Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chocolate Truffles - Tuesdays with Dorie

Incredibly decadent little bonbons graced my Christmas dessert table this year thanks to Dorie Greenspan's recipe from Baking Chez Moi, the book I'm baking from for Tuesdays with Dorie.
These luxurious little morsels were surprisingly easy to make, though you did have to work quickly to shape them, and I recommend using a chocolate you love because that's exactly how they taste. I kept them simple this time, but next time, the addition of a little orange or hazelnut liqueur would not go amiss.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Spiced Honey Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

I've made a few versions of pain d'épices, a classic French spice cake and this week it was time to try Dorie Greenspan's. Her recipe from Baking Chez Moi replaced traditional rye flour with all-purpose, and included dried cherries, orange zest and a rather intriguing infusion of fresh ginger, lavender and Sichuan peppercorns.
The flavour was described as "fascinating" and "haunting" in the headnotes. Unfortunately, that didn't translate to "good tasting" to my family who thought the ginger and lavender, both of which were quite noticeable, were overpowering. I didn't mind the cake from the start, and it continued to grow on me the more I had, and I really liked the orange notes with the spices. But there are still 2 mini loaves in the freezer that are just for me so I doubt I'll be making this again.

I wonder what the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers thought of it. Maybe they made the chocolate truffles, our other December pick, instead - those I can tell you were fabulous.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Rabbit Ragu with Pappardelle

I've recently embraced braising as a method of cooking less tender cuts of meat; besides producing meat that is fork-tender, it creates a fabulous sauce imbued with the flavour of all of the ingredients that have kept the meat company during its slow simmer.
Rabbit Ragu with Pappardelle from The Essential New York Times Cookbook is one of my family's favourite braised dishes. It does take a bit of time to cook, but most of it is hands-free, and since the flavour does improve the next day, it's a great make-ahead dish.
Made with basic pantry ingredients (onions,carrots, celery, garlic, tomato paste, chicken stock, canned tomatoes), and not-so-basic rabbit (readily available in stores but not so much in my kitchen), the sauce is incredibly rich in flavour. I like to purée it before adding the moist, shredded rabbit meat back in so it's creamy and silky and coats the pasta perfectly. Hearty but not too heavy, it's a great dish to share with family and friends.

The recipe is on page 352 in the book and can be found here

Monday, November 21, 2016

Apple Speculoos Crumble - Tuesdays with Dorie

Fruit crisps and crumbles are among my favourite desserts and this one from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking Chez Moi was a winner.

It was easier than most, relying on store-bought cookies for the crumble topping. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the recommended brands in my local grocery stores and wasn't sure what a good substitute might be so I made Dorie's Speculoos from the same book (page 320). 
This was a tasty dessert with some cranberries and a squeeze of lemon juice added to the apples and a topping of homemade maple syrup ice cream (Jackie's Maple Syrup Ice Cream from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas). The cookie crumble remained crunchy after baking and its spice flavour complemented the apples nicely.....very good for the small amount of effort that went into it, not counting baking the cookies ;)!

This was one of the November selections for Tuesdays with Dorie. Visit here to see what the others baked this week.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Cream - Cookbook Countdown BAKE!

If you're looking for a showstopping dessert or a birthday cake for that special someone, you should consider making this frothy confection of airy sponge cake, tangy lemon curd and ethereal whipped mascarpone cream.
As with most multi-component cakes, the parts can be made in stages and this one has the added advantage of being better the day after it's assembled. 

I started with the lemon curd which was a very zingy version, tart and just sweet enough. It's spread on each cake layer and used to flavour the frosting. 

The cake is almost fat-free, relying on whipped eggs for volume and a lemony syrup for moistness and flavour. I made the layers in advance and froze them until assembly day.
The frosting, comprising creamy mascarpone*, sweetened whipped cream and some of that fabulous lemon curd, made a very generous amount, enough for lots of whorls and swirls of decoration.
Lovely and lemony, it was a perfect special occasion cake.  

The recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine and can be found on Epicurious

*A big thank you to Joyce, one of our hosts of Cookbook Countdown, for her recipe for homemade mascarpone which worked beautifully in the frosting.

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown Special BAKE! hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Caramel Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week, I baked yet another tart for Tuesdays with Dorie. Based on the name, I was expecting something cloyingly sweet and sticky so this silky, not-too-sweet caramel custard baked in Dorie's never-fail cookie crust was a pleasantly delicious surprise.
It was easy to put together but I recommend skimming off the foam before baking. I didn't and had to hide the patchy surface under some grated chocolate, though with the dearth of chocolate in my latest TWD bakes, it was a welcome addition according to family ;)!

Visit here to see what the other bakers made from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thai Roasted Squash - IHCC Featured Ingredient: Squash

Nigel Slater's recipe for Hot, Sweet Baked Pumpkin from his book The Kitchen Diaries II is a great way to liven up this winter vegetable. Roasted until caramelized then glazed with a Thai-inspired dressing, calling it merely hot and sweet really doesn’t begin to describe the bursts of flavour in every bite.
I usually use butternut squash and replace the butter with a light misting of oil to coat the pieces. The roasting time will vary with the type of squash you use so I would start checking on it well before the hour is up. Butternut squash is usually ready for the dressing after 35-40 minutes. 

For the glaze, I use a mortar and pestle instead of a food processor to create the paste of ginger, hot chili and lime zest and replace the fish sauce with soy sauce so vegetarian daughter can eat it.
Tangy and imbued with sweet chili heat, this squash will enliven any main course as a side dish but it's also fantastic served with black rice for a vegetarian meal, especially with an extra drizzle of the dressing.

I Heart Cooking Clubs is featuring squash this week so I'm sharing my favourite winter squash recipe courtesy of Nigel Slater.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rich and Delicious Dinner Rolls - Cookbook Countdown BAKE!

I don't remember ever having made dinner rolls before - having now tasted these ones, my family thinks this is a grave oversight - but then I didn't have this recipe before. It's from Abby Dodge's latest book, The Everyday Baker, a book I acquired recently that I'm having great fun baking from. I decided to include these buns at our dinner this past Thanksgiving (October 10th).
The dough was similar to brioche, rich in butter, egg yolks and sugar but the method was much easier with all of the ingredients added at once and kneaded in a mixer for only about 10 minutes. It was very soft and sticky and you're instructed to use medium speed so I used my paddle attachment with great success. 
The author includes excellent directions for shaping them different ways but for my first attempt at these, I went the traditional route.
I can't say enough about how good these were: super soft and pillowy with a "rich and delicious" flavour as promised. They were so good, they almost stole the show at our dinner...almost, but the turkey prevailed.

This will be a new tradition at family celebrations!
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown Special BAKE! hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread and pumpkin come together perfectly in this super moist cake that takes no time to whip together and keeps well. And it's versatile too.
It can be served plain, straight from the pan as a quick snack...
or with a dusting of powdered sugar for your afternoon cup of tea...
or dressed for Thanksgiving dinner with some maple syrup ice cream, salted caramel and toasted pecans. 

The recipes: 

Pumpkin Gingerbread Snacking Cake from Canadian Living magazine

Jackie's Maple Syrup Ice Cream from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas

Sweet and Salty Caramel from Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Custardy Apple Squares - Tuesdays with Dorie

This month's second project for Tuesdays with Dorie was a lovely dessert of apple strata bound by creamy custard. 
I used Honey Crisp, my favourite eating apple, which happily retained both its flavour and shape after baking. This dessert of thinly sliced apples and pancake-like batter was simple to prepare but was so very good. We loved it.

Visit here to see what the rest of the group baked from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking Chez Moi this week.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Asiago Cheese Bagels

The Bread Baking Babes baked bagels this month and I'm baking along with them again as a buddy. Inspired by the popularity of Panera Bread's Asiago bagel, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, host kitchen of the month, came up with these bagels that aren't just topped with Asiago cheese but have some inside as well for double the goodness.
The recipe is based on one by Peter Reinhart. I have total respect for the man but his bagel recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice is one of my bread baking failures - over-proofed, they collapsed in the water bath and never rebounded. I liked the idea of redeeming myself with this one.
I followed the recipe as written though it took me a few extra minutes of kneading by hand to incorporate the cheese. The change to Mr. Reinhart's method, refrigerating the bagels immediately after shaping instead of allowing them to proof first, gave me more control over proofing. No collapsed bagels this time!
These were fabulous, not just in flavour but in texture as well, with the chewiness you expect but with a softer, moister crumb. And I thought they looked quite good too. Barley malt syrup tinted my dough a pale caramel and also helped create that beautiful bronzed finish on the baked bagel.

Many thanks to Karen for the great recipe, one I'll definitely make again.

You'll find Karen's recipe here as well as the links to all of the other BBB's bagel posts.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Prized Pumpkin Pie

Smooth and creamy and mildly spiced, my family's favourite pumpkin pie is also very easy to make. I've tried others for our annual Thanksgiving pie but this recipe has just the right balance of sweetness, pumpkin flavour and warm spices.
It's also a no-fail recipe made of pantry ingredients with sweetened condensed milk at its base that comes together in just minutes. The filling sets up beautifully to help create those perfect slices.
Using a store-bought pie crust makes it even easier but this year, I baked it in a cream cheese pie crust - my best ever! - and served it with vanilla bean whipped cream and salted caramel.
It was the star of our Thanksgiving dessert table as usual! 

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
8-10 servings

240ml heavy cream (35% m.f.), cold
1 tbsp confectioners' sugar, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

1. Chill the beaters and the mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.

2. Pour the cream into the bowl and beat on medium speed until it starts to thicken. With the machine running, add the sugar and vanilla bean paste slowly. Switch to high speed and beat until firm peaks form. Be careful not to overbeat or you'll end up with butter (I speak from personal experience!). It's ready to serve immediately, piped or spooned onto the dessert.

If you're making it in advance, transfer the whipped cream to a fine mesh sieve suspended over a bowl. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it's needed.

For the other recipes, follow these links:

The pie filling:  Prize Pumpkin Pie from Canadian Living Magazine

The pie crust: Perfect Flaky and Tender Cream Cheese Pie Crust from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
The caramel: Sweet and Salty Caramel from Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito 

Friday, October 14, 2016

"Perfect" Flaky and Tender Cream Cheese Pie Crust - Cookbook Countdown BAKE!

For the one pie I bake every year, Prize Pumpkin Pie for Canadian Thanksgiving, I've been using the all-butter Basic Flaky Pastry Pie Crust from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible. Once I got the hang of making it - I'm not really very good with pastry - I managed to get pretty consistent results over the years.
But Rose Levy Beranbaum swears by her Perfect Flaky and Tender Cream Cheese Pie Crust, an improved version of the original from The Pie and Pastry Bible. She has so much confidence in it, it's the only one she uses for all of the pies in her latest tome, The Baking Bible, the cookbook I used.
The dough comprised flour, salt, baking powder, butter, cream cheese, cream and cider vinegar. I used bleached all-purpose flour but I'll try to get my hands on the recommended pastry flour next time or perhaps I'll try the cake & pastry blend that's available here.
The food processor made short work of mixing and breaking down the ingredients (I think I over-processed it a little) but it didn't bring the dough together. Using a freezer bag was a neat and easy way to do that with some squishing and kneading action.
Chilled, it was easy to work with, requiring very little flour to prevent sticking.
I always make cookies from the scraps of dough, sprinkling the pastry with cinnamon sugar.
It looked great after baking. The shrinkage was a bit more than I expected but I probably over-worked the dough or stretched it too much putting it into the pie plate or didn't let it rest in the fridge long enough before baking or all of the above!!! I said I wasn't very good with pastry.....
It was tender and flaky and had a really good neutral flavour that would suit all sorts of fillings. Was it perfect? Mine wasn't, through no fault of the recipe or its creator (see above for possible reasons), but it was definitely the best one I've made so far.

Try it for yourself. The recipe can be found here.

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown Special: Bake  hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pear Tart with Crunchy Almond Topping - Tuesdays with Dorie

The baking group Tuesdays with Dorie helped Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving yesterday with this month's selections of this elegant fruit tart and the more casual (but even more delicious in my opinion) Custardy Apple Squares, both from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking Chez Moi.
I always like to add something fruity to our Thanksgiving dessert table to keep the pumpkin treats company. This choice was perfect since it used beautiful local pears and for a tart with three components, was quite easy to put together: a sweet cookie crust (best tart crust ever!) that could be made in advance and frozen; chopped pears that were caramelized stove top before being baked in the pastry shell; a crunchy topping of toasted almonds

Pears and almonds are just so "right" together that it was no surprise it tasted great but I also loved the textural contrast of all of the layers. It was a big hit with everyone

I'll post about the yummy apple squares next time. Did the others bake with apples or pears this week? Visit here to find out

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rye-Honey Spice Cake - Cookbook Countdown

For the past two months, I've been cooking from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom for Cookbook Countdown, a cooking event that has challenged me to use some of my long-ignored cookbooks. 
I've made at least one recipe featuring an ingredient from each of the twelve families. The Grass Family, the source of grains and cereals, was the focus of this final recipe, Rye-Honey Cake with Five-Spice Powder and Dates.
A take on the classic French pain d'epices or spice cake, traditionally made with all rye flour and relying only on honey for sweetness, this one included some all-purpose flour for a moister crumb, a big spoonful of 5-spice powder in place of a long list of spices and dates for extra sweetness. Its warm spicy aroma filled the house as it baked and its flavour lived up to its heavenly fragrance. Typical of this type of cake, its flavour and its texture were even better the next day. Delicious with coffee or a cup of strong tea.

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Apple Tarte Flambée - Tuesdays with Dorie

A dessert pizza - Dorie says it's okay if you think a tarte flambée is a pizza - with a cream cheese-yogurt "sauce" and apple topping was the second recipe from Baking Chez Moi chosen by Tuesdays with Dorie for this month.
This was very easy to make with the wait to allow the yeast in the dough to do its thing the most taxing part, and it was surprisingly good with its sweet-tart fruit (I could have been more generous with this), tangy cream base and crisp crust. It was fun and tasty and I'll definitely be making it again.

Visit here to see what everyone else made.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Maple Bran Madeleines with Chocolate-Espresso Fondue - IHCC Hooroo Curtis!

It's been a real pleasure cooking with Curtis Stone, IHCC's latest featured chef these past six months, and family has appreciated it too with all of the tasty food that's come out of my kitchen. 
One of the things that characterized so many of his recipes was the little extra or switch up he included for interest and flavour. These non-traditional Maple Bran Madeleines are an example of that, with wheat bran added to what should be a delicate sponge cake. Remarkably, they were still moist, light and airy and the aroma while they baked took me back to visits to sugar shacks, here and in Quebec, where they cook down the tree sap to make that glorious maple syrup.
With the robust flavours of maple and nutty wheat I thought they were best suited to a good cup of coffee. To make them more dessert-worthy - because I always say farewell to an IHCC chef with dessert - I adapted this fondue recipe (recipe on page 10) replacing some of the Kahlúa with espresso to create a luscious chocolate-espresso dipping sauce for the little cakes.

Visit here to see how the others said goodbye to Curtis.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saffron Cauliflower Pasta - Cookbook Countdown

I'm cooking from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison this month, a cookbook based on some of the plant families within the plant kingdom. The author describes the Cabbage Family, one that includes vegetables ranging from peppery leafy greens and radishes to milder tasting kale and broccoli with some nutrient powerhouses among them, as "sometimes difficult".
Cauliflower is one of its milder tasting members. The author suggests boosting its somewhat "bland" flavour with stronger ingredients; its cousin mustard would be a good choice for doing this but the flavours of caramelized onion, pungent garlic, earthy saffron, fiery red pepper flakes and salty feta cheese accomplish the same in this pasta dish.
No one would describe cauliflower as "bland" after a taste of this delicious dish. The recipe for Cauliflower with Saffron, Pepper Flakes, Plenty of Parsley, and Pasta can be found here.

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.