Saturday, July 19, 2014

In the Garden: what's blooming in mid-July 2014

My garden is looking lovely this summer. Many of the flowers I planted last summer have grown in and look amazing! I love coming home after work and looking over everything that's growing and blooming. There were a few casualties, as there every summer, but most of what I've planted has survived. I planted a few new flowers this summer -  a few more daisies and some 3' high garden phlox for height.

Here's a bouquet of flowers from my garden. It's so wonderful to be able to go snip a few flowers from the garden to bring inside. Makes me happy!

a home grown bouquet


Here is what's blooming this year, in mid-July. (See last year's garden pictures here, and 2012 pictures here.)

My Clematis 'Roguchi' is HUGE this year. I highly recommend this clematis.

an amazing profusion of blooms...


and the seed heads are adorable!!

cute sedum in a pot

bzzz bzzz bzzz

Liatris spicata Kobold in full bloom


Hakonechloa macra 'Naomi' (Japanese Fountain Grass) in the forefront

Geranium Rozanne blooming away

a close up of the Geranium Rozanne


my Echinacea purpurea 'Virgin' looks great this year! So many blooms...



the little fern in the back is growing nicely

Phlox paniculata David, newly planted last month. It's about 3 1/2 feet tall!

a close up of the garden Phlox

the seed heads of my peony ('Festiva Maxima')

bleeding heart foliage (Dicentra spectabilis)

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Sentimental Blue' (dwarf balloon flower)

Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in White' with a stem of Liatris in the front

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster,' Feather Reed Grass...
the brown seed heads are really pretty against the tall green grass


Bye for now...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Homemade puff pastry becomes...pithiviers

Hello blog! It's been so long since I've posted. I apologize to any readers who may have visited me this spring and summer. I've been so negligent and really do miss posting. It's just been difficult keeping up with full-time work, graduate school, trying to be healthier, have a happy marriage, and on and on.

But, it was my birthday last week and I had a dinner party for family and friends and cooked and baked up a storm. So I'll be posting those pictures soon. My garden is also blooming away and I took a trip to Iceland in the spring...so lots to catch up on! Even though I haven't been posting much lately, I do think of my lonely blog and any readers who may be visiting. Don't give up on me!

Getting to the point at hand for this post...pithiviers!

my freshly baked pithiviers

Have you heard of this dessert before? Me neither! However, during my puff-pastry making obsession over the winter, I was looking for something else fun to do with some of the puff pastry and I found this amazing pastry creation. It's puff pastry on the outside and delicious almond cream on the inside. So yummy.

The almond cream recipe is courtesy of Chef Delphin Gomes and comes from one of the baking classes I took many years ago at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. It's very simple!

You'll need 1 pound of puff pastry (see my recipe for puff pastry here), 1 recipe almond cream (below), and 1 lightly beaten egg for the egg wash.

Almond Cream
8 oz granulated sugar
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
8 oz almond flour (see directions below)
2 oz all-purpose flour

To make the almond flour, put blanched almonds in a blender and pulse until crumbly and "flour-like." It's easier to do this in small batches. Make 8 oz worth and set aside.

mise en place for my delicious almond cream!

first...making the almond flour. Grind small amounts of almonds in a blender...

...until it looks like this - sandy, light and fluffy

To make the almond cream, cream the sugar and butter (beat in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Mix the almond flour and all-purpose flour together and then slowly add to the egg-sugar-butter mixture. And...that's it!

For the pithiviers filling, line an 8" tart ring with plastic wrap, and scrape the almond cream into the ring. If you don't have a tart ring, use a 8" pie plate or just draw a circle on parchment and use that as a guide. Then simply spread the almond cream to fill the 8" circle. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

making the pithiviers filling

use an offset spatula to smooth the top

chill and then remove the tart ring

While the almond cream is chilling, roll out your puff pastry. You want two circles, one at least 1" larger than the other. I used a 9" tart ring to make the smaller circle and a bowl with a 10" mouth to make my larger circle. Chill your puff pastry circles for about 15 minutes.

tracing the 10" circle

the bottom circle of pastry, 9" around

and the top, 10" around

Now, we assemble. Using something solid for your base (I used a cooling rack covered in aluminum foil), place the smaller puff pastry circle down first. Next, peel back the plastic wrap from your chilled almond cream disk and place it in the middle of the 9" puff pastry.

my almond cream round goes in the middle of the puff pastry base

Next, place the larger round over the top and seal the edges with the egg wash. Brush the entire top with the egg wash. Be careful not to let the eggs drip over the cut edges of the pastry or the layers will not puff properly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

sealing the edges...don't let the egg drip over the sides

After chilling for at least 30 minutes, use a sharp knife to carve a design in the top dough. Mine is a bit messy, but not bad for my first try! Be sure to cut a hole in the middle to allow steam to escape.

Refrigerate for another hour or two (at least). You can also freeze the dough at this point, which is what I did. Before you bake the pithiviers, give it a final egg wash. Again, be careful not to let the egg drip over the edges.

a bit off-kilter, but here's my free-form design

Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. So beautiful! Next time you go to a dinner party, volunteer to make dessert. Bring this to the party - frozen - and bake it while you're eating dinner...your friends will be impressed! I served mine at a family holiday party and it got rave reviews!

my golden brown pithiviers

time for a slice...flaky pastry and light and delicious almond cream filling

With my leftover dough and almond cream (and some chocolate chips added!) I made 3 small, individual-sized pithiviers with different designs in the top dough.

cutting out and filling the dough for the small pithiviers

a flower pattern

the one on the bottom left is a bit wonky, but it baked up fine

voila!

look at all those layers...

all the chocolate chips sank to the bottom during baking

but it was still delicious! Chocolate and almonds are a perfect combination.


Bye for now...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Homemade puff pastry becomes...parmesan twists and palmiers

Using the scraps from my homemade puff pastry recipe I made some parmesan cheese twists and palmiers. I should really write it this way, "palmiers," because I just free-handed the shape as opposed to making them the traditional elephant ear shape. I basically just rolled them into circles and they ended up looking like shrimp because the "tail" separated a little during baking.

For the cheese twists, I simply grated some lovely Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, brushed with egg and then pressed the cheese onto the dough, twisted, and put on the pan.

They were both delicious, buttery little snacks. Here are some photos:

a close up of my parmesan cheese twists

my little palmiers look like shrimp...but taste like sugar!

a little egg wash, some parmigiano-reggiano cheese and these are ready to bake

done! smells so good

check out all of the layers inside

just missing a glass of red wine

so yummy

baking up the curly palmiers

caramelized sugar...what could be better!

choices choices choices...which one to try first?


Bye for now...