The Daring Bakers bake a Bakewell well

Once again the challenge for the Daring Bakers turned out to be something we never would have encountered otherwise:
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.
A Bakewell what? Luckily, Jasmine and Annemarie provided us Daring Bakers with an ample background history in their challenge presentation post:
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.

There are different versions of the Bakewell Tart, er, or pudding. Yes, there's apparently also some confusion as to whether it's a tart or a pudding. Since there is a British habit of calling any desert "pudding", let's just say that this pudding is a tart.

The version of the Bakewell tart we were asked to make had three elements.
1. Sweet shortcrust pastry
2. Jam or curd (what flavour was up to the Daring Bakers to decided themselves)
3. Frangipane

For the recipes, visit the blogs of our lovely hosts, or go to the Daring Kitchen recipe archive.

A Bakewell tartelette, decorated with pastry dough.

Here are a few notes on our experience of making the Bakewell tart:
- The hardest part of the process was probably to transfer the rolled out dough for the crust from the working area to the pie tin. It wanted to break up in way too many pieces, but by carefully rolling it up Markus managed to make it without any serious breakage.
- We ground the almonds for the frangipane ourselves, using our wonderful almond grinder/mill, that I have inherited from my grandmother. It makes great almond meal. We didn't remember/care to blanch and peel the almonds before grinding them, so our frangipane had some dark speckles of almond skins in it. We didn't think it mattered.
-After reading the experiences of some fellow Daring Bakers on the private forums, we decided to blind bake the unfilled shortcrust before chilling and filling it. Some Daring Bakers reported problems with an underbaked crust, but this seemed to solve that problem.
- The options for the jam filling are of course endless. We went with the bounty of the season and used rhubarb from my dad's garden. Recipe for the rhubarb jam below.

We decided to bring the Bakewell tart as a desert to our Midsummer's celebration, held the following day. Since we wanted to make sure it tasted good before serving it to our friends, we also made small sample tartelette that we ate while it was still a bit warm from the oven. It was absolutely lovely - the crust had perfect texture, the frangipane was fluffy and luxurious, and the tangy rhubarb jam went wonderfully with the almond flavour of the frangipane. Our friends really enjoyed it too, and almost the whole thing disappeared. You see, that's very Swedish, leaving the last piece of something. Nobody wants to be the one eating the last piece of cake. Well, I'll usually eat it, but I was just too full after a whole day of gorgeous food.

A slice of Bakewell tart. You can't really see the jam, but you could definitely taste it... Yum!

Unfortunately we didn't get any good pictures of the big Midsummer Bakewell tart. We couldn't really tell our friends to hold their spoons while we ran around looking for good lighting and angles. I just got a quick, and bad, shot of my slice before devouring it.

Thank you Jasmine and Annemarie for a really fun challenge - we are definitely adding this to our regular baking repertoire. I can't wait to try this with plum jam later this summer...!

Rhubarb jam

400 g rhubarb, cut in small pieces (peel the stalks if necessary)
200 g jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)

Put the rhubarb and sugar in a pot. Let it bubble on medium heat, stirring often, until it turns into jam.

This makes enough to fill one big Bakewell tart (our pie tin has a diameter of about 25 cm). You will also get some leftovers - pour it into a jar and keep in the fridge. It is lovely on freshly baked scones...

Previously completed challenges:
February 2009: Chocolate Valentino
March 2009: Lasagne of Emiglia-Romana
April 2009: Cheesecake
May 2009: Strudel


Daring Cooks June (part two): We ate 'em!

So, the post that went up on the reveal day of June's Daring Cooks challenge was kind of sad, right? We (no, correction, Markus) prepared lovely Chinese dumplings with chicken filling, and then we both got sick and couldn't eat them. Thanks for all your well wishes in comments by the way!

But luckily the flu passed by quickly, and today, it was time to get some dumplings out of the freezer and steam them. We love our bamboo steamer (even if I have managed to give it a slightly pink hue by steaming radishes in it). After ten minutes of steaming the dumplings were done, and we ate them with a very tasty dipping sauce that I whipped together without paying any attention to measurements at all. It consisted of:

*mushroom soy
*red wine vinegar
*some liquid from one of those cans of candied ginger in syrup

The dumplings tasted delicious, but we thought the texture was a bit too tough. Maybe that's because they had been frozen? The filling was good - we both agreed it tasted Chinese which is a great thing in our book - but Markus admitted that he should have cut the ingredients finely by hand rather than being lazy and using a mixer (which he would have known had he only read the whole recipe! Sorry honey, just teasing you a little...).

Anyway, the dumplings were great! We are definitely keeping this recipe and will for sure return to it in the future, trying out other fillings - hand chopped then. :)

Thanks Jen for a great challenge and for sharing an old family recipe with us Daring Cooks!


Crisp bread for Midsummer

Happy Midsummer dear readers!

Midsummer is a Big Deal in Sweden. For a picture perfect midsummer, you should be in the countryside somewhere, preferably at an island in the archipelago, where you eat an extravagant yet traditional midsummer buffet. Dancing around the midsummer pole is not mandatory unless you're under the age of 13 - then your mom undoubtedly will drag you off to dance around in a circle under the lead of an old lady wearing a traditional national dress and a man playing the accordion. The sun is of course always shining, you have made a beautiful flower wreath to wear in your hair, and everything is just so Swedish.

Can you detect a hint of bitterness there? Yeah, for a while when I was a sulky teenager I refused to celebrate midsummer, due to the fact that it never turned out to be so perfect and fun. Nowadays, we celebrate with friends who have the same attitude: let's bring some people together to eat, drink and have fun, without any prestige.

But there will of course be traditional Swedish midsummer food: pickled herring of different kinds served with new potatoes, sour cream and chives, and in the evening a BBQ. With the herring it's common to eat Swedish crisp bread (knäckebröd) with butter and sharp cheese. While loads of different varieties of crisp bread are available in every grocery store (if you're abroad you can find it at IKEA), making it yourself will score you loads of credit among your friends! And contrary to what many people think, it isn't difficult at all. You just need a good rolling pin, time and patience.

There are many different types of crisp bread, using different flours, spices and other flavorings. The ones I ended up making today are fairly traditional, made with rye flour and flavored with caraway. I love crisp bread with loads of different seeds and grains, but for these I just added a bit of flax-seed.

There's no need for the dough to rest, but on the other hand, it won't matter if you leave it for half an hour or so while doing something else. If you tire of rolling out all the bread at the same time, any remaining dough can be left in the fridge for up to a week.

Home made crisp bread stacked high.

Swedish crisp bread
(adapted from Jorden runt på 80 degar by Annica Triberg & Albert Håkansson)

50 g fresh yeast
4 dl water at 37°C
2 tbsp neutral oil
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caraway seeds (you could also use fennel seeds or anise)
6 dl rye flour
1 dl flax-seeds
6 dl wheat flour

Place a baking sheet in the oven and set it to 250°C.

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add oil, salt and caraway. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and work into a uniform, but not very firm, dough.

Take pieces of the dough about the size of a golf ball and roll them out very thinly using plenty of flour. The bread won't be perfectly round - that's what makes it look home made! It's easiest to do the rolling out directly onto a piece of parchment paper. I can usually fit to pieces of bread onto one parchment paper.

Transfer the parchment paper onto the very hot baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Watch closely - the thin bread burns easily! Let it cool uncovered on a wire rack.

Keep rolling out pieces of bread and bake them, continuing until you're out of dough.

Crisp bread should be stored in airtight containers, away from heat and humidity. If it goes soft, you can crisp it up by heating it carefully in the oven or even in a toaster.


Daring Cooks June: Chinese dumplings - a half finished challenge

This post will not turn out the way we had hoped, unfortunately. It's time to present the second ever Daring Cooks challenge, hosted by Jen of use real butter (love that name - butter is better!). She has chosen Chinese dumplings/potstickers as the challenge.

We were so excited about this challenge, given our recent infatuation with Chinese food and Dim Sum. We started to make plans about all the different fillings to make. But time flew, we were busy, but on Thursday, three days before the reveal, we were finally going to make the dumplings.

Enter the flu.

I felt like crap all day, so Markus volunteered to do the cooking on his own (I tried to give some helpful advice and ask what I should do, but he kept sending my fever-clogged body back to bed). And then, when he had pleated about 2/3 of the dumplings, he started feeling woozy too. Neither one of us felt like steamed chicken dumplings, so the ones that were ready got tossed into the freezer - thankfully this months challenge is freezable! We had some dough and filling left, but frankly it never got used.

So, our dumplings are sitting in the freezer, while we are under the down cover, freezing too. We'll of course make a follow-up post on how they tasted once we have cooked them. We'll give you the recipe for the filling we made here; for full instructions on how to make the dumplings (including different fillings and cooking methods) go to Jen's blog. For the dough we used the method of Jen's mom, which worked really well.

Markus made really pretty dumplings and he reported that they were easy to make. To see the creations of the other Daring Cooks who made it all the way through, visit the Daring Kitchen!

Thank you Jen for a really great challenge - we are definitely returning to this one once we've stopped shivering...

Chicken dumpling filling:
(enough for one batch of Jen's mom's dough)

200 g grilled chicken meat
40 g bamboo shoots (canned)
40 g water chestnuts (canned)
20 g fresh ginger (cleaned weight)
20 g mushroom soy
15 g sesame oil
1 tbsp rice flour (the recipe called for corn starch, but we were out...)

Chop the chicken and vegetables very finely - Markus used a mixer, because he missed the detail in the recipe which told us not to do this. He says it worked well, so go ahead and be lazy as well if you want to. :) Mix the wet ingredients with the rice flour, and add it - if you're using a mixer, take her for one more spin.

Fill the dumplings as per Jen's instructions. Now, we can't vouch for the taste of this, so unless you're feeling adventurous (in Hong Kong we found that Chinese eating is about being adventurous so feel free to be that way) you might want to wait until our update before heading to the kitchen.


Paper Chef 41: Gravad Tuna

It's time for Paper Chef again, the monthly cook-with-four-chosen-ingredients food blog competition! Last month, we were all winners - Bron Marshall gave out awards to all the competitors and we were awarded the finest of all: the Mmm…Now That’s Terrifically Tasty Award for our Thyme Scented Prosciutto-Potato Swirls with Chèvre.

There was also an overall winner: Alison of Local Lemons who got to pick the ingredients for this installation of Paper Chef. She spent some time in Las Vegas, and took the opportunity to use the roulette wheel to pick: Asparagus, Artichokes, and Tuna. Keeping with the Las Vegas theme, Alison picked Vodka as her ingredient of choice.

As our faithful readers might have noted, we're no strangers to using liquor in our cooking, so this was right up our alley! We decided to do a starter, inspired by the traditional Swedish dish gravlax. The "grav" comes from the "cooking" process, and "lax" is just Swedish for salmon. Visitors to IKEA might be familiar with this dish. But it's possible to use the same process on other types of fish, and as this month's Paper Chef called for tuna, that's what we "gravade". (And here we treat you to a free lesson in Swedish verb conjugation!)

Normally the process of "gravning" takes two days, but it's possible to use alcohol as a catalyst, speeding up the process. Luckily for us, one of the ingredients was alcohol! The 2 day process is for a whole side of salmon, but we used carpaccio style tuna slices, speeding up the process to a mere three hours.

For the other ingredients we kept it quite simple, using the artichoke as a flavoring for an aioli, and just steamed the asparagus to keep its fresh taste. We also made grilled bread to go with the dish. This made a quite hefty starter, kind of halfway to a full main course.

The gravad tuna was just lovely - flavorful and translucent. The asparagus complemented the dish well with its fresh and springy taste. The artichoke aioli was a hit with the tuna, and we'll definitely make that one again as a dipping sauce or together with grilled meat.

Gravad Tuna

with Asparagus
and Artichoke Aioli

Gravad tuna

225 g tuna fish in very thin slices (we had three slices)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp white pepper
2 cl vodka
2 tbsp dill (we used frozen)

Mix the salt, sugar and pepper. Rub the mixture into both sides of the tuna slices. Place them on a big plate, pour over the vodka and put the dill on top. Cover with plastic film and place in the fridge for at least three hours, turning the slices over halfway through.

Artichoke Aioli
2 artichoke hearts, grilled and stored in oil and garlic
2 tbsp mayonnaise

Mix the ingredients into a paste. This had enough garlic in it to qualify as an aioli, but if not add more garlic.

Steam the asparagus for about 10 minutes. If you don't have a steamer, you could also boil it in lightly salted water.

Cut some Italian style bread in 1" slices and cut each slice in half lengthtwise. Pour some oil on top (we used cold pressed rape seed oil) and add some coarse sea salt. Grill in the oven at 175°C until the bread is golden brown (we grilled it at 225°C which was too much, so 175°C is our best guess...).

Place a slice of tuna on a plate, and put some asparagus on top. Serve with the artichoke aioli in a glass on the side with the bread on top.


Summer seafood salad

We have a heat wave in Sweden at the moment, with temperatures of around 25-30°C. With weather this lovely, and the vegetable section of the grocery store filling up with fresh and beautiful produce, you just have to make salad. I invented this one last week and made it for lunch for myself. It turned out so good we ate it for dinner as well the same night. Making it is super quick, ten minutes and your done. You could use shrimp if you can't get crayfish tails. I won't give you any exact measurements, just adapt the recipe for your hunger level.

Salad with spicy crayfish and sweet chili dressing

Put some mixed greens, whatever kind you want, on a plate. I used a ready-made salad mix. Add a couple of centimeters of cucumber, cut in smaller pieces. Throw in some diced melon, I took a variety of cantaluope , but honeydew would also work (not watermelon though).

Heat some oil in a pan, take a little bit more than you normally would - it's used for dressing later. Add some paprika powder and chili powder to the oil and let the spices fry for a while. I used ancho chili which I think has a warmer, more subtle heat, but use whatever kind of chili powder you want. Throw some crayfish tails in the pan. In Sweden they are sold in brine and flavored with dill. If you use those, strain and dry them carefully before frying. Fry the crayfish tails quickly, otherwise they will get tough and stringy.

When the crayfish are done, simply place them on top of the salad-cucumber-melon, and pour the warm spicy oil over them.

For the sweet chili dressing, simply mix some sweet-chili sauce and crème fraîche. I used about 2/3 crème fraîche and 1/3 sweet chili sauce, but you have to taste your way forward. Serve immediately.