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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.

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.

 

Our last trip to Europe was a culinary shopping success, but sadly failed miserably in the Fashion area, particularly shoes. My shoe shopping times were constantly thwarted by siesta, and when there wasn’t siesta, I just wasn’t in the mood. I guess it just wasn’t my time. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t shopping, because there was quite a bit of shopping to be had, and I did my fair share, in the culinary field.

I brought back a variety of things that will be revealed in due time but now I shall direct you to this very delicious dessert/snack of peach and coconut jelly squares made with agar-agar. I have been wanting to buy this stuff but I have only ever found flavoured product so when I spotted it at my favourite grocery store in Almeria, I was all over it. Figuring out what to do with it was another story, so many interesting recipes. But what I really needed was a test experiment to see what exactly the texture of jelly that agar-agar creates. You see, we had the most luxurious, smoked fish mousse at our favourite French bistro and I was determined to recreate it. I was fairly certain that it was not made with gelatin because the texture was way to creamy and easily spreadable. It was so silky and smooth spread across some toasted baguette, it was a wonderful textural and taste experience. Making this light dessert showed me the proportions I needed to make a smooth, yet spreadable smoked fish mousse.

This is a recipe modified from this tasty recipe. I used peaches because I had peaches at home (frozen from the previous spring). It’s refreshing and the texture is smooth and creamy but it also has a bit of a gelatinus mouthfeel.

Peach and Coconut Jelly Squares

Ingredients:

Peach Layer

  • 100 mL grilled peach purée (roughly about 2 peaches peeled and chopped)
  • 5 mL lime juice
  • 150 mL water
  • 2 g 1 agar-agar powder
  • 30 g monk fruit crystals 
  • 5 mL vanilla

Coconut Layer

  • 200 mL cup water
  • 1 tsp agar-agar powder
  • 45 g monk fruit crystals
  • pinch of salt
  • 200 mL coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Add the water to a saucepan and add the agar-agar, slowly bring to a full boil, and stir until the agar-agar has completely dissolved. Add the monk fruit crystals and stir until dissolved.
  2. Add the peach purée and vanilla and stir to combine well. Pour into the mould.
  3. For the coconut layer, add the water to a saucepan and add the agar-agar and slowly bring to a full boil and then stir until the agar-agar has dissolved. Add the monk fruit crystals and stir until dissolved, add the salt and coconut milk and stir to combine well.
  4. Once the peach layer has set (this happens as it cools, does not need to be refrigerated), carefully pour the coconut layer over it. Both layers should be warm so that they stick together.

On March 30, we woke up to snow. Not much, just a light covering, but it still was distressing. Throughout the day, it snowed some more, not enough to shovel, but enough to put a damper on the last Sunday of March. Believe me, we were in dire need of Spring.

Since it was such a gloomy day, I decided to bake tanzghong brioche burger buns after being inspired by my dear Aussy friend, Lorraine, who was also experiencing some gloom on a rainy fall day in Australia. Hopefully, these buns will inspire the weather to begin behaving as it should in the springtime and not like February.

It’s May 6 today and we’ve finally had a spring-ish day. Temperatures were around 17C (62F) which is a far cry better than we’ve had. Garden cleanup has begun. Planting in these parts must wait until the Victoria Day weekend (traditionally known as May two-four weekend, which will be May 18-20 this year). It’ll be the official beginning of spring! Roll out the barbecues and burgers! Patio season has begun!

Tanzghong Brioche Hamburger Buns

For the recipe inspiration, please click here.

Makes 8 burgers buns (for 125 g burgers)

Ingredients:

  • 300 g unbleached, all-purpose flour, divided
  • 125 g water
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 g quick yeast
  • 25 g superfine sugar
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • xx g Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine 50 g of the flour with the water and cook over low heat until a smooth paste is formed. Allow to cool for a bit. Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine the remaining 250 g flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Pour in the flour paste/egg liquid and knead until the dough comes together. Add the softened butter and knead on medium-high for 30 minutes or until the dough is no longer sticky and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Grease a bowl and add the dough, cover and set in a warm, dark place for about 1 hour.
  4. Shape into 8 buns (about 93 g each) and set on a baking sheet covered with a clean cloth for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  6. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is about 185° F to 190° F.
  7. Allow to cool before cutting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been baking like a mad woman for our contractor and team. They seem to really like it. I know that JT does! I’ve made tangzhong cinnamon rolls, rice crispy squares, carrot cake, pineapple upside down cake, chewy lime squares cherry squares, chocolate chunk cookies and so on. We put our Keurig just outside the construction zone with fresh Timmy’s coffee but I don’t think they drink coffee! So I added tea, still no takers! The younger guys don’t even smoke! Go figure!

The demo had moved along at a good pace, uncovering a mess of previous badly done renos. Fortunately, not difficult to fix, just annoying that it was done so poorly! The next weeks will tell if we will finish by the deadline of June 1, as we were hoping to have overnight guests on the 5th! Fingers crossed.

Just before we hunkered down, I had my gluten intolerant BFF and picky-eater hubby for brunch. I’d always wanted to make a cornmeal cake so I figured why not now! This one had a gritty texture but not entirely unappealing. I think next time I’ll use a finer texture or I’ll soak the cornmeal a bit.

Gluten-Free Lemony Cornmeal Cake

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch) cake

Ingredients:

  • 140 g cornmeal
  • 50 g almond flour
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 30 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 120 mL Greek yoghurt
  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 120 mL lemon juice
  • 70 g sugar

Directions:

  1. Line a 20 cm (8 inch) round cake pan with parchment, buttered lightly. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Whip the butter until light and fluffy add the lemon zest. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Add 30 mL lemon juice, yoghurt and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients and pour into the prepped pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, combine 120 mL lemon juice and remaining sugar and cook on a slow boil until slightly thickened and sugar is completely dissolved. Reserve for cake.
  6. When cake is done, allow to rest for 10 minutes, then pour the lemon syrup over the cake.

Notes:

  • This cake has a lot of texture, similar to cornbread, it’s not bad, just different.
  • The lemon syrup adds a nice amount of moisture and lemony flavour to this simple dessert.
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