Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Peach Crisp and the Pleasant Hill Farmers’ Market

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Summer in a bowl - ripe peaches, cinnamon oat topping and ice cream

Summer in a bowl - ripe peaches, cinnamon oat topping and ice cream

It’s peak summer season at the farmers’ markets right now, and since I’ve written about the outdoor market in Paris I thought I should give my local farmers’ market in Pleasant Hill, CA a little love, too.
Pleasant Hill Farmers' Market nestled at City Hall

Pleasant Hill Farmers' Market nestled at City Hall

This market has been around for 27 years, and runs every Saturday from May until November. It’s found a real home in the city hall parking lot, surrounded by a pond, trees, grass and city hall itself. The beautiful produce, specialty products and live music all make for a warm, casual and comfortable atmosphere – definitely worth checking out. Even onions look amazing at the farmers’ market! I try to find things that I may not see in the local supermarket, along with the standards I can’t resist – like strawberries, stone fruits and tomatoes. Typically, the person you are buying from did the growing, and they are very knowledgeable about their produce and ways to enjoy it. If you have a farmers’ market near you, consider stopping by and taking advantage of a great opportunity.
Farmers' Market Bounty: Yellow and white peaches, plums, apricots, tomatoes, blackberries, strawberries and sunflowers

Farmers' Market Bounty: yellow and white peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, tomatoes, blackberries, strawberries and sunflowers

The peach crisp shown at the top of this post is an easy, quick, satisfying summer dessert – one of my husband’s favorites, and definitely one you can make with your farmers’ market haul. It comes together so quickly – I cut the peaches, sprinkled them with sugar to taste, mixed my crisp topping from The Crumble Top Kit – and still had to wait for the oven to heat up. I used to peel the peaches (the recipe that I wrote for The Crumble Top Kit box calls for the peaches to be peeled), but not anymore. I find that the peach skin softens as it cooks and does not compromise the texture in any way. Not peeling the peaches saves time and trouble, so I’m all for it. Give it a try and see what you think.
And that, as they say, is that . . .

And that, as they say, is that . . .

Best,
Cathy

Chocolate Mousse Cake for Jackie

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

14 inch Round Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake

14 inch Round Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake

My friend and neighbor, Beth, is a great seamstress (www.SunnyGalStudio.com). When I was growing up, Mrs. McCool was the seamstress my mom would take us to for sewing needs that were outside of my mom’s interest or ability. I don’t think it was all that often – with seven kids and goodness knows how many versions of cheerleading/drill team/dance team and school uniforms, I suspect my mom would have loved to use her lots more . . .

Beth made two skirts and hemmed two pairs of pants for me just before our recent trip to France (and I mean JUST before). I’m pretty good about getting rid of clothes that I don’t wear for whatever reasons – like “it doesn’t fit anymore”, “never really liked it but needed something RIGHT NOW”, “what was I thinking when I got this?” – but I’m not so good at adding clothes to my collection and clothes shopping is never high on my list of ways to spend free time. It was so great to pick the material and style I wanted, and then have everything fit just like it was made for me (because it was!). Good quality clothing that I will get lots of use out of equals a great value.

So, what does this have to do with gourmet desserts made easy? Well, Beth’s mom just turned 80 and Beth and her sister, Kelly, gave her a big Hawaiian-themed party. In exchange for a beautiful new sundress that Beth made for me with great fabric I found on sale, I made the birthday cake for about 70 people.

Beth’s mom, Jackie, wanted chocolate cake with chocolate and raspberry filling, finished with whipped cream. I make a chocolate cake filled with the chocolate mousse from our Chocolate Mousse Kit, studded with raspberries. You can see the steps to make this cake here – although this version has a poured chocolate glaze on top instead of whipped cream (scroll down the page for all the details). Jackie’s cake had purple orchids flown over from Hawaii to go with the Aloha theme. I made one 14″ cake, shown above, and one 10″ cake for back up – each had 3 layers of chocolate cake and two layers of chocolate mousse stuffed with raspberries.

Whipped cream can be a little tricky when it’s 100 degrees outside in July – but the cake stayed refrigerated until it was presented and served, and it sounds like everyone loved it.

I have a new sundress that I love, and Jackie, Beth, Kelly and their friends have an evening of memories with a chocolate raspberry mousse cake on top.

Aloha,
Cathy

Pavlova

Monday, July 13th, 2009
Pavlova with summer fruit from the Pleasant Hill Farmers' Market

Pavlova with summer fruit from the Pleasant Hill Farmers' Market

A couple nights a week, I cook dinner at our church’s parish house. Last Saturday night, I made Chicken Paillard with fresh peaches from Tyler Florence’s cookbook, Tyler’s Ultimate. This is a pretty simple dish to make, and it gives big flavor and presentation; with pancetta, blue cheese, honey and peaches, you get the salty/sweet combination that’s so satisfying. Plus, a platter filled with sauteed chicken breasts topped with crispy pancetta, crumbled blue cheese and drizzled with vinaigrette is an eye-popper at the table. I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of it!

For dessert, I made Pavlova from one of my favorite cookbooks, Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax. I first learned to make Pavlova in Australia, when I worked as a pastry cook at a hotel in Sydney. Wikipedia says there is debate about whether Pavlova originated in Australia or New Zealand; it is agreed, though, that the dessert was named for a Russian ballerina who was performing in those countries in the 1920s, and the dessert was created in her honor. I saw (and made) lots of Pavlova in Australia, but I don’t think I ever saw it in New Zealand when we lived there for several months after our year and half in Australia. We made Pavlova year round, and I don’t recall it being specific to any holiday period.

Pavlova is a meringue cake topped with sweetened whipped cream and lots of fresh fruit. It’s light, soft, sweet and satisfying. A great summertime treat . . . the fruit for this Pavlova came from the Pleasant Hill Farmers’ market. It’s not a fussy cake – I didn’t have my cake spatula when I put the whipped cream on the cake pictured above, so the finish is pretty “relaxed”; I just used a rubber spatula to spread the cream, and I don’t think the cake presentation suffered one bit. This cake would be very cute to do as little individual Pavlovas – one cake per person. I’ll have to try that some time!

The basic steps to make Pavlova are shown below. Enjoy!

Whip egg whites with sugar, vinegar and vanilla to stiff peak

Whip egg whites with sugar, vinegar and vanilla to stiff peak

Sift cornstarch on top, fold in

Sift cornstarch on top, fold in

Put the meringue on a baking sheet

Transfer the meringue to a baking sheet . . .

Form the meringue into a cake shape

. . . and form into a cake shape

Bake the Pavlova

Bake the Pavlova

Pavlova with Fruit from Pleasant Hill Farmers' Market

Cover the Pavlova with plenty of sweetened whipped cream and top with your favorite fruits

Paris Spice Market

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
Spice Market at Galleries Lafayette

Spice Market at Galleries Lafayette in Paris

I recently discovered an enjoyable food blog called Cannelle et Vanille, written by Aran who is a food stylist and pastry chef – her pictures are extra special. One of her posts about French style macarons and pink peppercorns caught my eye, because I had just returned from France where I had enjoyed French macarons and bought some pink peppercorns! This is the comment I made on Aran’s post:

Hi Aran,

Your blog on pink peppercorns and French macarons really struck me. I just returned from a trip to France and loved the macarons in every flavor at the very special store Fauchon; plus, I bought some pink peppercorns! I knew I could get them in the U.S., but I wanted to buy them in Paris as a reminder of the beautiful spice market we saw on the second floor of the Galleries Lafayette department store in the Opera district. Since I’m a “foodie” by profession and passion, we tend to visit food spots when we travel.

At Galleries Lafayette, we headed past the perfume counters and clothes and made a beeline to the food emporium on the second floor. Beautiful produce, cheese, ice cream, chocolates, pastries, meats, etc., etc. That was very delightful, and there was also a spice market with fragrant spices piled high on trays so you could order whatever quantity you wanted – they weighed it and packaged it up for you. They had all kinds of peppercorns, but I got some of the pink ones. They’re in a clear pepper grinder on my kitchen counter, and when I see them they take me back to Galleries Lafayette in Paris! I also got a few chunks of crystallized ginger that also just make me feel good when I see them in my cupboard!!

As so many others have noted, your pictures are beautiful – they are noticably special and unique.

Cheers, Cathy
Posted on Cannelle et Vanille, July 10, 2009

I thought my own readers might be interested in the spice market at Galleries Lafayette . . . and below are the crystallized ginger and pink peppercorns on my counter at home in California.

My Pink Peppercorns

My Pink Peppercorns


Sweet Hot Crystallized Ginger from Galleries Lafayette

My Sweet Hot Crystallized Ginger