Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Beets That Bleat

I love beets and find that they are really versatile and can blend flavours in many different directions.  This appetiser is wonderful and eye candy as well, so I hope you will like it as much as all my testers have.
My most recent rendition of this recipe was for my parents friends on my recent trip to PEI.  So, this post is dedicated to Mum and Dad, Shirley, Verna, Ted, and Ray.  I really enjoyed our lunch!
I saw a picture of an appetizer like this while browsing the internet, so I had to try it because not only was it beautiful, it sounded delicious.    I roasted the beets with their skins on.  Rather than the usual practice in recipes of wrapping them in tin foil, which is really wasteful, my method is to wash them, oil them in the surface, then cover in a pyrex dish and bake them.  They are soooo much more flavourful that boiled beets, but do take a long time to cook.
My version of this recipe is at the end of this post.  The SAVEUR link is here, look at their picture, it is really nice as well.
Layered Beet Appetizer
I tried this recipe from the SAVEUR magazine website and have adapted it with a variation on the filling and dressing.  This is a wonderful appetizer or addition to a salad as a first course.  I have made it several times now to rave reviews even from people who are not keen on the individual ingredients.
Ingredients Method
Roasted Beets: 4 medium beets  with tops cut off
1 Tblsp  vegetable or olive oil
(Note:  this method of doing beets creates much more flavor  and better colour than boiling. The method of oiling and baking in a pyrex pan is better than the usual instruction of using aluminum foil, and also better for the environment!)
Use fresh beets, not the type that come in a bag.  Cut off tops and leave about a ½ inch of the leaves.  Wash each beet, dry it, then but oil liberally around the whole beet.  Place in pyrex pan with maybe a teaspoon of water, and roast at 350 for as long as it takes to make then fork tender.  This is usually at least an hour, and can sometimes a fair bit more.  Keep tabs at the end because they go from not done to really done quickly. When beets are cooled enough, peel off the skin and clean off bits, but do not rinse them.
SAVE the remaining oil and juices for the dressing.
Filling: 1 pkg (about 170g or 4 ounces) of chevre, the type that breaks apart
About 2 Tblsp yoghout or sour cream to soften the cheese
1 clove garlic
½ tsp Herbes de Provence
Salt to taste – a few shakes
Place all these ingredients in a food processor.  If you don’t have one then do it by hand and use a garlic press.  Don’t try to use a blender, it makes it too runny.
Assembly: Cut the beets into slices about ¼ inch thick.  Spread about 1 tsp on each slice, you don’t want it too thick or they will topple over.  Press each new slice on to the cheese enough to stick but not to push out the cheese.  You can assemble the pieces  in whatever order will make a flat sitting mound.  The first time I made them I then cut the stacks into perfect circles with a pastry circle, then you get perfect sizes.  Since then I just cut the stacks into quarters and live with a ragged edge.  Let you degree of anal fixation be your guide.
Dressing: 2 Tblsp orange juice concentrate or boil some orange juice to reduce it
1 shallot chopped very finely
1 TB juice from the roasted beets
2 T olive oil
1 TB balsalmic vinegar
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
A little garlic
These are approximate quantities.  Play with it. Boil the shallots in the orange juice for a minute to soften them, then add the rest.
Spoon a little dressing over the beet stacks.
These keep for about 2 days in the fridge.  They are best if they have been allowed to cool in the fridge until solid, at least a couple hours.  The cheese does take on a pink colour, but they taste great.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This Blog has Moved....

For Christmas my daughter gave me a new updated format on Wordpress.  See my new blog at http://www.riverleafoods.com
Please visit and leave me a comment.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gingerbread Challenge

December Daring Bakers Challenge:

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.


“Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!” is an earworm from childhood that still remains. So with the daring bakers challenge of making a gingerbread house this month I had to think of what his house might look like.

I made the dough ahead of time and let it mature a couple days in the fridge. This paid off, because it was easy to roll and pliable when the construction time came.

I enlisted the help of my daughter who is a graphic designer, so she was ready for the building and decorating. I learner a new trick from a recent cookie decorating book . The trick is to roll the dough on parchment paper, cut your shapes, then take away the remaining dough rather than trying to move what you want to be the cookie. This works perfectly, no more distortion any more for my cookies.

I looked through some pictures for inspiration, and ended up thinking I would make a light house modeled after the one my aunt and uncle live in on PEI. My final house didn’t look much like the inspiration photo, but I like it anyway.

Inspiration House:

For the icing we used fresh eggwhites because I had given the meringue powder to my daughter, so it was in Toronto, oh well. The icing worked beautifully, and trick is not to beat it too much.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daring Bakers' October Challenge: French Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I joined Daring Bakers and this month and did my first challenge - French macarons. When I was in France last year I ate real macarons at Laduree, and they were amazing. So, after that I came back and tried several recipes. After a few failures, I found the recipe from Desserts magazine Helen of Tartelette was consistent and gave me the real feet and crisp crust with soft interior. The difference with this recipe is that it uses Italian merangue, which adds a cooked sugar syrup to the beaten egg whites.

So, when I read the recipe from Daring Bakers, it was made with the French method - raw whipped egg whites. I was interested to see if I could get the feet without the bother of the Italian cooked merangue. I tried the recipe 3 times with little success (ie, they had no feet), so then I adapted the recipe to the cooked merangue method and they worked.

For filings, I made chocolate ganache, everyone likes it. I then tried a new caramel filling made with mascarpone and caramelized sugar plus whip cream. It is excellent, but very sweet. I then tried a third filling with mascarpone and whip cream, and added a little caramel filling to it, and it was also quite good.

Macarons can become obsessive, especially the need for feet. I like them once in a while, and love how they look, but they are really sweet, and after these batches I could hardly eat them. I called my husband on one of the afternoons a furnace was being installed, and told him to feed them to the workmen. They liked the caramel the best.

I still have not mastered these in that I cannot make them consistently with feet and shiny tops, but I really enjoyed the challenge of the Daring bakers and reading about all the information on the web about macarons. I tried a fifth batch using a new recipe from the new James Peterson Baking, but they ended up with no feet. He did not even hint that they might be difficult either!!

Anyway, I will try these again but not until I have a break from the sugar rush. I am in san Francisco now visiting my son, so I hope to make it to Paulette's Macarons, she has a shop here with wonderful looking macarons.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Caneles Using Silicone Mold

My second Canele effort was using the new silicone mold I purchased in France. My understanding is that solicone molds vary in quality. The one I used was black, probably a medium quality, and for the large size caneles.

I sprayed the molds with cooking spray, and they cooked for about an hour and a half. They came out easily, were browned, and after sitting developed a crusty exterior. The texture and taste were great. Although the copper molds cook faster and develop a better and thicker crust, the ease of the silicone will probably make me go to it first next time.

Next step - trying a few more recipes, I think the shrinkage was a little too much, so I am going to try a recipe with a little higher proportion of flour next time to see if they shrink less. The recipe on La Tartine Gourmet looks good, and I am also going to try the one from my Bordeaux amie Martine's mother.
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My First Canele Effort

These are the Caneles made from the copper molds. For my first try I used the Martha Stewart recipe in her baking book. They came out very browned, and tasted great. I used spray grease on the molds, and used a toothpick to coax them from the molds.
After sitting for the required hour, the outside was crusty, and the inside was suitably creamy. The flavour was delicious vanilla cream. Overall, a success. My only disappointment was that they shrunk so much that they were about the same height and width, and they are supposed to be taller than wide.
Silicone mole next....
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Orange Flower Water Madelaines

I wanted to make madelaines today, and to try again with a silicone mold. I used the recipe in Sherry Yard's Pastry Book. They taste great, but I continue to not be very happy with the uneven browning from the silicone mold. This recipe has ground almonds in it, and the orange flower water adds a good taste dimension. They freeze very well, and are a great thing to have in your larder when unexpected or even expected company arrives for tea.
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