Apple Blossom Blackberry Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry (two Le Creuset winners!)

I admit I enjoy the detailed work of an elaborate dessert or cake on occasion. I was a fine arts major who couldn’t paint or draw particularly well, but loved being in the midst of all that creativity in the art department. It wasn’t until I found myself in a pastry kitchen that I realized food was the medium that allowed me to express myself. So fussing over gum paste and fondant is relaxing to me. But, there are times I want to create something that is just pure and simple. When flavors are the end all and their natural beauty unadorned.

I’ve been reading A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis. The executive chef from Chez Panisse who has the most enviable career I’ve ever heard of. He spends 6 months of the year cooking at Alice Water’s acclaimed restaurant and the remainder of his time he is in France. Just one chapter in and you can’t help but hate him for having figured out the perfect life. He eloquently describes shopping in the morning at the outdoor produce market and then cooking with his friends while drinking local wines and nibbling on aged cheeses. His entire philosophy is simplicity. In fact, the book’s one downfall for me is that there is no challenge in any of his desserts, they are all simple to a fault. Gorgeous and as delicious as a fresh fig, but where is all of the fussy detail that I often crave. 😉

I want to be David Tanis when I grow up! (more…)

Read More

OMG this Lasagna is Good! (Homemade Spinach Pasta for the March Daring Baker Challenge)

I’m a few days late in posting this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge. Better late than never, especially if it tastes this freakin’ good. The very first meal I made for my husband, on our first date 23 years ago, was four cheese manicotti. It took me a day for each cheese to create it! He told me years later that he knew he’d marry me when he took a bite. We’ve made each other many meals since, but nothing as memorable. When I presented this lasagne to my family they all said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked for them, including my husband (and my 8 year old who claims to hate spinach)!

This week’s Le Creuset winner is announced below.


Read More

Chicken Pot Pie with Homemade Puff Pastry

There are very few things that say comfort food like a chicken pot pie. I go for the classic combination with  chicken, peas, carrots and a parsnip for flare, in a rich creamy white sauce that is made with fresh thyme and parsley. The whole thing is draped in a crust of homemade puff pastry. It is this last detail that transforms this bastion of Americana into something utterly sublime. The mille feuilles (thousand leaves) of pastry are baked as a golden brown crown that adds the flaky contrast to the creamy stew below. Seriously folks, it got me mother of the year status in my house! 😉

Puff pastry is the ultimate dough in any home or professional kitchen. One that is not at all difficult to make, but it requires some of your time and a bit of your patience. The store bought version may be convenient but it will leave you feeling lackluster, while the home made dough will make you weep. In order to get the flaky puff that gives this dough its name, you must diligently “laminate” layers of dough with layers of butter, about one thousand in all. It is the butter that create steam as the dough bakes, which causes all the layers to separate into a flaky crust. Once you work with and taste the pastry you will understand why it is worth every moment that goes into its preparation. I make a batch that will easily prepare pot pie for dinner, a napoleon for dessert and flaky caramelized palmier to dip into my morning coffee. Or, the dough can be frozen for a month. (more…)

Read More