October 31, 2007

Happy Random Pie Day!

For quite some time now I have been making pie for people. Not for Christmas or Thanksgiving or some other holiday, but rather for random pie giving days. Who wouldn’t love to receive a “Happy 6th of September” pie? So I make pies and dole them out on a random basis and try to make people happy with them. I thought I was doing a pretty good job until one of my best friends pointed out the fact that she had never received a pie from me. At first I didn’t believe her, of course she had received a pie. Everyone’s gotten a pie. But when I tried to pinpoint when I would have given one to her and I came up empty.

(Neither of these two pies were Kmac's, but all of them are apple, made with apples from my backyard and Dorie's pie crust.)

There were multiple times when my pies were in her presence but somehow she always seemed to be around when I would make one with dairy, which she is allergic to. Even the seemingly harmless apple pie was off limits for her as I like to add Caramilk bars to the filling to jazz it up a little. Kmac began making other people aware of the fact that she had not received a pie and others began delighting in this fact, pointing out all the times they’d had pie and she hadn’t. I was then informed that this needed to stop. I believe I was told not to return unless I brought pie. So to make up for this mishap I made Kmac her pie, a personalized one so that she would know it was just for her. Happy Pie Day K!

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October 28, 2007

The Pie That Eats Like a Cake

Feast your eyes on the Bostini Cream Pie, it’s just like its namesake the Boston Cream Pie, in that there’s nothing pie-like about it. It’s cake all the way. I happen to like cake better than pie anyways so I’m quite alright with this misnamed dessert. It wasn’t something I discovered on my own though, up until a month ago I had never heard of it. But then Mary of Alpineberry announced that this would be the challenge for the October edition of the Daring Bakers. It was then that I learned that the Bostini is a dessert composed of a layer of vanilla custard topped with orange chiffon cake and draped in a chocolate glaze.

This was the first time that I’ve made a chiffon cake that has turned out the way it’s supposed to and that would be thanks to the advice of some of my fellow Daring Bakers. Chiffon cakes call for whipped egg whites to be folded into the batter of the cake and egg whites are traditionally my downfall, (I blame them for my inability to make macarons). I either over whip them or under whip them or fold them too much or not enough… there’s always something wrong with the final product when I have to deal with whipped egg whites. But not this time and that’s because I took the advice of the Daring Bakers, (this was not in the recipe) regarding the process of combing egg whites and batter. Under their direction, I sacrificed some of my whipped egg whites and mixed them into the batter with reckless abandonment, before gently folding in the remaining whites and I think that’s what made the difference. My chiffon cakes, (which I baked in muffin cups) came out light and airy, just the way they should be. Who knows, after this success I might try my hand at macarons again.

To see hundreds of other Bostini Cream Pies, check out the Daring Bakers Blog Roll which is boiling over with members faster than an unwatched pot of cream on the stove. If you want to undertake this challenge yourself, visit Mary’s blog for the recipe.

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The Brazilian Thunder Draws Them In

Some people might think my three horsepower K-Tec blender is excessive. I consider it a necessity. How else could I throw completely frozen fruit into my blender and have a velvety smooth drink ready in seconds? I couldn’t do it. But thanks to my K-Tec, anything is possible. Some people say spending that much money on a blender is ridiculous. I say you can’t put a price on love, (ebay makes everything cheaper too) and despite the high price tag on this beauty, it saves me money daily. I save money every time I resist going to Booster Juice and make my own smoothie instead. Unfortunately not everyone has a K-Tec blender, (you poor souls) and I should try to be more conscious of that. Occasionally though, I forget and introduce someone to Booster Juice and they subsequently become addicted. Now this is ok if there are no Booster Juices located close to them because then their money remains in their wallet and they can come to me for their Booster Juice fix, (or as I will henceforth call it, their Bri Juice fix). A problem arises, however, when they start a new job right beside a Booster Juice and not close to me. If in order to get to work they must walk past Booster Juice, they’re doomed. Its siren call is too much to resist and they will cave every time. I then feel badly about this, because it never would have happened if I hadn’t introduced them to the Brazilian Thunder smoothie, made with the superfruit açai berry. One day I will make things right again by setting up shop across the street and blending my own açai berry smoothie called Bri’s Açai. When that day comes I will break their addiction to Booster Juice and all will be well again.

Strawberry Orange Banana Smoothie, (give or take, I don't actually measure)

2 frozen bananas

Juice of 1 orange

A handful of frozen strawberries

A cup of plain yogurt

Drizzle of honey

Blend. Serve. Savour.

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October 26, 2007

I Blame the Gnomes

The bird may be driving me crazy, but I don’t think it’s capable of stealing my stuff. That leads me to believe that I’m to blame for misplacing things recently. I’ve managed to misplace things both on my computer and around my house. I’m certain there are a few recipes that I’ve typed up multiple times, but each time I go to find them, they’re gone. I run a search on my computer but can never find the file I’m looking for. I am then forced to find the hard copy of the recipe in my towering and unsteady stack of cookbooks and to retype it. The whole time that I’m typing it I’m thinking to myself ‘I KNOW I’ve typed this before.’ It frustrates me to no end. As far as losing things around the house, it’s happening in the kitchen, (I can’t find my metal spatula for flipping fish) and elsewhere as well. I spent way too much time looking for a pair of shoes the other day, only to find them exactly where I initially looked for them without success.

Searching high and low for my shoes reminded me of a time in my last year of university when my roommate couldn’t find her new and favourite pair of leather boots. We didn’t live in a very big apartment so there weren’t very many places they could be. We looked everywhere but they could not be found. My roommate became convinced that they had been stolen, despite the fact that nothing else in our apartment was missing. She was absolutely certain that someone had broken into our apartment for the sole purpose of stealing her boots. She also became suspicious of the girls who lived in the apartment below ours, thinking that they had snuck in one day while she was doing laundry, stolen the boots and then hightailed it out of there before they could be caught. Every time we saw those girls my roommate’s gaze went immediately to their feet, hoping to catch them in the act of wearing her boots. It never happened and the location of the boots remains a mystery to this day.

I hate to leave you in complete suspense like that so I’ll reveal the mystery recipe behind this Red Curry with Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas. It’s courtesy of another fabulous issue of Fine Cooking, which is quite possibly my favourite food magazine. To hear more of what I have to say about the latest issue of Fine Cooking, you can read my review and discover a recipe for Chocolate Crackle cookies, (with a mystery ingredient) over on my post at Paper Palate.

Red Curry with Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas, (Adapted from Fine Cooking, December 2007)

2 T canola oil

2 T jarred or homemade red curry paste

15 oz can unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup low salt chicken broth,

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed

1 ½ bean sprouts

5 kaffir limes leaves, torn

2 T fish sauce

1 T light brown sugar

½ tsp kosher salt

Udon noodles

Heat the oil in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium heat until a bit of curry paste just sizzles when added to the pan. Add all the curry paste and cook, pressing and stirring with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to soften the paste and it in with the oil, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes, allowing the flavours to develop.

Increase the heat to medium high and let the curry come to a strong boil. Add the shrimp, sugar snap pea, bean sprouts and lime leaves and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar and salt and stir to combine. Remove from the heat. Let rest for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.

Serve over udon noodles in bowls, as it’s almost a soup.

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October 25, 2007

Tap Tap Tap: The Sound of Me Losing My Mind

There is a bird who is trying to drive me crazy. It’s either a woodpecker or some sort of seed hiding bird or I have completely lost my mind. I haven’t seen the little devil, but I’m well aware of his existence. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. I have no need for an alarm clock because he knocks on the wall right above my head, daily and on a regular schedule. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. He has no concern for my well being or sanity, only a desire to make annoying noises at inappropriate hours. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. When I finally can’t take it anymore and I get out of bed he follows me from the wall outside my bedroom to the wall outside my living room. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. As I sit down to write a blog entry, he’s there, making himself known. He might stop for a little while, but he’ll be back. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. I tried to outsmart him by going to the wall and knocking back at him. I had hoped that this would convince the bird that there was already one of him on the inside so he had better back off. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. It didn’t work. The tapping stopped for a moment and then intensified. Apparently my plan had the reverse effect, instead of fearing the bird on the inside, he developed a crush on her. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Does anyone have a recipe for bird pie? Or crispy bird with soy-ginger dipping sauce perhaps? Uh, maybe I’ll just stick with cod and get some earplugs. The bird has won this round, but I’m still cooking in spite of him and making great things. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap.

Crisp Cod with Soy-Ginger Dipping‑Sauce, (From Fine Cooking 56, pp. 82c)

1-1/2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced (about 1/2-cup)
1-1/2 lb. cod fillet (or any other mild, firm white-fleshed fish), cut into four 6-oz. pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour for dredging
4 egg whites
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 small fresh red chilies (or 1 fresh jalapeño), cored, seeded, and minced
2 Tbs. canola or peanut oil
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

In a small bowl, mix 1 Tbs. of the ginger, the soy sauce, vinegar, 2 Tbs. water, and about a quarter of the scallions. Set the dipping sauce aside.

Rinse the cod and pat dry it with paper towels. Season both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow bowl. Put the egg whites in a medium bowl and whisk until a thick foam forms on the surface. To the egg whites, add the garlic, chiles, and the remaining ginger and scallions and mix well.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Dredge each piece of cod on both sides first in the flour and then in the egg whites, using your hands to press the scallions and chilies onto the fish. Transfer to a plate.

When the oil is hot (it will bubble if you put a scallion ring in it), add the cod, spacing the pieces evenly (you may have to cook them in two batches), and raise the heat to medium high. Turn the fish over after 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the fish is firm to the touch and flakes apart easily when pierced with a fork, about another 4 minutes. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce and the lime wedges on the side.

**Note: I started out making the suggested dipping sauce and then began adding my own touches, like cilantro and brown sugar and heating it up and… it wasn’t exactly the same to say the least.

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October 23, 2007

Drowning Yourself in Alcohol and Ice Cream Makes Things Worse?... Or Better!

Have you made a decision yet? I get that question a lot. I rarely have an adequate answer to it. Some people choose to drown their decision making sorrows in ice cream, others choose alcohol. Well I like to go big or go home so I opted to make a recipe that called for both, or to adapt it so that it did: Apple Crisp Ice Cream with Grand Marnier. I don’t know if it was the ice cream that helped my decision making or something else entirely, but I’ll definitely make it again to test the theory that it was the ice cream. I actually made this recipe last week but have been slow on posting lately due to some other preoccupations. Things should pick up now though as I finally got a shove into motion. I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own, so thanks for the push, mumble mumble.

Andrew of Spittoon Extra is hosting this month’s round of Sugar High Friday and has chosen Drunken Apples as the theme. SHF was originally created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess and it’s now in its 35th round so coming up with a new theme is beginning to be a challenge. I thoroughly approve of Andrew’s choice of apples and alcohol and when I saw this recipe in Food & Drink magazine for Apple Crisp Ice Cream I knew it could easily be adapted to include alcohol, especially one as good as Grand Marnier.

Apple Crisp Ice Cream (Adapted from Food & Drink, Autumn 2007)

Apple Crisp

2/3 cup regular oats

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup all purpose flour

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Dash fine salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 cups peeled and diced apples

¼ cup sugar

Zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 375F.

Toss oats, brown sugar, flour cinnamon, salt and orange zest to combine. Add melted butter and stir to blend. Toss apples and sugar and pour into an 8-inch square or round baking pan. Crumble crisp topping over fruit and bake for 20 minutes, until apples are tender. Cool and then chill completely.

Ice Cream

1 ¼ cups 2% milk

4 large egg yolks

5 T sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 ¼ cups whipping cream

¼ cup Grand Marnier

Heat milk to just below a simmer. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a separate small bowl. Slowly add hot milk to yolks, whisking constantly, until all milk is added. Return mixture to pot and stir with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until custard has thickened and coats the back of the spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, then whisk in vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk in whipping cream and Grand Marnier and chill completely.

Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon in the apple crisp near the end of churning and then scrape the entire mixture into a non-reactive container and freeze until firm.

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October 20, 2007

Super Natural Super Tasty Muffins

When I was little I didn’t like bananas. The only logical way that I can explain this is that I mustn’t have been the brightest crayon in the box. There’s no other reason not to like bananas, they even come with their own carrying case! Maybe my tastebuds were late bloomers. But eventually they came around, albeit slowly. I gradually began to enjoy bananas, beginning with the greenish yellow ones only. The second they had a speck of brown on them, I refused to eat it. At the point at which I was refusing brown bananas I was clearly not a baker. I’ve come a long way baby and since then I’ve realized that bananas are one of the few foods that get better with age. When a strawberry starts to turn from ripe to overripe the only place it belongs is the compost bin. When a banana becomes overripe there’s no end to the places it can go; banana smoothies, bread, pudding, cakes, muffins…

The recipe for these Espresso Banana muffins comes from the book Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, the blogger behind 101 Cookbooks. I can’t help but be impressed by Heidi as she crossed over from the blogging world to being an official cookbook author, (Super Natural Cooking is actually her second book). She’s also a photographer and designer and with all that going for her I can’t help but have a bit of a crush on her. Oh no, I’ve said too much… Just make the muffins.

Espresso Banana Muffins (From Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson)

2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon espresso powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain yogurt
1- 1 1/2 cups mashed overripe bananas (2-3 bananas)

Heat oven to 375 °F and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, 3/4 cup of the walnuts and espresso powder in a bowl and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl using a mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar and eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla, yogurt and mashed bananas, then gently mix in dry ingredients; overmixing will result in tough muffins.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin (an ice-cream scoop works well), top with remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Fill cups two-thirds full for regular muffins or to brim for a big-topped version. Cool in tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.

October 19, 2007

No Sweets Today

A friend of mine recently commented that he noticed my blog was primarily sweet stuff. I didn’t think this should come as a surprise. For anyone who has yet to clue in, I’ll tell you right now, I like sweet stuff. I like it a lot. It also makes for better photographs. As much as I enjoy a good stew, (and I do, I really do) they don’t photograph well. Stew looks like brown mush. Is it tasty? Most definitely, but it doesn’t always show it. And when you can’t smell the amazing aroma of a stew to make you forget that it’s ugly, it doesn’t always look that appetizing. A cake on the other hand, always looks good. Cake slices nicely and can be drizzled with a pretty sauce if it needs gussying up. I suppose you could stick a dumpling on top of a bowl of stew to try for some visual contrast but it’s not the same. This post is a bit of a compromise between the sweet and savory worlds. The picture you see is of a venison and wild mushroom pie that’s clearly savoury but has taken the form of a sweet. I thought that struck a happy balance between the two. And because I couldn’t drizzle this pie with a caramel or chocolate sauce, I topped it with my Mom’s homemade zucchini relish. In this case, that’s just as good.

Venison and Wild Mushroom Pie, (from Food & Drink magazine, Autumn 2007)

1 lb venison, cut into ½ inch dice, (you could also use beef)

Salt and ground pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 medium onions, diced

2 tsp chopped garlic

¼ tsp dried thyme

¼ tsp dried marjoram

1 lb wild mushrooms

¼ cup all purpose flour

½ cup dark lager

2 cups venison or beef stock

1 lb frozen puff pastry, defrosted

1 egg, beaten

2 T milk

Season venison with salt and pepper.

Add 2 T oil to a large heavy bottom pot over med-high heat, and heat until just smoking. Add venison and cook for 3-4 minutes or until browned all over. Remove venison with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Return the pot to the element, reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic and herbs and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Add mushrooms, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes or until juicy. Add remaining 2 T oil to pan and stir in flour to coat mushrooms. Add beer and then the stock, stirring each time so that the paste is incorporated into the liquid. Return venison to the pot, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour or until the venison is tender and sauce is thick. If too thick add a little extra stock.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Divide frozen puff pastry into 2 pieces. Roll out to make a top and bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pie plate.

Beat together egg and milk to make an egg wash. Fill pie shell with the venison mixture, brush the edges with the egg wash. Top with remaining pastry and press to seal edges. Cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush the pastry top with more wash and bake for 30-35 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and mixture is bubbling.

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October 16, 2007

We All Have Layers

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.

Donkey: They stink?

Shrek: Yes. No.

Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.

Shrek: No.

Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs.

Shrek: NO. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.

Ah how I sympathize with Shrek… So many layers. You know what else has layers? This Chocolate Applesauce cake. Andrew of Spittoon Extra is hosting this month’s edition of Waiter, There’s Something in My… and he’s chosen layer cake as the theme. I like layer cakes, the more the better. My problem is with slicing them; I always slice on an angle and end up with wonky layers, they’re my specialty.

If you’re looking to make a moist chocolate layer cake, you’d do well with this one. All of the applesauce in the cake helps to keep it from drying out and creates an excellent crumb. While spreading the frosting between the layers I was worried I’d run out, so instead of filling the middle layer with frosting, I thinned out some apple butter and used it instead. I thought it added a lot to the cake and would definitely make it this way again.

Chocolate Applesauce Cake (from Food & Drink magazine, Autumn 2007)


½ cup vegetable oil

1 cup + ¾ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

3 large eggs, separated

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

½ cup regular cocoa powder, (not Dutch process)

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp fine salt

1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce, (I made my own, it’s apple season, why not?)

Chocolate Frosting

½ cup unsalted butter

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

½ cup regular cocoa powder, sifted

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups icing sugar, sifted, (I used much less than this)

2/3 cup sour cream, (not low fat)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

With electric beaters, blend oil, 1 cup sugar, vanilla and egg yolks on medium speed. In a separate bowl and with clean beaters, whip egg whites until foamy. Slowly add remaining ¾ cup sugar and continue whipping until whites hold a soft peak and set aside. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and add to vegetable oil mixture alternately with applesauce on low speed, starting and finishing with dry ingredients. Fold in whipped whites and divide evenly between prepared pans, spreading to level. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool completely in pans.

To make the frosting, melt butter and chocolate in microwave on medium, stirring every 10 seconds until smooth. Whisk in cocoa powder and vanilla. With electric beaters, incorporate 1 cup icing sugar, then add sour cream. Beat in remaining 1 cup icing sugar and increase speed, beating until frosting is a spreadable consistency.

To assemble, place 1 cake layer on a plate and slice in half horizontally. Spread a thin layer of frosting overtop of cake and then top with second half. Spread a thin layer of frosting overtop. Repeat with second cake layer, and spread remaining frosting overtop, then sides of cake. Chill until ready to serve.

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October 15, 2007

Sticky Situation

When presented with last month’s Daring Baker challenge, I had a decision to make: I could make sticky buns or I could make cinnamon buns. For most people this wouldn’t have been a big deal, just pick one and make it and you’re done. But I suffer from decidophobia, the fear of making decisions. This makes the simple task of choosing one recipe over the other extremely difficult. I would have rather been told which recipe to make and therefore avoiding any decisions whatsoever. Eventually though, because each Daring Baker challenge has a deadline, I ran out of time and hastily chose to make the cinnamon buns. Shortly after the decision had been made and so had the cinnabuns, the aftereffects began to set in. You see, whenever I finally make a decision, I then find out all that is wrong with that choice and how much better the alternative would have been. In the case of the cinnamon buns, they were good, (well, at least the four I managed to save from the fiery pit of death that is my oven were good) but when I saw the sticky buns everyone else had baked, I began to doubt my decision. Clearly the sticky buns would have been the superior choice. Everyone raved about them and how delicious they were and here I had chosen to make the cinnamon buns. Curses! Foiled again!

So my brain’s been in sticky mode ever since. I keep thinking about how I should have made sticky buns. I should have done a lot of things. Instead I tried to think of other things, to distract myself from the sticky buns. Eventually I realized that this was one of the rare times that my original decision didn’t prevent me from making the second one as well. Nothing was stopping me from making sticky buns except my own stupidity. What’s more, Dorie has a recipe for sticky buns that I’ve been drooling over since December. If that wasn’t a sign for me to make them, I don’t know what is.

And wouldn’t you know it? Dorie’s Pecan Sticky Buns were definitely better than my burnt cinnamon buns. They were ooey and gooey and sticky and wonderful, everything they should have been. It makes me think I should adopt a George Costanza like philosophy, like in the classic Seinfeld episode where George realizes that his instincts are fundamentally wrong, and vows to "do the opposite":

George: Elaine, bald men, with no jobs, and no money, who live with their parents, don't approach strange women.

Jerry: Well here's your chance to try the opposite. Instead of tuna salad and being intimidated by women, chicken salad and going right up to them.

George: Yeah, I should do the opposite, I should.

Jerry: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George: Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!

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October 12, 2007

World Bread Day '07: Bake or Die

World Bread Day is October 16th and once again Zorra of Kochtopf is encouraging everyone to take part by baking up a loaf for the occasion. Last year I baked a Buttermilk Honey Wheat bread and was thrilled that it rose and actually resembled a loaf of bread. I then proceeded to make a Twisted Oat Raisin bread for the World Bread Day Afterparty. During both baking experiences though, I had difficulty with the yeast. It didn’t behave the way I wanted or expected it to. The problem might not have actually been the yeast, but my lack of patience. When I’m baking something, I want it to be ready immediately, waiting 3 hours for bread to rise is the bane of my existence. Or something like that. The solution to the yeast/patience problem was to make this Cranberry Cornmeal Quick Bread. By virtue of being a quick bread, it doesn’t require any yeast. That meant it went directly from mixing bowl to the oven without any downtime.

When it came out of the oven it looked exactly like it was supposed to but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Sure, it was bread, but was it really? I question the validity of anything that calls itself bread without requiring yeast and I think the only reason that quick bread gets away with calling itself that is because of its loaf shape. With that in mind, I decided that it would be cheating for me to submit a quick bread alone for world bread. So I opted to make what I deemed an official loaf of bread as well, in the form of brioche. Ah brioche! Just the word takes me back to my time in France. At the collège I attended they sold little snacks during morning break and brioche was thankfully one of those treats. I loved it. I would happily eat it plain, but spread with a little Nutella it was heavenly! Of course for my loaf of brioche I turned to none other than Dorie Greenspan to ensure a golden loaf, worthy of World Bread Day. I figure that since I’ve made both a quick bread and a yeasted bread, I’m fully covered. You’ve still got four days left to participate so let that deadline be the encouragement you need to make some bread of your own.

Cranberry Cornmeal Quick Bread (from Bon Appetit, October 2007)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
1 cup medium-grind whole grain cornmeal or regular cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans plus 10 pecan halves for garnish
3/4 cup dried cranberries (about 4 ounces)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with nonstick spray. Whisk both flours, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, melted butter, maple syrup, eggs, and extract in medium bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pecans and cranberries. Spoon batter into pan. Arrange pecan halves in row down center of batter.

Bake bread until top is golden brown and paring knife inserted into center of bread comes out clean, tenting bread loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes. Turn out onto rack; cool.

World Bread Day '07

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October 10, 2007

Darling You Can’t Be Depressed Tonight, We’re Having Seafood!

Although I wish I could claim the title as my own, I can’t. It came from an episode of Huff and as soon as I heard it I knew it would somehow work its way onto the blog. This scallop pasta was the perfect excuse to use it. You really can’t be depressed when you’re eating a meal this good. And for anyone who fears scalloped potatoes, (I happen to have firsthand knowledge that people like this exist) you'll be happy to know that these scallops are completely different...

This is also my submission to Presto Pasta Night, hosted each week by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

Seared Scallops with Spicy Honey-Citrus Glaze (Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2007)

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 T ponzu sauce
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
11/2 teaspoons hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 T finely grated ginger

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs scallops

2 red bell peppers, sliced and sautéed
Spaghetti, cooked to al dente

For glaze:
Stir all ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat until heated through. Set aside.

For scallops:
Preheat broiler. Melt butter with oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Cook scallops until browned on 1 side, about 1 minute. Turn scallops over and cook 1 minute. Spoon 1 teaspoon glaze atop each scallop. Place scallops in broiler until glaze browns, about 1 minute.

To serve: Divide spaghetti among 4 plates. Top with scallops and red peppers. Drizzle remaining glaze over.

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October 09, 2007

Cookies that Say Please Like Me

There are approximately a gazillion chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. Almost each one of them claims to be the best. That’s just not realistic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think a perfect chocolate chip cookie exists, and I’m ok with that. That’s because if you ate the perfect chocolate chip cookie, no cookie would ever be as good afterwards. That’s a depressing thought. I want to always look forward to eating cookies. That’s why even though there are some chocolate chip cookie recipes that I’ve made that I really enjoy, I will never stop trying out more. The October Cooking Club Challenge from the Foodtv.ca blog is for Chocolate Chip Cookies a la Anna Olson. I like Anna Olson. Her show is called Sugar, how could I not? Everyday she bakes up treats based on a new theme, provides a switch up for making a different dessert out of similar ingredients and never uses words like EVOO or yummo.

With that in mind, I toddled off to the kitchen to make myself some cookies. With nothing more than a bowl and my trusty wooden spoon, I whipped up these cookies in no time. What’s more, they’re quite good and worth making more than once. I’ve already made three batches. I thought these cookies were somewhat similar to a Tim Horton’s cookie with a slightly crisped edge and soft interior. Only the first batch was made exactly as the recipe is written, but that’s pretty good for me. I’ve made these using both chocolate chips and hand chopped chocolate chunks and I much preferred the second method, (which is how the recipe is written). I also tried using half bittersweet chocolate and half white chocolate and that was a big hit too. On the third batch I made I added in a couple tablespoons of cappuccino powder which I find adds a depth of flavour that isn’t always identified as coffee, but is always identified as tasty. I brought the third batch with me as a hostess gift. You don’t win friends with salad but I’m trying my hardest to prove that you can win them with cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies à la Anna Olson

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.

Stir in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.

Let cool slightly and enjoy.

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October 05, 2007

Tasting and Telling

Welcome to Taste & Create II where food bloggers try each others recipes! This event was created by Nicole of For the Love of Food as a way for food bloggers to taste and share each others’ recipes. So often I drool over the photos I see on other blogs but never get around to actually making the recipe. This event is forcing me to do so. I signed up to participate in the second round of Taste and Create and was partnered up with Deborah of Taste and Tell. I don’t think I could have gone wrong with any of the recipes on her site, but, as usual I had a hard time making a decision. So I chose two recipes instead of one. Go big or go home.

The first recipe I tried was Chocolate Coconut Sorbet which is actually from the most popular ice cream book around, David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. Given the source of the recipe, it was bound to be good. The only problem I had was one of my own, one which I keep having and that aggravates me to no end. I’ve repeatedly let the liquid that I’m melting chocolate into get too hot, which results in a separated and grainy chocolate. This has happened on countless occasions and to a variety of my chocolate concoctions. Enough is enough, I’m vowing that this will be the last time. I want to remake this sorbet properly, because even though my mistakes resulted in a less than desirable texture, the sorbet still had nice flavour. Deborah included a photo of her dog Max when she posted about this sorbet, so I felt it necessary to include one of my cat, Kishu.

The second recipe I replicated was a sauce for Sweet and Spicy Wings. Deborah made this recipe up herself in an attempt to recreate the ‘Amazing Sauce’ from Wingers restaurant. She said that her version was good, but that she still wanted to tweak it a bit. Having never had the ‘Amazing Sauce’ from Wingers, I couldn’t say whether this remotely resembled it. It is good though! My suggestions for improvement would be to add more hot sauce, (possibly some Sriracha chili sauce) and maybe decrease the brown sugar to ¼ cup. But I liked it. The wings were wonderfully sticky and messy. I’ve come to realize that the number of paper towels you go through while eating wings is directly correlated to their tastiness. More paper towels = more tasty.

Sweet & Spicy Wings

1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
1 T. honey
2 t. hot sauce (like Tabasco)
2 t. apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved and sauce thickens up a bit.

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Diary of a Wanderer

I’ve been wandering again and visiting places like Paper Palate, Just Baking and Get Your Grill On, (all part of the Well Fed Network). I’ve given you a teaser from each of my adventures, to read more just click the title link, but remember to come on back here for some more new stuff soon.

Fine Cooking with Clams

Fine Cooking is one of my favourite food magazines. Not only does it contain gorgeous photos, it also has amazing recipes (anyone for Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie?), product comparisons and recommendations on which kitchen tool is best (mortars and pestles are highlighted), cooking techniques (a how-to on hearty soups), and nutritional breakdowns of every recipe. What more could you ask for?….

Don't Call Me Pizza

Focaccia is kind of like pizza’s puffier, less dressed cousin. However, this is one of those rare occasions where nakedness conveys class instead of trash. Instead of being slandered in the food tabloids for coming out of the oven wearing little more than some onions and herbs, focaccia is held in high esteem, like a James Beard award winner…

Discovering a Tasty Continent

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this cookbook is that the recipes are intertwined with Samuelsson’s stories about Africa and its influence on worldwide cooking - from the markets in Marrakech to a cooking school outside of Cape Town. Discovery of a Continent will take you on a flavourful journey and give you a feel for the spice and variety that make up Africa

Dreaming of BBQ Chili

I think about food all the time. I’m constantly thinking of recipes that I want to try and combinations I’d like to test out. There are not enough hours in a day for me to make everything I want to. There is also not enough room in my fridge or money in my wallet to accommodate my cooking visions…

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October 03, 2007

Cleaning Out the Fridge

I obviously don’t write about every single thing I make, (because that would be ridiculous) but unfortunately I don’t always write about the dishes I photograph and plan to write about either. Consequently, there are some dishes have been languishing in the depths of my hard drive for months now, (or more accurately, the shallows, I need a bigger hard drive) and have most likely given up hope of ever making their internet debut. Well fear not tasty dishes, it’s your time to shine!

Million Layer Lasagna: This dish is extremely popular every time I make it, (yes, I’ve made it multiple times and still not managed to write about it). What it is not, however, is a 30 minute meal. This is an all day affair that begins with making fresh pasta and rolling it out whisper thin, (for those of you with pasta machines; all the way down to number 1) and continues with making multiple fillings. This particular lasagna has a roasted red pepper filling, a pesto filling, a cheese filling and a wild mushroom filling. Each one was made into a puree so that it wouldn’t tear any of the delicate pasta layers that were laid on top. I have also made it using a typical beef, veggie and cottage cheese filling, but I made the pasta slightly thicker in that case.

Retro Layered Salad: I’d wanted to make a big layered salad ever since I got my multi-purpose cake dome/punch bowl just so that I could show off my new purchase. This salad was the perfect choice for that. It’s also wonderfully retro and I love it. The recipe comes from the Canadian Living Cookbook from about 20 years ago and I think the best part is the peas. The salad also contains lettuce, tomato, green pepper, red pepper, hard boiled eggs, red onion, mayo, sour cream and cheddar cheese. It sounds like a hodge podge of a salad, but it’s really quite good.

Wild Mushroom Soup: Every so often I venture down the road to visit our mushroom growing friend and return with boxes of various mushrooms from shiitakes to oyster mushrooms to beech and maitakes. After one of these visits, every dish I make contains mushrooms. Sometimes I simply fry them up as a side dish with butter, occasionally I make wild mushroom pierogies and quite often I’ll make this wild cream of mushroom soup. The flavour is rich and earthy and delightful.

Vegetable Quesadillas: This recipe came from a summer issue of Fine Cooking magazine and was served for lunch out on the back deck on a bright and sunny day. Aside from the corn, the veggies and herbs were straight from the garden. It was served with salsa and sour cream on the side.

Stuffed Squash: These squash were absolutely adorable and a perfect vessel for stuffing with virtually anything. Unfortunately, the flavour of the actual squash was not my favourite. I found it to be somewhat bitter. Presentation wise, it scores high, but doesn’t live up to its looks in terms of flavour.

Tea Flower: I found these tea blossoms in Chinatown in Toronto. They’re beautiful, but the problem with them is that you really need a glass teapot in order to show them off. I don’t have a glass teapot so I used a glass coffee press, it wasn’t the same.

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October 01, 2007

A Waffle is Like a Pancake with a Syrup Trap

Or a blueberry trap, or a deliciousness trap, because really, whatever’s getting trapped in the waffle’s grid is bound to be good. And that’s what makes waffles one of the smartest breakfast foods there is; a waffle sees a good thing and it holds onto it. It doesn’t let a good thing slip away like pancakes do. Silly pancakes let precious maple syrup slide away without even fighting to hold onto it. Not waffles though, they hold on tight.

As I’ve just explained, waffles are definitely the superior breakfast food but as good as they are, there’s something to be said for French toast. For one thing, it doesn’t require a waffle iron so you can make it anywhere. You’ll never wake up somewhere cursing the fact that you forgot to pack the waffle iron, because all you need is a frying pan and you can make French toast. And what could be better than French toast with warmed brown sugar peaches and fresh mango slices? Not a whole lot, unless it’s French toast with warmed brown sugar peaches and fresh mango slices served to you in bed. You would be one lucky individual if that were to happen to you.

As wonderful as that French toast is, (especially French toast in bed) I couldn’t help but think it could somehow be made better. The problem with French toast remains that, like the pancake, it simply can’t hold onto a delicious topping the way waffles can. Until now. Of course it was none other than Dorie Greenspan that brought this idea to my attention, why not make waffled French toast? It has all the benefits of French toast plus the best part of the waffle; the trap. Genius. Pure genius. I took a regular French toast recipe, stuck it in the waffle iron and voila! It was transformed into waffled French toast that was perfect for holding cooked cinnamon apples and maple syrup.

Blueberry Yogurt Waffles (from Waffles from Morning to Midnight by Dorie Greenspan)

4 T unsalted butter

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp double acting baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup milk

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup fresh blueberries, (or frozen, do not thaw)

Preheat waffle iron. If you want to hold the waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200F.

Melt the butter; reserve. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and sugar. In another bowl, vigorously whisk together the yogurt, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, whisking until they are just combined. Fold in the blueberries and melted butter.

Lightly butter or spray the grids of your iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.

Spoon out ½ cup of batter, (or amount recommended by your waffler’s manufacturer onto the hot iron. Smooth the batter to the edge of the grids with a metal spatula or wooden spoon. Close the lid and bake until browned and crisp.

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