Seafood Tarte Soleil

Tarte Soleil or sun tart, is a stunning example of how the simplest recipe can be turned into an artistic creation. I’m forever looking for a new idea to incorporate seafood into our meals. I’ve never been a huge fan of puff pastry but it certainly does have its place. A flour, water and butter based preparation that has a neutral flavor makes puff pastry perfect for either sweet or savory dishes.

You have probably heard the phrase ‘laminated’ dough. This refers to the process of folding butter into dough multiple times to create very thin alternating layers of butter and dough. The gluten in the flour also gets developed during the folding and rolling process. This is unlike other baked goods where butter is creamed in with the sugar and flour. The laminated dough, when baked, results in a pastry with hundreds of flaky, airy layers.

The three original laminated dough’s are puff pastry, croissants and danish. Croissants and danish contain yeast, puff pastry does not. In addition, danish contains egg which the others don’t.

Whether you like this type of pastry or not, there is no denying, it has lent itself to many ‘creations’, giving them a unique taste, that most will enjoy.

With a nice combo of wild salmon and baby scallops inside my sun tart, it was not only a pretty presentation but had a great taste.

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Seafood Tarte Soleil
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine salmon, scallops (or shrimp), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into seafood mixture. Set aside in refrigerator.
  2. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet at least 12 X 12-inch in size. Remove 1 sheet of thawed, puff pastry from refrigerator & roll out on 1 of the sheets of parchment to form an 11 1/2-inch square. Using a pot lid or bowl, cut the largest possible circle from the pastry. Transfer the pastry (on parchment) to baking sheet & place in refrigerator. Repeat procedure with the second piece of pastry.
  3. Remove the first pastry circle from the fridge. Spread the filling mixture on the circle, to within 1/4-1/2-inch of the outer edge. Use a pastry brush to lightly wet the edge of the pastry. Top with the second circle of pastry, using your fingers to lightly press the pastry together.
  4. Place a 2 1/2-inch diameter glass or jar lid in the center of the pastry. Use a ruler & the tip of a sharp paring knife to score the pastry from the edge of the glass to the outer edge of the pastry at 12, 3, 6 & 9 o'clock. Score each quarter in half, making 2 triangles. You will have 8 triangles when your'e done. Place tart in freezer for NO MORE than 5 minutes before continuing.
  5. Use a sharp scissors to cut each triangle cleanly along the score lines from the outer edge of the glass. Remove the glass. Place your index finger of your left hand at the top of a triangle (where the glass was). Use your right hand to twist that triangle 3 times. Go around the circle, repeating with each of the remaining triangles. Refrigerate tarte for at least another 5 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare egg wash & brush it over the tarte. Bake about 20 minutes. Rotate the tarte 180 degrees & lower the temperature to 375 F. Bake another 10 minutes or until a rich golden brown color. Remove from oven & transfer to serving dish. Nice to serve with a dill cream sauce & fresh steamed broccoli florets.

Baked Stone Fruit Dumplings

Part of the enjoyment of writing these blog stories and recipes is the research process. I find it fascinating to learn about the different cultures through their recipes. With some, you have to dig deep to retrieve the authentic recipe or process. Many recipes, as I know from my own family heritage, only exist in memory. These recipes are priceless pieces of family traditions. Each having a history and story of it’s own making them unique and special.

Whenever I feel inspired to create a new recipe, I try to learn everything I can about it’s history and the way it is traditionally made, then I set out on my own. It’s not that I think I can do it better, but rather just personalizing it to our taste.

Fruit dumplings were most popular in England and Central Europe. As people crossed the ocean, they carried with them the recipes for the foods they knew and loved. As time passed they experimented more with the flavors of fruit dumplings. The dough evolved from flour and potatoes to the pastry dough we know today.

I have made this BAKED STONE FRUIT DUMPLING  recipe with either my own homemade pastry or frozen puff pastry. We found them real good either way.

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Baked Fruit Dumplings
Adding a scoop of ice cream makes this an irresistible dessert.
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Course dessert
Servings
Dumplings
Ingredients
Dumpling
Streusel
Caramel Sauce
Course dessert
Servings
Dumplings
Ingredients
Dumpling
Streusel
Caramel Sauce
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Instructions
Dumplings
  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, bread crumbs, cinnamon & nutmeg. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry into two 12-inch squares. Cut each sheet into nine 4-inch squares. Brush squares with egg. Place 1 tsp sugar mixture in the center of each square; top with 2 Tbsp chopped fruit of your choice & 1 more tsp sugar mixture. Gently bring up corners of pastry to center; pinch edges to seal. Place on greased baking sheets.
Streusel
  1. In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients. Brush remaining egg over dumplings; press streusel over tops. Bake at 375 F. for 14-18 minutes or until golden brown. Place pans on wire racks & allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Caramel Sauce
  1. While dumplings are baking, combine flour & water in a small saucepan beating until smooth. Add the sugars, butter & salt. Bring to a boil; cook & stir until smooth & blended. If serving immediately, place dumpling on serving plate & pour sauce over top.
Recipe Notes
  • These versatile dumplings can also be made with tart apples or mixed berries.

Dinner ‘En Croute’

Today, November 24, our neighbors to the south are celebrating Thanksgiving. Over the years, Brion and I have been in the USA numerous times on this occasion and enjoyed the food and holiday atmosphere very much. Today’s blog post acknowledges the American holiday with some special meal choices.

At the heart of a memorable dinner is the main entree, so why not make it just a bit more special by serving it  ‘En Croute’.  In the culinary arts, the term en croute (pronounced ‘on Kroot’) indicates a food that has been wrapped in a pastry dough and then baked in the oven. Traditionally the type of pastry used was a simple dough called pate pastry. Today, puff pastry  is frequently used for most en croute recipes.

The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until it is golden brown is how long the item will spend in the oven. Some of the best choices are beef tenderloin, salmon or a brie cheese, due to the fact they require less time to cook.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, Beef Wellington or as the French called it, ‘Boeuf en Croute’, became very popular. It was an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate and wrapped in pastry. My first introduction to this meal was a much more low key  version. It was simply achieved by making a nicely seasoned meatloaf, wrapping it a basic pastry and baking it. My mother would serve it with a tomato soup sauce. Definitely good but not quite the elegance of the true en croute entrees.

Two favorites of mine are variations of the classic ‘boeuf en croute’. One uses boneless turkey breast topped with a cranberry, hazelnut stuffing and baked in a tender puff pastry then served with a citrus-fig cranberry sauce. The other one is a seafood en croute using fresh salmon. The salmon is topped with shrimp or scallops in a seasoned egg/cream mixture and baked in puff pastry. A dill cream sauce is served to compliment this entree. Having a few alternatives to change out your traditional holiday meals always keeps it interesting.

 

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Turkey / Seafood 'en Croute'
Alternative ideas for those special occasions.
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
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Instructions
Turkey en Croute
  1. Saute garlic & onions in olive oil & butter 1-2 minutes. Add bread crumbs; toss until they begin to brown slightly. Add hazelnuts, thyme, cranberries, salt & pepper. Add only enough turkey stock to make stuffing hold together.
  2. Place the first pastry sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place turkey breast along the center line of the pastry sheet. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash. Place stuffing on top of the turkey. Place the second pastry sheet over the turkey & stuffing. Trim the edges to form an oval shape. Save the trimmings in the fridge.
  3. Bring the edges of the dough together & seal by pinching them. Roll the dough from the bottom layer over the top layer & press down all the way around the perimeter of the pastry. This creates a tighter seal. Brush egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry. Decorate, cutting leaf shapes from trimmed pastry & score leaf veining into them with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut four 1/2" slots in the top of the pastry to let steam escape. Chill for 20 minutes or longer in the fridge before baking. This helps the pastry to puff.
  4. Bake at 400 F. for about 15-20 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the center has reached at least 170 F. to be sure the turkey is completely cooked, about 35-45 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into servings.
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
  1. Simmer all ingredients together slowly for 30-40 minutes or until the cranberries are fully cooked & the mixture reduces & thickens to a jam-like consistency. Stir the sauce often as it simmers. Remove the star anise (if using). Store in a plastic container in refrigerator until serving time.
Seafood en Croute
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into four 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Place a salmon fillet in center of four rectangles.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the shrimp (or scallops), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into shrimp mixture. Spoon about 1/4 cup over each fillet.
  3. Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch parchment lined baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake at 400 F. for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
  1. Mix all ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.
Recipe Notes
  • The original recipe source for the Cranberry Hazelnut Turkey & Citrus Fig Cranberry Sauce can be found at rockrecipes.com
  • The cranberry sauce uses star anise or extract but feel free to omit it if you do not care for that flavor.
  • The Seafood en Croute recipe is one that is featured on tasteofhome.com  which has always been my favorite 'go-to' recipe company forever. 

Summer Picnic # 4

                                                        MENU

                    ROSEMARY HAM   *   CAJUN CHICKEN     WRAPS    

             THAI CHICKEN   *   PEPPERONI     PASTRY PINWHEELS    

                  FRESH FRUIT with CHEESE, CAKE or in CUPS   

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Wraps, Pinwheels & Fresh Fruit Picnic
Keeping it light & simple but still adding a touch of gourmet.
Instructions
Tortilla Pinwheels
  1. Spread each tortilla with herb & garlic cream cheese as well as a thin layer of hot red pepper jelly.
  2. For the 3 ROSEMARY PEPPER HAM pinwheels, place 1 of the Asiago cheese slices on left side. Next lay 1/3 of ham slices followed by a length of 6 spinach leaves. Repeat with 2 more tortillas. For the 3 CAJUN JAMBALAYA CHICKEN pinwheels, place 1 of the strong cheddar slices on left side. 1/3 of chicken slices followed by a length of 6 spinach leaves. Repeat with 2 more tortillas.
  3. Starting on the left side, roll tortillas up tightly. Wrap in plastic wrap for several hours or overnight. At picnic time, trim a bit off each end; slice each roll into 8 pieces. Secure with a tooth pick if you think its necessary. Place in fridge until picnic time.
Pepperoni Pinwheels
  1. On lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry sheets slightly. Spread mustard over all pastry. Divide & arrange pepperoni slices on the 2 pastry sheets, sprinkle with cheese & oregano. Tightly roll up pastry; gently pinch edge into roll to seal. Wrap in saran wrap & refrigerate 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 30 - 3/4 slices. Place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden & slightly puffed.
Thai Turkey Pastry Pinwheels
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cool before using.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry sheets slightly. Spread Thai turkey mixture over all pastry to within 1/2" of edges. Tightly roll up pastry; gently pinch edge into roll to seal. Wrap in saran wrap & refrigerate 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 30 - 3/4" slices. Place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden & slightly puffed.
Fresh Fruit with Cheese, Cake Cubes or in Cups
  1. On 6 wooden 8" skewers, alternately thread the strawberries, cheese cubes & cantaloupe. On another 6 skewers, alternate strawberries with cake cubes. Layer 6 plastic cups with colorful fresh fruit combos. Serve all as is or with a flavored yogurt for an easy dip.
Recipe Notes
  • Herb & Garlic Cream Cheese Spread can be purchased or make your own. I found a  great recipe for this spread on allrecipes.com which I used in my pinwheels.
  • If you choose, you could lay some pickle strips or red pepper strips at the edge of the left side of the tortillas creating a center in your pinwheels.
  • If you feel like your picnic needs one more item, add your favorite salad to the mix.
  • You might want to include some  flavored yogurt  for dip to go with the fruit items.
  • You should have roughly about 48 pinwheels, 60 pastry pinwheels & 18 desserts.

Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata)

A while back I was in a grocery store and happened to notice a familiar looking little tart being sold. Sure enough, it was some Portuguese custard tarts with their typical characteristic of a ‘browned’ custard. There is no doubt this little sweet treat has universal appeal.

Until Brion and I had the pleasure of visiting Portugal in 2014, I really had never even tasted them or realized what an interesting history these  unassuming custard tarts had.

‘Pasteis de nata’ were created by Catholic monks at the Jeronimos Monastery in the district of Belem, in Lisbon. These monks were originally based in France and loved these pastries. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg whites for starching clothes, such as nuns’ habits. It was quite common for them to use the leftover egg yolks to  make cakes and pastries, as a result these legendary tarts were born!

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, next to the Jeronimos Monastery there was a sugar cane refinery attached to a small general store. Following the extinction of the religious orders and in the face of the impending closing of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the monks started selling pasteis de nata at the sugar refinery to secure some revenue. In 1834 the monastery was closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery. Three years later, the baking of the ‘Pasteis de Belem’ began in the buildings attached to the refinery, following the ancient ‘secret recipe’ from the monastery. Passed on and known exclusively to the master confectioners who hand-crafted  the pastries in the’secret room’, this recipe remains unchanged to the present day. The bakery produces something like 10,000+ of these tarts a day, everything being done by hand except the filling of the tart shells.

When you read the recipe it makes you wonder how does a simple little custard tart reach such status. It seems it might be a few things such as ‘secret recipes’, teams of folks who do nothing but make the pastry dough or whip up the filling. Then there are those commercial ovens that blast at 800 F. to get that characteristic ‘browned’ look and taste. Definitely, when you make that many daily you can’t help but get it right!

All that being said, here is an easy way to make some ‘pasteis de nata’  in your own kitchen to enjoy but we all know so much of it is in ‘the taste of a memory’.   

 

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Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata)
Light, flaky, crispy crust with a lightly sweetened creamy custard
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Servings
tarts
Ingredients
Prep Time 30 minutes
Servings
tarts
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Whisk yolks, eggs, cream, sugar & cornstarch in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of spoon; remove from heat. Whisk in butter, vanilla & lemon zest. Strain the custard into a bowl. Place a piece of waxed paper directly over the custard; refrigerate until chilled or up to a day.
  2. Starting from the short end, roll each sheet of thawed puff pastry into a log; cut each into 12 equal pieces. Lightly grease 2-12 cup muffin pans. Place a piece of dough in each cup, Pressing dough evenly with your fingers to form a tart shell. Line each tart case with a small round of parchment paper. Fill with baking weights or rice. 'Blind' bake at 400 F. for ABOUT 10 minutes.
  3. Adjust oven temperature to 450 F. Fill tart shells about 2/3 full with cooled custard. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Adjust to BROIL temperature & brown for 3-5 minutes, watching closely so they don't burn.
  4. Leave to cool in muffin pans for about 5 minutes then turn out carefully on to a wire rack. Serve at room temperature. If preferred, sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon.
Recipe Notes
  • Using frozen puff pastry makes it less time consuming but it still seems to take a few times of making them to get your timing just right with each part of the baking process. In the end it's well worth it!