Thursday, January 28, 2016

Apple Galette des Rois


You know, it's funny.  Life, that is.  Sometimes you cruise right through it barely noticing the change in time and day.  Just one moment into the next with your head down missing the details, the ups, the downs.  And then something unexpected stops you in your tracks and forces you to look around.

This is the story of my life as of late.  Just kind of going through the motions, each day passing pretty much the same as the rest.  Not in a bad way, but in a less-than-present sort of way.  And then two little things that don't amount to much in the grand scheme of life nearly took my breath away.  Those two little things, really not much more than a few sentences spoken both by people who know me and by those that don't, made me look deep inside and as a result of that introspection to see the world around me in a much different way.  I'm grateful.  It feels good to appreciate the people around me more fully and perhaps even take care of myself with more purpose.

Am I being a bit too cryptic for you?  If I am, you have my deepest apologies.  It's simply that I'm not quite sure what the end result of those few sentences swirling around in my mind will be.  I need a bit more time for that.  But in the meantime, I'll share a few of those words with you.  Because they made me stop and catch my breath and it's my hope that they might just do the same for someone else.

"You are brave enough.  Don't ever think otherwise."


Apple Galette des Rois
Makes 1 9-inch galette which will serve 4-6 people.  Rough puff pastry recipe from in jennie's kitchen.
For a printable version of the recipe, click here.

Not too long ago my sister and I were standing at the counter of a French patisserie ordering pan au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and eclairs when I noticed this beautifully bronzed pastry that I had no name for.  The two of us wondered aloud at what it could be, but were happy to buy our croissants and eclairs and be on our way without too much thought.  A couple of weeks later that same pastry appeared in my Instagram feed (from Jennifer Perillo of in jennie's kitchen) and I learned that what we had seen was called a galette des rois and it is a pastry made in France only once a year for the celebration of Epiphany. I was intrigued by the pastry and even more so when I read through Jennifer's post and saw that she had made her own puff pastry for the galette.  My visions of puff pastry were of huge blocks of butter and a long, tedious process.  Jennifer's recipe was a revelation to me.  So simple- 4 ingredients, a bit of rolling and chilling and I had puff pastry better than any I could buy in a store.  It's a game changer.  The rest of the galette process was just as simple having decided on making an apple filling instead of the usual almond one since my people aren't nut people.  In my house, this galette will be a year-round treat instead of being reserved to once a year, that's how much we love it.

Rough Puff Pastry
1 2/3 cup ( 250 g) all purpose flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
12 tbs (125 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
2/3 cup (150 mL) cold water

Place the flour and salt into a large bowl and give them a quick mix.  Toss the butter pieces into the flour and, using your finger tips, blend the butter and flour together until you have a crumbly mixture with some marble-sized pieces of butter remaining.

Stir the water into the flour-butter mixture with a wooden spoon until it just comes together into a dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently form it into a rectangle.  Working in one direction (left to right or top to bottom, for example) roll the dough into a long rectangle that is roughly 3 times longer than what you started with.  Fold the dough in thirds (fold one end towards the center and then fold the remaining third over the top) so that it resembles a folded letter.

Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the process, rolling out the dough into a long rectangle and then folding it like a letter.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Apple Filling and Finishing the Galette
1.5 lbs apples (3 medium apples), your favorite cooking apple
3 tbs light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out (optional)

1 recipe rough puff pastry from above
1 egg yolk, beaten with a splash of milk

While the dough is chilling, make the filling.

Peel, core and chop the apples into 1 inch chunks.  Place the apples, brown sugar, water and vanilla bean (if using) into a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover and lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the apples are soft but haven't completely broken down (you want some texture in the filling, not applesauce).  Give the apples a light mash with a fork and set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 375 F (190 C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator.  Cut it in half and return one half to the refrigerator.  Place the other half on a lightly floured work surface.  Rolling in one direction again, roll from one edge to the opposite edge.  Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the process of rolling in one direction edge to edge.  Continue giving the dough a quarter turn and rolling until the dough is just larger than an 8 inch plate or round baking pan.  Using a sharp knife, cut around the edge of the plate or pan and place the circle of dough onto the prepared baking sheet.

Spread the cooled apple filling over the dough, leaving a one inch border clear of filling all around the edge.  Remove the second half of dough from the refrigerator and roll and cut it in the same fashion as the first half.  Place the second circle of dough over the filling and gently but firmly press the edge down so that it adheres to the bottom circle.  With the tip of a sharp knife you can score a design across the top (but don't cut all the way through the dough!).  Pierce a few holes for steam to escape.  Brush the top of the dough with the egg yolk.

Bake the galette for 30-35 minutes until puffed and golden brown.  Let the galette cool and serve warm or at room, temperature.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Kinderpunsch



The very happiest of New Years to you friends!  Welcome to 2016.

Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, you won't find me making resolutions or reflecting back on the year that has passed in this first post of 2016.  That's never really been my thing.  And to be honest, I'm not really all that keen on jumping feet first into a new start.  I find myself, instead, slowly easing my way into the new year.  The Christmas season was such a whirlwind in our house- the holiday sort of came at us hard and fast and then, POOF!, just as quickly as it had started it ended. 


Part of this feeling of let down that I'm experiencing is because of the immense quiet that has settled over my house.  My sister and her fab family spent a bit over a week here visiting us over the holidays.  My house has never felt so small or so wonderfully full of life.  We spent our time making the best of what was left of Christmas in Germany- finding small markets still open, watching skaters slip over the ice at rinks set up in the city center, wandering medieval towns and castles and watching the fireworks displays that marked the end of the year.  The kids were constantly playing and enjoying the company of their cousins.  And of course there was food.  What is Germany at Christmas-time, after all, if there aren't bratwursts, beers, potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer), gluwein or its non-alcoholic counterpart kinderpunsch?

So as part of my ease into the new year, I decided to hang on to a bit of the past season and make my own kinderpunsch.  You can find it at any Christmas market right next to the spiced wine for the adults, but I often find the gluwein a bit too strong for my taste so I go for the kids' drink instead.  I'm never disappointed.  Finding a recipe was a bit of a task, however.  It's one of those things that there area million recipes for because everyone has their own special or favorite way of mixing it up.  So I found myself imagining my favorite kinderpunsch drinks instead, and then doing a bit of kitchen alchemy until I found just the right combination.  My kids gave it two thumbs up, so I know I've gotten it right as they are the experts.

Friends, raise a glass (or Christmas market mug, in my case) with me to 2016!


Kinderpunsch
Makes 4-6 servings depending on the size and thirst of the drinker.
For the printable recipe, click here

There are just as many recipes for kinderpunsch as there are for Mom's chicken soup or Nana's marinara sauce.  Everyone's Oma does it her own way.  This just happens to be our favorite.  We think there is just enough fruit, sweetness and winter spice to warm us through the gloomy and cold winter in this punsch.  I think you will too.  And it's incredibly easy to throw together.  So you can make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for warming up after school or playtime in the park.

3 cups water
4 bags of fruit infused tea, such as berry or raspberry (I like Lipton's Bavarian Wild Berry, ironically)
2 cups apple juice
1 cup cherry juice (a sour cherry juice is very nice in this punsch, but sweet cherry or even grape will work)
2 tbs honey
2 sticks cinnamon
2 pinches (about 1/4 tsp) ground cloves

Place the water in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Bring the water just to a simmer and then remove from the heat.  Place the tea bags in the water and steep for 5 minutes.  Remove the tea bags.

Stir the apple and cherry juice, honey, cinnamon sticks and cloves into the tea.  Return the saucepan to the heat and let the punsch warm over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Bo not boil or even simmer the punsch, you're not looking to reduce the liquid just warm and infuse the spices into it.  Remove from the heat and serve.

The punsch will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gingerbread Meringues


I had plans of ending my posts for 2015 with a meaningful quote about the spirit of Christmas and the meaning of family.  I had two lovely quotes all picked out.  Then, while scanning through ones of those websites that is full of quotes, I found this one and all thoughts of being deep, and truthful went out the window.

"The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live."
         -George Carlin

So while I do believe in sharing the true spirit of the holiday with my family through, I realize laughter is just as important.  Laughter bring us all together.  So, thank you George for the joke that I will be telling tonight as my friends gather to toast each other over glasses of egg nog.  It will surely go a long way to lifting our spirits and making yet another holiday away from our families just a little more merry.

And a very merry Christmas, friends.



Gingerbread Meringues
Makes about 50 2 inch cookies.  Recipe adapted from Lara Ferroni.
For the printable recipe, click here

These little cookies are a fun mash up of two classic cookies- the crisp airy meringue and the spicy gingerbread.  And I have to admit that I might like them better than the originals.  What takes them a little over the top is the chopped dark chocolate hiding inside.  Matched with the molasses and wintery spices, the chocolate is right at home.  It's not essential, I've made them without the chocolate and they are just as wonderful, but the flecks of deep flavor make the cookies just a little bit more special.

1 tsp lemon juice
5 egg whites, room temperature
250 g (1 1/4 cups) cane sugar
3 tbs molasses
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 oz (about 5 tbs) finely chopped dark chocolate, at least 65% cocoa

Preheat the oven to 250F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir together the ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Pour the lemon juice into the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using a hand mixer).  Wipe the juice around the bowl with a paper towel.  This will eliminate any oils that may be bowl and possibly keep the egg whites from whipping up.  Add the egg whites the egg whites to the bowl and whip on medium high speed.  After about a minute of whipping slowly stream in the sugar as the mixer is running.  When the egg whites are at soft peaks, pour in the molasses.  Continue beating the eggs until they are stiff and glossy.  Sprinkle over the spices and beat a few more revolutions.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate by hand just until incorporated.

Using a pastry bag or tablespoon, mound the meringue batter onto the prepared cookie sheets in two inch dollops.  Space the cookies about 1 inch apart.  Bake for about an hour until the cookies are dry to the touch.  Turn off the heat and leave the cookie sheets in the oven for a further 2 hours until the cookies are fully dried out and cool.  Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.