After a long hiatus (due to computer sickness, a hellish finals week, and Christmas festivities) Basta Pasta is back and better than ever. My computer isn’t totally revived, but I think it’s going to be up and running soon(ish). Nevertheless, I musta been a good girl this year because Santa brought a lot of kitchen goodies. I got three new knives, a whole mess of spices, no less than FOUR cookbooks (one by Padma the TopChef hottie about Indian cooking) and a wok! In the words of my four-year-old cousin upon opening a package of Spiderman undies, “Its just what I always wanted!”
So I’m coming back in style with TWO wonderful baked goods recipes: a poppy seed loaf and a decadent cranberry ginger chocolate tart. No pictures with these recipes unfortunately. But that’s a new years resolution: pictures with every Basta Pasta entry!! Food porn for everyone! Okay, now getting back to the issue…I gave my grandparents the poppy seed loaf as a Christmas gift. They like breakfast breads and my heating bill just arrived so it qualified as cheap Christmas gift. I ended up making 2 loaves, one for the grandparents and one for my family. I found the recipe in the Joy of Cooking cookbook and the loaves turned out okay. This bread needs to be eaten in the first 48 hours otherwise its hard as a rock and pretty much inedible. Any suggestions on how to lengthen the life of this bread are appreciated.
CHRISTMAS POPPY SEED LOAF
This recipe makes two loaves
7 cups all-purpose flour, sifted |||| 3/4 cup sugar |||| 1 tablespoon salt |||| 1 package active dry yeast |||| 1/2 cup shortening |||| 3 eggs |||| 2 cups poppy seeds |||| 1 cup honey |||| 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and the entire package of yeast. In a seperate bowl combine, 2 1/2 cups of hot water with shortening.
2. Gradually add the water to the dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer. Then add 1 beaten egg and another cup of flour. Beat for 1 more minute.
3. Add the additional 3 cups of flour to make the dough. It is easiest to combine all the ingredients with your hands at this point. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, for about 10 minutes. Then place the dough in a flour covered glass bowl and cover with a dry dish towel. Allow the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, grind the poppyseeds in between towels with a wooden mallet (or just buy already ground poppy seeds at the store). Then combine the poppy seeds with 1 egg, 1/3 cup honey, and lemon juice. You can add nuts or dried fruit to the poppy seed filling if you wish.
5. After the dough has been allowed to rise for 45 minutes, divide into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into an oval shape about 1/4 of an inch thick with a rolling pin. Put 1/2 of the poppy seed filling in the center of the dough.
6. The Joy of Cooking cookbook has an excellent illustration of the technique to give the loaf a braided effect. Essentially, cut the dough on the sides of the filling into 1 inch stripes. Then alternate folding the stripes over the top of the filling. Brush the top of the loaves with 1 egg white.
7. Transfer the loaves to a greased cookie sheet. Bake the loaves in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until the bread is a nice golden brown color.
Yay for holiday baking! I decided to make this Cranberry Ginger Choclate tart for dessert after a Christmas dinner of honey baked ham, sweet potatoes and broccoli…a humble but delicious holiday feast.
This tart was quite an ambitious project spanning over two days of preparation. I ended up having to make two crusts because I cracked the first one while taking it out of the oven. But the result was well worth the effort. The cheese filling is very light and not too sweet. The tartness of the cranberries is so refreshing after too many super sweet Christmas cookies. The crust was only okay. Even on the second try, my crust was too hard. I like a soft pastry-like crust on pies and tarts. This crust ended up like an Oreo cookie. I would make this again, but possibly with some adjustments to the crust.
Some of my family liked the ginger flavor and others would have preferred the tart better without it. Personally, I love candied ginger (especially when its dipped in chocolate) but my family members are not the most adventurous of eaters and this was just a little too much. There were little leftovers though, so no one was too offended.
CRANBERRY GINGER CHOCOLATE TART
Cranberry Topping: 1/2 cup cranberry juice |||| 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin |||| 1 12-oz bag of fresh cranberries |||| 3/4 cup sugar |||| juice of 1 lemon |||| 1 teaspoon lemon zest |||| 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root |||| 4 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
Crust: 1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs |||| 1/4 sugar |||| 6 tablespoons unsalted butter |||| pinch of salt
Filling: 1 8-oz container of mascarpone cheese |||| 1/2 cup powdered sugar |||| 1/2 cup whipping cream |||| 1 teaspoon vanilla extract |||| 2 tablespoons candied ginger
1. First make the cranberry topping because it needs to chill for at least 8 hours. Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice and gelatin into a small bowl. Let it stand while you make the rest of the cranberry topping.
2. Combine 1/4 cup cran juice, fresh cranberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and fresh ginger in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer until cranberries are plump but still tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Strain into a bowl and set cranberries aside. Stir gelatin mixture into the cranberry juice mixture until the gelatin dissolves. Then stir the cranberries back into the juice. Chill cranberry mixture for at least 8 hours (I chilled it overnight).
4. Next make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind about 3/4 of a package of chocolate wafers in a food processor to make crumbs.
5. Combine cookie crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Crumbs should feel moist when pressed together. You can add another tablespoon of butter if mixture is dry or doesn’t stick together.
6. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch greased tart pan with removable bottom.
7. Bake chocolate crust for about 15 minutes. Transfer tart pan to a rack and cool completely before adding the filling.
8. To make the mascarpone filling, use an electric mixer to beat all the ingredients together. Only beat the mixture for a minute because over mixing will cause the filling to curdle.
9. Spread filling on to the cooled crust. Then spoon the cranberry mixture over the filling. Chill for another 2-6 hours. Garnish with 4 tablespoons chopped candied ginger before serving.