Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

Rustic Ramp Tart

May 18, 2011

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are an early spring wild onion. I’m fortunate enough to receive some every year in my earliest CSA boxes. Last week I received two bunches! What riches. They’re pretty mild and slightly garlicy in taste. Last night I made a rustic tart that included some fresh herbed Brebis cheese.

Rustic Ramp Tart

1 large sheet of puff pastry (about 10 x 15). If you’re using Pepperidge Farms puff pastry pinch together 2 sheets.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 slices pancetta, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 bunch ramps, white and green parts thinly sliced (leeks may be substituted)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh herbed cheese, such as chevre or brebis
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat and lay puff pastry sheet on top. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, ramps and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the cheeses. Add the contents of the skillet and mix together, adding salt if necessary.

Spread cheese mixture onto puff pastry cheese, leaving about a 1-inch margin around the edge. Grind black pepper over the surface of the tart. Fold the 1-inch margin over on itself, so you now have a 1/2-inch wide border.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Daring Baker’s Challenge: Tiramisu . . . From Scratch

February 27, 2010

assembling tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I LOVE these challenges that assign us to make a key ingredient(s) that you would usually buy from the store. Last month we made graham crackers, and although at first I wasn’t in love with the ones I made, they really improved with time until I was addicted to them by the time they were gone.

This month we made the ladyfingers for our tiramisu. It’s something I’ve thought of doing, but when it’s so easy to buy them at the store . . .

We also made mascarpone cheese. I made creme fraiche in December for the Beef Stroganoff recipe from Ad Hoc. Both mascarpone and crème fraiche  cost a lot at the grocery store, but they’re actually easy and inexpensive to make. And delicious enough to just eat with a spoon. Look how beautiful that mascarpone cheese is. It’s just heavy cream and lemon juice! Don’t be afraid to make it. It’s also really great spread on warm bread.


The October challenge of French macarons was good practice for making ladyfingers. They’re both foam-based batters, so the egg whites are key. As I was making the ladyfinger batter I realized how similar it was to making an angel food cake. It’s what you do with the batter that makes the difference.

unbaked ladyfingers


baked ladyfingers2


With the mascarpone cheese and the ladyfingers completed, it was now on to the “meat” of the recipe. There are a lot of concoctions to make: Zabaglione, pastry cream, whipped cream, and then finally mixing everything together with the mascarpone.  A sweetened espresso dipping liquid is made to dip the ladyfingers into.

I was too tentative dipping my homemade ladyfingers, worried they were too fragile to sustain much of a dunk. I felt they didn’t absorb enough liquid. Usually when I make tiramisu I brush the ladyfingers with Kahlua. Brushing allows more liquid to be applied and I have to admit that I missed that boozy kick.  Next time I will go back to my preferred method of laying the cookies down and then brushing them generously with liquid.



So, in the end, the mascarpone and homemade ladyfingers were fabulous. My finished tiramisu ended up a little dry, but still eminently edible!

Here are the Challenge recipes:


(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )

6 servings

2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

Whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.

Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice.

Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.

Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.

Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.



(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)

This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Ann’s notes: Next time I make mascarpone I will strain it through a cotton cloth instead of cheesecloth, just to slow down the drainage a bit.

Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.



(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar,

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper  (Ann’s note: I didn’t find it necessary to grease the cookie sheet.  Simply lining it with parchment paper was enough).

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.

Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Easy Brown Sugar Buttermilk Waffles with Velvet Cream Cheese Spread

January 7, 2010

I make waffles maybe once for every ten times I make buttermilk pancakes.  I think pancakes are easier to throw together than waffles, and if I’m not careful when I’m making my waffles, I usually have a very messy waffle iron to clean up afterward.  But my son loves waffles, so once in a while my soft spot gets the best of me and I make a batch.  These aren’t fancy, but they are quick and easy to make . . . for waffles.  And taking an extra 2 minutes to whip up the Velvet Cream Cheese Spread will help push these closer to special.  Especially if you serve them with a fruit syrup. I also made oven baked bacon dredged in brown sugar.

My secret weapons for brushing the grids are a silicone brush and ghee.  You don’t even have to melt the ghee.  Just put a spoonful in a little cup, dab the brush in it, and it melts as you apply it to the grids and it has a fairly high smoke point.

Easy Brown Sugar Waffles

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature

Preheat the waffle iron and preheat your oven to 200F (if you’re going to hold the finished waffles before serving).

Melt the butter and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and butter together to emulsify. Whisk the buttermilk into the egg and butter mixture. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with a whisk, only until just combined. The batter will still be lumpy.

Lightly brush the grids with ghee or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat after each waffle.

Spoon out the batter, according to your waffler’s directions, onto the hot iron. Smooth the batter with the back of the spoon almost to the edge. Close the lid and bake until brown and crisp. Serve them immediately, or keep them, in a single layer, on a rack in the preheated oven while you make the rest of the waffles.

Velvet Cream Cheese Spread
Adapted from “Waffles From Morning to Midnight” by Dorie Greenspan

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. powdered sugar (or more to taste)

Beat together all the ingredients with a whisk or hand-held mixer. Cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 5 days. Use in place of butter on your waffles.

Winter Squash and Goat Cheese Gratin

December 21, 2009

Besides pumpkin pie, which I love, I’ve only been eating squash for about two years. I still can’t abide acorn squash for some reason, but I really have made great strides in my squash consumption. But with over 10 of them currently on hand it’s been difficult to make a dent in them.

So when I ran across this recipe yesterday for a squash and goat cheese gratin, I was actually excited to make it. I decided on Berkshire pork chops to go with it, which I decided to serve smothered (More about the pork chops in a later post). The goat cheese is perfect for cutting the fatty richness of the smothered pork and the caramelized, concentrated sweetness of the squash.

Trust me.  This is really yummy.

Winter Squash and Goat Cheese Gratin
Adapted from The Best American Recipes 1999

2 winter squash (Enough to produce 8-10 cups of cubed squash)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. firmed packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
8 fresh sage leaves, cut into slivers
salt & fresh ground black pepper
10 oz. fresh goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 and set a rack on the middle level. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Peel and seed the squash and cut flesh into about 1-inch cubes.

Place the cubes in a large bowl, drizzle with the oil and toss to thoroughly coat. Add a little more oil if necessary, to make sure squash is well coated. Mix the brown sugar, chile powder and sage leaves in a small bowl and toss them with the squash cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the squash to the baking sheet, making sure they’re in a single layer. Roast about 20 minutes and then check them (Mine were close to done at this point but still a little “wet”). Stir them up and return to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are tender and lightly browned (At this point most of the moisture had evaporated and they were sizzling nicely in the olive oil). Remove from oven and let cool o the baking sheet for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the squash to a baking dish. Crumble the goat cheese over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned. Let rest for about 5 minutes, and serve.

Serves 6

Unlovely and Unloved: Celeriac

December 16, 2009

We ain't had nothin' but maggoty bread for three stinking days! We want cheesy meatloaf!

Nothing in the CSA box used to make me shudder more than seeing a bulb of celeriac. I tried it once and didn’t like anything about it. In fact, a bulb of celeriac reminds me of a Gothmog, a character from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.  See? You can barely tell them apart!  And yes, I know. I’m a nerd.

Gothmog and celeriac. Separated at birth?

Usually I leave the celeriac behind for someone who likes it to pick up.  So imagine my dismay a couple of weeks ago when I didn’t pay attention to what was in my box.  When I unpacked it at home, there it was at the bottom.  A bulb of celeriac.  Sitting there rather accusingly, I thought. 

And then salvation appeared in the form of a recipe from Harmony Valley Farm’s cheese newsletter. My theory is if you throw enough cheese, butter and cream at something, it should become edible. Throw in beef and pork and it’s assured. Cheesy Meatloaf to the rescue. A yummy, moist meatloaf, oozing with cheese. I used a garlic scape & pepper cheddar. I think a pepper jack would be wonderful too. 

This meatloaf was almost succulent!  And the bonus:  I couldn’t even tell there was celeriac in it.  Is that wrong? 

Cheesy Meatloaf

Adapted from a Harmony Valley Farm Cheeseplate Newsletter, November 19-21, 2009, Volume 2, Issue 15

Serves 4 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small celeriac, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium shallot, diced
1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water, chopped, soaking liquid reserved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
6 ounces of your favorite firm cheese, 3 oz. shredded & 3 oz. cut up into 1/2 inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg, lightly beaten 


Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a roasting or jelly roll pan with foil and coat the bottom with 1 tablespoon of the oil. 

In a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the carrots, celeriac and shallot and sauté until tender and starting to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Let cool for 10 minutes. 

In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup of the bread crumbs and 1/4 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and soak for 5 minutes. 

In another bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, shredded cheese, salt and pepper. 

In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together the ground beef and pork, soaked bread crumbs, vegetable mixture, egg, cubed cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and shape into a 10-by-5-inch loaf. Cover the top and sides of the meat loaf with the
cheese-bread crumb mixture. 

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat loaf registers 165°F, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let the meat loaf rest for 5 minutes before slicing.