Friday, July 23, 2010

Caramel Mascarpone Berry Tartlets

When I don't post anything on my "view" for awhile, it usually means that we have been busy at the B&B and all the myriad things that entails. That is exactly what is going on at the moment. Add in a bounty of fruit to make jams and put away for another day when you crack open a jar or thaw some nice nice plump berries and the summer comes rushing back like a warm breath of air. Lucky for us we have wonderful guests to pamper and look after and send them on their way, sometimes with a few extra grams or ounces to remember us by.
If you are like me you have been finding ways to beat the heat and make your time in the kitchen minimal and yet satisfyingly tasty. When these gorgeous "frutti di bosco" as they are called here or forest fruits practically jumped into my basket, I knew that minimal preparation would be the best way to taste the luscious sweetness these bedazzling jewels were offering and keep me from just plunking them on top of some creamy apricot sorbetto.  Fair enough. We have had enough hot weather after a cool wet start this season that the fruit has been stunning. Bring it on I say.
Hard to resist these beauties.
Red gooseberries, blackberries, blue berries and rose colored currants (to die for)

Rummaging around, it didn't take me long to marry up a few of my favorite standards in my kitchen's speedway to heaven, to turn out some tartlets that won accolades from my eaters and a request for the recipe. Writing up a recipe is usually the hardest part for me, naturally. I can be exacting when it comes to baking, but I can also be quite cavalier with throwing things together and hoping for the best.

These look pretty edible wouldn't you say?

The recipe is fairly loose and really up for your interpretation, so I'll tell you what I did and then you most definitely must have at it. Time's a wasting.

Summer Berry Tartlets  or 
Caramel Mascarpone Cream Berry Tartlets

Yields 8  (3-4" or 8 cm tartlets)

For the fruit

I used about 1/2 pt total fruit, maybe a bit more
I used blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, red gooseberries, rose currants and sweet cherry halves.
I think strawberry, peach, apricot and plum slices would be equally as delicious. Mix and match what you have or can find.
Wash your fruit and pat dry.

For the crust

  • 2 cups of crushed cookie/biscuit/biscotti , your choice. I used a Nibby Buckwheat cookie I had on hand
  • 1/4c (50g) melted unsalted butter
  • 2 T demerara sugar or coarse brown sugar or some sort of unrefined sugar

Mix all together in a bowl and press the mixture into  8 greased and  lightly floured, removable bottom tartlet pans
Make sure your base is completely covered and slightly up the sides of the pans. Better to have the bottom covered with crumbs than up the sides for ease of removing from the pan later.
Chill till firm before adding any of the other layers.

For the filling

Caramel layer
I had about 1 1/2 c (150g) caramel I had made previously. It was cold so easier to work with.

If you need a recipe to go by this one works well and will yield enough for all of these tarts.

  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 1/2c (100g) sugar
  • 1 c cream, heavy

Place you sugar and water in a heavy bottomed, tall sided pan and stir, just to start the sugar to dissolve. Place on low heat and stir occasionally till it dissolves.
Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and raise your heat to medium high. It will start to color and you may need to swirl the pan gently to distribute the color.
If needed you can wash the sides down with a pastry brush and just enough water to dissolve any crystals that might develop as you cook it. Go light on the water.
Cook until desired golden brown and remove from heat.
Add in your heavy cream all at once being careful as it will boil up. Hence the need for tall sided pan.
Cool until thickened and not too runny or too thick to spread. You can restir if necessary.

Mascarpone layer

1-8 or 12 oz (250g) carton of mascarpone cream  I'm not sure what sizes it comes in in the states
2 T unrefined sugar. blond cane sugar or regular
2 T amaretto or liqueur of your choice and to taste
2 T heavy cream

Turn the cream into a roomy mixing bowl and whisk it a bit.
Add the sugar, whisk
Add  some the cream and Amaretto to get a spreadable consistency, but not too thin that it won't hold the fruit in place when spread on the tartlets. Adjust amounts of cream and amaretto to reach the right consistency. I use a hand whisk so I am careful not to over whisk it and get a runny mess. I find that sometimes different brands and quality of mascarpone will give different results. Some brands get quite watery quickly, so keep that in mind when you are whisking away.

To assemble

Remove your chilled tartlet, spread a layer of the caramel over all of the bottoms and chill again. I find a quick trip to the freezer for about 10 minutes is optimum for my technique.
Once the  caramel is set in place then remove from freezer and evenly distribute the cream amongst the tartlets and smooth out evenly.
Place your fruit on top slightly pressing the fruit into the cream.
I then chill the tarts for at least an hour before serving, although they will hold longer in the refrigerator.
As long as you are using uncut fruit it wouldn't be necessary to glaze your fruit. If however you are using cut fruit like strawberries and soft stone fruits, then you might thin some apricot or currant jam (ha ha have fun easily finding that in the US) with a table spoon or two of brandy , slightly heating it up and brush the cut fruit with the thinned jam mixture to keep the fruit from turning brown. Chill before serving.

Remove the tartlets from their pans and serve with a light sparkling moscato or fruit juice spritzer for a summer time treat.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Hike up Kilimanjaro-Four Women's Adventure for two Causes

 Yes, I' m going off topic today.
While I'm talking about hikes, I wanted to make sure to put a plug in for my childhood friends Lori Harper Melchi and Nancy Farnestock along with 2 of their friends who are joining in on Adventure to Kili, or  Mt Kilimanjaro. I recently reconnected with them on Facebook and have been excited to learn about their commitment to their 2 causes that will help propel them up this magnificent mountain. Lori's raising money for the American Cancer Society and Nancy is raising money for AAAF (Al Anin Animal Friends).  You can read more about their stories below in the links I've provided.
 Photo of Kilimanjaro courtesy of Climbing Kilimanjaro and Tanzania Safari

These ladies are childhood friends that I have recently reconnected with through the wonderful social media of Facebook. I probably haven't seen either of them since I moved away when I was a high school sophomore from our little burg, Lawrenceville, Illinois. The years have passed, but it's wonderful to reconnect in a new way so many years later as I have been doing with other friends and family along the way. Who knew the internet would turn out this way? Certainly not those of us that didn't grow up computers being a part of our lives. Computer class would have been so much more interesting than Typing 1. Anyway,  I was intrigued and delighted to discover their joint adventure, coming up at last, this Sunday, July 11, 2010. They have been training and fund raising to support their causes to make this challenge more special and meaningful.  You can follow along on their adventure at Lori & Nancy's Climb on Facebook here. They have a phone donated by Verizon that promises to post photos along their adventure and they will giving updates along the way.
You can read about Lori's Team Climber here. Lori's individual page about what brought her to this decision and motivates her to make her Kilimanjaro Climb for a Cancer Cure is here.  Nancy is joining in from the United Arab Emirates, and dedicating her climb to  AAAF (Al Anin Animal Friends), to raise awareness of the plight of the many abandoned animals and to help raise funds to save these animals in the middle east.These ladies deserve a round of applause and a donation to their respective causes if you can help. I'm sure that even if you find this article as the climb is happening or even after, all donations will not only be gratefully accepted, they will be humbly appreciated!
Cancer is a disease that touches most all of our lives in some dreaded form or fashion through personal experience with friends and loved ones over the years,  and I am no exception. Fabrizio and I have dedicated our donation to the cure for Cancer to the memory of his Zia Viola Roncaglia, victim of ovarian cancer and to my father Gerald Gulley, who was stalked most of his adult life by various forms of cancer, ultimately succumbing to bone cancer much too young at the age of 63. Unfortunately, his nephew and my cousin, Brent Hamilton fought a long battle with Hodgkins disease that took him as a very young man and now is a disease that is usually not fatal. We have other stories of survivors in my family and circle of friends and for them we are truly grateful. Joyful. Delighted.  There is progress in the fight of this disease and so our donations will help researchers make progress and find cures. Please, if you feel moved to donate to these causes, don't hesitate to do so and follow along on their journey, Fabrizio and I will certainly be doing so.
 Gerald & Dora Ada Gulley 
40th Wedding Anniversary

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Hike to Bourcet in Upper Chisone Valley

Getting up into the higher mountains is always a thrill for me. The anticipation, the fresh mountain air, the wildflowers, the discoveries along the path, the views and the sense of accomplishment are some of the aspects of a days outing with my boots and buddies that satisfies my soul.
It might seem odd to you, that it would be such a thrill for me, seeing that I already live in the mountains, but naturally it is my own back yard and you know what they say about familiarity?
I love the mountains and even though I do live in the mountains, I love nothing more than getting out and up into them. The anticipation of a new walk in the woods when pull on my well worn boots and fill the water bottles up, brings a lilt to my step and a smile to my face.
It all feels so good, the jaunt in ones step that lasts just until the heat sets in, in earnest, and the water bottle's refreshing liquid has lost it's cool refreshing ways and the novelty of this new hike begins to wear a little thin.  The realization sets in that the spring in your step has done sprung, about the time that it dawns on you, that for the past hour you have been trudging up the lovely, but very wrong hillside from  which you were wanting to arrive, oh my....



When you finally see the much anticipated church just up above your head and although it is indeed a welcome sight, even if it undoubtedly just a hair further up the hill than what you were hoping for, it is a welcome sight. And you trudge on knowing there is a reward at the top, a small mountain festival is going on. There will be libations and sustenance.
 And there was.
And the water flowing straight from the source will and does, taste soooooooo incredibly good.
There will be happy hikers.
And there was.
And I highly recommend doing it again.
Especially if there is a chance to guess the weight of the pig and take him home with you. 
You just never know what kind of opportunity awaits you, hiking in the alps.
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