French Pound Cake: Quatre-Quarts

I love all things French! I have always wanted to speak the language. I took four years of French between High School and College but to no avail. I do recognize some words and phrases and enjoy knowing what Christie’s sleuth, Hercule Poirot, says from time to time on the Masterpiece Mystery movies. But, alas, I never was able to immerse myself into a French-speaking environment in order to learn to speak it myself. I can ask where the bathroom is, though, in a pinch!

On a beautiful weekend afternoon I wanted to bake a cake. Well, I wanted to bake a cake and use this new technique of making fluffy frosting with whipping cream in the food processor. But I did not really want to make chocolate cake. I get out various cookbooks and start browsing. I was all set to make a cake with apples and walnuts or walnuts and maple syrup or a pound cake. Hubby likes pound cake. He had suggested a carrot cake but I did not buy carrots when we grocery shopped the previous day. However, I did not have any walnuts in the house either. I searched. So, pound cake it is.

From my French Feasts coffee table-sized cookbook, there is a pound cake recipe.

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

The recipe description says this is a basic recipe that can be personalized by adding apples, pears, banana, fruit conserves, etc. As you can see there is no “flavoring” in the recipe. Also there is probably an assumption that the butter is salted. So I add:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest from one very small lemon
  • I forgot to add a pinch of salt

We like lemon glazed pound cake so that was my plan. Then I wondered about adding some raspberry preserves…lemon and raspberry is a nice flavor combo!

  1. Whisk the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is pale and thick. Add the softened butter, sifted flour, and baking powder. So I rarely sift flour anymore. Instead I whisk the two dry ingredients together for about 30 seconds to thoroughly mix.
  2. I lined a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment and cooking spray. I poured about 3/4 of the batter into the pan. I then added about 1/4 cup raspberry preserves to the remaining batter. Then, forgetting how to marble a cake, I plopped the purple batter on top and attempted to make a swirl.
  3. Bake in preheated oven 315 F for 45 minutes. In future I will set the oven for 350. I had to leave it in the oven baking for another 15 minutes. But this may be because I added the jam.

I let the cake sit in the pan for about 15 minutes and then took it out and let it cool on a wire rack. I paced paper towels (parchment paper would have been better) under the rack and while it was still warm I glazed it. To make the glaze I added the juice from the small zested lemon to 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar. That made too much glaze so I poured about 1/2 of that on the warm cake. Then I let it sit to cool a bit more. And then we ate it.

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I served this with some thawed frozen mixed berries and freshly whipped cream. It was yummy. The swirl is evident but the flavor of the raspberry preserves did not come through. The lemon overpowered it. In future, I would add vanilla to the cake itself and more fruit preserves, maybe just dropping the preserve into the batter in the pan for swirling. The outside had a nice crust but the interior texture was not as dense as expected in pound cake. Not a failure! Actually a success!

 

 

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I made a Green Grape Pie!

Why, might you ask, and what? I had bought one of those supermarket packages of green grapes and found the the quality was not very good for eating fresh. But what should I do with all those grapes? I could throw them all in the compost bucket but that seems like a waste. I found this recipe on the internet and adapted her adaptation for my own pie: Green Grape Pie

I had two refrigerated ready pie crusts in my refrigerator. Sometimes I buy these instead of making my own. I did not have elderberry flower syrup but the rest of the ingredients were all ready. I gathered them all together and baked a pie.

I think there were about 3 pounds of green grapes. I pulled them off the stems. I did not weigh them. It looked like enough for a pie.
1 cup white sugar, plus extra for top crust
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg; I had Hubby grate the nutmeg while he was waiting for his Kindle to charge.
1 lemon, juiced; I had just sliced a bit off of a lemon for my tea, so I juiced the rest of it.
1/4 cup elderberry flower syrup; substituted light corn syrup with real Vanilla!
1/4 cup dark honey; my honey was not particularly dark. Actually I combined the corn syrup with the honey to equal 1/4 cup as 1/2 cup sounded like it would be too sweet.
1/4 teaspoon salt; who measures this? It’s a generous pinch.
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 425 F. put one pie crust in the pan and put in freezer while making the filling. This is because you will put boiling hot grapes in the crust and you want the crust not to melt.

Put grapes, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, and honey/syrup in a large saucepan and heat. This will eventually need to be brought to boil. Before that boils stir in the cornstarch and salt. Stir frequently until it is boiling and thickens.

With slotted spoon remove grapes and place them in the frozen pie crust. Then add a bit of the syrup to fill the pie. I did not. In fact, there seemed to be enough syrup attached to the grapes already. The recipe has said it was a very juicy pie anyway. Dot the grapes with the butter. Place the top crust and pinch the edges together. I used my pie bird so did not need to cut additional slits. Sprinkle the top generously with sugar. Bake for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

 

Looking good! It is supposed to cool completely before serving. This should let the juices set up a bit.

And then we ate a slice. I’m sorry to say that it is “nothing to write home about”. Hubby declared the crust wonderful but the pie “bland”. It was an interesting texture, mushy-like. The flavor probably did need that elderberry flower syrup.

I took the remaining pie to work to see what my coworkers thought. It was declared “interesting” but was not a hit. It was just not appealing. I will not be making this again. Next time I have a bunch of green grapes that are not the best, I will cook them down into a sauce for chicken or pork. I have to admit the sauce idea was Hubby’s first suggestion.

Two years blogging!

This was a perfect day for baking.  The weather was downright chilly after a week of sweltering heat. I had printed this recipe earlier in the month and this was the day to use it. So for the anniversary blog I have made the July Bake Along Recipe from King Arthur Flour: Blueberry Hand Pies. Now I have made hand pies before: Pork Pies. But this is summer and the berries are in season and blueberry pie is so good! I had anticipated changing the recipe when I got down to making these, but I followed it exactly! That’s probably a first. I had recently bought some tart pans and thought I would make these into individual tarts and I was even thinking of making my own standard pie dough or using store bought: oh my!

I gathered the ingredients for the pastry and got out my food processor with its brand new blade that I waited 6 months for Cuisinart to replace for safety reasons. This is the part of the recipe that I did not follow. The food processor makes making pie dough simple. I never liked making it by hand.

PASTRY

  • 2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour; I had exactly two cups; I thought I might have had to use some whole wheat pastry flour, but I had just enough.
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cold sour cream

I pulsed the dry ingredients and then added the butter and finally the sour cream. It does come together in clumps as described in the recipe. When I dumped that onto my lightly floured board and read the description of rolling this out, it dawned on me that this is a puff pastry. Most likely a rough-puff as it only has two turns: rolling out, folding over, rolling out again, repeat, fold over, and chill for 30 minutes. My cutting board block is marked in two inch squares so I measured it to the 8×10 inches both times.

FILLING

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (a large pinch)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Rinse berries and put in saucepan. Mix the dry ingredients and pour over. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. My filling began to thicken in about 3 minutes over medium-hot heat so that is how long I cooked it. I don’t usually cook the blueberries before putting in pie. But this does help hold the filling together for the small squares of pastry. Let cool. I let the filling cool but not quite to room temperature. And I have leftover filling. This could be good on pancakes or to top ice cream. I will use it to top Brie cheese!

Preheat oven to 425 F and get that pastry out of the fridge and get ready to roll!

Here again I found the markings on my cutting board block helpful. Roll the pastry into a 14 inch square. Then cut it into sixteen 3 1/2 inch squares. My squares were not squared completely nor were they cut to the exact size. Put a heaping tablespoon or two on eight of the squares. Brush the edges with beaten egg. Oh yeah, make a vent in the other eight squares. Then put together and press the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush the rest of the egg yolk on the tops and sprinkle with sugar. And they are ready for the oven.

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Looking good so far…

Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned. When I took these out I was in awe…

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And they taste great. I am not sure how to share this with the King Arthur website for the bake-along so I will be content sharing it with you who read this.

Many blessings to all!

Fresh Fruit Tart, Revisited

This is the same basic recipe from Fresh Fruit Tart. I made a few slight changes and I used farm fresh strawberries.

We went camping and the campground is just down the road from a farm market. This farm makes the best jams and jellies, and also makes fruit wines. Those are surprisingly interesting and rather good. No grapes allowed. Last year was cherry, this year is blueberries and apple. And it is not at all the Boone’s Farm Apple Wine from high school!

20170618_232216046_iOSI am thrilled! I made the perfect pre-baked tart shell. I thought the previous crust was a bit greasy with 10 Tablespoons of melted butter. So this time I used 8 Tablespoons and melted it in a small skillet. Even though it did not brown it was more cooked than simply melting it in the microwave. I made sure I pressed the sides to the top rim of the Pyrex pie pan and again baked it on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet, 30 minutes at 350 F.

The most labor intensive part of this dessert is cutting the fruit. I cut about 1/2 quart of strawberries in halves. These strawberries are sweet and very red. None of those white cores to cut out like supermarket strawberries.

For the custard I used a combination of lemon and lime zest and the juices from one each. The original recipe calls for 7 teaspoons but I did not bother to measure. I also used 1 cup mascarpone cheese instead of the 3/4 cup in the recipe. This carton of cheese was firmer than the first one I used.

Letting the crust cool completely takes patience. I wanted to go ahead and make the cream filling but patience is a good thing. The no-cook custard-y filling must be poured into a completely cool crust.

I did not artfully arrange the berries. I put them in concentric circles just the way the Cook’s Illustrated article said made it difficult to cut the tart without cutting the berries too. Oh well! As I was putting the berries on the tart I remembered one is supposed to glaze the tart with apricot jam mixed with a teaspoon of the lime juice. I still don’t have apricot jam. But I do have this fabulous Black and Blue from the farm market made with blueberries and blackberries with crushed fruit in it. Yum! I put about 1/4 cup into a Pyrex ramekin with a bit of the citrus juice and nuke it for 30 seconds. I brush this on quite heavily and the top now looked darker than the bright red berries. I also brushed a bit around the crust. This goes into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.

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Hubby declares this the best tart ever (or yet); I don’t remember exactly.

  • crust is crisp and slightly sweet
  • the custard-y filling is not too sweet; it is creamy yet set
  • the farm fresh berries were fabulous
  • the heavy glazing with the other berry jam added flavors to the fruit topping

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Fresh Fruit Tart

Okay, folks, I really, really, intended to follow the recipe to the “t” but just didn’t. What can I say?

Cook’s Illustrated July/August edition has a test-kitchened version of the fruit tart, you know, the kind you see in the bakeries each summer when the berries come into season. The kind on a layer of pastry cream or pudding. This new and improved version is supposed to stay together when cut in filling and crust. Hubby thinks this type of fruit tart is a great thing so I intend to make this. It has a pat-in-the-pan crust and a no-cook filling. Sounds easy to me.

I traipse off to the store to buy mascarpone cheese and white baking chips. Yes that’s what is in this, along with lime juice and zest. I’m cheap and just was at my local chain grocery so bought blueberries and strawberries which were less expensive (by a lot!) than raspberries and blackberries. No fresh peaches so I didn’t use those either. I forgot that kiwi makes a nice edition too, so just blueberries and strawberries for us.

The recipe is simple enough. It calls for using freshly sliced peaches to make an edible slicing guide. Good idea. It added lime to the filling to give it oomph. And the white baking chips hold the cheese filling together without cooking.

  • 1 1/3 cups flour (I read this wrong and used 1 1/2 cups.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter (can be browned in a skillet, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully as it can burn.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons water (apparently browning the butter cooks off a lot of liquid which is needed for the flour to hold the crust together.)

So I make the crust, almost exactly. I did not brown the butter to give it a nutty taste. I melted the butter, added the water, the flour mixture, and patted it into a 9 inch Pyrex pie pan. The tart pan I have does not have a removable bottom and is about 12 inches in diameter. I thought that would be too big. Now, thinking about it, it might have worked anyway. And I may not have needed to add the whole 2 Tablespoons of water.

The crust gets baked in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes, turning half way through. It is also baked on a wire rack placed in a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool completely. Note to self: this may be the way to bake pies in the future.

I cored then cut supermarket strawberries in half and washed 1/2 pint of blueberries. The glaze is supposed to be made from apricot preserves but when I opened the jar, I found that the little bit left was not fit for human consumption. Into the compost bucket with it! All I have now is dark jellies. I consult with Hubby and we agree that I can use the dark jelly for a glaze since I am using berries anyway. We have a wonderful berry preserve from a local farm and it is made from blackberries and blueberries. Cook’s calls for 1/3 cup. I use about 1/4th.

Meanwhile for the filling.

  • 1/3 cup white baking chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I bought and used whipping cream because I would have more uses for the remainder in the pint carton.)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 7 teaspoons juice (This supposedly needs two limes. Well, the zest from one lime was a tablespoon and the juice was a few teaspoons at best. I figured the extra zest would make up for the juice and only used one lime. After all, one needs them for Lime Rickeys and G&Ts!)
  • 6 ounces mascarpone cheese at room temperature. (I used 8 ounces because that was the size of the small tub that I found at the grocery store.)

I really did have every intention of following the recipe exactly. But as you can see from my notations above I did not.

Melt the baking chips with the zest, a pinch of salt, and the cream. Do this in the microwave for ease. It took less than a minute to melt it to a smooth consistency. Now add 1/3 of the mascarpone and whisk. Then add the 6 teaspoons of lime juice and the rest of the cheese. Whisk til smooth and pour into the completely cooled crust. Arrange fruit as desired.

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Melt the preserves with a little lime juice (this teaspoon came from a jar) and carefully glaze the fruit avoiding the crust. Well, this is easier said than done. As mentioned above I had a dark glaze and there were gaps between the fruit. This is to be put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

 

So did this new improved tart meet its goals? Yes it did. Life is too short not to eat dessert when it looks like this. I admit it is not as pretty as the ones in the bakery or the picture in Cook’s Illustrated. But it is in my kitchen ready to eat. And the crust and filling did not break apart or ooze out when cut. Yay! I see no need to let it sit out for 15 minutes before cutting, either. Also farm fresh strawberries will be tastier than supermarket berries. I will have to look out for some next time I pass a farm market or stand.

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Lemon Pudding Cake

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This dessert recipe I found many years ago on allrecipes.com. In fact it was 2010 when I printed it out so maybe that is not so many years ago. The recipe is still posted here. I did not make too many adjustments so as not to mangle the results.

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I juiced one lemon and topped it up with jarred lemon juice to make 1/3 cup.)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (this was 1/2 the zest from the aforementioned lemon; I froze the remainder for future use.)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour (I did not sift. I figure if I whisk the flour in the container and then spoon it into the measuring cup lightly without packing, that is close enough.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I did not have cow’s milk except for half-and-half. So I used 1/2 cup half-and-half, 1/2 cup almond milk which emptied the carton, so I topped it up with 1/2 cup cashew milk. I thought it was necessary to use the half-and-half for the fat content.)

Beat together egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter until thick and lemon colored. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add this alternating with additions of the milk.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Blend egg whites into the batter on low speed of electric mixer. I am so glad I have two bowls for my KitchenAid mixer. I used one bowl with the paddle attachment for the batter and the other bowl with the whisk attachment for the egg whites.

Pour this into an -inch square pan. Heat oven to 350 F. This bakes in a bain marie: place a 9 x 13 inch pan in the oven with hot water. Put the square pan in it and bake for 45 minutes.

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We ate this warm from the oven. The sauce/pudding formed under the sponge thickens up as it cools so it is good warm or cool. The birthday girl had a second helping and declared it good! 🙂

Pi day

March 14th is pi day. “The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle‘s circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159.” The definition here is from Wikipedia. Two years ago it was a more authentic pi day!

In honor of scientists and mathematicians everywhere I have baked a pie.

What pie did you make? I made my “go-to” Betty Crocker pumpkin pie.

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This is similar to the recipes one finds on the backs of cans of pumpkin:

  • Prepare pastry for 9-inch pie
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teas cinnamon, 1/2 teas ground ginger, and 1/4 teas ground cloves)
  • 1 2/3 cup evaporated milk

Mix all ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake 425 F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F for 45 minutes. Test for doneness by poking the near middle with a knife. It should come out clean.

Let cool and eat. Top with whipped cream if desired.