Finally, I have an apricot dessert recipe to share. It has taken awhile, but from my research and inspiration, I found an apricot dessert that is not a galette, not that there is anything wrong with galettes, but I do like to have a variety. With some help from a recipe by Nigella Lawson, I developed a recipe for apricot streusel cake.
Apricots are my favorite fruit and when I find a perfectly ripe fresh apricot, it is hard for me to resist eating the whole basket. Until recently, getting a good and ripe apricot in New York is as rare as finding a four-leaf clover. You know they exist, but finding one takes a few years of constant searching. My fondness for apricots comes from a vivid childhood taste memory and growing up in Northern California. As a result, all apricots compare to that distinct and memorable flavor.
My parents had an apricot tree, along with a plum tree, a couple of apple trees and a cherry tree growing in their yard. I realize this collection of fruit trees gives the impression I lived on an orchard, or an expansive property, though that is not the case. These fruit trees are my dad’s romantic plantings for our suburban hillside home. Because I was not born when Dad planted these trees, I can only imagine his intent. In reality, once the trees were planted, they were left alone to fend for themselves. Rarely did I see Dad harvest the fruit from his trees, let alone prune a branch.
The fruit trees were my playground and fortresses, with a favored attachment to the apricot tree. I would climb up the tree and look for apricots that weren’t half eaten by the birds or bugs. The rejects were used as ammunition when I played war with two of my brothers. Perched up in my apricot tree I would attack the intruders with rotten apricots for the win. Chris and Andy would scramble about while picking up the fallen ammunition for their defense. It was all in good fun, but I was happy to have the apricot tree on my side.
Memorable Apricot Flavor
I considered the apricot tree as my turf and its’ fruit, mine. I did share with my younger brother as he was quite adventurous and never resisted the urge to climb anything that was taller than him. Together we secured our position either standing or straddling on a strong branch, then pluck off any ripe apricots within reach. If we got lucky and found apricots before the birds did, we brought inside a shirt-full of apricots for mom.
If the California sun has a flavor, it is apricot. The juicy saturated tang is lively and speaks of hours spent ripening in the dry heat, then cooled down from the evening fog. When I bite into an apricot, I can feel the heat of those summer days spent building forts and climbing trees. On those dry windless days, only something with strong flavor could tame down the arid heat. The bitter-sweet tang of ripe apricots did the job, almost as good as an orange Popsicle.
For me, all apricots compare to the ones I picked in my childhood backyard. It is not a fair comparison to the unsuspecting apricots that traveled 3000 miles to reach New York. It’s not their fault they traveled so far only to get bruised and battered along the way.
Fortunately, apricots are grown in the NY Hudson Valley and with the popularity of farmers markets, are now more available. I am so happy for this because since moving to NY and having many a disappointing and mealy apricot, I stopped buying them. It is just in the past couple of years I decided to give local apricots a try.
So now, my big adventure is seeking out reliable markets to get NY apricots that are ripe and full of flavor. I bought these apricots at a local farm stand in Yorktown, but the apricots are grown north of me and on the other side of the Hudson River in Marlborough NY. I have never been to Marlborough, but now that I know there is a winery and fruit farms there, I just might have to plan a visit.
Inspiration for Apricot Streusel Cake
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a recipe for Strawberry Sour Cream Streusel Cake by Nigella Lawson. One night I needed to make a second dessert after my first dessert was an epic fail. I knew Nigella’s baking recipes are reliable, and her strawberry streusel cake recipe looked easy to make. Although it was my first time making her cake, I made some substitutions because I was pressed for time and could not go to the store. Because my jar of vanilla was almost empty, I used almond extract instead. Almond extract is strong, so I used less than the amount for the vanilla. As long as I kept the almond flavor within reason, I believed it would pair nicely with the cake and strawberries.
Additionally, I switched crème fraîche for the sour cream because that was all I had available. The result was a tender cake with a balanced flavor of strawberries and almonds. The almond flavor was especially a big hit, and it gave the cake an unexpected and memorable flavor.
Sour Cream vs Crème Fraîche
I don’t know what it is about crème fraîche, but when I use it in baking or in pancakes, the outcome is a remarkably tender cake. Ironically, despite the fact there is more fat in crème fraîche than sour cream, the cake tastes lighter. The results are magical. Crème fraîche is considered a specialty item and therefore is more expensive than sour cream. You find it in the specialty cheese section of your store. It has more fat than sour cream, but it does not have any additives and is less tangy. I made this streusel cake with both sour cream and crème fraîche and liked both results. Some stores do not carry crème fraîche, but please do not go driving all over town looking for it. It is just not that important, plus you can spend your time more wisely, like looking for good apricots.
Apricot Streusel Cake
Recently I bought a pound of fresh apricots and it occurred to me the recipe for strawberry streusel cake would work with apricots. Apricots are not as watery as strawberries, but I thought the fruit purée would still have the right consistency for the cake. It is not often you see an apricot cake, so it is a pleasant surprise.
Apricot streusel cake has many personalities as it is like a coffee cake but is equally at home as a dessert after a roast chicken dinner. It is similar to a peach cake but has a lot more butter and jammy flavor. Because there is so much butter in the cake batter a familiar aroma of an all-butter pie crust wafts out of the oven as it bakes.
It may smell like pie, but this is definitely a cake. A cake that is tender, moist and easily transportable. Serve it for breakfast or dessert as it is right at home for either course. It is a perfect cake to bring along for a summer weekend getaway, picnic, or brunch with friends. It also tastes great the second day. However, my real assurance came from Joe when after he took one bite said, “This is awesome.”
More Apricot Love
Substitute the peaches with apricots in Peaches and Berries with Bourbon Sabayon
Apricot Streusel Cake
Almond extract or bourbon are great complimentary flavors with apricots. I like to use either one with this cake or a combination of both instead of vanilla.
This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Strawberry Sour Cream Streusel Cake.
- 7 oz (200 g) fresh apricots about 5-6 small apricots
- 3 TB (72 g) apricot jam
- 1 ½ tsp (4 g) minced fresh ginger a small piece just over an inch long and a half-inch wide
- 1 ½ tsp (7.5 ml) fresh squeezed lemon juice *see notes
- ½ tsp (2 g) almond extract *see notes
- 2 tsp (6 g) cornstarch
- Smidgen pinch of Kosher salt if needed
- 2 cups (309 g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (164 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp (4 g) baking powder
- ½ tsp (2 g) baking soda
- 12 TB (188 g) cold butter 1 ½ sticks cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 cup (8 oz / 225 g) crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ tsp (8 g / 7.5 ml) almond extract or 1 TB (15 ml) Bourbon
- 2 tsp (13 g) Demerara sugar
- 8 g sliced almonds (small handful)
- 2 fresh small apricots
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5 with the rack in the middle position. Oil or butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. Reserve until later.
Make the apricot purée
Peel and cut up the apricots then place in the blender or container for an immersion blender. Add the apricot jam. Zest the lemon peel and grate the ginger over your container or blender to catch any of the lemon oils and juices from the ginger.
Make a slurry with the almond extract, lemon juice, and cornstarch then add to the blender or your container. Purée until smooth. Taste the purée and if it seems too bitter, add a smidgen pinch of Kosher salt. Taste again then set aside. The flavors will balance out when added to the cake.
Make the cake
In a large bowl add the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Use a small whisk and stir the mixture until evenly incorporated. Add the butter and use your fingers to smoosh the butter and mix in with the flour mixture. Do this until your flour looks like coarse sand, just like making a pie crust by hand. Measure a ½ cup (125 ml) of the flour mixture and add to a small bowl. Reserve for the streusel topping.
Add the crème fraîche or sour cream, egg, and almond extract (or bourbon) to the large bowl with the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. This batter looks thick, but it should be smooth.
Add just over half the batter to the prepared pan and spread over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. You want to create a flat bottom well for the purée to rest. Try to get the batter about an inch up the sides. Do not worry about making the bottom level even. The batter is sticky, and I found wet hands helps move the cake batter into position.
Add the apricot purée in an even layer across the bottom and nestled inside the well. Make sure the rim of cake batter is taller than the height of the purée. Spoon the remaining cake batter on top and cover the purée being careful not to push the apricot purée up and over the rim.
Make the streusel topping
Add the sugar and almond slices to the small bowl with the reserved butter-flour mixture. Toss with a fork or your fingers until it is evenly combined. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the top of the cake.
Slice each apricot in half then each half into five wedges. Arrange the sliced apricots over the top of the cake in a haphazard pattern. Sprinkle with a few more sliced almonds.
Bake the cake until it is light golden brown, about 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake to make sure it is cooked through. You will see some crumbs on the toothpick, but nothing should look wet or raw.
Completely cool the cake on a wire rack before you remove the springform pan and serve.
In the original recipe, Nigella added 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract to the fruit purée. I divided the liquid between the almond extract and lemon juice. Almond extract is strong, so I do not recommend using 2 teaspoons in the recipe. However, I have used anywhere from 1/2 tsp up to 1 tsp with good results. Feel free to divide the lemon juice and almond extract equally, or only use lemon juice. However, keep the total liquid at 2 teaspoons.
I peeled off the skin of my apricots, but I will leave that decision to your discretion. Apricot skins do not have that fuzzy offensive texture of peach skin, so I do not believe it is necessary to peel them. The apricots peels will purée thoroughly in a blender or with an immersion blender.
If you cannot get fresh apricots, use canned apricots packaged in their own juices as a substitute. Dry off the can juices from the apricots then weigh or guesstimate by size pairing the halves to make 5 apricots for the purée. There is no need to peel canned apricots.
Minced candied ginger is a nice addition to the streusel topping. Don’t go overboard with the candied ginger as the apricot is the star of the cake. Nutmeg is another spice that pairs well with this cake. Add about a half teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg in the cake batter to complement the apricots and almond flavor.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Are you a sweet or savory breakfast person? If you are like me, someone who finds it difficult to choose between the two, frittatas are a wonderful choice and a healthy(ish) alternative to quiche. Because frittatas lack an all butter pastry crust, heavy cream and extra cheese, they are not as rich as quiche, Plus they are much easier to make. What this means is, you can serve up a savory frittata as a main course and include all the pastries or coffee cake you crave. Sweet and savory satisfaction without the guilt, (kind-of). I created this spinach frittata with the dual purpose of making something elegant and savory to serve for breakfast or brunch that also leaves room for something sweet, like The Best Damn Lemon Cake or Apple Muffin with Lemon Glaze.
Spinach Frittata Inspiration
My spinach frittata recipe combines two ideas from my favorite egg dishes. The first idea is from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, In My Kitchen. She adds saffron to her Swiss Chard Flan recipe, giving the custard an exotic floral nuance that I love. Saffron compliments custards and leafy green vegetables nicely, so I decided to use it instead of freshly grated nutmeg for some extra elegance in the frittata. I love saffron and don’t mind spending the extra money to buy it. However, if you rather not use saffron, add some freshly grated nutmeg directly into the egg mixture. Fresh basil or mint provides a brighter and fresher tasting substitution for saffron, and it pairs very nicely with the spinach frittata.
The second idea is the addition of fresh ricotta, whipped smooth and spooned on top of the spinach frittata. The first time I tasted a ricotta topped frittata is when I made Joshua McFadden’s Red Pepper, Potato, Prosciutto Frittata with Ricotta from his cookbook, Six Seasons. The ricotta transformed an ordinary western omelet into a very special occasion. The ricotta gets soft and warm baked with the frittata and you want every bite filled with this light creaminess. I totally got hooked on ricotta topped frittatas and now want to add ricotta cheese to just about everything.
It pays to buy the freshly made ricotta cheese, there is a big difference in taste. Usually you can find good quality ricotta near the deli department at your grocery. Or make a small batch of ricotta cheese. It takes a lot less time than you think and tastes like real milk.
Making a frittata is fairly straight forward and quick. The only challenging part in this recipe is to julienne the leeks. For a change I decided to julienne slice the white and light green parts of the leek instead of cutting them into circles or half-moons. It doesn’t really matter how they are prepared as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked till soft and translucent. The julienned leek disappears into the spinach and eggs but adds lovely sweet onion background flavor.
To julienne the leeks, cut the leek in half lengthwise then clean between the layers. Then cut across the leek dividing it into chunks the size of your desired length, mine where about an inch and a half (3.5 cm). Then slice the portioned leeks, lengthwise in very thin strips, mine were about 1/16-1/8 of an inch (about 2-3 mm). Because you won’t see the leeks you do not have to worry about being precise like you would for julienned carrots in a vegetable sauté, so don’t fret about it.
Check out this video for a live example of how to julienne leeks. In this video he discards the root end of the leek. I do not discard it and julienne cut the root as best I can.
Coming up with a name for this spinach frittata was challenging. With all the special ingredients, it could easily have a name that takes longer to say then it does to cook. Yet the mood of this frittata is all about spring and representing new life and the warming of the earth and air. Fresh farm eggs give the vegetables its foundation with a salty bite of Romano cheese. Young spring spinach and leeks provide a sense of newness to the frittata which in turn is gets grounded from the floral but earthy notes from the stamens of spring crocuses, otherwise known as saffron. Warm, creamy fresh ricotta tie all the flavors together for a sunny “Good morning” greeting. All that goodness is invigorating but not filling leaving plenty of room for pastries or dessert.
Frittatas are delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. For a spectacular Mother’s Day brunch (or any brunch), serve the spinach frittata with your favorite sides like sausage, bacon, green salad, fruit salad and your favorite pastries.
Ricotta Spinach Frittata
An elegant frittata recipe for the times when you want a special breakfast or brunch that is also easy to make. It is a lighter and healthier substitute for quiche.
- 1 pinch of saffron 1 TB boiling water
- 6 eggs
- ¼ cup 24 g finely grated real Romano cheese
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1-2 TB olive oil
- 1 leek about 6 oz (187 g) Pale green and white parts only
- 5 oz 142 g spinach cleaned, and stems removed
- ½ cup 117 g real ricotta cheese
Prepare your ingredients
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add 1 TB of just shy of boiling water to the saffron. Set aside and let the saffron steep.
In a medium size bowl, mix the eggs together with a fork until there are no egg whites visible in the mix. Add the Romano cheese and mix again until combined. Set aside.
Thoroughly clean and julienne slice the white and pale green parts of the leek, about an inch and a half in length and about 1/16 of an inch wide. See blog post for a video demonstration.
In a small bowl, whip the ricotta with a pinch of Kosher salt and a few grounds of black pepper until smooth. A fork works nicely for this job. Set aside.
Place an 8-inch (20cm) skillet, preferably a non-stick skillet with an oven-proof handle, on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the olive oil and heat up. Add the sliced leeks and turn down the heat to medium then sauté until soft, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the prepared spinach, in batches, and cook down until completely wilted and soft, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the saffron and water to the eggs, making sure you get every last drop and all saffron threads, and whisk together with a fork.
Make the Frittata
Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the spinach and leeks. Tilt the pan to make sure the egg mixture is evenly distributed across the whole skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let the eggs cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes.
Run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen the eggs. Pull the eggs toward the center with the spatula creating pockets for uncooked runny eggs to fill up. Repeat this step going around the circumference of the frittata. Continue to gently cook the frittata until there is a thin liquid layer on top of the frittata.
Drop spoonfuls of whipped ricotta cheese around the frittata, about 6-8 spoonfuls. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until it is solid all the way through, about 6 minutes. You may need to place the frittata under the broiler to brown the top. It is not necessary, only if you want browning on the top. If you do, watch the frittata carefully because it should only take a few minutes.
Remove from the oven and run the frittata around the edge of the skillet, then slide the frittata on to a serving plate.
Frittata is best eaten warm the same day it is made.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
For the past few months my ideas and inspiration for making new meals gravitated towards baking. Either sweet or savory, it did not matter as long as my hands are touching dough or mixing batter. My excuse is the winter weather and the need to feel warmth even if it comes from a 350 degree oven. But the truth is I love to bake. I can’t lay it all on the winter chill. Whether it is savory, like my beef empanadas, or something sweet like lemon syrup saffron cake, I get immense satisfaction stirring, whipping, kneading and baking. Now, all I want to do is bake bread and make this irresistible onion tart.
For the past month or so, I put this savory tart on the back burner. Actually, I waffled between making French onion soup, a classic French flat bread Pissialadière, and a creamy onion tart. Every time I saw a photo of caramelized onions topping a savory crust or custard on social media my hunger resurfaced. Clearly, I craved the taste of slowly browned and fragrant onions. It was time to give in.
I have Mom’s recipe for Quiche Loraine that I have made for years, but I wanted to try something a little different. With the premise of testing a new recipe from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, Vegetable Literacy, I forged ahead. It is a big tease looking through a vegetable cookbook in the middle of February. All these tantalizing photos of bright spring and summer vegetables dancing off the pages as I look out my window and feel the chill of the snow-covered landscape. Yet, in between my day dreams of freshly harvested greens and succulent sweet tomatoes, I kept returning to the chapter on onions and this fragrant onion tart made quite an impression.
Pastry Crust for an Onion Tart
There were two things that caught my attention, the first one being she makes a 100% whole wheat pastry crust. Often, I add some whole wheat pastry flour to my flour mix when I make pie dough. It adds a nutty flavor and more texture. It is my experience, a pie crust made with nothing but whole wheat flour is often dry and heavy. In all my years of testing Deborah Madison’s recipes I never experienced a heavy or dry recipe. Her cooking is not the vegetarian cooking of the 70’s, it is much more refined. Though I am sure her whole wheat pie crust is a good one, I did change the recipe slightly by substituting some whole wheat pastry flour with the whole wheat flour. There is less gluten in pastry flour, so I knew it would help create a lighter crust.
Fillings in Onion Tart
Additionally, I was surprised that she uses white onions in the tart not sweet onions like Vidalia onions. The only times I see white onions in a recipe is for Mexican food. White onions are less sharp than yellow onions, therefore your eyes will not sting as much when you mince them. That makes a big difference when you must dice 3 large onions. A good sharp knife helps as well because it makes a cleaner cut.
The onions are diced and cooked in butter until light brown. This process takes some time but be patient. It won’t take as long as caramelizing onions. The subtle difference between browned and caramelized onions is noticeable here with a light onion flavor that is delightfully sweet. I love caramelized onions, but I have never tasted onions so sweet before. Also, the sweet browned onions are very fragrant which compliments the onion tart nicely.
Instead of bacon, I quickly fried sliced prosciutto and added it to the filling. The smokiness of bacon tastes great with cheese and eggs, but I wanted to keep the flavor on the delicate side to compliment the sweet onion flavor of the tart. If you ever have more prosciutto than you need, this is the perfect recipe to help use up a couple of slices.
Onion Tart for Days
After making this onion tart I still crave that luscious sweetness and fragrance of slowly cooked browned onions. It is just too good to eat once in a while. Fragrant, sweet, and irresistible onion tart is perfect for a light supper, luncheon, brunch or appetizer. They are perfect cut into small bites for a cocktail party or as part of a brunch with friends. This is a meal for any season or any time of day and a real crowd pleaser.
Irresistible Onion Tart
- ¾ cup plus 2 Tb (123 g) Whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup (38 g) whole wheat pastry flour
- 6 TB (106 g) cold butter, cut into small pieces
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 3 TB ice water
Onion Tart filling
- 1 TB olive oil for frying the prosciutto
- 2 thin slices of prosciutto or 2 pieces of bacon (optional)
- 2 TB (7 g) butter
- 1½ lbs (725 g) white onions, diced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme or rosemary minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup (125 ml) milk
- ½ cup (125 ml) crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 1 cup (70 g) aged or smoked Gouda cheese, grated using the large holes on a box grater
Make the pie dough
Make the dough by hand or use a stand mixer.
By hand: Add the two types of flour and Kosher salt to a large bowl. Add the butter and mix the butter and flour with your hands. Press down on the butter between your thumbs and fingers to break up the pieces and press into the flour. Continue to do this until the butter and flour are mixed together and looks like pebbles.
Add the water and mix together with your hands. Add more water if it looks and feels dry, about a teaspoon at a time.
Gather the dough and turn it out onto the counter. Press together and form a flat disc in the shape of your tart pan, about an inch (2.5 cm) thick. A circle, square or rectangle shape.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or more. The tart dough can be made 3 days in advance and kept wrapped in the refrigerator.
By stand mixer: Add the flour to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the pieces of butter and mix the butter and flour on low until the flour looks like pebbles. Add the water and stir on low speed until just mixed together. Add more water if the pastry dough looks dry. Be careful not to over-mix the dough. Turn the dough onto a counter and shape into a flat disc into the shape of your tart pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or more.
Make the tart filling
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. If you have a baking stone place it in your oven on the middle rack. For a crispy bottom crust, you want to heat the stone in the oven for an hour before baking.
If using the prosciutto, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a skillet and turn the heat to medium high. Slice the prosciutto into strips, about a 1/2-inch (1 cm) wide and not longer than 2-inches (5 cm) long. When the skillet is hot, add the sliced prosciutto and cook until the strips are brown and crispy. Stir occasionally to prevent the strips from sticking and burning. About 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and spoon the prosciutto slices on a plate. Set aside.
If you are using bacon add the two pieces of bacon to a hot and dry skillet and cook the bacon until they are brown and crisp. Turn the pieces over every now and then for even browning. Remove the bacon from the pan onto a plate lined with paper towels and pat dry. When the bacon is cool, crumble them into bite size pieces. Set aside.
Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Turn the heat to medium and add the butter. When the butter is melted and stops sizzling, add the diced onions. Stir to coat the onions with butter. Add the thyme, a pinch of Kosher salt and a couple of grounds of fresh black pepper. Stir to mix.
Cook the onions on medium to medium-low until they are very soft and lightly browned, not caramelized, but starting to go in that direction. This is a slow process, about 25 minutes. The onions will be very soft and translucent with an even light brown color. While cooking, occasionally stir the onions for even browning and prevent them from sticking and burning. Taste for seasoning and add more thyme, Kosher salt or black pepper if needed. Turn off the heat and cool.
Remove the tart dough from the refrigerator and let it rest on a lightly floured work surface for 10 minutes. Pound the dough with your rolling pin a few times to relax and shape the dough. Roll the dough in the shape of your tart pan to about a ¼-inch (.5 cm) thickness, and large enough to fit the shape of your tart pan with a slight over hang. For a 9-inch (23 cm) round tart pan the diameter should be around 12-inches (30 cm).
Drape the dough into your tart pan and trim the edges to an inch (2.5 cm) overhang. Fold the edge of the dough inward and press along the sides and bottom of the pastry to fit the dough into the pan. The height of the tart is equal to the height of the pan. Place the tart pan on a rimmed sheet pan and loosely cover the tart with plastic wrap. Chill the tart in the refrigerator for 15 - 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and crème fraîche.
When the onions are cool and just before you want to assemble the tart, add the grated cheese, onions and prosciutto if using, to the egg mixture. Stir to mix.
Remove the tart from the refrigerator and add the egg mixture. Even out the filling and place in the oven. Bake until the tart is golden brown and set in the middle, about 45-50 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Remove the side of the tart pan by resting the tart on top of a large can, (like canned tomatoes), and slide the side rim down. Make sure the crust is not sticking anywhere along the rim before you slide it off.
Serve warm or room temperature.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It’s time for me to revise my list of brunch meals and come up with more selections. I have a couple of good options, like Zucchini Frittata or Maple Apple Dutch Baby Pancakes, but I wanted something different and made with eggs. One of the best ways to cook eggs for a crowd is to bake them in the oven. Oven baked eggs are very convenient and becoming more popular. One dish that is particularly popular now, is Shakshuka. I wanted something similar in style, but with hearty greens as the base instead of tomatoes.
Ultimately, I decided to combine the two and sautéed hearty greens with tomatoes as the foundation for the baked eggs. Additionally, I wanted a bright creamy sauce to drizzle over the eggs, but nothing too heavy because I did not want it to detract from the vegetables and eggs. I pushed myself to stay away from cheese and heavy cream and try something lighter instead. It is rare to come across a healthy and creamy combination, but recently I discovered yogurt is a great substitute for heavy cream. Yogurt brings more tang to the meal, but it has a similar smooth texture as cream without the weight. As a result, baked eggs in sautéed greens with zesty yogurt sauce was born.
I love baked eggs with greens, but they are usually cooked with lots of heavy cream and melted cheese. I live for creamy-cheesy foods. Yet, there are times I want a lighter start to my day and not require a nap after breakfast. Yogurt comes to the rescue. I first learned about how well yogurt and eggs taste together when I made Julia Turshen’s Olive Oil Fried Eggs with Lemon Yogurt Sauce. These eggs are delightful. The lemon yogurt sauce invigorated the fried eggs with a creamy and bright citrus flavor. Keeping the flavors of this dish in mind, I set about to create the same zesty flavor with baked eggs and greens.
Eggs and spinach is a classic food pairing. Unfortunately, cooking spinach causes it to wilt down to nothing. You need five times the amount of fresh spinach to make one small spoonful of cooked spinach. I decided a combination of Swiss chard and spinach would provide more foundation to bake the eggs in. Swiss chard is one of my favorite hearty greens to cook with. It’s texture and flavor are somewhere in the middle of spinach and kale. Spinach is soft and mild, and kale is hearty and tough. Swiss chard is the perfect compromise of the two. Combining the two greens with the tomatoes adds more depth of flavor and body for the eggs to nestle in.
To give this recipe some pizzaz, I decided to layer the spices and seasoning by steeping them in the juices from the canned tomatoes. Then, I divided the perky tomato sauce between the vegetables and the yogurt sauce. My seasonings include minced ginger, saffron, and mini pinches of ground cayenne and cinnamon. There are many flavors here and require a delicate touch for everything to blend as one. The main flavors are saffron, ginger and lemon. The cayenne and cinnamon round out the flavors and highlight the swiss chard and tomatoes.
A small pinch of cinnamon adds warmth and sweetness to the sauce. The amount is intentionally small. Too much cinnamon will ruin it and be overbearing.
In my opinion, Swiss chard tastes better with a little dash of chili pepper. The spice helps reduce the bitter taste. Be cautious when adding both the cinnamon and cayenne so they do not overpower the other spices. Keep in mind when you taste the steeped tomato liquid the flavors will seem strong, but become less potent when added to the vegetables and the yogurt. If needed, add more granulated sugar and/or Kosher salt to balance them out.
I find the most difficult part of making baked eggs, is determining when the eggs are done. Just like making any egg meal, it takes practice to learn the visual clues. It is not like you are going to cut one open to check. For this recipe, the eggs bake in the oven nestled in sautéed tomatoes and leafy green pockets. Ideally, the eggs are done when the egg whites are just cooked through. Hopefully, at the same time the egg yolks are cooked, but are soft and runny. Have faith and trust your intuition and experience. 10 minutes was the perfect amount of time in my oven set at 400°F (204°C), but your cooking time could vary.
Baked eggs with sautéed greens and zesty yogurt sauce has the right balance of spunk and comfort to ease into your day. It is creamy, bright and nourishing. If you are not a fan of yogurt, substitute it with crème fraîche. Serve baked eggs with crusty artisan style toasted bread, like a baguette or sour dough batard, to mop up the vegetables laden in runny egg yolk and sauce.
Baked Eggs with Sauteed Greens and Zesty Yogurt Sauce
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 TB boiling water
- 1 14.5 oz can (411 g) diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon optional
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon
- 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch Swiss chard cleaned and stems removed
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch spinach cleaned and stems removed
- 1/4 cup (125 ml) vegetable stock
- 2 TB heavy cream
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 4 large eggs
- 4 slices of toasted and buttered baquette
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rack in the middle position in your oven.
Place the pinch of saffron into a small bowl and add 1 TB boiling water to the saffron. Let the saffron threads steep for 5 minutes.
Drain the liquid from the diced tomatoes into a small bowl. Reserve the tomatoes and pour the tomato liquid into a small sauce pan. Turn on the heat to medium and add the minced ginger, the saffron threads with their water, and a tiny pinch of each cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sugar, and Kosher salt to the liquid and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the liquid steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, zest your lemon and reserve it for later. In a small bowl add the juice of one lemon, a small pinch of Kosher salt and the yogurt. Stir to combine. Set aside to rest.
Fold the chard and spinach leaves in half and slice in one-inch slices across the width. Heat an
8-inch skillet on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and when the oil starts to shimmer add the chard leaves and spinach. You will need to add them gradually into the skillet, so they do not spill over the sides. Turn the greens over to get coated with olive oil and begin to cook the greens. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt and a few rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.
Drain the tomato liquid through a fine mesh strainer and reserve the liquid. Add the collected minced ginger and saffron from the strainer, 3 TB of tomato liquid, vegetable stock, and heavy cream to the skillet. Stir. Cook until the greens are tender and most of the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 10-12 minutes.
While the greens are cooking, add the remaining tomato liquid to the yogurt. Add just enough to reach your desired consistency. You want the yogurt to have some body, but thin enough to easily coat the vegetables. Add any remaining liquid to the chard, spinach and tomatoes. Make sure you scrape out any stubborn saffron threads from the strainer and add to the greens or the yogurt.
If you added more liquid to the skillet, cook it down with the greens a few minutes more.
Use the back of a wooden spoon to make 4 impressions in the cooked greens, creating a nest for the eggs. One at a time, crack the eggs and carefully add them to the vegetable nests.
Place the skillet into the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are done. The whites will be set and the yolks runny. Or to your desired level of doneness. I check the eggs after 7 minutes to see how they are progressing.
Garnish the eggs and yogurt sauce with the reserved lemon zest.
Serve immediately family style, or plate for individual servings. One egg with greens and one piece of toasted bread.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
If it wasn’t for an Instagram cookbook club, #rainydaybitescookbookclub I participate in, my Belgian waffle maker would still be hiding in the farthest reaches of my corner cabinet. It took some blind faith while I groped around the black hole, knowing I would recognize it as soon as I felt it. I almost pulled a muscle stretching to grab the waffle iron just out of arms reach. Surprisingly, it was still in good shape even after fifteen plus years of neglect. Something old becomes something new and I rediscovered the wonders of homemade waffles.
My cookbook club challenge has a deadline, so I did not waste time and started making waffles as soon as the waffle iron got tidied up. The featured recipe is Indonesian Fried Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Waffles from, Meyers and Chang At Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz. Their recipe for Ginger and Sesame Waffles is light and crispy and delicious. I loved the fresh ginger in the waffle. It was bright without being too strong. Between making the recipe and cooking the waffles, everything was so darn easy it inspired me to try my own ideas creating delicious waffles.
After making our family favorite pumpkin bread, I realized there was more pumpkin purée to use up. Originally, I planned to make pumpkin waffles with fresh pumpkin purée and my favorite blend of pumpkin pie spices. Unfortunately, the pumpkin waffles did not wow me, or Joe because there was no noticeable pumpkin flavor in the waffles. Based on how much I like the ginger sesame waffles, I decided to make waffles using a standard base recipe and add in orange zest and a blend of spices often used in pumpkin pie. After testing several waffle recipes, I decided on Meyers and Chang’s base waffle recipe without the flavors. Of all the recipes I tested, their waffles were the lightest and crispest.
For a gluten-free breakfast pancake, try my Banana Oat Pancakes
My waffle iron is a Belgian Waffle Maker by Nordic Ware and makes large, Belgian style waffles. There are many types of waffle makers on the market and all produce different size waffles. The amount of batter in this recipe, produced two waffles using my waffle iron. Whereas, for Meyers and Chang the amount of batter produced 3 waffles using their waffle maker. But like pancake batter, waffle batter is easy to double. So I kept the original proportions and just made some minor adjustments using my spices.
First, I added orange zest. I believe citrus zest is one of the best flavor enhancers in any type of recipe. Before squeezing out citrus juice, I grate up the zest. It’s a shame to have that big flavor boost go to waste. Orange zest gives a slight bitter-sweet accent and pairs well with warm spices like cinnamon and clove. Lemon zest would also work, but play around with different spice combinations like nutmeg and ginger.
Like a spice cake, these waffles have a lovely blend of spices that create one flavor. For this recipe I included ground ginger, because not everyone loves ginger. However, if you are like me and love fresh ginger, add about a tablespoon instead of ground ginger. Fresh ginger is special in this waffle recipe and does not have the bite often associated with it. It just tastes fresh. Ginger along with a blend of spices is often associated with pumpkin pie or gingerbread. I love these desserts and the flavor the blend of these spices brings. Especially with a pinch of ground clove. It is a spice blend without one dominate spice overwhelming the others.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind making waffles. Butter is a key ingredient. It helps create the crispy texture and prevents the waffles from sticking to the waffle iron. Most recipes I tested use no less than 4 tablespoons of butter for 2 cups of flour. However, I found using more butter made it lighter and crisper. Joy of Cooking gives you a choice of using anywhere between 4 tablespoons (57 g) of butter, up to as much as a cup (226 g) of butter. So, this recipe is somewhere in the middle.
The next key ingredient and technique to achieve crispy and light waffles is, separate the eggs and whip whites until soft peaks form. All recipe sources I referred to recommend using this technique. If you want light and fluffy waffles, whipping the egg whites will make that happen. Of course, it is not necessary, but it makes a difference in taste and texture.
This is a great foundation waffle recipe. It is easy to play around with different flavors with the key elements intact. I happen to like buttermilk, but you can substitute it with yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche. If you do use one of these ingredients, add about a quarter cup of milk to thin them out. Keep the total about of liquid the same as the buttermilk.
Play around with different flavors and fruit. Like pancakes, waffles are easily amendable to all sorts of additions like bananas or pears. Serve waffles as soon as they are made with your favorite toppings, like maple syrup and/or fruit. If you follow the instructions for your waffle iron, making waffles is straightforward and easy.
Orange Spice Belgian Waffles
- 2 TB 28 g of granulated sugar
- 1 TB orange zest
- 5 TB 63 g butter melted and cooled
- 1 cup 144 g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground ginger (or 1 TB fresh ginger, grated)
- ⅛ tsp ground clove
- 1 egg room temperature and separated
- 1 cup 250 ml buttermilk room temperature (or ¾ cup of yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche with ¼ (60 ml) cup milk to thin it out.)
Remember to bring all your ingredients to room temperature before starting.
Preheat oven to 250°F / 120°C / Gas Mark ½. Place a wire cooling rack in a sheet pan, then place the sheet pan in the oven to warm up.
Measure the granulated sugar into a small dish and grate the orange zest over the sugar. Mix the sugar and zest with your fingers to combine and get the sugar coated with orange zest. Set aside.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground spices. Then whisk together until evenly combined. If using fresh ginger, mix that in with the wet ingredients.
In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks, buttermilk, melted and cooled butter, orange sugar, and (if using fresh ginger.) Stir until combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Fold in until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter. It is ok to have some lumps. Over-mixing the batter makes dense and tough waffles.
Heat up the waffle maker.
Whip the egg whites in a small bowl with a hand-held beater or wire whisk, until soft peaks form. Carefully fold in the egg whites into the batter.
Lightly baste the waffle iron with vegetable oil or shortening.
Cook the waffles. Follow the instructions given with your waffle iron. For my waffle iron I poured one cup of batter into the hot waffle iron. Other waffle makers will use less batter.
Keep waffles warm in the oven while you cook the remaining batch.
Serve immediately with maple syrup and fresh fruit.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.