Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Decadent and Delicious Mac and Cheese

I like mac n cheese. I always have. My husband, though he loves macaroni salads, never seemed to care for mac n cheese, though tastes change. He told me recently he liked mac n cheese just fine! Over the years, as I became more conscious of additives in pre-packaged foods that can affect health, I began weeding out the use of anything that came in a box, and most canned veggies. I still use canned tomato sauces, tomatoes, tomato paste, corn and most beans. I usually buy things that are either sodium free or 50% sodium where possible. Among the casualties to a more conscious lifestyle was mac n cheese in a box. Not that I ever used it extensively, but once in a while it was just easy.

For all those reasons, and likely a few more, I haven't had mac n cheese for many, many years. Since my husband gave me the OK on the concept, it has been in my mind. Last evening I decided to take the plunge. Mac 'n' cheese is not inherently healthy, even when homemade. The more unctuously cheesy, the more the fat and calorie content rise. But, at least I know what is in it when I make my own, and there are none of those extras; dyes, preservatives and such.
Decadent Mac and Cheese, with Crumb Topping

Cheeses of Choice

I was watching a program on TV a few nights back where someone was touting the richness of a mac n cheese made with cream cheese and Parmesan. That just struck me as a delightful combination. How much, though? I didn't want to go so far over the top. I ended up using about 1½ ounces of Parmesan and 4 ounces of cream cheese. Then I realized I still had a little bit of shredded cheese in the fridge, from the Taco Pizza I made a few days ago. It was a "Mexican Blend" of 4 cheeses, only one of which was a yellow cheese. There wasn't all that much left. I threw it in. At this point the cheesy mixture was mostly white.

Going for the Gold

Turmeric Powder
Depending on the kind of cheese you use, the color of mac 'n' cheese can be completely white or nice, bright yellow. The nice bright yellow in boxed products often comes from food dyes. I prefer something more natural. While I used a little bit of yellow cheese, I also added a little turmeric for color. Turmeric is a very healthy spice. It has some flavor, but it has an amazingly yellow color. It is very easy to include a little in the diet, here and there. The yellow color in a dish that has "cheese" in the very title, just makes the food look more enticing. 

Richness and Flavor

I like flavor in my foods, so I also used caramelized onions, garlic and thyme. I added nutmeg and a little chipotle powder. As far as the macaroni, I used an 8-ounce box of Ancient Harvest Quinoa Elbow Macaroni. It is gluten free. It isn't something I had to use, but I really like the flavor of that pasta and have bought it often for that reason alone. If it came in more shapes, it might be the only macaroni product I would buy. I did use quinoa spaghetti a few times, though it is far more breakable in the long, thin strands; not as ideal. Still, even that would be completely acceptable if being gluten free was a must. 

To Bake? 

Decadent Mac and Cheese, Baked with Crumb Topping
It is not remotely necessary to bake this dish. It is all properly cooked once the macaroni is stirred in. It will all depend on the kind of presentation you want to make. I decided on a pretty presentation and poured it into a casserole. Topping it with Panko crumbs seemed a no-brainer for a crispy top. I was casting about in my head for flavors to spice up the Panko. I could have just mixed in a little melted butter and/or oil to help with the browning. Last minute, I did an about-face, thinking of the pesto in my fridge. If you have never used pesto, it is generally a basil product with garlic and oil at its most basic. Cheese and pine nuts are often added, and I even add a little butter to make it a more spreadable (i.e. less drippy) mixture. Pesto would be an excellent way to flavor the crumbs, plus making a pretty green contrast with the golden-sauced macaroni. If making this for a quick family supper, just serve it as is and forget the crumbs and baking.

Decadent Mac and Cheese

Decadent Mac and Cheese alongside a steak
Serves 6 to 8

8 ounces elbow macaroni
6 - 8 ounces bacon, fried, crumbled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, quartered, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 - 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
½ to 1 teaspoon of salt, as needed
a few grinds of fresh pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ - ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, optional
4 ounces cream cheese (low fat acceptable)
1 - 1½ ounces (⅓ - ½ cup) shredded Parmesan (not the green cans)
½ - ¾ cup shredded cheese; chedder, jack, a blend, other

CRUMB TOPPING - optional:
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 - 3 teaspoons Pesto
2 teaspoons olive oil

In a skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain, crumble and set aside.

In a large, heavy sauce or soup pot (at least 4 to 6 quart), melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and the tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, add in the onions and keep heat over low to medium low and slowly saute the onions until deep golden, about 30 minutes. 

While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the macaroni according to package directions, or until al dente. Drain and rinse; set aside.

Once onions are deep golden, add in the garlic and thyme and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Make the bechamel sauce by sprinkling the flour over the onions and stirring until all the flour is incorporated. Add in the milk. Turn the heat up to medium, and whisk until the mixture bubbles and thickens slightly, about 5 - 10 minutes. Add in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, turmeric and chipotle powder. Toss in all the cheeses and allow them time to melt, stirring occasionally. Once melted, add the drained macaroni and the crumbled bacon. Stir well. The macaroni and cheese is now ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; 325 if on Convection. Set the Panko in a bowl. Add in the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the pesto. With fingers, rub in the oil and pesto until well distributed and the crumbs are nicely green. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a greased, oven safe casserole, either 9 x 9-inches or7 x 11-inches. Pour in the macaroni mixture and sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and the macaroni is bubbling. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Remembering my Grandparents

Lately I have been thinking about a dessert Grandma Pramik used to make when I was small; she called it Apple Cake. It was not actually a cake of any kind, but a sort of apple casserole. It was always made in a smaller (11 x 7-inch) casserole, lined with, I believe, pie pastry, or possibly something on the lines of a Pâte Sucrée. Sweetened apples went in. It was baked. I loved it. And that is as far as I can recall.

Grandma Pramik, crocheting in our backyard
My Mom gave me the recipe once a very, very, very long time ago. I recall trying to make it, back then. It didn't come out as I remembered it, and that was the last time I tried. So when recently I started thinking that maybe now, with a whole lot more baking experience under my belt (literally!), I might be able to make it come out better - I decided to hunt for the recipe. And it's not in my file. Oh NO! I looked and looked again. Since it was so very long ago, I have absolutely no recollection of the precise ingredients.

I emailed all my 5 sisters, though I had little hope the three younger ones would know what I was talking about. I described what I remembered and asked if any of them actually had the recipe, or better yet, my Mom's old recipe box, where it would surely have been stashed. The two older of my sisters (all younger than me) remember the dessert, but alas, have no recipe. No one seems to know what may have happened to the recipe box.

ONLINE: where we go when all else fails!

I started looking this morning, first searching using more words than desirable, but I just didn't know how to search. Grandma called it Apple Cake. It is not a cake. It is also not a pie. It was always much drier than a pie would be. It's been too long to know how to describe it accurately. I started out with a search for "vintage apple casserole dessert". I got some ideas, but the only thing even remotely close called for using a store bought cookie dough for the crust. No, definitely not! 

Grandparents Michael and Tina Hromish, ca 1950
After a while, with a recipe for a Dutch Apple Cake seeming to sound similar, I made a search for that. No, not quite. Then I wondered: Grandma was Slovak, maybe look for Slovak Apple Cake? That was my next search and looking through sites, I came to one where the Apple Cake recipe was not like my Grandma's, but the site itself was just fascinating. It is called Pauline's Cookbook, and she talks of her Slovak grandma Pauline. My maternal grandma was Slovak, from the Slovakia side of Czechoslovakia. Yet this blog talks of places near Novi Sad, in what is now Serbia, where my paternal grandparents came from. It seemed to be a mixture of both my heritages. After about 2 hours of wandering through her blog, and then Facebook, doing a lot of reading, both her stories and her Grandma's translated recipes, my head was spinning. She has actually traveled to these areas of Europe and apparently speaks the language. Unfortunately, while I heard all my grandparents speak their native tongues all through childhood, I never learned the languages. I wish now that I had. I have plenty of relatives in Europe that I have no contact with; would not recognize them if I saw them.

So after much reminiscing and reading recipes that were familiar, I am still clueless on the Apple Cake. Maybe Grandma played with a recipe from Pennsylvania or Ohio, where she lived after coming to the US. I may have to try my hand at something similar and see what happens. I have plenty of apples. If anyone reading this has any idea what I am talking about, please post a comment! Thanks!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, July 28, 2014

Testing Less Sugar Apple Crisp

When I was about 16 years old, a very long time ago, I started thinking ahead to one day getting married, having a family and cooking. At the time, I knew nothing of cooking, really. My sisters and I did on occasion try our hand at making a box cake. Making icing was somewhat less a success. With Mom's supervision, we made cookies for holidays. Though I didn't cook then, and did not until I was actually married and moved to Guatemala, I knew there would come a time for it. I began tearing out pages from some of Mom's magazines that had recipes sounding good to me at the time. 

One of the things I tore out was a little insert of a few pages on things to do with apples. From adding applesauce to meat loaf to desserts, this little flyer had it. The one recipe I took from there was an apple crisp. Ever since first making this recipe, I was totally in love. For me it is even better than apple pie, which is hard to beat. Mom never made an apple crisp, in my recollection. Her Mom made what she called an apple cake - not a cake at all but more like a deep dish sort of drier apple pie. I do not know what ever became of that recipe. I know I had it once. I know I tried making it once. It did not come out at all as I remembered, so I never made it again.
Less Sugar Apple Crisp

So back to the apple crisp. The recipe as it stood was small, filling only an 8 x 8" or 11 x 7" pan. I doubled the recipe later on and kept it that way, though some of the measurements had to be changed slightly to work better. I have made this recipe so often and for so long that I feel it is mine. The topping for this apple crisp is not your usual oatmeal topping, but a sort of streusel-like mixture given the texture by adding eggs. I have never ever seen a recipe like this anywhere else. I love it so much I have called it my Best Apple Crisp, Ever. I get nothing but raves, every time. It is so simple. Far easier and quicker than making a pie.


Lately I have had more difficulty keeping my blood glucose numbers at an acceptable level. I bought that Stevia in the Raw that is used cup for cup like sugar. I used it with less than perfect results in some "Half the Sugar Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies" recently. The cookies were good but with a texture I was less fond of. I am not crazy about the idea of maltodextrin being the main ingredient in that "stevia" either. I have it in the pantry though, so I will use it.

Sugar is a funny thing to try and replace. I am seeing this more now that I am experimenting with less or no sugar in recipes. Sugar creates moisture. Use less sugar, and a recipe is less moist. The cookies turned out somewhat dry and without the chewiness I associate with chocolate chip cookies. They were delicious. Just not what I wanted. The same happened with my apple crisp yesterday. I substituted a fourth of the brown sugar in the apples themselves, and a full half of the sugar in the topping with Stevia in the Raw. 

Another thing different in this recipe was the fact that I used dehydrated apples. I had a glut of apples coming to me last Fall, so when my freezer could hold no more I started slicing and dehydrating apples. I used 2 bags of what would have been 8 cups fresh apples EACH, setting them into a bowl of water to reconstitute. These dehydrated apples do grow, but not to original size. I used all these apples in a 9 x 13 pan, adding in the brown sugar and stevia, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg as usual for my recipe. The apples were moist all through. Yet they did not make the juicy sauce in the pan that I normally see. The topping is nice, though less moist, but that is fine as I like the topping crisp. The difficulty is that the apples did not compensate for the dry topping with the usual sauce. The flavors are perfect. It's just more dry. A little cream or ice cream would likely make the dryness less noticeable. Obviously this can be made with fresh apples also. Here is what I did:

Less-Sugar Apple Crisp
Less Sugar Apple Crisp

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan

8 cups apples, peeled, cored, sliced
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Stevia in the Raw
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup Stevia in the Raw
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). Place the first 6 ingredients into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and mix with spoon or hands to combine. Whisk together in a large bowl the first 5 topping ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs. Pour the eggs into the dry ingredients and quickly mix with a fork until the mixture looks like crumbs. Pour this over top of the apples in the baking dish. Drizzle the melted butter over top of the crumb mixture and sprinkle with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the apples are bubbling.

When I had this in the oven I thought , "Drat! I could have tried making it Gluten-Free!" I have never attempted that either, though I cannot imagine why it would not work out. Particularly if made with all real sugar and no Stevia in the Raw. Another day.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Friday, July 25, 2014

Poilane Style Miche - Another New Bread

Book Cover showing a Poilâne Style Miche
I have rarely been so excited about making bread as since I received a copy of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I know if anyone is following my blog, you might be sick of hearing about this book. It opened my eyes to an entirely different world of bread making. I began by making a starter dough from wild yeasts, then following with the starter dough from which would spring any other bread using this wild yeast type of starter.

My wild-yeast starter grew just exactly as the book described. The mother starter as well. I went on to make an Onion Deli Rye which was fantastic. Then I tried a 100% Sourdough Rye. I did add a tiny bit of yeast to help things along, as the weather at the time was awfully cold and the house, though heated, just felt cool. That bread, as well as the Sunflower Seed Rye, just didn't quite grow the way the book indicated. While I have nothing against, and sometimes even prefer a very dense bread, these two didn't quite look like the book's photos.

Challah, Sunflower Seed Rye, Deli Rye, 100% Sourdough Rye
Many times when I have "refreshed" the starter, it would take a very long time to recover and begin bubbling. Now that summer is very much here, and the house, even with air running, is much warmer, the starter has gone totally mad! My little wild yeasts are very happy indeed. The starter is growing amazingly quickly each time it is refreshed, so with that in mind, I decided to try making another bread, using only the wild yeast starter, with no addition of commercial yeast to boost the growth. This time I made the Poilâne-Style Miche.

Who is Poilâne and What the Heck is a Miche?

Okay, according to Peter Reinhart's book (as well as most any website out there), Lionel Poilâne is a bread baker of such repute that his "miche" (rustic sourdough whole wheat bread) is now just lovingly called "Pan Poilâne" (or Poilâne Bread). His recipe is simple: sourdough starter, whole wheat flour, Fleur de Sel de Guerande and water. Of course, Poilâne uses a wood fired oven for his huge 4-pound rustic miche loaves.

My Poilâne Style Miche
A "miche" as noted, is a rustic style of sourdough whole wheat bread. The size is generally very large at 4 or more pounds, as the loaves keep better this way. In olden days, there would be a communal oven and people would bring their breads to bake in the one oven; it would have to last them the week or longer until the oven was once again fired up.

Reinhart suggests dividing the dough into two or even three smaller loaves for home baking, as trying to manipulate 4 pounds of dough into the oven could be a task. I went farther and just divided the recipe itself in half. Reinhart gives no poundage weight for this recipe as he does for all his other recipes. Generally it is noted in a recipe that it will "make two 1-pound loaves" or something such. The recipe, cut in half as I made it, weighed 2 pounds. It was a majestic loaf, and I used my "banneton" or bread mold for the first time to give the loaf visual interest. Once the dough has risen, ready to bake, a Bread Lame is used to slash in a pound-sign or "hash-tag" type of pattern. Poilâne slashes his "Pans Poilâne" with a large script "P."  

My Poilâne-Style Miche

Poilânes "Pan Poilâne" or Miche (photo from website)
The first step in making this bread is making a "firm starter." Rather than a refreshed starter as usual, the firm starter requires more flour for a far stiffer dough. It is allowed to ferment at room temperature for a few hours, then placed in the refrigerator to retard (it's growth) overnight. This step brings out more flavors in the final dough. The starter grew amazingly quickly. I put it in the fridge, where it continued to grow, though more slowly. Next day I got out the starter and cut it into smaller pieces, leaving it to warm to room temp on the counter. Because of making half the normal recipe, I did use my Kitchen Aid mixer to do the kneading for me. I kneaded for a full 15 minutes, since it was made with whole wheat, which can make rising more difficult. It passed the "windowpane" test and was just one degree above where it was supposed to be.

After allowing the dough to rise for 4 hours and be shaped into a boule, or round loaf, the book gives the option of allowing the dough to rise in the pan and then turning out and baking, or just putting the shaped dough into the refrigerator once more overnight, to retard growth and add more flavor. Whole wheat bread can be blah, so I was all about more flavor. I formed the boule and set it into my well-floured banneton, covered it and refrigerated.

My Banneton or bread form
Mind you, I had started really early that morning with the initial intent of baking that day, only changing my mind and deciding to retard overnight as I was forming the bread. Later in the afternoon, when preparing for dinner, I opened the fridge to find my loaf fully risen! Yikes! I pulled it out, now at 4:30 in the afternoon. The book says that if it has been refrigerated, to allow 4 hours to come to room temperature and rise before baking. In one hour on the counter, the loaf was far above the edges of my 10-inch banneton. I heated the oven!

The only tricky part was getting the dough out of the banneton. I floured it heavily before placing the dough in. It came out reluctantly. There was a fair amount of deflation caused by this slow release from the mold. Still, after a few minutes it was very obviously recovering. I made the slashes over top of the pretty pattern from the bread mold and slid it onto my new oven stone.
Beautiful Crumb

The bread came out so beautifully. I nearly cried. It is a joy to behold. It tastes wonderful, particularly for a whole wheat loaf. I hope anyone out there who loves bread baking might attempt this recipe. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New and Improved No Sugar Peach Ice Cream

Once again I attempted making an ice cream without sugar, yet still creamy. All in all, I am very pleased indeed, at how it came out. As a recap, in case you are just seeing this for the first time: I made an extremely high fat Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream for my sister-in law's birthday dinner. My goal was to have an intensely creamy-smooth mouth feel, and this ice cream had that to the nth degree. However. Not everyone would really want to make something so high fat/calorie, and since this ice cream did nothing good for my diabetic glucose numbers, I decided to try a no-sugar ice cream, also going quite low in the fats category. The flavor of this ice cream was great, but the mouth feel was intensely wrong. It also got hard as a rock in the freezer, making it impossible to scoop out, ice crystals being the main culprit.
No Sugar Peach Ice Creamier, front. Difficult to scoop first attempt behind.

Preventing Ice Crystals in Ice Cream

In the meantime, I had done some research on what prevents the formation of ice crystals in ice creams. Many things are helpful, sugar being high on the list. I wanted to use stevia and still get a relatively good mouth feel. Some of the other things that could help with the prevention of ice crystals forming are gelatin, high fat/oil content (fats don't freeze solid), alcohol, and things like xanthan gum, guar gum or locust bean gum. These last three are found in many products and most ice creams, just because of the ability to keep the ice cream creamy. Purists may not want to add these extras, but guar gum and locust bean gum are natural products after all. Xanthan gum is a culture grown product. I also dislike the flavor of xanthan gum. 

I do have guar gum in my pantry for gluten-free baking, so I didn't need to go searching. It is sold in the local health food store, as there are many people here with gluten intolerance. It is expensive, but little is needed per recipe. I did more research on the amount of guar gum to use in a recipe and I came away cautious. It seems that guar gum can become ropy or stringy in too large amounts, or if it clumps in a mixture. I opted to try the smallest amount recommended: ¼ teaspoon per quart of mixture.
Much easier to scoop out, No Sugar Peach Ice Creamier shown in front.

I found out in reading that most cream cheese is stabilized with guar gum or one of these gums. The fact that I used an entire 8-ounce block in my Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream most likely contributed to the creaminess with the addition of guar gum in the cream cheese. The fact that egg yolks are higher in fat made me decide to use a larger amount of egg yolks in the custard part of the recipe. Instead of only 2, I upped the amount to 5, while lowering the 2% milk amount. I did also use 1 tablespoon of Cointreau, a lovely orange flavored liqueur. I could have added in more than only one tablespoon, but I wanted the peach flavor to shine through, not the liqueur.

The result was stellar, for a no sugar recipe. After storing the ice cream in the freezer overnight, I could still manage to scoop it out into the dish, whereas with the first no-sugar recipe I could only get chips of the ice cream out (emphasis on ICE). While ice crystals are still apparent in this second attempt, they seem to easily melt into a smooth and creamy product in the mouth, giving that nice mouth feel I so desire. 

No Sugar Peach Ice Creamier

Makes 1 quart

2 peaches, approximately
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon Cointreau, or alcohol of choice
1 cup 2% milk
5 egg yolks
8 packets Stevia (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
¼ teaspoon guar gum
Nearing 170 degrees on my Thermapen, temp rises very quickly.          Right, custard coats a spoon.

Make the custard: pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat to almost scalded; as soon as any little bubbles appear around the edges of the milk. Have the egg yolks in a medium bowl or 2 cup measure. Once milk is hot, pour it slowly at first, whisking constantly into the yolks. Once milk is all whisked in, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to the heat on about medium. Whisk constantly, until the mixture will very obviously coat the back of a spoon, about 170 to 175 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Do not heat any longer or the mixture will turn into scrambled eggs. Remove the pan from heat immediately and set the pan into a bowl with ice water, to cool quickly.

Peel the peaches , remove pits and cut into chunks. Place them in a blender with the lemon juice. Blend smooth; you should have about 1 1/2 cups. Add in the cream cheese and Cointreau and puree completely. Once the custard is cooled to no more than tepid, add it into the blender until all the ingredients are homogenous. Pour the mixture into a lidded container and chill completely.

Next day, pour out all the packets of stevia into a small bowl and add the guar gum. Mix well, then place this mixture into a small, fine-holed sieve; set aside. Pour the chilled custard mixture into your ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's directions to churn. While the machine is running, use the sieve to sprinkle the stevia and guar gum mixture over the custard. This is to prevent any clumps forming.

If your machine prevents you from sprinkling this during churning, this can be done beforehand, but be sure to sprinkle lightly over the whole surface while mixing in.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Using Zah'tar with Grilled Chicken

sumac, sesame, oregano, salt, thyme
Clockwise from top: sumac, sesame, oregano, salt, thyme
Nearly two years ago was the first time I heard of Zah'tar (or Zatar/Zahtar/Zaatar and many more spellings), spice mixture shown right. It is a Mediterranean spice blend that usually includes sumac, sesame seeds, thyme and oregano and generally has salt in the mix. Most authentic recipes use an Asian species of marjoram not available in the US. Some add coriander seed. Use this spice mixture to sprinkle over foods, or mix it in with olive oil for dipping a nice crusty bread. But you might be wondering about the "sumac" part of the equation. 

What is Sumac, and is it related to Poison Sumac?

You might hear the word Sumac and immediately think, "Poison Sumac?" The Mediterranean spice, sumac is not from the same plant as poison sumac, though it is in the same family. The sumac used in Zah'tar and other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines grows wild only in those areas, so there is no chance of running afoul of the wrong plant. The poison sumac here in the US is from a plant called Rhus vernix, where the Mediterranean plant sumac is from the plant Rhus coriaria. 


Makes about ¾ cup

¼ cup sumac powder
¼ cup raw, unhulled sesame seeds (may be toasted in a dry pan first)
2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves (not powder)
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves (not powder)
1 teaspoon salt

If toasting sesame seeds, place them in a dry frying pan and stir constantly until they begin to pop and snap. Remove from heat immediately and pour onto a plate to cool. Grind all ingredients together in a mortar and pestle, or briefly pulse together in a spice grinder.

Store Zahtar in a clean glass jar with close fitting lid for up to 3 months.

Lemon Zah'tar Chicken served with Sweet Potato Oven Fries and Green Beans
Lemon Zah'tar Chicken served with Sweet Potato Oven Fries and Green Beans
Sumac closely parallels the use of tamarind or dried green mango powder in Indian and Indonesian cuisines. The dried, crushed fruits yield a reddish brown powder that is preferred over lemons for its fruity sourness and astringency. Sumac is a major component of the spice mixture called Zah'tar. Zah'tar is wonderful when mixed with olive oil to use for dipping bread. It can be sprinkled over most any food that needs a little zip. Sprinkle it over hummus, yogurt, avocado or cheese.

Lemon Zah'tar Chicken on the grill
Lemon Zah'tar Chicken on the grill
A Syrian acquaintance once made chicken kebabs, marinating them first in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, dill, garlic, salt and pepper. She was lamenting the lack of sumac to make her kebabs more authentic. Since I happened to have some, I brought it for her to use. Thinking back on those very flavorful kebabs, I thought the use of Zah'tar would be a great flavor mixture to add to this sort of recipe. Last evening I put this to the test, with wonderful results.

Lemon Zah'tar Chicken

Serves 3 or 4
Kebabs, before and after grilling
Kebabs, before and after grilling

3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Zah'tar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup unflavored Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
few grinds fresh black pepper

Cut the chicken breasts into about 1 1/2 or 2-inch cubes. Place the cubes of chicken into a zip-top bag or other container with a lid. In a bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients until well combined, then pour over the chicken cubes and mix well to coat all sides of the meat. Let the chicken marinate for at least 1/2 hour in this mixture, or up to 2 hours, maximum. After this time the chicken starts to break down from the yogurt and becomes slightly mushy.

Slide the cubes of chicken onto shish kebab skewers, anchoring the meat at the ends with slices of carrot or bell pepper.

Light a grill and once hot, either lower the temperature to medium low, or push most of the coals to one side. Grill over lower heat for about 4 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature is at least 160 to 165 degrees.

While thinking about the recipe for the chicken, I was also thinking of what to serve with the kebabs. I bought a couple of sweet potatoes and made oven fries, similar to my regular Oven Steak Fries. Sweet potatoes, despite being somewhat harder to cut through than regular white potatoes, bake faster than white potatoes. When making oven fries, I like to mix melted butter and olive oil together for the great flavor. The butter could be omitted and all oil substituted. For the Sweet Potato Oven Fries I also added some seasonings, as well as first tossing the raw potato in a little cornstarch. This step was a bit of an experiment. I was hoping for a slightly crisper outside texture. My sweet potato slices were not of even thickness, so some got brown and others did not, but all were well cooked. Just not crisped. I will add the cornstarch to the recipe here; whether to use it is up to you.
Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Serves 2 to 4

2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 on Convection Bake). Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into thick lengths, as for "steak fries". Sprinkle the cornstarch over the potato pieces and toss well to coat. Place the sweet potatoes in a zip-top bag or other container with lid and pour on the oil and butter, then add in the salt and garlic powder. Seal the container and toss well to coat completely. The potatoes can be held at this point for up to an hour before baking.

Pour the potatoes onto a rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold all the pieces with space between. Bake them for about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and turn all the pieces over. Return to the oven for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are golden and cooked through. Serve immediately.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cookie Dough Dessert or Dip

I am most certainly one of those people that prefer the cookie dough to the actual baked cookie. I know many of you out there are going, "Eeewww", including my husband. Those of you who cannot bring themselves to eat raw cookie dough, cake batter, etc, may not find this blog interesting. If you are looking for something that tastes a lot like cookie dough but with no raw eggs, flour, sugar, and, well most of the things that go into cookie dough - this is it!
Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, on cracker

Yesterday I was in Facebook and saw someone re-posting a post with a link to a recipe called Skinny Cookie Dough Dip. This person had altered the recipe from another site, calling it Healthy Cookie Dough Dip. I didn't bother to go and read the prior post, but printed out the "Skinny Cookie Dough Dip" recipe for later perusal. "Later" came after about an hour as I was craving something sweet.

What I Liked About this Concept

While not actually able to be termed a RAW recipe as it used cooked chickpeas as the base, the rest of the ingredients do make this at the very least able to be altered to fit a gluten-free or vegetarian lifestyle, and also for anyone who needs to be careful of sugar intake, like me.

I tried to think of another title for the recipe, but could not come up with anything better than "Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough". While healthier, it still packs a punch with calories, having the chickpeas, cashew butter, almonds, walnuts and chocolate chips. The chocolate chips I used were Ghirardelli 60% cocoa; less sweet than many. There are other options out there for anyone needing a completely sugar free variant. I calculated this total recipe to contain 1,644 calories. Dividing the recipe into, say, 25 portions as for making cookies, each portion would contain approximately 66 calories. Since one regular (baked) chocolate chip cookie can contain anywhere from 80 to 220 calories, this is not a bad calorie count. Make it into 30 balls and the count is even better.

Differences in My Recipe

In the recipes on the websites in the links above, this is touted as a dip. First off, it is awfully thick to be touted as a dip, even with the addition of the milk for thinning. Granted I did not add any honey, maple syrup or agave syrup, which would have thinned it a little more. I love cookie dough. For me this is a dessert unto itself. While I photographed the recipe both on a bit of cracker and just in a bowl, in future I would prefer just making small balls. Eat as you go. Yum. 

Both of the above sites had you adding in a little salt and baking soda. Cans of chickpeas do not need any more salt. What the soda is for I have no idea. I don't add baking soda to hummus. Why add it here? These are not being baked. I eliminated that portion of the recipes. I added no syrup or honey as a sweetener, as I mentioned. I used my food processor to make this recipe, not a blender. The only sweetening agent I used was my French Vanilla flavored liquid stevia. I considered leaving out the oatmeal completely. The mixture does not need thickening. Instead, I blended oatmeal and almonds to a fine powder and added them to the mix. I feel this could also be eliminated completely. For now, this is the way I made it and it is really good. So be it. I like walnuts in my cookie dough or cookies, so I added those, making a total of three kinds of nuts in the recipe. Whatever kind of chocolate chips you prefer; I used the Ghirardelli mentioned above.

Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Makes 25 - 30 balls of "dough"

1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 - 3 droppers French Vanilla flavored liquid stevia
¼ cup milk, or nut or seed milk
2 tablespoons raw oatmeal, optional
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, optional
¼ cup raw cashew butter
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup broken walnuts

Drain the chickpeas in a strainer and run water over them for at least a minute. Place the rinsed and drained chickpeas into a food processor and process until fine with the stevia and milk.

If using the oatmeal and almonds, I first blended them to a very fine powder in a Bullet Blender and then added them to the processor. They could be added to the processor at the beginning of the recipe instead.

Add in the cashew butter to combine. Scrape the mixture out into a bowl and stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Divide into 25 or 30 balls as desired. Store refrigerated.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Making No Sugar Peach Ice Cream

Last weekend I made an extremely rich version of Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream for my sister-in-law's birthday. It was absolutely, hands down, the very best, creamiest ice cream I ever tasted. I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, with diabetes as a factor in my life, though easily controlled by diet, this ice cream seemed to send me way over the top in blood sugar levels. Drat. I finally find something that truly fits all my criteria for an ice cream and I should avoid it. Back to the drawing board.

I have had my DAK Gelatissimo Ice Cream Machine for a lot of years now, and have only used it for a small handful of recipes. It came with a little booklet of Drew's ice cream recipes. I used his cheesecake Ice cream recipe as a base idea when creating the Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream last week. But when Drew wrote this booklet of ice cream recipes, he also included a sugar free version for nearly all the recipes, right next to the originals. I had barely used the regular recipes; certainly never used the sugar free versions. I find that ice cream is kind of an addiction for me, as are many things. If I start eating it, I have a hard time stopping. It is best if there is no ice cream in the house, and thus no temptation. One thing though: if an ice cream is too filled with ice crystals, I just don't like it, and am not tempted to eat it. So, why buy it in the first place? I like the creamy mouth feel, and my Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream fit that bill in spades. It was also extremely high in fats. Alas.

No-Sugar Peach Ice Cream: note the ice crystal texture
I decided to try out a recipe for a sugar free version, really cutting down on fat and also using Sweet Leaf Stevia packets instead of sugar. I already knew that this would leave me with an ice crystal ice cream, but having never even tried this before, I wanted to test it first before looking for a fix for the problem. I scaled down the fat from the original version of the recipe, using 2% milk instead of heavy cream and only 2 ounces of cream cheese instead of the whole 8 ounce block. I used fresh pureed peaches rather than peaches cooked with sugar down to a preserves texture. And the Stevia packets instead of sugar. I still made a quick "custard" out of the 2% milk and 2 egg yolks. And while it churned, I tasted it and it was really good. Not like the high fat and sugar version, but really good. I had hope.

No-Sugar Peach Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

2 peaches, about 9-ounces each
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1¼ cup 2% milk
2 large egg yolks
8 packets of Sweet Leaf Stevia (or sweetener of choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces cream cheese (¼ cup)

Heat the milk to near scalding point, where there are a few tiny bobbles at the edge of the pan. Whisk the yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour the hot milk into the yolks, whisking briskly at the same time, until the milk is incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the pan. Set the pan on medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 170 to 175 degrees. An instant Read thermometer such as the Thermapen is very helpful. Remove from heat immediately and set the pan in ice water, stirring the custard often, to chill. Refrigerate the custard. Once cold, stir in the packets of stevia or other sweetener along with the vanilla extract.

Peel 1½ of the peaches and puree them with the lemon juice. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of puree. I had peaches weighing 8, 9 and 10 ounces, so the average is about 9 ounces apiece for this amount. Reserve the last half peach to cut up and add at the end of churning. With the peach puree in the blender, add the cream cheese until smooth. Pour in the milk custard mixture and blend thoroughly.

Chill the mixture for quickest churning. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn for the time specified for your machine. Mine takes 30 minutes. Towards the end of the churning, add in the remaining peach half, peeled and cut in small cubes.

The Results?

Well, when the ice cream was just done, it was pretty good. Not the heavenly creamy mouthfeel of the first ice cream (Note the texture of the original high fat recipe in the photo at left, below. Nary an ice crystal to be seen.) but I didn't expect that. The flavor was good, though not as concentrated. Again, an expected result. The use of stevia was not terribly noticeable. It was plenty sweet enough. I put it into containers in the freezer. Next day I got one container out to try. It was hard as a rock and full of ice crystals. Drat.
Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream left            |              No-Sugar Peach Ice Cream right

I let it set on the counter for over a half hour (see photo on right, above), and while some of the edges were softened a bit, the main bulk was still terribly hard. Trying to scoop it out, I could see and feel the ice crystal texture.

Enter Guar Gum

I am relatively new to guar gum. I know that it, along with others like xanthan gum and locust bean gum, are used in many foods to thicken and give texture and body where they are lacking. I have guar and xanthan gums because I have done a fair bit of gluten-free baking. I have only tried one cold application of xantham gum in a salad dressing and was extremely unhappy with the flavor. Guar gum I have used only twice so far, in baking. Just this morning I read a bit about its use in ice creams. Guar, locust or xanthan gums are very often used in ice creams to keep sugar crystals from forming. AHA! 

I will not go into the whole analysis of these gums in this blog. After reading, I feel that it is something I would like to test. Apparently, the use of a whole block of cream cheese in  my Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream may have been a major factor contributing to that mouthfeel I so loved, because cream cheese is stabilized with guar gum! Since I used only a fourth of the amount of cream cheese in the No Sugar ice cream, the effect would be minimal. Sugar is also a contributor to the kind of texture I wanted, but to avoid sugar and very high fat content, I needed another way. Enter Guar Gum.

My results of the first attempt at a no-sugar ice cream were only marginally acceptable. The flavor was quite good. The texture was not. I will be going for round three of my ice cream testing very soon, using a smidgen of guar gum. The websites I visited indicated that only a very tiny amount (about 1/4 teaspoon or less per quart of mixture) of guar gum is needed per recipe. It is also important to either disperse it lightly over the ice cream while churning, or add it into the sugar before mixing into the rest of the ingredients. Either I will mix it into the stevia powder or into the machine while churning. My next results will likely be in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Friday, July 18, 2014

Savory Braised Roast with my CMR Spice

In my post of July 11, I wrote about making cookies using a spice mixture I made, called CMR Spice Blend. My idea was that this spice blend, containing both "sweet" spices and some more commonly thought of as "savory," could easily be used in both types of applications. My original idea when mixing these spices was as a sweet application despite the unusual combination of flavors. Once tasted in the cookies I made, I realized that although it tasted great in cookies, it could also taste great in a savory meal. But what kind of savory application?

CMR Spiced Rump Roast with Gravy
CMR Spiced Rump Roast with Gravy
A couple of mornings ago I got out a completely frozen rump roast, with absolutely no ideas on what to do with it for dinner. I used my defrost setting on the microwave, setting it only for a 1 pound piece of meat, while this roast was easily 3 1/2 or 4 pounds. I do this because I just want to get the thaw process started, without ever getting to a point of cooking the edges. To me there is nothing worse than that microwaved cooked flavor on the edges of meat. So, with the roast still extremely solid, I got out my heavy enameled cast iron pot, still with no real idea on what to do for flavoring. I could have just as easily used my crock pot, but this time I thought I would use the oven as it was a nice cool day.

I cut up an onion into thin slices and tossed them in the pot, along with a carrot cut into a couple of pieces and some celery. I set the meat on top of these vegetables to keep liquid circulating below. Flavorings, hmmm... And I saw my CMR Spice Blend there in the cabinet and thought this would be the day to try it in a savory meal. I added in 2 tablespoons of the spice blend. I also had a small amount of red Port wine left on the counter, possibly a half cup, so following the idea of sweet and savory together, I poured that in. Along with a few other ingredients, I had my roast all ready to cook. I set the covered pot in the oven at 300 degrees to start. This method is technically called braising. The roast sets high out of the liquids, and the lid ensures a nice steamy method of cooking.

After 2 1/2 hours I went to check on the roast because while the house smelled wonderful, I certainly didn't want the roast to burn. It still had plenty of liquid, but I added in a cup of water anyway, thinking that gravy would be nice later. I lowered the oven to 275 degrees, as the pot was bubbling well when I opened the lid, and I wanted it to cook more slowly. Two more hours and the roast was done really nicely. Rump roasts seem to be inherently tougher. There is little real fat marbling in the meat. Still, when you get a side of beef, there will be rump roasts. This recipe would work with any piece of meat that needs a long, slow cooking time.

CMR Spiced Rump Roast

Serves 6 to 8
CMR Spiced Rump Roast with Gravy
CMR Spiced Rump Roast with gravy over mashed potatoes

1 - 2 onions
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1 carrot, cut into 2 pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 2 pieces each
1 (about 4-pound) rump roast
A few sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons CMR Spice Blend I
1 1/2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet (to make the gravy a deep color)
1½ teaspoons coarse salt
½ to ¾ cup red Port wine or other liquid of choice
1 cup water or other liquid of choice, if needed

To thicken gravy:
½ cup water
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Set oven to 300 degrees. Place the sliced onions, garlic, carrot and celery into a 6 or 7 quart, heavy-duty pot with lid (such as enameled cast iron). Set the roast on top.

If your roast is not frozen, it will take about 2½ to 3 hours in total to cook. If it is frozen, count about 4½ hours cook time, so prepare accordingly.

Set the thyme sprigs alongside the roast. Sprinkle on the CMR Spice Blend and salt. Add the Kitchen Bouquet. Kitchen Bouquet makes a nice rich gravy color, but is optional. Pour in the Port wine or other liquid, cover the pot and set in the oven for 2 to 2½ hours. Check for liquid. If the roast was not frozen to start, it may be completely cooked through at this time. If the roast was frozen, reduce the oven to 275 degrees and add liquid if needed. Cover and place in oven for another 2 to 2½ house, until cooked through and tender.

Remove roast to a plate. Discard the thyme sprigs, carrot and celery. If you want a smooth gravy, strain the liquid to remove any vegetables. If bits of onion in the gravy are acceptable, leave the liquid as is. Whisk together the water and flour to a smooth consistency. If it is not smooth, strain this mixture into the pot, whisking briskly to combine. Set the pot over medium heat and stir until the liquid has thickened. Allow the gravy to continue to cook for a few minutes longer to cook out the starchy flavor.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quick Simple Peach Galette or Rustic Peach Tart

What is a Galette?

Fresh Peach Galette
If you are unfamiliar with the term "galette" it is nothing more than a rustic, free form tart, made sweet or savory. Why use the term galette, when it is a rustic, free form pastry? Just a simpler term; one word instead of four. Plus, it sounds cool. How's that for a technical answer. I believer galette is a French term originally, for this type of rustic tart, though it also has other meanings there, as well as in Canada.

These rustic tarts or galettes have become very popular here in the US and are seen more and more as years pass. For one thing, they are so easy to make. Making a pie is intimidating to some, in a way that the galette is not. There is nothing fussy about making a galette. If you have a pie pastry made, and some fresh or frozen fruit, you have nearly all the ingredients necessary to make a galette. Making a savory galette can be equally easy, but can be spruced up amazingly.

My very first experience with a galette was in fact a savory variety. It came from a Food and Wine Magazine many years ago (March '94, if the many websites now displaying this recipe are to be believed). The recipe was for a Leek and Goat Cheese Galette and while not difficult at all, had many steps. It stated that a yeast dough could be used or a pie pastry. I feel that a yeast dough would end up far too doughy, and have only ever used the pie pastry. I have a fantastic recipe for Never Fail Pie Crust. Why use anything else? I made the Leek and Goat Cheese Galette and to my delight, it came out looking exactly like the photo in the magazine. I have made this recipe over the years many times. It is perfect with a side salad for a meal. Even my husband, a very staunch Midwest Meat Eater, found this galette good enough for a meal a couple of times. Here is the recipe for the filling for this galette:
Leek and Goat Cheese Galette
Leek and Goat Cheese Galette

Leek and Goat Cheese Galette (filling)

Makes 4 or 6 servings

6 large leeks, white and light green parts only
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup soft goat cheese such as Chevre or Montrachet

Cut off dark green tops of the leeks and discard. Cut off root ends and then slice down the length of each remaining leek section. Hold each section under running water, fanning the ends to rinse well to clear out any mud or grit. Slice the leeks across into about 1/4-inch slices. There should be about 6 cups total.

Melt the butter in a medium large skillet. Add in the leeks with the thyme and about 1/2 cup of water. Cook over medium-low heat until the leeks are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Raise heat slightly and add the wine and continue cooking until wine is nearly evaporated, then add in the cream and cook until slightly reduced, about 3 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg aside. Mix the remaining egg and 2 tablespoons of the parsley into the leek mixture. Roll out a pie pastry to about 14 inches in diameter round and set it on a baking sheet. Spread the leek filling onto the center of the dough, leaving at least a 2-inch border all around. Crumble the goat cheese over top of the filling. Fold up the pastry edges, overlapping or pleating as necessary. Brush the outside of the pastry with the reserved egg. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden. Sprinkle with remaining parsley.

Back to the Peach Galette

My sister-in-law loves peaches, a fact I have mentioned a few times in these blogs. She generally prefers a peach dessert for her birthday treat rather than a cake, so this year I decided on a fresh Peach Galette for her birthday dessert. If I was making this for myself, I might prefer another fruit such as blackberries or raspberries, maybe blueberries or a combination. Any fruits can be used. Pineapple would be great, apples, plums. Some people place a layer of marzipan or almond paste into the bottom of the pastry before adding the fruit, partly for sweetness and partly to absorb liquids as the fruit bakes. A frangipane mixture such as I used in my Cherry Frangipane Tart.

Peach Galette with Peach Ice Cream
Peach Galette with Peach Ice Cream
How much sugar to add to the fruit will depend a bit on how sweet the fruit is initially. Adding too much sugar will only add to the liquids pooling in the pastry while baking and will contribute to a soggy crust. The Peach Galette recipe I created used a very simple 2:2:2 mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Another tablespoon of sugar could be added. The lemon juice would not be necessary for a berry tart, as berries can be tart enough to stand on their own. The lemon juice also helps the peaches (or apples) to keep a nicer color, not turning brown. The flour could be substituted with cornstarch as the thickening agent if desired. Spices could be added to the peach mixture. I added only a grating of fresh nutmeg. A sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg could also be added. 

Peach Galette
Peach Galette

Peach Galette

Serves 6 or 8

2¼ to 2½ pounds fresh peaches (4 or 5)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 - 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pie pastry for a 10-inch pie
1 egg yolk

Peel peaches and slice thinly. Place them in a bowl with the next 4 ingredients and toss to combine. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the pie pastry on a floured surface to about 14 or 15 inches in diameter. Do not worry if the edges are uneven; this is a "rustic" tart. Set the pastry onto the parchment. Pour the peach mixture into the center of the pastry, spreading to within 2 or 2 /12 inches of the edge. Flip up the edges of the pastry all around, folding or pleating as necessary. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Brush this mixture onto all exposed areas of the pastry. Sprinkle the tart with a coarse crystal sugar such as demerara or turbinado, or with a fancy "sanding sugar." Bake the tart for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest