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Archive for the ‘Christmas Baking’ Category

Many years ago, a dear friend discovered this recipe for chocolate chunk cookies; she shared it with us and then. Here is the original recipe.

Granted, there are A LOT of chocolate chips in these babies but damn, they’re GOOD!

Double Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies

Makes 60 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 227 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 360 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 300 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (chocolate chips work too)
  • 300 g milk chocolate chips
  • 150 g of dried, unsweetened cranberries or dried cherries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the butter and two sugars in the large bowl of your stand mixer with the creaming paddle attachment and cream until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time beating well. Add the vanilla.
  4. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and add in two batched into the batter, mixing until combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
  6. Drop walnut-sized balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and press down a bit.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly golden. For chewier cookies, slightly underbake.

 

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This is an old recipe that I’ve made on the blog before, I just wanted to update it using weight measures instead of imperial volume and I also wanted to use fresh ginger instead of the dried powder. If you like the bite of ginger, this one is for you. This day I made them in late October was actually quite lovely and I braved the chill to take this photo on our back deck. Winter is coming!

It has that delicious chewy texture that some ginger snaps might have if they don’t dry out.

Ginger Snaps Revisited

Makes about 36 to 46 cookies, depending on how large you make them\

Ingredients:

  • 75 g butter
  • 115 g brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup black molasses
  • 30 g fresh ginger
  • 280 g you all-purpose flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 2 g ground allspice

Directions:

  1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and molasses and heat gently until melted. Set aside.
  2. Grate the fresh ginger and stir into the melted butter mixture.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk or sift to stir. Make a well in the centre and pour the melted butter mixture into it and mix until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Drop the cookie dough by even spoonfuls (I used a large melon baller) onto the lined cookie sheet. Roll each ball in the palm of your hand to create a smooth ball, then press down to flatten with a flour cookie press to about half a centimetre.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes (I baked mine for 10) and cool on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container but don’t worry, you won’t have to store them for long.

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It has been beyond cold in these parts. Entirely opposite to what Australia is experiencing. Our windchills (and humidity) take the cold over the top, for example last week it was -13C with 30% humidity and a windchill that makes it feel like -25C at 8am! That’s wild. Your skin can freeze in 10 minutes. It’s a battle of being chilled and too hot at the same time; imagine having to take literally 10 minutes to put all your outdoor gear on, you’re already sweating because you’re inside, then going outside, walking – expanding energy, getting warm in your coat, and then popping into a warmly heated shop! You just can’t undress fast enough! It’s brutal. Staying home is easy, you just don’t feel like the battle.

Having the oven on makes the kitchen a wee bit cozier during this deep freeze so I baked this old favourite. Plus the aroma is intoxicating. It is an old recipe that I posted in 2012 here but I remade it with a small addition and reduced it to one loaf so I thought I’d post the revised version. The biggest change was that I added about 50 mL of melted Belgian chocolate to the chocolate part which really enhanced the flavour without making it too doughy. I also brushed the dough with an egg yolk to make it gorgeous and shiny. We had it for New Year’s Day breakfast along the side of the Smoked Salmon Roll-ups. It was delicious.

The chocolate flavour was richer using the melted Belgium Chocolate with the cocoa powder.

Chocolate Brioche

Makes 1 relatively good sized braid. Original recipe was modified from Baking with Julia.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 7 g dry yeast
  • 65 mL tepid water (80°F to 90°F)
  • 30 g granulated sugar + a pinch, divided
  • 50 g unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
  • 125 mL whole milk
  • 10 g salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 420 g all-purpose, unbleached flour, divided
  • 14 g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 30 g icing sugar
  • 50 mL Belgian chocolate, melted and cooled
  • non-stick cooking spray or olive oil

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • splash of water

Directions:

  1. Spray two large mixing bowls with non-stick cooking spray, or rub with butter or olive oil and set aside.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water with a pinch of sugar in a measuring cup and allow to proof, about 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the milk with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the cubed butter until warm to touch and the butter has entirely melted. Stir in the salt until melted. Allow this mixture to cool to 110°F.
  4. Once cooled, pour the milk mixture into the large stand mixer bowl attached with a whisk and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well to combine. You should have about 1 litre of liquid. Divide into two portions of about 500 mL each and set one portion aside.
  5. Put the cookie paddle onto your stand mixer. To one portion, add about 100 g of the flour and beat on low for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Now switch to the bread dough paddle and add the remaining flour or as much as needed, kneading on medium-low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to one of the bowls that has been prepared. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  6. For the chocolate portion, sift 210 g of flour with the unsweetened cocoa and icing sugar.
  7. Retrieve the second portion of the liquid and add the cooled melted Belgian chocolate and mix well.
  8. Add about 100 g of the sifted flour, cocoa and icing sugar and beat on low for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Add the remaining flour or as much flour as needed kneading on medium-low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to the other bowl that has been prepared. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  9. When dough has doubled in size (both the chocolate and the plain versions) punch down and deflate them. Cover again and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  10. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Divide the plain, white dough in 2 equal portions (I find a scale very helpful) and roll into approximately 16″ lengths. Divide the chocolate dough into 2 equal portions. Combine the four ropes on a lightly floured surface and braid. Press together the ends and fold under the braid. Place on lined baking sheet and allow to rest for 40 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine the egg and cold water or heavy cream and mix well. Brush the braid with the glaze and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the expansion joints of the braid and return to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is about 200°F. If they brown too quickly, cover browning parts with a little piece of foil.
  12. Cool before slicing. This can be frozen in an airtight plastic bag for about 1 month.

Note:

  • Stale slices of this bread makes excellent French toast or Bread Pudding!

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The marketing company that I work with from time to time recently moved into their new exciting office space and they invited me down for a look. I decided to bring them a baked treat (because that is how I roll) and created this new chewy chocolate peanut butter brownie recipe! I was inspired by your generous reaction to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark with Gold Sea Salt that I created, thank you. This is not an overly sweet brownie but it is richly flavoured with chocolate with the classic peanut butter combo. I used natural, chunky PB that isn’t sugared or salted, but feel free to use your traditional grocery store PB and omit the additional sugar and salt that I add in the later part of this recipe. The recipe is loosely based on my Go-To brownie recipe that my dear Mom cut out of the Toronto Star about 20 years ago (click here and here).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies 

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 25 brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 45 g (1 1/2 oz) semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup natural, chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  2. Melt butter  with chocolate chips, add vanilla and water and stir well.
  3. Beat in the egg whites (if the liquid is still hot, temper them so you don’t get scrambled eggs!)
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir well.
  5. Pour into a prepared 9″ x 9″ pan and line the pan with parchment paper, then spray with non-stick baking spray. Bake for 25-40 minutes until firm and cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Option to frost with a butter icing, but not necessary as this brownie is very moist and flavourful.

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PB ChocolateBark

This is a perfect recipe to show case the gorgeous gold sea salt that Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytales) so generously gave me at Christmas. Admittedly, this recipe is more appropriate for Christmas but what the hay…you get it now. On the plus side, it’ll give you enough time to source gold sea salt! Now this sea salt isn’t just brown made to look like gold, it actually looks like the real McCoy (probably not real gold, though but it’s just as pretty)! I would have liked to pry the top off and get the actual larger chunks but it seems it was glued on so I was out of luck. I can see this gorgeous sea salt on so much more so you’ll likely be reading about it again.

GoldSeaSalt copy

This is the gold sea salt that I sprinkled on the bark

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bark with Gold Sea Salt

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 285 g semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter (just peanuts, no salt, no sugar)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • gold sea salt

Directions:

  1. Slowly melt the chocolate in a double boiler or bain marie, stir in the cinnamon and mix well. Meanwhile, mix the chunky peanut butter and icing sugar well.
  2. Spread the melted chocolate onto a silicon lined baking sheet to about 3-5 mm (just less than 1/4″). Dot the peanut butter onto the melted chocolate and swirl with the blade of a very thin knife. Sprinkle with gold sea salt. Refrigerate until hard and then break into bite-sized portions.
PB Bark

Mmmmm PB and chocolate, a match made in heaven!

Notes:

  • Melting chocolate should always be done very slowly and never over boiling water.
  • I used a natural peanut butter because that is what we have, if you use peanut butter with added sugar and salt, you will need to modify the recipe.

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Christmas_First

Happy Holidays, my dear blog readers. I cannot begin to thank you for all of your lovely comments and your beautiful support throughout this year. In 2016, Kitcheninspirations is in her 8th year and it’s been quite a joyous ride. Originally this little blog was simply a repository of recipes, an on-line cookbook of some of my favourites over the years. But then someone commented and the rest is history. I cherish each and every one of you and hope to meet you in person soon. I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and cherished friends and JT and I wish you the very best for 2016.
MerryChristmasHNY

One of the things I’ve noticed as a child of immigrant parents is that my generation doesn’t hold as much to tradition as the previous generation did. Case in point, every Christmas my dear Mom would make Beigli, a traditional Hungarian Christmas treat; she would not make it any other time of the year, even though she loved it. I, on the other hand, will make anything as long as I can find the ingredients. Except Beigli. Beigli is an acquired taste; it’s not horrible or weird, it’s just not something Canadians are used to eating so, I generally only make it if we have other Hungarians around. This past Christmas was the second year we were invited to my cousin Lucy’s place for Angyal so I decided to make her Beigli. Beigli is a yeasted buttery dough rolled with a ground poppy seed mixture or a ground walnut mixture. My Mom put raisins in the poppy seed version but I don’t recall them in the walnut ones. This is only the second or third time I have made these treats, the two other times were well before this blog so it was more than eight years ago. Hungarian pastries are not sickly sweet and have only a little sugar in them, so if you are a sweet tooth, these are not for you. You may also wish to avoid the poppy seed Beigli if your work does any type of drug testing.

Beigli

Makes 1 30 cm (12 inch) each Poppy Seed (Mákos) and Walnut (Diós) Beigli

Original recipe from my dear Mom

Ingredients for the Dough:

  • 133 mL milk, warm
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 g instant yeast
  • 33 g icing sugar
  • 350-400 g AP flour
  • 167 g butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 1 egg white
  • pinch of salt

Directions for the Dough:

  1. Mix the warm milk, granulated sugar and yeast in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Using the scraper paddle of your stand mixer, rub the butter into 350 g of flour. Switch to the dough hook.
  3. Add 2 lightly beaten eggs, icing sugar and the salt to the yeast and mix well. Pour into the flour butter bowl and knead for a few minutes until the ingredients are combined and the dough becomes shiny and smooth (you may need to add a bit more flour so it’s not shaggy). Cover with a clean cloth and set aside for 2 hours in a warm, draft free spot.

Ingredients for the Poppy Seed Filling:

  • 200 mL milk
  • 200 g poppy seeds, ground
  • 33 g semolina
  • 133 g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 67 g raisins

Directions for the Poppy Seed Filling:

  1. Combine the ground poppy seeds, semolina, icing sugar and lemon zest and mix well.
  2. Bring the milk to a boil, remove from heat and stir into the poppy seed mixture. Add the raisins and mix well. Set aside to cool completely (don’t worry, it will thicken as it cools).

Ingredients for the Walnut Filling:

  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 200 mL water
  • 200 g walnuts
  • 67 g panko
  • 30 mL water
  • 1 lemon, zested

Directions for the Walnut Filling:

  1. In the bowl of your food processor, process the walnuts, breadcrumbs and zest until finely ground. Set aside.
  2. Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and bring to a boil without stirring. Continue to boil until it reaches 110 °C (230 °F). Remove from heat and immediately stir into the walnut mixture, adding the water and stir well.

Beigli Assembly and Baking

  1. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll each portion into 1/2 cm thick rectangles (about 11 1/4″ x 12″). Spread the entire amount of the filling evenly onto each rectangle, leaving about 1 cm wide border all around.
  2. Roll the dough from the long side and pinch the side to seal. Turn the ends into the roll.
  3. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat for the other filling, brush both rolls with the remaining beaten egg. Allow to rest for one hour.
  4. Whisk the egg white and brush the rested rolls. Set aside for 30 more minutes. Pre heat the oven to 375° F (190° C).
  5. Once rested, lightly poke the sides of the rolls with a fork to avoid the dough breaking. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and baked through.
  6. Serve the rolls sliced into 1-1.5 cm slices.
Diosbeigli_7888_

A delicious, not too sweet, Christmas treat.

makosbeigli_7884_

As a kid, I always preferred the walnut beigli, but I think I like the poppy seed better now!

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LemonSquares_4249

If I hadn’t said these were Vagen, you wouldn’t have known.

 

These chewy lemon squares are a family favourite that I’ve been making for years. To be honest, I’ll probably make the vegan version from now own, these were THAT good. As per the non-vegan version, these are very lemony, so you must LOVE lemon.

For the non-Vegan version, please click here.

Vegan Lemon Squares

LemonSquares_4252

Chewy and lemony all at the same time.

 

Original recipe adapted from Company’s Coming, Squares by Jean Pare.

Makes 1 pan 9″ x 9″

Ingredients for Shortbread Crust:

  • 1  1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

Directions for Shortbread Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (177°C). Line a 9″ x 9″ square pan with parchment (it makes it easier to lift out to cut).
  2. Crumble the margarine and coconut oil into the flour, sugar until mealy (you can save time and pulse this in a food processor, metal; blades).
  3. Press into a prepared 9×9 inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Ingredients for Chewy Lemon Topping:

  • 2 vegan eggs (I used this recipe: 2 tbsp ground flax seeds + 6 tbsp warm water (whisk together and allow to sit for 5 minutes))
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon oil
  • 6 drops yellow food colouring (optional)

Directions for Chewy Lemon Topping:

  1. Stir together all of the ingredients. (I successfully left this on the counter while the shortbread pastry was baking and it seemed to thicken even more!)
  2. Spread over shortbread base evenly. Bake at 350° F (177° C) for additional 30 minutes, until set in the centre and golden in colour.
  3. Lift out of the pan using the handy parchment. Cool and cut into squares, or bars. Serve at room temperature.

Notes:

  • I was concerned that the flax would impart a flavour but the coconut and lemon flavourings were enough to mask it. To be honest, you can’t tell that these are Vegan.
  • You can use other Vegan egg alternatives, I just can’t predict how this recipe will behave with them. The blog I linked it to explains real egg behaviour in baking very well so you can make informed decisions on alternatives.

LemonSquares

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VeganSpanakopita_4208

In converting a recipe to Vegan, I generally try to keep in mind all the flavours AND the textures in the non-vegan version. When I decided to make Vegan Spanakopita I became very excited until I remembered that there was crumbled feta in my recipe. Crumbled feta is not Vegan, so I began to think…what oh what can I use to replace the flavour and the unique texture this delicious cheese brings to the table. Yes, I could have omitted it altogether, but then it wouldn’t be as delicious!  Some time ago, I’d made a note to marinate tofu in ‘feta’ flavours like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, oregano and olive oil…so I did a little experimentation and came up with this version. It’s actually pretty tasty on its own, but I needed it for this recipe so there won’t be marinated tofu on the buffet table, but this spanakopita more than makes up for it. I don’t think the non-vegans will mind this version. But there will be pulled pork and bacon wrapped dates just in case ;-)!

Vegan Spanakopita

A kitcheninspirations original recipe.

Makes about 50, 6 cm (about 3 inch) triangles

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 5 cloves garlic ~20 g, finely minced
  • 500 g zucchini grated (about 2 medium-sized)
  • 300 g spinach
  • 3-4 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 350 g marinated tofu, drained, roughly chopped (recipe below)
  • About 8-10 sheets phyllo
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. Heat canola oil in a large dutch oven. Add the sliced onion and sweat it out a bit, add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the grated zucchini (click here for some clear steps on making this dish) and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it has totally wilted.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the fresh dill, oregano and roughly chopped marinated tofu. Set into a fine sieve and allow to cool and drain.
  3. Once completely cool, prepare the phyllo sheets by cutting them into 3 cm or 2.5 inch strips and lightly spraying each one with canola oil. Use two strips per triangle. Place one heaping teaspoon of the cooled filling onto one end and start folding into a triangle. Brush or spray lightly all over with the canola oil.
    VeganSpanakopita_4196

    A heaping teaspoon of filling goes at the end.

    VeganSpanakopita_4197

    Begin folding into a triangle and continue until the length is used up.

    VeganSpanakopita_4198

    The nature of the folds covers in the filling very well.

    VeganSpanakopita_4200

    A tidy little triangle.

  4. Bake at 350°F for 12-14 minutes if saving for the freezer or 116-18 minutes to serve immediately.
  5. To reheat, place a single layer of the triangles onto a baking sheet and reheat in 300°F for 10 minutes or until golden.
VeganSpanakopita_4209

The oil makes the phyllo very crispy.

Marinated Tofu

Makes enough for one batch of Spanakopita (prepare 1-2 days ahead to allow tofu to absorb the marinade flavours)

Ingredients:

  • 350 g extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground mixed peppercorns

Directions:

  1. Place the drained tofu on a cutting board over a sink so it’s tilting a bit into the sink. Place another cutting board on top and a heavy cast iron pan. Leave for 30 minutes to drain.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, water, EVOO, oregano, sea salt and peppercorns and mix well.
  3. Once drained, dry off the tofu and cut into 1 cm cubes. Place into a glass container and cover with the marinating liquid. Marinate in the refrigerator, shaking the jar intermittently over 1 to 2 days. Drain to use.

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The thing that’s quite a challenge in Vegan baking is not being able to use eggs. I can understand and convert recipes to use Vegan margarine or even substituting coconut oil but the egg thing is a biggy because of the science behind the egg’s participation in the recipe. At first I avoided egg recipes because they are just too difficult to convert but then the blog Vegan Baking came to my rescue, again. Although this recipe does not contain eggs the next one will. Substituting coconut oil for butter was an easy conversion because the cookie already had coconut in it — it was a no brainer. True Anzac lovers might miss the butter, but if it means not being able to indulge at all, I think it’s worth the slight difference in flavour. I hope you like it too.

VeganAnzac_4202

I wasn’t disappointed with the coconut oil substitution.

Vegan Anzac Biscuits

Makes about 22 cookies (I used a 4 cm ice cream scoop)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup flaked quinoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoons Lyles Golden Syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus a bit baking soda
  • 1/8 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350° F (177° C)
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment or some other non-stick surface (this is a greasy cookie).
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, flaked quinoa (I ran out of oats!), sugar, and coconut oil and stir well with a wire whisk. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt coconut oil with syrup. (I do this in the microwave on 30% so the oil does boil over and make a mess)
  5. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water, and add to butter mixture. Stir to combine. (Be careful; if the oil is hot, it will bubble up considerably.)
  6. Add oil mixture to dry ingredients, and stir to well combine. This will be a very crumbly mixture.
  7. Using a 4 cm ice-cream scoop (be sure to pack the scoop tightly so the mixture doesn’t crumble), drop onto prepared baking sheets, about 4 cm apart. Flatten cookies slightly with the palm of your hand.
  8. Bake until bottom and sides golden brown and firm but not hard, about 10-12 minutes (larger cookies will take longer). Coconut oil seems to have a lower burning point so watch because they’ll go from raw looking to too dark in an instant!
  9. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
VeganAnzac_4201

It’s still the same chewy texture we’ve all come to know and love.

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My parent’s home was always filled with the wonderful and delicious aromas of baked goods. My Mom always made bread and these were the days before bread machines! She would start the process shortly after dinner, making the bread for the following days. Mostly she would bake it when we kids had already gone to bed teasing our senses as we drifted off to sleep, but on occasion it would be in the oven while we were still up, the gorgeous aroma of home made-bread wafting throughout the house. Sometimes we could have a warm slice slathered with butter, but most often not. During the holidays my Mom made the most special bread, chocolate brioche! I can’t even begin to describe the incredible aroma that it made throughout the house. Now that bread was always cut into the night it was baked! I’ve not had this type of bread outside our home before but years ago at a Club Med in Mexico — I think the chef must have been French. It was such a delicious surprise when they served the chocolate brioche for breakfast most days.

I baked these brioche braids for New Year’s Day breakfast, it was to be a feast of delicacies, but plans changed and we had it toasted with butter. And now I have a loaf in the freezer taunting me. Against better judgement, it will likely be defrosted and eaten toasted or lightly warmed with sweet butter dripping from its crispy edges…slice after slice until there is no more. But the memory will remain.

Please excuse the winter evening photos, no matter what I do in Photoshop, they just cannot be helped.

ChocolateBread_1766

Baked and now cooling.

it's irresistible, like me ;-)!

it’s irresistible, like me ;-)!

Chocolate Brioche

Makes 3 relatively good sized braids. Original recipe was modified from Baking with Julia.

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup tepid water (80°F to 90°F)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar + a pinch, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 – 6 1/2 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 2 tbsp skim milk powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • non-stick cooking spray or 2 tbsp melted butter

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp cold water or heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Spray two large mixing bowls with non-stick cooking spray, or rub with butter and set aside.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water with a pinch of sugar in a measuring cup and allow to bubble up, about 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the milk with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the cubed butter until warm to touch and the butter has entirely melted. Stir in the salt until melted. Allow this mixture to cool to 110°F.
  4. Pour the milk mixture into the large stand mixer bowl attached with a whisk and add the eggs one at a time, add the milk powder, mixing well to combine. You should have about 4 cups of liquid. Divide into two portions of about 2 cups each and set one portion aside.
  5. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour to the portion at hand and beat on low with your cookie dough paddle for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Now switch to the bread dough paddle and add as much flour as needed (I was able to add another cup), kneading on medium low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to one of the bowls that has been spray with non-stick cooking spray or rubbed with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  6. Sift 2 cups of flour with the unsweetened cocoa and icing sugar. Retrieve the second portion of the liquid and add the sifted flour, cocoa and icing sugar and beat on low for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Add as much flour as needed (I was able to add another cup), kneading on medium low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to the other bowl that has been spray with non-stick cooking spray or rubbed with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
  7. When dough has doubled in size (both the chocolate and the plain versions) punch down and deflate them. Cover again and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  8. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Divide the plain, white dough in 4 equal portions (I find a scale very helpful) and roll into approximately 16″ lengths. Divide the chocolate dough into 5 equal portions. For 2 of the 3 loaves, take two chocolate portions and one plain portion, for one of the braids take 2 plain portions and one chocolate portion. Braid from the centre to each end, fixing each end well beneath the braid to make a nice neat end. Place on lined baking sheet and allow to rest for 40 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine the egg and cold water or heavy cream and mix well. Brush each braid with the glaze and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the expansion joints of the braid and return to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. If they brown too quickly, cover browning parts with a little piece of foil.
  10. Cool before slicing. This can be frozen in an air tight plastic bag for about 1 month. Stale slices of this bread makes excellent French toast or Bread Pudding!

ChocolateBread_1763

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Merry Christmas everyone, I do hope you are all enjoying the season of giving! Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without my traditional baking and I like to change it up every so often and so I’ve added a couple of new items to my existing Christmas Repertoire and one is Sponge Toffee. I began my Christmas baking at the end of November anticipating that I will be busy with the food styling assisting and I am SO GLAD I did because I have BEEN BUSY! I’m ready to take bookings for the new year, so if you need a passionate, determined assistant or recipe tester, please give me a shout.

2013 Christmas Baking Round Up

I made 9 different goodies this year.

I made 9 different goodies this year.

I know the Anzac Biscuit is made only during certain times in Australia, but this delicious oat cookie has become a fast favourite in our home so I like to make the treat for the holidays. And it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies. I also like to include a few Gluten Free options, Mexican Macaroons (which I made using almond flour instead of white flour). Milk and Dark Chocolate Chunk with Cranberries are a favourite recipe from my friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) and this year I added dried cranberries to the batch to make them a little more festive. And last but not least, the delightful Chocolate Crinkle Kisses that really embrace the festive season with the lovely candy cane kiss! I even snuck in some wonderfully easy truffles because I was given 4 kgs of chocolate chunks from a photoshoot, so I really needed recipes that used a lot of chocolate. The truffles are with Chocolate, Chocolate Orange and Chocolate Coconut truffle flavours. I just realized I have not posted this recipe before so I will remedy it over the holidays, they are really easy to whip up. I hope you enjoyed the round up, stay tuned for a few more festive recipes over the holidays.

SpongeToffee_1521

Make sure your baking soda is fresh otherwise it won’t puff up properly!

Sponge toffee is a favourite of mine since my childhood. I remember my Mom buying us a brick and eating it slowly over the course of a day or two. It’s quite decadent and I am so happy to have made it because it brings back so many wonderful childhood memories. This is a simple recipe and you could easily fancy it up by dipping one end into cooled melted chocolate just like that famous chocolate bar! I’ve kept this recipe simple without any extra flavourings, but you can go ahead and add a little vanilla or other extracts to jazz it up.

It’s very easy but you need two essential things: 1. an accurate candy thermometer and 2. FRESH baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Prepping all the ingredients and equipment is also necessary because once the candy starts to cook, you will need to focus your attention to it.

Sponge Toffee

Makes about 10″ x 12″ x 1.5-2″ thick block. I googled a number of recipes and videos to help make this toffee.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c  golden corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray and lining it with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Mix together the sugar and corn syrup in a large heavy bottomed pan with an accurate candy thermometer attached. Put the pan onto medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves (about 4 minutes).
  3. Cook this syrup until it reaches 300° F (about 10-15 minutes). Your syrup will turn golden.
  4. When it reaches 300° F, remove it from the heat and sprinkle on the baking soda (I found it to distribute more evenly by using a fine sieve), mix gently with a wooden spoon being careful not to over mix because it WILL deflate. This mixture will bubble up a great deal and that’s why you need a large pot.
  5. Gently turn out the bubbling candy onto the prepared cookie sheet and allow it to spread itself; DO NOT push it around, just leave it. The beauty will be the variety of thicknesses. Allow it to cool and harden.
  6. When it’s cool, remove the hard sheet to a cutting board and using the tip of a knife, allow the toffee to break apart in inconsistent shards. Alternate finishes: Dip one end into melted chocolate (slightly cooled).
  7. Store in an airtight container and enjoy responsibly.
SpongeToffee_1522

Sweet, sticky caramel, you old smoothy!

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We can’t have Christmas dinner without pumpkin pie, but it’s two weeks into January and most of us were trying to catch up from all the over eating we did during the holidays, so instead of making a giant pie, I decided to make mini tarts and that way one can have one or many, it’s up to the individual! Of course, I had this idea to brûlée the tops, just for a little difference and it worked out very well; the only thing is that you can’t do it too far in advance otherwise it gets mushy.

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This is an optical illusion, they are actually really mini!

Pumpkin Brûlée Mini Tarts

Makes 18 mini tarts and 4 4oz or 100 mL ramekins

Original recipe from Five Roses Flour Cookbook page 132

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You can see the hard brûléed tops as they shine in the sunlight!

Ingredients:

  • 18 mini tart shells, unbaked
  • 375 mL or 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin purée (I used Ed Smith)
  • 250 mL or 1 cup warm milk
  • 75 mL or 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 50 mL or 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 25 mL or 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 mL or 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 mL or 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 mL or 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 2 mL or 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 brown sugar, air dried (spread brown sugar on a cookie sheet for a few hours to air dry)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 230°C or 450°F .
  2. Combine all of the ingredients and pour mixture into tart shells until they just reach the rim.
  3. For the ramekins, prepare by smearing a good amount of butter on the sides and bottom and then dust with granulated sugar. Fill ramekins to top rim.
  4. Tarts should bake at 230°C or 450°F for 10 minutes and then at 160°C or 325°F for 10-15 minutes (they bake much faster than the ramekins). Ramekins will need to bake for 15 minutes at 230°C or 450°F and then at 160°C or 325°F for 15-20 minutes (a cake tester should come out clean when tested).
  5. Sprinkle a good solid but not thick coating of the brown sugar one each tart and ramekin, brûlée with your kitchen torch until sugar is melted and solidifies when cool. Serve with whipped cream.
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Shhhhh, they’re baking….

You caught my lie, I didn't have whipped cream!

You caught my lie, I didn’t have whipped cream!

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Creamy centre with a crunchy topping. But still no whipped cream!

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As most of you already know, my family Christmas was cancelled due to illness, both my niece and nephew came down with the stomach bug (in the olden days, we called it the 24 hour bug). Fortunately they both recovered, but we had to postpone the festivities so they wouldn’t spread the nasty virus.

Our Do-over Christmas was Sunday, January 13 and I made a full Turkey dinner along with stuffing, celeriac and cauliflower mash, Cherry Soup, Cherry Squares and Pumpkin Brûlée mini-tarts! Needless to say, it was a grand success and everyone went home with their bellies filled and their hearts happy. We may have to make this another tradition!

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Even though we had already taken down our real Christmas tree, I put up a small, artificial tree so that the kids would have their presents underneath it!

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Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without the traditional crackers. No one but me wore the stupid hats.

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Quinoa Stuffing

Serves 8-10 (yes, I made way too much!)

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Quinoa stuffing, trying to keep the carbs down.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa (we had a mix of red and white)
  • 100 g celery, cubed
  • 50 g roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 100 g onion, finely chopped
  • 100 g chorizo, finely choppedd
  • 100 g shitaki mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 50 g dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Cook the quinoa according to the directions, plus add 1/2 cup more water.
  2. Melt the butter in a small frying pan, and cook the onions until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft.
  3. Mix quinoa, onion, mushrooms, chestnuts, chorizo and dried cherries together. Add herbs and eggs and combine well.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  5. Press the stuffing mixture into a well greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Top off with the toasted, sliced almonds and bake an additional 15 minutes.
  7. Serve warm.

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MM910001158

What did you do? We celebrated at our favourite French restaurant and then stopped in at a party at Kim’s (neighbour, boss, friend) place. I had had the 24 hour stomach bug the day before, so I was a little tentative to party, but it all worked out in the end.

Did you make any resolutions? I evaluated my resolution from last year and by George I did OK. I resolved to use fewer zip lock baggies and I DID! I am using reusable containers instead, mostly glass but for the freezer I still use plastic. So what’s my resolution this year? I’m going to work out more regularly even though I tend to be good about it, I will resolve to go to the gym even when I don’t feel like it. Did you know it takes 21 days of repetition to become a habit? So all I have to do is work out for 21 days and I won’t have a choice. Hmmm.

As most of you have seen by my comments, Christmas was a bit of a wash for my side of the family; my brother’s kids came down with the stomach flu and Christmas Eve dinner was cancelled. That was a real bummer and the kids felt so terrible, so I told them we would recreate Christmas dinner when they all felt better in January. JT stepped out in the morning and bought us a Seafood feast we were going to enjoy instead of a traditional Christmas turkey dinner. Late afternoon we popped over to Barb‘s for some Christmas cheer and they had a gorgeous Charcuterie spread that was so moreish, we couldn’t stop eating. And then of course, we weren’t hungry for our seafood feast. It went back into the freezer and we’ll enjoy it another time!

Santa was very good to me this year and it was extra special because I participated in Charles’ Secret Santa. My not-so-secret Santa was Charlie over at Hotly Spiced. She sent along the greatest kitchen gadgets made by a 100 year old English company Tala which is very cool because it’s Taylor and Law! There was a great retro looking sifter and a really cool measuring cup and Charlie also added a beautiful Christmas ornament and the cutest festive napkins! Little did she know I’m a bit of a cocktail napkin collector! All much appreciated and already put to excellent use. Thank you Charlie.

We’re still in holiday mode over at Kitcheninspirations and we made gingerbread pancakes that were just so yummy I had to sneak in one more holiday recipe. Remember the fluffiest buttermilk pancakes I made on Thanksgiving weekend at my brother’s cottage? Well, I reinvented them into gingerbread pancakes.

Festive Gingerbread Pancakes

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Makes 6 pancakes 10cm (4.5in) in diametre

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or Tupperware container for travel, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices and salt. Set aside.
  2. Separate egg yolk from egg white and beat egg white and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peaks form but not dry.
  3. Beat the egg yolk until light yellow in colour and thick, add milk, vanilla and melted butter and beat until smooth on a slow speed. (For this small quantity, I find my immersion blender with whisk attachment a perfect size for both egg white and egg yolk).
  4. Fold in flour mixture, but don’t over mix as we don’t want the glutens activated.
  5. Add 1/3 of the egg white to the batter and mix together gently then fold in the remaining egg white carefully, do not over mix!
  6. Spray your skillet with non-stick spray set to medium temperature (or 350°F).
  7. Drop about 1/3 cup of batter on pan for each pancake and spread out to about 4-5″ and cook until you see a few bubbles on the surface of the batter. Flip your pancakes and cook for about another 1-2 minutes.
  8. Keep warm until you have made all the pancakes and serve warm with butter, maple syrup!

Note: recipe was updated December 2019.

IMG_3754_BLOG The coolest retro cooking tools

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ChristmasDay

My Christmas baking list was altered somewhat because I just couldn’t get it all done with the small diversions I subjected myself to. This is what I had intended on baking:

Here is this 2012′s round up:

Plates ready to be delivered

Plates ready to be delivered. May I send you one too?

Here’s what actually went down:

Very festive little parcels

Very festive little parcels

Card with legend

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I promised a new take on the ma’amoul cookie, this one dates back to my Fannie Farmer Cookbook, first published in 1896, my version in it’s 12th edition. I first made this cookie in 2009 and have been keeping my eyes open for a new and updated version. I love the shape the ma’amoul brings to this old favourite and I love how the oatmeal adds a bit of texture to this delicious filled cookie. I would be leading you astray if I said this was an easily formed cookie, and I had to keep wetting my hands to make the dough pliable and not brittle around the sweet date paste, but once I got the hang of it, it went like clockwork.

Oatmeal Date Filled Ma’amouls

Still the same cookie, just in ma'amoul's clothing!

Still the same cookie, just in ma’amoul’s clothing!

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients for the Date Paste:

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Ingredients for the Dough:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups oatmeal, pulsed for 2-4 minutes in a food processor

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small saucepan, put the dates, sugar and water and gently cook until thick and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  3. Cream the butter and add the brown sugar, mix well.
  4. Sift flour, baking soda and salt and add to the butter sugar mixture.
  5. Add the pulsed oatmeal, mixing thoroughly and adding 2-4 tbsp water to make a dough that can be rolled.
  6. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  7. Make 23 g balls of the dough. Gently press each ball into the palm of your hand so that it covers the entire palm (you’ll need the extra to fold up and cover the paste). Add about 1 teaspoon of the date paste into the centre and bring all the sides up to close in the paste. Place the ball of fill dough into the ma’amoul mold and gently press in. Tap firmly to release. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool and enjoy!
The difference is that this is not a shortbread crust, it's an oatmeal cookie.

The difference is that this is not a shortbread crust, it’s an oatmeal cookie.

And that concludes the Christmas Baking 2012 Series. I hope you enjoyed it.

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This time of year the blogosphere is chuck full of tempting recipes and creative ideas, the trick is to try to manage what you want to bake with what you can bake, given your time constraints. Last week, Kelly over at Inspired Edibles (a fellow Canadian) made up a very interesting vegan ‘brownie’ and although her’s looked delightful, I was inspired to make something a wee bit different, dare I say festive, plus it wasn’t necessary for me to keep it 100% vegan.

These are surprisingly good. I have a high tolerance for healthy (or healthier foods) but JT does not; if it doesn’t taste as good as it’s full fat/sugar cousin, he will want no part of it. But I kid you not, these passed even the strictest taste test: the JT taste test. So Kelly, I hope you don’t mind, here is a slight variation on your wonderful recipe, my dried fruit hazelnut truffles, thank you kindly for the inspiration. I used hazelnut butter and hazelnut essence because hazelnuts and chocolate are a winning combo in this household.

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The smooth, sweet centre is nicely contrasted by the rich chocolate and crunchy peanuts.

Dried Fruit Truffles

Adapted from Inspired Edibles’ Vegan Brownies

Makes 50-60 pieces

Fruit Paste Ingredients:

  • ½ c dried prunes
  • ½ c dates
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (I couldn’t find cherries)
  • 1 c almond flour
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut butter
  • ¼ c unsweetened coco powder
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence (or more depending on how strong it is)

Chocolate Coating Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence (or more depending on how strong it is)
  • 1 ½ cup coarsely chopped peanuts

Fruit Paste Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the fruit paste in a food processor and process until smooth. Make 1-1.5cm balls of the paste, set aside.
  2. Melt the two chocolates and butter in a saucepan over low heat, dip the balls one by one into the hot chocolate and roll in the chopped peanuts to coat. Refrigerate to set. Serve at room temperature.
Don't let these little delights fool you, they are darned tasty!

Don’t let these little delights fool you, they are darned tasty!

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I’m sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I’ve seen it many times on-line, mainly when I’ve been sulking around the net after hours. I even know of a few professional photographers guilty of it, but not during work hours. It really snuck up on me quite innocently. I uploaded it on my iPhone after I saw someone using it on Facebook. I thought, WHAT? How could that be? I was sure you could only achieve that look professionally. That is, what I mean to say, is that only a professional could achieve that look. But there it is on Facebook, and it’s more than just professionals doing it.

Of course, I am referring to Instagram, that incredible quirky photo app that can take photo, apply an effect and store it on various platforms. But if you’re sneaky like me, you might even use that shot for your blog. There I said it, yes, I have been guilty of using this app on my iPhone for some of my blog photos. And have received some very lovely compliments on some of those shots. Not that I’m saying I don’t like to use my lovely Canon Rebel, but it is a pain to get it all set up with the tripod and setting the aperture, blah, blah, blah…when all I have to do is reach over and shoot. Yep, that’s all I do. Sometimes I don’t even bother with lighting (the Naan shots, the Chicken Soup Shots to name a couple). Until now. Instagram was acquired by Facebook last April, and you know that can only mean trouble, with a capital T. So December 18 they posted an updated to their privacy policy which basically said that any photo posted on Instagram (and there is no other way to use it) belongs to them and they can sell it. REALLY? Sell. my. own. photos? I think not. But then later that same day, after a lot, and I mean A LOT of backlash they backtracked and took it all back. But it’s only a matter of time and frankly, I’m not sticking around for it. So I found a great app called Camera Awesome, it’s free and they won’t steal your photos — yet anyway, and it has A LOT more features than Instagram. Given, some of these features are for purchase, but they are only 99¢ so they are not bank breaking. The best features are the selected focus and exposure that operate independently to each other (unlike the iPhone camera). Also, it has some really cool features to change the sharpness, vibrance, temperature and contrast, so you don’t need to export and open in Photoshop. I also found an app that can super impose text over the existing photo, so I can copyright it direct from my iPhone. I’ll never have to fire up the iMac again. So now you know my dirty little secret, I hope I can trust you not to tell. 😉

Do you sometimes cheat and use your iPhone for the shot, and if so, what apps do you use to help you make them stand out?

My friend, boss, neighbour Kim and I exchange a small token gift every year and this year she got me something I had my eye on from over at Angie’s lovely blog, this beautiful cookie stamp! I couldn’t believe it, I was very excited to give it a go.

This stamp makes a lovely cookie

This stamp makes a lovely cookie. iPhone Photo.

I made the recipe that came with the stamp. Big mistake. It was way too buttery and the indentations all but melted into a flat, round cookie. I was disheartened. But then I remembered I had a batch of chocolate marshmallow fondant left over from cake pops I made a previous week, so I had an idea! The cookies had good texture and great flavour, you just couldn’t make out the stamp, so I rolled out the fondant to about 1 mm thick and pressed the stamp into it, cut it with a similarly sized cookie cutter and applied it to each cookie after it had cooled completely. SUCCESS! I’m tempted to make another batch because this one might have been sampled over.

So if you want to make cookies like this, just bake up a batch of your favourite shortbread or sugar cookies. You can buy the stamp at Chapters or Indigo or on line. The fondant is a very easy recipe from my dear friend Sawsan’s blog, Chef in Disguise. I simply added about 1/2 cup of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder to the finished fondant and kneaded it well to distribute evenly. It was very easy and very tasty!

They chocolate fondant covered cookies turned out better than expected.

They chocolate fondant covered cookies turned out better than expected. Instagram photo on my iPhone

Or you can head over to Ilan’s blog and bake up this recipe; Ilan is an amazing baker and blogger. Just make sure you leave out the leavening as he suggests so that your formed cookie doesn’t lose it’s shape.

A nice, old fashioned gingerbread cookie. And there is no question that they are 'Home Made'

A nice, old fashioned gingerbread cookie. And there is no question that they are ‘Home Made’. Camera Awesome Photo on my iPhone but I hadn’t figured out how to select focus with it yet!

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I’d like to apologize, this post was so unprofessional; when I left it last night, everything was done and it was timed to release this morning, as all my posts do. But for some reason, while eating my grapefruit and blueberries this morning, I decided to check it again on my phone and discovered a small typo at the beginning of the post, so I fixed it; unbenounced to me, I hadn’t refreshed the post on the phone to sync with the server, so what I actually did was update an older post, thereby overriding the actual post. ARGHHHHHHH! When I finally saw Norma‘s tongue in cheek comment later that morning, I realized my extreme faux pas. That’s what I get for using multiple devices to update my blog. I shall be ever more careful in the future, thanks Norma for calling me out. My punishment (well, other than mortal embarrassment), is to have to retype the entire post with the exception of the intro below. Now I’ll go stand in the corner.

I know there are many of you who, how shall I say this delicately, can’t stand to be in the same room as coconut, but here chez kitcheninspirations we love the stuff; the taste, texture, colour, aroma (makes me think of a beach vacation), we LOVE it! So this will not be the last coconutty thing we make, and unfortunately, you won’t be able to leave it out as it’s such an integral part of the recipe. So fasten your seat belts and prepare yourself for a chewy, lemony treat!

Chewy Lemon Squares

Chewy and lemony, I've never made this one with frosting and we have never missed it

Chewy and lemony, I’ve never made this one with frosting and we have never missed it

From Company’s Coming Squares by Jean Pare.

Makes 1 pan 9″ x 9″

First Layer Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c butter

First Layer Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Crumble flour, sugar and butter until mealy (you can save time and pulse this in a food processor, metal; blades)
  3. Press into ungreased 9×9 inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Second Layer Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon essence

Second Layer Directions:

  1. Beat eggs slightly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Spread over shortbread base. Bake at 350°F for additional 30 minutes, until set in the centre and golden in colour.
  3. Cool and cut into squares, or bars.

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I got off to a slow start this year due mainly to the fact that my cold just didn’t want to give up, even though I was doing everything right, like my Chicken Soup, Kelly’s delicious alcohol free Hot Toddy and lots of ginger tea with honey. And I still have a slightly lower octave voice but I’m feeling a lot better!

My Hungarian blogging buddy Zsuzsa suggested I post a list of my baking again this year, so here you go, my friend! I will also snap a few photos and post recipes in the days to come. Previously posted recipes are linked back, unless the photos were gross, in which case, I redid them and posted them again with a little twist!

Here is this 2012’s round up:

Now I bet you’re wondering where on earth did I get this gorgeous cookie mold; my dear friend Barb of Profiteroles and Ponytails was lovely to give it to me as a gift last June (shame on me for taking six months to make these gorgeous cookies with them). I know some of the bloggers (Betsy’s recipe, Sawsan’s recipe to name a couple) I follow have posted some very tantalizing recipes for ma’amouls, but I lacked their ingredients so I needed to find a recipe for which I had everything in my pantry. Plus these shortbread cookies have a lot, and I mean a lot of fat in them, so I searched and searched for a slightly lighter version. I made Bethany’s recipe with minor alterations and I also halved the quantity not knowing if we would love them. The dough is melt in your mouth shortbread dough, but it’s also a bit crumbly. The filling is lovely with the right amount of spice; before you jump to conclusions about the powdered sugar, I read somewhere that the date filled cookie is never sprinkled with powdered sugar . I will make these again, and I you’ll see how I’ve changed them up.

Ma’amouls

Please click here for original recipe, Bethany gives some great instructions.

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Apparently the traditional ma’amoules are not dusted with powdered sugar.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 425 g semolina
  • 100 g potato starch
  • 225 g of butter, melted
  • 125 mL orange blossom water (I substituted water with a few drops of orange essence)
  • 100 g of caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground green cardamom
  • 1 ma’amoul mold

Date Filling Ingredients:

  • 125 g dates, pitted
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 25 g of almond flour
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I was lucky that mine did not crack. Picture perfect.

Directions:

  1. Combine the semolina, farina, cardamom, sugar and butter together.
  2. Slowly add the orange water a tablespoon at a time, kneading it into a soft sticky dough (it shouldn’t stick to your fingers). Cover the dough and let it sit 2 hours.
  3. Prepare the filling while the dough rests. Add all the ingredients to a food processor container and process until smooth
  4. After it has rested, knead dough one more time and then divide into two or three even balls. Roll out each ball into a rope with a thickness of 2.5 to 3 cm. Cut to about 2.5-3 cm and roll into a ball.
  5. Flatten the dough using the palm of your hand on the counter and spoon a small size ball of filling into the centre. Lift up all sides and form into a nice round ball. It was suggested to roll this in some additional semolina before you press it into the mold, but it was greasy enough and the mold released it quite quickly.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven 200° C / 400° F until the sides are slightly brown in color. It will vary depending on oven — I baked mine for 20 minutes. Cool and serve.

No one will kick you out of bed for leaving crumbs!

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I posted a quick picture of this recipe on Facebook and Pinterest and received overwhelming response so instead of putting it in-line with my Christmas 2012 baking, I thought I would interrupt regular programming and post the recipe today. I did a search and found that I might indeed be the first person to make these all-time Canadian favourites into a truffle instead of their normal bar form. Every year JT asks me to make this bar, which personally I find just too sweet. I got to thinking a smaller, bite sized version might be the answer I was looking for so I came up with this idea and only had to marginally modify an existing recipe. I hope you enjoy it. And if you make them, please do let me know how it worked out.

Almost as teeth tingly as the regular Nanaimo Bars

Not nearly as teeth tingly as regular Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Truffles

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 36 truffles

Inside Layer Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 1 cup icing sugar

Inside Layer Directions:

  1. Cream butter, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Scoop out about 1 tsp and roll into a ball. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Second Layer Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ c graham wafer crumbs
  • ½ c finely ground almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup (spray your measuring cup with non-stick spray and it will slide right out)

Second Layer Directions:

  • Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in graham crumbs, coconut, almond flour and the corn syrup. Set aside.

Assembly Directions:

  1. Take about 1 packed tbsp of the second layer (crumb layer) in the palm of your hand and press to flatten to a large circle about 2mm thick.
  2. Put one custard ball into the centre and wrap the circle around the custard so that it totally covers it. Squeeze the crumb layer to form a tidy ball. Repeat until you have made all of the balls. Freeze for 30-60 minutes.

Chocolate Layer Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter

Chocolate Layer Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat and mix well. Without allowing the chocolate mixture to cool down, take a frozen ball and carefully stick a toothpick or skewer into it and dip into the melted chocolate to cover. Remove the stick and allow the chocolate to set on parchment paper (you could dip a finger into the chocolate to hide the hole, or not). The frozen balls will help set the chocolate faster. Store in refrigerator. Allow the balls to come back up to room temperature to serve.
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The centre is creamy and smooth which is a nice texture to the outside

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Yum.

;

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A couple of days ago I posted some photos and a link to my friend Ann’s blog, Cooking Healthy for Me because I made her little cheese snacks. When I read her post I was dumb-founded — she made four, 4, read F O U R, DOUBLE batches. Now that’s a lot of cheese, and I hate to admit, I was thinking, WTF? Well, after carefully extracting my foot from my mouth, I hesitantly admit that I am now on batch 3, THREE of these golden cheesy nuggets (single batches!). Thanks Ann. No really. This recipe will definitely be making the rounds during the holidays.

YUM!

Last night I made batch two and three and although batch three is identical to Ann’s cheese sensations, batch two was shaken up a tad (you know me ;-)!). I’ve updated with metric measures in case anyone across the pond might wish to try it.

Little bundles of cheesy goodness

Eva’s Take on Cheez-itz

from Ann who borrowed the recipe from Katrina’s Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • a combination of 8 oz (227 g) Jarlsberg, Parmesan and Mozzarella, or sharp cheddar, grated
  • 3 tbsp (45 g) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 tbsp (14 g) vegetable shortening
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (134 g) flour
  • 2 Tablespoons ice water
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling (I omitted this as I found the cheese salty enough)
  • 1 tsp horseradish (not creamed)*

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the cheese with the softened butter, shortening and salt in a the bowl. Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix until it is crumbly (mine was rather creamy with this type of cheese).
  2. Slowly add the flour and mix until crumbly; then add the ice-water. At first it looks like you might need more water, patience grasshopper, patience, the dough will come together in a moment.
  3. Cut in half and pat the dough down into a disc, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  5. Place disc on parchment paper and put the plastic wrap on top and roll each disc to 2mm or 1/8 inch thickness (this is the perfect thickness).
  6. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut into shapes. I found that my 2.5cm square cut the perfect size (the one’s pictured are a touch too big).
  7. Transfer to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy! Be careful – there’s a fine line with these between golden brown and over done – and it only takes seconds to burn!
  9. Remove to cooling rack.

Oh no! Not him again!?!?!?!?

*I made these again to take to our friend’s place on New Years Day and I added the horseradish because there is a local dairy in Southern Ontario who pairs their cheddar with it and it’s outstanding!

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Yesterday was Boxing Day, a tradition we’ve inherited from the UK. Although the history is quite different to what it has become today, it’s still a national holiday in Canada where many businesses are still closed and people get a day off. Except for retail stores! It’s a kind of Black Friday; sale madness and shopping frenzy! We’re heading down town to see if any bargains were meant for us, and we’ll be sampling our first new restaurant for lunch. In the meantime I have the final installment of the Christmas Baking Frenzy 2011 to share with you.
I have to admit that I have not made our Yule Log in years (since 2007, to be exact!). Charles at Five Euro Foods has inspired me to dust off my Mom’s ancient Hungarian Cookbook, drag out my Hungarian English Dictionary and bake my Mom’s traditional Yule Log. Our log is a marriage of the Hungarian Piskota (pronounced Pishkoata) and the traditional Canadian Yule Log with butter cream and a little of my Mom’s creative addition, whipped cream. But this year I forgot to buy the whipping cream and I had a logistic issue with transporting the cake so, like Charles I had to stick with a butter cream for the log. And some cute little snowflake decorations.

As I commented on Charles’ post that my Mom always decorated her Yule Log with little meringue mushrooms. When I was old enough, it was my job to pipe the mushroom shapes onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet and then when dried and cooled I would assemble them with the melted chocolate! What fond memories Charles’ blog brought back, thank you! Sadly, this year I tried three times to make my mushroom meringues and three times the meringue failed, so no mushroom meringues this year! Insert Sad face here.

Oh well, it seems that it’s usually me that eats them anyway, and I just don’t need it this year!

Gather 'round the table, y'all. It's time for dessert!

The Family Yule Log

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 120 g sugar
  • 120 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar.

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ x 13″ cake pan or jelly roll pan with parchment paper, carefully folding the corners. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Separate the eggs into two medium bowls. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, but not dry. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy and falls in a thick ribbon.
  4. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the pale egg yolk mixture.
  5. Sift about 1/3 of the flour into the egg yolk mixture, then alternate folding in with the egg whites being careful not to deflate the batter.
  6. Once all of the egg whites and flour have been folded in, the mixture will be thick. Pour carefully onto your prepared baking pan and spread out evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Lift the cake out of the pan using the parchment edges and lay onto a clean white cheesecloth sprinkled with the 2 tbsp sugar. Taking the short end, begin to roll the cake up tightly. Twist the cheesecloth ends tightly and allow to cool completely.

Rich Chocolate Butter Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled.
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the icing sugar and beat until entirely incorporated and fluffy.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate and beat well.

Cake Assembly:

Directions:

  1. Carefully unroll the cooled cake.
  2. Brush the inside of the roll with the raspberry jam (if it is too thick, you may want to heat it up a bit but if you do, make sure it is cooled before you add the Butter Cream).
  3. Spread about 1/3 of the butter cream on the inside of the roll. Carefully roll up the cake tightly.
  4. Place the roll onto your serving platter, roll side down.
  5. Spread the remaining butter cream evenly over the cake, covering both ends.
  6. Decorate with meringue mushrooms and silly plastic decorations (sadly, I forgot where I put ours :-()

I wish to thank you all for joining me while I baked for the last couple of weeks.

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This is the second last installment of the Christmas Baking Frenzy of 2011. The cookies I am posting today are a Christmas tradition that I started for my father-in-law and my husband’s brother-in-law, neither of whom should eat sugar; I present to you the Peanut Butter Cookie. Coincidentally, these are also gluten free.

The cookies are a little dry, so you'll need a cup of tea or coffee with them.

I was having a little fun with Photoshop

Sugar Free and Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Original Recipe by Paula Deen, Food Network
21 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
  • 1 cup baking sugar replacement (recommended: Splenda)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, 1 cup sugar replacement, the egg, and vanilla, and beat until entirely combined. Roll the dough into balls (I used a 1.25″ melon baller).
  3. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. Press down each cookie with the palm of your hand. With a fork press once in the typical PB Cookie method
  4. Bake for 14 minutes remove from the oven and cool.

On another note I wanted to share with you something absolutely AWESOME! For many years now, our neighbour to the north of us has brought Christmas to his house during the years our weather was not cooperative. This year was no different and although we have had a few light sprinklings of snow there was not enough to ‘stick’ and subsequently we have yet another ‘green Christmas’! Not to be outdone by nature, neighbour John goes out to the local skating arena and scoops up their leftover snow (what the Zamboni clears off the ice) and shovels it onto his front lawn in time for Christmas morning. The kids are teenagers now, but still LOVE this tradition and neighbour John is more than happy to oblige. Enjoy the snow.

The only lawn in Toronto that has snow!

Just in case you didn't believe me, that's our house next door!

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