Pizza Rustica {TWD-BWJ}

This is my second forray into Tuesdays with Dorie, and I’m happy to report that I liked this recipe a lot better than the Irish soda bread I made a few weeks ago. This recipe is from Nick Malgieri, and it reminded me of a savory version of his Neapolitan Easter pie.

I should say up front that I’m sure there’s some historical reason for the name, but it really isn’t anything like a pizza. It’s more of a savory cheese pie, akin to a quiche, but not as custardy.

The crust is simple to whip up in the food processor. The surprise here is that, although this is a savory pie, the crust is quite sweet. I found my dough a bit on the dry side, so I wet my hands and kneaded a bit of water into the dough before rolling it out. It worked beautifully.

The filling also came together quickly. It consisted of ricotta cheese, eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, sweet Lebanon bologna (my substitution for prosciutto), mozzarella cheese, and spices. I began by stirring the ricotta to soften, then mixed in the remaining ingredients one at a time. I spooned the filling into the crust and smoothed the top.

I rolled out the remaining dough and cut it into strips with a  ruffle-edge pastry wheel, then made a criss-cross lattice pattern on top of the pie.

I baked the pie for about 40 minutes at 350°F, until the crust was golden brown and the filling set. The recipe says to cool the pie completely before eating. I let mine cool for about 20 minutes, but we were hungry and decided to eat it while it was still warm.

It seemed like it needed something light and refreshing to go with it. I wanted to make a frisee salad, but I didn’t have any greens in the fridge. I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I decided to toss together a quick carrot salad to eat with the pie. It turned out to be the perfect accompaniment.

The pie was rich, sweet, savory, and salty all at the same time. I’m not sure how it would be with prosciutto, but the sweetness of the crust paired beautifully with the salty-sweet of the Lebanon bologna. And the carrot salad provided just the right coolness and acid to balance out the dish. We all agreed that this is a dish we would gladly eat again.

This post is part of Tuesdays with Dorie. Check out the group website to see what everyone else thought of this dish. Our hosts for this recipe were Emily and Raelynn. Surf on over to their blogs for the pizza rustica recipe.

Next up: Lemon Loaf Cake. You’ll have to check back in a few weeks to see what I thought of it, but here’s a preview:

Dinner and dessert

 

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The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri {Review}

“If you have an oven, you need The Modern Baker.”  ~ Maida Heatter

First published in 2008, Nick Malgieri‘s cookbook, The Modern Baker: Time-saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, and Cookies, has just been reissued in paperback.

Like most home cooks, I own a lot of cookbooks. Some I turn to all the time; others I rarely touch. The Modern Baker never leaves my kitchen.

This book contains over 150 recipes, both sweet and savory, with everything from quick breads to savory tarts to cookies, cakes, and pies. I have been baking from it for about a year and a half, and even started the Modern Baker Challenge to encourage others to bake with me. In that time, I’ve made — and blogged about — almost 100 recipes. (If you want to read any of the blog posts, use the search box on this page to search for {ModBak}, the tag I use in all my Modern Baker posts.)

I have really come to appreciate the clarity with which the recipes are written, how easy they are to follow, and the consistent results I get when making them. But what really sets this book apart from other cookbooks is the way Nick takes the mystery and intimidation out of baking. Through his helpful, step-by-step instructions and photos, he shows how to make perfect pie crusts, “instant” puff pastry, bakery-quality cakes and pies, and company-worth tarts.

I originally picked up The Modern Baker in hopes that I could finally overcome my mental block when it comes to pie crusts. As comfortable as I am in the kitchen, both with cooking and baking, I had never been able to make a decent pastry crust. It wasn’t that I didn’t try; I just could never seem to get it right. My dough would be gooey or too dry, and when I baked it, it would turn out tough or dry and crumbly. So I was delighted when I made Nick’s quick pastry crust and it turned out perfect the first time. And the second. And the third. And every time since.

The puff pastry is another breakthrough in this book. It mixes up in minutes and doesn’t require rolling in butter in “turns” as in most puff pastry recipes. After mixing the ingredients in the food processor, you pat it out, fold it over itself envelope style, roll it up, and pop it in the fridge. And the resulting puff pastry surpasses anything you can buy. Since I discovered Nick’s technique, I always have homemade puff pastry in the freezer. And the book has taught me countless ways to use it.

If you fancy yourself a cook, but have always been intimidated by baking, you need to own this book. And if you are a seasoned baker and want to find some new, streamlined techniques for the recipes you love to make, you’ll find them here. Even if you’ve never tried your hand at homemade bread or layer cakes, you will feel like a real baker after trying just a few recipes.

In fact, whatever your level of baking experience, you will learn amazing tips, techniques, and tricks from Nick Malgieri and The Modern Baker.

Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Tart {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Mondays recipe veers sharply away from the sweet puff pastry recipes we’ve been making recently to bring up something savory, tangy, and, OK, a little sweet. The combination of caramelized onions, blue cheese, and tarragon is genius. These flavors play off one another to bring out the best qualities in each of them.

As with all the recipes in this section, this tart is built on a crust made of puff pastry. The full recipe makes a 12 x 15-inch tart. I wanted to halve the recipe, so I used a 6 x 7 1/2-inch pan, right? Wrong!!! I used an 8 x 11 1/2-inch pan, which is very close to half the size of the jellyroll pan called for in the recipe.

How, you say? Let’s do the math. A 12 x 15-inch pan has a surface area of 180 inches (12 x 15 = 180), half of which is, of course, 90. And 8 x 11.5 = 92; pretty darn close to 90. So, I used half the puff pastry called for in the recipe, rolled it out to fit the pan, and stuck the crust in the fridge until I was ready for it.

Next, I prepared the caramelize onions. There are two basic methods for caramelizing onions — the real way, and the fake way. The real way involves cooking the onions over very low heat in butter or oil with a pinch of salt for a long time (upwards of an hour). The “fake” way, which really doesn’t involve caramelizing the onions at all, is to sauté the onions in butter or oil and add sugar and balsamic vinegar to mimic the color and flavor you get when you caramelize onions.

When I read the ingredients to this recipe and saw that it called for both brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, I figured we’d be faking the caramelized onions. But then I read the recipe and saw that the onions are cooked over low heat for 40 minutes, and I realized that Nick had combined the long, slow cooking and natural caramelization with sugar and vinegar for added flavor. I should know by now to trust him, shouldn’t I?

The onions looked and smelled wonderful while they cooked. And the flavor was as good as any caramelize onion I’d ever had.

With the crust and caramelized onions at the ready, all that was left to do was crumble some blue cheese and chop fresh tarragon. I used a mixture of chevre blue and buttermilk blue for the cheese. The goat blue was firm and very flavorful; and the buttermilk cheese was soft and tangy.

To assemble the tart, I poked the crust with the tines of a fork, spread the caramelized onions over the crust, added the blue cheese, and sprinkled on the tarragon. It seemed to be heavy on the toppings to me, but having tasted the onions, I was ready to trust Nick’s judgment on this one.

I baked the tart in a 400˚F oven for about 20 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the cheese had melted and begun to brown. I probably should have let it bake for a few more minutes, as the crust was quite soft when I cut it.

I let the tart cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into it. It was so good — the buttery crust, the tang and sweetness of the onions, the bite of the blue cheese, and the sweet, licorice-like flavor of the tarragon, all complemented one another perfectly.

Nick bills this tart as an appetizer or first course, but I was perfectly happy eating it for a late-night snack and breakfast the next morning. It would pair well with a crisp, fruity wine.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the sweet puff pastry recipes that we’ve made over the past month or so, I have to say that this is among my favorite recipes in this section so far.

Apple Tart with Lattice Crust {Bake!}

A small group of us have been working our way through Nick Malgieri’s Bake! at the slow steady pace of a few recipes per month. We took August off to catch up on any recipes we might have missed, or to get ahead on the next section. We started up again in September with Truffle Brownies, a great way to start, if you ask me.

This was the second recipe for September, chosen for us by Kayte. Yes, I said September. I actually made this recipe on time, I just didn’t get around to posting it until now. A month to catch up, and I’m already behind.

This was a fairly straightforward recipe. It’s basically an apple pie baked in a tart shell with a lattice crust.

The lattice topping is brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with sugar.

I had some filling leftover, so I baked it in a gratin dish with the extra crust from the lattice.

 This was a good pie, nothing extraordinary. Probably not one I’ll make again. But then, I have a lot of great apple pie, tart, and cake recipes to choose from.

Apple Tarte Tatin {ModBak}

After my recent tatin disaster, you’d think I wouldn’t want to rush right back in and try another one. But as I’m never one to let a little thing like failure dissuade me, jump back in I did. Besides, this it the real thing — a classic apple tarte tatin.

Having learned from my issues with the pineapple tatin, I did make some changes this time. To begin with, I made my caramel in a saucepan. That way, I could pour it out as soon as it was done so it wouldn’t overcook.

Now that, my friends, if perfectly cooked caramel. Despite my history of burning caramel, this time I nailed it.

The other change I made to the recipe was to bake it in a cake pan instead of a sauté pan. I poured the cooked caramel into the cake pan, then layered on the apples.

I covered the pan with puff pastry dough, which didn’t melt this time, as the pan wasn’t hot.

I baked the tatin at 350°F for about an hour, then cooled it a bit before turning it out onto a plate.

It was obvious at first glance that the caramel wasn’t overcooked on this tatin like it was when I made the pineapple tatin, and I was hopeful that this one would make up for the disaster I had the first time around.

I didn’t have any ice cream, so I served this one naked.

As it turned out, this tatin didn’t need any adornment. It was delicious. The caramel was perfectly cooked and complemented the apples beautifully. I would gladly make this again, caramel and all. In fact, this may just be the recipe to help me overcome my mental block with caramel.

Raspberry Almond Tartlets {ModBak}

Talk about saving the best for last. This is the final recipe I made from the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, and what a way to finish! I would have to put this recipe in the top 3 for this section, right up there with the Pumpkin Pecan and Bourbon-scented Pecan Tarts.

I put this one off until the end, not just because it’s near the end of the section (I tend to make the recipes roughly in order), but also because tartlets always seem a bit fussy to me. I tend to favor full-size tarts and pies, as their miniature counterparts tend to be tedious to assemble. I needn’t have worried with this recipe, however, as it came together really quickly.

Having made the crust the day before to use for lemon lime tartlets, all I had to do was roll it out, cut it, and fit it into the mini muffin pans.

I had planned to make a half recipe of the lemon lime and raspberry almond tartlets, so I divided a single batch of sweet tart dough and set aside half for each recipe. There was a small chunk of dough leftover when I made the lemon lime tartlets, and I had stuck that in the fridge after I made the crusts for those the day before. As I rolled out the dough for the raspberry tartlets, I realized there was enough dough to make more than just 12 tartlets. To my surprise, between the leftovers from the day before and the raspberry tartlet dough, I was able to make 24 tartlet shells.

While the dough chilled in the fridge, I put together the filling, which consisted of almond paste, sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter, and flour, all whirred together in the food processor. Then I gathered my ingredients to assemble the tartlets.

I began by putting a dab of seedless raspberry preserves in each shell, then topping that with either one large raspberry or two small blackberries.

Then I spooned in the filling to cover the berries. Nick says to spread the filling evenly with an offset spatula, but mine seemed to even itself out nicely. I sprinkled the top of each tartlet with sliced almonds, and they were ready to bake.

I baked the tartlets at 350°F for 20 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the filling was puffy and set.

Allowing the tartlets to cool was no easy task, but I left them alone for about 25 minutes, until the pan was cool enough to handle, then I removed each tartlet to a rack to finish cooling. Well, all except for those destined for the dessert plate.

In case you’re wondering, that wasn’t all for me. My wife and I split the tartlets on the plate. But I did sneak another one every time I walked past the table. And I found lots of excuses to pass through the dining room.

I really enjoyed these tartlets. The almond paste gave the filling a wonderfully rich and warm flavor, while the berries provided a juicy, tart contrast. I liked the blackberry ones the best, although I wouldn’t say no to either of them. Which is why I eventually had to wrap them and put them away.

So that’s it for the sweet tarts and pies. On to Puff Pastries. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Sour Cream Apple Pie {ModBak}

This recipe, the last of three apple pie recipes in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, is the only one that really seems like pie. The other two — Breton apple pie and Maida’s Big Apple Pie — are more of a cake and tart, respectively. Each one is delicious in its own right, but none, including this one, reminds me of a classic apple pie. When I think of apple pie, I picture a double-crusted pie (although I don’t have anything against crumb topping, either) with a filling made of apples, sugar, cinnamon, butter, maybe a splash of lemon juice, and not much else.

The twist in this recipe is the addition of sour cream, which makes a custard-style pie. To make the pie, I began by cooking down some apples in butter and sugar. While the apples were cooking, I whisked together flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Then I made the crumb topping, which consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and butter. Finally, I rolled out and panned a single crust sweet pie dough.

Once the apples had cooled, I combined them with the sour cream custard mixture.

As soon as I put the filling into the pie, I knew I had a bit too much. Fortunately, I had placed the pie pan on a parchment-lined jelly roll pan, so it caught the overflow.

After topping the pie with the crumbs, I baked it at 350°F for about 55 minutes, until the filling was set and the topping nicely browned.

I cooled the pie (more or less), then sliced and served it for a late-evening snack.

The recipe says that the pie needs no accompaniment, and it was certainly good on its own.

Don’t tell Nick, but it was also awesome with ice cream and whipped cream!

Maida’s Big Apple Pie {ModBak}

This is the second of three apple pie recipes in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker. The first one, Breton apple pie, is based on a French cake recipe and actually reminded me more of cake than pie. The third recipe, sour cream apple pie, is a classic crumb-topped apple pie, albeit with a sour cream twist.

This recipe to me is less like a pie than an apple tart. In fact, it is very similar to the rustic apple tart I made last Fall using a mix from Fowler’s Mill.

As large and impressive as this tart is, it’s really simple to assemble. Other than the sweet dough, there are only five ingredients: apples, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

I began by cooking the apples — a mixture of Granny Smith and golden delicious — in butter with the sugars and cinnamon.

As the mixture cooked, the softer golden delicious apples began to break down, while the firmer Granny Smith ones held together. This would provide contrasts of both texture and flavor to the tart.

While the apple mixture cooked, I rolled out the dough. The recipe calls for a double recipe of sweet tart dough, rolled out to a 16-inch circle, which is then draped over a large pizza pan.

Once the apples had cooled, I spread them over the filling, then folded in the edges, leaving the center open

I brushed the edges of the tart with egg wash, and sprinkled with finishing sugar. I baked the tart at 375°F for about 40 minutes, until the crust was golden and the filling bubbly.

I let the tart cool, then cut and served it for dessert. It was sweet, spicy, flavorful, and the mix of apples gave it a subtle complexity. The tart was delicious on its own. But of course, a little ice cream wasn’t amiss, either.

I thought about cutting this recipe in half, as I knew it would be absolutely huge. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t, since part of what made this tart so impressive was its sheer size.

And regardless of how big it was, none of it went to waste.

Lemon Lime Tartlets & Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tartlets — A {ModBak} Twofer

With two weeks left to go in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I found myself with four recipes remaining. The kids are out of town, and we decided to have a low-key day today, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to play a little catch-up. I decided to knock out three recipes at once. The lemon lime tartlet and chocolate caramel pecan tartlet recipes each make 24 tartlets, way too many to have around with just J and me to eat them. Since each recipe calls for the tart shells to be prebaked, I figured I would bake the shells together and then fill them.

As for the third recipe, well, that’s the tartlet shells for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. The recipe calls for shells made with chocolate nut dough, and since this is the first recipe to use that dough, I hadn’t made it yet. The lemon lime tartlets are made with sweet tart dough, which I’ve made for many of the recipes in this section.

I mixed up both doughs early in the day and let them chill in the fridge for a few hours. For the lemon lime tartlets, I rolled out the sweet tart dough, cut it into circles, and pressed each disk into a mini muffin pan. Then I did the same with the chocolate nut dough.

I chilled the dough in the pans for about an hour, then baked the shells in a 350°F oven for 12 minutes. Although I pricked the dough well with a fork before baking, the shells puffed up to the point where there was no room for filling. While the shells were still hot, I pressed the center of each one with a small ladle to make room for the filling. I cooled the crusts in the pan for a few minutes, then removed them to a cooling rack. A few of the bakers in the Challenge noted that their tartlet shells stuck when they baked them in mini muffin pans. Knowing this, I had sprayed my pan lightly with spray oil, and my shells came out beautifully.

While the tart shells were cooling, I toasted coconut for the lemon lime tartlets, then made the filling for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. (I didn’t have to make the lemon lime filling, as I had leftover lemon and lime curds in the fridge from making ice cream.) The chocolate filling isn’t particularly difficult, although it does require quite a few steps and dirties a lot of pans and bowls. The caramel is made in one pan while the cream is heated in another. These are combined, then scraped into a bowl to cool. Chocolate, which has been melted and cooled in another bowl, is then added to the caramel-cream mixture, and butter and nuts (which have been toasted in a separate pan) are added last.

After making the filling and shells, assembling the tartlets was a breeze. I spooned the chocolate caramel pecan tartlet filling into the shells and topped each one with a toasted pecan.

For the lemon lime tartlets, I had planned to mix my lemon and lime curds, which I had made and stored separately, but Nick cautions against overstirring the curd, lest it become too liquid. I tested this by putting a spoonful of each into a bowl and mixing them. Sure enough, the curd broke down and become too watery to hold up in the tart shells. So I filled half the shells with lemon curd and the other half with lime curd, then topped them with toasted coconut.

My wife and I enjoyed these tartlets for a late-evening snack. We loved the flavor of all three of the tartlets, although we did discover that it was best to eat the chocolate ones first, as they tended to taste a little bitter after eating the curd-filled tartlets.

These were delicious tarts, and I will definitely make them again. However, unless I’m making them for a finger-food event, I would be inclined to do them as full size tarts, rather than tartlets.

Chocolate Nut Dough {ModBak}

The last of the dough recipes in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker is only used in one recipe in the section — chocolate caramel pecan tartlets — although Nick Malgieri notes in the recipe that it would be good with any tart featuring chocolate. After my successes with sweet tart dough, nut tart dough, and press-in cookie dough, I knew this one would be great, too.

This recipe is similar to the nut tart dough, and even though it was my first time making it, I felt like I had done it before. I began by pulsing sugar and almonds in the food processor until the nuts were powdery.

Then I added flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, and pulsed to mix. Next, I put in cold butter that I had cut into small pieces, and pulsed the mixture until the butter was finely mixed in. Finally, the recipe called for an egg, egg yolk, and water. After adding the liquid ingredients, I mixed the dough until it came together in a ball.

I was making a half recipe and had to improvise on the liquids a bit (have you ever tried to mix in half an egg or half an egg yolk?) I used a whole egg, no yolk, and a very small amount of water. Nonetheless, my dough seemed a bit wet after it was mixed up. I thought about adding more flour, but decided just to chill it well and use plenty of flour when I rolled it out.

The dough firmed up nicely in the fridge, and with generous dusting, rolled out well, too. I was using the dough for tartlets, so I cut the rolled dough with a round scalloped cutter and pressed the circles into a mini muffin pan.

I chilled the dough in the pan for a few hours and baked it at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Despite having pricked the dough with a fork prior to baking, it rose up in the pan as it baked. I pressed the center of each tart down with a small ladle as soon as they came out of the oven, which worked well to get the tartlets in shape for filling.

The dough tasted great, almost like a chocolate cookie. As for the tartlets, well, you’ll just have to wait for my next post to see how they came out.

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