven. IMMEDIATELY turn the oven down to 375F.
  23. Bake until the edges are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.
  24. Carefully remove the weights and paper.
  25. Return the crust to the oven and bake until the center of the crust looks dry and is just beginning to colour, about 5 minutes.
  26. Whisk the reserved egg white and brush the inside of the crust with some of the egg white (you won't need it all ) and return the crust to the oven until the egg white has dried, about 2 minutes. Brushing the crust with egg white and baking it briefly creates a barrier that keeps the crust from becoming soggy when filled.
  27. Cool completely on a rack.
  28. You can prepare the crust up to 24 hours before filling.
  29. MAKING THE LEMON FILLING:
  30. In a medium sized bowl, using a wooden spoon, combine the lemon and orange zest with the sugar.
  31. Whisk in the two eggs.
  32. Whisk in the lemon juice.
  33. Set the bowl over a saucepan that has about 2 inches of water.
  34. Using a thermometer whisk the mixture over medium heat until it reaches 180F.
  35. This will take about ten minutes. Keep track of the time and increase the temperature of the water if after ten minutes it hasn't reached 180 F.
  36. Remove from heat and whisk for a few minutes more to allow the mixture to cool slightly,
  37. Pour the mixture into a blender and add the butter into the mixture one piece at a time, making sure each piece of butter is assimilated before adding the next piece.
  38. Pour the mixture into the prebaked tart and refrigerate for 1- 2 hours
  39. To finish:
  40. Whip the cream and when it starts to thicken add the sugar and vanilla. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form.
  41. Using pastry bag with a decorative nozzle fill with the whipping cream and decorate the tart.
  42. You can also simply spread the tart with the cream .
  43. Refrigerate until serving time.

 

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CLAFOUTIS A LA RHUBARBE . . . Rhubarb Clafouti

IMG_2536Clafouti of any kind makes a simple and wonderful desert, or an absolutely indulgent breakfast.   It’s the kind of dish I keep in my apron pocket for those times when I want to whip up a dessert on short notice.  It’s made by pouring a very rich  eggy batter  similar to pancakes over fresh fruit and baked.   This brilliant  French dessert from the Limousin region  is easy to make and left-overs are equally wonderful as a midnight snack or a breakfast treat.

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In this recipe rhubarb replaces the traditional cherries with wonderful results – almost better than the original.  The rhubarb is roasted  before adding it to the baking dish.  Before serving sift a little powdered sugar and cinnamon over the clafouti.

CLAFOUTIS A LA RHUBARBE . . . Rhubarb Clafouti
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: dessert
Cuisine: French
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: 6-8
A brilliant French dessert made by pouring an eggy batter over roasted rhubarb and then baked
Ingredients
  • For the rhubarb:
  • 2 generous cups (8-9 ounces, about 3 long stalks) rhubarb diced into two inch pieces.
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon.
  • For the clafouti:
  • ¾ cup (200 ml) whole milk
  • ¾ cup (200 ml) double/heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup (50 g) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup (2½ oz) all-purpose flour
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • butter for baking dish
  • powdered sugar and cinnamon for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. The rhubarb:
  3. Combine the rhubarb with the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes to dissolve the sugars and begin extracting the rhubarb juices.
  4. Spread the rhubarb in the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch baking dish and roast uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and the juices are bubbling.
  5. Allow to co cool until the rhubarb is just warm to the touch.
  6. The clafouti:
  7. Using a blender combine the milk,cream, sugar, vanilla, salt and flour, and blend. You can also whisk all the ingredients in a large bowl but be sure to mix well.
  8. Set the batter side.
  9. Lightly butter a 12-inch (30-cm) diameter baking dish.
  10. Pour a ¼ inch layer of the blended mixture over the bottom. Set remaining batter aside.
  11. Place dish into the oven for about 7-10 minutes, until a film of batter sets in the pan but the mixture is not baked through.
  12. Remove from oven (but don't turn the oven off yet).
  13. Spread the rhubarb over the set batter in the pan.
  14. Pour the remaining batter over the roasted rhubarb and bake for 45-60 minutes (still at 350 F), until the clafouti is puffed and brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. It's fine if the middle still jiggles slightly. The edges will collapse once the clafouti starts to cool.
  15. The longer it cools, the more set the clafouti becomes. For a loose pudding-like dessert, serve while still warm from the oven. For a firm custard, allow to cool to room temperature or serve chilled.
  16. Before serving sprinkle with a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

 

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CASSOULET . . . GLORIOUS FRENCH PORK AND BEANS

 

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CASSOULET is a hearty combination of beans baked with meats.  The list of ingredients is long but it is not hard to cook.  You need to start preparations at least two to three days in advance of serving and you will need a large casserole dish to cook it in.  Cook the beans three days before your dinner, cook the meat stew two days before dinner, day three, the day you are serving cassoulet  brown the duck and sausages, then put it all together.

There are as many versions of cassoulet as there are regions in France.    My recipe takes full advantage of our garden raised dried  French heirloom Tarbais white beans and our own milk fed pork.  But substituting  dried white  beans and having an understanding butcher you can easily create your version of this classic dish.

The sausages should have as high a pork content as possible.  Duck confit is sold canned  (and frozen) in large supermarkets and some delicatessens.  Using it is optional.   You can also make an all-pork cassoulet using boneless country-style ribs cut into 2 inch cubes.

IMG_2404Day one in the three day process.  Prepare the beans.

IMG_2406Day two – brown the meat and add the tomatoes and stock.

Day three – brown the fresh pork sausage and put the cassoulet together about three hours before dinner.

CASSOULET . . . GLORIOUS FRENCH PORK AND BEANS
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: casserole
Cuisine: French
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: 10
Cassoulet is a hearty combination of beans baked with meat - pork, lamb and spicy garlic sausage.
Ingredients
  • Beans:
  • 1½ lbs (750 g) dried white beans
  • 1 pound (500 g) fresh pork rind with fat, cut into strips
  • 8 oz. (250 g) salt pork diced
  • 1 large onion stuck with 6 cloves
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 large stalk celery, sliced
  • bouquet garni: 2 bay leaves, a generous bunch of thyme sprigs, a handful parsley sprigs, salt and freshly ground pepper
  • CASSOULET:
  • 2 legs duck or goose confit (optional)
  • 4 tbsp.drippings from the confit, or lard or bacon drippings.
  • 1 lb (500g) boned shoulder of lamb cut into 2-in (5-cm) cubes
  • 8 oz (250 g) lean pork, cut into 2 in. (5-cm) cubes
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 medium to large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped, or an 8 oz.(250 g) can of tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre/quart chicken stock or pork stock.
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb (500 g) fresh garlic sausage, halved length-wise and cut into 3-inch (8 cm) lengths
  • 8 oz (250g) dried spicy garlic sausage halved lengthwise and sliced (optional but nice)
  • 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. FOR THE BEANS;
  2. Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain.
  3. The next day:
  4. Place the pork rind in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Skim off any foam.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat.
  6. Put the beans in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with the pork rind and the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Cover by 2 inches (5 cm) with cold water and bring to a boil. Skim off any scum.
  8. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 1 hour until the beans are just cooked but not mush.
  9. Remove from the heat , let cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  10. Meanwhile prepare the meat stew
  11. FOR THE CASSOULET:
  12. If you are using the confit put the confit in a pot of warm water to melt the fat.
  13. Take out the legs and remove the meat from the bones. Set the meat aside.
  14. Make the meat stew:
  15. In a large saucepan heat 4 tablespoons of the fat and brown the lamb.
  16. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  17. Add the pork and half the garlic, and brown.
  18. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  19. Saute the onions with the remaining garlic just until translucent and golden.
  20. Remove from the heat and pour off any fat into a bowl and set aside
  21. Return the lamb and pork to the onions and garlic in the pan.
  22. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and the stock and bring to the boil.
  23. Season with a generous teaspoon of salt.
  24. Skim off any foam, then lower the heat, cover and simmer the meat stew gently for 1½ hours.
  25. Let cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  26. The next day, about 3 hours before serving, discard the fat from the top of the stew.
  27. Bring the beans to room temperature and strain off the liquid from the beans and retain.
  28. Season to taste with more salt if necessary and generous grinds of black pepper.
  29. If you are using the duck confit, heat a large frying pan and brown the duck confit pieces. Remove and the thighs into pieces and set. aside.
  30. In the same frying pan brown the fresh sausage on the cut side in a little fat and remove from heat and set aside. Pour off the fat and reserve.
  31. Now put it all together:
  32. Lay the pork rind in a large, heavy-duty bottomed, preferably earthenware casserole, fat side down (the skin will stick).
  33. Place one-third of the beans in a layer over the pork rind.
  34. Layer half the meat stew and top with half the duck confit and half the fresh and dried sausage.
  35. Layer another third of the beans over the meat, and layer the remaining meats and sausage, over the beans.
  36. The top layer should be the final third of the beans.
  37. Spoon in some of the reserved bean liquid (you should just be able to see it)
  38. Sprinkle with a thin layer breadcrumbs and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the fat poured off the meat over the top.
  39. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 425F (220 C)
  40. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 f (l90 c) .
  41. Gently break up the crust on top, them spoon over some more bean liquid and sprinkle with more breadcrumbs.
  42. Continue checking, about every 30 minutes or so gently breaking up the crust each time and adding more bread crumbs.
  43. Add more liquid as necessary; be careful not to let the cassoulet dry out.
  44. When the cassoulet has cooked for 2 to 2½ hours and crust is well browned, remove from the oven and serve with lots of crusty bread and a green salad
  45. Substitutions:
  46. Make an all-pork cassoulet using 3 pounds boneless country-style ribs cut into 2 inch cubes instead of the lamb and lean pork.
  47. Use 2 pounds of sweet Italian sausage instead of the garlic sausages.

 

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HOW TO MAKE PERFECT CREME BRULEE

 

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It is pure alchemy.  How could such simple ingredients  – eggs, milk, cream, sugar – bring grown men to their knees.  This recipe for crème brûlée  was always on the menu at our restaurant, Roxy’s Bistro.    We made it five days a week for seven years.   Repetition makes perfect, and I perfected this new recipe so it is right every time.   This recipe is perfect for six generous servings, but if you are having a large dinner party it doubles beautifully and serves twelve.

HOW TO MAKE PERFECT CREME BRUELEE
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: Dessert
Cuisine: French
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: 6
This dessert made with a rich creme anglaise (custard sauce) and topped with burnt sugar, can be made up to two days ahead of time.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup cream milk (coffee/cream)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Brown sugar for topping.
Instructions
  1. If you have time to do this ahead spread two cups of brown sugar on a large dinner plate. Leave to dry on the kitchen counter for a few days. Eliminating moisture from the brown sugar makes your burnt sugar topping crisper.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Set out six one-cup size ramekins and a pan large enough to hold them.
  4. Heat the whipping cream and cream milk in a large saucepan, over medium heat, until very hot but NOT BOILING.
  5. While the milk mixture is heating whisk eggs until thick in your stand mixture.
  6. Add sugar gradually beating constantly until mixture is very thick and pale in color.
  7. Add hot cream/milk mixture to the eggs VERY SLOWLY beating constantly and at low speed. Start by just dribbling the hot milk down the side of your bowl so you warm your eggs but don't cook them.. Don't whisk your egg mixture at a high speed because it becomes too foamy.
  8. Pour the mixture back into the pan used to heat the milk/cream mixture and over low to medium heat, whisk constantly until your custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Be sure to push your whisk into the corners of your pan while whisking. If you are using a candy thermometer take it to just 165F. then remove it from the heat and continue whisking it for a minute or two to cool.
  9. Whisk in your vanilla or other such flavourings as rum, kirsch, cognac, orange liqueur, or espresso.
  10. Pour your custard into the ramekins and set them in the pan.
  11. Put the pan in the center of your oven and pour in boiling water to reach about half way up the sides of the ramekins.
  12. Bake uncovered in a 350F oven for 35 minutes. The edges should be firm and the center slightly wobbly.
  13. Cool then chill in the refrigerator for several hours until set. You can make this up to two days ahead of time stored in the refrigerator tightly covered with plastic wrap.
  14. A couple of hours before you wish to serve your creme brulee preheat your broiler.
  15. Generously sprinkle each of the custards with the brown sugar making sure there are no lumps and all the custard is covered.
  16. Set your rack so your custards are a good two inches below your broiler. If they are too close only the top layer of sugar will caramelize. You can then return the ramekins to the refrigerator until serving time, or serve them immediately. I prefer to serve them right away so the custard is slightly warm and burnt sugar crust has is beautifully brittle.

 

 

IMG_0017Set pan in oven and pour in boiling water about half way up the ramekins.

 

 

 

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CHEESE GOUGERES … the perfect make ahead appetizer.

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MINESTRONE … the perfect winter soup

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BUTTER TARTS . . . the quintessential Canadian dessert

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