Fresh cherries and a cherry bakewell tart in May?
I wouldn’t normally buy fresh cherries so early in the season but for all the wrong reasons I found myself picking out the bright red ones this morning and not caring about all the air miles involved in getting them to this country.
It was with a touch of sadness that I was thinking about a family on the other side of the world. I don’t know the family involved but as a blogger I have come across the Baby Boy Bakery blog many times. It is a blog which celebrates the life of a young family and is full of beautiful pictures of a young boy with the most beautiful red hair. To learn that this beautiful young child was taken so tragically and so early from his family is just heart breaking. People from all over the world have shown their support by posting images of red balloons and one of the most poignant of these images is of a little boy floating away with a bunch of red balloons attached to his hand. I must’ve had this image in my mind when I was shopping in our local Farm Shop because as I looked at a display of bright red cherries all I could see was that they looked like bright red balloons. So there I was buying my fruit and veg, looking at a pile of cherries and crying for a little boy that I never knew. Crying for what his parents must be going through. Crying for all the times I’ve been annoyed with my children over silly little things. Crying for all the times I should have given my children a hug but didn’t because I had something else more important to do. Just crying because no parent should ever have to go through the loss of their own child. When I got home I made a quick picture with the cherries and photographed it. It is now up on my fridge to remind me of how precious life is. When my daughter saw the picture she was slightly bemused as to why I had a bunch of cherries on some blue card. “Don’t you think they look like red balloons” I asked. “No, they just look like cherries” was the response.
Maybe they do just look like cherries but to me they mean so much more.
I am not one for making New Year resolutions but I have set myself a goal to try and be more organised this year. Ever since having the kids I have struggled to get my life as organised as it was pre children. My husband is always telling me to write things down – so this year I will heed his advice and make lists, lists and more lists. Eight days into January and how am I doing with my newly organised life? Well not so great to be honest. After getting the kids up early on Monday and ready for school I found out at the last minute that I had written down the wrong date on my calendar and they were only due back to school on the Tuesday. Yesterday I went off to school with a list of things that I needed to ask at the school office but left the list in the car and promptly forgot half of what was on the list. Today I set off for town with my list of things to be done but had to turn back halfway as all routes into town were gridlocked due to flooding. Not really my fault but I got home feeling slightly deflated and very unorganised. A quick cup of coffee and a clear out of my kitchen cupboards left me feeling slightly more in control. I have now made a list of all the dribs and drabs left over from Christmas which need using up. All I need to do now is remember where the list is…
Well ok so the first thing on the list was a half packet of salted peanuts. Yes, I could have quite easily eaten them and nobody would have been any the wiser but I thought I would make something a bit more interesting to use them up. These chocolate peanut butter bars are so quick and easy and make a perfect tea time treat.
Most of us will have heard the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but may not think of it in terms of food. Well, this Italian Almond Tart makes me think of exactly that. It is nothing much to look at – it is all very beige and there is no lovely sauce or chocolate dripping down the sides to make us drool. A real plain Jane! Until, that is you cut into it and serve yourself a deliciously moist and fragrant slice to go with your afternoon tea. It is so good that I made one the very next day for my hubby to take into work and everybody loved it. I made my own almond paste and I would highly recommend that you try this at least once. It is so easy to make, it’s fresh and full of flavour and will make all the difference to your tart. Your choice of jam will also play a big part in how your finished tart tastes. For my first attempt I used a cherry jam which had whole cherries in it. It was quite sweet and I wasn’t overly enthused by the chunks of cherry. For my second attempt I used a smooth Christmas spice fruit jam and I thought this was much better.
For those of you who are interested in how I decorated the tart – yes I did stand and pick out all the whole slices of almonds from a pack and yes it did take me a long time to place them all so neatly round the entire tart and yes I am completely mad! I also made a rose from some of the left over almond paste. I only placed it on the tart 10 minutes before the tart was due to come out the oven to crisp it up a bit and give it some colour.
It’s been a couple of months now since I last participated in the Bake Along challenge so I was keen to try this month’s challenge which is an Italian Almond Tart. One of the main ingredients called for is Almond Paste which I have never come across here in the UK. A quick search on Google revealed quite a heated debate amongst the baking fraternity. It would appear that Almond Paste means something different depending on which country you come from. What I did learn is that Marzipan (as we know it in the UK) is not the same as Almond Paste. Almond Paste generally has equal quantities of ground almonds to sugar whereas Marzipan has a much higher ratio of sugar to almonds. I did have a look at a couple of brands of Marzipan and the quantity of almonds was only 25%. I also didn’t recognise a lot of the other ingredients which is never a good thing. Having established the ratio of sugar to almonds, the next deciding factor is what binding agent to use. This is where you see the difference between the different countries. I found recipes which used egg white, egg yolk, whole egg, water, sugar syrup, honey and some even had alcohol in them. I opted for the whole egg but only because I didn’t want to have to deal with the problem of a stray yolk or 1 egg white to use up. I also added Cointreau but to be honest I couldn’t taste it in the finished product. The end result was delicious and made for a perfect Almond Tart. It is really quick and so easy to make and freezes beautifully. No excuses… you have to try and make your own homemade almond paste. You won’t regret it.
This week has not been without its fair share of kitchen disasters. I have been trying to perfect a chocolate mousse terrine and gave up after my third attempt – never wanting to see another chocolate mousse again. I also tried my hand at deep fried cauliflower. Why? When I don’t like deep fried food and I don’t like cauliflower. I was not converted! By the end of the week I was looking for familiarity. Something that I knew would work. Something comforting. A good old fashioned oat cookie, crispy and perfect for dunking was my answer. These oat cookies were part of my Mum’s baking repertoire when we were growing up. We used to know them as Gypsy Creams and I was always intrigued as to where the name originated from but have never managed to find out. My Mum used to sandwich them together with a buttercream icing but I generally leave them plain as they last longer in the tin. For this batch I sandwiched them together with some leftover Mars Bar sauce (which, by the way is perfect over vanilla ice cream).