My Cake Decorating Gallery

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers Strike Again! Bakewell Tart Challenge

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.

What is a Bakewell Tart (sometimes also called Bakewell Pudding)? I had no idea but I just made one! It is a popular dessert hailing from the other side of the pond which consists a sweet shortcrust pastry, preserves (homemade of course), and a frangipane filling. I didn't know what frangipane was either, and it turns out that it is a delicious filling made with ground almonds!

Making the homemade preserves was optional (you could use purchased ones) but I was really excited to make my first jam. I had been wanting to make a strawberry freezer jam for a long time, which is as easy as can be. I just bought one of those pectin freezer jam kits from Meijer, crushed 4 cups of strawberries, let it sit in the fridge overnight, and voila! My mom made strawberry freezer jam when we were kids and it brought back lots of memories.

I made the jam a few weeks ago, and the "due date" of the Bakewell Tart/Pudding was today. Well, today is my first day of my July shutdown vacation so in the manner of the auto industry "Just In Time" manufacturing, today I finally made these tarts!

With the jam done and plenty of other flavors of jam in the fridge for an assortment, I only had two other tasks this morning - the crust and frangipane. I had a mental block and botched the first batch of dough - for some reason I was thinking 4 oz of butter was half a stick.. didn't notice that was 50% too little until much later. No worries, the sweet shortcrust recipe comes together very quick - flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, almond extract, and water.

That chills for at least 30 minutes and then I rolled it out into two styles of mini tart pans I found. I had some low wide ones and some smaller tall ones. The next step is to roll out the crust and fill the tart pans, and pop them into the freezer for 15 minutes before filling.

The frangipane also comes together pretty quick - I had to grind my own almonds but everything else was fast - cream butter, sugar, then eggs, almond extract, ground almonds and flour.

With the tarts out of the freezer, you simply spread the preserves along the bottom of the tars and then fill them up with frangipane. I used all sorts of crazy jams that I found in my fridge besides my fresh strawberry freezer jam. We had apricot, orange marmalade, blackberry, and raspberry.

These little guys got baked in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown, throwing on some sliced almonds at the end. I let them cool for quite some time but then it was time for some quick photos and the taste test. These are delicious! I wasn't sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. The frangipane and crust both have excellent almond flavors and all the different preserves add so much. My favorite fillings so far have been the strawberry and orange - the sweet ones.

Well I am happy to have completed this challenge in the nick of time, with just enough daylight to take pictures, yay! Thanks to Jasmine and Annemarie for this challenge, I wouldn't have ever had tried this recipe otherwise and I can't wait to give away these delicious little tarts to unsuspecting friends. :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The 2nd Daring Cook's Challenge: Potstickers!

I would've never thought to make my own chinese potstickers but Jen from use real butter has talked all of we Daring Cooks into trying her family's traditional recipe out for ourselves! First off, I love Jen's blog name - Use Real Butter! I totally agree! Now, The Husband and I love potstickers, especially pork, so I stuck with Jen's original recipe... though her shrimp recipe looks fabulous as well. The only thing I may have strayed on was I accidently picked up "pork sausage" instead of just ground pork, but these little guys were delicious nonetheless.

The dough consists of flour and water and maybe I could've rolled mine out a little more, made them more uniform, and done a better job on the pleating but they all turned out great. We fried up the first half of the recipe and the second half went into the freezer for another time, which I'm looking forward to.

Jen has an awesome blog post which describes the recipe and procedure, step by step, so check that out here if you'd like to give this a try! I also made her recommended dipping sauce - soy sauce, vinegar, and mine had a little sugar and green onions, which was quite a tasty treat and different than the typical dumpling sauce I usually purchase from my local asian markets.

The pork filling was juicey and so flavorful, mmmm! We had fresh ginger, shitake mushrooms, cabbage, soy sauce, sesame oil, bamboo shoots, and of course, the pork!

This is a delicious recipe, it reminded me of making pierogies or pyrohy for our Ukrainian meals at my parents' house, and any dumpling is a friend of mine! Thank you Jen for this fun experience, it was a great challenge!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cookies for a Cause - Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

I wasn't quite sure what made these old fashioned and I only chose them because I had all the ingredients for a double batch on hand, they looked nice and large (which is good for trying to get donations) and it seemed simple enough to start at 9:15pm last night. I just made cookies last week so I spoiled my coworkers with two weeks in a row!

This is an excellent sugar cookie recipe - the lemon zest and juice really give it that "old fashioned" flavor, and they are slightly chewy with a crisp top and just a generally big happy cookie to devour! The Husband has been waiting for a cookie that he might like and he just loved these - he said "You should charge extra for these! Mmm!" He isn't a fan of nuts or butterscotch so the past two charity cookie sales I've done - Pecan Bars and Rocky Ledge Bars - have not been his thing. These sugar cookies were perfect!

The only thing that takes a long time is that they are large cookies so unless you have several cookie sheets and oven space, you might have to wait for 3 or 4 batches to go through. Still, it's pretty simple to put this recipe together and you won't regret the results. It's a classic sugar cookie that everyone will enjoy.

I took these into work and put up my signs stating that I will donate 100% of any donations made to the Disabled American Veterans organization. After the first two Cookies For A Cause days, we had raised $44.74. Now after these Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies, we are up to $21.41. This means that we have raised a grand total of $66.15 for charity so far! Our first $50 collected of my Cookies For A Cause event is going to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen of Detroit, and from there on, the results of my bake sales will be going to the Disabled American Veterans for a while. It is hard to choose between charities so I will be switching back and forth throughout the year. Just as a reminder, I do not retain any money donated for myself to offset baking costs - my donations are the ingredients and time and effort and I'm happy to do it as long as people keep donating. I love trying new recipes so this is a win-win situation!

All of these cookie recipes have come from the excellent book - Martha Stewart Cookies. These are awesome cookie recipes, and we have not been disappointed once! I can't wait to pick out the next recipe for my next Cookies for a Cause event and raising some more money! Thanks for stopping in.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
Makes about 20 (3 1/2-inch) cookies (or 16 4+ in cookies)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
2 large eggs
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.

Put sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon juice. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop; space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula. Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar.

Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes.
Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cookies for a Cause: Rocky Ledge Bars

My second attempt at raising money for charity via baking treats for coworkers was a big success! I chose another recipe out of Martha Stewart's new Cookies cookbook, Rocky Ledge Bars, and we raised $27.26 for the 33 cookies I brought. Woo hoo! This brings us to a total of almost $45 raised so far for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit. There are so many charities that need help right now that I have decided the first $50 of my donations will go to Capuchin and then I will choose a different charity, and so on.

I made a double batch of these Rocky Ledge Bars which feature a rich dark cookie base that is filled to the brim with sweetness - butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, chocolate chips, chewy caramel chunks, and mini marshmallows! Mmm mmm mm, what's not to like? Each batch makes around 16 very large cookies, but you can cut them however you'd like.

I brought in the tray of freshly baked cookies into work and put up my sign saying "100% of your donations will be donated to..." with information about the charity and the current treat being offered. The way I see it is that my donation are the cookies and my time spent, and I am not interested in making any money back so if I am willing to donate some sweets, my coworkers will be willing to throw in some money for a good cause. I love trying new recipes so this is a win-win situation! These Rocky Ledge Bars were a more successful venture than the first charity cookie day, Pecan Bars, which only raised $17 but every little bit counts and I hope to bring in many batches of freshly baked goods in the future. I hope that by the end of 2009 we will have some fabulous results of all the money that has been donated.

The recipe can be found on Martha Stewart's website for Rocky Ledge Bars. They are delicous!