Category Archives: Brunch

Basil-Nectarine Recipes!

Two recipes here:  Basil-Nectarine Lemonade and Easy Basil-Nectarine Cake.

Sometimes, in the hottest summers months, our Backstage Baker takes a break from baking (hence our summer hiatus from posting recipes.)  Also, James has been working out of town this summer on short but intense projects, with little time off.  Right now, he’s out in Red Bank, New Jersey at the Two River Theater, working on a production of Moliere’s “School for Wives” directed by Mark Wing-Davy.  (Check out the link here for more information.)

James has done several shows with Mark Wing-Davy:  The SkrikerTroilus and Cressida and now School for Wives.  During Troilus, A Shakespeare in the Park production one hot summer many years ago, the Tony award-winning actor Stephen Spinella was in the cast and shared the recipe for Basil Nectarine Lemonade. That drink became a summer favorite and inspired our Backstage Baker to grow basil on his balcony ever since.   It also served as the inspiration for the Basil-Nectarine Cake below.

Basil Lemonade

1 cup fresh basil
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 nectarine, sliced

Combine in sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain.

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cup water

Add to strained basil mixture, stir and chill.

From there, you can see how James cobbled together the recipe below — even in a limited kitchen, you can’t stop a baker from baking.  After a trip to the local farmer’s market, James was inspired to make the following cake for his lucky cast:

Easy Nectarine Basil Cake

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar ( and more for sprinkling)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup butter melted (I may get daring and substitute olive oil next time)
6 medium nectarines cubed. I left the skin of for color
2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour mix (Bob’s Red Mill is a good one)
2 teaspoons baking soda

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, basil and melted butter. Add the cubed nectarines to mixture in bowl (coating as you go to keep them from turning brown.)

2. Mix together the baking soda and flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl. Mix well (best with a fork) until all of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients.

3. Pour mixture into one greased 9×13 pan or two 9″ round pans. Bake for approximately 55 minutes. At about 20 minutes into the baking, sprinkle additional sugar on the top for a crispier topping.

Easy Nectarine Basil Cake

Triple Berry Muffins

muffin 2 photo

With berries coming into season,  this is one of James’ favorite recipes for them. This also proves that not everything he bakes is chocolate.

These were made for the last morning production meeting of “The Master Builder” before they moved into the theatre for tech rehearsals on Tuesday.  No wonder James is always working!!


(NOTE:  For those of you looking for a gluten-free version of this recipe, check out my new blog, No Really, it’s Gluten-free!)

Triple Berry Muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups  sugar
4-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups milk
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients (through baking soda.)  In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.


2.  Fold in berries.  Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.


Yield: about 18 muffins

Rustic Apple, Walnut and Gorgonzola Tart

Lest you think that this entire blog will only feature sweet things, allow me to disabuse you of that notion immediately.  James’ last show was Broadway’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Clybourne Park” and he helped host many pre-show Sunday brunches.

It was the day after opening, you see, and George Fullum, the house carpenter was anxious to know if the company would be having a potluck brunch backstage before the Sunday matinee.  It’s a bit of a Broadway tradition – many theaters have a bagel or brunchy spread backstage on Sundays.   That’s generally the last day of the week for theater folks, and brunch is a nice way to start the day off.

“Absolutely!” said James.  “I’ll put a sign-up sheet on the board.”  And “Clybourne Park” joined the Broadway brunch tradition.

No sooner had James taped the sheet to the wall than George signed up to bring bagels. (“Clybourne Park” didn’t have a traditional cork callboard but taped all information directly to a stairwell wall.)  The whole cast and crew filled the sheet up before the end of the night, and the brunch menu was varied and opulent.

CB Brunch signup

James made a Rustic Apple, Walnut and Gorgonzola Tart:

Rustic Apple Tart

Ingredients:

1 Pâte Brisée (tart dough) for a 10-inch tart (see all butter crust recipe) or 1 packaged, flat pie crust
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 large granny smith apples (or other good cooking apples such as jonagold or fuji), peeled, cored, chopped
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)

Method:
1.            Toss the walnuts, gorgonzola, thyme, chopped apples, and maple syrup together in a medium size bowl. As you are working with the apples (chopping them, mixing them in with the other ingredients), if you want, you can squeeze a little lemon juice on them to help keep them from discoloring. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap while you prepare the crust.

2.            Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out pastry dough to 13-inches, at an 1/8 of an inch thickness. Place pastry dough on a rimmed baking sheet. (Rimmed because the pastry will leak butter during the cooking process.) Mound the filling in the middle of the rolled out dough, and spread out evenly to 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from the edge of the dough. Pleat the edges of the dough over the filling.
3.            Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until crust is nicely browned. If at any time it looks like the walnuts are getting a little burnt, you can lightly tent a piece of aluminum foil over the center.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. A pizza wheel works great for slicing up the tart.

All Butter Crust For Sweet and Savory Pies (Pâte Brisée) Recipe

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if for a sweet recipe)
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water, very cold

1.            If you are planning to make a pie crust, cut up a stick of butter into smallish (about 1/2-inch) cubes, and put it into the freezer. The colder the butter the better luck you’ll have with creating a flaky crust. Freeze the butter at least 15 minutes, better an hour, best overnight. Keep some cubed butter in the freezer ready to go for making pie crusts.

2.            Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 times. Then add the other half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 more times. You should have a mixture that resembles a coarse meal, with many butter pieces the size of peas.

3.            Add a couple of tablespoons of ice cold water (without the ice!) to the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times. Then add more ice water, slowly, about a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just barely begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again. Try to keep the water to a minimum. Too much water will make your crust tough.

4.            Remove the crumbly mixture from the food processor and place on a very clean, smooth surface. If you want an extra flaky crust, you can press the heel of your palm into the crumbly mixture, pressing down and shmooshing the mixture into the table top. This is a French technique, called “fraisage”. Do this a few times, maybe 4 to 6 times, and it will help your crust be extra flaky. Then, use your hands to press the crumbly dough together and shape into a disc. Work the dough only enough to just bring the dough together. Do not over-knead or your crust will end up tough. You should be able to see little bits of butter, speckling the dough. When these bits of butter melt as the crust cooks, the butter will help separate the dough into flaky layers. So, visible pieces of butter are a good thing, what you are aiming for, in the dough. Sprinkle the disc with a little flour on all sides. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (At this point you can freeze the dough disk for several months until ready to use. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.)

5.            When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove the disk from the refrigerator and place on a clean, smooth, lightly floured surface. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to take just enough of a chill off of it so that it becomes easier to roll out. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough.

Okay, wait, this was another sweet recipe.  Check back soon for the quiche and deviled eggs recipes!