January 29, 2012

Savory Roasted Garlic and Goat Cheeses Tart

Yesterday, I broiled a pie. It was not some ingenious technique to caramelize the sugars, but a percocet-induced blindness to details that reduced my walnut pie to a smoldering mess that tasted like "baked beans and burnt popcorn," according to Joey. Hooray. It really was truly disgusting, and though I blame my altered state --thanks doctors! -- I think that the copious molasses might have had something to do with it as well. I usually love molasses, but this pie recipe called for it in excess of one cup and in addition to brown sugar, which frankly is just way too much sweetness for my palate. I'm still curious to try this pie and its cousins -- shoo-fly! --just not made in my own kitchen on prescribed, heavy narcotics.

Luckily, however, before going under the knife, I helped chef one of DC's numerous underground restaurants and emerged (lucidly) with this roasted garlic tart featuring plentiful herbs and goat cheeses. Other standouts were Eric's roasted fennel-celeriac salad, James's spicy stuffed onions and quinoa, and of course the cocktails invented by the geniuses behind the bar. I baked a couple of espresso-white chocolate-citrus tarts too, but this garlic jam might have been the queen of my contributions. It's pretty much an Ottolenghi recipe, though I swapped in a quiche crust, increased the garlic, and cooked the garlic at a lower heat and for much longer than he did. However! These weren't scientific changes, and no matter what your technique or substitutions, this tart will turn out beautifully and delicious. It must seem a welcome reprieve from the usual parade of sweets on this blog. Maybe my percocet disaster could be considered a sign that I ought to spend more time baking savory goods; butter is good in any light, after all!

Roasted Garlic Tart
Adapted somewhat from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty

I didn't tweak this much, but my changes are noted where applicable. Get to it! This tart is too good to ignore.

13 ounces puff pastry, defrosted if frozen, or your favorite quiche crust recipe
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled (not crushed) (I used 4 heads)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (I upped this to two)
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 3 sprigs for garnish
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (orig. calls for 3/4 teaspoon), divided
4 1/2 ounces soft, creamy goat cheese, such as chevre
4 1/2 ounces hard goat cheese, such as goat gouda
2 large eggs
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
6 1/2 tablespoons creme fraiche
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Roll out puff pastry/dough into a 13-inch circle. Fit puff pastry into an 11-inch round fluted pan with a removable bottom. Place a parchment paper round on top of puff pastry or crust; top with pie weights or dried beans. Transfer to refrigerator; chill for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and set aside. Transfer tart shell to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove weights and paper and bake until pastry is golden, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. Place garlic cloves in a small saucepan filled with water. Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer; simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and return cloves to saucepan. Add olive oil and place saucepan over high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fried, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and 1 cup water; bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue simmering over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and garlic is coated in a dark caramelized syrup, about 10 minutes more (I ended up going for more than 15). Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Break both goat cheeses into pieces and scatter in tart shell; spoon garlic cloves and syrup over cheese. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, creme fraiche, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt; season with pepper. Pour egg mixture over cheese and garlic filling, making sure the cheese and garlic are still visible.

5. Transfer tart to lined baking sheet then to oven, and bake until tart filling is set and top is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes (I ended up going for 50). Remove from oven and let cool slightly before removing tart from pan. Garnish with thyme sprigs; tart can be reheated but is best straight from the oven and served warm.

January 5, 2012

Gingersnap Icebox Cake with Lemon Whipped Cream

Oh hey, hi, happy 2012.  Hope you weren’t visiting this blog to reaffirm any sort of recent personal declarations to observe weeks upon abstemious weeks of self-restraint and moderation. Well, because cake. This cake. It’s a no-brainer way out of your resolutions and an ascetic January. I’ve had high mind to make a gingersnap icebox cake for awhile now, but the opportunity was never quite golden enough to warrant sculpting 80 cookies into a creamy, tremendous tower until New Year’s came ‘round the corner. Our house – a lovely balance between comfortable chillage and devilry – elected to have an end-of-year Paper Moon bash coupled with a birthday party for our beautiful and inspiring talent of a friend, Pierrette.

The evening kicked off with a square dance in the dining room and live fiddling – led by my tarty partner in crime and friends from Kentucky and North Carolina  and was followed by relatively mellow mingling before evolving into a DJ-powered night of swilling and smooching. There was a photo booth and a kissing booth, demureness and debauchery, and generally all registers of revelry were met with a birthday backdrop.

Which brings us back to this cake! If you've had icebox cake before then you need not be persuaded, but if you're new to the dessert, it's a giant layer cake of cookies that softens in the fridge for some hours before it's cut into slices and served. The cream turns buttery, the cookies cakey, and it really is the pinnacle of celebration desserts. Happy 2012, y'all. May your year be full of health (likely found elsewhere) and oodles of new, delicious recipes (come back for more!).

Gingersnap Icebox Cake!
Makes about 85 cookies, or enough for one 77-cookie, 11-layer cake, with a handful of leftover snaps

The cookie recipe is very, very similar to the one that is all over this here blog. The spice and sugar profiles are somewhat different, as is the amount of baking soda, though only barely. The major difference is one of technique: this cookie dough is refrigerated first and baked from firm rounds instead of scoops; I think that this might play a role in the cookie's snappy-ness. Feel free to experiment with the Tanglewood classic too!

For the cookies
Adapted and doubled from Smitten Kitchen

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 heaping tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
4 sticks (16 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large egg
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses

1.  In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and ground white pepper. In a separate large bowl, beat soft butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add egg and molasses and beat until just combined. Give it a stir or several with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is incorporated, then heap dough upon some plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, until firm.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a small cookie scoop or other device, roll roughly two teaspoons of dough into a round ball. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, and continue for rest of dough, spacing dough balls two inches apart. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. I opted for 13, and 15 should make them pretty snappy. Allow cookies to cook on sheets for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack where they'll continue to harden. Let cook completely before assembling cake. Leftover cookies will keep for a week covered in an airtight container, though they will soften a bit each day. 

For the whipped cream
3 cups heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons granulated sugar, or more to taste
3 teaspoons lemon zest

1.  When cookies have cooled, prepare whipped cream. In a clean glass or metal bowl, beat whipping cream, sugar, and zest with an electric mixer on medium until soft peaks form. Taste for sweetness. If you're satisfied, beat just a bit more until peaks and "medium" and just hold their shape. Do not make ahead.

For the assembly
1.  On a plate or serving platter, make a circle of six cookies with one in the middle. Spread a half-cup of cream on top, leaving about a quarter-inch or so of un-creamed cookie border. Top with your next circle of cookies, then one-half cup of whipped cream; repeat for whole cake, ending with a final layer of cream for a total of 11 cookie layers.

2.  Cover with plastic wrap and place cake in the fridge for eight to 12 hours or overnight; this one hung out in the icebox for ten hours and was plenty soft. One way to keep the wrap from mussing the cream is to place a few toothpicks around the perimeter and drape the plastic over those instead of putting it directly on the cream. Top with a lemon twist or a pile of slivered candied ginger and cut into slices to serve.