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the urban baker

the urban baker: June 2009

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers; Bakewell Tarts

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 was a very busy baking month for me, so I didn't get around to making these until this morning.  I had already made the jam earlier in the week, so I didn't really have that much to do.  I made the dough early in the morning, then Levi and I headed out to the Santa Monica farmers market.  When I got home, I rolled out the dough and placed them in their tart pans and then froze them for a while (I opted to take a nap, so I left them in a little longer than normal).  I baked the tarts and while they were baking, I made the Frangipane.
Super easy!  My hubby loves anything with almonds, so he is going to be one happy guy tonight!
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 (2) egg yolks
  • 2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
  • 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 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.

I then rolled them out and made small, 3" tarts.  Roll out dough and place in tart shell.  Freeze for around an hour.  Remove from freezer and line with foil and cover with pie weights.  

Blind bake tart shell 325* for 15-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool, slightly.

Strawberry Lump Preserves

(adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham)

  • about 4 Cups strawberries, washed & hulled, cut in half
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice

Choose a sunny, warm day to do this.  Mash half the berries and put in a saute pan.  Stir in sugar and lemon juice and cook over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the rest of the strawberries.  Turn the heat to medium and still stirring, bring to a boil.  Spoon off the foam and let boil for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Pour the preserves into a large shallow dish so they are spread out in a thin layer.  Cover with cheesecloth and put outdoors in the sunshine for at least 6 hours.  

Spoon into jars and cover.  Store in fridge for up to 10 days.  After that, freeze in containers.


  • 125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
  • 3 (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.


Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto cooled  pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and sprinkle with sliced almonds. 

Bake mini tarts for 20 minutes. 

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.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Beach and Brownies

Before school ended for the school year, we planned a beach day with Cassidy, Gracie and Jessie G. We scheduled it for the first week of summer.

We packed a picnic, I baked some brownies and we loaded up the car with all the beach gear and set off for a really fun, casual, easy day.

I pulled out my 125 Cookie book and selected a not so complicated brownie recipe. The recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate bits, but I substituted both white chocolate and bittersweet chocolate. These are must for anyone's repertoire!


6 Tbl. unsalted butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 C. plus 2 Tbl. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 C. pus 2 Tbl. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. chocolate chips (your preference)
I used both white and bittersweet chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 325*. Butter an 8x8x2-inch pan

2. Put the butter, unsweetened chocolate and 2 Tbl. water in large heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Stir flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

4. Beat eggs and sugar until lightened in color. Add vanilla. Add chocolate mixture, blending until incorporated. Add the flour mixture. Stir in the chips. Spread the batter, evenly, in the prepared pan.

5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes (mine were perfect at 30 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for about 1 1/2 hours. Cut and enjoy.

These would also be great with nuts!

The weather was perfect, the company was perfect and their was no one on the beach, but us!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009


This past Tuesday I had a meeting with the Principal of Eli's future middle school.  I couldn't go empty handed!

I was reading my Donna Hay magazine and I came to the chapter "Queen of Cakes".  The photos are GORGEEZMO and each and every recipe looked better than the next. I will, ultimately, be making them all. Yet, the cinnamon sugar-coated maple apple cakes jumped out at me.  

When the three woman in the meeting took their first bite of their little individual cakes, they moaned! Enough said!

  • 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour-sifted
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 250g butter, melted(i used my digital scale)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 red apples, peeled and grated(i used fuji's)
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, extra
  • 1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
Preheat oven to 355*.  Place flour and cinnamon in bowl and mix to combine.  Add the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, eggs and apple and mix well to combine.  Spoon into 12 x well greased 1 cup-capacity bundt tins.  Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer(i baked them about 27 minutes).  
Turn out immediately.  

Place extra cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix to combine.  Coat the cakes in the sugar and cool.  

Makes 12


p.s I am going to make these again and make them bite size

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Eli woke up on Monday morning and said, "mom, we don't have a sweet in the house".  Duh, I just spent a week baking and I was kind of "sugared-out".

I suggested he search the recipe books and pick something out.  He went for a household favorite, Black and Whites.  I have made several versions of this cookie and couldn't quite remember which recipe, which book, etc.  I grabbed the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and just went with it.  Almost sorry I had.  The cookie part on its own was really good.  However, the glaze did not set.  Didn't even set when placed in the fridge.  My kids ate one cookie each, right after frosting them.  It was unanimous to toss the rest.  Such a bummer when that happens.

I am going to have to do a recipe comparison this summer and make a few different versions.  I will let the kids be the judge and then share with all of you.

Eli, Isaac and Max (our buddy) enjoying the cookies!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Savory Scones

Isaac's end of the year party was a breakfast party.  By the Thursday of the last week of school, I was exhausted.  With Eli's culmination the day before and his 5th grade dance, the night before, I was amazed at myself for even waking up on this Thursday morning.

I had to do something easy.  Scones!  I decided to go the savory route.  Parmesan scones from Nancy Silverton's book.  I didn't have chives.  Oh well!

By the time I got to the party, they were pretty much gone.  I had a little taste.  They were really good.  This will be a good base for lots and lots of experiments.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Levi requested cupcakes for his "end of the year party".
I really didn't want to make cupcakes, but I wanted to honor his request(after all, he is the 3rd and does get somewhat neglected).

I found a recipe for "Chocolate covered High Hats" in my Cupcake book by Elinor Klivans.  They looked challenging and I felt like a challenge.

They were a challenge.  The cupcake part was easy.  I have made these before and they are light, not too chocolaty nor too sweet.  However, the meringue on the top was another story.  I was supposed to whip the ingredients(sugar, water, egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla & almond extract), over a double boiler, for 12 minutes until the consistency reached 160*.  I must have stood there, with my hand mixer for at least 25 minutes and couldn't get it to the desired temp.  I kind of gave up which lead to the demise of the project.  

The meringue never quite set and when I dipped them in the chocolate, the filling fell.  

None the less, they were all devoured and everyone, except myself and Eli, raved!  Better luck next time!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cherry Squares and Lots of Tears

This day was bittersweet.  One of our most favorite and beloved teachers, Mrs. Stephanie Thyer, has decided to move to Australia.  Our special little community planned a picnic, at a local park and the turn out was impressive.

I wanted to make something that would feed a crowd. I decided to make something from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I have not always been successful, nor particularly like what I have made, but wanted to try it, none the less.

As I have mentioned before, I love anything with cherries in it.  This sounded really good and somewhat easy.  This was like a cross between a bar and a cake.  
After pouring the batter into the prepared pan, you score it in order to place the cherries.  Kind of makes sense!

Eli gave this dessert a 10+!

Although, Eli, never had Stephanie as a teacher, they have a special bond.  Stephanie and Eli's 5th grade teacher, Melissa, are the best of friends.  Their two classes did everything together; work, play and fun!  Eli is super sad and each day, looks off in to space and mutters to me, "I am going to miss Mrs. Thyer".  He and I may have to plan a trip down under!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

End of the year Gifts; Part II

I never like to bake or create just one kind of goodie.  I like variety and I like to present variety.  Along with the honeycomb (from previous post) we made two flavors of biscotti and the molasses ginger chews from a previous post.

I enlisted my friend, Jeni, to spend the day in the kitchen with me and two of us had lots of fun.  Jeni's kids are in different grades than my kids, so this was the perfect baking partner.  Having a partner, certainly sped up the process, but more importantly it made it a whole lot more fun.

We started early, making the doughs for both the two recipes of the biscotti's and the molasses chews (see 6/18/09 post).  I had made the chocolate biscotti the previous week, loved them and wanted to make them again.  We used the Lemon Pistachio base, also from Nick Maglieri's Cookies Unlimited, but switched out the pistachios for the dried apricots, crystallized ginger and toasted almonds.  I liked this recipe, but didn't love it.  It was a little too soft.  I like a crisper, crunchier cookie, like the one I make at the holiday times.

Since we were already using the tempering machine for the honeycomb, we thought we would make our biscotti's a little more festive.

Friday, June 19, 2009

End of the Year Gifts; Part I

I like to show my appreciation for those around me by making something homemade.  In all honesty, how many boxes of See's candy can one receive.

It all started when I had my furniture business, Little Folk Art, and I wanted to show my gratitude to my clients with a little something special at holiday time.  When one is working with such an affluent clientele  that could buy whatever they want, the only thing I could think of giving them was something made from the heart.

I have carried on this tradition and have now passed it down to those who take care of my children, 10 months out of the year.

This year was an especially busy one.  With Eli graduating and me being very involved in the culmination process, I choose to do things that could be done in advance and wouldn't take 3 days to do it. I committed to dedicating one day to this process, and I achieved my goal.

For months, I had been wanting to make Nancy Silverton's Honeycomb.  This was the perfect opportunity.  I could make large quantities and not only share this with the teachers and staff, but my friends as well, who happen to have just as big of a sweet tooth as I do.

If you have a tempering machine, I highly recommend this recipe.  It is just as good, if not better than the honeycomb I grew up on at Little John's Candy Shop in The Original Farmers Market.

All packed up and ready to deliver.  The honeycomb got rave reviews!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


This past week was a baking marathon.  The kids had party after party at school and I like to bake for the extended staff (coaches, music teachers, dance teachers, art teacher, office staff, etc.).

This was the baking agenda:

•June 13 End of year gifts
Molasses Chews
•June 14 Goodbye picnic for Mrs. Thyer
Shelley's Cherry Squares
•June 16 Levi's End of the year party
High Hat Cupcakes
•June 18 Isaac's end of the year breakfast
Parmesan Scones

It was a very busy, hectic week!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jacque Torres Saves the Day

Eli, being a 5th grader and the big man on campus, has lots of privileges and lots of activities.  One such activity is taking their "little buddies" on a picnic.  Each 5th grade class is assigned to a kindergarten class.  The older kids are paired up with the little ones and they meet once a week to read together, play together and work on projects together.  

The highlight of the year, is venturing out and doing something special.  This year it was going to be a picnic at the park, during lunch time.  Oddly enough, sunny California, didn't prove to be so sunny.  On the day of their picnic, it rained!?!  The picnic was reassigned to Eli's classroom and instead of running around the park on a beautiful day, the kids were laying on the rug with pillows and blankets, watching Hotel for Dogs

Even though the kids were happy enough, just being together, I felt as though they needed a treat.  I baked a double batch of one of my favorite chocolate chip cookies.  I found this recipe a year ago and other than Lexi's favorite chocolate chip cookies, I don't really bother to make any other any other chocolate chip cookies.  

What I love about these cookies is that the recipe calls for bread flour and pastry flour.  I truly believe it makes all the difference in the world!  The kids loved them so much, they kept coming back for more, however I didn't have enough to go around for seconds.  Won't make that mistake again!

This same recipe was also posted on the Martha Stewart Living website.  The increments are slightly different.  Don't really understand why.  I kind of like the N.Y. Times Magazine post slightly better.  However, you be the judge.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We love Biscotti!

Every year our Elementary School has a big auction which raises tons of money for the school.  Each year they have an "arm chair" auction.  This is the place where one can bid on all the special categories.  One year I bid on Eli being office assistant for the day, and he won.  He loved that day.  Most years, I bid on the special day out with the teacher.  

This year, Eli's 5th grade teacher and her best friend (another 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Thyer) offered a weekend camping trip.  He adores both Mrs. Corleto and Mrs. Thyer.  As this was his last year, I made sure to bid big in order for him to share in this great experience.

This past weekend was the big camp out and I wanted to send them on their way with goodies for the car ride.  I figured biscotti's were safe.  Who doesn't like a good biscotti??  I like Nick Malgieri and I was reading Cookies Unlimited.  His biscotti recipes are always good so I choose to make the Chocolate Chunk Biscotti.  They were a perfect combo of both bittersweet and milk chocolate, crunchy and chewy at the same time.  It is rare that I don't put nuts in my biscotti, but this worked!

Three kids, with the highest bids, were picked from each classroom.  Three boys and three girls were the lucky 6.    Eli gets a little nervous with new situations, mostly sleeping out, and I wasn't sure how he would do.  According to both Melissa and Stephanie, Eli was willing, able and ready to do whatever was asked of him.  That's my guy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Molasses Ginger Cookies

I was surfing through Tastespotting and found a really sweet blog by what appears to be a very sweet 17 year old.  I mostly like to peruse Tastespotting for the photography, however sometimes I do get inspired by the recipes.

This cookie recipe inspired me.  She called them "Gingersnaps".  However, all the critics in my home called them "Molasses Goodness".

I loved the use of canola oil rather than butter in these cookies.  I rolled the dough in Turbinado sugar, which is a raw, brown sugar (it's delicious).  The dough is not like a normal cookie dough; dry and dense.  This dough is very wet and slippery.  Hence, easy to work with.  These were yummy right out of the oven.

Myself and another mom of a 5th grader had been working tirelessly on the "5th grade memory book". We were nearing the end of our journey and we both agreed that we needed someone to proof the book. We called another mom whom we knew would step up to the challenge.  Well, not only did she step up, but her 17 year old, high school graduate did as well.  They were our life savers!  They could not go unnoticed. What better way to thank them than with a freshly baked box of molasses, chewy cookies!

I will be making these cookies over and over again!


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fruit & Nut Scones

Sunday, the 7th, was my in-laws anniversary.  We made plans to meet them for breakfast.  Although we were taking them out for breakfast, I couldn't walk into to their home empty handed.  

I had had some buttermilk that needed to be used up. Since I have been neglecting my Nancy Silverton Challenge, this was the perfect opportunity to work on completing the task I previously committed to (baking my way through the entire book).

I choose the Fruit and Nut scones, A) because it was the morning and what better way to start off ones morning than with a scone and B) I needed to use up the buttermilk that was on the verge of becoming something super nasty.

make the dough and then shape in a flan ring or spring form pan

cut into 8th's and then separate and bake

They were easy and delicious.  I am going to make these again and swap out some of the fruit for other ingredients.  Be on the lookout for a modified version of these.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rocky Road Goodness

I volunteered to bring dessert to Isaac's baseball party. As Eli was going camping with his teacher this weekend, I decided to make some homemade marshmallows for the camp out.  As I had had an over abundance of marshmallows, I figured I couldn't go wrong with the Rocky Road Tart.  The recipe suggests it be made in a spring form pan, however since it was going to be feeding lots of  people I choose to make it in a 9 x 9 square tart pan.   

I pretty much like most foods that have a marshmallow in it.  See's Scotch Kiss, Rocky Road ice cream, and a S'mores.  I especially like the chocolate covered marshmallow twists only sold during Passover.  When I first met my husband, 31 years ago, my mother in law introduced me to them.  She would buy them for my brother in law, Marc, and store them in the freezer.  I now buy them for my family and do the same.  The only real way to eat them is frozen!

I found this recipe for Rocky Road Tart last year when I was reading  the Whatever Radio Blog.  At the time that I had found the recipe I had some homemade marshmallows in the freezer.  I decided to make the tart for a 4th of July party.  It was delicious.  I think what makes this tart so amazing is the combo of the rich ganache, the silky marshmallows and the salty almonds (I use marcona almonds).  I use Valhrona chocolate for the ganache and Callebaut bittersweet chips for the chunks.

I usually double the recipe and make several 5-6 inch smaller tarts and freeze them.  The only thing that is not perfect about this recipe is the crust.  It always falls apart.  I need to work on perfecting the perfect graham cracker crust.

I happen to love this tart.  I wouldn't suggest making this on a hot, muggy day.  It is also not a picnic food. It is really best eaten right out of the fridge!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Simple Shortbread

My friend Nina is pregnant...with her 4th!  We were out the other night, supporting our friend, Jessica Hendra who just wrote her 2nd book.  We decided to grab some dinner before going to her book reading and signing.  

During dinner she begged me not to get her a baby gift but instead she wanted a batch of my buttery shortbread.  As this was the end of May and the baby isn't due until the beginning of September, I wasn't about to wait until September to make her her request.

I woke up the next morning and made a double recipe, just for her!  This is one of my favorite Shortbread recipes.  As I have mentioned before, Tartine is my all time favorite bakery.  I dream of opening a Tartine in my neighborhood one day.  This recipe is from their cookbook.   It is buttery, light and crumbly.  I have often thought of using it as a crust for a pecan bar.  However, I think it may be a little too flakey.  

When the baby is born I will show up at the hospital bearing gifts for the baby and shortbread for Nina. Can't wait to meet this little person!