Sunday, July 15, 2012

Strawberry Puff Tartlets

In the summer, I don’t like to spend a lot of time baking or fussing with my desserts (I do enough of that during the course of my work day). I prefer to take advantage of the bounty of fresh, ripe berries available and let their flavor be the focus. I also don’t have a problem lightening my workload 

by taking a shortcut or two, like buying store-bought puff pastry. I call this simple dessert a tartlet, but it’s really nothing more than a round of baked puff pastry that has not been allowed to rise, and which is then topped with a lemon pastry cream and quartered strawberries. The pastry rounds can be 

prepared a day in advance (as long as it’s not too humid), and stored in an airtight container. The pastry cream can be prepared up to 3 days in advance – just don’t fold in the whipped cream until you’re ready to assemble the tartlets, or the cream may weep (and so will you). You can 

change up the flavors here, in the pastry cream and in your choice of fruit topping. For the pastry cream, you can even substitute a fruit puree for 1 cup of the milk in the recipe, and top with an appropriate berry or fruit mate. A peach or plum pastry cream topped with thin slices of the fruit would be lovely, for example. If you do decide to use a fruit puree, reduce the lemon zest to 1 teaspoon.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Frozen Melon Magic

Yesterday I asked my husband Dicky, master of the understatement, what it was like outside. “Warmish,” was his answer, which to me meant that people were probably fainting from heatstroke right out there on the street, with dogs whimpering 

because their little paws were being scorched by sidewalks hot enough to fry eggs on. Today in New York City it’s supposed to get over 100°F, but we’re lucky compared to those in St. Louis, where it’s been somewhere in the neighborhood of 108°F for a week. I 

had been planning to make little fruit pies today, but owing to the alarming weather, I cancelled those plans real fast and opted for a much cooler treat: frozen melon pops. My melons of choice here are watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew, and the recipe is as simple 

as it is refreshing. The basic proportions are 2 cups of melon puree combined with 2/3 cup to ¾ cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil and cooled). For the watermelon pops I added a little lime juice and a good pinch of salt. For the cantaloupe 

pops I infused the syrup with a handful of fresh mint leaves, while the honeydew pops I spiced up with a good amount of finely grated fresh ginger. You can puree the melon in either a food processor or blender, and you can even buy pre-cut fruit in the supermarket 

instead of dealing with whole melons. But it’s nice to have some fresh chilled melon on hand when it’s as hot as this, and it’s a healthier alternative to fat-laden ice cream. Keep cool, my friends (especially you St. Louisans), autumn is right around the corner!