Humble Beginnings

March 22nd, 2010

This is the first post in what will be an occasional little project I’m starting on this blog. You see, as much as I love cupcakes and coming up with ways to make them weird and wonderful, I think I bake them too much. Certainly for someone who has been working at a REAL restaurant as a REAL pastry assistant for a full month already. So, though I’ll never be truly finished with cupcakes (I still feel like the cupcake craze has yet to run its course here in New York City – flavors as adventurous as mine are severely lacking in most shops) I think it’s time to move forward. I serve fully composed, plated desserts at work and I want to come up with some of my own at home. I even bought a couple of new plates to help inspire me!

It took me a couple of weeks and a lot of practice but I finally got it.

It took me a couple of weeks and a lot of practice but I finally got it.

The idea for this dessert came from a half-empty bottle of maple sugar. I really wanted to make frozen yogurt with it. Which turned out to be a fantastic idea – the extreme sweetness of maple is but a pleasant hint in the tangy frozen yogurt. Though I’ve had great success with making homemade yogurt, I’ve recently adopted Friendship as my yogurt of choice. It’s sold in the bodega downstairs from my apartment in quarts (the perfect size for blending with sweeteners, flavorings and dumping right in the ice cream machine), is much cheaper than other brands of yogurt, is all-natural and is the absolute thickest yogurt I’ve ever come across, easily beating out Greek yogurts that are four times the price. (Just a note, I don’t have sponsorship from these guys or anything, I just REALLY dig their yogurt.)

Sandy, yummy buckwheat flour.

Sandy, yummy buckwheat flour.

Shortly after I had mentally filed the concept of maple frozen yogurt into a crevice of my brain, I was inspired by the tasty streusel we made at work for some pear cobblers and decided to play with a buckwheaty streusel to go with the frozen yogurt.

It's from a rectangular pan but I decided I liked triangular slices for this.

It's from a rectangular pan but I decided I liked triangular slices for this.

Shortly thereafter, I got pan-guilt and decided I NEEDED to use my rectangular tart pan more often – I’d only used it once! The shame!

Not enough apples...a pretty accident.

Not enough apples...a pretty accident.

I also had a jar of tiny wild Maine blueberries that my aunt had preserved with sugar a little cinnamon. Last winter I enjoyed some with yogurt for breakfast many mornings, so I decided Maine wild blueberries were in. While I was at it, I figured an all-out tribute to my original home of Maine was in order, and ordered up a Benriner (I’ve actually already used it three times and it’s really fun) to add a layer of MacIntosh apples to the party. I sliced them paper-thin, and really could’ve gone thicker…after a day in the fridge the pie/tart thingy’s blueberry layer had soaked clear through the apple layer, turning the whole thing a tie-dye of purpleness. But I actually think the dessert is prettier this way…white apples would have made the dessert look kinda stormy; blueberry skies, on the other hand, are pleasant on both land and sea.

Wonderfully blueberry-ish, with tangy yogurt and crunchy, earthy streusel...yum.

Wonderfully blueberry-ish, with tangy yogurt and crunchy, earthy streusel...yum.

Blueberry Sky Beach, Maine

Buckwheat Brisee Crust

  1. 155g cake flour
  2. 30g buckwheat flour
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 tsp sugar
  5. 95g unsalted butter, cut into small chunks and frozen
  6. 50 mL ice cold water

Sift together the dry ingredients and place in the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, or on a bench if working by hand. Add the cold butter and beat, pulse or cut until the butter is the size of small lentils. Slowly add the water and gradually work it in until a rough dough forms. Don’t use all the water if you don’t have to. Work out any dry spots by hand by mixing with a bowl scraper or on the bench and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill thoroughly before using. When ready, roll out to desired shape and size at 1/4″ thick. Line your pan and bllind-bake in a 350F preheated oven until the crust is crispy but doesn’t take on much color. While hot, use the back of a wooden spoon or the end of a solid wooden pastry rolling pin to press down any bubbles in the middle. Allow to cool before filling.

Buckwheat Streusel

  1. 155g AP flour
  2. 40g buckwheat flour
  3. 150g sugar
  4. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  5. Pinch salt
  6. 110g unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour melted butter in and combine with hands until clumpy but still crumbly. Chill thoroughly before using. Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F and spread the streusel evenly on a lined baking sheet. Bake, raking the streusel around every 5 minutes or so, until the streusel is crispy and a few pieces begin to take on color. Allow to cool before using.

Maple Frozen Yogurt

  1. 1 quart good quality, thick natural yogurt
  2. 1/2 cup maple sugar
  3. 1/4 cup sugar
  4. 2 Tbsp vodka (or maple liqueur if you’re lucky enough to have some on hand)

Whisk all ingredients until fully combined, then churn in an ice cream maker or by hand. Freeze until hard and scoopable.

The chippy garnish thing nestled in beside the frozen yogurt is a piece of blueberry bark that my mom sent me. It’s basically blueberries that were mashed and dehydrated. They add another textural element of crisp to the dessert, as well as an extra hit of blueberry flavor.

This dessert is very good – earthy and just sweet enough, with a lot of breakfasty flavors that remind me of where I came from. The streusel looks incredibly like the sand at the beach I used to visit with my family and eventually briefly lived near, which has been eroded like crazy over the last few years. I created my own little piece of the beach on one end of the plate and cut the rectangular tart into a wedge that I think resembled both a sailboat and the ocean, with the little squiggly fluted edge like a wave cresting towards the quenelle happily resting on the sand.

7 Responses to “Humble Beginnings”

  1. Y says:

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE these flavours! The buckwheat pastry crust in particular sounds really interesting.

  2. Anna, this looks spectacular and sounds delicious. I look forward to seeing all your new recipes as this inspiring project unfolds. Tell me, where are you working? I must send some of my Manhattan friends in to try you. You are living the life! x Cat

  3. Isn’t it funny how some things just start to get put together based on moods or whatever you have available. I’ve never tried buckwheat flour before but it sounds great! :D

  4. catty says:

    You’ve only been a pastry assistant for a month and look at this! it’s BEAUTIFUL and looks totally professional :D I love it :)

  5. Maggie says:

    Love it! Looking forward to more of your plated desserts.

  6. Bob says:

    Oh my, that looks wicked good! Very fancy.

  7. Jenni says:

    That, my friend, is a beautiful quenelle!

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