Daring Baker's June Challenge: Frangipane, Darling Frangipane, Thank You for All the Joy and Pain

Woohoo! It's the 27th, which means two things. First, we've finally started moving things to our new apartment. (I'm soo sick of boxes, and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, and Craigslist--probably because the control freak in me started packing two weeks ago to move approx. 2.3 miles.) It also means it's time for another Daring Bakers Challenge!

This month's challenge was to make a Bakewell Tart--er--Pudding. As far as I can tell from the DB forums, there are many variations of the Bakewell Tart, but this precise recipe suits me just fine.

It's made with a sweet shortbread crust, a jam or curd, and then a frangipane pastry cream baked into a cake...er...pudding. I love, love, love frangipane. It reminds me of eating almond croissants in Mr. Luz's tiny apartment in Paris and the first time I really knew he loved me. (Say it with me now....awwwww! But seriously, I earned it! It took a year and a half!) Until this challenge, I only knew frangipane as a sweet, grainy almond filling for various pastries. Apparently it's not only tasty, but versatile, as it bakes up into a subtle, spongy (or squidgy, according to the recipe) cake that is given center stage in a Bakewell Tart.

We were given a little leeway on the jam, and I wanted to use a dark, tart and earthy fruit to offset the sweet, floral almond flavors so I made a blackberry & elderberry pan jam. From there, the preparation and assembly was relatively easy for such an elegant little dessert/breakfast--and I didn't even throw any part of the recipe on the floor for this challenge!

I did have some trouble with the conversions, though I think I just ended up with a higher butter-to-flour ratio, and who can complain about that? And the lack of air conditioning in my apartment made it rather difficult to handle my "more butter than is feasible" shortbread dough, because it wanted to melt right onto my counter every time I tried to roll it out, but I fixed that by throwing small portions in the freezer and then pressing them into chilled tartlette pans rather than rolling and cutting everything out.

And take my advice...it gets a little gross, but grating the butter into the flour is pure genius. I will never want for a pastry cutter again.

Without further ado....

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.

Makes one 9 inch tart, or three 3 inch tartlettes

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
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 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 200C/400F.

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.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (I, E.Lee, used orange extract for FANTASTIC results)
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/orange extract 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


125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
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 primrose in colour 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 colour.

Is Food-Porn Overtaking Porn-porn As Our New Favorite Pastime?

Apparently "sex" is the theme of the week here at BaConc (I just made that up! Coffee on an empty belly is wheee!!!!). I suppose it's only natural--food and sex go hand in hand. Both are essential for the continued existence of mankind; good food and good sex require you to be present, and focused on all your senses to full appreciate the experience; and both involve open flame and a hearty dose of bacon fat in our household.

Mal, over at the hilarious SWTCTW, sent me a link to this Daily Beast post today. Despite what PurAsia has to say about how cooking has made its way into the annals of "The Art of Scammin' On Chicks" (everyone knows that frozen curry products magically dissolve clothing upon ingestion), Gael Green laments the fall of the "Rock Star" chef, and worries that cooking now takes up valuable...sexing...time in our busy lives.

So now we have our continuum--on one end, cooking is largely a form of foreplay (and to that I say, be careful with those eggshells) and on the other end, cooking is a libido-busting pastime where we are all too busy blogging, and tweeting, and obsessing over herbs to focus on the dirty, dirty. And that sounds an awful lot like....life. Most people are passionate about something, and intense focus and emotion (and sweat) are very, very sexy. And then sometimes that passion becomes all consuming, to the exclusion of romance and sex.

Let's not do that, okay? I've already promised to cook more in my skivvies. (I actually have the same outfit as this guy--maybe it'll wear it to inaugurate the first meal in the new apartment?) I also promise that I'll try to keep my food porn obsession from overtaking my..um..you get it. If you feel up to it, post anonymously (or as yourself, if you're brave) about what you plan on doing to keep our more personal and solitary cooking and/or blogging pursuits from interrupting our recreational pursuits, and good luck!


First "Foodie" now "Gastrosexual"? Enough already!

I think that I've kept my loathing for the neologism "Foodie" quiet for long enough. The man who claims to have coined the term, Dr. Paul Levy, is at it again and he must. be. stopped.

I have an abiding love for language, and as a postmodern feminist I appreciate a little subversive word play. I sprinkle double entendres in my legal briefs from time to time. And I enjoy using violent metaphors in my correspondence to opposing counsel so they know who they are dealing with--because, in fact, I am 5 feet and 2 and 3 quarters inches of pure intimidation sometimes. (FYI, postmodernism is like, soooo late 1990's but I haven't evolved to be a post-postmodern feminist yet...too busy with other things.)

Yes ma'am, I am fairly open to people messing with the English language to further communication in a creative or thought-provoking way. But I do draw the line at inventing and then glamorizing arbitrary culinary concepts and then shoving it down society's collective throat. (Which begs the question, if society has a collective throat, does society have a collective belly? A collective intestine? And what's in it? Ew.)

Foodie? Are you effing kidding me? It reminds me of "boogie," as in, a child-like term for "booger," which essentially infantilizes the English language two-fold. What is the significance of that particular suffix, besides it's grating ability to cutesy up the word "food"? So now what is Dr. Levy up to, besides making me want to claw my eyeballs out every time I hear his meaningless-albeit-spiffy new term for "a person who likes food?"

He has been hired out to PurAsia, one of those companies that makes frozen pad thai for your office lunch, to pimp his new concept--the Gastrosexual. According to his "study," a Gastrosexual is a young male who cooks, and get this--he typically cooks Asian food (pad thai, anyone?)--to impress and seduce his partners.

Now, according to Dr. Levy and company, the Gastrosexual does not do dishes, no sir. Nor does he grocery shop or tidy up around the house before he lays the fish sauce on thick in an effort to get laid. But he does simmer, and chop, and caramelize things, because that is the sexy part of maintaining a household. From the "study":

In some cases it seems that the Gastrosexual maybe using his prowess in the kitchen as a way of contributing to the housework without having to take on the less fulfilling jobs of cleaning the home and washing clothes. Men, on average, spend just four minutes a day washing clothes, less than a quarter of the time spent by women. Professor Melanie Howard supports this theory “Cooking is an efficient contribution to the house given the time you spend ... it means that you’re a good modern bloke and you’re playing your part. But it is actually a more rewarding and creative form of domestic contribution.”

To that I say, Mr. Gastrosexual, I'd lose my clothes in a heartbeat if you'd just do the laundry. But I'll have to insist that you stay the hell out of my kitchen unless you're attending to the dirty dishes. And Dr. Levy? I'm going to publish a study, commissioned by the National Association of Women Who Are Annoyed By You, to investigate the possibility of naming you Dr. Gibberishmonger.

Award Winning Pasta Sauce Recipe!

Hey ya'll! Today I'm having a rockin' karma day [didn't have to wait for either of my metro trains, I'm having one of those "effortlessly cute" days that come along so infrequently that I tend to forget about them between occurrences, and my morning meeting put me in a great mood] so it's only fitting that I get to share more good news with you...

My Smoked Tomato Pasta Sauce with Portabella & Fennel recipe was selected out of a few hundred entries as a runner-up in the Buitoni Pasta Sauce Recipe Contest! The challenge was to create a sauce that paired with one of Buitoni's new riserva pastas, and I chose to create a sauce that could stand up to their super rich, slightly spicy braised beef and sausage ravioli.

I wanted to impart a wood-grilled flavor onto the ravioli, so I prepped some awesome vegetables for smoking, and threw them on my trusty Weber kettle with some hickory chips. Then I used the smoked veggies with bacon, some strong herbs (fennel, tarragon), and a salty, mild cheese that looks beautiful and added some creamy depth (ricotta salata--it's bright white!) to make a silky, smoky sauce. Voila!

This was my first "cooking contest" entry, so I'm very excited that the people at Foodbuzz.com liked it enough to select it as a runner up. And I get a cool gift pack as a prize, so I'll dish on that once it arrives.StumbleUpon.com

Summer Sides: Southwest Sweet Corn Salad

Maybe you've realized that in our
house, a "salad" isn't typically made of leafy, green stuff high in folic acid and low in calories. More often, it begins and ends with starch and fat, with some chopped veggies thrown in for color.

Hey, at least I'm consistent!

I make this little "salad" to pair well with saucy, spicy ribs. The flavors are fresh, and the sauce has a nice kick of its own. As a bonus, if you have some of the sauce left over, mix it with some mayo, onion, and bell pepper for a yummy shrimp salad base...

Southwest Sweet Corn Salad

8 small ears sweet corn, boiled or grilled
3 cups of halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
4 dashes hot sauce
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cut the kernels (great word!) off of the ears of corn and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the vegetables to the bowl. Put the olive oil in a smaller bowl, and whisk in all of the remaining ingredients except the cilantro. Taste, and add more cayenne pepper if it's not hot enough. (The dressing will taste very acidic, but the sweetness of the corn will tone down the lime juice). Stir the desired amount of dressing into the corn/veggie mixture and toss with the cilantro. Let sit for several hours, covered, stirring occasionally. Can be served cold or at room temperature.StumbleUpon.com

Summer Sides: Spicy Asian Sesame Noodle Salad

A big hug and kiss go out to M'me Williams (aka Meggy Moo) and Liza Jane for this lovely little recipe. This Asian noodle salad is great as a side dish, and if you're potlucking your host is likely to a.) be mad you showed him/her up and/or b.) be grateful that you didn't bring over the 100th bag of ruffle potato chips because they told people to "bring whatever." It's also great as a tasty, healthier lunch entree. Some days, I might even take it over a plateful of cheesecake for dessert, it's that good.

I use the Epicurious recipe, available here, and add whatever veggies strike my fancy in color and flavor, so it's always exactly what I'm in the mood for. In this iteration, I used the sweeter, less acidic yellow bell peppers, and some thinly sliced purple cabbage and carrots. One word of advice--hold out till you can find the sesame oil (typically in the Asian section of your grocery store, and ALWAYS sold out at the Harris Teeter near us). It's absolutely the best part. And if you're not already cooking dishes with fresh ginger (Mom and Dad) I suggest that you get in the habit...ginger can be spicy, floral, and citrus-y all at once and is great in all sorts of marinades and sauces. Pick up some for this Asian Noodle Salad and see what I mean...

Spicy Sesame Noodle Salad:

1 Tbs. peanut oil
2 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. (or more) hot chili oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 pound prepared linguine pasta
12 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup sliced Thai basil leaves
Sliced vegetables of your choice (I used carrots sliced lengthwise, thin-sliced purple cabbage, and yellow bell pepper rings)
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Heat peanut oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Transfer to large bowl. Add next 6 ingredients; whisk to blend.

Drain noodles thoroughly and transfer to bowl with sauce. Add sliced green onions and toss to coat noodles. Let stand at room temperature until noodles have absorbed dressing, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour. Stir in peanuts, sesame seeds, and Thai basil; toss again. Add vegetables of your choice, selecting for taste, color, and texture for best results. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Tips and Tricks:

If you don't have hot chili oil, add one more Tbs. of sesame oil to the sauce and add crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Two words---Double Batch.StumbleUpon.com

Acadiana: D.C. Does Louisiana Cuisine with Passion and Elegance

I recently had the opportunity to dine at Acadiana, a D.C. restaurant that prides itself in "capturing the true spirit of Louisiana, a serendipitous blend of Old World traditions and New World resources" with 5 other D.C. foodbloggers.

To me, D.C. is better known for its behind-the-scenes politics than its restaurant scene. (I'd frankly refer to the attitude at many D.C. restaurants as "brazenly half-assed.") Thankfully, Acadiana exuberantly breaks that mold by putting flavorful food, interesting cocktails, and plush ambiance center stage. The restaurant clearly began with passion and vision and grew to what it is today through near-perfect execution; as a result, our dining experience was elegantly decadent with touches of the brash pride and unique ingredients associated with Louisiana cooking.

Acadiana's dining room (pictured to the right) has a clean art nouveau style that is classic and modern all at once. The decorative, highly stylized chandeliers, furnishings, and fabrics are instantly attractive without overwhelming the space. It was beautiful, and so comfortable that we managed to dine for over 3 hours without noticing how much time had passed in the presence of new friends and good food.

And when compared with the modernized ambiance, Acadiana's Specialty Cocktail list--another standout of the night--was so traditional that you could almost see the hurricane shutters and smell the brackish, humid air as you sipped your Sazerac (prepared with absinthe liquor, bitters, and rye whiskey) or your Pimm's Cup (with Pimm's-a gin-based liquor, citrus soda, and a cucumber garnish).

I started with an Abita Strawberry beer, made with Louisiana strawberries just outside of New Orleans and available only through mid-June. As we contemplated dinner, our server brought us a basket of buttermilk biscuits with a creole cream cheese and pepper jelly spread. The creole cream cheese was light, and tangy with just the right touch of spicy sweetness from the pepper jelly. And my biscuit was dense and buttery, but not flaky. In the South, I expect my biscuits to be so flaky and messy that it's almost embarrassing to eat them in the midst of strangers. And though Acadiana offers a more refined approach to traditional Louisiana food and I understand the more general appeal of its dishes, I personally would choose a bad ole' sinful biscuit over a well-behaved one any day.

Because my biscuit left me craving more of the deep South, I ordered an entire meal of dark, rich soups made with fresh Louisiana ingredients. My guests and I enjoyed our cocktails and chatted about foodblogging in D.C. while the chef sent out an amuse bouche to pique our interest in our dinner to come. The small plate had a crispy fried, southern vegetable pie with black pepper buttermilk sauce, and a side of spicy shrimp remoulade on a bed of greens (and both are available on the menu). The two dishes combined some traditionally Southern ingredients in new ways without making the Louisiana "classics" too fussy, and I very much enjoyed our little palate jumpstart.

After our amuse bouche, a veritable army of servers, hostesses, and kitchen staff presented our entire table with our appetizers--every one of us ordered the Trio of Soups. This is not to say that the rest of the appetizers did not sound amazing--we each struggled through at least two cocktails apiece before coming to our final decision. It is just very difficult for anything to compete with: turtle soup au sherry, roasted sweet corn and blue crab bisque, AND smoked chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. The turtle soup was fresh and darkly flavored with just a kick of acid to round out the gravy-like broth. The bisque was very flavorful, with the perfect consistency (not too thick, perfectly creamy). And the gumbo was mildly spiced and flavored with a smoky roux that satisfied with every bite.

Between our appetizer and entrees, I ordered a hurricane made with fresh fruit juices and light and dark rum. It was sweet, and boozy, and would probably be best as an aperitif or a digestif. (which is, coincidentally, how I enjoyed it after being too mesmerized by my entree to think about things like...drinking). My entree, like the meal itself, was a finessed version of a "throw everything in the soup pot and let it simmer for days" Louisiana classic. I ordered the Louisiana seafood gumbo, with jumbo lump crab, crawfish, oysters, and redfish with Louisiana rice. Acadiana makes its seafood gumbo with a super dark roux that was almost coffee-like in color and aroma, and I suspect that they add file powder because I tasted some sassafras as well. The seafood was plump, and fresh, and abundant.

My only criticism is that I should have asked the chef add some spice to my gumbo, because the one thing it was really lacking was any distinction from one bite to the next. A super rich gumbo like Acadiana's often lacks any acid to make the flavors really dance, but the addition of spicy red, black, and white pepper can add some layers to the dish. My palate is still more attune to the Southern way of doing things, so I missed that "zing" that I'm used to, but it was still an enjoyable dish that I encourage you to try if you want a little bit of Louisiana in your life.

This can also be said of Acadiana's charms, in general--it's perfect for anyone who is craving a little bit of Summer vacation as they grind through the Washington D.C. 7-day work week. Or if you just want to try something new or impress some visitors, it is a wonderful place to enjoy friends and family, some exciting cocktails, and some flavorful Louisiana cooking. And if you are from Louisiana and you've found yourself in D.C., you'll also love Acadiana for satisfying that yearning you have for home--just don't forget to ask for the "extra spicy" preparation.StumbleUpon.com

The Musings of a Rambling Foodblogger

Liza Jane, in return for your lovely list, I have crafted one for you. Hope it makes you giggle.

1. I have decided to make a concerted effort to cook in my underwear more often. Sure, I'll cover up any areas that are prone to bacon grease splatters (donations of cute aprons welcome), but cooking should be comfortable and joyous (read: nekkid). Along those lines, I henceforth ban myself from rushing home from work and immediately chopping veggies while still in my Ann Taylor slacks and pearls. And please don't judge me by my conservative work apparel--in order to look formidable as a lawyer when you're 5 foot 2, you must dress in Ann Taylor and wear pearls.

2. I am unreasonably excited about the tiny, tiny vegetable and herb garden that awaits me at our new apartment. I'm thinking of growing grape tomatoes this go round, since it's late in the season and I assume that they will grow and ripen faster than larger varieties. Now, if only I could also have a bacon and champagne garden, I'd never have to leave my house. (Which may be a good thing, if I'm going to be in my skivvies more often).

3. MetaList- Here are the various foods/beverages we enjoyed in N'awlins this past weekend, not including everything below that we had during our fabulous tasting menu at the Green Goddess. Pay attention, cuz this is how it's done in New Orleans:


5 lbs. of spicy boiled crawfish with andouille sausage, new potatoes, and garlic cloves and a 6 pack of Abita Strawberry Beer.

Carnivore Smorgasbord at Cochon--fried alligator sausage in chile aioli; fried boudin sausage; Boucherie plate w/country pate, rilletes, and pickled things made in house; spicy grilled pork ribs w/pickled watermelon (wowza!); hen and sausage gumbo; smoked ham hock with sweet potatoes and blackeyed peas; rabbit and dumplings in an herb gravy; twice baked stuffed potato, creamy grits, mac n' cheese casserole AND CatDaddy--genuine moonshine heavily flavored with booze, vanilla, mandarin orange, and nutmeg.

That's five creatures, ya'll. We're so damned good, it scares me.


Mimosas a-la Liv and Mr. Davis

Catfish and softshelled crab po-boys, dressed, with Barq's rootbeer.

Green Goddess' approx. 12 courses of love.


Champagne Brunch at the Royal Sonesta: mucho champagne (thanks, Elenor!), Gulf Oysters, smoked peppered trout and two types of smoked salmon w/all the fixin's, sushi with unlimited roe/caviar/seaweed salad, shrimp ceviche, boiled gulf shrimp, Belgian waffles with cherries and whipped cream, bacon, sausage, perfectly poached eggs benedict on crab cakes (sigh), fried eggplant stuffed w/housemade ricotta, other various and sundry cheesy, saucy brunch dishes, and an entire table of parfaits, cakes, custards, and cobblers.

1 GIANT Port of Call chargrilled burger w/a loaded baked potato--sour cream, cheese, "chives" (green onions), and "bacon", 2 (?) Monsoon cocktails (think "mai tai in a bucket"), 1 purple daiquiri with artificial flavor and color of unknown origin.


A Guy's catfish po-boy, dressed with extra hot sauce and a coke.

LOTS of water.StumbleUpon.com