Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nutella Mint Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cookies

Aka "OH-MY-GOD CHRISTMAS!!!!" Cookies :)

Sorry Santa, I'm not sure I'm sharing :)

This recipe was inspired by the Double White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel cookies that I sometimes make (P.S. you should try them. They're amazing!)... And the fact that I accidentally bought mint chocolate chips instead of regular ones. Oops. What do you mean they were clearly marked? I declare shenanigans, or the dangers of shopping while tired.

This actually brings up an interesting side point.  If you ever see Bourbon Vanilla, you should buy it. I found this at Loblaw's (President's Choice Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract).  It makes way more of a difference than you would expect!

So anyway, I wanted to make something similar to the peanut butter pretzel cookies, but with candy canes and lost of chocolate.  I majorly lucked out on Google with a recipe based off of the Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which is pretty similar to the recipe my grandmother taught me, come to think of it.

Anyway, so here's what I found and why I want all new clothes for Christmas!

Nutella Mint Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cookies
from: Oh Joy blog:
Makes ~3 dozen cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose, unsifted flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t fine salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup Nutella (or similar chocolate hazelnut spread, if you must)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp (bourbon) vanilla extract
2 large eggs (preferably also at room temperature)
1 cup semi-sweet mint chocolate chips
~8 regular sized candy canes (or 1/2 cup crushed)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients  (flour, salt and baking soda) in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Using your mixers (this is not a fun recipe to do by hand), cream the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and Nutella on medium speed
  4. Add eggs (one at a time) and vanilla. Mix until combined.
  5. Gradually add dry ingredients and mix at low speed until well combined.
  6. In a plastic bag, mortar and pestle, or whatever you come up with, smash your candy canes into little itty bitty pieces.  If you planned ahead, you could try crushing them in your food processor, but I thought it might turn into dust.
  7. Add crushed candy canes and (mint) chocolate chips, stir to combine.
  8. Using a tablespoon, put cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for ~10 minutes.*
  9. Let cool slightly on baking tray (~1 minute?), and then transfer to wire rack.
*PS: I baked a dozen of these delicious cookies, and then I had to leave the house, so I put cling wrap on top of the bowl of leftover dough and put it in the fridge for a few hours.  The second batch of cookies was delicious and a little less flat than the first.  So that's always a good idea, if you plan ahead.

Don't you just want to eat that dough with a spoon? 'cause I did. Also - never eat cookie dough raw because it contains raw eggs which are a common source of Salmonella food poisoning and that's bad (and the subject of my PhD Thesis!)

Itty bitty bits of candy cane deliciousness. I used an empty wine bottle to smash the candy cane in a freezer safe Ziploc bag.  I haven't unpacked my rolling pin yet.

Is it strange that no matter what type of cookies I'm making, or what size of baking tray, I always put a dozen cookies on each tray?

I can't even describe how amazing these are to you. You have to try then for yourself!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Artisan Bread

I love making bread on principle, but I'm still vaguely intimdated. So far my "mastery" only extends to focaccia, bagels and slider buns.  A few weeks ago, however, my friend Nettie shared a recipe for "5 minute bread" on Facebook.  How could this not be easy and fun and probably tasty?
So it's not actually 5 minute bread.  But it does only take about 5 minutes of work.  With a wooden spoon. No intensive kneading, no bread maker, no randomly finding flour on the side of your fridge the next week (ok maybe that one).

This recipe makes between 3 and 5 loaves of bread, depending on the size of loaf you make.  I'm also told it makes good pizza rolls, or you could mix in some garlic or olives to add some flavour. But here is the base, it is delicious and easy to make!

Artisan Bread
1 1/2 T yeast (dry, active yeast)
3/4 T fine salt (or 1 1/2 T coarse salt - kosher or sea salt) *SEE NOTE
3 cups warm water
6 1/2 cups sifted all purpose/plain flour (plus extra for dusting)

Dough preparation (do ahead of time, at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight)
  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together yeast, salt and warm water.
  2. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  You could also use a blender with a dough attachment or even your hands, but the wooden spoon worked just fine for me.  This is your five minute step. It's really this easy.
  3. Set dough aside (uncovered) in a warm dry place.  Let rise for at least two hours, up to overnight. Dough will rise and then collapse.
  4. Set dough in fridge and partially cover (I used a dishcloth).  Do not cover complete as there are gases that need to escape from the active yeast.

Hungry? It's time to bake that bread!

  1. Using a serrated knife, pull of a ball of dough to bake.  A piece around the size of a grapefruit makes a 1-lb loaf, according to the recipe source. I used this as my guide to make a "small bread".
  2. Turn ball of dough out onto a floured surface.  Stretch the dough and tuck the edges underneath, top surface of dough will be smooth.  If you want to make a flatbread or pizza roll, shape it accordingly at this stage.
  3. Using a baking sheet or pizza sheet, roll the dough in a light dusting of cornflour for a crunchy crust.  Let sit for ~40 minutes to rest the dough.
  4. 20 minutes before baking, place a pizza stone or upturned baking tray* on the middle rack of your oven (or bottom).  On the top shelf, place a shallow oven proof dish.
  5. Preheat oven to 450F.
  6. Working quickly to keep heat in the oven, place dough on pre-heated pizza stone or etc and 1-2 cups of water in the shallow dish to create steam.  Close the door to the oven to keep the steam in.
  7. Bake for ~30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Exact cooking time will depend on the size of your loaf.  The bread is done when it sounds "hollow" if you knock on it.
  8. Store any leftover bread wrapped in paper.

I had this with butternut pumpkin soup last night for Meat Free Monday.  And it was really great today as well for lunch.

* The recipe calls for 1 1/2 Tbsp coarse salt (e.g. sea salt). I didn't have any coarse salt, so I used a much smaller portion of fine salt.  If you have a coarse salt, I recommend using that and using the larger amount.  I actually used a 1/2 Tbsp of fine salt, and it turned out OK, great if you're going low sodium, but it didn't rise as much as it could have.  Next time I'm going to use the larger portion of salt (or find some coarse salt because it's better anyway).

** So this is something that I would not have known -- using the upturned baking sheet keeps the edges from affecting heat distribution so that you get a crusty bottom to your bread.  Makes sense but I never would have thought of that.

Happy baking!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vegetarian Egg Casserole

So it's Meat Free Monday again! And again I dropped the ball on being prepared.  I was planning to make quiche, but then I found out that the puff pastry that was in the freezer needs two hours to defrost, and I didn't think that far ahead.  So, improvisation abounds! I decided to take the ingredients and make an egg casserole.

Fun fact, do you know that in Canada milk comes in bags?  Apparently this is only a Canadian thing. Oh, and I moved to Canada (which is at least part of the excuse I'm using for not updating for months).

Vegetarian Egg Casserole
Adapted from:
1/3 of a baguette (or 3-4 slices of bread), cubed
4 eggs
1 1/3 cup milk
~1 cup grated cheese (marble cheese is delicious)*
3 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large field mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mustard seeds
a splash of balsamic vinegar
olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
  2. Using cooking spray or oil, lightly grease a 9x9" casserole dish
  3. Spread cubed bread in an even layer across the bottom of the casserole dish
  4. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  5. Add onions and fry until starting to clear, add mushrooms and soften.  
  6. Throw in tomatoes and add a splash of balsamic and a pinch of salt.  Let cook 3-5 minutes on medium heat.
  7. Spread sauteed vegetables on top of bread, top with cheese. 
  8. Add as much cheese as you like.  The best cheese for egg casseroles or quiches is gruyere, in my opinion, but I used marble cheese instead because it's much cheaper, and I had it on hand.
  9. In a medium size bowl, whisk together 4 eggs, 1 1/3 cup milk and spices.  You can use any spices you like, these are just a guideline.
  10. Pour egg mixture over bread/vegetable/cheese mixture.
  11. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden on top (or cooked through).
  12. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then enjoy!

Serve with your preferences of ketchup, bbq sauce or chili sauce.

Substitutions -- you could add ham, bacon or sausage meat if you crave meat.  Other vegetable choices could include spinach (cook for 30 seconds or so), cooked pumpkin/squash, garlic, broccoli, etc.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cranberry Banana Muffins

You're standing in the produce section of your grocery store, and you see this display of perfectly ripe bananas. They look so good. You know they'll be delicious on cereal, or mixed with yogurt, maybe even just on their own. Bananas are delicious. And they're cheap. So you buy a bunch. And they sit on your counter, and time goes by. You might eat one, or even two of them, knowing that you were right, and bananas are awesome, but you'll never finish that whole bunch.  A week later, you have some sad looking bananas, freckled with brown spots or even large splotches of 'rot'.  They're still good, they smell awesome, but you don't really want to eat them.  So what do you do? You make banana muffins!  The mushier the better! Just don't let them cross over that line from 'mushy' to 'rancid'.

Cranberry Banana Muffins
(almost my mum's recipe)
2-4 overripe bananas, slightly mashed
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup milk
1 T white vinegar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup dried  cranberries (Craisins)
handful banana chips (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C and lightly grease the inside of two 12-cup muffin tins (or, alternately, use the same tin twice. It probably won't need to be re-greased).
  2. Mix milk and vinegar in a small dish, allow to sit for ~5 minutes while mixing other ingredients.
  3. Using a mixer, blend together butter and sugars until creamy.
  4. Mix in eggs, bananas and vanilla.
  5. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a measuring cup or bowl.
  6. Add dry ingredients and milk gradually, alternating.
  7. Add in dried cranberries and stir to combine.
  8. Pour batter into muffin cups until 2/3 full. These muffins don't really rise much, so don't expect a 'muffin top'.
  9. Sprinkle banana chips on top, if you're feeling creative.
  10. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a cooling rack.

These can be frozen in airtight containers (ziplock bags work well) and kept for a couple of weeks, or they can be consumed in one sitting in a display of mass gluttony.   Alternately, you can also use a lightly greased loaf tin and make a banana bread. This, of course, is best eaten with a gooey middle.

With the exception of the cranberries, these muffins are a taste of my childhood. My mum used to make these often with leftover bananas.  Occasionally she would add nuts to the recipe as well, although it was never a preference of mine.

Food safety tip: while it is much more delicious to eat this banana 'bread' with a gooey middle, it indicates undercooked egg in the batter which increases the risk of food-borne diseases including E. coli and Salmonella. So proceed at your own risk.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Garlic Naan

So I have a boatload of work to do for my thesis, which means that boyfriend is benefiting from my procrastination tactics. I made  a ho-hum vegetable curry yesterday, but as a side, I made some naan bread. From scratch! YUM!

Garlic Naan Bread
Adapted from: Best Recipes
2-3 cups white flour
1 t dry active yeast (~1/2 a 7g packet)
3/4 cup warm water
2 T olive oil (or ghee, if you have it)
2 1/2 T greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic
1 t white sugar
1 t salt
a pinch of baking powder

  1. Mix water and yeast in a bowl until slightly frothy, then set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Sift flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a large bowl.  I used 2 cups of flour and found my dough too moist, so making it again, I would use 2 1/2 cups of flour to start, and then add as needed.
  3. Finely chop 2 cloves garlic.
  4. Mix yeast, yogurt, oil and garlic into the flour mixture.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough is formed.
  6. Put dough back into bowl and cover with a towel, set aside in a warm dry place for 2-4 hours.  I tried a new trick that I learned on MasterChef instead of the towel.  Rub a small amount of oil onto saran wrap, cover bowl with saran wrap and flip upside down so that the dough rests on the plastic wrap, covered by the bowl.
  7. 30 minutes before you want to eat your bread, place two baking trays or pizza stones into the oven and preheat to 200C/400F. A really hot oven is necessary.
  8. Divide dough in 4 to 8 pieces and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead dough until smooth and form into irregular rectangular-ish shapes.
  9. Place 2 pieces of dough on wax paper on each cookie sheet. Brush lightly with oil.
  10. Bake until golden ontop, 5-10 minutes.

So I'll be honest, this was my first try. It didn't turn out looking too much like traditional naan bread, but it was a heck of a lot tastier than the store bought stuff...

Mini Cherry Pie

First words I said when I took a bite of this? "F*** me, that's delicious!". I didn't even know that I liked cherry pie.

Poor boyfriend got dragged around the mall with me today. I was in the mood to window shop. Well, I was actually in the mood to shop but my wallet is pretty dry these days so instead I just bought boring stuff like soap and groceries...  until I got to the kitchenware store.  And I found tiny tart pans! Which I've been wanting for ages! And they were cheap! Can you tell I was excited about this? I still am. I bought a set of 4 non-stick mini-tart pans.   Boyfriend was of course, also enthused with this, as I had promised him if I ever got mini pie dishes I would make him pie more often, since my major complaint is that we never eat the whole pie, so I don't want to make it.

Mini tart pans in hand (or bag, as it were) - we hit the grocery store and I was inspired by a giant jar of Morello sweet pitted cherries.  And the absolute TINIEST tub of vanilla gelato in existence.  I bet that a fresh cherry pie would be absolutely delicious... but this is for those of you who like to make things out of season :)

Did you know they made ice cream tubs so tiny? Neither did I!

This pastry recipe can either be made well ahead and refrigerated (up to 8 hours), or you can follow the instructions below for a 'fast' pastry. If you're using your own pastry recipe, start at step 7.

Mini Cherry Pies
Makes 4 mini pies*
Pie Crust* (adapted from All Recipes)
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
1/4 cup ice water
3/4 T white sugar
Pie Filling
2 cups (~500g) drained cherries from a jar
1 T cornflour
1 T sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon (~2 T)
1 vanilla bean pod (or 1/2 t vanilla extract)
2 small pats of butter
1-2 T milk
1 T sugar
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, to serve.

  1. Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the cubed butter and mix until combined, with a grainy texture.  Pastry can either be mixed with an electric beater or by slicing at the dough with two knives.  If you're really classy, you may even have a pastry blender tool, and you can use that too.
  2. Add water in small portions (~1 T at a time), and mix until a dough starts to form.
  3. Knead until combined in the bowl.
  4. If making the pastry ahead, wrap the dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.  Otherwise, turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  5. Roll out the dough until 4-5mm thick, and cut circles just wider than the diameter of the top of the pie or tart tin. 
  6. Fit the dough into four pie tins, pushing down to fit to the edges and sides. Roll leftover dough into a ball and cover in saran wrap. Put the pie tins and leftover dough into the freezer for 10-20 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
  8. While the pastry is cooling, drain 2 cups cherries. I had a huge jar, so I kept the juice and added it back to the rest of the cherries, figuring I can always use more cherry juice another day.
  9. Toss cherries into a bowl and add the corn flour, sugar and lemon juice.  The amount of sugar and lemon juice can be modified to suit your tastes and the type of cherries you are using.  If you have sour cherries, add more sugar. If you prefer a tart tart, use less sugar and more lemon.
  10. Slice your vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the vanilla bean out, or add vanilla extract (see below). Mix everything with a spoon and set aside.
  11. Take the leftover dough out of the fridge and roll out once more. You can either cut circles and form solid tops for your pies, or (my preference) form a lattice crust.  There is a link below to some tips on lattice crusts.
  12. Spoon filling into pie tins, you may have extra left over filling, I did. 
  13. Drop two small pats of butter on top of each pie.
  14. For a lattice crust, cut strips of pastry ~1/2" wide and lay on top of pie (see below).
  15. In a small bowl, mix 1-2 T milk with 1-2 T sugar.
  16. Brush top of pastry with milk and sugar mixture to glaze.*
  17. Bake for 5 minutes at 190C/375F, then reduce temperature to 180C/350F for 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  18. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, whichever you prefer.

Hints, tips and tricks for making pie:
Fun tip - add 1-2 t kirsch or cherry liqueur to the filling for a lovely bit of extra flavour. And if you opt for whipped cream, try adding some kirsch or triple sec to the whipped cream. I'm also told vanilla bourbon whipped cream is brilliant on cherry pie.

* To make a full-sized pie, use this dough recipe. I ended up with a little leftover dough, probably enough to make another mini pie, but alas I only have 4 dishes.  Anyway, for a full sized pie dish, I would double the proportions for the filling, and increase the bake time. 10 minutes at the higher temperature and 35-40 minutes at the lower temperature.

*  Don't feel that you HAVE to use this pastry recipe. Use whatever makes you happy. In general, I would use the pre-made shortcrust pastry from the freezer section of the grocery store.  Today, however, when I went to pull some sheets of shortcrust from the freezer, I found they'd gotten freezer burn, and were broken into tiny pieces.  This led me to a race across the internet trying to figure out what kind of pastry is best made without needing to chill for a few hours.  This was my first time trying this recipe and I was SUPER happy with it. It was easy to make, and it turned out light, flaky and delicious.  This is maybe the 4th or 5th time I've ever made my own pastry though. So I bet there are better recipes out there, and I bet there are better methods, but if you're not sure what's going on in the pastry department, this recipe is a great place to start.

For some tips on scraping vanilla pods, check out this video. It's a bit finicky, but the flavour difference is well worth it:

There are a million and one ways to top a pie, from stars and hearts to a traditional double crust and finally the lattice. With mini pies, the lattice is pretty straightforward and intuitive, but for tips, check out this slideshow from Bon Appetit, or these step-by-step instructions from Simply Recipes.

And my final comment, is about the glaze. A lot of people recommend using an egg white instead of milk and sugar to brush the top of the pastry. That's all personal preference.  You'll get a shinier finish with egg, but it doesn't affect the taste, so don't sweat about it. I just don't ever know what to do with that leftover egg yolk.

Oh wait, one more. I like butter in my pastry, but shortening, especially vegetable shortening, also makes a fab pastry. And then you've got vegan pie. (ok, the ice cream also is non-vegan, but hey I bet you can find some at a specialty store).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

So I was talking to someone the other day, and they asked me why they're called 'Buffalo chicken wings', or why it's called 'Buffalo' seasoning. I totally made up my answer and said it was because that's how fresh buffalo tastes. Yes, because buffalo tastes like a chicken wing ^_^.  On a foodblog quest of epic procrastination today during lunch, I discovered that Buffalo flavouring comes from Buffalo Chicken Wings which were from Buffalo, New York, according to Wikipedia.

I have a secret weakness for Buffalo chicken tender wraps. It's one of my favourite foods in the world.  Almost every recipe I've looked at online calls for either Frank's Red Hot sauce, or 'buffalo sauce'.  And I have a bit of a peeve for recipes that call for specific sauces, because, you know, brands are not universal.  Turns out, Franks Red Hot is actually a cayenne based hot pepper sauce, so if you can't find that particular brand (and it is a good brand, widely available across North America), you can look for a substitute. That's what I did.

OR... a suitable cayenne pepper sauce substitute, I found Byron Bay Chilli Co. Cayenne Chilli Sauce with Lime. It's delicious!
Buffalo Chicken Wraps
modified from: August/September 2005 Eating Well: Buffalo Chicken Wraps
10 chicken tenders
3 T white vinegar
2 T cayenne pepper sauce (e.g. Franks Red Hot)
1/4 t cayenne powder
2-3 T light mayonnaise
2-3 T greek yogurt
1/4 - 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 green onion
1 tomato
1/2 red pepper
handful lettuce
salt and pepper
oil, for cooking

  1. In a small bowl, crumble blue cheese, stir in greek yogurt, mayonnaise, 1 T of the white vinegar and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside for 30+ minutes on counter to combine flavours.
  2. In another bowl, combine the remaining 2 T white vinegar with hot sauce and cayenne pepper, feel free to add spiciness to suit your tastes.
  3. Wash, dry and coarsely chop lettuce, tomato, green onion and red pepper.
  4. Heat a swirl of oil to medium-high in a large frying pan, lightly dust tenders with salt and pepper, then fry until golden on the outside: 3-5 minutes per side. If you're unsure, cut open a larger piece and check that there is no pink in the middle. Food poisoning ruins everything.
  5. When chicken is cooked through, remove from heat and drain oil (pat dry with paper towels).
  6. Shred chicken with a knife or with two forks, and dump into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour over cayenne sauce mixture and mix well to coat all chicken.
  7. Layer wraps (we used sourdough wraps, yum!) with blue cheese sauce, chicken, green onions, tomato, pepper and lettuce.  Add more hot sauce if desired. Fold and enjoy :D

For tips on folding wraps, check out this simple illustrated guide:

And if you haven't tried Frank's Red Hot... you should. It's one of the top two hot sauces ever made (the other, of course, being Sriracha, and no I don't know which one is better).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lemon Sponge Cake

So, I was sitting in my office this Thursday, just minding my own business and trying to force myself to read this maths textbook (which is both incredibly useful and incredibly boring) when my supervisor strolls in.  I spy a box in his hands, "Ohh! A present for me? Awww, shucks!"
Turns out it actually was for me. It was a box of eggs. Fresh eggs. From his chickens.  AWESOME!

Seriously, look at the colour of these yolks!

So I spent the rest of the day thinking 'what can I do that is gonna make good use of these fresh eggs'. Sponge cake. Sponge cake is what I can do. Or at least I assumed I could do it, it didn't seem too hard.  It wasn't.  I started off with what I think was my granny's recipe for sponge cake, and then I played with it a bit. Which is probably kinda dangerous for the first time making a recipe, but it turned out well anyway.

Lemon Sponge Cake with Lemon Glaze
Lemon Sponge Cake
3 eggs, separated
1 cup white sugar
1 T hot water
2 T lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best, ~half a lemon)
1 cup white flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
Lemon Glaze
1 1/2 cups icing sugar (or caster sugar)
2 T lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)
1 t lemon rind
1 t vanilla extract
1 T butter, extra soft
1/4 cup orange juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff.  Gradually add 1 T of sugar out of the 1 cup.
  3. Beat the egg yolks until buttery in colour, add remaining cup of sugar. Beat until combined (will probably form a lovely grainy texture).
  4. Combine egg yolks and egg whites, stir to combine - using a spatula, 'fold' the ingredients together so you don't squish the air out of the egg whites.
  5. Add hot water and lemon juice, stir.
  6. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  7. Pour batter mixture an ungreased cake tin or bundt pan, bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden in colour and a fork stuck in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Let cake cool completely before removing from tin (~3 hours or overnight).  Run a knife along the edge of the tin to loosen cake and remove. Once cake has cooled, prepare the glaze.  
  9. Whisk or beat together sugar, butter, lemon juice, lemon rind and vanilla with half the orange juice.
  10. Add remaining orange juice to adjust texture.
  11. Pour over cake.

I brought this cake into the office... and the first compliment I got was "I liked the nice, wet icing".  I am pretty sure the glaze is all about preference. I found it a bit too sweet and a bit too wet for me... but that's also because I'm fairly certain you're supposed to use a confectioners sugar / icing sugar... but I didn't have any so I used caster sugar. You might consider using the finer sugar for a lighter icing.

And for the record - drink your morning coffee before taking photos. Sorry for the poor lighting/out of focus-ness.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Brownies

The other weekend, I was invited to a dinner party. The hostess said "oh, don't bring anything", but I can't just do that. It's way too weird. So I decided to bring desserts (I don't think they're big drinkers, so the standard bottle of wine wasn't my first choice).

First I made some Double White Chocolate and Pretzel Peanut Butter Cookies with Sea Salt, which is a recipe I absolutely adore and have made many many times. It's from the ever-awesome  Then I had a moment of sheer panic, what if someone at the party couldn't eat peanuts? What if someone has a gluten allergy? I don't wanna be THAT guy (girl, whatever), so I browsed through my pantry trying to find something, anything else I could make. A second batch of cookies seemed weird, and I didn't have enough chocolate chips left anyway, but I had a big bar of dark chocolate in my freezer which I could use to make chocolate chunks. OR..... BROWNIES.

Definitely brownies.

But I didn't have all the ingredients for my mother's brownie recipe, so I hit the internet and found this recipe, also from  then I cut it down because I only had 2 eggs left.

Flourless Chocolate Brownies
3 1/2 oz dark chocolate
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened, for baking)
icing sugar, to decorate

  1. Preheat oven to 375F/185C.
  2. Break chocolate into smallish chunks.
  3. Start a double boiler.  I use a small sauce pan with a pyrex bowl ontop. It's heatsafe and easy to clean. Make sure the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl if you use this method.
  4. Put butter and chocolate in double boiler, stir until melted.
  5. Set aside and let cool for 5-10 minutes (put in a clean mixing bowl if you've used a real double boiler, otherwise your pyrex bowl will be fine).
  6. Using a wire whisk, add eggs, sugar and cocoa to chocolate and stir until combined.
  7. Pour into cake tin/slice pan/pie dish (I used a pyrex pie dish).
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until done.
  9. Let sit to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  10. I recommend either using or creating a stencil and decorating with icing sugar once it's cooled. To create a stencil, take a clean piece of paper, fold it and cut out designs as if you're back in kindergarten making snowflakes with your safety scissors. Place the stencil on top of room-temperature brownies. Lightly sprinkle icing sugar on top of stencil (I used a sifting sieve to get even distribution) and then remove stencil and ooh and ahh at your beautiful design.
Note: this does not rise. So, use a pan or tin that will give you your desired thickness. This recipe, in a 9" pie tin, was about 1/2-3/4" thick.  And sinfully delicious.
People will tell you that you can add raisins or nuts to your brownies, but I never do. Mostly because raisins don't belong in brownies and I don't really like nuts in anything.

Sorry that there are no pictures of this, but I was in such a rush that the brownies only came out of the oven about 5 minutes before we left the house, and then they got eaten.

And FYI - I have another blog post (for more unhealthy desserts) in the queue, it should go up later today or tomorrow.  I haven't been posting because I've been boring in the kitchen lately. Or rather, I've been revisiting recipes. I made another two batches of focaccia, using a slightly different recipe for my office. It was a hit.  I also made a batch of mini-bagels last night, to go with breakfast for dinner.  But I'm afraid it's mostly been straight forward pasta or steamed veg with grilled meat. Nothing worth writing home about, or blogging about I suppose.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cherry Tomatoes and Brie on a Toasted English Muffin

For lunch the other day, I raided my fridge for 'whatever might go bad soon but still looks edible'. I ended up whipping together something that is halfway between bruschetta and a caprese salad, I suppose.

Cherry Tomatoes and Brie on a Toasted English Muffin
English muffin
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
  1. Let brie sit on counter for a few moments to soften.
  2. Lightly toast english muffin, until crunchy on the outside but not burnt.
  3. Wash and chop cherry tomatoes (I quartered them and then sliced those in half).
  4. Rinse and coarsely chop fresh basil.
  5. Put tomatoes and and basil on toasted english muffin, sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic, then with salt & pepper (to taste).
  6. Apply small dobs of brie over surface (I cut off the rind).
  7. Toast in toaster oven for ~2 minutes, to soften the cheese.
  8. Enjoy!

I had a little nub of leftover brie from this weekend, so this seemed like a great way to use it. Any cheese works of course, but I'd say a nice soft cheese is just about perfect.  A month or so ago, we picked up a pack of flavour-infused olive oils from Costco, and so today I used one that was infused with basil. It's a very subtle flavour- but there is a huge difference between good quality olive oil and regular. I always use Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or an infused oil) when cooking, but the flavour difference really shines the most when the oil isn't used for cooking, but rather as a dressing.

PS - It's my birthday and last night I made maple butter tarts. Best Birthday Breakfast Ever.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Creamy Prawn Pasta

I know blog posts aren't as much fun without photos, but I figure they're still more fun than no posts.  Over the weekend, I dragged poor boyfriend out to Belconnen Fresh Food Markets, which is still not my favourite market in the city, but oh well. Variety is the spice of life.

We decided that it's a shame that we live in Australia and rarely eat prawns, or shrimp, or whatever you want to call them. I've got a good excuse for that though, the really fresh prawns, are sold whole. And that's gross. I strongly dislike having to pinch the heads off and de-vein and de-shell whole prawns. It's gross, and squishy, and icky.  So I don't buy prawn much, since the prawn tails tend to be pre-cooked and I have strong opinions about that too. I've just got opinions out the wazoo. Anywho, we found some raw king prawn tails and bought some and decided to use them in a pasta dish. Yum.

Creamy Prawn Pasta
250 g raw prawn (shrimp) tails
1 tub (250 mL) Philadelphia cream for cooking (or cream)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
bunch fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
half a red onion
half a lemon
pasta (pref. linguine)
Olive oil
Butter (~1/4 cup)

  1. If starting with frozen prawns, defrost them in warm water in the sink, either by running warm (not hot!) water over them in a colander, or by submerging them in a large bowl. If using fresh prawn, rinse in a colander.
  2. Start a large pot of salted water to boil, add pasta when water is boiled and let cook until desired consistency. Meanwhile;
  3. In a small sauce pan, melt butter.
  4. Peel and finely chop garlic and half a red onion, add to pan of melted butter and let sizzle on med-low heat.
  5. Wash and chop 2-3 leaves of basil and add to small sauce pan, stirring to combine all ingredients. I usually 'slap' the basil after I wash it. I don't know that this actually does anything, but it is supposed to release the flavours. To do this, put the rinsed basil in one hand and then clap. It's easy (and fun!).
  6. Meanwhile, wash and quarter cherry onions, then toss with a little olive oil.
  7. Spread tomatoes on a baking tray and broil (top element only) for ~5 minutes at 200C/400F (I used our toaster oven).
  8. In a large frying pan, melt more butter (oh so healthy, I know).
  9. Place prawns in one layer into the frying pan, squirt about 1/4 of a lemon's worth of juice (1-2 T), flip once prawn starts to pink up, after about 3 minutes to a side, and add the rest of the lemon juice.
  10. While prawn is frying, add the cream for cooking, or actual cream to the small sauce pan as well as several more leaves of fresh basil. Stir to combine and set to low heat.
  11. When prawn and tomatoes are ready, pour the cream sauce into the frying pan and mix all ingredients.
  12. Drain pasta and combine with sauce. Enjoy.
I served this in a big bowl with some garlic bread on the side. It was delicious with a sprinkling of parmesan on top. Boyfriend opted to add cracked pepper to his.   
On cream: I love the Philadelphia cream for cooking because it lasts longer in the fridge than regular cream does. I constantly find myself buying thick cream for baking or for adding 1 or 2 T to a dish and then end up throwing out the rest because I don't often cook with cream and it goes bad quickly once opened. The cream for cooking will probably last up to a week in the fridge once opened (maybe more) so it makes more sense, to me.
The sauce for this pasta was fairly runny, which I like.  If you'd prefer a thicker sauce, add 1-2T of flour (or cornstarch I suppose) to the melted butter and garlic in the small sauce pan. Also - for choosing your noodle, personal preference says that Linguine is the best type of noodle for this sauce, but if you don't have any or you don't like linguine, you could substitute a tagliatelle (thicker ribbon cut pasta, often egg noodles) or a fusilli (spirals) for example.

To make this recipe healthier - instead of frying the prawns in butter, use a smaller amount of olive oil and you could substitute some of the cream with milk, although this will guarantee a runnier consistency to the sauce as milk doesn't thicken as well as cream does.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

My apologies for the delay on posting this. I actually made it way back in April, but it was so delicious that it took me a whole month to stop licking my fingers and get on with posting. Either that or I got distracted by work. We'll go with the second one.

My good friend Nikka shared this recipe, and she says it's from a cookbook called 'A Taste of Oregon'.  I would have assumed Oregon would taste vaguely like oregano, but it turns out that it tastes like a cake that is so rich and delicious that it actually hurts your heart a little bit.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter softened
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Topping (consider doubling this)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional but recommended)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/170C.
  2. In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and eggs.
  3. Stir or mix in sour cream, vanilla, flour, salt and baking powder until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients.
  5. Pour half the batter into a greased dish (9" cake pan, bundt pan or tube pan).
  6. Cover with half the topping (can split into thirds or etc for more 'ribbons' of flavour if you've doubled the topping).
  7. Add remaining batter and top with remaining topping.
  8. Bake for 1 hour, covering with foil in last 15-20 minutes to keep top from overcooking. The sugar will get too brown if you skip this step.
I do believe this would be best made in a bundt pan, but I don't own one, so instead I simply used a round cake pan, which resulted in a deliciously gooey and slightly undercooked centre. I *REALLY* like the gooey centre part, but if you're not partial to delicious and undercooked batter, you should seriously consider going with the bundt pan.

I am going to tell that this cake honest to goodness brought tears to my eyes. It was a near religious experience for me. This cake could end wars.

In other news - I haven't given up in the kitchen, things have just been rather dull.  I've got a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies that are begging to be blogged about though, but aside from that I've just been revisiting variations on chicken since we bought so much at Costco.