March 30, 2008

The Daring Baker Challenge That Almost Wasn't

The end of the month means another Daring Baker challenge and this time our host is Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts. Morven hails all the way from New Zealand, a place I’ve had on the brain lately to visit. Morven chose a recipe from my favourite book that needs no introduction: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours.

You might be surprised then to know that for a while I considered not making this recipe and bowing out of a Daring Baker Challenge for the first time. Shocking, I know. It’s not that I didn’t want to make this cake but that I couldn’t foresee any occasion that would warrant making it. And as much as I love cake, I didn’t think I could reasonably make it if I was the only one eating it.

As the due date for this month’s DB challenge drew closer I started to think that I could cheat and throw up a picture that I had taken last year on my blog’s birthday when I made a version of this cake that incorporated three different Dorie recipes. For that particular cake, (pictured at the bottom of this post) I used the white cake, raspberry and white buttercream from The Perfect Party Cake, incorporated a chocolate layer made of Dorie’s Nutty Chocolaty Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake and spread both of them with Dorie’s Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache. It was an epic cake and certainly one worthy of being shown again. With that in mind I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be baking The Perfect Party cake when Kmac, (you should all know her by now, she’s been around here a few times) said that she needed a birthday cake made. I told her I would do it, but only if I got to choose the cake.

Instead of making The Perfect Party cake as written, I decided to tackle another Dorie recipe that I hadn’t made yet to go with it: Lemon Curd. I’ve been thinking of making lemon curd for a while now, which was fueled by seeing a St Patrick’s Day post by Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups where she made Lime Curd as a variation of Dorie’s Lemon Curd, (which she had also made previously). So my Perfect Party Cake was made with the lemon white cake, (as per the recipe) but it was layered with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream and topped with Coconut Scented Whipped Cream and Toasted Coconut.

The birthday boy in question loves Lemon Meringue Pie, (and was actually the recipient of a couple of the mini Lemon Meringue Pies I made for the January DB challenge) and I figured he would also enjoy this lemon cake with coconut. So with a few hours to spare before the deadline, I made The Perfect Party cake, with a few variations and an extra Dorie recipe. The birthday boy was happy with his cake, (and was willing to share, as noted in photos…) and I didn’t have to miss a DB challenge.

As always, if you want to see a million other versions of The Perfect Party Cake, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

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March 29, 2008

The Show Must Go On

Ooooh Ma ooooh Pa
Must the show go on?
Ooooh Pa take me home
Ooooh Ma let me go

There must be some mistake
I didn't mean to let them
Take away my soul
Am I too old is it too late?

Ooooh Ma Ooooh Pa
Where has the feeling gone?
Ooooh Ma Ooooh Pa
Will I remember the songs?
The show must go on.

~Pink Floyd

March 23, 2008

Sweet Gifts

Danielle of Habeas Brulee is hosting Sugar High Friday #41 and has chosen Sweet Gifts as the theme. This is perhaps the easiest theme for SHF ever. I love to bake for other people. Be it for special occasions, birthdays or holidays, it’s all good. But most of all I like baking for others for no reason at all. I’m not going to lie though, sometimes I have ulterior motives… It’s much harder to dislike someone if they’ve baked you a sweet treat.

While perusing the blogs one day I saw a recipe for Coconut Toffee Almond Crunch Cookies that looked too good to resist. That combination of flavours sounded just about perfect to me and I knew I had to make them. After tasting a couple fresh from the oven I determined that these were the type of cookie that made people like you, great for bringing to work. Everything seems so much better when you’re handing someone an amazing cookie. Arrive late to work? One cookie. Need to take the weekend off? Two cookies. Want your co-workers to be nice to your? Three cookies. Handing in a resignation letter when three other people have just quit and the store is uber-busy? Tin of cookies. See, if everyone worked on the cookie system, life would be so much easier.

Next up on the sweet gifts list is Cinnamon Raisin Bread. It was a request that I got quite a while ago. It was at a time when I was experimenting with baking 100% whole wheat bread and didn’t feel like making a white loaf to fulfill this request. The person who made the request didn’t care much for whole wheat bread so I didn’t bother trying to make a whole wheat version out of the dough I was using. Fast forward a few months and I received another request for Cinnamon Raison Bread. As luck would have it, lately I’ve been baking bread from the absolutely wonderful book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and had a batch of Soft American Style White dough in the fridge that was easily turned into a loaf of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread. Unfortunately the person who made the initial request will not be getting any, but there’s nothing I can do about that. This bread will still be a sweet gift for the second requester.

I have been the lucky recipient of some sweet treats lately as well. Warda of 64 Sq Ft Kitchen decided that for her blog’s first birthday she was going to give away some fabulous Pierre Herme Chocolate Sparklers. Her daughter picked me to be the receiver of these delicious cookies and I was thrilled when they showed up on my doorstep, still intact, with only one broken cookie. Thanks Warda, they were great!

That wasn’t the only thing that showed up on my doorstep, I recently received a copy of Quick & Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. There’s a catch to this one though, I don’t know who it’s from! It arrived via so there’s no return address and the note that accompanied the book simply said “Enjoy!” I am most certainly enjoying the book and have already made Banana Halva, (which admittedly doesn’t look all that appealing, brown banana goo doesn’t photograph well, but it’s delicious) and have plans to try out all sorts of things from this book. But I can’t figure out for the life of me, if I won this book somehow and forgot or who might have sent it. So to the person who sent the book, a million thank yous!

I’d like to believe that I’m maintaining a sweet gift equilibrium. If I keep putting out good karma, eventually it will find its way back.

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March 21, 2008

Mini Bundts, Mighty Taste

It looks like I’m only putting out a post per week lately, this is not good. I can do better. It’s not like I don’t have stuff to post, I made this cake a couple weeks ago and am only writing about it now. Argh. Anyways, this month’s Cooking Club recipe is Christine Cushing’s Light Swirl Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze and it was a great opportunity for me to use my mini bundt pan. See, I love molded pans but they’re not nearly as useful as regular pans. The mini bundts are adorable, but not overly practical. They’re larger than one serving, but it looks silly to cut them in two. Clearly I just eat one all to myself, but if you’re trying to serve them at a dinner party it’s awkward. Who am I fooling though? I don’t host dinner parties. I’d like to, but I don’t. It’s a tough thing to do when you don’t have a dining room table, or a dining room.

I brought a few of these mini cakes over to a friend’s house and when I said it was a coffee cake one of the girls was sad as she replied “oh, I don’t like coffee”. I reassured her that coffee cake does not necessarily contain coffee but is typically served with coffee or tea, hence the name. She happily had a piece after that. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t get to try the coffee cake with a big smear of Blake Makes Peanut Butter Dulche de Leche, (PBDDL) that was just for me. If PPDDL sounds intriguing, it should! It’s a wonderful example of the line of thought that if two things are good on their own, they should be great together. This doesn’t always work out, (kittens are good and roasted marshmallows are good, the two together are a mess) but in this case it’s awesome. The only downside to my experience with PBDDL was that Blake sent me some in minuscule jars that weren’t even big enough for me to stick my spoon in to eat it by the scoop. I eventually discovered that if I simply turned my spoon upside down I could quite easily eat PBDDL from the jar, and I did and that was the reason that I was the only person that got any. You might be wondering how it is that I got Blake (of Blake Makes) to send me some of this gooey goodness and the answer is simple: I joined Soopz and became a Sooper Hero. Buhwah?? Allow me to quote directly from Blake to explain:

“Soopz is basically another name for the Blake Makes family. It’s a network of bloggers (mostly food bloggers) that read this blog and like to blog themselves (again, mostly about food).

The idea is that Blake Makes (eventually will feature food products (both made in Blakeville and from outside food companies), and Soopz members (we’re calling them Sooper Heroes) will receive free food to blog about.”

Free food? I’m so in. If you want in on this amazing deal too, head over to Blake Makes and sign yourself up. It’s easy to do and the community is quickly growing with more companies signing on all the time. I wasn’t the only lucky person to receive some PBDDL, to see what others have done with theirs, check out one of Blake’s PPDDL roundups.

Light Swirl Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

2 cups sifted, cake flour (500 ml)

1 tsp baking powder (5 ml)

1 tsp baking soda (5 ml)

1/4 tsp salt (1ml)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (2 ml)

3/4 cup white sugar (175 ml)

2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (150 ml)

1 cup full fat yogurt (250 ml), divided

3 x large eggs

1 tsp vanilla (5 ml)

1 tbsp lemon juice (15 ml)

3 Tbsps apple butter (45 ml) ***I used applesauce, I was lazy and didn’t want to make the accompanying apple butter recipe. I suggest you do though, cause it’s from Michael Smith and he’s awesome.

2 Tbsps cocoa powder, sifted (25 ml)

Maple Glaze

1/4 cup maple syrup( 50 ml)

1 tbsp corn syrup (15 ml)

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan. Tap away excess flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment , sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon . Stir in sugar. Add the soft butter and ½ the yogurt and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes, just until mixture starts to come together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, apple butter and rest of yogurt. Add this mixture to the flour mixture in three batches, beating in between additions. Scrape down the sides and beat for 1 minute on medium speed, until batter is smooth.

Transfer half the batter to another small bowl. Add the cocoa powder to one batch and stir with rubber spatula to combine thoroughly. Pour chocolate batter carefully into other half and fold just twice to create swirl. Pour batter into prepared pan, gently.

Bake on the middle rack of oven for 45 to 55 minutes. Cake is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and top is golden. Leave cake in pan and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make glaze by combining all ingredients in small saucepan , until it comes to a boil.

Remove cake from pan, flip upside down and drizzle with glaze. Cool completely.

March 14, 2008

Happy 3.14159265358979323846… (Pi) Day

It’s pi day, so here’s my pie. What? It’s a pizza pie. I had good intentions of making a sweet pie, but well, it didn’t happen. Then I realized I had a pizza post to put up and it seemed like an obvious second choice. Pi, π, apple pie, pizza pie, it’s all good.

I feel like pi and I have a lot in common, like the fact that we’re both irrational numbers. Ok so I’m not a number, but I think I’ve got the irrational part down. Wikipedia will also tell you that “Throughout the history of mathematics, much effort has been made to determine π more accurately and understand its nature; fascination with the number has even carried over into culture at large.” Throughout my history, much effort has also been made to determine me more accurately and understand my nature; fascination with me has even carried over into culture at large as well, (and by culture at large, I mean people who read my blog…). Is that too much of a stretch? Well then would you like to know who else I have something in common with? Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness. We both like pizza and she’s chosen it as the theme for this month’s Blog Party. I knew I had to participate as it’s something I try to make at least once a month, always with a variety of toppings. This month I made it with sausage and bacon, both homemade and with homemade dough. Go big or go home.

To accompany your pie, I suggest sipping on a Boozy Kumquat on Quat-rocks. It’ll help make things like me, pi and Quat-rocks seem more rational, or maybe not, but it’ll taste good. It’s potent though, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. The Boozy Kumquat is 1 part chilled rum, (I happen to enjoy Havana Club) to 1 part Kumquat Simple Syrup. Quat-rocks are frozen kumquats and are a million times better than ice cubes because instead of watering down your drink, they add to the flavour. Enjoy.

Sausage and Bacon Pizza π

1 quantity of your favourite pizza dough, (once again, I recommend Joe’s of Culinary in the Desert)
2 sausages, (we made some in butchery class so I used that)
2 slices thick bacon, (Dad gave me some that he had made, it’s so much better than the watery thin stuff you buy in packages at the grocery store)
½ red pepper, thinly sliced
½ onion, thinly sliced
Tomato Sauce
Smoked Gouda, grated

I started by rendering the bacon and sausage, draining off some of the fat and then sautéing the onion and red pepper in the remaining fat. Then I made my pizza as usual, but topped it with grated smoke gouda, one of my favourite cheeses. I baked it at 425F until the crust was golden brown on the bottom.

Kumquat Simple Syrup

2 parts sugar
1 part water
A big handful of mashed kumquats.

Bring the water to a boil.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water.
Once the sugar is dissolved completely, add the kumquats and remove the pan from the heat.
Allow to cool completely and bottle.

To make a Boozy Kumquat, pour a shot of chilled rum and a shot of simple syrup into a glass half full of frozen kumquats, (or ice cubes) stir and enjoy.

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March 07, 2008

Vanilla Bean Hot Chocolate

What seems like an eternity ago, someone told me they really liked the Vanilla Bean Hot Chocolate from Second Cup. I said I could make it for them at home despite the fact that I had never tasted it. I proceeded to neither make it nor try it. Then, last week I was killing time before a class and felt like I needed some air so I put on my ipod and started walking without any particular destination in mind. As I passed by a Second Cup I thought of the Vanilla Bean Hot Chocolate. I decided to give it a try. It was kinda good, but as I had previously stated, I thought I could make it at home, cheaper and just as good if not better. It turns out this is one of the rare times I was right. This recipe makes enough to share. I’ll be drinking the rest of mine tomorrow as there is only me.

Vanilla Bean Hot Chocolate

2 ½ cups milk, (the %MF is up to you)
2 ½ T sugar
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted, (on this occasion there was some Guittard chocolate in my cupboard so I figured if I was using real vanilla beans I might as well use the fancy chocolate too)
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scraped
Splash of cream

Heat milk and sugar until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat, add vanilla bean and seeds, cover and let steep for half an hour. Remove the bean from the pot and reserve for another use, (like making vanilla sugar). Add the chocolate and stir to combine. You might want to heat it up it up a little more if you plan on drinking it immediately. I added a little shaken cream to the top of mine. You can store leftovers in the fridge and drink it later, hot or cold.

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March 01, 2008

Some Days You’re the Pigeon and Some Days You’re the Statue

And if you’re the statue there’s not a whole lot you can do. In my case, being in the kitchen is not even helping, so I’m pulling out all the Dorie recipes I’ve made in the past little while and giving you those. To accompany these amazing goodies from my favourite book ever is a sampling of my current playlist. Be warned that although the baking is sweet, the songs are decidedly less happy.

Blueberry Kumquat Muffins, (Orange Berry Muffins, pg. 3). When I was on my kumquat kick I made Kumquat Compote, (mainly because that’s super fun to say) and then needed something to put the compote on so I made Dorie’s Orange Berry Muffins but replaced the orange with kumquat. When they came out of the oven the kumquat flavour was fairly subtle and registered more as just a hint of citrus. That changed when I added a big spoonful of kumquat compote on top of a split muffin.

Nine Inch Nails, Right Where It Belongs. I never thought I’d listen to Nine Inch Nails. It turns out I was wrong. I’m wrong about a lot of things.

Blueberry Brown Sugar Plain Cake, (pg. 36). It’s called a plain cake, but that certainly doesn’t refer to the flavour. This cake was perfect as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea.

John Frusciante, The Past Recedes. Frusciante is the guitarist and back up singer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s released quite a few solo albums. Some of them are a little odd, but I like his 2003 album Shadows Collide with People, I’ve been listening to a lot of it lately.

Split Level Puddings, (pg. 384). I made half of the vanilla layers green tea by adding matcha powder. If I had of been thinking ahead and wanted to get fancy I would have done Tri-Layer Puddings and had a layer of chocolate, vanilla and matcha. There’s always next time.

Coldplay, Fix You. Coldplay is another group I didn’t think I liked. It grew on me and now it’s stuck. Lead singer Chris Martin has been collaborating with all sorts of other artists lately including Jay Z and Kanye West but has also been working on a new Coldplay album which is due out in March of this year.

Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte, (pg. 284). I made this for my cousin Hazel’s birthday. I didn’t have any dried cherries so mine actually had a strawberry-fig brownie base. It was tasty nonetheless. I couldn’t stop picking at it when it came out of the oven and was glad that the vanilla mousse covered up all the holes I made.

Nirvana, Where Did You Sleep Last Night. This song has been done by numerous artists and was first made popular by Lead Belly in 1944. You can’t escape the past.

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits, (pg. 25). These take no time at all to whip up and are nice as is or with a little jam. If you’ve seen a lot of these around lately that’s because they were recently chosen as a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, (so were the Orange Berry Muffins for that matter).

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Desecration Smile. This song is off their double disc album Stadium Arcadium, which I like almost all of. I started off only listening to only a couple of the songs but was thankfully introduced to the entire playlist. It was a toss up deciding which song to pick, I think the runner up was Wetsand.

Apple Cheddar Scones, (pg. 32). I really enjoyed these. I love savoury and sweet combos so the sweet apple with salty cheddar was a big hit for me.

There you have it. A plethora of Dorie recipes, I'm slowly making my way through the entire book and slowly making my way through everything even if every mile I walk feels like five.

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