Saturday, June 27, 2009

Out of the office

I'm off on a wonderful vacation to DC, NYC, Boston, and Cape Cod! I will be back with a recap post on July 10th!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daring Bakers -- 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.

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

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.

The version we’re daring you to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.

I chose to do a lemon-blueberry Bakewell Tart. It was AMAZINGLY delicious! I loved this, probably my favorite Daring Baker dessert so far! I didn't make my own lemon curd. I've made lemon curd before, and really, I don't think it was worth the effort. Store-bought lemon curd is usually pretty good, so I went with that!

Tart dough with lemon curd

Fresh blueberries spread on top of the curd

Frangipan goes on top of the fruit and curd

Finished tart (after baking)

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
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. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• 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
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.

They popped my catty cherry!

Last night was my first night joining the girls over at The Catty Kitchen! I have been wanting to join those fun-loving catty gals ever since I saw the crazy times being had over at their blog! I'm sure glad I did! It was a ton of fun! This week they were celebrating Faith's B-day! So, I thought, being the baking blogger I am, I would bring a tasty treat!

Cheesecake pops! The recipe was from a previous Daring Bakers challenge that I wasn't a part of (it was before my DB time).

They turned out really cute and delicious. I'm sure they should be much more uniformly round than this, but I wasn't patient enough to round the sticky globs into perfect spheres.

Cheesecake Pops
Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor
makes 30–40 pops

5 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream

boiling water as needed
thirty-forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 lb chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable shortening
assorted decorations: chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees (optional)

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream. Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight. When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety. Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Faith received a sushi-cake from Octavia and Jenn
After some of the gals consumed some sushi, we were summoned to the deep, dark basement to observe a possible black widow spider. Faith decided to take advantage of Octavia's vulnerability at this point. Spiders seemed to come up in a couple contexts throughout the night! ;)

Faith got some very thoughtful and crafty presents from Octavia, Jenn, and Jenna for her birthday. Like this adorable cupcake that Jenn crocheted.

She also received an awesome penis, I mean mushroom, for her garden that became a wonderful tool for phallic photos
Faith showing off her bag made of bags. Poor Jenn tried to show us several times how to make it, but I think we kept cutting her off. I hope to learn the technique someday!

There was a lot more to the evening that I won't post pictures of. I am so glad that the girls were so welcoming to me. They never once made me feel like an outsider (Faith!). They were so sweet to stop their conversations and give me the back story before continuing on. They are a great group of girls, with obviously strong bonds with each other. Thanks again girls! I'll be back!

Another thing I meant to blog about yesterday was the Resolve Advocacy Day. Resolve is a National Infertility Association. Yesterday they were headed to Washington, DC to fight for better insurance coverage for infertility patients. I so wish I could have been there, especially since I will be in DC tomorrow! I just missed the Advocacy day by 2 days!

Finally . . . RIP Michael Jackson.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Regina Spektor's new album comes out next Tuesday! I can't wait. If you can't wait either, you can check out the full album here! I'm really enjoying it so far!

Parabens pelo seu aniversario, Katie!

Don't ask me how to pronounce the title, but it means Happy Birthday in Portuguese. We celebrated Katie's birthday Brazilian-style this year at Yemanja Brasil. They were listed as one of the top happy hour spots in the StL, so of course, Katie hopped on that train! In addition to live music, free appetizers, and $5 Caipirinha (the national drink), they have super deliciously fresh food for dinner!

Maria got some acorn squash with jumbo shrimp and rice -- it was really good!

Chris and I split a salmon dish. It comes with this yucca meal (the powdery stuff on the upper right corner) that you mix in with the black beans and rice (Moors and Christians as my family calls bb and rice). It was yummy!

Mama Miller (don't tell her I posted her pic, she doesn't like her picture taken). She was so kind to buy us all crab cake appetizers, which were the best crab cakes I had ever had!

Chris and me on the beautiful outdoor patio. It was actually quite chilly for a June evening in St. Louis, hence the jacket.

Molly, Katie, and Maria enjoying their food and outdoor setting.

Ok, now turn your head 90 degrees clockwise, because for some reason I couldn't figure out how to get the video rotated 90 degrees clockwise. This is our Brazilian waiter singing Happy Birthday in Portuguese to Katie. You can't hear him very well, though, cause he wouldn't sing it unless the rest of us sang along with him in English. I made the cupcakes in front of Katie. She requested cookies and cream -- her wish was my command!

Happy 28th Katie!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Weekend Injected With Fun!

This weekend, my whole family (Chris' parents, my parents, and the two of us) went camping at Sam A Baker State Park in Southern Missouri.  This is a really beautiful campground.  The river it sits on is crystal clear and lovely.  Our camping weekend turned out to be wonderfully relaxing -- just what we all needed.

Our first night there, Chris and I had a crappy campsite that had no trees at all! It was also located next to some extremely loud partying astronomers, who yelled things like "Did you know that Saturn is brown and red!?  Think about that!"  Then a few minutes later you'd hear someone yell, "Jager shots!!  Who wants to do Jager shots?"  I guess I'm getting old and cranky, but they annoyed the crap out of me (and I barely slept).

So, the next day, we were able to switch campsites to one right next to Chris' parents' trailer!  Much better!  But, in order to do so, we had to put our tent on our car and drive it down the road.  
We were a sight to be seen!

The dogs had a great time too!  We brought all 5 of them!!  Chris' parents dogs: Lula and Truman; my parents' dog, Jackson; and our dogs, Wembley and Ollie.  Wembley really enjoyed watermelon rind.

He also enjoyed napping after their long hike in the woods!

Ollie had a hard time relaxing with all of the other dogs in the campground.  He's anxious like his mother ;)

Jackson, on the other hand, had no trouble relaxing on my mom's foot.

Lula was a pooped puppy!
Truman is hiding under Peggy's leg.  When he wasn't resting, he was fervently guarding the campsite with his little terrier bark!

My boys.
This is pretty much what we did all weekend.  Sat under the shade and relaxed, read, and ate!  Oddly, I didn't take any food pics.  But, we had lots of yummy food!

The boys starting their massive fire!
Such cavemen!

We had such perfect tent-camping weather this weekend!  It was warm during the day, but cool at night.  The only bad part was that we couldn't do any more than stick our feet in the river because it was so icy cold!

Something else I did on this fun-filled weekend, was start my Follistim injections!  This is actually my 4th shot in the video, but I had to do the first two shots while camping!  So, the whole family got to watch!  They weren't that bad. The clicking in the video is my dog's toenails on the floor.