Sunday, June 28, 2009

Daring Bakers June Challenge - Bakewell Tarts

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annamarie 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.

My Complete Bakewell Tarts

Is it me, or do the Daring Baker challenges come about just when you need an old friend to hang out the most? A few weeks back Pete my partner-in-everything was away for a tattoo convention leaving me to my devices. Idle hands are the devil's playground so thank goodness I had the Bakewell Tart challenge to keep me company and keep me busy. I spent my entire Saturday making my tarts from start to finish and capped the whole wonderful day lingering in the kitchen with an outdoor photo shoot for my tart beauties.

Like most of the DB challenges the recipes are susceptible to interpretation. See my adptations in orange to the 3-part recipe:

1. 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) - lemon extract
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 min.

Rachel's Notes

I definitely overworked this dough compared to all the directions from the DBers. My crust was more of a dense shortbread, and while I was I executed this better, there were no complaints about the lemon-butter flavor or the texture.

2. Frangipane

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 bow

l 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).

3. Raspberry-Watermelon Filling

Part number 3, the filling, was left entirely up to the challengers. You were able to use store bought jellies, jams, and curds or you could make your own. Some folks even used chocolate or caramel instead of a fruit filling. When I was just a gal, after my family would go strawberry picking in June we would make and jar strawberry perserves with my mom. For this challenge, I thought I could just reach into the memory bank and pull a curd out on my first try. In the fridge I complied fresh raspberries and watermelon. Although an abnormal pair, I guessed these fruits would be knockout, summery flavor combo. In the end the flavor was great, but my curd didn't quite take shape even after chilling it for a few hours. It was watery so I added whole raspberries just in the hopes to give the final curd-ish product some weight.

My base curd recipe comes from Annie's Eats post on a Lemon Poppy Seed Cakes with Raspberry Curd Filling
8 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 pint ripe raspberries or 1 12-oz. package frozen raspberries, thawed
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2-3 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Here is what I did to it:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter - tried to be healthy, but will use more butter n e xt time.
1 pint ripe raspberries or 1 12-oz. package frozen raspberries, thawed
1 cup of chopped, de-seeded watermelon
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten - I only had 2 eggs left so I only ha d 2 yolks. This was my biggest folly because the curd did not quite coagulate.
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2-3 tsp. fresh orange juice - since my shortbread was lemon flavored, I choose the orange for citrus.

To make the raspberry curd, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raspberries, watermelon, egg yolks, sugar and salt, and cook, mashing the berries. Stir frequently at first and then constantly at the end, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a coarse strainer set over a bowl, pressing hard on the so lids to extract as much liquid as possible. Cool to room temperature; the curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Stir in orange juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. Assembling the 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)-I don't have one of these so I just used a muffin pan, rolling pin

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 ontothe 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.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Catching Stuffed Tomato Fever TWiCE

A few Saturdays back whilst in the middle of the June Daring Bakers Challenge (post coming this Saturday), I had some down time and was hankering for something delicious yet light for lunch. Scrolling through my Foodbuzz recipe favs I found Stacey Snacks Stuffed Tomatoes with Ricotta. I immediately was inspired and I began hollowing out tomato halves with vigor! Before I share my tomato indulgence, I want to shout out my fellow Foodbuzzers who also caught the craving for stuffing and roasting tomatoes : Meatless Mamas Stuffed Tomatoes and Stumptown Savoury's Ricotta-Stuffed Tomatoes.

Each and every one of the linked recipes are great to try, so give them a look. Here is my version.

Ingredients (pic below):
2 Vine Ripe Tomatoes, cut in half and hollowed out
Italian Blend Cheese
Gorgonzola Cheese
Chopped flat leaf parsley
Crushed crackers
Italian Breadcrumbs
Chopped Sweet Onion
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Dry Thyme
Celery Seed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I eyeballed the stuffing mixture which you will see in the image below, so sorry kids! No exact measurements for this one. Truthfully, next time absolutely no breadcrumbs! They soaked up too much moisture away from the cheeses. Also, I love these cheese flavors but will break them down more with some heat before stuffing and roasting the tomatoes. My peers all used ricotta, a soft cheese, which melts so much easier.

After brushing the tomato halves with olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt, I stuffed them, sprinkled crushed crackers on top, and roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Stuffed and Ready for Roasting

Roasty Toasty Tomatoes
Once they were all done and roasty toasty I could only eat two halves, or one tomato because they were so filling. I wrapped up the other two halves because wasting food is simply something I am not able to do. The very next day for dinner, the tomato fever began boiling again. However salvaging the tomatoes in their original roasted state was not probable, so I made something up off the top of my head instead.

In my freezer I had just enough frozen cheese tortellini for one serving. I boiled those up and in a separate pan over medium heat I heated some olive oil and threw in some chopped onions and crushed fresh garlic with red pepper flakes. As they cooked, I crudely chopped up my roasted stuffed tomatoes halves and began cooking those pieces in the same pan. I hit the whole thing up with white cooking wine and salt. Let it cook down for a few minutes then I tossed the cooked tortellini with the tomato-mixture saute, topped it off with fresh parsley and Parmesan-reggiano cheese, and WOW, this dish packed a freshness punch of flavor and ultimate hunger fulfillment. I was so engrossed in eating this that I only had time to snap a pic on my iPhone before it was completely gone.

Second Life of Stuffed Tomatoes

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ina Garten's Chicken Piccata

Oh mama, do I LOVE piccata! The butter, the lemon, the capers! These light flavors are great for a summer dinner. With traditional dishes its tough to say with utmost confidence, "This is my recipe," because truthfully it's really not. These recipes are passed down through the ages and all we can hope to do is tweak them to match our style of cookery.

For my chicken piccata the basics were already in my head but I wanted a super lemony flavor so I turned to our collective brain trust-the Internet-to compare piccata sauce preparation variations. Most of the recipes online are identical which only validated that my working knowledge of this dish was correct. I knew that I did not want a rue to be my sauce base, so any recipe calling for such a thing close to a rue I dismissed. After my exhaustive comparative analysis, I settled on using Ina Garten's Chicken Piccata recipe for my guide.

Ladies and Gents, I am here to tell you that if you crave piccata use this recipe! I was frothing at work all day today for just a bite of my perfectly cooked chicken oozing with the sensational lemon-caper sauce. Without further ado, here's Ina's recipe with my alternations in orange.


  • 2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • Good olive oil
  • 2 tblp capers
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, cut into 3-4 slivers per clove
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine-used white cooking wine
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (I did 350). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat and add garlic. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place chicken and garlic on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, capers, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine (I whisked to combine). Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate (I saved the halves and served them in my pasta. They looked great!) Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

A Whole Lotta Piccata

Thanks for stopping by!