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This unusual cake was a contribution of a dear neighbour we had over recently for a dinner party. We were so blown away with the use of quinoa that we had to give it a try ourselves. The recipe is super easy and oh-so-chocolatey! The original recipe isn’t vegan or dairy-free but I did substitute melted coconut oil for the butter and lactose-free milk for the milk. For Vegan, you could use soaked chia seeds for the eggs. Let me know how it turns out if you try the vegan version.

Be ready to hand out the recipe, this cake is that good. I was pleasantly surprised with the frosting, very rich and chocolatey; the mild avocado flavour was not off-putting (unless you hate avocados).

Care for a slice?

Chocolate Quinoa Cake

For the original recipe, click here.

Makes a double layer 20 cm cake

Ingredients:

  • 300 g cooked quinoa (3/4 cup dry yields about 300 g cooked)
  • 120 mL whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 170 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 140 g coconut sugar
  • 90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 20cm round baking pans with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add all of the wet ingredients, quinoa, eggs, vanilla, milk with sugar, salt and cocoa to your large food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the baking powder snd blend until combined.
  3. Turn into prepared pans in equal portions and bake for 30 minutes-or until a cake tester comes out cleanly.
  4. Cool. Turn out of pans and frost with the frosting below.

Chocolate Avocado frosting

Click here for the original recipe.

Makes about 250 mL, plenty to frost the cake above

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe avocados
  • 45 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 90-120 mL pure maple syrup
  • Splash of pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into the cup of your immersion blender and blend repeatedly until entirely smooth.
  2. Frost cake as soon as it has cooled. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Notes:

  • If you blend all of the cake ingredients together for too long, you’ll get a brownie-like texture.
  • Flegg (vegan egg substitute) is ground flaxseed with water mixed until gelatinous.
  • For the frosting, I used 90 mL Maple syrup and it was sweet enough.
  • The original recipe suggests the icing will discolour if made too soon before serving but we didn’t think leaving it for a couple of days impacted the colour to a great degree after all it’s pretty chocolate-brown anyway!
  • Avocados must be super ripe to get the creamy texture of a buttercream. You may use frozen avocados.
  • The second time I made this recipe I used coconut oil instead of butter and it was lovely.

Well, the renovation is complete. What should have taken 4-6 weeks ended up almost 5 months! This was a better experience than the first; our contractor was younger and had excellent communication skills which made the process much smoother. Basically, we took about 1/3 of our master bedroom and added an ensuite and walk-in closet and we also updated the main bathroom. We contracted the cabinet maker to make the built-ins on the wall across from the bed. JT and I installed the crown moulding. The master bath has all the amenities: fog-free mirror, heated floor, heated towel rack, flush-mount rain shower and so on. I am still on the hunt for a carpet for the bedroom. Here is a short video of the project.

 

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Peach Tarte Tatin

You know you have a winning dessert when the same friends ask you to bring the same dessert you brought to their home the last time. This is that dessert. It really ticks all of the boxes, local, delicious, fresh peaches, crispy and chewy puff pastry and last but not least, smooth sweet caramel. You just can’t go wrong!

Peach Tarte Tatin

For the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 large, firm-fleshed peaches, we used Ontario Peaches
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 75 grams butter, cubed
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 30 mL cognac
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, about 250 g (store-bought is fine), defrosted in the refrigerator 

Directions:

  1. A day or so before you wish to serve this dessert, peel the peaches and remove the stone and cut them in half. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice and place on a paper-lined cooling rack, cover with a clean kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator to allow to dehydrate a bit.
  2. In a cast iron or non-stick pan, add the sugar and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized. DO NOT STIR but you may swish the sugar in the pan as it begins to turn golden to cook more evenly.
  3. Add the butter and swirl until melted and combined with the sugar, add the pinch of cinnamon salt and the cognac and continue to swirl to combine.
  4. Turn the heat to low and add the apples in a circular pattern keeping in mind that the part you can see is actually the bottom of the tarte.
  5. Cook the apples for about 8 minutes on medium-low. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375° F.
  6. While the apples are cooking stove-top, untouched, cut the defrosted pastry in a slightly larger circle than the pan and put into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan with the apples from the heat, and top with the pastry, tucking in the sides all the way around.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Turn out, upside-down onto a serving platter and serve warm.

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At the time I wrote this post, the last week of June, we were still not finished our renovation. Someone mentioned it might be because of my treats. Whatever the reason, it is rather frustrating. A trade might come in for a few hours and then leave. I can see other things that can be done in the meantime, but it’s usually just one thing at a time. Our last reno was the same, so I guess it is “normal”. Still frustrating.

In the meantime, I am scouring the web for new recipes and this one stood out for me. My friend Liz of That Skinny Chick that can Bake is my GoTo for outrageous treats. Her blog is filled with decadent sweets, beautifully presented and photographed. As I was cruising through her beautiful blog, I came across her Caramel Butter Squares and WHAM! I knew what my next treat would be. Plus I had a jar of Argentinian Dulce de Leche in my pantry, it was a done deal.

I converted Liz’s recipe to metric measures because I find it much easier. The Dulce de Leche caramelizes in some parts and is a bit runny in others. It really is dreamy. We will see how the guys like it.

Douce de Leche Butter Squares

For original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 227 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100 g sugar
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • 15 mL vanilla
  • 280 g flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 230 g Dolce de Leche sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Prepare a 23″ x 23″ cm (9″ x 9″) pan by lining with parchment and spraying with non-stick spray.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. Beat in the flour and salt on low speed until entirely incorporated.
  4. Portion about 1/2 of the flour mixture into the bottom of the pan and press evenly to all sides. Bake for 20 minutes. Refrigerate the remaining pastry.
  5. After you have baked the base pastry, pour in the Dolce de Leche sauce and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Crumble the remaining pastry onto the top, being careful not to cover entirely.
  6. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden.
  7. Allow to cool completely and cut into squares or bars.

Notes:

  • Liz’s recipe calls for an 8″ square pan, but I had quite a bit of pastry left over so I upped it to 9″. In fact, the second time I made this, I used a 9″ x 13″ pan and it was excellent.
  • You may use premium caramel sauce, as Liz’s recipe does.
  • You may also use 300 mL caramelized sweetened condensed milk. Learn how to make caramel from sweetened condensed milk here.
  • Liz also has a recipe that includes chocolate chips.

For these squares, I used Caramelized Sweetened Condensed Milk. They were pretty darned tasty.

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It seems that our contractor and subs are all foodies this time around! From our first gen Slovanian contactor to the Greek plumber, Costa Rican electrician and Croatian cabinetmaker they all LOVE food! In fact, our cabinetmaker has more food pics on his phone than I do!

This food-centric group plays into my baking very well! In fact, to reciprocate, our contractor, Marko brought us Portuguese Custard Tarts as a gift and they were awesome! I knew on first bite that I had to make them. What makes them awesome is the flaky, crispy, yet chewy pastry. It’s a laminated pastry, like a croissant but much easier to make. Although they require a little planning ahead, they are totally worth it. Do yourself and your family and make this recipe, you won’t regret it.

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Makes 32 mini custard tarts

For the original recipe and an excellent video, please click here.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 145 g AP unbleached flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 135 mL water
  • 120 g butter, softened

Directions for the pastry:

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, salt and water and knead until it begins to come away from the bowl. It is a shaggy dough.
  2. Remove from the bowl and flour generously (it is very sticky). Form into a square as best as you can (it is a very wet dough). Cover with plastic wrap and rest it for 10-15 minutes.
  3. On a generously floured surface, roll the dough out to 40 cm  40 cm square. Brush off any excess flour from the top. Gently spread the softened butter on 2/3 of the dough to about 3 cm from the edge. Fold the unbuttered third over the buttered middle and fold the other side over that (exactly like you would working croissant dough).
  4. Turn the dough 90° and roll out again to a 40 cm square, generously flouring as needed. Brush off excess flour and repeat buttering the dough the same way and fold the same way as previously.
  5. Roll out the dough a third time to 40 cm square and butter the entire surface leaving about 3 cm all the way around the edge. Roll the dough tightly from one end to the other, cut the roll into two and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Ingredients for the custard:

  • 20 g AP unbleached flour
  • 25 mL milk
  • 125 mL milk (two separate quantities of milk)
  • 87 mL water
  • 120 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 3 eggs yolks

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour with 25 mL milk and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Heat 125 mL milk until almost boiling. Slowly pour into the flour and milk slurry and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a small, heavy bottom saucepan, combine the water, sugar and cinnamon stick. Without stirring, heat until the sugar has melted and it has reached 225° F. Remove the cinnamon stick carefully. Pour into the milk-flour slurry until and whisk until smooth. Whisk this mixture for about 10 minutes to cool significantly.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks together and whisk them into the cooled slurry. This mixture keeps refrigerated for 1 day until the pastry has rested in the refrigerator.

Making the tarts:

  1. Preheat the oven to 550° F or the highest temperature your oven will go. The trick is to bake these super hot for a short time.
  2. Lightly butter mini muffin tins.
  3. Slice the rolled dough in about 1.5 cm slices and place each one into a buttered muffin cavity. With slightly wet fingers, push the dough up into the sides of the tin making sure the bottom doesn’t become too thin. Fill 3/4 full with the custard mixture.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes ir until the custard tops become blistered slightly and the crust has baked to a crisp pastry.
  5. Cool and serve.

Notes:

  • I have also made these tarts using store-bought puff pastry and although they are good, they are not the same as homemade laminated pastry. If you have the patience, do the homemade version, it is better.

 

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Spring has been avoiding us in Toronto. We have had a few nice days of sunshine and relative warmth but for the most part it’s been rainy and unseasonably cold. It is depressing. If it weren’t for the gorgeous greenery exploding in anticipation of summer, you would think it is November.

I haven’t baked madeleines in a very long time and I thought the orange flavour would mentally transport us to more summer-like weather and JT loves orange and chocolate. Sadly, they were not a big hit with the construction crew but that made JT happy because he was able to keep them for himself (it’s been a bit of struggle keeping JT from munching on the treats that I’ve made for the crew, wink wink). These baked up beautifully and without that strange little bump in the centre, which is a win for me.

Orange & Almond Scented Madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated orange zest (about 2 small oranges)
  • 128 g all-purpose flour
  • 48 g almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds)
  • 145 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, divided
  • 80 g semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. With about 30 g of the butter, generously butter the Madeleine moulds and put it into the freezer.
  3. Melt the remainder of the butter in the microwave or small saucepan. Set aside to cool.
  4. Put about 2 tbsp of the melted butter in a frying pan and toast the almond flour (carefully, this burns quickly). Set aside to cool.
  5. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat the whole eggs with the granulated sugar until the mixture is thick and pale and forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted (15-20 minutes).
  6. Beat in the toasted almond flour and mix well so no lumps remain.
  7. Beat in the almond and orange extracts and the zest.
  8. Sift in the flour in 4 batches over the mixture, folding it in gently after each addition.
  9. Put about 250 mL of the batter into the cooled melted butter and incorporate well.
  10. Gently fold this butter-batter mixture into the remaining batter.
  11. Spoon the batter into twenty-four buttered Madeleine moulds and bake the Madeleines in the lower third of a preheated 375°F oven for 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden.
  12. Turn the Madeleines out on a rack, let them cool.
  13. Once cooled, dip into the chocolate if using right away, if not, Madeleines freeze well.

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The renovation is going well. We really like this contractor because he communicates frequently. He’s on site almost every day; he’s only missed one or two days and it was because his wife had a baby! The subs are also good, only a couple of them smoke and they have been reasonably good about not littering their cigarette butts (you’d be surprised).

However, I do have a couple of issues which we will take up with him on our project review at completion. It’ll be feedback to he can improve for the next project.

As you know, I bake for the guys almost everyday and these squares were part of my repertoire. The pastry is delicious but quite delicate so it’s a little finicky to roll out. JT thought the jam to crust ratio wasn’t high enough, but I like a buttery crust so it was fine with me. The jam caramelizes as it bakes and concentrates the flavour. I used a jam with double the fruit, but i think regular jam would work too. Needless to say, these didn’t last long.

Linzer-Style Squares

For the original recipe, kindly click here.

Makes one 23 cm 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan

Ingredients:

  • 250 g butter, cold
  • 250 g flour
  • 125 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground cloves
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150 g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp Lemon zest
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 375 mL Jam (your choice)
  • 1 egg, whisked (for brushing the lattice)

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine the butter, flour, icing sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ground almonds, pinch of salt, lemon zest and egg yolk and pulse until it comes together. Form into a disk and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a square pan with parchment paper.
  3. Divide the dough into 1/3 and 2/3 and push the 2/3 quantity of dough into the pan in an even layer. Spread the jam of your choice over the bottom layer of the dough.
  4. Divide the remaining 1/3 of the dough into 12 equal parts and roll into thin straws. Lay the straws on top of the jam layer in a lattice pattern. Brush the lattice with egg and bake for 50-60 minutes or until pastry is lightly golden.
  5. Cool completely and cut into even squares. Sprinkle with icing sugar if desired.

Notes:

  • This is not a traditional Linzer torte.
  • Linzer is traditionally made with red currant jam, I used strawberry because I had a lot of it on hand.

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I baked these apple crumble squares for the contractor and his team way back in early May. They inhaled them! I’m thinking this lot loves fruit so my next treats will focus on the fruity varieties. I found the original recipe here and made some modifications by cutting down the sugar because we don’t love sweet sweets. The pastry is lovely, just the right amount of caramelization and shortcrust texture, the apples are plentiful, soft and sweet and the crumble topping is just the icing on the squares, except it’s crumble and not icing! These are definitely going into my square repertoire. A real tasty treat.

Apple Crumble Squares

Makes 1 23 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) pan

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 170 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 115 g granulated sugar
  • 256 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • zest of one lemon
  • pinch salt

Directions for the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 23 cm x 33 cm pan with parchment.
  2. Using a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in the flour, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt.
  1. This is a very soft pastry, roll between two sheets of parchment and press into the parchment-lined pan evenly and bake for 15 minutes.
  1. Remove from heat and cool as you are slicing the apples.

Ingredients for the Apples:

  • 5 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 45 g all-purpose flour
  • 65 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions for the Apples:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon and mix well.
  2. Lay a thin layer of apples onto the pastry and sprinkle the flour, sugar and cinnamon over the apples and repeat until all of the apples and flour mixture are utilized.

Ingredients for the Crumble:

  • 65 oats, not quick
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 65 g all- purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 114 g cold butter, cubed

Directions for the Crumble:

  1. Using a plastic blade in your food processor, combine all of the ingredients and pulse until coarsely combined. Sprinkle evenly over the apples and bake for 45 minutes or until apples are soft to poke through.
  2. Cool and slice into squares. Serve at room temperature.

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