Celebrating in Style – Peach Tomato Mozzarella Crostini

My friend, Edwin, recently hosted a fancy dinner party for his birthday and asked me to make a summery, classy appetizer. So, when I saw this recipe for peach tomato mozzarella crostini from Joy the Baker, I knew I had the perfect dish.

It’s a very simple, but delicious appetizer. All you have to do is slice up some peaches, tomatoes, and mozzarella, toast some baguette slices, and then top the bread with the peaches, cheese, and tomato. And finish with a leaf of basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. This appetizer is very crisp and refreshing, which is perfect for summer. The peach adds a nice sweetness and twist to the traditional caprese mix. Be sure to use fresh peaches and tomatoes as well as fresh mozzarella. The freshness and quality of the ingredients definitely makes a difference.

Now, my friend Edwin is a very stylish, sophisticated guy. So it was no surprise that he planned an elaborate multi-course meal to celebrate his birthday. On the menu were peach tomato mozzarella crostini and broiled shrimp cocktail for appetizers, a quince and manchego endive salad, grilled asparagus with deviled quail eggs as a side dish,
and seared garlic peppered tuna with a wasabi honey lime sauce for the main course.
Broiled Shrimp Cocktail
Quince, Manchego and Endive Salad
Seared Garlic Peppered Tuna with Wasabi Honey Lime Sauce

The broiled shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce was a nice twist on traditional shrimp cocktail while the salad was a delicious combination of sweet from the quince paste and apples and salty from the manchego cheese. Although it did not live up to Edwin’s high expectations, the tuna was seared well, cooked but still raw in the middle, and tasted amazing with the wasabi sauce.

Quince Paste with Manchego Cheese

White Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Sponge Cake

We finished the meal off with slices of manchego cheese topped with quince paste (again an amazing mixture of sweet and salty) and Edwin’s birthday cake. Rachel, the designated cake baker, baked him a white chocolate raspberry mousse sponge cake that was light and airy, the perfect summery dessert.

That night, we ate a sophisticated and delicious meal that rivaled any of those fancy restaurants in the city. And the best part of it was that we had made it all ourselves in celebration of a dear friend. Now that’s a dinner that money can’t buy.

This post was Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

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Homesick for Texas – Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches

Despite not having grown up in Texas, I still consider myself to be somewhat Texan and associate with Texas all the time. I suppose living in Texas for four years brainwashed me. 😛 The funny thing is that when I first arrived in Texas, I wasn’t its biggest fan. I felt like I had been transported to another planet (ok, maybe that was a little exaggerated, but Texas does feel like a foreign country sometimes).

Living in Texas also introduced me to new foods, from real southern BBQ (before moving to Texas, I thought BBQ was hamburgers and hot dogs) to Tex-Mex. One of my favorite foods I discovered in Texas was the kolache – a breakfast pastry similar to to the danish, but made with bread dough instead of danish/croissant dough. Even though it was originally brought over by Czech immigrants, Texans have made the kolache their own by putting their own twist on the fillings and even the pronunciation. Texans say “kol-ah-chee” while the Czech pronunciation is “kolach” (with a silent “e”).

For some reason, kolaches are rather difficult to find outside of Texas. I’m sure they’re available in the Mid-West, but in California, no one has heard of them. So, feeling homesick for both the delicious pastry and Texas, I decided to make my own kolaches. I looked up a few recipes and found these from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride.

Kolaches consist of a basic sweet dough that are shaped into rounds or squares and filled with whatever fruit topping you like. Some people even stuff them with sausage. Common fruit fillings include apricot and blueberry. However, since I only had peaches in the house, I made peach kolaches instead. I also had an expiring block of cream cheese, so I made cream cheese kolaches as well.

This recipe was really easy to follow and straightforward. The only little problem (if you can call it that) was that I made the kolaches a tad too big. I thought I had shaped them into fairly small balls of dough, but boy was I wrong. They ended up rising quite a bit in the oven and became gigantic kolaches. Another difficulty I encountered was filling the wells. I suppose I just tried to put in too much filling because for every kolache, the filling spilled out of the well and down the sides. So make sure you put parchment paper underneath, which makes cleaning up extremely easy.

One of my fondest memories of eating kolaches was right before finals. Each semester, the Women in Engineering program hosted a pre-finals feast, consisting of Texas’ finest foods: breakfast tacos, chips and queso, and of course, kolaches. The fluffiness of the bread and the sweet filling of the kolache comforted me as I grew nervous about my imminent exams. After only four years, I’ve fallen in love with many traditions and cultural idiosyncrasies of Texas, with kolaches being near the top. Making these kolaches brought back good memories and brought a bit of Texas to California.

Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches
Adapted from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride

For dough:
1 package of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt

For cream cheese filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon

For peach filling:
2 peaches
peach jam (I used apricot jam)

For posypka:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water, then sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry) and salt.
3. Add 1 cup of flour and yeast to the egg mixture and mix.
4. Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
5. Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface.
6. Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size—about an hour. (I left in the refrigerator overnight and let the dough warm up the next day before using it.)
7. After dough has risen, punch it down. Pull off egg-sized pieces (maybe even smaller!), roll into balls, and then flatten to about three inches in diameter.
8. Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, brush with melted butter, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.
9. While waiting for the dough to rise, make the fillings and posypka. To make the cream cheese filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest. To make the peach filling, cut up the two peaches into small pieces and mix with peach/apricot jam. (I microwaved the jam to make it more liquidy.) To make the posypka, crumble the butter, sugar, flour, and cinnamon together with your hands.
10. After second rising, gently make an indention in the center of the dough with two or three fingers. Fill each well with peach filling or cream cheese filling (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle with posypka.
11. Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes and serve warm. Kolaches are best eaten warm and fresh from the oven, but they also taste good the day after.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.