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 🙂


(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 Bündner 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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Personal acceleration equals personal velocity over time


(Fruit mince tart)

As December looms, I’m thinking of spices, family, Christmas shopping, baking, heatwaves, and baking in heatwaves with ice-cream and chilled watermelon.

Something about this past year, has changed.

Now the year is almost at it’s end, it’s my conclusion that this year has been nothing at all like I had expected. For various reasons, this is both a good and a bad thing, and for similar reasons, it has caused me to wonder more about where I want to be heading. People who know me will recognise this as being highly unusual, as I am typically a very directionless and under-planned kind of person. I operate rather laboriously along the lines of hey, let’s pick a path and then see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, I simply backtrack and choose a different adventure instead.

Fortunately, apathy doesn’t seem to wash past a certain age, and there are at least a few more things I wish to accomplish before the lower back pain eventually takes over. Something has me wanting to aim for new things. It’s true I may never realise them, but I’m excited simply for the fact these ideas are blowing away the dust from the attic in my head.

So pull up a chair, grab a cup of tea, and a mince tart or two (I made so many of these! Big ones, small ones.. they’re all going to good homes soon). I promise I’ll be telling you more in good time.


To new things, and new people :

Joshua Antonius Nov 7th 2009
Miren Lili Nov 17th 2009

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Daring Bakers Challenge : Bakewell Tart


(Rhubarb, hazelnut and black sesame Bakewell tart)

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.

The humble Bakewell tart is a simple pleasure. It is easy to bake and is the consummate crowd pleaser. I’m quite fond of frangipane too, especially when it’s freshly baked. Often when I make such tarts, I like to brush a bit of syrup on top of the tart while it’s still warm. It adds a bit of flavour (eg. use an Armagnac syrup, if you’re making a prune frangipane tart) and also ensures that the interior is moist. I also don’t mind saying that it’s nice to get the odd challenge where you have to think of nothing more complicated than what jam it is you’d like for your tart base.

However, time managed to rapidly sift through my hands this month such that the real challenge was trying to find a moment to make the tart. So unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a last-minute effort.


My version of the Bakewell Tart for this challenge uses a vanilla rhubarb compote as the jam option, and I have varied the filling to include hazelnut and black sesame flavours, which I prefer to plain almond meal.

Because frangipane is also extremely delicious as a tuile (spread thinly on a silpat mat and baked until crisp), I decided to throw together a parfait/verrine version of the Bakewell tart, with some toasted almond milk froth to boost the nutty flavour you would get from eating a normal slice of tart.

Many thanks to Jasmine and Annemarie for the tasty challenge!


Sweet shortcrust pastry :

225g plain flour
30g sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g unsalted butter, cold
2 egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

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.

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.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Frangipane :

125g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
3 eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract [I used vanilla instead]
125g ground almonds [I used a combination of hazelnut meal and ground black sesame seeds]
30g all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 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.

To assemble, roll out the sweet pastry to line a 23cm tart tin. Trim the excess pastry, chill for 15 minutes, then spread the base with 250ml of jam or curd of your choice. Top with frangipane and bake in an oven preheated to 200’C for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, remove it from the oven and top with a handful of flaked almonds, then return to the oven for the last five minutes of baking. When tart is done, remove from the oven and cool before slicing.

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