Saturday, June 27, 2009

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.

This challenge is so close to the deadline that I haven't even tried the tart yet! But it should make a pretty delicious breakfast with fresh blueberries. In terms of what I did this afternoon to make the tart, I started off by mixing the sifted flour, sugar and salt and adding the butter by grating it through a cheese grater.

And yes, it looks like cheese. A pretty easy method really- I'll have to do this next time I make scones.

Next you mix the butter into the flour and add the egg yolks one a time. Assemble the dough with some cold water and put it in the fridge for about an hour.

Here's one measly picture of the making of the frangipane- it was too quick and easy.

Once you have your dough, frangipane and jam, roll out the dough, place it in the pie dish and spread out the warm jam.

Then top it with the frangipane before putting it into a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what looks like and tastes like!

Pretty Tasty

Bakewell Tart
a traditional (UK) recipe from the 1800s in England
1 sweet shortcrust pastry
bench flour
1 cup (250ml) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
1 batch frangipane
handful almond slivers, blanched

sweet shortcrust pastry
8 oz (225g) all purpose flour
1 oz (30g) sugar
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) salt
4 oz (110g) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) almond extract (optional)
1-2 tbsps (15-30ml) 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.

4.5 oz (125g) unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz (125g) icing sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) almond extract
4.5 oz (125g) ground almonds
1 oz (30g) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose 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.

Assemble the tart: Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised 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 in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking. 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. Makes one 9-inch tart.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How We Refinished our Couch- Part 2

So it's been a couple weeks since we went over refinishing the bottom of the our old couch and today we are going to address that funky material on the top. And we're not just talking about a funky design- this stuff obviously hadn't been cleaned in decades!

And it felt so good ripping it all off.

Well that's a bit of a lie as I didn't really get to rip anything off- see the trick to recovering a couch is to keep the pieces of fabric intact, only ripping the seams- this was you will already have a pattern for each piece you need to cut out from your new material.

Like this! You just take the piece of fabric from your couch (i believe this the bottom of a cushion) and lay it down flat on your new fabric and cut it out.

A couple things to keep in mind:

1- You want to make sure that you are keeping the seams in mind (on my old fabric the seams are the rolled up edges) so either lay them down as you are cutting or just cut 1/4- 1/2 inch away from the original fabric to account for seam allowance.
2- When cutting out your fabric, always lay the face of the old fabric onto the face of the new fabric or just make sure you are consistent otherwise you will end up with two identical pieces cut out for your right armrest.

Once you have your pieces cut out, you just want to affix them back onto the frame of the couch in the exact same way that they on there originally. This means paying attention to the upholstering of the couch while you are taking the pieces down. So that I wouldn't have to rely entirely on my memory of how it used to be assembled, we left the left side of the couch semi-attached (notably the intricate armrest area) so we had a guide for the re-assembly on the other side.

We used a staple gun for 80% of this recovering, a sewing machine for the rest and only needed a hammer to reinforce some staples that hadn't gone in all the way. Use a very light touch when hammering in the staples as the hammer tends to leave unsightly black marks on the fabric (no matter how clean you think it is).

To finish it off, we had to find some trim to cover all those staples. The orignal couch had some really gross white braided satin trim, but once we sanded down the wooden features, the couch was feeling a little beachy so I just bought some twine from the hardware store (far too much twine, I might add).

This part was actually the most painful- it took 4 episode of Law & Order, 2 rows of twine and 3 severe burns to my fingers.

But looking back at this monstrosity....

I'd say it was worth it.

Detail shot! Hello beautiful wooden features!

Admire the perfectly tucked fabric and curvature of the trim.

aaaaaah- Totally worth it.

  • Cost: 3 shower curtains from Crate and Barrel at $35 each + 2 yards of extra yellow fabric at $12 + the twine at $4.95 + a couple sheets of sandpaper at $1.95= $123.90
  • Time: I would say a full weekend
  • Ease: If you have a good dose of common sense, this is not that difficult- just a but labour intensive and time consuming.

Friday, June 5, 2009

How we Refinished our Couch- part 1

Hello world! It's been a while since we last spoke, but with many of the big projects which had been keeping me away complete, I thought I would share some of the knowledge acquired along the way- or maybe just prove in pictures that I haven't been slacking off!

The Big project with a capital "B" has been recovering our couch. Remember our couch?

You can tell how much Kris loved it. We got it at the Salvation army near his parents house over Christmas for $100. Considering how resilient this couch is and the fact that it was much less ugly than all other options, we were pretty pleased.

So we lived with the couch for a couple months and it was pretty cozy until the springs started popping out of the bottom causing Kris' butt (never mine of course) to hit the floor. We knew we were going to have to patch things up under there. We flipped it upside down and Kris tried hammering some of the nails back in but this "patch" didn't last very long as the burlap-esque straps were dry rotted and breaking. We needed more than a "patch up". We were going to have to Refinish The Couch.

Kris is still super happy about our purchase!

One of the hardest parts was ripping out the old straps and enough of the old nails to put in the new stuff. A lot of the nails were too frail or rusted and the straps, despite being mostly dry rotted, REFUSED TO GIVE unless they wanted to. Also- the couch had obviously been completely filled with dust before sealing it up. In short- the process was messy.

Boing-y springs!

We decided to replace the old straps with new vinyl straps meant for lawn furniture. It took us two bags of $14.99 to recover the bottom and we found the vinyl very easy to use. We started off by trying to reuse some of the old nails, but my shinny new staple gun turned out to be much more practical and efficient.
The couch was naturally sectioned into 3, so we did them one at a time- stapling the straps on both sides along the width first, not worrying about the springs and then stapling one length at a time, weaving it through the cross straps (over, under, over ect.) while the other person pushed the springs down.

It was pretty easy once we worked out a system.

Kris did mess up the over, under pattern a few times, which wasn't be the end of the world, but writing this now about a month after the fact, the sections with no crossing mistakes are holding up perfectly whereas the other section has had a spring start to pop out.

Beautiful perfection on this side!

Look at that naughty spring!

We finished everything off by folding over a length of strapping and stapling them down the middle of the 2 sections for extra support since that what had been on the couch before we ripped it all up.

Now if we really wanted to make this professional, we would have hand tied the springs but we (or maybe I) are just too lazy- plus I wasn't sure how to do it at the people who constructed our couch used some fancy metal attachments instead- but I recently stumbled on this blog which shows some professionals doing exactly this with a chair very similar to our couch!

Although it did take the better part of a evening and a morning to complete, the redo has been a huge success and we're no longer afraid of falling through the bottom.

  • Cost: $68= $30 vinyl straps + $30 staple gun + $8 staples
  • Time: Approx 6 hours
  • Ease: Easier than you'd think and worth the investment- especially if you already have a staple gun and staples!