Friday 26 June 2009

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart

When I joined the Daring Bakers a year and a half ago, I was on the vanguard of a Daring Baker deluge. Because of being the 300th something member at the time, I was due to chose the month's recipe in around 2012. As numbers kept growing and newer members found out that due to the waiting list, their recipe-choosing turn was a legacy they would have to leave to their great-grandchildren, people began pairing up for recipe challenges.

Lucky for me, my good blog friend (and just friend all around) Jasmine had a more reasonable 2009 recipe challenge date, and invited me to share the month with her. We were both interested in doing something from another country and something that didn't just encourage people to take on a new skill but to look again at so
mething they might never before have considered. I thought a recipe from my adopted country, Britain, might fall into that category.

British food still has a bad reputation (particularly in America and Australia...and probably other places too) that I think is due a lot to post-war rationing and deprivation but isn't really a deserved reputation any more. British food from the 1950s until the 1980s and 90s was rarely something worth seeking out, but modern British food has more than come into its own, drawing on traditions of using good quality fresh produce and a range of herbs and spices. I've become a British food convert and fight its corner whenever the fight is brought to me.

The Bakewe
ll Tart, and English dessert from the 19th century, hasn't been changed much over the years since it hasn't needed to. You do have to like almond to stand a chance of liking the tart, but I've always appreciated the balance of sweet jam and spongey mild frangipane, crisp crust and soft topping, and how it can grow sweeter or milder depending on your tastes. A classic Bakewell Tart should have a cherry or strawberry filling, and though those are Mr A&N's favorite incarnations of the treat, I broke free a bit since Mr A&N wouldn't be able to share in the tart because of his diet restrictions. My jam element became a rhubarb, apple and ginger jam, another classic English dessert flavor that I thought might enjoy being introduced to its compatriot. Mr A&N called it a travesty against both the rhubarb and the tart, but since he doesn't have any say in this one, I shan't regard him.

Thanks for the recipe itself must go to Jasmine, who worked hard doing the testing and the tweaking, and only needed me to step in every
so often and say 'yum'. I love the crust she's come up with and will use it whenever a shortcrust is needed, now. I also love how easy and adaptable the whole recipe is and it will now be a standard dessert for me to put on show. Thanks also to Ivonne and Lis for the massive undertaking and success of the Daring Bakers, and for all of you for joining in. I hope that you've (mostly) all enjoyed the tart as well, and at least used it as an opportunity to try out another classic British treat: to enjoy a slice of cake while having a nice sit down and a cup of tea.

Bakewell tart
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 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 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.

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

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) 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

Jasmine’s notes:
• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract


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.

Annemarie’s notes:
• Add another five minutes or more if you're grinding your own almonds or if you're mixing by hand (Heaven help you).

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.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Rosewater and Mint Fruit Salad

This is a recipe adapted from my friend Jill a la Jill Dupliex (not the same Jill though the mistake is an easy one). Friend Jill is an excellent host and cook, and when she has you round for food you can be sure of dining on 3 (or more) wonderful courses of food. On a recent trip around hers, we ate strawberries in rosewater essence with a chocolate sorbet, and the memory of the dessert lingered.

The original recipe uses rosewater essence and sugar to create a sweetened syrup for the strawberries to bask in. The rosewater isn't directly tasted, but adds an 'Ooh, what is that?' flavor to the fruit which ratchets up their appeal. So so far so good with the strawberries and rosewater, it would seem. When making it myself, I decided to throw in a couple of more ingredients for a bit of further interest and to use som
e of the abundant fruit I had bought from the local market (when a bowl full of anything costs £1, it's not hard to wind up with more peaches/peppers/persimmons than modesty would allow).

In this, I used equal parts strawberries and peaches since both turn out a good syrup is allowed to sit in sugar for a while. The rosewater stayed put, and was joined by mint to add additional freshness and flavor. Really, you can play with the fruit and sweetness levels as you see fit, but sticking with a strawberry base and other fruits that are juicy is the best bet. With a bit of cream on top, it's a different way of enjoying strawberries and cream and a slightly sophisticated way of getting your summer fruit salad in. You won't work up a sweat from making this, but you should still enjoy it with a cool glass of Pimms or a dip in the swimming pool (even if it's just an imagined one).

Rosewater and Mint Fruit Salad
makes about 6 modest-sized servings

  • about 1lb strawberries, topped and cut in two (or quarters) if large
  • about 1lb peaches, diced into bite sized pieces
  • handful of fresh mint, chopped finely about
  • 3 heaped Tbs confectioner's sugar (more if the strawberries are on the tart side)
  • 2 Tbs rosewater essence
  1. Combine the strawberries, peaches, mint, sugar and rosewater in a large bowl. Taste for tartness, adjusting as needed but keeping in mind the salad will be a bit sweeter after a while.
  2. Stir well and allow to cool for a few hours so the flavors can come together.
  3. Enjoy.

Monday 15 June 2009

Liver and Sage Pate

It was my birthday this past week (happy birthday to me). Even more momentous than turning the age Jesus was when he was killed was that Mr A&N and I went out with each other on a hot date. That's right - a friend gave me the greatest gift she could give me (along with a nice book) by offering to baby sit Baby A&N. We jumped at the chance, booked ourselves into the local tapas place, and pathologically checked our phones every 20 minutes just in case we missed any messages coming in as we slowly got tipsy on the wine.

The tapas, and the freedom, were wonderful, and my favorite dish of liver and onions in sherry (which was rich, sweet, and entirely too easy to eat too much of) reminded me of my love of liver. In a bid to re-create some of the magic of having dinner with my husband, I bought a batch of chicken livers from my local butchers. Buying them reminded Mr A&N, though, that he has a definite liver threshold, and he'd had enough liver-shaped liver for the week, thanks very much.

Luckily, cooking and sticking liver through a blender disguises the true nature of the meat for him and results in a rather good pate. The inspiration for the pate came from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, the execution via Mr A&N and so the recipe has changed slightly to be both of theirs. Sadly, the magic of our evening out wore off within 24 hours since Baby A&N has now decided that he doesn't need to sleep on through the night anymore and he'd rather say hi to us at 3am. At least the pate is tasty.

Liver and Sage Pate

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 rashers streaky bacon, cut into pieces
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb chicken liver, trimmed of sinew bits and cut into chunks
  • palmful of fresh sage (about 20 leaves), roughly chopped
  • glug of brandy (about 1/2 C)
  • 1/2 a nutmeg, grated
  • 75g oats (or breadcrumbs)
  1. Melt the butter over a medium high heat in a large pan. Add the onion and bacon and sautee until mostly cooked, then add the garlic and cook until lightly brown.
  2. Add liver and brown on all sides, then add the sage and give a good stir.
  3. Add the brandy and nutmeg and cook over a medium heat until the liver is cooked through (about 5 minutes).
  4. Throw in the oats and give a good stir so that everything is combined well, then turn off the heat.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth (we like to make ours slightly rustic so that it's not toothpaste smooth but a bit chunky).
  6. Place the mixture in a pate dish or loaf dish. Cover in plastic wrap and place a weight on top (or even just a container with some water) so the mixure is pressed. Once it's cool enough, place in fridge and leave for a couple of hours before serving.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Lemon and Basil Sorbet

Summer has arrived this week. Please don't check your calendars, just go by my word. Hayfever, sunscreen, over-warm public transportation. But also long days, pea shoots springing up in the garden, and hours spent sitting in parks with Baby A&N and the other local mummies and babies. It's intoxicating (or that may be the hayfever medication), and I'm beyond happy that I'm still on maternity leave rather than sitting in an office chair, projecting my disembodied spirit outside the window and sending it frollicking barefoot through greenery.

And now summer has gone. The past two days have been cold - heating intermittently on, hat on the baby, a few extra minutes standing in the shower to take up the warmth of the water. And grey grey grey. The summer fruits and flavors that have started to come out at the market don't seem to fit with the steely-skied gloom outside. But I am thankful for the embarrassment of sweet and
juicy things that are suddenly on offer and which I am buying up by the bag-full and eating with closed eyes, hoping the skies will brighten by the time I'm finished.

I have trouble each year with deciding which is my favorite summer fruit - peaches! cherries! strawberries! watermelon! - and always risk filling myself to the point of sickness in the attempt to find the winner. Healthier than gourging yourself on chocolate, but still an act that can result in a something of a sweetness bellyache. An antidote, then, is a summery sweet thing that doesn't send you into hyperglycemic shock: a lemon sorbet.

freshing in both a cooling and tongue-invigorating way, I made this sorbet with a bit of basil thrown in for extra interest and a different dimension to the sweetness. A good twist to a classic, keep it in the freezer for those hot summer days. Or those days when summer disappears and you need a reminder of how the season ought to be enjoyed. C'mon back, summer. Whatever it was that we did to upset you, we're terribly, terribly sorry.

Lemon and Basil Sorbet
makes 1 and a bit liters
/ 4 1/2 cups

  • 750ml water
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 300ml lemon juice (8 or so lemons)
  • zest 1 lemon
  • good handful of basil
  1. Gently heat the water over a medium heat, adding the sugar and stirring until dissolved.
  2. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the lemon juice and zest. Taste for tartness and add a bit more sugar/lemon juice if desired.
  3. Cool completely.
  4. Finely chop the basil then add to the cool mixture.
  5. Add to an ice cream maker and churn for about 20-30 minutes or until smooth.