Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's Only a Bakewell Tart!

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. I've actually stayed in Bakewell and tasted a Bakewell tart. I don't remember it being as good as this recipe.

When I told an English acquitance that I was making strawberry jam for a Bakewell tart, he wondered why because it's only a Bakewell tart! Well I did make strawberry jam, not specifically for the tart but it got used in it anyway. My jam center was half and half strawberry and rhubarb-ginger jam (also homemade). Also, I substituted lemon extract for almond extract.

In the past few years, I've switched to uncooked jams -- they go in the freezer and I find the fruit flavor much fresher than the cooked jams. My freezer has raspberry jam from last year and two new batches of strawberry jam. They make great toppings for ice cream as well as peanut butter and toast.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

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

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
1 cup 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 1/4” thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre 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 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

8oz all purpose flour
1 oz sugar
½ tsp salt
4oz unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
½ tsp lemon extract
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

4.5 oz unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz confectioner's sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp lemon extract
4.5 oz ground almonds/almond flour
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 color.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Saratoga (Parisian) Apple Tart and Peonies

This week's TWD Parisian Apple Tart is a keeper and will be a regular dessert feature for future dinner parties. The recipe was selected by Jessica of My Baking Heart and the recipe is available on her blog. Because of this week's TWD, I now have puff pastry sheets to last a long time. To try to get a better quality puff pastry dough, I visited Adventure in Food, a specialty food wholesaler in Albany, NY, where I purchased a "small" box of frozen puff pastry -- made by Pennant from France. The small box isn't really that small and as a result I now have 20 (- 1/2 sheet) 12 oz pastry sheets resting in my freezer. I like them already because they're packaged flat rather than folded like the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry. I always hated rolling across the fold. Anyway, I'm seeing a summer of beautiful tomato tarts with the beautiful San Marzano tomatos that I anticipate harvesting from my garden.

Speaking of gardens -- my first peony is now blooming. The flowers are easily 6 inches across and they smell delightful. I took some pictures to share as well as my newly remodelled veggie garden.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cinnamon Squares??? - Chocolate Heaven

When I first saw the listing for this week's TWD selection, I wasn't impressed and didn't think I would participate. Over the weekend I looked at the recipe and thought it looked interesting and really easy to make. I've been spending a lot of my time in the garden so I'm looking for easy right now. It was easy, but I think the name is wrong. It should be a name that includes the abundant chocolate in the recipe -- maybe Dark Chocolate Squares or maybe Chocolate Heaven. Any suggestions? The recipe is available at In my recipe, I substituted buttermilk for whole milk.

The veggie garden is planted but still kind of young to photograph. I've added some features to make it fit better with my old 1840s house. Pictures will come soon. The perennial flowers are starting their display. The clematis and columbine are blooming and the gorgeous peony is about ready to pop. The macro lens makes everything look incredible.