Saturday 27 June 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge June 09: 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.

Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart and/or Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the more well known “Bakewell Tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry contains jam (traditionally raspberry) and an almond frangipane topping. The lesser known “Bakewell Pudding” consists of a layer of jam covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. Our challenge was to make an almond shortcrust pastry tart with a jam filling and frangipane – the more well known tart but with added almond in the pastry.

Bakewell tarts always bring back fond memories of my childhood, as my mum would often make a Bakewell tart for pudding on Sundays. I am also lucky enough to have tasted the more elusive Bakewell pudding, having visited the village of Bakewell in Derbyshire (which gave it its name) while I was at University. Both contain the same sorts of flavours but look and taste completely different, the pudding appearing a bit more like a jam and custard filled Yorkshire pudding. While both are nice, I have to say that my heart belongs to the Bakewell tart.

The jam filling for a Bakewell tart is traditionally raspberry, but we were given free reign to use whatever jam and fruit combination we wished. The recipe called for a 10inch/25cm tart tin, but I decided to make two different sizes, complete with different filings. I made one 7inch/17.5cm tart filled with peach jam and slices of peach as well as four 3.5inch/8cm tarts filled with black cherry jam.

The flavours of the peach were sweet and summery and I really loved seeing slices of actually fruit hidden amongst the frangipane when I cut a slice. The fruit gave off some juice meaning the frangipane was a little delicate when hot, but firmed up nicely when cool. I couldn’t resist the smaller tarts filled with the cherry jam – the combination of cherries and almond is always a winner in my books and the vibrant layer of jam looked so striking and pretty when cut into. So my tarts weren’t classically Bakewell, but they provided the inspiration.

I have sometimes had trouble making my own pastry in the past but this recipe came together perfectly, and didn’t tear or shrink during baking – success! The pastry was light, crisp and flaky and I loved the almond addition, which together with the almond filling made for one intensely almond flavoured tart!

Bakewell Tart - Almond Shortcrust Pastry

225g plain flour
30g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
110g unsalted butter, chilled
2 egg yolks
½ tsp almond extract
1-2 tbsp cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Coarsely grate the cold butter into the flour mixture and using your finger tips only, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract and quickly mix into the flour mixture using a round bladed knife. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough. When it still looks a little dry, use your hands to bring it together into a ball of dough.
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Frangipane Topping


125g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
125g ground almonds
30g plain flour

Cream the 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 but don’t worry this is normal.
Add the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. Pour over the flour and ground almonds and mix well until combined. The mix may still look a little curdled but this is fine. Set aside while you prepare the tart.

To Assemble

Jam of your choice (raspberry is traditional)
Fruit (optional)
Flaked almonds for decoration

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 thick, roll in one direction only. Start from the centre and roll away from you, turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to a 10inch/25cm tart tin and trim off any excess. Chill in the freezer or fridge for another 15 minutes.
Once chilled, preheat the oven to 200C.
Spread a generous layer of your chosen jam over the base of the pastry. Arrange any fruit (if using) over the top.
Dot spoonfuls of the frangipane over the top of the jam/fruit and spread it out evenly, make sure you go right to the edges to prevent the jam from bubbling up and out over the top.
Scatter over a handful of flaked almonds and bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Quickly, loosely cover the top with a layer of foil and bake for a further 10 minutes until the filling is set and spongy.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it is cool enough to handle with your bare hands. Carefully remove from the tin and serve whilst still warm with custard. Leftovers also taste great cold when it becomes a bit firmer.
Makes one 10inch/25cm tart.
I baked two different sized and flavoured tarts. One 7inch/17.5cm tart filled with peach jam and slices of peach and four 3.5inch/8cm tarts filled with black cherry jam.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Buttermilk Scones with Strawberries & Cream

The weather has been so nice this week that I decided to invite all my old friends round for afternoon tea and you can’t have an English afternoon tea without freshly baked scones! It was a nice day so we ate them outside with lightly whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The sun was shining, the berries were sweet and flavoursome and it truly felt like summer had finally arrived.

Scones are so simple to make that you can go from raw ingredients to taking a bite of scone in only half an hour. In fact the fresher they are eaten the butter. In my last post I mentioned that I would like to bake more with buttermilk and as I had some leftover buttermilk in the fridge I replaced the milk called for it the scone recipe with buttermilk. The resulting scones were wonderful. They rose well and were light and tender with a soft interior crumb. Baking scones, like when making pasty, is one of the few times when you want your butter cold. The process of rubbing cold butter into the flour helps create a light and fluffy scone, as fine buttery layers trap little pockets of air which help it bake tall. Its amazing how something so simple and containing so few ingredients can taste so good. Why not bake a batch to enjoy with your strawberries and cream while watching Wimbledon.

Buttermilk Scones

225g self raising flour
20g caster sugar
50g cold butter
125ml buttermilk

To serve
Lightly whipped cream
Strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 220C. Have a clean, dry baking tray ready, but there is no need to grease it.
Place the flour and sugar into a bowl, cut the cold butter into cubes and add to the bowl.
Gently rub the butter and flour between the tips of your fingers, lifting the mixture up to the rim of the bowl and letting it fall back into the bowl as you do so. Continue until no large butter clumps remain.
Pour over the butter milk and use a round bladed knife to bring the mixture together until it begins to form a dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until it forms a flaky dough. Do not overwork or your scones will be tough.
Press or roll the dough out until it is around 2cm/2.5cm thick. Use a 5cm cutter to stamp out rounds. Do this by pressing down sharply with the ball of your hand to create a clean cut, do not twist the cutter or your scones will rise twisted.
Place the scones on the baking tray and brush the tops with a little milk.
Bake for 12 minutes until risen and lightly golden brown.
Transfer to a cooling rack and leave until just cool.
Serve with jam, cream and fresh strawberries.
Best eaten on day of baking.
Makes 7 – 8 scones

Saturday 20 June 2009

The Cake Slice June 09: Pina Colada Cake

The Cake Slice Bakers chose a perfect cake this month, Pina Colada cake, a great choice for the start of the summer. The cake consists of a brown sugar cake, doused in rum and sandwiched together with a pineapple and lime compote/jam and covered with a fluffy coconut buttercream. I topped my cake off with some twists of mango and some fresh passion fruit to give it that extra tropical appearance and flavour.

The cake was meant to be baked in nine inch tins but I decided to do something a little different by halving the recipe, baking it in a swiss roll tin and then making it into a rectangle cake. The cake rose well and so it turned out wonderfully sky high.

The cake had a slight caramel flavour to it thanks to the brown sugar, while buttermilk kept it very tender and light. I hardly ever bake with buttermilk, but it always produces such good results that I really must use it more often. I couldn’t find crushed pineapple so I used a can of pineapple pieces and attempted to mash it, although rather unsuccessfully (I’ll blend it next time) so my filling stayed rather chunky, but this meant you got a big hit of zesty tropical pineapple every few bites. The coconut flavour in the buttercream really shone through and created a cloud of sweet smelling coconut that wafted around the cake, drawing you to it if you happened to wander past. It really made me think of sun, golden sandy beaches and palm trees – sigh, if only. The rum used to soak the layers worked with the other flavours wonderfully, creating a taste of topical holidays in every bite.

Pina Colada Cake
(Recipe from Sky High Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne)
Brown Sugar Cake
400g American cake flour (or 320g plain flour with 80g cornflour)
1¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
450g light brown sugar
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
380ml buttermilk
5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line the base of three 9inch cake pans. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk gently to combine. Add the brown sugar, butter and 325ml of the buttermilk to the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low blend to incorporate. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Whisk the eggs with the remaining 55ml buttermilk and the vanilla and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and beating only long enough to incorporate between additions. Divide the batter between the 3 pans.
Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper and allow to cool completely.

For the Pineapple Filling
560g canned crushed pineapple (no added sugar)
225g caster sugar
60ml freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
One inch piece of vanilla bean split in half

Filling method
Combine the pineapple, sugar and lime juice in a pan. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan too. Warm over a medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, 2 to 3 minutes.
Raise the het to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the juices have almost completely evaporated and its turned jam-like in consistency. Let the filling cool completely before using. (Can be made a day in advance and refrigerated) (If you can’t find crushed pineapple blend a can of pineapple into small pieces)

Coconut Buttercream
3 eggs whites
225g caster sugar
60ml water
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150ml unsweetened coconut milk
1½ tsp coconut extract

Buttercream method
Put the eggs whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment so they are ready to go.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the sold boil stage on a sugar thermometer, around 120C.
Beat the egg whites briefly at medium speed. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, being careful to avoid the beaters. Continue to whip until the meringue has cooled to body temperature.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the butter, several tablespoons at a time and continue to beat until a smooth fluffy frosting forms.
Add the coconut milk in several additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well after each addition. Add the coconut extract and mix until smooth.

To assemble
9 tbsp rum – light, amber or dark
Coconut flakes and thin slices of pineapple

Assembly method
Place one layer flat side up on a cake stand. Sprinkle 3 tbsp rum over the cake. Spread half of the pineapple filling over the layer, leaving a small gap around the edge. Add the second layer, sprinkle with more rum and cover with the remaining pineapple filling.
Top with the third layer and sprinkle with the remaining rum. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the coconut buttercream.
Decorate with some thin shreds of coconut and slices of pineapple if wished.
Makes one 9inch triple layer cake

Sunday 14 June 2009

Herb Speckled Bread

I had a selection of cut fresh oregano, lemon thyme and tarragon sitting on the windowsill in a little jar of water and they were starting to look a little droopy. I wanted to make something that would use them all up at once and hit upon the idea of adding them to a bread dough to create a mixed herby bread. The flavours worked together in my head as lemon thyme is fragrant with a lemony scent and both oregano and tarragon work well with lemony flavours so I didn’t see why they shouldn’t all taste good mixed together. They certainly smelt lovely while I chopped them up.

I decided to make a white loaf as I wanted the herbs to be visible throughout. I also added a little dried milk powder and kamut flour which I find helps create a moist and tender crumb. As the bread was baking it released a lovely strong fragrant herby aroma, which smelt wonderful but I began to have doubts that mixing so many herbs together might not have been such a good idea. I didn’t want it to be too overpowering.After waiting for it to cool I sliced into it and was pleased to see that the herbs had stayed visible and were prettily speckled throughout the dough. I tasted a bit plain and it was soft with a nice blend of herby flavours with a very subtle lemony scent. I tried another bit spread with butter and it was delicious, almost like eating garlic bread – only without the garlic (yes I know that sounds odd!) I did a little dance around the kitchen - yay it worked! It made lovely cheese and tomato sandwiches and was also very good toasted. It’s taught me I really must be more inventive in my bread baking. I’m sure it would work with other herb combinations too – as long as they taste nice together then go for it!

Herb Speckled Bread

400g strong white bread flour
75g kamut flour (I used Doves - use chestnut, spelt or more bread flour if you can’t find it)
300-330ml warm water (not hot)
1 tsp salt
20g butter
1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp fast action dried yeast
½ tbsp milk powder
4 stems of fresh oregano
4 fresh stems of lemon thyme
4 stems of fresh tarragon

Measure out the warm water and add the butter and leave it to melt and soften. Place the flours, salt, sugar, yeast and milk powder into a bowl. Pour in most of the water and mix well using your fingers until a soft and sticky dough is formed. Add more water if necessary.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes until smooth. It should still feel tacky, but not sticky.
Finely chop all the herbs until very small, but stop before thyme turn to mush. Flatten the dough slightly, sprinkle over the herbs and briefly knead to distribute them through the dough.
Place the dough into a large lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
After the hour, knock the dough back and shape into a rough log shape. Place in a large 2lb bread tin and allow to rise for a further 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C and bake the bread for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden and hollow sounding when tapped.
Leave to cool before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf

Sunday 7 June 2009

Barbequed Aubergine with Chermoula

What is chermoula? I hear you ask. Until recently I hadn’t heard of it either, but chermoula is spicy, aromatic North African dip or marinade that is traditionally served with fish but can also be used with chicken, vegetables or in stirred into couscous. I happened across it while looking for interesting veggie alternatives for a BBQ last weekend. The chermoula caught my attention firstly for its unusual name – cher-mou-la and secondly for its wonderful mix of Moroccan sounding ingredients such as sweet paprika, mint, cumin and harissa paste that sounded perfect for a hot summers day.

I found a recipe that suggested serving the chermoula as an accompaniment to grilled aubergine and decided sliced aubergines would be ideal for putting on the Barbeque. The chermoula looks a little like a pesto, the spices and herbs mingling together in a golden saffron oil. Before barbequing, I also brushed the aubergine slices with some of the smoky oil that was produced when making the chermoula which helped glaze them a lovely rustic orange colour.

The aubergine slices were served warm with extra chermoula drizzled on top. The slightly smoky flavour from the charred aubergine complemented the spicy, African flavours of the sauce. There was a tingling warmth from the harissa but it was also very fragrant thanks to the herbs and spices. I’m told by other family members it goes very well with chicken and sausages too. I had some of the leftovers the following day and it seemed to have increased in spiciness and had a fuller rounded flavour, so I think making the sauce a few hours or the day before you need it would be good. You can adjust the level of spiciness you want by the strength of the harissa you use – I find some are hotter than others.

Barbequed Aubergine with Chermoula
(Recipe adapted from Delicious Magazine)
2 large aubergines
3 tsp salt

For the chermoula
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp sweet paprika
Small pinch saffron strands
2 tsp harissa paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
20g fresh coriander
20g fresh mint
150ml olive oil

Cut the aubergines lengthways into 1cm thick slices. Sprinkle them with the salt and lay them in a colander to drain away any bitter juices. Leave for 40-60 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the chermoula. Finely grate the garlic into a pestle and mortar and add the cumin, ground coriander, paprika and saffron strands.
Add a little oil and grind everything together to make a thick paste. Finely chop the herbs and add to the pestle along with the harissa and lemon juice.
Crush everything together well, while drizzling in the oil to create a sauce with a pesto-like consistency.
Transfer to a small bowl and cover until required.
When the aubergines have drained, rinse them under the tap to remove any excess salt and pat them dry. Arrange them on a tray and brush both sides with some of the chermoula. Add more oil to the sauce if needed.
Cook on the BBQ for 3-4 minutes each side, until soft and tender and grill lines are apparent on the slices. You could also use a grill pan if you don’t want to BBQ.
Keep warm in the oven until required. Serve with extra chermoula and other usual barbeque meal accompaniments.
Serves 6 - 8

Monday 1 June 2009

Greek Salad

This is one of my favourite summertime salads. I suppose you could make it all year round, but to me it’s best eaten outside in the sunshine as an accompaniment to a picnic or BBQ. This is exactly what I did yesterday when we had a family BBQ in celebration of my finishing uni (for ever!) and to make the most of the glorious sunshine.

Using proper Greek feta is important, I believe it’s got a far superior creamier texture to feta-style cheese, which can often be a bit chalky. Making the salad a few hours or even the day before you need it allows the flavours to develop and meld together, some of the juices come out of the salad and it sort of self marinades – mmmm delicious.

Tastes great as a salad with other picnic goodies and leftovers are delicious used in wraps, pitta bread, sandwiches or jacket potatoes.

Greek Salad
100g Greek feta cheese
250g cherry tomatoes
½ cucumber
10 stoned black olives
Zest of ½ lemon
Dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds using a teaspoon to create little boat shapes and slice them into 5mm thick slices. Pat the feta dry using some kitchen roll and cut into small cubes. Slice the tomatoes into halves or quarters, size dependant, along with the black olives. Finely grate the zest of the lemon onto a chopping board for ease.
Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over the base of a large serving dish. Sprinkle over a little lemon zest, oregano and black pepper.
Arrange a third of the cucumber, tomato, feta cubes and olives in the base of the dish. Sprinkle over a little more lemon, oregano and pepper. Top with another third of the ingredients, more seasoning and the final third of feta cheese, and salad.
Sprinkle with any remaining lemon zest, oregano and finish with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. Tastes best if made a few hours or even a day before you need it to allow time for the flavours to develop and meld.
Serves 6 – 8 as an accompaniment. Perfect served with a picnic or BBQ.