Tag Archives: pastry

Double Strawberries and Cream Cheese in Puff Pastry

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When last Jim and I were in Paris we had the good fortune to meet several times with my extended family.  They entertained us as only Parisians can, in fine restaurants with lots of yummy champagne.  My cousins also rounded up the family who were in town for a Sunday afternoon reunion in the house of my father’s cousin, Marie Claire, where we spent the afternoon reminiscing  over days long past and laughing at our young foolishness, sipping champagne and nibbling on a gorgeous mirabelle plum tart made by my cousin Hubert’s wife, Anne.  Marie Claire’s apartment had been her sister, Francoise’, and that was where I began my first adventure in France oh, so many years ago.  Whenever I went to Paris I stayed with Francoise and having gone all over the city by foot I came to know her neighborhood of Neuilly-sur-Seine pretty well.  With Mama and without, I took the Metro to get around, and found the walk to the station and back to the apartment an absolute delight.  Magnificent  maple trees lined the streets leading to her house and, I have to tell you, I never felt prettier or happier than when I my feet hit those sidewalks.  I felt as though I was walking on air.  Francoise’ building was, and still is, magnificent.  The entrance hall was mahogany, the floor large black and white tiles whilst an antiquated brass elevator  waited at the right…or was it the on the left?  Regardless, it was there in all its creaky, rumbling glory.  However, if you chose not to wait, an exquisite caracol staircase was ready to take you to the second floor.  Although the elevator was majestic it was still a bit utilitarian so I always chose to take the staircase, resplendent with a dark ruby Persian runner held in place by old brass stair runners tacked into the well-worn mahogany steps,  stained obsidian and sunken in the middle by years of use.  And the apartment!  I remember some rooms being sea-green in color, enormous oils of our ancestors hung in heavy gold frames on most walls and the dining room and her generous bathroom completely beguiled me with its charming fireplace and mammoth, cast-iron claw-foot bathtub.  For me Francoise’ house was, and will always be, the height of luxury.  She introduced me to the French press for coffee, the beauty and pleasure of engraved calling cards, the importance of knowing how to read a map and the notion that a sterling porringer makes a fine ash tray.

Treasured bits from years past. Crazy about her calling card!
Treasured bits from years past. Crazy about her calling card!

Meals were small and only when necessary.  We were too busy to eat.  We left the flat early in the morning.   Most days Francoise went to her office where she wrote for various magazines while Mama and I were off to museums, shops and concerts, all possible by taking the Metro.  Towards the end of the day we met up for a glass of wine or champagne then back to the apartment to dress for dinner.  How I love that apartment and how special it was to be back in it with Hubert, Anne and their daughters and Grand-cousin, Marie Claire.  Still lovely and well-appointed with family pieces but now with bursts of life and color from the artwork of many grandchildren.  Merci encore, Marie Claire, pour un apres-midi splendide!

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This pastry is not only easy but dramatic in its presentation.  The puff pastry is store-bought and although it appears braided it is not.  Strips of dough are folded over and the end result is one good-looking dessert.  The dried and fresh berries compliment each other quite well, the dried berries mixed with cream cheese lend a creamy texture while the fresh give a juicy blast of flavor.

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Double Strawberry and Cream Cheese in Puff Pastry

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 12-14 fresh, ripe strawberries, sliced vertically 1/4″ in thickness
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, I like using vanilla sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1.2-ounce bag or 2 cups of freeze-dried strawberries, available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 (that’s 1 sheet) of a 17.3 ounce box of puff pastry, thawed but kept in the refrigerator until needed
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Toss the fresh strawberry slices with tablespoon of sugar and set aside to macerate.
  3. In a blender, mini-food processor or magic bullet process the freeze-dried strawberries until they are the texture of powder.
  4. In a small bowl mix the cream cheese until it becomes loose and easy to handle.
  5.  Add the strawberry powder and confectioners’ sugar to the cream cheese and stir until both are completely mixed together.
  6. Remove the sheet of puff pastry from the refrigerator and gently unfold on top of the baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil.  Place the pastry so the fold marks run vertically.  The pastry will look like 3 equal rectangles attached together by the folds.
  7. Working as quickly as possible so the dough stays chilled, lightly roll out the dough so that it measures roughly 9 1/2″X 10 1/2″.
  8. Leaving the inside rectangle intact, make 1/2″ diagonal cuts into the two outside pastry rectangles.  Discard the 4 corners of the pastry.
  9. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly down the center rectangle all the way to the cuts.  Mound the fresh berries on top of the cream cheese mixture evenly.
  10. Fold the top and bottom flap of dough over the berry filling.
  11. Fold the diagonal cuts over the berry mixture alternating left and right until the entire pastry is braided.  Tuck in any loose ends.
  12. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
  13. Bake pastry for 30-35 minutes or until golden.
  14. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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Peaches and Cream Tart = a happy father’s day

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Father’s Day is day after tomorrow and we’ll be celebrating with this gorgeous summer tart.  My husband, Jim, is a vanilla man.  Any way, shape or form; cream, vanilla and butter rule in his kingdom.  So the chocolate fudge cake I was going to bake?  Out the window.  It’s his day, not mine, therefore I’ll give him what he craves.  Creamy, vanilla pastry cream generously spread over a pillow of buttery puff pastry and topped with perfectly ripe, juicy Georgia peaches.  This is an easy one, people.  The pastry cream is a snap to make but if you really want to take the easy way out, and sometimes we all do!, a quick batch of boxed pudding mix will work fine.  It won’t have the depth and richness of homemade pastry cream but sometimes that just has to do.  The puff pastry comes frozen from the grocery store and requires defrosting in the refrigerator.  The peaches must be unblemished and perfectly ripe.  The skin is taken off them for the topping therefore it’s best to blanche them for 10 seconds rather than peel them so that you’ll finish with a handful of beautiful, slippery peaches as opposed to raggedy, torn up orbs.  Any pieces of fruit left over can be thrown in the blender with your other margarita ingredients, also perfect for Father’s Day.  Hope everyone has a great one!

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Peaches and Cream Tart

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 puff pastry sheet, they come two to a box in the frozen pie section of your grocery store, defrosted and maintained in refrigerator
  • 3-4 medium peaches, skins off and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup pastry cream, cold
  • 2 tablespoons jelly, I use Bonne Maman jellies
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.
  2. Place pastry sheet on parchment lined baking sheet and open when dough has softened and won’t break.  Takes about 5 seconds.
  3. With a sharp knife score a large square in the puff pastry sheet 1″ in from all four sides taking care not to cut all the way through to the paper.  This will create a border or collar around the perimeter of the sheet making a “well” for the cream later on.
  4. Bake pastry for 10-15  minutes or until just golden.
  5. Remove from oven and using a flexible spatula gently press down the dough in the inside of the pastry sheet taking care not to smash the outside border.  Set aside to cool.
  6. When pastry is completely cool, cover inside “well” with pastry cream or cold pudding, try not to go over rim of puff pastry.
  7. Arrange peach slices over cream.
  8. Heat jelly until melted, microwave is fine, and brush over peaches.
  9. Chill in refrigerator until serving.
  10. Cut slices with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.

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Puff Pastry Tart with Goat Brie, Ricotta and Zucchini

There’s not much better on a Friday evening than mouth-watering, delectable dinner that’s put together with ingredients you happen to have on hand.  Having discovered some time ago goat brie at Trader Joe’s, I thought maybe I would incorporate it into some sort of puff pastry tart for dinner.  Looks like any brie but this one has a strong, goaty flavor that’s positively sublime, and, yes, now I am an addict.  If you’re not able to locate it, the combination of a small wheel of brie chopped and mixed a small amount of chevre, goat cheese, will also work quite well.   I wanted a creamy backdrop to support the brie and  one small container of ricotta was the perfect foil, rich and spreadable but not as gooey as mozzarella.  An egg to bind, some fresh basil,  zucchini ribbons, a quick drizzle of a fragrant, green olive oil and I had one gorgeous, undemanding dinner.  The only fly in the ointment was neither of my boys had gotten home yet.  Jimmy was speaking at some conference and James catching up with a co-worker he had worked with on a gubernatorial campaign.  All fine and well but, hey, dinner’s ready!  I chased away the feeling of discouragement by serving myself the prettiest part of the tart.  Cut into quarters, my portion had the most browned, runny, chewy bits of cheese.  Not exactly first prize but I’ll take second prize any day.  I had prepared a splendid salad of leaf lettuce dressed lightly with creme fraiche; the requisite glass of Malbec had been poured.  Each bite was a song of flavors. The buttery puff pastry gave a satisfying crunch as did the barely cooked zucchini.  But the goat cheese was the star of that musical.  Not too sharp and  creamy-dreamy, the brie made its presence known in every bite.  Happy Friday night to me!

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Puff Pastry Tart with Goat Brie, Ricotta, Basil and Zucchini

This tart may be made with fresh baby spinach or fresh basil leaves.  If you have a handful of some strong, flavorful cheese and you want to get rid of it, it’s most welcome in this dish.  I’ve  used the odd bits of Gruyere and even used the last quarter cup of bagged, shredded Publix brand 4-cheese Italian .  One cup of marinated artichoke hearts roughly chopped is lovely, too.

  • 1 puff pastry sheet, I use Pepperidge Farm, keep chilled until assembling tart
  • 1 wheel goat brie 4.4 ounces, or cow’s brie with 3 or 4 ounces of chevre added
  • 1 15-ounce ricotta, fat-free is great…that’s all I use in this tart
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 12-15 zucchini ribbons made with a vegetable peeler or mandolin
  • fresh spinach, washed and dried, as much as you like to scatter on top, optional
  • fresh basil, cut into strips, optional
  • 1 cup marinated artichokes, drained well and roughly chopped, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to drizzle when serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. In a medium size bowl place a paper towel.  Gently dump the ricotta cheese on the paper towel, bring the corners of the towel around the cheese and softly press all excess liquid away.  Turn cheese back into the bowl and discard towel.
  3. Roughly cut the brie into 1/2 chunks and add to ricotta.
  4. Add the egg to the cheeses.
  5. If using spinach, basil or artichokes add to cheese/egg mixture and mix well.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Cover baking sheet with tin foil.
  8. Open puff pastry on floured  surface.
  9. With a rolling-pin, use a cold wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling-pin, quickly roll puff pastry out to a 12″X15″ rectangle.  Don’t fret.  It doesn’t have to be perfect but you do want to keep the dough cold so move fast.
  10. Using your finger or a small brush and a little water paint a 1/4″ rim around the entire rectangle.
  11. Fold 1/4″ of dough from the edge each of the four sides of the rectangle onto the wet area to make a collar or dam, if you will, to keep in the cheese mixture.  Press the dough firmly to adhere to the water painted dough.
  12. Cover the puff pastry evenly with the cheese mixture just up to the folded edge and  smooth the top.
  13. Arrange the zucchini on top of the cheese, flat and on its side to resemble a lovely jumble of green ribbon.
  14. Bake 45-60 minutes until corners are browned and top is slightly browned.
  15. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

 

Whole Wheat Coconut Ginger Scones

 

This morning on my walk I had my iPod cranked as usual when a medley of songs came on.  Puerto Rican salsa.  I love it. It makes me so happy I want to dance in the street and I sometimes do if no one’s around.  It made me think of the time I spent in Puerto Rico when I was working with Delta and one of my dearest friends, Rita.  Rita was born and raised in Puerto Rico, also started with Delta and, from the moment we met, we clicked.  She was the person who kept me roaring with laughter and almost always in trouble.   She was part of the Delta group who would go out dancing at all the fancy clubs in Old San Juan.  We had a blast.  We were all in our early twenties, gorgeous, happy, and looks for days.  When we’d tumble out of the last club, hot from dancing and slightly tipsy from one too many rum drinks, we’d all make a beeline for the churro cart.  It was parked in front of the cathedral, always, always, always, and the little churro man would start serving up the sweet, steaming pastry.  There would predictably be seven or eight of us, all chattering away a mile a minute.  “Oh, my gosh! Did you all see who I danced with? He is so cute!” or “I can’t believe he didn’t come here tonight!  What if I don’t ever see him again?” and then ALWAYS “Yeah, you know that guy I danced with all night?  Well, guess what?  He’s married.  Yep.  Pendejo.”  We’d laugh and tease each other, “Oye, nena.  Yo te vi!  Aha.  Yo te vi con ese papito!!”  We’d each finish our churros and made-by-hand hot chocolate and, one by one, slowly make our goodnights.  Monday would be here soon enough and we would all be back at work.  And it was one of those workdays that Rita and I came tearing back from lunch and cut through the front of the ticket office.  It must have been a Friday because she and I were flying out for the weekend, she to visit friends and I was headed home.  Anyway, we tore through the ticket office to get to the reservations office, where we worked.  And there, sitting all slouched and bad boy, was the Prince of Cute.  I would say our eyes met, but that was not the case.  He slowly took me in, eyes clearly enjoying what they saw, lazily looking up and down with a most naughty grin on his face.  I have to admit, I did the same.  His body language screamed privilege and indulgence.  The kind of boy who could, and would, play tennis at the club all day then drink and gamble all night.  My kinda guy.  I flashed him my best “I’m better looking than you” smile.  Who cares?  I’d never see him again.  Oh, man, but he was so darned cute.  I glanced down at the ticket  that my co-worker, Ketti, was issuing him… Toten Bacardi.  Yes.  Of the Bacardi dynasty.  Damn.  Rita whispered, “Hurry up, conyo! We’re late!” and we quickly disappeared into the reservation cave.  At the end of the day, we split a cab to the airport, and after catching up with our airport friends, settled into our seats.  As airline employees we had to dress well and be discreet.  After all, our travel was essentially free.  We traveled just about anytime we wanted, and almost always in first class.  We were seated in the very last two seats of first.  “Thank you.  I’d love a glass of champagne!” and that’s when I saw him.  My noontime ne’er-do-well.   Senor Sardonic.  This time our eyes met. He gave me an “Ah ha!” smile and I responded with a “Helloooo” smile, with that, he dropped down into his seat five or six rows in front of me.  Wheels down and we’re off.  I told Rita everything.  We laughed and giggled far into the flight, when I mentioned to her I was going to the restroom.  I was making my move.  Rita, in her true-to-form crazy way issued a dare… a double-dog dare.  She threw down the devil-may-care, all or nothing challenge.  “Fleje,” she said to me.  That was our nickname for each other, it’s slang for a little piece of dead cuticle.  “Fleje, I dare you, no, I double-dog dare you to do something cafre, tacky, really tacky.”  Jeeez.  Back then a dare to me was like waving a red cape in front of a bull.  I truly gave no thought to repercussions or consequences.   I had absolutely no guilt what so ever.  And neither did she.  Maybe we were a little too foolish.  But I wanted to date him.  I wanted to run with the big boys.  At least for a little while.  Only now I couldn’t.  Because of the dare.  Rising out of my seat, and to the occasion, I made my way down the aisle to the restroom.  I fluffed my hair and checked my lipstick.  I admired my outfit.  I remember what I had on.  It came from “the store”, my father’s clothing store.  Size 4, cotton, Christian Dior, 2-piece top with skirt, in a pale blue print.  Seriously feminine.  With 4-inch, cafe con leche colored leather heels.  Tres, tres sexy.  I shook my head with regret.  I knew what I had to do.  As I opened the door to the restroom, my gaze swept the first class section.  There he was, aisle seat, of course.  I made my way down the aisle, and as I approached him, our eyes met.  Closer and closer I approached and when I was almost a mere breath away, I did it.  I met the challenge.  I sucked my teeth.  Loudly.  Tongue to the upper right canine, slurping as though I had the world’s largest piece of mango string stuck up there.  And that closed the deal.  At once he looked away with distaste and revulsion.  He was lost forever.  Rita, however, observing it ALL,  applauded and toasted my inventiveness and creativity.  After all, boys were like buses.  Miss one, there’s another right around the corner.  So, for my querida Rita, I bring to the table Whole Wheat Coconut Ginger Scones.  Not exactly churros, but for a couple of ex-It girls, they’ll do just fine!

These scones are so great. Easy and not that bad for you. I swapped out for coconut cream, a thick coconut paste, for the oil that I couldn’t find.  Most Caribbean or Indian markets will carry several forms of coconut creams.  I found it at my neighborhood Publix grocery store in the island section.  A little six-ounce box.  These scones call for no dairy products but the coconut cream will give you the same result as butter, a rich and flaky texture. And if you’ve never baked with whole wheat pastry flour, try it. Unlike whole wheat all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour yields a light, tender product.  I’m crazy about it.  The recipe originally came from the New York Times, I made a few small adjustments.  You’re welcome to do the same.  Ginger butter, spiced cream cheese and hot chocolate all go really well with these.

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Whole Wheat Coconut Ginger Scones

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, I use light brown
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons coconut cream or oil, not the stuff in the can, the cream is a super thick paste
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup finely diced candied ginger

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together, I use a whisk, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Stir in the sugar breaking any lumps.
  3. Place in your food processor the plastic blade.  The metal blade can heat up your dough, never good.  Add your flour mixture then the coconut cream.
  4. Pulse until the flour has the consistency of coarse cornmeal.
  5. Beat together the buttermilk and honey and add to the food processor.
  6. Add the ginger and process all until the dough just comes together.
  7. Place dough on a very lightly floured work surface and shape into a 3/4″ thick rectangle.
  8. Cut into six squares then cut each square diagonally into triangles.
  9. Place the 12 scones onto the parchment paper and bake 15 minutes.
  10. Cool on a rack.

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