Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blueberry & Blackberry Cheese Tart

It's been a while since I've posted a recipe on desserts. Maybe some of you have been wondering about this. Isn't the blog entitled 'In pursuit of BAKING' (not cooking really!)? Didn't it say 'a blog of sugar, spice...'? I know I would. Sorry for the long delay. We had to make and taste so many sweet pastries at school that when I got home, I just couldn't go anywhere near sugar. The good news is, I'm starting to get over this shock and am feeling inspired again :)

A few things might have helped along the way. Firstly, I graduated from the 5-month course. Apart from the exposure to new baking techniques, the end of the course came with a 2 week holiday and a super awesome baking book! The book pictured above has a comprehensive collection of bread recipes, quickbreads and some chic looking tarts. It's targeted to professionals but I think any serious home baker will find it exciting too. Plus, it has an English translation for every recipe. Secondly, I also moved apartments. In the process, I had leftover blueberries that had to either be thrown out or consumed.

On most occasions, home baking is the result of free time, loose ingredients and inspiration.

To save time, I made this tart using store-bought short-crust dough (Pate Brisee). This is the second time I did this and even though it's a different brand, the dough still feels greasy and rubbery under my hands. Overall, the tart still tastes good, but the baked shell on its own is harder and less crumbly than a homemade one. So, unless you really have to, I recommend making your own tart dough. In this case, hard work does pay off.

Blueberry & Blackberry Cheese Tart
adapted from Apprenez L'art de la Viennoiserie et Festival de Tartes
makes a 20cm tart

200g short-crust dough
Enough blueberries & blackberries to cover the tart 
(I used 1 box of blueberries & 1/2 box of blackberries)
Cottage Cheese Mixture
125g cottage cheese
25g custard powder
113g milk
25g unsalted butter
30g caster sugar
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
60g egg whites
30g caster sugar
Crumble mixture
50g unsalted butter
63g all-purpose flour
25g caster sugar

  1. Make the crumble mixture: Using an electric mixer (or a bowl and a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the flour. As soon as the mixture forms a dough, spread out onto plastic wrap and refrigerate. When the dough is firm again, cut in small cubes/crumble.
  2. Line a 20cm tart ring with the short-crust dough. Prick holes with a fork and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  4. Blind bake the tart shell for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Take out, egg wash the base and sides of the shell and leave to cool.
  5. To make the cottage cheese mixture, combine the cottage cheese, custard powder, milk, butter, caster sugar, lemon zest and salt in a saucepan.
  6. Bring to a boil and stir the mixture until it thickens like pastry cream. Don't worry if the cheese curdles, it will come together again.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites and half of the sugar to soft peaks.
  8. Add the other half of the sugar and continue beating until firm peaks.
  9. Carefully add the egg whites to the boiling cream: Put a whisk-full of egg whites to the cream and mix until it's fully incorporated. Fold in the rest of the egg whites.
  10. Fill the tart shell with the cheese mixture until 2/3 full.
  11. Layer the surface of the tart with blueberries and blackberries.
  12. Place the crumble mixture over the fruits.
  13. Bake the tart at the same temperature for 35-40 minutes or until the crumble browns.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An antidote for winter

Winter in Paris is very temperamental.

At the end of November last year, it snowed really heavily that it was the worst snow the city has had in decades. In December, the temperatures warmed up a bit before plummeting and bringing in more snow that caused numerous flight and train cancellations... Just last week, temperatures were averaging between 8-12 degree Celsius. But now, at the end of January, it's dropping below zero again.
It's definitely a much colder winter than the one I'm used to in Melbourne. And with such cold bouts of wind, there's nothing better to do than turning up the radiator at full blast (thank goodness for oil radiators), tucking in under the blanket, watching movies and eating steaming hot food.
My new comfort food these days have been soups or anything that can be served boiling hot that's thick and hearty. Couple of weeks ago, it was the yuk gae jang, a spicy korean beef stew. This week, I made Swedish meatballs.
Ikea's probably the most well-known place to try this Scandinavian favorite. I've been there several times while I was growing up in Singapore. My mom loved the shop but sadly she didn't like the meatballs so I never really knew them. More than a couple of friends were shocked. Anyways, if you're like me, wondering what they are, the internet is rife with recipes of the famous dish. They're made the same way as Italian meatballs but with different spice and different sauce. Although traditionally served with boiled potatoes, I liked mine with steamed rice :)

Swedish Meatballs
adapted from SimplyRecipes
serves 4-6 people

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 egg
750g minced beef
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp all-spice
1/2 tsp curry powder
50g butter
50g flour
800ml beef stock
1/2 cup sour cream

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the milk and the breadcrumbs. Let soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the onions over medium-heat until they softened and turn translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Add the cooled onions to the bowl with the breadcrumbs and add all the other meatball ingredients.
  4. Using your hands, mix for 2-3 minutes until the breadcrumbs, spices and onions are well distributed in the meat.
  5. Taking about a tablespoon of the meat mixture, roll it between your palms into a ball until they slightly unstick from your palms. Set each one aside on a sheet pan or plate.
  6. Heat 50g of butter in a large frying pan and once it has melted and is bubbling, add the meatballs. Don't crowd the pan and brown them on all sides (at this stage, we don't want to fully cook them).
  7. Once browned, set aside.
  8. Heat the remaining butter on medium until hot.
  9. Slowly whisk in the flour and stirring all the while, cook until it's the color of coffee with cream. This is a roux.
  10. As the roux is cooking, heat the beef stock in a separate pan.
  11. After the roux has reached the desired color, add the stock a ladle at a time, stirring all the while. It will solidify but keep stirring and adding the stock. Eventually, it will loosen up and become silky.
  12. Add the meatballs and bring the sauce to a boil. After that, turn the heat on low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  13. To finish, take the pan off the heat and stir in the sour cream.


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