Saturday, August 20, 2011

Plum Good Torte

Because my childhood neighbors had two big Italian plum trees, our family was gifted a large supply of plums sometime every August. No one really knew what to do with the plums, and so my father inevitably stewed them and ate them on top of ice cream. Not an appealing memory, those plums. 

But I’ve grown up since then, thankfully, and have a new-found appreciation for Italian plums. In fact, I was quite surprised to find out just how delicious they can be, particularly when baked into a simple cake. This torte, which was adapted from a recipe by my friend (and La Varenne buddy) Mary 

Schaaf. It originally ran in the December 2002 issue of Chocolatier Magazine, and I remember it well. The halved plums are arranged on top of the batter, and they gradually sink into the cake during baking and become jammy and intensely flavored. I used red Italian plums from the farmers’ 

market in my torte, but any red or black plum will work nicely, as long as they’re ripe and juicy. Serve this torte warm, if possible, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Peach, Ginger and Almond Galette

August is prime peach season, the time to make that perfect peach pie. But August is also a lazy month, and I tend to take my share of shortcuts in the kitchen to leave more time for reading and relaxing. So instead of making a classic, state fair type of peach pie with 

perfectly crimped crust edges, I’ve been known to go the rustic route, and make a simple, freeform galette instead. Yes, you still have to make the pastry, but it doesn’t require rolling out two crusts, nor does it require a long baking time. Since peaches pair so  

well with almonds and ginger, I sprinkled the pastry with a combination of ground almonds and toasted breadcrumbs (they also help to mop up some of the peach juices, so they don’t spill out), and tossed the sliced peaches with freshly grated ginger and 

finely chopped crystallized ginger. The result, I must say, is nothing short of spectacular—in the flavor department, at least. But I do love the rustic, countrified look of this pie, though it probably will never win a blue ribbon at the state fair. Assuming you could find one around here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Classic Vanilla Cheesecake with Red Berry Topping and Strawberry Whipped Cream

As a cookbook author and professional recipe developer, my inclination when creating a recipe is to be creative, to try new flavor combinations and, occasionally, new techniques. New twists on old classics, thinking outside the box, blah, blah, blah. But there’s a 

reason that some dessert recipes are considered classics, and why they remain so popular: they’re really good. And sometimes, only a classic will do. This past week I’ve been craving cheesecake, and I don’t mean blueberry, mocha, blackberry swirl or double chocolate 

cheesecake. I mean plain old vanilla cheesecake, creamy and rich, just like Mom used to make (or somebody’s Mom made, anyhow). So, that’s exactly what I made: a simple, rich, vanilla cheesecake flavored with vanilla bean seeds. As for accompaniments, well, I did 

add a couple (just couldn’t help myself). The saucy Red Berry Topping and Strawberry Whipped Cream turn this classic into something extraordinary. They are, of course, optional.