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!

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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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Cannoli

29 Nov

Last month I finally got the courage to join The Daring Kitchen. The main reason why I hadn’t joined before was simple…I was scared of the commitment…kind of like a relationship. Well I’m glad I did, my first challenge was a dessert dear and close to my native land, Cannoli.
The irony is that I actually bought the Cannoli forms a few months back and they just sat in my cupboard unopened. So if this challenge had not come along they may have very well sat there much longer.

The challenge for November was brought to us by Lisa Michele from, Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. The recipe was a combination from various 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.
I followed the dough recipe as was written. We had the option of using white wine, Marsala or grape juice….trying to keep the recipe as authentic as possible I went with the Marsala. The dough itself was very simple to make. I made it the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. At first I was a bit put off by the amount of Marsala in the dough, but once fried it turned out just fine.


The dough was simple to work with; I used a pasta machine to roll out the dough…it cut down on the elbow grease and the time significantly.
For the filling I went with a Ricotta sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla. I also made Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Crème Patisserie, which by the way is out of this world! Again to save some time I made the fillings the day before.
Ok, so far so good. I got up on Saturday morning and started rolling out my dough and heating up the oil ready to fry. I really despise frying and not for the reasons you may think, I despise it because it just stinks up the house…and did it ever. The stench stuck around for days, and I swear when I walk into my house I can still smell it!

Nevertheless, the end result was just unbelievably delicious. My husband devoured the Cannoli and actually said, “I don’t think I could ever eat another bakery Cannoli after having these”…I would say that’s a success because my husband takes his Cannoli very seriously.
Would I ever make these again? Sure I will, but it will have to be warm enough to fry outside..and considering it’s almost December in Toronto I probably wont be making these for at least another 6 months.
So if you love Cannoli, I urge you, I beg you to try to make them at home, you will not regret it.

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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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Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies

12 Nov

Peanut Butter, oatmeal, chocolate, these are just a few of my favourite things.  Mix them all together and you get a, “Oh my God, this is so good” cookie.  That’s what we have here, thanks again to Dorie Greenspan.  I’ve been searching and searching looking for a peanut butter oatmeal cookie, when all along I just had to crack open Dorie’s book, Baking: From my Home to Yours.  And truly, this cookies taste like home. (Just a side note, don’t you just find it hilarious how we all refer to Dorie Greenspan as just “Dorie”, like she’s our pal..it just rolls off the tongue)

I was inspired to make this cookies after a conversation at work with the ladies…and the occasional male who happened to drop into the lunch room.  We were arranging our Christmas dinner potluck when someone suggested that we do a cookie exchange too.  Needless to say I was all for that.  After dinner that night I started pouring through my collection of baking books and came across this recipe and thought to myself, “why not make these now?”

 

The recipe calls for nutmeg and cinnamon which I omitted.  My husband isn’t a big fan of either unless they’re in an apple pie or coffee cake.  He practically spit out the cinnamon chocolate cake I made a few weeks back…as you can tell it didn’t make the blog.  This cookie is packed full of flavours, and next time I’m considering adding some shredded coconut to the recipe.  Coconut + anything = goodness (in my books).

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