September 17, 2008

Peach and Blueberry Amandine Tart

When I made this peach and blueberry amandine tart I gathered up some inspiration from several sources. Firstly, the garden ("what am I going to do with all those peaches?!"), the need for a quick, crowd-pleasing dessert for a dinner with our lovely neighbours, and most importantly from Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini cookbook where her recipe for a classic French amandine tarte with blueberries was not only a wonderful recipe, but utilised a special pâte sablée dough for the tart base, whose method and ingredients were perfect for me to adapt to a gluten-free pâte sablée-esque crust.

In fact, I'm still getting over the surprise that the gluten-free version came out so well. The crust has an incredibly buttery, crumbly (but held it's shape when cut), melt-in-your mouth texture, ...and for the record, it held together beautifully for it's entire 2-day lifespan- a surprising accomplishment for naturally crumbly dough.

This recipe comfortably feeds 10 people including several 6'4" men especially hungry for dessert.

In addition to the dough ingredients below you will need:
A 28cm tart pan (if your pan is slightly smaller then reduce the amount of butter in the filling by 25g, and omit the whipping cream)

200g fresh blueberries
2 very large peaches or 4 medium peaches
100g ground almonds
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup whipping cream (double cream is okay too)

First, prepare the dough. The dough should be chilled for at least 30 minutes, but can be chilled for up to 1 day. (makes just enough to line a 28cm tart pan)

85g sweet rice flour
75g potato starch
45g tapioca starch (or 25g tapioca starch and 20g buckwheat flour if you don't mind tasting the buckwheat a little in the end product)
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
75g fine-textured cane sugar or caster sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
3-4 tbsps milk

If you're using a food processor then add the sugar, flours, and salt, then add the butter, pulsing the mixture just a few times to create a consistent crumbly texture. Then gradually add the milk one tablespoon at a time and pulse the mixture to bring the dough together. If you are not using a food processor, then do the following:

Combine the sugar, flours and sea salt and sift together into a bowl. Add the butter in small pieces by using a knife to shave pieces off the measured block into the bowl. Use a wire pastry blender or your fingers to rub the ingredients together until you have a fine, crumbly texture. Add 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of milk at a time, lightly stirring the mixture after each tablespoon. After 2 tbsps of milk then try to clump the dough in your hand. If it stays together then you've added enough milk, but if not, then gradually add another tbsp or two until it clumps successfully. This means that the dough is malleable and will hold together as a tart crust.

After chilling for at least 30 minutes the dough can be carefully pressed by hand into a buttered tart pan to form a thin, even layer on the bottom. Proceed to work the crust piece by piece into the sides of the pan. This may take a little time, but is well worth the results. Be sure to cover any cracks or thin areas in the pastry by patching it with more dough where necessary.

Preheat the oven to 180°C then bake the tart shell for approximately 10 minutes. The colour should be lightly golden but not browned. Leave the crust to cool while preparing the filling.

For the amandine filling
Make the almond cream by stirring together the sugar, salt, and ground almonds. Add the softened butter and blend together either in a food processor or with an electric whisk. Next add the eggs one by one blending in between each addition until the mixture is smooth (this step seems silly, but chemistry is complicated, and I've learned from trial and error that this step will decide the fate of your almond cream), then stir in the whipping cream. Peel the peaches either before slicing (by blanching them in a pot of boiling water for 10 seconds) or after each slice with your knife. Cut the peach into slices about 1.5 cm thick and arrange on the bottom of the tart pan, then pour the blueberries and disperse evenly between the peaches.

Pour the almond cream over the fruit and level the top with a spatula. Return the tart to the oven to bake for 40 minutes. Be sure to check the tart after 30 minutes to be sure it is not being overcooked (some oven temperatures are much higher than they seem- an oven thermometre is a worthwhile investment). Remove the tart from the oven and leave it to cool completely. The tart can be refrigerated covered with plastic wrap if making in advance but just be sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving.

This is a very flexible tart with many possible variations. It can also be made with nectarines, pears, raspberries, blackberries, or plums, with additions of lemon or orange zest if you like, or a tbsp of liqueur such as amaretto, to bring out the almond taste even further. If you omit the fruit, consider lining the bottom of the tart crust with pieces of chocolate, for an even more decadent dessert.

September 8, 2008

Peach Tomatillo Salsa

A glut of peaches. Who would have thought?

After 7 years living in the UK I had started to think of peaches as a rarity- an extravagant purchase that should be celebrated and used with the utmost care in only the summer months. So it's not surprising that, although I am now inundated with peaches, I can't seem to get enough of them. They've been going into pies, tarts, jams, chutneys, jars, and of course the freezer.

In an attempt to make something less traditional, which would also preserve the genuine subtle sweetness and floral scent of the fresh peach, I decided that a salsa could be just the thing. It may not last throughout the year, like a traditional preserve, but the addition of lime juice and spicy jalapeño pepper mean a slightly extended life for the much adored end-of-summer fruit.

To add some more subtle flavours that would not overpower the peach, and to make the most of another seasonal glut- the renowned zucchini (courgette)- some zucchini, and more traditional salsa ingredients were added, like coriander, lime juice, and finely diced white onions. A little tartness and bite was introduced by adding some bright green tomatillos that I found at the market, complete with their husks still on. Finding such unusual gems at the market was a first for me, and I couldn't believe my luck. Tomatillos are a relative of the gooseberry and as you probably are aware, if you bite into a raw tomatillo, you will find out why. To overcome the tartness it's best to first roast the tomatillos on a tray in a hot oven until the skins are slightly darkened and collapsed.

For the salsa:

Take 1 lb of fresh tomatillos and remove their husks. Coat them in some oil and roast in a 200C oven for roughly 20 mins until the skins start to collapse and slightly char. Note: if you can't find fresh tomatillos, then canned ones are just as good and they're pre-roasted for added convenience. Leave the tray to cool while preparing the other ingredients.

Sterilise 3 medium, already washed jars (roughly the size of salsa or jam jars) in the microwave for 2 mins, or you can lay the jars on their side on a cookie sheet and sterilise them in the oven at 170C for 20 minutes, and boil the lids for a few minutes in a pan- remove these from the water with clean tongs or a strainer being careful not to touch any part of the lid with your hands. Leave lids to air dry.

Finely dice the below ingredients, or if using a food processor, then process each ingredient separately - they will all be combined at the very end following the dicing of the peaches:

1 medium zucchini (about 5 to 6 inches long)
3 medium white onions
A handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
Blend together:
1/4 jalapeño finely diced (this salsa is very lightly spiced- do use more jalapeño if you like more heat!)
The juice of 3 limes

Roughly chop the cooled tomatillos, or pulse the tomatillos in the food processor- they only need 2 to 3 pulses.

The peaches (do this last to reduce browning):
Take 3 large peaches
Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds then lift out with a strainer and put into cold water. Tip: It’s easiest if you cut the peaches in half first, then peel and remove the pits. Cut each peach into halves and peel, then dice finely, or cut into quarters and process with a few pulses.

Mix all ingredients together and fill into the sterilised jars. If you have a funnel then it will be extremely useful at this stage. Otherwise, don’t worry about making a mess. Fill the jars right to the top with the salsa and tighten the caps. The jars should last up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

September 3, 2008

Happy First Postings

Well Hi everyone! This is officially my first posting and it's coincidentally my birthday Happy Postings!

I'm still coming to grips with the finer details of creating a good blog so please bear with me over the coming weeks while I fine-tune the formatting.

I hope that over the course of writing this blog I hear from many of you about the quirky creations in your kitchens, and what lovely produce is growing in your gardens (if you garden of course- and if you don't, then please talk about food- I'm all ears.... or possibly eyes and stomach would be more appropriate).

I will be relaying the latest news about my garden and the subsequent fun had with the sweet, fresh produce in the kitchen (or should I call it the lab), the trials and new discoveries, hopefully some tips as I learn day by day what works and what doesn't (especially where the garden's concerned), and posting the recipes that work and taste the best.

Because I am gluten intolerant you will most often see baking recipes that are gluten-free. My apologies in advance if the use of 3 or 4 different flours do not coincide with the packet of all-purpose flour in most of your cupboards, but with luck those recipes where flour substitutions are used, will be useful for some people who are in similar situations. Now, a word of warning, I am only gluten-intollerant, so it is always possible, perhaps one day, that I will lapse into a craving for gooey, buttery, flaky, absolutely oozing from the centre almond chocolate croissants, and may try for weeks trying to recreate the sweet memory from France, but until that eventual day, this blog will be gluten-free.

If there's one thing I'd especially like everyone to take home from this blog, it would be the desire to start growing your own food in some capacity- even if it means a few herbs on the windowsill, or tomatoes in pots on the balcony. There is nothing easier, tastier or more satisfying.... except perhaps chocolate, but it doesn't have the same everlasting effect, and doesn't contribute to nearly as many meals!

See you soon at Garden to Ganache- Happy blogging!