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

Monday, January 7, 2013

IMO: Cookbooks

At the close of this season of giving, I find I'm rather relieved that I'm not on the receiving end of many gifts (a side benefit to being an introvert and having low-maintenance friends).  Since I spend a bit of time in the kitchen, people tend to give me food-related gifts: gift cards to kitchenware stores, edibles, and cookbooks.

I'm not going to get into whether the cookbook is obsolete.  I just hope people would stop giving me cookbooks as gifts.  I guess it makes sense.  I like making food, therefore I need recipes.  What I don't understand are why these people choose to give me THESE cookbooks.  Okay, I do understand why: they're not that close with me.  Anyone who knows me knows I take things very personally.  So when I get a cookbook from an author/brand I clearly do not appreciate, it kind of ruins the whole thing.

That doesn't mean I'm against cookbooks as gifts.  I received this one from my older sister that I really enjoy.  While there are things I think could be better about the book (because I'm a snob), it suits me.  It has about 50 recipes so it's portable and stays open when I'm baking from it, it's a brand I use, they consulted a reputable pastry chef, and these are the kinds of things I make!!

Did my sister consider any of these things when purchasing it?  I doubt it, haha.  But she knows I love chocolate and is probably angling to try to get me to make her another chocolate cheesecake.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolutions: 2013

This is going to be the year of bread!  Unlike last year, I really think I can accomplish this thanks to the "no-knead" method.  I finally borrowed this book from the library and I'm resolved to purchase a bag of bread flour and a Dutch oven.  I'm a bit of a late convert, but I have good reason for it...kind of.  After trying out an adapted recipe last week (to rave reviews), I'm really excited about this.  Toasted and rubbed lightly with garlic, it's just heaven.  It's fitting that I'm going through a soup phase (photos to come).

I plan on doing some canning this year as I've become addicted to this blog.  One of the things I love about her style is that she preserves in small batches!  Unlike the pioneers who relied on jams and pickles to get through the winter, urban canners don't have the space or time to make and store 20 litres-worth of preserves.  Why can at all when every grocery store has jams and an increasingly sophisticated pickle section?  It's fun and, like the "no-knead" method, it doesn't require much effort (hurray for refrigerator pickles!).

Simple.  I'm going to keep things simple.