Monday, March 7, 2011

Weekend brunch and a trip to a Korean store

Top: Gateau Basque, homemade granola, vanilla yogurt
Bottom: Winter fruit salad, green bean-tomato salad, ricotta tart
Not pictured: Bagels and cream cheese, mimosas/ bellinis
I love an American-style brunch on weekends. It's always the most relaxed meal, one you can linger over as long as you like, sipping mimosas, nibbling on food from time to time, with all the time in the world to catch up properly with friends. Best of all, it's easy to put together a luxurious brunch with relatively little cooking! When entertaining, I like to do things ahead as far as possible to be able to completely relax when my guests arrive. I chose a winter fruit salad that has to be made the day ahead, and for dessert we had a Gateau Basque, a confection which tastes like a cross between a cake and a giant cookie, which also tastes better the day after it is made. So all that I had to do the morning of was to bake my savory tart, toss a salad and buy fresh-baked bagels from the store. The only extra bit was making my own granola, hardly necessary since you can buy excellent ones in many gourmet or health food stores. However, I have had my eye on this Nigella recipe for a while now, intrigued by the mix of sweeteners and also the unusual use of applesauce, so this was the perfect excuse to try it. (And I have a whole jar now! Yippee!) The granola turned out very tasty, though next time I may reduce the nuts to two cups and use a mix of pecans and almonds.

Gateau Basque, cherry preserves filled in a cake-like cookie crust

My Saturday brunch this past weekend was extra special because a friend who came over later took me grocery shopping in a Korean store. Now, I love Korean food, but have never attempted to cook it before. I even have a store near me that sells a number of Korean products, but unfortunately the packages are all in Korean, leaving me wondering if they are safe to buy for vegetarians or not. It was great to get a guided tour from someone in the know, and I came back happily armed with rice sticks, Korean red pepper paste, kimchi and three different kinds of mushrooms! I'm excited to expand my culinary repertoire some more.

Spoils from my trip to the Korean store
Recipe: Gateau Basque
Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
Crust: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (I used Bob's Red Mill almond flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Filling: 1 cup good-quality cherry preserves (Raspberry might be nice too)
3 tsp brandy
Egg wash: 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp whole milk
To make the dough, put all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse till combined. Add the butter and process till it is in small pieces. Add the egg, yolk and extracts and pulse till the dough comes together in a ball. Divide it into two pieces, one larger than the other, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
To make the filling, stir together the preserves and the brandy.
Preheat the oven to 350F(180C). Butter and flour a 9" springform pan. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a 10" circle between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap. Line the pan with this circle of dough, then spread the filling in the center, leaving a 1" border. Similarly, roll out the smaller circle of dough into a 9" circle and place it on top of the filling. Press the edges to seal, then brush the top of the cake liberally with the egg wash and run a fork diagonally across to create a criss-cross hatch pattern. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until the top is deep golden brown. Cool completely before serving.

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