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Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to you!

What do you get someone who doesn’t want anything for his birthday?

For those who have been following my posts (YES!  I do have some regular readers – that is, Mom, Dad, husband, and occasionally one sister when I force her to), you will recall the nightmare I had with my two labradors of which I chronicled here.  Well,  they aren’t always that bad.  Sometimes, they provide inspiration for the best ideas.

Let me tell you about it.

A few weeks ago I was down with the flu and I asked my husband to walk the dogs for me, which he did.  Coming home around 30 minutes later, I asked him (as I always do) “how was the walk?” and he replied “there was an accident”.  Take note, this was a few days after the infamous and expensive chocolate mousse incident!  My heart dropped.  I thought they must have gotten hurt or ate more chocolate.  I asked him what happened.

He said,  “go downstairs”.  Oh no.  I thought to myself.  I rushed down to find the lounge area covered in flour.  My dogs had decided to get a bag of flour on the kitchen counter (I know I should stop leaving food there and it has since been rectified) and have some fun.  They took the bag from the kitchen and brought it to the lounge and decided it would look great on the rug.

Special thanks to Baci & Bizou for deciding on the birthday cake to make!

Special thanks to Baci & Bizou for deciding on the birthday cake to make!

Now that I look back, it was a pretty funny sight but it wasn’t so funny that morning when I had to clean up the mess!

Anyway, that evening I told my husband,  that I needed a new bag of flour because I was going to practice on a chocolate cake I had never made for his birthday (yes, a bit OC but I thought I should have one go at the cake before serving it on his birthday).  He said “why don’t you just make a flourless chocolate cake”.  Brilliant!

What a great idea.  And then, I added my own twist and decided I was going to make it a macaron cake – they are flourless too!

Chocolate Mousse Macaron Cake

Chocolate Mousse Macaron Cake

So here it is:  The FLOURLESS Chocolate Mousse Macaron Birthday Cake inspired by those two crazy labradors.  It is also the first of my Daring Bakers’ Challenge for October.  My second post – lemon lime macarons can be found here.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.  Please do check out her website:  Baking Without Fear.

Ingredients

  • 125 grams almond meal
  • 125 grams icing sugar (not icing mixture)
  • 30 grams dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 100 grams caster sugar
  • 100 grams egg whites (from around 3 eggs)

Procedure

  1. Before you begin with the macs, find a 20 cm plate and draw the pattern on some baking paper.
  2. In a food processor grind the almond meal and icing sugar for around 5 minutes until very finely ground.
  3. Place the egg whites in an electric mixer and whip the whites until soft peaks
  4. Add the sugar, 50 grams at a time while the egg whites are being beaten.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks.
  6. Fold the ground almond meal mixture into the egg white mixture in three additions until fully amalgamated.
  7. Pipe on to baking trays which have been lined with baking paper.  Start from the center of the circle and go around until you end on the edge of the circle.
  8. Let the macarons dry for around 30 minutes until the “shells” are dry. Bake in a pre heated fan forced oven (150c) for 20 minutes.

Chocolate Mousse

  • 80 grams caster sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 200 grams dark coveture chocolate
  • 300 ml cream
  • Cocoa Powder for dusting
  1. Beat the egg yolks in a stand or electric mixer.
  2. In a sauce pan, heat 30 ml water and the caster sugar.  Bring to a boil.
  3. Add the sugar syrup to the egg yolks in a steady stream.   Whisk until the mixture is at room temperature and is light.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a microwave until melted and cool slightly until lukewarm
  5. Fold the chocolate into the egg mixture.
  6. In another bowl, whisk the cream until semi stiff peaks.
  7. Fold the cream into the chocolate/egg mixture.
  8. With a pastry bag, fill half a shell and cover with the other half
  9. Store in the refrigerator
  10. Dust with cocoa powder before serving.

Mac1

To Dan:  Wishing you a very happy birthday!  Sorry I don’t have a gift for you except this macaron cake (even if I did buy you something I would probably use your credit card anyway!) …  Love lots!  Kiss kiss… Baci, Bizou and Trissa

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Masala Dosai

Masala Dosai

Masala Dosai

Masala Dosai

There are certain cuisines that intimidate me – Indian is definitely one of them.  I am a big fan of Indian food but have always been terrified every time I read through a recipe because of the number of ingredients and seemingly endless procedures needed to complete a dish.  This month’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge really took me out of my comfort zone… not only because it was of Indian origin but also because it was one of the first savoury dishes that I’ve made that was free of any animal products (no milk, cheese, butter etc).

September’s challenge was hosted by Debyi from The Healthy Vegan Kitchen.   I did however take some liberties and found a recipe for Masala Dosais on this website (From The Cook & The Chef).  I’ve adapted the Dosais and cut down the process.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup urad dal (from Indian Grocer)
  • Water for the batter
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil to pan fry the dosai
  1. Soak in water the rice and the urad dal separately overnight.
  2. Grind the rice and urad dal separately to a paste using the food processor, around 5 minutes.
  3. Mix the rice and the urad dal and add salt and cover with water.
  4. Leave overnight at room temperature.
  5. To use:  Heat a crepe maker on high and drizzle with some vegetable oil.
  6. Laddle about 1/4 cup of the mixture onto the crepe maker and spread out in a circular motion.
  7. When bubbles appear on the surface, remove from the heat and flip over for a few seconds.
  8. Remove from the heat and repeat with the rest of the batter.

Masala Ingredients

Filling

  • 2 large potatoes in small 2 cm cubes
  • 1 tablespoon yellow split peas
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 10 Curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • salt to taste

Pre-cook the potatoes and split peas in water.

Heat peanut oil, add mustard seeds and heat till they to start popping then add the onion to stop them getting too hot and going bitter. Add ginger, green chilli, curry leaves, and turmeric. Add the cooked potatoes and split peas. Fry for about 15 minutes adding a little water. Reduce, making sure that the potatoes and split peas are soft. Season with garam masala and salt.

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Dobos Torta

Dobos Torta

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SINCE when does DO NOT TOUCH mean YES, GO AHEAD, EAT IT ALL!?!?  Well, apparently, if it is 1:00 am in the morning and you come home craving for something sweet!  This is exactly what happened this evening (or early morning).  My worst worst nightmare.  Last night I rushed home to bake this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge (already a day late!) and had assembled a little cake  to photograph the next day.

Husband comes home at 1:00 am from a very late night at work and decides to raid the refrigerator for something sweet.  And although I had placed a post-it note on top of the cake saying DO NOT TOUCH… well, you know what happens.  I get up this morning to shoot the cake and I find it GONE.  Well, not entirely true, there is a little buttercream left on the plate… but no more cake.

Where did the cake go?!!?

Where did the cake go?!!?

LUCKILY… I still have a few scraps of the cake left over and have some left over butter I have forgotten to bring back into the refrigerator last night and I decide to make another batch of buttercream and use whatever leftover cake I have.  This is at 6:00 AM!

So here it is, this month’s Daring Bakers’  Challenge – the almost “re-incarnation” of the first Dobos Torte I made.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar
and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus:  Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Dobos Torta

Recipe adapted from Kaffehauss by Rick Rodgers and Cafe Chocolada.

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.002
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.005
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.006
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake. 009
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

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Paella Negra

Paella Negra

There are decisions in life that we all make and we know that they can change our lives forever.  For me, one of them was deciding to move with my husband to Australia and leave the comforts of Manila behind.  Other decisions, you think are inconsequential but when you look back, you realize that choosing something else would have changed the course of your life in ways you would never imagine.

Ages ago, I briefly dated someone I thought had lots of potential.  Cute, smart, great conversations etc… you know what I mean.  On our first few dates, I would order “safe date” dishes – nothing you had to eat with your hands (ribs), made your breath stink (prawns in garlic sauce) etc.

Around our fifth or sixth date, I decided we were close enough that I would order Paella Negra – one of my favorite dishes.  It’s basically made of squid or cuttlefish, paella rice and sauteed in some of the squid ink.  It’s delicious but definitely not a first date dish.

So we ordered it and ate it.  After two bites I thought “well, here goes” and I flashed him a great big smile.  While he tried to keep his surprise in check, I did notice he was slightly taken aback.  I guess he didn’t realize that the ink from these cephalopod babies could stain your teeth.

Paella Negra

And things turned quickly from there.  He started getting self conscious (must have thought, well if her teeth are stained, so are mine!) and barely said anything throughout the meal.  What’s more, he cracked no jokes, bared no smile and when I tried to engage him in more conversation, got monosyllable answers.  Not very encouraging.

I decided then and there that this guy was not the one for me.  If he could not accept my mouth full of black teeth, he could not accept me.  Period.  That was it. Fast forward to today… when the daring cooks’ challenge was announced, I immediately thought of that date and how my decision to order the Paella Negra just changed my life completely… for the better of course!

The Daring Cook’s challenge for August was Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes.   The original recipe was by Jose Andres but I have varied it so that the resulting dish was more of a Paella Negra.  Thank you to Olga for giving us the flexibility to do so.

Recipe (serves 2 to 3)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon squid ink

500 grams squid or cuttlefish

6 pieces fresh prawns, peeled but with head and tail intact

handful of mussels

1 cup calasparra rice

2 1/2 chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and pepper

aioli sauce

Equipment – Paella Pan

Directions

  1. Gently saute the onions and garlic with olive oil until the onions are translucent
  2. Add the cuttlefish and saute for another 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat
  3. Add the tomato paste, squid ink and cook it out
  4. Next, add the dry white wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate (2 to 3 minutes)
  5. Add the rice and spread over the paella pan
  6. Immediately add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer
  7. Leave to cook for 15 minutes.
  8. After 15 minutes, add the prawns and mussels on top of the rice and cover the paella pan with some foil and cook for another 5 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and the rest of the seafood is cooked through
  9. Serve with aioli and lemon wedges

Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min aprox.
Ingredients

4 garlic cloves, peeled

Pinch of salt

Fresh lemon juice (some drops)

Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)

Directions:

  1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
  2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
  3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
  4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
  5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
  6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

Daring Cooks’ Challenge August 2009

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Milano Cookies


The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.


Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 6 egg whites
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested


1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

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July’s Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Sketchy and was called Skate, traditional flavors…

Skate, Traditional Flavours Powderedwith changes

  • 4 skate wings
  • * Beurre monte
  • * 300g fresh green beans
  • sea salt/kosher salt
  • 454g butter – 4 sticks
  • 300g lemons
  • 5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
  • 150g cilantro
  • 150g parsley
  • 100g dried banana chips
  • 300g powdered milk
  • 100g cup minced red onion
  • 200g capers (brined, not oil)

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte – 454g butter cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 90C. The emulsion will not break – this is your poaching liquid.

Powders – prepare ahead of time
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
‘brown butter’ powder

Powders
once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

Citrus powder
300g lemons
1000g simple syrup (boil equal parts water and sugar until dissolved)
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

Zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times. dry with paper towels and move to the oven. 70C for 2 hours. pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.

Cilantro/parsley powder
150g cilantro
150g parsley

Blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place in oven. 70C for 2 hours. Grind.

onion powder
100g cup minced red onions

Place in oven for 2 hours at 70C. Grind.

Caper powder
200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

Run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
Dry on paper towels and place in oven for 2 hours at 70C.

Brown Butter powder

100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible – many are coated in honey – the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)
300g powdered milk

Grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted milk powder. Heat the powdered milk with the ground dried banana in a pan. Be cautious and make sure it does not burn.

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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.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart) OR 8 mini tarts
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 8 mini tart pans, and a rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spread ability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatized 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 refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Blind bake pastry for 7 to 10 minutes at 180C then remove from oven and add a layer of jam to the pastry base. Top with the frangipane mixture and pop in the over for 20 minutes.

.

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. 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
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

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

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
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

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

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is light yellow in color 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 color.

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