bittersweet chocolate pudding with earl grey cream

There comes a time where we all must revert to childhood and eat pudding. Even better if the pudding could possibly exist in a pudding cup-type ensemble, and possibly eaten with the foil top because oops you have no spoon. All jokes aside, though, I honestly don’t actively crave pudding most of the time because I’m too busy craving bread and whipped cream and rose italian sodas. Correction – I didn’t actively crave pudding, because now I sure as hell do. It’s on the list – for good. Here’s why.

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It’s at the point in summer where everything feels like one of those fast action videos – things are moving far too quickly and there’s also far too many things to do. Between real-life work, this delightful blog baby of mine, a temperamental sourdough starter and the impending return of a school year where the lab hours seem to keep multiplying… I’m ready to move to New Zealand for a while just to calm down. No joke – been researching working holiday visas and requirements and plane tickets.Let me know if you’re feeling like New Zealand is where you’re headed too. We can hang.

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In a snap back to reality yesterday, I was forced to stop googling New Zealand and instead had to make something to share with you all. Probably good, because I’ve been in such a whirlwind lately that blog baby has taken a hit because temperamental sourdough starter has taken all of my free time because there’s so much real life work so there’s limited free time…..okay okay okay breathe. Think of New Zealand. Loop back around. I decided to make you all pudding. Because pudding is easy and it is good and it is pure of heart.

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To class it up – add earl grey cream and swirl and feel as much like an adult as you can considering you’re moving to New Zealand. To summer it up, add peaches, which I’m sure grow in New Zealand. To enjoy fully, share with friends, to convince them to move to New Zealand. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

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bittersweet chocolate pudding with earl grey cream 
adapted from salt fat acid heat

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups half and half
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 heaping fine sea salt
3 eggs

earl grey cream:

2 tablespoons earl grey leaves (about 4 teabags)
1 cup heavy cream, separated into 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Splash of pure vanilla extract
Sliced peaches, for topping
how-to: 

Place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl and place a mesh strainer over it. Crack the eggs into another medium bowl and whisk lightly to break up and combine a bit. Mix the cornstarch, cocoa powder, salt and sugar in yet another medium bowl. Place the half and half in a medium saucepan – and now we’re good to go.

Heat the half and half on low heat until just steaming and simmering. Don’t boil this – it won’t ever be the same. Pour the half and half into the cornstarch mixture and whisk to combine. Return to the pot and cook over medium-low heat, constantly stirring, until visibly thickened and the pudding can hold a trail on the back of a spoon. While whisking, stir about two thirds of the half and half mixture into the eggs, and then return all of it to the pot. Cook on low heat until visibly thickened again. You’ll know when it’s ready. It might take a minute, it might take ten. Just keep stirring and let it take it’s own sweet time.

Pour thickened pudding through the mesh sieve and onto the chocolate. Use a spatula to push the pudding through. Let the heat melt the chocolate, and then blend with a stick blender (or a normal blender, do your own thing), until silky and smooth and it looks like you want to eat it up. Adjust salt as needed, and pour into whatever cups for serving. Let come to room temp, or put in fridge for cold pudding.

To make the whipped cream, heat 1/2 cup of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat, until just steaming. Turn off the heat. Steep the leaves in the cream for 10 minutes, and strain. Add the rest of the cream and chill until very cold. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip up to soft peaks.

Pile earl grey cream on pudding cups and top with sliced peaches or other fruit. Breathe in, eat pudding, breathe out.

 

summer pavlova

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Let’s face it – when the summer fruit begins to roll in, we’ve got high expectations.  We’re making pies and tarts and jams and fillings. There’s a point, though, where the cooking is out of hand. This moment is usually pretty soon for me. Cooking fruit gets old. Fresh fruit is in, always.

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I’m also busy, since it’s August, and we’re all busy. Between work, this blog, trying to get my cat to like me, reading cookbooks and watching game of thrones…. you see how my days get eaten up quickly. Casual aside – did you see game of thrones yesterday?? I’m thinking dragon themed desserts for the rest of the summer. Lots of blowtorching, maybe? Scorched earth is what we’re after. All men must die, right?

This dessert is the best of both worlds – a super easy meringue and marshmallow-y base, rosy whipped cream, and piles of fresh strawberries and raspberries. Change it up if you want – I’m always feeling peaches. Feel free to also mess with the whipped cream – maybe some fresh mint or basil or even maybe chocolate?? Do what you will with that. I believe in your ability to improvise with what you’ve got.

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If you’ve always seen pictures of pavlovas on the internet and said – hey, that’s pretty – now’s your time to shine. Also, you’ll have some leftover yolks, and if you don’t feel like making ice cream with those I’m not totally sure we should be friends… at least give it a shot. Or don’t. It’s hot, and if you just want to sit on your couch and rewatch game of thrones… please invite me.

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summer pavlova
recipe adapted from alice mendrich

1 cup sugar (superfine works better, just whiz some sugar in a food processor for 15 seconds)
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
4 egg whites, room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (or 1 teaspoon white vinegar)

1 cup heavy cream
1½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon rosewater

1 half pint raspberries, 1 half pint strawberries or whatever fruit you feel like

how to:

Preheat oven to 275°F. Trace a 7 inch circle on a piece of parchment, then turn it over. Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar and beat at medium-high speed with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until egg whites are creamy and hold a soft shape. Add the sugar mixture 1 teaspoon at a time. When it is all in, it should be a stiff meringue.

Spread the meringue on the circle and use a spatula to spread it into a swirly, somewhat flat dome. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until it is browned a bit, pinkish and feels really crusty on the outside. The inside will be marshmallowy though, so don’t freak out (like I did). Cool it completely on a cooling rack. It is going to crack and settle when it comes out of the oven. Don’t worry – you’re just gonna be piling whipped cream and fruit on top, so it’s supposed to be rustic.

Make the whipped cream by whipping the cream, sugar and rosewater to stiff peaks. Pile whipped cream on meringue and top with fruit. Serve immediately. Once you put it all on, it’s only best for a couple hours, so eat up!

plum and almond tart

Last night, I made a meal for eight people, with three courses, and one plum-almond tart.

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I rubbed garlic cloves on slices of toasted baguette, and I spooned tomatoes all happy and relaxed in their juices. I sliced shallots thinly, fried them and promptly ate them all. Whatever was left of the shallots appeared to make their way into my sister’s hands – but I have no blame to give.

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I halved two pounds of cherry tomatoes, and I spilled white wine on the floor, which was already partially covered with flour. I rolled meatballs, wine deglazed, drizzled honey and topped tomatoes with jaunty basil leaves that my mom had just picked outside. I used every single bowl we have in our kitchen – twice. It was probably too much food.

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All the while, my stone fruit tart whiled away in the oven, biding its time for my attention. And I’ll be darned if it didn’t grab my attention and never let it go. I stuck my face right above it, inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, exhaled, found my happy place, and almost forgot about browning those meatballs on all sides.

Sweet plums, nestled in a buttery dough and sprinkled with ground almonds seems too easy – too simple, but when I set aside the potatoes and the pancetta and turned my attention to this baby, I decided it wasn’t too easy at all. It was that tart. The one you see online and think that it might be too hard or too many plums or maybe they had special plums cause wow – but – I assure you no special plums here. If anything, these were slightly underripe plums, and it was still gosh-darn good.

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It was perfect. I kid you not. Make this for your next dinner party and your grandfather will probably suggest you become a caterer, your grandmother will wonder over whipped cream, and your sisters will clamor for more – despite this being the fourth or fifth plate of food. Serve it up, summer style, with vanilla ice cream – or go my route with lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream. Doesn’t matter – these plums will outshine it all.

plum-almond tart

1⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ baking powder
½ salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
⅓ cup sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk or cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup fine breadcrumbs
½ cup finely ground raw almonds
½ finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons sugar
1¾ pounds ripe plums
1½ tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into little slivers or chunks
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

how-to:

Preheat oven to 375F, and butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest, and pile it on a clean work surface. Cut the butter into tiny tiny cubes, and refreeze to harden if needed. Take the butter and put it in a circle around the dry pile. Mix together the egg, milk, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl. Pour into the well in the top of the dry ingredients, and begin to mix together with a fork. When it gets to hard to mix with a fork, begin to use a bench scraper to mix in, making sure to scrape up from the bottom and also to chop the butter in. Once it is cohesive, knead a couple times to get it to come together, form a disk, wrap in plastic, and let rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Once it has rested, lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out to about 1 1/2 inches wider than the springform pan (mine was about an 11 inch circle). Place it in the prepared pan, pressing down in the edges to make sure it forms the right shape. Ideally this comes up an inch or more on the sides. Trim and mess around with the sides to make them somewhat even – but don’t freak out since this is a rustic tart. Poke all over with a fork, and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
While it is resting, mix together the breadcrumbs, ground almonds, lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl. Slice each of the plums in half lengthwise, leaving the back edge connected like a book. Pry out pits. If you accidentally cut one all the way in half don’t panic.
Once the tart shell is ready, sprinkle half of the almond mixture (about 1/2 cup) in the bottom, and arrange the cut plums in circles on the top (remember – rustic). Sprinkle the other half of the almond mixture on top, and top with the slivers of cold, unsalted butter and the sliced almonds. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes (mine took close to 55), until the pastry is a dark golden brown and the plums have released their juices. Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream, lightly sweetened whipped cream, or whatever your heart desires. Share with family, and enjoy.