Friday, November 6, 2015

Today's lesson is Apple Tarte Tatin

"Today's lesson is Apple Tarte Tatin."

Shit. Shit. Shit.
That sinking, swirling feeling of the first day of class.
What am I even doing here? Eveyone knows what they're doing and I don't know jack shit. Raw apples, burnt sugar and chewy dough. All I can do is hope to not caramelize a towel while I set myself on fire.

Six strangers perched on cork-topped metal stools around a stainless steel table, non-slip shoes shuffling against flour bins stowed beneath. Beating out the butter for puff pastry, taking too many notes on everything Marin says. The dough goes smoothly enough, maybe - no way to know until everything is out of the oven. Six turns later and it's back in the fridge while we're peeling apples, hoping the slices are just the right size.

Butter in the pan.

A fine layer of sugar.

The apples, arranged with far too much thought and worry.

Is it time yet? What color is the liquid? It's too blonde. Shit, it's probably burnt, everything is going to taste like fire.

The dough is rolled and docked before cutting to fit the top of the pan. Tucked over top of the apples, the full pan carried so carefully to the convection uprights. Students, adults in white poly-blend chef costumes, hover in front of the doors, eyes on their own pan, monitored carefully through the amber glass. Small talk started earlier with cracks about apples and politely crude puns about "puff" and now matures into comments and compliments as the caramel begins to crown around golden pastry.

No one knows what they're doing any more than I do. Turning out the Tatin turns into a collaborative process, egging on each other as each group practiced flipping from pan to plate without catching their arms with flying caramel.

Pans back on the fire! Spoons of creme fraiche thrown in and swirled with the enthusiasm of a cook who has some idea what that is and has certainly used it before. Then over top the Tarte, somehow now resembling a real dessert.

Tender apples, bathed in a tangy caramel, resting on a buttery nest of finely layered, crisp pastry.

We are relieved. We are elated. We are empowered by our sudden failure to fail.

If I can do this, I can do anything.

"Today's lesson is Apple Tarte Tatin"

Again? I feel like we've done this a dozen times. We hear Marin talk over top as we converse across the tables, executing a process that now feels amateurish in the face of St. Honore and sourdoughs of recent lessons. Rough Puff and Tarte Tatin are just a fill-in, a placeholder for some lesson that Chef forgot to write.

It he just messing with us? The recipe reads to me like an Early Reader book does to a highschooler. I can't believe I am paying money for this credit-hour just to turn out the same fucking thing as day one.

Here at the table there is one who has the same jitters as on the first day. What about the dough? Are these apples the right size? Last time it was too light but also kind of burnt and she doesn't want to screw up again.

We stand together on the line. Give the pan a little jostle, swirl the liquid without touching it. No, no, it's still too light.

Trust me that you won't burn it.

Where's your dough? You're right, that's a bit too big, just give it a quick trim. You're fine.

Wait, before you top it off, take a look. See down the side there? That's the color you need to look for. Remember that color.

Lay on the dough and remember where you end up in the oven - don't let some bitch take your pan later.

Look at the edge again, how are your bubbles? See the color on your dough? That there on the edges - wait til it's that way all the way across the middle. No, it's not burnt. Baked things are supposed to look baked.

As she places the plate over top the pan, all five at the table wait to see.

There it is, again. A luscious pattern of apples atop a lofty pastry now sinking to a crisp crust under it's sweet burden, waiting for the caramel coup de gras.

Back to the heat, just for a moment. Put your heavy cream in that pan and let it go. No, no, wait til you're completely terrified that it's burnt. It won't be, just wait.

Give yourself time.

Peeling these apples over and over on our own is indeed a placeholder. It is a task waiting to be overtaken by the opportunity to teach, to support another in finding their own talent.

We return to the table after cleaning our pans and scouring mistakes from the stovetops, another success for some matched by first time success for others. We have a new confidence in each other.

You're going to be perfect. It's going to be great.

"Today's lesson is Apple Tarte Tatin"
Tarte Tatin for Two
or one, if you're ambitious

one large or two small tart baking apples
2 tablespoons butter, dairy or non-dairy
1/4 cup sugar
cinnamon, coriander and ginger, to taste

puff pastry (homemade or store bought)

a splash of whiskey or rum
1/4 cup creme fraiche, dairy or non-dairy, if you remember to get it, or not

First, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Or preheat to 375 degrees, realise after you've put the pan in that you meant to go higher and crank the oven then.

Then, forget to buy flour. Sprinkle your work surface with granulated sugar and roll puff pastry out to 1/4-inch thick. Cut a circle just large enough to cover the top of your pan - you can turn the pan over to use as a guide. Dock the pastry with a fork and set aside.

Peel and core apples and cut into 1/2-inch slices.

In an oven-safe pan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle sugar over top in an even layer and heat to dissolve. Arrange apple slices in a concentric pattern to cover entire pan and continue cooking. Dust tops of apples with spices as you wish. The apples will give up some of their juices to the caramel and begin to soften. Wait until the liquid in the pan reaches a light- to medium-amber color, place prepared round of pastry over top. Realize at this point that you should probably have used that second apple instead of giving the slices to your dogs.

Bake until golden brown and lovely, about 20 minutes.

Turn out the tarte onto a serving plate - place the plate upside down over the top of the pan and - very carefully - flip the whole thing. The plate will immediately become quite hot, so use lots of oven mitts. Turn the pan upright immediately; remove any apples that resisted the flip but do not scrape all of the good bits out of the pan just yet.

Return your pan to the stovetop and add a splash of whiskey to deglaze. Stir in creme fraiche and cook over medium-low heat until a thick sauce forms. Don't forget that your pan was just in the oven - don't touch the handle directly.

Pour caramel over top of the Tarte. Allow to cool just slightly before serving.

Alternatively, serve with vanilla ice cream, freshly whipped cream or a dollop of just plain creme fraiche.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blackberry Sorbet - Vegan, Gluten-Free

we grow an odd sort of blackberry in the bramble patch - no one's entirely sure what variety it is. The fruits are massive, nearly black and just barely sweet. This final quality makes them ideal for preparations with added sugar, such as jam or sorbet, in which the tart, rich flavor of the berries is concentrated without being overwhelmed by the sweetness.

blackberry sorbet

Blackberry Sorbet
makes about three pints

1 C water
2 C sugar
pinch kosher salt
3.5 C strained blackberry puree (see note)
1 T lemon juice

in a small saucepan, combine water, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir til sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely. Stir into blackberry puree and add lemon juice. Chill this base at least 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturers instrictions. (I use a kitchenaid ice cream churn attachment on my mixer; this sorbet takes about 7-12 minutes to freeze properly.)

Moving quickly, pack finished sorbet into one large freezer-safe container for storage or several smaller 1/2pt containers for sharing. Freeze 2 hours before serving. Keeps up to 3 months in freezer.

note: to prepare blackberry puree, whiz up 4 to 4.5 C blackberries (depending on size of fruits) in a blender until mostly smooth. Pass puree through mesh sieve into a large pitcher, to remove seeds and fruit centers; a spatula is helpful to speed up the straining process.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Only Scone Recipe You'll Need - Vegan

These scones are versatile, slightly sweet and incredibly easy to prepare; the fact that they're vegan as well makes them a mildly healthful, tasty breakfast/brunch/anytime snack for almost everyone at your table. (a gluten-free option is on the agenda, have no fear.)

blueberry coconut scones
the scones shown are blueberry-oat, prepared with ground toasted oats for the non-wheat flour portion of the recipe.

Scones - the only recipe you need
makes eight regular scones or sixteen mini-scones

1.5 C all-purpose flour
.5 C non-wheat meal or flour*, or additional all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
.5 t baking soda
.5 t kosher salt
1 t dried spice, as needed

2 T non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
.25 C non-hydrogenated cold-pres palm shortening

.75 C non-dairy milk of your choice
.5 t vinegar

.75 C total of additions (dried fruit, unsweetened shredded coconut,candied ginger, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

additional non-dairy milk for brushing
additional sugar for topping

On a small plate, work together the margarine and shortening with the back of a spoon until the fats are somewhat short of homogenous.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Cut in the fats with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces remaining. Stir in milk mixture until the dough just comes together. Stir in mix-ins.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice to ensure mix-ins are incorporated. Pat out into a rough circle about 9 inches accross and cut into eight wedges. For mini scones, roll into a rectangle of about 4-inches by 12-inches and cut into quarters; cut each quarter into triangles.

Place scones on a lined baking sheet and brush with additonal non-dairy milk. Sprinkle with additional sugar, if desired. Bake 10-15 minutes for full-size scones, 5-10 for mini scones, until golden brown. Cool slightly on pan before serving.

*options for non-wheat meal or flour include: corn meal, coconut flour, ground toasted oats or barley flakes, white whole wheat flour, nut flours, etc.

blueberry coconut scones

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mint Arnold Palmer with Agave

The perfect vehicle of refreshment. Mint to ease the nausea that accompanies the oppressive Pennsylvania humidity, lemon to brighten things up and agave to sweeten the deal.

mint arnold palmer

Mint Arnold Palmer with Agave
makes one serving

2-3 T agave nectar, sweetness is your preference
about 5 mint leaves
.25 C lemon juice
.75 C fresh brewed mint tea, cooled

Combine mint leaves and agave in a tall glass and muddle a bit to release mint oils. Add lemon juice and tea and stir. Drop in the ice and enjoy with something crunchy.

mint arnold palmer

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Does the Garden Grow?

wicked fine, that's how.

july 2011

pulled all the remaining beets today, which means it's time to think about a midsummer planting schedule. also picked a lovely zucchini, as well as four cucumbers and another ancho pepper - all of which immediately went into a salad with tomato and broccoli from the farm market.

beets and a pepper

We planted two varieties of cucumbers this year - this one has yet to yield (likely due to heavier deer damage this spring). Looking forward to a taste test once this plant catches up.

cucumber flower

I take photos of tomatoes primarily for posterity's sake. I am too accustomed to losing them to hungry deer and dogs prior to harvest. Hopefully this year will be different.

krim tomatoes

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fettuccine with Tomato-Basil Sauce - Cheatin Vegan

A Lori Guerin speciality from back in the day, this pasta dish is cheap, delicious and vegan, until you adulterate it with pecorino sprinkle cheese. The original recipe calls for dry herbs exclusively, but it's lovely when gussied up with some fresh basil as well.

tomato basil fettuccini

Tomato-Basil Fettuccini
serves 6-8, depending on the appetite

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 16 oz package fettuccine, preferrably the vegetable-enriched variety
1 small onion or half a large onion
2 cloves of garlic
4 oz fresh mushrooms, about half a carton
dried oregano, marjoram and basil
fresh basil, if you're fancy
pecorino romano cheese, if you have no morals

Put on a pot of water for the pasta. Salt the water once it boils and cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, dice onion, mushroom and garlic. Heat a medium saute pan and add olive oil to coat the botttom of the pan. Add onion and saute several mintues until softened. Add mushrooms and a light sprinkling of salt; cook on high, stirring frequently, until most of the moisture has been cooked from the mushrooms.

Add garlic and dried herbs - this is a matter of taste, but one should go heavy on the basil and marjoram and a lighter on the oregano. Cook another 2-4 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and reduce heat to simmer the sauce until thickened. At this point, one may add a palmful of cheese to the sauce.

The sauce will be ready about the time the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain the pasta fully and return to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to combine. Chiffonade 4-8 leaves fresh basil and toss with pasta.

Serve with additional cheese or fresh basil.

tomato basil fettuccini

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Facts and Speculation

True fact, I mostly live in a farmhouse with no internet and, more crucially, no computer. What computer time I get, I borrow from civilised folks in the suburbs.

Speculation, I shall soon have a laptop and will become a starbucks zombie tiptapping away as a wifivampire.

True fact, this blog is hereby about my day to day baking at work and at home, and the weirdness of moving into an old house on the way to, but not quite in the middle of, nowhere.

Speculation, the goings-on in a bakery run entirely by women is a odd, somewhat rude and generally entertaining. The actual baking is more of a sideshow to the host of conversational threads about all things right and wrong - culture, politics, health, religion, how awful children are these days. And gutter-minded subjects, naturally.

Speculation, the recipes I do develop in my spare time may be of interest to the general public. As I return to painting and threadwork, folks might dig that as well. Speaking of digging, it's time to start seeds for the garden, just about, and that'll wheedle its way in as well.

True fact, Rosemary's Bakery is a whole new blog. A more interesting blog. A better-kept blog. An account of the baking life and it's sidebars.

Peace, etc.
Rose G V