Saturday, June 27, 2009

June's Daring Baker Challenge: Cake Tart?

Blurb-o'-the-month: 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.

So a bakewell tart is basically frangipane in a crust. Frangipane, at least in this version, is like a very light, delicate almond cake. I've seen more jelloid, custurd frangipane fillings but mine didn't turn out that way. Fruity jam is added to the mix and the challenge's hosts say the bakewell tart lets you show off 'your area's seasonal fruit'. Except I'm in Alaska at the moment and Alaska's 'seasonal fruit' in June is grown in Mexico. Since I didn't want to use $10 strawberries or a jar of fruit cocktail (those raised in Alaska knows this totally counts as a fruit serving in order to avoid scurvy) I just used jam.

I was pretty excited about this month’s Daring Bakers challenge because it featured ALMONDS. I’m not a big fan of plain almonds but pretty much any almond flavored dessert makes my heart flutter. And this month’s challenge was to make a frangipane based tart, that almond cake-like substance. Why we were essentially putting cake in a tart shell was beyond me but I wasn’t complaining.

Since I no longer have a Brian to eat all of my baked goods in one drunken sitting, I decided to take the tart to my aunt’s birthday party, were I was confident they would be eaten up quickly by tipsy lawyers. I was originally going to make one large tart but decided that it would be cute and festive to make mini tarts.

I found mini tart pans at Bed Bath and Beyond (which I always want to call Bath and Body Works, even though beauty product stores generally don’t also stock kitchen supplies) for super cheap and they worked like a charm. Instead of rolling out one giant crust, I rolled (or rather, I had my boyfriend slave roll out) out the dough and then used a drinking glass to cut out smaller pastry circles that ended up fitting the mini pans just about perfectly. Then I spooned in the required fillings and popped them in the oven.

I guess I should post the recipe now, eh? Here it is:

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding


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

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


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.


These were adorable and a hit at the party but I thought they could be better. Surprisingly, I didn’t think the frangipane filling was almond-y enough and the crust and frangipane I found kind of bland. I ended up adding more almond extract and sugar to the frangipane after tasting the first batch which helped a bit but it still needed a flavor boost. I also wasn’t a fan of the whole cake filled tart thing. Give me a tart or a cake but don’t freak me out by trying to combine the two. I saw one Daring Baker that experimented with using almond paste to make a gooier almond layer and I think I would’ve liked that a lot better.

Anyways, I never got around to taking a picture of the tarts split open, oops. But some had jam on the bottom, like the recipe called for. But then I got bored and it was late at night so I also did some without jam: some sprinkled with powdered sugar, some topped with almonds, some dipped in chocolate and some with jam on top. Then I put them on a big ol' platter with some chocolate covered strawberries because I am a domestic goddess.

Oh, check out this cute little tuxedo strawberry I made. My chocolate was getting wonky because I was using chocolate chips and not dipping chocolate but I still find it rather adorable. I was feeling rather proud and jolly, though perhaps that was just the vodka punch I was drinking?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Squirrel* cookies! *No squirrels were hurt in the production of these cookies. Sorry to disapoint you.

For my sister's birthday, just about my entire family bought my sister cooking and baking related supplies. Like me, my sister loves to bake and even runs a little cupcake business on the side. Among other things, my mom got Mia a cupcake cookbook, my dad got her a food processor and I got her some various cupcake liners, sprinkles, flavoring and cookie cutters from Bake it Pretty. I stumbled upon Bake it Pretty a couple days before Mia's birthday and just about hyperventilated because I wanted everything on the site. I knew Mia would too (love it, not hyperventilate) so I picked out a bunch of stuff for her.

Speaking of Mia's birthday, I totally screwed up this year and thought her birthday was two days earlier than it actually was. I blame part of this on the fact that Joe and I drove to DC that day so I had just spent all my brain cells on watching the road and feeding Joe fruit for eight hours. We got into DC late and right before we went to bed I was like, "SHIT TODAY WAS MIA'S BIRTHDAY, RIGHT?" and I called Mia and left a cheery message on her voicemail wishing her happy birthday.

It was not her birthday. But at least I was two days EARLY, right? At least that's what I tell myself.

Anyways, my mom wanted Mia and I to use some of her birthday goodies to bake together and blog about. I said sure before seeing Mia's kitchen, which is about the size of a large cardboard box. One person can barely fit in it, let alone two. So when I say 'we made these' I mean we took turns being in the kitchen.

Cupcakes are cute but Mia and I wanted to make something that I could home to mom and cupcakes do not travel well. Cookies travel well though and would give us a chance to use the cute cookie cutters I got Mia, which included a squirrel and a cupcake. We decided to make shortbread cookie sandwiches filled with fig jam, since my mom loves fig jam and I like the shortbread recipe from the cookie book.

Here's the squirrel. Isn't he cute? Apparently I didn't take any pictures of the cupcake cookies because I took these pictures literally on my way out of Mia's apartment on the way to the airport. Joe and I had called a cab for three o'clock and when he didn't show at three, Joe called him to ask where our cab was. The basic answer was the hell if he knew, there were no cabs in the area. So we were like GREAT, THANKS and walked to subway instead. With 50 lb bags. I cried a little and nearly stabbed Joe's eyes out because he was nearest to me. Then I took some xanax and things were a lot better.

And thus concludes things I baked and took pictures of in California.

These were good, I think? I can't really remember but considering I like that shortbread recipe and the fig jam, I think it's safe to say these were good. Recipe previously shown here.

I've made a few things in Alaska (including this month's Daring Baker challenge, in which I became a BAKING GODDESS OF AWESOMENESS) but you'll just have to wait for those.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Almost vegan strawberry bread pudding

Hello from pretty but overcast Alaska! California was fabulous and I ate approximately 9 tons of fresh organic fruit and vegetables, including one apricot that was home to a worm.

While Joe and I took over my sister's teeny tiny apartment, Joe made six loaves of bread, most of which went stale because A) um, we had six loaves of bread and B) most were sitting out on the counter and C) did I mention there were six loaves? So I decided to spend one morning relaxing and baking bread pudding with one of the loaves of bread, which was now so stale it could serve as a weapon. As a bonus, I had the apartment to myself so I decided to bake without pants. I hate pants. My sister Mia mentioned that one of her favorites stories about me was when I came home from school one day and promptly changed into a robe so I could lounge around without pants. My dad observed me sprawled out on the couch in my robe and told me to put on some clothes, to which I said with extreme exasperation, "But dad, I've been wearing pants ALL DAY."

I baked a fair amount in my robe last year but because I didn't want to scar Brian for life, I couldn't wander around without pants. So my morning of baking pantless was a real treat. This is also why I don't have friends.

I decided to try to make a vegan bread pudding because I was planning on taking it to Mia's birthday dinner, hosted by her vegan friend Miriam. I also wanted to incorporate fruit into the bread pudding because Joe and I bought an excessive amount of fruit at a farmer's market. To keep it vegan, I subbed rice milk for milk and left out the eggs. Of course, I realized Mia only had salted margarine when I was almost done with the bread pudding. So I ended up using butter instead because did I mention I wasn't wearing any pants and was determined to keep it that way? Going to the store was out the question, clearly. So the bread pudding ended up not being vegan after all because I suck.

Here's the recipe I modified:

Jam and Bread Pudding, courtesy of Bobby Flay/Food Network


  • 1 loaf brioche, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons strawberry preserves
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • Fresh strawberries, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Arrange half of the brioche along the bottom of the dish, and cut or tear the slices to fit. Spread 3/4 cup of the jam on top and cover with the remaining bread.

Whisk the eggs, sugar, 2 1/2 cups of the milk, and the vanilla together; pour over the bread. Press to soak and brush the top with 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes longer or until the pudding is set. Remove from the oven.

Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk with the confectioners' sugar. Stir in the remaining melted butter and jam until the mixture is smooth. Spread the mixture over the top of the pudding, place under the broiler, and broil until the glaze is golden. Serve hot or warm, garnished with fresh strawberries.


Though I didn't completly veganize this, it worked fine without eggs and with rice milk instead of regular and it would be very yummy vegan. I also used one loaf of french bread, raspberry jam instead of strawberry and I added about a cup of sliced strawberries on top of the jam layer. I didn't do the glaze either. The recipe is pretty adaptable.

But it was really quite good. I think it would've been better if it was all the vegan or all the way 'regular' because it was kind of in a weird inbetween stage. It was all quickly eaten at Mia's birthday party though. I preferred this to a lot of other bread puddings I've tried, maybe because I've had so much of the whole cinnamon raisen bread pudding and this was a nice switch up. A lot of bread puddings also do a whiskey or rum sauce, which, since I dislike alcohol, I am totally not into. This would be great for breakfast.

Check back, I'm still one post behind on California goodies and I'm beginning to make Alaska treats as well.