Peaches & Rainbows

Over the last three weeks, I’ve made it a point to limit the purchasing of edible items to almost nothing, aside from what’s needed for simple, quick cooking and things that move easily. Also, I’m not buying items I already have in storage. That said, things like soy sauce and sriracha made the cut, but things like flour and butter didn’t.

Of course, all of my 10+ flours might very well be rancid by the time I get to them next weekend, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take in hopes of avoiding starting completely from scratch in the kitchen.

I think that’s why I forced nudged Chris to make a candy bar run earlier this week; I was craving something sweet some kinda fiercely, and even though I hadn’t eaten a Whatchamacallit in years, it seemed like the only appropriate solution. You see, I’m used to having immediate access to things like blenders, mixers, muffin tins, baking sheets, etc. This little temporary ‘kitchen’ has none of the above (I think I’ve already mentioned that about 10 times before, right?!). To that, add the fact that I was already living without my personal belongings for a month, and that equals exactly 2 months of this crap. What can I say; I caved, and I’m sayin’ it loud and proud. (That was a damn good Whatchamacallit.)

But let’s put things in perspective here; while these 2 months haven’t been peaches and rainbows per se, they haven’t been storm clouds and gremlins either. I mean for reals, we’ve had multiple bouts of amazing get-togethers, dinners, drinks, and the like as a result of this move. I didn’t even pay for most of them (lesson: if you want free drinks and dinners, move outta state ;)).

We even threw ourselves a going-away party a couple of months ago, where I decided to whip out a few treats, including these cookies I also started thinking about this week. Hard to believe it’s been that long since I baked cookies, or used my own cutting board, or had access to those dried blueberries that are waiting in storage, but it has.

When I find all of those items I’ve been sorely missing, a few of the first things I’m going to do include buying some butter along with a few other essential items, taking a nap on my long-lost couch, maybe unpacking a few boxes (the one with the flour and dried blueberries, for example), and then high-tailing it into the kitchen and making some cookies.

There will not be leftovers, either.

Cornmeal Blueberry Cookies
adapted from Good to the Grain; makes about 3 dozen

I am a huge lover of cookies of all shapes, flavors, and sizes, but non-traditional cookies hold a very special place in my heart, or belly. these aren’t your average cookies; they are sweet and chewy, but not overpowering on the dessert scale. in fact, you could probably eat a couple for breakfast without feeling too bad about it. dried blueberries are somewhat pricey (i get mine from Costco), but they are so perfect in this recipe. i’m sure you could use other dried fruits, but if they’re larger than blueberries (pea-sized), you’ll want to give ’em a rough chopping.

oh, and these cookies are definitely best eaten the day they’re prepared. they have a tendency to harden quickly, so either eat them the day of or store in an airtight container. i’m guessing you could halve the recipe if you don’t want this many, or even freeze pre-baked, rolled and coated dough, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time and baking straight from the freezer.

time commitment: about 1 hour, half of which is active and half of which involves smelling these things bake.

printable version

ingredients
2 c corn flour
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 t cream of tartar
2 t kosher salt
8 oz (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c milk
1 c dried blueberries (see above)
1/2 c sugar, for finishing

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat, or spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (corn flour through salt) and whisk for a couple of minutes to break up any chunks (Boyce’s recipe says to sift these ingredients together, but I can’t seem to get behind sifting ingredients, although who knows, maybe it does really impact the recipe…).

Add the butter and the brown sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until the butter and sugar are combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the milk and the blueberries. Slowly mix until the dough is evenly combined.

Pour the finishing sugar into a bowl. Scoop mounds of dough, each about 3 tablespoons in size, form them into balls and set them on a plate. Dip each ball into the sugar, coating it lightly. Arrange the balls on the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them. Chill any remaining dough until ready to use.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The cookies will puff up and crack at the tops and are ready to come out when the sugar crust is golden brown and the cracks are still a light yellow. They will appear soft, but will harden and cook more when removed from the oven.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

The Bandwagon

If you scanned through all the recipes on this blog, paying particular attention to the recipes adapted from various sources (which is most of them), you’d quickly notice that most of them are from magazines. Occasionally, you’ll find one from a website, such as someone’s blog, and you’ll also come across a few from cookbooks.

You see, I get really into my magazines and recipe clippings. They’re easily portable and perusable, and I often use said clippings to figure out what I’m cooking in the week ahead – I grab my stack of clippings, pull out a few for the week, and that’s that. Going through cookbooks seems a bit cumbersome, and the blog recipes I have bookmarked just sit there on my computer as, well, bookmarks.

But every once and a while, I get really really focused on a good cookbook. I become that girl, sitting on the bus reading recipes, staring at pictures of food, and dog-earing page after page. Meanwhile, every one else on the bus is either sleeping, yelling loudly into their cell phones, or eating cheesy hot fries (that’s not a joke, people; the bus-riders love their cheesy hot fries). Recently, this cookbook fixation has happened exactly twice.

One of them, the source of these cutie-patuty tarts you see here, is Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. The other, I’ll get to later, as it’s chock full of meat that I promised myself I wouldn’t eat this month (because I have a few loose screws, I’ve decided). And it’s a HUGE book that I lugged around town, clutching it closely to my chest like a loveletter from my first boyfriend. I promise, later.

This one though, I’ve managed to read through every last page. I started bookmarking recipes, and I quickly realized it wasn’t necessary, as I’d tagged almost every page, every recipe. The 75 recipes, primarily of the dessert/baking genre, are sorted by grain – with chapters devoted to buckwheat, whole wheat, quinoa, rye, even corn and 7 others. Each chapter of recipes is preceded by a thorough, but fascinating, description of the flour, the origin, the taste, the affinities to other flours and foods. It is educational, but intriguing. Thorough, but concise. And  innovative, but totally approachable.

And by now, if you read as many food blogs as I do, you might even be a little bit tired of hearing about this treasure of a book. So with that, I’ll stop – and finish by saying that this is actually the 4th recipe I’ve made from Good to the Grain. Why haven’t I waxed poetic about it after having it atop my fridge (or rather, on my nightstand) for the last 2 months? A simple answer – I actually forgot to take pictures of two of them, and the other will be posted in good time.

These little rhubarb tarts more or less forced themselves upon me, primarily because it’s the cover recipe that glares at me from my nightstand, and because following our first farmers’ market trip, my countertop became a holding place (by holding place, I mean they sat there for exactly 1 hour, if that) for two beautiful bunches of rhubarb. Plus, I couldn’t head over to dinner with friends without bringing something, right? So, here we are.

As one of those friends happened to be Jon, I also needed to make this recipe gluten- and dairy-free. I made both recipes (“his” and “ours”), comparing taste and textures and I must say that, probably thanks to the corn flour and cornmeal, they were eerily similar. In fact, by looks alone, Jennifer incorrectly picked the gf tart – and for those of you cooking gluten-free on a regular basis, you know that many gf dessert recipes are easy to spot when sitting right beside their non gf counterparts.

In fact, the two finished products here are one of each – can you tell which is which?

Don’t you just love rhubarb too? Try this rhubarb crisp if you need something a little simpler. Got any other rhubarb recipes? Share below!

Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Adapted from Good to the Grain; makes 10 tarts

printable version

ingredients
compote
2 lbs rhubarb
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 T dried hibiscus leaves (optional; can also try vanilla, ginger, etc)

dry mix
1 c corn flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c fine cornmeal
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1 t kosher salt

wet mix
4 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 c + 2 T half & half
2 egg yolks

special ingredients: cheesecloth or tea ball, if using hibiscus; preferably a stand mixer or food processor, although dough can be made by hand or with a pastry cutter, if needed (as long as there is available elbow grease…).

instructions
make compote. rinse rhubarb and trim ends. cut into 3/4-inch chunks. dump 1/2 of rhubarb into bottom of heavy pot. place hibiscus leaves into tea ball or cheesecloth, and add with brown sugar to rhubarb. stir, cover, and turn heat to med-low. cook 15 minutes, covered. remove cover and increase heat to medium; cook 15-17 minutes until rhubarb is broken down. add remaining half of rhubarb to mix and stir to combine. remove hibiscus and pour compote onto large baking sheet to cool. makes ~ 3 cups (will have leftover that’s great on toast!).

to make tarts, combine dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer; whisk together. with stand mixer with paddle attachment, add butter and turn mixer to low to incorporate. turn to medium and mix until mixture resembles cornmeal. add half & half and egg yolks, mix until combined. dough will be slightly crumbly but sticks together when pressed (like pie dough).

to shape tarts, divide dough into 10 equal pieces. on a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, smash dough with hands into a rough circle, about 5 inches diameter. spoon 3 T of rhubarb compote in center of disc. fold edge of dough toward compote and up, to close tart. continue all the way around (if this doesn’t work well, you can sort of crimp however you want – notice these here are not elegant at all…).

line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (they will be going into your freezer, so if you have a lame freezer like me, you can instead place these on parchment-lined plates). slide spatula or bench scraper underneath and place on baking sheet or plate. freeze for 1 hour, at least (can keep frozen, unbaked, for another couple of weeks if needed, but wrap in plastic or place in freezer bags).

preheat oven to 375 F. transfer tarts to baking sheets (or remove sheets from freezer and place directly in oven). bake for 35 minutes, until edges brown and compote bubbles.

Gluten/Dairy-Free Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Adapted from Good to the Grain; makes 10 tarts

printable version

ingredients
compote
2 lbs rhubarb
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 T dried hibiscus leaves (optional; can also try vanilla, ginger, etc)

dry mix
1 c corn flour
1/2 c sweet rice flour
1/4 c sorghum flour
1/4 c potato starch
1/2 c fine cornmeal
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1 t kosher salt

wet mix
4 oz cold shortening, cut into small chunks
1/4 c + 2 T vanilla hemp milk
2 egg yolks

special ingredients: cheesecloth or tea ball, if using hibiscus; preferably a stand mixer or food processor, although dough can be made by hand or with a pastry cutter, if needed (as long as there is available elbow grease…).

instructions
make compote. rinse rhubarb and trim ends. cut into 3/4-inch chunks. dump 1/2 of rhubarb into bottom of heavy pot. place hibiscus leaves into tea ball or cheesecloth, and add with brown sugar to rhubarb. stir, cover, and turn heat to med-low. cook 15 minutes, covered. remove cover and increase heat to medium; cook 15-17 minutes until rhubarb is broken down. add remaining half of rhubarb to mix and stir to combine. remove hibiscus and pour compote onto large baking sheet to cool. makes ~ 3 cups (will have leftover that’s great on toast!).

to make tarts, combine dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer; whisk together. with stand mixer with paddle attachment, add shortening and turn mixer to low to incorporate. turn to medium and mix until mixture resembles cornmeal. add hemp milk and egg yolks, mix until combined. dough will be slightly crumbly but sticks together when pressed (like pie dough).

to shape tarts, divide dough into 10 equal pieces. on a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, smash dough with hands into a rough circle, about 5 inches diameter. spoon 3 T of rhubarb compote in center of disc. fold edge of dough toward compote and up, to close tart. continue all the way around (if this doesn’t work well, you can sort of crimp however you want – notice these here are not elegant at all…).

line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (they will be going into your freezer, so if you have a lame freezer like me, you can instead place these on parchment-lined plates). slide spatula or bench scraper underneath and place on baking sheet or plate. freeze for 1 hour, at least (can keep frozen, unbaked, for another couple of weeks if needed, but wrap in plastic or place in freezer bags).

preheat oven to 375 F. transfer tarts to baking sheets (or remove sheets from freezer and place directly in oven). bake for 35 minutes, until edges brown and compote bubbles.