Saturday, May 26, 2012

More on Tarte Goyere -- Upgrade!

I recently had the most incredible appetizer while having dinner with my daughter.  It was a bleu cheese creme brulee served with a thick fig jam on the side.  You scooped both onto a crostini drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar reduction.  Yes, the creme brulee even had that light crust of caramelized sugar on top.  Heavenly.  We could have made the entire dinner off of that (but glad we didn't; the entrees that followed were also dreamy!)

This sparked a discussion between us about the Tarte Goyere -- wouldn't it be great to add that fruit flavor to this medieval dish?

So we did!  We searched a farmer's market and a store and had no luck acquiring fig jam.  However we did decide that a rich cider apple butter would make an acceptable substitute.  

My daughter quickly made the tarte and put it into the oven for 15 minutes.  Then she thinly covered the top with a mix of 4 tablespoons of apple butter and 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.  We tasted the mix before it went on -- she adjusted it until you got that light bite of the vinegar but it did not come through strongly as vinegar.  Then she cooked it for 10 minutes more followed by just a few minutes under the broiler.

After dinner picture!

The Verdict:  My, oh my!  The taste was lovely.  We both agreed that it needed more of the apple butter flavor so we simply spooned more on our slices at the table.  I made sure some of the apple butter got on my crust, too.  This was definitely a culinary success.

Notes:  She used an egg beater to whip the eggs and only got them to the foamy stage.  (The original recipe said, "Whip the eggs" which means I took it to soft peaks.)  This did not affect the overall texture of the tarte but she believes the broiling is what made it right.  She commented that the tarte didn't get puffy until it was under the broiler.

She also used 6 ounces of bleu cheese for a stronger bleu flavor, thinking it would go better with the apple butter.  She was right!

She also feels that next time she would start with the thicker layer of apple butter because it would be easier to spread.  She would also make sure it got on the crust, which was folded over the edges of the tarte.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Tarte of Strawberries

It is strawberry season (hooray!) and I have a large quantity just asking to be made into something historical.  I found this site on the web:  Cariadoc's Miscellany; Desserts, Appetisers, Etc.

"Cariadoc" is the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) name of David Friedman, the man who assembled a collection of medieval and Renaissance recipes (receipts) from a variety of sources.  He lists the source with each receipt and includes his redaction.

I chose a Strawberry Tarte receipt along with the recommended receipt for the crust.

To Make Short Paest for Tarte

A Proper Newe Book p. 37/C10

Take fyne floure and a curscy of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolkes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.

3/4 c flour
1 T + 1 t water
1/2 stick = 4 T butter
6 threads saffron
1 egg yolk

Cut butter into flour, then crush saffron into 1 t of water; mix that and the rest of the water with the egg yolk and stir it into the flour-butter mixture.


***Normally I would cheat and buy a premade pie crust (I know, but it is soooo convenient!) but this one includes saffron and I really wanted see how it tasted.

I did all the mixing by hand, using a fork to cut in the butter and using my fingers to gently and lightly blend the dough.  Using good pastry-making techniques, I used cold water, cold butter, and only worked it until the butter and flour looked like corn meal and the complete mixture was barely blended.

I didn't take any pictures of this process until I started rolling out the dough.  You can see the flecks of saffron in it.

I still don't have an 8 inch pie pan so I used my 8 inch cake pan.

The amount of dough was pretty close to exactly what I needed, given that I rolled it very thin.

It only shrank a little once it had been cooked for its ten minutes (as mentioned below).

Now, on to the filling!

A Tarte of Strawberries

A Proper Newe Book p. 39/C11

Take and strain them with the yolks of four eggs, and a little white bread grated, then season it up with sugar and sweet butter and so bake it.

2 c strawberries
4 egg yolks
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/3 c sugar
4 T butter
8" pie shell (see recipe above)

Force strawberries through a strainer or run through a blender, then mix with everything else (the butter should be melted).

Just blended strawberries
Strawberries and everything else
Bake crust for 10 minutes, then put filling into the crust and bake at 375deg. for 20 minutes.  *Note:  I baked the crust and let it cool while I was making the filling.

Before baking
After baking
M observations:  20 minutes at 375 degrees is exactly the right amount of time to cook the filling.  It was perfectly set and well-flavored.

This is before I chilled it

Using a blender is a good thing, as it made the process quick and easy.  Since the receipt didn't say how to measure the strawberries (whole?  sliced?), I sliced them up right into the blender to its measure of 2 cups.

The result?  I loved the taste of the filling before it went into the oven.  It was a light and flavorful strawberry "mousse" of sorts.  Once the tarte was cool, I tried a piece.  Overall I liked it but there was something, some aftertaste, that I didn't like.  So I chilled the whole thing and tried it again later.  The flavor was still good but that aftertaste remained.  I think that off-flavor was the crust, which I didn't like much because the bottom was tough.

There was really only one thing to do:  Make another one!  This time I used the premade crust.  The only other difference between the first and second tartes was that in the second one, I poured the filling into the hot crust as soon as it had baked its ten minutes.  In the first, I poured the filling into the cooled crust.

Take two!
 The crust was cooked more than the first, probably because it didn't have a chance to cool down before the filling went in.  The "off" flavor was gone which I suspect was contributed by the saffron but am still not sure.  It was also gone from the first attempt after two days in the refrigerator.

The second crust was not tough.  It could be that the first crust got tough because it was allowed to cool before I filled it.

Having two pies in the house prompted me to take one to work to share.  I asked people for their honest (not "polite") feedback.  The responses were overwhelmingly "I like it" with an emphasis on how much the delicate strawberry flavor came through.  One person, who admits to being very particular about textures, wished the filling was stiffer, more like a custard.  But she still thought it was good overall. 

The Verdict:  I declare it a success!  I would try the saffron crust again but will either increase the quantity so it didn't have to be rolled quite so thin or use an actual 8 inch pie pan.  And I will follow the directions better so the crust doesn't cool before I put in the filling.  I think it deserves another chance, certainly.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More on Brawn en Peverade

Last night I made Brawn en Peverade but I made a variety of modifications.

The first was that I didn't have my usual spice selection available (it's a long story!) so I had to get creative.  Instead of the specified mace, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, I used Grains of Paradise, cardamom, and cinnamon.

I'm pretty new to using Grains of Paradise; they are considered a pepper substitute.  They do have a peppery-bite that is strong before they are cooked and milder afterwards.

The spice combination was very fragrant while cooking.  The meat and gravy had a lovely flavor, too.  I really liked it!  One thing about the Grains of Paradise -- they had a "slow peppery bite"; that is, first I tasted their flavor then shortly thereafter a light pepper burn spread across my tongue.  Not unpleasant at all! 

In my first attempt at this recipe, I loved the gravy but noticed it was a bit gritty when I first made it.  So my thoughts then were to start soaking the dried bread crumbs in the wine and wine vinegar when the meat went into the oven.  I did that this time but without the results I had hoped for.  The gravy was not gritty, however it never did thicken properly.  I had to make adjustments to get it to thicken.

Also, I used white wine instead of red and the flavor was good.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Green Cheese

No, not Green Eggs and Ham, although I think I should make that for St. Patrick's Day some time.  This is a typical "farmer's cheese" made without rennet.  It is called "green" because it is unripened.  It is a lot like cottage cheese or ricotta.

It is as easy as can be to make and fun, too.  The ingredients are few:

1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup white vinegar
salt is optional

First heat the milk in a pan over a low fire.

And I mean very low!

You want the milk to heat slowly so it doesn't skin over, or at least not too much.  Let it warm until small bubbles start forming at the edges and maybe a few in the middle.

Take it off the fire and gently stir in the vinegar.

The acid in the vinegar makes the milk solids separate from the liquids.  This is Little Miss Muffet's Curds and Whey!

Some curds already separating out.
I first put in 1/4 cup of vinegar.  After it had set for about 5 minutes, there were curds but the liquid was still very white.  That means you can get more curds out of it, so I added another 1/4 cup of vinegar.

Now it looks just like it should:  white curds and golden whey.

The curds are fully separated from the whey.
Let it sit for about 10 minutes or so to finish curding and to cool.

Next you line a strainer with cheese cloth or unbleached muslin.  Pour the mixture into it, so you keep the curds and discard the whey.

You can keep the whey if you'd like.  I'm sure there are some recipes out there for it, and I've heard you can use it as the primary liquid for bread, too, although I've never tried it.  There have been days where I was demonstrating cooking techniques while cooking over charcoal and sitting in the sun, and I found that the whey tastes very, very good then.   Try it; you may like it.  I've enjoyed it both warm and cold.

The recipe I first learned from suggests you squeeze the curds to press out the whey but I found this tends to push the curds through the cheesecloth.  So I just let it drain for about an hour.  That seems to work well.

Once it is done you have moist but not soggy curds that smell like fresh milk.

You can mix in a little salt to flavor it and to help preserve it.  You can also mix in a variety of things:  herbs, chopped fruit, spices, or even a little cream to smooth out the texture.  Before you put in the cream, though, work the curds thoroughly with a fork to break them up into smaller pieces.  You may like that texture better and don't need the cream.

Keep in mind that you only get about 1 - 2 cups of curds from 1/2 gallon of milk.  That tells me why cheese is so expensive!

The Verdict:  Success, as always!  This recipe has never failed me.  It is fun, easy, and makes a tasty result.

This is an old, old recipe.  People have made cheese like this for centuries.  You are limited only by your imagination in what you can do with it.  Make lasagna or a sweet spread for bread or something to put between cake layers or...

I'll leave it to you!