Archives for posts with tag: David Lebovitz

This is what my fruit bowl looked like yesterday – a mélange of fall fruits, ripe and ready for the taking. If you live in or near New York City you know that yesterday was the first cold, fall day. It was also raining. The perfect Sunday to get in the kitchen and crank up my oven.

While making something savory is, in my opinion, more practical than making something sweet, I couldn’t help staring down those fruits and imagining them baking in a pastry crust. I turned to my trusty source for all things dessert, David Lebovitz, for some general guidance. Wouldn’t you know one of his last posts was on a harvest tart, much like the one I had in mind.

I call this a rustic tart because it’s not fussy and not meant to look perfect, like those fruit tarts you see in a bakery case. You quickly whip up the tart dough with nothing more than good cold butter, flour, water, and a pinch of salt. And fill it with whatever fruits you have on hand. I filled mine with Honeycrisp apples, grapes, and two different varieties of plums. (There was no room left for the pears!) I added a handful of hazelnuts, and drizzled a custard-like filling of egg and thick, whole-milk yogurt. (Lebovitz’s recipe called for crème fraîche, which I didn’t have on hand and couldn’t find within a few block radius in my neighborhood.) You roll out the dough larger than the circumference of your pie dish so that the edges can then be folded over the fruit filling just enough to leave some of the center exposed.

Maybe I can get used to this cold weather again.

Rustic Fall Tart
adapted from Kate Hill of Kitchen at Camont (via David Lebovitz)

For the dough
2 c all purpose flour
3/4 whole wheat pastry flour
pinch of salt
9 ounces unsalted butter, cold
2 large eggs
3-4 tbsp water

For the filling
2 lb apples, peeled and cored (approx. 4 large apples)
4 plums, any variety
1 small bunch grapes, stemmed
1/4 c sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
Handful of hazelnuts
1 tbsp brandy or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c crème fraîche or thick, plain yogurt
1 large egg

1. Make the dough: in a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and mixing with your hands or a pastry blender, combine with the four mixture until it’s in small pieces.

2. Add an egg and the water and mix until the dough holds together. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 18 inches in diameter. Transfer to a deep pie dish; the edges should hang over the sides quite a bit.

3. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl then brush the insides of the dough with the egg.

4. Prepare the filling: slice the apples into eighths and the plums into quarters. Mix them together with the grapes, sugar, brandy or vanilla, and transfer the filling to the tart dough. Scatter the hazelnuts on top of the fruit.

5. In a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche or yogurt with the egg and pour it over the fruit and nuts. Line the edges of the dough and cover the fruit. Brush the top of the dough with a mixture of egg wash and butter then sprinkle with a little sugar.

6. Put the tart on a baking sheet and bake at 425 F for one hour, until the top of the dough is browned and the fruit is thoroughly cooked. You can test by placing a knife in the fruit and making sure it goes right through. If, before the hour is up, the crust starts to turn dark brown you can tent with foil about halfway through.

7. Remove the tart from the oven and let cool before serving. Serve on its own, with crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream, or homemade whipped cream.

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Let’s face it. It’s hot here in New York City. Especially if you’re biking around Brooklyn with a helmet and backpack mid-afternoon, like I’ve been doing this weekend. It’s that glorious New York summer brew of humidity and high temperatures and smog and concrete. The only relief is a cold movie theater, a public pool (McCarren Park anyone?), the Rockaways, your shower.

But don’t get me wrong. I love it. I wait all year for these two months of hot sleepless nights and it’s a reason I could never live in San Francisco.

And what do I like to indulge in on these hot summer days? Ice cream. The hard kind, the soft kind, the Italian kind, the Taiwenese ice kind, the kind dispensed from pale yellow food trucks. But one thing I actually hadn’t tried before was making my own. I always wanted to but who could bother. Especially when you can get pints of the best this city offers for around $5. Make your own and you spend that much on just the pint of heavy cream needed to make the custard.

Often, homemade versions of any dish are more expensive than buying it. But I guess that’s not the point. Not for me anyway. I like to make things with my hands, I like to pick things from a garden and eat it twenty minutes later in a dish, and I enjoy the magic of creating something I’ve only ever bought before and then poof make it myself.

I was at my local farmer’s market yesterday morning looking for ice cream inspiration. I considered rhubarb, peach, plum, any number of varieties. But on a hot day I really like mint ice cream. Mint chocolate chip. And then I remembered the large patch of mint growing like a weed in my front yard which I’ve hardly made use of yet this season. So I picked up some milk, some cream, eggs, and then picked two packed cups worth of mint from beyond my stoop. And got down to business. (My mint, and bike, below, and celosia flowers I got from the market.)

One of the things I love about this recipe is it uses only fresh mint, not mint extract. You infuse the milk and cream with just-picked mint and before freezing add chopped bits of chocolate.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz

1 c (250 ml) whole milk
3/4 c (150 g) sugar
2 c (500 ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 c (80 g) packed fresh mint leaves
5 large egg yolks
3/4 c chopped dark chocolate pieces

1. In a medium saucepan warm the milk, sugar, 1 c of cream, salt, and mint. Let it get hot and steamy, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit for one hour so the mint infuses the liquid.

2. After an hour, remove the mint with a strainer, pushing down on it with a spatula to extract as much flavor from it as possible, then discard the mint.

3. Pour the remaining 1 c of cream into a large bowl and set aside. Set your strainer on top of it.

4. Rewarm the infused milk, and in a separate bowl start whisking together the egg yolks. Slowly pour some of the warm mint mixture into the yolks (about 1/2 c or so), whisking constantly. Then add this egg mixture to the rest of the mint mixture in the saucepan.

5. Then you’re going to cook the custard, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and sticks to the spoon or whisk, about 170 degrees F (77 C). Immediately strain this mixture into the cream, then stir the mixture over an ice bath until it cools down.

6. Refrigerate the mixture for a minimum of two hours, but preferably overnight. Then add the mixture to your ice cream maker – for mine, this meant a half hour in the machine mixing until it got that nice thick ice creamy texture.

7. Transfer the ice cream to the container you will store/freeze it in, add the chocolate chips and stir. Cover and freeze until firm.

Yesterday was all about the snow storm. It seemed to come from out of nowhere: beginning at 11 am Brooklyn began its transformation from mid-fall stupor to winter wonderland. The snow came down fast and hard and blanketed New York City with three inches by the evening.

Last night, despite the inclement weather, eight of us made it to poker in Fort Greene. I decided I’d bring a dessert—it was a perfect day after all for staying inside with the oven on—and landed on a chocolate tart recipe by the trusty David Lebovitz. But first I needed to pick up the few ingredients I didn’t already have on hand (the chocolate, for one), and a tart mold.

I’ve been needing a tart pan for ages so ran into Whisk on Bedford Ave. Whisk is a great kitchen supply store that opened in Williamsburg maybe two years ago and carries top of the line everything. Yuji double-parked out front and I ran in prepared to wince at the price tag and fork over my Visa. But it would be worth it, I thought, for a delicious chocolate tart! Well wasn’t I pleasantly surprised when the mold turned out to be a reasonable $8.99. And the icing on the cake? Christina Tosi, the Wonka-esque pastry chef, was in the back room signing copies of her new book, Momofuku Milk Bar, released this fall by Clarkson Potter.

Given the freezing rain and general freakishness of the weather I was not surprised to find her hanging out with just a couple of Whisk employees, sitting around shootin the you-know-what, without many groupies in sight. I went up and introduced myself and then helped myself to two of her famous cake truffles, birthday cake and dulce de leche. Only three letters to describe those things: O-M-G. I flipped through the book, thanked her for her pastry wizadry and dashed back out into the freezing rain, into the warmth of the Volvo. It was an auspicious beginning to the tart-making.

Back at the ranch, I began by making the pastry, for which I also used the recipe from David’s blog. It really was quite an easy job, requiring neither a stand mixer or electric appliance of any kind. He has a funny post here describing how he came to this particular recipe. You put butter, vegetable oil, water, sugar, and salt into an oven-proof bowl and place that in a hot oven for about fifteen minutes. You take it out, add the flour, and voila, there is your pastry, ready to roll out into the tart shell.

Using the heel of your hand you press the dough into the tart mold. You bake this in the oven to a golden brown before inserting your filling.

The filling is all about bitter chocolate. But first actually you make caramel on the stovetop, melting the sugar until it is a liquid, sweet gold, and then fold in your chocolate. Buy good quality bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate. The recipe also calls for adding 6 tbsp of coffee and just a tsp of vanilla extract. You pour the mixture into your cooled tart dough and then pop it back into the oven.

The resulting tart tasted hardly sweet; with the deep dark notes of the caramel, coffee, and chocolate, it was a nice ending to our pre-poker dinner of braised short ribs, polenta, and broccoli rabe. I was lucky the tart turned out well, but not quite as lucky at poker. In the end I only lost $6 though.

French Pastry Dough
Adapted from Paule Caillat of Promenades Gourmandes and David Lebovitz

3 oz (90 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 rounded cup (150 g) flour

Preheat the oven to 410º F (210º C).

1. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

2. Place the bowl in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble and just starts to brown.

3. Remove from the oven, being very careful not to burn yourself on the hot bowl. Stir the flour in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball.

4. Transfer the dough to a 9-in. (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and, with the heel of your hand, press it evenly into the bottom and sides. If the dough is still hot you can wait until it cools to handle. Reserve a small bit of dough for later in case you need it for patching up any cracks.

5. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork (about ten times) to prevent the dough from puffing up, and bake the tart shell in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. You want the dough to be golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven and patch any cracks with the reserved dough if necessary. Let the shell cool before filling.

Chocolate Tart
Serves 8-10

1 1/4 c (250 g) sugar
6 tbsp (90 ml) warm coffee
4 oz (115 g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
pinch of salt
4 oz (115 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz (55 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1/4 c (35 g) flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tbsp dark rum)

1. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC).

2. Spread the sugar in an even layer in the bottom of a large, heavy-duty saucepan or Dutch oven. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, stirring occasionally with a heatproof utensil, until it begins to liquify. Take care, as caramel can splatter and burn.

3. Once the sugar is melted it will caramelize quickly. When it begins to smoke turn off the heat and stir in the coffee. (You may want to avert your face and be sure to wear oven mitts!) Then add the butter and salt, stir until melted, then stir in both chocolates until smooth.

4. Once the mixture has cooled just a bit, mix in the eggs, then add the flour. Stir in the vanilla extract or rum.

5. Pour the mixture into your pre-baked tart shell then bake for about 15 minutes, just until the filling starts to rise and crack at the edges but the center is still jiggly. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.

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