May 31, 2007

5 Questions from Sara

Memes are all over the place and I can never quite decide if I like them or not. But I keep participating, so I guess I must. I think they’ve got a bit of a stigma attached to them because of their resemblance to chain letters. The difference is that memes don’t come with threats. If you don’t participate within the next 39 seconds, nothing bad will happen and the sky won’t fall, (well it might, but if it did, it has nothing to do with this meme). Anyways, after seeing this Interview Meme on a number of the blogs I read, I finally took the plunge and asked Sara of I Like to Cook to send me some questions.

1. What did you want to be when you were little?

The same thing that I want to be now: retired, with a large bank account.

2. What's the one thing in life you'll never understand?

Only one thing? People. They’re weird.

3. If you could have dinner with any 3 people, living or dead, real or fictional, who would they be and what would you eat?

This list could be a mile long, so here’s a random three:

--> Calvin and Hobbes, (I’m counting them as one) because I like to laugh.

--> The Genie from Aladdin, because the voice was Robin Williams, and he’s hilarious, plus he could grant wishes, this is like two in one.

-->The person who first decided “I’m going to squeeze the underside of a cow and drink whatever comes out.” Because they’re bound to be interesting and they’ll eat anything I serve them.

*Bonus person: Curtis Stone- he’s a tall Aussie chef, I don’t think I need to explain this one.

We would have a multi course meal with lots of little plates because I like everything. The following is simply a sampling as I would have to sit down and plan this out for days on end to come up with a complete menu: blini with
-smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caviar
-puff pastry with chorizo sausage and cheese
-my aunt Genny’s shrimp dip
-fresh made pasta, made a ravioli of sorts
-bbq’d ribs
-lemon chicken
-a spring inspired risotto
-bacon wrapped with bacon, sprinkled with bacon
-a chocolate tasting platter
-ice cream… lots of it
-fresh and perfectly ripe mango and pineapple

I’d better end this list right now, because it could go on for days, as would this meal.

4. Share with us a dirty little food secret about yourself.

I set the kitchen on fire while trying to boil water. Seriously. I turned on the burner and then left the kitchen because you know what they say, a watched pot never boils. So I didn’t watch it. Sometime later the smoke alarm was blaring and thick clouds of black smoke were billowing out of the kitchen. I had turned on the wrong burner and there was an empty glass coffee pot with a plastic filter sitting on it... To add insult to injury, we had just painted the kitchen the week before and it all had to be redone.

5. If you could only cook from one cookbook in your collection for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

Did you really need to ask? I’m so smitten with Dorie that obviously it would have to be Baking From My Home to Yours. There’s not a bad recipe in the bunch and my sweet tooth would always be satisfied. In the past week I’ve made the Lots-of-Ways Banana cake and the Mocha Walnut Marbled Bundt cake. I wish I had taken pictures of the second one but was I running late so I simply sliced it and took it to work. I thought I’d have some leftovers and that I could take a picture later but that was foolish of me. There’s never leftovers when it’s a Dorie recipe. I highly recommend the bundt cake, it’s easy to make, it looks pretty with the light and dark batter swirled together and the taste is phenomenal, I’m going to make the people at work love Dorie as much as I do. Tonight I made the Cocoa-Nana Bread, which is what you see here.

Directions for the Interview Meme
1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Beware, I'm not shy of asking personal questions! Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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This Cake is Bananas: B-a-n-a-n-a-s!

The lovely Meeta or What’s For Lunch Honey is the always enthusiastic host of the Monthly Mingle which has been going strong for a year now. To celebrate the Mingle’s first anniversary, the theme this month is quite appropriately entitled “Big Birthday Bang.” Meeta has challenged us to make her something special and what better place to find a special recipe than from Baking: From My Home to Yours, (is it really a surprise to anyone that this is the first place I looked?). I’ve been steadily making my way through Dorie’s book, for no other reason than the fact that I like it so much. I love her writing style and I love the way her recipes turn out. As with all of Dorie’s recipes, this banana cake, (Lots-of-Ways Banana cake, page 204) is presented as a versatile recipe that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on the occasion. Since this was a special occasion, I was certainly going to dress it up and I actually went a step further than the suggestions and turned it into a three layer cake, with a fourth layer crumbled on top. Don’t worry though, I didn’t stress myself trying to dream up this wonderful technique, I simply turned a few pages. This is the same frosting, (marshmallow) and method used for Dorie’s Devil’s Food White Out cake, (page 247). I had previously made the White Out cake for New Years and it was a big success. I figured if it worked with Devil’s Food cake, why not banana? I wasn’t disappointed. Bananas, coconut and marshmallow stacked into a towering cake is nothing short of impressive. Making it was pretty fun too. Although I don’t think I’m all that good at icing cakes, I find the process visually appealing. Cakes are so cute when they go from naked to fully dressed. Is that weird? Have I said too much? I better go eat some cake…

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May 30, 2007

Fun with Words

Green is good

Fresh is great

I put ‘em together

And this is my plate.

Asparagus from the garden

Pesto from the freezer

What about the pasta?

I made it at leisure.

Mix it up

Grate some cheese

Let them have seconds

But make them say please!

Fresh Pasta from Giada DeLaurentiis’ Everyday Pasta

3 cups all purpose flour, (I used 00 flour and since I’ve started using it in my pasta, I like it a whole lot more)

4 large eggs

1 T kosher salt

1 T olive oil

Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor. In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add the salt and olive oil to the eggs and stir to combine. Add the egg mixture to the food processor with the flour and pulse to combine, scraping down the sides if needed. Continue with the machine running, until the liquid is evenly distributed, about 1 min, (I didn’t let it run that long). The dough should stick together if pinched between your fingers and be cornmeal yellow in color. Some of the dough will be clumping together but it will not form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather the dough into a ball and knead until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes before rolling and shaping as desired.

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May 27, 2007

Daring Bakers: May Edition

Following last month’s disaster of a crepe cake, chosen by yours truly, I think some of the Daring Bakers were expecting a simpler recipe this month. Ha! Not with Helen having the honour of choosing the May recipe. This is the same woman who barely batted an eyelash at my crepe cake and who routinely produces masterpieces in pastry decorated with spectacular sugar art. I knew Helen would have quite the challenge for us indeed. Then I found out that Helen had chosen to take on Anita as her co-host. Anita also has a way with all things intricate and mouth wateringly beautiful. When the two of them teamed up I knew that the crepe cake would be nothing compared to whatever they chose for us. I wasn’t disappointed. Helen and Anita decided that we would all be making our own puff pastry. Not daring enough? We’d also be making chiboust cream. Still not daring enough? Add cream puff making to that list. You want more? Top that with a caramel creation. When you put all of that together you end up with a Gateau St Honoré and a little piece of Paris right in your very own kitchen.

Had you have challenged me to make the Gateau St Honoré a year ago I think I would have hidden in a corner. But since that time I’ve conquered croissants, and pasta making, hell, I can even make my own sausage and bacon! Macarons aside, I can make anything! And honestly, this cake wasn’t that difficult. It was a two days process that involved lots of steps, but when it was broken down, no single area was hard to complete. The end result really does look like it could come from a bakery. I was impressed, but then again, I was also impressed by the process of filling the cream puffs, call me a simpleton. Actually, I think filling the cream puffs was my favourite part of the whole operation. I took a syringe meant for injected meat with, (cleaned it) stuffed it full of chiboust cream and squirted it into the bottom of the cream puffs. I loved watching them become firm and plump as the chiboust cream pushed out the cream puff walls. Sometimes I got a little overzealous and chiboust cream would explode everywhere. That was the best part.

The other thing I enjoyed about this challenge was the leftovers! Don’t ever, EVER throw out extra chiboust cream, (especially if you flavour it with rum like I did, mmmm). I used mine as filling for mille feuille and macarons and there was still some leftover so I stuck it in the freezer. It didn’t stay there longer than a day because I ate it like ice cream and it was D-licious! Leftover puff pastry was excellent for making mille feuille and I still have a block of it in the freezer for another adventure. Believe it or not there were extra cream puffs too which are now hanging out with the puff pastry in the freezer as I recently found out they can be filled and then frozen with no ill effects. There would have been many more cream puffs in the freezer, but my mouth got in the way. They were just so easy to devour in one bite, I couldn’t help myself.

The only part of this challenge that may have caused a bit of cursing in my kitchen was the caramel. I’ve fought many battles with caramel and it has almost always won. This most recent battle ended in a tie. The first pot of caramel had to be thrown out. The second one, though still difficult to work with, produced the half decent results the you see before you. I have fellow Daring Bakers to thank for that too. Last month we were supposed to top our crepe cakes with caramel dipped hazelnuts. I chickened out and stuck strawberries on top. After reading all of the other bakers posts however, I learned a much more efficient way of making spun sugar that doesn’t involved coating your kitchen in sticky stuff. You simply open the dishwasher, tape some skewers to the top rack and wave your caramel over top. All of the excess falls into the dishwasher and when you’re finished you just close the door and turn it on. No mess! That’s smart thinking and I take no credit for it. I’m simply passing it along so that others can benefit from this gem of wisdom. Don't ever let the sugar get the best of you!

The recipe can be found in its entirety over at Tartelette and Dessert First where you will also find links to the other Daring Bakers’ creations, (you can also find all 48 of them in my sidebar, in the Daring Bakers drop down menu). Many thanks to Helen and Anita for their wonderful selection, I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge.

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May 25, 2007

Big Burger Bust

When Freya and Paul of Writing at the Kitchen Table announced that they were hosting Big Burger Ballyhoo 2007 I immediately said that I would participate. Of course I didn’t do anything right away but I often thought about what kind of burger I would make, most often around lunch time when I’d say things like “I need to make burgers.” But I didn’t. Then I realized the deadline for burger making was today so I got down to business. I don’t have a favourite burger recipe so I winged it. All I knew was that I felt like a burger with an Asian flair so that’s what I made. Or tried to. My burgers were too small, (how on earth did that happen???) and I didn’t grease the grill so instead of flipping effortlessly they sort of fell apart. The recipe has potential, but it needs a few more trial runs before it’s worthy of joining the ranks of the other creations being submitted to the Big Burger Ballyhoo. Nonetheless, I’m providing you with my hodge-podge of a recipe in the hopes that it will inspire you to create something better.

For those of you who having been wondering when bbq’d rhubarb would make an appearance, the answer is not today. I tried it out when I was grilling the burgers and the end result was less than stellar, or edible. I had plans of grilling it and then drizzling some reduced balsamic over top with a sprinkling of fresh parmesan. It wasn’t worth wasting the balsamic and parmesan on. I had hoped that the rhubarb would retain some of its firmness when grilled but what I got was complete mush. Next time I’ll be significantly reducing the grilling time. If you’ve had success with grilled rhubarb, let me know.


¾ pound marbled steak

½ Vidalia onion, minced

2 T black bean sauce

1 inch ginger, grated

3 garlic cloves, minced

Cut the steak into one inch chunks and pulse briefly in a food processor. You don’t want it to turn to mush, just to be broken up a bit. Dump the meat into a bowl and mix in all of the other ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Form into patties and grill on a greased bbq.

*Note- For some crazy reason I made 4 patties out of this, I should have made 2. And while you’re grilling the burgers, I advise grilling up some thick slices of Vidalia onion too.

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Macarons vs. Brilynn: Round 3

The macarons are currently in the lead 3-0 and they show no signs of going easy on me anytime soon. My whole obsession with macarons is completely ridiculous because I’ve never actually had a French macaron but it seems like everyone else and their dog has and they’ve blogged about it. It was only a matter of time before I jumped on that bandwagon and tried to make some macarons of my own. The first time around I used a Nigella Lawson recipe and ended up with a lot of burnt chocolate things. I refuse to call those macarons, because they weren’t. Most of them had to be thrown out and the rest looked like they had been beat with an ugly stick. Then, 5 months later after my wounds had time to heal, I tried again, this time with a Michel Richard recipe. I got one good macaron out of the whole batch. The rest were disfigured, let’s not rehash that pain anymore. As much as I like to play up my feud with Nigella, I know that both of my failures were due to personal error and not the recipes themselves. For some reason the art of the macaron eludes me. It’s been 5 months since my last macaron debacle so I was ready to try again. I was encouraged by seeing so many other people succeeding at making stunning and colourful macarons and then there’s that saying: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Well I’ve tried and tried again and tried yet again and it still hasn’t worked! I feel like a gambler who keeps throwing money down, convinced that one of these hands I’m going to win the jackpot but instead I end up broke, forced to sell my house and live in a van down by the river. There’s only so many times you can attempt something before you have to admit that it’s not for you. And that’s really a shame because I’m constantly thinking of potential macaron flavour combinations that I’d love to try but at this point I think I’ll have to contract them out to other people to make for me.

Most recently I tried making a rum flavoured macaron from this recipe from The Traveler’s Lunchbox which is by all accounts a wonderful recipe that has produced beautiful macarons for a great number of bloggers. The recipe is not the problem. I am the problem. I’m macaron-challenged. The macarons you see here are some of the few that turned out. I overbaked most of them, resulting in dry, brittle macarons which were only made partially salvageable with mountains of crème chiboust, (leftover from the mille feuille which was leftover from an as yet unnamed venture… oooh the suspense!). The handful of macarons that turned out properly were quite good though so the carrot is still being dangled in front of me, just out of reach, urging me to continue on with macaron making despite multiple failed attempts. I seem to be making them in 5 month intervals though, so you can expect the next macaron post to come sometime around October.

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May 22, 2007

Waffles Strike Again

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It appears that I won’t be tiring of waffles anytime soon. Possibly because they’re just so good and possibly because the toppings for them are endless. Waffles are the perfect vehicle for all sorts of goodies from fruit to chocolate to whipped cream and ice cream or even savory ventures like bacon. Waffles are made for toppings, all of those little pockets call out to be filled. Why would you want to disappoint the pockets? Why? Fill them up and keep them happy and they’ll do the same for you.

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Once again I’ve used Alton Brown’s waffle recipe, it’s extremely versatile and forgiving if you substitute ingredients. I’ve played around with adding yogurt instead of buttermilk with excellent results, as well as mixing fruit into the batter. This time around I added sour cherries to the batter and then topped the waffles with a sour cherry sauce, Greek yogurt and maple syrup.

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Mille Feuille

Sugar High Friday #31 is upon us and this time Tara of Seven Spoons has chosen Neutral Territory- The Many Shades of White as the theme. My shades of white come in the form of homemade puff pastry and Crème Chiboust. As much as I’d like to tell you more about those, I can’t, but I will say that they’re a hint for a post to come. I actually had no intention of making mille feuille, (or my make-shift version of it) but Mom is always bugging me to make mille feuille and I never have, so when I realized I had leftover ingredients I figured it was the least I could do. I should have stuck some roasted rhubarb in between those layers too, but then I guess it wouldn't really fit the SHF theme. There are many shades of white, but I don't think pink is one of them.

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May 20, 2007

High Class Meets Comfort Food

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As I’ve said before, I don’t like making decisions. When someone asks me to choose one thing over another, I’d rather have both. I like to have my cake and eat it too. Some may call that greedy, I call it enjoying the good things in life. Take this lobster macaroni and cheese for example, each component is delicious in its own right, but put them together and you quadruple the goodness, (it’s mathematically proven). Ordinarily lobster isn’t something that I have sitting in my fridge, but it was on sale we bought up a whole bunch of them. Instead of stuffing myself silly, as I usually do when lobster’s involved, I saved some to savour the following day. And I sure am glad I did, lobster mac and cheese is truly the best of both worlds. It’s the Pretty Woman story of the food world, (Richard Gere would play the lobster, Julia Roberts the mac and cheese). Everyday mac and cheese is ready for a night on the town when it’s paired with fancy lobster.

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There’s no recipe for this one, I just threw it together. As usual, I made it with a ‘Go Big or Go Home’ attitude and included lots of good things like butter and flour to make a roux, old cheddar, parmesan, heavy cream and a splash of white wine. No matter how much you make, you will wish there was more.

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May 18, 2007

A Sight to Behold

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Living where I do is both a blessing and a curse. There aren’t very many restaurants, there’s no where to find sushi and if you’re looking for high quality chocolate or butter, forget about it. On the other hand, being surrounded by nature does have its benefits. I’m woken up in the morning by the sound of birds chirping instead of car horns honking. I have a large garden and instead of going to a store to buy leeks or fiddleheads, I can go pick my own in the wild. It’s meals like the one you see here that make me glad I live where I do: Asparagus picked fresh from the garden, morels from under the apple trees and wild leeks picked just down the road. It’s hard to make those three items any more tasty than they already are, but if I’ve taught you anything at all it should be that (homemade) bacon makes everything better! I started by frying up a few slices of bacon and then removing them from the pan. Don’t ever throw away bacon grease! That’s flavour country right there. I fried the morels and leeks in the bacon grease while quickly blanching the asparagus and before adding it to the frying pan too. A squeeze of lemon was all I needed to finish things off, (clearly, I added the bacon back in at the end as well). To make this a complete meal, I also bbq’d some pork tenderloin, sliced it and smeared it with apple butter.

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It’s the morels that I like the best about this dish. Just the smell of them evokes a sense of nostalgia. Ever since I was a young pup, still wet behind the ears, springtime meant morel searching time with my family in all of our known morel finding spots, (top secret of course). If you’ve never had the pleasure of morel hunting, I should warn you, it’s a bit of a tricky business and there’s protocol to follow. First you’ll need a morel finding stick. This could pretty much be any stick you pick up off the ground, so long as when you do so, you also spot a morel. From that point on you’ll have to carry your morel stick around and announce things like “the stick’s pulling me in this direction, the morels must be over here!” It’s also always a contest to see who can find the first morel. When it’s found, the morel hunter doesn’t pick it immediately but instead proudly calls out to everyone else that they’re the winner. Then everyone will gather around and try to find the morel for themselves. You never wanted to be the last person to see the morel as that clearly demonstrates your inferior morel finding skills. Once everyone has seen it, the morel would have to be cut at the base, you never pull them out of the ground. In my family, Dad would take out his silver pocket knife and hand it over to the winner to ceremoniously cut the first morel. The beautiful little fungus would then be passed around for everyone to inhale its wonderfully earthy fragrance. It was believed that once you had the scent of the morel, you could find more of them. I remember years where we would find dozens of them everyday and would subsequently enjoy feasts of morels. We had so many morels that we would dry them in the sun on the deck and store them in a big glass jar to be used all year round. This year however, the weather has been less than ideal for morel growing and we haven’t found very many. During a period of morel shortage such as this one, every morel is precious and I make sure to savour each delicious bite.

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May 16, 2007

Rhubarb again?

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I never would have thought I’d do two rhubarb posts in a row. It’s not that I don’t like rhubarb, but there are many other fruits (or vegetables as the case may be) that I would tend to turn to first when baking/cooking. Mom is a big fan of rhubarb though and is always trying to get me to add it to my desserts. For the most part, I’ve resisted doing this and I think the reason is because I never believed that rhubarb would satisfy my sweet tooth.sweet. Rhubarb has been trying to vie for my attention my entire life, but it’s always lost the fight to chocolate for dessert supremacy. You have to give rhubarb credit though; it sticks around, returns to my garden every year and multiplies all summer long. And yet, despite its persistence, I’ve pushed it away. There was a time when I was little that I would eat rhubarb freshly plucked from the garden but only if I had a cup full of sugar to dip the stalk into before every bite. I don’t think I ever tasted the rhubarb, it was just an excuse to eat sugar. Now I’m beginning to realize that rhubarb deserves to be more than just a vehicle for sugar and it needn’t always be paired with strawberries in a pie to be tasty, (although that is delicious). Rhubarb can be the star of a dessert, such as this rhubarb sorbet, or it can lend a subtle background tang to something like Rhubarb Urfa-Biber brownies. It’s almost as though I’ve discovered a whole new flavour. Rhubarb is by no means new to me, but I’m only now beginning to learn how to use it to my tastebuds’ advantage.

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Rhubarb Sorbet (Adapted from Epicurious)

3 lb rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 1-inch-long pieces
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Zest of one orange

Toss together rhubarb, sugar, and corn syrup and orange zest in a large heavy saucepan and let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes (to macerate).

Cook mixture over low heat, stirring frequently, until rhubarb has released about 2 cups liquid, 10 to 15 minutes. Increase heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until rhubarb is very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Purée mixture in 2 batches in a blender until very very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids… trust me). Transfer purée to a bowl, then set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until cold, 10 to 15 minutes. Place in the fridge to cool completely then freeze purée in ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 1 hour.

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May 15, 2007

Urfa-Biber: As Fun to Say As It Is to Bake With

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I love trying new things. If I see something on a menu and I don’t know what it is, I’ll order it. If someone offers me something with an unpronounceable name, I’ll sample first and ask questions later. If I hear about a food that I’ve never had before, I’ll seek it out. That is precisely what happened when the amazing Danielle of Habeas Brulee put up a post with a picture of the fudgiest brownies I’ve ever seen. But these were no ordinary brownies. These were Raspberry Pomegranate Urfa-Biber Brownies. I had no idea what urfa-biber was, but I knew I wanted some. Further research helped me to determine that urfa-biber is a spice, a type of Turkish pepper that has smoky and deep dried fruit aroma. One of Danielle’s readers had said that you could find urfa-biber at Kalustyans in New York. Well I don’t live in New York but I was thrilled to find out they had a website. The thrill faded quickly when I realized they don’t ship to Canada. Back to square one. Before I had time to figure out where I would find urfa-biber, it came to me. I had left a comment on Danielle’s post saying I’d have to search out some urfa-biber, she emailed me asking if I was interested in a trade; she’d send me some urfa-biber if I sent her something in return. I was definitely game for this! My urfa-biber arrived last week, (thanks Danielle!) and has been sitting on my counter, calling out to me every time I walk past. Last night I couldn’t fight it anymore and had to make brownies. I didn’t have all of the ingredients required for Danielle’s Raspberry Pomegranate Brownies so I set out to create my own recipe. What I ended up creating was Rhubarb Urfa-Biber Brownies. I should be making up more of my own recipes because I’m on a roll right now. I loved these brownies. Urfa-biber has been described as tasting somewhat like what would happen if a chile pepper and a raisin had a baby and so with that in mind, I added raisins to my brownies and was quite happy that I did so. I don’t know if the urfa-biber brought out the raisin taste or the raisins brought out the urfa-biber, but whatever happened, it was good! The urfa-biber was most evident though as a subtle aftertaste of fruity pepper that lingered on the tongue. These brownies even made rhubarb taste good! I’ll definitely be making them again.

Myriam of Once Upon A Tart had such great success with the first round of BrownieBabe of the Month that she’s decided to give it another go. I’m vying for that BrownieBabe apron with my Rhubarb Urfa-Biber Brownies as my submission to BrownieBabe of the Month 2.

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Rhubarb Urfa-Biber Brownies by Brilynn

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 T butter

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

¾ cup rhubarb puree

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ tsp urfa-biber

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 T Armagnac

½ cup raisins, soaked and drained

Preheat the oven to 325F and cover an 8 x 8 pan with tinfoil, buttered. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

In a bowl set over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter. Keep the heat low so that the butter doesn’t separate. Remove from the heat when the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, combining thoroughly. Whisk in the rhubarb puree and vanilla and then give an extra whisk to bring it all together. Switch to a spatula and fold in the urfa-biber and flour. Continue to fold the ingredients together and add the Armagnac and raisins. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 34-38 minutes. The brownies will still be a little wet in the middle but dry on the outer edges. Place on a rack to cool.

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May 14, 2007

An Afternoon with Dorie (For Real!!!)

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"Did that really happen yesterday or did I dream it?" That was what I asked Mom when I woke up this morning. You see, yesterday I drove to Toronto to see Dorie Greenspan demonstrate how to make the World Peace cookies and Rum Drenched Vanilla Cakes from her book Baking: From My Home to Yours at the Bon Appetit and Santé Wine Festival. I had contacted Dorie earlier in the week to tell her that I was coming and that I would love to say hi to her either before or after the demonstration.

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I arrived at Yorkville about half an hour before the demo and saw Dorie immediately. She may be tiny, but she’s quite a presence. She was standing under a white tent, wearing a beautiful scarf and the most wonderful glasses, chatting with someone from Bon Appetit. I approached somewhat nervously and waited a few feet away for them to finish their conversation as I didn’t want to interrupt. Dorie glanced my way and I caught her eye, she smiled at me and said “Are you Brilynn?” (and pronounced my name correctly on the first try I might add, it doesn’t happen too often).

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I said that I was and she promptly threw her arms around me in a most welcoming hug. Any nervousness that I had disappeared immediately and I felt as though we had been friends for years. The next thing that Dorie said to me was that I was much taller than she had anticipated. Dorie had imagined that I would look like her: petite with short dark hair as if we could have been sisters. The thought thrilled me to no end.

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As we talked, we walked over to the table where her ingredients for the demo lay waiting. She wanted to check and make sure that nothing was missing before she began. She commented on what a lovely shade of yellow the butter was as she pinched off a little corner to taste and encouraged me to do the same.

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It was as though the voice that I had read and loved in books had come to life right before me. Dorie speaks the same way that she writes; with warmth and enthusiasm and an obvious passion for what she does. I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure the whole experience was real. It was after tasting the butter that Dorie realized it was supposed to be melted for the vanilla cake. This was a problem as the demo was outside and without any traditional way to heat up the butter. A large heating lamp became an improvised stove top, albeit a very tall one.

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Think quickly: how many people does it take to melt butter? The answer is four. One to suggest using the heating lamp as a stove, one to fetch a suitable bowl for the task, one to hold a chair steady and one to stand on the chair with the bowl of butter held above his head on top of the heat lamp. It may have looked somewhat ridiculous, but it worked, (pictured below with Dorie snapping a shot of the event).

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Dorie then had her microphone hooked up and I took a seat to wait for the demo to begin. I listened raptly as Dorie spoke about how relaxing it can be to rub vanilla and sugar between your fingers and described mixing batter as being hypnotic. I was all too happy to indulge in the samples of the World Peace cookies and Rum Drenched Vanilla cakes that were being passed around. In no time at all, an hour had passed and the demonstration was over.

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Dorie then took the time to sign copies of her book and I waited to speak with her, hoping to be able to steal a couple more minutes of her time before she was off to another engagement. Imagine my surprise and delight when she finished her book signing and came over to invite myself and my Mom to come out to lunch with her.

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Minutes later we were being whisked away for an unforgettable meal at the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar which has an emphasis on using fresh, local products. We shared all of the plates and so were able to sample a little bit of everything, including but not limited to: a charcuterie plate of house-made pâté and cured meats, (pictured below) sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi with asparagus and wild leeks, scallops and black Alaskan cod, (pictured below).

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Given that this was a wine bar, pairings were suggested with each dish, we didn’t sample all of them but I particularly enjoyed the 2005 Zahel “Nussberg Grande Reserve” which was a mysterious mixture of grapes. Had this of been lunch with any other company I would continue to ramble on for paragraphs on end about how incredible the food was, but this was no ordinary company, this was Dorie Greenspan.

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For three hours we discussed all sorts of things, from books to blogs to whether or not it was possible to bbq rhubarb, (I’m planning on doing this shortly and will report back on the outcome). The whole experience was completely surreal. The conversation flowed naturally and there was no awkwardness at all. I could have listened to Dorie’s wonderful stories for hours.

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I repeatedly found myself sitting on the edge of my chair as though I had been drawn towards Dorie by her tales of living in Paris, working with Julia Child or being on the Martha Stewart show. She speaks with such genuineness and openness, I couldn’t believe that this was someone I had only just met. If I thought Dorie was amazing before, that was only the tip of the iceberg.

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I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for this woman, so to meet her and then spend an afternoon with her and to discover that she’s even more loveable in person than I thought possible, was an unforgettable and inspirational experience. So thank you very very much Dorie, you have no idea how much I enjoyed spending time with you!

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As for the rest of you, expect to see a whole lot more of Dorie’s dishes appearing here in the near future. Thanks to Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy and an gift certificate that she gave me I was able to add Paris Sweets to my cookbook collection. I can never buy only one item from Amazon though so I topped up my order to receive free shipping by buying the Café Boulud Cookbook as well. I can’t wait to give them a try!

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In the mean time, enjoy the pictures of some more of the delicious recipes I’ve made from Baking: bundt cake with a chocolate nutty swirl, chocolate oatmeal almost cookie bars, honey scones, marshmallows, (my first successful marshmallow making attempt!) lennox biscotti, brown sugar bundt cake, (with raspberries) mango bread, french chocolate brownies, oatmeal breakfast bread and hidden berry cheesecake.

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May 12, 2007

My Precious Babies

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These are the cutest cupcakes I have ever seen in my life. I don’t coo and fawn over babies but when these cuties came out of the oven I may have actually uttered “Who’s the cutest cupcake in the world? You are, yes you are!” What makes them even more special is that they’re actually sort of like my babies. This is my very own recipe and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. It was an experiment that went very right. I couldn’t stop looking at the perfect domes on the cupcakes or the honey as it drizzled down the sides. As I ooed and awed over my masterpiece cupcakes, I realized that all of my attention was being lavished on the mini cupcakes. I was forsaking my bigger cupcakes with their oreo crumb tops. I’m supposed to be the ultimate supporter of all things big, (or tall…) I’m supposed to look snidely down upon little things. My header proudly displays the message “Go Big or Go Home” and yet here I was, singing the praises of a tiny little cupcake that wasn’t even enough for one bite. Shame on me. The big cupcakes were wonderful in all of their large glory. Don’t ever forget it.

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Bri’s Banana Peanut Cupcakes

1 cup salted roasted peanuts

3 very ripe bananas

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup liquid honey

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup safflower oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Oreo crumbs


Preheat oven to 350F. Line and grease 12 large muffin cups and 12 mini muffin cups.

In your blender, combine the first 8 ingredients and blend until completely smooth. I use a K-Tec 3hp blender, I can’t guarantee yours will do as good a job or be half as cool.

Add the flours and baking powder and pulse until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the muffin tins to the top of the liners. Sprinkle oreo crumbs on top of the big cupcakes. Leave the mini ones plain.

Bake the mini cupcakes for about 12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Drizzle honey over the top of each cupcake.

Bake the larger cupcakes for about 18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

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