Monday, June 29, 2009

Daring Bakewell Tart with Fresh Colorado Cherries

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.

Anyone reading this may have noticed that I've been slacking lately. Yes, it's true. Not for lack of wanting to write - I just have other things going on right now, so my cherished blog has taken a back ... burner, you might say. But I am going to try to keep up with one thing - the Daring Cook and Baker challenges. I am always in the kitchen anyway, so I may as well take some input, inspiration and ideas from others instead of always sticking with the usual suspects.

So, I apologize ahead of time if this entry seems like I phoned it in. (Actually my husband took the camera out of town, so I did actually phone it in). Some people might think that shorter entries are better...what do they know.

What was I talking about? That's right, Bakewell Tart. This tart consists of a slightly sweet, shortcrust pastry, spread with a thin layer of jam and topped with a golden puffy layer of frangipane. Check out the hosts' blogs for an interesting history of this dish.

As cherries are in season in Colorado, and delicious right now, I decided to attempt homemade cherry jam. I was a little worried that I didn't have fruit pectin* on hand, a common ingredient in many jams (I read a lot of labels). I decided to risk it and followed a pectin-free recipe on Jasmine's blog for a simple blackberry jam, subbing cherries for the blackberries. Although delicious, the jam unfortunately never set. It would have made a delicious sauce for something else (a frangipane tart, perhaps?)

The frangipane (a sort of dense custard of eggs, powdered sugar, butter and ground almonds) was easy to make and delicious.

The verdict on the crust? Hmm. I must have missed something in the instructions, or my jam (sauce) was simply too wet for the crust, because the cooked tart had a soggy and almost completely uncooked crust, while the frangipane on top was close to overcooked. I think a simple fix for this would be to blind bake the crust before filling and baking again.

But a soggy crust can be ignored - I have suffered through many a mediocre crust before... All in all, I enjoyed this challenge, especially getting to use the seasonal fruit. The almond taste definitely brought out the cherries and vice versa. I will make this again with the blind bake modification. Thanks to Jasmine and Annemarie for a very original suggestion.

* Pectin is a gelling agent that occurs naturally in many fruits (apparently not cherries) and is sold in various extracted forms, usually having been obtained from apples and/or citrus peel.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vegan Spring Veggie Potstickers

This month's Daring Cooks' challenge was from Jen of use real butter to make Chinese Dumplings from scratch.

I won't go into the ins and outs of how to make the dough, as there is a great blog post here, and it was pretty straightforward. Just mix flour and water, rest, knead, press into balls, and then roll into thin circles. Fill, press edges together, fry in a pan to make potstickers or boil in water. That's it! And it all worked seamlessly. Actually, quite an easy recipe.

So where was the challenge? Well, the recipe allowed you to get quite creative with the filling. The two provided filling recipes were for pork and shrimp filling. Given that I have recently been trying out not eating meat (I haven't had meat in over a month now), I realized that I needed to get a little creative with the filling.

Jen suggested that a good vegetarian filling would be easy to make but gave no recipe, just saying that the veggies would need to be of uniform shape and stick together.

So... I modified the pork recipe by trying to roughly substitute the same amount of stir-fryable vegetables.

Hang on - last minute edit... I got spanked for not giving a shout out to the peeps that consulted, tasted, rolled filled, and ate - Ciaran the Rhymenocerous and Jen the Hiphopopotamus.

Vegan Spring Veggie Potsticker Filling

  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 3 medium turnips, grated
  • 1/4 c. ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 spring onions, minced
  • 6 leaves mustard greens, other strong green, or cabbage, minced
  • large handful cilantro, minced
  • 3 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs. wine rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
Create dumpling dough according to the following recipe, let rest. Create the filling by mixing together all ingredients listed above. When making the dumplings, use a spoon to scoop filling, pressing filling against side of bowl to drain excess liquid. After filling all the dumplings, you'll have a lot of extra liquid. Use this to create a dipping sauce by adding a few drops of mustard and a little chili paste or cayenne pepper.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How Many Cookbooks is Too Many?

I believe there comes a time in life when every adult begins to question how much stuff is really necessary for leading a happy life. Obviously you need basic food and shelter, and I'm fortunate enough to have that. I remember a time when that was all I thought I needed. Then you graduate college, get a job, start getting paychecks, and start buying stuff. Car, nicer clothes, house, Kichen Aide mixer (ahhh!). And that's great. But then you hit a point in your life when you start to think about the bigger picture (college education for your son, retirement, paying off your house, traveling, starting your fantasy bakery/vegetarian catering business), and all of the material things seem, well, immaterial. And that's where my family is.

Which is great. Life seems simpler. We're saving money, thinking about the future. And I don't miss the things that used to seem so essential.

Except for one thing - cookbooks. I did pretty well for a while. I think I went almost a year without buying a new one. But recently I'm having a bit of a relapse. For Mother's Day, my husband bought me one I'd been resisting for months (Alice Water's Chez Panisse Vegetables). I figured I probably deserved a little Mother's Day present to myself, so I also bought Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian the same day (awesome). I thought that had done it.

Every time I think I've got enough books, the worst happens, I go to someones house and just happen to see a great looking book lying around in their kitchen. This book is just a little different, has something I haven't quite seen before, and fills me with a yearning that I thought I was over.

How bad is the problem? I've got 39 cookbooks total.

  • Purchased: 18. Ok, maybe 7 of these don't count. They are 7 of a 12 volume Woman's Day series published in 1966 (missing volumes 1, 6, 7, 10, and 11).
  • Gifts: 15. My family is well aware of, and exploits, my addiction.
  • Borrowed: 2
  • Hand me Downs: 2
  • No Idea: 1
  • Loaned out: 1 (I never forget)

Which are my favorites? These are books that make me well up with emotion. If I could only take you by the shoulders, look you in the eye, and passionately tell you about the change in my life brought about by these books. Ahhh, but instead, a list will have to do, in chronological order of impact on my life (anyone seen High Fidelity? )

Am I done? I should be. But there are just a few more. I'm sure that once I get these six, I'll definitely, absolutely, certainly be done.