Saturday, 27 June 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge June 2009 - 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.

I was so pleased when I saw what this month's challenge was to be - a taste of home! Although this is not quite the same as the famous Mr Kipling's tart. I was very tempted to smother mine in thick white icing purely for nostagia's sake, but decided to get a grip and go with tradition instead. I LOVE frangipane, mum used to make them a lot when I was younger and so I couldn't wait to get cracking, no last minute rushing this month! And there were no problems at any stage, I actually found this challenge straight forward. Hurrah! The only thing was, I felt it looked rather plain and I couldn't think of a way to pretty it up. Not that it hung around for long, mind. I was going to slice it up and freeze portions, but, um... ooops...

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 spreadability (I used an apricot compote, which was already quite runny)
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.

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).

Monday, 22 June 2009

At last...

After years of saving our Christmas money, we have finally taken the plunge and bought our piano!

Actually, it's an electric piano, which means that that the volume can be turned down and we will all be able to practise whilst wearing headphones, which is a very, very good thing. And we won't get kicked out of our house (there is a clause in our lease that says we are not allowed a piano as it would disturb the neighbours! Never mind that the neighbours have a big dog that barks 24/7. Grrrrr.) Of course, none of us can play as yet. I've ordered a book to see if I can teach myself, until we can afford to take some lessons. The idea is that one of the children (M?) will have lessons and I will sit in and eavesdrop... Until then, at least we have the demo option to listen to, hahaha. It was a real bargain, less than half of what we would have to have paid in the UK. And it's beautiful, if somewhat bigger than it looked in the shop!

On a more domesticated matter, I've been doing what housewives all across the country have been doing - making umeshu:

Basically, it's layers of green apricots and huge chunks of sugar drowned in white liquor, now to be left of a few months before it's ready to drink. I followed Blue Lotus' method, so if your curious please do check out her post as she's far more eloquent (and takes better pictures!) than me:

I also made Jo's zucchini-chocolate cake for K's dad yesterday, as we have an abundance of courgettes at the moment:

In fact I really want to make another for us (we didn't get a slice so don't know what it was like, although it looked/smelled fabulous), but that would involve going out into the garden and after this morning's encounter with 2(!) mukade, I'm just not brave enough yet... They really freak me out, but not only me. Read the following from Hanami Web Inside Japan:

'Mukade is a poisonous centipede in Japan. Mukade belongs to Scolopendridae family, which refers to the poisonous centipede species.

They are often referred to in Japanese literature as a symbols of darkness and evil.

For example in Tanizaki's "Yume no hashi", bite of mukade kills the narrator's mother.

Their reputation is well deserved. These centipedes climb to walls, and sometimes drop on to victim. Although few accidents are reported, some of the mukade species contain so much poison that a bite to neck can kill adult human being. Also they have nasty tendency to crawl to human body cavities, such as nose or ear when subject is sleeping.

Mukade eats cockroaches and flies and spiders. They are predators with amazingly fast movement. They might lay still for long time, and when disturbed they move swiftly. When killing them one should be careful, because if you cut them in half, the biting end might attack you. It is necessary to hit the head.

Mukade lives in dark and moist places, such as in kitchen sink sewer. They are said to live up to seven years.

There are many interesting folklore and beliefs about the mukade in Japan. It is said for example that to kill them you must burn them, otherwise they might come back to life and revenge you. There is also story that during the Kanto earthquake, earth opened up and they broke free from the depths of hell and escaped on earth.'

And if you're brave enough, check out this link (I learned my lesson when I posted about the geji geji - I don't want to log on to see one of these beasts waiting to greet me, thank you very much):

At least they eat cockroaches...

Saturday, 13 June 2009

This and that

Still here. Keep meaning to write stuff, but sleep seems more important at the moment - the days are so busy, I start to nod off as soon as I sit in front of the computer...

W is VERY happy today. K always buys the boys a 'Homerun Bar' (ice-cream lolly thing) on their way home from karate. He got very excited when he saw this:

It's a lucky stick ('atari!'), he just has to take it to the shop and exchange it for another bar for free - a six year old's dream!

He's also very happy because his teeth have started to fall out. And no, I don't mean that he hasn't been looking after them, just that he is finally losing his milk teeth. He's been pretty envious of J's visits from the tooth fairy (yes, she does come to Japan, although she did get lost on her first trip here and arrived a day late) and now it's his turn. He was so impatient with the length of time the first one was taking to come out that he enrolled big bro's help and indulged in some DIY dentistry:

In the end, it fell out of it's own accord when he got to school the next day. Thank goodness. What is it about wobbly teeth that make me so sqeamish, especially when they're really ready to come out?

Just before I head for my bed, and going back to the 'atari' thing,
does anyone out there know if Curls (those cheese corn puffs in yellow bags) also do 'atari', like a lot of Japanese treats do? K found this in a bag yesterday:

For the uninitiated, the curl on the left is your bog-standard curl. The one on the right looks like a headless baby. Well, if he's hit the jackpot with it... ooops, he ate it.