Homemade Limoncello, Tarte Tatin, and Orange/Almond/Chocolate Biscotti

It’s been more than a week since we’ve been back and the vacation blues have kicked in.  Gone are days of rushing around, barely making a train, seeing new places, trying and tasting new things.  Reality, well..bites.  Already missing the delectable dishes of our travels, I’ve started to research and recreate some of the more memorable treats.  I think I’ve been able to satisfactorily replicate limoncello, tarte tatin, and a lovely biscotti.

Limoncello is a delicious lemon liqueur that is served as an after-meal digestive in Italy.  I found a recipe for homemade limoncello by Giada De Laurentiis and decided to give it a-go.   Making limoncello at home requires time and patience, as the final product may not be ready for consumption for several days.  This particular recipe, requires a little more than 120 hours to complete.  It is definitely well worth the wait!  Hubby dear agreed that the final product tasted exactly like the limoncello we had in Italy.

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Limoncello

Recipe Courtesy Food.com:  Limoncello

Ingredients

• 10 lemons

• 1 (750 ml) bottle vodka

• 3 1/2 cups water

• 2 1/2 cups sugar

*Yields 2 bottles

Directions

1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use).

2. Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.

3. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher.

4. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

5. Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

6. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

7. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

Tarte tatin is actually a french dessert and is often referred to as an upside down open-face apple pie.  First, the apples are caramelized with butter and sugar in a large pan (cast iron works wonderfully), and then a pastry shell is blanketed over the caramelized apples, and the dish baked in an oven for roughly 20 minutes.  The finished product is then flipped over onto a plating dish and the pastry shell becomes the base of the tart.  I prefer the taste of tarte tatin to it’s American cousin, the apple pie.  Somehow caramelizing the apples makes the dessert tastes richer than the standard pie.  Below is a great recipe for making the apple filling and I’ve also included a standard pastry shell recipe that works well.  The key to the pastry shell is to refrigerate it at least 3 hours prior to baking.  I used Jazz apples instead of Golden Delicious, but this variety made the filling a little watery.  Next time, I’ll stick to the recipe and use the Golden Delicious variety.

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Tarte Tatin Filling

Recipe Courtesy Dramaticpancake.com:  Tarte Tatin

Ingredients

5-6 Golden Delicious apples or other firm apples that will hold their shape during cooking

4 tbsp salted butter (Plugra and Kerrygold brands are both great quality, though any butter will do!)

4 tbsp granulated sugar*

pastry for one 9″ pie shell

*I actually increased the amount of sugar to 2/3 cup, as I prefer the tarte tatin a tad sweeter

Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425°F. Roll out your pastry and trim it to fit the size of the pan you will be using for the tart.  It needn’t be exact. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Peel, core, and quarter the apples.
  3. Heat the pan over medium heat and melt the butter. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the melted butter and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is a very pale amber. 
Off the heat, place the apple quarters in the pan radially starting on the outer edge of the pan and moving to the center, setting them on their sides and fitting in as many as possible. As they cook they’ll shrink and you’ll be able to push them closer together and fit in any remaining quarters.
  4. Return pan to the stovetop and cook over medium-high heat until the apples begin to turn a golden brown (about 15 minutes). You can lift one out of the pan to check the color on the bottom. At this point flip over each quarter so the cooked edge faces up and the uncooked edge is face down in the caramel. Continue to cook until the caramel that bubbles up between the apples pieces is a dark amber (10 more minutes, give or take). You can dip a teaspoon in and pull it out to see the color better.
  5. Remove your pastry from refrigerator. Cut 4 or 5 slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. 
Take the pan of the stovetop, and working quickly put the pastry over the hot apples and put into a 425°F oven until the pastry is golden brown (about twenty minutes). 
Remove pan from oven and immediately invert onto a cooling rack; you can place a rimmed cookie sheet under the cooling rack to catch any drips. Be very careful – use potholders!
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pastry Shell*

*I usually cut this recipe in half as I only need 1 pastry shell for a tarte tatin

Recipe Courtesy Simplyrecipes.com:  Pie Crust

Ingredients

All-Butter Pastry Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies (Pâte Brisée) (enough for bottom and top crust)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes*
1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

*The first thing I do when I’m even thinking about making a butter-based pie crust is to cut up the butter into cubes and put them in the freezer. They should chill at least 15 minutes in the freezer, and even better, over an hour or overnight. Variation: Swap out 1/2 a cup of the flour with ground blanched almonds or almond flour

Instructions

1.  Put flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to mix. Add about half of the butter to the food processor and pulse several times. Then add the rest of the butter and pulse 6 to 8 times until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of large peas. Sprinkle the mixture with about 1/4 cup of ice water (make sure there are no ice cubes in the water!) and pulse again. Then add more ice water, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing once or twice after each addition until the dough just barely begins to hold together. You know that the mixture is ready if when you pinch some of the crumbly dough together with your fingers, it holds together. Be cautious with the amount of water you add, too much and the crust will be tough.

2.  Carefully empty the crumbly dough mixture from the food processor on to a clean, dry, flat surface. Gather the mixture in a mound. At this point, if you want, you can do what the French call fraisage: push down with the palm of your hand on the dough crumbles a few times. This will help flatten the pieces of butter into layers which will help your crust be flaky. Divide the dough mixture into two even-sized mounds. Use your hands to form each one into a disk. Do not over-knead! Kneading develops gluten which will toughen the dough, not something you want in a pastry crust. If you started with cold butter you should be able to see small chunks of butter speckling the dough. This is a good thing. These small bits of butter will spread out into layers as the crust cooks so you have a flaky crust! Sprinkle each disk with a little flour, wrap each one in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour or up to 2 days.

Biscotti are delicious crunchy Italian cookies that pair well with espresso or dessert wine.  For this biscotti variation, I made almond and orange and glazed it with some bittersweet chocolate.  I have a little potted Satsuma orange tree on my porch that just produced one orange – we ate the fruit and put the peel to good use in this recipe.  🙂  These are so good, it’s hard to just eat one!

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Chocolate Dipped Orange Biscotti

Recipe Courtesy Allrecipes.com:  Chocolate Dipped Orange Biscotti

Ingredients

Original recipe makes 10 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons orange zest
4 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat in the egg and egg white, then mix in almonds and orange zest. Knead dough by hand until mixture forms a smooth ball.

3. Roll the dough into a log about 10 inches long; place on the prepared cookie sheet. Press down, or roll with a rolling pin, until log is 6 inches wide.

4. Bake for 25 minutes in preheated oven. After baking, cool on a rack. With a serrated knife, cut into 1 inch slices. Place slices, cut side down, back onto the baking sheet.

5. Return them to the oven for an additional 20 to 25 minutes; turning over half way through the baking. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave oven. Allow chocolate to cool but not harden before dipping one side of the biscotti into it. Place cookies on wire racks, chocolate side up, until cool and dry.

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