Daring Bakers' Challenge: Bakewell Tart

Or is it a pudding? That's the great debate here with month's Daring Bakers' Challenge, the 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.

Bakewell Tart History and Lore

Flan-like desserts that combine either sweet egg custard over candied fruit or feature spiced ground almonds in a pastry shell have Medieval roots. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam and noted,

“This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.”

By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased.

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 Tart History and Lore" is courtesy of Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar, where you can find even more juicy bits on the Bakewell Tart... er... Pudding.

Now, fortunately for me, I was ready to make this tart. I had just recently spent another day in Brentwood, picking cherries and apricots for jams, sauces, and the like, when along comes this challenge requiring, ahem, jam. Kismet, people.

The hard part became deciding which kind of jam to use. I had white cherry, black cherry, and vanilla apricot. All of which would be perfect with almond, I might add. But wait, I just happen to have 4 mini springform pans that were given to me as a gift so many years ago I couldn't even tell you (not out of embarrassment but simple forgetfulness), that I've never before used. I know, shameful.

But it is my lucky day. And as such, I even had a relatively successful crust experience. (Me + crust usually = unhappy face.) I don't know that I would use these particular vessels for this purpose again (the crust was very difficult to arrange in such small, high-sided pans) but they did come out quite dashing if you don't mind me going English on you for a spell.

In the given recipe, the quantity of jam used was up to the user. I added the greater quantity recommended (1 cup - split between 4 tarts in my case) and must say that I would have liked a tad more. As pointed out above that even throughout the history of the recipe, the jam to almond filling ratio dwindled, I think I would have preferred the olden days. Yes, more jam, please. I found the filling to be quite sweet and jam provided the perfect foil.

Thank you ladies, for another delicious challenge!

Please see Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Ambrosia and Nectar for the Bakewell Tart... er... Pudding recipe.

Apricots in Vanilla Honey Syrup
inspired by Christine Ferber

1 pound ripe apricots
1/2 cup sugar
2 oz honey
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Wash apricots, cut in half and remove pits. In a large bowl gently combine apricots sugar, honey and vanilla bean. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to macerate under refrigeration at least 2 hours or overnight.

Drain apricots, reserving liquid. Heat liquid in a large non-reactive pot and boil gently until the syrup reaches 220 degrees. Add apricot halves and vanilla bean; bring to a boil and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Pack in jars and seal according to your preferred method, or transfer to a medium bowl and store in the refrigerator. Makes approximately 1 pint (16 ounces).

These apricots are delicious as a jam or could be used in myriad baking applications.


Sweet Memories

Sometimes it's hard to remember. For me, I should say. But then there are some things that just stick. I, for one, have limited reserves up there in the ole noggin; I suppose not everything keeps because I'm holding on to some of that space for those memories that are lasting.

I don't remember when I tasted my first fresh apricot, but I always remembered not to buy them at the local grocery store, no matter how good they looked. It must have been something about that first one. (Now, dried apricots are a different thing. They're around at any time of year, and given the right kind - I prefer the tart, chewy California apricot halves over the sweet, squishy, whole Turkish apricots - they are utterly delicious.)

But then, only about a year ago, I found myself face to face with fresh apricots; this time, hanging from a tree. Now, those I do remember. And when I told a dear someone about these ambrosial stone fruits, her memory swept away to the childhood friend and afternoons roosted in an apricot tree; but by the end of the story, all I remembered was the part about the pie. During that time of year, when not lazily feasting on the sticky sweet bounty of that tree in which she was perched, her great-grandma (I guess that would be my great-great-grandma) made an apricot pie with halved apricots, face-up in milk, with maybe only a little flour and sugar to set things just right. Though she didn't remember the recipe, only watching it being made, she most certainly remembered loving everything about it.

I'm fortunate enough to have a history of some amazing cooks and bakers in my family lines. You haven't heard of any of them, but if they can create those kinds of memories in the minds of their children, grandchildren, and so forth, then that's all that matters. I have a few raggedy cookbooks filled with old recipes of ladies such as these, so naturally, I referred to them when trying to recreate this apricot milk pie. No luck, I have to say, but it seems the Pennsylvania Dutch have a milk pie within their culinary annals; just what I was looking for. Sometimes called Stingy, Flabby, or Poor Man's Pie, it is said to be a pie often made for children as a way to utilize leftover scraps of pie dough. Depending on the recipe, it is little more than milk, flour and sugar.

Pie crust and I don't really get along, so when I saw this recipe for "The Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell," I jumped on it - it was just perfect for me, as shrinking is probably my greatest ruin. I don't remember if I've ever had a crust shrink on me to such a degree as this. But I can't fault the recipe, I didn't follow it exactly I must say, I did rush things a bit, so here I would have to lay the responsibility on my impatience. But that's a whole 'nother story. The next time I make this pie, and believe me, there will be a next time, I would go with an unsweetened dough and I might even throw an egg yolk in there to make this more of a custardy pie (do watch the baking time and temperature if you decide to run with that one). Be sure to use ripe apricots; I leaned toward the less-ripe side because I love the tartness of apricots in that state, but I found that they were a bit too sour to marry well with the flavor of the milk custard.

Apricot Milk Tart
with help from Teri's Kitchen

1 unbaked 10" tart shell (use your favorite recipe)
14 perfectly ripe apricots (wouldn't hurt to have a few more for sampling purposes)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Fresh nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400°

Wash and gently dry apricots. Cut them in half and remove the pits; arrange the apricots face up in the tart shell.

In a medium bowl wisk together milk, flour, and sugar. Pour mixture over and around apricots to fill the tart shell.

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 350° and bake an additional 35 - 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and grate fresh nutmeg over the tart. Tart will appear wet in the center, but will set as it cools. Serve at room temperature.

At its best eaten within a day or two, and completely appropriate for breakfast.


Old Yeller

You must think the worst of me. I can't seem to keep up with you, and when I do stop by, I'm just recycling old recipes. Wait, I haven't been doing that, I don't think. But it's never too late to start, right?

If it wasn't convincing enough the first time I mentioned it, that chocolate beet cake I made a not so long ago is well worth the effort. So much so, that when I got yellow beets in my veggie box last week, I thought they should have their fair shake at something sweet just the same. Actually, the whole thing was born out of the fact that the beet flavor in the chocolate cake was nearly undetectable. I began to wonder if it was because the chocolate covered something up, or simply that beets are meant to be used in cake. Obviously, I dreamt of the latter.

If you've been with me this whole time now (and, Thank You), you know that I've been trying (sort of) to restrain the creative impulses that lead me to abject failures. All I needed was one glint, one half spark, a little eek of hope that this yellow beet cake thing could be done. And there it was, a recipe for Golden Beet Cupcakes with Dulce De Leche Buttercream. Hooray!

Now, I didn't use that recipe, you should know; it only inspired me to go on with my own show. Here, I went for a plain golden vanilla cake, sans frosting. This cake is even better, more moist, and less beety on the second day, thought I would not think poorly of your impatience. (Admittedly, when warm, the aroma enhances the beet flavor, perhaps too much if not for a serious beet advocate.) A generous scatter of powdered sugar gives this cake a near-powdered-donut character, and you'll be pleased to know that beets just might be meant for cake.

Vanilla Beet Cake
inspired by Red Devil Cake and No Recipes

3 medium yellow beets
3 eggs
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ cups sugar
¾ cups light brown sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9 in square or round pan.

Place beets in a small pot with and add cold water to cover; cook until fork tender (beets can be lifted, but easily fall, from a fork when pierced). Allow beets to cool until able to handle; cut ends from beets and slip skins off beets to peel. Puree beets in a food processor, and set aside (you will need 1½ cups of the puree).

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and Kosher salt. Add the sugars, butter, vanilla, and 1½ cups of beet puree; whisk until thoroughly combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda; stir well with a whisk or fork. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, whisking until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean; the cake may look slightly underdone. Cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan. This cake is best if cooled completely before serving, or even the next day.