When I was a child, there was a peacock that used to strut through the back yard of my great-grandmother’s house. He would time his performance perfectly; as soon as all of us were gathered at the window, he would throw his head back, arch his feathers into a magnificent fan, and do a little pirouette as graceful as a king. It is like this with figs — they must be showcased.
I can’t pass up a fresh fig in a grocery store, especially when I’m doing holiday baking. Our local grocer had a nice selection of figs this past week, and I thought they would make a handsome and tasty dessert for a holiday luncheon we were preparing. Flamboyant as they are with their velvety exterior and intricate, seed-filled interior, they beg to be shown off.
The marriage of figs, mascarpone, and walnuts makes a fabulous winter dessert, and I would recommend this one for any dinner party. You can make the tart shells ahead and freeze them. When you are ready to use them, fill them while still frozen, and they will thaw in time for dessert. Since fresh figs are one of the most perishable fruits, they should be purchased only a day or two in advance of your meal. Look for figs that have a rich, deep color, and are plump and tender, but not mushy.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy for 3 minutes, using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom occasionally. Add the flour and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, about one minute (don’t over mix). Add the egg yolk and continue to mix on low speed until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour (or up to 4 days).
Remove from refrigerator and let soften until pliable. Flour your work surface so dough does not stick, and sprinkle the top of dough with a little flour. Roll out dough, starting in middle and rolling outward, to a 1/4 inch thick disk or rectangle, depending on your tart pan.
Don’t worry if dough tears or crumbles, it’s easily pressed together in the tart pan. Lift over the rolling pin and place in tart pan with removable bottom. Patch holes or tears by pressing dough with fingers. Press dough into sides, corners and bottom. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pin for a clean even edge. Refrigerate 30 minutes -this is important.
Bake at 350 for 30 -35 minutes, positioned in the center of the oven, until golden. Be sure to keep a careful eye so that it doesn’t over cook. If using individual tart pans, these will take about 12 min. to bake. Let cool before filling.
While these are baking, spread your walnuts onto a sheet pan and toast in the oven – once you smell them, remove them, they will be done!
Put the jam in a microwaveable bowl, and heat in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds until the jam is of a more spreadable consistency. Add the brandy, a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Spread this over the bottom of the tart shell (s) but not up the sides. Let cool.
In a stand mixer with the beater attachment, whisk together the mascarpone, whipping cream, vanilla, powdered sugar and salt until soft peaks form. Be careful, especially if you are using an electric mixer, because the mixture will thicken very quickly.
Spread this mixture over the fig jam leaving about 1/4 “ of space of the jam showing on the edges, so not completely covering the jam base.
Decorate the top w/ some toasted walnuts mounded in the center, a couple of quartered figs and right before serving, drizzle with some light honey.
If making ahead, have your components ready but don’t assemble until close to serving time.
Apple Fritters… crunchy, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth on the outside, cinnamon-y dough with apple chunks on the inside. I can’t think of a better use for our apple drops that we are collecting in the early hours of the morning. A delightful early morning treat to pair with a steaming cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning.
Pour oil into a cast iron or other heavy duty skillet so that it is approximately 1 ½” deep. Heat oil on medium high. Oil is ready when dough floats to top. (don’t let it get too hot or the fritters will burn!)—do a little tester with the dough to be sure the oil is hot enough.
Prepare the glaze by stirring the milk (or half and half) and sifted powdered sugar together in a small bowl—you want it to be a fairly thick glaze.
Prepare the fritter by combining the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in milk, vanilla and egg until just combined (add enough milk to make a thick batter).
Fold in apple chunks
Carefully add dough to the oil in heaping tablespoons. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then flip. Cook another 1-2 minutes, until both sides are browned.
Transfer briefly to paper towels to absorb excess oil, then transfer to cooling rack.
Drizzle glaze over the apple fritters while they are still warm. Wait approximately 3 minutes for glaze to harden, then flip fritters and drizzle glaze over the other side.
Best served warm. Enjoy!
Easter was a glorious day filled with sunshine, beautiful music, and a church decorated with blossoming Spring flowers. The sights and sounds were full of joy and praise, and I felt renewed both in body and spirit – transported to another world that I don’t frequent often enough!
The Sisters celebrated this Easter with a beautiful buffet, many pitching in by making their favorite dish. I signed up to make dessert. I’ve always wanted to try making homemade mascarpone cheese, and since we have three cows that give us a never ending supply of milk and cream, what a great time to try it out. It was delicious! This dessert is perfect for Springtime – a shortbread almond crust filled with sweet and tart lemony cream, and a blend of berries on top – the perfect end to our Easter celebration.
Mix the all purpose flour, almond flour, kosher salt and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add the unsalted butter pieces and work into the flour, creating thin sheets of butter in the flour. Mix the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and add to the flour and butter mix. Continue to work with your fingers until the mixture sticks together when pinched. Add another tablespoon of water if needed.
Press the dough into a buttered tart pan with a removable bottom (I used a long tart pan but you can use a 10-inch round pan) or 4-6 individual tart pans with removable bottoms. Prick the bottom with a fork and then refrigerate for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the tart for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling with mascarpone filling.
For the mascarpone filling
Whip the cream on high with a hand mixer or a stand mixer. Add the softened mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar and beat to mix well. Fold in the lemon curd with a wooden spoon.
In a separate bowl, mix the raspberries and sliced strawberries. Heat the strawberry preserves until thinned and mix into the berries. Spoon the mascarpone into the cooled tart crust and top with the berries. Garnish with mint leaves if desired.
Crepes are one of my favorite foods and can be quite versatile. Used for dessert, they can be filled with a variety of ingredients: chocolate, Nutella, mascarpone to name a few. Or served at breakfast with ricotta cheese and just a touch of sweetness. At lunch or dinner, they can be filled with spinach, chicken and mushroom cream sauce, or thinly sliced ham and a lightly scrambled egg or even an herbed cream cheese with smoked salmon and sliced radish. Any way you serve them, they are delightful, and light on carbohydrates.
I was cleaning out our coal stoves, and discovered an old cast-iron crepe pan. I couldn’t resist! Passion took over and I set about cleaning it up, trying out recipes, and finding something that I wanted to share. This simple breakfast crepe will be a nice change on the weekend, when you want to do something a little more special for your family.
Blessed New Year!
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Crepes with Lemon Ricotta Filling
Makes about 6 8-inch crêpes, recipe can be doubled as needed
Place the flour, milk, eggs, salt, and melted butter (and optional sugar and vanilla) in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds until batter is smooth. Alternatively, whisk everything together in a bowl until thoroughly combined and frothy.
Cover the bowl and let the batter sit for at least 1/2 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator.
Before cooking the crêpes, assemble everything you'll need by your stove top: the batter, the pan, the oil and pastry brush and a spatula. If your bowl doesn't have a pour spout, have a ladle or 1/4-cup measuring cup handy.
Place the pan over medium heat and brush your pan with oil to coat the bottom. Let it sit on the flame for a minute to get hot. Pour in about ¼-1/3 cup of batter. Immediately, pick up the pan and swirl it to coax the batter into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
When the crêpe has browned slightly on the bottom, carefully work a spatula underneath it and flip. Cook the second side briefly, just to set the batter.
Tilt the pan and loosen the crêpe, then slide it onto the cooling rack or wax paper
Continue making crêpes with the rest of the batter, brushing more oil on the pan as needed to keep the crêpes from sticking.
If not eating the crêpes immediately, stack them one on top of the other as they cool. If they seem sticky, place a square of wax paper or parchment between them. Place the stack in a sealable plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months.
Lemon Ricotta Filling
Whip all of the above ingredients together in a mixer until smooth and creamy. If using cream cheese, whip this first until creamy and then add the other ingredients
Spoon about 2 Tbsp of the filling into one of the “corners” of the crepes and fold into ¼’s
Arrange on plate and sprinkle with mixed berries and powdered sugar to serve, or serve with homemade blueberry sauce (below).
Homemade Blueberry Sauce
In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine sugar, water, cornstarch,
and lemon juice.
Whisk until blended, then add blueberries.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until juice is clear and sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
Our Monastic Bake Shop opens for Advent, just in time for people to select delicious home-baked goods for their Christmas table. One of the favorite sweet breads that people return for is the lovely St. Lucia Bread. A rich, dense dough filled with citron, saffron and almonds, and decorated like a wreath, has been a long-standing tradition for our Bakeshop, started by one of our own Sisters, Sr. Lucia.
Traditionally, when we make our first profession as Sisters, we also take on a new name – symbolizing our new life wedded to Christ. Sr. Lucia became a novice in early December. When she was preparing to take her vows, she prayed about what her new name should be. One of the Sisters told her that she had an idea of a name for her. The Sister next to her said, “Now don’t overwhelm our new novice with another big decision!” But she couldn’t bear the suspense, and she told her the name: Lucia. A bit later, a different Sister mentioned that she had received a name for her, and it was the same one! She decided to learn more about who St Lucia was, only to discover that her feast day was celebrated on December 13th — the exact day that the name had been suggested to her! She couldn’t deny that God was speaking. It turns out that her middle name had been Lucille after her maternal grandmother, and years later it was discovered that her actual given name had been Lucia!
Advent is a very special time in our Community. To me, it symbolizes not only waiting, but also preparation– preparing our hearts and our homes to receive the Christ-Child. We welcome Advent with a festive weekend open to the public. One of the highlights is our candlelit service of Advent Lessons and Carols – a service steeped in English tradition. Throughout the weekend, we serve an elegant afternoon tea at Bethany Guest House situated in scenic Rock Harbor, Orleans. This tradition was started by one of our founders, Mother Cay. She took great pride in entertaining and hospitality, and her sharp and loving eye for beauty and detail has been passed down to all of us. Bethany becomes a magical place at Christmastime. Throughout the weekend, our gift shop, Priory Books and Gifts is bustling with activity. We stock our shop with home baked goods From a Monastery Kitchen – our famous Kentucky Bourbon Cakes, Fresh Baked Cinnamon Rolls, Cranberry Pear Chutney and English Toffee are just a few of the items sold throughout December in our shop.
For years now, it has been my responsibility to get the Monastic Bakeshop “ready” for Advent. We start preparing in the summer – sampling recipes, making lists of ingredients and then going to companies to see if they would be able to “gift” items to us. In turn, we offer our prayers on their behalf, as well as a tin of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It has been such a blessing to see the response. Year after year, we have faithful donors that have given of themselves to support our outreach – sugar, flour, oats, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins and yes, even Jim Beam Bourbon, have been generously given to us – enabling a profit of the sales to help support our community.
A few years ago, I became friends with a woman who frequented our bakeshop. She told me of a wonderful almond cake that I really should try sometime – and perhaps even sell in our shop. She came back a couple days later with a gift for us – the special Scandinavian Almond Cake pan and recipe. What a touching gift that was! This has become one of our favorite cakes to make at Christmas time – or anytime. We now share it with you.