Blueberry Crumb Cake {ModBak}

Like most of the rest of the country, we have had an unseasonably warm spring and early summer here. One of the consequences of this has been that many of the local fruits and vegetables are coming on much earlier than normal.

So I was only a little surprised to find fresh local blueberries at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago. Blueberries don’t usually hit until about mid-July in our area, but here is was the second week of June and they were at the market already.

I try to avoid buying trucked in fruit whenever possible, so I was holding out until I could get local blueberries to make this recipe from the Cakes section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I just never imagined it would happen this soon. This recipe is a combination of  a blueberry crumble and a cake. It has a thick cake layer on the bottom, topped with a mix of blueberries and crumb topping.

I began by making the crumb topping, which consisted of flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Because the butter was melted, it had more of a doughy consistency than a crumb topping made with room temperature butter.

I crumbled the topping onto the blueberries in a baking dish and set them aside while I made the cake. I found this step kind of odd, as I expected the recipe to say to put the blueberries on the batter, then add the crumb topping. It turns out my instincts were right on in this case, as I got an e-mail from Nick Malgieri after I made this recipe noting that this instruction was an error in the book. Either way, it worked out fine.

The cake batter was made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and buttermilk. After mixing it up, I spread it in the pan.

I topped the batter with the blueberries and crumb mixture.

I baked the cake for about 40 minutes, until the batter was set and the crumb well-colored.

The blueberries melted into a jam-like consistency and were delicious with the crumb topping. I thought the cake layer was a bit too thick for the amount of topping. I think if you doubled the amount of blueberries, it would be perfect.

Abby liked this recipe a lot (she has a thing for blueberries), and she wrote the official post for the Challenge. You can check it out here.

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Feuillettés with Berries & Cream {ModBak}

For the Puff Pastry section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I’ve decided to take a more organized approach to baking and posting the recipes. In previous sections, I made the recipes roughly in order (although not always) and wrote and published posts as I finished each recipe. As a result, I would often publish several recipes in a row over the course of a few days and would usually finish the section well before the end of the allotted time frame.

At the beginning of the month, as we moved into the Puff Pastry section, I decided to institute “Modern Baker Mondays”. As the name implies, I’ll be posting the recipes on Mondays. I’m going to post one per week, in the order the recipes appear in the book, regardless of when and in what order I actually bake them.

This week’s Modern Baker Mondays offering is the last in a series of sweet mille-feuille, which included chocolate-filled Napoleons and raspberry mille-feuille. The feuillettés are similar to the raspberry mille-feuille, the main differences being size (the feuillettés are mini mille-feuille) and the use of crème anglaise instead of pastry cream.

The feuillettés are comprised of four components — crème anglaise, macerated berries, whipped cream, and disks cut from a baked pastry layer.

Crème anglaise

 Making the crème anglaise is the most time-consuming part, but it’s not difficult. And it’s so good, you may find yourself making it again to use for other things, like berries and cream or crème anglaise ice cream.

Once everything is prepared, it’s just a matter of putting the feuillettés together. This simply involves layering pastry disks, whipped cream, berries, and crème anglaise. So easy a child could do it. Really.

Feuillettés, some assembly required

 We had fun putting these together, and even more fun eating them.

Feuillettés with berries and cream

 This was a simple, stunning, and delicious dessert. It would make the perfect finish to a summer dinner party.

Citrus-berry Terrine {FFwD}

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe is very, very French. No, it’s not laden with butter and wine. Nor is it some ultra-fancy dish you’d expect to find in a 5-star restaurant. No, what makes this dish French is gelatin. You see, unlike Americans who grew up eating Cool Whip and fruit mixed with Jell-O and who now can’t stand the sight of anything called “Fluff”, French home cooks see unflavored gelatin as any other cupboard staple. They use it to hold together meringues or thicken mousse. And in the Summertime, they mix it with fruit juice to make refreshing, light fruit desserts, like this one.

This is one of those recipes that is meant more as a jumping off point than a set of strict instructions. With the basic gist of the recipe — citrus juice thickened with gelatin surrounding fresh berries — you could make any number of tweaks, based on your mood, what’s in season, or, as in my case, what you have in the refrigerator.

The recipe starts with instructions to make supremes of orange slices and set them aside to dry a bit, which I did.

OK, you caught me. My supremes look a little too perfect, don’t they? In my first slight departure from the recipe as printed, I drained a can of mandarin oranges, rinsed off the syrup, and dried them on paper towels. I couldn’t see taking the time to make supremes when I had pre-supremed oranges in the cupboard. I didn’t have any grapefruit, canned or otherwise, so I left those out of the recipe.

The next step was to soften two packets of unflavored gelatin in water. I had recently been to the bulk food store, and I bought powdered gelatin there, so that’s what I used. There was a sign on the bin indicating that one tablespoon of bulk gelatin equalled one packet of gelatin. I would come to find out that this was not the correct proportion (it should have been 2 1/2 teaspoons of gelatin), but more on that later.

While the gelatin softened, I mixed two cups of orange juice with a small amount of sugar and brought them to a boil. In the time it took the sugar and juice to boil, the gelatin coagulated — my first clue that something was amiss with my proportions. Rather than mix the juice into the gelatin in the bowl, I ended up scraping the gelatin into the saucepan and heating it until it softened up.

The recipe says to put the juice mixture in the fridge for about two hours, stirring occasionally, until it firms up a bit and has the consistency of egg whites. I forgot to stir the juice  mixture, and after about 1 1/2 hours, it was completely firm, like set Jell-O. This was when I knew the measurement for the gelatin must have been off. Undeterred, I took the mixture out of the refrigerator and beat it with a whisk until it broke up as much as it was going to; then I mixed in the fruit.

At this point, I knew things had gone way off track, and I had no idea if the mixture would reset and hold together or if I would be eating it out of the pan with a spoon. But it tasted fine, so I decided to chance it. I spread the mixture in a loaf pan, covered it with plastic wrap (which I used to press it into the pan as tightly as I could), and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I took the pan out of the refrigerator, anxious to see what sort of disaster I had created. I unmolded the terrine onto a platter, and to my surprise, it held together.

Granted, it didn’t look as pretty as the one Nancy made a while ago, but I was impressed that it came out as nice as it did. (Oh, and by the way, the Vintage 10 1/4 x 3 5/8-inch pan she talks about in her post is the same size pan I used for my terrine. Nancy found a bunch of these pans at a sale and was kind enough to send me one.)

So, how was it? Was I able to overcome my potluck fluff nightmares and actually enjoy this gelée? In a delicious word, yes.

The terrine was light, cool, and fruity, perfect for the sweltering Summer weather we’ve been experiencing. And frankly, good enough to make anytime of the year with whatever fruits are available.

This is definitely a recipe that surprised me. I thought it would be OK, but really expected nothing more than a Jell-O salad. It was so much better than that, but every bit as easy to make. This is a recipe I am certain to make again and again, with different juices and fruits. And unflavored gelatin will take the place of the sugary, artificially colored and flavored boxes of Jell-O in my cupboard.

Parisian Fruit Tarts {ModBak}

This is the first tart recipe in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, and although I generally bake the Challenge recipes roughly in order, this was actually the 11th recipe I made from this section. We started baking from this section at the beginning of April, and I wanted to wait until the fruit at the grocery was a bit nicer looking before I made this tart.

This tart has three components — crust, pastry cream, and fruit filling. Each one is fairly easy to put together. The recipe calls for press-in cookie dough for the crusts, so that’s what I used. Based on my previous experience with this crust recipe, I refrigerated the dough before pressing it into 4 1/2-inch tart pans. The chilled dough is much easier to work with, and chilling some of the dough while working with the rest keeps it firm enough to handle. I baked the crusts for about 15 minutes at 350°F until the crusts were nicely browned and baked through.

The tart recipe includes a recipe for pastry cream, but I decided to take a shortcut and use King Arthur Flour pastry cream filling mix, which makes a rich, delicious pastry cream with no cooking or fuss.

The fruit was also very easy to prepare. I made an apricot glaze by boiling strained apricot preserves and water, then reducing it by about one-third. While the glaze was cooling, I washed, peeled, and sliced the fruit — kiwi, mango, blueberries, and blackberries. I had wanted to use fresh pineapple and strawberries, too, but I bought them too early and they weren’t in the best shape by the time I made the tarts.

After layering the fruit in a bowl, I poured in the glaze, then mixed it all gently with a rubber spatula. To assemble the tarts, I spread a layer of pastry cream in the shells, then piled on the fruit.

We absolutely loved these tarts. The crunchy cookie dough, creamy filling, and sweet-tart fruit all worked perfectly together. I will definitely be making these again and again for my family and friends. And since you can use any mixture of fruit you want, the possibilities are endless.

If you grew up eating “fruit pizza” made with canned sugar cookie dough and cream cheese filling, you owe it to yourself to try the real thing. You’ll be amazed at how easy these stunning and delicious tarts are to prepare. You could also make this as a single large tart, like my friend Abby did, to take to a party or carry-in dinner.

Either way, I guarantee it will make more of an impression than fruit pizza.

Blueberry Crumble Pie {ModBak}

By my own self-designed and self-imposed schedule, I’m not supposed to get to this recipe until the first week of July. But I found some beautiful blueberries at Costco last week, and with company coming for Easter, it just seemed too perfect to pass up. So I jumped ahead in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section and made this pie.

This recipe is made with sweet tart dough. Once that was rolled out and panned, I made the crumb topping, which consisted of flour, baking powder, cinnamon, light brown sugar, and melted butter. The topping gets mixed together, then set aside while the filling is made.

Nick’s recipe for the filling is different than other fruit pies I’ve made. Generally, the filling for a fruit pie is either cooked or the fruit, sugar, butter, and spices are mixed and poured into the shell uncooked. In this recipe, some of the berries are cooked in sugar and thickened with cornstarch, and then this mixture is folded into the remaining berries. The whole thing is then dotted with butter and poured into the shell.

I broke up the crumble topping, then spread it over the pie. There was a lot of topping, which I’ve come to expect from Nick’s recipes.

I baked the pie in a 350°F oven for about 40 minutes, until the crust was baked through, the crumble golden, and the filling bubbly. It smelled so good coming out of the oven, I knew that if I hadn’t made it for company, I would have cut into it the minute it was cool enough to handle.

As it was, the pie made it until dinner the next day, although once we did cut into it, it didn’t last long. It was delicious — sweet, fruity, and the crumb topping was to die for. I served it with sweetened whipped cream left over from when I made Strawberry Chantilly Cake.

Unfortunately, with the commotion of Easter dinner I didn’t get any pictures of the finished pie. It looked a lot like the picture in the book. I guess you’ll just have to make it yourself to see just how good it is!

Mixed Berry Cobbler

After my recent trip to the farmer’s market, I had to find something to do with this beauty (and a quart of its friends):

I recently purchased Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, which I have been dying to try out, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. There is a recipe for mixed berry cobbler on pages 416-17. I’m a huge cobbler fan, so this sounded like just the ticket. I happened to have some blueberries in the fridge, which I thought would pair well with the blackberries.

As with most cobblers, this recipe came together quickly, I mixed the topping ingredients — flour, baking powder, sugar, salt. butter, and cream — then tossed together the filling. The recipe called for berries, sugar, cornstarch, zest of lemon or lime, and black pepper. I didn’t have any citrus on hand, so I substituted a few drops each of lemon and lime oil. I went heavy on the sugar, as the blackberries and blueberries were both a bit on the tart side.

I rolled the crust out to roughly the size of the pan, then put it on top of the fruit. I cut several slits in the dough, as well as a steam hole in the center.

I baked the cobbler at 375° F for about an hour. It looked and smelled amazing.

We waited to eat it until later in the evening, as we had company coming over. Everyone loved it, especially the citrus flavor. We all agreed that it had just the right balance of sweet and tart. This is definitely a recipe to repeat, and I think I’ll continue to substitute citrus oils for the zest.