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Lemon Chèvre and Fresh Fig Galette

10 Oct

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Depending on where you live, this galette may serve to be either a blessing or a curse to you. If you are in a part of the world where there are aggressively defined seasons, the figs needed to make this galette will most likely be out of your reach until the arrival of next year’s summer. Here in the Pacific Northwest, where we can sometimes harvest tomatoes and beans into October, but oftentimes not taste fresh local corn until the summer is nearly over, you will still be able to find fresh figs. You may have to hunt a bit, and you may be straddling the point in a fig’s life that separates it from being perfectly ripe and perfectly rotten, but figs can still be found.

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These figs arrived at our front door, via a neighbor’s backyard tree. Remember when I spoke of how much I cherish the pawning off of bushels of backyard zucchini? Well, I feel exactly the same way about being given excess figs. To be perfectly candid, I feel this way about being given excess anything that hails from a nearby garden—vegetables, fruit, compost, you name it. I am not picky when it comes to this particular arena.

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I made this tart as a way to say thank you to the people to gifted me the figs. It seemed only fitting to turn around and share the figs in return, albeit in different form. As a lover of all things tart-and-galette, I felt like the only way to truly make these figs into a personalized gift was to fold them into a familiar form. My all-time favorite flakey crust (a must have for dishes both savory and sweet) serves as a base for rich, lemony chèvre that has been touched with just the slightest bit of honey. The figs, being incredibly ripe, need no doctoring whatsoever. Baked together in a slow oven, the figs release their juice, bubbling together with the softened goat cheese and perfect crust. You can serve this galette as a simple dessert, adorned with just a spoonful of honey sweetened cream, or as a main course, accompanied by a salad and perhaps a bit of salume and a slip of bread. I’ll be honest: I ate in while standing in my kitchen, swiping crumbs off of a table, and I enjoyed it immensely.

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Last Year: Classic Bialys, Escarole, Leek, and White Bean Panzanella, and Sky-High Apple Pie 

Lemon Chèvre and Fresh Fig Galette

1 pastry crust for a single layer pie (this is my all-time favorite crust, courtesy of Tartine)

4 ounces chèvre, at room temperature

finely grated zest of 1 small lemon, about ½ teaspoon total

2 teaspoons honey

pinch of salt

6 large fresh figs, each fig cut into quarters or sixths

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out crust into a roughly 13-inch circle.

In a small bowl combine chèvre, lemon zest, honey, and pinch of salt. Mix together, then use a spoon to spread the mixture onto the rolled out pastry crust, leaving clear a 2-inch border at the edges. Place sliced figs, cut side up, in a single layer over the chèvre, arranging in somewhat of a concentric circle. Gently fold in the edges of the pastry towards the center, overlapping the folds where necessary.

Place the galette onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the figs are bubbly and the pastry crust is golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8 people.

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Spicy Chocolate Cherry Cake

4 Apr

Recent egg-related cooking bursts aside, I am still deep in the process of my Go Mighty goal of making 50 cakes for 50 people. I’ve made a couple of birthday cakes recently, as well as a very spring-inspired ricotta strawberry cake for Easter tea:

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and a coconut cake with orange cream frosting:

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One of the birthday cakes I made was a particularly fun experiment. I told my father-in-law that I was going to make him a birthday cake, and that he could choose any cake he wanted for the occasion. After a bit of thought, he requested that I make him some sort of cake that could as close as possible to approximating this incredibly delicious chocolate bar he had been gifted for Christmas. The chocolate bar was a bittersweet concoction, filled with dried cherries and little hits of hot chile. It was just wonderful, he said, and a cake of a similar persuasion would be just perfect.

I love this sort of challenge. My favorite sort of cake-making always involves someone saying they’d like something with a bit of this, a touch of that, and maybe a hint of something else, and would it be possible to create a cake out of those things? Of course, I always say, and then immediately get to work making such a cake possible. In this case, I went with a deeply chocolate cake, covered with a layer of smooth, chile-flecked ganache, then topped with a dead simple cherry sauce. The end result was nothing short of dreamy, and I’d be hard pressed to think of another cake I’ve made that contained such a wonderful symphony of flavors and sensations. This cake is sweet, rich, smooth, and spicy, and I can’t wait for another excuse to make it again.

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Last Year: Salmon Cakes with Lemon and Dill and Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies

Spicy Chocolate Cherry Cake

To stand up to the sweetness of the cherries and chocolate, I really made the chilies pop by using fresh chiles, mashed to a paste and stirred into the ganache. Because the hotness of chiles can vary quite a bit, I started with about 1/3 of a super hot chile (try using a Serrano or, if you are super brave, ¼ of a habanero chile), then I tasted the ganache, added more chile, tasted, added more, etc. I ended up using a whole chile here, but you can certainly use less if you want a less pronounced spiciness.

Also, I made two 9-inch, single layer cakes for this party, one with spicy ganache, one with plain ganache. If you want to do the same, use a chocolate cake recipe that makes 2 9-inch cakes, then double the recipes for both the cherries and the ganache. That said, the recipe below makes my favorite single layer 9-inch cake. The cake is vegan, but you don’t have to tell anyone, and it has zucchini in it, which sounds weird, but, oh, my god, it works so well here, I swear (trust me, no one will never know it’s in there).

Chocolate Cake

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 cup cold, strong  coffee

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¾ cup shredded zucchini, squeezed in a cheesecloth or dishtowel to remove excess liquid

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thoroughly grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, cold coffee, vanilla, and zucchini.  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once, then whisk together until almost smooth.  Add the vinegar and stir quickly until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  You will see bubbles rising up in the batter as the vinegar reacts with the baking soda.

Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

½ cup heavy cream

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

tiny pinch of sea salt

1 hot chile of your choice, finely diced, then mashed into a paste using either a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a knife. If you really want to temper the heat of the chile, remove the seeds and ribs before chopping and mashing. If you want more heat, leave in both the seeds and ribs.

In a small saucepan set over very low heat, heat the cream until just steaming. Alternately, you could place the cream in a microwave safe bowl and heat it in the microwave until just steaming. Add the chopped chocolate to the warm cream, then allow to sit for 1 minute. Gently stir the chocolate and cream mixture until it is smooth and the chocolate is totally melted. Add the tiny pinch of salt, stir, then add in a small amount of mashed chile and stir again. Taste the ganache for spiciness, then continue to add more and more mashed chile, a little at a time, until the ganache has reached your preferred level of spiciness.

Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Cherry Sauce

1 cup frozen pitted cherries

½ teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon water

tiny pinch of sea salt

In a medium pan set over medium-high heat, combine the cherries, sugar, water, and tiny pinch of sea salt. Gently shake and swirl the pan around over the heat until all the ingredients are intermingled, then allow to sit until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges. Swirl the pan around for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cherries just begin to burst from the heat and the liquid they release begins to thicken just slightly.

Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

To assemble the cake, transfer the cooled cake to a large plate or platter. Carefully pour the ganache over the cake, allowing the ganache to pool in the middle, then gently crest over the sides of the cake. If you want a completely frosted cake, use an offset spatula or a spoon to nudge the ganache around as evenly as possible.

Carefully spoon the cooled cherry sauce over the cake, again concentrating the sauce in the middle of the cake, as it will naturally cascade down the sides on its own.

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