Results tagged almond paste from David Lebovitz

Apricot and Cherry Tart with Marzipan Topping

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart_-7

I once told a crowd that I was preparing a dessert for, that I don’t like sweet things. I didn’t realize it would get such a big laugh – so I guess I should have worked on the delivery of that line a little bit beforehand. But I had to explain that I like things on the tangy and tart side, which is what happens to fresh apricots when baked. While they are great fresh, when cooked, the flesh takes on the puckery characteristics of the skin, which is my favorite part of the fruit (hmm, maybe there’s a market for apricot skins?) – and makes them even more spectacular-tasting in pies and tarts.

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart recipe

While apricots are in season right now here in France, I’m doing my best to use as many of them as possible; skin, flesh, and even the kernels. But I’m not the only one. I had a lovely apricot tart at Chambelland (gluten-free bakery) recently, a treat from the baker, who wanted to know what I thought of it. It was great – and honestly, better than many of the regular apricot tarts around town.

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart recipe-3

When I was got up to leave, and he asked me my thoughts, I was reaching to think of other things to do to an apricot tart, since we Americans like to do whatever we can to dial things up, adding flavors and textures to a dish, whereas the French seem to like things more singular, and are happy to have a pristine, little apricot tart, just as is.

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart recipe-2

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Modica (Sicily)

Cannoli

The good news about my trip to Sicily is that it wasn’t all eating almond cookies and cannoli, looking for parking spaces in Palermo (and paying one of the fellows lurking about to keep an eye on the car), gorging on fresh ricotta, and wiping and everything you possible can in generous drizzles of the amazing olive oil produced there.

There was “pasta” – made from almond paste, a plate that’d fool even those with sharper eyes than I. We had the aforementioned spleen sandwiches, which I was relieved to hear were not made from pancreas, and we ate salumi (charcuterie) because it was so good that it would have felt like a crime not to. (And I didn’t want to get into trouble in Sicily, if you know what I mean.) Since I only had one week on the island – two days of which were travel days, and two other days were dedicated to work that landed in my Inbox right before the trip – we managed to make the time for a quick trip to Modica.

Sicily pictures-76

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Djerba

Tunisian yogurt

The sky in North Africa isn’t clear blue. It’s subdued and hazy. One might say it’s laiteuse; blue with a touch of milk, or yogurt. Unlike the beaches of the Pacific, you’re not stunned by the sky as much as you are aware that it’s relentlessly bearing down on you. The heat can be intense and unlike Paris, where folks scramble to sit in any patch of sunshine that they can find even during the unfiltered heat of summer, in Tunisia, one is always fleeing the heat.

Tunisian crêpe creme caramel

Often that will mean resting in a café sipping a glass of fresh orange juice, or maybe taking a dip in the ocean, or refreshing with a glass of iced wine, all of which I can personally attest to as being equally effective means of beating the heat of Africa.

camel Tunisian door

During my visit to Djerba, a Tunisian island just off the North African coast, come afternoon, when the sun bore down fully on the island, I often found places completely desolate.

Shops roll down shutters and people retreat indoors. Or in my case, head to the beach, where I found myself under an umbrella with a good book, often nodding off while the gentle surf provided the soundtrack for a good snooze.

place d'algerie

It never occurred to me to go to Tunisia and most of the people I met there were confounded to meet a real American. It’s likely because there aren’t many flights from the states, and Morocco is the country in North Africa that most North Americans land in. I toured Morocco a few years ago, which was fascinating (especially Fez, which I’d love to go back to) but the constant harassing by local touts, affixing themselves to your side the minute you stepped out of your hotel, using every possible means of persuasion to get you to buy something you didn’t want (fake old coins, cheaply dyed carpets, etc), got old quickly.

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Almond Cake

almond cake

Seeing as I don’t get out as much as I’d like to, I’ve never really thought about what would be my “desert island” cake. Or should I say “dessert island” cake? As in, what is the one cake that I would want with me if I couldn’t have any other kind. Chocolate figures largely into the equation, but as much as I love Chocolate Orbit Cake or a custard-filled Coconut Cake, I’d have to say that this Almond Cake would be the one that I would choose to sustain me through thick and thin.

We made almond cake at least once weekly when I baked at Chez Panisse, which I’ve adapted from one of my baking bibles, Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere. Lindsey was the executive pastry chef of the restaurant, and co-owner, since the beginning, and she told me she used cook and bake everything in a home oven stowed away in a shed behind the restaurant, which is those days, was akin to the backyard in Berkeley. I always imagine something like a kid’s rickety fort, except one that smelled a little better.

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French Pear & Almond Tart Recipe

french pear tart with cherries

I’ve been living in France for almost eight years and in all that time, I’ve yet to make even one of these classic French pear tarts. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a bakery that didn’t have wedges of this tart in little paper footings, ready to take out and be consumed right away. So I guess because I could always buy one, why make it? But since I had a kilo of almond paste that I bought for another project, a batch of poached pears on hand, and an unbaked tart shell waiting it’s turn in my freezer, I decided to give one a go.

This is a wonderful tart: pears fanned out in a golden-brown, buttery pastry shell that’s been spread with almond cream, then baked. And after I pulled this one out of the oven, I realized why it’s important to make this yourself; because it tastes amazing when still-warm from the oven, and you can use your own poached pears so you can vary the spices to your taste. (However you can use canned pear halves, which many of the French pastry shops do.)

Aside from the almond paste, I also had a jar of quick-candied sour cherries on hand from another baking project (if it seems like I have a lot of baking odds and ends on hand, welcome to my world…), so I used them as well, which is something I haven’t seen in any French bakery. I’m thinking of suggesting they use them on my next visit.

poached pears peartartb&w

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