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.

Nothing like waiting till the last moment to do the challenge. I just took the tart out of the oven and it is still cooling. I will take some more pictures once I cut the tart. This was a fun challenge even though I procrastinated. The challenges were making the shortcrust pastry and the frangipane. The funny thing is this is one of the first desserts I baked as a teenager. I made a tart very similar to this for one of my classes in junior high. It definitely brought back memories. My hardest part of the challenge was to figure out what preserves I wanted to make. Now I am sure there are some daring bakers out there who can put up there own preserves. I am not one of them. Canning intimidates me and I am always afraid I will make someone sick. My grandmother was a wonderful canner and she showed me once how to do it, but I think I was to young at the time. Boy, I wished now I had paid attention.

I decided to make a blueberry pan preserves. I followed Jasmine's basic recipe but used blueberries instead. I also added some zest from a lemon and a splash of Grand Mariner as well. Overall a nice 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.

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).

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Fun Day

We had a great day! My sons friend from school called yesterday and wanted to have a play date with my youngest. That's both of them in the photo above. Their family was headed up to the Folsom Aquatic Center to spend the day. I packed up my boys along with some of their friends and headed up to Folsom. What fun! They had a terrific day. The aquatic center is full of water slides, activity pools, lap pools and diving boards. The boys had definite fun in the sun. We all really enjoyed the day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer To Do

Just a quick note about what I found at The Long Thread. She has a list of 50 things to do with children this summer. For all of us parents that have already heard 20 times, "I am bored mom, what can I do", this might help keep our sanity.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day and a new recipe

Happy Father's Day to my hubby. You are a great dad to our three boys and a terrific hubby! We are planning on having a nice day with family over to barbecue. I hope all you dad's out there have a great day too!

I am so pleased with this dish. I have posted about how much zucchini I have in my garden right now. The challenge is always how to use up that zucchini. If you check out my recipe index, you will see zucchini bread, zucchini soup, and two kinds of zucchini salads. In the beginning, when I first started planting a garden, I didn't like zucchini. My favorite way is to grill it. I love zucchini grilled. Who knew! I slice it somewhat thick and brush it with a little olive oil. Just place it on the grill until you have those nice grill marks and the zucchini becomes tender. I was watching Ina Garten yesterday and she did this grilled panzanella salad. I did my own version of it and grilled up zucchini, green and red bell pepper and red onion slices. I brushed them all with olive oil and grilled until tender. Then I sliced some baguette bread and brushed one side with olive oil and grilled the bread as well. I mixed everything in a bowl and served. Ina added a vinaigrette, but I honestly liked it as is with just a toss of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I had about a cup of veggies left over and decided to turn it into a frittata for lunch. I sprayed a non stick skillet with vegetable spray and tossed in my vegetables to warm them up. Then I added two beaten eggs mixed with a tiny bit of milk. After the eggs began to set up I added about one ounce of Romano cheese and put the pan into the oven at 375 degrees F. to set and finish. It was fantastic! I am really thinking about all the different combos I can do with this.

I had to share another great recipe I just discovered. It is a creamy Caesar salad dressing. I saw the original recipe on Eating Well's website. I gave it a try and it was fabulous! The one element I did not like was the raw garlic. It was too overwhelming to me. So I made it again and roasted a head of garlic. I then used that in the dressing and it was terrific! The best part is that it is only 13 calories per tablespoon. Woo Hoo!

Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing (adapted from Eating Well)

1 clove of roasted garlic
1/3 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup non fat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
5 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Puree garlic and cottage cheese in a blender until smooth. Add yogurt, cheese, vinegar and Worcestershire and blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Per tablespoon: 13 calories, 0g. fat, 1mg. cholesterol, 1 g. carb, 1g. protein, 0g. fiber, 62mg. sodium. (all counts based on original recipe)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer has begun

Yesterday we had our first really warm day in awhile. Sacramento has had a very cool spring this year and it has been lovely. I detest the hot weather, except when it pertains to my beloved tomatoes. I have some beauties this year. As you can see, the brandywine are just waiting for the hot weather to turn them into a voluptuous red. The zucchini and green beans have already been abundant. I have more zucchini than I know what to do with. My friend, Lisa has started her own blog, Apple Green Garden on her adventures in organic gardening. I am the type of gardener that plants them and if they grow and produce I am excited and if they don't then I just try again. I am looking forward to learning a lot from her gardening blog.

This overgrown mess is our courtyard. There is a statue of Our Lady in there, but she is overgrown by the passion flower. I like the overgrown feel, but this has gotten out of hand. This is where I grow most of my herbs. I have rosemary, oregano, thyme and lavender. It is definitely time to do some trimming.

The boys have been out of school now for one week. I have been preoccupied with trying to keep them busy. Hubby works out of the house so it is a necessity that I keep them somewhat busy. I took them to see the movie UP yesterday. What a disappointing movie! I think it hit too close to home for us. I found it incredibly sad and not what I was expecting from Disney/Pixar. Maybe because my father in law just lost my mother in law not that long ago made it more difficult for us, but my kids and I did not enjoy it. I don't like to cry at the movies. I go to movies to be entertained. I like action/adventure or comedies where I can just laugh. Even though this movie had a happy ending, I still did not find it enjoyable.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sacramento River Cats

We had a nice surprise last Saturday. One of our neighbors gave us 11 River Cats tickets for the game that evening. I will admit that at first I didn't want to go. I had had a rough day at my parents house and I just wanted to "veg" the rest of the evening, but hubby was persistent and I gave in. I am glad I did. We invited my dear friend Peggy and her family to join us and we had a wonderful time. The evening was beautiful and the kids had a fantastic time. Unfortunately the River Cats lost to the Colorado Sky Sox 4-7, but we had fun. The fireworks show afterword had the kids riveted. We didn't get home until almost 11:00 that night, but it was a good kind of tired.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Wonderful Book

I have been enjoying this book immensely. I love the title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, in fact that is what caught my eye at first. This book has been on my radar for quite some time, but I just hadn't picked it up yet. I tried to check it out at our library and found that there were 161 holds on the book. Well, I couldn't wait and decided to bit the bullet and purchase the book. It is a wonderful story set at the end of WWII on the island of Guernsey. It is all written in letters to the main character Juliet from the inhabitants of Guernsey. It caught me from the start. I love the very humanistic view they gave to the people who experienced the war. Put it on your summer reading list. You won't be sorry. My next book in my cue is Julie and Julia. I am looking forward to the book and I can't wait to see the movie.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Janette's Rosary

The last three years my kids and I have been part of a religious formation program called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. It is a Montessori based religion class that uses a hands on approach to teaching children religion. The classroom is called an Atrium where all the materials are gathered for the children to use. It has been a wonderful experience, but a big commitment. Once a week for the past three years I have driven my boys to the Atrium after school. Since our Atrium is quite a ways from our home, it has been quite a challenge to get there at times. We have decided that this year would be our last year to participate. With my parents ill health and all the commitments I and our boys have it seems like the best decision. However, I will truly miss it. What a gift my boys have had to be able to participate in this wonderful program. The people have been wonderful and we have made some terrific friends. The program director, Janette, has turned her home into the Atrium. Her dedication to all of these kids is truly amazing and inspiring. I wanted to do something for her to tell her thank you, so I made this rosary for her. It turned out more beautiful than I had imagined. I used petersite for the Aves and a rainbow quartz for the Pater beads. I love the earthy look of the rosary.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Great New Recipes

I love summer! I don't usually say this because I detest hot weather. I do however, love all the fresh vegetables and fruit that you can find this time of year. Our weather has been just lovely as of late. We have had some beautiful days with really cool nights. I love it! My garden is going like gangbusters and those zucchini have been already abundant. I found this recipe in an old Everyday Food magazine and had to give it a go. It is really fresh and light. A perfect recipe to use up some of those zucchini.

White Bean Salad with Zucchini and Parmesan (adapted from Everyday Food)

2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 pound zucchini, trimmed and quartered and thinly sliced
2 ounces of fresh Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
coarse salt and black pepper

In a medium bowl, place beans, zucchini, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

This was so good. It's Garlic and Sea Salt Peel and Eat Shrimp from Grill Everyday by Diane Morgan. I have made this dish twice already. One Sunday night I served it with corn on the cob, some crusty bread and ice cold beer. It's summer on the table!

Garlic and Sea Salt Peel and Eat Shrimp

3 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds large shrimp (26/30 count) in the shell, deveined

Prepare a medium hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on medium high.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the garlic, salt, and oregano and process until minced. With the machine running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the marinade is well blended.

Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade for basting. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining marinade until well coated. Set aside while the grill heats.

Oil the grate. Remove the shrimp from the marinade and arrange them directly over the medium-hot fire. Grill, turning once, until the shrimp turn pink on the outside and are just opaque on the inside, about 2 minutes per side. Baste the shrimp with the reserved marinade as they grill. Transfer the shrimp to a serving bowl.
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