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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.

 

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.

Juicy Beef Burgers

We don’t eat burgers often, but when we do they had better be mouth-wateringly delicious! These definitely hit the spot.

I made a similar recipe way back in 2015 when The Hungarians (my cousin and his wife) came for a visit. We invited them to our street party and this was the recipe I used for our dinner. When my cousin’s wife asked what we were having for dinner, I told her burgers (frustok, in Hungarian) she made a face. Yup, she made a face that clearly said “oh no, not THAT!” You see, Hungarian burgers are dry little meat pucks, they are generally overcooked and simply unpleasant to eat (the ones I’ve had anyway). So I had to prove her wrong. Her face told a whole different story as she took her first bit! Her comment was, “these are delicious!” And that made me very happy.

Juicy Beef Burgers

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 8 125 g burgers

Ingredients:

  • 900 g sirloin tip roast, ground
  • 50 g smoked bacon, ground
  • 120 g onion, finely chopped
  • 25 g roasted garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 g bread crumbs
  • 5 g salt

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together until well blended. Shape into 125 g patties and press down to eliminate air bubbles.
  2. Freeze until needed or cook on the barbeque until the internal temperature is 160° F. Serve hot on a toasted, home-made brioche bun. I used this recipe.

Notes:

  • You may use a combination of beef and pork and it’s equally delicious.
  • If you’re feeling particularly cheeky, add a small amount of pork belly and it will definitely up-the-ante.
  • We use roasted garlic because we find raw is too pungent, go ahead and use raw if you prefer.
  • The raw onions cook through so they are not raw tasting, they are necessary for the moist factor in this recipe.
  • Defrost burgers overnight in the refrigerator, don’t cook from frozen.

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.

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.

We entertain a lot. I usually like to have a variety of small bites in the freezer to draw upon so I don’t have to think about one course. These shrimp cakes freeze beautifully and reheat very well, the perfect hors d’œuvres for a dinner party.

Vietnamese Seafood Cakes

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 40 bite-size cakes

Ingredients:

  • 140 g “00” flour
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 100-125 mL water
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 20 g green onions, finely sliced
  • 20 g sesame seeds, toasted
  • 350 g Raw Shrimp, scallops and clams chopped roughly in larger chunks
  • Grape seed oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, baking powder and sea salt and mix well.
  2. Whisk eggs with water and ginger.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix into a paste (about the consistency of pancake batter).
  4. Add the remaining ingredients (cilantro, green onions, sesame seeds and chopped seafood and mix well.
  5. Heat about 1 cm grapeseed oil in a pan. Using a 4 cm cookie scoop, scoop spoonfuls into the hot oil and press down to flatten a bit. Fry each side until golden.
  6. Serve warm with a spicy mayo dipping sauce (125 mL (1/2 cup) mayo with 15 mL (1 tbsp) sriracha sauce) and a splash of honey.

 

We frequent a French bistro in the city, Le Select, in fact, it’s probably our favourite restaurant in the city! JT alternates from the menu items, but I like my favourites (French Onion Soup, Steak Tartare) and seldom stray from them. We tend to share an appetizer and the last time we were there, the table next to us could not say enough about the Terrine de Poisson Fumé, an airy terrine of smoked Georgian Bay whitefish served with grilled home-baked Foccacia so we had to have it. It was wonderful. Smooth, creamy, full of smoky flavour, we loved it so much, I had to make something like it for a dinner party. 

This is Le Select’s version, our inspiration.

Smoked Salmon Mousse with Dijon Sesame Bark

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 375 mL mousse

Ingredients for the Salmon Mousse:

  • 150 g smoked salmon, roughly chopped
  • 100 g cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 g anchovy paste
  • 100 mL whole milk
  • 120 mL water
  • 2 g agar-agar

Directions for the Salmon Mousse:

  1. Dissolve agar-agar in the water and slowly bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes or until the agar-agar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, add the salmon, cream cheese, anchovy paste and whole milk to a food processor (choose one that will emulsify the salmon to a smooth, creamy consistency (my Magic Bullet did a great job).
  3. Once the agar-agar has cooled somewhat, whisk into the salmon mixture until smooth.
  4. Prepare silicon your mould by spraying it lightly with water. Pour the salmon mousse into each mold evenly. Allow to set in the refrigerator.
  5. Serve with gourmet crackers or toasted baguette.

Dijon Sesame Bark

Ingredients:

  • 20 g sugar
  • 5 mL honey
  • 5 mL water
  • 30 g sesame seeds (black and white)
  • 5 g butter
  • 5 mL Dijon mustard

Directions:

  • Mix the sugar with the dijon, honey and the water and cook over medium heat until everything has dissolved. Allow to come to a boil and slightly darken.
  • Stir in the sesame seeds and continue to cook until it is about 300° F. Remove from heat and add the butter and Dijon mustard and stir well to incorporate.
  • Pour the content onto a Silpat sheet or buttered baking sheet and spread out thinly. You may wish to cover with parchment and roll with a rolling pin.
  • Allow to cool, break into smallish bits or shards to sprinkle over the salmon mousse.

Assembly of the Smoke Salmon Mousse Plate:

  1. Carefully unmould the salmon mousse and place in the centre of a plate. Sprinkle with the dijon sesame bark (or serve bark in shards as below) and serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
This is how I served the mousse for a recent dinner party.

Notes:

  • You may use the traditional smoked salmon that is thinly sliced but I used a Wild Pacific Salmon Side we hot smoked on the Big Green Egg. 
  • Any smoked fish would work, as long as you can purée it smoothly.

 

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