Monday, August 14, 2017

Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata

I put an SOS call out to some clients (who, over the years, have also become friends!) to see if they still had figs available. The next day I received 2 boxes of just-picked black figs.  Thank you, Susan & John! My Mom loves figs so I always try to make fig jam each summer. 

Just-picked! Aren't they beautiful?

I made a batch of jam one night after work and was left with a box of figs to use up.  Though I love to munch on fresh figs, a girl can only eat so many of them!  I started searching online for fig recipes and found this crostata from Martha Stewart. A crostata is basically a free-form pie, no pie pan is involved, just roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper, add the filling, fold over the edges and bake.  Super easy! We loved this crostata! The almond filling was a nice complement to the fresh figs.  The crust is very buttery and flaky.  My husband, step-daughter, and I each had a slice then I drove across town and delivered the rest of the crostata to my parents. They, too, loved it! (I also left fig jam for Mom!) My Dad, of course, had to have a scoop of ice cream with his portion! This is a wonderful late-summer fruit dessert.

Now in the interest of fair reporting I must admit I messed up on the dough.  I misread the recipe and used 1 1/2 sticks butter.  I discovered this as I was rolling it out, my dough was very soft. Oops!  I added extra flour as I rolled it out so was able to use the dough.  It spread more than it probably should have but it still tasted great. I'm sure a crostata made with the correct amount of butter in the dough would be much prettier than mine turned out to be!  In this case, taste won over form!



Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata

Dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Filling:
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound ripe fresh figs, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

To make dough: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if, necessary, gradually add up to 2 tablespoons more water). Do not overmix. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days).

To make filling: In food processor, combine almonds and sugar; process until finely ground. Add egg, butter, flour, vanilla, and salt; pulse until smooth, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine figs and lemon juice; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a large lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough to a 14-inch round. Spread almond filling in center, leaving a 2 inch border; top with fig mixture.  Fold border over edge of filling, pleating all around; press down gently to seal. If desired, brush dough with an egg wash.

Lifting edges of parchment, transfer crostata to a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.  Let cool on baking sheet at least 30 minutes. To serve, cut crostata into wedges.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Guacamole

According to family lore, tacos were the dinner menu for my first birthday.  I have no recollection of that birthday party but at every birthday I can remember tacos were served. Even as an adult I would head over to my parents' house for my annual taco celebration. My parents both have health issues now and my Mom can't cook like she used to, especially for a large gathering. I try to help out with their meals so thought a taco dinner would be a fun way to feed them and gather the family together. Tacos for 12 it was! We had a nice time but the negative about making tacos is the kitchen mess.  It took me until 8:30 to get my kitchen back to normal again!

No taco dinner would be complete without guacamole and chips. Guacamole is a true "add a little bit of this, little bit of that, until it tastes right" recipe.  We like a variety of items in our guacamole; I use jalapenos, cilantro, tomatoes, and red onion.  After smashing the avocados I season with salt and pepper and add fresh lime juice.  Then I add the other ingredients, tasting as I go, until I get the flavor the way I want it. Depending on who I'm serving, I'll use less jalapenos and onions. Guacamole is easy to make and never lasts long!



I chop up all the ingredients and add until I get just the right taste!


My favorite guacamole-making tool is my pastry blender! We like our guacamole a little chunky so this tool works well!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

English Muffin Bread

July has been a whirlwind! As a result, my little blog got neglected.  I've been cooking and baking, doing some of my crafting; just not taking photos or chronicling my adventures. July started with a bang when my Hubbers had a series of small strokes.  A trip to the ER and a week in the hospital with many follow-up visits to physicians made the first few weeks of the month fly by.  Thankfully, he is recovering nicely and should have no lasting effects from the stroke. The last two weeks of the month found us at the drag strip, pursuing my family's passion.  We lived out of our motorhome at the track.  I managed to make three meals a day, for 5-6 people, out of the teeny-tiny kitchen.  I must admit to being relieved that we are home again where I have much more room to play!

One morning in the RV, I was making breakfast for my troops.  Part of the meal was English muffins.  As I was toasting them I remembered that I used to make an English muffin bread. The recipe comes from a Fleischmann's Yeast cookbook that I've probably had for 40 years. It's an easy yeast bread to make, with no kneading required and only one rise.  It makes a wonderful bread, every bit as good as an English muffin, including all the nooks and crannies for the butter to melt into. I don't know why it's been years since I've baked some! It makes two loaves and freezes nicely. A few slices popped in the toaster makes for a great morning snack!

 
 

English Muffin Bread

2 packages active dry yeast
6 cups unsifted flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
Corn meal

Combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and soda in a large bowl.  Heat liquids until very warm (120-130 degrees).  Add to dry mixture; beat well.  Stir in rest of flour to make a stiff batter.  Spoon into two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans that have been greased and sprinkled with corn meal.  Sprinkle tops with corn meal. Cover; let rise in warm place for 45 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from pans immediately and cool.