Tuesday, 24 January 2012

An alchemists pudding

Mascarpone,Moscatel and saffron tart
When Renaissance Alchemists tried to change base metal into gold,for me they chose the wrong elements. Their efforts would have been much more fruitful (and delicious) if only they had turned their talents to transforming simple ingredients into phenomenal food. A new idea about the alchemy of cooking? Can one flavour plus another flavour equal three flavours? How much of the effect of combining ingredients happens on the stove, and how much is in one´s head? Here goes,experiment....

A dollop of Italy, a Spanish thread and a drop of Portugal

Mascarpone is made in much the same way as yoghurt.Tartaric acid (natural vegetable acid derived from tamarind is added.Mascarpone is one of those foods that make the food police, who pull us over for cooking too fast, quiver and stop dead in their tracks. It is a fresh, very rich compact but supple and spreadable cream cheese which makes it the perfect candidate for a cheesecake— and has a fat content of 75 per cent.It partners well with Cognac.The biggest problem with mascarpone is that most people (even prominent people who have their own television cooking shows) pronounce it as if the r is before the s instead of in front of the p. These may well be the very same people who pronounce pasta parstar. And even when you discreetly point it out to them, they don’t apologize or make the slightest effort to change. What is with those people?

Saffron, the lady of La Mancha and most exotic of spices, is a perfect partner for infusing with alcohol.Only a pinch of saffron is needed for most dishes.A large pinch equals about one teaspoon (100mg) and a small pinch,1/4 to1/2 teaspoon (25-50mg).Amounts can be adjusted according to taste,however too much will make a dish taste bitter and medicinal.Before being added to a dish saffron threads should be crushed to a powder with the back of a spoon and then infused in a hot fat-free liquid such as water, white wine or citrus juices.

Moscatel de Setubal
With its golden/orange hue and  floral scented nose and palate, it has whiffs of orange blossom, peel and flesh with fresh almond and toothsome caramelly notes.Deep, golden amber with a broad saffron rim – lovely colour!  A dark, spicy but fresh and tangy bucket with an intermission of chutney, tamarind, jaggery, sweet dried fruits and spice, again reminding me of Madeira.To sum up rancio notes abound.

So we have two striking ingredients which will bring out a third striking flavour in the major ingredient,the mascarpone.The non evident tamarind base element in the mascarpone is brought to the fore by the fruits and spices coming through the Moscatel and then rounded off by the saffron infusion.The taste sensation is subtle and surprising.

Mascarpone,Moscatel tart with a saffron infusion
I can not call it a cheese cake,even if the key ingredient is a cream cheese.Cheesecake would not have a shortcrust shell and the filling is more reminiscent of a curd.I found this website very helpful for before and afters in my research around everything cheesecake. 

Makes 8 round 10cm individual tarts or a 23cm round tart
500g mascarpone 
medium pinch of saffron threads, infused in a tablespoon of hot water( 10 minutes)
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
50ml Moscatel de Setubal

Shortcrust pastry
185g plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
90g cold butter cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1-2 tablespoons iced water
Mix the mascarpone, saffron-infused water,sugar,eggs and Moscatel together in a bowl until well combined.
To make the pastry, pulse the flour,sugar and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.Add the egg yolk and the water and pulse until the mixture is just combined,adding more water as needed.Remove and form the dough into a ball,then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.On a floured board,roll out the pastry to about 2mm thick,then gently press the dough evenly into the bases of 8 round 10cm diameter or 6cm x12cm rectangular tart tins,or a 23cm diameter tart tin with a removable base.Trim the edges with a sharp knife.Refrigerate for 30 minutes.Pre-heat the oven to  200C /392F and line the pastry shell/s with aluminium foil or baking parchment and fill with pastry weights.bake for 15 minutes,remove the foil and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes until lightly coloured.Cool completely on a wire rack in the tins.
To cook the tarts,pour the filling into the tart tins to come about 5mm below the top edge of the pastry shell.Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C / 356F 20 minutes.Set aside to cool and seve at room temperature.



















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