1/30/2017

French Walnut Tart

I was shopping in Milton Keynes last week and came across a shop rather like the now sadly defunct Julian Graves. They had a special opening offer on walnuts, so I bought a large bag - nuts are good for you, anti-oxidents, omega 3 etc! I wanted to make something different to use some of them, and came across a recipe for a walnut tart.
It's from a tourist brochure I picked up somewhere in France, and this recipe, I was informed, is a speciality of the Périgord region. It brought back memories of when we lived in France, and my neighbour had a prolific walnut tree and would give my a huge carrier bag full. The only problem was you had to shell them all! At least the ones I bought were shell-free.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6               A tart dish about 23cm or a flan tin with a loose bottom.

For the shortcrust pastry -  125g flour, 75g butter, 25g caster sugar, 1 egg yolk, a pinch of salt and 25ml water
Make the pastry and line the tart dish or tin and put aside.

For the filling  - 500g walnuts, 150ml crème fraîche, 60g caster sugar, 1 egg and 2 tspn vanilla extract, icing sugar

Choose the best walnuts [you need to keep about half]  to decorate the tart, then put the others into a processor or blender and whizz to a powder. Add the crème fraîche, sugar, egg and vanilla and mix well.
Pour the mixture over the pastry and bake for 30 mins.
Take the tart out of the oven, decorate the top with the rest of the walnuts, sieve over some icing sugar and pop back into the oven for a minute or 2 for the sugar to melt.
Leave to cool.



I cooked my tart in a foil tart dish as I wanted to take it to a coffee afternoon. It was delicious - really nutty, and I loved the texture contrasts between the soft pastry, the cream filling and the crunch of the walnuts on top. Something different to try.






1/21/2017

Tarte Alsacienne

I love recipes using apples, and I made this tart for dessert when my children came last weekend. It's unlike the usual French apple tart, as it has cream in the filling with the apples.
It comes from a leaflet I picked up somewhere, several years ago, when we were in Alsace, and I've made it many times since.

Preheat oven 190C/gas5              
You need a large fluted and greased flan tin [preferably with a loose bottom] - 24-26cm.

For the pastry : 170g flour, 1 tbspn caster sugar, pinch salt, 125g cold butter cut into cubes and 2 tbspn cold water.
Rub the butter into the flour to which the sugar and salt have been added. Add the water and make into a ball. Cover in clingfilm and put into the fridge for about an hour.
Roll into a circle, and use the rolling pin to fit the pastry into the flan tin.

For the filling:
You need 4 apples  - I used Granny Smith, but you could use Golden Delicious or Braeburn, but not Bramleys, as they don't hold their shape. Peel and cut them into quarters, take out the core and pips and slice them carefully into neat slices. Spread them out evenly over the pastry.
Beat 1 whole egg and 1 yolk in a bowl with 6 tbspn sugar, 20cl of double cream or crème fraîche and 1 tspn vanilla extract. Pour this over the apples and bake for 50-55 mins till golden.


You can, of course, use your favourite recipe for shortcrust pastry with a little sugar added. I like the textures of this tart - the crunchy pastry, the soft fruit mixed with a lovely creamy layer.
 I have made it with Bramleys, just to try them, and they became mushy instead of keeping the pretty slices.




1/16/2017

Crumble Brownies with Pears

My family love Brownies and I usually make this recipe from Suelle's great blog 'Mainly Baking', but have a look there and you'll be spoilt for choice for Brownie recipes.
I wanted to try something different and, as often happens, I had a couple of pieces of fruit in the bowl that needed using - this time pears. So I decided to make a brownie base, then a layer of chopped pears and finally a crumble topping.
I didn't use Suelle's basic recipe this time, but one a friend gave me.

For the brownie part  you need - 200g dark chocolate, 50g flour plus 1 tspn baking powder, 150g butter [melted], 3 eggs and 125g caster sugar 


For the crumble - 75g flour, 80g caster sugar and 120g soft butter


You also need 2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into cubes.


Preheat oven 180C/gas4                 Grease a brownie tin - mine is about 25 x 20 cm [ or 10" x 8"]


Brownies - melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave or over simmering water. beat the sugar and eggs together then add the chocolate and butter. fold in the flour with baking powder.

Spoon the batter into the brownie tin and bake for 15 mins.
Make the crumble - rub the butter into the flour and stir in the sugar.
Take the brownies out of the oven, sprinkle the chopped pears over then top with the crumble.
Put back in the oven for 20 mins till the crumble is golden.



We loved these, although they didn't have quite squidgy texture that a normal brownie has -  probably because they are baked for longer. Lovely contrasts of texture - the soft brownie then the moist fruit and finally the crunchy topping. They won't replace my favourite brownies, but they are great as an alternative.

1/09/2017

Blue Cheese and Nut Palmiers

This is a very quick and simple appetizer  I made for New year's Eve. I used Roquefort cheese as that's what I'd bought, but Blue Stilton, Bleu d'Auvergne etc would do just as well.

You need 1 pack puff pastry, 200g blue cheese, 1 egg and some chopped nuts - I used a mixture of walnuts and hazelnuts whizzed in a blender, but not too small.

Roll out the pastry; beat the egg and cheese together and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle over the chopped nuts. Roll up the 2 long sides towards the middle then cut into 2cm slices.

Bake on a tray lined with baking paper for about 15mins at 200C/gas6.


Not a wonderful photo, but only had a chance to take one before they all disappeared! A tasty appetiser, and one which you could easily vary - change the cheese, add herbs, add chopped up bacon or ham. The list is endless.
I liked the combination of the blue cheese and nuts - different textures, the nuts adding a bit of crunch.
Must have a problem with my fan oven, as sometimes things nearest the back of the oven get too brown, as with this palmier!

1/02/2017

Galette des Rois

January 6th is Epiphany, when the Kings came to visit Baby Jesus, and in France you have a Galette for the Kings.
 It's a tradition to put a fève or bean in the centre of the galette, and whoever finds this in their slice is King or Queen and wears a gold crown [which is given with the galettes when you buy them in the baker's or supermarkets in France].
I made 2 galettes to take to my French conversation group today - one traditional one and one to which I've added some apples - not traditional!

For the traditional one you need:

2 packs puff pastry
125g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
100g melted butter
2 eggs beaten + one beaten egg to egg wash the top

For the apple version you just need to add 2 eating apples [I used Gala], 1 tspn cinnamon, a knob of butter and 1 tbspn caster sugar

Preheat oven 220C/gas7      A baking sheet covered with baking paper

Roll out the 2 packs of pastry and cut a large circle out of each.
Put the caster sugar, ground almonds and melted butter in a bowl and beat together.
Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
Put one of the pastry circles onto the baking sheet, then spoon the almond mixture on top, stopping 2 cm from the edge. Top with the other pastry circle.
For the apples version - melt a knob of butter in a pan, then add the apple cubes, 1 tspn cinnamon and 1 tbspn caster sugar and fry till golden. Spoon the apples over the almond mixture then brush the edge with water and put the other pastry layer on top. Press the pastry circles together using your fingertips.
Make a motif on top of the galette with a sharp knife. 
Brush the top with eggwash and bake for 25 mins.

This is my traditional one



This is the one with apples


My daughter did the traditional swirly pattern on the apple one, much better than mine, as I didn't cut deep enough so the pattern didn't really show!
I love the simple one, the crisp pastry contrasting with the soft almondy filling. The apple added another texture and flavour, but I prefer the traditional one.