Category Archives: Pastry

Apple Ricotta Fritters

Making donuts at home can be a major undertaking. There are so many steps involved: wake up early to make the dough, let it rise, roll it out, cut out circles, let them rise again, fry them (in lots of oil), and finally glaze them. I get tired just thinking about the whole process! Unless you have a large family, it’s a lot of work, especially when there are cheap donut shops everywhere. With that said, I’ve developed a shortcut for making donuts at home. Rather than make traditional donuts, I make yeast-free donut holes. There is no rise time with this dough and you don’t need to roll it out either. They are delicious and some of the easiest donuts you’ll ever make.

Here’s my recipe made into mini apple fritters. It is a baking powder-based dough, and the addition of ricotta gives these fritters a light and moist texture. All you need to do is scoop the dough right into the fryer, like hush puppies. I learned about ricotta fritters from Nancy Silverton (co-founder of Mozza and formerly owner of La Brea Bakery) when she visited my culinary school years ago. Unlike the cloyingly sweet and greasy apple fritters at your local donut shop, these are light, mildly sweet, and not oily. My son said they remind him of beignets.

The recipe is pretty easy to follow, but please make sure you prep the ricotta the night before. And as with all my recipes, please read the entire recipe before you start. Happy frying!

Apple Ricotta Fritters

Yield: about 2 dozen

1 tablespoon of butter
1 tart apple (pink lady, honey crisp or Granny Smith), medium-sized, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
21/2 tablespoons of sugar (divided)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Calvados* (optional)
3/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of sunflower oil
8 ounces of ricotta cheese (drained over a fine sieve or cheese cloth overnight)
1 cup of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of organic corn syrup*
Coating
1/2 cup of organic confectioners sugar*
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

 
1. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the butter until melted. Add the apple, 1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, cinnamon, pinch of salt, and Calvados. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the apples to be soft and the sauce to be thick, syrupy in consistency. Transfer the apple mixture to a bowl to cool.

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2. While the mixture is cooling, place the oil in a 1 quart heavy bottomed pan (copper or stainless steel ). Place a candy thermometer in the pan and bring the oil to 360°.

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3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk well.

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4.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. At the eggs, vanilla extract, and corn syrup. Using a fork, whisk the flour into the wet ingredients until just combined. Don’t over mix.

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5. Add the ricotta, breaking it up into pieces with your hands. Using a rubber spatula, fold it gently into the flour mixture. You will see chunks of ricotta pieces. Don’t over mix.

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6. Next, fold in the cooked apples until just combined.

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7. Using a 1 tablespoon-sized ice cream scoop, scoop 6 round balls into the hot oil. Do not get tempted to add more fritters or the oil temperature will drop and create an oily and soggy texture.

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8. Fry them for about 1 minute and 30 seconds on one side and the turn them over and fry them for 1 more minute. You’re looking for a deep golden color.

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9. Transfer fritters to a paper towel-lined colander and blot any excess oil.

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10. Return the oil to 360° and fry 6 more fritters. Repeat this process until all the fritters are done.

11. In a small bowl whisk together the confectioners sugar and cinnamon.

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12. Using a small sieve, dust the apple fritters with the powdered sugar mixture. Shake to coat evenly.

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13. As with most fried food, they are best eaten when warm, but surprisingly these apple fritters still taste great hours after they’ve been fried. Enjoy them with a hot cup of coffee.

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*Calvados is an apple brandy. You can find it in most large grocery stores.

*If at all possible, try to use organic corn-based products. Most of the corn syrup and cornstarch sold in the stores are GMO.

Meyer Lemon Bars

When I go to a bakery or cafe, I usually don’t select lemon bars for my sweet treat. I find most lemon bars too tart and sweet. Also, the traditional shortbread crust a little too tough. Now Meyer lemon bars on the other hand, are delicious, slightly tart with a hint of sweetness. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than regular lemons because they are a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges, requiring less sugar when when making Meyer lemon bars. Meyer lemons are also brighter yellow in color and have a thinner skin, giving the bars a neon-like color.

My Meyer lemon bar recipe has half the sugar of other lemon bar recipe. Some recipes put in the zest directly in the curd. I liked the added flavor from the zest, but then curd didn’t have the smooth texture. By infusing the lemon zest in the lemon juice, and then discarding the zest did the trick. I also add cornstarch to the crust to make it more crumbly. That way it didn’t feel like I was biting into a hard cookie. When Meyer lemon season comes along, I bake a couple of batches: one for my family and one for my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law doesn’t like anything with lemon flavor, but loves these lemon bars. I think that’s a good indication that this recipe is pretty good. Happy baking.

Baking Spray
1 1/4 cups of Meyer lemon juice (about 5-6 Meyer lemons)
1 Tablespoon of Meyer lemon zest
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 Tablespoons) – soften
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt
Powder sugar for dusting

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1. Coat the bottom and sides of a 13″x 9″ baking pan with not a nonstick baking spray. Set aside.

2. Add the lemon zest to the lemon juice. Set aside.

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3. Heat the oven to 350°.

4. In a stand mixer, add the butter and 1/2 cup sugar and beat on medium speed until creamy (about 3 minutes).

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5. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 30 more seconds.

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6. In a small bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 of flour, cornstarch, and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the flour mixture half a cup at a time.

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7. The mixture will come together and look like small peas. Turn off the mixer.

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8. Using your clean hands, form a ball. Then flatten it and place it directly in the greased baking pan, pressing down until the bottom of the pan is evenly covered with the dough.

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9. Using the tines of fork, prick the dough and several places. The will prevent the dough from rising and forming pockets.

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10. Place the baking pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.

11. Remove the baking pan from the freezer and put it directly in the oven. Bake for roughly 30-35 minutes until slightly golden.

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12. Place on a rack to cool.

13. Turn up the oven heat to 350°.

14. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

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15. Add all the eggs into the flour mixture. And whisk until the mixture is smoot, but don’t over whisk.

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16. Add the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and whisk again until smooth.

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17. Place a sieve over a bowl, and pour the Meyer lemon juice and zest mixture into the sieve. Discard the Meyer lemon zest.

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18. Add the Meyer lemon juice to the egg, flour, sugar mixture. Whisk just until the juice is incorporated.

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19. Pour the Meyer lemon curd mixture over the baked crust.image20. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center is set and edges are golden

21. Cool on a rack for about 30 minutes.

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22. Cut into 24 squares. Place the squares on top of a cooling rack. Place a parchment paper underneath the rack.

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23. Dust Meyer lemon bars generously with the powder sugar. Dust only the ones you will be serving the day of and refrigerate the rest for up to three days. Dust remaining with powder sugar right before serving. This prevents the lemon curd from absorbing the powder sugar during refrigerating.

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Blackberry Meyer Lemon Scones

I have always been a fan of English Afternoon Tea, not to be confused with English High Tea, which is hearty meat and potatoes tea. During afternoon tea social events, you would find a nice pot of tea, finger sandwiches and, of course, scones. Most of the scones served at afternoon teas were dry and the only way to make to them go down was to spread plenty of jam and clotted cream on them and chase them with some tea. I thought to myself, “There has to be way to make tender scones.” Then I was asked to host a tea party for a bridal shower. It was the perfect opportunity to work on my scone recipes.

I tested several scone recipes and one from Cook’s Illustrated had an interesting technique. Their trick to making the scones tender is using grated, frozen butter in the dough instead of cutting squares of cold butter into the flour mixture. Not only was it a great short cut, but it made the scones perfectly tender. It was pure genius. I took that recipe and a tweaked it a bit and then added blackberries and Meyer lemons. What better time to share this recipe than during Meyer lemon season! The scones are jammy and buttery with a crispy exterior. You won’t need extra butter, jam or clotted cream with these scones. Just serve them with tea or coffee. Enjoy!

Blackberry Meyer Lemon Scones

Yield: 12 scones

2 sticks of frozen unsalted butter (you will only use 4 ounces grated).
1 cup of fresh blackberries (or your favorite berries) – Freeze for at least 2 hours
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 3/4 cups of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-Purpose flour
1/4 cup of spelt flour
1/2 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of freshly grated Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
Crystal sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Line one large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Take the frozen sticks of butter out of the freezer. Using a box grater, grate on the largest holes. Grate about half of each stick. Place the grated butter back into the freezer. Save remaining ungrated butter for another use.

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3. Take the frozen blackberries out of the freezer. Using a serrated knife, cut them in half. Put them in a small bowl and toss them with the two tablespoons of sugar. This will make the blackberries jammy when you bake the scones. Set aside.

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4. Whisk the milk and sour cream in a small bowl. Set aside.

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5. In a large bowl, add the flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Take the frozen grated butter and toss into the dry ingredients until the butter is evenly distributed and no clumps are present. Do this quickly and don’t handle the butter too much.

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6. Stir the Meyer lemon juice into the milk and sour cream mixture and pour into the flour butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold until the mixture comes together.

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7. Generously flour your work surface.

8. Take the dough and knead quickly a few times, just until the dough can be rolled. It is important that you don’t overwork the dough or the scones will become tough.

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9. Roll out to a 12” x 12” square and then fold in thirds and the fold in thirds again. This process will help create layers.

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10. Place on parchment-lined plate or tray and place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes or until it gets cold.

11. Heat oven to 425°.

12. Remove the dough and again roll out to a 12” x 12” square. Take the berries and distribute them evenly throughout the dough, pressing them in. Then roll the dough tightly, securing the berries inside like in a jelly roll and then flatten.

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13. Using a serrated knife (cleaning the knife with a paper towel in between cuts), cut the the long rectangle in half, then each rectangle in thirds. You should have 6 smaller rectangles. Cut each small rectangle on a diagonal to form 2 triangles.

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14. Place the scones on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle with crystal sugar.

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15. Place the baking sheet with the scones in the the freezer for about 5 minutes.

16. Remove the scones from the freezer and place in the oven on the center rack. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, then turn the broiler on high and broil for 1-2 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

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17. They are best the day of, but you can keep them in an airtight container for up to three days.

Pumpkin Madeleines

 

Despite the triple-digit temperatures here in Southern California, autumn has arrived and pumpkin fever is in full effect. Apparently there is a shortage of the gourd this year, but you would never know it walking into your local Trader Joe’s. You can’t go more than three feet in an aisle before coming across some pumpkin-enhanced product: pumpkin bagels with pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin kringle, pumpkin butter, and even pumpkin coffee. The pumpkin has evolved far beyond its modest pie-filling beginnings.

Now, while I’m a huge fan of all things pumpkin, I understand that for many pumpkin fatigue will set in quickly (if it hasn’t already). Before that happens, though, I want to share one of my favorite fall recipes: Pumpkin Madeleines.

I love madeleines, but as Dominique Ansel explained so perfectly, madeleines have a short and fleeting life – they are best right out of the oven, and if you wait too long, their light, airy texture goes away. In fact, at his New York bakery the madeleines are made to order and customers are instructed to eat them on the spot. Of the many madeleine recipes I have tried, Dominique’s is the best; here is my version of it, colored with that most popular of autumnal flavors.

Pumpkin Madeleines

Serving: About 20 cookies

Ingredients

1 stick of organic butter (8 Tbsp)

1 tablespoon organic brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup organic sugar

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 1/4 cup unbleached flour (like Sonora wheat)

1 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice mix

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 extra large organic eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup pumpkin purée (fresh or canned)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Nonstick butter spray

Organic powdered sugar

Special Equipment

Madeleine Pan

Piping bag with 1/2″ tip (or Tablespoon scoop)

Directions

Night Before

  1. Melt the butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small sauce pan over low heat. Keep the mixture warm over very low heat.
  2. Stir the dry ingredients with a whisk in a large mixing bowl. In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs, pumpkin purée, and vanilla until smooth. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Slowly add the wet mixture into the well while whisking in the dry ingredients. (Similar to making pasta.)
  3. When the wet ingredients are completely incorporated and the batter smooth, add the warm butter mixture.
  4. Mix the warm butter into the batter with a rubber spatula until complete incorporated.
  5. Press the plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Add another plastic wrap on the top of the bowl.
  6. Refrigerate overnight. This step helps create the lovely signature hump.

Day Of

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Transfer batter into a large piping bag with 1/2 tip. Fill the bag 2/3 they way. (If you have a piping bag, use a small stainless 1 Tablespoon scoop.)
  3. Spray non-stick butter spray in the Madeleine pan, buttering each of the molds evenly.
  4. Pipe the madeleine batter into the molds so that it fills each about three-quarters of the way to the top.
  5. Bake the madeleines for about 5 minutes on the center rack. When you see the batter develop a hump in the center, rotate the pan 180 degrees. Bake for about 5 minutes more or until toothpick test comes clear.
  6. Unmold on to a wired rack. Quickly transfer to  serving plate and sift with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with coffee or tea.

Madeleines are best when eaten within 10 minutes out of the oven.

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