Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Celebrate the New Year with Yvette!

As I prepare for a retro New Year's Eve celebration, with Rumaki, a mountain of crab legs, and Seven Layer Jello, I wanted to share some ideas to spruce up your cocktails! You can always pick up a bottle of the delicious French raspberry liqueur Chambord and mix 1/2 ounce with 4 ounces of your favorite Champagne, garnish with raspberries or a lemon twist for a "Kir Royale," or as I prefer to call it, a "Cham-Cham!" Or, you can go ultra-retro by picking up a bottle of once defunct Creme Yvette to make "The Stratosphere!" 

Creme Yvette is a berry and violet liqueur that was originally produced in the late 19th century in Connecticut by the Sheffield Company. Over time, it's popularity dwindled and was taken out of production in 1969. It was the base for such classic cocktails like the Aviation and Blue Moon. However, after an onslaught of requests from cocktail experts, Charles Jacquin et Cie bought the recipe and re-released it in 2009. The original Creme Yvette supposedly had a more purple color, while the new version (made in France with dried violet petals from Provence and berries from Burgundy) has a more reddish hue. So I'm not so sure how blue your Blue Moon would be? Maybe pink? Anyway, whether you are hosting or attending a New Year soiree, why not pick up a bottle that is guaranteed to impress even your most savvy cocktail-loving friends! Only one question remains, who was Yvette? Bonne Annee!


The Stratosphere

Serves 1

Ingredients:
Glass of Champagne
3/4 ounce Creme Yvette
Lemon twist (I prefer raspberries!)

Directions:
In a chilled champagne flute, add the Creme Yvette and top with Champagne. Garnish as desired and serve! Fantastique!

Monday, December 12, 2022

French Pear Cake

I adore this recipe for "French Pear Cake," also known as Gateau Fondant Aux Poires! I have been making it for years, but somehow has never been added to my site? Today's the day! This is a lovely cake that is ideal for dessert, gifts, afternoon tea, or even breakfast! This recipe is French, although; there is an Italian version called Torta di Pere. So maybe a little of both?

This wonderful cake is perfect for those ugly, overripe pears. I use D'Anjou pears. The batter is fairly thick so don't let that scare you. Make sure the butter and eggs are at room temperature before starting. Also, you will need a 9 1/2" springform pan. This easy cake is also enhanced with the addition of vanilla extract and lemon zest! Yum! Try it! You can thank me later!


French Pear Cake (Gateau Fondant Aux Poires)

Ingredients:

3-4 small ripe pears, peeled and quartered or cubed (I use 2-3 D'Anjou and it is plenty, cubed.)
1 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbl (250 g) butter, at room temperature (I just use 2 sticks unsalted butter with good results.)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cup (250 g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons flour (I use 2 cups with good results.)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 24 cm (9 1/2") springform pan.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until very fluffy and white. Mix in the eggs slowly, one egg at a time. Add vanilla and lemon zest.

In another bowl sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. (I just whisk together.) Add the flour mixture slowly to the egg mixture. Don't over mix.


Pour (or spoon) half the batter into the springform pan. Place the pears on top. Pour (or spoon) the rest of the batter in the pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

I also recommend refrigerating any leftover cake because of the fruit content.

Recipe from mykitchenintherockies.com.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving! Good Luck with the Turkey!



With all the "fun" in the kitchen this week, sometimes it's easy to forget that you need to feed your company breakfast! Don't worry, I've got the best recipe for "Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyere!" This is one of my all-time favorite recipes! The best part is that you make it ahead (always smart with company lingering!) and can be successfully doubled for larger crowds! Everyone always loves it! Don't forget to check my Recipes page for other excellent recipes, e.g., The Great After-Thanksgiving Turkey EnchiladasGratin Dauphinois, and Boursin Creamed Spinach, just to name a few!


Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyere

Serves 6 (or 12 if doubled)

Ingredients:

8-10, 1/2" slices supermarket French or Italian bread (I always make a few extra.)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 medium shallots, minced
1, 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half-and-half

*If doubled, double the ingredients and use a 13"x9" baking dish greased with 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and bake for about 60 minutes.*

Directions:

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 225 degrees. Arrange the bread in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through the drying time. When the bread has cooled, butter the slices on one side with 2 tablespoons of the butter, set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Saute the shallots until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes; add the spinach and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until combined, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; set aside. Add the wine to the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup, 2-3 minutes; set aside.

Butter an 8" square baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter; arrange half of the bread slices, buttered-side up in a single layer in the dish. (Don't worry if the bread doesn't completely cover the bottom, it will swell as it sits overnight.)


Sprinkle half of the spinach mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over the bread slices.


Arrange the remaining bread slices in a single layer over the cheese; sprinkle the remaining spinach mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over the bread. (The remainder of the cheese will be added right before baking.) Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until combined; whisk in the reduced wine, the half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread layers; 


cover the surface flush with plastic wrap, weight down with whatever you have in the pantry, and refrigerate overnight.


Remove the dish from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Uncover the strata and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over the surface. Bake until both the edges and the center are puffed and the edges have pulled away slightly from the sides of the dish, 50-55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes; serve.

Recipe adapted from The New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook's Illustrated.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Devilishly Good Chicken!

Foods that are highly seasoned (e.g., mustard, chilies, etc.) or sinfully rich (e.g., chocolate cake) have been referred to as "deviled" since the 18th century. In 1868, The William Underwood Company began selling a mixture of ground ham with seasonings which they named "deviled ham." In fact, their devil logo is one of the oldest trademarked logo still in use today. While I love highly seasoned food, canned ham is not my kind of thing. Trust me. I used to audit food processing plants (like Ballpark Franks), haven't eaten one since!
Image result for deviled ham
The original Underwood Deviled Ham logo.
With Halloween almost here, I want to share this wickedly addictive recipe from Williams-Sonoma for "Chicken Thighs Diavolo." Diavolo means devil in Italian, but only dishes invented by Italian-Americans use the term. In Italy, they would refer to a spicy dish as all-arrabiata meaning "angry-style." I digress. Anyway, these chicken thighs are marinated in a wonderful blend of cider vinegar and five different chili spices, then grilled to juicy perfection. Delicious! I love this marinade so much! In addition, you could use it on practically any cut of chicken or even pork. I don't know who created this spice blend, but they must have sold their soul to the devil to create it!


Chicken Thighs Diavolo

Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the marinade
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Thai chili paste or red pepper flakes (I use Chili Garlic Sauce by Huy Fung Foods, Inc.)
1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce (I use Cholula.)
1/2 cup water

For the Chicken Thighs
3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of any excess skin and fat
1 or 2 handfuls wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes. (I use mesquite.)
1 large disposable aluminum roasting pan

Directions:
In a bowl, combine marinade ingredients and whisk until the salt and granulated garlic dissolve. Taste and adjust the seasonings; the sauce should be bright red and very spicy. Pour half the sauce into a small serving bowl and set aside.

Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, score the chicken to the bone in several places to expose the flesh. Place the chicken in a large disposable aluminum roasting pan, pour the remaining sauce over the top and turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 10 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat.

For a charcoal grill: Sprinkle the wood chips over the coals. Place the pan with the thighs on the cooler side of the grill, cover and cook until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer the thighs to the grate directly over the coals, brush with the marinade from the pan and grill, turning often, until nicely charred on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes more.

For a gas grill: Increase a burner to high. Heat a smoker box half full of chips until smoking, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the pan with the thighs over unlit burners, cover and cook until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer the thighs to the grate directly over the heat, brush with the marinade from the pan and grill, turning often, until nicely charred on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Serve immediately and pass the reserved sauce alongside.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Albondigas Salvador! The best meatballs you will ever taste!

I tried this mind-blowingly good recipe for "Albondigas Salvador" from Deliciouso! by the sadly now departed Penelope Casas. If you are a lover of Spanish food or a novice, one of her cookbooks is a must. She wrote that this recipe is from Salvador Lucero of Bar Bahia in Cadiz. After further research, I found that Salvador sold the business and these beauties aren't even on the new menu. What a shame.

When I make Ragu alla Bolognese, I always have a half pound ground beef and a half pound ground pork leftover and this is what I make. The ingredients are simple; however, there is a lot of mincing of ingredients which are divided, so pay attention to your mise en place and read the recipe a few times before starting. I will share the breakdown of ingredients to help with any confusion. I serve it with this lovely saffron rice, salad, baguette, and a bottle of Rioja. Desfrute! 


Albondigas Salvador

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (I use Progresso Italian style.)
3/4 cup chicken broth (1/2 and 1/4)
1 pound mixture of ground pork and beef in equal parts
4 garlic cloves, minced (2 and 2)
2 Tablespoons minced parsley (1 and 1)
7 Tablespoons minced onion (3 Tbl and 4 Tbl)
Generous grinding of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (I always freshly grind it on a grater or in my beloved nutmeg grinder.)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (I use 1 teaspoon.)
1 small egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons olive oil (1 and 1) (I use La Espanola as recommended by a dear friend.)
Flour for dusting
1 fresh bay leaf
1 small tomato, skinned, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine (I use Osborne Sherry Fino and it is perfect!)

Directions:

In a large bowl, soak the bread crumbs in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. Lightly mix in the meat, 2 of the minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of the minced parsley, 3 tablespoons of the onion, the pepper, nutmeg, salt, egg, and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls and dust with flour. (Makes about 20 and can be made ahead and refrigerated.)

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a shallow casserole (I use an All Clad skillet with lid.) and brown the meatballs on all sides. (I remove the meatballs and set aside.) Add the remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic, 4 tablespoons onion, and 1 tablespoon parsley, and the bay leaf. Saute until the onion has softened. (I return the meatballs to the pan here.) Add the tomato, the remaining 1/4 cup broth, the wine, and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and simmer 45 minutes, adding more chicken broth or water, if necessary. (I've never had to add extra.)

*Swedish Meatballs aren't too shabby either!*

Saturday, October 15, 2022

"Milk?"

Wisconsin, the land of cheese, milk, and butter! People from this state are lovingly known as "Cheeseheads," and are serious about their dairy products! In fact, I attended a wedding there a few years ago, and it was the only wedding I've ever seen where waiters and waitresses proudly carried huge trays bursting with glasses of milk; after all, it is the state beverage! My husband just got back from a trip to Wisconsin, and milk is not the only product in great abundance there, they also have tomatoes, lots and lots of tomatoes! So, lucky for me, he brought back a box piled high with beautiful home-grown tomatoes! With my bounty at hand, I knew exactly what I wanted to make, "Soft Mozzarella Poached with Tomatoes and Basil!" This recipe is fantastic! Soft creamy mozzarella surrounded by a pool of sweet tomato sauce and basil! All that is required is a glass of wine and plenty of crusty bread! Although, if you're a cheesehead, you'll probably want milk!


Soft Mozzarella Poached with Tomatoes and Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped, and drained (for help peeling tomatoes, check Techniques), or canned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2, 8 oz balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, drained, at room temperature, and cut in half
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Basil sprigs, for garnish
Crusty bread

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. (Don't burn the garlic!) Remove the garlic and discard. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the tomatoes, and simmer until the tomatoes soften and begin to liquify. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool for 10 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth.

Twenty minutes before serving, bring the sauce to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Place the mozzarella, cut-side down, in the sauce so that it is half submerged. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit 6-8 minutes.

In the meantime, cut the basil into thin strips. To serve, place a piece of mozzarella on each plate. Stir the basil into the sauce. Spoon the sauce around the mozzarella. Garnish with basil sprigs and serve immediately, with bread.

Recipe adapted from Weir Cooking: Recipes From The Wine Country, by Joanne Weir.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Rabbits, Eggs, and Simnel Cake

In ancient times, Easter was celebrated in honor of the spring or vernal equinox, symbolizing the end of winter (death) and the rebirth of life, as well as the importance of fertility. The word Easter is believed to have originated from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn, Eostre, from whom "east" (where the sun rises), "Easter," and even the female hormone "estrogen" got its name. Eostre's feast day was held on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Eostre's two symbols were the hare (one with a particularly high libido) and the egg, which symbolizes the possibility of new life.

In European folklore, when wild hares abandoned their nests, they were sometimes taken over by plovers, who would lay their eggs in them. The locals would then find the eggs in the bunny nests. Further, in the 16th century, we see the appearance of the "Easter Bunny" in German writings. The legend said that if good children built a nest out of their caps or bonnets, they would be rewarded with colored eggs. The legend was then brought to America in the 18th century, by German immigrants.

And finally, I must mention the "Simnel Cake," eaten during Easter in the UK, Ireland, and other European countries. Simnel cake is a type of fruit cake, made with a layer of marzipan or almond paste baked in the middle of the cake, and topped off with a ring of eleven marzipan balls, said to represent the true disciples of Jesus (Judas is omitted), and sometimes a ball in the middle to represent Christ. I don't care for simnel cake, but I do have a sublime recipe for "Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries." This recipe from Shelley Wiseman is a light buttermilk cake, filled with a layer of mascarpone cream, and topped off with very sophisticated Sherry-spiked berries. I love this cake so much, it may be my absolute favorite! It makes the perfect ending to any Easter celebration!


Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries

Serves 8-12, (cake and cream can be made a day ahead, store cake covered at room temperature)

Ingredients:

For the cake
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), like Swans Down
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For the berries
1/2 cup Fino (dry) Sherry
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups mixed berries, cut if large

For the cream
8 ounces mascarpone (1 cup)
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

For the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with oven rack in the middle. Butter a 9" round cake pan (2 inches deep). Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, then butter the parchment.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer at low speed, beat in the buttermilk until just combined. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing after each addition until just combined.

Spread batter in cake pan, smoothing top. Rap the pan on the counter several times.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Discard the paper and reinvert cake onto rack to cool completely.

Macerate the berries
Bring Sherry and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Put berries in a bowl and pour hot syrup over them. gently tossing to coat. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Make cream and assemble cake
Beat mascarpone, cream, and sugar in a large bowl using cleaned beaters until mixture just holds stiff peaks.

Halve cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Carefully remove top half and reserve. Put bottom half on a plate, then spread evenly with all of the cream and replace top half. Serve with berries. It's Fantastic!


Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Swedish Chef



Swedish meatballs (kottbullar) are a traditional dish consisting of seasoned beef, pork, and/or veal meatballs covered in a brown gravy and are one of the best-known and loved Swedish dishes. The first recipe appeared in print in Cajsa Warg's Swedish cookbook in 1754. Before the invention of meatgrinders in 1845 by German Baron Karl Drais, Swedish meatballs were truly a labor of love and considered a luxury item served at traditional smorgasbords and other special occasions. Swedish meatballs also have deep roots in America's upper Midwest, brought by Scandinavian immigrants with the peak of their migration between 1870-1900. They were also featured at the 1939 New York World's Fair at the Swedish Pavilion's Three Crowns Restaurant, explaining their popularity in the early 20th century with a resurgence in the 1950s and 60s. Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with brown gravy, mashed or boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam or sauce, and pickled (or pressed) cucumbers. 

This recipe, that I found at The Spice Garden, is adapted from Irma Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking and is the best I've ever tasted! The meatballs are exceedingly tender and moist, and the creamy sauce has just the right tang thanks to the addition of sour cream. One tip to remember when incorporating sour cream to a warm sauce is to stir in 1/2 cup of the gravy, 1/4 cup at a time, into the sour cream, whisking very well until incorporated before adding it to the gravy. If you don't do this, more than likely the sour cream will curdle and leave clumps in your gravy. Eek! I like to serve my Swedish meatballs with buttered egg noodles and if you can't find lingonberry jam, cranberry jam makes a decent substitute. So stop buying them at IKEA and make them yourself! They are way better, "bork, bork, bork!"


Swedish Meatballs

Serves 4-6 as an entree.

Ingredients:

For the Meatballs
1, 1" thick slice of bread
Milk to soak the bread
1 1/2 lb ground meat (1/2 lb beef, 1/2 lb pork, 1/2 lb veal, or a combination) (I used 3/4 lb beef and 3/4 lb pork)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 cups beef stock

For the Gravy
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons dry Sherry
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions:
For the Meatballs
Soak the bread in enough milk to saturate it and let it soak a few minutes. While the bread soaks, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

Wring the liquid from the bread (discard the milk) and add it along with the remaining meatball ingredients (except for the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the 2 cups beef stock) in a large bowl or stand mixer and mix with your hands or mixer until the ingredients are well incorporated. Shape the meatballs into approximately 1" balls, and place on a large plate or baking sheet. (The meatballs can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to cook.) 

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a deep saute pan over medium/medium-high heat. Drop the meatballs into the bubbling butter and brown them on all sides. (Do not overcrowd! You should brown them in batches, setting them aside on a plate until all the meatballs are browned.) When all the meatballs are browned, return them to the pan and add the 2 cups beef stock, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. When done, remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and place them on a warm baking sheet and hold in a warm oven.

For the Gravy
Mix the sour cream, flour, dill, and Sherry in a medium bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the stock, 1/4 cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Make sure there are no lumps! Mix the sour cream mixture into the stock and continue to stir until thickened, just a few minutes. Taste and season with salt (if needed) and white pepper, to taste.

To serve, add the meatballs to the gravy and transfer to a platter or serving bowl. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Magic Bean

In France, January 6 is "La Fete Des Rois," which translates to "Festival of Kings," also known as Twelfth Night and the Epiphany, when the biblical three kings came to pay homage to the newborn Jesus. It is celebrated by sharing a "Galette des Rois," or "Kings' Cake," with family and friends throughout the month of January. Just like the song The Twelve Days of Christmas! Galette de Rois is a delicious, flaky pastry made with buttery puff pastry and filled with frangipane (almond cream paste), and includes a hidden "la feve" (originally a dry bean, or "magic bean"), and is sold with a silver or gold paper crown to perch on top. The person who gets the feve in their slice is declared the King or Queen and is allowed wear the paper crown! It is also customary that the youngest child at the table go hide (e.g., under the table) where they can't see the cake. The oldest person then cuts the cake into slices, the child comes back and chooses who will get each slice, just to keep things fair!

Galette des Rois is also known as a Pithivier, named after the town Pithiviers in northern France, where it apparently was created. The distinction between the two is the feve or magic bean. This recipe from Laura Calder, who seldom lets me down, was surprisingly easy and turned out beautiful! Just remember to keep everything as cold as possible. My only comment is that I thought it could be a little sweeter, so next time I will try using store-bought almond paste (sold in cans) instead of the ground almonds. I used the traditional dry bean and I saved a paper crown from our Christmas Crackers. My kids loved their Galette des Rois  (they each ate two slices!), and my youngest got a kick out of hiding under the table, in addition to finding the magic bean and getting to wear the crown! It truly is a tradition worth trying!


Galette des Rois (Kings' Cake)

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the tart
2 sheets puff pastry, about 1/4" thick, chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten for sealing the pastry
Sifted icing sugar, for dusting (or a few spoonfuls of apricot jam, heated until runny) (I used apricot jam!)

For the almond cream
1/3 cup/70 g butter, softened
1/2 cup/70 g icing sugar
1/2 cup/70 g ground almonds (or almond paste)
1 egg
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 magic bean

Directions:
For the almond cream
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the almonds, then the egg, rum, and vanilla extract. Beat smooth with a fork. Cover and chill until firm, for at least an hour.

For the tart
Lay an 8" round plate on one sheet of cold puff pastry and go around it with a knife.


Do the same for the top round, but then roll this one a little with a rolling pin to make it slightly larger than the bottom round. (I found 8 1/2 " to be about right!)


Lay the smaller round of chilled pastry on a baking sheet. (I lined mine with parchment paper and highly recommend it.) Spread the chilled cream over, leaving a good 1" margin all around the edge. Hide a bean somewhere in the cream. Brush the border with egg wash (one egg white mixed with a smidgen of water).


Lay on the top round of chilled pastry and lightly press the edges to seal. Score the edge all around with the blunt side of a knife to seal.


Make a cross in the center for steam to escape and draw spirals out to the edges for decoration.


Brush with egg wash all over the top, avoiding the edges, so that they'll puff up easily. Chill in the freezer until very firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees/230 degrees C. Bake the cake until puffed up high and dark golden in color, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with a thin coating of icing sugar and blast under the broiler or melt with a blowtorch. You can also brush with melted apricot jam for a glaze.