Monthly Archives: June 2011

Happy Tau Day!

Today, 6-28, is Tau Day. Who knew? Tau is like pi: Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter; tau (τ) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius. The radius is half the diameter, and τ has only half as many legs as π. Pi, briefly, is 3.14; Pi(e) Day is celebrated on March 14 with pie. Tau, briefly, is 6.28, so I thought I’d celebrate with a τarτ.

Coincidentally, yesterday in the Serious Eats newsletter there was a slideshow about spices to use with fruit. Apparently, aji panca is just the thing to perk up blueberries. Aji panca is a chili pepper, and I find chili peppers painful to eat. However, you can temper the heat with dairy, so my Tau Day tart is blueberry custard tart with aji panca.

Aji panca, if you can find it, is available as fruit, paste, and powder. I got aji panca powder at Christina’s in Inman Square. They had a good-sized jar for $3.27. You can find aji panca in stores that carry Peruvian groceries, and Amazon has it in all three forms.

A jar of aji panca powder from Christina's

A jar of aji panca powder from Christina's

Blueberry Custard Tart with Aji Panca
Pâte Sucrée Crust
7 oz all-purpose flour (about 1½ cups by the spoon-and-sweep method)
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 oz (2 Tablespoons) cold vegetable shortening
2½ oz (4 Tablespoons) cold butter cut into chunks
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cold water

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and baking powder to combine. Add the shortening and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the egg, vanilla, and water, and pulse until the dough comes together into a ball.

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 10-inch tart pan. (You could also use a 9-inch pie plate.) Put the tart shell in the freezer (or refrigerator) until you’re ready to fill it.

Preheat the oven to 375℉.

Blueberry Custard Filling
⅔ cup sugar
½ teaspoons aji panca powder
2 eggs
8 oz (1 cup) whole milk
1 pint (maybe a little more) fresh blueberries (1½ to 2 pints if you’re using a 9-inch pie plate)

Whisk together the sugar and aji panca powder.

Sugar and aji panca powder (not whisked together)

Sugar and aji panca powder (not whisked together)

Whisk in the eggs.

Eggs whisked in

Eggs whisked in

Whisk in the milk.

Milk whisked in

Milk whisked in

Distribute the berries over the tart shell.

Blueberries distributed in the tart shell

Blueberries distributed in the tart shell

That 1 pint didn’t quite cover the shell, so I added more from a second pint. (You don’t need to cover the shell, though.) Pour the custard over the berries.

Custard added

Custard added

Bake at 375℉ for 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 325℉ and continue baking until the custard is set but still jiggles in the center, about another 45 minutes.

Cool the tart on a rack.

Tart cooling on a rack

Tart cooling on a rack

Remove the tart from the pan. Serve and enjoy.

A slice of tart

A slice of tart

I found the aji panca gave the tart a little nip, the way cinnamon does when you use the right amount, without tasting like hot pepper. Possibly it could take 1 teaspoon because the milk takes the edge off the pepper. It would be interesting to see how it works (instead of cinnamon) in a regular blueberry pie.

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Marshmallows

Marshmallows don’t grab me, but just for fun I tried making them in December using King Arthur Flour‘s recipe and sent them with the rest of the Christmas treats, and people loved them. When we made them in school, I sent them to my aunt and cousin, who thought they were wonderful. They’re pretty easy, and you can make them as fancy as you like.

You want a thermometer for the sugar syrup; any kitchen thermometer will do, but a candy thermometer is the most convenient kind. A thermometer is helpful because you’re cooking the sugar to the soft ball stage. That means if you drop some of the syrup into water, you can form it into a ball with your fingers, and the ball will stay soft. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the sugar this way.

Marshmallows are basically meringue with gelatin. Originally marshmallow was made with the sap of the marshmallow plant; the ancient Egyptians mixed marshmallow sap with honey and ate it as candy. The French mixed it with meringue and rose water and whipped it, which produced a confection similar to what we have now. Making marshmallows from marshmallow sap is expensive and labor intensive, though, and good luck finding marshmallow sap. The French figured out that you could use gelatin instead of marshmallow sap, and here we are.

The recipe I’m using is for one big batch, but I want to make several kinds, so I’m dividing it into three small batches. The basic game plan goes like this:

  • Sprinkle the gelatin over water to bloom it.
  • Mix sugar, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan and put that on the heat.
  • Whip the egg whites on high to soft peaks, then turn down the mixer to low until the sugar is ready.
  • When the sugar is ready, stir in the gelatin, then pour that over the whites and make marshmallow.
  • Spread the mixture to cool and set, then cut it into pieces and toss them in powdered sugar.

If you’ve made Italian meringue, you can see this is basically the same thing except with gelatin.

Marshmallows
9 egg whites
4 packets gelatin powder
1 cup water to bloom the gelatin
30 oz sugar
12 oz water to cook the sugar
6 oz corn syrup
flavoring to taste
food color
½ cup each confectioner’s sugar and corn starch, sifted and whisked together to dust the pan and the marshmallows

You’ll also need a sheet pan or baking pan, a sieve or shaker for the confectioner’s sugar mixture, and a thermometer. Use a bigger saucepan than you think you need because when you add the gelatin to the sugar, the sugar will bubble up.

I’m making three kinds, so I’m making a third of this at a time, which is what you see in the photos.

Bloom the gelatin in the 1 cup of water.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water to bloom it.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water to bloom it.

Add the sugar to the saucepan, pour the water over it, and swish the sugar around to make sure it’s all wet.

Swish the sugar around with your hand to make sure it's wet.

Swish the sugar around with your hand to make sure it's wet.

Add the corn syrup to the saucepan. If you’re using a candy thermometer, hook that onto the saucepan. Set the burner for medium heat.

Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Whisk the whites on high speed until they form soft peaks, then turn the speed down until the sugar is ready.

Cook the sugar to 240℉.
Cook the sugar to 240℉.

When the sugar reaches the soft ball stage—240℉ on the thermometer—turn off the heat and stir in the bloomed gelatin. The sugar will foam up, so watch out.

Stir the bloomed gelatin into the hot syrup.

Stir the bloomed gelatin into the hot syrup.

Turn the stand mixer up to medium and slowly pour in the sugar. (The hot sugar cooks the egg whites.)

With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly pour in the sugar syrup.

With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly pour in the sugar syrup.

Continue mixing on medium until the bowl of the stand mixer feels only warm to the touch. While you’re waiting, you can set up the pan that will hold the marshmallow. I put a sheet of parchment paper in a sheet pan and sprinkle that with the powdered sugar mixture. Alternatively, you can spray a sheet pan or baking pan with pan spray.

I use a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, and I sprinkle the parchment with the powdered sugar and corn starch mixture.

I use a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, and I sprinkle the parchment with the powdered sugar and corn starch mixture.

When the mixing bowl is warm to the touch, you can add flavoring and food color if you like. For the full batch, you probably want about 1 Tablespoon of flavoring unless you’re using very intense flavoring. When the bowl of the stand mixer feels lukewarm, you can pour the marshmallow onto the pan to set. Smooth the marshmallow as well as you can.

Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and smooth it out as well as you can.

Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and smooth it out as well as you can.

Then sprinkle the marshmallow with the powdered sugar and corn starch mixture, cover the pan, and let the marshmallow set. Give it at least 5 or 6 hours; overnight is better.

Dust the marshmallow with powdered sugar and corn starch.

Dust the marshmallow with powdered sugar and corn starch.

When the marshmallow is set, you can cut it into squares with a knife or a pizza wheel. You can also cut it into shapes with aspic cutters or small cookie cutters.

When the marshmallow is set, cut it into pieces.

When the marshmallow is set, cut it into pieces.

Toss the marshmallows into a bowl with the powdered sugar and corn starch mixture.

Toss the marshmallows with the powdered sugar and corn starch mixture.

Toss the marshmallows with the powdered sugar and corn starch mixture.

Try not to eat them all in one sitting.

Marshmallows flavored with rose water and colored pink

Marshmallows flavored with rose water and colored pink

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