Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Bakewell Success

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Cofessions 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.

After the disaster that was last month's strudel, and what has felt like more failures than successes in my Daring Baking, June's challenge was just what the doctor ordered. JasimeandAnnemarie chose a Bakewell Tart for the challenge. This as a wonderful British dessert with a shortbread pastry crust, filled with jam or curd, then topped with an almond frangipane.

I knew right away that I would like this challenge, mainly because it is pie-like. I can do pies. I'm good at them. With my Amish/Menonite heritage, it's in my blood. So it was really nice to have a challenge that allowed me to focus on my baking strengths.

The Bakewll Tart has three parts: A shortcrust pastry, a jam or curd filling, and a frangipane top. Because I have to fit my baking in around the Munchkin's eating and napping schedule, being able to break up the challenge into three parts, two of which could be made in advance, was great! My initial plan was to make a Blackberry-Mango tart, but decided at the last minute to just do the blackberry. I think it was the right call. I made Jasmine's Blackberry Pan Jam, and it was so simply and yummy! It was a perfect element for this dessert!

On Sunday, I made the shortcrust pastry, which came together quite easily for me. While I have a lot of experience with making pie crust, I've never done a short crust pastry. The recipe called for grating a stick of frozen butter into the flour. I really liked this technique. Though it is surprizingly difficult to grate frozen butter, it is still much less trouble than trying to dice up the butter and keep it cold enough to cut in when you need it.

With these two elements of the dessert made in advance, it was quite easy to finish the tart in time for a Tuesday night dinner party. All that was left was the frangipane, a sort of almond cake that tops the tart. It came together for me quite easily and uneventfully. My frangipane batter didn't even curdle when the eggs were added, something we were warned might happen. After reading that several DB-ers had trouble with a slightly soggy pastry crust, I decided to pre-bake my crust. I'm glad I did, as the crust stayed nice and tender without getting soggy during baking. I simply baked the crust, covered with aluminum foil and pie weights (which for me is a bunch of dried beans) for 10 minutes. Once the crust cooled, I spread about 1/2 cup of the blackberry jam (the recipe called for closer than a cup, but in her notes on the recipe, Jasime mentioned that one could use anywhere between 1/4 - 1 cup of filling), and topped with the frangipane. Thirty minutes later, a perfectly browned tart came out of the oven.

When it came time for dessert (after a yummy dinner of spinach lasagna), I presented the tart to oohs and ahs from my guests. Served with a dallop of Amaretto whipped cream, this tart was divine. My guests raved, and some even went back for seconds. This was an incredible dessert, and one that I will definitely have to try again!

Thank you Jasmine and Annemarie for a wonderful challenge, and for helping me get my baking mojo back!

(The recipe is kind of long, so rather than post it here, click over to Annemarie's post for the Bakewell Tart recipe)