Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Almost Mary Berry Bakewell Delight

There is something about the combination of flavors and textures of a Bakewell Tart that I just love. There is the custardy almond filling juxtaposed with the raspberry jam and a nice crust, too. It smells heavenly of raspberry and almond, too.

The Bakewell Tart is a British favorite. Recently I borrowed a Mary Berry book from the library. She was the female of the two judges on the first six episodes or so of the Great British Baking Show and she has a nice, easy way with recipes. The Bakewell Tart was in her Fast Cakes - Everyday Cakes  book.

As I do, I messed with the recipe right off the bat. I had a nice round sheet of ready made pie pastry in the fridge which I wanted to use up, so instead of the given tart crust, I used that. I also put it into a deep dish pie plate instead of into a fluted tart pan. Because of my dairy allergy, I used room temperature non-dairy butter for the filling.You'll notice that if you use weights for your ingredients that the butter, sugar and almond flour are all very similar weights...4 oz... and the jam is half that. Proportions are such an important of baking!

 Beyond swapping out the pastry for the tart dough and using margarine instead of real butter, I pretty much stuck to the recipe until right before I put it into the oven, when I folded over the excess pastry from the sides of the pan, folding it over the almond filling as you would a crostata. I also topped the filling, just inside that folded pastry, with halved fresh raspberries...just a few for decoration, really.

This pastry is sublime, especially if you like raspberry jam, which I do. The pastry is flaky and golden, the filling is soft and delectable, and the jam ties the almond flavors to the fruit flavor. Do try it!

For those who follow this blog to know a bit about what is happening in our life, Sweetie is in the midst of another project. This time it is a door replacement on the farmhouse. As usual he is doing a super job. This will be a fairly utilitarian door, so I probably won't even post photos. It allow safety access from the bedrooms to the east side of the property in case of fire or another disaster. It's entirely possible that it will be used rarely, but it's still good to know that, once ready to use, I can stop worrying about people getting stuck in a bedroom in a disaster.

On the creative front, I'm making some more tea cups on painted table legs for going in the garden. They are meant for decoration, but do also hold water or seed for birds. I'll post some photos once they are finished.

Almond Bakewell Pastry
based on a recipe by Mary Berry
Serves 8

1 round ReadyCrust pie pastry or pie dough for 1 crust
1/2 cup (4 oz, 114g, 1 stick) butter, softened (I used non-dairy margarine)
1/2 cup (4 oz, 100g) sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 oz, 100g) almond flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) raspberry jam
a few sliced or slivered almonds (or raspberries in my case)

Line a 9" pie plate with the pie crust dough, rolled out thinly. Prick the bottom all over and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/Convection 350 degrees F (I used 375 degrees F) and put a baking sheet in the oven on the shelf just above the center. (Putting the filled pie tin on this preheated metal sheet helps crisp up the bottom crust.)

For the filling, put the butter and sugar into a mixer or food processor and mix until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix again until thoroughly incorporated. Add the almond flour and the almond extract and mix one last time until thoroughly mixed.

Spread the base of the pie dough with the jam evenly, then pour the filling over the top. Fold down any pastry dough that is above the filling, overlapping as necessary, and then scatter almonds or place halved fresh raspberries over the filling randomly or in a nice pattern.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes (because I used a higher heat, mine took a little less than 20 minutes with Convection), or until the pastry is pale golden brown at the edges and the filling is set.

Leave to cool in the pie plate. Serve cut into wedges.

Friday, January 24, 2020

A Tart With Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil

Cook's Illustrated magazine for March/April of 2019 has a wonderful recipe for a lemon tart using olive oil instead of butter.

Of course what you'll get here isn't their recipe since I rarely do a recipe as written, even the first time. This tart looks like sunshine, mostly because there are lots of egg yolks in the filling. It tastes like springtime because of the lemon. Although the original recipe uses an olive oil crust, I just used a sheet of pie pastry from the fridge, folding the excess pastry down along the sides inside the tart. I blind baked it at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes and then removed the lentils I used for the blind baking (and the parchment) and let it sit another 5 minutes in the hot oven. Not sure if it still qualifies as a tart or becomes a pie, but I did use a tart pan with removable bottom and wavy sides, so I think it is still a tart.

The rest of the recipe follows the one given pretty closely. I did skip the straining of the filling through a fine-mesh strainer because I like having the lemon zest in the filling for texture and the residual flavor. If you prefer a silky smooth filling, then strain the filling into a bowl after the olive oil has been incorporated and then put the filling into the tart shell for the short bake required to firm up the filling.

Do allow the full two hours for the tart to cool at room temperature. It firms up as it cools and you'll get nice slices if you wait the full time. If you don't have access to Meyer lemons, the ones you find at the market are just fine for this recipe.

Lemon-Olive Oil Tart - "An Easy and Modern Lemon Tart"
From Cook's Illustrated magazine, March-April 2019

Crust   (I used a Pillsbury ReadyCrust round sheet of pie pastry instead and baked at 400 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons (2 1/4 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whish flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Add oil and water and stir until uniform dough forms.
Using your hands, crumble three-quarters of dough over bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough to even the thickness in bottom of pan. Crumble remaining dough and scatter evenly around edge of pan. Press crumbled dough into fluted sided of pan. Press dough to even thickness. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks (save whites for another use)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons) (I used two Meyer lemons and one Eureka lemon)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Have all the ingredients ready and at room temperature. About 5 minutes before crust is finished baking, whisk sugar, flour, and salt in medium saucepan until combined. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and scraping corners of saucepan, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160 degrees F, in 5-8 minutes.
Off heat, whisk in oil slowly, until incorporated. Strain curd through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Pour curd into warm tart shell.
Bake at 350 degrees F until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 - 12 minutes.
Let tart cool completely on wire rack, at least 2 hours.
Remove metal outer rim of tart pan. Slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom to release the tart, then carefully slide tart onto serving platter.
Cut tart into wedges, wiping knife clean between cuts if necessary, and serve.
Leftover can be wrapped loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


In Napa County, CA there is a State Park which includes a working grist mill. They have refurbished the old building that has been there since the 1850s and served as the community mill then. The waterwheel turns, although the flume that used to bring water to it no longer works (water is piped in), the grinding stones turn when engaged, and the grain is milled. When they put in dried corn, the output is coarse polenta. It is a whole grain, so there are flecks of tan along with the beautiful corn yellow. It's packaging is a brown paper sack and, because the state hygiene standards for food prep are so stringent in California, it says its not for human consumption. There is no way to have an authentic mill with a grinding stone to grind the grain and meet those standards, but I assure you, we have consumed the products of the milling and have in no way been harmed.

If you get to Napa, do check out the Bale Grist Mill. It's near Calistoga. They often have events. Here is one that sounds like fun:
Napa Valley’s historic Bale Grist Mill is one of the last mills that still grinds grain on the old pair of stones brought here by ship from “the old country”. At Old Mill Days people can visit the mill and experience the shared hard work and resulting sense of community that bound our forefathers together when they try some traditional farm chores: corn husking and shelling, wheat threshing, butter making, apple pressing, hand sewing, bean seed shelling or rope making.
The next one is in October of 2020 which is still far enough away to plan a trip!

One of my favorite things to do with this lovely polenta is to cook it up into soft cooked polenta. I found a very simple recipe in The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helms Sinskey. It really helps to use high quality polenta meal because the only ingredients are the polenta meal, milk (I used soy milk), butter (I used cashew based vegan 'butter') and salt, plus water, and with a little pepper at the finish. You do have to stir for quite a while, but maybe you will be sharing the dish with someone who will take a turn stirring?

Polenta makes a great base for a vegetable stew or roasted veggies (which is what I used), for Italian flavored ragu sauce, for sauteed mushrooms and onions, for a meat stew with greens braised with the meat (pork works really well), and many other winter toppings. You can also serve it as it, or with some butter or cheese on top to melt into the soft hot goodness.

If you let the polenta cool overnight in the fridge, you can cut it into slices or sticks and pan fry for a tasty addition to breakfast.

I was sure that I had taken a photo of this delicious dish, but can't find the photo, so I'm posting one I found on the internet. Next time... Doesn't Jennifer Davick's photo make the polenta look delicious?

Photo by Jennifer Davick

Simple Soft Polenta
Serves 8
(recipe is easily divided in half for 4 servings, which is what I did)
From The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helms Sinskey

3 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarse polenta
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the milk, 2 cups water, and the butter to a boil in a large pot; season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the polenta slowly. Place the pan back over low heat and stir the polenta with a wooden spoon until it is smooth, tender, and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and cover until ready to serve.
Reheat if necessary; add a little water to thin if the polenta has stiffened.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Bread With Chickpea Flour

When I was doing gluten free baking I made some bread with chickpea flour, but there was also rice flour, tapioca flour, and another flour, probably almond, so I didn't really get a chickpea flavor.

The Bread Baking Babes are baking Artekena, a loaf with chickpea flour both in the dough and in the sourdough starter. We could have made the starter with only chickpea flour, but I already has a wheat based starter in the fridge, so I just added some chickpea flour to the third feeding. I needed to do that many feedings because it had been a couple of months since I had used the starter and it needed to get those yeasties back in action.

Our Kitchen of the Month is Elizabeth and I think she picked a winner. I enjoyed the process, which is extensive, and the product. Do go to Elizabeth's blog, blog from OUR kitchen, to read her process and many interesting notes. That's one of the great things about baking with the Babes...I learn a lot!

Fortunately the Babes are not wedded to rules. Not only did I use my wheat starter as the base for the chickpea starter, but I also didn't do the folds version of kneading. I kneaded the risen leavener dough into the measured flours and waters of the dough with my stand mixer in the morning the day before I baked, turned it off to sit for 40 minutes, kneaded the salted water into that dough with the mixer, then turned it off to sit for a couple of hours. Once I was back home, I kneaded it with the mixer again until a soft, smooth dough formed. I left it in the mixer bowl, sprayed with a thin film of olive oil and capped with a clean shower cap, overnight in a cool place. The thing to remember is that it was sitting in a pretty cool place, temperature-wise, the whole time.

In the morning it had risen some and was cold. I turned it out on a lightly floured board and kneaded in some poppy seeds (fennel is a flavor I don't care for), then pre-shaped it as the recipe required and let it sit as instructed. It never really rose and it spread quite a bit.

I tried to create a good skin before I put in the center hole, but the dough was really slack, so the hold filled in and the circle spread while rising while the oven heated up. It rose a bit while baking, but not a lot. The crumb was a bit dry but there were nice air holes here and there, it was chewy, and the flavor was lovely. I really liked the crust and sesame seeds on the outside. "If you like bread with a hefty crust, chewy crumb and intense flavour, this one is for you. It is like french Country Bread gone rustic. It is amazing what a difference the addition of chickpea flour can make to a bread.", Andrew Whitley, 'Arkatena Bread', Bread Matters, p. 190

I think the next time I make this that I'll add more flour to make a slightly stiffer dough. Other than that I think the chickpea/wheat starter experiment was successful. Thanks for the adventure Elizabeth!

To be a Buddy, bake the bread and email Elizabeth with a photo, URL of your post and a few words about your bake.

Do check out the Babes who baked this month. Fun to see what each has done with chickpea flour!

For the recipe, go to Elizabeth's blog, blog from OUR kitchen.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Past Is Never Really Gone - Maybe Not Pumpkin Spice Either

In January we always talk about fresh starts and new ways. There is truth there since each moment provides a place/time for change and really everything is changing all the time. Still, the past never really goes away either. What we each do or don't do, the experiences we have, the love we give...all that has led us to today, to now. I've been thinking a lot about this since my older brother died in December. How did I become who I am? Have I been a good person, wife, mother, friend? What experiences have led me to be who I am? Which ones do I value?

This blog is, for me, a gateway to the cooking and baking experiences that have led me to this point in time. They are something that I value. I can look back and see how and where I developed skills in the kitchen. 2011 was a year where bread was a big influence (enough so that I created a post with links to all the breads I baked that year) and in the fall of 2008 I tried my first sourdough starter from grape skins, which was huge; I became a much better bread baker since I had a starter 'toss off' to use every week! I've now been blogging more than 13 years and baking with sourdough starter for over 11 years.

The Daring Bakers began with a handful of bakers who wanted to make the same recipe, together. It started in the beginning of 2007. I joined in March of 2007 when there were only 16 bakers, but it grew quite quickly as a baking group and later as a cooking and baking group. I only started blogging in the fall of 2006, so this was the first group I joined. We had a monthly challenge. Without the Daring Bakers I would never have learned to make choux paste (for things like eclairs and profiteroles), to make French macarons, to make a mirror cake, and much, much more. I also made good virtual friends through that group...I bake with some of them as a Bread Baking Babe. Later I joined the Cake Slice Bakers for a monthly challenge. These kinds of groups can be lots of fun as well as stretching me in the skills department.

I was looking at past posts on this blog last night. Somehow I settled on 2013 and looked at the heading for just about every post that year, and often at the post itself. There were 92 posts that year, so I had a real treasure trove of recipes to look at and, of course, some I'd forgotten about and some I wanted to make right away, like last night! Since I've discovered that as my brain gets older I don't cook or bake as well at night, I ignored those impulses. Still, I hope to soon make some of those recipes, starting with this one: Spicy Pumpkin Muffins with Creamy Filling. Of course I'll have to sub plant-based cream cheese and ricotta, but that should make it more interesting. I guess that is one of the major changes - no dairy - which makes baking more of a challenge. Of course, I've always loved a challenge! Will add photos of the actual bake here once it's done.

Look on the blog in 4 days for the latest Bread Baking Babes post, too. Still baking with the Babes since July, 2010!

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins with Creamy Filling
started with basic muffins in Joy of Cooking, then went wild

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs ( or ½ cup egg substitute)
1 cup canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt (Almond milk yogurt can be found now)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz. softened cream cheese (cashew based cream cheese is delicious)
4 oz. ricotta cheese (Kite Hill almond milk ricotta is wonderful!)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Sparkling sugar (sanding sugar) for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour (or use baking spray) one 12- cup muffin tin. Set aside.

In a large bowl or on a large sheet of waxed paper, measure out all of the dry ingredients and spices: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg. Mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, molasses, yogurt and vanilla.

Put the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture bowl. With as few strokes as possible, combine the wet and dry ingredients. Do not over mix

In a small bowl, stir the cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sugar together until thoroughly mixed.
Fill the muffin cups about one third full with the batter, then, dollop on about a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of the filling, then top the filling with more batter, dividing evenly among the cups. Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 – 25 minutes, or until muffins spring back when the center is gently pressed. Filling may peek through. That's O.K.

Makes 12.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Fruit Salad and Funerals

This past week I've been with family in the Denver area laying my oldest brother to rest. He's the second sibling to go, but since he is the oldest I'm now closer to the 'top' of the sibling group. It gives one pause. How many more years do I have on this earth? What will I leave behind?

Jim was very involved in a group called SHARE and he has been an organizer and presenter over the years. They have large conferences twice a year and I learned at Jim's wake that one of his legacies is that he created the system that they use for organizing everything about the conferences and that they will likely use that system for many years to come. I had no idea. It's meaningful to know that something he cared about will continue on.

Of course his most wonderful legacy, in my opinion, is his family. His wife is a treasure and his three sons are good and kind men and a credit to their parents. He was very proud of them and of his grandchildren who are grown, three independent, smart and beautiful women. The youngest grandchild still has some growing to do before we can see how he will turn out, but he is a delightful little boy. It was good to spend time with Jim's family.

It was also really good to spend quality time with all my living siblings and with many of their children. We shared stories about the past and learned more about the lives at present of these people who are dear to my heart. Along with the grieving there was laughter and adult beverages...a typical Irish wake.

Jim was my guest blogger, called NoHandle, and you can see his posts here for curry, and here for Banofee Pie, and here for corned beef, and here for chocolate chip cookie comparisons. One of my favorite is here for Pfeffernuesse cookies. Then there is the post for a lazy baker's pizza here. The one that his SHARE compatriots mentioned at the wake is for racing cherries here. Apparently there were numerous experiments to see what fruit had the specific gravity to work. Well NoHandle, you have left a nice food legacy, too.

For the lunch after his burial, I took care of getting everything set up, plus I made a veggie tray and a bowl of fruit. Lots of other foods were served, but many were from Costco or otherwise pre-made. I enjoy making fruit salad. This one had watermelon, apples, mandarins, raspberries, and bananas. The watermelon took the most prep time, followed by the mandarins, but it's a pretty fast collection of fruit and a nice thing to have when many of the other offerings are fatty, salty or processed (or all three in the case of Kettle chips!).

Fruit Salad for Jim

1 small seedless watermelon
3-4 apples
6-8 mandarin oranges
1 pint fresh raspberries
3-4 bananas

Slice the watermelon into rings about two inches thick. Remove the rind and cut the flesh into bite sized chunks. Put into a large bowl.
Cut the apple off the core, leaving the stem and blossom end with the core. Cut into bite sized pieces. Toss in a mixture of citrus juice and water to keep them from browning (I used the juice from a couple pieces of mandarin and some water, mixed). Drain and add to the watermelon.
Peel the mandarin oranges and separate into segments. Add to the watermelon and other fruit.
Rinse and dry the raspberries and add to the watermelon and other fruit.
Peel the bananas and slice. Toss in a mixture of citrus juice and water to keep them from browning (I used the juice from a couple pieces of mandarin and some water, mixed). Drain and add to the watermelon mixture.
Gently toss the fruit together to distribute fairly evenly, then chill until ready to eat.

You can, of course, add other fruits like grapes, blueberries, pineapple, etc.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Bread Baking Babes Year in Bread

2019 was a good year for baking bread with the Bread Baking Babes, although I had the challenge of baking while Sweetie was dieting and asking me not to bake bread!

Here, for your pleasure, are breads baked and links to the recipes, usually on my blog but sometimes on the blog of the Kitchen of the Month.

January started things off with Elizabeth's whimsically named Elbow-lick Sandwich Bread. This delicious bread had sweet potatoes and cooked onions in it. Great for sandwiches and with soup.

February was inspired by the Great British Baking Show and Chelsea buns. Mine were shaped into a heart shape...for Valentine's Day, natch.

For March our challenge bread was a Moroccan flatbread Ksra. Mine was a bit off course from the recipe, but very tasty with some pasta.

April brought a lovely Easter bread. "The Ciambella Mandorlata is an Italian Easter bread that originated in Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region. It is typically baked in the shape of a ring which is supposed to represent the unity of the family." It is basically a brioche type bread with lots of butter and eggs. Most of the sweetness comes from the topping and even that isn't very sweet, so this is a primarily breakfast bread but I think that that you can eat anytime of day with enjoyment. It had some fun shaping, too.

May brought a Multigrain Sourdough Sandwich Loaf, which was a challenge for me because I had to make new sourdough starter (having let my previous starter go when Sweetie started his weight loss) Be sure to allow a few days to create your starter before beginning the bread. If you do, you'll have starter for lots more sourdough breads over time.

June let me use the sourdough starter again.  This fantastic bread was Rosemary Raisin Sourdough. This was an easy bread to work with.  I think the part I like best is the combination of the sweet golden raisins and the zingy fresh rosemary.

July was more free form than usual with no Kitchen of the Month. We could choose a past July bread to bake, so I chose Panmarino. With a huge rosemary shrub on the property, it's easy to enjoy recipes using fresh rosemary and this bread is a winner.

August always has sunshine around here and we baked a bread shaped like the sun.  The Sourdough Sunshine Loaf takes a little more time than a simple bread but it is worth it.

September's bread was a pull apart loaf with garlic and cheese. I passed because can't do cheese and post-surgery digestion didn't welcome garlic. The Babes who baked the bread liked it alot!

October brought apples, as October often does. In this case it was Apple Bread with Cider and Calvados. A keeper!

November's  Danish Crown could be savory with hearty onions or it could be sweet and ready for the holidays with dried fruit, which is the way I did it. Sweetie liked this the best of most of the breads I baked this year. It looks dramatic, but is pretty easy to do.

December I was Kitchen of the Month and I chose the perfect pastry for Christmas morning, a Kringle, American version. I give two versions; King Arthur Flour's Butter Pecan version with caramel sauce and the one I love, a Raspberry and Marzipan version. Either one is a great way to end the year.

It's been a good year with the Bread Baking Babes. If you like these, follow the link and give them a try. Each month we bake and post on the 16th. If you bake that month's bread by the 29th and contact the Kitchen of the Month, you will receive a Buddy Badge and a place in the round-up. Happy Baking!