Tart..Er...Pudding for the Daring Bakers

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…er…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’re daring you to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.

Bakewell Tart History and Lore

Flan-like desserts that combine either sweet egg custard over candied fruit or feature spiced ground almonds in a pastry shell have Mediaeval roots. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam and noted,

“This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.”

By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased.

This tart, like many of the world's great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or he should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry and mixed the eggs and sugar separately and poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow.

Regardless of what the venerable Mrs. Greaves’ cook did or didn’t do, lore has it that her guests loved it and an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting.

Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections and in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing and glazed cherry on top for decorative effect.

Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee or just eat it sneaky slice by sneaky slice until, to your chagrin, you realise the whole tart has somehow disappeared despite you never having pulled out a plate, fork or napkin with which to eat it.

We were allowed to make either one large, medium or several small tarts. After looking high and low for small tart pans, which I didn’t find, I decided on making the large one.

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
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.

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) (or vanilla)
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.


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.

The Tart was very good, we loved the frangipane. All the elements were perfectly balanced and came together well. I didn't quite wait for it to cool completely before I cut into it, hence the runny frangipane and jam. It tasted heavenly.I had the left-over sweet pastry dough, which I rolled out and cut into various shapes using cookie cutters. I sprinkled them with a little sugar and baked them for 10 mins at 350F.

The cookies are not too sweet and make for a good tea-time snack.

Another challenge completed. Thank you Jasmine and Annemarie for a great tasting challenge!

Pound Cake

The past few days have been pretty laid back with only a handful of cooking orders, which has given me a chance to try new stuff and give more time to blogging. I do have my fingers in a lot of pies now, so any time I get off from one, is definitely a boon.

Ever since a friend gifted me Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking From My Home to Yours”, I have been eyeing a lot of goodies to try, but had never gotten a chance to or should I say haven’t had the time to. One such is the Pound Cake; it’s as simple as a cake can get.

This soft, tight crumbed cake is good on its own or with ice-cream and fruit. I prefer eating a plain slice just the way it is. The outer slightly crisp crust is absolutely delicious.

You will need:

2 cups All-purpose flour

1 tsp Baking powder

¼ tsp Salt

1 cup Sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp

4 eggs, at room temp

1 tsp Vanilla extract

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 325F.

Butter a 9 x 5” loaf pan. Place on a baking sheet.

Whisk flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Cream butter and sugar in another bowl on high speed for 5 minutes, till light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add one egg at a time. Beat 1-2 minutes after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Turn the speed to low, and add the flour little at a time, just until incorporated. Do not overmix it. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place in the centre of the rack in oven and bake for 70-75 minutes. The cake is done when a knife inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and transfer loaf pan to a rack. Let rest for 30 minutes, and then invert onto rack. Cool completely before slicing and storing.

Slicing: Slice it with a long serrated knife using a sawing motion. You can slice it thin or thick depending on what you are using it for.

Storing: Wrap the pound cake tightly with cling wrap and let sit on your kitchen counter. This tastes better the longer it sits. If wrapped well, the cake will hold good for 5-7 days at room temperature.

I know what I will be snacking on for a few evenings to come ;)

Idli batter Bajjis

When idli batter turns too sour to make idlis, make bajjis! The more tangy the batter, the better these bajjis taste.

I almost always get stuck with overly sour batter and never know what to do with other than Masala idlis or Idli upma. This is another one of mom's creations, and a very good one at that!

This makes for a quick snack any day of the week.

You will need:

1 Cup sour Idli batter (click on link to see how to make Idli batter)

½ cup Rice flour

½ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Cumin seeds

2 tbsp fresh coconut bits (or fresh grated coconut)

Vegetable/Canola Oil for deep frying

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. The consistency should be thick and stiff enough to scoop with a spoon (not flowing). Taste and check for seasoning, add more salt if necessary.

Heat oil in a deep pan. Scoop the batter with your fingers or with a spoon and drop in hot oil.

Fry till golden brown, about 10 seconds on each side. Drain on paper towels and eat with ketchup.

That’s it…quick and easy and an excellent way to salvage sour idli batter.

Home-made Strawberry Jam

A few weeks ago we were in Visalia, California. I was pretty excited even before we set out from Atlanta, because just the fact that we were heading to CA, was good enough for me. It didn’t bother me that Visalia was actually in the middle of nowhere, and not a very popular city at that. Our last visit to the West coast was to San Francisco and I simply loved it! Visalia was no disappointment; in fact it has now made me love ‘Kalifornee’ even more.

The best part was the Orange groves, numerous vineyards and never ending strawberry farms. It has always been my dream to go strawberry picking, well that didn’t happen in Visalia, due to lack of time. But I did get a chance to visit one of the farms which was about a mile from the hotel we were staying in. We bought a huge basket of freshly picked strawberries for 5$bucks…I felt it was a steal considering how much we pay back in Atlanta for not half as good as the ones we were buying. The strawberries not only smelled great but they were so sweet, I can’t even begin to say how good!

All the while we were in Visalia I feasted on strawberries day in and out, from the same basket, because it was a whole lot. By the end of the trip I had almost half of it still leftover and I brought it back to Atlanta. The berries were bruised, but still usable.

If you are picking or buying already picked strawberries, make sure to look for firm, fully ripened strawberries like the ones in the picture above. They should be a nice red colour with bright green stems, which is a very good indication of their freshness.

Not having the heart to throw out perfectly good tasting strawberries, I turned them into a jam. Very simple recipe and great tasting jam.

Jams can be made with just about any fruit as long as you have the right setting agents and ingredients in the right quantities. Pectin is the primary gelling agent used in jams and jellies, which is available in large grocery store.

Strawberry Jam:

You will need:

5 cups fresh strawberries hulled, rinsed

3 tbsp Pectin

3 ½ cups Sugar (see note below)

¼ cup fresh Lemon juice

4oz or 8oz glass jars with lids and rings

First wash the glass jars with hot soapy water. Place washed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Put the lids into hot water (not boiling) and let sit for 5 minutes.

Remove jars and lids from the water and set aside. These glass jars are available online or in stores.

Mix the pectin with ¼ cup of sugar and set aside.

Partially crush the strawberries using a potato masher; you can leave small pieces if you want your jam to be chunky. Crushing the berries partially releases the natural pectin in them. Measure the crushed strawberries, you should have about 3- 3 ½ cups. Pour into a deep Teflon coated pan. Stir in the lemon juice and the pectin sugar mix; bring the fruit to a boil on medium high heat. Once it reaches a full boil, add the remaining sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for a whole minute.

At this point you can see a lot of foam on the surface of the jam, skim it with a spoon.

Testing the consistency of the Jam:

Have a metal spoon sitting in ice cold water while you make the jam. Once you skim the foam, take a little bit of the jam in the spoon and let cool to room temperature. Move the spoon, if the jam is still runny, then add some more pectin and continue to boil. The jam should set when at room temp, that’s when it is ready.

Ladle the jam into the sterilized jars, place the lid on top and screw on the rings. Immediately place the sealed jars in a hot water bath. Make sure the jars are covered with atleast 2 inches of water on top. Let them sit in the bath for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside in a cool draft free place and let the jars come to room temp. The jam is then ready to use.

I gave some of these jars to a couple of friends and saved the rest for us to use. My husband was in Visalia again this weekend, and he came back with twice as many strawberries compared to last time. I am still deciding what to do with all those gorgeous berries.

One last look at Home-made Strawberry Jam...

How to Make Ice-cream without a Machine

Hot summer days are finally here and cravings for ice-cream and all things cold are at an all time high. As kids, summers meant a whole lot of ice-creams and Popsicles ...not store-bought but made right at home. Mom conducted ice-cream making classes and after each class my brother and I got to gorge on atleast 3 flavours at a time. She has never used an ice-cream maker/machine anytime and the fact that she didn't made those ice-creams even more precious and special.

Last year I made ice-cream at home for the first time without the use of a machine. Its simple but requires time and effort, which are definitely worth it. Our all time favourite flavour is Mango, and there is something about Indian Mango ice-cream which sets it apart from Mango ice-cream I've eaten anywhere else. It simply tastes so much more mango-ey! The following is mom's recipe for Mango ice-cream. I made this ice-cream again this year.

Home-made Mango ice-cream:

You will need:

3 cups Whole milk

3 tbsp Sugar

2 tbsp Vanilla custard powder (Brand: Brown & Polson)

2 cups Sweetened condensed milk

1 Cup Mango Puree

2 Cups Heavy whipping cream

½ tsp Clear vanilla extract

¼ tsp Orange Red colour (powder preferably)

Hand-held electric beater, the one which can withstand heavy whipping.

Make a smooth paste of the custard powder and ¼ cup of milk. Bring remaining milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. When the milk comes to a rolling boil, reduce heat and slowly stir in the custard mixture. Keep stirring till the milk thickens. The custard is ready when it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

While the custard is cooling, take a large bowl (which will fit into your freezer) and blend the mango puree with the condensed milk. Stir well to combine. Once the custard has cooled, add it to the puree-condensed milk mixture. Also add the heavy cream, the vanilla extract and food colour.

Cover and freeze for an hour.

What follows next is the important step…the 'churning' or whipping part. Since this ice-cream is made without an ice-cream maker, doing it right manually determines the final quality of the resulting ice-cream.

Remove bowl from freezer and using a hand beater, whip the mixture for 10 minutes at the highest speed on your beater. The mixture will begin to bubble because of the whipped cream. Return to freezer for another 30 minutes.

Repeat the whipping process, but reduce time to 5 minutes. Return to freezer for 30 minutes.

This needs to be done 2 more times(once every 30 mins). By the third time your mixture would have thickened and would be harder to ‘churn’. Let your hand-mixer do its thing.

After the last churn, you can transfer ice-cream to containers and then freeze or return the same bowl to the freezer. Freeze overnight or for atleast 6 hours.

This ice-cream brought back very sweet memories. And at the rate we are eating the ice-cream I might have to make another batch very soon!

Fusilli with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

It's been busy past few days with lots of cooking for customers and baking a birthday cake. I've hardly had the time to sit down and write a post. Today has been a little more relaxing and easy going. I was in no mood to cook anything elaborate and made a pasta dish for lunch.

A jar of sun-dried tomatoes has been sitting in my refrigerator for a long time now and every time hubby peeks into the fridge, he sighs and says "when are you going to use this?". I had used a little of it for the Sun-dried Tomato Focaccia last week. I finally used a large portion of it today, and the jar is almost half empty; I made Sun-dried Tomato pesto. Goes great with just about anything...pasta, in a sandwich or even in a soup..totally jazzes up the dish.

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto :

You will need:

1 Cup Sun-dried tomato, julienned, in oil

¼ cup Dried Basil (or use 1 ½ cups fresh Basil)

½ cup Grated Parmesan

3 cloves Garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup Olive oil

Place the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Turn the processor on and slowly stream in the olive oil. Continue processing till the tomatoes are finely chopped. Stir in the grated parmesan. Transfer pesto to a bowl.

Fusili with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto:

You will need:

2 Cups dried Fusilli, Penne or any ridged dry pasta

1 quart water


1/2 cup prepared Sun-dried tomato pesto

Bring water to a boil. Add salt and dried pasta. Cook for 12 minutes; till pasta is done.

Drain pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the Pesto and the cooking liquid.Add more salt if required. We had the pasta with store bought Garlic bread.

Pour a thin layer of olive oil on the pesto and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

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