Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gingerbread House: Great White North Style we may not have ANY snow right now here in Ontario but when I saw this month's challenge I had to go with the stereotypical idea of what most people think of when they hear Canadian winter.
I didn't use a template per se (sp?). I used a pyrex bowl for the main portion and an old beer can to develop the opening.

Also a extra special shout out today, it's my Dad's birthday!!!!

Even more special on top of that is he carried the OLYMPIC TORCH today in the relay around Canada before Vancouver 2010 Olympics commence in February...

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Y's Recipe:

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cannoli: DB November Challenge

I now understand why Italian women are so beautiful and happy all the time. Why you see them sunning themselves on the beaches of Lake Como and the Amalfi and looking like a Vogue cover model sitting in front of a trattoria enjoying the sites and scenes of the city.

It's because they probably get to eat cannoli anytime of the day they want. I have a new found love affair with these little gems of a dessert. A Heavenly mix of ricotta and chocolate and crispy, crunchy pastry. I am setting up my kitchen for mass production, gone are the days of mood enhancing pills and drinks for the masses, let's just eat cannoli and call it day, shall we?

Shout out!! to my BFF, cannoli wrapper, filler and eater Steph, also to my lovely man who slaved over making me and my stepmom's cannoli forms, without you there would be no cannoli.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book


2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cinna-FUN! Rolls

Up until now I have never attempted anything that has to do with yeast.
There is always this fear will it work willit not wirk, will it rise will it lay flat like a pancake and suck. These are the things I ponder about which in turn deters me.

While browsing Foodgawker the other day I saw the picture to turn any yeast fearing pansy, into a brave and capable bread making machine!!

Mangio da Sola has the most exquisite recipe for cinnamon rolls. Also they are much less labour intensive then I would have imagined which I think is why I had so much fun making them. They also are the closest thing to "Cinnabon" rolls then I have tasted anywhere else. Apparently my 8 year old says that's a good thing.

I won't list the recipe, if you want it just click in the link to Magio da Sola. I altered the filling by adding:
2 tsp of cocoa powder
1/2 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg

Also I altered the icing by reducing the powdered sugar and adding maple syrup instead. You know us crazy Canadians we put that stuff on everything.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

H1N1 Halloween

Let me just be clear, I am not positive and nor was the Doctor, but apparently this flu is to be reckoned with. Let me just say I can definitely agree with that.

8 hours of 101 degree fever and WAY TOO MANY Advil later I am finally beginning to feel like my old self again 2 days later.

I was supposed to attend a Halloween party last night and couldn't bring myself to muster the energy.

I did however on Friday before the dreaded fever hit have a brief 2 hours of Advil/Antibiotic induced bliss where I thought I was potentially invincible. Where these cupcakes got decorated.

I had made cupcakes and cookies the day before in anticipation of the party and then on Friday when I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck, I knew at some point that day I would be heading down hill.

I didn't bother with recipes since this is a box mix and a container of white icing.
Here are a few of my spooky creations:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'M BBBAACKKK!!! : DB October Challenge

Ok after a ridiculously long hiatus I am back. We have had computer malfunctions beyond much so that we have a whole new computer...LOL.
I am the worst Daring Baker, not trying to find another computer to post on. Well hopefully they will let me lump 2 challenges into one and post. Pics are both from this month and last month.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

The fact that we are doing Macarons this month is AMAZING. My whole obsession with food blogs began because of these little delectable kisses.The first food blog I was ever introduced to was Helene of "Tartelette" fame. Who in my opinion is the Queen of Macs, (Pierre Herme being the King, which I'm sure even Tartelette won't dispute).

On top of my own creations I have a picture of a masterpiece that my girlfriend made for a wedding tradeshow she recently attended. One word for this structure, AMAZING!
Nicole Arroyas, is the Executive Chef and Owner of Auberge du Petit Prince in London, ON. Amazing French food and desserts.
Nicole's passion however is wedding cakes. As you can tell her passion has paid off. This is a small sample of what she is capable of.

I had seen that a lot of people were having trouble getting the feet on the macs and some were looking a bit overcooked, so I decided to improvise. I used a combo recipe of Pierre Herme and this month's provided recipe.

Ingredients: (adapted from Pierre Herme)

Confectioners' sugar: 2 cups + 2 tbsp
Almond flour: 1 1/3 cups
Cocoa Powder: 1/4 c
Egg whites: 3 and a bit or 1/2 c (Have at room temperature)

Directions: (Adapted from Pierre Herme)

DON'T preheat the oven. Follow ALL the directions below, excluding the granulated sugar part to # 5.
Once everything is combined and you have piped your kisses out, then preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
This allows for the macs to have about 15 minutes of dry out time.
Place them in the oven once it's preheated and immediately turn the oven down to 350 degrees and place a wooden spoon in the oven door so it's slightly ajar.
Time the macs for 10 - 12 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack.
Yields: about 2 dozen filled macs


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August DB Challenge: Dobos Torte

Ahhhh can we all smell it?????
It's the sweet smell of procrastination. Breathe it in people, it's what I do best with these DB Challenges.
This month you would think I would get a jump on it early but no.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

This recipe I LOVED, it was amazing. Though we didn't actually get to eat the whole thing.
I made 2 6-inch tortes.
One I gave to my neighbour because I owed him some eggs, I thought "this has eggs in it and tastes better", so that's 2 birds with 1 stone.
The other I gave to my other neigbours because I ran out of sugar and they gave me some of theirs.
I went for 8 layers instead of 5 on the first, and 11 layers on the second I made all the batter and had a total of 19 layers altogether. Also 5 didn't look tall enough for me.
I will definitely be making this again, maybe with a different filling, although this buttercream was divine!


  • 2 baking sheets
  • 9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
  • mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
  • a sieve
  • a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
  • a small saucepan
  • a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
  • metal offset spatula
  • sharp knife
  • a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
  • piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times

  • Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
  • Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
  • Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
  • Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream: NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.

3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.

2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator.
I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it.
Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate.
Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer.
Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds.
Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges.
Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands).
Cool completely.

Assembling the Dobos:

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Eats

Living in Ontario you come to appreciate summer a whole bunch since it only takes up at most 3 months of the year. This is the time when people descend upon Farmer's Market's in mass, buying everything fresh and local possible.
This year I had been trying to find squash blossoms at the market and every time came up empty handed :(.
So when I went to my mum's one day she gave me a container and said "look inside".
Well my reaction was a bit like a child on Christmas who just received a pony...seriously. On top of that I also received some candy cane beets, which if anyone has seen them are the coolest veg out there.

These aren't really recipes but just an excuse to show off my bounty. I will give a recipe for the nectarine vinagrette. Also I stuffed the c=blossoms with mozzarella and basil.
So go out fellow Ontarian's and hit you local farmer's market to support our local growers and make some kickin' summer eats.

Nectarine Vinagrette:
- Juice of 2 nectarines ( I squeezed the leftover pulp off mine) yields about 2 tbsp
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar or white wine
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- salt and pepper
* These are rough estimates, so really make it to your taste.

Monday, July 27, 2009

July DB Challenge: Milan/Milano Cookies

Ummm.... let's just talk about how last minute I am on this challenge. It's 2:48 pm on reveal day and I am just posting now.
Insert obligatory DB sentence here:

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I chose to do the Milano cookies because they made me think of my sister and the time we would spend on our summer holidays in Florida. These were a must for her. The mint kind were her favourite.

Milano Cookie Recipe:

• 12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 c powdered sugar
• 7/8 c egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tbsp lemon extract
• 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
• Cookie filling

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pithivier: What happens to leftover Frangipane

At the end of this month's DB challenge I was left with some extra frangipane. What to do, what to do.
I have seen this gorgeous French pastry called Pithivier. Usually it is a gorgeous flower shape, tall and glistening puff pastry goodness.
I thought let's have a crack at this. It's not much of a recipe since it only consists of store bought or home made puff pastry and frangipane.
The recipe for the frangipane can be found here.

1/2 package of puff pastry
1 1/2 c frangipane, chilled
Egg wash
Corn syrup glaze
- 1 tbsp corn syrup and 1 tsp water


- Cut the puff pastry in half and roll each half till about 1/8 in. thick
- Place 1 piece on a parchment lined sheet pan
- Egg wash the whole piece
- Spoon frangipane down the middle in a long strip
- Place the top piece of pastry and seal
- Brush more egg wash on top
- cut a small vent hole in the top of the Pithivier

Bake at 375 for 30 mins.
Remove and brush with corn syrup then return to the oven for 15 more minutes.
Cool, slice and serve either when still warm or cool.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bakewell Pudding: DB June Challenge

This month's challenge was very personal for me. After a sentimental Daring Cooks Challenge, this DB challenge was also something dear to my heart. My memories of Bakewell Tarts starts from as early as I can remember. These are a MUST at our Christmas table.

Bakewell tarts are what Santa ate every year he came to visit our house. Memories of crumbs strewn about the kitchen table in the morning when I would come down to see the sleigh tracks and reindeer prints.

Last year was the first year I tried my hand at making these. My sister and I made them together being the pastry whiz that she is. They turned out rather successful if I do say so myself.

Unfortunately my Dad is in England at the moment visiting my sister, so the actual taste tester is not available for comment.

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.

Thanks ladies for letting us bring some of Christmas cheer a little early this year.

Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding:

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)

Resting time: 15 minutesBaking time: 30 minutes

Equipment needed:

23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges)
rolling pin
1 quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz))
Jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
1 quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
1 handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart:

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

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.
When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry:

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
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

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

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

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Daring Cook's Challenge: My Childhood Revisited

When I read what the June Challenge was this month, memories flooded my head of when I was a child staying with my grandparents. My grandfather or "goung" made the best, and I mean the best dumplings.
Every size and flavour. I remember he used to make me these special ones. They were about 8 inches long. Inside he stuffed ground pork, cellophane noodles, egg and green onions. He would then pan fry them and serve them to us for lunch or a snack.
I spent the better part of an afternoon hand crafting these and reminising with myself about the days when I would sit and watch my goung do the same.
He has since passed, but it's funny how one single little thing like a dumpling can make think about how much you appreciated those little things that the people you love do for you.

I want to thank Jen for this recipe. I am a huge fan of her blog "Use Real Butter". I had such a great time making this recipe and living my childhood for one afternoon 20 years later.

Shi Shi Jen. Thanks.

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

Pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/2 c. chopped chives (Chinese or regular)
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

Dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for work surface

Dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May DB challenge: The Art of Zen and Strudel Making

This month's DB challenge conjured up nightmares and anxiety that I could only have imagined. Paper thin dough you can read through, glutens resting, thin layers of golden brown goodness all put together to make a wonderful traditional dessert. I could feel my BP rising as I saw this month's challenge.

Thankfully, as always we are given a straight forward no nonsense list of to-do's and instructions, that can always bring about a spa-inducing sigh of relief.

I thought this challenge was going to be stressful, but I was wrong. The dough was supple (yes I said supple), it turned paper thin when stretched and was golden brown once baked.

I urge you to try this recipe. Light a few aromatherapy candles, put on that playlist that makes you want to close your eyes and come closer to a Zen state... the Zen state of Strudel that is.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Strudel Dough:

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Strawbwerry Rhubarb Filling:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 pound sliced, hulled strawberries
1 pound sliced rhubarb

1. Mix the cornstarch, sugar, strawberries and rhubarb in a bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the strawberry-rhubarb mixture on the dough.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Did someone say Cheesecake?????

Woohoo! it's that time of the month again.
I have to admit after sitting out of last month's challenge I was ready to go for this month. I am so glad we had a great recipe to play around with for our challenge, all credit going to Jenny and her Abbey's infamous cheesecake recipe.
For my cheesecake I went with a little bit of an Italian flair. I stole a few ideas from David Rocco. You know who I'm talking about ladies, that gorgeous Italian man that parades around Florence speaking Italian and looking hot while doing it oh... and he cooks. Anyways he featured a Ricotta Torte one episode and ever since then I've been hooked.

BTW, P if you read this, you are short 1 bottle of Obikwa Shiraz. I needed it for my pears. Thanks.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups amaretti crumbs
1 stick melted

2 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each room temperature
1 tub ricotta, drained
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Poached Pears:
1 bottle red wine: when I say 1 bottle, pour 1 glass for yourself and then the rest of the bottle in the pot
5 tbsp sugar
5 pears, peeled

Bring wine and sugar to a boil.
Place pears in syrup for 15 minutes
Turn off heat and let steep for 3 - 4 hours
Take pears out and set aside or refrigerate until ready to use
Boil wine syrup until the consistency is thick, place in bowl and set aside until ready to use.

Makes about 1 cup of syrup once reduced.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bathing in Caramel

You know when you make up a recipe and cross your fingers that it all works out, well this one worked and then some.
I could bathe in this stuff. In fact I made this while no one was home and for a 30s. period... maybe... actually... ok... I did consider it.
I paired this with Tartelette's version of Dorie Greenspan's Burnt Sugar Ice Cream.
What was nice about Tartelette's version was the elimination of half the sugar called for. This ice cream came out perfect for those of us without that aching sweet tooth,
That sauce however could possibly produce a sugar coma, especially if bathed in....I really have to stop talking about that.
The addition of maple syrup, from a recent trip to the sugar bush, was amazing. In fact it brought the flavour up to another level. My friend described it as peanut brittle-ly with maple. In fact, once she tasted it we both discussed bathing in it.


Maple Caramel Sauce:

1/3c. heavy cream
1/4c. maple syrup
1/4c. sugar
1 tbsp water
1/4 tsp Fleur de Sel, or any good salt...maybe not table salt cause it's too harsh

- Combine sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil till suagr turn amber, about 6-8 mins.
- Add maple syrup and cream and then continue to boil till thickened
- Add salt once you take the sauce off the heat, stir and then set aside until ready to use.

The recip for the ice cream is linked here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mmmm those waffles are yammy!!!!

I'm not really in the mood to post with a story today. I took a bunch of photos, so enjoy. Obviously, I gave you the recipe which I got from Whole Grain Gourmet.
These were amazing btw!

Sweet Potato Waffles:
Dry ingredients
2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup natural unbleached sugar
1 Tbsp aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Wet ingredients
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mashed baked sweet potatoes
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature

Pre-heat your waffle iron. Depending on the type of iron you have, you may need to lightly oil it.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk them until well combined.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites, reserving both.
In a medium bowl, combine the milk, sour cream, mashed sweet potato, melted butter, and egg yolks. Whisk until well combined.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites at a high speed for about two minutes. Stiff peaks should form when you lift the beaters. Set aside.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Whisk until well combined, but do not over mix. The batter should be nearly smooth.
Fold in the beaten egg whites.
The batter is now ready for your waffle iron. The amount of batter and cooking time will vary according to the size and temperature setting of your waffle iron.

Serves 4 : full size Belgian waffles

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mahi Mahi - Ezra Pound Cake Styles

As a blogger, I feel like I have become a certain creature of habit. Always check my blog page once a week for comments and always check foodgawker at least 2x a day to see the new updates. This habit has been going on for the better part of 6 months now.
Also on foodgawker there are certain blogs I am always drwan to. One is Ezra Pound Cake which is where I stole (wohahha....evil laugh) this amazing recipe for bbq'd mahi mahi with a scrumptious yellow pepper pesto, (I think she adapted it a la southwest king Bobby Flay).

Being that it is March break time for the kids in the great white north. We have happily planted ourselves (my son and I and all other aquainted step-siblings and parentals) in the sunny state of Florida. Where my father has happily let us invade his GORGEOUS "retirement" home.(Thanks Dad!!).

Anyways back to the fish. This recipe is simple. It has a rub, fish and some homemade pesto. I served ours with some peas and rice, uber Carribbean I thought, and some prosciutto wrapped asparagus. Mmmmmmmm.


BBQ'd Mahi Mahi with Roasted Yellow Pepper Pesto:
(adapted from Ezra Pound Cake and Bobbly Flay)


3 Tbsp cumin
3 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp BBQ sauce
1 tsp Black Pepper
6 - 8 ounce fillets of Mahi Mahi, cleaned

2 Yellow peppers, roasted and peeled
1 c. fresh basil or cilantro leaves or both
2 - 3 Tbsp roasted pine nuts
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Put all the pesto ingredients, except olive oil in a food processor.
Turn on and slowly start drizzling olive oil into processor tunnel until you have a smooth paste or something slightly looser.
Set aside.

Combine rub ingredients and set aside.

Heat BBQ to high heat.
Oil both sides of fish.
Add rub to one side ( if skin is still on the add to the flesh side)
Place flesh side down on grill.
Cook for 3 - 4 minutes, till crust forms.
Flip and continue to cook for 3 -4 mintues till fish is opaque and starts to flake slightly.
Remove from grill, and serve with pesto.