Thursday, November 26, 2009

A neighbourhood reprieve and Quince Frangipane Tart for Thanksgiving!

'Ello, 'Ello!!!
YEA!!! These beauties were saved from the table this Thanksgiving by my lovely neighbour Rita, she was planning on having them for dinner but decided they were just too friendly and gorgeous to say "goodbye" to....good on ya Rita, they are a lovely rafter or gang (correct group name!) of turkey's.... just look at those faces!! Their colours are, blue and red...very handsome...
...and below is one of their witty and ever so sweetly noisy companions, they make a little trilling sound...a guinea fowl, aren't their faces adorable...they really do look like clowns with serious stage make-up and funny little hair do's.
In celebration of their reprieve I made a quince frangipane's rather like the Bakewell tart I did a while ago, in fact VERY like it with basically the addition of grated quince. I actually found these quince at Hannaford's. They were incredibly underripe...very green... but they did have a good smell which apparently is indicative of the possibility that they may indeed ripen. I waited until they were as yellow as I think they were ever going to get, and they smelled quite fragrantly of pineapple. Quince must be cooked in order to be eaten, they are mealy and astringent when raw, if you poach them they turn a delicate pink.

Here is the recipe:

Tart shell from Martha, a pate brisee...extremely reliable, very good, stays crisp, I've added more sugar than the recipe says and it's a good addition. The recipe here is for one 8-9" shallow pie but I made two small tarts with the same amount.

1 1/4 cups of white flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick (4ozs) butter I always use salted, VERY cold
1/8 to 1/4 cup ice cold water

1. Sift the flour

2. Grate the butter into the flour.

3. Gently work butter into flour until it resembles coarse meal.

4. Add some of the water and test to see if it comes together, if not keep adding water until the dough will squush into a non-sticky ball.

5. Put into the fridge to rest whilst you make the filling.

The frangipane:
3 1/2 ozs almonds, toasted

3 1/2 ozs butter softened

1 3/4 ozs white flour unbleached

3 1/2 ozs white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extract/essence

2 ripe quince - peeled, cored and grated

Some apricot preserves....the amount depends on your tastebuds


1. When the almonds have cooled after toasting grind them either in a coffee grinder in small batches with some of the flour in each batch to stop the nuts becoming oily or do all the almonds and all the flour in a food processor until fine.

2. Add the sugar and extracts.

3. Mix in the softened butter very well.

4. Add the beaten eggs and mix.

5. Mix in the grated quince and set mixture aside.

NEXT: Roll out the pastry and line your chosen case/s - dock/prick small holes in the pastry with a fork  so it doesn't puff up during baking, line with some parchment paper and fill with beans or pie weights - blind/pre-bake the pieshell for about 12 minutes in a 400F oven.

Allow the pieshell to cool and spread the desired amount of apricot preserves over the bottom...I like just a smattering to give a little tang to the may have more if you like, I give you permission to do so!! Tee hee.

NOW: Spread the frangipane on top of the preserves and spread evenly.

Bake in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes or until the whole top of the tart is golden brown and the mixture is obviously set.

Allow the tart to cool, it definitely tastes best at room temperature.

The quince adds a very unusual but not strange delicate, almost perfumey taste to the tart...something you haven't quite tasted before but yet it is somehow familiar. Well worth hunting around for this odd combination of apple and pear shaped fruit, which are only available at this time of the year.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Flowers to remind me...

It's about that time of the year here in Maine when you start to get that sinking feeling about how long it's going to be before you see flowers again in your yard...oh my goodness, we are talking about next May!! So I thought I would cheer myself up by showing you, and me!, some images I recently formatted for my newish online greetings card store. This pansy is my favourite I have to admit. I originally painted this in watercolour for my business card but decided to rescan it and try it out on a stark black background and here is the result.
Then we have an orange tulip I originally painted for Andrea by Sadek to be used on porcelain dessert plates and can see a picture of the mugs down below.....
The happy morning glory....
...a stately yellow bearded iris
and finally a luscious tea rose.
Here are the mugs by Sadek and below a large cake plate and slice to match. You'll notice I didn't use the purple pansy from the mug grouping...I much prefer the pink pansy at the top of the looks happier!!

I have to admit I do like these misty, mellow days of Fall but HEY, here's to next Spring!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Irish Christmas Cake - Ciste Nollag

And so the Christmas Cake odyssey begins...the ingredients are gathered in one place and now they must be strategically arranged and manipulated into a faboo Crimbly Cake the likes of which you have never seen, especially so if you have only ever encountered those doorstops with bright red dye #5 glace cherries, never mind the green ones...but we digress....
Lucie says "This is hard work, don't let anyone fool you, making a Christmas Cake is a feat of strength no one should underestimate!!

Christmas Cake - Ciste Nollag from “Irish Traditional Food” by Theodora FitzGibbon

This ideally should be made at least one month in advance in order for the flavours to marry and meld and let the cake mature in it’s little, actually not so little if you make the full recipe...I only made half the recipe for each cake you see pictured here!!... air tight tin. Many people in the UK use this also as their wedding cake...we are more inclined to fruit cakes in Blighty than our cousins in the US!!

This is a family recipe dating from 1860, it is a very rich and toothy fruitcake

Firstly assemble the following ingredients the night before you are baking the cake:

8oz raisins

8oz sultanas or white raisins

4oz currants

2oz dried tart cherries

3oz chopped candied peel (I made mine from scratch because the flavour is so much better...but you can purchase this if you want to skip that arduous step!!)

2oz chopped, dried apricots

2 oz chopped walnuts

Lucie and I proceeded with the dried fruit in two different ways. I mixed all the above ingredients together in a big glass bowl and then covered this mound of dried delights with a combination of strong brewed black tea and apple cider, you can use either or, or both together as I did, totaling about 3 cups (UK 24 fl ozs) of liquid and allow the fruit to soak up the will be surprised at how much the fruit expands, I know I was. Lucie on the other hand mixed all her fruit together, put it in a baking tin, covered it with foil and placed it in a very low oven for a few hours until it expanded and was somewhat sticky. Leave the fruit to soak overnight or cool down after the warming according to which way you went.....of course the soaking makes the cake much moister and, we found out, MUCH larger!!!

3oz soft brown sugar

3oz white sugar

6oz butter room temperature

3 large, room temp. eggs whisked together

8oz sifted all purpose white flour
2oz ground almonds

½ teaspoon mixed spice/allspice

½ rounded teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

grated rind and juice of 1 orange

2 tablespoons whiskey, rum or brandy (optional)

Prepare the cake tin: Because I did half the recipe BUT soaked the fruit I used a 10" shallow cake pan and Lucie used a 6" tall cake pan, remember mine turned out a lot larger because of the fruit soaking episode!! Anyways...choose your tin, grease liberally with butter and then line the bottom and sides with cut-to-size parchment, then grease the parchment and reline with another set of cut-to-size parchment.....lining the tins really helps cut down on the possibility of the cakes burning on the outside...also cut a piece of parchment and grease to put on the top of the cake as it bakes. Those little dahlingks are in the oven for quite some time.

Heat the oven to 350F

1. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

2. Add the whisked eggs bit by bit beating well between each addition...there’s a good likelihood the mix will curdle near the final not worry about this the flour and other ingredients will help rectify this situation!

3. FOLD in sifted flour, spices, ground almonds, fruit juices, zests and salt until well blended but don’t work it too hard, beat it or mix too long as it will, indeed, make the cake hard!!

4. Add the prepared fruits and walnuts gradually, and the alcohol if you choose to add it, of course I made mine with Irish whiskey!!...this starts to get to be hard work but it is good for you...and remember the harder you work, the more calories you burn, the more cake you can eat!!!

5. Put the cake mix into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a wet spatula then loosely cover with the greased parchment round.

6. Set cake on middle rack in the oven.

7. After half an hour reduce the heat to 275 and cook for 1 1/2 hours

8. Now start checking the cake about every 20 minutes for doneness...a skewer inserted should come out clean and the cake should smell great and look baked.....if you need the top to brown more take off the parchment on top, if you think the cake is browning too much lower the heat...this is a very undefinable process but if you are used to making cakes you’ll have the feel for when the cake is should be browned nicely and the skewer should be clean, although if you pass through a wet raisin that may fool you into thinking it isn’t done so check in a couple of places.

My cake took a total of about 3 hours but yours could well be longer or shorter than that.

When the cake is ready remove from the oven, leave in the baking tin and pour over 2 more tablespoons of the assigned alcohol. Take out of the tin after about 30 minutes and then allow to cool on a rack until completely COLD!!! cannot put it into the tin unless it has no heat in it at all or the cake will get clammy and yucky.

9. Wrap in parchment paper before secreting it into it’s safe and happy airtight tin...this is a must to keep the cake from molding, also keep the tin in a cool, dark place.

About a week before Christmas we will be covering our Crimbly cakes with marzipan and Royal wait with bated breath for that post!!!

Off you pop now and bake your cake!!

My cake has already started to darken as it ages and smells just divine!!
Here are the cakes before they enter the confines of the warm and toasty oven...
...and here they are after they have cooled and are ready to be loaded into their cozy tins.
James and I drove to Lewiston yesterday and here is a photo of the weather conditions on the way's snowing, it's November...what is going on!!!...well it is Maine I suppose and it does seem appropriate that the ground should be covered with snow today as I post my Christmas Cake recipe.
I like snow!! I am sitting by the wood stove...Harry the kitten is on the chair behind me, Freddie the Bassett is on a big pillow by the fire, Bunny the Beagle is on her settle and Eleanor the Mutt (half Beagle/half French Bulldog!) is lounging blissfully by the fire after getting too hot being underneath the stove for a while!!
Above here is my new design for the Greetings Card Store and it will be up on the Cafe Press store hopefully later today!!

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