Monthly Archives: November 2014

Baking Chez Moi: Cranberry Crackle Tart

Crackle Tart Cranberries

The only problem with baking through an entire book is that eventually you will come across something that you have no desire to make.  I’m curious as to whether my dread of consuming whole unsweetened cranberries led me to singe my first attempt just a little too long in the broiler.

Crackle Tart with Fork

In the end the tart turned out quite beautiful. My husband convinced me that cranberries just aren’t my thing. In retrospect this may have just been an attempt on his part to save more for himself.

Crackle Tart Crust IngredientsCrackle Tart Processed Dough

I had never made a tart dough quite like this before.  Rolling out the dough between wax paper was incredibly easy, why have I never done this before?  I’m never looking back.

Crackle Tart Dough RollCrackle Tart Cutting the Dough

I chose cherry jam for my tart and with the bit of tartness and beautiful color I think it was the right pick. There aren’t a whole lot of ingredients in this tart so I think it’s worth it to spend a little more for a good quality jam.

Crackle Tart Baking BeansCrackle Tart Cherry Jam

When I remade the tart I made the meringue portion with super fine sugar. I thought it mixed in a little easier and would most likely use it again if I had some on hand.

DSC_0133Whole Crackle Tart

I skipped the broiler on the second round as the meringue got a lovely brown color all on it’s own and I didn’t want to risk a second scorch.

Crackle Tart Texture

This tart is all about texture and contrast.  Crisp outer shell, fluffy and sweet interior with little bursts of tartness and a sweet cookie crust.  Crackle Tart Plain

This tart isn’t really much in the pan but once you cut it and can see the beautiful colors it really stands out.

Crackle Tart with SugarThe powdered sugar is a nice touch and definitely added some drama to what is a simple tart. Scott really liked this.  His only issue was that a whole pie doesn’t keep long enough for him to eat the entire thing.

While I can’t say this tart turned me into a whole cranberry lover I can say that I loved the shortbread like crust, simple ingredients and basic look of this.  I’ve pondered attempting this with sour cherries instead.

I’ve never quite seen cranberry shine as a main attraction, it often seems relegated to what amounts to a condiment, but it definitely stands out in this simple little tart. If you are a cranberry lover or have one in your life I think this would be a perfect addition to a seasonal repertoire.

-Christie

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Apple Cake, Escape and PTSD

Morning Sun West ForkNavigating Logs West ForkOrange Tree West Fork

We’ve enjoyed such an incredible Fall season here in Arizona.  The fall colors here are unbelievably beautiful and the fall apples are crisp and sweetly tart. I’ve been burning through my untested apple recipes to varying success because I just can’t resist stopping and getting a new batch of apples on our drive home from whatever magical trail we just slogged our way through.

West Fork Fishing Crossing the Creek West ForkFalling Leaves West Fork

Escape is wonderful.  As comfy and cozy as my house in Phoenix is the time we spend exploring outdoors often provides a much needed mental break.  Focusing on figuring out the trail among a bombardment of beautiful sites forces me to set aside my anxieties and worries.  I find that when I come back home I have a fresh perspective and even when my body is tired my mind feels refreshed.

Yellow Leaves West ForkCanyon West Fork TrailRushing Water West ForkYellow and Red West ForkOllie and I West Fork

The trails have been much harder this year.  My husband is a Phoenix police officer and was shot in the line of duty on New Year’s Eve.  While I am incredibly thankful that he is alive the journey has been and will continue to be a difficult one.  He will never be able to regain all the physical capability and strength that he once had.  He has to work incredibly hard to do things that he would never have thought twice about in the past.

One of the biggest challenges that he faces is the after affects of the extreme physical and mental trauma. PTSD in law enforcement has become a hot topic in our city lately due to the incredibly unfortunate suicide of a former officer.  My husband did the bravest and most courageous act I’ve ever seen in his law enforcement career.  He spoke out about his own struggles so that others didn’t have to feel so afraid and alone.

It’s funny how after such a monumental moment our life can go right back to a lazy weekend spent baking, listening to music and playing games.  I’ve got apples and pumpkins to be pureed, grated, chopped and baked and time waits for no one.  Besides an apple pie-because let’s get real here, that’s really the best thing you can do with apples-our favorite apple recipe has been a fantastic apple cake from Sharing the Table.

Apple Cake IngredientsApple Peeler Apple Cake

The best thing about this cake is the number one ingredient is apples.  I can’t stand when something is called apple cake where the apple is really just a sad reference to a few dried and chewy chunks of apple garnish.  This cake has twice as much apple as it does flour and it is so good.  I switched the recipe up a bit and grated the apple rather than chopping it.  With so many apples to process it was just easier and it still turned out fabulous.Apple Cake BatterFinished Apple Cake

The only thing I was wary about when I read the recipe was the topping.  It was pretty tasty but not exactly necessary.  It did make for quite the pretty presentation.  The flavors and texture of this cake remind me of my grandmother.  Simple yet rich and highlighting what is fresh and in season.  It would be a perfect way to use of apples that were full of flavor but cosmetically imperfect or partially bruised.

Apple Cake with ApplesApple Cake Final

It’s funny how certain moments seem to exist to remind me that everything is going to be ok.  We were driving home from Sedona and were snacking on one of the recently acquired roadside apples when I noticed a bug had invaded a portion of the delicious flesh.  I pointed it out to Scott so he could avoid it and instead he took a big bite right in the “danger zone” and with a huge grin told me he needed some extra protein.  And there is it: a boyish smile that delights in making me squirm as long as I also giggle.  LIfe is to be enjoyed. Imperfect apples and all.

-ChristieTogether Pic

Baking Chez Moi: Palets de Dames, Lille Style

Palets de Dames-Title

Simple ingredients, simple flavors.  I think of these as the basics of French food.

Pantry staples make up the ingredient list.
Pantry staples make up the ingredient list.

Now that I have Baking Chez Moi in my possession I find it does not disappoint. Most recipes call for ingredients I already have in my cupboard or I can easily recognize.  Palets de Dames exists as a prime example of how something as simple as a sugar cookie can feel elevated to a treat.

Creaming the butter.
Creaming the butter.
Always a good idea to crack your eggs into a separate bowl.
Always a good idea to crack your eggs into a separate bowl.
Mixing in the eggs one at a time.
Mixing in the eggs one at a time.
I like to make my own vanilla extract with bourbon.  Adds an extra flavor but I haven't found anything yet that hasn't benefited from a bourbon undertone.
I like to make my own vanilla extract with bourbon. Adds an extra flavor but I haven’t found anything yet that hasn’t benefited from a bourbon undertone.
Texture of the final dough.
Texture of the final dough.
All ready to pop in the fridge.
All ready to pop in the fridge.

The moisture level of the dough is a little surprising.  When you think of cookies, particularly of the plain variety, the dough is usually quite a bit thicker.  This nearly reminded me of mousse.

I used a 2tsp cookie scoop which worked great although a little trickier to use with this soft of a dough.
I used a 2tsp cookie scoop which worked great although a little trickier to use with this soft of a dough.
Cooling down.
Cooling down.
Sifting powdered sugar for the icing.  Don't skip this step-you run the risk of lumps and bumps.
Sifting powdered sugar for the icing. Don’t skip this step-you run the risk of lumps and bumps.
Just a few drops of lemon in the icing.
Just a few drops of lemon in the icing.
Final texture on the icing.
Final texture on the icing.
I couldn't resist adding a little flavor to the icing.  I ended up with plain, rosewater and coconut.
I couldn’t resist adding a little flavor to the icing. I ended up with plain, rosewater and coconut.

The resulting cookie is nearly more like a cake.  Light, sweet and incredibly fragrant. They are perfect to accompany a beverage on the bitter side like a strong tea or coffee.  I experimented with adding a few drops of flavoring to the icing and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.  I loved the subtle coconut flavor a drop or two of extract provided and the rosewater added some extra fragrance and subtle flavor.

My husband adored these to the point of immediately attempting to hoard them all for himself.  He ended up sharing a few cookies with his coworkers and with some friends.
My husband adored these to the point of immediately attempting to hoard them all for himself. He ended up sharing a few cookies with his coworkers and with some friends.
Enjoying my tea and cookies.
Enjoying my tea and cookies.

The rest of the book and this baking journey feel far away but just around the corner at the same time.  I can only hope to achieve such enjoyable results with future recipes.

Big thank you to my sweet husband Scott for taking all the wonderful pictures.

Recipes from Baking Chez Moi are not posted although this recipe can be found as a preview.  If you like what you see, please purchase the book. It’s wonderful.