Jackfruit, guava jam!

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I live in the Pacific Northwest, very near to Seattle.  Jackfruit is NOT common to the area. In fact, I had never heard of, much less tasted, a jackfruit.  Here’s how it happened that I did.  A lady I work with is from the Phillipines and has travelled throughout Asia and other places.  She knows my love of food and has made me homemade Lumpia (a Phillipine version of eggroll) and shumai.  She is always asking me if I’ve tried this or that.  The other day she asked if I had tried jackfruit.  No, not me, never heard of it.  Well off we went to a local, small Asian market owned by a friend of hers who had just gotten some jackfruit flown in from somewhere.  After they chatted back and forth and I was shown various large, prickly looking fruit, I dazedly walked out with a huge, over 20 pound fruit!  My British friend said it looked like a hedgehog and that description fits!  This is what they look like…

Close up view

Well, now what? I had no idea what I was getting into.  Luckily she told me that I should put vegetable oil on my hands when I cut it open because it was sticky. What an understatement!  I’m so glad I actually followed instructions this time because there is a sticky sap inside.  You could use it as glue I’m sure.  Anyway, it’s quite a procedure.  The skin is actually not tough and the knife goes through just fine, but there is a woody center that takes some getting through.  Then the actual fruits are like little flower buds with a large seed inside and the buds are surrounded with white pithy stuff that is inedible.  So you cut through all this and pull out the sections of fruit. I would say this one had around 50 fruit buds in it? Maybe more.  I don’t know if I got a good picture of the fruit buds so I’m going to use an online picture, sorry.  It’s just such an unusual fruit! You have to see it!  I’m submitting this to the Things My Belly Likes blog to her Creative Kitchen Challenge.  She has challenged everyone to be courageous and cook with some ingredient you’ve never used before, something you might be afraid of trying!

Here’s a picture I found online from a Thai website, that shows what the fruits look like once you’ve gone through hours and hours getting them out!  (Not really but it sounds so dramatic).

So what does it taste like you might ask?  Such a strange combination of flavors….I could taste pineapple, mango, cantalope and possibly a touch of banana.  Everyone who tried it mentioned a different fruit.  Someone even said papaya.  Now the texture is a bit rubbery and some people couldn’t get past it.  To me the texture was similar to a lychee which is one of my favorite fruits so I didn’t have a problem.  What I did think would be a problem was how much fruit I had!  Remember this was an over 20 pound fruit and even after I discarded all the inedible stuff there was a lot of fruit left.  I decided to make jam.  BUT….I underestimated one thing….  Jason,  as it turned out, loved jackfruit!  He had never had it before and he’s not a big fruit eater so I was expecting it to sit in the fridge and possibly go bad before I made jam.  By the time the jam making day came…I wasn’t sure there was enough jackfruit!  So I figured guava would go well and it has a lot of pectin so I thought that would work out.

I used about 8 or 9 jackfruit buds and 2 ripe guavas and a bit of lemon juice plus some sugar, not too much maybe a cup, because jackfruit is sweet.  I should have considered that the jackfruit would also have alot of pectin because of the sticky sap.  It must have because I got a very firm jam.  The taste?  Out of this world.  I think the guava and jackfruit go really well together.  Now if you don’t want to go through the hassle of fresh jackfruit, or can’t find it locally, there is canned jackfruit at Asian markets that I’m sure would work well in a jam….or just right out of the can.

Mango & Crystallized Ginger Quick Bread!

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I don’t know about you but I really like the small, yellow mangos.  Sometimes I’ve seen them called Champagne mangos.  They are smaller than the regular green/red mangos and they are always a bright yellow!  When I see them in the market I always pick them up because they are not always available.  We usually just eat them fresh but, I got a cute little book at a second hand store called Scones, Muffins, Tea Cakes and it has some really nice recipes in it.  I’ve made a few things out of it and they always turn out well.  In fact I think these scones came from the same book.

Anyway I was reading the book and various recipes caught my attention but the Mango and Crystallized Ginger Quick Bread was the one that sounded just right.

You can use any kind of mango you enjoy, make sure you have enough to make 1 cup of puree.  I used 4 of the yellow ones and I got over a cup.  Also it asks for 1/2 cup of crystallized ginger.  The stuff I had was powerful and I was worried it would be too much but it was PERFECT!  So if your ginger bites, don’t worry it won’t be overpowering.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh mango puree
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) diced crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350F . Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Puree the mango and set aside.  In a bowl beat the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until creamy.  Add the mango puree.  The mixture will look separated but it will come back together so don’t worry!

It will come back together!

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and do not overmix.  Gently fold in the crystallized ginger. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about an hour. The cake will be golden brown and feel firm if you press with your fingertips. Cool for 15 mins in the pan and then transfer to cooling rack.

The smells coming from the oven were heavenly.

This quick bread was so moist and delicious. There were plenty of ginger chunks throughout and their bite was gone!  I couldn’t really taste the mango as a definite flavor. I think it added moistness and the sweetness tempered the ginger. I took some to work and I’ve already been asked for the recipe. I will be making this one again!

Jam Strawberry, Jam!

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There have been so many strawberries in the stores recently. I thought it might be strawberry season!  Well not quite, I’m not sure where these came from but it seemed the perfect time to make some jam and practice for when the local ones get here. That being said….Strawberry jam is not my favorite….it’s Jason’s favorite.  I’m pretty sure if you placed all the different types of jam in front of me my last choice would be strawberry and I might be too full to get to it.  Don’t  get me wrong, I adore fresh strawberries.  So why in the world am I making strawberry jam?  One word….LOVE.  He loves it and I found a recipe interesting enough to get me excited about it!

This is what got me so excited!  Lemon and lemongrass are added to the jam!!!!! You probably know that I love lemon.  If you don’t know….I love lemon. Adding it to strawberry jam sounds so right. And lemongrass has the word lemon in it, and smells heavenly and like lemons, so that has to work well, doesn’t it?  Oh and this is based on a Christine Ferber recipe.  She is a well known jam maker who has unusual flavor combinations, which of course appeal to me.  I believe she also makes pastries, so….a woman after my own heart.

For the jam:

  • 2 qts chopped strawberries (8 cups or 2 liters)
  • 3-4 cups sugar
  • 2 Tb lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 10 paper thin slices of lemon
  • 10 lemongrass leaves cut in half
  • 15-20 tellicherry peppercorns (optional)

I, of course, used Meyer lemons (they are my latest obsession until I get my hands on some buddha palm or yuzu!)  I chopped the strawberries into the size I wanted in my jam. I poured about 3 cups of sugar over them, crushed the peppercorns and added them, stirred it all well, covered the bowl in plastic and put in the refrigerator overnight.  You can skip this step if you don’t have time but I think it combines the sugar & strawberries really well, releases alot of the juice and just works!  The pepper is very subtle. You can add more but it will change the flavor a bit.  The amount here just adds hints of undertone to the strawberry flavor. You can also leave it out.

I could eat this whole bowl.

Slice your lemon paper thin. Add the lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar and water to a pot that will be big enough to hold the strawberry mixture (about a 6 qt pot).  Bring to a simmer and add the lemon slices.  Simmer until translucent, about 15 mins.

Add the lemongrass and the strawberries.

WARNING:  People who have experience canning are very particular about how they prepare the jars and they sometimes pressure cook them etc.  I am not so particular.  This is the method I used, you can use it or do the more complicated way.I washed my jars & tops in the dishwasher, spooned the hot jam into them, screwed on the tops and placed the jars into a pot of hot water.  The water covered the jars by about 1 inch or so.  I then boiled them for about 5 minutes, removed the jars from the water with tongs and let them cool.

How did it turn out? Fantastic!  So delicious!  Jason thought it was the best strawberry jam he’d had and I thought so as well.  My favorite part is coming across a slice of lemon in the jam, it adds a slight tartness but tempered by strawberry sweetness.  The lemon enhances the strawberry perfectly.

I gave a jar or two away but now we are going through this rather quickly.  I will be making more with the local berries. I can’t wait!  There are local berry farms where you can go pick your own if you want.  I’m also going to have to find a blackberry jam recipe as this is my favorite.

Lemon, lavender & pine nut tart.

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I love lemon. I love lemon curd and lemon tarts.  I especially love these things made from Meyer lemons.  Last year I made a lemon lavender ice cream and I really liked the combination of flavors.  I haven’t pulled the ice cream maker out of the closet yet because although spring is definitely here now, it’s still cold and rainy most days.  I read an Epicurious recipe for a sabayon style lemon tart and the best part was the crust was made with pine nuts!  As I read through the comments someone had added lavender and rosemary to the crust….I knew that I had to try both but individually.  Lavender first.  I will make one with rosemary soon but I think I will use a different nut in the crust or use a flour crust recipe as pine nuts are really expensive right now.  I will caution you that the recipe in the link makes enought crust for three (3?!) tarts.  I did math and reduced it to one crust although the egg was a problem.  What I did was beat the egg, weigh it and divide by three.

Unfortunately I just realized that I didn’t take enough pictures and I don’t think I have any of the finished tart and it’s long gone now…. sorry!

Crust

  • 3.3 oz pine nuts
  • .8 oz sugar (probably a Tablespoon)
  • 5.3 oz flour
  • 2.7 oz butter
  • 1/3 beaten egg by weight
  • 1 tsp lavender

Grind the pine nuts in a food processor, add the sugar, flour and lavender and pulse until finely ground and combined.  Put in a bowl and add the butter and egg and mix together into a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 mins.

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a tart pan with removable bottom.  I don’t have one so I used a cheesecake pan with removable bottom.  Next time I will use a tart pan.  Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotate and bake another 10-15 minutes until crust is golden. Remove and let cool.

Lemon Sabayon 

  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 2 egg yolks, cold
  • 4 oz sugar (you can add more if you like it extra sweet)
  • 4 oz fresh lemon juice (I used Meyer)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 oz cold unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces

You will need a bowl that will fit over a pot of water without the water touching the bottom of the bowl.  Bring the water to a boil.  Meanwhile whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar in the bowl until the sugar is dissolved (about 1 minute).

Set the bowl over the pot and whisk the mixture while turning the bowl. (I used an electric mixer) When the eggs are foamy and have thinckened add 1/3 of the lemon juice.  Keep whisking until mixture thickens again and add another 1/3, whisk again until mix thickens and add the final 1/3 and the zest.  Continue whisking until the mixture lightens and the mix leaves a ribbon on itself.

Turn off the heat leaving the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen but will thicken and set as it cools.  Pour it into the tart crust and place on a baking sheet.

Lemony goodness!

Place the tart under the broiler and brown the top.  Be careful it browns very quickly!  Let sit for an hour before serving.  Can be served at room tempurature or cold.  My tart didn’t seem to set as well as I would have liked. I’m used to using a lemon curd type of filling for tarte so this seemed a bit loose.  The flavor was wonderful though, very tart and the lavender was subtle and not overpowering. The pine nuts were almost an aftertaste and an enjoyable one at that.  I can’t wait to try rosemary in the crust but I think I will go back to my usual lemon tart filling.

Date Walnut Dacquoise

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I’ve been wanting to make this cake for awhile and decided I would make it for the Aspiring Bakers #18 Layers of Love challenge hosted by Sam over at Sweet Samsations.  She has such an inspiring blog with wonderful recipes and gorgeous pictures of said recipes!   The challenge is for a layer cake that must have at least three layers.  Cake is not my favorite dessert, I do enjoy it every so often but I haven’t baked one in a long time.  What to do?  I want to join the challenge but I don’t want to bake a traditional flour cake with overly sweet frosting.  Hmmmmm……

I recently found a Williams Sonoma cake book at a thrift store.  I can’t remember which recipe caught my eye, but all of them were classic recipes and I needed a good cake book to add to my collection. This is where the original idea for this dacquoise came from.  What is dacquoise?  It is usually almond or hazelnut meringue “cake” layered traditionally with buttercream or whipped cream.  This recipe called for toasted walnuts!  Why not?  I also didn’t want to use buttercream because again, I don’t really like it.  I can usually taste too much of the butter.

Then I remembered the caramel marscapone frosting I made for the Pierre Hermes Apricot Lime Financier Cake.  That was not too sweet, had a little burnt sugar taste and would go well with toasted walnuts.  As I was making it the thought of dates went through my head, their sweetness, the deep subtle flavor they would add,  why not?

The Recipe adapted from the Williams Sonoma Cakes, Cupcakes & Cheesecakes book.

  • 75 g plus 60 g walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 180 g sugar
  • 1 Tb cornstarch
  • 3 large egg whites (room tempurature)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • about 1/4 cup chopped dates (I didn’t measure sorry)
  • Caramel marscapone frosting (find the Pierre Hermes recipe here)

Toast the walnuts in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes, and put 75 g in a food processor with 60 g of the sugar and the cornstarch. Process to a fine grind.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw three 8 inch circles onto the parchment in pencil. One 8 inch circle on one sheet and two on the other.  Make sure to turn the parchment over so the circles are visible but so you won’t get pencil transfered onto your meringue.  Preheat the oven to 250.  Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixer and mix on med until soft peak form.  Add in the remaining 120 g of sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form.  Gently fold in the nut mixture. Divide the mixture onto the three circles. (you can pipe the circles if you want). Bake for 1 hour 20 mins until crisp and golden. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, remove from parchment and then let cool on racks.

Meanwhile I made the caramel marscapone frosting.  This cake has to sit in the refrigerator overnight to let the meringues soften and my cake plate is too large to fit in the refrigerator with everything else in there.  I decided to cover a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and transfer the cake to the fancy plate in the morning.  Bad idea, the cake stuck to the foil….because I put some frosting on the foil to anchor the meringue.

Frost the first meringue and sprinkle with the chopped dates. There’s no correct amount to use, whatever your taste likes.  I thought the amount I used was perfect, it added an unrecogniseable flavor that was not overpowering or oversweet.

Dates!

Put the next meringue layer over this and frost, sprinkle this layer with some chopped, toasted walnuts.

Add the final meringue and frost the top and sides.  Press chopped walnuts on the sides of the cake and decorate with walnut halves on the top.  Cover and refrigeratove overnight.  Bring to room tempurature before serving.

The taste and texture are wonderful. It has a smooth creamyness with just a little crunch.  The carmel marscapone frosting has a slight bitter edge which is offset nicely by the sweetness of the dates and the toasted walnut flavor tops it off perfectly.

The foil not only made the cake stick to it, it also ripped and stuck to the piece I cut. I hope this qualifies as a layer cake!  If I find the time and, more importantly, the inspiration, I will try a completely different, more traditional layer cake and submit that as well.