Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - Bakewell (June 2009)

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.

This month’s challenge did not seem like a challenge at all. This could be because I am comfortable with making pastry dough and it did not have any hard to find ingredients. Of course, I could have taken the extra challenge of making my own jam, but I did not make the time to do that. That said, I still managed to mess up this simple recipe (read on...). all started with the Sweet Shortcut Pastry dough. Grating frozen butter was a bit messy and I certainly did not want to end up back at the Emergency Room again with a grated appendage. Considering that the box grater and I have sparred before (and it won, hence my hesitation), this was probably the worst part of the whole challenge. Once grated, and mixed with the dry ingredients, it was pretty clear sailing.

Pastry Dough in the Works

Once the dough was chilling, I turned my attention to the frangipane. Again, nothing too challenging or wild with this part of the recipe. Of course, after the fact, and as I write this entry I realized that I used the wrong kind of sugar! I used regular sugar, not icing (or confectioners) sugar! I think the “batter” still turned out just fine.

Frangipane...Ready for the

PS...Yes, I know this picture is rotated wrong...can't figure out how to fix it!

Once ready to assemble the tart, I microwaved a seedless raspberry jam a few seconds at a time, stirring between each 20 second interval. This worked out well. In fact, once I poured it into the tart, it was easily spread by just tilting the pan in order to get it into each area. I tried to ensure that the frangipane covered the jam entirely so that it wouldn’t bubble out once baking. I think it looked pretty good before it went in to the oven.

Ready for the Oven
Once the was almost done I added the almonds. I did them in a decorative pattern just for presentation’s sake, but they could have just as easily been randomly scattered on the top.


So, the reviews...even though I used the wrong sugar everyone that had a piece of this raved! Thinking about it now, it may have been too sweet had I used the icing sugar! It certainly did not compromise the finished product to use regular granulated sugar. I even had one person tell me that they would pay me to bake this again! Hmmm...grand ideas of opening my own bakery popped into my head ( if they ever really leave!). Here is the glamour shot of the finished product.

Yummy...Served Slightly Warmed

Thanks Jasmine and Annemarie for an easy challenge, that I still managed to accidentally tweak!

Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding
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 spread-ability
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 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.

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
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

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 color 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 color.
Enjoy With Love,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cooks - Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers (June 2009)

Yes folks, you can make these yummy things at home…from scratch no less. You just have to have some time and patience. This month’s challenge of making potstickers from scratch sounded like it was going to be difficult, but honestly it was very easy.

So first, a bit about the host of the challenge, Jennifer Yu writes a blog call use real butter. I started reading her blog long before I became a member of The Daring Kitchen. In fact, it was because of her Daring Baker entries that I decided to look into the group! I feel a bit of gratitude for Jen and her wonderful blog. I aspire to one day have this blog be as beautiful, both in written and photographic form, some day.

Now, onto the challenge! The filling was easy enough to assemble once everything was minced. Take your time and actually do the mincing by hand, don’t use a food processor. According to Jen the texture will be much better this way. Besides, the ingredients smell incredible and you’ll be able to enjoy them longer. I had some trouble finding the napa cabbage, but as always, can count on Whole Foods to have my “odd” ingredients. I think my Safeway was simply out of it the day I went looking for it.

Filling Looking and Smelling Great

The next part was the dough and making the dumplings. As you’ll read in the recipe and tips, the stickiness had to be “just so.” The first batch of dough I made I used method #2 (see below), the second batch I used method #1. Personally, I like method #2 better. The dough seemed to come together better and not be as sticky. Once I followed the instructions and started rolling, I realized that this wasn’t going to be so hard.

Rolled and Ready for Filling

Honestly, the hardest part was taking the time to roll them all and then the pleating! Jen’s blog has a great demonstration of how to pleat here. GO LOOK AT HOW SHE DID IT! Mine turned out ok, but hers are simply beautiful! (I’ll wait for you to get back…) Are you back? See?! I told you she was a master!

My Pleats...Not Perfect, But Not Bad Either

Once pleated, they were ready for cooking. I decided to fry mine because, well, who doesn’t love fried foods! SO, again, following the instructions I placed my newly pleated dumplings into the oil. The next step was to add the water…BE CAREFUL! Jen recommends having the lid ready and waiting, and pouring the water in pretty fast (as in all at once!). This step makes a big mess if you don’t put the lid on quickly.

Sizzle, Sizzle, Pop, Pop, Splatter Everywhere!

I must admit, once they were done, they turned out looking great! Even better is that they tasted great! I made the dipping sauce and enjoyed my test run as lunch. Yummmmmm! I froze the rest and have not yet tried to make them from frozen yet. If I have any tips or run into any issues that aren’t mentioned in the recipe I’ll come back to edit this post. In the meantime, here’s the “glamour” shot of these delicious things!

Ready for Eating!

Thanks Jen for a great challenge!

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers
You can (and should) reference instructional photos and discussion on Jen’s blog post here.

Pork filling
1 lb ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp corn starch

DoughNote: You will want to double this for the amount of filling listed, but it's easier to work with in two batches rather than one large one. (Jen tends to use leftover pork filling for soup meatballs.) A single batch will yield about 40 dumplings depending on size.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
flour for worksurface

Dipping sauce
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional) (I didn’t use because I didn’t have it..wish I would have though!)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the dough, Method 1: 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).

Make the dough, Method 2: In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Both dough methods: 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. 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 (see images above).

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 and steam 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: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. 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.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

Enjoy with Love,

PS…Confession time…this was actually posted very late according to Daring Cooks rules…but hey! better late than never right!?