Tag Archives: Holidays

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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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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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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Fig & Walnut Biscotti

5 Nov

I’ve been out of touch as of late.  Yes, the bug got me and put me out of commission for the last couple of days.  I’ve been stranded on my living room couch too weak to even watch TV or surf my favourite blogs.  And in case you’re wondering; no I did not get the “swine flu”, just a really sore throat and a killer headache to accompany it.  Believe me at the first hint of my sore throat I asked my husband to look up H1N1 symptoms.  Luckily enough I did not develop and fever, congestion or cough.  But let me tell you if I do get the opportunity to get the vaccine, I’m all for it.  I find that as I’m getting older it becoming more and more difficult to shake things off, even something as simple as a cold.

Well I’m doing better today, not 100% but getting there.  And as soon as I started feeling better I thought that I should post something new on my blog even though I’ve been too ill to make anything this week.  Lucky for me last week when I made the Chestnut Cake I also made Fig Walnut Biscotti which I documented for a rainy day such as this.

This is another recipe that I came across on a website. I printed it out so long ago I had almost forgotten about it.  I have always limited myself to making the standard Almond Biscotti and wanted to try something different.  Walnuts in a biscotto is different, but adding dry figs is way different.  Believe it or not dry figs is something I always have in my pantry, my husband is a sucker for these.Growing up we always had dry figs in the house, and we just wouldn’t eat them plain either.  My dad used to split them in the middle and add an almond, orange peel and then stack them with layers of sprinkled cinnamon in a tin cookie can.  Back home in Italy he went a step further, there are fig trees everywhere. The figs would be sun-dried much like the process of sun drying tomatoes and then prepared the same way I just described above.