Posts Tagged ‘goat cheese’

Twice Baked Cranberry & Pancetta Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Glaze

The only time I've lived away from my hometown was during my sophomore year in college when I moved to Beaufort, a small town on the coast of North Carolina. I lived there for a few months before traveling for a month down the Eastern seaboard to study marine zoogeography. That semester changed my life, and I've continued to process the memories over the years. Periodically I'll share stories here on Willow Bird Baking from that time.

. . .

I stared willfully at the horizon, waiting for the wave of nausea to subside. As if it were having great fun at my expense, the boat rolled over another giant wave. My stomach followed. I was determined not to succumb to the sensation and end up hanging over the railing like several of my friends, so I squinted even harder at the steady line between sky and land.

We'd woken up at an absurd hour to climb aboard the R/V Susan Hudson that morning. We'd all become accustomed to rolling out of bed, pulling on a pair of salty old sneakers, and plowing through the fog of sleep to begin our adventures. Luxuries like showering and hairstyling and even, say, deodorant had long since been abandoned. There was a high likelihood that on any given day we'd find ourselves traipsing through mud up to our thighs (I'm not exaggerating), swimming to a nearby island, or cuddling with sea cucumbers in the shallows. There was no point in getting pretty.

This was our first deep sea expedition. We were traveling miles out into the ocean to dredge and trawl for invertebrates that we would take back to the lab, observe, and then release. I'd been on the Susan Hudson around Pivers Island, home base for the Duke Marine Lab where we lived, but I soon discovered that this was an entirely different experience: one in which I did not have sea legs. Or a sea stomach.

The briney smell of the critters we poured out onto the ship's deck didn't help. We quickly flipped fish back out into the sea and scooped heaps of clams, snails, and squids into buckets of seawater. A cacophony of seagull chatter above us reminded us to toss a bit of our impressively fresh sushi into the air now and then.

On our way back with our spineless loot (the squids' inky water suggested they were none too happy with their temporary accommodations), we docked near Cape Lookout to explore the seashore for a bit before eating lunch back on the boat. The dining hall had packed us sweet little bag lunches complete with a sandwich, apple, and cookie, but the thought of lunch sent my stomach back into a lurch.

Fortunately, one of the guys in our group had grown up on the water in Charleston. Will had battened down hatches, swabbed the deck, shivered some timbers, and every other nautical cliche I can muster up. He saw my decidedly green gills and said, "Make sure to eat."

I was skeptical. "Well, I'm feeling really sick -- is it a good idea to eat anything? Isn't that just asking for trouble?"

"Trust me: eat. You'll feel better."

I unfolded the wax paper around my sandwich and took a cautious bite. (By the way, if you've never wrapped a sandwich in wax paper for your lunch, you should. The sensory experience of unwrapping that crinkly, smooth paper to eat a humble little sandwich is one of my favorite things in the world.) I don't remember what sort of sandwich it was, but it tasted otherworldly after an entire morning on the boat. My hunger caught up to me and I finished devouring my sandwich with gusto. I headed for the cookie after that, offering my apple to one of my friends (the peel gets caught in my teeth and drives me batty, so I never eat them).

My trust in Will, given tentatively and mostly out of desperation despite his obvious experience, paid off. I felt better almost instantly. So much so that instead of clenching my bench and staring at the now-bright horizon the entire way back to the lab, I was able to get up and survey the surrounding sea, broken by waves and playful dolphins.

. . .

I've moved from research boats to potato boats since my time in Beaufort. In fact, I haven't stepped foot on an actual boat (unless you count a kayak) in years. And I wouldn't trust these sweet potatoes to be particularly sea-worthy.

They are fantastic, though. I love twice baked potatoes for their soft, creamy filling, and this play on the theme boasts that same lovely texture. In addition to that, it has a phenomenal collection of flavors: sweet potato, cranberry, salty pancetta, sage, goat cheese, and a sweet balsamic glaze. The pretty presentation is just the icing on the cake.

Twice Baked Cranberry & Pancetta Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Glaze



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 2 twice baked sweet potatoes

These gorgeous twice baked sweet potatoes are fancy enough for a holiday meal, but simple enough to make any night. You can even prepare them a day in advance so they're ready to pop in the oven before a big meal. A few tricks (like using a zip top bag to pipe the mixture into their sweet potato boats) speed up the process. The best thing about them, though, is the fantastic combination of flavors: salty pancetta, sweet and tart cranberries, tangy goat cheese, fresh sage, and a sweet balsamic glaze. It's every sweet potato's dream.

Ingredients:
2 large sweet potatoes (look for ones that are shaped like a fat oval)
4 ounces cubed pancetta
2 ounces goat cheese, plus more for crumbling on top
2 tablespoons butter
1 heaping teaspoon of loosely packed sage leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup half & half
salt to taste
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar

Directions:
In a small bowl, cover dried cranberries with hot water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 10 minutes to rehydrate the berries. Drain them and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Poke each sweet potato several times with a fork and bake them on the oven rack (with a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any oozing) for 1 hour or until a knife will slice them easily.

While they bake, sauté the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for a 8-10 minutes or until crisp. Drain it on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Once they're ready, let the baked sweet potatoes cool for 10 minutes before slicing the top third off of each. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the flesh (leave about 1/8 inch of flesh in the skin to give it some sturdiness). Mix the sweet potato flesh in a medium bowl with the butter, 2 ounces of goat cheese, and half & half (add this slowly while mixing so you get the consistency you'd like). Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the cranberries, sage, and pancetta. Salt the mixture to taste. Spoon it into a large zip top bag and cut the bottom corner off. Squeeze the mixture into the sweet potato skins. (At this point you can cover the potatoes and refrigerate overnight or bake immediately. If you chill them overnight, just let them come to room temperature before you bake them the next day.) Bake the potatoes for 10-12 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

While the potatoes are baking, combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and boil them over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced to about 2/3 cup (this can take anywhere from 18-25 minutes). Be careful -- vinegar fumes are strong! When the glaze is about ready, preheat the broiler. Top each potato with a generous amount of goat cheese and broil, watching very closely, until goat cheese is toasty brown and bubbly. Remove the potatoes and drizzle on the balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.

P.S. This dish will be entered in the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission's No More 'Mallows Recipe Contest. I love me some sweet tater and marshmallow casserole, but I also love that sweet potatoes pack a lot of savory potential.

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Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Orange Rosemary Butter & Goat Cheese

In light of Willow Bird Baking's Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge, I'll be sharing some tips for tackling new or challenging recipes throughout the month of March. If you haven't signed on for the challenge yet, make sure you read about it and join in the fun.

My first bit of advice about how to Cook Hard Stuff (or really, how to cook anything at all) is going to seem half obvious and half new agey, but it's important enough to harp on a bit.

Cooking Hard Stuff Tip #1: Read and visualize the recipe.

Once upon a time, I treated a recipe like a labyrinth. I started at the beginning without any knowledge of what was ahead, putting one foot in front of the other and hoping I eventually reached the other side.

It was exciting, for sure. Suddenly, I'd need a cup of sugar. I'd dig around in the cabinet for a bit, do some measuring, and accomplish that task. Then, bam! I'd need a stick of butter. I'd scrounge around in the fridge to see if I had one. The pitfalls of this technique are pretty obvious: sometimes you're out of sugar, or your butter needed to be set out to soften hours ago, or the pan you need is soaking in the sink with last night's baked ziti caked all over it.

It only took a few such missteps to start reading recipes, but even then, I just "read" them. Skimming did the trick most of the time. Finally, a few mid-recipe trips to the grocery store made me realize that a cursory scan of a recipe wasn't going to cut it either.

When I say you should read through your recipe, I mean you should grab a pencil, sit down with the recipe, and really read it. Make grocery lists based on the ingredients. Make a schedule for your prep work so things like softening butter don't sneak up on you. Sketch a plan for how to set up your workspace for finicky or time sensitive recipes so you won't have to stop and rummage through the pantry.

These things take a little time. You might sit with your recipe for 15 or 20 minutes planning. I can say from experience, though, that the time and angst you'll save as you breeze through your recipe is worth the few minutes of preparation.

Once you've given a recipe a thorough reading and made any helpful notes, you need to sit down and visualize the steps of the recipe. Literally, sit there and picture yourself doing each step. Maybe this is starting to sound a little like a yoga class, but mentally walking through a recipe is one of the most important things I do to ensure my success. It's during this exercise that I realize what order the prep work is best completed in, what techniques I'm unfamiliar with and might need to read more about, and what kitchen tools I should use in order to maximize my efficiency and minimize my workload.

Thinking through the recipe a few times also makes me feel like I've practiced the steps I'm about to tackle, which boosts my confidence and leads to better results in the kitchen.

These Hasselback Sweet Potatoes aren't Hard Stuff; they're actually pretty simple to prepare and boast a gorgeous flavor profile. But having never made Hasselback potatoes before, you better believe I was reading around online, comparing various recipes, and making a prep list for myself. After this bit of preparation, the dish practically flew together.

As I hoped, the orange rosemary butter, goat cheese, and smidge of warm orange marmalade glaze worked perfectly with the sweet potato to create a bold savory side dish. Do a little reading and a little visualization (and maybe even some yoga?) and then make yourself some sweet taters.

What tips for Cooking Hard Stuff would you offer other readers?

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Orange Rosemary Butter & Goat Cheese



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, inspired by A Cozy Kitchen's Hasselback Potatoes
Yield: 2 sweet potatoes, 2-4 servings

These sweet potatoes are stuffed with delicate orange rosemary butter and goat cheese and drizzled with a touch of warm orange marmalade when they're fresh from the oven. The result is a savory side dish with a hint of sweetness and a ton of bright flavor. Don't fret if the butter and cheese needs to be smooshed into each slit in the potato and ends up a little messy -- the finished product will be gorgeous.

Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
3/4 teaspoon honey
4 ounces goat cheese
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more for salting butter to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon orange marmalade

Directions:
Make the Rosemary Orange Butter: Mix softened butter, orange extract, orange zest, finely chopped rosemary, and honey until well combined. Add salt to taste. Spoon butter onto a square of wax paper and gently form into a log. Wrap the log and place it in the freezer to firm up completely.

Prepare potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and cover a baking sheet with foil. Place a wooden spoon handle on either side of your potato and slice thin slices into it, allowing the spoon handles to stop your knife before you cut all the way through. Slice your cold butter into thin slices and stuff a sliver into every other slit in your potato. Stuff goat cheese into the other slits (some goat cheese will smear out onto the top of your potato and form a topping of sorts). Place the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle each potato with 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake the potatoes at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes or until fork tender. Check halfway through and tent with foil if the goat cheese is beginning to brown too much. Remove the potatoes from the oven after baking and heat the orange marmalade in a small, microwave safe prep bowl for about 15 seconds. Drizzle half over each potato and serve immediately.

P.S. This dish will be entered in the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission's No More 'Mallows Recipe Contest. I love me some sweet tater and marshmallow casserole, but I also love that sweet potatoes pack a lot of savory potential.

See all the Cooking Hard Stuff Tips:
The Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge
Tip #1: Read and visualize the recipe.
Tip #2: Mise en place.
Tip #3: Make a schedule.
Tip #4: Try, try, try again -- or share your success

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Sweet and Spicy Pickled Grapes with Goat Cheese

First, I just want to take a moment to send love to Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie's Kitchen who lost her husband Mikey this past week, and Kristen Doyle of Dine & Dish, who lost her brother after his struggle with cancer. I can't begin to imagine the unthinkable heartbreak each woman is trying to navigate. I hope the huge wave of love their loss has inspired across the internet (have you seen the peanut butter pies? Mine's coming next week) is just one tangible way God is embracing them during this time.

These tragedies come in the same year that Mara (I Made Dinner) lost her father and father-in-law and Erika (Ivory Hut) lost her home in a fire. This has been a hard year for so many blogger friends. The whole blogging community is grieving with and praying for these ladies, who deserve every ounce of the outpouring they're receiving -- and more. May God bless and keep you during your hard times.

I sat in a coffee shop last night with a friend chatting about submarines (what?) and drinking Pomegranate Hibiscus Ginger Ale. It was unfiltered, and the ginger burned my throat with spice every time I took a sip. The burning reminded me of eating rum cake, each bite of which is literally heartwarming. I love that sensation.

The ginger prickle in my throat also reminded me of pickled grapes. This intriguing recipe boasts a surprising flavor combination. I know the words "pickled grapes" may initially conjure up visions of dilly, sour grapes and the urge to upchuck one's lunch (can I say that kind of thing on a food blog?), but hear me out.

As Deb said in the original recipe, these are a desserty sort of pickle. The brine itself is spicy with peppercorns, mustard seed, and cinnamon, and the grapes take on a deep, sweet warmth that the vinegar doesn't overpower.

I served these in a little dish with wells for the grapes, goat cheese hunks, and toothpicks. Friends at my elementary school throwback picnic would grab a toothpick, skewer a grape, skewer a cheese hunk (that sounds like the kind of guy I want to meet -- a cheese hunk. ha ha), and devour. Pairing the grapes with creamy goat cheese grounded their tangy flavor and, for me, made them the perfect appetizer.

As you might expect, these meet mixed reviews. I have a friend who tried the recipe with green grapes and didn't love them. Some folks can't get past the idea of a pickled fruit. But I really enjoyed the ease of preparation, their convenience as an appetizer, and the taste! If you like trying new things and have an open mind (and palette), give 'em a shot!

What kinds of things do you pickle?

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Grapes with Goat Cheese



Recipe by: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields: about 3 cups of pickled grapes

Ingredients:
1 pound red or black seedless grapes, washed and with stems removed
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon salt
goat cheese for serving (optional)

Directions:
Cut off the very end of each grape, exposing a bit of the inner flesh (which will help the pickling solution infiltrate the grapes). Place the grapes in a clean mason jar.

Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Either pour the hot brine over the grapes and let them cool together or let the brine cool and then pour it over the grapes (Deb notes the difference: "The original recipe has you pour the bring mixture over the grapes and let them cool together. I personally prefer a cold brine on certain foods, not wanting to wilt the fresh fruit, so I cool the brine completely before pouring it over. The former will yield a more tender pickle, and it will pick up the brine’s flavor faster. The latter will take a bit longer to souse, but the grapes will stay more firm.") I chose to mostly cool my brine first.

Once your grapes and brine are cool, chill in the jar for at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve cold with hunks of goat cheese.

P.S. Are you thinking up your own filled cupcake for the Willow Bird Baking Cupcake Challenge? Bake your creation and email photos to juruble 'at' gmail.com by Wednesday, September 7, 2011. I'll feature your cupcake on WBB! Find more details and some cupcake inspiration here.

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Quick Rosemary, Fig, and Goat Cheese Tarts

I'm a simple girl. I like complicated poetry and intricate novels and things like that, don't get me wrong. But for the most part, I'm the sort of girl that puts my hair up so I don't have to fiddle with it, forgets to wear earrings, and floats about in flip-flops whenever possible. (By the way, not to brag, but we've almost made it to flip-flop weather in North Carolina lately!)

I love a cute high heel every now and then, but for the most part (besides middle school dances), they sit in my closet.

But one day I bought these shoes. I cannot explain it.

These shoes were unlike anything I'd ever owned (or ever wanted to own). First off, they were bright flippin' gold. And they were pointy-toed. And they had 4-inch heels. And, um, they might have been faux snakeskin.

Any one of these characteristics on its own (well, except maybe the snakeskin) might have worked for me. But all together?

What was I thinking?

Well, I know what I was thinking. I was thinking of how hot they'd look on, say, Cindy Crawford. And then my brain went off to the food court for FroYo while my imagination thought, "Hey, maybe they'd make you look like Cindy Crawford!" So I shelled out way more cash than appropriate on my then-college-student budget, and ta-da, they were mine.

Can you guess what happened next?

If you guessed that those hot gold faux-snakeskin pointy heels sat in my closet until I finally tried to sell them online, you would be correct. If you guessed that no one bought them because everyone else has prohibited their brains from frolicking off to the food court, you would be correct.

If you guessed that I do not look like Cindy Crawford, you would be correct.

Why do I ever forget that simpler is usually better? In honor of simplicity, here's a fantastic and fantastically simple tart to serve with your next meal (I ate it with Cream of Mushroom Soup!)

This recipe originally called for just rosemary and goat cheese, but the reviews said it needed more flavor. I added a generous layer of fig jam and that really knocked it right out of the park! It's a sweet and savory, buttery-but-light combination that will complement many meals and be ready in 20 minutes flat. If you're feeling a little rebellious, though, feel free to make your own homemade puff pastry -- and perhaps go buy some faux snakeskin heels?

What's the silliest thing you've bought in recent years?

Quick Rosemary, Fig, and Goat Cheese Tarts



Recipe by: Adapted from Fine Cooking
Yields: about 8-9 servings

Ingredients:
3 ounces Bûcheron goat cheese (or fresh goat cheese)
4-5 tablespoons fig jam
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (or use homemade puff pastry!)
flour, for dusting
1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, only very roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, mash the goat cheese (crumbled) and cream with a fork together until combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry sheet out into a 12 x 17-inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter (and a ruler for a straight edge, if desired), cut the pastry in half lengthwise to form two rectangles. Measure off a 3/4-inch strip on each side of each rectangle and use a straight edge to cut each strip off. Use a pastry brush to brush water around the edges of the rectangles that will act like a "glue" to hold a border on. Now stack each 3/4-inch wide strip onto the damp area of the dough, creating the raised border.

Spoon the fig jam inside the border of each rectangle and spread it. Then spoon and gently spread the cheese mixture inside the border, over the fig jam. This is a little hard to spread, but it's okay if some areas have more cheese than others. Remember, it's supposed to be rustic, y'all. Then evenly grate lemon zest over the cheese, scatter the rosemary leaves on top, and grind some pepper evenly over everything else. Bake until the tarts are puffed and deep golden brown, rotating the pan about halfway through baking. The original recipe said this would take around 17 minutes, but they were a tad overdone around 15 minutes, so keep an eye on them! Cut the tart into pieces and serve while hot.

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Homemade Puff Pastry and Vol-au-vents

Have you ever pulled something out of the oven and felt like a rock star? Felt giddy and awed at the first bite? Been so incredibly proud of a recipe you were inexplicably able to complete that you thought about framing the resulting photos for your desk at work? Okay, okay, maybe that's a little much. But all silliness aside, there are turning points in my life as a baker where I feel like I "level up," or gain a skill or technique that previously seemed too daunting for me to contemplate. This past Daring Bakers challenge was one of those turning points.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.


New baking supplies for the challenge.

Vol-au vents are simply cups of puff pastry stuffed with delicious savory or sweet fillings. That part sounds easy. But homemade puff pastry? I have to admit, I was very nervous. The recipe looked especially daunting considering my love-hate relationship with my rolling pin. I think we've smoothed things out, but every now and then I still feel like giving him a good whomp against the counter to adjust his attitude. And even apart from rolling pin troubles, puff pastry is just a fickle, time consuming creation. It's made by enveloping an entire pound of butter (Heyyy, Paula Deen!) in the dough (called a détrempe). Once the butter is wrapped up like a present, you make a series of six "turns" (tri-folds) in the dough, rolling it out between each (and refrigerating often to maintain workability). This website has a useful pictorial of the turning process, but I bet you'd love to see Julia Child and Michel Richard making it in real-time, wouldn't you? Your wish is my command! Here's the fun part: once you have all those lovely layers of butter and dough in the oven, the water content of the butter turns into steam, inflating your pastry. If all goes well, you end up with a fluffy, buttery bit of heaven.

After watching the video above several times over, I dragged my load of doubts and worries into the kitchen and set to work with a furrowed brow. My dough seemed too sticky, my butter pounding scared little Byrd to death, and my envelope kept threatening to break and expose my butter. Nevertheless, I trudged on, hoping that somehow, my little pastries would puff their hearts out in the oven. And guess what?

It worked! It worked! It worked! It's unfortunate (or maybe not, since Mike's eardrums are probably sore) that you couldn't hear me shouting those two little words as I leapt around my apartment after taking these out of the oven. It was like magic! Little disks of dough turning into lovely, sophisticated pastries via unseen processes within their layers. And not only were the pastries puffy, they were out of this world delicious. I burned each one of my little fingertips to bits (not to mention my tongue) eating them straight out of the oven. Mike liked them too! Byrd was indifferent.

I chose to stuff my vol-au-vents with both savory and sweet fillings. My savory vol-au-vent was filled with smooth goat cheese mousse with a drizzle of fresh, homemade pesto on top. The pesto was gorgeous -- made with toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil (including some huge sprigs from the garden beside my classroom -- did I mention that I love my school?) The tangy goat cheese and rich pesto were such a delicious combination.

Goat Cheese Mousse and Basil Pesto


Recipe By:

-Shirl on RecipeZaar (goat cheese mousse)
-Elise on Simply Recipes

Yields: About 1/2 cup mousse and 1/2 cup pesto

Goat Cheese Mousse Ingredients:
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, lightly whipped

Basil Pesto Ingredients:
1 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/6 cup pine nuts, toasted
1.5 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
To make the mousse, process the goat cheese in a clean food processor until smooth. Add the whipped cream and blend just until incorporated.

To make the pesto, combine the basil and pine nuts in a food processor. Pulse a few times. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on low (if storing, reserve half the oil -- see note below). Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Note: If storing and not using immediately, reserve half the oil. Place pesto in airtight container and drizzle reserved oil over top. Freeze or refrigerate.

My dessert plate was designed as a walk through the seasons. Spring was represented by Smitten Kitchen's tangy mango curd, a sweet raspberry, and a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Summer was simple: homemade whipped cream and berries.

Finally, autumn was one of my favorites (in fact, you've seen it a few times here recently!): baked peach crisp. I baked some peaches, brown sugar, white sugar, oats, and toasted pecans in a dish before spooning the hot mixture into my puff pastry and (you know what's coming, right?) topped it with a dollop of whipped cream! Next time I think I'll add the toasted pecans over top of the peach mixture at the end. All of these dessert vol-au-vents were incredible in their buttery pastry cups, but our favorite by far was the Mango Curd Raspberry Vol-au-vent!


Peach Crisp Vol-au-vent



Raspberries and Cream Vol-au-vent



Mango Curd Raspberry Vol-au-vent

Mango Curd


Recipe By: Smitten Kitchen (mango curd)
Yields: About 1 to 1.5 cups

Ingredients:
1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar (might reduce this to 1/3 cup next time, to keep the curd more tart)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:
Puree mango, sugar, lime juice and salt in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.

Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., about 10 minutes. Remove from over water. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover (place plastic wrap on surface of curd to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate overnight. Can freeze for up to 2 months.

I'm grateful for the Daring Bakers for many reasons: the exciting recipes shared, the fantastic friendships made, the gorgeous blogs to visit. For this challenge, though, I especially want to thank Steph and the Daring Bakers for a huge confidence boost! I hope you'll decide to give puff pastry a try. It's a manageable beast, and the resulting dough freezes well to use for months to come. Even besides those practicalities, though, it feels like such a satisfying kitchen accomplishment!

Puff Pastry and Vol-au-vents


Recipe By: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yields: Using 1/3 of the dough yields about 9 2-inch vol-au-vents

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Directions:

Mixing the Dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:
If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Steph's extra tips:

  • While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.
  • Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.
  • Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the dough...you want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.
  • Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.
  • Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.
  • Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.
  • Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.
  • When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.
  • Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.
  • You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.
  • Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).


Vol-au-vents ready to go into the oven, and then baking under a silicon mat.



Pesto fixings.

Don't forget to cruise the Daring Bakers blogroll to see all of the creative vol-au-vents fillings other chefs chose.

Now I want to hear from you: what was your proudest culinary achievement?