Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blast of colour on a drear Maine day!

On this day of mists (it really is misty out there) and mellow fruitfulness (our neighbour, Tom, did indeed just bring us a pumpkin he had grown) as I look out the window at the occasional dredging downpours from Kyle, is he a tropical storm or a hurricane...THEY haven't decided yet, I felt I needed an eyeball awakening BLAST OF COLOUR! So I put together some pots of paint I am using at the moment, and a few design layouts I have done as small acrylic paintings, to jolly myself along amidst the sogginess of a house with three damp dogs, sticky floors and steamy windows. Here are the photographic results. Hope it's drier where you are! Anyone for tea?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bakewell's certainly not cake but is it a pudding, tart or pie?

In typical inimitable British style this dessert recipe is called a pudding because ALL Brit desserts come under the title of ‘pudding’ and this particular one, from the beautiful little northern town of Bakewell, is meant to be consumed after the evening meal, as the ‘pudding’ course, and not for tea in the afternoon when it would indeed be called a tart or pie. Are you confused yet? In texture this pie is somewhat akin to a pecan pie without the nuts. It is dense and moist and actually quite light in flavour. It improves greatly with a day of ‘maturing’ at room temperature, and I highly recommend this, in a trusty metal cake tin and is always eaten cool but not cold (definitely not out of the fridge!!!...bad form I say!!). It is not fussy or elegant but it is a very satisfying Farmhouse recipe especially if you like almond flavoured delights as I do. Here we go with the recipe:

Pate Brisee for the crust...a very reliable and crisp version which keeps well.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 stick very cold butter, grated on a box grater

1/8 to 1/4 cup of very cold water

Mix flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add grated butter ( I do all my pastry by hand so grating the butter helps keep things cool for better pastry...of course you can choose to do this in a food processor)....rub the butter into the flour mix until it resembles coarse meal then quickly add in the water by dribbles, I mix with a fork to keep everything cool, and when you think it is wet enough, and it’s always less than you think, quickly and gently ‘sqwoosh’ pastry together until you have a cohesive lump. Put into the fridge for, at the very least, half an hour and preferably longer, to ‘rest’. We all need a rest after this!

Take the pastry out of the fridge and let it warm up slightly before rolling out and lining a glass pie dish 9" diameter. Put back in fridge until ready to be filled.

The filling:
Raspberry jam preferably, strawberry second, anything else you choose third.

4 oz butter melted and slightly cooled

4 oz sugar

4oz roasted and ground almonds...if you are doing the roasting and grinding yourself let the almonds cool COMPLETELY, to get rid of any moisture, before you grind them in a coffee or spice grinder, and grind with equal amounts of the sugar so the mixture doesn’t get sticky.

4 egg yolks

3 egg whites whipped to soft peaks

½ teaspoon almond extract...have you tried the almond extract by ‘Simply organics’, it is the best I have ever tasted.

Putting it all together:
1. Take piecase out of fridge and spread your chosen jam over the bottom...I like just a schmear, others like more...traditionally it is less rather than more.

2. Mix melted butter, almond extract and ground almonds and sugar together til well blended, add egg yolks and blend til smooth and finally add the beaten egg whites gently in batches so as not to deflate the bubbles.

3. Spread mixture over the jam and make sure the jam is sealed around the edges or else it will bubble out in baking.

4. Bake in the middle of a 350 degree oven for about half an hour until the filling is completely set but be careful not to burn the pastry.

Ta dah!! You have yourself a good northern English classic recipe that has been around for hundred’s of years and is still made prolifically in it’s home county of Derbyshire.
Happy Baking...let me know how it comes out! Check this bakewell link out for more info!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

James and I apply to the "Art of Action": Shaping Vermont's future through art

James and I both recently applied for the "Art of Action" competition in Vermont. Above are one of the ten images we each submitted, (is that awful English...I can't tell anymore, but you know what I mean, don't you?) "Gilding the Lily" is mine, it is a watercolour on paper, and the other, "Chinese Poem #1", is James' beautiful oil on panel.

Here is the description of "Art of Action" from their website where the above images are posted for all the wide world to see, how nice is that?

"The Arts Council is collaborating with visionary Vermont entrepreneur and philanthropist Lyman Orton to produce and deliver the ART OF ACTION. This unique project will commisssion ten visual artists to create works that address issues shaping Vermont’s social, political, environmental, and economic future."

Wish us luck on getting through to the next round where we get to formulate an artistic vision of our own for Vermont...sounds like a fun and interesting challenge to me!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Did you know....?

In France when you are having a spot of tea or coffee with your delicious cake, of which there are many wondrous and divine varieties, you may be asked if you would like 'un petit nuage de lait?'......which delightfully translates to "Would you like a little cloud of milk" Isn't that lovely...thank you for that gastronomic piece of trivia Monsieur Thierry Bonneville.