Saturday, August 27, 2011


            What's not to love about a summer so damp that every excursion into the forest produces bags of wild mushrooms? Fruit, that's what. All that excess moisture works its way into those luscious edibles, turning them bland. If you ate blueberries recently and found them lacking, or if  - like me - you've yet to buy a New Jersey melon that's worth what you paid, thank the rain.

            I was sorely disappointed recently when, after cleaning several pounds of black trumpet and Boletus edulis mushrooms, I went to reward myself with a slice of cantaloupe and found tasteless mush in my mouth. I was tempted to throw the whole thing away, but then I realized what I'd just done with about half the mushrooms, and a light bulb went on. The trumpets were arranged on a drying rack. I had a spare insert. What would happen if I dried slices of melon?
Semi-dry melon chunk, used to "mop up" leftover cur

            After 8 hours at 135 F, the truth was revealed: though only semi-dry, the melon was far tastier than fresh. Moreover, the mushiness had turned to chew. Now I had a new problem: What to do with half a pound of sweet chewy melon slices. I wanted to make some kind of dessert to take to friends for dinner, but just 3 days ago I'd promised myself to stop making big and overabundant ones. Half a pound of melon (which, granted, could be eaten by itself or served with a nice sharp cheese, either of which would be a perfectly acceptable dessert) would make a helluva lot of dessert.

            It took an hour of wandering vacantly around the apartment before I came up with an idea: Lime plus melon = good. With a little mental effort I expanded this to lime curd atop melon atop a disc of puff pastry. In a 6 oz. ramekin it would qualify as Small Dessert.

            The problem was, I'd never made puff pastry. Discarding that idea (I was feeling lazy; go figure), and considering our probable hosts, one of whom must reduce her cholesterol, I decided to simply work chunks of coconut butter into GF pastry flour, chill and flatten this dough then cut discs for the ramekins and blind-bake.

            This turned out to be not straightforward, since the coconut butter I'd found became liquid on my 80 F counter top. Some tricky work with ice saved the day, but then I had to flatten and roll the dough, and that was a handful. I ended up with a layer 1/4" thick. I wished for thinner but decided thickness would be no problem since it might absorb moisture from the melon, becoming more tender in the process.
Dough disc in the bottom of ramekin

            A bit of research turned up a curd recipe that wasn't all egg yolks (again, cholesterol was on my mind). The rest was a cinch. If you're so inspired, the recipe follows:

Lime curd and semi-dehydrated melon dessert

Makes 4, 6 oz. ramekins

For the melon:            1/4 large cantaloupe, honeydew, or similar melon, cut into inch-                                           thick slices with rind removed.

For the curd:             4 limes
                                    3 large egg yolks
                                    2 large eggs
                                    4 TBLS unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
                                    1/2 cup sugar
                                    pinch salt

For the crust:             150 grams Bette Hagman's Featherlite flour blend (*)
                                    50 grams granulated sugar
                                    15 grams almond flour
                                    1 gram Bakewell cream
                                    0.5 gram baking soda
                                                (alternate to Bakewell Cream and Baking Soda = 1/2 tsp                                                        baking powder)
                                    0.8 grams Xanthan gum
                                    0.3 grams salt
                                    6 TBLS coconut butter
                                    1 large egg yolk
                                    1/2 TBLS white vinegar
                                    1 1/2 TBLS ice water

(*flour blend: 167 grams white rice flour, 115 grams tapioca starch, 145 grams cornstarch, 13 grams potato flour {NOT potato starch})

Prepare the melon: Place the melon slices on the rack of a food dryer and run the dryer at 135 - 145 F for 8 hours or longer. The objective is to dry the slices to chewiness but not leatheriness.

Make the pastry dough: in a large bowl, blend dry ingredients. Chill. Bring the cocoa butter to 50 - 70 F and tear off pieces the size of lima beans. Stir these into the flour blend, then, using your fingers, pinch them flat. Toss and tear and pinch until the fat is well incorporated. Add egg yolk, vinegar and ice water, toss and stir with your fingers and press into a firm ball. Spritz once or twice with more water and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Make the curd: Grate zest from one of the limes and set aside. Extract juice from the limes. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, yolks and eggs until blended. Add lime juice and blend.

            Place blend in a medium saucepan and set over low heat. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, add the butter, one chunk at a time. Continue stirring for 10 - 15 minutes until mixture thickens so much that the spoon leaves clear trails revealing the bottom of the pan. (note: If mix starts to curdle remove immediately from heat and whisk vigorously).

            Remove curd from stove and transfer to a medium bowl. Whisk in the zest. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or more.

Finish and assembly: Remove dough from refrigerator. Warm to 50 - 70 F. Place between two large plastic sheets. Using a tortilla press, or pressing with your hands, flatten to a disk about 3/4 inch thick. Use a rolling pin to flatten to @ 1/4" thick. Cut circles of dough and place in the bottom of 4 small ramekins. Save remainder in refrigerator or freezer.

Ready for the table.
            Blind-bake at 425 F for 14 minutes. Remove and cool.

            Carefully cross-slice melon sections into pieces @ 1/8" thick. Arrange on crust discs.

            Spoon curd in equal amounts onto melon slices. Re-refrigerate, and serve garnished with a chunk of watermelon.

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