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All my Eggs in One Basket — Corsican Omelet

There is a phenomenon known as “breakfast for dinner” whereby seemingly normal people choose to ingest breakfast foods, namely French toast, pancakes and bacon for dinner. Why they would want to do this, I have no idea. I may have mentioned it before, but standard American breakfast foods (with the exception of toast, which may be my favorite food) are not my idea of a good time.

I can blame this particular quirk on my mother, who took a firm stand against eating sweet foods for breakfast, which led to a deprived childhood lacking in things like Cocoa Krispies, pancakes, french toast casserole, blueberry muffins and donuts eaten before noon. My mother was convinced that these foods would give me low blood sugar and lead to headaches and feeling unwell, and unfortunately, the few times she relented on this policy, she was proven correct. Now, even as an adult, I look askance at things like pancakes, and rarely eat them, so the idea of replacing a normal meal that ordinarily provides lots of not-sweet nutrition with stacks of carbs just strikes me as plain odd.

I do, however, make an exception for omelets. Maybe it’s the French in me, but I really think there’s no bad time for an omelet. They’re infinitely adaptable, are an excellent way to use whatever’s in your fridge, and go perfectly with a glass of wine. Now that is what I call dinner.
Continue reading All my Eggs in One Basket — Corsican Omelet

Daring Bakewell Tarts


Have I ever mentioned that I am a raging Anglophile? I jealously hoard Colman’s mustard, studied abroad in London, wrote my undergraduate thesis on franchise reform in Parliament, and pepper my speech with phrases like “jolly good” and “lovely!” I blame it on a childhood reading the great English children’s books — Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Ballet Shoes, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Five Children and It. All of them full of funny names (how many of you know someone named Anthea?) and verbal expressions and best of all wonderful food (usually served at teatime) – Victoria Sandwich, Gingerbread stars, and who can forget Turkish Delight?

Because of this, I look askance at anyone who roundly condemns English cuisine. Overlooking the horror that is mushy peas (I said I was an Anglophile, not actually English), Britain has made many delectable contributions to world cuisine — mince pies, cheddar cheese, Branston pickle and these delectable little Bakewell tarts.

Mini Bakewell Tarts
 
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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I give you Jasmine and Annemarie's recipe verbatim here, and I'll note my modifications at the end.
Ingredients
  • Bakewell Tarts
  • 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
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
Frangipane
  • 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
Instructions
Assembling the tart
  1. 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.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
Frangipane
  1. 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.
Notes
Kate's Notes: I used commercial almond flour made from unblanched almonds. It didn't affect the texture, and was much easier than making my own. I added the zest of one lemon to my shortcrust pastry, because I love the combination of raspberry and lemon. I happen to have a commercial raspberry jam that I love, but feel free to experiment or use homemade. I also made these in muffin tins -- I cut a circle out of the dough, then rolled the circle even thinner, and trimmed it once in the tins. Put about 2 T of jam in each cup, and 4 raspberries. This was enough to make 12 mini bakewell tarts with leftover frangipane. Once they were cool, I topped them with an icing made from 1 oz. butter, 2.5 oz. powdered sugar and the juice of half a lemon.

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. Continue reading Daring Bakewell Tarts

In Bruges — Waterzooi de Poulet

A typical street in Bruges

A typical street in Bruges

It’s officially summer time, and if you’re lucky that means vacations! I thought I’d start a little summertime series (of an indeterminate number of episodes) based on places I’ve traveled. A little travelog in food, if you will. And today’s destination is … Bruges, Belgium!

A Belgian Canal

A Belgian Canal

Why would you go to Belgium? It doesn’t have an Eiffel Tower or a Parthenon or a Prado (Brussels does have the capital of the EU, but I’m not sure that should rank up there as “tourist destination). What if I told you that Belgium in general and Bruges in particular may just be the ultimate foodie destination? We’re talking about a national cuisine that prominently features chocolate, waffles, french fries and beer! Bruges has both a chocolate museum and a french fry museum? What can be better than that?
Continue reading In Bruges — Waterzooi de Poulet

Small Celebrations — Almond Banana Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Icing

They say you are either a cake person or a pie person. While I think that this is a somewhat loaded dichotomy, and the “cool” answer is nearly always to be a pie person, since pies represent down home cooking and Americana and real cooks and cakes are Frenchy or something, I am unequivocally a cake person, both in the eating and the making. Pies are fraught, with all that rolling and transferring, and the end result is pretty much what you put into it, but cakes are magic. Butter, sugar, flour eggs and you end up with celebrations, or nostalgia, or dreaminess. Did I ever mention I made my own wedding cake? That’s a story for another time, but suffice it to say I love baking cakes.

When family birthdays come around, I eagerly jump on the cake making occasion. For me, cakes are best saved for parties, because it’s dangerous to have leftover slices of frosted layer cake on the lam in my kitchen. But sometimes the party is small, but the occasion is still worth a full on celebratory multi-layer cake. That’s when my favorite cake cookbook comes in handy: The Wedding Cake Book by Dede Wilson. I love this book because not only does it have multiple interesting and delicious recipes for different flavors of cake, each recipe is given separately for the individual tiers, which means you can make a 6 inch cake, or a 12 inch cake, and you don’t have to make the whole thing. I particularly love the 6 inch cakes — they’re perfect small celebration cakes for just a few people.
Continue reading Small Celebrations — Almond Banana Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Icing

My Heart Belongs to Daddy — Creamed Spinach with Jalapenos


This is my father:

The author and her father, Paris, ca. 1984

The author and her father, Paris, ca. 1984

  • When I was a little girl, he took me to special movie dates, just the two of us, and we always got popcorn.
  • He is perfectly capable of cooking, but my mother does most of it in their house. That’s because my father’s signature dishes are sauteed mushrooms with at LEAST an entire stick of butter, and veal piccata with two sticks.
  • He has won over my dog by feeding her steak whenever she sees him. Now when we visit she runs and sits at his feet, the stinker.
  • When I was in college, he would visit me on Valentine’s Day weekend (not the greatest time of year to travel from California to Connecticut), take me out to dinner, and buy me wine for my dorm room.
  • He loves Paris and takes every opportunity to visit. When he gets home, he starts planning his next trip, whether that’s in 2 months or 2 years.
  • He is a near-obsessive watcher of the Food Network, HGTV and MSNBC.
  • When he likes a restaurant, he goes back again and again and invariably finds a favorite waitress to whom he gives college advice and good tips.
  • He adds Green Tabasco to EVERYTHING despite spending most of my childhood insisting he hates spicy foods.
  • He calls me every week and asks to speak to his granddaughter.  His granddaughter’s sum total of phone conversation equals “Hi!  Ayaa!  ByeBye!” but he wants to hear it across the ocean.
  • At my wedding, he wore a morning suit to give me away and gave a speech that kept everyone laughing.  Then he cried.

This is the father of my child:

The Nuni and her father, Los Angeles, ca. 2009

The Nuni and her father, Los Angeles, ca. 2009

  • He has an inexplicable love for Hawaiian pizza and Coke Zero.
  • The day I found out I was pregnant, his smile lit up the room.
  • He keeps syrup in a hummingbird feeder and built a bird feeder outside our apartment  so he can sit outside and watch the birds come and go.
  • He sits by the Nuni’s tiny toddler bed, every night, and sings “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” until she falls asleep.
  • He founded a men’s book club that has struggled because he’s the only man he knows who reads.
  • When the Nuni was born, he spent her first two weeks doing nearly everything for both her and me, while I recovered from childbirth.
  • The first time he cooked for me he made Chicken Tikka Masala, and stuck candles in empty 2 L coke bottles.
  • He lets the Nuni push him over, shouting “Sapeee!” (her version of “timber”) helpless in the face of her tiny might.
  • The first time we went to Paris, he fearlessly ordered blood sausage, just because he had never had it before.
  • He has a miniature orchard and small vegetable garden in pots on our tiled patio, and he waters them every day.

These are the men whom I am loving on this Father’s Day — my two favorite fathers.  And even though one of them will be in Paris (natch) and the other will be at home with me,  I hope they both know how much I love them.

Father’s day is a little trickier than Mother’s Day for the cooks among us.  Moms are easy — breakfast in bed or brunch seem like the perfect, feminine solution.  Fathers are a little harder.  Cookies are always appreciated, and I’ve never met a man who didn’t like pie (my father prefers coconut cream, my husband likes cherry or apple).  If brunch is a necessity you can’t go wrong with bacon. Or you could go the old fashioned route and cook up a nice steak dinner — cook steaks on the grill, or in a hot pan with a lot of butter, and serve them with this twist on a steakhouse classic — creamed spinach with jalapenos.  Sure, it’s green vegetables, but it’s green vegetables in a fabulously creamy, spicy, cheesy context.  One that both my father and my husband love.
Continue reading My Heart Belongs to Daddy — Creamed Spinach with Jalapenos