Friday, July 31, 2009

Coconut Cherry Petits Gateaux

rainier cherries

Mmm cherries. Not just any cherries, mind you. Those, up there, see em? Yeah, those. They look good, don't they? I know. Rainier cherries quite simply are the best cherries around, if you ask me. They're so pretty too, don't cha think? I really intended on taking a picture of the light yellow flesh inside, but...well...I ate them all. Every bite I took I thought, "Ooh, I should really take a picture of the inside of one of these." *munch* "Meh. I'll do it later." and later turned out to be....well, never as you can gather I'm sure!

What's so special about Rainier cherries anyway? I mean, besides how gosh darn pretty they are. I know you are just curious as a kitten to know why, aren't you? Yes! You are! And because I know you are SO enthralled with this entry that you don't want to scurry off to wikipedia to find out why, I'll just tell you right here, okay?

Rainier cherries were created here in Washington state, at WSU in the early 1950's (ok, so they're a cross breed of two different cherry varieties). They are very finicky and according to my research, the best ones come out of Washington state, as they seem to love the rainy climate here. They're also grown in California, but the ones from here are bigger and basically kick the California one's asses (no offense, California, you know I luv u). Any hoo. They're also kind of spendy - usually about $4.99 a pound (!) and up. Since they were at the peak of their season when I got them, I scored mine at a mere $0.98 a pound! (btw, can I just say it reallly bothers me there is no 'cents' symbol on a standard keyboard?!) Steal of a deal, I tell you.

Which is why I bought a good 4 pounds (give or take). I had just gone through a few pounds of regular, boring old Bing cherries and made these really awesome cherry muffins. Since still had some of the coconut milk left from the recipe, I thought I would make another batch using some of my Rainier cherries. But...again, like with the taking pictures of the luscious and lovely yellow flesh inside, the making of these muffins never happened. On account of my eating all the cherries. Oops. They were good though, I can tell you that much. So are these muffins. You should really make them! I'm sure any type of fruit would be great to add, or even just chocolate chips and some nuts. The muffin base is a good start to add anything that might strike your heart's fancy.

cherry coconut muffins
pretend those are Rainier cherries you see in there, ok?

Coconut Cherry Petits Gateaux
adapted from the always inspiring and amazing Tartelette

One thing I love about these is how wonderfully they rise and have such a poufy top. I used a mini muffin pan and got 24 and also 1 large muffin out of this recipe. Makes 8-10 regular sized muffins.

1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (125ml) coconut milk
2 tablespoons (30gr) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
1 3/4 cups (220gr) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup cherries, pitted and halved (I quartered mine for the mini muffin pan)
3 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds, chopped (I used pistachios as that's all I had)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. Lightly spray or butter muffin tins or cupcake molds. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with hand held beaters) whisk together the sugar and the eggs on medium speed for 5 minutes.

3. With the machine running on low speed, add the coconut milk, melted butter and coconut extract. Beat for a minute to incorporate all the ingredients thoroughly.

4. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until smooth. Stop the machine and fold in the cherries with a spatula.

5. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins and sprinkle with the chopped pumpkin seeds (or pistachios).

6. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Strawberry loves Rhubarb, and vice versa

rhubarb strawberry vanilla bean jam - spoon on jar

I'm new to rhubarb. And jam making, for that matter. Both of which I'd never experienced until recently. I have to say, I rather like both. Rhubarb probably isn't quite as in season now as it was a month or two ago, but I just saw some at the market, so apparently it's still available, if you're so inclined to try this recipe out.

rhubarb strawberry vanilla bean jam - rhubarb
I love the pink and green colors of rhubarb

I didn't quite understand rhubarb and still wasn't quite sure I understood it even after trying some. In it's raw form, it's quite tart. I find rhubarb itself to be quite intriguing; it resembles celery in a lot of ways. It's also a vegetable, not a fruit. It is not, however, related to celery in any way whatsoever.

rhubarb strawberry vanilla bean jam - heart berries
strawberries, why you gotta be so cute?

It pairs remarkably well with strawberry, sort of like a sweet 'n sour soiree if you will. I didn't grow up eating the coupling, so trying to describe what the flavor tastes like is new for me and I can't quite put words to it. This jam in perticular is on the tart-ish side, but still sweet and delicious. I added a vanilla bean as I can't quite seem to refrain from adding it to anything and everything I possibly can. I'm not sure if the flavor comes through, or if it just blended so seemlessly with the other ingredients that as a whole it just adds to the yumminess of the jam.

rhubarb strawberry vanilla bean jam - sliced berries
the jam begins with letting the cut strawberries and rhubarb mingle for a couple of hours

rhubarb strawberry vanilla bean jam - macerated berries
the macerated fruit 2 hours later

This perticular recipe does not call for added pectin, and the end result isn't quite as thick as regular jam. I'm okay with that, but I might've added more lemon juice than is called for, as citrus juice and zest adds a lot of it's own natural pectin.

rhubarb strawberry vanilla bean jam - bite

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
adapted from Bon Appetit via bellaeats

24 ounces fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
1. Place sliced strawberries and rhubarb in a large bowl with sugar and lemon juice. Mix to coat and let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

2. Place two saucers in the freezer

3. Transfer fruit mixture to large saucepan, add the vanilla bean (and pod) and bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Use a hand-held mixer or immersion blender to puree the fruit as best you can (note: I didn't need to do this, as everything broke down pretty well just from boiling the mixture alone). Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until mixture begins to thicken, stirring often, about 18 minutes.

4. Remove saucepan from heat to test jam for gelling point. Drop 1 teaspoonful jam on chilled saucer and return to freezer 1 minute. Remove saucer and push edge of jam with fingertip. If jam has properly gelled, surface will gently wrinkle. If not, return saucepan to heat and cook jam a few minutes longer; repeat test. (note: this jam does not get very firm, so keep that in mind while testing it).

5. Remove vanilla bean pod and ladle hot jam into jars and process using a proper canning method or alternately, you can skip the canning step and keep the jam in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

rhubarb strawberry vanilla bean jam

While I was at it, I had extra of both so I also made some pate de fruit. Same ingredients, only this time with some liquid pectin added to really firm things up. As you might be able to guess, pate de fruit is a lot like gummy candy. It's not quite as chewy (think softer, melt in your mouth) but just as good.

strawberry rhubarb pate de fruit - shapes

Strawberry Rhubarb Pate De Fruit
adapted from Tartelette

6 1/2 ounces strawberries, cleaned and hulled
6 1/2 ounces rhubarb, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups sugar, divided into 1/2 cup and 1 1/2 cups
2 1/2 tablespoons liquid pectin
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded

1. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment

2. Roughly chop the strawberries and rhubard and puree them really well in a food processor.

3. Strain the fruits over a heavy saucepan and add the lemon juice and vanilla bean seeds and pod. Stir in 1/2 cup saugar and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook until its temperature register 113F, stirring constantly.

4. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and the pectin to the pot and slowly bring the mixture to 200F, still over medium high heat while stirring constantly.

5. Turn the heat down a bit and keep the mixture at 200F for 2 to 3 minutes.

6. Turn the heat back up and slowly bring the mixture to 223F. Keep it there for an additional 2-3 minutes (turn the heat down if necessary to do so).

7. Remove from the heat, remove the vanilla bean pod and immediately pour the mixture into your pan lined with parchment paper. Let set for a couple of hours.

8. Cut shapes with a sharp knife or using small cookie cutters and roll the pieces of pate de fruit in sugar. Refrigerate if not eating all of them at once.

strawberry rhubarb pate de fruit - squares

strawberry rhubarb pate de fruit - vanilla bean flecks

Monday, July 27, 2009

July Daring Bakers Challenge - Mallows

mallows - cut view

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

This month our challenge was two different type of cookies - mallows and milanos. I'm not much of a fan of either (and actually quite detested mallow type cookies when I was younger) so I chose to only make one of the two.

I recall as a child, occasionally scavenging the refrigerator for a snack and once in a while, my stepdad would have a package of Pinwheel cookies stashed in our fridge. Pinwheels are pretty much the same as mallows - marshmallows atop a cookie base, covered in chocolate (if I'm wrong, clue me in!). Every time I saw the bag, I desperately wished I liked them, because it always seemed they were around when I wanted a sweet snack, yet we had none. Sometimes I would take one and think "maybe this time I'll like it." Nope. It was the marshmallow that I didn't like, yet I didn't really have anything against them, per se - long as they were roasted and nestled between some melted chocolate and a couple of graham crackers. I recall one time out of desperation, attempting to eat the chocolate coating off of the marshmallow; it was a lot of work for so little chocolate (and still getting too much marshmallow!). I believe after that futile attempt, I finally gave up on the ol Pinwheels for good.

For some reason, despite my childhood recollections of this type of cookie, I chose the Mallows because I've been wanting to make homemade marshmallows for some time now and this seemed like a good opportunity. I also figured that, as with most foods as I've grown older, I might actually like this type of cookie now. I wouldn't know unless I tried, right?

So, without further adieu, I'd like to take you on a little photographic journey through the makings of a Mallow cookie...

mallows - cutting cookies
cutting the cookie base

mallows - dough cut outs
isn't that pretty?

mallows - cookies pre and post bake
cookies pre and post bake, not much difference there

mallows - whipped marshmallow
freshly whipped marshmallow - I see vanilla bean!

mallows - marshmallow mess
it's a messy job but somebody's gotta do it!

For some reason my marshmallow took a while to set up. The instructions say to pipe a "kiss" of marshmallow on your cookie base and when I tried that, my marshmallow just kind of oozed all over the side unless I used a small amount. So I tried this for a few, but I wanted a better shaped marshmallow.

mallows - piped marshmallow on cookies
piped marshmallow...need moar!

Luckily, another smarty pants Daring Baker showed us how you can use flour (or cornstarch) to mold your marshmallows into just about any shape you want. Just fill a shallow dish with flour (or cornstarch) and use whatever you wish to make an impression into the flour. You can then pipe your marshmallow into the mold and after a couple of hours, you have a perfectly shaped marshmallow to work with. You can dust off the excess flour (most store bought marshmallows have a light dusting of cornstarch to take away their natural stickiness) and re-use the flour you used to make your molds with.

mallows - forming molds
forming the molds
mallows - marshmallows in molds
marshmallow piped into the molds - look at those luscious flecks of vanilla bean!

When I removed my marshmallows from their molds, I made sure not to get any flour on top of the marshmallow so that it would stick to the cookie base. This worked out very well and I didn't need to use any sort of extra adhesive to keep them together.

mallows - waiting to be dipped
waiting to be dipped in chocolate

mallows - River dipping
I got my little helper to give me a hand dipping

mallows - River taking a bite
it's always good to taste your work!

mallows - River licking fingers
He likes it! We have approval :)

At first I was only dipping the tops and leaving most of the cookie base exposed, but after realizing I would have way too much left over chocolate I started dipping the entire cookie. I think they turned out looking better that way.

mallows - dipped and waiting to dry
freshly dipped and waiting to dry

Well, as it turns out, no, I still don't like this type of cookie. I think they're just okay, and possibly could be better, but frankly, I don't have the desire to try these again. Once was enough for me. I found the cookie base to be lacking in depth of flavor. I also wasn't pleased with the visual result of the final product. If I had to do it again, I could definitely make them better. Don't get me wrong - it was a fun process - not very challenging, but it did involve a lot of steps. To be honest, my favorite part about this challenge was taking the photos. Also, I think it was good for me to try and make something that personally doesn't tickle my tastebuds, yet still try to do my best and have a good time in the process. In that aspect, I think this challenge was a success.

mallows - star platter

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, whisked together
Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.

2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.

3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.

4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.

8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.

10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.

11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.

12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.

13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Homemade marshmallows:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
(I also added the insides of 1 vanilla bean)

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.

2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.

3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.

4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.

5. Add the vanilla and vanilla bean and continue whipping until stiff.

6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:

12 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

mallows - dipped close up

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

4th of July fun

flag cake side view

First and foremost, I have to say I cannot take any credit for the creative design that went into this cake. None of it. I saw this cake on 17 and baking and was, as I'm sure many who also saw it, instantly delighted just at the sight of it. This was a creative work collaborated by Elissa and her father (whom she says came up with the idea).

After I was done being in awe of such a beautiful cake and wonderful idea, I knew I had to make it for the 4th. I hadn't yet decided on what to make and her post popped up at the perfect time. Wheels were already turning and very quickly I knew what frosting I was going to use and what cake recipe I wanted to try out.

pre flag decor
pretty, but it needed something else...

flag cake
ah! yes! now that's festive!

I have seen Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake all over the blogosphere and while admittedly, never really had a desire to make it (I much prefer a chocolate cake over any other) I thought it would work well for this project. All the reviews I've ever read about it were raving. With the word "perfect" in the title, it's gotta be good, right? YES. It's true.

This cake received the most rave reviews over anything I've ever made! Part of it was the wow factor of the flag pattern inside, but the flavor of this cake is absolutely scrumptious. It's a very light lemon flavored cake and it's just perfectly moist and paired wonderfully with the frosting I used. Everyone wanted to try a piece (which almost never happens - usually there's a few "I ate too much" or "I'm on a diet" excuses) and, AND what really made my day - my children's great grandmother, who is an amazing baker and cook, said it was the best cake she's ever had! Now, I was just smitten that she even wanted to TRY a piece (she never eats other people's baked goods I've noticed - it's not something spoken, but she usually has an excuse when dessert time rolls around) but that she really liked it, well, I felt pretty darn great after that. :)

July 4th - cake slice

To start, you need 3 layers of cake (red, white and blue, obviously). Dorie's recipe makes a 2 layer 9-inch round cake, so I made one and a half batches to get my 3 layers. Instead of making all the cake batter at once, I made the full batch first and once that was done baking, made the half batch. This worked out really well for me as I only have two 9-inch round cake pans and can only fit those two in my oven at a time.

One good thing about Dorie's recipe is that the batter is very well mixed - this helps when having to add food coloring to your batter. There was no danger of overmixing and having a deflated cake.

Perfect Party Cake
from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours"

2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk (I used buttermilk)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non stick spray. Optional - line the bottoms with a round of parchment. If using, also spray the parchment with non stick spray.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the sugar and lemon zest and rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers until well incorporated. The mixture will become moist and very fragrant.

5. Add the butter to the sugar/zest mixture and, using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for a full 3 minutes. Add the lemon extract and 1/3 of the flour mixture; add 1/2 of the milk/egg white mixture and continue to beat at medium speed, then add half of the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the milk/eggs and finish with the remaining flour. Once all ingredients are combined, beat the batter for a good 2 minutes to ensure it is thoroughly mixed and well areated.

6. Pour into prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

White Chocolate Frosting
adapted from foodnetwork

*note: I doubled this recipe to frost the flag cake and had some left over

5 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped fine
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream

1. Melt white chocolate over a double boiler or in microwave. Set aside to cool.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light a fluffly. Slowly add the powdered sugar until well combined.

3. Add the salt, vanilla extract and sour cream and beat until very smooth.

4. Add the melted white chocolate and beat just until combined.

Now for the fun part!

As for how to assemble this cake, Elissa did a great job of explaining it on her blog. I'm going to break it down for you:

1. You'll have 3 cakes - red, white and blue. Using a serrated knife or cake leveler (best bet to getting even layers!) cut both the white and the red cakes horizontally so that you now have two layers of each. Set aside one layer of both the red and the white - these will be the two bottom stripes of your flag.

2. Stack the remaining red and white layers and place the blue cake on top.

3. Place a bowl or any circular guide (approximately 3 or 4 inches in diameter depending on how big you want your blue square to be in each slice) in the center of the stacked cakes. Cut around your guide through all three cakes.

4. Discard (read: eat) the inner circle of blue and the outter rings of the red and white. You will then have an outter ring of blue cake along with two small, round red and white layers. Looks like this:

flag cake work in progress

5. Frost your bottom two layers of cake (red and white) then place your blue ring on top of that; spread a thin layer of frosting on the inner circle of the blue ring. This will help stick the blue and the top two red and white layers together.

6. Frost the middle of the two small red and white layers; being careful to pay attention to the way you've already stacked/frosted the bottom two red/white layers, place the small red/white layers into the center of the blue ring.

7. Frost the outside of the cake. (You may want to use a crumb coat first, to keep your frosting white and crumb free).


flag cake

Monday, July 6, 2009

Things I made in June

no knead bread

Ahh, summertime. BBQ's, picnics, sunburns, extra daylight, sunshine and every thing else. Nothing screams summertime picnic like some homemade bread being cut atop a TJ's bag on a plastic table clothed picnic table! Hey, I might've forgotten the cutting board, but at least I remembered the knife!

Here's my list of things that I made in June :)

KAF Classic 100% Whole Wheat bread
Pain d'épices
macarons (plain, colored purple)
rhubarb butterscotch sauce
coconut angel food cake
chocolate bread (two batches it was so good!)
strawberry vanilla bean jam
strawberry, rhubarb and vanilla bean pate de fruit
the best chocolate cake ever (twice in the month of June!)
caramel syrup
browned butter caramel frosting
whipped chocolate ganache frosting (twice)
NYT no knead bread (double batch)
Bakewell tart
flour tortillas (two batches)
chocolate macarons

River kite flying

a cake for Sarah

sarah's cake

Sarah is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We've known each other since we were 13 and have been through a lot over the years. One thing I love about Sarah is that she really gets me. She is one of the few who knows me through and through, and I think I can say the same about her. We know each other's good and bad and accept both sides equally and still love each other for it (or despite it!).

Recently Sarah and I got together and I had asked her if there was anything she would like me to bake for her that I could bring to our rendezvous. Being 5 months pregnant, she didn't have much problem choosing something she craved! Her request was simple - chocolate and lots of it, just no dark or white chocolate. Easy!

sarah's cake

I knew just the cake I wanted to make. The first time I made this cake was well over a year and a half ago. I don't recall why I first made this cake, but I really lucked out on finding this incredible recipe. I found it on Epicurious and at the time chose it because it had many positive reviews. I've since learned it's the most clicked on chocolate cake recipe on Epicurious! Not surprising if you ask me, this cake is amazing! The cake itself is very moist and has a deep, rich chocolate flavor.

caramel browned butter frosting

I wanted to add a bit more flavor than just chocolate, so I decided to use a browned butter caramel frosting as the filling and top the cake with a simple chocolate ganache. I've also made the caramel frosting before as well, and it's one of the best I've ever made. I thought it would fit really well with this cake and it was worth the effort to make.

The final product was met with rave reviews and was proclaimed "almost gone!" by the next day, which is always a good sign :)


Double Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from

*note: this recipe makes a lot of batter. It calls for two 10-inch round pans to be used. I don't have this size, so I usually make it in two 9-inch round pans and use the remaining batter to make cupcakes. I've also used it in a 10 cup bundt pan and still have enough batter left over for some cupcakes. Be careful to not overfill your bundt pan if using one - I've made this mistake before and it's not pretty!

3 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (this does not impart a coffee flavor to the cake, it enhances the chocolate flavor)
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch proccessed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Spray 2 10-inch round baking pans with non-stick spray.

2. Combine finely chopped chocolate with the hot coffee and let mixture stand, stirring occasionally.

3. Into a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

4. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

5. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Browned Butter Caramel Frosting
adapted from Shuna Fish Lydon

To start, you need to make the caramel syrup. The process might seem intimidating at first, but is fairly easy to execute. Just be careful not to burn yourself!

caramel sauce

Caramel Syrup

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water for 'stopping'

1. In a saucepan with tall sides, mix sugar and 1/2 cup water until it feels like wet sand. (brush down any stray sugar on sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush)

2. Cook over high heat until the color of the mixture turns deep amber. Do not stir the mixture as it cooks - a simple swirlling of the pan will suffice.

3. When color is achieved, remove pan from heat and pour in the remaining 1 cup of water. The mixture will bubble up and sputter and practically jump out of the pan at you, so be careful! I use a piece of foil with a hole in the center to cover the pan and still be able to pour the water in with less incidence of the syrup splattering out.

4. Return the pan to medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is slightly sticky between two fingers (let mixture cool before testing this! It's extremely hot!)

To make the frosting:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of unsalted butter
1 pound of powdered sugar, sifted (you might not need all of it, depending on your taste)
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
pinch of salt (or to taste)

1. Cook the butter until brown and has a slightly nutty smell.

2. Strain browned butter through a fine mesh sieve and set aside to cool.

3. Pour cooled butter into a mixer bowl.

4. Using either a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter while adding the powdered sugar a little bit at a time. Once mixture gets too thick, add some of the cream and/or the caramel syrup a little at a time. Repeat until the mixture is smooth and add the vanilla extract and salt.

frosting the cake

Chocolate ganache

1 pound good quality chocolate, chopped fine
1 cup heavy cream

1. Place chopped chocolate into a heat proof bowl.

2. Heat the cream over medium-high heat just until boiling. Remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit for about 2 minutes.

3. Whisk the cream/chocolate mixture until smooth. Let cool to desired consistancy before frosting your cake.

pan and beaters

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

About that Bakewell Tart...

bakewell tart

I have to admit, I really procrastinated on this one. I had every intention of making this early but, well yeah, that didn't happen. Luckily it was an easy recipe to make and I was looking forward to using the jam I had made recently as part of the filling.

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom AddictAnnemarie 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.

What I enjoyed the most about this challenge was the process of making a tart. I've never made a proper tart before and I was excited to have a reason to buy a tart pan! For some reason, I just love tart pans. Especially mini ones. I could spend a ridiculously long time staring at the mini tart pans at Sur la Table (and have). The frilly edges are just so pretty to look at.

I considered making mini tarts, but after coming across at 7 inch removable bottom tart pan at Daiso, I opted to halve the recipe and go with that size. It was probably better I stayed away from Sur la Table - damage is always done when I'm there!

bakewell tart - crust

I made the crust a couple days in advance as I was running out of time and I also had a cake I needed to make for my daughter's kindergarten graduation celebration. I'm not sure if this affected the final result of the texture of the crust or not, but it ended up a bit on the chewy side. I thought it was supposed to have more of a shortbread texture, but mine definitely did not.

The frangipane came together easily and quickly. The recipe warns not to freak if it looks like it curdled after you've added the eggs - and it does look that way - but I think that could possibly be avoided if you used room temperature eggs (purely speculation derived from past experiences).

bakewell tart - jam filling

My favorite part was putting it all together. I used the strawberry vanilla bean jam I had made recently as the filling and topped it with the frangipane.

bakewell tart - frangipane

bakewell tart

bakewell tart

bakewell tart

Since I halved the recipe, I was cautious on how long I let it bake for. At 20 minutes it was golden brown, so I added the almonds and let it bake for another 5 minutes. I think I probably should've let it bake for the full 30 minutes, but I didn't want to over brown the top.

The final product looked great, but I found the taste to be a little...lackluster. The best part was the jam (pats self on back) but I didn't really taste much at all from the frangipane. I also think it wasn't quite done cooking, but this dessert is also considered a 'pudding' so perhaps it's supposed to be that way? I'm not sure. That, along with the slight chewiness of the crust kind of disappointed me. Despite my feelings on the taste, I really did enjoy making this.


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.

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


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.

bakewell tart