If you live in any of the cold weather states, you have probably noticed the absence of good quality, seasonal fruits. There are your standard apples, oranges, strawberries and blueberries. Even these selections are shipped in from distant lands, beautifully ripened but void of any flavor. I did run into a small selection of what, I am guessing, is a leftover stock of stored plums at my local grocery store. After picking through a group of obviously-stored-too-long specimens, I found a few pounds of nice looking fruit that would be lovely in a fruit tart. Once baked in a buttery pecan crumb crust, the fruit could once again shine. And shine it did!
Thanksgiving is right around the corner--are you ready? We at Beanilla are so excited for the holiday season! Not only is it our busiest time of the year, but also our favorite. Cookies, pies, candies or just about any baked good or pastry you can create is our forte. The addition of our high quality vanilla beans, extracts, vanilla sugar and vanilla salt can bring your desserts to a whole new level of deliciousness!
Speaking of delicious, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie?! Although this pie only seems to hang around for a brief time during the holiday season, it is almost always a staple on the holiday dinner table. Traditionally baked in a flaky rolled pie crust and garnished with a dollop of creamy whipped cream, the creamy custard-like texture is unique and quintessentially Thanksgiving!
I grew up enjoying classic dense cheesecakes complete with graham cracker crust and a slightly sweet sour cream topping. On special occasions, sweet cherry pie filling would cascade over the side adding to the decadence of the cake. My mother was an accomplished cook and there was always some sort of pastry or dessert in the house. On holidays and special occasions we could count on her creating the most delicious and decadent treats. She made everything from homemade pies to crème filled chocolate cupcakes. The most memorable and often most requested was her sour cream cheesecake.
My husband loves avocados, which was great when we lived in San Diego where fresh avocados were available year round. Finding the perfect ripe avocado that doesn't cost $3.00 proved to be a bit of a challenge here in West Michigan this winter. When the season began again, and the prices dropped to a more reasonable $1.50, I began to think once again about this luscious little fruit. Fresh guacamole is delicious, sliced avocado is lovely and salads of avocado are amazing, but after awhile it becomes a little monotonous. In my quest to discover new ways to use this creamy, delicious fruit, I have found and created a couple new desserts. I know it's hard to grasp, but avocados are delicious in dessert applications! The texture of the fruit makes it easy to blend them into ice cream and whipped creams. My favorite way to use them is in a delicious avocado cream. A simple combination of heavy cream and sugar beaten together with half of an avocado can create a heavenly dessert. Kick it up a notch with a crispy cinnamon sugar tortilla and a delicious currant sauce.
The Florida Mangoes are in season and they are delicious! Fragrant, large and brightly colored, the Tommy Atkins mango is the most popular variety seen in the grocery stores and at farmers markets. Mangoes are at their peak from June-September. When picking a mango, choose one that is firm but the outer skin gives when gently pushed. The aroma should be sweet and tropical, and the coloring should be consistent throughout the fruit, ranging from bright red to a deep orange. Mangoes can be utilized in many applications from a savory and spicy mango salsa to a sweet and juicy tropical fruit salad. When in season, the most delicious and unique way to let the fruit shine is in a sweet and creamy mango tart.
Classic blueberry pie is the quintessential summer dessert, and the perfect addition to any barbecue or backyard picnic that you may have planned this summer. This past weekend was the unofficial kickoff to barbecue season. Many of us celebrated the Memorial holiday weekend grilling out with friends and family, while others brought the RV out of storage or dusted off, and aired out their tents. I have beautiful memories of big family picnics packed up and hauled out to the Holland State Park. We would pick the perfect spot for everyone and set up camp. My grandmother always made her famous potato salad and perfectly cooked pasta salad with huge chunks of cheddar cheese. Aluminum foil would be brought out to line the community grills, and burgers and hotdogs would be cooked to perfection. There was never a lack of desserts -- homemade cookies and pies would magically appear from the picnic basket towards the end of the meal. Completely stuffed and happy to relax on our blankets in the sun, we would watch the boats slowly sail through the channel on their way out to bigger bodies of water. I feel very blessed to have such wonderful Michigan summer memories of my childhood. What is your favorite summer holiday memory?
The sun is out, the birds are chirping and the temperature is slowly climbing above freezing. I look out my office window and see the neighbor kids playing basketball in short sleeves, couples walking their dogs and others slowly emerging from winter hibernation. Spring seems to have finally found us! In celebration of green grass, fresh flowers and bountiful farmers markets to come, I have decided to celebrate with a bright and tangy tart -- a Meyer lemon and orange tart to be precise. Meyer lemons are a specialty lemon that is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. They are typically sweeter and less acidic than traditional lemons making them a perfect choice for desserts and pastries.
The beignet is a classic New Orleans breakfast treat. It is a staple in the New Orleans food culture, dating back to the early 1900’s. Café Du Monde is the most famous and well recognized purveyor of beignets, but many bakeries in and around the French quarter have their own recipes for these light and filling breakfast treats.
The easiest and simplest way to describe a beignet is a cross between a rich and dense egg-based French pastry (such as a profiterole) and a classic American yeast donut. The beignet dough is fried to a light golden brown and covered in powdered sugar. They are served in sets of three and brought to your table piping hot. A simple pairing of a classic café au lait with your beignet, and you will feel as though you are transported to French Quarter café.
Profiteroles, or cream puffs as they are called here in the states, are a classic French dessert. You will most likely find them filled with a sweet whipped cream and garnished with a dusting of powdered sugar or hard caramel. My favorite is the latter version. I vividly remember going to the patisserie in Paris, and blissfully enjoying this light and filling pastry. I love the chewy texture of the Pâte à Choux (cream puff dough) the soft cream filling and the crunchy texture of the hard caramel glaze.
Pâte à Choux was one of the first desserts that I made and photographed after acquiring my first DSLR camera. It was also the first time that I realized that becoming a pastry chef may be well suited to me. Pâte à Choux may look daunting, but if you follow the steps to creating it, it is a very simple dough with extraordinary results. The dough is very elastic and sticky, but once you pipe out those little rounds and place them in the oven a little bit of magic happens. When the dough hits the hot air, the profiterole (cream puff) dough begins to rise to form a "puff", enabling you to fill them with a sweet and delicious filling of your choice. Be sure to bake them until they sound hollow when baking sheet is lightly tapped on, or they will deflate and you will ultimately have flat cream puffs (a lesson I learned once or twice).
The palmier is a quintessential French dessert. A sweet and buttery pastry that resembles a cookie, made from puff pastry and homemade vanilla bean sugar.
Beanilla carries a large selection of extracts and flavorings that any chef or home cook would love. From almond to lavender the choices are extensive! Cool, refreshing and a perfect complement to rich chocolate; Peppermint, one of my personal favorites!
Peppermint brownie tarts begin with a base of chocolate fudge brownie, a middle layer of cool peppermint filling and a top layer of rich dark chocolate ganache. They are a small but decadent dessert that is easy to make and guaranteed to disappear faster than you can make them.
When I think of raspberries, I think of my in-laws. In the early to late fall, there is a beautiful "u-pick" raspberry farm close to their home that has the most delectable raspberries known to man. My mother-in-law introduced me to them a few years ago on one of our visits back home. Picture a long winding drive, a couple of dogs greeting you with excited barks and a middle-aged woman smiling as she tends to her stand. The stand is stocked full of treasures such as homemade breads, jams and the most exquisite raspberry flower honey I have ever tasted. She greets you with a smile and a basket to collect the berries, points you in the direction of the most plentiful bushes and sends you on your way. Once you arrive at the raspberry bushes, you notice how peaceful it is and you begin to collect the sweet red berries. Most of the berries make it into the basket, but a few are so beautiful and ripe, they beg to be eaten right then!
My husband is not a dessert fan, which always bewilders friends and acquaintances when they learn I am a pastry chef. He would happily eat pizza in place of dessert any day. Me, on the other hand, I could live on sweets and vegetables. One of the few desserts that he loves is chocolate cream pie; I can see the allure that it has for him. Rich creamy chocolate mousse, sweet flaky pie dough topped with sweet whipped cream. What a perfect dessert!
Banket is a Dutch treat -- a puff pastry-like dough filled with an almond paste mixture, then baked to a golden brown. It is a delicious morning treat (or anytime) -- a perfect match with a hot cup of good coffee. I was introduced to Banket as a young child. You see, both my mother's side of the family and my father's side are 100% Dutch. When it comes to pastries, the Dutch love almond paste. Not a single family of Dutch heritage is without some recipe that contains this beloved paste.
The original scone was round and flat, usually the size of a medium size plate. It was made with unleavened oats and baked on a griddle, then cut into triangle-like quadrants for serving.
Scones sold commercially are usually round in shape, although some brands are hexagonal as this shape may be tessellated for space-efficiency. When prepared at home, they take various shapes including triangles, rounds and squares. The baking of scones at home is often closely tied to heritage baking. They tend to be made from family recipes rather than recipe books, since it is often a family member who holds the "best" and most-treasured recipe.