Tourteau de chèvre

This particular recipe from Dorie Greenspan (Around my French Table) is way too good for the amount of effort required. It is really easy to put together — the most difficult part is separating the eggs — and it makes one of the best cheesecakes that we’ve ever had. Dreamy light, subtlety sweet, with a rich cheese flavor, this cake can easily stand on its own, but it would also be great with a raspberry coulis or a really good chocolate sauce. But for now, let’s go with plain.

Tourteau de chèvre

Tourteau de chèvre

Ingredients

  • 1 Tart Dough, chilled and ready to roll
  • 5 eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
  • 9 ounces soft plain goat cheese, room temperature
  • 3 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Abbreviated Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Either butter an 8- to 9-inch springform pan, or line an 8- or 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the tart dough to about a 10-inch circle.

Carefully place the tart dough into the pan and bring it up the sides.

Pop the pan with the crust into the fridge until you are ready to pour in the filling.

Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt. As they start to form soft peaks, start adding the 2 tablespoons sugar. Once they form stiff but shiny peaks, stop and transfer the egg whites to a separate bowl.

Once the whites are out of the mixer bowl, put the remaining ingredients in the bowl. Mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Fold in egg whites. Start with about 1/4 of the egg whites and fold those in as best you can. This will lighten up the batter, making it easier to fold in the rest.

Pour it into the prepared tart shell, making sure to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes are up, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes more. Slide a small thin knife in the cake to test if it is done. If the knife comes out clean, your cake is baked.

Let cool for 10 minutes. Place it on a rack and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then remove it from the pan and let cool to room temperature.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/tourteau-de-chevre/

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tart Dough, chilled and ready to roll
  • 5 eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
  • 9 ounces soft plain goat cheese, room temperature
  • 3 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Ingredients discussion:

You have two main ingredients here, the eggs and the goat cheese, so don’t skimp on either, especially the goat cheese. We are lucky enough to get artisan goat cheese made by Black Mesa Ranch through our CSA. About a year ago, we attended one of their open houses, met the owners, met the goats, and saw that everyone was happy and passionate about their role on the ranch. That’s what makes a great product.

Procedure:

separating eggs
We like to separate each egg into small bowls, then pour each white into the mixing bowl. It doesn’t matter if whites are in the yolks, but you can’t have a molecule of yolk in the whites.

Separate the eggs. Do this while the eggs are cold, as you’ll be less likely to break the yolks. Another tip, when we are separating more than one or two eggs, we separate each egg into a small bowl, then dump the egg whites into our mixing bowl. This way, if an egg yolk breaks, we only have to discard one white and not the whole batch. We also do this first, so the separated eggs will have time to warm.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

cake pan lined with parchment paper
With a little careful scissors work, you can line a round cake pan, including the sides, with baking parchment.

Prepare a baking pan. Either butter an 8- to 9-inch springform pan, or line an 8- or 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

rolled out tart dough
We had great success by putting the tart dough between a piece of wax paper and the plastic wrap that it chilled in, with a dusting of flour. Do whatever works for you.

Roll out tart dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the tart dough to about a 10-inch circle. You might want to try putting it between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap before rolling. Sometimes that makes it a bit easier.

 

tart dough in cake pan
Work the dough up the sides of the pan. Neatness is not too important. You could cut the edges smooth if you want, but we don’t bother.

Place in pan. Carefully place the tart dough into the pan and bring it up the sides. Don’t worry too much about neatness unless you are a perfectionist. When everything bakes, no one will notice a slightly uneven crust.

Refrigerate. Pop the pan with the crust into the fridge until you are ready to pour in the filling.

whipped egg whites
Add a pinch of salt, and, while whipping, incorporate 2 tablespoons of sugar. Make sure you get stiff peaks, but they shouldn’t look dry and crumbly.

Whip the egg whites. After letting them warm to room temperature, add the pinch of salt and start whipping. As they start to form soft peaks, start adding the 2 tablespoons sugar. Once they form stiff but shiny peaks, stop and transfer the egg whites to a separate bowl.

tart batter
The remaining ingredients mixed until smooth and creamy. We told you this is an easy recipe.

Mix everything else. Once the whites are out of the mixer bowl, put the remaining ingredients in the bowl. The goat cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, five egg yolks, and vanilla extract can all be put in the mixer bowl. Don’t bother cleaning it out, that little bit of whites left in won’t hurt anything. Mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

folding in egg whites
This is the only difficult part. You have to be gentle, and a bit quick, to get those egg whites folded in without their collapsing.

Fold in egg whites. Start with about 1/4 of the egg whites and fold those in as best you can. This will lighten up the batter, making it easier to fold in the rest. Now you should have a nice light batter.

the tart ready to go into the oven
If everything worked right, your batter should fill the shell right to the tippy top. We find that an 8-inch pan that is 2 inches deep is perfect.

Pour the batter. Pour it into the prepared tart shell, making sure to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.

testing a cheesecake to ensure it is done
The knife is clean so the cake is done. Now we have to wait until it cools, that’s the hard part.

Bake for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes are up, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes more. Slide a small thin knife in the cake to test if it is done. If the knife comes out clean, your cake is baked. The cake will be puffed up and browned on top. It will deflate as it cools.

cooling cheesecake
Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. If you’ve lined a cake pan with parchment paper, it should lift right out.

Let cool for 10 minutes. Place it on a rack and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then remove it from the pan and let cool to room temperature.

plated cheesecake
We plated the cheesecake on a large platter for serving. It looks nice and is easier to cut. Doesn’t it look delish?

Serve. And prepare yourself for some of the best cheesecake ever. Not one of those sickly sweet lemony things that involve cream cheese, but a real, honest-to-goodness, light-as-can-be cheesecake that you’ll make again and again. Especially after you see people eating it literally swoon and then ask where you purchased such a delicious cake. And imagine their look when you say you’ve scratched it up just this morning. We’ve made this cake, oh, probably once a month since we first read the recipe, and it has never failed to impress.

As we said in the introduction, this cake is much too good for the amount of effort involved. A definite five-starrer.

Worth the trouble?

Tart Dough

Here’s a quick, easy recipe from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan. You’ll want to have one like this in your list of recipes-for-special-occasions. It makes a slightly sweet tart dough, which is perfect for her Tourteau de chèvre from the same book. You’ll see that recipe tomorrow. Don’t worry, this one has to chill overnight anyway.

Tart Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp ice water

Abbreviated Instructions

Measure the dry ingredients directly into a food processor.

Pulse the dry ingredients a few times to mix thoroughly.

Put the bits of butter all over the top of the dry ingredients.

Pulse until you have something that looks like coarse meal.

In another bowl, fork together the egg and ice water.

Add a third of the egg mixture. Pulse. Add another third. Pulse. Add the remaining third. Pulse, pulse, pulse. If the dough is moist and clumps when pressed together, great. Otherwise, add a teaspoon of ice water, and pulse and check again.

Turn out the dough, press into a ball, form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least three hours or overnight.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/tart-dough/

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp ice water

Ingredient discussion: Only thing we can say is that free range eggs are the best, but you already knew that.

Procedure:

Dry ingredients in a food processor
Just dump all the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse away.

Measure the dry ingredients. Measure them directly into a food processor. You can make this with your hands, and you can find out how in Around my French Table, but the easiest is the food processor.

Dry ingredients in a food processor
Once whirred a bit, everything will be well mixed.

Whirr. Pulse the dry ingredients a few times to  mix thoroughly.

adding butter to dry ingredients
Distribute the butter bits evenly across the dry ingredients. Each bit should be very cold, and about 1/2-inch cube.

Add chilled butter. Put the bits of butter all over the top of the dry ingredients.

tart dough in a food processor
It’s hard to see, but the butter is pretty much all incorporated.

Whirr. Pulse until you have something that looks like coarse meal. Don’t worry if you have a few large lumps. It won’t matter.

egg and ice water
It’s fine to mix the egg and ice water together a bit. The food processor will take care of the rest.

Mix egg and water. In another bowl, fork together the egg and ice water. In general, we’ve needed a bit more water than this recipe calls for, close to a tablespoon, but you can add more a bit later.

tart dough
After adding the egg/water the dough should just start to come together. You’ll be able to press it into a ball without it crumbling.

Whirr. Add a third of the egg mixture. Pulse. Add another third. Pulse. Add the remaining third. Pulse, pulse, pulse. If the dough is moist and clumps when pressed together, great. Otherwise, add a teaspoon of ice water, and pulse and check again. You might have to add 2 teaspoons of ice water total.

finished tart dough
Tart dough, pressed, patted, and sealed for a trip to the cooler.

Turn out. Turn out the dough, press into a ball, form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least three hours or overnight.

Like all of Dorie Greenspan’s recipes, this gets five stars.

 

Tourteau de chèvre

Worth the trouble?

Best Ever Waffles

We happen to love waffles, and, when we got our waffle iron, we grabbed our copy of The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker to find a recipe. In general, The Joy of Cooking is our go-to cookbook. It has recipes for almost everything you can imagine, and, in most cases the end results are quite good. Well, in the case of their Buttermilk Waffle recipe, they are the best, at least with a slight modification (a little less butter). We know these are the best, because we tried several other recipes: a cornmeal one, one that was supposed to be “real-man” waffles, another from a popular cookbook, and we found these to be inferior; apparently a “real man” likes waffles that have the taste and texture of cardboard. We went back to TJOC recipe; here we give our slightly modified version.

Best Ever Waffles

Best Ever Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring
  • 2 eggs, separated and brought to room temperature
  • 4-5 Tbs melted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups scratched buttermilk
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Abbreviated Instructions

Put the egg yolks in about a 3-quart bowl, which will hold your batter when you’re done.

Whisk the egg yolks for a minute, or so, until they are golden-yellow and are a bit light. Then add the buttermilk and melted butter, and whisk together until well blended.

Re-sift flour with salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar.

Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the liquid. You don’t want a smooth batter; lumpy is fine.

Using a mixer (or a clean whisk and a lot of arm power), whip the egg whites until they hold firm but still glossy peaks.

Carefully fold in the egg whites. It helps to fold in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten the batter, then fold in the rest. You should now have a nice light batter.

Cook the waffles. If you have a waffle maker / iron, follow those instructions.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/best-ever-waffles/

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, separated and brought to room temperature
  • 4-5 Tbs melted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups scratched buttermilk
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Ingredients discussion:

The original recipe called for six tablespoons of butter, but we found that our waffles turned out just a little greasy, so we’ve backed off just a bit. We, like you, of course, use home-scratched buttermilk. It’s always in the fridge, so why not? Eggs: free range, baby; separate when cold, and allow to come to room temp, so the whites whip better.

Procedure:

separated eggs
Separate the eggs. Yolks in one bowl, whites in another. If you get yolk in the whites, you are doomed.

Separate the eggs. We put the egg whites into our mixer bowl. You can put yours into a bowl that you can use with a mixer (hand or stand); in the worst case, you can use a whisk to whip up the egg whites. Yes, you do need to whip up the egg whites, at least if you want light, crispy waffles. Those “real-man” waffles skipped this step. Put the egg yolks in about a 3-quart bowl, which will hold your batter when you’re done.

 

egg yoks and sifted flour
You should sift the flour before measuring. We generally sift more than we need into a bowl, then dump whatever we don’t use back in the bag.

Sift flour. Into yet another bowl, sift about 3 cups of flour; you’ll use only 2 cups, but you want to sift before measuring.

Whisk egg yolks. Whisk the egg yolks for a minute, or so, until they are golden-yellow and are a bit light. Then add the buttermilk and melted butter, and whisk together until well blended.

measured out sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda
Measuring the small amounts of dry ingredients into a measuring cup allows us to re-sift all the ingredients together without using another bowl.

Measure dry ingredients. Measure the salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar into a 1-cup measuring cup. This will make it a bit easier to re-sift in the next step. Add flour to fill and strike level.

sifting ingredients
If you want really light waffles, do the sifting, as it fluffs the flour.

Re-sift. Pour the flour mixture into a sifter and sift it right on top of the liquid ingredients. Do this with the second cup of flour. And since the sugar, etc., took up space, add 2 more tablespoons of flour so you’ll have a full two cups.

waffle batter
You want to work in the dry ingredients quickly. The resulting batter will be lumpy. It’ll cook out in the end.

Mix. Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the liquid. You don’t want a smooth batter; lumpy is fine.

Whip the egg whites. Using a mixer (or a clean whisk and a lot of arm power), whip the egg whites until they hold firm but still glossy peaks. If they look dry, you’ve whipped too long. If they didn’t whip, either you got a bit of yolk in the whites, or there was a bit of oil in the bowl. Either will prevent your whites from whipping.

folding in egg whites
Fold in the egg whites. Careful, you don’t want them to collapse. After all, you just whipped them full of air.

Fold in the egg whites. Carefully fold in the egg whites. It helps to fold in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten the batter, then fold in the rest. You should now have a nice light batter.

waffle batter on an iron
Ladle the appropriate amount of batter into the hot waffle iron and cook according to your iron’s instructions.

Cook the waffles. If you have a waffle maker / iron, follow those instructions. We didn’t have instructions with ours, so we found out through trial and error just how much batter and how long to cook. Once we had that, we’re set.

a perfectly done waffle
Oh! Doesn’t that look great? A perfectly-done waffle, crispy on the outside, yet light and airy on the inside.

Serve with maple syrup. Enjoy some of the lightest crispiest waffles you’ve ever had. These really are the best, although they might be even better with a teaspoon of vanilla.

After fooling around with those other recipes, this is the only one we use, so five stars.

Worth the trouble?

Butternut Sage Risotto

Ah, risotto. One of our favorite dishes. We like to think of it as the Italian counterpart to macaroni and cheese. Comfort food at its best.

This particular recipe comes from a relative, who got it from a friend, so it has a history of being passed around, and, apparently, a lot of people really like it. We learned about it one Christmas when we received an entire cookbook of our families’ recipes from this same family member. We knew about it in advance, since everyone was asked to contribute their favorite recipes; all of those were compiled and bound into a nice, easy-to-use book. It was such a great idea, and whenever we read a recipe, in our heads we can hear the voices of those who contributed. It is one of our treasured gifts.

Serves 4-6

Butternut Sage Risotto

Butternut Sage Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 small (1 3/4 lb) pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots or finely minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs freshly chopped sage (or 1 Tbs dried)

Abbreviated Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Peel, seed, and cube the butternut squash. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 35 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, melt butter in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened and just beginning to brown.

Add rice and cook until the rice is translucent, about 2 minutes.

Pour the wine in with the rice, and cook, stirring all the time until the wine is almost evaporated.

Add 1/2 cup broth. Stir constantly. When that broth is almost evaporated or absorbed, add another 1/2 cup. Keep stirring and adding broth when the broth in the rice is absorbed. After about 20-30 minutes, the rice will be tender, but it’ll still have the slightest hint of chewiness in the center.

Add the squash and stir until heated through, another 5 minutes. Then turn off heat.

Add the cheese and sage and stir until combined. Let sit for about 5 minutes so the cheese melts, then stir and serve.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/butternut-sage-risotto/

Ingredients:

  • 1 small (1 3/4 lb) pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 Tbs  extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots or finely minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs freshly chopped sage (or 1 Tbs dried)

Ingredient discussion: Yes, you need to buy Arborio rice. Or Carnaroli rice, but that’s generally harder to find and more expensive. Cheese: never, ever get the stuff in a green box. Read the ingredients on that box and you’ll find cellulose; cellulose is sawdust, and you can’t digest sawdust. Just buy a chunk of real Parmesan; it’ll have far more flavor, meaning you’ll use less and the final cost will be about the same. And you’ll avoid eating termite food. Wine is also not optional. We can’t put our finger on just what it adds, but risotto without wine just tastes glommy and bland.

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

cubed butternut squash ready for baking
Toss the squash cubes in olive oil. This helps them bake faster and prevents them from drying out. No one likes squash jerky.

Prep the butternut. Peel, seed, and cube the butternut squash. We use an ordinary vegetable peeler to remove the peel, then cut off the stem, and trim off the bottom part where the flower was attached. Slice in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Often, we’ll roast up the seeds for a tasty snack. Finally, cut into cubes about 1/2 inch on a side.

Toss with olive oil and season. We pour about a tablespoon of oil onto a rimmed baking sheet, then dump the cut squash on and stir it around until each and every cube is coated. Then we break out the pepper grinder and salt grinder and grind away. Then toss again to distribute the S&P.

Bake. You knew that since we were preheating the oven, we’d be baking, didn’t you? Yep, pop the squash into the oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until tender.

baked squash cubes
Once you’ve baked the squash, just set it aside. It doesn’t matter if it cools, it’ll get reheated later.

Remove from oven and set aside.

Now for the risotto. Prepare yourself for some stirring. Prepared? Good. Let’s do it.

Heat broth. In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer. You want the broth hot when you add it to the rice. Otherwise, the rice won’t cook properly.

Onions and garlic sautéing in butter and olive oil. Yum.

Saute onions and garlic. In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, melt butter in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened and just beginning to brown.

cooking arborio rice
Just stir the rice around in the sautéed onions and garlic for about 2 minutes.

Add rice. Dump the rice in and stir and cook until the rice is translucent, about 2 minutes.

wine added to arborio rice
Add the wine to the rice. Choose a dry wine that you like. We’ve even used Champagne. It’s perfect for New Years Eve.

Add wine. Pour the wine in with the rice, and pour yourself a glass, too. Might as well. Cook, stirring all the time — we did say get prepared — until the wine is almost evaporated.

Once the wine is absorbed you can add broth. Cook the liquid down before every addition of liquid.

Add 1/2 cup broth. Stir constantly. When that broth is almost evaporated or absorbed, add another 1/2 cup. Keep stirring and adding broth when the broth in the rice is absorbed. Feel free to have a sip of wine with each addition. After about 20-30 minutes, the rice will be tender, but it’ll still have the slightest hint of chewiness in the center.

squash in risotto
Adding the baked squash to the risotto. When the risotto is done, it will be a bit creamy and the rice grains should have a little chewiness.

Add the squash and stir until heated through, another 5 minutes. Then turn off heat.

 

adding Parmesan to risotto
Add the Parmesan and sage to the pan. We didn’t have sage, so we left it out. It was still good.

Add the cheese and sage and stir until combined. Let sit for about 5 minutes so the cheese melts, then stir and serve. Sometimes, right before serving we stir in a bit of cream or butter, maybe 2 tablespoons total. This seems to add to the creaminess of the risotto.

When serving, we like to sprinkle just a bit more Parmesan cheese and a crackle of pepper on top.

When we made this, we cut the recipe in half, added a cup of squash, and served the risotto on a bed of remaining squash. It made for a nice presentation.

Risotto always gets five stars (unless it’s from restaurants; 90% of that stuff is bad).

Worth the trouble?

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart

This is not a subtle dessert. It simply overpowers all other chocolate desserts. By an order of magnitude. Putting this tart up against, say, a chocolate cake, is like putting  Andre the Giant up against a fifth grade wrestler. Or Nadia Comaneci up against first grade tumblers. It is that good. And once you see how to make it, you’ll understand why.

Years ago, we happened across this dessert at one of our favorite restaurants, Simon Pearce at the Mill in Quechee, VT. We would drive up from the Boston area, have lunch, this dessert, and wander around the shops and watch the glassblowing. In the afternoon, we’d drive back home on some of the back roads admiring the beautiful New England scenery. It made for a really pleasant day, especially in the fall.

Then one day we showed up for lunch and the Bittersweet Chocolate Tart was not on the menu. Horrors! We couldn’t believe it! No Bittersweet Chocolate Tart! How would we survive? Panicked, we inquired of the waitstaff, and they said yes it was true, no more Bittersweet Chocolate Tart, it had, indeed, been taken off the menu. But, not all was lost; we explained our devotion to this desert, and, before we left, we were presented with a copy of The Recipe. This one is always capitalized.

Serves: About 12-16 or more

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart

Ingredients

    Crust:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 Tbs sifted cocoa
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Filling:
  • 24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Abbreviated Instructions

Crust:

In a food processor, combine the sugar and butter. Process until creamy.

Add vanilla, salt, and cocoa. Process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

Add the flour, and process until just blended.

Turn out the dough. Place it on a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Shape into an 8-inch disk, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Roll out the crust into an 11-inch circle, and fit into a 9 1/2 inch tart pan, making strong sides. Chill at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, then pop it in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the pastry is dry to the touch. Set on a rack to cool.

Filling:

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

On medium heat, heat the cream in a sauce pan until bubbles form along the edge of the pan.

Pour cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds. Stir until melted and smooth.

Pour the chocolate into the tart shell. Smooth it out on top so it looks nice, and refrigerate until it is set, about 3 -5 hours.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/12/bittersweet-chocolate-tart/

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 Tbs sifted cocoa
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Ingredients discussion:

We think you can see why this dessert crushes all other chocolate desserts. The filling is the star. A pound and a half of chocolate! Two cups of cream! So, naturally, you want the best possible chocolate. We have used Valrhona 73% cacao, and Callebaut 70% cacao. Both expensive, but this is not a cheap dessert, by any means; it is, however, the best.

Procedure:

Crust:

creamed butter and sugar
Process the butter and sugar together until dreamy creamy.

Combine sugar and butter. In a food processor, combine the sugar and butter. Process until creamy; you will have to scrape the sides down with a spatula. Do it, then process some more.

cocoa on the creamed butter
Add the salt, vanilla, and cocoa. It doesn’t look like much right now, but just wait.

Add vanilla, salt, and cocoa. Process until the mixture forms a smooth paste

 

Flour added to the chocolate “paste.” Don’t worry, this is way better than the paste you had in grade school.

Add flour. Add the flour, and process until just blended. Looks good already, huh?

After incorporating the flour, the mixture should look like this. Dump it out onto waxed paper.

Turn out the dough. Place it on a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Shape into an 8-inch disk, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour (no, not you, the crust dough).

 

Placing the dough between two sheets of waxed paper helps prevent sticking. At least to the rolling pin. If it sticks to the waxed paper, put it in the fridge for a few minutes.

Roll out the crust into an 11-inch circle, and fit into a 9 1/2 inch tart pan, making strong sides. It has a tendency to slump a bit when baking.

tart crust ready to bake
Tart crust, almost ready to bake. It has to chill for at least 30 minutes first.

Chill at least 30 minutes (you and the crust).

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Baked tart crust. It did sag a bit, didn’t it? Well, don’t we all?

Bake. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, then pop it in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the pastry is dry to the touch. Smells good, doesn’t it?

Cool. Set it on a rack and let cool.

Filling:

chocolate in a bowl
Broken chocolate in a bowl. We should have made the pieces smaller.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

 

cream in a pan
Heat the cream until it bubbles. This time of year, cream should be available in gallon jugs.

Heat cream. On medium heat, heat the cream in a sauce pan until bubbles form along the edge of the pan.

cream over chocolate
We’re really making a ganache, just don’t tell anyone.

Pour cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds.

chocolate ganache
The chocolate is all melted. We did have to pop it in the microwave for about 60 seconds to melt the big pieces.

Stir until melted and smooth. Don’t lick the spoon yet, that’s coming up.

Once your tart shell is filled, lick up the rest. It might be a sin to waste chocolate.

Pour the chocolate into the tart shell. Smooth it out on top so it looks nice, and refrigerate until it is set, about 3 -5 hours. In the meantime, lick the spoon and the bowl. We do!

Slice into very narrow slices (a little goes a loooong way, with all that chocolate). Bite into it and be transported directly to chocolate heaven. And you scratched 100 percent of it. Five stars (that’s all we have).

Worth the trouble?

Buttermilk

Let’s do a really simple recipe today. So simple that people have made this for thousands of years: buttermilk. Yep, everyday cultured buttermilk for making buttermilk pancakes, waffles, biscuits, all those good things.

Buttermilk

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Abbreviated Instructions

In a super clean glass container (you could sterilize it, but we just wash and rinse under hot water, then air dry), pour in the 2 cups milk.

Pour in 1/2 cup buttermilk and stir to combine.

Cover and let sit 24 hours.

Refrigerate and use within a week or two.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/11/buttermilk/

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Ingredient discussion:

Note that to make buttermilk, you need buttermilk. So, how do you get started? We picked up a quart of cultured buttermilk at Trader Joe’s, oh, probably a year ago. We used most of it, but we reserved some to make our scratched buttermilk. Then, when we run low, we just use some scratched buttermilk to make a new batch. Milk: use milk that you feel comfortable using. We use organic skimmed milk, but it’ll work with 1%, 2%, or whole milk; however, we’re not sure about the ultra pasteurized milk. You’d be on your own.

Procedure:

milk
Just pour in 2 cups milk. Pretty much any kind will do. That’s the advantage of scratchin’; you make the product to fit your diet.

Add the milk. In a super clean glass container (you could sterilize it, but we just wash and rinse under hot water, then air dry), pour in the 2 cups milk. We have a handy measuring cup with a lid, so we can just add milk up to the 2 cup line.

adding buttermilk
Just pour in the buttermilk. Use some from your last scratched batch, or if you’re just starting, use store-bought cultured buttermilk.

Add the buttermilk. Pour in 1/2 cup buttermilk.

mixing milk and buttermilk
Whew. Tough recipe, huh? Two ingredients and a bit of stirring. If you’re worn out, don’t worry, we’re almost finished.

Stir. Stir the milk and buttermilk together.

making buttermilk
Now just let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. It’s scary the first time, but it’ll turn out. People have been doing this for millennia.

Cover and let sit 24 hours. Yep, just place it on the counter for 24 hours. Yeah, we worried the first time we did it, but the buttermilk turned out perfect. Yours will, too.

completed butermilk
Your buttermilk should have thickened nicely. In general, ours turns out thicker than the store brand.

Pop it in the fridge. Use it within a couple of weeks, and don’t forget to make more before you run out. If you’re careful, you can keep the buttermilk going a long, long, time.

Since it is the easiest recipe on the planet, and it makes buttermilk that’s better than the store-bought kind — thicker, no added salt, no carrageenen (seaweed) — it gets five stars.

Worth the trouble?

Sourdough Pancakes

If, like us, you bake a lot of bread using a natural starter — it’s coming back into vogue these days — you probably wonder what to do with the leftover starter. It’s a shame to throw it away; after all, it’s perfectly good, but there’s really not enough to make more bread, so out it goes. But not anymore. We fretted about the starter issue, and even though it’s only a cup a week going out the door, we really didn’t like the idea of throwing food away.

Then, one fine day, we came across a recipe for sourdough pancakes in Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux. Hey, we thought, those Italian grandmothers have been making naturally leavened bread for longer than we’ve been alive. They’re probably onto something, so we tried it. Now, every week, on baking day, we have pancakes for breakfast — sourdough pancakes. A tasty breakfast and no more wasted starter. Of course, we’ve modified the original.

Makes about 20 three-inch cakes, enough for a filling breakfast for two.

Sourdough Pancakes

Sourdough Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup thick but pourable starter (this is just about the amount we have left)
  • 1 Tbs local honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Abbreviated Instructions

As you split, feed, and use your starter, save the leftovers.

Add about 1 Tbs of honey to the starter. Stir it in.

Add everything else and stir until everything is combined.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Cook as you would pancakes.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2012/11/sourdough-pancakes/

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup thick but pourable starter (this is just about the amount we have left)
  • 1 Tbs local honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Ingredient discussion: Honey: did you know that most supermarket honey really isn’t (try looking up fake honey in supermarkets, you’ll see)? It’s high fructose corn syrup and coloring. So, find a local honey supplier. The one that we found lets us bring in our own jars and sells his honey by the pound. A quart runs us about $10. Buttermilk: it doesn’t really have to be buttermilk, but we always have some in the fridge (we make that about every two weeks), so in it goes. Egg, only free range will do. Everything else: take the quantities listed as approximate; we make the pancakes while we’re splitting and feeding the starter and we never really measure any of these. You can, of course, but as long as you are close….

Procedure:

leftover bread starter
Save your leftover starter. This would normally go to waste, but not anymore.

Save your starter. As you split, feed, and use your starter, save the leftovers. We just scoop the extra into a 4-cup measuring cup. When you’ve accumulated all the leftover starter, move to the next step.

honey in the starter
Honey makes everything a bit sweeter. And it might attract a bear if you’re lucky!

Add honey. Add about 1 Tbs of honey to the starter. Stir it in. If you don’t stir it in now, you’ll end up with honey lumps in the batter. Honey lumps aren’t dangerous, of course, but they can stick to the griddle when you’re making the cakes.

Adding the other ingredients
Just toss all the ingredients in with the honey starter. It’s just pancakes. It’ll be fine.

Add everything else. Add the egg. Add the buttermilk (or milk). Toss in a bit of salt so your pancakes won’t taste like wallpaper paste. Put in the baking soda, and the baking powder. Add the flour.

 

completed sourdough pancake starter
Sourdough pancake starter ready for the fridge. You could have it the same day, but that wouldn’t be the tradition.

And stir. Stir until everything is combined. Don’t worry about pancake instructions that say “Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.” For leavened pancakes, it won’t matter. Just make sure you have a pancake-batter-like consistency. Add more buttermilk, if need be, or more flour.

Cover and refrigerate. We use those little shower cap thingies that were popular with our grandparents. They were smart. Use something reusable, and don’t waste. Probably like the grandmothers from whom this recipe springs.

Baking day (per tradition):

Remove from the fridge. When you uncover the batter, the top layer may have discolored. That’s oxidation — food rust. It won’t hurt you, so gently stir it back in.

Heat the griddle. On medium heat, let the griddle come up to temperature. You want it hot, so hot that a water drop skitters across the griddle.

Wipe with a bit of grease. No sticking for these pancakes, at least if you grease the griddle a bit.

cooking pancakes
Pancakes griddling on the range. How do you describe cooking pancakes? It’s not frying, nor baking, nor grilling; cooking doesn’t sound right, so it is griddling.

Cook the pancakes. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto the griddle. And another. And another. Fit a few on (we can get four, each about 3 inches in diameter) and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Then flip, and cook the same amount of time on the other side.

Serve hot with maple syrup. Real maple, no substitutes allowed. We will let you get away with peach preserves, too. Or raspberry. We normally just stand at the counter, cooking pancakes, eating pancakes, cooking pancakes, eating pancakes, until they’re gone.

We always make these sourdough pancakes with leftover starter, therefore, we give this recipe five stars – count ’em, five!

Worth the trouble?