Sunday, 17 September 2017

End of Summer Fruit Tart (and a Trip to the Farmer's Market)

It is September. It is September (so basically Fall) but I have not posted more than one summer tart and I have definitely made more than one this season. I have posted this strawberry cream cheese tart but where did the post on the fig and earl grey mascarpone tart, this mango tart or this rhubarb tart with crème pâtisièrre go? I got a bit too into making the tarts instead of posting about them, but I think I am okay with that. I have accepted the fact that I want to use all this summer produce when it is at its peak even if it means that the blog post will be a bit delayed. I promise I will eventually have the recipes and photos all up though.

All these summer fruit tarts have been the direct result of me visiting the farmer's markets on the weekends. I visited a farmer's market for the first time earlier this summer and since then, I have been hooked. Vancouver is littered with farmer's markets all throughout the warmer months and has been for a long time. I do not know why it has taken me this long to visit my first one. It started with my quest to find pink pearl apples. Pink pearl apples were not in season yet (and hard to find in general) but I was smitten by all the jewel-toned berries that were in season. 

Visiting the farmer's market early in the morning right when it opens is the best - you get the largest variety of produce. The biggest perk of going early in my opinion is that you can pick up a coffee and a fresh pastry while it is still warm to start off your day. My pastry of choice at farmer's market have been a savoury scone or bun. A warm feta and chive scone, to be specific. 

I picked up a large flat of mixed berries, knowing that they were meant for a tart that would show off all their colours. A rich chocolate tart, a classic vanilla custard, adorn with all the fresh berries piled high and a few apple roses, was exactly what I wanted. Besides the sweetest organic strawberries I have tasted all year, my favourite find from this Saturday market was a bouquet of edible flowers. There was this one small stall at the market that sells fresh herbs. Compared to the other vendors, her stall was on the smaller side, with only a limited amount and types of offerings. At the very end of the wooden table she used to display all the herb plants, there was a tiny section that displayed a few bouquets of edible flowers. She had a selection of pink edible roses but all the shapes and colours being shown off by the variety bouquet was what my heart was after. I picked up her last variety bouquet that was predominately herb-based, but had more than enough roses, lavender, lemon thyme, chive blossoms and wild bergamot. There was even a small raspberry sharing a stem with a flower. The vendor said she only has two or three bouquets each week and that they really vary each time. 

End of Summer Fruit Tart
Yields 9-inch tart

Chocolate Pâte Sablée
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together, flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.

Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.

Beat in the egg yolk and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Careful not to overmix. Remove dough from the bowl and press the dough into the tart pan, making sure it is evenly distributed. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell to prevent the bottom from puffing up when baking.

Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Bake the tart shell at 410F for 15 minutes. Remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack. Let cool completely before filling with custard.

Vanilla Custard
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean 
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out seeds. Add bean and seeds to milk mixture. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat.

Whisk egg yolks, cornflour, and sugar in a heatproof bowl until well combined. Remove vanilla beans from milk mixture. Pour hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

Return mixture to saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 -15 minutes or until custard thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon.

Let custard cool completely before filling the tart shell and garnishing with berries.

1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cups strawberries
1 cup blackberries
3 Italian plums, quartered
1 apple, quartered then sliced thin with mandolin
Edible flowers

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Peach Melba Sundaes with Cheesecake Ice Cream

Traditionally, Peach Melba is a dessert of peaches, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce. This dessert was invented by Auguste Escoffier and for the first rendition of this dessert, all three components of it were served in an ice sculpture of a swan. You will not find an ice sculpture of a swan here on the blog today unfortunately, but you will find a Peach Melba-inspired sundae. I say 'inspired' because apparently Escoffier said that "any variation on this recipe ruins the delicate balance of its taste" and I do not want to be angering any well-respected French chef. That is not the purpose of my blog post today.

I have been going to quite a few farmers market this summer. Prior to this year I have not really been to an outdoor market even though Vancouver is littered with them throughout the summer months. It was a mixture of two things that started my love for these markets - how they remind me of the les marchés that my Mom and I explored daily when we spent ten days in Paris and how the market provides endless sources of inspiration for seasonal baking. It is a also quite a nice date idea, sharing freshly baked pastries and coffee while you stroll around the market on a warm summer morning.

Quite a few stone fruits are in season right now (did you know that raspberries are stone fruits?!). A perfectly ripe peach is my weakness and when I saw all the perfectly lined up green containers of local peaches at the market, I knew peaches would be the star of the next blog post. I wanted to stray away from peach pie because I did not want to be dealing with keeping pie dough chilled in this summer weather. After some extensive 'research' (aka. ask my friend Tessa for peach dessert ideas) I decided on Peach Melba, but with a few twists. I kept the peaches as they were because I cannot be messing around with the peach of Peach Melba, but had some fun with the other components of the classic. The base of the sundae is composed of a layer of cubed buttery pound cake. A traditional Peach Melba does not have any form of cake but when I get to add cake to a dessert, I will always happily do so.  It is then topped with two scoops (maybe three if you wanted the extra fun, but never just a sad single scoop please) of homemade velvety cream cheese ice cream. Fresh peaches and raspberries from the market garnish the sundae. You might find an occasional fig slice in mine because I love a ripe fig in the summer as well. To play on the raspberry sauce component, the sundae is finished off with a raspberry iced tea syrup. This raspberry tea syrup is so good. It will remind you of a chilled glass of iced tea in the summer, but better. It is much like a concentrated iced tea, with all the pleasantly bitter components of iced tea but it also has a sweetness that ties the sundae together.

Peach Melba Sundaes with Cheesecake Ice Cream
Yields 6 - 8 individual sundaes

Vanilla Pound Cake
4 large eggs
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (227g) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325F and grease a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.

In a bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the eggs and continue beating.

Gradually add the flour and mix until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan and level it. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

Cream Cheese Ice Cream
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the ice cream, combine the cream cheese, milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla, in the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a blade attachment.

Blend on high speed until smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.

When ice cream in done churning,  spoon it into a freezer safe container. Allow ice cream to rest in the freezer for at least 3 hours until firm.

Raspberry Iced Tea Syrup
1 1/2 cup Pure Leaf Raspberry Iced Tea
1/3 cup granulated sugar

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine Pure Lead Raspberry Iced Tea and sugar.

Keep reducing the iced tea until roughly 1/3 cup of liquid remains.

Transfer to heat-safe container to let cool.

Note: syrup will become much thicker when cooled.

For each sundae, cube a slice of pound cake into 1/2 inch cubes and place at the bottom of the sundae cup. (You will have leftover pound cake from the recipe, but it is a great cake to eat on its own.)

Top each sundae with two generous large scoops of cream cheese ice cream.

Garnish with peach slices, raspberries, or any other fruits that are in season.

Drizzle with raspberry iced tea syrup and serve immediately.

Thank you PURE LEAF for supporting Constellation Inspiration!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Lemon Tea Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

This is summer. Ranunculus stems, farm-fresh berries, cotton candy skies, and the blithe nature of it all. Those are some of the things I treasure the most in summer. This summer, though, has been one quite different than the ones in the past. I learned more, laughed more, loved more, and grew up the most. I learned to love fully. Love deeply. I also learned all of that can come with the greatest ease.

This cake is my summer cake. It is a frosted glass of ice cold iced tea with a lemon wedge, a refreshing tangy lemon curd bright enough to make you pucker a little, a cheesecake bar at your favourite bodega. This cake is a few of my summertime favourites rendered into one. It starts off with three layers of fluffy Lemon Tea Cake made with Pure Leaf Lemon Iced Tea. They sandwich a brightly-hued tart lemon curd. A cream cheese frosting, because a classic never goes out of style, enrobes the cake. It dresses it only partially because that’s been the theme of cakes here ever since day one. The cake is adorn with stems of ranunculus and garden roses because I like my cakes to also serve as a seasonal greeting of some sort.

I am particularly thrilled by the summer qualities of this cake because everything I have been baking recently have been quite the opposite of ‘summer’. If you follow me on social media you will see that the past weekend was filled with many snippets of what appeared to be Christmas cookies. Apparently, but not surprisingly, editorial (!!) work has to be done much in advance and it is really up to you to find fresh cranberries in the summertime and candy canes while everyone traded those in for summer ice pops a few months back. It was a challenge I happily accepted and look forward to seeing the fruition of. I will keep you posted, I promise.

Lemon Tea Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Buttercream
Yields one 6-inch three layer cake

Lemon Tea Cake
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 egg whites
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup PURE LEAF Lemon Iced Tea

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare three cake pans.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg whites and full egg one at a time, until well combined. Mix in vanilla extract.

On low speed, alternate adding flour mixture with the milk and lemon iced tea, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.

Evenly distribute batter among the cake pans. Bake for 36 - 38 minutes, or until insert comes out clean.

Lemon Curd
2 lemons (for the zest)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs, whisked
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

Zest two large lemon. Combine the lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl and using your fingers, rub the zest and sugar together until it becomes aromatic. Set aside.

Whisk the three eggs before tempering.

Prepare a double boiler. In the double boiler, whisk together juice, lemon-sugar, and eggs together until sugar has melted. Stir in butter and continue whisking frequently. Cook the curd in the double boiler until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 10 minutes.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
8 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  With the mixer on low, mix in the remaining ingredients until just combined.  Once incorporated, turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy.  Adjust the sugar and milk until frosting is at desired consistency.

Thank you PURE LEAF for supporting Constellation Inspiration!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart with Berries

"Aimer et être aimé est le plus grand bonheur."

That phrase is what is etched onto my ring. The silver band says aimer on the outside and et être aimé on the inside. My other band has 48.8704° N 2.3848° E engraved on it, but will we save that for another time. It translates to: to love and be loved is the greatest happiness. I place that ring on the middle finger of my left hand, to place that message for safekeeping. I have had this ring for many years; I have loved it for just as long. A few years back, I would wholeheartedly say that the reciprocal nature of the saying is what made me gravitate towards it. Wearing it for years and having my heart feel different kinds of fullness and heartbreak, my agreeance with this saying has change, though my affinity for it remains the same. Loving is where I find the greatest joy; to find something or someone that makes your heart realize that this right now is the experience most people wait lifetimes for. Something or someone that makes you stop scouring the world because it now feels like there are worlds within you. Now I would say aimer is why I still wear the ring. To love is the greatest privilege. To love in heavy consonants and long vowels. To love in the litany of many little things. To love in the presence of you.

I went berry picking two weeks ago! I was a bit hesitant to go strawberry picking because it was the tail end of strawberry season and when I called the berry farm and they said they could not guarantee that there will be any good berries left. I was keen on going to this specific farm because I knew they served ice cream made with berries from the farm and fresh berry waffles made to order in their cafe. My boyfriend convinced me that even if we don't get any strawberries, I would still have a great time buying berries from the farm market and enjoy the treats at the farm cafe. So we went out Sunday morning, grabbed some iced coffees for the road, and drove to the berry farm in Langley, BC. It was really hot that day, which I did not really mind because it made the berry ice cream afterwards even more of a treat.

We started our berry picking adventure with some strawberry picking (there were juuuust enough left!), then raspberry picking, and then picking out berries we wanted to buy at the farm market. I was ecstatic when I saw that they were selling red currants at the market because I have been looking for them since last summer! I have always wanted to decorate a cake, a tart, or anything really, with currants ever since seeing them in some cookbooks and online recipes. In addition to the strawberries and raspberries we picked, we bought blueberries, tayberries, cherries, and currants. Oh, we also picked up some berry glazed donuts because it only seemed right to do so. We had the largest corn pizza for lunch and finished off our farm day with a scoop of blueberry ice cream and a scoop of strawberry ice cream nestled in a waffle cone.

This tart was made with all the berries we picked up from the farm. It is a classic pâte sablée tart shell filled with the dreamiest whipped strawberry cream cheese filling. The most luscious and vibrant berries are what makes this tart a real pièce de resistance. This tart would be just as delicious topped with any fruit that is in season. I think ripe peaches with this silky strawberry filling would be a real winner too. The next variation of this tart I am going tot make? Probably a fig and strawberry type of situation. 

Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart with Berries
Yields one 9-inch tart

Pâte Sablée
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.

Beat in the egg yolk and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Careful not to overmix. Remove dough from the bowl and press the dough into the tart pan, making sure it is evenly distributed (watch out for the edges of the tart pan!). Using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell to prevent the bottom from puffing up when baking.

Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Bake the tart shell at 410F or until the crust is golden brown (approximately 15 minutes). Remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack. Let cool completely before filling with whipped cream cheese filling.

Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
150g cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons strawberry jam
3 tablespoon freeze-dried strawberry powder (optional)
Berries of choice

Pour whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms medium peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a different bowl.

With a paddle attachment on your mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add in three tablespoons of strawberry jam and freeze-dried strawberry powder, beat for 2 - 3 minutes. In the same bowl, gently fold in the whipped cream. 

Fill cooled tart shell with strawberry cream cheese filling. Garnish with fresh berries.

Chill tart for 2 - 3 hours before serving.