I cannot be the only one who's astonished to find November breathing down his neck. Wasn't it just August last week? Probably this means I'm lucky. I must be having a good time.
Changing seasons are an exciting time in my kitchen. I look forward to the treats Winter will inspire (COOKIES!!!) while at the same time savoring those last luscious bites from the rapidly-passing growing season. October in New Jersey is the time of Macoun apples, cauliflower, winter squash, and a final splash of mushrooms:
blewits and graylings, chicken mushrooms and meadow mushrooms, brick tops and angel wings and oyster mushrooms ... and more. My oven never rests - nor, for that matter does the stovetop.
It's also the season for freezer-diving. Time to dig out whatever items I put in last October and either give them a heave-ho or figure out some way to use them.
Yesterday, rooting past a two-year-old buttercup squash and a dried-out bag of apple chunks, I came to a sack of cranberries. With 2011 cranberries just appearing in stores, it was time to remove 2010's. Luckily, I was ready.
An ongoing obsession with puff pastry had not yet departed. I still think the concept of a buttery, flaky dough has countless applications. Using the basic concept of one part butter, one part flour and 1/2 part water, one should be able to make shimmering little squares of goodness for just about any sweet and many savories. Bananas. Heirloom tomatoes. Blewits with scallops and cream. And, yes, cranberries
I thought I'd tussled with puff just about as much as I cared to, but when I saw my fellow bloggers succeeding, I decided against abandoning the challenge. In a recent brainstorm I wondered what might happen if I rolled butter into thin sheets, layered it with gluten-free flour, spritzed the flour with ice water, then stuck the results into the fridge to absorb water, instead of doing it a more traditional way.
Letting the flour do its soak-up thing proved a lengthier process than I anticipated. The flour was hydrophobic, and once spritzed, required a 24-hour rest before it could be worked. Unable to abandon tradition after all, I folded and rolled the rectangle of dough, trying to increase the number and thin-ness of butter layers. I cannot say I recommend this, since a few nice layers are better than overworked dough. Plus the routine is tedious: spray dough, wait a day, flip and fold a few times, spray again, wait again, etc. I guess you could say I've decided, the **bleep** with puff. What I'd most like are tender, flakey, corn-flour biscuits.
We'll get to the biscuits in a future post. In the meantime, a confession: In addition to the cranberries, the freezer contained a bag of frozen plums, circa 2009. Finally, the supermarket had raspberries on sale and I could not pass them by. The tart I made with butter and flour and some other cool stuff ended up being topped with cranberries, raspberries and plums. And here's the recipe:
Two-bite fruit tart
Makes four small servings or two generous ones
For the crust:
1/3 stick butter, very cold
56 grams Bette Hagman's Featherlite Flour blend
35 grams (approximately) ice water
1/4 tsp Xanthan gum
1/4 tsp sugar
For the filling:
@ 1/3 cup cranberries, chopped
@ 1/4 cup fresh raspberries
@ 1/6 cup plums, chopped
2 TBLS sugar
1) In a small bowl, blend flour, Xanthan gum, sugar and salt. Stir to blend well and place in refrigerator until well-chilled. Fill a clean water sprayer with a bit more than the required amount of ice water. Set the sprayer in the refrigerator to chill too.
2) On a well-chilled work surface, cut the butter into 1/4" thick slices. Spread these around and cover with the flour. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap atop this and roll with a rolling pin until each piece of butter is a thin, flat sheet. You may have to occasionally stop and peel the butter from the plastic. Take care not to melt the butter with your fingertips when you do.
3) Remove the plastic wrap and invert it. Scrape up flour from the work surface and scatter on the plastic wrap in an area @ 4" X 6". Spritz lightly with water. Using a metal bench scraper or knife, lay one to several sheets of butter on the damp flour. Sprinkle flour on the butter and spritz the flour. Repeat until all butter and flour is used. Spritz the stack with whatever water remains, then wrap in the plastic and refrigerate for 24 hours.
4) Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium bowl, combine fruits and sugars. Allow to stand and macerate while working on the pastry.
5) Remove pastry from refrigerator but do not remove plastic. Using a rolling pin, flatten pastry within the plastic, forming a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Roll up edges slightly or create a depression in the center using the back of a spoon. Spoon fruit mixture into depression.
6) Transfer to cookie sheet or floured parchment. Bake for @25 minutes, or until fruits bubble and melt. Cool on a rack.