custom cakes/cookies

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Strawberry Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

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.

Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits. In my case: strawberries!

Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling. Today’s post is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavored shortcrust pastry, frangipane and homemade strawberry-lemon-ginger jam. 

Bakewell Tart History and Lore

Flan-like desserts that combine either sweet egg custard over candied fruit or feature spiced ground almonds in a pastry shell have Medieval roots. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam and noted, “This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.”

By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased.

This tart, like many of the world's great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or the cook should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry and mixed the eggs and sugar separately and poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow.

Regardless of what the venerable Mrs. Greaves’ cook did or didn’t do, lore has it that her guests loved it and an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting.

Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections and in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing and glazed cherry on top for decorative effect.

Is it a tart or is it a pudding?

It’s a debate that rages on… It’s been said that the “The Bakewell pudding is a dessert. The Bakewell tart is that girl over there.”

The etymology of pudding is a rather interesting and slightly convoluted one. The naming confusion may come from the British manner of referring to the dessert course as ‘pudding’, and so any dessert is a pudding until another name comes along and adds clarity to what it really is.

the Recipe:

Makes one 9” tart


One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows), 1 cup jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
(recipe follows), one quantity frangipane (recipe follows),
and one handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface and roll the pastry to 1/4” thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the center 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 or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 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. 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 all purpose flour

30g sugar

½ tsp salt

110g unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)

2 egg yolks

½ tsp almond extract

5-6 Tbsp ice-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 butter into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water a tablespoon at a time, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Strawberry-Lemon-Ginger Jam

4 quarts strawberries, hulled and quartered

½ cup lemon juice

2 packs no sugar pectin

3 TBS minced crystallized ginger

1 TBS butter

1 cup agave nectar

2 2/3 cups sugar

Place all ingredients except for agave nectar and sugar in a large pot. Mix well and cook on high heat, stirring often, bring to a rolling boil. When boil can no longer be stirred down add the agave nectar and 1 cup of sugar. Mix well. When pot begins to boil again add the remaining sugar. Stirring continuously, bring to a full rolling boil and hold at this state for 3 minutes. Test for jelling and then hot pack and process jars according to safe canning practices.


125g unsalted butter, softened

125g confectioner’s sugar

3 eggs

½ tsp almond extract

125g ground almonds

30g flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is pale 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. 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 almonds and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Multi-Grain Chinese Dumplings with Local Oyster Mushrooms

This month's Daring Cooks challenge is hosted by Jen of Use Real Butter. She selected chinese dumplings (or potstickers) and graciously shared a well-tested family recipe. Lots of wiggle room was given with this challenge in choosing the dough (NO pre-made wrappers!), the filling, and the cooking method (boil, steam or pan-fry). Jen's original recipe and very detailed instructions can be found here.

I knew I wanted to make a vegetarian filling. On an especially serendipitous trip to my farmer's market, I found these gorgeously-hued oyster mushrooms. Can you believe these are grown locally? In absolute pristine condition when I purchased them...unfortunately, they got crumpled a bit on my walk home from the market.

Another good find at the market, a stone-ground multigrain flour, informed my dough recipe. This wonderful flour from Jennings Bros. is a mixture buckwheat, spelt, and hard red spring wheat. (They don't just sell flour either. I'm looking forward to eventually trying each of their 5 different cornmeals including a Hopi Blue!)

The key to making a good dumpling is having a cohesive filling (achieved by finely mincing) and rolling a thin yet sturdy wrapper. This involves a bit of a time commitment, but the results are well worth it! Give it a try! Here is my adaptation:

mushroom filling:
4 cups napa cabbage leaves, minced, toss with salt, allow to drain in colander for 1 hr, then ring out excess moisture with a dish towel

1 cup oyster mushrooms, minced

1/4 cup dried black Chinese mushrooms, reconstituted and minced
1/4 cup shitake mushrooms, minced

1/4 cup minced leek

1/4 cup bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 cup ginger root, minced

2 Tbs red onion, minced

1 Tbs garlic
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups multi-grain flour
1/2 cup warm water
flour for work surface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste
minced ginger
minced garlic
agave syrup

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the dough: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water.]

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To freeze for later use: Assemble uncooked dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.