Wednesday, September 28, 2011

*UPDATED* Magic Bars for Austin Bakes for Bastrop

I'm making magic bars (hold the bacon) for Austin Bakes for Bastrop on October 1st. You may remember the Austin Bakes group from the bake sale for Japan. Austin Bakes for Japan was a resounding success, raised almost $12,000, and created an amazing network of Austin bakers and food artisans who rise to the occasion when tragedy strikes and pitch in to raise relief funds.

Sadly, the cause is much closer to home this time. Texas is in the midst of an epic drought and just closed out the hottest summer ever recorded in the US. These combined conditions have turned the entire state into a tinderbox and fires have raged in almost every corner of the state. Over the Labor Day weekend, a fire broke out in Bastrop, just 30 miles southeast of Austin. The fire burned for over 20 days before it could be contained and destroyed over 1,600 homes. It carries the distinction of being the single most devastating fire (in terms of homes destroyed) in Texas history.

If you'd like to support the bake sale in raising relief funds for residents of Central Texas whose homes have been destroyed by fires, please stop by one or more of the following locations on Saturday, October 1st from 10am to 2pm and pick up something delicious:

Central Austin: Foreign & Domestic
306 E. 53rd Street, 78751
Austin Bakes for Bastrop will be set up in the restaurant parking lot.

815 W. 47th Street, 78751
Austin Bakes for Bastrop will be at the Triangle Park. Special thanks to The Flying Saucer's 4th annual Outdoor Beer Festival for sharing their park space!

Downtown Austin: Whole Foods Market Lamar
525 North Lamar Boulevard, 78703
Austin Bakes for Bastrop will be on the northwest side of the storefront, in the outdoor dining area.
*I'm working this location so please stop and say hi!

Northwest Austin: Whole Foods Market Gateway
9607 Research Boulevard, #300, 78759
Austin Bakes for Bastrop will be outside the storefront.

3300 E. Palm Valley Boulevard, 78665
Austin Bakes for Bastrop will be in the city parking lot near the Dell Diamond.

South Congress: Hotel San Jose
1511 South Congress Ave., 78704
Austin Bakes for Bastrop will be on the grassy area at the entrance of the Hotel parking lot along South Congress Avenue.

6800 Westgate Boulevard, 78745
Austin Bakes for Bastrop will be immediately inside the market entrance, alongside booths for the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Metaphysical Faire.

Proceeds from sales at all locations will go to the Austin Community Foundation Central Texas Wildfire Fund. Donations will also be accepted online at the FirstGiving page before, during and after the sale.


Shaine and her Paragon Prep classmates made signs for the bake sale

Hooray! Thanks to the generosity of the Austin community, we raised over $12,500 for the Central Texas Wildfire Fund. 

Rachelle and I had a great time working at the Whole Foods Lamar bake sale table with a group of awesome volunteers- thanks to everyone's hard work, our share of the raised funds totaled $1,634.56!

I'd like to thank the ladies who came out to work the table and did such a fantastic job:

Esmeralda Gonzalez
Lindsey King
Whitney Johnson and Jennifer Chorazy of Simply Sweet
Ellen Rozman and her fantastic kiddos, Harrison and Shaine, and pup Karma
Kristine Waggoner and her gal pals

Gorgeous brownie cake courtesy of Claudette's Creations

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fig and Jam Tart for Slow Food $5 Meal Challenge

Slow Food USA believes that “slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food.” In an effort to take back the “value meal” they issued a $5 meal challenge. Lisa and I co-hosted a potluck to participate in the challenge.

We asked potluck attendees to bring a dish, such as an appetizer/salad, side, main course, or dessert with the caveat that the cost of the ingredients in the dish be limited to no more than $1.25 per serving. The per serving price was based on approximately 4 food items per meal. That way, by eating one serving of each course, the whole meal would be $5 or less.

In my usual fashion, I came at the challenge in a bass akwards manner. While in Atlanta for a business trip, I dined at a few local restaurants doing farm-to-table cuisine. I came away really impressed with the food overall but absolutely bowled over by the desserts. I was so knocked out, I couldn't wait to re-create the desserts at home and the potluck seemed like the perfect opportunity. So instead of purchasing ingredients that fit within the price per serving parameter, I had to work backwards and adjust recipe quantities and serving sizes to squeak under $1.25 per serving. (Math is not my strong suit but I managed.)
My first meal in Atlanta was at Miller Union, where I had a fig tart in a brown butter shell topped with whipped cream. When I first cut into the tart shell it was so brittle it cracked- I initially thought the dough had been overworked and was tough but when I tasted the brown butter flavor and the lightly crisp texture, all was forgiven. That tart was so simple and yet flat out divine.

I started researching recipes to create a brown butter tart shell immediately upon my return home. I tried three different iterations and have not yet hit on one I’m satisfied with, which is why I didn’t share a recipe here. You can be sure that if I finally achieve that crispy yet light and supremely flavorful brown butter tart crust that I had at Miller Union, I’ll update this post with the recipe.

The prototype shown above was a good start but the tart crust flavor was off a bit and the taste of the fresh, raw figs got lost. Also, there was no way I was going to make the cost per serving limit with individual tarts so I went back to the drawing board. The second crust attempt didn’t even rate filling and got tossed into the trash. On my third attempt, I decided I could live with it even if it wasn't exactly the crust that I was looking for.
In the end I went with a 9 inch tart shell filled with figs roasted in honey arranged over Confituras award winning Texas fig preserves and served with cream whipped with Pure Luck Dairy June's Joy goat cheese and honey. I estimated that when cut judiciously, the tart would yield 10 slices with a cost per serving of 87 cents. Topped with 1 1/2 tablespoons of whipped goat cheese cream at 13 cents, the grand total per serving came in at exactly $1. Whew!

I admit I was a little skeptical at first that you could serve a delicious meal made from high quality ingredients for only $5 per person. After enjoying the creative and delicious dishes that the others came up with for the challenge, I can attest that it's a fact.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Meringue

I’ve been on a meringue kick recently and I especially love the old fashioned look of a meringue topped cake.

There’s just something beguiling about a meringue’s fluffy, cloudlike appearance. Wouldn't you agree?

Lemon Buttermilk Cake #2
adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes

Maida’s recipe specified using a 9 x 3.5” tube pan but I don’t own one. I halved the ingredient quantities and used a 9’’ springform pan. She called for a lemon glaze but I skipped it since I was going with a meringue. More notes regarding baking with organic sugars: I made this cake with both organic cane sugar and regular cane sugar and didn’t notice any appreciable differences in baking time or cake crumb. However, when I made the meringue with organic cane sugar, it was a deflated, gritty mess. It seems that you just can’t achieve the light, airy, homogenous consistency that you want in a meringue with less refined organic cane sugar (or at least not with the organic cane sugar I find in stores here in Austin). 

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 sticks (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar+ 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on cake pan
2 medium sized eggs (or 1 ½ large eggs)
1/2 cup buttermilk
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

1. Pre-heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit with a rack in the lower one-third of the oven. Butter a 9” springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and pan sides and sprinkle with sugar. Tap to shake out excess sugar. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
2. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add the sifted ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, and beat until smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula between additions.
3. Remove bowl from the mixer and stir in lemon zest and juice. Pour into the springform pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake until a tooth pick or tester gently inserted into the middle comes out clean and dry, 50-60 minutes.
4. While the cake is baking, make the meringue. Place the egg whites in the cleaned bowl of your electric mixer. Begin to beat the egg whites while slowly pouring the sugar in. It should take at least one minute to add the sugar to the egg whites. Beat until the meringue is stiff and glossy and forms arching peaks.
5. When the cake is done, remove from the oven and use a spatula to spread the meringue over the top of the cake. Use a teaspoon to create swirls in the meringue, if desired. Return the cake to the oven to bake the meringue for 10 minutes, keeping an eye out as it bakes. The meringue should toast to a light brown color but watch closely to ensure it doesn’t burn. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for an hour before serving.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Raclette and Red Potato Savory Tart

Aren't these potatoes pretty? Or as pretty as a potato can be, right? So pretty it's amazing that they languished at the bottom of the bin for as long as they did. When I finally pulled them out to put them to use, I was a little ashamed of myself.

Three lonely, leftover waxy red potatoes from a summer CSA share seemed like the perfect excuse to make a potato gratin. And since I had dough for a tart crust in the freezer, I decided to make a cheesy, creamy potato gratin in a buttery tart shell. Yes, this tart does involve an obscene amount of dairy and fat, but after one bite, I think you'd agree it's worth the splurge.

The beauty of a potato gratin in a tart shell is that you've elevated a side dish into an actual meal- just add a salad and dinner is served. Given the ginormous amount of calories you'll be consuming per slice, it only seems proper that it be the main attraction.

I like a good stinky cheese in my potato gratin. This Reading Raclette from Spring Brook Hill Farm, while stinky, had a creamy, slightly nutty flavor. It was highly recommended by Antonelli's Cheese Shop and they've never disappointed me.

Et voilà! Stinky Cheesy Potato Tart- it's what's for dinner.

Raclette and Red Potato Savory Tart

I used red potatoes but any waxy potato will work in a gratin. So will any cheese that melts well such as swiss or comte but as stated above, my preference is for the stinky variety. An added bonus in making a potato gratin is the potential for homemade potato chips. I wound up with a few too many potato slices so I slathered them in olive oil and baked up some chips along with the tart. I ate the chips fresh from the oven sprinkled with sea salt and spoiled my dinner. No worries, though- this tart reheats beautifully and is even better the next day when the flavors have gelled. 

Tart Shell
adapted from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery

3 1/3 cups (500g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (250g) cold, unsalted butter, cubed + extra for greasing pan
1 egg yolk
1 cup (250g) cold water

Potato Gratin
adapted from Vegetables

1 small garlic clove
3 medium sized red potatoes
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces grated Raclette
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. This recipe makes approximately two 11" tart shells. To make the tart shell, add flour and salt to a medium sized bowl and cut in the butter pieces with a pastry blender or your fingers. Form a well in the middle of the flour and butter mixture and add the egg yolk and half of the water. Stir the water and yolk into the flour to mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. If needed, add more water, a little at a time. Use your hands to bring the dough together. The dough shouldn't feel sticky nor should it be dry and crumbly. Don't overwork the dough - quickly form it into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.
2. While the dough is chilling, start to prepare the ingredients for the gratin. Cut the potatoes into thin, even slices using a mandoline or a knife. Place the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water and set aside. Grate the cheese.
3. When ready to line the tart pan, remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into two pieces. Freeze one half of the dough for later use. On a lightly floured surface, roll the other dough half out to a round approximately 13" in diameter and 1/8" thick. Wrap the dough round over the rolling pin to transfer it to the tart pan. Unroll the dough over the tart pan and use your fingers to press it lightly into the pan bottom and sides. Allow a little extra overhang as the tart shell will shrink when baked. Chill the shell in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
4. Prick the tart shell with a knife or fork, line with parchment paper or foil, and weight it with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake the tart shell for 20-30 minutes at 350˚ Fahrenheit until the dough looks dry and has turned a light golden color. Remove to a rack and allow to cool before filling.
5. While baking the tart shell, finish preparing the gratin ingredients. Pour the milk and cream into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. While the milk and cream are warming, mince the garlic. Remove the saucepan from heat once a simmer is reached and add the minced garlic. Add the nutmeg, salt, ground pepper and stir. Set aside.
6. When the tart shell is cool enough to handle, arrange the potato slices in layers in the shell and cover each layer with cheese and the milk and cream mixture. Reserve 1/4 of the grated cheese for topping the gratin.
7. Bake at 350˚ Fahrenheit until the top of the gratin is golden brown and the potatoes feel cooked when tested with a paring knife. Depending on the numbers of layers, baking time could vary from 30 minutes to 1 hour. My tart shell was relatively shallow and I only used one layer of potatoes so I baked my tart for 35 minutes.