[page currently under reconstruction]

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - Bakewell Tart/Pudding

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was a new one for me since I'd never heard of it before. 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.

The individual elements were pretty easy, and if you make the crust ahead of time, it's quick to assemble. (Note: I had to change the amound of liquid in the crust from 1-2 Tbsp to 6.5 Tbsp cold water to form the dough.) The tart/pudding has three main elements, and I chose to use some black currant preserves I had in the pantry instead of making my own jam. It worked so well with the almond flavor that we devoured half of it the evening I baked it. It's good at room temp, but it's delicious when it's warm. I didn't put anything else on it (like whipped cream, creme fraiche, or even powdered sugar), and I really didn't think it needed anything else. The tart is sweet enough for dessert, but it wasn't overly sweet and had a pleasing combination of textures. I'll definitely be making this one again....perhaps with a chocolate ganache instead of jam...

Bakewell Tart/Pudding (makes one 9" tart)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (recipe follows)
bench flour (all purpose)
1 cup jam/curd (I used black currant preserves), warmed for spreadability
Frangipane (recipe follows)
handful blanched, flaked almonds

To Assemble 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. (Be sure to watch it; mine got brown rather fast, so I turned down the oven to 375F. Gently shake it and make sure the center is set before removing from the oven.) 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.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

8 oz all purpose flour
1 oz sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1/2 tsp. salt
4 oz unsalted butter, cold or frozen
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Cold water (start with 1-2 Tbsp, and add more as needed to form the dough - I used 6.5 Tbsp)

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 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.


4.5 oz unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz confectioner's sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. almond extract
4.5 oz ground almonds
1 oz all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is pale yellow 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 - just keep mixing. 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.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sloppy Joes

I'm beginning to think I really do like Rachael Ray after all.

But I did try another of her recipes with some success: Sloppy Joes. I'm not a fan of Manwich at all, so I thought I'd give this recipe a try. I made this back in the winter, and after making it a few times since, I decided this is probably my new go-to sloppy joe recipe since it's quick, easy, and I probably have most ingredients on hand anyway. The hotdogs are certainly optional, but my son likes them and they're easy to pick up with little fingers. :) I use ground turkey because I can buy it in 1 lb. frozen packages for a reasonable price. Make a double batch & keep some around for later; it freezes really well.

Sloppy Joes

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds lean ground sirloin or ground turkey
1 packages beef or pork hot dogs, sliced 1/2-inch thick (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon steak seasoning (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
1 Tablespoon chili powder
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
~8 soft burger rolls

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and crumble as it browns. Add the onions to the pan and cook to soften. Add chopped hot dogs after 3 to 4 minutes then cook 3 to 4 minutes more. In a bowl mix the spices, sugar, Worcestershire and tomato sauce. Pour sauce over the meat and simmer about 10 minutes to combine flavors. Spoon onto buns and serve.

Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pasteles de Guyaba (Guava Pastries)

It's difficult to describe guava to someone who's never had it, especially guava paste. I saw this odd-shaped can in the grocery store and immediately returned home to look up what exactly I could do with guava paste. I settled on making some Pasteles de Guyaba (Guava Pastries), but instead of using a dough similar to pate sucre (pie crust), I decided to go with puff pastry. These couldn't be simpler. The filling was a little tart, but they were good nonetheless. I thought it paired well with the powdered sugar, but you could probably drizzle some honey over the filling before sealing the pastries to make it a little sweeter.

Pasteles de Guyaba (Guava Pastries)

Guava Paste
1 package puff pastry
powdered sugar, for serving

Cut each sheet of prepared thawed puff pastry into 9 squares.
Place ~1 Tbsp. guava paste in the center of each square. Use a bit of water along the edges to help 'glue' the pastries together, and fold over the guava paste to form triangles. Use a fork to press the edges together. Place on a baking sheet (lined with a Silpat or parchment paper) and then into a 400F oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the pastry puffs and becomes golden, brown, and delicious. Let cool for ~5 minutes (or you will burn your mouth!) and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Adapted from Alex Garcia

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grilled Pineapple Spears with Lime and Honey

I found a really good deal on fresh pineapple (Aldi rocks - $.99 for a pineapple!), so I bought two. After a quick browse for some ideas on the FoodNetwork website, I settled on (groan) another Rachael Ray recipe. The only change I made was to squeeze half the lime over the spears.

I was really surprised how much I liked this dessert; the lime and honey really enhanced the pineapple. Simple, quick, and delicious...what more could you want in a summertime dessert? Note: this would also be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Grilled Pineapple Spears with Lime and Honey

1 large ripe pineapple
1 lime
Vegetable oil or cooking spray, to coat grill
Honey, for drizzling

Preheat grill or grill pan.

Cut ends off the pineapple. Stand it upright and cut off the skin in strips. Quarter the pineapple lengthwise and cut out the core. Cut each quarter into 3 spears. Zest the lime and reserve. Cut the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice over the spears. Brush the grill pan or outdoor grill with vegetable oil or spray lightly with cooking spray. Grill pineapple until evenly marked all over, 5 minutes. Garnish spears with lime zest and drizzled honey.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Open-Faced Calzone & Simple Marinara

Here's another Rachael Ray recipe that I tried a while back. It was really quite easy and tasty, but the best part was the marinara sauce. I couldn't find any ciabatta or focaccia, so I used a wide Italian loaf of bread and it worked just fine (I scooped out some of the bread inside so it wouldn't be so thick). Makes a nice quick week-night meal that will feed at least 4.

Open-Faced Calzone

1 box chopped spinach, 10 ounces
1 loaf ciabatta bread (or focaccia)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 cups ricotta cheese (1 15 oz. container will work)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, a handful
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano or Reggiano cheese, a generous handful
1 can artichokes, drained and sliced
Salt and pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
Simple Marinara Dipping Sauce, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 400F.
Defrost spinach 6 minutes on high and wring the spinach dry in a kitchen towel.

Crust bread in oven for 5 or 6 minutes. Remove and split bread in half from end to end as if it were a large sandwich roll.

Turn broiler on. If your broiler is too small to place ciabatta breads under it, you can melt the cheese in oven as well, see below, it simply browns faster under broiler.

Drizzle hot bread with extra-virgin olive oil. Mix ricotta, garlic, parsley and grated cheese. Spread the mixture evenly over the bread halves then dot with the defrosted chopped spinach. Evenly distribute the sliced artichokes, season the breads with salt and pepper and top with an even layer mozzarella cheese. Melt and brown the cheese under the broiler 3 minutes, 1 rack down from the top of the oven. If you are using the oven rather than broiler, the cheese will take 6 or 7 minutes to brown. Cut into bread into wedges and serve. If desired, serve with Dipping Sauce.

Simple Marinara Dipping Sauce

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon anchovy paste, optional (I did NOT use this)
1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Heat a small pot over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes and anchovy paste (if using). Cook 2 minutes. Add parsley, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir sauce, bring to a bubble and simmer 5 minutes over low heat then place in small bowl and serve.

Yield: 2 cups

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lemon Cake

This is an adaption of an adaption, from my friend Brandy at Just Another Foodie. This is the best lemon cake I think I've ever eaten; it's certainly not subtle - it's a rich, moist cake with a great lemon (but not sour) flavor. It's such a refreshing dessert that's perfect for summer.

I made a few changes to the recipe, but the one Brandy posted is below. I don't buy extra-large eggs, so I used 4 large eggs instead. Also, I didn't have buttermilk on hand, so I used 3/4 Tbsp. vinegar in 3/4 cup whole milk, which worked like a charm.

Lemon Cake
Adapted from ”Barefoot Contessa Parties!” by Ina Garten, and smittenkitchen.com

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans or one bundt pan, and line the bottoms with parchment paper (no parchment paper if you’re using a bundt pan).
2. Cream butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between loaf pans or one bundt pan, smooth tops, and bake for ~45 minutes, until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean.
4. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.
5. When cakes are done, carefully Invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon lemon syrup over cakes. Let cakes cool completely.
6. For glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cakes, and allow glaze to drizzle down the sides.