Baking| Fresh Fig & Frangipane Buckwheat Tartlets

“If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.”

Ferdinand Point

Fruit in baking continue to hold my interest. I knew I had to get some fresh figs back from our visit to Pune as we don’t ever find them here in North India. Bought some from a roadside stall while driving down from Mahabaleshwar, and the old lady gave me MANY instructions to protect this luscious fruit after she asked me where I was from. Figs must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree before they are picked. They will not ripen if picked when immature. A ripe fruit will be slightly soft and starting to bend at the neck. Fresh figs do not keep well and can be stored in the refrigerator for only 2 – 3 days.

These fruit are highly perishable and once back I had to figure out what to do with them soon as they were threatening to perish in front of my very eyes. I had earlier made this very delicious Fresh Fig Frangipane Tart that we all loved, frangipane being a great fave at our place. The kids however are not fans of fresh figs so it was time to think. It was back to my old obsession … buckwheat and experiments with recipes, and this one thankfully worked fine too.

 

Frangipane is a filling made from or flavored like almonds. This filling can be used in a variety of ways including cakes, tarts and other assorted pastries. An alternative French spelling from a 1674 cookbook is franchipane with the earliest modern spelling coming from a 1732 confectioners’ dictionary. Originally designated as a custard tart flavored by almonds or pistachios it came later to designate a filling that could be used in a variety of confections and baked goods.

The pastry recipe which I use for tart shells, galettes etc is a pretty versatile one, and works well with minor changes. Here I substituted buckwheat for cornmeal.  I bravely went a step further and added some buckwheat to the frangipane too, as a substitute for the flour. You can use plain flour if you like though.

Worked pretty well in the frangipane, but that’s maybe because it’s just a small quantity and doesn’t make a major difference. I think I’ve seen some frangipane recipes that don’t use any sort of flour at all. Well, whichever way, the end result was delicious and pretty too. Looking at the vibrant colour the fig slices took on after being baked, I often wish that we got fresh figs here in North India too ! Maybe one day ….

Fresh Fig Buckwheat Tartlets with Vanilla Scented Frangipane
Makes 1 8-9″ tart, or 6 small 3″ tartlets
Tart Pastry
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
Pinch salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1/8 cup vanilla/granulated sugar
1/8 cup buttermilk (may need 1-2 tbsp extra to bind dough)
Vanilla Scented Frangipane
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/3rd cup vanilla sugar
1/3rd cup clarified butter, melted (or unsalted butter)
1 tbsp low fat cream
1 large egg
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/8 cup buckwheat flour (or cornmeal)
2-3 tbsp strawberry vanilla preserve
About 6-8 figs, sliced
Vanilla sugar for sprinkling

Method for pastry:

Place both flour and salt in processor and pulse 2-3 times.
Add butter and pulse 4-5 times, or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With the processor running, slowing pour the buttermilk through the chute, processing until the dough forms a ball.
Remove the dough ball and adhere any remaining pieces of dough to it, then wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30-35 minutes. (I did it for almost an hour because the weather was HOT)
Preheat the oven to 180C.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry as thin as you like and line tartlet tins, or tart pan. I like my pastry quite thin (1/8″).
Line the fitted tarlets tins with foil, place pie weights/beans on base, and bake blind for 10 minutes, until light brown and crisp. Remove weights and cool on racks.
Frangipane:
Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. Roast them for about 10 minutes, or until slightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature.
Place the almonds and sugar in the processor and whiz till ground. I like the almonds coarsely ground.
And the clarified butter, egg, scraped vanilla seeds, cream and buckwheat flour and whiz again till mixed uniformly.

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Assembling the tartlets:

Brush the base of the pastry with melted strawberry preserves and divide the frangipane equally among the 6 tartlet shells. Level out with an offset spatula. Top with slices of fresh fig and bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned and knife inserted in centre of frangipane comes out clean. If you find the pie crust browning too soon, slide a sheet of foil over loosely.
Serve warm, at room temperature or even chilled. I like them served chilled with a dollop of unsweetened cream, sliced fresh figs and pistachio slivers. Enjoy!!

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CHOCOLATE CHIP & BUCKWHEAT COOKIES … Hot Cross Cookies for Easter!!

“And if the Easter Bunny had wings, he would fly.”
John Reeves
Back from a short holiday and back to the mundanities which include making breakfast! Why do vacations come to an end so quick? Egg time with the kids on an Easter break … Roald Dahl inspired hot house egg for junior, and French toast for the daughter. Bored out of my mind, I began to look for something more fulfilling to do. Eggs remind me of Easter and I decided to put the empty egg shells to good use.
I love doodling, so I emptied the eggs out carefully after making a tiny hole at one end. Also thought I would make some buckwheat chocolate chip cookies a little later in the day. That offered me the bonus of more egg shells, and importantly the added bonus of egg whites for macarons for MacTweets! Egg-citing times to kill boredom!
Egg shells rinsed well, bereft of all eggy smells, I piped some white acrylic paint designs on them and let them dry. I would have liked to do them with stickers like Bethany, but couldn’t find any small stickers, so paint seemed the next best option for unedible egg shells. I would have loved to make Kinder Surprise Eggs like Joy, but too late; I didn’t boil them nor did I remove the inner membrane with my pinky finger!! Wasn’t sure how acrylic paint would react to boiling, so all plans abandoned.  This time I’ve got to be happy with Easter eggs safe in their nest with colours I like. The daughter chose the blue one as her fave, the son liked them all!
To make Sunday more worthwhile I made chocolate chip buckwheat cookies, buckwheat being my recent obsession, and a surprisingly welcome addition to these cookies. It offers a nice bite to the texture of the cookie, making them crisp and delicious … healthy too. The deep colour of the cookie is due to this dark nutty milled seed flour, which darkens on contact with liquid. Not very pretty cookies to look at, but pretty delicious!!
Energizing and nutritious, buckwheat is available throughout the year and can be served as an alternative to rice or made into porridge. While many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel making it a suitable substitute for grains for people who are sensitive to wheat or other grains that contain protein glutens. Buckwheat flowers are very fragrant and are attractive to bees that use them to produce a special, strongly flavored, dark honey. 
I made these cookies a while ago for the first time. At that time, I had used a lower ratio of buckwheat to flour as in the recipe below. At that time the weather was cooler and so 3 egg yolks worked well. My experiment was inspired with my success using this alternate nut flour in this Double Chocolate Espresso Biscotti.  This morning, I made them with equal flour and buckwheat, 3 egg yolks,  and they were still delicious, though they spread a teeny bit. With summer firmly set in and temperatures touching 40C, I think 2 egg yolks should work better to arrest the slight spreading of the cookies.
I made them into hot cross cookies because I didn’t have the time or energy to make hot cross buns, though I would have liked to! A theme, a holiday, a festival, an event all inspire me to think and mak something relevant. I love the connect, and so lavished some ‘hot crosses‘ on the cookies using a mixture of powderd sugar and a little milk! Happy Easter Sunday!!

CHOCOLATE CHIP & BUCKWHEAT COOKIES

Makes 3- 31/2 dozen cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup vanilla sugar (or granulated)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
3 egg yolks (save the whites for macarons!!)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Method:
Place both flours, salt, baking soda and chocolate chips in a bowl and stir to mix well.
Beat butter, both sugars, egg yolks and vanilla extract till light and creamy, 2-3 minutes.
Fold in dry ingredients and mix uniformly. Drop with a tbsp or cookie scoop on ungreased sheets.
Bake about 15 minues till light golden brown.
Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute, and then completely on racks.
Note: I made a second batch with 1 cup plain flour and 1 cup buckwheat flour, and those came out very nice as well. You can do either, or even substitute the buckwheat for whole wheat flour if buckwheat is not available.
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Double Chocolate Espresso Biscotti … Eating Your Words!

“Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven.”
Jessi Lane Adams
 

Some time back I received a beautiful parcel from Asha, or the FSK gal as I call her, a NYC blogger who blogs at Fork-Spoon-Knife. There was so much excitement in my little boys’ life when the parcel arrived. He was besides himself with joy to see the contents. Some fab fresh ground coffee beans from Picollo Cafe, and a charming bottle of aged balsamic vinegar! A huge chunk of time went in the boy trying to sniff out coffee flavours, and every so often he would look at the coffee and ask me when I’d make something with it?

The time came this week. I wanted to bake something, and it felt like biscotti time. My eyes wandered around the bookshelf for a cookie book, but instead latched onto my precious package of coffee staring at me. Asha said she saw a quaint little cafe while strolling around the streets of NYC, instantly thought of my love for all things coffee, and bought some beans for me. Thank you Asha! I loved your wonderful gift!
It was Google time for coffee biscotti and I landed up at a coffee loaded site/forum called ‘Coffee Snobs. It was an instant connect. I’m not a coffee snob but I sure love my coffee; and this seemed like the place for me. This recipe is adapted from one I found in the threads shared there by one of the members there.
Adaptations? With the use of alternative grains gaining ground in the cuilnary world, I thought  of using some buckwheat flour. A while ago I made some nice Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies using a 101 Cookbooks recipe, so I decided to include some in the biscotti too. A small reduction in the ground coffee beans and sugar, a little increase in butter, and these Italian cookies were baking in next to no time.
The aromas and the flavours filled the house – Coffee Coffeee Coffeeeeeee …. every breath I took. The biscotti sliced beautifully and baked to crisp perfection. This is a nice adult biscotti for all you coffee lovers out there. Once made, I thought it would taste even better dipped into some melted dark chocolate. The result was ULTIMATE COFFEE & BISCOTTI NIRVANA!
One crunchy bite later, and I was convinced that buckwheat was meant for this! Buckwheat flour has a beautiful nutty flavour, and lent all it’s goodness to this crisp twice baked cookie. I hesitatingly offered a biscotti each to the kids, knowing that it would be too coffee-ish and probably less sweet for them! Just to prove me wrong, they loved it a LOT! For those of you who don’t love coffee, I have worked out a non-coffee variant and shall post that soon!

Double Chocolate Espresso Biscotti
Recipe adapted from Coffee Snobs
2tbsps ground coffee beans
40ml espresso(os dark coffee concentrate)
140g butter
180g vanilla sugar
2 small eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
200g plain flour
70g buckwheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 sachet vanilla sugar to sprinkle on top
100gms dark chocolate, melted 

Method:

Preheat oven to 170 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Stir in the ground coffee powder into the espresso. Stand aside. (I didnt have espresso so used a strong coffee concentrate).
Sift buckwheat flour, plain flour, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.
Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs, vanilla and coffee mix.
Stir in flour mix and fold in the mini chocolate chips.
Shape into two equal logs 35 cm x 5 cm, about 1.5 cm high, on baking paper or greased tray (easiest done with wet hands). Sprinke the logs over with vanilla sugar.
Bake 25 minutes until lightly browned, cool 5 mins. Cut into slices using a bread knife (add no pressure, let the knife do the work).

Rebake slices at 160C until dry, approx 10 minutes.

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In case you are wondering what the atempted scribbling on the biscotti is all about, it’s for Eating Your Words‘Write, spell or draw’ using food or drink. A fun challenge hosted by Savor The Thyme and Tangled Noodle. The biscotti offered the perfect canvas for some chocolate doodling! My original idea was to do write on some macarons for Le Mac de Jour for Mac Attack5, but it didn’t materialise at all!
As if the challenge itself and the prize was not enough, the 2 lovely ladies have asked Chef Andrew Zimmern of Bizaare Foods on The Travel Channel to decide the winner for the challenge!! This is my entry for the challenge, and a pretty addictive one it turned out to be. The kids had a field day choosing the words they wanted to eat!

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