While our world feels like a fearful, indescribable mess — and it is, dear friends — I can handle it better if I’m baking. Especially for a holiday and, like it or not, Easter’s coming. Think renewed life, rebirth, clean beginnings — positive thoughts for anyone of any faith or none. We need this now, even if only two are gathered. A holiday for a duet is a tender occasion and while there’ll be a gorgeous lamb chop a piece and not our huge traditional Italian roasted leg of lamb for a crowd, we’ll also have dessert to remember this spring by.
I’m looking at Susan Hermann Loomis’ recipe for lamb chops. You might, too. (Do you know Susan’s work? She’s one of my very favorite cooking teacher/writers.) I squirreled away the chops weeks ago, but there’s still time for you to get some. Or something else you fancy more.
Need more Easter or Good Friday ideas? Just type “Easter” into the search window. You can also type “brunch,” “eggs,” “lamb,” “Friday Fish,”etc.
For most of my life, I thought of myself as a baker rather than a cook. What about you? Baker or cook? Food folk tend to lean up or down here: to the stove top or deep into the oven. I just loved to bake. My mom was a baker. Both my sisters are bakers and so was my brother. My kids are bakers! It makes people so happy; why wouldn’t we bake? Kids (and adults) love and loved my cookies. In fact, once I could bake a decent pie, that became my claim to fame in life. Never mind I was a decent librarian and a loved, capable church choir director, it was pie people wanted. And not much has changed. What’s different now is that there’s just two of us in this house. How much pie can two people eat? In fact, I eat only a bite and that leaves Dave (the hub) to eat the rest. Maybe not so fair, huh? Well, read on.
So as time went on, I became more and more of a cook–still baking as needed, but more interested in the savory corner of life as we had to watch our p’s and q’s and didn’t have a bunch of children to snarf up goodies. Cooking classes I taught focused on main dishes, too, rather than treacly after thoughts. This is a subject that has come up before on the blog and during cooking classes, too, I guess. But something has changed over the last few weeks. Instead of worrying about too many sweets, calories, carbs, and all the hell else, we’ve just begun to enjoy what’s available and…if that’s dessert..we’re reaping the benefits of that, too. We’re careful with using every little morsel, but we’re also careful to love everything without angst. And when one sweet thing is gone, I begin looking around to see what else I’ll make. Sundays, I’m making muffins or… date bread…or biscuits for our brunch. (see below) Rediscovering my joy in baking lightens my heart immeasurably. Odd, we don’t seem to be gaining an ounce–quite the opposite. Hello, a bit thinner us! Totally wondrous. Rather miraculous, in fact. A gift.
Below are a few things we’ve been cooking up since I last saw you. What are you cooking?
Eggs Piperade for Sunday Brunch:
Turkey Bolognese Lasagna. I had to dib and dab to get a whole panful, but I did it. We ate some, shared some, and froze some. Drank a stellar Chianti, too. And why not?
Last Tuesday I taught a Face Time Pizza Class. Dave, here in our kitchen, and friends Jim and Christa, at the other end of the phone and down the street, made the pizzas while I gave directions. Totally fun, delicious, and here’s the post about making an easy pizza in your own oven. No special equipment needed! Try it. No yeast? There’s also a Biscuit Crust Pizza on the blog.
There were other miracles...plants appearing where none had been planted, orchids blooming when they’d been hidden and rarely watered in a year, spring snow piling down overnight in quiet white beauty as we slept, a blessed healing for one of our kids:
I love Colorado:
…and two days later a happy hour (all social distanced) across the street after it all melted.
One of our kids had a health scare this last week. All is on the mend and we are grateful beyond belief. Yes, gifts. Miracles. Another had a birthday. Giving thanks here and always.
But in the meantime, there was a dessert that needed baking. A husband who needed feeding. A heart that needed mending. All totally serendipitous. Scrounging around in the freezer in the bottom of my kitchen fridge, I discovered frozen dough for two tarts. My favorite tart pastry is a Pâte Sucrée from the wonderful cook/writer Dorie Greenspan‘s book PARIS SWEETS. Dave and I had the wonderful honor of having drinks with Dorie and her husband Michael when we were in Paris a couple of years ago. They are just the best ever. Here’s to another bottle of white together!! Come to the mesa!
That tart dough has almonds and I like that best. I am, however, unable to add it here (copyright)–but just below my recipe, you’ll see a link to another sweet pastry dough Dorie makes and Food52 has published it online. Et voila! You, of course, are welcome to use that one or any pastry you see fit or to which you have access.
Getting a tart to come together when supplies are limited is an interesting feat. I’m not a tart designer by trade, either. I looked at half a dozen recipes and had the ingredients for none as I was missing cream, apricot jam, marmalade…or whatever. (I later found marmalade/big sigh…) I finally remembered an old favorite great big apple pie I’ve made for years that has a sour cream and walnut filling. Well, by golly; I had sour cream. I had walnuts. I could cut that filling down to fill a tart and switch a couple of other things around for good measure. I figured it out. “With a pencil and a pad, I figured it out.” And here it is for you. Just in case you have apples. Flour, butter. And sour cream. OH, and vanilla. And, if not, I guess you’ll make it with what you have in your kitchen. And it’ll be your miracle:
Mesa Apple Tart
- You’ll need a 9-inch tart pan with a removeable bottom. If you only have a pie pan, go ahead anyway and please do!
- 9- inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough-Pâté sucrée- chilled
- 3 large baking apples- cored and sliced thinly. Do not peel.*
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or orange juice
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar- divided
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 egg yolk
- Pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon all purpose unbleached flour
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/3 cup walnuts cut into large pieces
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon for topping at end
- PREP: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack at center. Get out a rimmed baking sheet and place the tart shell in the pan on the baking sheet.
- MIX APPLES WITH LEMON JUICE; ADD TO THE TART SHELL: In a medium bowl, toss the apple slices with the lemon juice. Place the apple slices around the outside perimeter of the tart dough, overlapping slightly, and facing the same direction. Continue layering another row of slices into the middle until the shell is full.
- MAKE THE FILLING: In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the sugar with the sour cream, egg yolk, salt, vanilla, flour, and milk.
- POUR THE FILLING OVER THE APPLES, SPRINKLE w/ WALNUTS, SUGAR/CINNAMON + BAKE: Pour the sour cream mixture evenly over the apples in the shell, spreading it a little with a small rubber spatula if needed. Sprinkle the walnuts evenly over the apples and filling. Mix the remaining tablespoon of sugar with the ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small cup and sprinkle over the whole tart. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden, filling is just set, and apples are tender when pierced with a paring knife.
- COOL TART+SERVE WARM/ROOM TEMP: Place the baking sheet with the tart on a rack to cool for 30-40 min. Serve warm or at room temperature. This is best the day it’s made, but you can wrap the cooled tart in plastic wrap and store it for a day or two in the fridge if need be. We all can’t eat a whole apple tart in a day!
Think spring, healing, renewal, breath, health, and new beginnings,
Bud (Ashby) Smith. Husband of my dear friend, the late Joyce Anderson Smith. Bud was an incredible church musician, banker, boat builder, father, husband, comedian, and much more. He lost a long battle with leukemia this week.
Robert “Bob” Morgan. Dave’s oldest living uncle from Springfield, Illinois. A sweet guy with a great sense of humor and an ever-ready smile. Father of 6, he’ll be so missed.
Prayers for each as they cross the river…