Sunday, May 25, 2008

Raspberry Lemon Tart for Sugar High Friday

Funny thing that I haven’t entered a Sugar High Friday in months and the one that I choose to do, that I’m inspired by is themed citrus. Quick background information about me: I love chocolate, and rich, creamy, heavy things. Citruses don’t normally fall into that category. They’re more of the refreshing, light, tart types. I’ve never been tempted by key lime pie, for example. But the other day, I was tempted by some extremely red, juicy looking raspberries. For these, I wanted a dessert to do them justice. And even though I don’t love citrus based things so much, I know a few people, or one specific person, who does.

Because of my bias for chocolate, I’m not too experienced in the world of lemons and limes, especially curds and creams and things along that line. So I wanted to start with something basic and (almost) universally loved: lemon cream. And so my raspberry lemon tart was born. Very simple but good. It was well received, and I even liked it. The raspberries were so ripe, at that point where they’re sweetest, so it actually isn’t a big surprise that a bite of sour lemon and raspberry along with thick, cookie-like homemade pate sucre was pretty dang good. It was a one-sitting sort of tart, granted I made a little one, so it didn’t last longer than about 5 minutes.

I just used a regular pate sucre recipe except instead of almond powder, I used hazelnut powder, which was hard to detect with the strong flavors from the lemon cream. And for the cream, I followed Maury Rubin’s recipe from Book of Tarts. It was actually a very liquidy, smooth cream, I was expecting it to be a bit more firm after refrigerating it, but as you can see it spilled out as soon as we broke into the tart.

So, for this Sugar High Friday #43 hosted by Tartelette, and created by the Domestic Goddess, I’m going to bat with my Raspberry Lemon Tart. It might not be the most original, but it’s not bad to look at, and eating it isn’t too rough either. If only every day could be Sugar High Friday...

Raspberry Lemon Tart

pate sucre
300 g butter
190 g powdered sugar
60 g powdered hazelnuts (or almonds)
1 vanilla bean
2 eggs
500 g flour
pinch of salt

First, cream the butter until it’s nice and soft, then add the powdered sugar, ground hazelnuts, and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean. Mix again, then beat in the eggs. Now add the flour and salt until everything is just incorporated, don’t overmix. The second everything comes together, form it into a ball, wrap in saran wrap. Now I think you’re supposed to refrigerate for at least 4 hours or some ridiculously long time like that, but I never have the patience, so I just put into the freezer for about half an hour while I clean up. When it’s pretty hard (because it’ll soften the second you get it out and start rolling it), take it out and work quickly. On a floured surface, roll it into a circle larger than your tart mold (I used a springform pan because I like the look of straight edges). Mine turned out a little thick, remember, it puffs up in the oven, so roll it to about ¼ inch thick. Put over the mold, press down in the pan and fill in any patches that you might have, then cut the edges off to make a straight line. Poke some holes with a fork around the crust. Now in a piece of wax paper placed over your crust, pour in some rise or beans or whatever sort of pie weights you can and spread them out to the edges. Bake at 175C/350F for around 15-20 minutes, after which you’ll probably need to take out the weights and wax paper so the crust can brown in the oven for a few more minutes. When brown and done, take out of the oven and let cool.

lemon cream
zest and juice from 4 lemons (separate)
4 egg yolks
100 g sugar
113 g butter
pinch of salt

In a bowl, mix the sugar and lemon zest in between your fingers (I’m not sure why you do this, but many different recipes I looked at said to do it this way, so I did, and it was fun and turned out to make pretty sugar). Add the egg yolks and lemon juice and whisk well, then in a double boiler over simmering water, whisk the cream for about 5-10 minutes, until it thickens and coats a wooden spoon. You need to whisk almost constantly, especially around the edges, to minimalize lumping. When it’s good and thick, put the butter in a bowl and pour the lemon cream through a fine mesh sieve over the butter. When you’ve passed it all through, stir it with the butter until it’s all melted. Sprinkle in a tiny bit of salt, mix again, and then pour into the tart shell until it comes up to the edges. Put in the fridge to cool for a few hours and when you’re ready to serve, top with raspberries and enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Birthday Cheesecake

And this was not just any birthday, but a lady’s birthday, so I wanted to find something fitting, and clean. I’ve been really into trying different flavor combinations and unordinary things, but nothing new was appealing to me. I needed something simple but sophisticated (if it’s possible for cheesecake to be sophisticated without sounding like an idiot). I could still have my hand at a new flavor, but no bruleeing or accompanying shots or anything like that.

Every now and then I see rose featured in desserts. In fact, after I made this cheesecake, I saw some rose gelato in a little town in the Costa Brava. I just had to figure out how to make a rose cheesecake without it tasting like soap/potpourri cheesecake. Let me tell you, this took lots of adding, mixing, tasting, adding more, mixing more, tasting more, and over and over again because I didn’t want the rose to be overpowering. I was using rose water, not essence, so it was more subtle, and I wanted to get enough flavor in there so you knew what you were eating. I ended up using about half the bottle, which I think would be around ¾ - 1 cup, seems like a lot of liquid, but it’s necessary to get the touch of rose in there (I think the testers of the final product were on the verge of guessing the flavor, had someone not told them what it was right as it was on the tip of their tongues).

I also put ricotta in this one, which I don’t normally use, and it made it a bit lighter but with a strong texture, as ricotta won’t come out perfectly smooth. Cheeses are the fun part to play around with, and ricotta and rose worked well out well together. You still get a very creamy cheesecake, just doesn’t seem quite as dense as with pure cream cheese.

Another plus of the rose cheesecake is it comes out pure and white. No pink food coloring, so it’s very fresh looking, not like pastel-y pink icing on a cake, and you can garnish it however you want, with different colors of roses or leave it plain. Of course for a birthday cake, roses were definitely necessary to add a little something extra.

Rose Cheesecake

125 g butter
200 g Maria cookies (same as graham crackers, or any digestive ‘biscuit’ on this side of the ocean)

Crush cookies any way you can (in a plastic bag), melt butter, and mix the two together, then press on the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan. Bake at 170C/340F oven for 10 minutes.

600 g cream cheese
250 g ricotta
3 eggs, separated
150 g sugar (you might need more or less, depending on how much rose water you add)
¾-1 c rose water (remember, until you can taste it just a little too much, as some will bake out)
pinch of salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream your cream cheese and ricotta together to get them soft and fluffy. Now add the sugar, maybe skimp a little bit because you can always add more. Mix that well together and now start with the rose water. I did mine little bits at a time so you can monitor how strong the flavor is, and you can always taste as you go (this is why I add the eggs last, not that raw eggs ever stopped me from eating dough). After every addition, stir until it’s well blended. When you’re satisfied that you have a hearty rose flavor and not yet soap, beat the egg whites until soft peaks. Add the egg yolks to the cheesecake, stir, then a little bit of salt, stir, and finally fold in the egg whites. You don’t have to be so careful about breaking them, make sure and get everything well incorporated, they are just there to give some extra-fluffiness to your cheesecake. Pour into the prepared crust in the springform pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes at 180C/355F. It might seem extremely wobbly when you take it out, but as long as the edges are well set, then the middle is ok because it will firm up in the fridge overnight. Once it cools to room temperature, stick it in the fridge and be ready to enjoy the next day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Dough Ball!

The Dough Ball is one today. And it happens to be my 56th post! Can you believe it? On the same day. Really a milestone we're talking here. Now if it’s my birthday, I’m going to want chocolate to be involved, but I thought for my blog’s birthday, I would get to be a little more creative and make something I don’t normally make. Honestly, I don’t normally crave it and I would never go out of my way to get it, but this cake was pretty darn good, and I might be making some changes in my life now because of it. was carrot cake.

I don’t know if it just sounds too healthy, it definitely doesn’t imply the richness of chocolate, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it a chance. So I went through my usual process of searching recipes on epicurious and there were lots, but I found one that looked simple enough, with only the good, necessary things (carrots, nuts, a couple spices) not with any of those randomly thrown in things (pineapple? coconut? orange?). And it came out really beautifully. It did take a while to cook completely, the outsides were done long before the center, which is usually the case, so I was afraid it would be dried out, but it was so moist. Even days later, and not even keeping it in the fridge, it kept really well and never lost that just-baked moistness. And it’s already been requested again.

If you’re like me, and you’re afraid carrot cake is the ugly step-sister, just remember, she’s got some amazing, brilliant hair. Translation: carrot cake usually comes with a shimmering coating of cream cheese icing, my favorite. How could you lose with that? I told my roommates that it was healthy cake because it had carrots in it, and they were thinking ok, good. And then they saw me making the icing. With the butter. And sugar. And cream cheese. So maybe not such a healthy cake, but still delicious, and I think it would go over well as a real birthday cake. Lots of layers could be fun.

Carrot Cake
Adapted from

4-5 carrots, peeled and grated
2 c flour
2 c sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 c vegetable/corn oil
4 eggs
1 c chopped toasted walnuts
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F/170 C. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pans (I used one springform and cut the cake into layers). Mix sugar, oil and eggs until well mixed. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt and mix everything again. Stir in carrots and walnuts, it may seem really thick and packed with carrots, but it doesn’t come out so dense like that. Pour into pan(s). Bake until a toothpick comes out almost clean, for me it took a really long time and the edges and top of the cake were definitely done, but the center just wouldn’t cook, but still don’t take it out raw. Let cool and remove from pan. If you have two layers, you can leave as is, or cut them in half for a four layer cake, or if you do one like me, cut into three layers and let cool completely while you make icing.

cream cheese frosting
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
½ c butter, room temperature
1 ½ c powdered sugar

First of all, this does not have to be exact in any way. I usually like a little more cream cheese and a little less powdered sugar, so alter as you please. Blend everything together until it’s a nice smooth consistency. Frost the first layer of cake, add the next, layer it, and then top it with the final layer. Frost that and the sides. Eat immediately, if not sooner.