Yesterday, I pulled the zip-top bag out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter. Later, I saw that my friend Malena had posted a snapshot of a family-favorite recipe on Instagram. It was for a fruit cake – named "fruit torte" since fruit cake would throw people off – adapted from one of the New York Times most popular recipes, the original plum torte. There is a reason that this recipe is one of the paper's most popular: It's one that everyone should keep handy, flexible enough that almost any soft fruit (berries, sliced peaches, and, especially, plums) can be put on top.Read More
The summer of 2015 was the summer of the galette. They were all over my instagram feed, and I contributed to a couple of them, too. When my mom and I was up in Seattle visiting my sister's family and helping out after my nephew was born with an unusual developmental condition called Prader Willi Syndrome, I baked galettes. Seattle, it should be said, is one of the world's best places to bake. And while we were still in that scary phase of learning what the diagnosis would mean, at least we had something comfortingly familiar to eat. (It's actually been a year since my nephew was born, and he is doing amazingly well thanks to the work my sister and her husband have dedicated to him. He's also just naturally a sweet, happy kid.)
Back to baking: I will never give up on pie, but lately it’s hard to get away from galettes. They allow you to be creative in ways that classic pie cannot. They are also convenient: They can be big or small, they bake faster, and they are easy to freeze. And since markets are reaching Peak Fruit and you're going to need something to do with the peaches, plums, or berries, wby not go all in with galettes? .
Before you start, a few tricks I’ve learned:
- When you make your pie dough, experiment with rye flour, buckwheat flour, or cornmeal. Try swapping out 1/4 cup all-purpose flour for one of those alternates. I made an all-whole wheat crust, too, which was great. But I thought it needed a tablespoon of sugar to balance it a bit.
- With really juicy fruit, like strawberries, try macerating the fruit for at least an hour or overnight with some sugar. The fruit will lose some of its liquid as it absorbs the sugar. You can cook the liquid down into a syrup, if you’d like, and stir it back into the fruit. (Or you can simply save the juices for a summer drink with sparking water.)
- To further sop up fruit juices and ensure the crust doesn't get soggy, I mix a bit of almond meal with sugar and place it at the base of the galette before piling on the fruit. But don't get too crazed when juices run over the edge of the galette. It comes with the territory. That's why...
- do line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Consider aluminum foil if parchment paper is unavailable. Cleaning up fruit juice that has caked itself onto the pan is a pain.
- To avoid allowing the galette to glue itself to the parchment paper as it cools, lightly coat the paper with nonstick spray and/or nudge the galette slightly to the side once it’s out of the oven to dislodge it a bit. This saves having any paper stick to the bottom of the galette.
- Chill the dough after rolling it out and before putting the fruit on it. It gives the dough a better texture and allows it to relax in between rolling and baking.
This recipe makes 4 (8-inch) plum galettes and requires 1 recipe for double-crust pie (I make one from a previous blog post with 2 cups flour, 14 tablespoons butter, pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup ice water). The same recipe can be used to make other fruit pies using the same quantity (about 8 ounces) of fruit per galette.
- 1 recipe for a double-crust pie dough
- 2 lbs / 908 g plums, pitted and sliced
- About 1 cup / 195 g granulated or organic cane sugar
- 8 tablespoons almond meal or finely ground almonds
- Divide the dough into 4 even pieces and pat into small hamburger patties. Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.
- Combine plums with 1/2 cup sugar. In a separate small bowl, mix together 4 tablespoons / 40 g sugar with almond meal.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F. For each galette, let dough round sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, then flatten into a disk on a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 12-inch round, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes. (It is easiest to work in batches, shaping and baking 2 galettes at a time.)
- Sprinkle almond meal/sugar in the center of each round. Taste fruit; if it is very tart, plan on sprinkling more sugar on top before the fruit bakes. Pile the fruit in the center, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges over and crimp. Brush the crust with water or egg white and sprinkle the crust and the fruit with sugar. You should be able to fit 2 galettes on one half-sheet pan.
- Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling.
I never really paid much attention to the Whole30 diet until fairly recently when a couple of friends started talking about giving it a go. I had heard about what it entailed: no grains, even the no-gluten kind, no legumes, no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy; plenty of protein (mostly animal and egg, because soy = legume), plenty of vegetables, plenty of fruit, plenty of nuts, plenty of good-for-you fat. Caffeine (black coffee/black or green tea) OK. The caffeine part, that was good news. I could actually do the Whole30 if I didn't have to give up morning coffee (which I drink black anyway). But for now, I'm reluctant to be that strident about what I eat this summer, and I also like grains and legumes too much to go without (and wine, for that matter). Anyway, this is not a Whole30 post.
It IS however, a Whole30-friendly post. Enter baked peaches. This might be one of my favorite desserts to make in the summer. Not only is it dead easy to get right but it's also especially revelatory on just-okay, not-very-tasty-on-the-verge-of-being-mealy peaches. Baking them takes the bland pulp and makes it sweeter, with complex, caramel undertones. Gotta hand it to the Maillard reaction on this one: as the peaches bake and the fruits' sugars caramelize, their flavor naturally concentrates almost as if they had been glazed with syrup.
You could do this with with peaches alone: simply halve the peach, remove the pit, put on a rimmed baking sheet cut-side up, and bake at about 350 to 400F for 20 minutes. If you happen to be stuck on the Whole30 regimen in the summer, this might become your favorite dessert.
But it's even e little better with a little honey or maple syrup drizzled on top before baking.
Word to the wise: peach juice does get sticky, so I like to line the pan with either foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup.
For texture, add some unsweetened coconut flakes and/or slivered almonds in the final few minutes of baking. And that's about all you need to do. Peach dessert that tastes much better than you'd ever think it could.
Since the weight of the plums in the recipe is based on pitted plums, start with 3 pounds of plums. To water-bath can the jam for longer storage, scald about 4 half-pint jars and soak canning lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal. Pour the jam into jars, leaving a ½-inch space from the rim. Seal with the lids, screw on the bands, and lower into a pot with the rack and enough water to cover the jars by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 10 minutes (start the timer when the water reaches a boil). Remove the jars from the water and cool.
Vanilla Plum Jam
Makes 4 cups
2.1 lb / 945 g pitted, coarsely sliced plums
- 2 cups / 400 g turbinado or granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- Juice of 1 lemon
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over high heat, bring the plums, sugar, vanilla, and lemon a boil, giving the pot a couple of good stirs. Let sit 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 5 days. Chill a plate in the refrigerator to test the jam’s thickness later.
Mash the plums with a potato masher to break up the pieces. (The plums will completely lose their shape.) Bring the pot to a boil and continue cook over medium-high heat until the water has reduced to more of a syrup and the color has deepened significantly, 10-15 minutes depending on the pot and the burner strength.
Put a drop or two of the jam on the chilled plate to check if it sets. If the juices run all over, then continue to cook down the jam-but avoid cooking it to a point where the sugars start to caramelize and the jam turns brown. It's OK if the jam is more like a compote for putting on yogurt, etc.
Pour the jam into 2 clean, glass pint jars, one large quart jar, or several small jars and let cool. The jam keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.
A decade ago when I worked as a cookie baker at La Farine, a French bakery in Oakland, the tart bakers always looked like they were having more fun than the rest of us. I think I know why: once the crust was baked and the pastry cream prepared, making tarts was more like decorating than baking. To finish each tart, the gals brushed a light apricot glaze over the fruit to give it a nice sheen. If there were fruit tarts left at the end of the day, we could take them home (the crust became soft if refrigerated). Days that ended with free fruit tarts were happy days.
While flipping through Craig Claiborne's The New York Times Cookbook, by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey (Times Books, the 1979 edition), I came across a recipe for a strawberry tart. It had been a while since I had access to free fruit tarts, so I figured I was well overdue making one myself.
Makes 1 tart
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 baked tart shell, cooled
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
- 1/2 cup apricot jam
1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and vanilla bean in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and keep warm.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar and eggs until golden yellow, forming a ribbon when the whisk is removed from the mixture. Whisk in the cornstarch.
3. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk. With the mixer on, pour the milk into the eggs and sugar and whisk until combined. Pour the mixture into a pot over barely simmering water (ensuring that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with a spatula, until the pastry cream is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula. (It will become thicker as it cools. If it looks a little lumpy, strain it and discard the lumps. The recipe makes a generous amount for one tart.)
4. Spoon the pastry cream across the base of the tart shell. Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, in concentric circles within the tart.
5. Stir the apricot jam with enough water to thin it. Bring to a simmer and cook briefly until it reaches syrup consistency. Cool for a minute, then brush over the strawberries while still warm.
Thin-skinned, sweet-tart, and about the size of the top portion of your thumb, kumquats are the kind of rare citrus fruit that you can eat whole. They’re actually not citrus at all—a technicality that I’ll leave to botanists—but they share so many properties with lemon and orange that it makes sense to lump them all together when considering what makes a good marmalade.
A few words on sugar: I know it’s all the rage to avoid it, but sugar can be incredibly important when making preserves. It inhibits microbial growth, enabling preserves made with sugar to last a lot longer in the refrigerator than preserves made with little or no sugar. Because there is only so much kumquat marmalade one can eat in a day, I wanted a preserve that would keep in the refrigerator for a while without going moldy.
But because the sweetness levels vary so much with kumquats, I provided a recipe with a range in how much sugar to add. The kumquats I had were quite sweet, so I really didn't need the extra 1/4 cup of sugar. Yet these were peak-season fruit. I'd guess that earlier in the season, I might have needed more sugar. If you like honey, a touch of honey (2 tablespoons, say) added at the end would also be a nice way to give the marmalade a rounded sweetness that would pair well with rich cheeses or yogurt.
Makes 4 cups
- 908 grams / 2 pound kumquats
- 350-400 grams / 1 3/4 cups to 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 lemons
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 cups water
Remove the stem ends and cut the kumquats in half lengthwise, picking out the seeds where visible (It’s OK if you don’t get all the seeds. They can be picked out of the preserve as it simmers, too.)
Place the kumquats in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Drain and rinse under cold water. (This process removes some bitterness from the pith.)
In a bowl, combine the kumquats, 350 grams / 1 3/4 cups sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, and a pinch of salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.
Put the marmalade in a pot and add the water. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook until the syrup thickens and the fruit starts to turn translucent around the edges, about 30 minutes.
As you cook the marmalade, taste it. If it tastes very tart, add anther 50 grams / 1/4 cup sugar. If it tastes too sweet or you want to balance the flavor with acidity, squeeze in the second lemon.
The marmalade is finished with the syrup coats the back of a spoon convincingly. At this point, any seeds that weren’t removed before should be easy to see. Pick them out and discard. Cool the marmalade to a warm room temperature.
Remove about 1/3 of the marmalade and puree in a food processor. Mix into the remaining marmalade. Store in clean jars or plastic containers (you will have about a generous quart of marmalade). This marmalade keeps in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Alternatively, freeze some of the marmalade for up to 4 months.
Candied lemon rinds can be chopped up and added to ginger cookies (just use less candied ginger) or any cookie or quickbread containing dried cranberries or cherries. Lemon or orange rinds also go into panforte, an Italian treat made with nuts, dried fruit, and, sometimes, chocolate.
A few notes before you begin: Using lemons from someone’s tree is the best way to go. The rinds of store-bought lemons are treated with a waxy film. You can still use them, but give them a thorough scrubbing beforehand. I used Meyer lemons, but you can use any other kind of lemon or orange. If using large oranges, opt for two fewer than the number of lemons called for in this recipe. I use a candy thermometer to tell when the syrup has reached 230F. If you don’t have one, however, you can still make this recipe. Just pay attention to the visual cues in the recipe. When the bubbles change from large to small, you’ve reached the desired temperature.
Candied Lemon Rinds
Makes about 6 cups
- 7 lemons
- 4 cups sugar (plus extra for garnish)
- 2 cups water
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Have a spider skimmer or slotted spoon and a candy/deep-fry thermometer handy.
Halve the lemons lengthwise and pull out the pulp (or cut it out with a paring knife if it’s being stubborn) but leave the pith intact. Juice the pulp and save the juice for another use.
Put the lemon rinds in a pot and cover with an inch or so of water. Bring the pot to a boil. Drain the lemons and repeat, covering them with water and bringing the pot to a boil. Do this one more time for a total of three blanching sessions.
Let the lemon rinds cool to room temperature. With a sharp knife, cut the rinds lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Return the sliced rinds to the pot and add the sugar and water. Put the pot over low heat and cook until a syrup forms, stirring the rinds and sugar occasionally. Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook the rinds until the syrup reaches 230ºF. (At this point, the larger, more watery bubbles have become smaller and are bubbling more rapidly. If they are still lazy bubbles, raise the heat to medium-high.)
Remove the pot from the heat and let the rinds rest in the syrup for 30 minutes.
Using the skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the rinds to the parchment paper in one layer. Let sit, uncovered, in a cool corner of the kitchen, overnight. At this point, they are done or you can sprinkle them with sugar. Store the candied peels in the refrigerator. Candied peels will keep for up to 6 months.
Compared with Fuyu, Hachiya are not user-friendly persimmons. Larger than Fuyu and more oblong, Hachiya persimmons need to get really soft—mushy, say—before that chalkiness disappears. What you’re left with is a soft, sweet pulp that tastes as if it were lightly infused with nutmeg. I bagged a few Hachiya and let them sit on the counter, and later in the refrigerator, until the pulp was soft enough to scoop out with a spoon.
Browning butter doesn't take too much time, but its nutty flavor adds dimension to spice cakes. You can brown the butter ahead of time and refrigerate it. Before using it, just gently warm it so it's liquid again. With its unapologetically generous amount of butter, this is a rich cake. It's so rich that it seems impossible that this cake could dry out, even if it was left on the counter for several days.
Brown Butter Persimmon Cake
Adapted from Suzanne Goin's A.O.C Cookbook
Makes 1 cake
3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) / 395 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 Hachiya persimmons
2 1/2 cups / 350 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon / 5 grams baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons / 7 grams baking powder
3/4 teaspoon / 2 grams kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon / 1 gram cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon / .5 grams nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup / 60 grams whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon / 5 grams pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups / 280 grams granulated sugar
2 eggs, preferably extra large (110 grams)
Powdered sugar, for serving
Extra yogurt, for serving
In a pot (use one with a heavy bottom so the milk solids don’t burn), melt 1/4 cup/ 57 grams of the butter over medium-low heat and cook until the milk solids have fallen to the bottom of the pot and turned golden brown and fragrant like toasted nuts, about 5 minutes depending on how cold the butter is to start. Pour the butter into a heatproof bowl and let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the butter has cooled but is still liquid.
Meanwhile, heat an oven to 350°F. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or 10-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper.
Slice the green tops off the persimmons and scoop out the pulp. Put the pulp in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Measure out 1 cup / 260 grams.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the cooled browned butter, yogurt, vanilla, and persimmon pulp.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the remaining butter until relatively smooth, 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cream until the butter is light and aerated, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, 30 seconds tops.
Add the flour mixture in 3 installments, mixing in half of the persimmon butter blend in between additions. Mix briefly until the batter comes together.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert the pan onto a plate to unmold. Once cooled, dust the top with powdered sugar. If you like yogurt as much as I do, serve a spoonful over the top of each piece.