If the baking bug bites you, scratch that itch!

Thomas loves car racing so his dad took him to a Ferrari race in CT and he got to meet this driver. Look familiar? He’s on ABC’s Shark Tank!

I’m helping a customer at the Ringwood Farmers Market one Saturday when I politely hold up a finger and excuse myself for just a second.

“Thomas, can you go in my cooler bag and get my drink?  The pink one, please.”

I return my attention to the customer at my scale.   “Lately I’ve noticed that people, adults and children alike, don’t use please and thank you very often so I like to model good behavior with The Boy.”

Thomas gets my drink bottle and places it on the table next to my scale.  “Here Mom….  (pause for effect)  Is this sangria?”

<Face meet palm>

Defeated, I look back to my customer who asks…   “Exactly WHAT behavior are you modeling?'”

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Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!

Do you have that one thing in your life that grounds you?

When you’re feeling stressed, when you just can’t take another minute and you want to crawl into bed and pull the blanket right over your head and disappear – what do you do?

I bake.

I need to create something creamy, crunchy, chocolatey, fruity, rich and buttery…  It doesn’t really matter WHAT I create as long as my senses are stimulated from start to finish.   I turn some ordinary ingredients magically into an edible work of art and suddenly my troubles disappear, at least for a little while.

Then it’s time to wash the dishes.

The blueberries are beautiful right now and if you have the inclination, I urge you to get loads of them to freeze for the winter.   Plunge the berries in a bowlful of water, scoop them out and drain, then toss on a towel-lined baking sheet to dry off.  Pour them onto a dry baking sheet and pop the whole thing in the freezer.

The berries will freeze in a matter of hours, at which point you can knock them off and pour them into zipper-top freezer bags.  You can take out a handful or a cupful whenever you need them for cereal or yogurt or muffins.  You’re basically duplicating the process of bagging IQF (individually quick-frozen) berries.  If Bird’s Eye can do it, so can you!

The July 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living published a recipe for an Apricot-Raspberry Frangipane Tart.  Since I was fresh out of apricots and raspberries, but overloaded with blueberries, I mixed things up a bit but still used the basic frangipane recipe with a few subtle differences.   If apricots and raspberries float your boat, the original recipe can be found here.

I used my favorite flaky pie crust recipe (Better Homes and Gardens red-and-white checked cookbook!) but you could certainly use store-bought if you prefer.  If that is the only thing standing between you and this tart, please — buy the damn thing and feel no guilt.

Blueberry-Almond Tart
Your favorite flaky pie crust suitable for 10 inch tart pan
1 can Almond Paste (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup Vanilla Sugar or Granulated Sugar + 1 t Vanilla Extract
1/4 t Salt
1 stick Unsalted Butter, softened to texture of almond paste (helps them blend nicely)
2 large Eggs
1 t Pure Orange Extract
Grated zest of one half large orange or whole small one
1/3 cup Cake Flour (I use Softasilk)
1 cup fresh Blueberries
1/4 cup sliced raw Almonds

Preheat oven to 375°.  Roll out dough on lightly floured board and lay it into a 10-inch fluted removable bottom tart pan.  Press it into the sides with your thumbs but be careful not to stretch it.  Any stretching now will lead to shrinkage later, and we hate shrinkage.  Cut off any excess dough (roll out to make cinnamon-sugar cookies!) and put in freezer for about 20 minutes.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Remove from freezer and prick the bottom of the tart dough with a fork in several places.  You don’t want this baby puffing up in the oven.  Line the tart with a piece of foil or parchment and fill halfway with pie weights.  No pie weights handy?  Just use a pound or so of dried beans… any type will work, just be sure to reserve them for use only in baking.  I’ve had the same jar of dry black beans for years.  Bake the tart shell for about 30 minutes until edges are golden.  Remove pie weights,

Remove and reduce oven temp to 325°  cool on wire rack while you prepare the filling.

In bowl of stand mixer, combine almond paste, sugar, and salt.  Beat together on medium speed until mixture forms small clumps.  Add butter and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Be sure the butter is near room temperature so it incorporates easily.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla  (if using) and orange extracts and orange zest.   Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in flour until just combined.

Give the mixture a good stir with a rubber scraper just to make sure it’s all combined nicely, then scrape into pre-baked tart shell.  Smooth out top with an offset spatula and scatter blueberries evenly over the top.  Sprinkle sliced almonds over all.  Tent the edges of the pan/crust with strips of foil and bake in 325° oven for about 45 minutes or until top is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Again, be sure to rotate pan about halfway through baking.  No oven is perfect.

Let tart cool completely on a wire rack, then remove outer ring and slide onto a serving platter.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve!

6 thoughts on “If the baking bug bites you, scratch that itch!

  1. Gorgeous! I, too, find baking comforting — I think it’s the precise measurements and need for attention to detail. It also helps to have a sippy cup of Sangria by my side 😉

  2. When I was suffering with a problem with my lower spine and could not sleep I actually, for months, baked all night every night for several months before my surgery. It drove my family crazy because of the scent going through the house. My neighbors loved it because we couldn’t possibly eat it all so I gave it away. Baking is definitely my go to for times when I am trying to relax.

    1. At the worst times in life, creaming butter and sugar or whipping cream or egg whites make troubles disappear. I hope you are all recovered, now, Linda.

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