Caramel Almond Tart

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Adapted from David Lebovitz

I have long been a fan of David Lebovitz’ recipes – I’ve never not liked one of his cakes, and I’ve made quite a few of them. It was a while before I tried this one out though, because, although it doesn’t require very many ingredients, the recipe seemed a bit too fussy for my liking (make the pastry, chill the pastry, let the pastry come back to room temperature, put the pastry in tart pan, chill AGAIN, blardeeblardeeblar). It’s well worth giving it a go though, in spite of the slightly fussy pastry-process – it’s one of my favourite tarts! It’s a very sophisticated tart, too, very thin and not over the top sweet, although obviously very caramelly and slightly chewy 🙂

Now, while I know there is often a method to the madness, I have skipped the chilling part of the pastry making plenty of times, and it turned out completely ok. In Danish we would call this pastry ‘skør’, which means crazy, by which we mean it’s very flakey and crumbly, a pastry that breaks easily. Because the pastry shell is so fussy, last time I made this tart I made an extra pastry shell to put in the freezer – so today all I had to do was take the shell out of the freezer, bake it, make the almond-caramel filling, bake that, and voilà! Cake 🙂 🙂 (well, tart.)

I will say that I prefer the shell when it hasn’t been frozen; this time the pastry and the filling sort of merged a little, which I’ve never experienced before when making this. But it was still yummy.
(Also, you may well  have noticed from the pictures below that I forgot about my hot-running oven, and accidentally over-baked the pastry a tiny bit; luckily it still tasted good although on the slightly browner side 😉 ).

Alright! For the pastry you will need:

140 g / 1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
115 g / 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 tbsp cold water
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

250 ml / 1 cup heavy cream
200 g / 1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
80 g / 1 cup sliced almonds
2 tsp Amaretto

Mix the flour and sugar together, and add the butter, blending with your fingers until the mixture sort of resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the water and vanilla extract and press the dough together. Chill the dough thoroughly, wrapped in kitchen film, if you have time, and let it come back to room temperature before pressing it into a tart  pan about 26 cm in diameter, preferably one with a removable bottom, before chilling thoroughly again in the freezer (or do as I usually do, and press it directly into the tart pan before chilling it in the freezer – I’ve also once skipped this step and just put it directly in the oven, and it was fine).

Bake at 190 degrees Celsius / 375 degrees Fahrenheit / gas mark 5, for about 20 minutes until slightly golden (a little less than I did!).

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To make the filling, mix together cream, sugar and salt in a pot until the mixture begins to boil. When it starts to foam and bubble up, remove it from the heat and add the almonds and Amaretto.

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Pour the filling into the pre-baked pastry shell, even it out a little, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 mins, until the caramel mixture is golden-brown. Whilst baking, every five to ten minutes or so sort of gently ‘tap’ the filling all over with the side of a silicone spatula, to prevent a crust from forming. Do this about three times, leave it alone for the last ten minutes or so to let the caramel set.

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Make sure to check whether the side of the tart has gotten stuck (if so, gently loosen it with a vegetable peeler), before you take it out of the pan.

I’ve found that it keeps well for several days if there’s any left over! 🙂

 

 

Elisa’s Chocolate Birthday Cake *egg-free*

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Adapted from kurryleaves‘ recipe for egg-less chocolate cake.

Today is my friend Elisa’s birthday, and she’s allergic to eggs. Of all things! This sent me into a birthday cake panic.

I scoured the interwebs, and stumbled upon this here mostly vegetarian and vegan cooking and baking blog. The pictures looked yummy, and a lot of the vegan ingredients in the recipe could be substituted for regular ones (a little less daunting for a vegan-baking novice such as myself). I don’t like fussy recipes, and this one wasn’t, so I decided to give it a go.

For icing, I went with David Lebovitz’ recipe for chocolate ganache, as I’ve tried it before and it’s rich and yummy! A good way to spruce up a cake I feared might be less than exciting.

I’m extremely wary of baking without eggs. My only previous experience with it was several batches of (much, much) less than perfect lemon-coconut cookies (also for Elisa – after 5 different, all failed, tries, I gave up and made these yummy cocoa biscuits instead).

I’m also not a huge, huge fan of chocolate cakes… I find that they often look very appealing, but taste a bit bland! This one turned out fine though – the cake itself is a bit too bland  for me, personally, but light and moist, and since the ganache packs a serious chocolate punch, best the cake be a little less imposing!

I’d planned on slicing the cake in half horisontally, to make a layer cake, but after baking it found it was too flat to slice, and ended up baking a second layer 🙂

Alright, here’s what you’ll need:

For the cakes:

  • 280 g / 3 cups flour
  • 8 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 400 g / 2 cups sugar
  • 8 tbsp / 1/2 cup olive oil (you can of course use a milder vegetable oil, but I love the fruity taste of olive oil in baking! Also, it was the only kind of oil I had in the house 😉 )
  • 480 ml / 2 cups butter milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate ganache:

  • 280 g / 10 ounces dark chocolate, 46% cocoa solids – cut into chunks
  • 120 ml / 1/2 cup cream
  • 170 g / 1 1/2 sticks butter – cut into chunks

And here’s how to turn it all into a cake!

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit / gas mark 4, and grease and line two springform baking tins of about 22 cm in diameter. (To line to bottom of the tin, I place a sheet of baking parchment on the bottom, assemble the springform, turn it upside down and sort of tug a little at the sides of the baking parchment to make sure it’s flat, and tear of the extra baking parchment – easy peasy!)

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Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

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In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and butter milk. Whisk in the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter between the baking tins, smooth out the top, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean. If your oven isn’t big enough, bake them in two goes 🙂

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While the cakes are baking, make the chocolate ganache by heating up the cream until it begins to bubble a little, just before it comes to a boil. (Or, heat it for a minute or so in the microwave!)

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Take the cream off the heat (or out of the microwave), add the chocolate chunks, and let the chocolate hang out in the hot cream for a good few minutes before stirring well, until the chocolate has dissolved into the cream (if you, like me, have taken the microwave route, and find that there are still a few chunks of unmelted chocolate, pop the bowl back into the microwave for 10-15 seconds before stirring again). Now add the butter, whisking well until the ganache is thick and shiny 🙂

Let the ganache cool down and thicken at room temperature for about an hour (unless you haven’t got that kind of time, in which case do as I did and put the ganache in the fridge for a bit! It will be less shiny though, once the cake has been frosted).

Once the cakes have cooled, take them out of the tins and place the first layer on a cake dish. Spread half of the ganache on the first layer, then place the second layer on top and press down a little. Ice the top and sides of the cake with the remaining ganache.

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Decorate as desired!

I happen to have promised Elisa a unicorn cake, and here (I’m kind of embarrassed to say) is the finished result:

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Magnificent! 😉

P.s.: Since I couldn’t very well slice the cake before bringing it to the birthday girl, and because I can’t bear to serve a cake I haven’t tasted, and because I needed to practice making unicorns, I made a ‘test’ cake with only one layer, and here’s a slice of that:

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Swedish Cardamom Cake (Skærgårdskage)

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Ok. So I’ve been thinking for a while about joining the hordes of baking and cooking blogs here on the interwebs, and always thought, nah, that’s dumb Marie, who’s even gonna read it. But then I thought, why the heck not – I love reading other people’s recipes online, and I certainly bake often enough. Why not share my exploits too.

So – here’s my first recipe: a super simple Swedish spiced cake that I am obsessed with, with fragrant cardamom and cinnamon. Cardamom and cinnamon are very popular in Scandinavian baking, both in breads and cakes, whether together or on their own. I was given the recipe over a year ago, by the mum of a girl I was giving French lessons to at the time. She made the cake while we were studying French verbs (…), and after our lesson I was served a warm slice fresh from the oven, and had a small out of body experience. She’d gotten the recipe from a magazine years before, and made me a photocopy of the magazine cut-out.

I dream about this cake. It’s so good with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. SO good. When warm out of the oven it has a really light crumb, and when cooled, it’s very moist and slightly sticky. It keeps really well, too. AND it’s easy to make! Aaanyways, here’s the recipe:

You will need:

  • 175 g butter
  • 225 g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 275 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 250 ml buttermilk

Plus:

  • 75 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, melt the butter slightly in the microwave (or just leave it to soften at room temperature, if you’re more organised than I am). Whisk the sugar into the butter, then add the vanilla extract, as well as the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each egg (a hand whisk will do just fine).

Mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add half of this to the butter and sugar mixture, then half of the butter milk, the rest of the flour mixture, and finally the remaining butter milk.

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Pour the batter into a buttered springform tin, about 22 cm in diameter.

Mix the sugar, cardamom and cinnamon together, and sprinkle the mixture all over the  top of the unbaked cake. Then, with the handle of a wooden spoon, swirl the sugar-and-spice mixture into the batter, sort of making figure 8’s with the handle of the spoon. You should still be able to see streaks of batter, it shouldn’t be completely mixed together, but don’t ‘under-swirl’, as this leaves a too crunchy, too spicy layer on top of the baked cake (I accidentally under-swirled once, and while still good, the cardamom can be a bit too much this way – much better to have gloops of the sugar-and-spice mixture spread throughout the cake).

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Bake in the middle of the oven at 175 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit/gas mark 4, for about 50 minutes to an hour, until a tooth pick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, if you can, while you revel in the smell that has filled your kitchen, as well as the rest of your apartment. Maybe brew some fresh coffee.

P.s.: Also makes for an excellent breakfast! The cardamom almost adds a savoury touch, which in my mind makes it a perfectly legitimate breakfast food.

P.p.s.: Opening the oven to check on the cake halfway through baking will make your hair smell AWESOME.