Rhubarb and blackberry pie with pink peppercorns

rhubarb and blackberry pie

It’s almost the weekend – hooray! The weather forecast is looking positive and greenmarkets (to pick up more lilacs and ramps), a crawfish boil and jazz at Threes Brewing are on the agenda.

My favorite thing to do on a weekend morning – besides sleeping, of course, closely followed by drinking coffee, as we know – is baking. It’s that rare activity that’s both indulgent and productive at the same time. It provides you with a great start and a delicious breakfast. And, oh yes, it makes people quite happy.

This is a pie made for eating – a bright berry and rhubarb medley lit up by light maple syrup and pink peppercorns. All in a wholewheat crust.

Serve with a dollop of thick greek yogurt and see everyone come running to your kitchen table.

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Rhubarb blackberry pie with pink peppercorns

You’ll need:

  • for the crust:  use this recipe, my favorite, substituting in wholewheat flour for the AP.
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh, chopped rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup light maple syrup
  • 1 packet vanilla sugar
  • 2 T pink peppercorns, lightly crushed

1. Make the crust first so that you can freeze it before baking, for extra crispness. This can also be done the day before etc. In fact, it’s a great thing to have around in the spring and summer months for both sweet and savory baking!

Roll out, shape in pie pan, and freeze for at least 1-2 hours before baking.

2. Preheat oven to 375F. Cook berries and rhubarb in a pan with maple syrup and pink peppercorns.

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3. Spoon the berry filling into the pre-frozen pie crust. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar.

4. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until filling is bubbly on the bottom and the crust is crispy.

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Serve warm with greek yogurt or ice cream.

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Bruléed Grapefruit

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It’s been a while since we’ve done breakfast together.

So striking and so pleasingly retro, yet so perfect for today and every day.

Caramelized brown sugar + pink grapefruit + a sprinkle of fleur de del to create a whiff of that salted caramel flavor.

How to win breakfast: Bruléed Grapefruit

Just preheat the oven as soon as you get up, then halve the grapefruits, sprinkle liberally with light brown or raw sugar  (though this would also be great with maple sugar, as a variation), and broil and torch these beauties.

Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel or another mild, flaky salt and serve immediately.

et voilà! 

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So what else could you brûlée?

How about Crème brûlée oatmeal for the ultimate morning indulgence..

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Buckwheat crêpes

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Buckwheat crêpes are one of those things I love to eat, but, for some reason, rarely make myself.

That turned out to be an easy thing to fix! You can prep the very simple batter the night before and whip up some crêpes and impress your family come morning.

These are perfection however you prefer them – savory or sweet, or both.

I served these with wildflower honey, lemon, & sugar or as a galette complète with egg, ham, & cheese.

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And we are en route to La Rochelle as you read this, so bon appetit and enjoy!

Buckwheat crêpes

(adapted from David Lebovitz)

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup  buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted (for pan + crepes)
  • (and any accompaniments)

1. Whisk together all of the ingredients, minus the butter, into a smooth batter. Refrigerate overnight. Tip: whisk the batter together again the next day, as the flour will sink to the bottom. You can also add a little bit more milk to it as you go along, if it has thickened up.

2.  Let batter come to room temperature. Heat up some butter in a non-stick or crepe pan – I like to brush a little bit of the remaining butter onto the pan as I go along.

3. Lift the pan and pour a ladle (about 1/4 cup full) of batter in the middle of the pan and swirl it around. Remember the rule of the first pancake, the first crepe is the hardest, then they get easier as you go along!

4. Cook each crepe for about a minute on each side. Use a spatula (or your hands if they are pretty heat-resistant, like mine) to flip and/or lift out of pan.IMG_1392

5. Serve warm with your choice of accompaniments. If making a galette complèteflip the crepe, then add a slice of ham, cheese and an egg on top. Fold down the edges to keep egg inside. Forming the perfect little “envelope” will probably also take some practice!

My favorite sweet incarnation of the crepe is simple: lemon & sugar. Or lemon, honey, & sugar and, okay, some pretty purple flowers too.IMG_1394IMG_1388

 

Strawberry sugar cookies (dairy-free!)

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This time, for my semi-annual baking for non-dairy eater friends and family, I decided to make something colorful and indulgent.

Sweet strawberry sugar cookies – what could be a better treat?

Coconut oil is a great substitute with summer fruit and berries, its stronger flavor is somehow mellowed and it still keeps the cookies rich and creamy.

Tips: A couple of points on the strawberries – let them absorb the sugar for a few minutes, but lightly pat them dry with a paper towel before folding them gently into the cookie dough. And when spooning the cookie onto the baking sheet, just make sure that every cookie has about two strawberry pieces in it.

Strawberry sugar cookies 

(makes about two dozen)

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 punnet strawberries
  • 2 T vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • optional: speculoos or Biscoff cookies crumbs for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or foil.

2. Whisk (or beat with a mixer) the coconut oil and sugar vigorously for several minutes until well-combined. Beat in the egg, then slowly add in the dry ingredients until the mixture forms dough.

3. Hull and cut the strawberries in half (or into quarters, if yours are on the larger side), place in a bowl. Macerate with vanilla sugar for 5 minutes, pat dry.

4. Carefully fold in the strawberries into the cookie dough.

5. Using a tablespoon, spoon out the dough onto the baking sheet, pressing each cookie a little bit to flatten. If topping with cookie crumbs, press those in lightly too.

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6. Bake each batch for about 10 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through, until just set and golden. Let cookies cool completely on a wire rack.

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Sugar-glazed radishes

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So French and so simple.

These radishes make a silky, delicate side to your lunch or dinner.

Serve warm, with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

Tips: Steam the radishes using a colander, a steamer basket, or – my choice – a bamboo ‘dumpling’ steamer. And get the crunchiest, sweetest radishes you can find.

Sugar-glazed radishes

You’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 bunches radishes, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine granulated sugar
  • a pinch of fleur de sel

1. Bring a pot of water to boil, fit steamer over the pot.

2. Carefully peel and trim the radishes, leaving just a little green ‘tail’. Place them in steamer, sprinkle with sugar, and steam for 10-12 minutes.

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3. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve immediately.

Upside down berry almond cake

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We spent New Year’s weekend in Woodstock, enjoying the hush of the snow in a cabin with a crackling fire and food and drink aplenty.

I ended up adapting this recipe to taste – I like less sugar in everything, especially fruit desserts – and to cabin equipment – old-school hand-crank mixer, anyone? – and it was a delightful, light treat after the holiday dinner and for next day’s luxurious New Year’s Day brunch.

Upside down berry almond cake

(adapted from Donna Hay magazine)

You’ll need:

For the upside down topping:

  • 24 oz frozen berries, unsweetened (I used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 1/3 cup fine (caster) sugar

For the batter:

  • 1 cup fine (caster) sugar
  • 1 1/6 stick (about 190 g) of butter, melted
  • 2 t finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups AP flour,
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk

1. Defrost the berries – I placed them in a colander in a sunny spot close to the stove (which was barely off all weekend!) for about half an hour.

2. Line a 9 inch pie pan with parchment paper (I also lined the outside with foil in case of the berry juices bubbling over) and preheat oven to 355F. Pour berries into the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar. Set aside.

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3. In a large bowl, beat (or whisk vigorously, if you have a good forearm) together sugar, butter, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until pale and creamy, about 6-8 minutes.

4. Add eggs in one at a time, incorporating well.

5. Gradually add in – with mixer on low speed – the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing well. Lastly add the almond meal and the buttermilk and mix to combine. You want a pale, creamy, and fluffy mixture.

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6. Pour the batter over the berries and smooth the top. Bake for an hour until just set in the middle. Tent loosely with foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Let cool before flipping over onto a large platter.

ps. Thanks to Valerie for photo-documenting while I was baking even though she was busy baking herself!

Apple, apricot, and almond bread

It’s quite a few degrees cooler outside, and you know what that means – baking season! The smell of cloves, cinnamon sugar, and apples gets my mouth watering every time.

This recipe has the three A’s – apples, dried apricots, and almonds (in this case, almond flour or almond meal). Perfect with tea or with your breakfast.

The holidays, for me, are all about being indulgent and craving the comfort foods we love without over indulging. Believe me, there is always another tasty holiday cookie to grab instead.

Tip: This recipe has no dairy, and barely uses one egg, and not too much sugar – a good trick in baked goods using fruit is to use sweeter fruit instead of  adding more sugar – these sweet honey crisp apples, for example. You could also use raisins or dried cherries instead of the dried apricots, if you prefer.

Apple, apricot, and almond bread

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup wholewheat flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • ⅓ cup raw sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • ⅓ cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
  • 2 red apples, peeled and chopped (I used honey crisps)
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a loaf pan with lightly greased parchment paper.

2. Prepare the filling first – chop and peel the apples, cutting them into fairly small chunks. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and apples and toss to combine.

3. Sift together the flours, raw sugar, baking powder, and chopped dried apricots in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and slowly add in the almond milk while mixing with a spatula. You should get a soft, wet dough.

4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out the dough – it will be pretty pliable, so you can even use your hands, and place the apple filling in the middle, then roll to cover. You may have some apples sticking out of the dough on top, but that is perfectly fine.

5. Place by our bread into the loaf pan, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Peanut butter cookies

Happy Thanksgiving! As ever, so thankful for the beautiful food on our table and the great company here to share it.

The simplest yet most delicious cookie recipe that will help you occupy the kids – or other restless members of your family – over the holiday weekend.

Crunchy but chewy at the same time, these peanut butter cookies bake to a lovely golden crisp. Plus, this is another dairy-free recipe, for those of you trying to avoid butter.

Peanut butter cookies

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter (at room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2 T vanilla sugar
  • 1 t vanilla bean paste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 T sugar + 1/2 t cinnamon = cinnamon sugar for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl combine peanut butter, sugars, egg. Whisk in baking powder and vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, if you’re using that instead).

2. Line a baking tray with parchment. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the cookie dough onto the baking sheet, leaving about an inch of space on either side – these cookies expand!

3. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for about 8-9 minutes. You want the bottom to be crisp and browned and the tops will still be chewy. Watch the cookies carefully because they will bake quickly!

Wait until completely cooled before lifting from the baking sheet.

Tomato jam

As we gallop into apple season – fall really does seem to be coming at us at breakneck speed – it is time to say goodbye to tomato season, which always makes me a bit sad.

Still, there are some ways that we can keep holding onto that summer tomato essence, and this tomato jam is, literally, one of the best ways to “bottle it up.”

And if you know me, you know that I am always torn between my love for sweet and savory, and would prefer to have both at the same time whenever possible (which may be why I like brunch so much). So if you do it right, the jam will be slightly sweet, a little spicy, and a tad sticky. Just perfect, in my book.

Note:  The yield on this is not great as the fruit cooks down and caramelizes, so I always say make more. And you’ll want more anyway, believe me. I got two smaller weck jars out of this.

Tomato jam

(Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman and The Wednesday Chef)

You’ll need:

  • 1.5 pounds late season plum or campari tomatoes
  • 3/4 cups raw sugar
  • 3 T rice vinegar
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 dried chilis
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 t salt

1. Core and quarter the tomatoes. Combine all of the ingredients and spices in a heavy bottomed saucepan, mixing well.

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for about an hour until ‘sticky.’

3. Taste and add a little more salt or acid, if necessary. Keep in sterilized jars in the fridge.

Delicious with a cheese and chutney sandwich or just on some toasted olive ciabatta as an afternoon snack.

Apricot and walnut jam

Growing up, my mom always told me about this walnut and apricot jam that was a staple in a friend’s household.

I had some slightly over-ripened apricots, and I always have nuts around, so I thought today would be a good time to try this out.

This is not an overly sweet jam, but you can adjust the sugar proportions depending on the sweetness of your particular fruit. I usually tend to do half the volume of sugar to the volume of fruit.

You’ll need:

  • 5-6 fresh apricots
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • a splash of St Germain (optional, but oh so delicious)

1. Quarter the apricots, remove the stone/pit, which you can crack to remove the kernel for extra flavor, if you want (use it to infuse the jam and then remove).

2. In a large saucepan, combine apricots and water. Cover and cook, stirring, until fruit is just tender.

3. Add sugar, St Germain, if using, walnuts, and lemon juice. Cook, uncovered, stirring and skimming off any foamy bits.  The jam will thicken and reduce.

4. Pour into your jam jar(s), cover tightly, and let cool completely before refrigerating.