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Back from Hiatus

15 Apr

Flower in Battery Park

Folks, you may have noticed that I have been MIA for quite a while.  For this I apologize.  I have missed you and I have missed my beloved blog.  It has been a crazy last couple of months.  When I last updated it was to ring in the New Year and now spring has already sprung.

Charlie girl

Charlie Girl

I hate to give excuses, but holy cow, puppies are a lot of work.  Before Charlie in my spare time I used to bake and enjoy it.  Now in my spare time it’s all about Charlie, walking, playing, park, and the cleaning….oh my God the cleaning.  I’m no neat freak (ok maybe just a little) but I was not prepared for the amount of shedding Charlie has been going through with the change in season.  I think that my vacuum is on its last legs and I’m pretty sure I have single handily been keeping Swiffer in business.  Gone are the days of unwinding after work by whipping up a chocolate Bundt, man I miss those days.  But don’t get me wrong, Charlie is a joy.  She is very lovable and is growing by the day.  We estimate that she is about 5 months and a bit and she’s already a whopping 45 pounds.  Although I have night terrors that she will outweigh me in no time.

Work has also been pretty hectic and I have been putting in some extra time.  That leaves for a very tired Anna.  Hubby and I decided to take some time out from our busy schedules and take a mini-vacation.  Sure a beach would have been nice, but we only had a few days to play with so we decided on New York City.  We both love the City and wanted to go back together, so over the Easter weekend we packed our bags and flew to the Big Apple!

Manhattan

Manhattan

Thankfully the weather was gorgeous and we did tons of walking.  I kid you not we walked everywhere. Our hotel was by Time Square which was perfect and close to Juniors which was even better.  I’m not a fan of cheesecake, but there’s something about Juniors cheesecake that I cannot resist.

Juniors...mmm cheescake

Mmmm, Juniors

Central Park was absolutely amazing.  We’re pretty big Beatles fans so we had to make our way to Strawberry Fields and the Imagine memorial.  Well guess who I saw strolling by on the way there, none other than Yoko Ono!!  I couldn’t believe it!  Of course I had my camera handy and snapped a few shots, while trying to be so casual about it.

Yep, that's Yoko Ono

Yep, that's Yoko Ono

Me by Imagine memorial

Me at the John Lennon memorial

I would love to say that I shopped, but really the prices there are unreal even with the Canadian dollar being at par.  Nevertheless, it was a great getaway and I’m sure we will go back one day. I’m posting a few pictures of our trip for you to enjoy and for me to reminisce.

Central Park Pond

Central Park Pond

Central Park

View in Central Park

But enough is enough; I have to get back to my kitchen.  I swear I could hear my KitchenAid calling for me.  So friends, I make this promise to you I will be back.  I simply cannot live without my oven and flour and moreover I cannot live without you.  So forgive me and in the words of  Tony Micelli, “stick around”.

Central Park

I’m back, with Pie!

3 Jan

Happy New Year fellow bloggers and readers!!

Wow, it feels like forever since I have updated my blog.  Well in the blogging world I guess it has been forever.  As you can tell from my last post I have been pretty busy lately with Charlie.  It’s almost been three weeks that we got her and she’s growing at an incredible rate, so much so I’m a little concerned that she’ll most probably outgrow me..lol. She’s been adapting very well to our home and sleeping throughout the entire night, God bless her.

The house training in getting better as well, of course being a puppy she’s had a few accidents but she is definitely getting better at letting us know when she has to go.  This morning for example I went to take out the trash and when I came back inside there she was waiting for me at the front door not moving, her sign that she has to go.  I would think that in about two weeks or so she should be house trained, or at least I’m hoping she will be.  Am I going on a little too long about Charlie, this is a baking blog after all?  Ok, just one more quick update.  She’s already learned to sit, give her paw, high five, sit pretty and crawl, all for a treat of course. Oh, and I’m slipping in a picture for you all to see.

I found that it has been pretty difficult to spend much time in the kitchen the last couple of weeks.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been baking, I have.  I just haven’t been baking and taking pictures is all. I did make a point of taking out my camera a few days back when I made a Lemon Meringue Pie. I know what you’re thinking, “A lemon meringue pie in the winter, really?”.  Yes, really.  Aside from it being a request from my husband I was craving something tangy yet sweet, I wanted to bring a little summer to our pallets. 

I felt the need to make something that had nothing to do with the holidays or old man winter, and what could be more perfect than lemon meringue pie?  And I don’t mean lemon meringue pie from a box with a graham cracker crust.  I’m talking the real thing; a flakey butter crust filled with a tangy lemon filling and topped off with a luscious cloud of sweet meringue.

The pie crust is my tried and true recipe that can be found in my Apple Pie post, just half the recipe ingredients for a 1 9-inch pie crust.  Or you can make the double batch and freeze 1 crust for later use which is always handy. The lemon filling and meringue is a recipe that from a wonderful book called Baking by James Peterson.

This is one of the first filling recipes that I have used that didn’t call for any corn starch or flour to act as a thickening agent.  The thickening agent here my dear friends is patience, you’ll need lots of it as you stand over your stove as you’re trying to convince yourself with every passing minute that the custard is getting thicker. You many even want to chant (in your head of course), “you’re getting thicker, you’re getting thicker” and before your arm has a chance to completely go numb the custard finally thickens!

I know the boxed lemon meringue and using a premade crust is way quicker than making a pie from scratch, but I tell you all the difference is in the taste.  I would not lie to you and make you spend indefinitely amount of time in the kitchen if I really didn’t believe it.  Make it; it’s worth the extra effort.  And make it in the winter; your taste buds will thank you.

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Christmas baking…not so much

21 Dec

As you may have noticed I have not updated my blog in a while.  The holiday season tends to be busy so I haven’t been spending much time in the kitchen. I had planned to do the bulk of my Christmas baking this past weekend, but I had a slight change of plans that led to little time in the kitchen as well as being terribly exhausted. 

I didn’t come down with a terrible bug, nothing horrible happened.  Actually something very excited happened on Friday.  My husband and I adopted a 3-month old puppy. As you can see from her picture she is extremely cute and when I saw her puppy eyes I fell immediately in love. 

Her name is Charlie and she comes from the pound.  Someone actually surrendered her for reasons unknown.  She’s healthy and is adapting to her new home very well.  We are not sure what kind of dog she is, the pound seems to think she’s a German Shepard cross.  So as you can imagine life with a new puppy means very little sleep and 3AM walks, so there is also an adapting period for us.  While she has brought so much excitement into our home I still miss my baking.  Hopefully I’ll be alert enough tonight to ease my way back into the kitchen and whip up some Christmas cookies..and maybe even some puppy treats!

Thanks for checking in and I will update soon!

Tarte Tatin

10 Dec

Well winter has hit Toronto.  I knew it was too good to be true, almost half way through the month and not a trace of snow, well until this morning. Once we get the first snowfall the summer days of just a couple of months ago are nothing but a faint and distant memory.  I would post a picture of the first snowfall, but it actually looks pretty nasty outside.  You see first it snowed, then it rained, and now it’s nothing but a slushy filthy mess.  Yep, that’s pretty typical of the first snowfall….nothing pretty about it my friends.

I really don’t mind the snow, when it’s the nice fluffy kind reminiscent of a country road painting.  It’s the darn cold that I have an issue with.  Aside from what it does to my hair, it’s just unbearable.  And it doesn’t even get that cold here compared to other parts of the country. It days like this that I find the most comfort in baking, especially on days when venturing outside seems like mission impossible.  Enter the Tarte Tatin in all its buttery goodness.  Have you ever had a slice of warm tarte tatin? No, well you absolutely must.  It’s pretty much the French version of apple pie, just with a heck of a lot more butter.

I know you’re thinking that it’s probably more butter than your arteries can handle, but looking at the positive it also has fruit and we all know fruit is good for you even if they are swimming in a sea of butter and caramelized sugar.  Now if that doesn’t peak your interest I would really be at a loss for words.

The tarte tatin was another first attempt for me.  As you can see it’s not going to win any prizes for being the prettiest tarte tatin, but the taste was all there.  The recipe I used was Dorie Greenspan’s from her book Baking: From my Home to Yours.  For the crust I went with her recipe for sweet tart dough which came together rather quickly.  I didn’t change anything else and tried to follow the recipe as best I could.  I should have been more generous with the amount of apples I put in the pan; I underestimated how much shrinkage there would be.

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Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

6 Dec

The Food Network, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways, well let me just count to one; Alton Brown.  Thank you, thank you a million times over Alton Brown for giving us this creation we call the Cinnamon Roll.  Seriously, if I could give each and every one of you one of these cinnamon rolls I would. Given that I can’t, you really and I mean really have to make these.  I know, some of you may have a recipe that is tried and true but do me this one favour and give these a chance.

There are so many things that I love about this recipe, first and foremost, they can be made the night before and baked in the morning.  Now tell me what’s better than the smell of baking cinnamon buns in the morning….can’t think of anything can you?  This is another first for me, I’ve never made cinnamon buns before thinking that it was too labour intensive ..well yet again I was wrong.  This recipe rocked in its simplicity.  Most of the time spent on it was during the first rise, a little over two hours.  You just have to remember to bring your eggs and buttermilk to room temperature and really, you’re ready to go.

The dough comes together rather quickly in no time.  Please follow the recipe carefully, and if you have a scale I do recommend you use it.  The more reading I do on baking the more I learn that baking with ingredients by weight is actually the most accurate.  Scales are rather inexpensive and if you do a lot of baking it’s well work the investment. Now where was I, ah yes the dough.  Be sure not to add too much flour, otherwise you’ll end up with tough dough.  You can always add too little and if you need more add it in at the end.  You should end up with a soft and smooth dough once kneaded.

And you better have butter on hand, as you will use it thrice.  The first time in the dough itself, secondly in the filling and last brushing it on the dough once rolled out.  Now to you get why these are so good, add butter to anything and it will just taste better.  Which reminds me, I’m running a little low on my supply…I better replenish.

The most difficult thing about this recipe is the waiting, the first rise and then the overnight rise.  I was so anxious during the first rise, worrying that it wouldn’t rise at all given how cold the weather has gotten.  Paranoid me swaddled the bowl that held the dough in a table cloth and one blanket and place it near a chair by the radiator. 

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Vanilla Bean Tart

20 Nov

It’s just a fantastic feeling when you wake up in the morning and not have to think about going to work, especially when it’s not the weekend.  I thought I would treat myself today by taking a day off, just to you know, relax, take a leisurely walk, spend some time in the kitchen and of course update my blog.

Well, since I knew I wouldn’t have to work today, yesterday evening I baked up this Vanilla Bean Tart that I found on a new blog that I just fell in love with Broxholm Road.  The recipe was rather simple to follow, aside from the differences in measurements (thank you Mom for giving me my  very own scale).  Let me tell you the best thing about this tart is the unbelievable amazing scent coming from the oven when it’s baking.  I tell you it’s like nothing you have experienced before, if I closed my eyes I would have thought that I was standing in a Parisian Patteserie…yeah that good!

These are the type of simple desserts that I enjoy, plain but with a burst of flavour.  As I mentioned, the recipe is pretty simple to follow, my only word of warning is be gentle when handling the dough.  It’s even more finicky than pie dough, so work fast and make sure your work surface is well floured.

There are a few things that I did different, while the recipe called for whole milk I only had 1%.  I must admit, I was a little worried that my custard wouldn’t thicken, but it did.  By using 1% all I may have compromised is some of the richness in the taste, but to be honest who would really notice. The recipe also called for lemon rind in the dough, now this was just a personal preference on my part, I just felt that the lemon taste in the dough would take away for the vanilla custard, again just a personal preference. Although, if I make this again I may very well but a dash of Rum or Bourbon in the custard for a little extra punch.  And lastly for both the custard and the dough I used regular granulated sugar, and it worked out fine.

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Yogurt Butternut Squash Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing

17 Nov

How’s that title for a mouthful? So I wanted to try something different from my usual, you know trying to step out of my comfort zone.  This recipe is by no means difficult, it’s just that it has butternut squash which I have never baked with before…or cooked with either for that matter.  As much as I like to think that I have a pretty unbiased palate, I do tend to stay away from the unknown.  Like the other time when I baked the chocolate cinnamon cake, it was something different, I tried it, didn’t like and will never make it again.

Tonight I thought that I would give it another go with a recipe I saw in Fine Cooking, Sweet Cakes  Holiday Baking Issue.  I picked up the magazine the other night while I was at the Home Depot of all places.  I pretty much studied all the mouth-watering recipes during my morning commutes to work, and this one just stood out. So when I stepped off the bus today I walked into the corner fruit stand and purchased myself a butternut squash.

I rushed home, quickly checked the mail and made my way into the kitchen and got my grater out.

Having never cooked or baked with butternut squash I was a little uneasy, first I noticed how difficult it was to peel and how much more difficult it was to cut.  Man, that is one hard-as-a-rock vegetable.  So t here I was breaking a sweat trying grating this squash thinking that maybe it’s not ripe enough and I’ll end of with a dense cake.  I quickly banished that thought from my mind and got back to the recipe only to remember that I forgot to but buttermilk.  No worries I thought, I can make my own.  You see the problem is the only milk I have in the fridge is 1% so I was pretty sure the cream of tartar trick wouldn’t work…and it didn’t, nor did the adding vinegar to the milk trick. Instead I opted to use plain yogurt instead, hey why not, I’ve made many delicious and moist cakes using yogurt.

 

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