Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Catching Up...


Here are a few things I've made these last couple of months:

Vanilla cupcakes with green tea frosting
While finalising plans for a weekend at the cottage, it dawned on us that one in the group was celebrating her birthday that weekend.  Should we celebrate it somehow?  Yes!  My sweet-toothed partner-in-crime suggested we surprise Birthday Girl with CUPCAKES.  After searching my recollection for her favourite flavours (green tea), I baked these in secret after work, smuggled them up to the cottage, hid them in my bedroom and really surprised Birthday Girl.

Caramel pumpkin bar & pumpkin spice marshmallows
I accepted a request to provide some refreshments for a small event and with work being extra busy (resulting in me being extra tired), I didn't plan things out as thoroughly as I should have.  I was forgetting things, running late, and changing things because I'd never used these recipes before.  It turned out really well in the end (thank goodness).

The caramel pumpkin bars (religiously following Joe Pastry's recipe) were amazing.  One of the moms came over and told me, "I don't usually like pumpkin pie but this one is really good."  A couple of foodie friends agreed that this stood out from all the other pies they'd eaten.  All I can say is that this is one good recipe.


Oh, the apple tart.  I really wanted to braid this tart but I also wanted to try out a different pie crust recipe.  Unfortunately, the recipe didn't yield enough dough and it was quite difficult to roll out.  So I adapted a plan B and made galettes filling it with Rose Levy Beranbaum's apple pie filling including that caramel one creates with the juices from the macerated apples.

Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting
My most recent project was Fall Fest where I baked 6.5 dozen mini-cupcakes, a few dozen cookies (a youth group baked these using a dough I prepared), and vanilla marshmallow pops drizzled in dark chocolate.  Of all the desserts, the kids were most excited about the marshmallow pops and I can't blame them.  I was licking spatulas while cleaning up and if you saw me on the commute home, there was evidence of said licking on my face.  Candy making is dangerous, messy and tons of fun!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scones, Part II


Back in August, I subjected family and friends to a taste-test of these scones:

Scone A

Scone B

Each individual's preference was fairly predictable.  Those with a sweet tooth favoured Scone B; while those who prefer savoury foods preferred Scone A.

There are, generally speaking, two kinds of scones: one made with butter, the other without.  As you can see in the photos above, Scone B is the one made with butter since it's more golden in colour.  It's also more flavourful partly from the butter (which is rubbed into the flour, much like pie crust) and also from the vanilla extract.  I was surprised to find how crumbly it was compared to Scone A's muffin-like texture.  Worried I had done something wrong while making Scone B, Older Sister assured me that's how they are supposed to be.  Phew!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Gingerbread 2013





Work was throwing a kids party around Christmas that had a candy cane theme so I thought it would be nice to build a gingerbread confectionary as a door prize.  So I began researching old-fashioned candy stores and based mine on one in North Carolina. I wanted lots of windows so it would glow brightly and so I could pipe garlands on the windowsills since decorating the gingerbread house is my favourite part of the process.

Things didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped, the main culprit being that I was jetlagged.  The recipe I tried resulted in a wet, cake-batter-like dough; there were more than a few cracks in all the cookies; and then a few delicate pieces smashed to bits when I accidentally dropped them.  Pushing on, windows of poured sugar lava cooled on wrinkling parchment, walls were raised, and extra royal icing decorations of wreaths and garlands resulted in a fairly special shop.

The gingerbread sat on my desk for about 2 weeks making the place smell (and feel) like Christmas.  It was fun watching the adults act like kids bending down to take a closer look and I was wary of the children smacking their lips.  Few believed the windows were made from sugar, some even insisted that when I said "sugar" I was mistaken.  It was nice to bring a little magic back to the busy Christmas season. 


Scones, Part 1

I've never had a "real" scone.  Since I stick to savoury meals when eating out, more often than not, the first time I try something sweet is after it comes out of my own oven.  Having no frame of reference, August is the month of scones.  Older Sister is in town and sweet-toothed friends are hosting a tea which gives me the opportunity to compare a couple of recipes.

These cream scones were so quick and easy to put together.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Credibility

I am a self-professed snob.  Show me a list of names or faces and I can probably pick out the top pastry chefs or bakeries.  What I can't do, however, is endorse recipes based on the source.  Whether they're from a chef, a food scientist, a cooking channel/magazine/show, a book or blog; I approach all recipes alike: with suspicion caution.

No-fail recipes are probably the hardest things to find.  There are millions of recipes online, a number of variables can affect the results (elevation, humidity, etc.), and your own personal expectations may not match up with the recipe (should donuts be cake-y or bread-y?).  So if I find one that works for me, I will be loyal to the source as long as nothing else fails me.

This is my long-winded way of saying: I trust Emma.


I've made her brownies twice in the last 4 weeks (simply omitting the Snickers).  That first time was for a dinner party, so I had to make them a second time so I wouldn't have to share.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cheers!


On one of the coldest days that actually felt like winter, I had dinner with a close friend at a Spanish tapas bar.  It was pretty clear I needed to get out and do something fun so the night started with a glass of lychee Cava.  After settling in and defrosting a bit, we mindlessly gorged on avocado fries and various potato dishes as we caught up on life.

You know you're in good company when time flies and you see your server leave before you're done eating your churros =)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls


Dear Older Sister,

Remember that gift card I received 7 or 8 months ago?  I finally used it.  I guess it took that long for your advice to sink in.  A lot of people told me to splurge but I'm too practical for that.  If I have no use for it, I don't want it.  Plus, if I really wanted something, I'd buy it elsewhere for a third of the cost.  Your advice to view that gift card as a coupon helped a lot.  It still has about $10 left on it but I'm REALLY excited about what I purchased.  I bought a jar of pickling spices and A SET OF 4 TEA TOWELS!!  (I'm really excited about the tea towels.  Can you see it in the picture above?)

I made those cinnamon rolls this morning using a no-knead recipe for sweet egg bread.  I had some leftover dough so I threw it into a loaf pan for Mom.  She ate a slice at lunch with some tomato soup and loves the bread so much that she's asked me for the recipe about 3 times in the last 20 minutes.  I think what that really means is that she wants ME to make the bread for her again.  I think I'll try a 6-strand braid to make a really pretty loaf of Challah.

Oh!  Wherever we have X'mas together next, I'll make a loaf of this bread and we can make REAL stuffing!!  Or French toast.  This makes REALLY good French toast.

CM