Tag Archives: pastry

Recipe: Easy Lahm bi Ajin (Lebanese Lamb Pizza)

5 Oct

In Arabic, lahm means “meat,” and ajin means dough or pastry. Many cultures pair meat with pastry, and while I like just about every iteration of that theme, this Lebanese version is one of my favorites. This recipe is slightly easier and quicker to make than some traditional versions because it uses a pita-bread base instead of one requiring home-made dough. These Lahm bi Ajin are pretty hearty, and go quite nicely with Tabouli or other salads.

lahm bi Ajin3
Lahm bi Ajin
Serves 4

1 lb. ground lamb
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. chilli flakes
1/3 c. tomato paste
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, or juice of 1/2 a small lemon
1/4 c. yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c. pine nuts (optional)
extra 2 tbsp. olive oil
4 medium-sized pitas, unopened
1 tbsp ea. fresh mint and parsley, or 1/2 tsp. dried mint and dried parsley

Preparation
1. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and cook the lamb until it is no longer pink, breaking it up as finely as possible. Remove the lamb from the pan, drain in a colander, and set aside.
2. Wipe the skillet, add the 3 tbsp. of olive oil, and when hot, add the onion and cook until translucent and slightly golden.
3. Add the garlic and spices, and cook for a few more minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the tomato paste and the pomegranate molasses/lemon juice; mix well to combine. Cook the lamb mixture for 5 minutes over low heat, mashing periodically with the back of a wooden spoon.
4. Turn off the heat, and add the yogurt to the lamb mixture in two batches, incorporating well after each batch. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the lamb mixture aside.
5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Take out one large (or two medium) rimmed baking sheets–to accommodate the four pitas.
6. Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet until they start to turn golden; remove from skillet.
7. To assemble: pour the extra 2 tbsp. olive oil into a very small bowl; brush the top of each unopened pita with the olive oil. Place the pitas on the baking sheet(s).
8. Divide the lamb mixture among the four pitas, patting it down and spreading it to the edge of each pita. Sprinkle each pita with the mint, parsley, and pine nuts, pressing the pine nuts into the lamb mixture. Drizzle the pitas with any remaining olive oil from the small bowl.
9. Bake in the oven until the edges of the pitas start to get crisp and the lamb topping begins to brown, about 15 minutes.
10. Eat immediately.

Recipe: Nutella Hazelnut Palmiers

19 Apr

By family decree, certain elements of our Easter Brunch can never be altered: the Breakfast Pizzas; the Pesto-Roasted Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Garlic with Pine Nuts; and the Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing. The ham comes and goes and the potatoes occasionally vary (Hashbrown Casserole has been a favorite for many years, but to the dismay of one of our sons, is being edged out this year by Country-Fried Potatoes with Bacon and Green Onions). Other dishes enter and exit as the urge strikes: this year, one of those “other” items will be Stuffed Mushrooms with Merguez Sausage and Spinach, which I realized I hadn’t made in a while.

The one area of Easter Brunch where more experimentation is allowed is the sweet section, which consists of 2-3 items chosen at whim. Today, I made these Nutella Hazelnut Palmiers while everyone was out hiking; I’ll need to hide them pretty soon, lest the returning teenagers and 20-somethings demolish them before tomorrow’s brunch. And before I “taste test” any more of them myself….

Palmiers

Nutella Hazelnut Palmiers
Makes about 30

1 (17.65 oz. ) pkg. puff pastry dough sheets, thawed
2 tbsp. raw sugar, divided in half
1 c. Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread), divided in half*
1/2 c. chopped hazelnuts, divided in half

Preparation

1. Lightly flour a clean, 12 x 12-inch spot on your counter. Sprinkle the spot with 1 tbsp. raw sugar.
2. The puff pastry dough package should contain two sheets. Unfold one of the sheets and place it on top of the  flour/sugar. Gently roll out the dough to the left and to the right until it is about 15-inches long (don’t worry about the width); you mostly want to embed the sugar into the underside of the dough.
3. Spread 1/2 c. Nutella onto the puff pastry sheet; sprinkle 1/4 c. chopped hazelnuts over the top.
4. Starting at the top long end, roll the dough toward you until you get to the middle of the pastry sheet. Now roll from the bottom end up to the middle. Bring the two rolls together, and place the log of dough seam-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
5. Repeat with the second puff pastry sheet. Sprinkle the counter with more flour and the remaining tbsp. of sugar, top with the second pastry sheet, and gently roll the dough out. Spread with the remaining Nutella and sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts on top; roll up as indicated in Step 4. Place the second log of dough on the baking sheet, too, and then put the baking sheet in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up the dough.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Working with one  log of dough at a time, place on a cutting board and slice into 3/4-inch thick slices (or as close as you can get) with a serrated knife. Lay the palmiers flat side down on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with ample room between palmiers since they will expand.  You will need multiple baking sheets, or will need to bake in batches.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or so, until the palmiers are golden. (Keep an eye on them; baking time will depend on the thickness of the palmiers.)
9. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
10. Enjoy!

* Can add up to 1/2 c. more Nutella ( 1/4 c. on each sheet) for sweeter but slightly messier palmiers.

Recipe: Dulce de Leche Pastry Cake (Torta Chilena)

26 Nov

When I was in college,  I sampled an exquisite confection that has forever remained seared on my memory: Torta Chilena. It was a cake with eight crispy layers filled with dulce de leche (caramelized sweet milk).  I immediately requested the recipe from the Costa Rican lady who made it, and it has since followed me across continents and years to be pulled out on special occasions.

Torta Chilena is a beloved Costa Rican dessert. So why, you may ask, is it called a “Chilean Cake”?  In Chile, a very similar dessert is called Torta Mil Hojas (“Thousand-Layer Cake”), which is itself a variation on the mille-feuille theme. But instead of being filled with custard, as the French versions are, the Latin American versions are filled with dulce de leche.  Latin Americans love dulce de leche, so it is a natural adaptation. I surmise that a Chilean with a fondness for sweets settled in Costa Rica, made the dessert to great acclaim, and helped start the national craze for Torta Chilena. However this cake originated, I am deeply grateful.

Note: One popular way to make dulce de leche is to cook unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water for 2-3 hours. The problem with this method is that the occasional can explodes. So, I’ve always preferred making it in the oven in a bain-marie (water bath, also known as a baño maría in Spanish).

Torta Chilena
[Updated 12-15-12]

Pastry
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
½ lb. butter (2 sticks)
¼ + 1/8 c. white wine

Dulce de Leche Filling
2 cans  sweetened condensed milk

powdered sugar

Preparation
1. Dulce de Leche filling: Heat oven to 425º. Spray a glass casserole dish with cooking spray, pour both cans of condensed milk into it, cover the dish, and then set it in a deep roasting pan filled with enough water to rise slightly above the level of the condensed milk in the casserole dish. Bake covered for about 3 hours until golden brown (stirring vigorously 2-3 times during the latter part of the cooking process to avoid lumps). Set aside. This is the dulce de leche; you can make it ahead of time, but if you are not using immediately, refrigerate it and bring to room temperature before using.

 

2. Pastry:  Put flour and sugar in a large bowl, cut in butter, then add ¼ c. wine, mix thoroughly, then add remaining 1/8 c. wine. Mix thoroughly. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface, shape into a log and cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Draw 9-inch circles on baking/parchment paper (I used a  plate and traced around it). Turn sheets of paper over so dough doesn’t come into contact with pen/pencil marks, then place 1 ball of dough in center of the circle, and use fingers to spread out to edges. Dough will be very thin.

3. Preheat oven to 300º.  Bake pastry circles until slightly golden (exact time will depend on your oven; start checking at about 8-10 minutes–the circles should look “cooked,” but not brown). When cool, very carefully remove each pastry circle from paper; circles will be wafer-like and fragile. Place a small dab of dulce de leche on a round platter, then gently position the first pastry circle on top. Press carefully to stabilize the circle on the platter, then spread with roughly 1/7 of the dulce de leche (doing so as lightly as possible). Put the next cooked pastry circle on top, spread with dulce de leche, and repeat with all the layers except the top one – sift powdered sugar on top of that one. Some layers may crack; press the pieces onto the dulce de leche base, and try to reserve the best layer for the top.
4. Enjoy.

*For another cake that features dulce de leche, see this recipe.