Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jun 27: Daring Bakers' Bakewell 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.

Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits. Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart/Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types.

The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

The version we Daring Bakers are baking is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.

Many thanks to the two hostesses for creating this challenge. For those interested in the full Bakewell Tart History and Lore, feel free to visit their blogs.
Hostess: Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict
Co-hostess: Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar

A pudding that looks like a tart? So is it a pudding or a tart?
Being an inquisitive person, I had to find out more.
In the US, pudding refers to a very soft milk based/custardy dessert. Many of us from our childhood remember comedian Bill Cosby being the pitchman for "Jel-looooooooooo Pudddddding" and "Jel-looooooooooo Pudddddding POPS"

However, according to Alton Brown, pudding in the UK refers to a cooked (baked, boiled or steamed) bready concoction, such as figgy pudding (sweet) or Yorkshire pudding (savory).

Ah... now the pudding/tart part makes sense!

The Challenge
We have two mandatory elements:
1) Sweet Shortcrust Pastry - Yes, it’s a pie pastry, with the addition of eggs. We’re encouraged to make it by hand.

2) Frangipane - It’s a rich, almondy and sweet bread-like/pudding (in the UK sense) topping.

The Recipe: Bakewell Tart…er…pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Baking time: 30 minutes at 400F

Sweet shortcrust pastry
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.

Most of us have made pies, but using a box grater to grate the butter into something that looked like mozzarella.

Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

My bread crumb look... :)

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

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 [by volume... it worked out to 1 1/2 cups of slivered almonds.]
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

The neat part of this challenge is grinding the almonds (using another gadget!) Ground almonds is something new to me, but I really like the taste of almonds.

Ground 1/2 C at a time using a blender.

Shake the container a little while the blender is running. The shaking will ensure the big pieces do make it to the blender blades.!

Pass the ground almonds through a sieve to strain out the larger chunks.

Comparing the ground almonds with the slivered almonds. The ground almonds looked like Parmesan cheese from the can. lol! :)

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.

Really. It’ll be fine.

Sure enough... adding the egg creates a curdled appearance.

Fortunately, the egg whipped in easily.

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.

Assembling the tart
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

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.

Since I'm making a tart, I trimmed the crust flush with the pie pan.

Remove shell from freezer, spread an even a layer of jam (1 Cup) into the pastry base.

1 C Raspberry Preserves (store bought)

Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart.

Smooth the top.

Using an offset spatula to smooth the topping.

Ready to pop into a 400F 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.

Important: Based upon my results, you need to check the tart about 20 minutes in. The sugar content of the frangipane will brown quickly. If it's too dark, you can cover with aluminum foil. Removed the foil for the last 5 minutes.

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.

After 30 minutes...

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.

Oops! The center isn't quite set. Did I cut the Bakewell a tad early or should I have baked a little longer? I think it's a little of both. I should have done the toothpick test on the center before removing from the oven.

The initial bite you're hit with a very sweet taste. However, the tartness of the raspberry preserves acts to temper/counteract the sweetness. I enjoyed the almonds flavor of the dessert. I don't think the pudding was fully set and had a polenta like mouth feel. Overll, the dessert was still delicious.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jun 14: Daring Cooks make Potstickers.

This month's host for Daring Cooks' Challenge #2 is Jen of Use Real Butter.

When read that Jen was the scheduled host of this month's challenge, I was pumped to see the challenge. I found her blog on Tastespotting a couple years back and was mesmerized by her photos and her writing so I knew good things were in the works for this challenge.

The mission is to make Potstickers - Chinese dumplings (aka gyoza in Japanese).
We are given Jen's family recipe, but we are free to explore with variations. However, the whole point of this challenge is to make the dumpling wrappers by hand.

I've made potstickers in the past, using pre-made wrappers. For my post, I only show what I did. A full write-up with variations and with photos can be found here...Use Real Butter's Potsticker Recipe.

For this challenge, I stuck with the classic pork filled potsticker.
Pork Filling:
1 lb (450g) 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 (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

This is the fun part... I enjoy practicing my knife skills. For the ginger I used a grating plate instead of mincing. Mix all the ingeredients and set aside.

Dough Recipe: That's it for the dough! Two ingredients! Gotta love that!
(double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor. 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.

Knead the dough about twenty strokes [I kneaded about 5 minutes]then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. 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).

[I was actually surprised how soft the dough was. It wasn't as soft as bread/pizza dough, but it wasn't as firm as play-doh as I was expecting.] The dough was placed in a bowl and covered with a damp towel to rest.

[After a 15 to 30 minute rest...]
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). [Well... I actually used the flat of a cleaver to flatten and round the little dough balls]

Flattened and ready for the rolling pin.

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 - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges.

[I was shooting for about a 3.5" diameter round of dough.]

Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

[Did I mention I have troubles pleating. I think my chubby fingers are too awkward to work with fine details. I tried pleating, but ended up going the "crimping" route.]

[A crimped clam shell design... lol]

[A batch of potstickers ready for cooking.... but wait I still have a lot of filling leftover!]

[I was determined to overcome my potsticker pleating phobia (known as ppp)... so I made another batch. This time I reread the instructions and found 1) the recommendation was to make a double batch of dough or a half batch of filling... Ah... no wonder I had a lot of filling leftover and 2) Jen has instructional photos on her blog... With the new info, I set out to pleat the entire batch. No falling back to crimping this time.

After pleating 2/3rds of the batch, I found my secret to pleating. Pleat on the counter top. I've been trying to pleat holding the potsticker, but pleating on the counter top relieves my hand from having to support and balance the potsticker while pleating. The counter top does the supporting and balancing and all my fingers have to is make pleats and close. :-) ]

A pleating success!

My second batch... all pleated!

Cooking Method:
Three basic cooking methods:
Steaming, Boiling or Pan-Frying

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of nappa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.
placing the dumplings in a steamer over nappa cabbage leaves

My improvised wok steamer... a metal pie tin with perforations (Drilled holes)

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. Pan frying to brown the bottom.

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 boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float. I boiled about 6 minutes.

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

Dipping Sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black) [I actually like my dipping sauce to be sour... so I used a 1 to 1 ratio of vinegar to soy sauce.]
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
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 (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Foods up!:
Batch 1: steamed and pan fried dumplings. [I tried drizzling dipping sauce to pretty up the picture... Instead it looks like I used a dirty plate. I guess I need to work on picture composition... lol]

Batch 2: Pan fried with dipping sauce.

A look-see in the middle.

Another bite... I switched to a fork. Chopsticks just slow me down... :)

Batch 2: Boiled and added to a simple broth embellished with vegetables (Bok choi, nappa cabbage, carrots for color, bamboo shoots since I had a bunch leftover, green onion and a ginger slice are all added to the broth.)

Additional Tips...
To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. 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.

Overall, a very enjoyable challenge. Potsticker wrappers are easy to make and I finally learned to pleat. The homemade potsticker wrapper creates a nice chewy potsticker versus store bought wrappers which seem to be thin noodles that are unnoticeable when you eat. A great challenge!