Happy Pi Day, my friends! Today we are making meringue topped tartlets with a brown-butter crust rather than typical pie shell. The Brown-Butter crust is first par-baked and then filled with luscious citrus custards which is topped with a heaping mound of fluffy meringue. After a few moments back in the heat we soon have a golden-brown swirls atop the perfect single-serving dessert. We use egg yolks in the curd and egg whites in the meringue. A frugal and practical solution for divided eggs, but more importantly, a tastefully balanced dessert with the bold brightness of winter citrus and the sweetness of vanilla-scented meringue.
Let's talk Pavlovas. Pavlova is a light and crisp meringue cake with a crunchy shell, they are often garnished with whipped cream and fresh fruit. From outwards appearances you may easily mistake Pavlova for Meringue, however, they have vastly different interior textures. A meringue is made from egg white and sugar, they are typically very dry and have crunchy centers. Pavlova have a similar base but also include cornstarch and vinegar which results in a a slightly squishy interior, almost marshmallow-like consistency at their center.
With a wonderfully pillow-soft interior beneath their crunchy shell, pavlova are a multi-textured phenomena. Paired with fresh orange zest, bitter blood orange curd, fresh fruit, and a cool dollop of fresh whipped cream - these are clouds from an orange-scented heaven.
Citrus is at it's finest in the depths of winter, a welcome blast of tart, bright edible sunshine. Here is Southern California we are lucky (ahem, spoiled) to have access to a dizzying variety of locally grown produce throughout the year, but even here in this coastal paradise, we too must follow the seasons when it comes to Meyer Lemons & Blood Oranges. These elusive winter gems seem to pop-up overnight and disappear just as quickly.
Gather a bag (or two) of these fine fruits while they are still abundant and make yourself a winter treat: Meyer Lemon Curd & Blood Orange Curd. Dolloped onto yogurt, spooned directly into happy mouths, baked into bars, meringue pies or tarts, poured over pavlovas... the possibilities go on and on. Point being, you want this, you need this, so let's get cooking shall we?
Spritzgebäck are a classic butter cookie popular in Germany and Scandinavia. The literal translation of "Spritz" means to "spray" or "squirt" which refers to the fact that these cookies are pressed or piped into elaborate designs. And while they are commonly considered a Christmas confection I would happily accept a plateful of Spritz any day of the year. Buttery golden cookies with a delicate crumb and just the right amount of jammy centers.
Have you made No-Knead Bread? For the unfamiliar, the now famous recipe was published by Mark Bittman in 2006 and was immediately received with great enthusiasm. It has since become a New York Times "classic recipe". It is a simple recipe - just flour, yeast, salt, and water. The only other essentials are a dutch oven and time. Much beloved by bakers everywhere, you can find reproductions and variations all over the internet.
Today I would like to present one of my adaptations featuring a wonderful combination of garden fresh rosemary and soft, creamy baby gouda cheese. Quite literally things found in and around my kitchen! This winning flavor combination may not have been planned in advance but it was immediately a new favorite (really though, isn't any oven-fresh-hot-bread a favorite?) That is the real beauty of this simple artisan bread, it is perfect as-is but takes to additions wonderfully.
Hello, friends! No recipe today, just a quick note.
As the years tick by I find myself thinking about my needs and wants differently. 19-year old me is very different from 29-year old me, regardless, "Happiness" remains an enigma, something undefinable yet oh so necessary. What has become clear to me is the importance of the small pieces and parts of life. A sprinkling of goodness here, a dash of excitement there, a solid layer of love and support - the figurative Seven-Layer-Magic-Bar of happiness.
In recent months I've made a more mindful effort to maintain and grow the positive and creative elements of my life - those things which nourish and sustain me. I've been building this blog, reading good books, taking on new painting projects, going for long walks, connecting with loved ones... and as you might imagine, I've also been busily baking. Breads, cakes, pastry, and pies. Sweet and savory. I've been connecting with local shops and online communities, snatching up used cookbooks, pursuing classes and demonstrations. Just last month I learned how to work with Rolled Buttercream, a tasty alternative to Fondant. (You'll be seeing this in a recipe soon!)
I've also begun a formal Baking & Pastry course. (Giddy geeky moment - I get to wear Chef Whites!) It is part of a vocational program which makes it both incredibly informative and affordable. The focus is on developing professional skills and learning industry standards, essentially a resume builder for those looking to get into the culinary world. As I pick up new skills or life lessons I'll be sure to share them here.
In the meantime, here's wishing you all a big bite of happiness from your own Seven-Layer-Magic-Bar.