Friday, June 6, 2014

Homemade pastry tarts

I can honestly say that some of my greatest inspiration comes from regular TV watching. It can be mindless or purposeful, gazing at beautiful TV kitchens, complete with raging top chefs, serial marathons, as I watch back-to-backs of my DVR-may-delete shows, not to leave out the joy of cinemaviewing in my first language. It's all inspiring. As I see it, there will be food or glimpses of it, surrounded by interesting people, things, circumstances, that are often influenced or make decisions because of it. Ideas that spring from screen to mouth and then to screen. You will see this occurrence come into play as you read on.

Whilst catching up on the antics of my favorite Master Detective, on BBC's most captivating series of the century( no prizes for guessing), I beg my eyes to rewind the few scenes where crimesolving happens around coffee breaks in quaint cafes. Its super sleuthing at a greater level, when talks of gore and mystery take place over tea and what appear to be, in one episode, scones. It had me thinking in the least, on how well you can enjoy anything with the nice pastry in hand.  And since casebreaking needs to pull upon the combined knowledge of quantum physics, algebraic equation and inductive reasoning, all a fantastic shortcrust requires is a conversion/equivalents calculator and great baking skills. I believe that's a one up.

After that it was a mind summoning, to churn up butter and flour, that too with a glorious fury.

Juniors One and Two were not as captivated as I approached them casually with the "how 'bout scones(?)" idea. "What are they and how do you eat them?" Second One asked. 'The what' was explained. As to how, it was Firstchild's turn as she puts on her "naturally" fake British accent like a pair of shoes, no persuasion needed, the one who believes she could fool the Queen and in her opinion should be walking the streets of London instead of melting in desert regions of Southwest America. Herein, she effortlessly demonstrates her glottal stop, "with jam and clotted cream". An FYI, be not fooled, these two are anti-fancy fascists when it comes to food, and things likewise that demand their jurisdiction. Especially when neither knows what "clotted" means.

They do, however, reach a conclusion on how all this should be meted out, my craving to do pastry, their desire to wheedle something good from the whole deal. And agree they do in unison as wind up toys let free. One. Two. Three. Poptarts. Puhleeze. You see the stress on that last part is because they have forever desired those boxed "treats' of thousandunknowningredients. With the exception of the two times I was bullied and almost gagged, I have always said "no". Again, they try to make the decision for me, convincing Amma of the 10 box sale, and doubled coupons. These two are professionals at this, a wee bit more, and they can see me bend.
It's then that Eureka(!) moment occurs and saves. I boldly declare I can make them a set, maybe two. Further, they could art up their creations, with filling, topping, painting, any which way their heart so deems. No more deprivation. I let go of the whimsy of cream clotted scones, for now it would have to be doubled up tarts.

My enthusiasm was not matched. Faces started to sink, smiles fade. Surely they underestimate their mother's ability to best up a common, much coveted, not to mention, factory churned jam sandwich. I go on to remind, that mine won't be of "unidentified "materials.  They'll be nobler, with pure butter and flour. Super tarts. Yes, that's it. "They'll be super tarts", it's a sorry persuasion, I know, and I got  bare approval, with two half nods.

Pinterest showed me these. And these. And these. I  was sold, but indeterminate as to have this as a next up or wait for what had already progressed, a labor of love that took over three weeks of writing/testing/halting/experimenting/photographing. Do I break in the middle of that to go and bake portable pie?

Intuit told me yes, I had enough jams and spreads for a creative, filling/topping potential. And while my gut was steering this whole dialogue, it's the Today Show food segment where the guest demonstrated how you could totally copycat childhood favorites that substantiated my outcome. Pop tarts were four on the list. Sign, right? Moreover it did take me to the childhood where I actually never tasted them but relived how kids were ranting about the totally aaa-somes, this would be the era Valley Girl became an official language. I was taking it on. Homemade pastry tarts would grace this very page.

Now, we know that one of two outcomes could come about from copycatting such a well known recipe. Either it can go to epic ruins or take to transcendence, bettering off its manufactured, branded counterpart.

My first round did clearly fulfill that utter fail destiny, following most recipes with just butter, sugar, cornstarch, and the wee bit moisture involved. A lot of my findings were based on  flakey shortbread-like crust, which for me turned out way too fragile, a dough without much heft to the body, the rolling of which became painful as I had to peel apart my gluten bandaged countertop. After a few thoroughly flawed attempts, one which saw tears.  When are we ever going to eat these? I went to google again.

King Arthur Flour came to my rescue. The one recipe thus far that I'd seen where an egg was used, there be the binder to ward against frailty. Once again, I set up station, this time, to a very successful tune from start to finish. There on my granite layed rolled slabs of powerhouse dough. It withstood much rolling, cutting, rerolling, chilling and all that it was meant to overcome.

And so they baked to perfection. A transcendent buttery crisp outpart inlaid with sweet, melty innards. A  portable pie, done so right.

The two overlaps of thinned crust are outstanding in contrast to the vibrancy of fruit hued filling. That is, if that's what you're desiring. I found that preserves work well as a stand alone plumper, you get the benefit of the sweetness along with significant chunks as well. Strawberry preserves, in specific, bring a jam/shortbread reminiscent pairing. But this is the blueprint where where you could freehand your own flavor composites. Pineapple preserves with a coconut, almond topping. Raspberries with lemon curd. Peach preserves topped cinnamon and brown sugar. NUTELLA. Its whatever can be and must spin your orbit.

Mind you, this toaster tart doesn't have the the near yield of a factory turned pack. But owing to Flaked Golden's superior nature, I assure you, this will not be the end.

No more convincing needed here. These were well worth the unsuccesses and several times my oven generated heat for them. Better yet, horizon looks lofty and promising for the two Resident Pastrypop GazerAddicts, who claim they have reformed and" will never glance at those boxes again".

So shall this mother dream.

 18 cuts which makes 9 tart sandwiches.
Ingredients:
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Tasty Toaster Tarts)
For the crust~
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp milk

For the filling~
  • ½ cup any fruit flavored preserves/jam/nutella
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (to seal edges)
Icing~
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsp milk
Toppings~

  • colored jimmies, sugars, nuts, coconut
Directions:
  • In a food processor or with wire whisk, mix or pulse together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt. Stop and add butter. Pulse together 8-10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Alternatively you could use a fork or pastry blender. 
  • Stir the egg and milk together. Add into the food processor and pulse for an additional 5-8 turns, till it is barely incorporated. Turn dough out on to countertop, with remaining 2 tbsp flour and knead till dough comes just together, but is smooth.
  • Shape the dough into two disks, each  less than 1-inch thick. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 1 day. Once chilled, bring out one disk to flour dusted surface and bring to a semisoft condition, almost  room temperature .
  • Roll out the disk (leaving the other in the fridge)  to a thickness of ⅛ inch, and length/width of 9×12".  Trim off edges. Using a ruler score in thirds lengthwise and widthwise.  Repeat what you did to the first.
  • Recombine, rechill and reroll the dough as and when necessary.  
  • Lightly grease or line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or Silpat.  
  • Place the first set of rectangles on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Spread 1 tablespoon filling evenly over each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch edge free of jam around the perimeter. With your finger or a small pastry brush, run a line of the beaten egg around the jam-free perimeter of each strawberry-covered rectangle. Cover each rectangle with one of the plain (the second set) rectangles and press the edges firmly together to seal. Use the tines of a fork to score the edges over the seal and also prick the tops of the tarts to let out steam. Refrigerate and preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Take chilled tarts out and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, a barely golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Meanwhile whisk the ingredients for the icing together. 
  • Spread cooled tarts with icing and sprinkle with additional toppings.
Advice from K.A. Flour: 
When rolling out the large rectangle, lay a 9×13" sheet pan over the dough as a guide. Sprinkle trimmings with cinnamon sugar and bake them while your tarts set aside to cool.

Notes~ 
I actually got 8 per disk, maybe my measuring went off, since I'm not geometrically inclined. Ideally it will yield 9 3×4 rectangles.

Chill, chill, chill. Especially if you work in intrepid heat conditions like I do here. My kitchen, around 7 months of the year is the inferno. Rolling and assembling in quick pace helps as well as placing idle dough into the fridge or freezer at intervals. May lengthen production time, but you will see the results are totally worth this extra bit of effort.

If not using immediately, freeze tarts, until they harden up and store in freezer bags or between sheets of parchment in airtight freezer friendly containers. You can toast them in a toaster oven or bake them as and when needed.
Strawberry jam for one. Nutella for the other. 
Merci beaucoup750 Grammes, the French food magazine, that featured my fish taco recipe and photograph within its very esteemed pages. It was a privilege and honor and I am very much humbled. More so that I couldn't read my own recipe, I'd need a translator to read me the French. No worries, since I wrote the contents, I'm pretty sure it is the grilled version of the my tacos here. Also much gratitude goes to that sweet editor of Gourmandize, Gitanjali Roche, I so appreciate your budge, nudge, push and shove, forcing me out of snail mode, from time to time, so especially in this regard ;-D
Then to you, friends, and readers who thumb, browse and take it all in, I am truly grateful for all your 207, 083 visits. 

To my greatest inspirer, Jesus, my heart, mind and soul be. He is the breather of ideas who puts my  thoughts into words. He resets my focus, purposes my step and brings meaning to everything in my life. It is to Him, my All in All, that I am forever indebted. 
******

 "It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ghee


I alluded to today's theme as I was pondering on a recipe for an upandcoming, one that required an ingredient that's visited us in  a few scenes, on occasion. It was persistent, the mindnag and I couldn't disregard it, nor forget the REMforced anxiety dream that took place the night before. Signs that conveyed a need that it be known, loudly, and touching these pages here. As you can see I gave in, since I sit to type the virtues of the topic, all after taking a few hundred pictures which left me exhausted and my photolibrary requiring backup.

This, friends, is a shining example of where culinary attempts can lead to virtuous, in-depth studies , channeling in a single ingredient to be just as important as the roles it is deemed to further on play, in a grouped, maybe grander environment. 

I speak on account of  the Epic Role taken by the segment's hero, butter, and how it refashions itself to a higher liquefied form, unburdening much of what it was, to be reassembled into a wondrously purified creation. This fat's needtobetold dialogue ends in the subject that is much the rage these days, making its way around whole, natural, and raw food circles .

Ghee is what I'm talking about, that which needs not much introduction. For before the world of paleo and health purists, Indian Ayurveda had long been touting its many distinguished wellness benefits. Ghee is liquid butterfat that is separated from whey, and dairysolids, thus designating it in a final newsuited form, that of clarified butter. It comes about when butter is simmered for a substantial amount of time, setting in wake also, the fact that the end could actually turn out better than its beginnings. The cooking off of water and curds which is the key here, makes way for a brilliantly goldentranslucent oil, depthfully rich, and a culmination that is to be extolled.

Throughout the 25 or so minutes of gheemaking, I realized there is something calming, therapeutic about the whole show, watching butter melt, bubble, swirl and do the many routines in the pan that it's assigned to. Then again, that could just be me. Still greater, the staggeringly good fragrance that covers every square foot of your home is a must mention, rather unbeatable and has you yearn for it to never go away.

With ghee's exceptional intensity and flavor, I would not be surprised for it making way to be your newfound beatsall(!)condiment, secret recipe add-on and better-than-nutella bread/toast/ricecake topper. Must I mention too the special something that happens when you add it to a bowl of rice? All this with the one single ingredient from start to finish. Can it get any better?
The whole dialogue made for wonderful visuals, and so I took the liberty of fogging my lens to gather the almost half-hour production. Do make yourself comfortable. Maybe grab some popcorn while you watch. It's about to begin.

 Start with one tower pound of butter. 
Cut the sticks into smallish pieces.
Place in a heavy pan over medium heat, butter will melt quickly and turns into thick foam. 
The foam will start to bubble. Stir it once in a way, while this happens.
And so it will boil, bubble and pop. Stay clear, as it sometimes gets vicious. This is the clarifying part, and will take more than 15-20  minutes of your attention. Enough to grab a stool and paint your toenails.
Do you see the those foam clouds fragment and stick to the sides? You're almost there. 
Alas the light! Fatbits are separated and banished to the bottom of the pan while they turn brown and oil on top clears.
Almost, almost. A semiopaque foam surfaces over a now transparent amber colored liquid. 
Ding! Turn off heat. There you have it. Clarified butter.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb (pound) unsalted butter
Directions:
  • Place butter in a heavy set medium saucepan or skillet, on medium-high  heat.
  • Bring butter to a boil, giving it a stir once in a while. Reduce heat to medium.
  • There will be a thick foam that soon covers it, all the while the mixture will bubble and simmer, takes about 15-20 minutes.
  • The whey proteins will start to fragment and float down. Soon there will be a light seethrough foam on top of the ghee. Wait a few minutes. When it turns a clean gold color (the separated curd bits at the bottom will be a reddish brown) Immediately turn off heat and remove pan.
  • Set aside and allow to cool. Most of the fat will settle to the bottom of pan.
  • Once cooled gently strain the ghee, using a fine mesh sieve/cloth into a clean glass jar or container. (Most of the browned particles will stay at the bottom).
At room temperature or when refrigerated it solidifies to a pale yellow cream. Perfect for toast. Even doubleslabbed on oatmeal.


Sidenote~ I used regular unsalted butter here, not organic. But you could certainly take that route if you so, please.


Last year, this time~ quatro leches pudding.

******
"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky..." Phillipians 2:14,15