Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dark Chocolate Waffles & Oscar Talk

I know, I know, every year I hit ya with some sort of scrumptious appetizer to create for your Oscar party.  This year, I'm a total slacker (where are the days going?) but I have these insanely good waffles to share with you.  By all means, make them for Oscar day - breakfast, lunch, dinner - nothing wrong with that.  I wish someone would invite me to a party where they served waffles.  Hint hint wink wink.  But really this post is just an excuse for Oscar talk, which right now, is the best kind of talk.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Burnt Caramel Custards

"I have a lot of faith.  But I am also afraid a lot, and have no certainty about anything. 
Certainty is missing the point entirely.  Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns."  ~ Anne Lamott

I love that last bit...letting it be there until some light returns.  How hard is it though, to just let it be.  Sometimes we push and pull for answers, getting nowhere in return.  If you too are finding yourself in a place where you need to just let it be, rest assured that the light (and Spring!) will find us soon enough.  Diehard optimist, am I.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Three Whole Years: The Best Of (So Far).

This blog's third anniversary quietly slipped by at the end of January.  Three years!  Already!  Seems just yesterday I was fumbling my way around here, not knowing anything about anything in blogland.  Going through the archives has been a trip - I sometimes cringe at those early photos taken in bad light with poor composition, but am proud of how far my photos have come since then.  I laugh at some posts, thinking my God, did I really say that?  I look at the recipes, and think, holy cow, that was really good, I should make it again soon.  I read your sweet comments, and know that you guys are the reason I keep writing and photographing and whipping up the creations I do.  I'm still learning and fumbling and evolving around here.  Thanks for being along for the ride!  I hope the next three years are just as rewarding and exciting, full of good food, tantalizing photos, adventures and a good measure of cat talk.  Believe me when I say the opportunities that have come my way because a girl in Saskatoon likes to photograph and write about the food she makes in her little green kitchen have been a blessing.  Truly.  I am humbled. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Citrus & Dark Chocolate Mascarpone Tart

Oh sweet February.  Your arrival not only marks a month closer to Spring, but also the nod to eat things other than quinoa and kale.  Not that there is anything wrong with quinoa and kale.  Just sometimes you reach your quota for a bit and want to indulge in something a little, um, bad for you.  Moderation, people.  Moderation.  Life is too short to deprive oneself of food that makes your eyes roll back into your head.  When is the last time quinoa did that for you?

True story.  This is the first baking I've done since Christmas.  I don't think I've even cobbled together muffins.  I know!  Who is this person?  Things got busy after the holidays, then I went away for a week, then things got busy again.  And also, some Sunday afternoons I feel more like going to the movies than creaming together butter and sugar.  So many good movies to see before Oscar!  By the way, Sandra Bullock in Gravity.  Holy smokes.  Remind me not to travel to space, okay? 

My baking hiatus was broken by a most wonderful, seasonal tart.  A good pal came over, wanting to watch me bake and and pick up tips.  But while that did happen, we mostly drank tea, gossiped and watched Desperately Seeking Susan, the VHS version.  Yes, I still have a VCR plugged into the wall.  But if one has to watch Madonna in a movie, it might as well be on scratchy, jumpy video cassette, right? 

So, about this tart, it looks fancy shmancy, but it's not that bad.  Puff pastry is your friend, and you want a box with two sheets in it - the stuff that is already rolled out is handy.  That braid looks intimidating to pull off, but it's just strips of puff pastry covered in chocolate, stacked on top of each other, sliced and twisted.  Easy peasy.  A not-too-sweet citrus mascarpone and cream cheese filling is spread on the base and topped with slices of oh so photogenic blood, cara cara and navel oranges.  Slice them thin and be sure to pick out the seeds if any of those pesky rascals find their way near your tart.

I thought baking orange slices could be weird, or too liquidy, but I was wrong on both counts.  The citrus hold their shape and bake into the creamy filling - the puff pastry base is the buttery perfection you expect it to be, but the real show stopper is that chocolate braid.  People will fight over the edge pieces.  Good thing I live alone so I don't have to share.  The drizzle of good maple syrup and a light scattering of toasted almonds really make this dessert impressive.  And in case you're wondering, yes, it makes a fine breakfast - especially on terribly cold and way too early February mornings. 

Citrus & Dark Chocolate Mascarpone Tart

1 box of puff pastry (containing two sheets)
1/2 cup melted dark chocolate
1 egg yolk, whisked
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese, softened
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp cane sugar
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 oranges (navel, Cara Cara, blood), peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/3 cup pure maple syrup

If your puff pastry isn't already rolled flat, then do so, rolling both sheets approximately 9" x 13". 
Trim each to form a rectangle.  Place one sheet of puff pastry on a parchment lined bake sheet and prick all over using a fork.  Lightly dust your counter with flour and cut the second pastry sheet lengthwise into 3 even strips.  Spread the melted chocolate on top of two strips.  Place one chocolate strip on top of the other and top with the third clean strip.  Slice lengthwise into 6 strips.  Carefully twist two strips together to form a spiral shape.  Repeat with remaining strips.  Brush the outside edges of pastry sheet with egg yolk and carefully lay the twists on top - you may have to cut some to get a perfect fit.  Press gently so it sticks.  Place the tart in the fridge for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together the softened cheeses, sugar, zest and salt.  Spread this over the chilled pastry.  Arrange the sliced oranges neatly over top.  Brush the chocolate twists with egg yolk.
Preheat oven to 375*F and bake approximately 30 - 40 minutes, until edges golden brown.
Serve tart warm, sprinkled with toasted almonds and drizzled with maple syrup.  Serves 6-8.
Recipe adapted from Style At Home October 2013.  

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