Tuesday, October 27, 2009

another daring challenege... mais en français!

I have something to confess... whenever I used to hear the word macaroons I always thought of those stiff meringue nests that people seem to really enjoy eating (I'm not one of those people). So when I saw that I was being asked to bake several dozen macaroons for the October DB Challenge my heart sorta sank... and then I realized how erroneous I had been.

These cookies aren't hard and ridiculously sweet... they resemble more of a cookie sandwich - two light cookies bound together with a buttery filling. The best part of this challenge was that we were all encouraged to use whatever flavour profile we wanted.

I was divided... lemon cookies with a lemon cream cheese filling OR chocolate with a peanut butter filling. Oh what to do! Such a dilemma...

Since I had baked my 3 layered lemon cake over the weekend I decided to opt for the peanut butter. I don't regret that choice at all. I ended up with some beautiful cookies and the creamest, buttery filling. Delish!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Chocolate Macaroons
2 1/4 c. icing sugar
2 c. almond flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp white sugar
5 egg whites, they must be at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 200 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. If you don't have any, do not grease your pan... the cookies need to be quite dry.

In a large bowl, combine the icing sugar, cocoa powder and the almond flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer start whisking the egg whites (with the whisk attachment). Start at a lower speed, increasing until about speed 8. At that point your egg whites should have formed soft peaks. Add the 2 tbsp of sugar and increase the speed to level 10. Continue whisking until you get to the stiff peak stage.

Take the mixer bowl off the stand-mixer and gently fold in 1/3 of the almond-icing sugar combo. Sift in the remaining almond flour in 2 batches. Be gentle and don't overfold - just fully incorporate the ingrendients.

Place the batter into an icing bag (or ziplock bag). Use either a large tip or cut off the corner of the bag in order to pipe the batter onto the cookie sheet. You want to pipe them into one-inch mounds so that they form little circles.

Bake the macaroons for 5 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and raise the temperature to 375 F.

Once the oven has reached that temperature, return the pans to the oven and continue to bake for another 7 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack before filling them with the icing.

*I was able to get about 3 dozen cookies out of this batch - but I also didn't have a proper piping bag (or ziplock bag) - so I ended up with some bigger macaroons that I would have otherwise.

A Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Filling
125 g natural peanut butter
70 g icing sugar
25 g softened butter
25 g milk
5 g vanilla extract
3 g fine sea salt

In your mixing bowl (use a paddle attachment for the kitchenaid) cream together the butter and peanut putter at a medium speed. Add the icing sugar and salt and incorporate into the batter. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla; finishing with the milk being incorporated, about a tbsp at a time.

Pipe the peanut butter onto the base of one of the macaroons and top with another. Store in an airtight container... if they even last that long!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

live yeast...oh what a difference it makes!

Bread attempt number 1 has come and gone. Although it was tasty when it first came out of the oven (what isn't ?), it just didn't survive well the following day. Was I discouraged? No way! It just made me even more determined to bake a really good loaf of bread. Not just a decent one, but a loaf that was tasty, moist in the middle and with a nice crust. I started googling bread recipes: especially ones that included molasses in them.

When I think of good bread I think of the brown molasses bread at Stone Faced Dolly's on Preston Street. Not only is it my favourite part of going there for brunch; but accompany it with some really good strawberry jam and you are good to go (I also personally enjoy to add some hot sauce to that combo, but that's just me...)

With that in mind I came upon a bread recipe that fit the bill...a New England classic, Anadama bread. Dark and moist, with a hint of cornmeal - this loaf turned out pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

Another reason I'm so pleased with myself is that I used LIVE YEAST!!! None of that powdered stuff... no sir, not for me! I will admit that I was nervous though; it always makes me laugh that I can get myself so worked up about a recipe... I mean, the worst that can happen is that I bake something inedible (which does happen - case in point, my first loaf of bread) and I get to try again... all that to say, you should give this recipe a try. Seriously. Try.

Anadama Bread
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 tbsp butter
1/2 c. molasses (next time I'm going to add 3/4 c. molasses)
1 ounce live yeast OR 1(.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water (110 degrees F)
all-purpose flour, divided in half cups - as much as you'll need
1 teaspoon salt

Mix 1/2 c. of water and the cornmeal in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until the mixture thickens; about 5 minutes - at this point you should be stirring continuously so that the cornmeal doesn't stick to your pan.

Remove from heat and stir in the molasses and butter. Let cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, in your stand-mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 c. of warm water - don't use HOT water since it will kill the yeast. Stir it well and then allow it to sit for 10 minutes; it'll get really creamy.

Combine the cooled cornmeal molasses mixture with the yeast mixture; stir until well blended.

Add about 2 c. of flour and and the salt. Grab your bread hook paddle and start to mix your dough. With the mixer running, continue to add flour, a half cup at a time until the dough starts to pull together (it'll form a nice ball: smooth and elastic - about 8 minutes of kneading in the machine).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and turn it to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it in a warm place to rise; it should double in volume (about 1 hour).

*I take a 1/2 c. of water in a small bowl heat it in the microwave for 2 minutes; then move the bowl to the back of the microwave and place my covered dough into the microwave. It speeds up the rising period - and I find that the bread rises even more than if I leave it in my oven.

After you've waited that hour; take the dough out of the bowl, punch it to deflate it and turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Divide it in half. Shape it (or put it in a loaf pan), cover it again with the damp cloth and let it sit another 40 minutes.

Then glaze it with some milk or an egg wash. It'll add a nice crust to the top of the bread.

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Bake the loafs @ 400 F for about 30 minutes - careful, the bottoms can burn easily... so keep watch. You know that it is ready if the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

You can now do like me... cut off a piece and enjoy immediately; or if you have patience, allow it to cool a bit before you take a nice big bite!

Monday, October 19, 2009

the trio of pies

See that picture? Those are the 3 pies I served at Thanksgiving dinner... lemon meringue (which you've all read about numerous time before), apple cheddar (last night's post) and finally the classic pumpkin pie.

I've made this version of pumpkin pie several times now - it's Julie's mom's favourite dessert (as she says, "it's always pumpkin pie season") and my recipe is S-I-M-P-L-E. Really and truly simple.

You don't need to worry about spending your evening in the kitchen slaving over your oven. All you need is 5 minutes with either your blender or stand-mixer and a working oven. That's it. I promise.

I had doubled up the recipe since I wanted to make 2 pies... I actually ended up with: 3 x 9-inch pies and 1 x 8-inch pie - just by doubling it. You could also use the leftover filling to bake some custards... or just make lots of pie and spread the love in the office the next day :0)

Pumpkin Pie
2 eggs
1 1/3 c (400 ml) pumpkin puree
3/4 c. honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice mix
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c (250 ml) evaporated milk
1/2 c. regular milk
1 unbaked pastry shell

You'll need to preheat your oven to 425F.

Now, place all the ingredients in a blender or in your stand-mixer and blend until smooth.

Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes @ 425F, then lower temp to 350F and continue baking another 45 min (your knife will come out clean).

Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

That was it. I promised you a simple recipe - and I am confident this delivers.

*I know that thanksgiving has come and gone for us in Canada - BUT pumpkin puree and evaporated milk are still on sale in your grocery stores... just a suggestion...*

Sunday, October 18, 2009

apple & cheddar... a classic combo

Oh Martha. This is my first attempt at a Martha Stewart recipe. And I'd like to tell you all; I would change some things about it (gasp! a Martha recipe that isn't perfect). I was drawn to this recipe because it combined apples and cheddar cheese. What's better than a slice of warm apple pie accompanied by a thick slice of extra-old cheddar cheese? How about baking the cheese right into the crust?

Well, I followed the recipe exactly (I promise, this was one recipe I didn't mess around with since I was making it for Audrey's Thanksgiving dinner)... but have decided that I would tweak it (just slightly). Less cinnamon and apples: extra cheddar - I think that would make for a perfectly divine slice of pie.

Martha's Cheddar Crust:
2 1/2 c. pastry flour
1 tsp b. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
14 tbsp COLD butter, grated
4 ounces extra old white cheddar cheese, grated (I am going to increase this to 7 ounces next time)
1/2 c. ICE water

You'll want to combine the flour, sugar, and salt (either in your food processor or stand-mixer with your flat beater paddle). Pulse about 15 seconds. Add the grated butter and pulse for about 45 seconds - pea-sized lumps should form. Pulse in the cheese (another 30 seconds). Keep the mixer running, add the ice water, a tbsp at a time, until the dough comes together (about 30 seconds).

Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to chill in your fridge between 1 hour and 3 days (or freeze for later use). Best part about this dough... it smells like cheddar. Nothing beats extra-old cheddar eh?

Now to start on the apple filling.

Again, I would change a bit about this recipe... I'll mark my changes next to Martha's original recipe - in brackets - you decide which one you'd like to use :0)

Apple Pie Filling
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch-thick wedges (I would use 2 apples)
5 Cortland apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch-thick wedges (I would use 3 apples)
1 c. brown sugar (3/4 c.)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour (1/3 c.)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves (I used allspice instead)
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

In a large bowl, stir together the apples, sugar, lemon juice and spices.

Take the dough out of the fridge and divide it in half. Dust your surface with a sprinkle of flour and roll out your two pieces. Fit one of the pieces into your pie plate. Fill it with your apple filling - you want to pile this up so that you get a nice mound of apples (this is a deep dish pie after all!). Dot the filling with the butter.

Cover the filled pie with your second piece of dough - folding the edges over so that it is nicely sealed. Cut steam vents into the top crust. Allow it to chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Take your beaten egg and bush it onto your pie crust. I sprinkled some large crystalized brown sugar on top of the pie.

Bake the pie for 10 minutes @ 450 F.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F and continue to bake for 45 minutes - to golden brown (my oven only needed 35 minutes). Tent the pie with foil and continue to bake for another 45 minutes - this time the juices will be bubbling (again, only 35 minutes in my oven).

Let it cool (according to Martha at least 90 minutes before serving)... and enjoy the smell that will fill your kitchen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

lovin' from the oven continued...

As promised, here's the update:

... I got home from work, opened the oven, and there it was. My bread had risen. To me it was perfect. A perfect first attempt. I punched it, formed it and left it for about 45 more minutes. Instead of baking it in a loaf pan I just left it on a cookie tray and baked it at 400 F for about 30 minutes... that is where my eagerness kinda ruined it... my bread isn't fully baked. The centre is just a little raw... but really, add some honey and it just tastes gooey and warm and delicious. Right now I have another loaf rising... I know. I am obsessed.

What I learnt from my first attempt at bread:
- 2 packages of dry active yeast - well.. it'll result with your entire apartment smelling of yeast - aka beer!
- 3 tbsp of brown sugar was perfect, ensuring that the bread wasn't too sweet.
- forgetting the salt... not the end of the world. BUT I didn't forget the salt this time.
- 4 c. of flour, added a cup at a time was perfect - and today I even added the flour a 1/2 c. at a time to better control the amount that I used
- glazing the top of the dough with milk was brilliant; as was sprinkling cornmeal on top before baking

check out my (very fuzzy) pictures... I've nicknamed this loaf "the mushroom" (you can understand why).

I'm super proud that I produced something edible.. and can't wait to see how this next batch turns out.

And Chloé... make those sticky buns - the yeast isn't that scary... except that today I'm using LIVE YEAST!!!!!!!!!! (you should all smell my fridge).

Viva bread!

Friday, October 16, 2009

lovin' from the oven...well, almost ;0)

I will admit it… I’ve never baked real bread… only Irish soda bread – which can’t really count since it doesn’t have yeast, nor does it need to be kneaded or left to rise (it does still hit the spot though).

That said, last night I participated (watched and talked from the sidelines) in a bread making experiment... we added wayyyyyyyyyy to much flour (my fault - I encouraged use of the entire amount called for in the recipe)... that resulted in having to let the dough rise overnight rather than just the estimated hour we had thought.

I haven't seen (or tasted) the end result, BUT it did inspire me. Early this morning I got up and started working on my very first bread dough. I have absolutely no idea how this attempt will turn out; since, as I type this, it is sitting in a covered bowl in my oven, slowly doing what it has to do - rise.

But I will tell you I did learn from last night's mistake... I added the flour slowly and tried not to add too much.

I'll take a picture when I get home tonight and post it... and the recipe! This is very exciting – think of the possibilities…raisin bread, brown molasses bread…oh, the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Can I just say... last weekend was a BLAST! I baked 4 pumpkin pies, 3 lemon meringue pies, 2 apple cheddar pies and then roasted a turkey, made stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. Did my apartment smell good or what!? The thing with thanksgiving though is that the meal is on Sunday... but you still have the Monday off (I am not complaining - I promise!)

That left me with some time on my hands yesterday - and a turkey carcass in the fridge. The only sensible thing to do was to make a stock out of it... and what a stock it was. A great way to use some leftovers (especially veggies that are on their last legs) and make something flavourful and rich.

But you don't just make a stock to freeze... you make it to fill your kitchen with the scents of more cooking. This time I was inspired by the Indo-Brit classic, Mulligatawny Soup. No flavours could be further from a traditional thanksgiving meal than this Indian spiced soup...exactly what I was looking for.

I changed my version up slightly from what you would traditionally expect... I really made use of emptying my pantry/fridge and then went a little wild with the seasoning... but that's what soup is all about. Flavours and a bit of a kick. And this packs a real punch! I hope that this will tempt you to use your leftovers a little differently...

Mulligatawny Soup...Ottawa style
sunflower oil
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 leeks, rinsed and thinly chopped
leftover turkey pieces, cubed
1 tbsp (heaping) curry powder
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 c. turkey stock
4 c. cold water
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 bay leaves
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garam masala
1/3 c. brown rice (uncooked)
sea salt and ground pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat (I used about 1 tbsp). Add the onion, garlic and leeks; sauté them for about 4 minutes. You want them to get soft but not brown. Add the turkey, curry powder and ginger, allowing all of that to sauté for another couple of minutes. Stir occasionally, but really, let the flavours start to mingle (remember, soup is like a party in a saucepan...how cheesy was that!)

You'll start to smell the curry and ginger, so add the stock, water, carrots, parsnips, turnip, apples, bay leaves, rice, cumin and garam masala; bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes...believe me, you won't want it to stop simmering...my kitchen smelt like...a curry shop in London ;0)

Remove the bay leaves, season with salt and pepper. You should get about 10 cups of soup of this...a nice big batch of leftovers, that doesn't taste a thing like the original!

Enjoy :0)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

double the trouble

These brownies are the best. Seriously the B-E-S-T. I've already made two batches. In 24 hours. Tells you something eh? These are the sort of brownies that you make if (1) you have a sweet tooth and (2) don't have diabetes. These are fudgy, moist and topped with pecans and toffee... and take all of 5 minutes to whip up. In one word - PERFECT (prepare to moan while eating these). Take a chance and try these... believe me, they are worth it.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies
4 squares unsweetened chocolate (1oz)
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 F and grease a square-baking pan (8 inch). Set aside.

In a large, heat resistant bowl, melt the chocolate and butter together over a simmering pot of water (on low heat). You can help this along but stirring every once and a while, but really, just leave the two to melt. Once the mixture is smooth, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

With a wire whisk, add the sugar to the melted chocolate. Whisk together to smooth. Then add the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla, incorporating them fully into the batter. Now grab your wooden spoon and fold in the flour. You want to just incorporate it. Now add in the chocolate chips. That's it. Time to pour the batter into the waiting pan.

Bake in your oven for between 25 - 35 minutes - depending on your oven (mine was close to 25 minutes). You want the brownies to be set, but not dry - otherwise you lose that fudgy effect.

Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Now to add that extra layer of decadent sweetness to these babies.

Sticky Toffee Pecan Topping
1/2 c. butter (1 stick), room temperature
2/3 c. condensed milk
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 c. pecans

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Then add the condensed milk, sugar and corn syrup. Cook for 4 to 7 minutes stirring continuously so that it doesn't stick to the pan.
Once you get a very smooth and golden topping, remove it from heat and allow it to cool and thicken slightly.

Spread over the brownies with a palette knife. Take the pecans and scatter over the top of the brownies and toffee. Leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then cut into squares and store in the fridge... you should get 25 brownies out of these.

Truly decadent. Sigh. These are winners through and through. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

back to basics

I have pie dough on my mind. You see, I've sold 4 pies this week... three lemon meringue pies and one pumpkin pie. I'm pretty comfortable with those fillings (we all know I pride myself on the lemon curd filling) - but have been playing around with my pie crust recipe all summer. I tried one that required an egg yolk - didn't win over any new fans. I tried one that didn't require rolling or chilling... again, no new fans. So I decided to quit changing what I already knew worked - flour, sugar, salt, butter and a bit of water.

The experiment then became the method of making my crust. I'd always used my food processor. Which was fine until it got time to roll out the dough - and then I keep feeling like I was over working the dough because it required too much rolling and extra flour...

I started making it by hand - cutting the butter into the dough. Which worked well, but I started to worry that I would overwork the dough just trying to get the butter to that "pebble-like consistency". And then I bought my KitchenAid. I have to admit, I was wary of being able to use it to create the sort of dough that would roll out easily and bake into a flakey crust.

I'm so happy that I decided to give it a try. I also finally decided to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Absolute genius. The result is a dough that just sticks together, chills well... and rolls out brilliantly. Oh - and when baked it holds firm without being dry. I'm so happy I decided to keep experimenting with this - especially since I don't want to disappoint my clients :0)

My new Classic Pie Dough
1 1/4 c. pastry flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. COLD butter (I leave mine in the freezer until ready to grate)
1/4 c. COLD water (I leave the water in the freezer until I'm ready to use it)

Measure your dry ingredients and place in your mixing bowl. Set aside.

Now grate your stick of cold butter. Set aside.

If you're using your stand mixer, use the flat attachment. Combine the dry mixture at low speed for 15 seconds. Turn off the machine, add the butter. Again at low speed, combine the grated butter for about 45 seconds. You'll notice that the dough starts to resemble pebbles. With the mixer still going, slowly add the cold water - 1 tbsp at a time. You're dough will start to come together. You'll know that it is ready when you can pinch the dough together and it sticks. This is normally about a 10 second thing - the time it takes to incorporate the water.

Use your hand to bring the mixture together into a little disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and cool in the fridge for between 30 minutes and 3 days - or freeze for up to 3 months.

When you're ready to roll it out, take the dough out of the fridge, let it warm up for about 5 minutes and then on a lightly floured surface, roll it out.

This dough was the easiest I have ever rolled out. And it blind baked beautifully. Practice does make perfect!

Monday, October 5, 2009

i'm back...sorry about that!

I know... September was pretty much a write off for blog entries... my hard drive died on me (a million sighs to be heard that day... and a few tears were shed). I dealt with that little crisis and then decided to cook my woes away…

So although the oven was turned on, it wasn't used for baking. Rather, I succeeded in roasting my very first WHOLE CHICKEN!!!! Whoot! I know what you're thinking - how can Lynne NOT have already roasted a chicken. Well... I always bought chicken breast, always afraid of that entire bird. But I finally decided to bite the bullet: I bought a bird and roasted it. Then I made my very first chicken stock - and created a pretty awesome chicken vegetable soup (dinner tonight - perfect after my bike ride in the cold). I also roasted my very first pork tenderloin... butterflied it, stuffed it and roasted it. A combination of panko crumbs, apples and mushrooms formed my stuffing - another first (I'd never made a stuffing before either). So September was great for experimenting with roasting.

This leads me to now. I've decided that October will be a full-tilt baking extravaganza! I've been reading a fictional novel that has a sprinkling of recipes (the protagonist is a former pastry chef)... So I've decided to bake all the recipes in the book... from sticky buns, soufflés, pies and cakes... PLUS I've decided to use all those root veggies that are in season and turn them into sweet little treats - zucchinis, parsnips, carrots and beets blended with chocolate, butter and cream. Overall, I am super excited to start baking.

I promise this month will be full of mouth-watering delights... beginning with sticky chocolate fudge pecan brownies (recipe to follow). Seriously - sorry for the delay, but the sabbatical was worth it (I promise).

Stay tuned - and fingers crossed I'm able to add some pictures as well ;0)

Thanks friends for sticking with me. It's great to be back!