Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rhubarb Bakewell Tart

I was again pretty pleased with the choice for this months Baking Challenge. It was for a Bakewell Tart. Oddly enough I had been wanting to try a recipe from an old Fine Cooking magazine using Frangipane for quite some time now, that was very much similar to this one. I thought I would love this recipe simply because of the use of the Franginpane. I love almond flavouring, marzipane, Ameretti cookies etc and was pretty sure I would like this one. Essentially this recipe is for a sweet tart crust filled with a layer of jam and topped with a layer of Franfipane (a mixture of ground almonds, eggs, sugar, a bit of flour)........and baked until the almond layer is puffed and golden.
Since their is no seasonal fruit producing quite yet in my area, I decided to go with rhubarb which is plentiful now. Technically it's a vegetable but it was just so yum! I thought the tartness of the rhubarb would be a nice complement to the sweetness of the almond. Since I a had a little bit of left over dough I made a second tart in a small 5 inch pie pan and filled that one with a layer of Heather and Andrew's homemade raspberry jam which I think is a more traditional choice.
The recipe got two thumbs up here and even my 7 year old who does not like rhubarb.......had this to say about it. "I don't know what you did to it mom but this rhubarb tart is delicious.......and it has rhubarb in it....I don't understand's just delicious" I did find I could have baked the tart a little longer to firm up the frangipane in the center a bit more, as it was a touch goey in the very center of the tart. I did also try the raspberry version and liked it as well. Since the almond is such a mellow, sweet flavour the tartness of both the raspberry and the rhubarb worked very well for this tart. I would make either one again in a red hot minute. It is a dessert which presents very nicely and was not really very compicated at all. Can you tell.....I absolutely loved this one!

I made my rhubarb 'jam' by simmering 2 cups chopped rhubarb, 4 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp water over low heat until thickened to a jam like consistency. Make sure you watch this as it thickens and stir it so it doesn't stick and burn.

So here is some more information on the challenge itself, and the recipe should you choose to try it yourself......and you really really should!

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 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.
Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

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)
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
Jasmine’s notes:
• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract


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.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mr. Greenjean's Spinach Salad Dressing

We had company from out of town which is unusual in Prince George. We are not really an the way to anywhere so any one who stops in for a visit has usually gone quite out of their way to come and see us. We were fortunate this time as a convention in town brought my uncle Kenny in for a little visit. Since the weather has been so nice we planned to grill some steaks and sausage outside for supper.....along with a rice pilaf, a spinach salad, and some Chocolate Sauce N Cake for dessert. Now, uncle Kenny lives in Victoria and he is the one who gave the recipe for the Carrot and Pineapple muffins that I blogged about here and that we have made 5 times this spring and summer season already...they are pretty darned yummy.

But....I digress.....When I was attending the University of Manitoba, many times I would go with friends to shop at the Eaton's Centre Mall. There was a restaurant there called Mr Greenjeans that we would always eat lunch at and inevitably someone, if not most of us would order the spinach salad. It was all for the dressing that came with it. It was a warm, sweet, tangy, and creamy dressing that I have seen people drink straight out of the the little pitcher it was served in along the side of your salad. Their salad (as I was a long time ago so I may have missed some things) contained spinach greens, crisp bacon, diced hard boiled eggs, mushrooms and coarsely shredded Monterey Jack Cheese........and I think croutons too. The dressing is a creamy, mildly sweet and not very sour bacon infused concoction. If you are curious to try it out or have a hankering to try and copy the old Greenjeans recipe.......I think this comes pretty close. In any event, this is the salad I decided to make for supper for uncle Kenny's visit.

Mr. Greenjeans Spinach Dressing

6 slices of bacon, chopped
1/3 cup minced onion
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2-3 tbsp milk to thin out dressing

Slice bacon into 1/2 inch chunks. Fry bacon slowly over medium heat until crisp and most of the fat has been rendered out of the bacon. Remove the bacon to a piece of paper towel to drain away any extra grease. Set bacon aside to toss in with the salad. Save 1/4 cup of the bacon fat and return it to the pan used to fry the bacon. You can discard any extra. To the 1/4 cup bacon fat add the flour, salt, sugar and stir it together. Remove from heat and gradually add the sour cream one heaping tbsp at a time stirring well between each addition. Return to low heat stirring until thickened about 3-4 minutes, but do not let boil. Remove from heat, add vinegar and stir to incorporate. Add warm milk to the dressing until you get a thick but pouring consistency. I used one large bag (350g) if spinach, 3 boiled chopped eggs, croutons from 5 slices of bread, 3/4 cup shredded Monerey Jack cheese, 5 thin slices from a large red onion, and 6 large mushrooms sliced to compete this salad, and the dressing seemed to be the right amount to dress it all. The next day I gently reheated the left over sauce in the microwave and thinned it out with a bit of extra milk.

There is only one Greenjeans restaurant left Toronto's Eaton's Centre. Hopefully Ike and I will get a chance to go there for lunch this summer and maybe I'll have to order the spinach salad just to see how close I've come with this recipe.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Need a Hooded Beach Towel?.....Then Make One!

Finally, a sewing project to talk about. With the weather heating up, we have been preparing for our upcoming camping trip to Yellow Stone. This weekend was a practice outing.....yes we practice camping. We took a quick weekend run out to a nearby Provincial Campground and learned a few things.....
  1. You need to bring lots of bug spray.
  2. You should also have an alternate bug plan such as mosquito netting.
  3. You really should pack towels and water toys.
  4. Sunscreen is a good idea.
  5. And lastly your kid's eye can swell nearly shut from just one black fly bite on the be bringing some antihistamine just in case.
It was a fun trip aside from the black fly bite!.......and it got me thinking about updating Ike's beach towel hoodie. Ike had received one as a present many years ago and while well used and's age was beginning to show, and it was getting too small for him. So last year at the end of summer I picked up several large beach towels with the thought of making them into hooded beach towels. After having no success trying to locate a pattern online....I made a copy of the old one....and this is what I did.

Make Your Own Hooded Beach Towel

You will need at least two matching beach towels, preferably with a vertical scene or a random pattern on it. One towel will be for the poncho part and the other will be for making the hood. I got four hoods out of one towel, so I made four hooded beach towels out of five matching towels. The towels do not absolutely have to match...they could be coordinating. The standard inexpensive beach towel like I purchased end of season for $3 each give a length from the shoulder down of about 30 inches and are appropriate for my 7 (almost 8) year old boy who is just over 4 feet tall. Larger towels may be more appropriate for bigger kids. Make sure to measure your kid's head circumference to make sure the size neck hole I've recommended is appropriate. What ever your child's head circumference is, just add 2 inches to that number and divide by two to determine the length of the slash you will cut. The hood piece width may need to be adjusted if you change the slash length as well. It should be (slash length +8 inches)/2. So for Ike's case that's (10.5+8)/2 =9.5". These numbers are just a really just want to make sure the length at the bottom of the hood has enough fabric to turn the corner and turn towards the front center of the do not need them to meet. See top photo...there is 5 inches of open neckline in the inch or two more or less is not a big deal.
  • Take one beach towel...mine measured 29" by 60".
  • Fold it in half so it is now 29" by 30".
  • You will cut your neck hole 10.5" long centered along the 29" fold.
  • Find the center of the fold and cut a 10.5".
  • I found that cutting a more rounded end to the slash line made seaming around the end of the slash easier. So I made my 10.5" cut look more like a Q-tip than a straight line, by rounding the end cut into a curve. I also came back with the regular sewing machine and reinforced this curved seam as it seems to be a stress point.

  • The front edge of the that will sit across you chest needs to be finished off.
  • I serged this edge all but the outside inch at the ends of the cut, then turned 1/4 inch under (towards the inside or wrong sides together) and stitched it down.
  • The rest of the edge will be finished off when the hood is attached.
  • Cut hood piece from second matching towel.
  • Cut a piece across the narrow edge of the towel to make a strip 9.5" wide, and in my case 29"long. You can check and see that the measurement taken from one shoulder...over the head and down to the other shoulder is less than the 29" length. That way, you'll know that the towel will rest on your child's shoulders...there need to be some slack in the hood depth......or the shoulders of the poncho might be riding up around his ears. 29 inches should be more than safe as it would even be ok for me.
  • The first piece cut will have 3 finished edges. Use the 29" finished edge to be the facing edge of the hood. You can get two such pieces from one towel by using the opposite ends of the towel. If you cut a section from the middle of the towel, you will need to serge one long edge and turn it under, or turn the long edge under 1/4" and press, then turn under 1/4" again and top stitch in place to make your own finished edge. If you are finishing your own edge you should add and extra 1/2 to the width of the cut strip making it 10" by 29".
  • To make the hood, I folded the towel in half right sides together so that my 9.5" by 29" piece was now 9.5" by 14.5".
  • Sew along the cut edge with a 1/4" seam allowance and zigzag over raw edge to finish or use a serger for the seam if you have one.
  • Join the hood to the cut slit with right sides together matching the center of the back of the hood with the center of the back of the towel and pinning in place.
  • Sew with a 1/4" seam allowance and zigzag edge to finish or use a serger for the seam if you have one.
  • And you are done. Once I figured out the error of my threading the serger it only took about 20 minutes to make one.
This is a description of what worked for me, and will hopefully be enough to get you going on one of your own should you be interested. Hope it's helpful!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pot Stickers....A Daring Cooks Challenge

This month's challenge was hosted by Jen from use real butter. She has chosen Chinese Dumplings made from scratch. This has been on my to do list for many years, so it is good that I can now cross it off my list. I was a little hesitant to start with this one as it is a bit time consuming, and there is a lot going on right now with the year end coming up for school. But I managed to squeeze it in....and I'm glad of it. They were quite easy (I made the shrimp filling and cooked them up as potstickers) although they were time consuming as promised. The full filling recipe made 60 pot stickers for me and I needed 1 1/2 recipes of the dough to complete them. We just polished off 30 for supper tonight, and 30 made their way into the freezer for another occasion. The cat also enjoyed the cutting up of the raw shrimp, and I found the smell of the filling absolutely delicious.

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

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


shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (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

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
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).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. 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. 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).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

[EDIT: 5/26/09] There have been two complaints posted about a dry dough and I realize that this rests in the problem of measuring flour which has a different density and hence weight for 2 cups depending on how you scoop it. That is why I also list the weight: 250g. Flour tends to settle over time, so when I scoop it out, I shake several cups' worth back into the container before taking a final scoop of soft, fluffy, flour and I get 250g for 2 cups. When you knead the dough, if it feels hard and dry, then you can add more water. [Warning: it will NOT be a soft bread dough, so don't expect it to be, but it shouldn't be a brick either.] It is perfectly fine to use more than the 1/2 cup listed in the recipe as everyone's climate and flours vary. Use your judgment - this is what being a Daring Cook is about. We are trying to cultivate a sense of intuition so that recipes are general guidelines from which you can expand your own style.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. 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). 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. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

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

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

It has been extremely busy here of late. But the one thing I cannot complain about is the weather. It has been a consistent week of perfectly gorgeous weather. This is not the norm here so I'll take it when I can get may not....and probably will not last!
The school year is winding down now and the last few PAC events will soon be over. Soon the scurrying will be done and we will be on our way to Yellow Stone for a little camping adventure. After that, Ike and I will head back east to visit Grama and Grampa for a few weeks...then on to a few days in Toronto. It will be a nice chance to see some nifty things that Ike has never seen. Hopefully he will enjoy it.

I've been rushing to complete my obligations with PAC, swaps, Cooking Challenges and preparing for interviews so as not to get too terribly behind in all of the chaos. Yesterday I finished up on the current Daring Cooks Challenge (to be posted June 14th) which I almost backed out of.....but am really glad I didn't! Although time consuming (it took me 3 hours), I will definitely be making that one again. ( will like this one for sure) ......And.....I kept on plugging along to finish up a swap that comes due this weekend. It's for a very cute little sewing project called a Kidlet, which is a small hanging storage tote. You can go to the tutorial for making one yourself right here. It is cute as a button and I would like to make some more for sure. Next time I might like to make it a bit larger........In the interest of feeling more organized.....I can see having quite a few of these around the house.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hot Weather Cooking

It has been unseasonably hot here for the last few days. The outside temperature at noon was 26 C and with an anticipated high of 30C. With that in mind what's for supper is probably going to be on the BBQ outside. This kind of weather always makes me think of making macaroni salad, jello, potato salad, devilled eggs, or ice cream. Since I had promised some baking to some friends, my oven in unfortunately on with carrot muffins baking in it right now. With the hot weather, it will be nice to have some muffins to snack on too;)

My fridge has a yummy green jello salad firming up in it right now. That is something I'm looking forward to having with my supper. If you'd like to try a light fluffy lime and pineapple flavoured jello salad this might just do the trick for you. I didn't bother putting it into a mould, as I am not serving to guests. It's quick (if you don't find you are out of mayo and have to make some) and easy and quite nice on a hot hot day like today. I don't think there will be any trouble dealing with left overs on this one. Usually the nuts are chopped and folded in with all the other ingredients, but with two other nut picky people in the house, I opted to just put some on top just for me.
This recipe comes from a little Christmas recipe book put together in 1982 by St. Augustine's Church in Baird Ontario. This cute as a button little church has been around for a long time and is the church that my father's family (the Bissons) attended for many years.......go ahead click on the link above and read a bit about it. I have made a few of the recipes from this little book but am now tempted to try perhaps just a few more:)

Pacific Lime Mould

1 85g (3oz) package of lime jello
1 cup crushed pineapple (drain and reserve juice)
1 cup creamed cottage cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Drain the pineapple. Dissolve jello in boiling water and add reserved pineapple juice. Chill this until slightly thickened in the fridge. Remove and beat until frothy. Fold in all remaining ingredients. Chill until served.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More Ways to Use Up Zucchini

I finally got around to making a zucchini loaf as the zucchini in my fridge was needing to be used up. I found this recipe on all recipes several years ago, and have always been happy with the way it turns out and how nicely it keeps in the freezer. The recipe makes two to eat and one to give away or freeze. This time....I'm going to freeze the second when unexpected company arrives........I'll be ready. I had not made this one in a few years, but I am again impressed with it's simple yummyness. It needs nothing, although it is nice spread with a little bit of butter. I really should make it more often. Next Zucchini recipe.........Chocolate Cake;)

Zucchini Bread
3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

3 tsp cinnamon

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla

2 cups finely grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Grease and flour two 8 X 4 inch pans. Preheat the oven to 325 F (165C). Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 40-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.