Peach tart

The tart is somewhat of an archnemesis to me.  It’s the dough, you see, it hates me.  It has such simple ingredients: a little butter, a little sugar, some flour, salt, and egg- how could one screw this up, right?  Well I could, and have, several times.  This is where Smitten comes in.  She took Dorie‘s recipe and she worked it and she published it and she explained that we need not be afraid of it because she had conquered it- and she was right!

I tried this tart shell recipe once last fall and loved the flavor, but the texture did not come together right for me.  I was impatient, you see.  This time I took the time and had the patience, and it paid off.  The dough is like shortbread in flavor and consistency.  In this particular instance, I used local peaches from the Open Square Farmer’s Market in Holyoke.  I baked them into the pillowy love of a goat cheese custard.  It was a marriage made in heaven.

Tart shell

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon frozen, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

  • In a food processor pulse the flour, sugar and salt together
  • Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in
  • Stir the egg, just enough to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
  • When the egg has all been added, process in long pulses until the dough forms clumps, and eventually turns into a ball
  • Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about an hour before rolling
  • To roll the dough: Roll out chilled dough on a floured sheet of parchment paper to a 12-inch round
  • Peel off paper. Seal any cracks in the dough.  Fold any overhang in, making double-thick sides
  • Pierce the crust all over with fork
  • Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking
  • To par-bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
  • Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 15 minutes
  • Let the crust cool on a trivet while you prepare the filling

Filling:

  • 6 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 6-8 slices per peach
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup soft goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • zest of one lemon

To make the filling:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F
  • Arrange the peach slices in overlapping circles on top of the crust, until it’s completely covered (don’t be afraid to overfill the crust, as peaches will shrink during cooking)
  • Combine the egg yolks, goat cheese, sugar, flour, and lemon zest and beat until smooth. Pour the mixture over the peaches
  • Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until the custard sets and is pale golden in color
  • Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. When cool, remove the side wall of the pan

Fantastic accompaniments to this dessert would be vanilla ice cream, freshly whipped cream, and/or a brandy reduction.  Enjoy!

J

Polenta cakes with goat cheese & black raspberry preserves

Ok, I know, this week has been a little heavy on the goat cheese.  But it’s so good!

This particular recipe was developed as an appetizer for a party where hand-held foods are a must.  Since I typically do something very sweet and dessert-y I decided to make something savory with just a tiny bit of sweet this time.  The overall process takes a while, but could be cut down if you were to use a “log” of polenta  instead (as the cooking is done for you).

Ingredients

9 cups water

Salt

3 cups uncooked polenta

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

12 oz. soft goat cheese at room temperature

1 jar black raspberry (or your personal preference) preserves

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Bring the water, salted, to a boil in a large, nonstick fry pan
  • Add the polenta, reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Remove from heat, stir in the fresh thyme, and let rest while you line a jelly roll pan with foil
  • Transfer the cooked polenta to the jelly roll pan and smooth to the edges of the pan with a rubber or offset spatula
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes
  • Transfer the baked polenta to a large cutting board and cut circles with a biscuit cutter*
  • In a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, mix the goat cheese for 5 minutes to incorporate some air, and make sure that there are no lumps
  • Using a pastry bag pipe the goat cheese on top of each of the polenta rounds
  • Using a teaspoon, dollop the preserves on top of the goat cheese

*I tried both plastic and metal cutters and found plastic to be rather troublesome and metal to work grandly

This recipe was very good as it is, but it could also be changed up in so many ways: add lemon juice and/or zest to the goat cheese; add honey to the goat cheese for a sweeter take; change up the preserves and use a) a different flavor or b) a fresh fruit; add a fresh mint leaf to the top; use orange zest in the polenta instead of thyme.  The list could go on and on.

J

Carrot (and so much more!) cupcakes

A stand-up carrot cake recipe is always a good thing to have in one’s repertoire, in my opinion.  This recipe is stand-up.  It’s flavorful without being over-done.  It’s moist without being heavy or greasy.  It’s loaded with fruits and, therefore, fiber (which must mean that it’s healthy-right?).  And to top it off, it gets frosted with goat cheese.  Yum!

What I will also point out is that this recipe is easier on the tongue than it is on the eyes.  The cupcake is not necessarily what I would call gorgeous, but it is damn tasty.  It holds its shape well, but the frosting on top is definitely what makes it look more appealing.

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

3 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

½ cup moist, plump raisins*

2 cups sugar

1 cup safflower oil

4 large eggs

re-constituting raisins, chopped walnuts & coconut- oh my!

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease & flour your muffin tins
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt

flour, leavening & spices

  • In another bowl stir together carrots, nuts, coconut and raisins (and/or dried cranberries, currants, cherries, etc.)
  • In a stand mixer beat together the sugar and oil until smooth
  • Add eggs one at a time
  • Add the flour mixture and don’t over-mix
  • Mix in the chunky ingredients

this is one chunky batter

  • Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for 25-35 minutes

be sure not to over-fill your tins

*Note: if your raisins are a bit on the dry side, re-hydrate them in a dish with some warm water (or rum, if you prefer) for 10 minutes before using

Frosting Ingredients:

6 oz cream cheese, at room temp

2 oz goat cheese, at room temp

1 stick butter at room temp

1 pound confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  • In a stand mixer beat together the cream cheese, goat cheese and butter until smooth and creamy
  • Gradually add the sugar and beat until super-smooth
  • Beat in the lemon juice
  • Frost your cooled cupcakes

*Feel free to change the cream cheese/goat cheese ratio or omit one or the other altogether

You could top the frosted cakes with shredded coconut, or toasted coconut, or chunks of walnuts, or even lemon zest

J

Recipe adapted from this cookbook authored by Dorie Greenspan

Goat Cheese Spread with Lavender and Honey

I recently threw a party and I wanted to put out a dip made with goat cheese, but my stand-by recipe called for walnuts and I already had a lot of dishes with nuts in them and didn’t want to over-do it.  To remove the walnuts from the other recipe would have been a crime, so I found something else to make and I’m glad that I did.  This dip was a big hit.  I think that it’s perfect for summer entertaining (flavor-wise), and can be served alongside so many other dishes since it’s so mild.  I served it with a couple of kinds of simple crackers, but it would be great smeared on crostini or even a fresh baguette.

goat cheese

Ingredients

12 ounces soft goat cheese

2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender

3 tablespoons honey

honey

Directions

  • In a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, mix together goat cheese, lavender, and honey until smooth. Taste and adjust as necessary*

lavendar

*Note: I left the goat cheese out on the counter overnight to let it get very soft so that it was easy to work with

J

Recipe adapted from a post on Whole Foods Market

A simple spinach salad

I was in a small grocery store in town the other day looking for a cucumber and they had none.  What I spied in its stead was a package of organic blueberries.  I couldn’t say no.  It’s the beginning of March and I haven’t had a blueberry that wasn’t frozen in months.  Besides eating them a few at a time straight from the carton, we had them in salads as a course at dinner, then I had them again in my breakfast cereal.  I was going to throw them into a smoothie but quickly realized that would be a waste of a fresh berry when smoothies are just as good with frozen.

What is missing from this pic is the balsamic vinaigrette that we topped the salad with, and the goat cheese that I wish I had added.  Simple.  Colorful.  Bursting with flavor & nutrients.

J