Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

When Imperfect Desserts are Perfect:

Blood Orange Crostata with Caramel Sauce

When it comes to baking, I like my desserts messy – which is to say that I like desserts that are free-form, imprecise, and often referred to as “rustic.” Thank goodness for the generations of country kitchens which devised homey, family-style, and more-ish desserts. Often involving fruit and usually containing folksy and forgiving words such as crumble, slump, crisp, and fool, these desserts revel in imprecision, delightfully embracing dribbles, lopsidedness, and even mistakes (tarte tatin, we are looking at you). Sure, some technique is involved, but the overriding rule is a relaxed un-fussiness with a big helping of simplicity. Bring on the mess.

Blood Orange Crosatas

Which brings me to these *slightly* disheveled crostatas (actually, I believe that’s crostate in the plural). Citrus is abundant right now, and with that comes the ruby blood orange. Sweet and tart, murky and winey, the blood orange is more nuanced than its navel counterpart, and its brilliant hue is a sight to behold when presented in desserts. I bought a bag of these oranges this past weekend, and made this recipe. It takes inspiration from a recipe I found years ago on The Kitchn, to which I’ve added my own tweaks – including a sour cream crust and a luscious salted caramel sauce for drizzling.

Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time
Makes 8 (4-inch) crostate

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut in cubes
1/2 cup sour cream

For the filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 navel oranges, skin and pith cut away, sliced crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick
3 blood oranges, skin and pith cut away, seeded and sliced crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick, each slice cut into 3 to 4 sections
1 egg beaten
8 teaspoons demarra sugar, for sprinkling

1. Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Briefly pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to achieve a crumbly consistency. Add the sour cream and pulse a few times until the dough just begins to stick together. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. Whisk the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl to lighten and combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 8 equal portions. Roll out each portion in a circle about 6 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Place a tablespoon of mascarpone in the center of the dough, spreading it slightly, while keeping about 1 inch clear around the border of the dough. Place a navel orange slice in the center. Top with 3 to 4 blood orange sections. Fold the exposed edges of the dough in around the oranges, shaping and pinching to create a rim of crust (the centers will still be exposed). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and repeat this process with the remaining dough.
5. Brush the pastry dough with the egg and sprinkle each crostata with about 1 teaspoon demarra sugar. Transfer to the oven and bake until the crusts are firm to the touch and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below).

Salted Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1 cup sauce

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons European-style unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon fleur de sel sea salt flakes, such Maldon

1. Pour the sugar into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar melts, whisking occasionally and swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. The sugar may clump, but that’s ok – keep stirring until it melts. When the sugar is the color of dark amber, carefully whisk in the butter (it will foam).
2. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream (it will foam again) and whisk until smooth. Add the salt. Cool for about 10 minutes and then pour into a glass jar and cool to room temperature. The sauce may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Holiday Prep: Orange Olive Oil Cake with Almonds and Cardamom

An easy holiday cake perfect for any time of day:

Orange Cardamom Tea Cake

This light and moist cake will carry you through the holidays, and, for that matter, any day. Redolent with orange and cardamom and slightly spiked with Gran Marnier, it’s delicious for brunch or afternoon tea and spiffy enough for dessert. Almond flour adds a slight nuttiness and wholesome crumb to the cake. And do not skimp on the orange zest, as it adds an important zing of citrus and fragrance. The sea salt is optional in the glaze, but if you lean that way, go for it. The flavors of the cake will develop while it cools and the glaze will ensure long lasting moistness, which makes this cake an entertainer’s best friend. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days, but it will likely be eaten long before that.

Orange Olive Oil Cake with Almonds and Cardamom

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour plus cooling time
Serves 8 to 10

Cake:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon (packed) finely grated orange zest, from an untreated orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
Pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch spring-form pan, line with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light in color. Add the olive oil, orange juice, zest, vanilla and almond extracts and stir to blend.
3. Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring to blend without over-mixing. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes clean, about 45 minutes.
5. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Combine the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Gran Marnier, if using, and sea salt and simmer briefly, about 1 minute, stirring frequently.
6. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the top with the glaze and cool 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, and then brush the cake on the sides with the glaze. Cool completely.
7. Serve dusted with confectioners sugar and/or with whipped cream. If desired, add a tablespoon of the (thoroughly cooled) glaze to the cream while whipping.

Fig and Farro Salad with Mint and Feta

It’s fig season and I am figging out:

Fig Farro and Feta Salad

There is a magical window of time when fresh figs are abundant, and this is it. Soft and fragrant, fresh figs are oh-so ethereal to eat. Their flavor is delicate yet nuanced. Depending on the variety, they can be sweet and winey, honeyed, or grassy. Black mission figs are the smallest, dark and furtively sweet. Brown Turkey figs are larger, striated in brown and yellow, and pleasingly sweet like honey, while Calimyrna are perhaps the prettiest – green and golden like wheatgrass, with a nutty vegetal flavor. When figs are ripe, they are luscious to eat straight up, but if you are lucky to have too many, then layer them into sandwiches and salads, or on pizzas and bruschetta.

This recipe makes a hearty salad full of farro grains. If you prefer a more leafy salad, then halve the amount of farro.

Fig and Farro Salad with Mint and Feta

Serves 4

1/2 cup semi-pearled farro
1 1/2 cups water

Dressing:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups arugula
1 cup shredded radicchio
6 Brown Turkey figs, quartered
2 ounces crumbled feta or fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachios
Finely grated lemon zest, for garnish

1. Cook the farro: Combine the farro and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and cool the farro to room temperature.

2. Make the dressing: Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking to emulsify.

3. Assemble the salad: Combine the arugula and radicchio in a serving bowl. Scatter the farro over the salad and top with the figs, cheese, and mint. Drizzle with the dressing and gently toss to combine. Garnish with the pistachios and lemon zest and serve.

 

Easy Holiday Baking: Persimmon Teacake

I discovered persimmons when I lived in Europe, where they are commonly known as sharon fruit. They were a mystery to me at first, these orange tomato-shaped creatures – how to eat them? Skin or no skin? I quickly learned to enjoy persimmons in their entirety, with their taught crisp skin giving way to dribbling soft, honey-sweet flesh. Now I live in California, where persimmon trees grow in our garden. In the fall, when the leaves are still intact, the persimmon trees are at their prettiest. Their fruit continues to ripen, and their pumpkin-orange skin is striated with shades of gold and sage, while the robust leaves are streaked in crimson. Come winter, when the leaves have fallen, the fruit continues to cling to the barren branches, dangling like forgotten Christmas ornaments, ripe for plucking.

There are two types of persimmons: the round squat fuyu and the more upright heart-shaped hachiya. The hachiya must be eaten at its ripest, which means incredibly squishy, to avoid its astringent unripened flesh. It’s best to enjoy an hachiya as a big juicy slurp with a napkin in hand, or blending its pulp into baked goods. Unlike the hachiya, the fuyu is not astringent, so it may be eaten firm or soft. I enjoy the firmness of fuyus when their consistency is similar to a crisp pear. At this stage they hold their shape well and have a soft sweetness, which makes them a great addition to salads and salsas. The firm fuyu fruit can also be grated and mixed into baked goods, just as you would grate a carrot into cakes -– such as in this teacake.

Persimmon Olive Oil Teacake
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated fuyu persimmon, packed, about 2 persimmons
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a loaf pan.
2. Whisk the flour, almond flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil and vanilla. Add the flour ingredients and stir to just combine without overmixing. Stir in the persimmon and walnuts.
4. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about one hour, depending on the shape of the pan. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Strawberry Cake and TasteFood News

strawberry cake tastefoodIt’s almost summer, and we deserve cake.

I am so excited to share with you 2 pieces of good news about TasteFood. It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately, in large part due to 3 book projects I’ve been busy working on. I am happy to announce that the first book The Little Pink Book of Rosé, is now available for pre-order! It’s a light and sparkly little gift book, filled with quips, quotes and fun facts about rosé (my favorite summer wine), as well as 20 sweet, savory, and drinkable rosé recipes which I developed.

Now for the second piece of big news: As of June 8, TasteFood will be a syndicated weekly column coming to a newspaper near you! This means that you will be able to read TasteFood in many of your local papers throughout the U.S. each week. Once the dust settles, I’ll be developing a newsletter that will tie in news about my cookbooks, blog, and column. Finally and most importantly, I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment, ask questions, let me know about recipes, cuisines, or cooking topics you would like to read about, either here on the blog or the email address provided in my column – your feedback is highly valued!

So, now it’s time for cake…

Strawberry Cake

While nothing beats fresh sun-sweetened strawberries, au natural or swiped through a dollop of whipped cream, put aside a pint or two to make this simple cake. It’s light and simple, gently sweetened and generously studded with as many strawberries you can fit. I halved the jumbo-sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they’ll begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess. Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) pie or gratin dish.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add the flour and mix to thoroughly combine without over-mixing. 4. Pour  the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Arrange the strawberries, cut-sides down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy – and reserve the rest for serving. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake the cake until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Cool slightly and serve lukewarm or at room temperature with whipped cream and extra strawberries (if you haven’t already eaten them!)

Blackberry Clafoutis

Blackberry Clafoutis TasteFood

Got berries? If you’re like me, it’s impossible to resist the baskets of fresh summer berries at the farmers’ market. If you have more restraint than me and you haven’t gobbled your berries up yet, here’s a great way to add them to a dessert. Clafoutis is a French flan-like dessert consisting of fresh fruit baked in a custardy batter. It’s light and elegant, gently sweet, and redolent with your favorite fruit. Berries work well because their juices seep into the clafoutis while it bakes. You can also use cherries, plums, and pears.

Blackberry Clafoutis

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 to 55 minutes
Makes 8 (6-ounce) or 1 (10-inch) clafoutis

Unsalted softened butter for greasing the pans
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces fresh blackberries
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups half and half
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter 8 (6-ounce) shallow ramekins (or 1 (10-inch) ceramic tart pan). Sprinkle the ramekins with the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and tap out any excess. Place the ramekins on a baking tray. Arrange the berries in one layer in the ramekins.
2. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the half and half, flour, lemon zest, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt until just combined.
3. Pour the mixture over fruit. Transfer the clafoutis to the oven and bake until the top is tinged golden brown and the custard is set, about 25 minutes for the ramekins (or 35 to 40 minutes for the tart pan). Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
4. Before serving, sprinkle the clafoutis with powdered sugar and garnish with additional lemon zest. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfaits with Almond-Quinoa Streusel

Rhubarb trifles quinoaTrifles and parfaits are a great way to show off the season’s best fruit. I like to assemble them in little glasses, so the layers are visible and the servings aren’t too large. They can be as simple as fruit and cream, but I often add a little crunchy texture, such as crumbled meringue or a sprinkle of streusel. In this recipe, I’ve made an almond and toasted quinoa streusel. The nuttiness of the quinoa is a great match for the tart rhubarb.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfaits with Almond-Quinoa Streusel

This recipe makes about 6 large servings or 12 small servings, depending on the size of your glasses.

Rhubarb Compote:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Almond-Quinoa Streusel:
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup shaved coconut
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound fresh strawberries, quartered

Make the compote:
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the rhubarb releases its juices. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rhubarb softens and the compote is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until use.

Make the streusel:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Toast the quinoa in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds and coconut.
Whisk the syrup, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa and stir to combine. Spread the streusel in the pan and transfer to the oven. Bake until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool.

Whip the cream:
Combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form.

Assemble:
Spoon a layer of rhubarb into serving glasses. Top with cream. Add a layer of strawberries over the cream and top with more cream. Garnish with the streusel. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour before serving.