Got back from New Orleans a few weeks ago. Ate lots of delicious food at Jazz Fest– the highlight was the sweet potato turnover as always. I went to my old ‘hood, Magazine Street, and was Chef John Besh at La Divina Gelateria. Then I ate some hand made chocolates from their rival, Sucre. Also popped into a banh mi shop in New Orleans East. I’ll be back in less than a month to get married!
Entries Tagged as 'Sweets'
I haven’t had a moment to “catch my breath” in the words of Kelly Clarkson. Lately life has been a whirlwind of good things (“no complaining!” I tell myself) but also tough on my awkward sensibilities. I need lots of alone recovery time to feel normal. Plus I recently lost my glasses, so I feel totally exposed to the world.
See above for the telltale signs that mulberries are in the vicinity. Once or twice a year I bike around the ‘hood to pick from my secret stash of trees. Picking fruit is fun, but it comes all at once, and then you need to do stuff to/with it.
The problem with mulberries? They’re just sweet and flavorless (once, some “farmer” passed off mulberries for blackberries at the market in Baton Rouge, and I was PISSED). With the help of lots of lemon juice, they still make great jam and desserts. Also, their little stems are always attached. Maybe you could carefully pick them off, but that just seems psychotic. I deal with the stems by making more of a jelly than a jam– squeezing the juice out of the fruit, and then maybe adding back some of the pulp for texture. I made some small-batch jam (just two or three jars) because sometimes I just can’t handle canning right now.
Oh! I also finally found a biscuit recipe I can handle– these Two-Ingredient Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree. I made my own self-rising flour by adding baking soda and salt. The recipe directions are intense, but I just cut corners as usual, and they still turned out great. There’s nothing better than homemade jam and biscuits!
I could tell you about how everyone asks me if my blog is about biscuits, but that might be too painfully boring.
Small Batch Mulberry Jam
1 pound mulberries
1/2 a vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Pomona’s Pectin
Magazine Street really exploded into THE STRIP after the flood. Blocks and blocks of busy shops and restaurants appeared, while just five minutes away, the formerly bustling South Claiborne Avenue looked like a ghost town. Yes, the strip had its share of blinking traffic lights. The crazy drivers of New Orleans impressively learned to treat each intersection like a four-way stop sign. But besides damaged roofs, most of the buildings in the Strip bubble were unscathed.
We strolled the Strip “30 minutes each day, no excuses!” we shouted. Not to get all Confederacy of Dunces, but the daily sightings of neighborhood characters (henceforth referred to as “stripsters”) was comforting. There was an older man with a gray beard and long dreads who dutifully hobbled the Strip with his walking stick, greeting us cheerfully “Hey ladies, how y’all doing? God bless y’all!” There was the pixieish blond girl, always clothed in a vintage sheath dress. She disdainfully sighed at the clothes I dared to sell at her second hand clothing store. And there was also a small child of about ten years old, shilling miniature pies outside the neighborhood A&P. His life’s story was mapped out in my mind, that his mother had no choice but to bake delightful miniature pies to make ends meet. More likely, he was just annoying, so she sent him out to burn off his energy. “Pies! Do y’all want pies?” He yelled, “We got pecan, lemon chess, sweet potato…”
Sweet potato! It sounded so exotic to me. That particular pie has loomed large in my imagination ever since I was a middle schooler in Rhode Island listening to Domino sing his underreated 90′s rap classic “so break me off a piece of that sweet potato pie” (the innuendo was lost on me at the time). The sweet potato pie was everything I had dreamed it would be. An electric orange, slightly warm, cloying, and dense custard– pretty much the perfect dessert in my mind. It was not heavily flavored with spices, so the tuber’s natural earthy sweetness stole the show. Of course the smooth filling was cradled in a tender, homemade butter crust.
Do you think that little boy, who is probably in high school now, is still selling pies? Am I the real stripster in his mind? Do you think he remembers me at all? Probably not. Life keeps moving, and Magazine Street isn’t just a freeze frame from that dizzying, drunken time. Which means I have to make my own sweet potato desserts.
Here’s a treasonous secret I never revealed to the pie boy: I prefer French tart crusts to regular pie. That shortbread quality gets me every single time. This particular tart crust from David Lebovitz is the best. thing. ever. It’s a bizarre, yet foolproof technique that results in a slightly salty caramelized crust.
The key is to puree all of the ingredients in the food processor. It results in an extra-smooth and fluffy filling that plays off the textural contrast of the crunchy pecans and crisp butter crust. I throw a generous pinch of dried ginger into the filling, but vanilla bean is key. Those tiny black seeds dotting the orange custard leave behind a haunting floral note.
Please don’t add cinnamon and clove. Yes, pumpkin pie has its righteous yet rubbery place at the Thanksgiving table, but it has no place here. Get over it.
Sweet Potato Tart with Pecans
1 recipe French tart dough
90 g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
150 g (5oz, or 1 slightly-rounded cup) flour
Sweet potato filling
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
2 tablespoons melted salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons salted butter, softened and cubed
1. Poke holes in the sweet potato, and roast it in the oven at 410º F. In the meantime, gather your ingredients for the tart dough. You should be able to pierce it with a fork after 30 – 45 minutes. At this point, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool.
2. Leave the oven on and follow the ingredients to make the tart dough. Do not bake it– just set your dough lined tart pan aside.
3. Turn the heat down to 375º F. Using a fork, scrape the orange flesh of the sweet potato into the food processor, along with the seeds of the vanilla bean. Add the dried ginger, melted butter, sugar, milk, and cracked egg. Puree the sweet potato mixture for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then puree it again until completely smooth and the filling has formed a uniform texture.
4. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, butter, and sugar. Using your fingers, incorporate the ingredients so that the pecans are evenly coated with the crumbly sugar mixture.
5. Pour the sweet potato into the prepared tart shell and use a spatula to smooth the surface. Evenly scatter the pecans over the top. Bake at 375º F for 25 – 30 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
I hit a milestone this weekend— jam making! I’m totally cool with making bacon and smoked tongue and stuff, but jam always scared me. In high school my biology teacher traumatized me with exaggerated stories of botulism poisoning. Also, pectin makes me nervous. I’ve taken all sorts of canning and jam making classes, but I still couldn’t handle.
I was first introduced to the strawberry/vanilla combo by Confituras, an incredible artisan company based here in Austin (seriously, you should buy some). For my attempt at the flavor, I used this recipe from Ball. I knew enough to stick with established recipes, but it sucked because five pounds of crushed strawberries does not in fact equal five cups. I upped the lemon juice to ward off botulism because I’m paranoid like that.
All of that said, I’m lax about canning. I just use a huge pot because I’m against weighing myself down with gear. People have scoffed at me using a towel in the bottom of the pot instead of rack, but the pickling expert at Gramercy Tavern once told me that’s what she does. If it’s good enough for her, then its good enough for me. Also, I used my grilling tongs to pull the jars out of the boiling water, but that’s been putting me in precarious situations. I might break down and get some tongs. I’ve earned it after making this fantastic jam.
Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam
- 2.5 pounds crushed strawberries
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin
- 3.5 cups granulated sugar
- 4 half pint preserving jars, bands, and lids
1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and vanilla bean and seeds in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
4. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
5. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
There’s some bad horchata out there, so I’ve always wanted to make my own. But I knew so little about it! I thought it contained dairy, but this horchata is milky from the rice and nuts. I was also under the impression that it was hard to make, but the only tedious part is straining it. I made my horchata with cashews, which isn’t authentic, but the results were rich and toasty.
- 1/3 cup white rice
- 1 cup cashews, toasted
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 inch piece of lemon peel
- half a vanilla bean
- 1 cup sugar
1. Place the rice in a spice grinder and grind it until pulverized.
2. Place ground rice, cinnamon, cashews, lemon peel, and vanilla bean in a container.
3. Cover with 2 cups water and soak overnight.
4. Remove the container from the fridge the next day. Using an immersion blender, purée the mixture until it is as smooth as possible.
5. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
6. Pour the strained liquid into a pitcher. Add the sugar and 2 more cups of water. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and serve the horchata in a glass over ice.