Tuesday, December 29, 2009

merry christmas y'all... better late than never!

I know... I'm late. I'm wishing you a Merry Christmas as we all get ready to pull out the bubbly and celebrate the New Year! I meant to upload some recipes over the course of the month... as inspiration for your own holiday baking... obviously, I didn't really succeed. I baked. A lot. So I'd like you to accept my apology and imagine me slaving behind my kitchenaid and oven preparing my goodies in order to gift them to my loved ones.

My papa called me early on in the month and we confirmed that I would be responsible for our Christmas desserts. I was also informed me that my step-mother, Marielle, wouldn't be baking sweets; that I would be the sole provider of goodies for several days of holiday celebrations. Talk about pressure! (btw, Marielle did bake - and made probably the best tortière I've ever tasted - everything was wonderful)

So amongst the mayhem of my kitchen I pulled out my camera, tried some new recipes and am ready to upload them and share them with all of you. They aren't all necessarily simply Christmas baking ... these cupcakes I'd call winter cupcakes - a beautiful white cupcake iced with a white chocolate cream cheese butter cream... sounds just about perfect for a cold January day :0)

Winter White Cupcakes
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, scraped and seeds removed
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. white sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Depending on how big you want your cupcakes, you can line muffins tins with cupcake liners for either 12 or 24 cupcakes (I was able to make 24 regular sized cupcakes... not too big, just the perfect size to enjoy after indulging in copious amounts of food).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla seeds together in a medium sized bowl. In a smaller bowl, combing the buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts together. Set both bowls aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar - start at a lower speed, increasing the speed to get that fluffy texture and lightness in colour (about 3 minutes).

On low speed (Stir) and in 3 additions, add the flour and milk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 flour, 2 milk). Mix until the flour is just incorporated and the batter looks smooth. Set aside.

In a large glass bowl and with clean beaters (I used my electric hand-mixer for this part), beat the egg whites until foamy (medium speed). Increase the speed to high and continue beating until the egg whites look shiny and smooth; the egg whites will cling to your beaters when you lift them.

Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Once incorporated (do this quickly so that the egg whites don't loose volume), grab your rubber spatula and fold the remaining egg whites into the batter. Just blended.

I used my mini ice-cream scooper to fill my paper liners - about 2 scoops per liner (that will make 24 cupcakes - 1/3 c. of batter would fill 12 liners).

Bake for about 20 minutes (the toothpick will come out clean when tested in the centre of the cupcake), remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from the wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
3 ounces of white chocolate, chopped
1/4 c. unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 vanilla bean, scraped and seeds removed (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 - 2 tbsp milk, half & half or cream... whatever you have on hand.

In a double boiler melt the white chocolate to smooth (heatproof glass bowl over a pot of 1 inch simmering water). Use your wire whisk to stir the chocolate smooth. Transfer to the bowl of your stand mixer.

Add the butter, cream cheese and vanilla (either the seeds or the extract) and, using your paddle attachment, beat to smooth (1 minute or so). Add the powdered sugar, mixing until the frosting is smooth. This is when I add the half & half (or milk or cream)... it loosens up the frosting just a bit; incorporate a tsp at a time.

Use a small spatula or a butter knife to spread about a tbsp or so of frosting on every cupcake. If you want to make these really decadent, top with white chocolate curls.

A prefect blend of butter cream and cream cheese frosting... not too heavy, and the white chocolate surprises people too. This frosting went really well with my white chocolate almond mini bundt cakes (January 2009 entry) too... you have to love multi-purpose baking recipes!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

the sweet smell of gingerbread... continues!

Oh ginger... what a wonderful spice! I love it in my cooking - pickled, minced, sliced, diced... anyway you prepare it, I heart ginger. Which is why I'm very drawn to ginger sweets (actually, candied ginger is one of my favourite candies... seriously. almost addictive)... so I decided to keep baking with it this past week. On the menu, gingerbread people. My ginger people weren't decorated in my kitchen, since I gave them to my friend Tonya, so that she and her daughter could decorate them this weekend.

With the remaining dough I decided to use a circle cookie cutter and make little round disks that I then sprinkled with sugar prior to baking.

This recipe is thanks to Heidi @ 101 Cookbooks - I used some fresh ginger as well as the dried ground ginger, which I felt gave the cookies a real punch. A good, simple, dependable recipe that holds well to the rolling pin and cookie cutters. Highly recommended. :0)

Gingerbread Cookies
4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp ground ginger
knob of fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c. dark brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2/3 cup molasses
large grain sugar for decoration

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Incorporate the brown sugar and beat until creamy. Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the molasses. Add the flour mixture, add half the flour, incorporate and then add the rest of the flour... keep your mixer on low speed. Once that's done, divide the dough in half and wrap both halves in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour - I allowed mine to sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 F and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

If you've allowed the dough to set for quite some time in the fridge, take it out just a little before you'll want to roll it out - so that it warms up just a bit (take it out about 5 minutes before you would start rolling it).

Lightly flour your working surface and then gently roll out the dough; I use the same technique as I do with my pastry dough, rolling in one direction and turning the dough in a clockwise motion until I end up with about 1/8-inch thick dough.

Then grab your ginger people - or any cookie cutter of your choice, and start cutting the figures out of the dough. I made a dozen people - 6 boys and 6 girls (for the decorating party) and with the remaining dough I cut out rounds and sprinkled those with the large grain sugar prior to baking them.

The key to gingerbread is not over baking the cookies; make sure that the sides are a little firm but that there is still a little give when you press down on the top of the cookie. Between 8 - 11 minutes... depending on the size of the cookie (the people 11 minutes, the rounds 9 minutes).

Decorate as you wish... I look forward to seeing what was created with my cookie base ;0)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

sausage bread... a new classic!

*This entry is written by Manu aka, Man United! Manu is trying out this blog writing thing, and we figured he should try on mine... enjoy!

Me, my dad, and Lynne like to make bread so we decided to make sausage bread. this will be good trust us! we added cheese and Italian spices. We recommend this because we like to eat all of these ingredients, so we thought, let's put it in the bread! Aren't we smart?

We started off with my dad cooking the local, organic lamb merguez sausages... the kitchen smelled good!!!

Then we had to mix 2 teaspoons of active yeast (we only used active because we were out of live yeast) with 2 cups of warm milk and 1/2 a cup of warm water to get the bread started along with 2 tablespoons of sugar to feed the yeast, and a pinch of salt.

Then you need to cut the cooked sausages, my dad let me do that myself.

Then you need to mix the cheese (which was cut in cubes), the Italian spices and the sausages together.

We used our kitchenaid stand mixer to mix everything together with the flour... I had to be patient to slowly add the flour (I was very tempted to pour it all in at once).

Once it became the dough itself, we put it in a greased bowl, and wet a dish towel over the bowl and we put it in the microwave for 60 minutes. Do not turn on the microwave (you won't get any bread, you'll get a house on fire)! You just need a warm place to put it in so that the dough can rise.

After I patiently waited an hour for the dough to rise I took it out of the microwave and punched it down! I did it 5 times. Don't do it more than that - otherwise it will get as hard a rock.

Then we floured a surfaced and made little balls out of the big dough.

Then you mix egg and a little bit of milk together using a fork. You will use this to paint the bread with an eggwash. Then you take sesame seeds and coarse sea salt and garlic salt and you sprinkle all of that on top of the buns.

Now to preheat the oven at 420 F and let the buns rise again on cookie sheets for a good 20 to 30 minutes - they will re-rise.

My dad then cut crosses on the tops of the buns before he put them in the oven.

We let the buns bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and when you lift the buns and tap the bottom they sound hallow.

My dad thinks you should listen to the song "Golden Brown" by the Stranglers for inspiration.

I just took a bite of it and I think I'm going to marry it.... Seriously, this is the best bread EVER!!!!!!

this one takes the cake!

This cake is AWESOME. My uncle Phil's birthday is today (Happy Birthday Phil!) and I was asked to bake a cake. An upside-down cake to be exact. Can I let you in on a secret? I have eaten and (thoroughly) enjoyed many pineapple upside-down cakes (all thanks to my wonderful grandmother) in my lifetime, but have never, ever baked one.

I was really eager to find a really good recipe - something that would knock every one's socks off...and that didn't seem too complicated for my first attempt. Rather than delve into my recipe books; I decided to cyber-surf my favourite blogs and ended up @ Smitten Kitchen riveted by her gingerbread apple upside-down cake recipe.

First off, the pictures looked so appealing - a rumble in my tummy sort of appealing. And then the recipe looked simple and uncomplicated; hitting all the right notes of a warm and wintry cake that also met the requirement of being upside-down. All in all, it looked perfect... once I tweaked it a bit.

Smitten Kitchen's recipe included honey - I swapped in additional molasses and then added some allspice to the recipe so that it wasn't overly cinnamoney (Phil finds that cinnamon can often overpower a recipe, so I did my best to balance that out for him). I was super thrilled with the result. I even baked a second cake... I can smell it baking in my oven as I type...

Because of the gingerbread based cake I think it's perfectly suited for this time of year. I hope these pictures and this recipe inspire you as much as I was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's blog... ;0)

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake

Apple Upside-Down Topping

4 tbsp butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Grease your cake pan with some butter. Set aside.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once it's completely melted, add the brown sugar. Whisk the two together (nonstop) for about 4 minutes... this will create that caramel-base for the apples to rest on. Take the caramel off the heat and swirl in pinch of salt.

Pour the mixture into your greased pan, and use a spatula to spread it evenly all over the surface of the pan. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the caramel. Chop any of the remaining slices and place them in any gaps you might have.

Set aside and start on the cake.

Gingerbread Cake
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
2/3 c. molasses
1 c. buttermilk
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger (or 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice

In your mixer, cream together the sugar and butter on a medium-low speed, increasing the speed as it blends to create that light and fluffy result.

While that is being mixed together, whisk together the egg, molasses and buttermilk together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking soda and spices together in a separate bowl.

Once the butter has become fluffy, lower the speed and add the remaining ingredients. You want to alternate between mixing in the flour and the molasses mixtures (start with the flour); I added each mixture in 3rds, waiting for the previous one to be incorporated before adding the next one.

Pour the batter into the pan over the caramel and apples. Use your spatula to spread it evenly around the pan.

Bake for between 55 - 65 minutes (depending on your oven, I actually increase the temperature to 350 for the final 15 minutes of baking) - you'll know it's ready once a wooden tester comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen it and turn the cake out onto a platter that is larger than the cake itself (when you cut it some of the caramel will run down).

Et voilà - a gorgeous gingerbread cake that is topped with an apple caramel. Beautiful and delicious. Baking perfection!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

butter and scotch... well kinda, sorta....

Last week was all about getting myself into the holiday spirit. What better way than by baking cookies? Cookies are the ultimate in holiday goodies. There's nothing better than making the perfect cookie and sharing it with friends and loved ones.

Deciding on cookies was the easy part. Then I starting thinking about what flavour combination I wanted to play around with. Butterscotch reminds me of the holidays. So I decided to tweak a tried and true recipe (Chocolate Damnation Cookies) and swap out the pecans and dried cranberries in that recipe with butterscotch chips for this one.

With the recipe sorted out I then had to remember another key component of baking cookies; it's all about that perfect bite.

With these cookies it really is all about under cooking them just a wee bit... a gooey centre to bite your teeth into is always a good thing! These are already being handed out to friends and loved ones... my friend Jeff is a real fan (so is his office).

The one thing about these cookies... the batter needs to chill at least 60 minutes (or up to 3 days) in the fridge before you can shape the dough and bake them. Just factor in that extra "prep" time... and you're good to go! Oh, and by using the salted butter you don't need to add any additional salt to this recipe ;0)

Chocolate Butterscotch-Chip Cookies
10 squares of semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 c. salted butter, room temperature
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 c. dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. butterscotch-chips

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan (small pot) over medium-low heat, stirring continuously (so that the chocolate doesn't burn). Once completely melted, set the pot aside and start on the rest of the batter.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

With your mixer, cream together the butter and sugars together (paddle attachment) - start at a lower speed (2) and then increase to a medium speed (4 or 6) to create that pale, fluffy look. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs (one at a time) and then the vanilla until everything is very blended. Beat in the melted chocolate.

Stop your mixer and add the flour mixture to the batter. Turn your mixer to the stir speed and slowly incorporate all the flour into the chocolate. Toss in the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips and turn on the mixer so that they distribute evenly into the batter (about 30 seconds). Cover the bowl and allow to chill for at least 60 minutes in your fridge (it will firm up). Easy eh?

When you're just about ready to bake these babies... preheat your oven to 350 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into golf sized-balls - it's easiest to form them with your hands; pull up your sleeves and get your hands a little dirty, it's fun! Place them about 2 inches apart - I got about 8 cookies per cookie sheet; and bake for 13 minutes - you want them to just set; soft cookies are good. Leave them on the cookie sheet for an extra two minutes (once out of the oven) and they will firm up a bit without getting too hard. Cool completely on a wire rack.

I got 25 cookies. If you decided to make small cookies (using a mini ice-cream scooper) you'll get 4 dozen cookies and you should bake them for about 7-8 minutes.

Whichever size you decide on, you'll end up with lots to share and even more people with huge smiles on their faces (oh, and a great smelling kitchen)!

Enjoy... and happy beginning of the season! :0)

Friday, December 4, 2009

a little tartness is a good thing...

I baked more scones. Yes, I know. More scones. Please don't be bored. Because these are really really delightful and perfect for the holiday season. A combination of tart dried cherries and mini dark chocolate chips... pop one of these mini scones into your mouth and you will be reaching for the next one.

I was a little apprehensive about trying this because it meant using a new recipe. You see, I really heart my other recipe - which is basically my base for scone making, but... you have to live a little and try new things - so this is me living on the edge ;0) I set my apprehension aside and pulled out my excitement... after all, new flavour combo! Whoot Whoot!!!

Since I'm blogging about this I guess you've gathered that I liked this result. Not only did I like it, but I'm committing myself to adding these to my holiday gift basket (aka Christmas brunch with the family repertoire).

Be forewarned, you need to actually really enjoy eating dried cherries... if you don't, check out some of my other scone recipes. There is something there for everyone :0)

Mini Dark Chocolate Cherry Scones
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. cold butter, grated and chilled in the freezer for at least 5 minutes
1 egg
2/3 c. heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 c. dried cherries, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. mini dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

note: wax paper will burn... I learnt that at 3 am... parchment paper will not burn... there is a difference...

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use your paddle attachment to mix everything together.

Add in the cold grated butter and mix for about 90 seconds at the STIR speed. You want the flour to start clumping up just a little bit.

Turn off the mixer. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, heavy cream, vanilla and almond extracts.

Make a small well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the heavy cream into it. Mix everything (again, at the STIR speed) until the dough looks a little moistened. Add in the chopped cherries and mini chocolate chips. Turn on the mixer a final time and incorporate them into the batter.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it gently. Shape the dough into a log, grab a sharp knife and cut into 10 pieces - then cut those again in half. This creates the "mini scones" - if you leave them be, you'll get regular sized scones (I actually made two batches, one of each and both bake really well).

Line your cookie sheets with the scones (either 10 regular or 20 mini scones) and return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, brush the tops with an egg wash (lightly beaten egg) and then sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake in the oven - 15 minutes for the minis, 25 minutes for the regular ones.

Once golden on top, remove them from the heat and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes... or just grab one and enjoy... ;0)