French Fridays with Dorie – Double Chocolate and Banana Tart

Double Chocolate and Banana Tart

Strawberry and Ganache Tart

This is a cautionary tale with a lesson (I am a teacher by trade after all). Acknowledging that there are different learning styles in the world, I am more than willing to share the lesson up front so that the lazy readers in the group can move directly to the final picture after reading the opening paragraph.  LESSON:  NEVER BEGIN A RECIPE ON A SATURDAY EVENING AFTER A GLASS OF WINE!

Now that we have that out of the way, this actually turned into a beautiful baking experience.  Hannah did most of the work, so kudos to her!  She also had a busy weekend with her year end dance recital and her tap routine rocked the house.  Here she is in all her glory:

And, yes, that smile stays plastered on her face the ENTIRE time she is on stage.

Back to the lesson.  Last night while Bob was grilling the fish for our fish tacos, I thought it would be a great idea to mix up the dough, form it and pop it into the freezer so that I could be a step ahead for today.  One glass of wine and a very long week behind me lead to poor reading skills.  Needless to say I mixed up the original dough instead of following the directions for the chocolate version in the margin.  Merde!  I contemplated throwing it out and starting all over but a month or two in this cooking group has changed me.  I read every week about how you brave souls change and adapt recipes to fit your taste.  Why not just go with it?

Mother’s Day morning and I am enjoying my coffee and book, The Master’s Muse about Balanchine’s last wife.  Time to bake the crust.  The part about freezing the crust in the pan appealed to me as I have never had good luck with the whole weights (aka beans) and foil thing.  It baked up beautifully!  I will definitely be using that trick again.  Hannah attempted to make the ganache but blew up the first batch of cream (another lesson learned) so they crew headed to the store to pick up more.  The second batch was silky and  gorgeous.

Hannah and I decided to use strawberries instead of bananas ( I know, I am way out on a ledge at this point), so we carmelized them in the butter and sugar, placed them on the crust and poured the ganache over.  Delish!  Off to lunch at Little Village and then back home for the final layer and the glaze.  Hannah did an amazing job, right down to gently layering the berries to make it look all professional and such.  Great dessert for a great Mother’s Day!  Maybe in this quest for trying new things and thinking out of the box I should sign up for tap lessons next year too………….

FFWD Provencal Olive Fougasse

Salt and bread, what could be better?  Nothing, I tell you. This story, while a love one, is also one that could only end badly,  i.e. with me only being able to wear yoga pants in public.  Bread and I have a bit of a love/hate thing going on.  I love the way I feel so “European” while mixing it up, letting it rise and best of all, inhaling it after it comes out of the oven but then the hate part starts. Why couldn’t I stop after one or two pieces?  Did I really need to sneak back into the kitchen at 9 pm and eat more? Seriously people, all things in moderation.

I have made fougasse before and loved it each and every time so I was quite intrigued by this new (and improved version) with rosemary, lemon zest and OLIVES!  It mixed up lickety split in my KA standing mixer.  The “wetness” that the recipe mentioned was a bit worrisome, as the other fougasse recipe I use calls for a great deal more flour but I decided to trust the recipe.  A punch down an hour and a half later, into the fridge and on with the day.

Cut to a  day later and Grandma Mary is here (due to a funeral). We were laying around looking up recipes so we decided it was a good day for baking and eating bread  (I inherited my addiction honestly).  The dough was shiny and smelled divine.  Roll out, cut slits, let sit and then the final brushing and sprinkling of course sea salt.  Bake for the allotted time and voila, homemade bread!   We couldn’t even wait five minutes to start digging in.  The kids and Bob loved it too.  Now Grandma Mary has to wear HER yoga pants to work too…………

FFWD almond flounder meuniere

Bloggidy blog blog.  Not a great deal of inspiration at the moment so let’s just slog through this one.

First, I love fish, any kind of fish and so does my family so this was easy enough to “sell” at  my house.  One small detail,  I actually don’t cook fish.  This falls squarely on the shoulders of my hubby, Bob. Kind of like the Weber grill on the back patio, you know, man stuff.  I always say that if Bob suddenly passed away I would have to bury the grill with him.  So goes it with the fish recipes at the Feller household.  Soooo, disclaimer – I was only the sous chef and photographer for this recipe.  Glad I got that one off my chest, now the blogging police won’t be at my door tomorrow morning.

the usual suspects

I took care of grinding the almonds and setting it all up so that the lovely chef and his beer could read the recipe.  Reading done.  He took a look at the fish I had purchased ( I am too embarrassed to tell you where but the package did say “wild caught).  After he looked at my sad, emaciated flounder he said, “This is going to go fast.”  So off to the races we were.

The chef studying up for the big test

He was right, in a few minutes we had a lovely fish dinner.  Everyone was really happy with the results.  I have to say though, I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the almond coating and what we usually use.  The roasted almonds on the top were a nice touch and we served it with the recommended boiled, buttered potatoes with parsley and a nice spinach salad.  Not bad for a few minutes of hectic on a Sunday night. Nice work, Bob!

Baking with Julia Hungarian Shortbread

See, Elvis hadn't left the building yet......

So, back from Vegas where we celebrated my mom’s Birthday, a huge surprise for her  (yes, folks Elvis and all) and ready to tackle some new recipes.  I was totally pumped to see that this recipe included one of my all time favorite foods  RHUBARB!  I really love rhubarb.  Some of my fondest memories include this sour, crunchy fruit (really what is it, a fruit or a veggie or a root or what?)  As little girls my best friend Jackie and I used to have tea parties under massive pine trees in the backyard.  We would make rhubarb “sandwiches” with the leaves and the stalks.  Now, we knew full well that the leaves were crazy poisonous (perhaps an urban myth like the one my mom told me about your eyes “sticking” like that if you crossed them) so we NEVER put them near our lips but we did drive ourselves insane eating raw rhubarb.  Talk about pucker!

Another favorite memory of rhubarb (I told you I was obsessed) is the rhubarb custard pie made by my very own Granny Good Witch.  This is a one crust pie made with tart rhubarb and  involves half and half. You literally need duct tape in the kitchen in order not to inhale the whole thing. My Uncle Dan dropped one off at Granny’s earlier this week and Granny claims there is only one piece left.  Good bakers run in my family.  Sugar is its own food group.

This recipe reminds of good old church lady bars that my Granny was famous for.  Granny recently turned 91 and while her memory is not the best and she doesn’t bake anymore , I just know she’ll say, “These are pretty good, can you write that down for me?”  This recipe will then join other scribbled food notes in the two built-in dining room drawers jam-packed with recipes from (church) ladies with names like Hiya and Bernice.

Eli trying to show Granny how to play a video game. Never mind the fact that she NEVER had a driver's license and she also never learned how to ride a bike. Boy could that lady could bake though!

Sorry, I digress.  Granny is one special lady and things haven;t been going her way lately and she is on my mind.  She taught me how to bake as a child and remains an inspiration to me to this day.  We even named Hannah after her.

Back to the business at hand.  There was NO possible way this wasn’t going to be amazing with the WHOLE pound of butter and the rhubarb.  Easy enough to make, and yet technically it is a bit early for rhubarb in my book.  Lucky for us we got a jump on Spring a few weeks ago (where DID you go Spring?) and when I sent out my request via FB, my friend Jan offered up her patch (she also has tarragon and sage that never died out if you need that too).

The jam was simple to make though I didn’t have a vanilla bean on hand and this back woods town I live in didn’t have any either.  I decided to “be Jan” (she is always improvising) and dump in regular vanilla instead.  Done.

Cut to this morning when I whipped up the dough, froze it and then bribed the minions to help with the promise of baked goods when it was over. I thought the grating trick was really cool and I was looking forward to seeing what it would look like after baking.

The minions assisting

Into the oven for the allotted time then powdered sugar sprinkled over the top as per the directions, then off to Hannah’s soccer game.  The results?  Excellent!  Eli says I should sell my meals after making them and Hannah proclaimed it heavenly.  Not bad as a reward for winning 4-0 (even if you do run like your mom, Miss Hannah).