Easter Wrap Up Or, How I Learned to Stop Dieting and Love Butter

I have a confession: before Saturday, I’d never used a food processor.

I’ll pause for reaction.  You done? Good.  Let’s move on.

Now I’m not one of these people who thinks that using a food processor instead of hand chopping, mixing or cutting is a gateway to harder drugs like buying marinara sauce in a jar or calling ketchup a vegetable.  The truth is, I’ve never owned a food processor, so I had to make do with what I had.  Simple as that.  Besides, most recipes say something like “combine using a pastry cutter or two knives.  Some cooks may want to use a food processor for this step,” so I never felt bad.

But all of that has changed.  A food processor is a revelation.  But we’ll get to that.  This post is about my weekend, which included a lot of food.  Like, a lot.  And although the first rule of entertaining has to be, “NEVER try an untested recipe when entertaining,” over all, it was a smashing success.

Mostly, I want to talk about dessert.  If you’re like me, spring desserts are difficult.  Pie seems too heavy, ice cream is wussing out, and fresh fruit seems like a trick some how.  So I did a little research and found two desserts that can be made in part (or whole) ahead of time, so you spend less time worrying about what to serve, and more time worrying about how you’re going to button your pants tomorrow.  This ain’t diet food, so be warned.

French Apple Tart (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

For the Pastry, Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon salt

1 tsp sugar

12 Tbs cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup ice water

The secret here is to keep everything REALLY cold.  It makes for a lighter, fluffier pastry.  Put the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a couple of times to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas.  With the motor running, stream in the water slowly through the feed tube and pulse until a ball of dough forms.  Turn out on a floured surface and knead quickly into a ball.  The dough will be slightly sticky when it comes out of the food processor, but a quick turn in the flour will solve that problem.  Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, but you can make it a day in advance and keep in in the fridge until you need it. Simple, yes?

For the “filling”, Here’s what you’ll need:

4 Medium Granny Smith Apples

1/2 Cup sugar

4 Tb Butter

1/2 Cup Apricot Preserves

Water, Rum or Calvados

Peel and core the apples and slice thin, about 1/8 inch.  You can actually do this step early in the day if you douse the slices in lemon juice and keep them in the fridge.   Roll out your pastry to 10″ by 14″.  I trimmed mine to exact size, but for a more rustic style tart, you might just leave it with rough edges.  Fan the apple slices out on the pastry, making pretty patterns if you desire.  Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

In the meantime, melt down the preserves with a splash of water, rum or Calvados.  Run it through sieve until you have only a lovely apricot syrup.

When you pull the tart out of the oven and it looks like the edges are burned, fear not, the juices WILL burn a little, but the tart should be fine.  Brush the top with the apricot syrup.  Loosen from parchment and let cool slightly before cutting and serving warm or room temperature.  I served mine with french vanilla ice cream and the rest of the apricot syrup on the side.  Yum!

The second desert was a trifle.  I’ve never made a trifle before, but now that I have a trifle bowl, I felt compelled to make a trifle…Anyway, the hardest part is making the cake.  I made mine from scratch, but it would be just as easy to use a boxed cake mix, or even buy a pre-made cake from the bakery.  No judgement here.

White Cake (Adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Here’s what you’ll need:

3 1/2 Cups Cake Flour

8 Egg Whites

2 Cups Sugar

1 Cup Milk

4 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Vanilla

1/4 tsp Salt

1 Cup Butter

Here’s What You Do:

Sift the flour, then sift it again with the baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy and then add sugar and cream until very light.  Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk.  Stir until smooth with each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  In a clean bowl, whip egg whites in a frenzy until stiff but not dry.  Fold into batter in parts.  Divide between two 9 inch cake pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper on the bottom.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on cooling rack for 5 minutes and then turn out to cool completely.  To prevent sticking to racks, lay a linen tea towel over the racks.

If you’re using this to make cake (and you should, because it’s awesome) this is where you’d frost it or fill it or hide in your room and eat the whole thing in one sitting.  Whatever.

If you’re going on to make the trifle, let the cakes sit out at least 12 hours to dry a little before going on.  Then cut off the top and bottom of the cake to make flat surfaces and use your trifle bowl as a guide to cut circles that just fit in the bowl.

To make the Cream for the Trifle (adapted from Sunny Anderson of the Food Network)

Here’s What You’ll Need:

2/3 Cup Sugar

2 Cups Heavy Cream

1 lb Cream Cheese

Beat the sugar and the cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and light. Add the cream and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and the consistency of whipped cream.

To assemble the desert, layer the cake, cream, and your choice of fresh berries.  I used strawberries, raspberries and black berries.  I put cake on the bottom to give it structure, but there’s no wrong way to make a trifle.  Top with cream and a couple of berries and presto!  You can make the whole thing in advance and keep it in the fridge until dessert time. Make sure that if you’re planning to store it that you 1) cover the trifle to keep it from drying out and picking up smells and 2) use berries that will last a few days.  Raspberries would probably be out.

So that’s that.  Two deserts you can make ahead, at least partly.  

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