Sunday, May 24, 2009

Getting Out of a Jam - Ginger and Orange Squares

For some reason, there was a time when my friends and relatives kept giving me jams, jellies, and spreads. While I like jam, I'm not particularly infatuated with it, so I'm not sure why people seemed to associate me with it.

But, never being one to complain about free food (except when it's something perishable that I really don't need at the moment), I diligently made myself toast with cream cheese and jam for breakfast, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, until most of the spreads were gone.

However, there was one particular jam that I had no idea what to do with: a ginger root jam. The taste was very strong, much too strong for breakfast or a sandwich. The label suggested using it to season a roast, but it didn't seem like something I wanted to do: I love to spice up savoury dishes with ginger, but the sweetness of the jam seemed ill-suited for this.

So, I decided to combine the ginger jam with orange marmalade, and use it as a filling for bar cookies. And thus, Ginger and Orange Squares were born.

I once again turned to Marcy Goldman's A Passion for Baking. There are several lovely bar recipes in there, including the one I used as a basis for this project: Bookstore Café Apricot Squares. The original recipe, which includes a homemade apricot filling, looks delicious, and if I hadn't been looking to get rid of the ginger jam, I would have followed it faithfully. As it was, I adapted the filling, obviously, and also tweaked the dough a little bit, substituting almond powder for ground walnuts and some of the flour, amongst other things.

Despite the blending presence of the marmalade, the ginger's sharpness was still very strong. It was good, but not amazing. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to make this recipe exactly the same - I certainly wouldn't go looking for more ginger jam.

But the crust... The crust was divine. Unexpectedly, it made think of a delicious almond-apple tartlet I used to eat often when I lived in Brussels. The fact that I topped the squares with slivered amonds probably had something to do with it. I really think I will try making this recipe again as a fruit pie, rather than jam squares: a fresher, less sweet filling would go wonderfully with the pastry.

So if you ever feel like trying these squares with a different type of jam or filling, I highly recommend it. The recipe is very simple to make, and it's easy to make it look pretty! And that crust...

Ginger and Orange Jam Squares
Adapted from Marcy Goldmann's A Passion for Baking

Makes 16 largeish squares

For the tart pastry crust:
280g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
95g (1/2 cup) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
70g (1/2 cup) almond powder
130g (2/3 cup) butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp whipping cream

For the filling:
240ml (1 cup) ginger root jam, room temperature
240ml (1 cup) orange marmalade, room temperature

To decorate:
Confectioners' sugar
Almond slivers

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and ground almonds in a mixing bowl. Add butter and mix until you obtain a uniform, floury mixture. (Note: Marcy Goldmann uses a food processor, which I rarely do. I started mixing with a wooden spoon, then just used my hands and squeezed the remaining bits of butter until they blended.) Gradually incorporate eggs, vanilla extract, and cream.

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead gently to obtain a firm but soft dough. Divide in two equal parts and wrap separately. Put one half in the refrigerator for one hour, and put the other half in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Grease a 23cm (9 in) square pan or a 28cm x 18cm (11in x 7in) pan and place on top of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (Note: you can also grease a standard baking sheet and place it on top of the parchment paper-lined one)

Take the refrigerated dough out and press it onto the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake about 10-12 minutes. Cool well.

Take the remaining half of the dough out of the freezer and grate it coarsely. Spread the marmalade on the cooled, baked pastry bottom, then spread the ginger jam over it. Sprinkle the grated pastry over the filling, so as to cover it. Bake about 25 minutes, until the top pastry is beginning to brown. Let cool in pan.

Toast the almond slivers in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, stirring often, until they begin to brown and become fragrant. Let cool, then sprinkle over pastry. Dust with confectioners' sugar and cut into squares.

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