Last week, while watching PBS on my iPad, I saw a small video of Aube Giroux’s Strawberry Basil Tart. I fell in love with the film, the music, the recipe and the aesthetic of the dish. As I always say, food IS art, and she proves it. This little thing has managed to jump over several desserts I have in my favorite rotation and jumped to the top 5. Will surely be making it for my next get-togethers.
While her video is impossible to replicate or top, I am being courageous here and posting the photos of my preparing it at home and the end result (I forgot to take a picture of the syrup and of the yolks before adding them to the milk). I actually had to make-do with only one cup of basil, but it still came out delicious!
Creamed butter with ground almonds
I actually did a little dance of joy when this was done. Such great texture and so easy to roll!
Freshly out of the oven
Basil and strawberries waiting
Preparing the custard…
Finger-straining the yolks after one fell into the whites…
The finished product! So pretty, I don’t want to touch it.
Now go, get the ingredients and make it. It’s soooo good!
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This morning a friend invited me and another friend for dinner. She said to bring dessert or an appetizer. I chose dessert. It was so cold outside that I decided to bake with whatever I had on hand because I was not going out. I remembered I had frozen strawberries and decided that a chocolate-strawberry cake it would be. I found this recipe and modified it to accomodate what I had in the pantry. The result was one of the fluffiest, yummiest cakes I’ve ever baked.
CHOCOLATE-STRAWBERRY CAKE SQUARES
- 2/3 lb frozen strawberries, thawed (save 1/2 c juices)
- 1 and 2/3 c sugar, divided in 1 c and 2/3 c
- 1 cup boiling-hot water
- 3/4 cup extra-dark unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 c) butter, softened
- 4 large eggs
- Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar for garnish
- In a bowl, toss the thawed strawberries and the 1/2 c of their juice with 2/3 cup sugar. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the cocoa and hot water in a bowl and mix until chocolate is fully dissolved. Set aside.
- Sift the flour and mix it with the salt and baking soda in another bowl. Set aside.
- Either in the bowl of a standing mixer, or another big bowl, mix the butter and 1 c remaining cup of sugar at medium speed until well-blended and fluffy, which in my case was about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Alternate the flour, strawberries and chocolate mixtures, starting and ending with the flour until they mix. Do not over-beat, but make sure ingredients are incorporated.
- Butter a rectangular 9×13 pan and pour batter into it. Bake in the middle rack for 35 minutes.
- Allow it to cool in the pan, slice into squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
The original recipe said to bake for 35-40 minutes but mine came out exactly at 35. I used a glass pan and it worked very well. If you use a metallic one check your time as the baking time may change. It looked like this when it came out:
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This is the first dessert I ever made. It was ages ago, while I was in high school. My maternal grandma had a huge double boiler/steamer pot that I learned to do it in and I fell in love with how simple, yet versatile the recipe is. You can put fruit in it, and the version with shredded coconut was a favorite of my grandpa (on my mother’s side). Today’s version doesn’t have coconut, since I didn’t have any freshly shredded one, but you can always add it.
- One can condensed milk
- One can evaporated milk
- 3 eggs
- drop of vanilla (optional)
- 2 tbsp sugar (for caramel)
- One peeled and sliced apple, peach or pear, or 2/3 c shredded coconut (optional)
- In a bowl, mix both milks, eggs and vanilla, if using.
- If using a metal mold, melt the sugar over low heat until it caramelizes. Remove from heat before it’s completely deep in amber color (remember the sugar will keep on caramelizing, so if you wait too much, you’ll burn the caramel) and move the mold so the sugar coats it as it cools.
- (If using a pyrex, melt the sugar in a heavy pot and transfer quickly to avoid the caramel cooling and sticking to the pot).
- If using a steaming pot on a stove: Place the pyrex or metal mold with the caramel sugar in the shallow side of the pot. Add the custard mixture. Pour lukewarm water into the pot (careful to not spill water into the custard mixture). Bring to a slow rolling boil, reduce the flame to medium-low and cover with the deep part of the steaming pot. Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour or until a knife inserted into the flan comes out clean. Careful when opening the pot, as the steam may burn you. Also, check that the water doesn’t run out, or your flan will burn. If water is running low (check about half way through the cooking process), add some more lukewarm water to the pot.
- If cooking in the oven: Heat oven to 350F. Place the mold with the caramel in a bigger pyrex/metal container. Add the custard mix to the mold and the lukewarm water to the bigger pyrex. Cover lightly with foil and bake in the middle rack until the custard sets (same test with the knife). 45-50 minutes. As with the steamer, check that the water doesn’t dry out.
- Once the custard sets, remove it from the oven/stove and let it cool completely. Run a knife over the edges to release it, shake it lightly to make sure it’s free, invert a plate over the mold and carefully but quickly flip the mold onto the plate. If you have caramel stuck to the mold, add a little water and heat it lightly until it comes off and you can pour it on the flan.
Chill and enjoy.
Full disclosure: I don’t like the oven method. I haven’t done flan in years because of it. Since I now have received a steamer pot gift from grandma, I am back in the flan business. This means, then, you may have to tinker with the times and temperature of the oven cooking option. I have seen this method on cookbooks, but like I said, I did not like the results (it came out too hard, I like my flans fluffy).
Today I tried to make this lower on sugar by using less on the caramelizing part. Next up I will try to make it even lighter by using light milk mixtures.
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