Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Buckwheat Crepes, Any Which Way

I never felt truly at home while growing up in LA, but when my dad took me up to Berkeley one summer to visit my older brother, I fell immediately in love.

(With Berkeley, that is, not my brother. Though naturally I love him, in a brotherly way.)

While the craftsman architecture, lack of strip malls, and clean(er) air certainly didn't hurt, the deal was sealed when we breakfasted at Cafe Fanny one morning. I loved perusing the handwritten menu, ordering at the counter, and sitting outside at a table in the parking lot with the locals waiting for our food. There, I sipped my first non-Starbuck's coffee (a creamy latte served in a giant ceramic bowl), tried baked goat cheese salad (transcendently unctuous), and ogled artisan loaves at Acme next door.

But what stayed in my mind the most were the buckwheat crepes.

Wrapped around thick, tangy yogurt and a handful of pristine strawberries, the crisp-chewy-spongy crepes were unlike anything I'd ever tasted before. I fell hard for those crepes, which to me embodied the understated elegance of Northern California.

While some fourteen-year-olds dream of becoming movie stars or models, I spent math classes imagining going to college at UC Berkeley and working as a cook at Cafe Fanny. (I'd be a shoe-in due to my close friendship with Wolfgang Puck, natch.)

My hopes were dashed when, at 18, the only school I got into was UC Santa Cruz (probably shoulda payed more attention in that Algebra class!), and I was forced to work instead at the College 8 bakery under a boss who couldn't even pronounce 'focaccia' properly. It was rough. By the time I'd made it to the Bay Area, Alice Waters had sold Cafe Fanny to someone who thinks that it's ok to have eggplant on the menu in February, and I realized that getting up at ass o'clock every morning to get payed minimum wage just wasn't my thing.

But none of that matters now, because I can make Alice's buckwheat crepes anytime I want (read: not ass o'clock) at home. My dad gifted me the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook shortly after that first crepe-obsession-inducing trip and I was thrilled to find the recipe on page 66. I have since made it many, many times.

Buckwheat, or blé noir, has become one of my favorite grains, with hints of nuts and cinnamon in its pretty black flecks. It is gluten-free, and full of l-lysine, an amino acid that can help kick canker sores. This batter contains plenty of buckwheat flour, as well as hefty doses of butter, beer, and milk. A healthy amount of salt and a bit of sugar make the crepes full flavored, but neutral enough to wrap around sweet or savory ingredients.

The only change I make to the recipe is to substitute some whole spelt or wheat flour for the all-purpose. Just be sure to let the batter rest for at least two hours, so that the glutens have time to relax, ensuring tender, lacy crepes.

Traditionally, buckwheat crepes are called 'galettes' and are reserved for savories, while 'crepes' are made with white flour and filled with sweet things. But Alice suggests serving these for dessert with a mango-sauternes compote, and if she says it's ok, then it must be. I like these equally with sweet and savory fillings, for any meal of the day. This morning I sliced some fresh figs and drizzled them with creme fraiche and honey. At lunchtime, the crepes got rolled with thinly sliced gruyere, stoneground mustard and smoked turkey and served with a crisp green salad.

Other filling ideas:

sauteed spinach, mushrooms and caramelized onions or leeks
poached quince with goat cheese
sauteed pears, apples or peaches with maple syrup
sweetened ricotta cheese and fresh berries
smoked ham with swiss
roasted asparagus with beurre blanc
softly scrambled eggs with herbs
brie and ripe pear slices
wild mushrooms and cream sauce

Making crepes takes a bit of practice to get the hang of, and I won't lie: I get nervous every time I go to swirl the batter around my well-seasoned pan. But it is a task I find meditative and quite satisfying. The crepes can be made up to a day or two in advance, stacked on a plate, and heated 'to order' as needed.

And nothing washes them down better than a glass (or crock) of dry, French cider.

Though a bowl of latte would be a close second.

Brunchy bites:
Sourdough Apple-Oat Cheddar Pancakes
Sourdough Flaxseed Waffles
Bacon Beer Scones
One year ago:
Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

Buckwheat Crepes

Adapted (barely) from the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, by Alice Waters

Makes about 1 dozen crepes, 6 servings

1 cup whole milk, divided use
2 ounces (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole spelt or wheat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil (such as sunflower)
1/2 cup beer (such as Anchor Steam, or another lager)

In a small saucepan, gently heat 1/2 cup of the milk with the butter, salt and sugar until the butter is melted. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flours in a medium bowl. Make a well, and add the eggs and oil. Whisk until very smooth, gradually adding in the beer and the cooled butter/milk mixture. Chill the batter for at least two hours in the fridge, or up to a couple of days. Remove from the fridge and stir in enough of the remaining 1/2 cup of milk until the batter reaches the consistency of heavy cream.

To cook the crepes, heat a well-seasoned 8 or 9" crepe pan or skillet over medium heat. Swirl about half a teaspoon of butter or oil in the pan, then wipe it out with a paper towel. (Unlike pancakes, you don't want a lot of fat in the pan, just enough to prevent the crepes from sticking. If your pan is well-seasoned, you will only need to oil it once before you begin, but wipe the pan with a bit more butter if your crepes begin to stick.) Pour 3 - 4 tablespoons of batter into the pan and swirl it to coat it evenly. If you've poured in too much batter, you can pour the excess back into the bowl. If you have some holes in your crepe, you can dab on a bit of batter to fill them up. This may take a bit of practice, but you will soon be swirling like a pro.

Let the crepe cook until lightly golden on the first side, about a minute, then flip and cook another 30 seconds or so on the second side. (I like to use a small, metal, offset spatula to pry up a side of the crepe, then I bravely use my fingers to flip it over.) Slide the crepe onto a large plate, and continue with the batter, stacking the crepes as you go, until you've used it all up. (If you want this to go faster, you can use two pans: one to cook the first side, then flip it into the second pan to finish cooking while you start another one in the first pan.)

Cover the crepes with a damp towel and leave at room temp for an hour or two, or cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to several days.

To reheat and serve:
Each crepe will have a pretty side (the first side it was cooked on) and an 'aesthetically challenged' one (the second side.) Melt a little butter in a pan and heat the crepe pretty-side-up for a few seconds. Flip and heat the second side (ugly-up). You can melt cheese on the crepe, and add any other ingredients you like. Fold it half or into quarters and serve. Alternatively, you can roll the crepes up (with any desired ingredients), place them side by side in a baking dish, sprinkle some cheese over the tops if you wish, and bake in an oven until heated through.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Flan

While most people receive gifts with anticipation and enthusiasm, Jay does so with vociferous griping and grumbling.

At first I considered this a personal eccentricity, but after spending seven present-less Christmases with his family, I've learned that it is more of a minimalist-induced lifestyle choice, and I've come to enjoy the lack of shopping-induced stress around birthdays and other significant days of the year.

While opting out of the Meaningless Spending Frenzy each December can be liberating, it does make for a rather austere holiday season.

Which is why I'm glad some folks in my family still feel that it's better to give than to receive.

On a camping trip last weekend, my sister brought us a pumpkin for decoration and plunked it down on our (fairly small) folding table. Jay characteristically kvetched about the space it took up and having to schlepp it back to the bay area, but I appreciated the gesture and asked whether it was strictly a deco pumpkin or whether it might be edible.

'Well, it had a pie recipe stuck to the bottom,' my sister replied by way of explanation.

Two more baby pumpkins arrived in our box the following Wednesday, and I sliced and roasted them all in anticipation of making pumpkin flans inspired by a recipe I clipped from Chow's brief yet glorious stint as a paper magazine several years ago. While pumpkins make perfectly lovely decor, I usually eschew them in favor of more reliable butternuts, hokkaidos and kabochas, as their flesh can be stringy and bland. But when I tasted the sweet, dense flesh of the pumpkin my sister had gifted us, the pumpkin mania which consumes Americans this time of year finally made sense.

Sadly, the two baby pumpkins tasted like slightly bitter nothingness and were banished to the pumpkin patch in the sky (compost bin).

Thankful for the gifted pumpkin, I pureed the orange flesh with eggs and sugar, then poured in a mixture of heavy cream and half and half in which I'd steeped vanilla bean, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice berries. I coated some ramekins with a simple caramel, and baked the flans in a water bath.

Coated in a nappe of liquid caramel, flecked with vanilla bean and freshly grated nutmeg, the flans convey all the spicy, warming flavors of a pumpkin pie, only more creamy, delicate and sophisticated. They make a clever dinner party dessert as they can be baked up to several days ahead upon which they merely get turned out onto plates or shallow bowls. In fact, the more the flans chill, the more the caramel absorbs moisture from the custard and liquifies into a sauce. For this reason, they must be made at least four hours (and preferably at least 1 day) in advance of serving.

These flans need no embellishment, but they can be garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds or served with a side of crispy gingersnaps. Or make a deconstructed pumpkin pie and serve the flans inverted into baby tart shells, or garnished with pate brisee cutouts.

After dance class last Friday, my sister, niece, Jay and I all retired to our apartment for dessert. I was glad my sister got to taste the fruits (or vegetable, as it were) of her pumpkin-purchasing labors.

Giving a pumpkin and receiving back this flan seems like a mighty good deal to me; one that even Jay was able to enjoy.

Pump you up:
Somewhat Fussy Pumpkin Tart
Savory Winter Squash Tart
Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares
One year ago:
Huckleberry-Fig Crumble Tart

Pumpkin Flan

Inspired by Chow

Makes six 6-ounce, or eight 4-ounce flans

To roast your own winter squash, slice a 1-pound squash (pumpkin, butternut, kabocha, etc.) lengthwise with a sturdy chef's knife. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet, and place the squash, cut-side down, on the sheet. Bake at 400º until very tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool until handleable, scoop out the seeds and strings and discard. Scoop out the flesh and measure out 1 cup. Extra squash can be eaten as is, perhaps with a bit of butter and salt.

I usually use organic turbinado sugar for baking, but the large crystals make it prone to crystallizing when making caramel. Super-fine white sugar is thus my choice for the caramel in this recipe.

I baked six flans in 3/4 cup ramekins, but for smaller flans, you could bake these in eight 1/2-cup oven-safe cappuccino cups.

1 cup packed roasted pumpkin or winter squash flesh (or canned pumpkin)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2  3" cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
4 whole cloves
6 allspice berries
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar (preferably super-fine)

Combine the vanilla pod and seeds, spices, half and half and heavy cream in a small saucepan. Heat over a medium flame until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan and the mixture is steaming. Turn off the heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes.

While the dairy steeps, make the caramel:
Place 6 six-ounce ramekins in a roasting or lasagna pan and set aside. Place 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the water, and gently moisten with your fingers. Brush down any sugar crystals that end up on the side of the pot. Place over medium heat and cook, without disturbing, until the mixture turns a deep amber, brushing down the sides of the pot if the sugar begins to crystalize. Immediately divide the caramel evenly among the bottoms of the ramekins and quickly swirl to coat the bottoms. Set aside. (Tip: to easily clean the pot, fill with hot water and boil until all the caramel dissolves.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven with no racks above it and preheat to 300º. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the squash puree, 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, nutmeg and salt. Puree until very smooth. Strain the dairy into the bowl of the food processor and blend to combine. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois and into a 4-cup measuring pitcher, working the mixture through with a rubber spatula. You should have about 4 cups of batter. (The mixture can be kept, chilled, for a few days.)

Divide the mixture among the ramekins, filling them 1/4 - 1/2" below the top. Cover the roasting pan tightly with a piece of aluminum foil and pierce with a knife in a few places. Place the pan on the oven rack, peel back a corner of the foil, and carefully pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Re-cover with the foil and close the oven door.

Bake the flans until slightly puffed and set when jiggled, 30 - 40 minutes (longer of the mixture was chilled before baking.) You don't want them to wiggle wetly at all in the center. Remove carefully from the oven, uncover, and use a pair of tongs to remove the ramekins from the water bath. Let the flans cool for about 30 minutes, then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, or up to 4 days.

To serve, run a thin knife around the inside of a ramekin and invert onto a small plate or shallow bowl. Grasp the ramekin and plate in both hands and jiggle firmly a few times in a downward manner until the flan releases. Garnish with a few pumpkin seeds, if you like.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Über Apple Upside-Down Cake

Being a baker has its hazards. Scorching hot pans. Molten caramelized sugar. Sharp knives. Heavy equipment that needs moving here and there.

But in addition to the inanimate objects that seem to have it out for us, we bakers also make many human enemies.

My co-worker, Juanito, often tells me he hates me. This usually occurs after I have set out a platter of cake scraps or a new dessert for the staff to try. He is not the only one. 'I hate you,' is a refrain I hear all too often, usually (but not solely) after the consumption of something I have baked.

If the way to man's heart is through his stomach, then where am I going wrong?

I want you to try this cake. But I also want you to like me, and I fear that these two events cannot happen simultaneously. You see, this cake contains a lot of butter.* An unconscionable amount of butter. I even reduced the butter by 3/4 of a stick from the original recipe and there is still an amazing amount of butter in it.

It is also ridiculously easy to make, but, with little effort, winds up looking as elegant as a tarte tatin. Tender apples glisten like jewels atop a rustic dough, delicately flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, making you want to shove forkfuls of it in your cake hole until you beg for mercy.

The culprit? Evil culinary genius Ree. (It's all her fault - hate her instead! I did, just a little.)

I bookmarked this recipe some time ago, when Kelly's pink pearls first entered my life and I wasted spent a lot of time researching what to do with them in order to showcase their lovely color. Ree's gorgeous photos and hilarious prose made me love this cake before it even became the menacingly buttery reality that it now is.

Apple slices are cooked in a skillet with butter and sugar (I reduced the quantities of both - you're welcome!) until soft and beginning to caramelize. Pink pearls sure look pretty, but any tart baking apple will be awesome. A simple, buttery and crème fraîche-y cake batter, with more chopped apples folded in, gets spread thinly over the top. A brief stint in the oven, and the cake is turned out in all its gooey, decadent glory. Serve it warm, with a scoop of vanilla or horchata ice cream, or at room temp with a dollop of whipped cream, because, really, why not go all out at this point?

Although, I guess all those apples do make it a tiny bit 'healthy.'

So perhaps you won't hate me after all.

Or at least, not for this cake.

*not to be confused with 'Alot of butter'

Let them eat:
Banana Upside-down Cakelets
Peach Buckle
Rhubarb Streusel Coffeecake
One year ago:

Über Apple Upside-Down Cake

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 8 - 10

5 - 6 large, tart baking apples, such as pink pearls or ladies, or grannies
2 sticks of butter, softened, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar (I used light, but dark would be fine, too.)
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375º.

Peel the apples and cut them off the core into 6 equal pieces. Melt one stick of butter in a well-seasoned 10" cast iron or other oven-proof skillet. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over and stir to distribute evenly. Lay the apples, rounded side down, over the sea of buttery sugar, placing them snugly next to one another. You should have about one apple left over. Chop that up fairly finely and set aside. Place the apple-filled skillet over medium-low heat while you prepare the batter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a regular bowl with a wooden spoon if you're sans mixer/butch), beat the remaining stick of butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy, 3 - 4 minutes on medium, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each. The batter may break, but that's ok. Whisk or sift together the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Stir the vanilla into the crème fraîche. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter, mixing on low until just combined. Add the crème fraîche mixture, stir, then the remaining flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Fold in the chopped apple.

When the apples in the skillet are very tender and the butter mixture has begun to color slightly, after about 20 minutes, remove from the heat and dollop the batter over the apples. Carefully spread the batter with an offset spatula. Place in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until the cake is golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen, and invert a large plate over the pan. Using oven mitts, flip the whole thing over and remove the pan. Some apples/cake may stick to the bottom of the pan; this is easily repaired using a knife or offset spatula to spackle it back together.

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature. It is best the day of baking, but will keep well, tightly covered at room temperature, for a day or two, or refrigerated for up to three days.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

Like most things in life, I had romantic notions when I decided to sign up for a CSA box several years ago. I imagined perfect produce every week, fancier than what one could ever find in the markets: ripe blenheim apricots, loads of plump cherries, flawless heirloom tomatoes, pristine heads of baby lettuces, maybe something exotic like ground cherries, mulberries, or fraises des bois.

Of course, romantic notions rarely pan out the way we hope, and while we do get our share of exciting fruits and vegetables (and eggs!), some boxes take a bit of creativity in the kitchen.

When unfamiliar produce shows up, like a fat bok choy for the third week in a row, or a giant cabbage, or a head of bitter escarole, I almost always open Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone to the index and set to work. When tomatillos arrived for the first time, I learned to how to make a simple salsa, adding in some roasted poblanos, which have also been abundant (and uber-spicy!) this summer. It must have been an excellent year for the little papery-husked green guys, too, because I have now made this so many times, I have committed it to memory!

But variety is the spice (or in this case, spiciness) of life, so the other night, while perusing Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, I read up on her crema de guacamole, a chilled tomatillo soup thickened with creamy avocados. It was too hot to contemplate turning the stove on for more than the 10 minutes it takes to cook the tomatillos, however, so I just made the old standby, but pureed in some ripe avocados, and tweaked the seasoning a bit.

What emerged from the food processor was my idea of salsa perfection - creamy, tart, thick enough for dipping chips or quesadilla wedges, but loose enough to drizzle over fish tacos, tamales or migas. Cilantro, lime, and roasted poblanos lend heat and complexity. The avocado tempers the tang of the tomatillos, thickening what can be a watery sauce, and the tomatillos cut the richness of the standard guacamole, lending another dimension of flavor. The acidity of the tomatillos serves another purpose as well: it prevents the avocado from oxidizing, meaning a batch of this salsa keeps in the fridge for up to a week, unlike guac, which only really lasts a few hours.

This silky salsa makes an excellent snack on a warm day. It's a nice companion to take on a camping trip, a hike, or to a barbeque or pool party. Wash it down with a frosty lager or jamaica-tequila spritzers.

Now I actually go out of my way to buy tomatillos at the market when they're in season, from mid-summer to early fall, and I greet the ones in the box with excitement rather than dread.

Maybe someday I'll find a way to make escarole taste good, too.

One year ago:
Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

Dips and Spreads:
Smoky Baba Ganouj

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

Poblano chilies vary widely in spiciness. You may need just a bit of one for heat, or they may be so mild that you will want to add an even spicier chili, like a jalapeno or serrano, or a pinch or two of cayenne. It is a bit of a crap shoot, so be sure to taste your peppers before adding them into your salsa. Extra roasted chili can be stored in the freezer and used as needed.

Makes 3 - 4 cups

2 poblano chiles
1 pound (about 10 medium) tomatillos, husks removed
1/4 large yellow or white onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, washed, stems removed and discarded, a few leaves reserved for garnish
juice of 1 - 2 limes
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 avocados, peeled and pitted, flesh scooped out

Roast the poblanos either over an open flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally until the skins are blackened and blistered all over, 5-10 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, then, wearing gloves if your skin is sensitive to capsicum, peel off the skins. Slice the peppers in half and remove the veins and seeds. (If the peppers are very spicy, you can rinse them to remove more of the capsicum, which concentrates in the seeds and veins.) Chop the flesh coarsely.

Meanwhile, place the tomatillos in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 - 10 minutes, until the tomatillos turn a drab green. Drain and let cool slightly.

Combine the tomatillos in a food processor or blender with the poblanos (if the peppers are very spicy, you may not want to add all of them), and onion. Blend until smooth, and to release some heat. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, then add the cilantro leaves, the juice of 1 lime, salt and avocado. Puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, lime juice, or chile to taste. The salsa is prettiest within the first couple days when it is bright green, but will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Almond Plum Tart with Cardamom Ice Cream

I had high hopes for plum season this year. Though not my favorite fruit for eating, their sweet-tartness makes them lovely for baking into desserts (and we are all about desserts, yes we are.) I plotted all summer long, daydreaming of frangipane tarts, lavender-plum ice cream, cornmeal crusted galettes, tarte tatin, cobbler, sugar plum cake...

Things got off to a bad start when Jay’s mom’s Santa Rosas and Elephant Hearts, which we’d eaten pounds upon pounds of last year, all ripened simultaneously... while we were at music camp. Then other fuits elbowed their bossy ways into the kitchen: pesky peaches, meddling huckleberries, and those dastardly pink pearls. I thought I had all kinds of time left, and kept expecting to see more than just a handful of pluots in the market, or the green guys that showed up in our box, then remained rock-hard for a month. At one point, sugar plums appeared (which I expected to see more of after all the other varieties had petered out) only to disappear after a week.

I’ve heard that plum trees tend to produce on an every-other-year basis, so maybe the entire west coast is on the same lame schedule. But what do I know about fruit trees and their whims? I live in San Francisco with one-square-foot of steel-slatted outdoor space (i.e., the fire escape).

Anyway, I determinedly snapped up some Black Kats, Elephant Hearts and Flavor Richs to make this simple tart, which requires only 4 - 6 plums. The recipe comes from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, and though I may be a loser for waiting so long to make it, this delight is a pure win.

The dough, which comes together in just moments in the food processor, bakes up into a sort of big, chewy cookie-like confection. Dotted with tender, baked plums, it drinks up the juices of this notoriously liquid-when-baked fruit. The flavor has the same nubby, nutty qualities of a financier, only much faster to mix up.

This rustic tart is good warm or at room temp. It makes an elegant dessert with a scoop of spicy cardamom ice cream melting alongside, or, sans glace, it’s not too sweet to make into breakfast, perhaps with a dollop of creme fraiche.

I go a bit nuts (as it were) for cardamom this time of year. The warming spice is a nice way to carry the dregs of summer fruits into the crisp days of fall. This ice cream steeps toasted green cardamom pods in the custard base, then adds some ground cardamom for pretty, grey flecks and extra flavor.

If you're going the make-your-own-ice-cream route, other flavors to consider are honey, lavender, vanilla, or noyaux (bitter almond or apricot kernal), which all pair nicely with plums and almonds.

If you’ve missed the boat on plums this season, don’t fret too much; the cardamom ice cream would be at home on any apple, fig, pear, quince or pumpkin dessert, or even paired with chocolate. Or make a turkish affogato of sorts by pouring a shot of espresso over a scoop.

One year ago:
Chocolate Granola

Rustic Almond-Plum Tart

Adapted from Pure Dessert

Makes 8 servings

1/2 cup almonds (blanched or unblanched; whole, sliced or slivered), lightly
toasted and cooled
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed, plus a bit of softened butter for greasing the pan
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole wheat or spelt flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar (I used turbinado), plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large or 6 smaller ripe plums or pluots, halved, pitted, the halves cut into 2 or three pieces each
powdered sugar and sliced almonds for deco (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375º. Generously grease a 9 or 10” tart, cake, or pie pan, or oven-safe skillet.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the almonds, flours, 2/3 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Process until the almonds are very finely ground. Add the butter pieces, egg and almond extract. Pulse until the mixture begins to clump and resembles damp sand. Dump into the greased baking vessel and press evenly over the bottom (don’t press up the sides of the pan, though.)

Leaving a 1/2” lip around the outer edge, arrange the plum slices in concentric circles over the dough. Sprinkle the tart with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake the tart for about 45 minutes, until the plums are oozily collapsing and the pastry turns golden brown.

Let the tart cool a bit. Optionally sprinkle with powdered sugar and almond slices, then cut into wedges and serve, with cardamom or other ice cream, or a bit of whipped cream or creme fraiche.

The tart keeps well for up to several days at room temperature or in the fridge.

Toasted Green Cardamom Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart, 8 - 10 servings

2 tablespoons green cardamom pods
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
pinch salt
1 cup cold, heavy cream

Toast the cardamom pods in a medium saucepan over medium heat, shaking the pan regularly, until golden and fragrant, 2 - 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, ground cardamom, and half and half. Heat over a medium flame until steaming, and bubbles form around the sides of the pan, swirling occasionally. Cover and steep 30 minutes.

Pour the cream into a large bowl or quart-sized measuring cup. Place a fine mesh sieve over the top. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar and salt. Reheat the half and half. Gradually pour into the yolks, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook, stirring constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula, until the mixture just starts to ‘stick’ (form a film on) the bottom of the pan, and/or registers 170º on an instant read thermometer.

Immediately strain the mixture through the sieve and into the cold cream. Optionally chill the mixture in an ice bath to cool it down quickly, and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or up to a couple days.

Optionally chill the ice cream base in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to churning, then spin in an ice cream maker. ‘Cure’ in the freezer for at least an hour, until firm enough to scoop. The ice cream is best eaten within a week or two, but will keep for up to a few months. (Place a piece of parchment paper on the surface of the ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming.)