Daring bakers challenge: Bakewell tart…er…pudding

mini bakewell tarts

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.

First of all let me tell you that this is my first Daring Bakers challenge! How exiting! I’ve been looking forward to it, and this first challenge was a real teatime treat. The actual baking was a lot easier than it first seemed. So it wasn’t a real challenge, but it was fun to make, because it’s the kind of thing that I normally wouldn’t care to bake. And that’s exactly why I joined Daring Bakers!

I usually stay away from desserts/cakes with jam, because I’m not a big jam fan, especially not when it’s in cakes. I don’t like it. Or I think I don’t like it. I think it’s the latter. But some food ideas needs to be challenged every now and then. (Thank you DB!) We all have our bad experiences with things we ate some time in early childhood that remains inedible until forced upon us, often many years later, and we realize we’ve been missing out and say “Hey, this stuff is actually good!”

I’ve never eaten jam on my bread, and I still don’t, exept if it’s homemade and is not really jam, just stirred berries and sugar. So when I saw the challenge I knew I needed to make myself some homemade jam. It’s the right season, so I could put some of that last rhubarb to use and try out a rhubarb and apricot recipe I had my eyes on. I made the sweet shortcrust pastry and jam one day, the frangipane and the assembling a few days later. But there was no need for that. I could easily have finished it in one afternoon. And so could you, so roll up your sleeves and challenge yourself with this British afternoon delight!

Bakewell tart…er…pudding

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 (optional)
1-2 Tbsp cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Work the butter quickly into the flour mixture, using your finger tips only, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside. Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using). As I didn’t have any I left that out. Quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, just enough to form a firm and slightly sticky dough.

Wrap the dough in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Frangipane
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
125g ground almonds
30g all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture turns lightly yellow in colour and very fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. At least my batter did. But that’s allright, because the recipe says so! Relief… After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides. Whisk in the ground nuts and the flour and mix well. The mixture will be soft and keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its yellowish colour.

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm thickness, by rolling in one direction only turning gradually after each roll. When the pastry reaches desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan of muffin tray of your choice – press in and trim the excess dough. Patch where it’s needed and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Rhubarb and apricot jam
150 g rhubarb
150 g dried apricots
350 g sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Chop the rhubarb and apricots into pieces
Place all the ingredients in a pan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring now and then.
Turn the heat up slight and let it bubble until jam setting point is reached but remember to stir as it does stick. Pour into hot jars and seal, if you’re not eating or using it right away!

pastry

rhubarb and apricot jam filling

Preheat oven to 200C.

Remove the shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. (If you want it to look pretty when you cut it. I made my jam with chunky bits, so the “layer”/spoonful was rather uneven)

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. Remove from the oven and cool. When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

bakewell mini tarts

Notes and verdict:
I didn’t have room in my freezer for the pan to chill, so I just put it in the fridge. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but when I put them in the oven the butter from the pastry or the frangipane started to melt and bubble up, making a buttier crust. I also had to take them out 5 minutes earlier, because they were turning quite brown. But they were baked and tasted delicious. I ate them warm with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb syrup. Absolutely tasteful! The rhubarb and apricot blended well together with the almonds from the frangipane. Sweet. I’m already looking forward to the next challenge! Mission complete!

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Strawberry chocolate pavlova

strawberry chocolate pavlova

Yesterday, the 23 of june was St Hansaften, or St Johns eve. It’s a celebration of summer, but originally it’s the birthday of John the Baptist, I learned yesterday. In Norway we celebrate the day as one of the longest days of summer, midsummer, often with large bonfires, and a barbecue.

We had planned a barbecue with my parents and some friends, and luckily the weather was great and everything was set for a beautiful night. There was sun, there were laughter, good people and good food. Lots of meat and sausages, the famous family recipe of potatosalad, wine, sweetcorn, foccacia and to top it off (if I might say so) my chocolate strawberry pavlova. And it was so light outside. It doesn’t really get dark these days of midsummer, and it’s so beautiful. I love it. A midsummer night’s dream anyone? Oh yes.

I made this cake for the first time a few years back. It was a hit with everyone, and now my mom requested me to make it for dessert. The recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s book Forever summer, but you can also find it here. I am a big fan of her, she is my favourite chef even though she’s not really one. The recipe is originally with raspberries, but I used strawberries since the rasberries aren’t in season yet. You can use whatever you like. Usually I don’t like meringue because I think it’s too sweet, but the cocoa takes off the worst sweetness, making it just perfect.

I love Nigella, I love strawberries and I love cake. What could possibly fail? And what better way to embrace summer in all its glory than to make this lovely pavlova? There is no other way I tell you. Summer is incomplete without this cake. Once you make it there’s no going back. Summer will never be the same without it. I make it a couple of times during summer, and then I wait till next summer, because this is not a winter cake. This is summer on a plate. And it’s always a huge success, whatever your audience is. Children and grown ups, girls and boys. Even the hesitant cake eaters cannot resist this. And it looks really impressive, even though it’s one of the easiest cakes I make. There will be wows, compliments and people asking for the recipe. Trust me. You want that? Ok. Let’s get down to buisness.

Pavlova (8-10)

FOR THE CHOCOLATE MERINGUE BASE
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped

FOR THE TOPPING
500ml double cream
500g strawberries
2–3 tablespoons coarsely grated/chopped dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Beat the eggwhites until soft peaks form. Whisk in the sugar one spoon at a time until it turns stiff and shiny. Add the sifted cocoa, chopped chocolate and balsamic vinegar. Gently fold this together until everything is mixed thoroughly. Pour this onto the baking sheet making a rough circle with approximately 23 cm diameter. Put it in the oven and turn it down to 150 C. Bake for 1-1 hours and 15 minutes. When it’s done it should look crisp and dry on the surface, but with a slightly softer center underneath. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, letting the meringue cool completely inside the oven.

When you’re ready to serve whip the cream till thick, but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue. Then scatter over loads of strawberries, raspberries or whatever berries or fruit of your choice. Coarsly grate or chop the chocolate and sprinkle randomly over the berries.

Welcome to heaven.

Green crunchy yummy yummy salad

favourite salad

Mmmm, salad heaven! Crunchy, stingy, tasty and healthy! Could it be?
Can we do it?
Yes we can!

Jamie Oliver can, Ree,The Pioneer Woman can, and now I can too!
I saw this dish in an episode of the Naked Chef on tv, probably a year ago, and it looked like the ultimate salad. I knew I had to make this, and I instantly knew it would be good. I don’t often think that way of salads, dreaming of them. Of cakes? All the time! But salads, not so much. So once the programme finished I started searching for the recipe on the net. I didn’t really remember the name of the dish, and I couldn’t seem to find it. I’m probably a bad googler. I guess I gave up for some time since I didn’t find the original recipe, and then I more or less forgot about it.

One year later…
Surfing the internet. Making my way through all my regular food blogs. The Pioneer Woman has created a category with her favourite recipes! Ohh, gotta check that out. Mmm, lots of good stuff her, but something named my
My Most Favorite Salad Ever. Ever, Ever, Ever! immediately caught my eye. I mean, how can one ignore that title? And as I started to read the post, I thought to myself, could this be it? The one? And yes, it was! Hooray! Finally I had the recipe. (If you think I’m making too much out of this, you obviously haven’t tasted this salad, so just shut up and eat)

For the salad you can pretty much use whatever you like, or whatever happens to be in the fridge, because the star of this dish is the dressing. But a few things can not be left out in my opinion – Cilantro, spinach, noodles, beansprouts and scallions. Especially cilantro. And make sure you have plenty. Plenty. In addition I had cucumber, sugar peas and a sprinkle of red bell pepper.

Dressing

3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt

Listen carefully cause I’ll only say this once: Don’t leave anything out, it will be noticed. Ok? Ok.
(Confession time: I left out canola oil and tomato paste…I didn’t bother to go out just for that as it didn’t seem like the most important ingredients. And the salad was great, so if you have the urge to leave something out that should be it. Ok, enough with the lecturing.)

Cook the noodles and start cutting up the veggies. Mix everything together and pour the loveliness onto a big platter or a bowl. It wasnt’ very colourful since I left out the bell peppers, very green though, but I had a good feeling anyway. I believe my boyfriend’s exact words were “That’s a lot of green” when I presented this to him as dinner. But seriously, what did I expect? I served the dressing on the side so the salad wouldn’t turn soggy in case there was any left. But of course you can pour the delicious dressing over the veggies and toss it all together, just make sure everything’s evenly coated in dressing. If this gets messy, and it might, transfer it to another big platter and pour it right on. For that little extra to top it off, I toasted some pine nuts to sprinkle over the salad. It complemented the nutty sesame oil flavour and gave the salad even more crunch. We like crunch. And now. Embrace yourself, because this is truly divine. This is the mother of all salads. And from now on my favourite salad ever. Ever.

salad and the dressing of your life

Baked apple and nectarine

baked nectarine and apple

So this is some of what I ate this weekend: A Creole restaurant meal, a sundae consisting of homemade icecrem, homemade cookies and hot chocolate fudge sauce, tapas, giant custard filled buns at a bakery and my mom’s rhubarb cupcakes… And yes, I’m quite wellfed!

Still, of all these fancy foods I could blog about, I chose not to write about any of it. Not more than this anyway. Mentioned, but not thoroughly documented.

This is about simple, yet tasty summer food that is easily prepared. No fancy preparation, ingredients or additions, just the sweet taste of summer fruit. This dish was yesteday’s dessert and the recipe is embarresingly easy. I guess one can hardly call it a dish or a recipe, it’s really about what you have and what you like. I had a lot of nectarines and an apple beginning to look over ripe, and decided to make a dessert out of it. I picked out a book from my cookbook-selection and found something interesting looking through the pages. The book was “Mine beste sider” (my best pages) by Andreas Viestad. The recipe was originally for peaches, but this was more about using what I had rather than following a recipe, I just used it more as a guideline.

4 peaches (4 people)
100 g sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 tablespoon butter
1 dl whitewhine
50 g chopped almonds

I mad mine slightly different. I used nectarines and apple, less sugar, no wine or almonds. You can use whatever fruit you like, but pears, peaches, plums, bananas, apples and mangoes are a safe choice. Anything that doesn’t have too much water in it. Cut your chosen fruit in halves and remove eventual stones. Put them facing up in an oven proof baking dish. That looks pretty. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and mix them with the sugar. Put the vanilla pod under the fruit for extra flavour, and sprinkle the fruit with sugar. And almonds if used, but I found that unnecessary. Pour over wine and put small pieces of butter over the nectarines. Bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius, turn off, and leave inside oven for another 10 minutes. (My nectarines needed longer time, but that propably depends on the different fruits and the ripeness. But you’ll see when it’s finished – soft and slightly golden with bubbly vanilla syrup underneath.)

Serve with ice cream and savour the sweet taste of summer.

Satisfactory chocolate chip cookies – but not the best ever

chocolate chip cookies

At least this batch wasn’t. But don’t be mislead by the title of this post. The cookies are good, great actually! Nothing wrong with them, I guess I just hoped for more. But that is so individual, so they might be perfect in your taste! I love cookies, and like so many others I’m on an everlasting search for the ulitmate chocolate chip cookie recipe. Even so, I haven’t experimented that much with it, so whenever I see a recipe that includes the words “best” and “ever” I’m intrigued. Easily influenced, me? Nooo….

This was one of those recipes. Simply named: Best chocolate chip cookies ever. I found it on one of my many favourite food blogs: www.visionsofsugarplum.com
And the photos were so tempting too, by far the most beautiful cookies I have laid my eyes on. They looked soo delicious. These cookies had to be made.

I had faith in this recipe. There were several aspects that made me believe this could be it. The holy grail of chocolate chip cookies. Number one: Browned butter. Butter is good, so browned butter in addition had to be even better. Never heard of that in a cookie recipe before, so I was curious about this. Number two: Yeast. In a cookie recipe? Really? Interesting. Number three: Chilling the dough. Ok, that’s probably no culinary epiphany, but I’ve never done it before, cause when I bake cookies, I crave them and want instant satisfaction. Anything that will slow me down will be left out as far as it goes. There were several other tricks that made this recipe special, but these were the things I focused on. The original recipe from visionsofsugarplum follows, but I made a few adjustments. I used regular salt instead of kosher, I replaced granulated sugar with demerara, and used toasted hazelnuts instead of walnuts.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (60%)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions:
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; continue to cook the butter, whisking frequently, until it starts to brown and foam, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking soda; stir in yeast and salt until combined.

In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat softened butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well combined and grainy, about 1 minute; beat in browned butter for 1 additional minute. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined; stir in chocolate and walnuts with a wooden spoon until combined. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (You could speed up this process by placing the dough in the freezer for about 40 minutes.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a cookie sheet.

Drop 1/4 cup measures of dough onto cookie sheet, forming into large mounds, and flatten slightly. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown around edges. Cool 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks.

Makes 16 large cookies

When I took them out of the oven, the first feeling of disappoinment hit me. My cookies didn’t look anything like hers….. Her cookies looked a lot better. But hey, it’s what inside that counts, right?
I snapped a few pictures, and took a bite. Hmm. Chewy and soft, but not so much crisp and buttery. And according to Emily, hers were all that. But, I guess I have to blame myself and no one else. I didn’t really measure up the butter, and I have a feeling I might have used to little. I was missing that crunchy buttery feeling only butter can give. When will I have to learn. Measure when baking!!! Especially with new recipes… I have to make this again to do the recipe justice. You live you learn I guess. Some just slower than other. But this is starting to sound like a cookie disaster, but it wasn’t at all. They were good, but not good enough to conclude that this is the best chocolate chip cookie ever. The hunt continues!