June 2009

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.

That would be the mandatory “blog checking” statement for Daring Bakers. If I do not include it they will send their stable of high powered attorneys out to hunt me down and hang my by my toes from the nearest Bakery Sign. Well, not really, but they will kick me out … eventually.  But enough chit-chat, lets get to the money shot!

Ain't she pretty?

Ain't she pretty?

There were two mandatory elements to this challenge, one was the Frangipane Top and the other was the Shortcrust Bottom/sides. What went in-between was up for debate. Apparently the traditional filling is Strawberry Jam. So of course, being completely traditional I just went ahead with that.



ummm, yeah, like anyone believes that. I spent some time on the DB forums spying reading what others were doing and Audax commented on how he prevented soggy crust by putting a layer of chocolate over the bottom before baking. Brilliant! But I could not swipe the idea directly so I kept that on the back burner. Wracking my poor little noggin I tried to decide what kind of fruit filling I would like to go with.

Many of the other bakers, after actually doing the challenge, remarked on how much they liked the fact that it isn’t an overly sweet dessert. PHOEEY ON THAT! I want my teeth to rot out of my head. Armed with the knowledge that the topping & crust come out not too sweet I was better able to decide what to add. And in the end I decided to on a riff on a classic American flavor treat for this classically British dessert. Caramel Apples.

So, sandwiched between the Frangipane and Shortcrust are a layer of caramels melted in a little milk to keep them from setting up too tight and Apple Butter. I adore apple butter. It’s cinnamon-y lusciousness is something I could eat with a spoon, but usually you have to put it on some biscuits or something – just to keep up appearances. But not this time, I dumped the entire jar in there, and it was good.

I am not certain if I can actually post the recipe here, so I will hold off until the reveal. If it turns out I can I will update with the recipe and the issues I had.

Early the next day, we return to find our Heroine hard at work …

I have checked some of the more experienced bakers posts, and yes indeedy I can post the recipe. Here goes it!

Hardware: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges) [I used a 9″ round straight sided cake pan], rolling pin, big hole grater, bowl, hand mixer

Software for the crust:

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 [I ended up using 4 T and I don’t know if that was enough]

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater [this was a giant pain in the butt]. 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 [ooooh fancy Brit word for Saranwrap] and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Software for the Frangipane:

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar [fancy Brit word for powdered sugar]
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds [I ground my own in the blender, didn’t bother to take the skins off]
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 [fancy Brit spelling for color].


Short Crust
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability [I used a whole jar of Apple Butter – probably 2+ cups]

One handful blanched, flaked almonds [I bought what they had at the store – which was skin on]
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 [oooh more fancy Brit spelling] 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.

For my filling:

I bought a bag of Kraft Caramels and peeled about 28 (I did not peel extra and eat them, at least you cannot prove it) and chucked them into a double boiler. Or I chucked them into a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water – you guess what actually happened. I added a few glugs of milk to make sure that it didn’t set up hard enough to pull out my mom’s new crown. Those things are expensive and painful, I didn’t want her to have to go through that again.

For assembly, I poured the caramel in the crust and spread it out. Then topped it with the apple butter. First I put in a cup as the recipe said, and it didn’t look like enough. Then I put in another cup and it looked pretty good, but there was only about 1/4 C left in the jar and I didn’t want to keep that in the ‘fridge to interfere with my other science experiments – so I dumped the whole thing in. Proceeded with the recipe as written.

After the allotted cooking time it still wiggled like Santa’s tummy and it was getting really brown on top. So I dropped the heat to 325 (no clue what that is in Celsius) and let it cook longer. And longer, and longer until it appeared to be done. All total I think it was in there for at least 50 min to an hour. Your results may vary.


I am glad I finished my first Daring Bakers challenge and look forward to the next one. This is something that I never would have cooked left to my own devices. heh heh heh


Desperation makes you do funny things. My particular issue right now is the E-man’s refusal to eat vegetables. If it isn’t in the shape of a fry then he doesn’t want it in his mouth. Actually, that is not true. He will squash mashed potatoes in sometimes, others it is a tool of the devil. There was a short period of time where he would eat mashed sweet potatoes. No longer. Potatoes are also acceptable in chip shape – but the sweet potato chips received the cold shoulder. But like a mule I keep on trying.

For inspiration I frequently look to the blog Chow Mama because it is awesome. For the first time in my life I brought home kale from the Farmer’s Market and I made the much raved about Kale Chips. When they were done I  handed himself one and said “Chip” he took it dubliously and regarded it as if I had just handed him a deep fried roach to partake of. He nibbled off a small piece and promptly handed it back to me, no amount of entreaty would entice him into taking another one from my hand.

The implements of destruction

The implements of destruction

I had great hopes for Beet Chips. I worked hard on them. Busted out the fancy pants mandolin and made the most god-awful mess of my kitchen. Really, I expected to see Grissom walking through my door with his little briefcase (of course I would prefer Warrick or Nick, or both. Did you see the one episode where the body was in a pool and they did “odds ‘n evens” to see who had to go into the pool. My thought was whomever goes into the pool in their t-shirt I WIN!!!)

I sliced them as thin as possible – but apparently not thin enough. I tossed them lightly in olive oil – but apparently not lightly enough. Sprinkled lovingly with Kosher salt – but not … well you get the picture. I cooked them at the lowest my oven would go for about, oh, three days. Sorry, I exaggerate, but I cooked them for a long da@n time. Eventually I declared them done and yanked them out of the oven. After a more thorough search of the intarweb I found one person who helpfully noted that they do not harden up until they cool. WELL that would have been USEFUL about 3 hours ago …

Not being a big beet fan, I was skeptical – but they were pretty darn tasty. The few slices that I managed to get paper thin were bordering on delicious. Did the E-man like them?

Not a chance in H-E double hockey-sticks!

As with the Kale chips he dutifully sampled a molecule of one, and returned them to my hand. I packed them in lunches to play dates and he refused to eat them. The other children at the play dates LOVED them. I think I am giving up on veggie chips for awhile.

My neighbor is a rather old chap who lives to garden, quite literally. A couple of years ago his wife passed away and now pretty much all he does is tend his land, I think he is in his late 70’s early 80’s. Last year he purchased and restored a classic Tractor from the 40’s and he eagerly awaits the day when I will allow him to haul my toddler up to the seat and drive around with him. I haven’t prevented this but the E-man is very skeptical of the entire plan and you have to admit, a big tractor can be scary. Of course this is a wee Tractor, just big enough for Mr.N’s “garden”.

That is if you can call a cultivated acre of land a “garden”. When I asked him last year how many potato plants he put in he said “Oh about 100 lbs”. That is 100 lbs of seed potatoes. What the yield on that would be I have no idea. This year I have started my own, slightly less ambitious, garden and when I proudly told Mr.N that I had planted peanuts he asked me how many. I told him 5 plants. He grinned at me and let me know that he had planted 3 rows of the goober-pea. Ah well, I am content to be small potatoes.

And small potatoes is what this post is about. Mr.N was kind enough to give me a few of the earliest potatoes that he robbed from his hills. These are very young potatoes, skins as thin as tissue. If you are skilled you can reach in from the side and sneak a few out without disturbing the production of the main crop. I am quite sure that I would bungle the procedure with my sissy hands, but Mr.N’s gnarled mitts are nimble with experience.

I needed to make something that would let these precious yet ugly jewels shine and I was determined that I could make a meal of them. No side-dish billing for these puppies – they were Marquee talent. I perused my trusty The Best Recipes in the World and decided on something based on the Spanish Tortilla concept. I say concept because I played fast and loose with the recipe. Why? might you ask?

Tortilla, open faced Potato Omlette, Fritatta, who cares?

Tortilla, open faced Potato Omelet, Fritatta, who cares?

Bittman’s recipe called for an entire cup of olive oil. Cutting the recipe in 1/2 for the amount of ‘taters I had still left me with a 1/2 cup of olive oil – and I couldn’t do it. Nor did I want to include the onions that were called for. No supporting cast was desired – let them stay at the talent scout’s – I had my star!

Faux Spanish Tortilla

Hardware: really sharp knife, large non-stick skillet that you can chuck into the oven (make sure that it doesn’t have a melty handle because a melty handle sucks), lid of sufficient size to fit the pan


I am afraid that this isn’t one of those measurement type recipes because I was really flying by the seat of my pants – the show must go on.

4 medium new potatoes
2 eggs
a couple of “glugs” of milk
Garlic Powder
Olive Oil (less than 1/2 C)
Cheese (I used mozzarella)

Put the skillet on the stove on medium heat and add a goodly amount of olive oil. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oil is heating slice the potatoes super duper thin. I was too lazy to use my mandolin – I hate the clean-up. Separate the slices and dump them into the hot oil. Stir and flip like a madman to get them all coated with oil, adding oil if it seems necessary. Salt and pepper generously, these are potatoes after all.

You do not want the potatoes to brown, but you want them to become tender. I reduced the heat to low and kept flipping/stirring. When it seemed they were fixin to brown I added some water and clapped a lid on so that they would steam. Of course I frequently lifted the lid and stirred/flipped them so who knows how much actual steaming occurred. During on break in the action when you are not compulsively checking the potatoes, crack your eggs into a bowl and add a couple of glugs of milk. Season with salt, pepper, a generous amount of freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of granulated garlic. Beat the tar out of them with a fork.

Check potatoes. When they are moving towards tender take your lid off so that you can evaporate the water. When almost tender and mostly dry (except for the oil) pat the ‘taters out in an even layer and then pour the egg mixture all over them. Kill the heat to the pan and then decide that you cannot leave well enough alone and sprinkle some cheese over the top. Because hey, who doesn’t like cheese on potatoes?

Put the whole mess into the oven and let it bake until the eggs are set, maybe 10 – 15 minutes. I decided that I really wanted my cheese to be more than just melted so I cranked up the broiler for a couple of minutes and literally stood there and watched it go GB&D. Please, please, please remember that the handle of the pan will be WHITE HOT and use an appropriate protective device to remove it to a safe landing zone.

The Verdict

‘tateriffic! By dialing back on the eggs and making this dish more about the potatoes I really feel like my special produce was able to be all it could be. I had to serve up 1/2 of it to myself and put the rest in the ‘fridge right away – otherwise I would have eaten it all without a second thought. The E-man even deigned to snitch a few chunks of potato off of my plate which is made out of win. Reheated in the same oven I cooked tonight’s uneaten fish sticks (well, they were eaten eventually by me) in it still was very tasty. It wasn’t quite as good as it was fresh out of the oven – but it was better than the fish sticks.

Recently my cooking has not been very exciting, hence my lack of posting anything here. I feel like it must be exciting for me to post it here because really, who wants to hear about my umpteenth iteration of fried rice. Cooking for one is simply not conducive to creativity. If one makes too much guess who is stuck eating all of something that might not have been the wisest flavor choice? Me, that’s who. Because lord knows that the Eman ain’t eating it if it isn’t nugget shaped or covered in syrup.

This is where other blogs come in – they can figure it out for me.

I love Smitten Kitchen. I know, me and eighty billion other people, but hey – that many people cannot be wrong can they? So the other night I turned to her for dinner and I ended up eating this:

Peanut Sesame Spaghetti

Her recipe can be found here: Peanut Sesame Noodles/Smitten Kitchen

Since I was cooking only for myself I monkeyed around with it quite a bit, first off cutting it in 1/2.

Not Quite Smitten Kitchen Peanut Sesame Noodles

Hardware: skillet, big pot to boil spaghetti, stirring type utensil

2 Shallots, chopped finely
1 Carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
3 T Smooth Peanut Butter
2 T Soy Sauce
1/3 C Warm Water
1 1/2 t Ginger, fresh
1 t Garlic, minced
1 T Rice Wine Vinegar
2 1/4 t Sesame Oil
1 T Oyster Sauce
Smidge of Garlic Chili Sauce
Dry pasta of your choice – I used spaghettini

First off, SK had all kinds of “delicious” vegetables in her dish, which is fine and well for people who find vegetables “delicious”. I do not. I have to force myself to eat veg, and the ones I will eat are limited. Shallots count and you will not convince me otherwise. I started out by sauteing the shallots in some olive oil (you can use whatever oil tickles your fancy) until they got a little brown. While that was happening I mixed everything else up in a liquid measuring cup and whisked it together to get it all loosey goosey.

When I felt the shallots were considering going all nuclear on me I poured in the sauce mixture and stirred like crazy. Then I set about fiddling and tasting and adjusting things to my taste. You will have to do that for yourself. Also, I set a pot of pasta on to boil before I started any of the proceedings. You remembered to do that, right?

I love using grated carrot. It saves me from having to use my pathetic knife skills and it also needs minimal to no cooking. I put the grated carrot directly into my serving bowl and then dumped a serving of the drained, cooked pasta directly on top of the orange ribbons. About 1/2 of the sauce I had made went over top of the whole shebang and I stirred it together well with hot tong action. Actually, I tried to do the fancy pants lifting and twisting to combine thing that Hot Shot Mario Batali does on his cooking show (why of why did you steal my Molto Mario Food Network – curse you **shakes tiny fists at sky**) and it didn’t work out so good for me.

Unlike SK I ate it hot – and I didn’t even have the sesame seeds for garnish, so I couldn’t forget to toast them. A couple of days later I reheated the sauce (with added water) and tossed it with some frozen breaded shrimp that I baked in the oven. Served it over rice and it was just as tasty as the first time around.

I know that it wasn’t as fancy as what you did, but Thank You anyway Mrs. Kitchen.

ps: I have been wondering what this would taste like with Cashew Butter – anybody want to try it and let me know?

One of the blogs that I read regularly is Thursday Night Smackdown. I find it hilarious, but a warning to people who read this blog, TNS is rated “R”. As in Mature Audiences Only, so if you do not find that humor, well, humorous then I would advise against checking it out. I won’t hold it against you, I personally do not find humor focusing on bodily functions and other things best relegated to the bathroom to be entertaining in the least. But somehow Rob Schnieder et al continue to be employed – so obviously there are people out there who disagree with me.

But this particular blog post is part of TNS’s blog event Hobo Monday if you clicky that link you will read the rules. When I discovered this blog event I felt it meshed nicely with my own Raison d’être on this blog so this is my first attempt. It figures that the first time I decided to play the monthly theme would be “Super Cheap A$$” and entries are supposed to feed 2 people for $3.

Pshaw, I taunt your silly $3.  I shall make it as cheap as I can.

Dinner or UFO?

Dinner or UFO?

The truly frustrating part of this endeavor came when I was working on the pricing. I decided to go through the past Hobo Monday challenges to see what the standard going rate for onions seemed to be. Please note that I did not do this until after I had prepared, photographed and consumed my Hobo Monday Meal. And what did I find? The very first winner of Hobo Monday was a Lentil and Rice dish. Mighty-mo-finky-stinky-son-of-a-biscuit-eater, now it looks like I cheated. Rat Farts.

from The Best Recipes in the World – Mark Bittman (go buy this book, you must have it)

Red Lentils with Rice

2 T Canola Oil
1 lg Onion, chopped
1 T Garam Masala
3 C Water (he didn’t have this in the list, but I like all of the ingredients to be in the list, nyah)
3/4 C dried red lentils (rinsed & picked)
1 C long-grain rice (I used Jasmine)
2 T Butter (Bittman says optional, I say essential)
Salt & Pepper to taste (the Ba$t4rd – I ended up putting well over a teaspoon of salt and multiple grinds of pepper)

1) Heat oil over medium high heat, add onions and stir frequently until they start to get brown around the edges. Add garam masala and stir for another minute or so. Dump in 3 cups of water carefully (water & hot oil you know – spatter city) and bring to a boil.

2) Add rice & lentils and return to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. I pulled mine with about 3 minutes to spare and it was still overcooked. But then again I cook on a gas range and managing a simmer on a gas range is as about as easy as juggling rabbits.

3) Stir in butter (you have no option, I don’t care what Mr. Bittman says about the subject) and add salt & pepper in increments until it tastes good to you.

The Damage:

And now for the cost breakdown, technically if something is what you consider to be a pantry item then you don’t have to price it in the total. I made this entire meal out of my pantry – but I am not a cheater so I will count everything.

Lentils- .89 per lb
.89 / 16 = .055 per oz
.055 x 5.75 = .32

Rice – 25 lb bag for $17 at local Asian market (it is where I get all of my Asians)
25 x 16 = 400 oz
17.00 / 400 =.0425 per oz
.0425 x 8 = .34

Fixinsreally and truly pantry items, but I am counting them
Onion = .25
Butter= .10
Oil = .05
Spices = .10
Water = free

Because I am apparently incapable for cooking for a small number (1 or 2) of people this dish will feed 6. Really, have you ever attempted to cook a small amount of rice or lentils? Do it, I dare you, you will be cursing my name as you are scraping the charred remains of your dinner off the bottom of the pot.

I drink water with all of my meals, which falls into the free category. So the final damage is $1.16 to feed 6 people. Which comes out to $.193 per person. If you felt you needed more veggies you could put together a quick side salad which might run you about .25 per person. That could be added to the total if the queen of Hobo’s feels this isn’t a complete meal. But it was all I ate for dinner.


Lentils revisited - rejected by the Eman

Lentils revisited - rejected by the Eman

Unfortunately I still feel a pain in my heart that the Lentil and Rice thing has been done. It wounds me –  c’est la vie. So I thought I would bust out a bonus which I feel is in keeping with my thematic genre – leftover usage. For lunch the next day I pulled the 5 peoples worth of food out of the ‘fridge and decided the consistency would lend itself well to shaping. I shaped some little balls and some big patties. Put some canola oil in a non-stick pan and heated it up good. Tossed those little puppies in and fried them so that they were GBD on both sides. Crunchy, savory, verrah tasty. With a salad it made a lovely lunch. I believe it would also be delicious treated as a veggie burger.

ps: for those of you who regularly read my blog, I hope that you will pardon my french. I felt it was in keeping with the soiree. As they say: Le singe est sur la branche.

*Pronounce this out loud a couple of times, see if you find the joke.