Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet, Boozy, Italian Happiness

Several weeks ago, I was thrilled to find that Miceli's, a Cleveland cheese maker, now has a comparatively inexpensive mascarpone (oddly, it's not featured anywhere on their website). I immediately bought it with plans for tiramisu. The wedding cakes I made (more pictures of that later) took precedence, though, and I only got to the tiramisu yesterday. I made a miniature, one layer tiramisu, using a 5' x 8' ceramic dish I have. I forgot to take pictures before we dug in after a dinner of wine, bread, cheese and veggies, so there are no pictures of the fully assembled, un-attacked dessert. Oops.

I used La Tartine Gourmand's recipe for lady fingers, but only made 1/3 of the recipe, since I was trying make a very small portion, and didn't want an abundance of cookies. I had a few leftover, however, and found I really like them! They are barely sweet, and a little dry, but pleasantly flavored. I didn't feel like doing the whole piping bag deal to make fingers, so I just used a small scoop, and made normal, round cookies. I based my tiramisu recipe off of David Lebovitz's recipe, but again, reduced it significantly. I wish I had used a smaller dish, or individual dishes like David's though, just so I could have managed another layer of lady fingers before running out of filling. The only other change I would make is in the rum/espresso mixture. It's supposed to be boozy, but I just found it too boozy. I think it's probably the rum--I'm not actually a huge rum fan, so next time, I'm thinking about using kahlua instead, to up the coffee flavor in addition to the booze.

Lady Fingers
1 egg, separated
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons flour
1 oz. sugar
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Whip egg whites with half of the sugar, until the whites form stiff peaks, gradually adding more sugar until it's all incorporated. Mix in the egg yolks. then sift the cornstarch and flour into the egg mixture, gently folding until just combined. Do not mix quickly or deflate the egg whites. You want fluffy here! On a parchment lined baking sheet, you can either pipe the batter into the traditional finger shape, or if you're lazy like me, just use a small scoop to make rounds. Space them a bit apart, since they will puff. Sift powdered sugar over cookies, and let it absorb. Repeat. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden. Let cool.

1/4 cup espresso (I used water and espresso powder)
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 tablespoon cognac (I used my baking buddy, Navan)
1 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
small pinch of salt
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 cup mascarpone
lady finger from recipe above
bittersweet chocolate for grating on top

Combine espresso, rum, and cognac, and set aside. Whip egg whites, salt and half of the sugar until firm peaks form. In another bowl, whip egg yolk and remaining sugar until thick and pale. Add the mascarpone to the egg yolk mixture, combining until smooth. Carefully fold in egg whites, in two stages, until completely combined. Spoon a small portion of egg mixture into the serving dish. Dip the lady fingers into the espresso mixture for a few seconds, and layer into serving dish. Feel free to break cookies to get a full layer of cookies. Spread cookie layer with egg mixture. Grate chocolate on top, and put in the fridge for as long as you can handle.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peach Beehives

I've been so busy lately; baking, while it's happened on occasion, hasn't been of the photogenic variety. However, I think you'll find these worth the wait. Just back from vacation, I have 1/4 peck of Ohio's first ripe peaches of the season (from Hurley Farms at Indian Lake) sitting on my dining room table. One of Carolyn's favorite summer desserts is something her mom makes, called Peach Beehives. Like any time I try to duplicate something someone's mom makes, it comes with high expectations and the decision as to whether to simply recreate an identical dish, or to attempt making it my own.
Today, I decided to make this mom classic my own in small ways. I used my favorite pie crust recipe, sprinkled coarse sugar on the crust for extra crunch and sparkle, and added some booze to the sauce (always a way to reclaim any recipe as my own...just add booze!).

One of the most unique parts of this recipe is that the peaches are left completely alone. You don't season them, you don't peel them, or pit them. All that happens is that they are carefully encased in crust, exalting them in their peachy, peak-season glory. Most interestingly, somewhere in the baking process, the skin of the peaches all but dissolves. It's not tough or even noticible in the final product. I also love that single rivulet of pinkish peach juice that leaked out of the top and dripped down the side. It lets you know there is a lush, juicy treat waiting just inside that crispy crust.

I attempted to reduce the quantities in the various recipes I looked over, and ended up with an almost perfect amount of crust for two peaches (just enough extra to bake up scraps with cinnamon and sugar) by halving what I usually make for a single crust pie. The sauce is another story...I have a ton of it left. Good thing it's tasty enough to just eat off of a spoon.

most recipes use prepared crusts; I made 1/2 batch of my favorite recipe
2 peaches, washed and still damp
half an egg white (use remaining white and yolk in sauce)
coarse sugar

Cut the crust into 1/2" in strips, and wrap around the peaches, overlapping each strip halfway over the one before it, so it looks like a beehive. I found having damp peaches helped the crust strips stick to the peaches quite well. Press the strips firmly into one another, being careful not to squash or misshape them, but making sure they are well sealed. Place peaches on a parchment covered baking sheet. Brush peaches with egg white, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and pretty.

1/4 c butter
1 egg yolk, plus the half of the white you didn't use on the peaches (farm fresh if you can)
1 tbl cream
1 tbl Navan (vanilla cognac)
a few drops vanilla bean paste
1 c powdered sugar
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Cream the butter with an electric mixer, then add the egg yolk, beating until smooth and fluffy. Add cream, Navan, and vanilla bean paste, continuing to beat until completely smooth. Add the powdered sugar 1/4 c at a time, fully incorporating each portion before adding the next. If one wanted a thicker sauce, one could add more powdered sugar...but I liked it exactly how it came out, smooth and spoonable! Place under or over beehives right before serving, preferably while the peaches are still warm.