Tag Archives: strawberries

Summer Fruit Tart

fruit-tart-Melsisa-Iwai-2016

Summer is here in Brooklyn, and in expensive, delicious fresh fruit is in abundance (unlike when I lived in California where this is the norm!) My cousin visited us recently, and I made a Summer Fruit Tart for the occasion. They were impressed, but it is a pretty simple dessert to make. The key for me is to do it in steps over a couple of days. I made the dough on Thursday, the pastry cream on Friday, and baked and assembled the tart on Saturday right before our guests arrived.

I’ve made mini fruit tarts in the past, which are fun to do with kids.
tartlets_flash

For this one, I just made one large crust and filled it with one batch of the pastry cream. For the fruit, I arranged cut strawberries, sliced oranges (I cut off the membranes), kiwi, and blueberries and glazed with thinned apricot jam. Below is the recipe I used with some adjustments.

 

tart-close-melissa-iwai-2016

Pastry Cream (Adapted from Jacques Torres’ Dessert Circus)

2 large eggs

2 large yolks

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (4.5 oz.)

3 tablespoons flour (25 g)

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cornstarch (25 g)

2 cups + 1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 tablespoons butter

1.  Whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch in a medium bowl until combined.  Make sure there are no lumps.

2.  Heat milk in a 2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil.

3.  Temper eggs.  Pour a little bit of the heated milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly.  Then pour this mixture into the saucepan of milk.  Continuously whisk as it thickens.  After it comes to a boil, cook 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.

4.  Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with saran wrap gently pressed on top of custard to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pate Sucre (Sweet Dough) (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour (6 oz.)

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (1.5 oz)

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into pieces

1.  Whisk together egg yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Scatter butter over the flour.  Pulse 15 times.  With machine running, add egg mixture through feed tube.  Process until dough comes together, about 25 seconds.  Shape into disk and wrap with saran.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour

2.  Let stand at room temperature until malleable.  Roll out about 1/4-inch thick.  Cut to fit tart pan.  Press in and prick bottoms with the tines of a fork.  Chill until ready to bake.

3.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Fill tart with pie weights (or cover with a piece of aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray and fill with uncooked rice).  Bake about 15- 20 minutes.  Remove weights; bake 10-15 more minutes,  Watch closely – tarts should be golden — don’t let them brown too much.  Let cool on baking rack.  Using a sharp knife, remove shell to rack to cool completely.

Assemble Tart:

Glaze

1/3 cup jelly (I used apricot jam)

2 teaspoons water

1.  Heat jelly and water together.  Whisk.  Add more water if necessary to get a consistency of thin honey which you can easily brush on fruit with a pastry brush. If your preserves are lumpy, pass through a strainer.

2.  Cut fruit into slices.  Wash and dry berries.

3.  Fill tart shells with pastry cream.  Make a design on top using fruit.  Brush on jelly glaze with a pastry brush.

 

 

 

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High Fiber Smoothies: From Dumbledore’s “Drink of Despair” to Strawberry Bliss

Strawberry Banana High Fiber Smoothie

These days with the end of school looming and book events (not to mention book deadlines!), I haven’t been cooking anything terribly new or exciting.  I haven’t been baking either.

For my birthday, this past Sunday, I told my husband I wanted to bake my own cake, but I ended up pressed for time and resorted to a box mix! (Hangs head in shame.)

This mix is actually quite good in a pinch. You can make single servings too — 2 tablespoons mix to 1 tablespoons plain yogurt — that’s it!

I don’t have a picture of the final, as it wasn’t particularly drool worthy, but it held the candles fine!

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Quickie breakfasts have been smoothies.  There are so many great smoothie recipes out there, ranging from decadent and dessert-like to healthy green monsters made with kale.  Mine fall somewhere in the middle.

One ingredient I haven’t seen on other blogs which I use regularly in my smoothies is pysillium husk.  That’s right, people, the stuff in Metamuscil.

I buy it in raw, tasteless form at the healthy food store.

I originally tried it when I was pregnant and needed extra fiber.  I didn’t want the added sugar (I was a borderline gestational diabetic) or artificial sweeteners found in Metamuscil– it also has more fiber than Metamuscil (6.7 g unsoluble fiber to 3 g).

The downside is that it doesn’t dissolve as well in water.  And you have to drink a lot of water with it and FAST (or it turns into a gel before your gaping eyes).  The result is a nasty consistency of quicksand.

I used to gag it down as fast as humanly possible.  It was redubbed “my horcrux”, referring to the Drink of Despair in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

After giving birth, the psyllium husk stayed hidden away in the recesses of our cupboards for years.  It made a brief appearance when I tried to pass it onto a friend who was also pregnant with gestational diabetes.  She gave it back to me, saying it was impossible for her to ever drink it after trying once.

Cut to the present.  Ever since I received my beloved blender, I’ve been having smoothies almost every day.  Jamie loves them too, and we often make them for a play date snack.  I let them choose the ingredients. It’s fun to experiment.

I like really thick, creamy ones, and I’ve seen some versions made with a lot of ice and xanthan gum and guar gum to get this effect.  I couldn’t find the guar gum, and I didn’t like the xanthan gum alone, so I decided to try it with my old psyllium husk since it was still hanging out in the pantry.  I was pleasantly surprised by the results!  It thickens the smoothie beautifully.  It’s not “gummy” like the xanthun gum alone.  A side benefit is that it has all the extra fiber too.  So now, it’s become a regular ingredient in my morning smoothies.  I cannot believe it is the same evil “potion” I used to have to force myself to drink!

For my smoothies, I use:

about 3/4 cup liquid (milk, almond milk, water, juice, coconut milk, coconut water, etc.)

about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup frozen fruit (banana, mango, strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, grapes) or raw fruit (apple, orange, raspberries, etc.) or vegetable (baby spinach -haven’t tried kale yet!)

2-3 ice cubes, depending on how much frozen fruit I use

1 tablespoon raw psyllium husk powder

Other occasional extras are: cocoa powder, protein powder, roasted peanut flour, chia seeds, flax seeds, (though not a HUGE fan of using seeds, because bits still get stuck in my teeth even after blending), peanut butter, yogurt, Torani flavored syrups

I’ve also seen smoothies made with nuts (cashews soaked in milk, other nut butters), silken tofu, and avocado but I haven’t tried them yet!

My favorite breakfast smoothies these days are:

  • strawberry banana (with vanilla protein powder and stevia)
  • peanut butter chocolate (with peanut butter, peanut flour, cocoa powder, chocolate protein powder, and stevia)
  • coconut pineapple (coconut milk, frozen pineapple chunks, dried coconut, vanilla protein powder)
  • creamsicle (orange juice, milk, Torani French Vanilla syrup, vanilla protein powder)

All are made with some ice and psyllium powder!

To make, put in the liquid first, then the powder(s), nuts and/or nut butters, and seeds, if using, then the fruit, and ice.  Blend until smooth and creamy.

Have fun experimenting! 🙂

This is Strawberry Banana with vanilla protein powder, Lactaid, water, ice, psyllium powder, and a pinch of stevia — Sooo creamy and delicious!

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Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

We recently celebrated belated birthdays of my sister-in-law and nephew in Long Island.  I brought the components of Japanese Strawberry Shortcake (sponge cake, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries) and assembled it at their house.

This lovely cake reminds me of the ones I used to eat in Japan when I lived there as an exchange student.  This was way back in the 80s when I was first introduced to European style bakeries.  These little cute shops filled with beautiful French tarts, pastries, and cakes — many individually packaged and arranged like precious jewels in the display cases–were a far cry from the large American bakeries and doughnut shops I grew up with in my rural home town.

A few years later, I returned to work in the hinterlands of Japan (Iwate Prefecture) after I graduated from college, and because I was around 22 at the time, I was the “perfect” marrying age.  I used to teach English on the side to adults in the city.  The well meaning moms would hint at this and attempt to set me up, though marriage was nonexistent on my “to do” list at the time.

My students gave me this kimono as a going away present. Married and older women wear more subdued colored kimono with shorter sleeves.

They would chide: “You don’t want to become ‘Christmas Cake!'”  — the English equivalent of “old maid”.  In Japan, a mainly Buddhist country, people celebrate December 25 by having Christmas Cake as a secular tradition.  I loved having the strawberry shortcake — my favorite — with friends.    On December 26, the unsold Christmas cakes are discounted or thrown out.  So a woman at age 26 is metaphorically ‘stale cake’, that is, past her prime for marriage.  The thinking has probably changed by now (I hope!) as more and more Japanese women have been delaying marriage.

Addendum:  My friend, Elaine, whom I worked with back then in Japan and who still lives there, tells me that times have indeed changed:  Now the phrase is “‘Oomisoka’ — ie, New Year’s Eve, ie age 31”.  

At 22, I was happy to become “Christmas Cake” any day — especially when it was as delicious as my beloved Strawberry Shortcake!

This recipe comes from La Fuji Mama.   The only change I made was to omit the gelatin for the whipped cream.  For some reason it hardened before I could add it!  It didn’t seem to matter though — the whipped cream held up well even though it had been transported in a cooler to Long Island, and the cake had been assembled hours before we ate it (and had been sitting in the refrigerator).  I also added a dash of almond extract with the vanilla in the sponge cake. For some reason I didn’t have quite enough frosting to do the sides, so the next time I make this, I might make extra.

I have to say this will definitely be my go-to recipe for a plain sponge cake.  The texture is perfect.  You don’t have to be Japanese to enjoy this cake — it was gobbled up by everyone in record time!  🙂

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