I love breakfast food and often find it difficult to decide what meal I want when we go out for brunch. It is always a toss-up between ordering eggs, like Eggs Benedict or in the pancake / french toast category. Breakfast meals are sweet and savory comfort foods that just make the day start off on a happy note. French toast made with good quality bread soaked in a light vanilla custard always makes me happy. Yet today, I wanted to do something slightly different with some make in advance options and fruit topping. Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote, is a special occasion breakfast or brunch with easy do-ahead preparations.
Baked French Toast
The type of bread is the first key ingredient. I recommend a Country White Boule or Country White Sourdough Boule. The bread is sturdy and will hold up to an overnight soaking without falling apart. I bought my Country White Sourdough Boule at Whole Foods. It does not have a thick crust which is better suited for french toast. Challah or Brioche are other good choices, but I have yet to test them in this recipe. I do not recommend using regular sandwich bread as it will just fall apart before you start.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I make french toast by the time I get to the last 4 pieces the egg and milk custard is used up and I need to make more. The first slices of french toast soaked up more than their fair share of custard leaving none to spare for the last few slices. In this recipe, you soak all the bread slices at the same time overnight and every slice gets an even soaking of vanilla-nutmeg custard.
Another advantage of making baked french toast, is you bake the slices of bread at the same time in the oven. This frees up the cooks’ time to enjoy a cup of coffee or make the compote. At first, I was doubtful that baking the french toast would produce browned slices of french toast, but it does. Baked french toast has a great texture with crispy and buttery browned edges and soft and tender insides.
Apple Cranberry Compote
The compote combines fresh apples and cranberries with a spiced apple cider reduction. The fruit is gently cooked in butter until the cranberries start to pop. For this recipe, I reduced the amount of sugar, so you can taste the fruit and not the sugar. The cranberries are tart and contrast with the sweet apples. If the cranberries are too tart feel free to add more sugar a tablespoon at a time but make sure all the sugar dissolves before you remove the compote off the heat.
I made the compote with Fuji apples because they were on sale, but any apple that keeps its’ shape will work. Golden Delicious apples, Granny Smith apples, or Gala apples are all good choices. If you use Granny Smith apples, then you may need more sugar.
Use real apple cider and not apple juice. It just does not taste the same using apple juice. The apple cider reduction is flavored with cinnamon and fresh ginger, that steep in the apple cider while it simmers. Real maple syrup and orange juice add natural sugar to sweeten the compote giving the compote extra flavor the highlights the fruit and not the sugar.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote. I love the idea of using eggnog for the custard in French toast, but I decided to tone down the amount of sugar in the compote, and over-the-top sweetness in store-bought eggnog. In this recipe, I use half-and-half and milk in the base with eggs, and flavor the custard with vanilla, sugar and freshly grated nutmeg. If the eggnog custard appeals to you, substitute the milk and half & half with 4 cups (1 quart) of eggnog and only use 4 eggs instead of 7. Also, do not add sugar to the mix.
Transferring the saturated bread slices from the baking dish to the sheet pan, and turning them over to brown, requires a thin and flexible spatula. The best tool is a fish spatula and is the most versatile kitchen tool I own. The flexible and thin metal base easily slides under all types of food and does not stick to the surface like with most spatulas. I own the Victorinox one, but the Wusthof fish spatula is highly recommended by America’s Test Kitchen.
More Breakfast Love
More Cranberry Love
This recipe is part of a collaborative social media project featuring the beloved fall fruit, cranberries. This collaboration would not exist without the efforts of Ruth and Rebecca of @squaremealroundtable and Annie Garcia of @whatannieseating. Thank you, Annie, Rebecca, and Ruth for all your efforts and keeping the seasonal collaborative projects going. Check out what all the food bloggers and Instagramers have created by following #yesyourcranberry on Instagram or click on the links below.
Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
I deliberately used less sugar in the fruit compote and custard, because every baked French toast breakfast I’ve eaten is cloyingly sweet. I like the tartness of the cranberries to counter the sweet apples. Add more sugar, either in the egg custard or fruit compote to your taste, but please use restraint. Or, pass some maple syrup around with the french toast and apple cranberry compote if you prefer the compote with a more syrupy consistency and sweeter.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote.
- 1 ¾ - 1 lb. (350 - 450 g) loaf of Country White Boule
- 7 eggs
- 2 cups (500 ml) half and half
- 2 cup (500 ml) whole milk
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 TB (56 g) melted butter divided for the baking pan and top of French toast during baking
Apple Cranberry Compote
- 2 cups (500 ml) apple cider
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 1/4-inch (.5 cm) slices of fresh ginger
- ¼ cup (60 ml) real maple syrup
- ¼ cup (60 ml) orange juice
- 6 TB (74 g) butter divided
- 3 apples cut into ½” pieces
- 2 cups (500 ml) fresh cranberries
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
Prepare the French Toast
Cut the boule in half across the equator, then cut each half in 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices. Arrange the bread slices on their sides, equally divided between two buttered 9 x 13 xx 2 inches (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dishes. Set aside.
In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs with a fork or wire whisk until blended. Add the milk, half and half, vanilla, nutmeg, and sugar and whisk until combined.
Pour half of the egg-milk mixture into one baking dish with the bread slices, then pour the remaining in the second baking dish. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Bake the French Toast
Preheat the oven at 450°F (230°C / Gas Mark 8) with rack in the middle position.
Melt the butter then use half of the melted butter to baste a rimmed sheet pan, large enough to hold all the slices of french toast. Arrange the bread slices, on their sides, on the sheet pan. A thin flexible spatula is the best tool or an offset spatula. Baste the remaining melted butter to on the top of each slice.
Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully turn the bread slices over then continue to bake 10 minutes more, or until each slice is golden brown with crispy edges and soft in the middle.
Serve the baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
Apple Cranberry Compote
Make the apple cider reduction
Add the apple cider, cinnamon stick, slices of ginger, maple syrup, and orange juice to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring the cider to a boil then turn down the heat slightly to keep a brisk boil. Cook until the cider reduces to 1 cup, (250 ml), about 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices. Whisk in 2 TB of butter.
Meanwhile, melt 4 TB of the butter in a large pot like a Dutch Oven. Add the apple pieces and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cranberries and sugar, stir then cook until the cranberries pop and the fruit begins to soften but maintains their shape.
Add the apple cider reduction to the apples and cranberries, stir and cook at a simmer for 3 minutes.
The compote can be made up to two days in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated until ready to serve. Heat up on the stove, then serve.
Serve with the Baked French Toast.
What Annie’s Eating Cranberry Mojitos
Square Meal Round Table’s Cranberry Orange Streusel Pie
Easy and Delish — Avocado Cranberry Hummus Dip
Flottelottehaan Buchteln with Cranberry Oranges Jam
The Cooking of Joy’s Cranberry Curd Tart
Jessie Sheehan Bakes – Cranberry Buckle
Ciao Chow Bambina – Cranberry Pecan Cracker Spread
Baking The Goods – Cranberry Apple Brown Butter Crumble Pie
Katiebird Bakes – Cranberry Sauce Breakfast Rolls
Crumb Top Baking’s Cranberry Orange Overnight Oatmeal Muffins
The Baking Fairy – Vegan Cranberry Apple Bundt Cake
You Can Live Rich On Less – Cranberry Cherry Tarts
Sift & Simmer – White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Bappy Girl – https://bappygirlyum.blogspot.com/
Ronnie Fein – Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/on-hanukkah-lets-not-forget-that-a-woman-played-a?rq=Cranberries
Lemon Thyme and Ginger https://lemonthymeandginger.com/baked-french-toast-apple-cranberry-compote
Cranberry Agua Fresca with Mint and Lime: http://www.holajalapeno.com/2016/11/cranberry-agua-fresca.html
Cranberry Pie with Dried Figs and Cashews: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/honey-cashew-pie
Susannah Chen’s Cranberry Pico de Gallo
Katherine in Brooklyn: Cranberry Cinnamon Buns
Pie Girl Bakes: Dark Chocolate Chunk Cranberry Cookies
Clean Plate Club: Glazed Cream Puffs with Cranberry Buttercream
Tiny Kitchen Capers: http://www.tinykitchencapers.com/white-chocolate-cranberry-oatmeal-cookies/
Le Petit Eats: Dark Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon Sugared Cranberry
Prickly Fresh’s: Cranberry Crostini with Prosciutto & Port Salut
Zestful Kitchen: Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Curd
Simple and Sweet Food: Fresh Ricotta and Spiced Cranberry Crostini
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I have wanted to make a savory tart since the first signs of spring and it is about time I finally got around to do it. I am not sure why it took me so long, maybe I was just waiting for Swiss chard to come into season. No matter the reason this is a rustic looking savory tart that fits more into the galette category. What I love about informal free-form tarts is you don’t have to worry about having the right size tart pan. It is so frustrating to read a recipe and get excited to make it only to realize you do not have the right pan.
Originally, I wanted to make Joshua McFadden’s Swiss Chard Galette from Six Seasons Cookbook. I have linked to this cookbook many times as it is one of my favorites and provides me with six seasons worth of inspiration. The walnut pie crust for this savory tart comes from his book. However, I decided to make my savory tart using a different style featuring layers of sautéed vegetables over a ricotta cheese and goat cheese spread.
Savory Tart Success
The key to success making savory tarts with lots of vegetables is you must precook all the vegetables. Skipping this step produces a pastry dough with a soggy bottom and partially cooked vegetables. I also believe you need to chop up the vegetables in such a way that they are large enough to not get lost in the pile, but small enough to not weigh down the tart and fall apart. Mixing greens with chopped vegetables help the vegetables stay put as well.
It is the butternut squash that makes the flavors of the savory tart stand out. The concentrated sweetness complements the bitter flavors from the Swiss chard and gives the vegetable filling body. Without it, it is just Swiss chard spread over pie crust, which would taste fine, but won’t be as impressive.
There are two things I love to mix in with butternut squash, sage and smoked or cured pork like pancetta or bacon. These two pairings, either separate or combined, make up one of the best flavor marriages around. If you don’t eat pork, omit it, but the fresh sage is still a nice addition. I did not add a lot of sage or pancetta, so feel free to play around with the amounts. If you do not like sage, substitute it with fresh thyme or rosemary to your liking.
Another optional ingredient is the ricotta and goat cheese spread. I like it because intermittently you will get a creamy pop of goat cheese with your swiss chard, but it is not necessary. Also, spreading the ricotta and goat cheese over the pie crust prevents it from getting soggy while cooking. If you do not want the cheese, baste an egg wash layer over the pastry dough before you add the vegetables. Like the cheese, the egg wash becomes a protective layer between the pie dough and the vegetables.
Savory Pie Crust
The walnut pie dough is the same recipe used in my Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning. If you do not eat nuts, please substitute it with the pie crust recipe for my Irresistible Onion Tart.
Savory Tart with Swiss Chard with Butternut Squash
I have a thing for savory tarts and this one has a lovely balance of flavors. This tart is more like a galette with its free-form shape and informal attitude. The sweetness of the butternut squash balances out any bitterness of the Swiss chard and gives this tart character. Additionally, I love the butternut squash with sage and pancetta and use them as my main seasonings in this galette. The pancetta is optional but any smoky cured pork is a delicious complement to the butternut squash. The layer of ricotta and goat cheese is subtle. It melts into the pastry and acts as a barrier preventing the pastry from getting a soggy bottom. To make this a dairy-free galette do not add the cheese. Instead, brush a layer of lightly beaten egg over the pastry before you add the vegetables.
Walnut Pastry recipe is from Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasonings. If you do not want a pie crust with nuts, use the recipe from the pie crust in my Irresistible Onion Tart.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 recipe for Walnut Pie Crust
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided plus more for the chickpeas
- 2.5 oz (65 g) pancetta chopped in ¼ inch (.5 cm) pieces (optional)
- 1 leek sliced into ¼ inch slices white and light green parts only
- 5-6 oz (150 g) butternut squash, about half of a small butternut squash
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 bunch (12 oz / 350 g) Swiss chard Cleaned
- A few rounds of freshly ground black pepper
- 4 sage leaves minced
- 3 oz (75 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2-3 oz (50-75 g) creamy goat cheese
- ½ cup (3 oz / 84 g) chickpeas, rinsed, dried and skins removed
- ¼ tsp paprika
- Small pinch of dried ground garlic
Walnut Pie Crust
- ½ cup (2 oz/ 58 g) 58 g toasted walnuts
- 1 2/3 cups (7.25 oz / 208 g) all-purpose flour
- 4 oz (113 g) chilled unsalted butter, one stick cut into pieces and kept cold until mixing
- 1 TB (12 g) sugar
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 2 TB (30 ml) ice cold water plus more if needed
Walnut pie crust
Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until a fine and even crumble. Be careful to not over-process the nuts into walnut butter. Pour the walnuts into a mixing bowl and add the flour, sugar and Kosher salt. Mix the ingredients together with a wire whisk until evenly combined. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with flour. Smush the butter with your fingers with the flour until you get a pebbly mixture of all different sizes. Add 2 TB of ice water and using your hands briefly toss to mix and form a ball. If the dough seems dry add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time.
Lightly dust your clean work surface with flour and tip the dough ball on the surface. Starting at the upper edge of your dough ball, use the heel of your hand to press down and smear the dough away from you. Continue to smear the dough away from you into a pile until you have worked your way through the ball of dough, about 4-5 smears. Gather the dough and form a round disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. The dough will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
Prep the vegetables
Meanwhile, peel and chop the butternut squash into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes.
Trim the stems off the swiss chard by slicing along both sides of the seam where the stem meets the leafy greens. Make a pile of the leaves and slice across the width in 2-inch strips. Repeat until all the leaves are sliced. Set aside.
Chop the stems into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces.
While you prep the vegetables, If using, brown the pancetta. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a hot pan then add the chopped pancetta. Turn down the heat to medium-low and brown the pancetta until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is brown and crispy. When done, remove the pancetta from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
Cook the vegetables
In a Dutch oven or large sauté pan (12 inches / 30.5 cm) add the remaining 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the sliced leeks, butternut squash, and a ½ tsp of Kosher salt to the pan then stir so the vegetables get an even coating of olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes then add about a ¼ cup (60 ml) of water to the pan, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Turn down the heat to medium and cook until the butternut squash just begins to get tender but not fully cooked, about 7 minutes.
Remove the lid and add the swiss chard, in batches. Cover the pan and cook until the swiss chard is wilted and soft about 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all liquid (if any) evaporates. Taste and add more Kosher salt if needed and a few rounds of fresh black pepper. Turn off the heat, add the minced sage and stir to mix. Tip the cooked vegetables onto a sheet pan to cool. Set aside.
Prepare the savory tart
Mix together the ricotta and goat cheese in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.
Mix together the chickpeas, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, paprika, and granulated garlic until evenly combined. Set aside.
One hour before you plan on baking the galette, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with the oven rack in the middle position. If you have a baking stone or steel, place it on top of the oven rack in the middle.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a large sheet pan, about 12 x 18 inches (30 x 45.5 cm). Set aside.
When you are ready to bake, take the tart dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Once rested, sprinkle your counter surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Whack the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin. Whack the dough moving from left to right to flatten it out. Turn the dough a quarter turn and whack 4 more times moving across the disk from left to right. Turn the dough over and repeat 2 more times. This process helps the dough start a nice circle shape. Roll out the dough with your rolling pin starting at the center and roll away from you. Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll across the dough beginning in the center. Repeat. Turn the dough over and roll out the dough until you have a 12-inch (30.5 cm) circle and the dough is about ¼-inch (.5 cm) thick. Dust the countertop with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Once you have completed rolling out your dough, place your rolling pin across the middle and lift your pie dough then drape it over the rolling pin towards you. Lift your pie dough draped rolling pin and place it across the center of your prepared sheet pan. Start at the end closest to you and roll the pin away from you while the pie dough eases into place. The edges should overlap up the sides of the rim.
Spread the ricotta and goat cheese over the pastry dough in a smooth and even layer, leaving a border of 1 ½-inches (3.5 cm). Tip the cooled vegetables on the pastry and spread in an even layer over the cheeses.
Top off with the seasoned chickpeas.
Fold over the pastry border up the sides of the vegetables. Pleat the pastry as you go around the circle to keep its shape. You do not need to make fancy pleats or edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes.
If the pastry dough is fragile and starts to break when you lift it up you have two options. 1) Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes ( or freeze it for 15) until the pastry dough chills and solidifies. 2) I found lifting the edge of the parchment paper at the area where I needed to lift the pastry dough over the vegetables, was an easy way to fold over the pastry dough. Then by moving around the circle, using the parchment paper to lift and guide the dough, until done. Peel away the parchment paper from the dough so that it rests back down on the sheet pan.
Mix the egg with a fork until the whites and yolk are combined. Baste the pastry border with the egg wash in an even layer. Add flakey sea salt, or toasted sesame seeds, or leave plain.
Place the galette in the oven and bake for 45 -55 minutes. The galette is done when the pastry has a deep golden brown color and is flaky.
Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Best eaten warm and the day it is made.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
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 flatbread 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 daydreams 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. Additionally, it is a great choice for cocktail party food when portioned into small bites. This is a meal for any season or any time of day and a real crowd pleaser.
Irresistible Onion Tart
Fragrant and sweet browned onions are the foundation of this savory custard tart. It may have rich ingredients, but it won't make you feel heavy. I love how aged or smoked Gouda adds some extra depth of flavor to the tart, but Gruyère or Comte are good substitutes. If you do not have whole wheat pastry flour you can use all whole wheat flour instead. You can make the pastry dough and cook the onions a day ahead. The pastry dough will keep in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap for 3 days. Or, freeze it for up to 3 months. The onions are best eaten within 24 hours of making them. Onion tart is perfect for brunch, lunch, a light supper or as an appetizer for a cocktail party. It is a very versatile food you can make all year long. Special equipment: 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. You can use any shape, square, circle or an 11 x 8.5-inch ( 28.5 x 20 cm) rectangle tart pan. Stand mixer (optional) Rimmed sheet pan large enough to hold your tart pan. This recipe is slightly adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison.
- 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 overhang. 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.