Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bakewell Tart - Daring Bakers

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bakewell tart 2

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.

I have never heard or Bakelwell tarts before, so didn't know what to expect. It turns out it is a tart shell layered with jam and topped with frangipane. That's the best way I can describe it. I also had never made frangipane before, and was excited about that. Frangipane is a almond flavoured filling that can be used in many different ways and it is often found in French pastries. It was easy to make and I loved the flavour of it.


bakewell tart

I followed the recipe given to us and ended up with a surplus of both shortcrust pastry and frangipane. Not a problem, just made some small tartlets using muffin size baking shells. It worked out great.  By reading the comments from other Daring Bakers, I realized that when making a large size tart it would be better to pre-bake, or blind bake the shell, or the jam could make it soggy. I did that with my 9 inch tart and the dough was perfectly cooked at the end. The small tartlets didn't need to do that, but I made sure they stayed in the freezer for a while before I baked them.

I used an organic, good quality, store bought raspberry jam for my bakewell tarts, but any kind of jam or spread would work too, homemade or store bought. The recipe can be split into two days (prepare the shortcrust pastry in one day and the rest in another day).

I really enjoyed making this challenge, the tarts were so delicious, very delicate and elegant. Head over to the Daring Bakers home to see plenty more bakewell tarts and get inspired!


bakewell tartlets 1



Bakewell Tart Ingredients List:

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
1cup of raspberry jam
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


Sweet shortcrust pastry Recipe:

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

Frangipane Recipe:

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.



Assembling the tart

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatized 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.

For a large 9 inch pie: blind bake the tart shell before moving to the next step. To do that, cover the cold tart shell with foil, place beans or pie weights on top of it and bake for about 15 minutes, until slightly golden brown.

For small muffin-size tartlets:  continue with recipe as bellow, baking the frozen  tartlets straight out of the freezer.

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.

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 giggly and the crust should be crisp but not tough.


bakewell tartlets

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eggplant Salad with Fresh Mozzarella and Sun-Dried-Tomatoes

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eggplant salad1


Eggplants are very tasty and healthy and I love to experiment with it, although I don't think I do it as often as I should. This salad is very picnic friendly, great for the summer season. It can be made in advance and kept in the fridge, it travels well and it tastes so good. Pair it with a good crusty bread for a delicious light meal.  A chilled glass of white wine is optional, but strongly suggested :)


Eggplant Salad with Fresh Mozzarella and Sun-Dried-Tomatoes Recipe:

serves 4 as a main course or 6 an an appetizer

You will need:


For the salad:

1 medium to large size eggplant

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

fresh pepper

8 oz of fresh mozzarella balls

1/4 cup of sun-dried-tomatoes in oil, drained


For the dressing:

1/4 cup of a mix offresh basil leaves and fresh oregano, mixed

2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of sugar

up to 1/4 cup of olive oil (you may need less than that)

salt and pepper


Cut the eggplant into bite-size pieces and place in a colander. Sprinkle generously with salt and let it rest for 30 minutes. Pat eggplant pieces dry with a paper towel. Heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add eggplant, stir it around the pan and cook until done, but firm. Season with fresh pepper. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and let it come to room temperature.

To make the dressing, use a blender,or a food processor. Start by processing the balsamic vinegar, herbs and sugar together. With the motor running, drizzle the oil until the dressing comes together by thickening a bit and having everything well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients, and refrigerate it. Serve it cold or at room temperature.

Enjoy it!


eggplant salad 3eggplant salad 2

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marinated Mozzarella

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marinated mozzarella 1

This is another fridge staple here at home. I like to buy bocconcini in water and make a quick herb-infused oil-based marinate for it.  It keeps well in the fridge and the flavours improve with time, although these little mozzarella balls never lasts too long in our fridge. The herbs I use are normally oregano and thyme because I always have them at home. Often when I have guests over, this is what I serve as a quick appetizer. Be sure to have a good, crusty bread to soak up some of the oil.


marinated mozzarella 2

Marinated Mozzarella Recipe:

1 container (8oz) of bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)

1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

zest of 1 small lemon

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

Drain the mozzarella balls. Mix all ingredients well in a jar and refrigerate overnight. Move them around from time to time so the oil covers all pieces of cheese. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before you serve it.

Enjoy it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sauteed Collard Greens with Panko and Raisins (Farofa de Couve)

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This is my take on a really popular Brazilian side dish called farofa (FAH-RO-FA) which is made with toasted manioc flour. I cannot find this type of flour here in the U.S. so I use panko instead. You can use regular bread crumbs if that's what you have at home. As a side dish, it this is really tasty, colourful and( unless you are Brazilian), certainly different.

The collard greens are sliced very thin which allows for a quick cooking time on the skillet, which means your collards remain, No overcooked greens here. Take a look at my caldo verde post to see how to prep the collards this way.

Sauteed collar greens with panko and raisins Recipe:

servers 4 as a side dish

You will need:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter

1/2 cup of chopped onion

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/2 cup of panko or bread crumbs

1/4 cup of raisins

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 cups of collard greens, thinly sliced (see note below)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add butter and oil. When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes or until onions are clear and soft. Add the garlic, cook for about 30 seconds and add the panko and raisins. Stir the panko around the skillet so it will take in the golden colour from the butter. Season with salt and add the collards. Stir it around the skillet until cooked but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Do not feel tempted to cook the greens longer, or they will be overcooked.


To prepare the collard greens: wash and dry leaves. Remove the tough stems by cutting around them with a knife. Roll up the leaves and slice it thinly. Photos of this preparation can be found on this link.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Marinated Mushrooms

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marinated mushrooms


WARNING: These mushrooms are addictive. I really mean it. It's impossible to have just one.  The good thing is that they are super easy to make. When making the marinade, you can opt for more or less garlic, depending on your taste. The herbs can also be substituted for others, the main idea here is to make a sort of herb vinaigrette and let the mushrooms take in its flavours, so be creative and use whatever herbs you have available or prefer. This makes an excellent addition to an antipasto platter, serve it with some good bread to soak up the flavoured oil. I also like to add them to salads. This is how I usually make mine:


Marinated Antipasto Mushrooms Recipe:

1 pound of brown or white mushrooms, or a mix of both
4 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil, or more if needed
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced 
1/4 cup of red onions or shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)


Wash mushrooms well and remove stems. Boil mushrooms in salted water for about 10 minutes, drain and let cool. While mushrooms cool, combine all other ingredients in a jar, close the lid and shake until it's all combined. Add mushrooms, close lid and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge at least 10 minutes before planning on serving it.


Note: the olive oil may get hard on the fridge, you can void that by adding some vegetable oil to the marinade , or just shaking the jar every once in a while, which is what I do.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream

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strawberry ice cream 2


I am excited about making my own ice creams this summer. Ever since I got the attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer at Christmas I really didn't do much with it (with a few exceptions). But now the summer weather finally arrived here in Seattle and I find myself wanting ice creams and frozen desserts. This one is not going to win any awards in originality, I know. It was Andrew's request though. I've established a "request rotation" here at home for the ice cream flavours. That's because I like to try new and different ideas, whereas Andrew prefers the more conventional flavours. So next time it's my turn to choose a new combination of flavours. I have to say, though that this ice cream turned out extremely well and in fact it tastes just like something from an ice cream parlor. Take your time when making the custard and your patience will be paid of. This recipe calls for 6 egg yolks, so plan on having an omelet or perhaps making meringues with the whites.


strawberry ice cream 3


Strawberry Ice Cream:

makes 1 quart

You will need:

3 cups of half-and-half

6 egg yolks

1 cup of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 1/2 cups of  strawberries, cleaned, leaves removed and sliced

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


Heat the half-and-half over medium-low heat until it gets steamy, without boiling it.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Add the hot half-and-half very slowly, a little at the time, whisking vigorously. This ensures that the hot cream cools down fast as it is whisked and therefore won't cook the eggs. Once all the half-and-half is incorporated, transfer the liquid to a saucepan and cook over medium-low, stirring until it has formed a thick custard ( check by coating  a wooden spoon with the custard, pass your finger on it, the trail left on the spoon should be clear). It is important not to hurry this process, as the custard should never boil.

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl and stir in the strawberries and vanilla. Let it come to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, up to overnight.

Pour cold custard into ice cream machine and freeze it following the manufacture's instructions. Transfer the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze it until set, about 3 hours.

Enjoy it!


strawberry ice cream

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


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tomkatsu 1


Tonkatsu to me is like the Asian version of he Wiener Schnitzel. It's breaded, deep-fried pork cutlets. The use of panko (a Japanese version of bread crumbs)  and the sauce makes Tonkatsu an authentic Asian dish. Andrew loves it, so I decided to make it for him. There is really no secrets to it, if you ever breaded any other type of food (veggies, chicken, beef), than you know what I am talking about. The one thing I am picky about is to have it crispy, crunch and dry. It is easy to end up with a soggy and oily piece of meat. To avoid that, make sure the oil is hot enough ( dip only a piece of the meat into the oil and see if it sizzles).

I bought a bottle of Tonkatsu sauce at my grocery store, but there is plenty recipes online to make your own at home, I just didn't have the time or energy for that.


Tonkatsu Recipe:

makes 4 pieces


You will need:


4 pork boneless chops

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

a splash of milk

1 cup of panko

canola oil for frying


Tonkatsu sauce for serving.


Pound the pieces of pork until they are pretty thin.

Make a breading station by placing the flour on a plate, the eggs and milk on a bowl and the panko on another plate. Working with one piece of pork at a time, cover the pieces of pork firstly with flour, shake off excess. Dip it in the egg mixture, let excess drip off. Place it on the plate with panko and make sure the piece of meat is fully covered with it.

Heat about 1 inch of oil in a skillet and fry the pork one at a time until the outside crust is golden brown, flipping it once, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to a paper lined plate, serve hot with white rice, cabbage and Tonkatsu sauce.

Enjoy it!


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