Spinach & Feta Tartlets

By the time Friday evening rolls around, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking another meal. Usually I’m tired, lately it’s been hot, and half of the time the little Bundlet is at her dad’s. Mr. Bundt rolls in around 8pm (if he’s early) and around 10pm (if he’s late). So I often end up eating alone and heating up his dinner when he gets home. Usually I have a frozen casserole or one-dish-dinner of some sort I can pop in the oven while I catch up on the news or take a quick nap. But I’ve had these tartlets on my radar for some time now and thought it would be a great, easy Friday night dinner. Of course, you could have them for lunch, they’d be great with a little salad. I would even eat them for a savory breakfast.

We have a little pastry shop in town that has stuffed croissants, one of my favorites is spinach and feta (my other favorite is chocolate stuffed, sooo good) and these are similar to those, also simpler than making your own croissants which could literally take days.

Spinach & Feta Tartlets

adapted from a recipe from Sweet Paul

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a pan.

Fry the shallots until soft. I used the mandolin to get thin slices. If you have one, great, use it and watch your fingers. If not, a sharp knife will work just fine.

Add the spinach a little at a time, letting it wilt, stirring the wilted spinach to the top and moving the firm leaves toward the heat.

This is what the wilted spinach and shallots will look like when they’re done.

Mix the feta, eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

Then add the wilted spinach mixture. Mix well.

I have little tart pans (Wilton brand, from Walmart). I’m sure you could make one large tart if you have a regular tart pan. You could probably also make these pouches sans pans too. Just make sure to wrap them up well so the tops don’t pop open and leak.

Brush four small tart pans with butter and layer them with phyllo. Brush phyllo with butter between each layer, use 4-5 layers. Make sure you keep the phyllo covered with a wet towel while you’re working. It will be a hot mess if you don’t. Also, if it tears, don’t sweat it. By the time you finish piling the extra dough on top no one will ever know. I swear. And if you’re thinking about making your own phyllo, may the force be with you, you’ve obviously got a sadistic streak. Even I wouldn’t touch that job with a ten-foot-spatula.

Here’s something I learned after my first tart. I was working with giganto sized phyllo sheets. For the first tart I ended up with a lot more phyllo than I thought would taste good. For the three ensuing tarts, I folded each phyllo sheet in half, brushed with butter and it worked wonderfully.

Spoon 1/4 of the spinach and egg mixture in to each of the tarts.

Fold the edges of the phyllo over the filling.

See? Cute! Repeat with the remaining tarts. Make sure to brush the tops with butter.

See the giganto tart? I told Mr. Bundt I made that one for him, special. Men will believe anything. Really.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the phyllo is crispy and golden brown.

Sorry for the lowlight [food] porn looking photos. It was late, I was tired. See paragraph one.

These are so quick and easy! I think they’d be perfect with a nice piece of salmon and a small salad. They would also be beautiful for a shower or luncheon!

The filling is no nice! The salty feta with the earthy spinach is a wonderful combination. I hope you’ll give it a try!

What do you like to cook on a lazy night? Do you have any go-to simple dinners?

Spring Food: Asparagus Tart with Ricotta

It’s spring here, but it’s definitely felt like summer. I refuse to turn on the air conditioning in March, so it’s been pretty steamy here in the evenings. By that time the house has heated up to the point where I don’t feel like cooking anything. What do you do when this happens? I’ll confess that we’ve had some cereal/sandwich dinners, but I really try to limit those. In the summer I’d serve a “cold supper”, mostly vegetables, but it’s spring, there aren’t really any vegetables in season. So I turned to a light tart. You can make this in the morning before things heat up. Eat it at room temperature, or cool it in the fridge and microwave yourself a slice in the evening. It would also be great on your Easter buffet!

This tart comes from the wonderful Sweet Paul, Spring 2012 edition. Paul is a person, but it’s also the name of his beautiful e-magazine. It’s amazing! Take a minute to check out Paul on his blog or the magazine. This recipe and many others can be found there. But it’s not just about the food. There’s a lot of other stuff too. And it’s just beautiful to look at, I can’t overstate that!

Asparagus Tart with Ricotta

Recipe courtesy of Sweet Paul Magazine, Spring 2012

  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 2-3 T cold water
  • 1 lg egg
  • 7 oz ricotta (I used part skim)
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed

This crust is so good! And easy to make. It calls for salted butter, which I normally don’t use. If you don’t have any, toss a bit of salt into your flour mixture. This tart is not meant to be fussy, it’s fine if it’s a little rustic. That’s code for “not perfect.”

Put the flour in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and add the butter to the flour.

Quickly work the butter into the flour using your hands. I use a snapping motion with my fingers to work in the butter. You can use a pastry cutter if you like, but clean fingers are God’s gift to cooks, use them.

You’re looking for a grainy or mealy texture. It doesn’t have to be consistent. You want some little butter globs in the dough. These melt in the oven and release steam which makes the crust light and flaky. And in case you think you don’t learn something every day, there you go, a bit of chemistry.

Add the water one tablespoon at a time and work the dough together quickly. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. My tart pan is nine inches, so I used the nine inch guide to roll out my crust. I also keep a metal ruler (dishwasher safe) in the kitchen to help me get my measurements correct. But this pastry mat is invaluable. Here’s a link to a bunch of different kinds if you want to check them out.

See? Not perfect. No sweat. Use the guides on the mat to cut the circle, or use the tart pan to cut the circle. Or, you can do what I do and just make the pan accommodate the dough. It depends on how perfect you want to be. It will all taste the same, I assure you.

Do you know this trick? To move the dough I roll it around my rolling pin and lay it gently in the pan. It’s easier than folding it or trying to drag it up over the lip of the tart pan. But you do it your way.

Place the dough in the tart pan and press to fit. Prick the bottom with a fork and put the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill it with beans or pie weights. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, remove from the oven, take out the foil and beans, then cool a bit. Turn down the oven to 350 degrees.

This method is called blind baking. See, again with the knowledge!

In a bowl, beat together the egg, ricotta, cream, milk, salt, and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the tart and nestle the asparagus spears on top. Scooch a few into the edges if your pan is round like mine. Put the filled shell back on the baking sheet and bake another 20 minutes (mine took closer to 30) until golden and set in the middle.

Serve hot or cold.

This was such a great supper! I hope you’ll give it a try! I also hope you’ll check out my Facebook page for other links and info!

What do you cook when it’s too hot to cook? Anything you crave when the weather gets warm? For me it’s Mexican and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Weird, huh?

Working Lunch Part Two: Lemon Almond Tart

Lunch is one of my three favorite meals of the day. Sadly, I usually eat lunch standing at the kitchen counter wolfing down some leftovers. But still, there are worse things. I was delighted to make this working lunch and even more excited to eat it. There will be some posts forthcoming with recipes from the amazing Sweet Paul Magazine, Spring 2012, which if you’re not reading, you totally should be. The food is great but the magazine itself is a work of art! Today’s recipe is from that magazine and is the dessert from the working lunch, Lemon Almond Tart. And it’s soooooooo good! It would be perfect for your Easter table!

Don’t be intimidated by the lemon curd. This recipe makes it simple, just follow the instructions.

Lemon Almond Tart

Recipe courtesy of Sweet Paul Magazine, Spring 2012

Dough:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 1⁄2 cups plain flour
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1 1⁄4 sticks salted butter, cold and in pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Filling:

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1⁄2 cup lemon juice
  • 3⁄4 stick salted butter, cold and in pieces

candied lemon, optional

Place almond meal, flour, and sugar in a bowl and mix. Add the butter and work it into the flour with your fingers. The result should be grainy. Add egg and lemon zest and quickly work the dough together. If it seems dry, just add a few tablespoons of ice water. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour. After an hour, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Take out the dough and roll it out to a thin crust. Place in a greased pie tin or tart dish. Use a fork to prick the bottom. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Place over a hot water bath and add zest, lemon juice, and butter. Beat mixture until it becomes thick and creamy. Pour into the pie crust and cool until serving.

Decorate with candied lemons if desired.

I had never worked with almond meal before, but it’s pretty tasty and gluten free! Once you add the cold butter (note that it’s salted) work it into the dry ingredients by snapping it with your fingers. Use this snapping motion to break down the butter and integrate it into the dry mix. I added about two tablespoons of ice water to get my dough to come together. It’s not the easiest dough to work, but it is forgiving so don’t stress.

Pat it together in a nice disk, wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge. After at least an hour, roll the dough out on a floured surface. I made my circle about nine inches because my tart pan is nine inches. This left me some dough which I cut into strips, baked off, and served as an afternoon snack. Very lemony and very yummy!

Many pies and tarts (quiches, too!) call for blind baking the shell. It’s simple. Line the shell with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. You won’t want to used these beans after they’ve been baked, so store them in an airtight container for the next time you need them. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until shell is stable and starts to brown. Remove the shell from the oven and take out the beans and foil. If your crust looks a little anemic (read: pale) stick it back in for another 3-4 minutes. The tart will not be baked so the shell needs to be cooked through.

Once the shell is done, set it aside to cool on a rack and begin the curd.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering (not boiling!) water and add the zest, lemon juice, and butter. Stir, stir, and stir some more. The curd will thicken and darken slightly to a more rich yellow color. Once the curd has thickened, pour it into the tart shell.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. That’s it! Super simple and perfect for spring!

For our working lunch, I set the tart on the side table. I served it like this!

It has a nice tang to it, not super sweet. You could also serve it with a mint sprig or some homemade whipped cream. Either would be lovely!

What do you like to serve for spring? Do you have a favorite Easter dessert?

Babka or Bust!

When I saw this Babka recipe in my Cook’s Country magazine I was sitting at piano lessons. But that didn’t stop me from lusting after it. I LUUUUUV bread. All bread. Any bread. Rolls, muffins, loaves, whatever. I have rarely met a bread that I wouldn’t gladly give up vegetables for. And this sweet, cinnamony bread is no different. So the next day, I whipped up my first babka. And it’s GOOOOOD. It was good warm out of the oven, it’s good cold, and it’s good made into toast. I haven’t tried it (yet) but I bet it’ll be good as french toast, if it lasts that long.

One word of caution, and this is for bread in general, not just this babka. Successful yeast dough relies upon blooming the yeast properly. That means that you need the right temperature liquid. Don’t guess, take the temperature of the liquid. This recipe calls for you to do that, many do not. Checking the temperature will ensure much more reliable results.

Babke

Recipe courtesy of Cook’s Country 

Filling

  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg white (reserve the yolk for the dough)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Dough

  • 1/2 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
  • 2 large egg yolks plus 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

I love to bake. The smell of bread or cookies baking in the oven is my favorite. It warms up the house on a cold day and it puts a smile on the face of anyone who comes in your door!

Ingredients for Babka

For the filling, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Reserve one tablespoon of filling.

Mix filling

For the dough, heat the oven to 200 degrees, when it reaches temperature, turn it off. Whisk together the milk, egg yolks, and vanilla. I separate the eggs using the shell and two small bowls. You can use a fancy egg separator if you have one, but here’s s tip. Shell bits are attracted to the shell from which they came. So, if you should drop a piece of shell in by accident, you can fish it out using the larger piece of shell it came from. Who knew, right? See? Science is good for something.

Separate your eggs

Using a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, mix flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed. You’ll notice that I weigh my flour instead of measuring it in a cup. I find that this yields much better results with my baking. It’s also convenient to have a scale to weigh other foods. If you don’t have a scale, don’t fret. Fluff your flour before spooning it lightly into the measuring cup for best results.

Measure the flour

Once dry ingredients are combined, add the milk mixture slowly and mix until the dough comes together. This should take about three minutes. Set a timer if you need to.

Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. This should take about a minute.

Continue to mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth, about 10-12 minutes.

Dough in the greased bowl

Grease a large bowl, transfer dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in your turned-off oven. After about an hour, dough will have risen slightly. Remove from the oven and place in the fridge about an hour, or until dough is about doubled in size and is firm.

Reheat your oven to 200 degrees (again). When it reaches temperature, turn it off (again).

Punch down the risen dough on a lightly floured board or counter. I like to square mine up after punching it down.

Punched down dough on lightly floured counter

Roll out the dough to a 20×14 inch rectangle. I use a ruler to make sure I’m close to the measurements.

Roll out the dough

Spread the filling onto the dough leaving a 1/2 inch margin all the way around.

Spread the filling onto the dough

Start with the short side and roll up the dough into a cylinder. Pinch along the seam to seal. Put the cylinder seam side up and roll back and forth until the length of the dough roll reaches 18 inches.

Dough cylinder

Spread the reserved tablespoon of filling over the top of the cylinder. Fold the dough in half on top of itself and pinch the ends to seal.

Spread the reserved filling onto the dough

Then, gently twist the cylinder twice as if you’re forming a double figure eight.

Twice twisted babka

All this rolling, folding, and twisting is what gives the babka those yummy nooks and crannies for the cinnamon and sugar filing to get into!

Place your babka, seam side down, in a loaf pan lined with parchment. Let the extra hang over the edges, these will be handles later and it will help you remove the dough from the pan. The parchment also keeps the babka from sticking to the pan should any sugary stuff leak out. Cover with plastic wrap.

Put your babka in the pan lined with parchment

Put the bread, covered in plastic, in the turned-off oven until doubled in size, about one hour. Once the dough has risen, take the babka out of the oven and remove the plastic wrap. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat one whole egg lightly. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg.

Bake about 45 minutes or until the loaf is a deep golden brown (about 190 degrees). Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, them remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely (if you can stand to wait!) about two hours.

Babka!

This babka is so beautiful inside and out! It’s wonderful with a cup of tea for breakfast or an afternoon snack!

What do you like to bake? Do you have a favorite baked good? Or a favorite memory of baking?

I Like Big Bundts and I Cannot Lie: Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

You other brothers can’t deny, That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist, And a round thing in your face . . . oh, sorry, it had to be done. Apologies to Sir Mix-a-Lot. But he does. And I do. In fact, I’m so in love with this particular bundt cake that I’ve made it three times since Christmas. And the spellchecker keeps changing bundt to burnt. So if I say burnt cake at some point, know I mean bundt. No one likes a burnt cake.

This is the perfect cake to go with an afternoon cup of tea or coffee, or a light midnight snack! It makes a generous sized bundt so you can take half to a friend, neighbor, or hairdresser.

Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

Serves 18. Calories 249, Fat, 8.7g

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

  • 13 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups) plus several tablespoons for flouring the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened + extra for greasing the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind

Gather the ingredients

Combine 1c sweetened , dried cranberries and 1/2 c fresh squeezed orange juice in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 1 minute, let stand for 10.

Microwave the orange juice and dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large bundt pan with softened butter. Heavily. Generously. Thickly. Make sure to get into every crack and crevice. When you think you have enough butter on there, put on a little more. Generosity in this step will ensure an easy release later. I use cheap paint brushes for tasks like these then pop them in the dishwasher. Don’t have a brush? Use a knob of butter and a paper towel. After you’ve buttered, dump a tablespoon or two of flour in the pan and shake it around. Coat every buttered surface. Do this over the sink and you can tap out the excess. See? Looks like snow.

Generously grease your bundt panDon't miss a spot!

Weigh your flour or lightly spoon it into measuring cups. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Weigh your flour

In a bowl, mix granulated sugar, and 12 tablespoons of butter on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Mix the sugar and butter on medium speedAdd the eggs one at a time

Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Beat in the vanillaMix in flour mixture alternately with buttermilkAlternately with buttermilk

Fold the cranberry mixture into the batter. Notice that I’ve given up the mixer for a soft spatula. Folding is simply using the motion of a J (Go ahead, draw a J in the air in front of you, get the idea?) to carefully incorporate the ingredients.

Fold cranberry mixture into the batter

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, but start checking for doneness at 30 minutes. It’s also nice if you can rotate your pan halfway through cooking. Most ovens have hot spots and this will keep your cake cooking evenly.

Pour the batter into the prepared panSmooth the top

Once the cake is done, cool on a wire rack for five minutes, then turn the rack over onto the top of the bundt pan and flip to release cake onto rack and continue to cool. Do not pull a Mr. Bundt and pick the pan up and beat it against the rack. This will not get you a pretty cake. I am not making this up.

Now for the best part! Glaze!

Zest your orange. I use the same orange that I used for juice. No reason to waste any. Do not zest your fingers. Trust me. It will not add to the flavor. Also, don’t zest into the white part of the peel called the pith. It’s bitter and also won’t add to the flavor.

Zest your orange

Combine the powdered sugar, 1/4c fresh orange juice, 1T melted butter, and orange rind. Stir until smooth. Glaze will be loose.

Add the juiceAdd powdered sugarMix until smooth

Now, here’s what I think. And since I’ve made this cake three times I’m an expert so listen up. This glaze is GOOOOOOD. You could just pour it over the warm cake, let it run off, and eat. But that seems to be a waste to me. You can see from the photos that I put a sheet of Cut-rite in the bottom of a sheet pan, sat the rack with the cake on top, and poured on my glaze. This catches the excess glaze but it also keep you from sticking your tongue in there and lapping up the glaze like a crazy person. Not that I’d know anything about that. Then, as the glaze ran off and cooled, I scooped it up with my spatula and poured it over again and again until I had coated the entire cake and used up almost all the glaze. Much messier and a little more time-consuming, but SO worth it.

Icing the cake

Either way, it’s a beautiful, light cake.

Beautiful bundt!

Any foods you’re addicted to lately? What’s your favorite snack cake? Is there a food that helps you get through winter?