Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not quite love.

Espresso and chocolate are a marriage made in heaven, but a combination that I don't find myself gravitating towards often. Perhaps that it is such a ubiquitous pairing that anytime I find them together, I ask myself, "Okay - what else is there?" Seasonal fruit will trump coffee-chocolate every time, as will herbs and honey. Salted caramel and brown butter for the win, unless they're combined with espresso and chocolate, and in that case, the coffee-cocoa characteristics are forgiven. The addition of espresso or coffee to enhance the chocolatiness of a chocolate cake doesn't count (I support it emphatically), so aside from mocha macarons (which are usually pretty good at any patisserie), and the "tiramisu" I had at a recent Michael Voltaggio pop-up dinner(a soy/coffee/chocolate/mascarpone, panna-cotta-and-dippin'-dot revelation), I'll pass.

I was hoping that this week's Tuesday's with Dorie selection by Donna of Life's Too Short Not To Eat Dessert First would be another exception to the rule (and it was a perfectly good cookie!!), but not one I'll revisit unless specifically requested. My prejudices aside, it's a wonderful recipe because, save for the 2 hour chilling period, it is so quick and easy to throw together with minimal clean-up and effort. Portioning is a breeze, no hand-rolling necessary, and though the squares could have used a post-cutting chill in the refrigerator to firm up the dough a little more (the dough got soft just from cutting time), they kept their shape pretty well. They won't win any beauty pageants, but I think that'd suit them just fine -- they prefer the simplicity of a casual coffee over a highbrow afternoon tea anyway.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The height of Summer.

I've been so neglectful of this here blog. I've been baking up a storm since June, but for many, many reasons (first camping trips, weddings, out-of-town guests, even more baking, etc.), I haven't gotten to the whole blogging part of this endeavor. It's a little bit essential.

And here we are, nearing the end of August, Angelenos already in despair that summer is coming to a close (though, we should all know Indian Summer is just getting started). Just walk into any farmers' market and you'll know that we're still in the thick of warm weather. Stone fruits abound and the "last ____ of the season!" signs are still nowhere to be seen. Rachel of sweet tarte chose this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe and I have to admit, I love it when the recipes chosen are absolutely befitting the season, as was the case this week. I just so happened to have a couple rapidly ripening peaches on hand and into Dorie's Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart they went.

It's been a hectic time, still, and the crust was a godsend. Without having to wait for the dough to chill, the almond-flour crust was simply patted into the tart pan and frozen overnight. In the morning, I didn't have to get out the designated pie weight beans and just popped it into the preheated oven for a partial bake. The next day, my super-ripe peaches were fanned into the crust, a custard quickly assembled and coaxed in between fruit segments and the pan was returned to the oven until the filling set, with a light shower of almondy streusel midway through the bake time.

Although the streusel didn't stay remain crisp throughout the day, the almonds were still a welcome textural contrast to the soft peach and custard. The seasonality of the fruit really shone through as each bite was remarkably sweet with the natural sugar of the peach and not from the addition of refined sugar. The custard was a perfect complement to the roasted drupe, and also the crumbliness of the nut-blend crust. The crust was buttery and caramely and would make such a delicious cookie on its own, but all of the components just enhanced its partners. Any stone fruit and even pears or figs would perform wonderfully against the same custard and crust, so in a few weeks time, I'll be excited to showcase their splendors against the same base. This is the new chameleon of the kitchen.