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Posts Tagged ‘Dessert’

The last time I posted about this traditional Christmas dessert was in 2011 and I didn’t even bother to decorate it with the mushrooms and pinecones, this time I went all out! This show-stopper dessert is a fabulous end to a wonderful celebratory meal so, get it on the calendar for next Christmas. Fortunately, each item can be made in several days and assembled at the last moment so you needn’t spend all day in the kitchen.

The Cake

Makes one 23 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) slab rolled into a log.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 120 g sugar
  • 120 g AP flour
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 5 g grated lemon zest
  • 30 g granulated sugar, for dusting the kitchen towel
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam, for spreading before you roll it.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 23 cm x 33 cm (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 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 it carefully into your prepared baking pan and spread it 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 kitchen towel sprinkled with the granulated sugar, remove the parchment. Spread the jam evenly onto the cake to all edges (if the jam is too thick, heat it up for a minute or so or add some kirsch to it). Taking the short end, begin to roll the cake up tightly. Twist the cloth ends tightly and allow it to cool completely. Store in tightly wrapped plastic until needed

Rich Chocolate Butter Cream

Ingredients:

  • 76 g unsalted butter
  • 250 g sifted icing sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 30 g unsweetened, chocolate melted and cooled.

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the icing sugar with about 30 mL of cold water as needed to make a fluffy cream and beat until entirely incorporated and fluffy.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the cool melted chocolate and beat well.
  3. Store in the refrigerator, and bring it to room temperature when needed.

Rubbing cocoa powder on the meringue mushrooms makes them even more authentic looking.

Meringue Mushrooms

Makes about 10 mushrooms of various sizes.

Ingredients:

  • 65 g granulated sugar
  • 30 g egg whites
  • 5 g unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for rubbing into the finished meringues
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 10 g dark chocolate, melted for assembly

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients, but the dark melted chocolate in a stand mixer bowl and beat until thick and shiny, the meringue should stand when a peak is pulled out.
  2. Bake at 200° F for approximately 2 hours (this will depend on how thick your mushroom pieces are.
  3. Allow to cool completely. When cool, rub the unsweetened cocoa powder into each cap and stem, the more varied the colour the better. Assemble the mushroom cap with the stems by ‘gluing’ the stem to the bottom of the cap with the melted, dark chocolate. Set aside in a cool, area that is not moist.

These pinecones are crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside with a good hit of real rum!

Rum Ball Pine Cones

Makes about 4 medium-sized pine cones.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of fudge brownies (I used this recipe)
  • 15 g of peanut butter
  • 15 mL rum
  • 15 g cornflakes
  • 30 g dark chocolate, melted
  • 50 g almond slices, toasted

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients but the dark chocolate and almon slices in a food processor and process until it makes a nice thick dough that sticks together when shaped into a ball.
  2. Divide the dough into four equal portions and shape into a pinecone shape. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Taking whole slices of the almonds, dipped into the dark chocolate at one end, stick each piece to the pinecone shape in a circular pattern, overlapping the last one, until the entire cone is covered. You may want to place the cones into the freezer to set each row of almonds. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.

Bûche de Noël Assembly:

  1. Spread about 1/3 of the buttercream over the jam-filled side of the rolled cake. Re-roll it tightly. Spread the remaining buttercream over the outside of the cake, it should not be smooth, but rough like bark.
  2. Place the mushrooms strategically on the edge of the log, inter-spersing the pinecones. Sprinkle with icing sugar lightly to emulate snow. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream if desired.

Wrapping the plated cake in cellophane really makes it festive.

Notes:

  • Roughly chopped pistachios or roasted pepitas make beautiful “moss” on the log.
  • Lightly dusted icing sugar replicates a light snow nicely.

 

 

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Let me begin this post by admitting that I have not had a serious Christmas baking-spree in quite a few years. People are watching their sugar intake, fat intake and intake in general and during the Christmas holidays, we tend to overeat so leaving sweets off the list seems to be a no-brainer. Plus there seems to be plenty of sweets around anyway. This year was going to be no different, I would bake a few things but not the 10-15 items I used to bake back in the day. 

When we were down in Arizona (don’t worry, it’ll all tie together in the end), we hosted quite a few dinner parties and I cooked a lot. But, in order not to have too many leftover pantry items, I decided that I wouldn’t bake sweets but these dinner parties still needed something for dessert. For one such occasion, I bought a Ghirardelli  Caramel Brownie Mix that turned out much better than I imagined, they actually tasted homemade! I can usually taste a chemical flavour in mixes but I have to admit, I haven’t purchased a mix in several decades so I had no idea how far they’ve come along. This mix was so yummy, I brought 2 packages back for a friend who isn’t a baker as a souvenir gift. Because I hadn’t done my marathon Christmas baking in so many years, I’d completely forgotten that my dear friend’s daughter i’s allergic to walnuts and…you guessed it, the mix had walnuts! What a bummer! I felt horrible that I’d forgotten her allergy; my usual Christmas baking had me focused on baking items without walnuts just for her! How could I have forgotten? I blame age, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So fast forward to Christmas 2022, I baked my friend’s daughter these brownies to make up for my foolish mistake. They are a bit more finicky than my regular brownies, but they have the best texture that is worth the extra step. The changes I made to the recipe are listed in the notes below.

You might think this is an outdated photo, with the Christmas tree in the background, but I have the little tree out all year long!

Best-ever Fudge Brownies

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan

Ingredients:

  • 165 g sifted all-purpose flour

  • 5 g salt

  • 113 g unsalted butter

  • 118 g semi-sweet Belgian chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 62 g Belgian milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 200 g sugar, divided

  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 23 cm square pan with parchment.
  2. Sift together the flour and salt, set aside.
  3. Microwave the butter and two chocolates for 15-second spurts on hi, stirring and carefully watching it to make sure the chocolate doesn’t seize. Add 100 g of the sugar and stir to combine. Microwave for 1 minute on power 4, stir often, and then microwave for two 15-second spurts on high, stirring frequently. Mix in the vanilla and set aside.
  4. Combine the second 100 g of sugar with the eggs in the small bowl of your stand mixer and whisk well by hand. Add half of the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture slowly, making sure you don’t scramble the eggs with the heat of the chocolate. Set aside.
  5. Set the remaining egg mixture bowl onto your stand mixer and mix on high for 3 minutes or until doubled in volume and thickened. Gently fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture and when almost combined, add the sifted flour and salt and fold until combined.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 23-27 minutes (the centre should just be set). Allow to cool completely and cut into squares.

Notes:

  • The recipe has been changed to metric and some steps have been converted to use the microwave instead of a bain-marie.
  • I used a metal 23 cm x 23 cm pan and my baking instructions have been adjusted to suit my pan and oven.
  • The original recipe used bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate but I only had semi-sweet and milk chocolate and it turned out very well.

 

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Back in October, we were seeing friends more than usual as we were going to spend the month of November in Arizona; there is always a feeling of urgency to see our peeps just before we go away for a significant period of time. For one such get-together, I finally baked a Basque Cheesecake! I say finally because it’s been on my list for years! I chose the Serious Eats recipe because it was in grams and easy to half as I only needed about half of the size.

Basque Cheesecake

For the original recipe, please click here. This recipe makes one 23 cm (8 inch) cheese cake.

Ingredients:

  • 450 g full-fat cream cheese, brought to 21°C
  • 135 g and 15g sugar, divided
  • 137.5 g egg (~3 whole eggs)
  • 15 g egg yolk (~1 yolk)
  • 115 g heavy cream
  • 10 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 g vanilla extract
  • 1.5 g salt
  • 2 g lemon zest, finely grated

Directions:

  1. Prep the pan by lining it with 2 square sheets of parchment paper (see notes).
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and 135 g of sugar and beat with the paddle attachment, scraping the sides frequently, until there are no more lumps and the sugar has dissolved (3-4 minutes).
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 10 second on each addition, scraping the sides of the bowl between additions.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared parchment-lined pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F with the oven rack in the middle.
  7. Remove the cake pan from the refrigerator and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining 15 g of sugar over the top of the pan and bake until the cheesecake is lightly browned on top.
  8. Increase the temperature to 450° and bake until the top is darker brown without burning (see notes). The cheesecake will be done when centre registers between 150° F and 155° F (65.5° C to 68° C). Or when the centre only jiggles a little bit.
  9. Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature for at least 4 hours. To remove from the pan, use the overhang of the parchment to pull the cheesecake straight out and set on an even surface, remove the parchment carefully, prying it away gently or with a small knife. Serve at room temperature or store in the fridge for no more than 3 days, covered to avoid it drying out.

This is a super-rich cheesecake that really doesn’t need any accompaniments.

Notes:

  • The easiest way to line a round pan with parchment is to thoroughly wet the parchment and wring it out. Now press it into the round pan, leaving the excess to overlap the rim of the pan. Set it in a warm oven to dry out (doesn’t have to be 100% dry, just dry enough so that the batter doesn’t stick to it). Cool completely. If you have two same-sized pans, you can insert the second one into the parchment-lined pan to push the parchment into the edges.
  • Your baking temperature may need to be reduced, on my first attempt, the timing in the original recipe was off because and I burnt the cheesecake. I reduced the temperatures to suit my oven.
  • You really don’t need a spring-form pan to make this cake, the parchment does all the work.

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Canadian Thanksgiving was October 10th, about a month earlier than American Thanksgiving. We do everything pretty much the same as Americans, except that we are not as much into American football. Thanksgiving to Canadians means family getting together and enjoying the company, the food, and the gorgeous fall colours, not so much sports. This year was a quiet Thanksgiving because we usually celebrate with my cousins’ family but my cousin and her hubby were in Europe so we only had the adult kiddos over for dinner. We love cranberry like the next guy but I always seem to have a tonne left over as I did this year. So I decided to reinvent them into Liz’s dreamy Crumble Bars. JT is in charge of making the cranberry sauce and he usually only adds about half the sugar on the package recipe but since the kids were coming over, I asked him to make it a bit sweeter so he used 3/4 of the recommended sugar. The sauce was still reasonably tart which made it a perfect topping for these sweet pastry bars. I dare say, one of my favourites. So if you have cranberry sauce left over, give these a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Cranberry Crumble Bars

Makes one 22 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) pan

Ingredients:

  • 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100 g sugar
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 2.5 mL almond extract
  • 280 g flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 150 mL homemade cranberry sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a 23″ x 33″ cm (9″ x 13″) pan by lining with parchment.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract.
  3. Beat in the flour and salt on low speed until entirely incorporated.
  4. Portion about 2/3 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 the cranberry jam onto the base and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Crumble the remaining pastry onto the top, being careful not to cover it 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:

  • Jellied canned cranberry sauce may be too runny to work in this recipe, you definitely want sauce with fruit in it.

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    This recipe has been in the family for years. My brother gave me the original cookbook in the 1970’s inscribed, “This is for me, in the long run.” It’s been made dozens and dozens of times, often around Christmas for our goody trays. This time I made them around thanksgiving because we were having my cousin’s adult kids for dinner because their parents were galavanting in Europe and they are not big pumpkin fans! Galavanting may not be right, I might be a tiny bit jealous!

    Chewy Peanut Butter Squares Revisited

    Makes one pan 33 cm x 23 cm x 5 cm (13″ x 9″ x 2″) baking pan

    Ingredients:

    • 140 g all-purpose flour

    • 6 g baking powder

    • 5 g salt

    • 148 g peanut butter, smooth or chunky

    • 113 g butter

    • 330 g firmly packed brown sugar

    • 2 eggs

    • 15 mL vanilla

    • 140 g lightly salted peanuts

    • 1 cup icing sugar with enough drops of cold water to make a liquidy icing (but one that will set well)

    • Directions:

      1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

      2. Line a 33 cm x 23 cm x 5 cm (13″ x 9″ x 2″) baking pan with parchment

      3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

      4. Heat the peanut butter and butter together until melted.

      5. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended.

      6. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in the extra peanuts.

      7. Spread the batter into a prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

      8. Cool on a wire rack.

      9. When cool, drizzle the melted chocolate over the top. Working quickly, drizzle swirls of the white icing in a crazy pattern. Allow the topping to set. Cut into 1-2″ square inch squares or rectangles. 

      Chewy, peanutty deliciousness


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    A friend brought us his homemade raspberry jam a few weeks ago and because we don’t eat a lot of jam, I thought I’d make it into these gorgeous squares. The recipe originated from my friend Liz but I just swapped out the caramel for the jam and it worked out beautifully. I made this batch for some friends visiting from Arizona.

    Raspberry Crumble Squares

    Makes one 22 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) pan

    Ingredients:

    • 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 100 g sugar
    • 100 g powdered sugar
    • 5 mL vanilla
    • 2.5 mL almond extract
    • 280 g flour
    • 8 g salt
    • 150 mL seedless raspberry jam

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 359° F. Prepare a 23″ x 33″ cm (9″ x 13″) pan by lining with parchment.
    2. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract.
    3. Beat in the flour and salt on low speed until entirely incorporated.
    4. Portion about 2/3 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 the raspberry jam onto the base and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Crumble the remaining pastry onto the top, being careful not to cover it 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.

    They look like jewels.

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    Although Tart Tatin recipes have been featured on this blog a few times (here, here and here), I figured, why not again with different fruit? This time we’re baking Pear Tart Tatin! Dreamy caramel, soft pears and crispy pastry, what more can you want? I borrowed this recipe from Martha Stewart with some minor adjustments. I usually worry that the fruit lets out too much liquid and it won’t be super caramel-y but I needn’t have worried on this one, the pears cook on the stove and finish in the oven. It’s a bit of standing around but you can make it in advance and just serve it at room temperature. 

    This tart was perfectly caramelized. What a wonderful dessert.

    Pear Tart Tatin

    Makes 1 tart about 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter

    Ingredients:

    • All-purpose flour, for rolling
    • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 450 g package), thawed in the refrigerator
    • 100 g sugar
    • 8 mL cider vinegar
    • 30 mL water
    • 30 g unsalted butter
    • Pinch of salt
    • 4 firm, ripe pears, each peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 6 wedges
    • Pinch of cardamon

    Directions:

    1. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Roll out the puff pastry to a 30 cm square and cut into a circle. Refrigerate until required.
    2. In a 30 cm cast iron skillet, combine the sugar, vinegar and water and heat on medium-low heat until golden (about 15 minutes). Stir in the butter and the salt. Add the pears in a decorative pattern and cook in the caramel uncovered for 30-40 minutes (until pears are firm but soft). Sprinkle the cardamon over the pears.
    3. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 375° F. When the pears are ready, add the prepared puff pastry, pushing down the edges to form a “fence”.
    4. Bake covered, for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy.
    5. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a decorative plate.

    Cooking the pears for an extended period of time made the caramelization absolutely perfect.

    Notes:

    • My pears were rather firm so I extended the stove-top-time about 15-20 minutes from Martha’s time. This also allowed the liquid to evaporate so that the sauce is pure, dreamy caramel.
    • I prefer to use all-butter puff pastry.

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    As our time in Spain was dwindling in late May, I began to think more about using up pantry items. Here is another recipe that was created to use up pantry ingredients I purchased for our time in Spain. I wanted to use up the flour, sugar and a lime that I had sitting around. Unfortunately, I had only a little butter that I needed for the remainder of the week so I improvised and used reduced table cream. I figured if you could make cookies using olive oil, then you should be able to make cookies using cream, but I only had table cream which is generally about 18% fat so I reduced it about half in volume which I was hoping would give me about 36% fat or at least more than 18%. The cookies turned out delicate, not crumbly and slightly chewy. JT thought some coconut would be lovely in them so perhaps I’ll try that next time. I would have liked a little more lime flavour so I upped the zest in the recipe below because I only had one lime, two I think, would be perfect.

    A deliscious, chewy cookie.

    Lime Sugar Cookies

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes about 24 cookies about 5 cm in diameter

    Ingredients:

    • 270 g all-purpose flour
    • 5 g baking soda
    • 2.5 g kosher salt
    • 251 g granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
    • 78 g reduced table cream (see notes)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
    • 15 mL lime juice 
    • Zest of 2 limes

    Directions:

    1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
    2. Combine the sugar, table cream, eggs, vanilla, lime juice and zest and mix well.
    3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and just fold in so that there is no visible flour. Set in the freezer for 30 minutes.
    4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Drop about 15 mL cookies (about a tablespoon) onto a parchment-lined sheet bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

    Notes:

    • For the table cream in this recipe, pour 250 mL table cream into a heavy bottom saucepan and reduce on high heat until about half (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally so it doesn’t over boil. Cool completely.

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    We’re coming up to our last few weeks in Spain and I’m thinking about how to use up all the groceries we bought. I probably shouldn’t have bought a pack of sugar (about 350 g) but it was only about €0.50 so I’m not going to kill myself but I will give an honest go of using some of it. Peanut butter is not a common ingredient in Spain (most likely all of Europe) and is therefore expensive (€6.00 for a 500 g jar) but JT loves the stuff, so we splurged. We’ll be away for about 9 days of the last 18 days in Spain so I wanted to start on my pantry cleanup sooner than later.

    I didn’t want to buy another package of butter so I needed a recipe that did not use it. Fortunately, this one is an old favourite, slightly modified to incorporate pantry ingredients. The 30 g portions make a decent size cookie but not large by any stretch of the imagination. The butter is not beaten into the peanut butter (mainly because I didn’t have a mixer) just mixed in well, without too much exertion which makes it an easy cookie recipe. I’ll be definitely keeping this one in my repertoire.

    Delicious cookies with just the right amount of chewiness.

    Pantry Clean Out Peanut Butter Cookies

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes 19 cookies about 30 g each

    Ingredients:

    • 250 g crunchy peanut butter (natural, no salt or sugar added)
    • 2 eggs
    • 80 g flour
    • 165 g sugar
    • 3 g salt
    • 50 dark chocolate with sea salt

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
    2. Combine the peanut butter and eggs and mix well.
    3. Combine the flour, sugar and salt and mix well.
    4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
    5. Portion out 30 g balls and flatten slightly with your palm. Dot the chocolate pieces onto each one evenly.
    6. Bake for 8-12 minutes at 350° F.

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    We were having a friend over for dinner and I needed a quick and easy dessert and it can’t get any quicker or easier than this old recipe. I love it because it is per person so you can scale it up or down very easily. I’ve made as many as twelve and as few as one!

    Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

    Makes 1 80 mL portion (per person recipe)

    Ingredients:

    • 60 mL milk or cream per person
    • 80 g sugar per person
    • 3 mL vanilla bean paste per person
    • Pinch of Tonka Bean, finely grated
    • 1 egg yolk per person
    • 5-10 g per person of sugar to brûlée

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 275° F.
    2. Combine everything but the 5-10 g of sugar for the brûlée and whisk until smooth. Pour equal amounts into 100 mL bowls and set the bowls into a bain marie in a larger baking pan.
    3. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until it is set in the centre. Allow to cool completely. 
    4. When ready to serve, sprinkle the sugar onto the top and spread by tapping and twirling the bowl evenly. Using a torch, caramelize the sugar and allow to cool. Serve when sugar has hardened.

     

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    I really wanted to class-up these lovely little single-bite gingerbread cakes, so I called them Petit Fours, if it’s not a celebration you want to serve them at, just call them two-bite Gingerbread Cakes. They are warmly spiced, light, somewhat chewy, little gingerbread cakes with a slightly crispy exterior which makes them perfect for ganache. They are always a hit. I made them for a few dinners over the holidays because the meals are always so filling, it’s nice to have a little something to choose one or four of (see what I did there?)!

    Gingerbread Petit Fours

    Makes about 36 mini muffins-sized cakes

    Ingredients:

    • 37 g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
    • 125 g all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
    • 3 g baking soda
    • 75 mL boiling water
    • 4 g baking powder
    • 1 g ground ginger
    • 2 g ground cinnamon
    • Pinch of ground cloves
    • Pinch of ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of salt
    • 72 g dark-brown sugar
    • 25 g egg
    • 80 mL un-sulfured molasses
    • 9 g finely grated peeled fresh ginger
    • 2 pieces crystallized ginger, thinly sliced lengthwise, for garnish
    • Chocolate Ganache

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a mini 12-cup muffin pan, tapping out excess flour; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and boiling water; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.
    2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, and beat until combined. Add molasses, fresh ginger, and reserved baking soda mixture; beat until combined. (The batter will look curdled but will come together once the flour is added.) Add the flour mixture, and beat until well combined.
    3. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling each halfway. Bake, rotating pan halfway through until a cake tester inserted in the centre of a cake comes out clean, about 10-11 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack to cool completely.
    4. Set rack over a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of Chocolate Ganache over each cake, letting some drip down the sides. Garnish with a couple of strips of crystallized ginger. Once glazed, cakes can refrigerated, in air-tight containers, for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before serving.

    Adding a little silver ball on top really classes them up.

    Notes:

    • You can visit the original recipe here, it makes 12 regular-sized muffin cup cakes.
    • These cakes absolutely require the buttering and flouring the pans, without this step, the cakes will stick. I was lazy about 2 months ago and only sprayed the pans and they stuck.
    • Seriously only add enough batter to fill half of the mini muffin cups, they will rise beautifully. You don’t want them overflowing on the top of the muffin pan because they will stick.
    • These little cakes freeze well before you cover them in Ganache.

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    Prize Butter Tarts

    This is the second year in a row that we have’t escaped to Arizona (you know why). But fortunately, November wasn’t too bad this year, meaning we had a lot of sunny days. I can definitely live with that. December has been quite the opposite, mostly we have grey, dull, dreary days. Some days with snow. These are the type of days you don’t even want to get out of bed. At least, I don’t.  But eventually, you have to shop for groceries and you drag yourself out of bed. 

    On one such occasion, I found myself in the baked goods aisle at our local No Frills an aisle I do not frequent. I picked up a packet of ordinary grocery store butter tarts. Why? Why? It was the lack of sunlight, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I snapped out of it and decided to come home and bake a batch. This Five Roses recipe has been my goto recipe for 40 years. 

    A delicious Canadian tradition.

    Prize Butter Tarts

    Original recipe is from page 135 of Five Roses, A Guide to Good Cooking, 25th Edition (Revised 1983), Published by Lake of the Wood Mills Ltd.

    Makes 12 large butter tarts

    Ingredients:

    • 200 g brown sugar
    • 100 mL melted butter
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 30 mL milk
    • 15 mL vanilla
    • 50 g walnut pieces
    • 12 large tart pastry (muffin cup size)

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment (in case the filling overflows).
    2. Add everything but the walnuts and the pastry to the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined.
    3. Fill each tart with a few of the walnut pieces and add about 15 mL of the tart filling to each tart pastry, filling only about 2/3 full (these will bubble up during baking quite a bit). Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is golden.
    4. Allow to cool completely before serving.

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    Plum Cake

    I was laying in bed one morning, waiting for the alarm to come on, looking through all the events of the day on my iPhone when my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails, blog on hiatus) text me this plum cake recipe. She had made it with peaches and was quite impressed and thought I might like it too. I really appreciate recommendations like this because as it happened, I was on the lookout for a dessert for friends coming for a patio dinner that Saturday, perfect timing! It turns out, the recipe is excellent with plums. They totally caramelized and sweetened up, it was a hug transformation as the raw plums were quite tart. I converted the recipe to metric measures but you can find the original imperical measures here.

    The recipe has 200 grams of sugar which seems like a lot, but our plums were quite tart so they really helped balance the large amount of sugar. 

    Truth be told, I forgot to take a photo until it was too late. Guests took half home.

    Plum Cake

    Makes 1 23 cm cake (9 inch)

    Ingredients:

    • 145 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 200 g granulated sugar
    • 2 eggs, at room temperature
    • 125 mL whole milk, at room temperature
    • 5 mL vanilla extract
    • 60 g almond flour
    • 3 g lemon zest
    • 170 g all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 2 g salt
    • 8-10 plums, cut in half

    Ingredients for the topping:

    • 30 g granulated sugar
    • 3 g cinnamon
    • 30 g unsalted butter, cut into 0.5 cm cubes

    Directions:

    1. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Prepare a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan by buttering all the sides and bottom, add a circle of parchment to the bottom.
    2. Combine the butter, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, almond flour and lemon zest in the large bowl of your food processor. Process until smooth. 
    3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the smooth batter and process only until combined. 
    4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly in the pan. Add the plums, cut-side up, pressing down slightly, in a circular pattern until the pan is filled with the plums.
    5. Bake for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cinnamon and mix well.
    6. At 45 minutes, sprinkle the sugar mixture over the cake, making sure to get some onto each plum. Dot with the butter. Return to the oven and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes our clean. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
    7. To remove from the pan, loosen the sides with a sharp knife and spring the cake from the pan. Serve at room temperature.

    Notes:

    • I added the lemon zest. Also the original recipe used some whole wheat flour which I didn’t have. 
    • The plums release a lot of liquid so my baking took a lot longer than expected, keep testing with the toothpick for doneness. The timing above is what the recipe called for, I baked my cake for an additional 40 minutes after I added the topping.

     

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    We were having a friend over (outside) during lockdown (you’re permitted to responsibly socialize with one single (meaning they are single) friend, outside) and I needed a relatively quick dessert. This recipe came across my Insta feed and I was immediately taken with it. You use two whole oranges, skin, pith and all! Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? You boil the oranges for 10 minutes three times, each time discarding the water to rinse away the bitterness. There is a lot of sugar but I didn’t reduce it like I normally do because I was concerned about the bitterness and it was fine. In fact, it was more than just fine, it was great! Not too sweet, I’d definitely make it again, in fact, I’ve made it three times! And because it is made with almond flour, you put the whole thing together in a food processor! It is super moist, orangy and delicious. And you needn’t make a syrup, like other orange cakes, because it is plenty moist from the two boiled oranges.

    Gluten-Free Whole Orange Cake

    For the original recipe, please click here.

    Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) round cake

    Ingredients:

    • 2 medium oranges, fresh whole with the rind on about 300 g each
    • 6 g baking powder
    • 6 large eggs, room temp
    • 250 g white sugar
    • 250 g almond flour

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F Convection. Prepare a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan by lining the bottom with parchment and spraying the insides with non-stick spray.
    2. If you are not using organic oranges, scrub the exterior with hot water and a little soap and rinse well.
    3. Boil the whole oranges 3 times for 10 minutes, each time, changing out the water.
    4. Chop the oranges up into eighths and blitz until smooth with the Nutribullet (I was able to get the two oranges into my large Nutribullet container).
    5. Transfer to a large food processor and add the remaining ingredients, processing until fully incorporated and smooth.
    6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place on a cookie sheet into the preheated oven and set the timer for 60 minutes.
    7. Allow it to cool in the pan, then carefully remove and plate.

    Notes:

    • I blitzed the boiled oranges in my Nutribullet and transferred them to my large food processor to complete the cake. The Nutribullet makes a very smooth paste.
    • I used a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan, lined with parchment.
    • My oven baked it a bit quickly so check at 50 and 55 minutes for doneness with the wooden toothpick test. It won’t dry out like an ordinary cake so a little overbaking won’t kill it.
    • The cake stands on its own, no need for any garnish or cream but the author suggests serving it with a little Greek yogurt, I didn’t feel it needed it at all.
    • To make it extra special, you can pour a Belgian dark chocolate ganache over it. 100 mL Table Cream, 100 g Belgian dark chocolate chips, 45 mL white corn syrup. Heat cream to almost boiling, pour over chocolate chips, let stand a few minutes, stir until melted and stir in the corn syrup. Cool to thicken, pour over cake.

     

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    I posted this recipe about 9 years ago so I felt it was time for an update and repost. Lemony desserts are a favourite here so whenever I have an extra lemon or two rolling around the kitchen, a lemony dessert makes an appearance.

    Even though these squares are two layers, they come together quickly. The shortbread crust is tender and the coconutty custard topping is lemony and chewy. One could say they’re a match made in heaven!

    Chewy Lemon Squares with Coconut

    From Company’s Coming Squares by Jean Pare.

    Makes 1 pan 23 cm x 23 cm (9×9 inch)

    Ingredients, base:

    • 200 g all purpose flour
    • 50 g granulated sugar
    • 114 g butter, cold

    Directions, base:

    1. Preheat the 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 23 cm x 23 cm (9×9 inch) pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

    Ingredients, topping:

    • 2 eggs
    • 60 mL lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    • 200 g granulated sugar
    • 20 g all purpose flour
    • 2 g baking powder
    • 75 g flaked, unsweetened coconut
    • 2 g salt
    • 5 mL lemon essence

    Directions, topping:

    1. Beat eggs slightly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
    2. Spread over par-baked 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.

    The carmelized coconut on the top makes it moreishly chewy where the end pieces with more edges are coveted!

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    Loaded Double Belgian Chocolate Cookies

    Makes about 40 cookies using a 4.5 cm ice cream scoop

    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
    • 150 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (chocolate chips work too)
    • 150 g milk chocolate chips
    • 50 g Skore bits
    • 100 g of dried, unsweetened cranberries or dried cherries

    Directions:

    1. Cream the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated, add the vanilla.
    2. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and add to the butter mixture to form a batter.
    3. Fold in the inclusions (reserving a small amount to add after the cookies come out of the oven for presentation, if desired).
    4. Bake in a pre-heated 350° F oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden at the bottom.
    5. Add the remaining inclusions, if desired and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

    Notes:

    • I used a 4.5 cm releasing ice cream scoop, if you use the slightly smaller one, you will likely get about 60 cookies.
    • To help with portion control, I generally freeze the raw batter in scoops on a cookie sheet and bake as needed, 1 to 2 at a time (it drives JT crazy but he is grateful for the portion control).

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    As I previously mentioned, we had a lovely virtual Christmas Eve with my cousin and her family but I still wanted to see them during the holidays, socially distanced, of course. So we had my cousin and her hubby over for an afternoon lunch on the 27th (we just didn’t have enough room for 4 guests); we selected the warmest time of the day without wind or rain. It was a bit of a challenge keeping the outdoor area clear of snow and wet because it had snowed about 10 cm (4 inches) on Christmas Eve, fortunately we had covered the seating area in a tarp; we still had to shovel a lot of snow off the deck and shovel ice and snow off the awning. Everyone who comes over is well aware of the outdoor situation and most people are excited to experience it. The day was warm so the snow was melting around and above us but not enough to break up the party.

    The snow fell Christmas Eve and then even more snow fell on Christmas Day and Boxing Day!

    We all had heated throws on our laps but JT said he didn’t want one, so I got him a heated vest for Christmas.

    I welcomed the family with a cup of hot Miso Broth that was well received. We started with a wonderful Warm Artichoke and Spinach Dip and then served JT’s famous Bœuff Bourguignon with a Creamy Polenta, Homemade Sourdough Bread with the grand finale of the Sticky Dulce de Leche Cakes.

    Although the food was served family-style, I always provide separate serving utensils to each couple to help keep us safe. That hot plate, a gift from our wedding sure has come in handy during these outdoor meals.

    In addition to having the food sit on a hotplate, we heated the cast iron pots in advance (the lids were not heated so they are easy to lift) and we had a heating disk under the bread to keep it warm on such a chilly day.

    Sticky Dulce de Leches Cakes

    Makes 4 servings about 80 mL each.

    Please click here for the original recipe.

    Ingredients

    Filling

    • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
    • 15 g unsalted butter, room temperature

    Cakes and Assembly

    • 80 g all-purpose flour
    • 3 g salt
    • 2 g baking powder
    • 90 g unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins, room temperature
    • 35 g sugar, plus more for ramekins
    • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
    • 2 large eggs, room temperature
    • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
    • Additional Dulce de Leche to drizzle

    Directions:

    Filling

    1. The night before you make the cake, combine the Dulce de Leche and butter divide into 6 equal parts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for a minimum of 12 hours (the dulce de leche will prevent it from freezing solid).

    Cakes and Assembly

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
    2. Prepare four 250 mL ramekins by coating with a thin, even layer of butter on bottom and sides. Dust with sugar and discard excess.
    3. In the small bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat 35 g of sugar and 90 g of butter together until light and fluffy (approx. 4 minutes).
    4. Add dulce de leche and beat until entirely incorporated (about 1 minute). Beat in eggs one at a time (note that this might look like it’s separated) then reduce the speed and add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
    5. Divide the batter between the four prepared ramekins, about 80 mL each. Create a small divot in the centre of each top and add the semi-frozen Dulce de Leche sauce (it will sink to the bottom during baking).
    6. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden or until a wooden tester comes out clean (try to avoid the centre as the dulce de leche might be hot).
    7. Invert the cakes onto individual plates and decorate with a little extra dulce de leche sauce.

    The sauce placed into the divot before baking actually melts into the cake so I added a bit extra, just because.

    Notes:

    • This is an extremely sweet and rich little cakes, the smaller the better.
    • The original recipe was called molten Dulce de Leche cakes but because the Dulce de Leche melts into the cake, I found it to resemble a sticky toffee cake more than molten so I modified the name.
    • Of course, you can make your own Dulce de Leche sauce, but I needed a quick solution so I bought some. Homemade will taste much better.

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    At the beginning of December, we had close friends come over for a lunch outside, it was still pretty warm with the heater and electric blankets plus we lucked into a super warm December afternoon. JT made his famous Bœuf Bourguignon and I made these Low Carb Icy Squares; they literally melt in your mouth. My friend recently lost 50 lbs on a keto diet and she wanted a little treat but didn’t want to overindulge and these fit the bill perfectly.

    The paper cups are necessary because without them these little flavour bombs will melt all over your hands

    Low Carb Icy Squares

    For the original recipe, please click here.

    Makes 36 little squares (each square is about 5 grams of net carbs)

    Ingredients:

    • 480 ml heavy whipping cream
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 90 g butter
    • 1 tbsp espresso powder
    • 2 tbsp erythritol
    • 90 g dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, chopped
    • 25 g milk chocolate, chopped
    • Gold sea salt

    Directions:

    1. Boil the whipping cream and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed saucepan for one minute and then reduce the temperature to a simmer until the cream is reduced to about half of the amount (about 20-30 minutes). Stir occasionally.
    2. Reduce the heat even further and add the espresso powder, erythritol and butter and stir until smooth (make sure the erythritol melts completely).
    3. Place both chocolates into a bowl and pour the reduced cream over it and stir until melted.
    4. Pour the chocolate cream into a parchment-lined 20 cm square (8 inch square) baking pan (squared-off sides is preferred) and allow to cool in the refrigerator for a few hours. When ready to serve, sprinkle with gold sea salt and cut into 36 equal squares. Serve in tiny paper muffin cups.
    5. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks.

    Notes:

    • The original recipe did not call for the erythritol but because I added the espresso powder, it made it a bit bitter so I had to add it along with the milk chocolate, you could try omitting them both for a  2 g net carb dessert.
    • The better quality ingredients you use, the better the taste and in this recipe, it is worth it to splurge.

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    In mid-November, JT had surgery on his right hand to help correct carpal tunnel syndrome and I was worried we were going get dumped on with snow so we asked the teenaged boys across the way to help with the shovelling and they were very happy to oblige. They were out there in PJs,  jackets and boots at 7:30 most mornings it snowed, which is more than I was willing to do. Their mom wouldn’t let me negotiate payment for their troubles so I baked cookies for them instead. These were one set that made the rounds. JT has totally healed but they still insist on helping out, so I keep baking.

    These are more complex than traditional ginger snaps.

    Lauren’s Spice Cookies

    Makes about 42 cookies

    Ingredients

    • 180 mL vegetable oil
    • 60 mL dark molasses
    • 200 g sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 365 g all-purpose flour
    • 10 g baking soda
    • 12 g cinnamon
    • 10 g tablespoons ground ginger
    • 10 g ground cloves
    • 3 g ground mace
    • 150 g Skor bits
    • 1/3 cup sanding sugar

    Directions:

    1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together the oil, molasses, sugar, and the eggs until the mixture is smooth.
    2. In another bowl sift together the flour, the baking soda, the cinnamon, the ginger, the cloves, and the mace and then add the mixture to the molasses mixture.
    3. Beat the mixture until it is well combined, fold in the Skor bits. Chill the dough, covered, overnight.
    4. Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and roll the balls in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar to coat them well.
    5. Bake the balls 3 inches apart on buttered baking sheets in the middle of a preheated 350° F. oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tops crack. Transfer the cookies to racks and let them cool.

    If you don’t bake them too long, they remain chewy.

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    Who doesn’t love a lite, slightly sweet cookie with their coffee? We are not big sweet eaters but we do like a biscotti with our mid-morning coffee. I had a few extra pistachios left over from the ice cream I made in the summer so I combined them with the lovely tart cranberries to make a wonderful treat. They look rather festive, don’t they?

    Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

    Makes about 30 biscotti

    Ingredients:

    • 60 g dried cranberries
    • 125 mL boiling water
    • 400 g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
    • 6 g baking powder
    • 4 g salt
    • 60 g unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 100 g sugar, plus more for sprinkling
    • 3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
    • 48 g unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
    2. Combine the cranberries and boiling water and allow to stand for five minutes, strain.
    3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt set aside.
    4. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and incorporate well. Slowly beat in the flour, pistachios and cranberries.
    5. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, make two evenly-sized logs and bake for 25 minutes.
    6. Cool for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300F.
    7. Cut into 1cm slices and lay cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping over at 15 minutes. Cool.

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    Magic Apple Cobbler

     

    We first tasted this wonderful dessert at a friend’s place where we had lunch, outside on a particularly chilly early fall day. I asked our host to give JT a bit more so I could have a taste, and I almost couldn’t stop. It is THAT good. And it’s so easy to make, I can whip it up in a matter of minutes. I have significantly reduced (about half) the sugar and butter content, but don’t turn away, it is plenty rich and delicious! The dessert works well with fresh fruit but also works well with frozen fruit (defrost and drain first so it doesn’t wet the batter too much).

    What is really amazing (and delicious) is the way the batter caramelizes in the butter, it becomes so moreish! You will abandon all other cobbler recipes!!! I kid you not.

    The very dark bits are where I put too much of the cinnamon sugar, it’s not burnt.

    Magic Apple Cobbler

    Makes one 17 cm x 27 cm (6 3/4 inch x 10 3/4 inch) pan of fruit-filled, caramelized cobbler

    Please click here for the original recipe.

    Ingredients:

    • 90 g unsalted butter
    • 150 g AP flour
    • 150 g sugar, divided
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
    • 175 mL whole milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp almond essence
    • 2 medium apples, peeled and cubed

    Directions:

    1. Melt the butter in a 17 cm x 27 cm (6 3/4 inch x 10 3/4 inch) pan (same pan you will use for the cobbler) as the oven is pre-heating to 375F. Remove the pan from the oven when butter had melted.
    2. Combine the flour, sugar (less 2 tbsp), baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and salt. Combine the milk, vanilla and almond essence and stir well.
    3. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
    4. Spoon the batter into the melted butter, don’t worry that it’s messy.
    5. Sprinkle the cubed apples onto the batter and press them into the batter.
    6. Combine the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples and batter.
    7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean.
    8. Serve warm but not straight from the oven.

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    Way back in November, 2019, I made a version of this cake in Arizona. It seems a life-time ago. We don’t know when we will be able to travel again so it’s nice to have some food memories to be nostalgic about. I made this for an outdoor brunch last July for a gluten-intolerant friend.

    Gluten-Free Reduced-Sugar Orange Olive Oil Cake

    Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) cake

    Please click here for the original recipe

    Ingredients:

    • 2 eggs, room temperature
    • 100 g coconut sugar, divided
    • 80 mL EVOO
    • 5 mL vanilla
    • Zest of 2 oranges
    • Juice of 2 oranges, divided
    • 150 g all-purpose gluten-free flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • Icing sugar for dusting

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
    2. Spray a 23 cm pan with non-stick spray and line bottom with parchment paper.
    3. Combine the eggs and 95 g coconut sugar and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
    4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla while beating.
    5. Add all of the zest and 45 mL of the freshly squeezed orange juice and beat until well combined.
    6. In a separate bowl combine the gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
    7. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat only until combined.
    8. Pour into the prepared 23 cm pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to cool.
    9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining juice and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has melted into the juice. Cool and add the Grand Marnier.
    10. Turn out the cooled cake onto a decorative plate and slowly spoon the orange juice mixture onto the cake allowing it to be absorbed.
    11. Decorate with sprinkled icing sugar just before serving.

    The lovely syrup makes this cake lusciously moist.

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    I am not a huge pumpkin fan. There I said it. I was around 19 years old when I first tried pumpkin pie and I just never got into it. Don’t get me started on the pumpkin spice craze! So pumpkin type desserts are never high on my list during the holidays. We had our Thanksgiving on October 12 and I wanted a dessert I could make in smaller portions (because, let’s not kid ourselves, stretchy pants can only stretch so far!) so I made this spice cake in very shallow muffin cups. If someone was still hungry, they could have two, and believe it or not, they did!

    Our awning and natural gas heater have had some good use as the temperatures become more fall-like. Unfortunately, the combination of the heat and sun has dried out the awning; at one point after a good rainfall, as we were pushing the water off the awning, a fist went through it. I was able to glue the small hole together with a glue gun, but now we were aware that the awning is precariously brittle. Too bad that fat raccoon never got the memo. Sometime during the night, an 18 kg (40 lb) beast was climbing across said awning and unfortunately fell through it, causing a 50 cm (20 inches) hole. Poor thing must have broken its neck on the fall because I, unfortunately, found him dead as a doornail the next morning. We’ve never had to dispose of any dead animals before so I called the information number of the city. After a 20 minute conversation, which resulted with NO HELP what-so-ever, we decided to discard him ourselves (the city was backlogged 20 days for pickup so they suggested we dispose of him in our next garbage collection which happened to be 2 weeks from the date!) I found a company online who came out and did the dirty deed for us. JT was perfectly willing to do it, but I didn’t want him to, plus we had nowhere to dump the guy. UGH! A good bleach washing of the deck and 24 hours drying time in the sun, and no one was the wiser.

    We lucked out for weather that weekend, as the temperatures progressively became warmer and warmer and Saturday October 12 turned out to be around 25° C (77° F)! The evening cooled off a bit, but our natural gas heater did the trick to keep us warm. We had the dinner with two, socially distanced friends and the evening was wonderful. I was so relieved it was warm enough for an outdoor dinner because our COVID numbers are on the rise again and I’m just not comfortable entertaining indoors.

    These cakes are a remake from a blog post from 2010.

    Ginger Spice Cakes Revisted

    Makes about 24 mini spice cakes (60 mL (1/4 cup) muffin pans or 12 standard muffin-sized spice cakes

    For the original recipe, please click here

    Ingredients:

    • 75 g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
    • 200 g all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 160 mL boiling water
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 85 g packed dark-brown sugar
    • 1 large egg (if halving the recipe, use a small egg)
    • 160 mL un-sulfured molasses
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
    • Crystallized ginger, thinly sliced lengthwise, for garnish
    • Chocolate Ganache

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 60 mL (1/4 cup) muffin pan by generously buttering and flouring it*, tapping out excess flour, set aside.
    2. Carefully stir together the baking soda and boiling water (this will bubble up, so be careful), set aside to cool.
    3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt, set aside.
    4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, and beat until combined. Add the molasses, fresh ginger, and reserved baking soda mixture; beat until combined. (The batter will look curdled but will come together once the flour is added.) Add the flour mixture, and beat until well combined.
    5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling each about halfway. Bake, rotating pan halfway through until a cake tester inserted in the centre of a cake comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack to cool completely. Place a piece of parchment under the wire rack while cooling
    6. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of Chocolate Ganache over each cake, allowing some drip down the sides. Garnish with a small chunk of crystallized ginger. Cakes may refrigerated, in air-tight containers, for up to 3 days; we suggest you bring them to room temperature before serving.

    Silicon Muffin Cups 60 mL or 1/4 cup size.

    Notes:

    • You may wish to save time and just spray the muffin pans with non-stick spray but I warn you, half of your cakes will stick to the pan. Buttering and flouring is the only way to go.
    • These have a very rich molasses flavour, which we like but some will find it too strong.
    • I made a semi-sweet chocolate ganache for these cakes and it was just the right foil for the rich, sticky cake.

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    For special occasion desserts, I like to pop over to my long-time blogging-friend Liz, Skinny Chick Can Bake. Liz has the most beautifully presented desserts that I have seen from a home cook. Most of Liz’s recipes are also unfamiliar to me as I grew up in a European household. A dear friend was turning 70 in September and I wanted to make a special dessert to celebrate the occasion and this beauty did not disappoint. It has a lovely banana flavour but the pineapple isn’t flavour-forward other than providing some added moisture. It reminded me of banana bread but it was much moister than the standard quickbread. And that cream cheese frosting is one that dreams are made of.

    Hummingbird Cake

    For the original recipe, please click here.

    Makes one 20 cm cake, about 16 servings

    Ingredients for the cake:

    • 400 g flour
    • 300 g sugar
    • 6 g cinnamon
    • 6 g salt
    • 5 baking soda
    • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 375 mL vegetable oil
    • 7 vanilla extract
    • 540 g mashed bananas (use ripe bananas)
    • 228 g crushed pineapple, drained (about 1/2 a container)
    • 120 g chopped pecans, toasted for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees

    Ingredients for the Frosting:

    • 500 g cream cheese, room temperature
    • 40 g butter, room temperature
    • 10 mL vanilla
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced
    • 500 g icing sugar, sifted
    • Pecans, for garnish

    Directions:

    1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350° F and prepare three 20 cm round cake pans by lining with parchment paper and spraying with a non-stick spray.
    2. Sift the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl, set aside.
    3. Combine the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, mashed bananas and crushed pineapple and fold into the flour to make a smooth batter. Pour evenly into the three prepared baking pans.
    4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
    5. Meanwhile, cream the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat well until incorporated. Add the sugar a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently until all of the sugar has been incorporated.
    6. When the cakes are thoroughly cool, cut the dome off the top is there was one. Lay the first cake on a serving platting protected by parchment (in short rectangles so that they are easy to remove). Spread a thin layer of the icing over the first layer, place the next cake on top and spread again, add the final layer to the top. Crumb-coat the entire cake in a thin layer and refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When the frosting is firm, finish the cake with the remaining frosting or as desired.
    7. Decorate the cake with more pecans that have been toasted.

    Notes:

    • Although the cake has a whopping 300 g of sugar, it is not excessively sweet, it’s the frosting that takes it over the top! I won’t kid you, it is sweet but not as sweet as it was in the original recipe.
    • I reduced the butter to about one-quarter of the original recipe, it still made a super-rich frosting.
    • Neither our friends nor we like super-sweet desserts so I opted to reduce the sugar from 6 cups to 4 cups in the frosting and added the juice of half a lemon to help cut it even more. The resulting frosting was still sweet but it didn’t make your teeth tingle. If you prefer an even less sweet frosting, I suggest you reduce the cream cheese by one quarter so that you require less the icing sugar thicken it up. As it was, 4 cups of icing sugar to 500 g cream cheese and 40 grams of butter made a light fluffy frosting but it needed refrigeration to keep stiff. It was a hot and humid day when I served this cake and my version of frosting didn’t melt but it wasn’t as stiff as frosting usually is.
    • I baked the three layers in a 20 cm (8-inch) round pans because I did not have 9-inch pans as Liz’s recipe calls for (hence the slightly longer baking time as they turned out somewhat thicker.
    • The original cake had coconut but I omitted it because our friends do not like coconut.

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    In late August we had friends over for a wonderful outdoor dinner and I asked if they wouldn’t mind bringing dessert. I usually like to control the entire event, but summer is a lot more casual and dining al fresco has added more of a casual flavour to our entertaining, so I thought, why not. My friend made these chocolate brownies (with raspberry instead of cherry) from Donna Hay and I must say they were totally swoon-worthy. So rich and chocolatey and the preserves just added a lovely moist texture. I did not have raspberry jam but I did have a good handful of frozen cherries so I popped them into a pan with a drizzle of water and a spoon of sugar and cooked them, then I puréed them with my stick blender and further cooked them down to just less than 125 mL.

    Just dollop the preserves on top and swirl a knife through to make this marble-like pattern.

    Chocolate-Cherry Brownies

    Makes 1 23 cm square pan. Original recipe by Donna Hay

    Ingredients:

    • 114 g butter
    • 125 g unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
    • 3 large eggs
    • 375 g sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • 5 mL vanilla extract
    • 125 g all-purpose flour
    • 125 mL cherry preserves

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 23 cm square pan with parchment and butter or spray with non-stick spray.
    2. Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat.
    3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the flour and stir in.
    4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Dot with spoonfuls of cherry preserves on top. Run a knife through to make a marbled pattern.
    5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick still has a few moist crumbs attached when extracted. Allow to cool completely in the pan and cut into even squares, I got 16.

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    I may have bought a few too many pistachios when I made the gelato so I thought I’d recreate the almond cookies  of Sevilla with pistachios, we loved them so much. I also had exactly 7 g of the matcha powder which was the perfect amount for the cookies. I served them for dessert one evening we had a friend over (in the back yard) and she couldn’t stop raving about them.

    Pistacho-Matcha Tuiles de Sevilla

    Makes one sheet pan about 34 cm x 38 cm (13.5″ x 15″)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 80 g sugar
    • 30 g unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
    • 50 g cake and pastry flour
    • 7 g matcha powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 75 g pistachios, chopped

    Directions:

    1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
    2. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
    3. Sift the flour with the salt and matcha powder and fold into the egg mixture.
    4. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
    5. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out with an offset spatula until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm) works out to about 34 cm x 38 cm. Evenly sprinkle the chopped pistachios onto the batter and gently push into the batter.
    6. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
    7. Cool completely and break into uneven pieces.
    8. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

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    We have been eating a lot more ice cream this year than any other year. In fact, I bet if I added up all the gelato and ice cream we have eaten since May, it will exceed my lifetime consumption! In one summer! JT has never been a big fan but for some reason, this year he is ravenous for it! I generally don’t like to keep ice cream or gelato in my freezer because it literally calls my name at all hours. Anyway, it doesn’t count if you eat it directly out of the container, standing up with the freezer door open. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Vanilla Bean Gelato

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes about 550 mL gelato

    Ingredients:

    • 250 mL 2% milk
    • 250 mL 35% cream
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 65 g sugar
    • 16 g cornstarch
    • 10 g skim milk powder
    • 5 mL vanilla bean paste

    Directions:

    1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
    2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the egg yolk, sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
    3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
    4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
    5. The day you wish to make the gelato, fold in the vanilla bean paste until thoroughly incorporated.
    6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

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    It’s been brutally hot in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because -20° C with windchill will be here soon enough, so I look for cooling and comforting dishes to help manage the heat. We’ve been entertaining a lot but only outside. Most of our friends are uncomfortable about being indoors at the moment (as am I) and then you layer having to wear masks on top of the anxiety of being indoors and it’s no longer fun. But outside is much easier to transition to (from Zoom) so, we’ve been entertaining outside a lot. At the time of writing this post (July 21) Toronto was only in stage 2 of opening and looking at the poor example some of our cousins in the south have set, our government is being extremely conservative in getting back to “normal”. So we are entertaining a lot, outside. (Repetition was intentional 🤪)

    This delicious gelato recipe was created for dessert for dear friends, served in homemade waffle cones, which didn’t turn out as successfully as I had hoped so they are not being blogged about! I had asked JT what flavour of gelato he wanted and he immediately said Pistachio, oh good, not too difficult, right? I decided on David Lebovitz’s recipe with a few minor alterations. The result was exceptional. I was not able to find his preferred pistachio paste in the timeframe I needed it so I improvised and made my own. I had not made a gelato using cornstarch as a thickener before but I must say, it did work out very well. I added the skim milk powder to make it even creamier and it did not disappoint. Skim milk powder absorbs excess water and gives the gelato a creamier flavour.

    Fortunately, my pistachios were a lovely green so I didn’t need to add any food colouring. It’s all-natural!

    Super creamy and full of pistachio flavour.

    Pistachio Gelato

    Makes about 750 mL gelato

    For the original recipe, please click here.

    Ingredients:

    • 250 mL 2% milk
    • 250 mL 35% cream
    • 65 g sugar
    • 16 g cornstarch
    • 10 g skim milk powder
    • ~200 g pistachio butter (see Notes)
    • a few drops of orange extract

    Directions:

    1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
    2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
    3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
    4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
    5. The day you wish to make the gelato, beat in the pistachio butter and a few drops of the orange extract.
    6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

    Notes:

    1. David Lebovitz suggests using Bronte Crema di Pistacchio which is made in Sicily. I was not able to source it so I made my own pistachio butter with 200 g of shelled pistachios with small amounts of water, a small dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, puréed until smooth using my Magic Bullet. You will need to scrape down the sides many times through the process.
    2. Next time I make this recipe, I will lightly toast the pistachios.

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    We have been watching America’s Test Kitchen to help us fall asleep, taking our minds off the news and the ugly reality of late. This recipe was on Season 20 and I was taken right away. We love lemon and this one definitely ticks a lot of boxes, it’s not sickly sweet and it IS sooooo lemony. If you like lemon, I urge you to make this tasty treat. Note that I did not love their pastry recipe so I substituted my tried and true Viennese Pastry recipe.

    I decided to brulée the top just as my favourite French Bistro does with their Tarte au Citron (which incidentally takes two days to make!)

    Lemon Olive Oil Tart

    Please click here for the original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.

    Makes about six 8 cm pastry shells with a total of 300 mL lemon curd filling

    Ingredients for the pastry:

    • 145 g all-purpose flour
    • 60 g sugar
    • 2 g salt
    • 114 g unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 1 egg yolk
    • ½ tsp pure vanilla
    • 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

    Pastry Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F
    2. Put all ingredients into a food processor and process JUST until the dough sticks together (over-processing will cause tough pastry). Divide into six even discs and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
    3. Lightly flour your board and roll out the pastry to fit your preferred pan (I used 8 cm round pans). Dock the bottom with a fork several times.
    4. Blind bake the crust 30 minutes or until golden. You may need to reshape the pastry, mine got all puffy and misshapen because I didn’t refrigerate long enough and it was a super hot day.

    Ingredients for the curd:

    • 70 g sugar
    • 10 g AP flour
    • Pinch of salt
    • 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
    • lemon zest of one lemon
    • 130 mL lemon juice
    • 40 mL extra-virgin olive oil

    Directions for the curd:

    1. Add all of the ingredients to a small, heavy-bottom pan and cook on low heat until it is 160F, and just slightly thickened.
    2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve for a velvety finish. Refrigerate with an oiled parchment placed on top to prevent a skin.
    3. Pour into the prepared, hot shells and bake for 8-12 minutes until the centre jiggles a bit.
    4. Allow to cool completely before serving.
    5. Sprinkle with sugar and brulée the top, just as you would with crème brulée.

    A tangy, tasty, lemon treat.

    Notes:

    • Fresh lemon juice is essential for a clean, lemony flavour.
    • ATK felt that the olive oil helps the lemony flavour shine better than butter.

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    Stroopwafels

    I was introduced to Stroopwafels last summer when I assisted for a Tangerine Bank commercial. These gorgeous, sweet, caramel-filled wafers are served in Belgium and Holland with coffee or tea. They are generally a little hard so they are placed over a hot beverage so the steam could soften them.

    I purchased my pizzelle maker in a wonderful little kitchen store in Brussels where I was totally lost for at least an hour; I was fully aware that the pizzelle maker was almost a kilogram (2 pounds) — at least 2 pairs of shoes. These delicious cookies were definitely worth it (but don’t tell JT)!

    Stroopwafels

    Makes about 50 stroopwaffles (25 filled) various sizes in diameter

    Ingredients for the dough:

    • 500 g all-purpose flour
    • 8 g active dry yeast
    • 2 g ground cinnamon 
    • 150 g sugar 
    • 125 g cold unsalted butter, cubbed
    • 100 ml warm milk 
    • 2 large eggs 
    • Pinch of salt

    Directions:

    1. In the large bowl of your food processor, pulse the flour, yeast, cinnamon, salt and sugar until well combined.
    2. Add the butter and pulse until the texture resembles small peas.
    3. Whisk the warm milk with the eggs and slowly pour into the flour mixture pulsing until a soft ball is achieved.
    4. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few minutes. Cover in plastic film and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
    5. Roll the dough out to about 1 mm and cut into just slightly smaller than pizzelle-size rounds.
    6. Heat your iron according to instructions. Place one round in the middle, press down the top lid and bake each waffle for approximately 16 seconds, flipping the iron over at 8 seconds.
    7. Carefully remove from the iron and lay flat to cool. Repeat to cook each round.
    8. When cool fill with a dollop caramel sauce (recipe below).

    Ingredients for the caramel filling:

    • 260 g light brown sugar 
    • 200 g unsalted butter 
    • 5 g ground cinnamon 
    • 100 mL corn syrup
    • 25 mL vanilla extract

    Directions:

    1. Combine the sugar and the butter, stirring slowly over a low heat. Add the cinnamon and the corn syrup and continue to stir until the caramel comes together and slowly bubbles (220F, softball stage). Add the vanilla extract and stir it in. Keep the caramel warm.

    Notes:

    • I understand that true stroopwafels must be split and filled with the caramel, however, this pizzelle maker flattened them too much and splitting was impossible. Authentic Stroopwaffels are split when hot and filled. If you can make authentic stroopwafels you have to work fast to split each one while the waffle is hot. The moment it cools, it will break so make sure you have all the items you need within reach.
    • To evenly heat your pizzelle mould, place it over the heat and flip every 2 minutes until it has reached around 350°F.

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    We have been doing a lot of entertaining since our return from Arizona. I love feeding my friends, it really does make me happy. A few weekends ago we had a marathon weekend entertaining on Friday, Saturday, Sunday AND Tuesday! Fortunately, I was able to plan ahead and make a few things for a couple of the dinner parties considering both friends had gluten-free requirements. First, I made a batch of the original recipe with almonds then I recalled that my dear friend’s hubby is a nut-hater (the food kind) so I created a chocolate version of the recipe. It was wonderful. I served them with coffee.

    The snow just doesn’t want to stop.

    Gluten-Free Chocolate Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies of various sizes

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 95 g sugar
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla
    • 30 mL unflavoured oil
    • 50 g Gluten Free flour (I used this mix)
    • 15 g cocoa powder
    • 80 g milk chocolate chips

    Directions:

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 250° F.
    2. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and oil.
    3. Sift the gluten-free flour with the cocoa powder and salt together then fold into the egg mixture.
    4. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips onto the batter and gently push into the batter.
    5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until evenly baked, turn the pan once about halfway.
    6. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter or break into natural shapes after it cools. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
    7. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

    Notes:

    • I use an offset spatula to spread the batter onto the parchment paper.
    • This recipe will work well with store-bought gluten flour too.

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    We rented a different house this year in Arizona and the kitchen was much better equipped so I had a lot more fun with it. Needless to say, we entertained a lot; three sets of friends came down from Toronto and of course, our two sets of friends in Encantarra were repeated guests. I’m guessing I was the first one to give the kitchen a good workout, even the BBQ had not been used in the two years the house had been rented!

    I made this cake the first week we were in Arizona. I found the recipe in a very outdated Phoenix magazine. The recipe was created by a 14-year-old boy. I loved the use of olive oil in it, plus I just adore orange cake. I modified the recipe a bit so that it better reminded me of a cake my dear Mom used to make.

    Orange Olive Oil Cake

    This recipe originated in the Phoenix magazine, May 2015 but I couldn’t find it online. I’ve converted it to metric and made some alterations.

    Makes one 23 cm cake

    Ingredients:

    • 2 eggs
    • 155 g sugar, divided
    • 80 mL EVOO
    • 5 mL vanilla
    • Zest of 2 oranges
    • Juice of 2 oranges, divided
    • 150 g all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 50 mL Grand Marnier
    • Icing sugar for dusting

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
    2. Spray a 23 cm pan with non-stick spray
    3. Combine the eggs and 135 g sugar and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
    4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla.
    5. Add all of the zest and 45 mL of the freshly squeezed orange juice and beat until well combined.
    6. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
    7. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat only until combined.
    8. Pour into the prepared 23 cm pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to cool.
    9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining juice and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has melted into the juice. Cool and add the Grand Marnier.
    10. Turn out the cooled cake onto a decorative plate and slowly spoon the orange juice mixture onto the cake allowing it to be absorbed.
    11. Decorate with icing sugar.

    This is a highly flavoured and scented cake that is kept moist by a delicious orangy syrup.

    Would you care for a slice?

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    As you know, we spent just over a month in Arizona again, and our friends house-sat for us. I made these tasty treats for dessert the night before we left, they absolutely loved them. The cornflakes replaced the graham crackers and we didn’t even miss them. I have made these treats a few times since then.

    I often get my dessert inspiration from my dear friend Liz, that Skinny Chick Can Bake; this tasty treat came from her but I modified it to be gluten free. Although I’ve never tasted the original version, I can tell you hands down that this one is a real winner! If you like peanut butter and chocolate, give this super easy, tasty treat a go.

    Gluten-Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Squares

    Makes one 20 cm pan

    Please click here for the original recipe.

    Ingredients:

    • 45 mL butter, melted
    • 120 g corn flakes, pulsed to a powder
    • 170 g icing sugar
    • 195 g natural peanut butter
    • 6 g sea salt
    • 190 g semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 15 g butter or vegetable oil

    Directions:

    1. Combine everything but the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in the large container of your food processor and process until smooth and comes together.
    2. Press into a 20 cm square pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile add the chocolate chips and butter or vegetable oil to a microwaveable bowl and melt, stirring intermittently.
    4. Cool slightly and pour over chilled peanut butter pan, spread evenly. Refrigerate for an hour before slicing.
    5. Slice with a warm, dry knife, wiping between slices.

    The winter light is quite evident here, but don’t allow that to dissuade you, these are very yummy.

    The cornflakes add an incredible texture that make these taste just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Tarts, only better!

    Notes:

    • I’ve used a variety of natural peanut butters (no sugar or salt) to make these, including crunchy, with no substantial difference to the outcome of this recipe.
    • To make this recipe vegan, try melted coconut oil. Although I have not tried using melted coconut oil, I’m certain it would work because there is not much in the recipe.
    • Once the recipe initially sets, you can bring the bars to room temperature to serve.
    • Try using other nut butters (such as Hazelnuts) to up the ante!

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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’s been a busy year and I’ve seen spending a lot of time in front of my computer. I don’t mind doing that type of work, but I do miss cooking and with that, getting my advanced blog posts ready to publish. In fact, I am nowhere near the advanced the blog posts I should be, in preparation for our yearly sojourn to Arizona. I have four posts ready to go but I should have 10! That makes me nervous because I may not have time to post while we are in Arizona; we have three separate group friends coming down for 5-7 days each! That means a lot of sightseeing and daily adventures and less cooking and recipe developing.

    You can definitely see the winter light creeping in.

    I modified and made this little recipe because during one coffee break JT mentioned that he would love to have a little biscotti to nibble on while we sit and enjoy our coffees. I like making biscotti because they are easy and are not overly finicky. This recipe came together quickly and more or less in one bowl.

    Chocolate Chip and Almond Biscotti

    For the original recipe, please click here.

    Makes about 20 biscotti but it depends on how thickly you form and cut the logs

    Ingredients:

    • 57 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 225 g brown sugar
    • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
    • 5 mL almond extract
    • 275 g all-purpose flour
    • 75 g almond flour
    • 20 g baking powder
    • pinch salt
    • 165 g chocolate chips

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
    2. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
    3. Add the eggs, one at a time and best until entirely incorporated. Add the extracts and beat.
    4. Whisk together the dry ingredients (omit the chocolate chips) and blend into the butter mixture.
    5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
    6. Form into two even logs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 30 minutes.
    7. Slice diagonally into 10 slices each and lay flat on the same parchment-line baking sheet and bake again for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely before serving.

    Notes:

    • I shaped my logs too wide, next time I shall make them more slender and have twice the number of biscotti.
    • Biscotti store well in an airtight container but if it will take you more than a week to consume, I would freeze them until required. Defrost at room temperature.
    • I didn’t have whole almonds but this would have been lovely having a few whole almonds folded into the batter.

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    Fig Tarte Tatin

    The green grocers in my neighbourhood have fresh figs and they don’t cost and arm and a leg! I love to buy them for this little hors d’œuvres but even when I make a bunch, I have leftover figs! I served the tasty hors d’oœuvres for a friend who came over for a glass of wine. The figs made a lovely snack but 3 days later, I still had 7 leftover! So I decided to make a tarte tatin using a different pastry.

    My new friend Stefan of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog recently brought to my attention that the original Tarte Tatin did not incorporate a puff pastry crust! The original pastry is more of a short-crust pastry. Who doesn’t love pastry? And this tart is definitely about the pastry! Stefan developed a short-cut for the short-crust that makes it even flakier (don’t take my word for it, check out the last photo!). And it’s so easy. Just a few steps in the refrigerator and Bob’s your uncle. Check out Stefan’s blog to see his step by step technique.

    Figs and walnuts make a great pair.

    Fig Tarte Tatin

    Click here for the original recipe. Makes 1 tarte about 20 cm in diameter.

    Ingredients for the pastry:

    • 200 grams pastry flour, divided
    • 25 g sugar
    • 1 g salt
    • 100 g cold butter, in cubes
    • 1 egg, beaten well, divided

    Directions for the pastry:

    1. Combine 130 g of the flour, the sugar, and the salt in the large bowl of your food processor and pulse. Add the cold butter and pulse until it comes together.
    2. Flatten the dough with your hand (make sure the safety is on) and sprinkle the remaining 70 g on top and pulse until it crumbles (should not come together). Transfer the crumbly dough into a bowl.
    3. Pour most of the beaten egg over top of the crumbly mixture and cover; reserve the leftover egg. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
    4. With a wooden spoon (not your hands), mix the egg into the dough to form a soft ball (add cold water if necessary, I did not); wrap the ball with plastic wrap, flatten and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Ingredients for the filling:

    • 7-10 small figs
    • 40 g walnut halves
    • 100 g sugar
    • 100 ml water
    • 40 grams unsalted butter
    • 1 g salt

    Directions for the filling:

    1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
    2. Cut the stems off the figs and cut them in half. Set aside.
    3. Combine the sugar and water in a small cast iron pan. Without stirring, cook the sugar until it is amber in colour. Don’t leave its side!
    4. When the sugar has caramelized to a gorgeous amber colour, turn the heat down to low and add the salt, swirling it around to mix. Add the walnuts and coat with the caramel and cook for about one minute. Tuck the figs into the caramel cut-side down in the midst of the walnuts and cook for another minute. Remove the cast iron pan from the heat.
    5. Roll out the cold dough into a slightly larger circle than the pan. Lay the pastry over the top and tuck the edges into the pan. Brush the top of the pastry with the reserved egg.
    6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden on top. Allow the tarte to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn it carefully onto a plate, the caramel will be scorching hot. If the figs don’t settle into the pastry as pretty as they could, move them around until you are satisfied.
    7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    The pastry is meant for a larger pan but I didn’t have enough figs so I had a slightly thicker edge than normal, who’s complaining?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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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 peaches for about 8 minutes on medium-low. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375° F.
    6. While the peached 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 peaches 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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    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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