Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge: 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 really liked this challenge--the recipe really was pretty simple but with such nice results. Not that there's anything wrong with the more labor-intensive challenges, but this is what I needed this month, folks. Good choice, Jasmine and Annemarie. Even with the optional element of making your own jam or jelly to use in the recipe (I made strawberry freezer jam) it wasn't too tricky.

I like that this tart isn't too sweet. It really would do just as nicely as a breakfast pastry as it does for a dessert. I really think this is something I'll make again, which I can't say about every challenge.

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 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.
(Baking Becca note: Don't worry if it looks pretty brown when you take it out of the oven. Some people said they got nervous and took theirs out too early and were sorry for it. This is how mine looked and it was just right:)

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 (I dusted it with powdered sugar).

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

8oz (about 1 3/4 loose packed) all purpose flour
1oz (a little more than 1/8 c.) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4oz (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1-2 Tbsp cold water (I used three--I live in a dry environment.)

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

4.5oz (1 stick plus a little less than a Tbsp. for me) unsalted butter, softened
4.5oz powdered sugar (I'm not sure how much this is in cups--I forgot to measure)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
4.5oz (forgot to measure) ground almonds
1oz (forgot to measure) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose (light 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. 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.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Strawberry Pie

Let me tell you, friends--just thinking about this pie makes me hungry. Lately my parents' garden has been producing oodles of strawberries. And by oodles I mean they are up to their eyeballs in strawberries and my usually mild-mannered father has an urge to swear every time he goes out to the garden and sees how many more strawberries he has to pick, wash, and stem. So, I've been taking as many of them off their hands as I can, and my favorite way to use them is in this pie. Oh how I love this pie. The recipe comes from my mother who got it from a friend who got it from her next-door neighbor's best friend's cat's cousin once-removed or something like that--you know how recipes are. But regardless of it's origins, this is a spectacular pie.
The ingredient that turns this pie from ho-hum strawberry into mmm-mmm-strawberry is the thin layer of cream cheese you spread on the pie crust before adding the strawberries. It also has the added benefit of protecting your crust from getting soggy, because soggy crust is just yucky. You can use a store-bought pie crust or make your own. If you do make your own, allow me to recommend putting some tin foil on it and weighting it down with rice, beans, or pie weights for the first 8 minutes or so of baking to keep it from bubbling or shrinking too much. That's because you bake it ahead of time on its own (called blind baking, fyi), which means there isn't the nice heavy filling to weigh it down. And now, the recipe:

Strawberry Pie
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
3 T. cornstarch
3 T. strawberry gelatin
3 c. fresh strawberries, sliced
9 inch deep dish pie crust, baked
3 oz. cream cheese, slightly softened.
Spread a thin layer of cream cheese in the bottom and up the sides of the baked pie crust. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, and cornstarch. Cook over medium high heat until it boils and thickens. Remove from heat; add gelatin. Cool slightly. Slice berries and place them in the bottom of the baked pie shell. Cover with strawberry mixture. Chill for at least one hour. Top with whipped cream. Pie is best eaten the day it is made because the crust can get a little soggy if kept too long.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Take on Heidi's Brownies

*Note: I just went to make this recipe and realized I left a very important ingredient out when I typed this post: sugar! I am so sorry if anyone attempted to make these without the sugar. I have added it into the recipe in this post, so now (fingers crossed) everything should be right.

I have a dear friend who was also my roommate about four times. Her name is Heidi. Hi, Heidi! One of the many, many reasons Heidi rocks is the fact that she makes delicious brownies. I love chocolate, but some brownie recipes I've tried are so chocolaty they leave you begging for milk after just one bite. Not Heidi's. They strike just the right balance between strong and understated. They're subtle but not weak. They're kind of like Heidi, come to think of it. They have only one flaw--they don't have a shiny, flaky top. And to my husband, that's a serious problem. So I've doctored up the recipe a bit, added a little salt because I love how it sets off the chocolate flavor, and voila! The deliciousness of Heidi's brownies but with a shiny top. If you want them more chocolaty you can use semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate chips. And just a hint: Heidi always used Mexican vanilla and it makes these taste SO good, so if you have access to some, please use it!

Chocolate Brownies
2/3 c.unsalted butter
1/4 c. milk chocolate chips
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. cocoa
1 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. hot cocoa mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a double boiler or heat-proof bowl set over boiling water, melt chocolate chips and butter together. Allow to cool slightly. In the meantime, blend other ingredients together in a separate medium bowl. Add some of this mixture to the melted chocolate mixture and mix well. Add melted chocolate mixture to the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Spread in a greased 7x11" pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I was on t.v.!

And I won a cookie bake-off! You can see the video clip here. As background, a local t.v. station had viewers send in their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes which they were then going to compile on their website, but they decided it would be fun if they had about five viewers come on t.v. and do a bake-off. They liked the sound of my recipe and invited me to be one of the five contestants, and I won! Here is the lovely prize package that I got:

It's a little hard to see, but I got two really nice cookie sheets, collapsible measuring cups, a new liquid measure, a silicone baking mat from Sur la Table (how did they know I just ran out of parchment paper?), a battery-operated flour sifter, and a Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook. Woohoo!

The downside to this has been the fact that it has seriously distracted me from blogging--that and the fact that I've been out of town A LOT lately. So, in hopes that it will make up for how silent I've been lately, I give you my winning cookie recipe. But wait! There's more! I messed around with the recipe after I submitted it and found a few extra things I like to do to make these cookies even more delicious, and I'm only sharing them with Baking Becca readers. All two of you out there. ;) So, here is my new and improved recipe for Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies, a Baking Becca exclusive:

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks butter
2 eggs
½ t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. bread flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
¾ t. salt
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Allow one stick of butter to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, and melt the other stick. Cream butter for two minutes. Add vanilla and sugar and cream another minute or two or until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs. Blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Drop by tablespoonful onto greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle each dough ball with some ground sea salt. Bake for 8-10