Having your cake and eating your tart too


(Ananastaart : Pineapple Tart)

Brown food, it has to be acknowledged, is not the easiest thing to capture in enticing light. For someone who bakes, golden brown is probably one of the most attractive colours you could pull out of the oven. But for someone who also tries to take pictures of their baked goods, the same colour can be quite challenging to make look appetising.

I’ve noticed that I bake a lot of brown things, and that’s probably why I end up baking more than I blog. Let’s just say, for the majority of the time, I’d rather be eating than trying to take pictures of brown food ๐Ÿ™‚


(Engadiner Nusstorte : Swiss Walnut and Toffee Pie)

This Engadiner Nusstorte, made a week ago, was so delicious that I struggled to hang on to that last piece in order to take a picture. Early on in the week, I sternly pointed to the remaining slice in it’s plastic container, declaring to B that it was Strictly Photo Pie, so Hands Off. Even so, I managed to secretly (I think) shave bits off the slice until it was nearly in danger of becoming non-existent. Not long after a picture was finally taken and the pie was relegated back to Edible status, the slice disappeared.

The reason why I was so adamant about taking a picture this time was because I wanted to highlight a cookbook I bought recently, that has rapidly become one of my current favourites : Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra.

I love a cookbook that respects baking audiences enough to use not only cup measures, but also weight measures in grams and ounces. It also scores highly with me if it happens to feature a collection of interesting pictures, and not just ones that have been styled to the hilt. For example, check out p301 to see how kataifi pastry is traditionally made.

It also extends beyond what you’d expect from a typical baking book. There are none of the usual suspects here – no chocolate brownies or endless variations on a single cupcake recipe. Instead, Warm Bread and Honey Cake plays host to a fantastic collection of unusual recipes such as a pink-tinted Caribbean coconut roll (Salara), Chilean layered ‘drunken’ apple cake (Kuchen Borracho), Chinese steamed red bean buns, a whole chapter on Turkish sweets and savouries, and many lovely looking Dutch recipes (the author also has a book on Dutch baking called Windmills in my Oven).

Not to mention the pineapple cake tart above either. Cake and tart in one hit? What’s not to like? It was delicious, but perhaps slightly overshadowed by the power of a pie that encases nuts and toffee in a single breath. The recipe for the pie is below.

Swiss Walnut and Toffee Pie :
(Engadiner Nusstorte or Bรผndner Nusstorte, from Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra)

Pastry :
300g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g butter, chilled and cubed
100g icing sugar
1 egg, beaten

Filling :
250g caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons honey, light corn syrup or liquid glucose
150ml double (heavy) cream, warmed
250g walnuts, coarsely chopped [Note : I used macadamia nuts]

Make the pastry first. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar and rub in until well incorporated. Or simply put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then transfer to a bowl.

Reserving 2 tsp egg, add the rest to the bowl and use your fingertips to bring it together. Add a few drops of water if necessary. Cover with clingfilm and chill while you make the filling.

Have a pair of oven mitts standing by. Put the sugar, water and honey in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and let it continue to boil until it becomes a dark golden colour. Stir from time to time.

Put on the oven mitts and pour the warm cream into the saucepan in a steady stream, stirring continuously. It will hiss and bubble ferociously, but the mitts should protect your hands and arms. Keep on stirring the mixture on medium heat until it is creamy and slightly thickened. To test, pour 1 tsp onto a cold saucer and tilt it after a few seconds. The mixture should spread slowly and not disintegrate into rivulets. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the walnuts, coating them well. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Grease a 24cm springform tin.

To assemble the pie, the pastry should be chilled but still malleable, or it will break when you roll it. Divide the pastry into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger portion between two sheets of clingfilm to a 30cm circle and use it to line the tin. (Use the bottom sheet of clingfilm to help move it, removing the sheet once the pastry is in place). Press the edges of the pastry against the side of the tin.

Scrape the filling onto the pastry. Level the top as well as you can, but don’t apply too much pressure, or you may tear the pastry and the filling will leak out. Fold the excess pastry inwards over the filling.

Roll the second piece of pastry to a neat 22cm circle. Trim if necessary. Moisten the edges of the pastry base in the tin with a little water and position the second pastry circle on top of this. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges. Brush with the reserved egg and prick with a fork in several places. If you like, you can score a plaid pattern onto the surface with the fork.

Bake for 35-40 mins, or until golden brown. Leave to cool until lukewarm in the tin, then loosen the sides, release the clip and carefully transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool completely.

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  1. shirley@kokken69 said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 9:11 am

    This is interesting… I have never thought about the challenge behind photographing brown food. I shall pay attention when I do take pictures of brown food next time. However, you have nothing to worry about – your photos are enticing! Great pie, looks absolutely yummy to me…

  2. Katherine said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

    Walnut and Toffee Pie. YUMMMM. Y I think yours photos are amazing. You are extremely talented. You need to teach me a few tricks because my pictures suck. ehehe

  3. Sweets at Vicky's said,

    February 9, 2010 @ 12:27 am

    Hellloo! Just wanted to say that I adore your work and would love to give u an award! Pop by the blog to recieve it ok? ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hรฉlรจne said,

    February 9, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

    I always come here and enjoy your photographie ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Su-yin said,

    February 9, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    Cake and tart in one, how interesting! I know what you mean about brown food, and completely agree that it’s much more fun eating than photographing them! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Pei-Lin said,

    February 10, 2010 @ 2:03 am

    Whoa! A 2-in-1 combo! I’d never have thought of combining cake & tart together! Lovely idea!

    Hmm … Gotta agree with you that I actually get pretty worn out after baking, especially during festive season like now … Sometimes, I don’t feel like photographing them. Instead, I just stuff the food into my mouth and tummy. Bah … The space at home is too small and without much natural light coming in … That’s why my photos suck. =(

  7. Caitlin said,

    February 10, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

    I’m a lover of brown foods as well, those and soups and stews and things that are eminently un-photographable. I’m sorta okay with that though, because they always taste good ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Zita said,

    February 11, 2010 @ 1:09 am

    Mmm.. this I have to try… tart and cake altogether, I love food… full stop. No matter what the colour is, but got admit taking pic of brown food is challenging, but not so much for you, I guess… bcs on the point I don’t know what you’re taking about ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Hilda said,

    February 11, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

    I’m a bit late to the party but having some examples of food that is both brown and stew-ish on my blog and which I know does not look very appetizing, but which I know to be delicious, makes me totally empathize. Actually it’s quite a challenge because if I ever want to include any Persian stews on the blog I’m going to have to find a way to make them look appetizing to everyone else because they’re mostly either brown or green, ugh. That cake looks fantastic and I have to say that a book that includes the words warm, bread, honey and cake in the title should surely find its way onto my bookshelf soon. Nice pictures of brown food Y. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. cathy x. said,

    February 11, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    damnit.. you’ve convinced me to buy yet another cookbook! i have no more space for shelving! NOooo!

  11. erin said,

    February 13, 2010 @ 8:44 am

    Just added the cookbook to my Amazon wish list! Thanks!

  12. Lisa said,

    February 13, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    Looks delicious to me! I hear you on the brown food thing – Lentil soup …. my photographic nemesis so tasty, yet so hard to make look better than a pile of mud. Your photos however, look great ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Wanara said,

    February 14, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    This cake is very delicious..

  14. pity said,

    February 16, 2010 @ 9:39 am

    this is impressive and delicious, cant wait to try it, well done, cheers from london

  15. Darina said,

    February 17, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    I think this looks great, brown or not brown. I’d love to be able to sink my teeth into it. Your pictures are always amazing. Nothing to worry about.

  16. Carolyn Jung said,

    February 17, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    Well, I for one will go out on a limb and say this is the prettiest brown food I’ve seen. Here’s to more brown food if it’s as sweet and delightful as this one.

  17. Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said,

    February 17, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

    Can we have the recipe for the ananas tart too? Pretty please? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I too would rather be baking (and eating) than photographing brown food…or any food for that matter. Taking pictures of the food is the least fun part of blogging for me. I’m in love strictly with the baking and writing parts.

    I am intrigued by the book, mainly because of the chapter on Turkish sweets and savouries. After visiting Istanbul 2 summers ago I have been asking myself what the hell i’m doing living in nyc instead of there….

  18. diva said,

    February 19, 2010 @ 3:14 am

    This is crazy gorgeous! I wanna eat it now…totally need some of that to chase away these horrible cold wintry blues.

  19. Julia @ Mรฉlanger said,

    February 19, 2010 @ 9:37 am

    What a big call that you struggled to keep this tarty cake around long enough to photograph. You have me intrigued. Must say though, I don’t think your photographs are unattractive, even the brown subjects. The simplicity of your set up and your beautiful shadows and lighting always make for a mouth-watering shot!

  20. Aparna said,

    February 19, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

    My daughter hasn’t seen this one, or she’d be telling me again, “why can’t you bake like she does?”!!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I think I must bake this to satisfy her.

    Yes, I also cook a lot of brown (sometimes not very good looking) food which always tatses a lot better than it looks. Think a lot of Asians do. ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. Simon said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 3:42 am

    Taking photos of light browns I’m alright with. It’s the medium to dark browns that are my photographic bugbears.

    Love how the cookbook has weight measures. Find it difficult to get consistent results with baked goods without weight measures.

  22. marcellina said,

    February 23, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    I think your photography is brilliant. I have a beautiful recipe for a chicken dish but it doesn’t photograph well. I’m still really just learning and I can learn a lot from you. The walnut and toffee pie sounds delish! I must try it. I will be on the lookout for the cook book as well. Thanks!

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