Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Daring Bakewell Tart of a Farewell

This month's Daring Baker Challenge, the scrumptious Bakewell Tart


as hosted by my friend Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar, marks my twenty-second Daring Baker Challenge and the perfect way to say so long and farewell to my career as a Daring Baker.

I've been a Daring Baker since March 2007, starting with the Red Velvet Cake.


Some of the highlights of my Daring Baker sorjourn were the Gateau St. Honore


where I mastered my fear of puff pastry (and managed to burn myself for the 100th time with hot sugar), the Potato Bread challenge


where I made that really awesome wheat sheath bread from the world's stickiest dough, and my stint as co-hostess with my twin of different mother sister, Sara of I Like To Cook, where we made over 600 people spend 12+ hours in the kitchen and read twenty pages of recipe making Julia Child's French Bread.


I lived through the frustrating and infamous Martha Stewart Crepe Cake


and burning myself yet again with hot molten sugar

the bounce like rubber Mirror Cake


and the Milk Caramel Tart that landed on the floor of my car while I was transporting it.

When I was asked to join by the incomparable Lisa and Ivonne there were less than twenty Daring Bakers and most of us were located in North America. Now there are over 1,000 members world wide! I've become good friends with some of my Daring Baker Sisters and Brothers: Elle, Helen, Veron, Dharm, Jenny, Tanna, Ilva, Peabody, Brilynn, Mary, Christina, and Kelly to name but a few of the incredible people I met because I was a Daring Baker. Without this fantastic group called Daring Bakers, I would never have been exposed to so many fellow food bloggers. Thank you one and all for two and almost half fabulous years!

So, what did I think of this month's challenge, my farewell challenge, the Bakewell Tart?

Well, if it is any indication of how good it was, only the Danish Braid

June 08 DB Apricot Danish

was demolished by my office taste testers faster! It lasted less than 10 minutes and I could make the frangipane to eat straight from the bowl, raw eggs be damned!

Since this a traditional British tart and it is strawberry season right now both here and at Wimbledon, I decided to use a very British jam, Hartley's to spread on the bottom of the sweet shortcrust


and sprinkled slivered almonds on top the frangipane before baking the tart until golden brown.


It was so easy and quick that I'm going to be making another one of these this week while on the sailboat but I think I'll use fresh Michigan cherries and apricots for part of the filling.

Thanks Jasmine and Annemarie for a British staple that will now be a go to staple in my kitchen. It was the perfect challenge on which to go out with a bang!

To see my fellow Daring Bakers tarts you can visit some of them here.

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 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), rolling pin, One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows), Bench flour (AP flour for dusting your rolling surface),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.

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

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)
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

Jasmine’s notes: I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar. If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract

Prep time:10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar (confectioner's 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. 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).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finding My Mojo Again Just in Time for 500 Posts!

It sure has been dead around here the past two weeks hasn't it?

I'm not sure what happened but somewhere between Virginia and home in Connecticut, I think my baking/cooking/blogging mojo got out of the car, decided to hitchhike back home, and got lost.

When you combine a serious case of writers/kitchen block with the crazy travel schedule of the past thirty days you get nothing coming out of the kitchen.

Or, maybe it was performance anxiety.

I've been mulling over this post for almost as long as I've not been blogging because this post marks the 500th post on The Sour Dough. I had all these grand plans to make it a special post complete with a glance back at some of my favorite posts and food I've made/baked and eaten over the past five and half years. I wanted Post 500 to be momentous.

But, instead, you are going to have to content yourself with a little tour of my back yard and deck in all its summer/spring glory

My Back Deck with My "Deck Chair"
(Amazing that after two straight weeks of rain anything is still alive!)

and a peek at my birthday meal from a few weeks ago, where I made grill braised greens from part of my CSA box.

This summer, I joined a CSA and I've down scaled my garden a bit as a result. Oh, who am I kidding. I was going to downsize my garden to only include two tomato plants I brought home from Tennessee

Tennessee Tomato Plant

but before I knew it, I had walked out of Russell's, where I stopped on one of my many trips back and forth between Boston and Connecticut the past three months, with a little red wagon full of flowers

I Have No Idea What This is But it is pretty!
(what ARE these?!)


My little herb garden

some marigolds to plant between the chives and peppermint

Chives, Marigolds, and Pepperming

and a nifty pole for my bird feeder,

Nifty Porch Birdfeeder Holder

that the squirrels are still trying to figure out much to LB's chagrin, as I think he enjoys meowing at squirrels on the bird feeder more than window stalking birds.

The flowers around the house are enjoying a bit of sunshine in between the rain. The snap dragons are thriving

Snap Dragons

and despite the daily drenching, a few pretty roses made a brief appearance.

Pink Roses along side of house

A few weeks ago I turned Fortysomething (third anniversary of my 39th birthday if you must know). On the day I celebrated my birthday, I also picked up my first box from my CSA, The Hickories. It was a typical late spring box filled with lettuces, early onions, spinach and greens.

Weedhopper and I are sharing a box this year. As he and Wife of Weedhopper are expecting Jr. Weedhopper any day now and my crazy summer schedule, we both figured we would have smaller gardens (Um, yea...see above and he has just a tad smaller garden this year) and we wanted to experience a CSA.

Along with my first CSA experience, I also have been seriously into meat, curing meats, and everything meat in the kitchen all spring. First it was curing my own corned beef for St. Paddy's Day. Then it was make my own sausage. Now, it is age my own steak.

My birthday meal consisted of a fourteen day aged t-bone steak and grill braised greens.

What the heck are grill braised greens you ask?

Greens you pack in tin foil

Braising Greens from My CSA

with a pat of butter, a little sodium free or extremely low sodium powdered chicken stock, a clove of garlic and three pieces of pre-cooked bacon crumbled (I used store bought pre-cooked bacon, thick cut).

Grill Braised Greens Before the Grill

Wrap up the greens tightly, and toss on the cool side of the grill while your steak cooks.

Grill Braised Greens and 14 Day Aged Steak

There is no need to add any water as the moisture from the greens in the foil will be sufficient.

The result is heavenly,

Grill Braised Greens

I assure you.

Well, there you have it! 500th post all finished and it didn't hurt too bad now did it?

I've got two more posts this week before I take off for a much needed vacation, including a late Daring Baker's post.

I'm heading up north to sit on a dock at a rental house drinking adult libations with some friends for a few days and then we're sailing their 38' sailboat out on Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Isle Royale and back.

I'm paying my way by offering my services in the galley to avoid swabbing any decks. I've been told the oven works, there is a grill that mounts to the railing of the sailboat, and the galley has a three burner stove. It will be a good excuse to use a cookbook, Dining on Deck: Fine Foods for Sailing & Boating. I bought this cookbook many years ago in hopes of someday having just this opportunity.

I'll bet some grilled braised greens make it to the table somewhere between Rock Harbor and Paradise.

Grill Braised Greens

1 lb braising greens (Chard, beet tops, collard greens, what have you)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 packet powdered sodium free or low sodium chicken stock
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 pieces pre-cooked bacon, cut up in little bits

Rinse and dry the greens. Trim any heavy stalks from the greens. Mix greens with bacon bits and garlic.

In large piece of foil (I use the Reynolds Non-Stick Foil when doing packages on the grill), place greens mixture. Sprinkle with chicken stock and seal foil pack.

Place over cool side of grill and cook for 15 minutes or until greens cooked through.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging: Mom's Daft

Yes, we are hosting Weekend Cat Blogging this weekend here. But, Mom has been a bit daft in the head I'm afraid about our hosting schedule.

You see, every weekend since the middle of March, she has been running back forth between home here in Connecticut and Boston, where she is taking care of the last bit of details for Dad's estate


and arranging for the last of the furniture she doesn't want or need from our house in Cambridge to be sold at an estate sale in July. The old house was sold in May and she had to spend some time there too making sure everything is in order.

She also has been figuring out how to bring home to Connecticut Dad's big black German car.


She was going to sell it but decided that she loves it too much and wants to enjoy Summer cruising along the Sound with the sun roof open.

She has been cussing a lot lately about the RMV in Massachusetts. I don't know who the RMV is but I'm real glad I'm not him because Mom has some really nasty things to say about him.

Now, she tells me she is off for Orlando for five days. She assures me it is because she has to go to a big meeting for her work but I think she is going to play with that big mouse.

I will be really happy when she has time to stay home and bake and play string game with me.


Until then, I'll just be curled up against my scratching pole napping


or curled up the big leather chair from Dad's study that Mom strapped to the top of her car and hauled home this weekend.


It is right back where it belongs, under the window in the front room where I can sleep and dream of tuna.

Weekend Cat Blogging is 4!!

A weekly event, that started at eatstuff.net with Claire and Kiri, as a way for food bloggers to not blog about food on the weekend is now a worldwide cat blogging event. There are a few hardy food bloggers like Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums and Astrid of Paulchen's Food Blog (and the arranger of the WCB hosting schedule) who participate but mostly it is kitty bloggers, which we like just fine!

If you want to post about what all you kitties have been doing this weekend, go ahead and leave a comment. Mom will edit this post with a round up, hopefully before we have to host again!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dinner of Champions

My Birthday Dinner Sundae

Because sometimes a girl just has to do what a girl has to do...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bad Blogger, "Bad" Salad

I've been a really bad blogger and worse yet, a bad blog reader.

Despite my best efforts to keep up with my daily reads and so many of my friend's blogs, I've fallen way behind. My feed reader says I have over 3,000 unread posts!! I missed visiting my Daring Baker sisters and brothers blogs after the strudel posts. I haven't even scratched the crust of the Anadama and Greek Celebration posts from fellow BBA participants and sure don't go looking for Bagels or Brioche on my blog. Those two lovely breads are just going to have to wait until the end of June now.

Believe me, it hasn't been malice or lack of interest that has kept me from your blogs. Rather, I just looked at the number of days I've been home since Mama Breadchick left and discovered that I have only been home for six week days and four weekend days. Yikes. No wonder I can't find kitchen tools in my own cupboards.

Almost as bad has been my ability to answer emails from dear friends and readers. I owe so many of you answers and replies, you probably have black listed my email address. I haven't even been able to finish an outline for a bread baking class I've been asked to teach.

I promise though, I'm going to kick my butt into gear this week and try to get as caught up as I can. Starting right now...

Who knew there would be so many of you fascinated by the idea of corn bread salad. Fascinated like watching a car wreck for some of you and others leaving me comments and emails begging me for the recipe.

So, for you my pretties, I called Shirley's Home Cooking today to find out what was in their cornbread salad. They were as sweet as could be and while they didn't give me the recipe, they told me what was in their cornbread salad. A little Google action and I think I can give you a close enough recipe.

No guarantees on if you will like this but it sure is interesting...

Corn Bread Salad
(Inspired by Shirley's Home Cooking Corn Bread Salad)

1 9 x 9 pan Southern corn bread (Note: Southern corn bread uses white corn meal and no sugar vs Northen cornbread which uses yellow corn meal and sugar)
1 cup chopped white onions
1 cup chopped green peppers
1 cup sweet pickle relish
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 small jar pimentos, chopped
1/2 cup dill pickle juice
salt and pepper to taste

Crumble corn bread, divide in half and set aside in 2 bowls, one large and one medium bowl and set aside.

In the large bowl, combine 1/2 crumbled corn bread and all remaining ingredients.

Using another large clear glass bowl, put half the remaining crumbled corn bread on the bottom. Next spoon on top the cornbread mixture and smooth. Finally, sprinkle remaining crumbled cornbread on top.

Cover and let sit overnight in the fridge. Serve cold with country ham or country fried chicken dinner.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Mother's Marching Menagerie

Lions, hippos, camels and bears are back

Mother's Milk

and marching to a glass of milk near you very soon.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Good Southern Cooking or How I'm becoming Paula Deen

I'm home from my business trip/mini vacation to Southern Virgina and Northeastern Tennessee and as usual, I had some fantastic food while visiting. I also discovered two of the best kept secrets of Tennessee, strawberries and tomatoes.

It is the peak of the strawberry season and this morning, before departing Bristol. TN to head back home to Connecticut and LB, I stopped off the local farm stand down from the family homestead for some strawberries and tomatoes. The strawberries didn't even make it to the Pennsylvania border. Scratch that, didn't make it to Lexington, VA.

Somewhere outside of Blacksburg, I started just eating one because they were smelling so sweet, it was just too tempting. The next thing I knew, I was rummaging around the bottom of the brown bag like I was looking for that last french fry. I also had red fingers and strawberry juice stained lips; real attractive to the drive through guy at the Roanoke Starbucks, I'm sure.

Did you know that some of the best tomatoes come from Tennessee? I didn't until this trip down South. After munching on slices of the early tomatoes out on Wren's mother's back porch while we had our afternoon adult libation, I was a convert. It was late summer in my mouth. Sweet and crisp, I could have eaten one just like an apple. I liked them so much, that I had to also pick up a tomato plant yesterday to bring home and plant out back. I can't wait until August.

My trip down south also included a trip out to Hampton, TN on the North Carolina border to Shirley's Home Cooking, a family style restaurant where we feasted on just about the best fried chicken I've ever had. Seriously.

Shirley's Home Cooking sign

I could have eaten two whole chickens if I also hadn't "had" to have some country ham and roast beef along with some mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, soup beans, macaroni & cheese, fried apples, cole slaw, cooked cabbage, and cornbread salad (yuck).

The meal also included soft slightly sweet yeast rolls, Southern corn bread (white cornmeal and slightly salty versus yellow corn meal slightly sweet Northern corn bread), and buttermilk biscuits. The mac and cheese was runny and I'm not a big fan of cornbread salad but the soup beans (i.e. cranberry beans) were out of the world and the cooked cabbage was very good too. The fact that both of them were seasoned with bits of country ham probably had no bearing on my liking those two dishes best of all the sides.

Finally, it has only taken ten years, but I am convinced that iced tea should be served sweet with three slices of lemon and a sprig of mint and I have in my suitcase about forty hand written family recipes from Wren's mom, his aunts, and grandmothers including the family recipe for angel biscuits.

Tonight, I caught myself saying "Y'all" while standing in the deli line at ShopRite. Can deep frying a block of butter be that far off?!