Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge: Bakewell

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits.

Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

The version we’re daring you to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the center and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz - 1 stick) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Review: For me the challenge in this recipe was making the crust for the tart. I am not really the best make my own pie crust/dough type person. I decided to make the crust the night before because to me that seemed the most time consuming part. Well lets just say I should not make stuff after having gone out to dinner with friends and having some margaritas. As a result I didn't add enough butter the first time (I thought it said 4 TB and not 4 oz) and just decided to make it again. That is when I discovered my mistake and was thankful that I didn't suck as bad as I thought at that moment at making the tart dough. I also think that when I grate the butter into the flour part to mix it a little bit because my butter just all clumped together and was a big grated mass. Thankfully the crust part was forgiving in I couldn't roll it out that nicely and it got stuck to the counter.

I have to say I was really surprised on how easy this was to make and how it didn't really take that much time. I was also excited to finally use the tart pan I got as a gift maybe 5 years ago for the first time. All my guest really enjoyed the tart and my mom even asked me to make it again for the September!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Mess With a Good Thing...

As usually or I should say a daily occurrence...I need to figure out what to make for dinner. It just seems that they days go by so fast that I forget to think ahead. Before I know it it is close to dinner time and I have no clue what to make. Oh but today is different I had the brilliant idea to try and make Cuban Black Beans.

I have posted before that I have a million and one cookbooks. I really am trying to make recipes out of as many as I could (secretly to justify why I have so many and to justify why I need more). So I thought hey why not try the recipe from the Cuban cookbook I have.
The reason for the title of this post is why mess with a good thing is because I have a completely amazing black bean recipe already. One that is from the best Cuban chef I know...Mike's grandmother or as we all like to call her Mama. Then again for some odd reason we never can make the beans like she does. We just let her make them when we really want them.

So I thought everything was going well because it smelled the way it always does. There are a couple of differences in the recipes but nothing major. Then I tasted the beans...yuck...bland...something is missing...oh my what I am going to do that won't totally kill them. I would wait for Mike to get home from work but that could be midnight at the rate he is working these days. I am hoping that Mike's grandparents come and stay with my in-laws over the summer. That way I can get Mama to give me a few Cuban cooking lessons!!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Baby Shower Favors

Today was Jenn's baby shower and I made some favors for the party. Since Jenn's theme for the baby's room is farm animals I ran with it. I think they came out great. My inspiration for the animals were from the Barnyard Centerpiece I found on Country Living's website.

The Pigs

The Sheep

The Chicks

The Whole Crew

I think every baby deserves a hand made blanket. So when Jenn told us she was pregnant I got to work. Since Jenn and Rocco decided not find out the gender of the baby I made a blanket gender neutral. I think she really liked did my cat...hehe


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