Monday, June 28, 2010

Cherry Jam with Lemon Pepper Shortbread

DSC_0395 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Confession: I am 24 years old and I only began to enjoy the simple sweetness of cherries one month ago.

I realize this fact may startle most of you.

My previous stance against cherries, I realized, was purely based on my experience with the jarred varietal of cherry - the ones found so promisingly perched on top of a child's ice cream sundae or floating at the bottom of a Shirley Temple.

Thinking back, we never really used cherries in any recipes in pastry school.  Even when we received shipment upon shipment of these bright red beauties at the restaurant, as the other pastry cooks sampled by the handful, I resisted and dutifully returned to my cutting board.

But then, in a moment of true weakness, as I perused the farmer's market, I was greeted by a mound of cherries.  As my camera captured their beauty, they seemed to beckon for me - try just one.

DSC_0391 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Into my mouth, I popped the most juicy, sweet little cherry.  I am forever converted.

I brought home a quart of the beauties and began thinking of how I might want to prepare them.

My first thought, obviously, was a steaming, fruity pie.  But, between long work hours and some one's distaste of fruit desserts, pies, unfortunately, go to waste around here.

So, instead, I began thinking about what flavors I would want to pair with the cherries.  While keeping the cherries as the star of the show, I decided something with a crunchy, freshness - maybe even spiciness - would be wonderful for a summer day.

While mulling over how to achieve these accompanying flavors, I began creating a simple, sweet cherry jam.

DSC_0357 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010 DSC_0358 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

DSC_0359 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Maybe it was the homey, unmistakable scent of the sugar caramelizing with fruit that instantly pointed me in the direction of a buttery shortbread as the perfect base for this summer jam.

DSC_0351 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

With the addition of bright lemon zest, freshly milled black pepper and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar, the shortbread emerged from the oven a perfect match with the sweet cherry jam.

Upon assembling and tasting my creation, from the very first bite, the soft, sweet cherry jam paired seamlessly with the crunchy, buttery shortbread, instantly brightened by the lemon zest.

As the flavors lingered on my tongue, lazily melting away, the smooth, spiciness of the black pepper appeared, creating just enough heat to balance the sweetness of all the other components.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The City Bakery

At the encouragement of several long-time reader of this blog, as well as a few newly-introduced readers, I have decided to begin reviewing some of my well-enjoyed food adventures around my little town of Manhattan. To this point, I refrained from doing reviews on purpose, for several reasons - I don't eat out very often, I don't order a wide variety of items when I do go out and, honesty, I don't believe I am the best source for reviews of places around the city. So, I do sincerely hope that you enjoy these occasionally installments; I hope you will remember them as you search for a place to provide a special treat or places to savor during a trip to NYC.  Please take them for exactly what they are - the experience and recommendation of a good friend.

I first passed by The City Bakery just about two years ago.  I was a recent transplant to Manhattan - and I was lost and lonely.  I found myself alone on another humid, stifling weekend and I headed to the only place I could find refuge - the cookbook section of Strand and the Union Square Farmer's Market.

As I wandered the sticky streets around the market, fresh spinach and strawberries in tow, I ventured past The City Bakery.  I peeked through the tinted windows and was immediately intimidated.  It was fast paced and the locals looked as though they knew exactly what they wanted.

So I ventured on, convinced myself it was like every other over-rated bakery in the city and tried to forget about the sighting.

At least, until later that year, when one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz, wrote about how much he loved The City Bakery.

I had to have one of those pretzel croissants.

Still, because I always have, and always will, hate eating alone, it took another two years to actualy open the doors and be formally introduced to the famed-pretzel croissant.

After my Dad and I had explored the farmer's market last Monday morning, he asked if there was a place we could grab a quick snack.  I prefaced my response with saying I had never actually eaten there, but The City Bakery came very highly recommended.

An unexplored, potential-gem?  My Dad was practically hauling me through the doors.


My Dad filled-up a plate with the roasted vegetables, as I explored the space and reserved a spot in line.  Drooling over the pastries and baked goods, I ordered my long awaited pretzel croissant.


And then we also spotted the maple bacon biscuits.  And ordered one of those.


And then I asked the server what made up the Baker's muffin.  He politely answered and my Dad scoffed.  Not at the server or his response, but at me.

"There is only one way to properly research," as he instructed the server that we would also happily be taking one of those.

We found a spacious, out of the way table and dug-in.

The pretzel croissant.  The long wait.  The flaky, salt crust.  To die for.  If you go to The City Bakery and only order one item, let it be the pretzel croissant.


I found the whole croissant so intensely interesting - the buttery, salty, flaky crust, but a thick, doughy crumb.


I could not, and did not, stop eating this, although allowing my Dad a significant taste, until nothing was left.  Not a crumb.  Not a sprinkle of salt.  I cannot wait to enjoy another - perhaps in cooler weather, with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

The surprise of the afternoon was the maple bacon biscuit.  It was like breakfast in a compact form.  It was equally delicious - and my Dad bought five more on the way out, which Mike and I enjoyed throughout the long week.

The baker's muffin was good, well-executed, but probably not something I would order again.  Maybe it just wasn't my taste, or maybe I was already thoroughly blown-away by the pretzel croissant and maple bacon biscuit.


So, if you are ever find yourself in area of the Union Square Farmer's Market, mosey on up to The City Bakery.  I hope you enjoy the pretzel croissant and maple bacon as much as me.

Happy Father's Day

DSC_0166 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

I was a lucky girl growing-up.  My family may not have had a lot of extras, but our house was filled with much love and we shared a warm dinner together every evening.

Family dinner was my favorite time of the day - knowing I had a time to share my successes or disappointments and listening to other's days as we made our way around the table was quite comforting to a little girl.

As my sister and I grew older, my Dad could no longer join us each night for dinner.  For awhile my Dad worked two jobs, so my parents could afford to send us to dance lessons, piano or violin lessons, field hockey camps.

Most parents probably would have told their children that these were luxuries that could just not be afforded at the moment.

But my Dad was steadfast in his desire to provide more to his daughters than he had growing up.  He and my mother felt these things were important to raise well-rounded children who would go on to become productive members of society.

For the excruciating schedule my Dad kept, I never heard him complain in front of my sister or me.  He resonated that it was a privilege to provide such opportunities for us.  It was something he was proud to do.

Many years later, after I graduated from college and moved north, I sat in my parent's kitchen and told them I had decided to switch careers.  I wanted to make a career out of my true passion.

I remember my Dad looking a bit deflated when I said this.  He wasn't on board with my decision right away.  Now, fully immersed in the life of a pastry cook, I can understand his sentiment.

Having attended culinary school and worked many years in the food world, my Dad knew exactly what I was getting myself into.  He could see the long hours, the low pay, the non-existent family life, the exhaustion - he could see everything I couldn't see.

What he couldn't see, and what I couldn't tell him at that moment, is that he was the reason I had such a passion for baking.  True, my mother had instilled recipes and the methodical execution of a dessert from before I could remember.

But my Dad opened up a whole different view of food and baking.  I can see my father in myself when I change a recipe, before I have even made it once.

When I taste a creation and immediately start thinking about how I will change it next time, something that drove my mother mad, I know I have my father to thank.

His passion for cooking, never measuring, always tweaking, taught me that if I understand the basics, I can always make a recipe my own.

He taught me to never accept a recipe or theory at face - to always question why a certain ingredient or method is used, to execute it myself, to improve upon history.

I now find myself in a difficult spot in my life and my career, likely a spot my father knew I would find myself in sooner or later.  When he visited last weekend, as we sipped coffee in a neighborhood shop, I asked him what I should do.

His advice was something that I imagine he repeated over and over to himself during the years he was working two jobs, or working so many hours that he was rarely home.

"Just keep going."

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.  I love you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

DSC_0279 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Although the part of my childhood I spent in Maine was not lengthy, my memory of these years is rich with food and desserts lovingly crafted by my family members.

One of my great-grandmothers, Louise, will be forever remembered by her infamous pies - a tender, flaky crust encasing some seasonal fruit, sweetened just perfectly with a bit of sugar.

As a little girl, I remember walking through the long airway between the garage and her kitchen, where numerous pies rested after just being plucked from the warm oven.  The dewy, summer Maine breeze danced with the strands of emerging steam as the pies cooled and the fruit thickened.

This gesture of kindness and welcoming continued when we visited my grandmother, who would always be sure my Dad had a freshly baked strawberry rhubarb pie awaiting him.

She would purchase the strawberries from a local farm stand, cut the long strands for rhubarb from her own garden and, with the help of a little flour, sugar and butter, create something that transported my Dad back to simpler times.

I never cared for the taste of rhubarb until this summer.  Although my love affair has been short-lived, yet thoroughly enjoyed these last few months, I have also come to love the addition of sweet strawberries to the tart stalks of rhubarb.

DSC_0387  © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

My Dad visited NYC this past weekend, a long two years since I moved here.  He doesn't care for the city too much.

Although I had fun trips planned, I decided a strawberry rhubarb pie would prove to be a good insurance piece.  After all, if he ended up hating all other parts of his time in the city, I figured he could fondly remember the taste of summer and his childhood in a slice of homemade pie.

Unlike my grandmother, I do not have tall stalks of rhubarb growing in my garden, so I relied on the friendly farmers at the Union Square farmer's market to assist my venture.

DSC_0392  © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

I carefully rolled out my pie crust, filled it with the cut strawberries and rhubarb, which I had allowed to mascerate in an equal amount of brown and granulated sugar.

A lattice top secured the fruit and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar provided a crunchy texture.

DSC_0249 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010 DSC_0257 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

DSC_0260 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

DSC_0264 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010 DSC_0272 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

DSC_0276 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

This time around, I think my Dad actually enjoyed parts of the city.

But, I suspect, it helped to sweeten him up with a piece of this pie before we hit the town.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mike's Birthday

DSC_0219 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Saturday was a pretty exciting day around here.  Not only was it the official end of Mike's endless studying for his exam, but it was also his birthday!

The not-so-exciting part of the day was that he actually had to take the exam.  All day.  On his birthday.

So we planned  an exciting evening - complete with friends, Red Bulls soccer and dinner and drinks at one of his favorite bars.

The only good part of Mike being hold-up in taking his exam all day was that I was able to assemble his birthday cake and party favors without him having any idea.

The theme of these treats was inspired by his (and my) favorite liquor: Maker's Mark.

We started off by enjoying my Chili Lime Tequila Popcorn at the Red Bulls game:

DSC_0222 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Later, after a late dinner, it was time for cake.  I wanted to create not only an extra special looking, but also tasting cake for the celebration.

The flavors I created were bourbon-orange chocolate cake with spiced vanilla buttercream.

IMAG0009 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010 DSC_0239 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

After everyone was sugared-up from the cake, I handed out the party favors, to thank everyone for coming out to celebrate the special day.

DSC_0219 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

A fun, relaxing evening with friends and surprise sweets.  I can't imagine a better way to kick-off a new year.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mummy's Banana Bread

DSC_0231 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

Growing up, we didn't have a whole lot of extra food lying around the house. This was not an indicator of deprivation in any form. Far from it.

But, with two little girls, money and time were tight. So, if the request for a certain item was not legibly written on my mother's grocery list before 9 AM Saturday morning, you were out of luck.

Every once and awhile, three bananas would magically appear on the kitchen counter. My father, sister and I would exchange silent glances to inquire whether the others had made the request for the fruit.

No, no and no. When the answer was negative all the way around, we knew what to do. Walk away and don't touch the bananas. Forget you saw them.

They, since not requested, were not for free consumption. The bright yellow fruit was to stay undisturbed, uneaten until brown flecks began to appear.

A day later, as the sugars continued to be released from within and the flecks had unified to form long bruises on the skin, they were ready.

Ready to be mashed into a beautiful loaf of banana bread.

DSC_0216 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010 DSC_0217

DSC_0222 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

I still love the smell of banana bread baking, the aroma released during its baking is both deliciously unmistakable and wholly comforting.

DSC_0240 © Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2010

To consume a fresh, warm slice from the oven is heavenly. Just add a good cup of coffee for the perfect breakfast.

Site Design By Designer Blogs