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 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.

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.

Breton Apple Pie {ModBak}

Those of you who regularly visit my blog know about my obsession with all things pumpkin. What you may not know is that I have a similar obsession with apples. Not just apples, but apple pie. So I was excited to find out that the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker has not one, but three apple pie recipes. And that each is quite different than the others. And none of them is the usual double-crusted or crumb-topped pie that I’m accustomed to. Not that there’s anything wrong with the standard apple pie. But I thought it would be nice to have a few interesting twists on the old standby dessert to add to my repertoire.

The first of the apple pie recipes is actually based on a cake — gâteau Breton, a dense French cake that’s a lot like our pound cake. Nick’s twist on the classic Breton, as the cake is commonly known, is the addition of an apple filling, which is spread between two layers of dough.

Unlike most apple pie recipes, which are made with a firm baking apple, this recipe calls for Golden Delicious apples. Firmer apples are generally preferred for baking, as they don’t break down when cooked like softer, sweeter apples. But that’s exactly what the apples are supposed to do in this recipe, so Golden Delicious are a good choice.

I started by peeling, coring, and slicing the apples, then putting them in an enameled Dutch oven with butter, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon.

I cooked the apples until they gave off most of their juice, then continued cooking until the water had evaporated and the apples began to break down. The filling had the consistency of chunky applesauce.

While the apples were cooling, I made the dough. After beating sugar, butter, and vanilla to incorporate air, which would make for a light dough, I beat in egg yolks, then stirred in flour. If you have ever made a pound cake, this method probably sounds familiar, as it is very similar to how pound cake batter is made.

I spread about half the batter into a 10-inch stoneware pan that had been buttered and lined with parchment on the bottom, and pressed the dough partway up the sides of the pan.

I spread the cooled apple filling over the crust, then topped it with the rest of the dough, which had been pressed into a 10-inch circle. After brushing the top crust with egg wash, I used the tines of a fork to trace a lattice pattern on the Breton.

I baked the Breton for about 50 minutes in a 350° F oven, until it was baked through and the dough was golden brown.

After it cooled, I turned the pie out of the pan and onto a cake platter. I served it plain, and it was fine that way, although it also would have been good with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

I really liked the flavor and texture of this dessert, although it seemed more like a cake to me than a pie. The next time I make it, I think I’ll just call it a “Breton” and let everyone decide for themselves what that means.

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.

Neapolitan Easter Pie {ModBak}

After the simple and stunning chocolate orange hazelnut tart, the next recipe I made from the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge was Neapolitan Easter pie. I really wasn’t all that excited to make this one, and Margaret’s lack of enthusiasm when she made it didn’t help matters any.

The recipe called for white wheat berries, which is an ingredient I don’t keep in my panty and didn’t want to buy just for this pie. The instructions give several substitutions for the wheat berries, one of which is rice. I happened to be making basmati rice for dinner the night before I made the pie, so I made some extra rice to use in the pie.

The recipe also calls for pastry cream and provides instructions to make it. Given my lack of enthusiasm for this recipe, I decided to take a shortcut and use pastry cream mix from King Arthur Flour. Although, truth be told, I almost always use the King Arthur mix when a recipe calls for pastry cream. It’s quick and easy to mix up, and it’s absolutely delicious.

After making the pasty cream, I whisked in ricotta cheese, sugar, and eggs, then stirred in orange flower water, candied orange peel, and the rice. I scraped the filling into a crust made with sweet tart dough.

I topped the pie with strips of dough arranged in a lattice pattern.

Yeah, that cinnamon was supposed to go on top of the pie before the crust

 I baked the pie at 350°F for about 40 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the filling set and slightly puffed up.

It smelled good coming out of the oven and reminded me of a custard pie my mom used to make when I was younger.

I enjoyed the pie more than I thought I might. The flavor was similar to custard pie, and the orange peel and flower water added a bright, citrus note. The rice gave it a texture similar to rice pudding and helped the filling hold up well to the crust. It was especially good served just a little on the warm side (the same way I like my pudding).

So, overall, this pie was a pleasant surprise. That said, I doubt that I’ll make it again. Unless, perhaps, one of my daughters dates an Italian guy. And I’ve got a few years before I need to worry about that. Not enough. But a few.

Nut Tart Dough {ModBak}

The Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker includes three dough recipes: sweet tart dough, chocolate nut dough, and press-in cookie dough. This recipe is a variation of the sweet tart dough, and even though it’s not an official Modern Baker Challenge recipe, I found it interesting enough to merit its own post.

This dough calls for the same ingredients as the sweet tart dough — flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, eggs, and water — with the addition of 1/2 cup of chopped nuts. Since I was making this dough for the chocolate orange hazelnut tart, I naturally used hazelnuts in the crust.

I began by mixing sugar and chopped hazelnuts in the food processor, then adding the rest of the dry ingredients.

I blended in the butter, then added an egg, egg yolk, and water and pulsed until the dough held together in a ball.

I preshaped the dough into disks, then wrapped and refrigerated the dough for a few hours before rolling it out and pressing it into tart pans.

This dough makes a really delicious crust. It wasn’t quite as flaky as the regular sweet tart dough, but it was still rich, buttery, and had additional flavor from the hazelnuts.

I will definitely use this crust the next time I make the chocolate orange hazelnut tart. And I might even try it for some of the other tarts in this section.

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