March 14th is one of my favourite days to celebrate! If you haven't heard of Pi Day before... here you go:
March 14 = the 14th day of the 3rd month = 3.14 = Pi = Pie
My kind of math.
I have been wanting to try my hand at making an apple crumble pie for a while now... we sell one such pie at the cafe where I work and it is a thing of beauty. Or at least, it looks like a thing of beauty. I confess I've never actually had a whole slice but I have tried broken bits and pieces that were not fit enough to sell. I'm no pie connoisseur, but it looks picture perfect and that crumble topping is all I ever want to eat ever. I always hope that a big chunk will fall off as we are cutting it to serve, so that I can snatch it up and have a taste for myself :)
You might say, "Why don't you just buy a slice?"
But, if you know me, my style response is more along the lines of, "Let's go home and figure out how to make this myself"
Here is my attempt to re-create that pie, mashing together a few recipes from one of my most trusted baking mentors... that's right I'm talking about Martha. She usually doesn't let me down, and in this case, she pulled through once again. I believe the pie was a success!! For two reasons:
I added a few of my own twists to make the pie of my apple-crumble-dreams by throwing in some chopped walnuts and toasted oats into the crumble mixture. I also made sure there was a good pinch of salt in there too, as the slight salt in the crumb is what keeps me hoping a big chunk will decide to stray from the pie and make for easy snacking ;)
The apple filling uses both fuji and granny smith apples for a nice balance of sweet/tart, and the filling itself is not overly wet but still juicy. I highly encourage you to serve this with a big scoop of ice cream... a good quality vanilla OR if you are feeling sassy, salted caramel is my weapon of choice. (High five that a Village Ice Cream store is just a few blocks up the street from where I live)
Happy Pi Day!
Apple Crumble Pie
recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
Roses are red,
Velvet is too,
This cake is made with beets,
So it must be good for you.
We all know that a cake for February, AKA Valentines MONTH (not sorry) was gonna be a red/pink deal. For me, that means whipping up one of my favourite recipes: BEET red velvet.
That's right, BEET! This is a historically correct red velvet cake, in that the colour comes entirely from the magical power of beets, not a trace of food colouring. ALTHOUGH I confess that food colouring was used in the frosting. But I'm in charge here, so, it's okay.
Did you know that back in the day Red Velvet was named thusly due to the velvety texture imparted by beets? It's true. If you're like, "for real, beets in cake?" then I say hey, if carrot cake is so common then why not beet cake! You've gotta try it, I've converted a lot of non beet-lievers. (Yikes that was bad)
But seriously even the skeptics loved the flavour of this cake! Even a friend who says he "doesn't like beets". The beets add flavour, colour, texture, and a little drama. Nice and tangy, especially good with cream cheese frosting...
I made this recipe in cupcake form for Higher Ground Cafe for some valentine-themed treats. I always get so stoked to see how vibrant the colour is! I called these "Heart-Beet Cupcakes" heh heh
As this is part of my monthly cake challenge, I needed to try something new. This month I attempted the technique of painting with frosting! It turned out not exactly as I envisioned in my mind... to be honest my first thought was "WOW epic fail" like when you see something on pinterest and then in reality it just is laughably awful? But after walking away and coming back with fresh eyes, I actually liked what I created! Like so many of my art experiments, really! This one really felt like painting. FUN.
Perhaps painting with buttercream might yield better results as opposed to cream cheese frosting... But this cake really requires cream cheese frosting. It's just non-negotiable.
This bowl here contains the liquid ingredients for our beet-cake-batter. WOW amiright? I swear I didn't edit this! Life is this magical! I love veggies.
And here is our cake batter, all trayed up and ready for the oven. But first, a glamour shot. This batter deserves it.
You may notice that I often bake cakes as a flat sheet tray, and then cut them into circles for stacking. This way the layers bake flat and evenly, the baking time shortens, you can cut them into any size you want, and it gives you lots of scraps for snacking :)
Also, if you just moved and don't currently own a round cake pan, this technique really comes in handy...
Garnished with toasted red-velvet crumbs (good use of those cake scraps!), beet chips (store bought from costco!), and gold sprinkles because oooh lala.
To February! The short but sweet month of love, cold weather, and chocolate that goes on sale. What a grand time of year. Time to sneak some veggies into dessert! It's practically health food! Right?
All-Natural Red Velvet Cake
Recipe barely adapted from Yossy Arefi
Cream Cheese Frosting
I was recently asked a daunting question: What is the greatest joy in life? Is it odd that immediately my brain went to food related things? Well, knowing me, not odd at all. Also, food is a great joy in life for everyone... we need it to survive and also can derive great pleasure from it so I think it's only natural I would jump to this topic.
I came up with two conclusions: chocolate. I have always loved chocolate from the dawn of time (read: when I was a tiny thing not even born yet and my mama would get strong cravings for chocolate ice cream). I crave chocolate everyday, and the darker, the better.
My other response was: anything that strikes that wonderful contrasting balance of sweet vs salty. I live for sea salt on my cookies, salted caramel anything, and those Nature Valley bars that are literally called Sweet and Salty. I drool just thinking about it. It's something about the initial sweetness and then this POW of addictive salt that is crave-able beyond my wildest dreams. Some people only think of using salt in savoury cooking. They are so wrong. Baking requires balance of flavours too, and salt can offer so much to sweet foods in this regard. Next time you have toast with jam, sprinkle a little salt on top. KAPOW
So what about taking these two great joys in life (Chocolate + Sweet/Salty) and putting them into another great joy in life? Of course I am talking about COOKIES.
I love creating a cookie based on a quick scan through the pantry, throwing in whatever I have on hand that might taste good together. In this case, during a cookie baking emergency where I wanted to whip up something quick and delicious, the cookie gods were smiling down upon me
I found a half-full bag of these "salted caramel chipits" and an open bag of pretzel sticks that needed to be used.
Throw those gems into a chocolate cookie base (with some extra chocolate chips for good luck) and we have ourselves a sweet and salty treat with a good hit of cocoa to relieve those intense chocolate cravings. All you need is a glass of milk, and life is golden my friends, golden.
Chocolate Sweet + Salty Cookies
recipe adapted from Daphna Rabinovitchna
Here in Cow Town it's been averaging at about -25˚C for the last week or so... it's time for some TROPICAL TREATS I say!!! ENOUGH OF THIS COLD.
These zesty bars will trick you into thinking you are on a beach in Mexico, sipping a paloma, with your bare feet tucked into soft warm sand... when in reality I have spent too many minutes waiting for the bus outside and despite my desperate attempts to keep my feet warm by wearing my (ugly but warm) clompy snow boots, I still managed to get frostbitten toes for which I have lost all feeling... where was I? Oh yes, eating our feelings through the power of citrus! (and tequila, that helps too)
This recipe was born out of a desire to make lemon bars... However, not having any lemons, nor the desire to venture out to the grocery store for only them specifically.
What I did have sitting around in my fridge needing to be utilized was grapefruit and lime, leftover from the recent grand Paloma Cake adventure.
If one can make lemon bars out of lemons, then surely one can make Paloma bars out of grapefruit lime and tequila!!! Right?
Throw in some coconut because YUM! and we have ourselves a tropical treat to make us forget about winter for juuuuuust a second. It's slightly more affordable than actually going to Mexico, which is what my parents did for this month, smart people, I tell ya. This is as close as I'll get.
Paloma Coconut Squares
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
for the base:
And now it's time for another edition of The Travelling Cookie Monster! In this episode, we travel to the grungey-cool graffiti-coated boat-harbouring city in southern France known as Marseille. (think, Mar-Say... not mar-sigh).
Not many people choose to travel here because it's considered less glamorous than say Paris of course or Nice, however it was WELL worth the trip. Marseille is just COOL. I loved my brief stay in this artsy city. Also, like many regions in Europe, they have their OWN SYMBOLIC COOKIE. That's worth a visit for me if nothing else. Enter: The Navette.
FUN FACT: Navette cookies are traditionally eaten on the lesser known religious holiday known as Candlemas. Not to be confused with Candlemass which is a Swedish "doom metal" band. This year, Candlemas happens to be February 2... WHICH IS TODAY! What a great day to make Navette cookies.
Sometimes referred to as shuttle cookies, Navettes are named after their boat-like shape. Appropriate for a city that does indeed have many many boats that fill it's harbour. Right along the docks is a long boardwalk lined with market stands and tables with people selling souveniers, housewares, treats, sailor-themed baby clothes, and of course, Navette cookies. You can also find them in all the bakeries, piled high in baskets. The most common flavour is orange blossom, but there are also lemon, anise, and many other variations to be found. As far as treats go, they are pretty darn basic. But when looking for something to dunk into your tea whilst in Marseille, one must reach for a navette. And cookie monster never says no to a cookie.
As mentioned before, the classic Navette cookie is made with Orange Blossom water. I really wanted to make these cookie today, (cuz it's Candlemas! LOL) but I do not have orange blossom water. I do have, however, a real orange. So, I used orange zest instead. Not the traditional Navette, but good enough for me :)
True confession time, The Navette that I ate in Marseille, and the ones that I re-created in my kitchen back home, are not the same. Let me just say the cookie I ate in France was much more pleasant. I don't know if it is just me, or the recipe I used, but these cookies were a little disappointing. However it's the thought that counts and it made for some fun reminiscing. And you never know until you try! Regardless, here is the recipe.
recipe adapted from Saveur
For the sake of cake
I love cake! The strange part about me saying this is that I think eating cake is all good and fine, however I would probably rather eat cookies, cuz I am a COOKIE MONSTER and that's just me. Give me a choice between a chunky cookie or a slice of elegance and I will pick the cookie nearly every time. I could instead re-phrase "I LOVE CAKE" to a more specific "I love the concept of cake!" I love the way cakes look, how they are symbols for PARTY and CELEBRATION. They are food of happy times and meant to bring joy. I could also say "I love the act of making cakes", as it is an art form all on it's own!!! Cake decorating is one of those areas in life where the worlds of pastry and fine art collide... and it's a weird and wonderful zone.
I've realized however, that I spend a lot of time looking at pictures of cakes and thinking about making them, more than the actual act of making them. I have learned and read enough to know how certain cakes are produced and the various fascinating techniques that are used. But, I haven't had much practice in actually making them. It's time to stop being the naive viewer in the art gallery saying "I could do that" and to actually get out there (or stay at home) and actually JUST DO IT.
My problem is that I seem to be always waiting for the right occasion for which to bake a cake, because I have this mental block that says: you need an occasion to bake a cake. What if we flipped this? What if the opposite became true? What if... the cake created an occasion for itself? The cake is the cause! (Tiny epiphany, cue tiny fireworks and explosions of inspiration). I need to make time for cake.
Resolution: Stop waiting for an occasion and just bake a darn cake. For the sake of cake! Try new techniques! Make ugly messes! Because this is how we learn things.
My goal for 2019 (this is dangerous, now that I am officially announcing it as a goal,) is to each month make one cake, using a baking or decorating technique that I have never tried before, or one that I need more practice with. I figure this will be fun, because cake is fun. It's like painting or any other hobby, only you can eat it. If I mess up, it's just cake. I will be learning and growing as a baker, and I will have delicious treats to share with family and friends. Please help me eat all this cake that's about to happen.
January: A cake for a Fiesta
It's 2019, it's a new year, it's a new dawn, it's a new day! And... I have a new home! Naturally, my roomies and I wanted to throw a housewarming shindig to make things official, and to brag to our friends/show off our new digs. After rejecting my suggestion that the party be themed "House" or "Warm" (appropriate, yes! But also lame? kay fine) we very quickly agreed to having a fiesta themed housewarming party. My favorite theme. And so with this in mind, along with the long-time desire I've had for wanting to make succulents out of frosting... I designed the Paloma Cactus Cake!
If you are thinking "What in tarnation is a Paloma?", let me tell you... Firstly, it is amazing. A Paloma is a cocktail with a fun name and even more fun ingredients: tequila (my spirit-spirit), grapefruit and lime. SO, I wanted to let these flavours set the stage for my fiesta-party-cactus-cake.
This is a triple layer cake, using grapefruit and lime zest and juices AND TEQUILA to flavour the sponge and the frosting. To really bring it home, I (generously) soaked each cake layer with a dousing of tequila-grapefruit-syrup. This adds flaaaayyyyve and helps prevent the dreaded dry-cake-phenomena. Between the layers is a grapefruit curd, then the whole shebang is frosted with paloma frosting, and decorated with little buttercream succulents. I giggled a lot when making these tiny guys cuz they're just so darn cute! Buttercream decorating like this takes a decent amount of time and preparation and makes a decent sized mess. However, being able to pipe the succulents then keep them in freezer until you are ready to decorate makes life that much simpler and tidier. And remember the golden rule of kitchen: clean as you go.
The "sand" crumbs that you see are made from leftover cake scraps that I toasted until crisp in the oven, snacked on a few, then blitzed them up in the food processor.
Definitely room for improvement, but I'm pretty happy with how this first attempt worked out :) So glad I finally made the time to try this!
If a grapefruit-lime-tequila cake speaks to your soul, then lucky you, here is the recipe! It tastes just as tropical without the tiny cacti, but they do make life fun. Happy Baking!
recipe from Wilton
recipe from Wilton
*note:when I made my cake, I only used half this recipe of frosting, and it worked, however I had absolutely none left over and probably could have used a little more to cover the sides of my cake better. If you want to be safer and have some frosting leftover, use the full recipe.
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
Swiss meringue buttercream is my favourite for piping, because it is so silky smooth. Below is a favourite recipe of mine that has the addition of white chocolate, which I believe does two wonderful things: helps stabilize the buttercream, and also helps it taste delicious. You can use your own buttercream recipe if you have one you like, or you can even use the paloma frosting if that feels simpler, however you may have to adjust the consistency by adding milk or icing sugar as needed. I liked the contrast of the two frostings on this cake, for their different appearance, textures, and flavours!
White Chocolate Buttercream
I would be silly to try and leave instructions here, for I am certainly no expert on this topic. Instead, here is a link to a video that helped me as I endeavoured on this time consuming but deeply satisfying procedure:
High five to Wilton, thank you!
And there we are! Easy right? Get ready to make a mess :)
Speaking of which, I can't help but include this beautifully grotesque image of the cake-eating-aftermath:
Nobody wanted me to cut into the cake, however I am happy to report that it was worth it as the cake itself was in fact delicious as it was pretty. Yay for cake! We are off to a grand start.
A very wise lady inspired the belief in me that a house is not a home until one has baked homemade banana bread in it. I am 100% on board with this concept. And so in an effort to make my new house my new home... I baked banana bread. Amen.
My mom, and her sister, are both banana bread baking queens. They both use the same recipe, one passed down from their Aunt, known by most as, Auntie Irene. My great Auntie Irene was the sweetest of little ladies, with fire-truck red hair and the cutest smile. Despite her petite size, she would smother you with hugs and kisses and tons of food. Her recipes remain family favourites, and are made often in my household. A few recipes come to mind including cheesy mashed potatoes, her famous chocolate sauce... but made most often, her whole-wheat-banana-bread.
One taste of this loaf and I am instantly "home" no matter where I actually am. I love the combo of half whole wheat flour and half regular flour, not just because I trick myself into thinking its good for you, but the whole wheat flour adds another layer of nutty flavour which I crave! This baby is delicious just on its own, but I also love adding toasted walnuts for some crunch, or chocolate chips if I'm feeling it. Oh I'm feeling it. Can't go wrong.
I baked two mini loafs in my new place to welcome myself into the kitchen and lay a foundation for home-baked goodies to come. Before we can get crazy making new experiments, we gotta stick to the old favourites first, ya know? When I got to sit down and enjoy a warm slice of my labour... my first thought was "Tastes like mom!" (Hi mom)
Life is good.
Auntie Irene's Whole Wheat Banana Bread
makes 1 large loaf, or 4 mini loaf pans. Or ~12 muffins!
Happy Baking <3
LIFE IS SO GRAND RIGHT NOW!
I have finally put on my big girl socks and MOVED OUT. It sounds more final and official than it really is. I've lived away from home on my own before and done lots of travelling, so it doesn't feel like too much of a stretch... but everything does feel new and exciting and darn weird when I realize my old room back "home" no longer exists. Yikes.
To cope with any potential feelings of overwhelming unfamiliarity, we make the things that are familiar. The things we can't go for a week without, or even a day. The things like, homemade granola.
I've been making homemade granola for yeeeeeeeears and with some fresh fruit and yogurt, it's my favourite everyday breakfast.
I have been thinking about MY FIRST BAKE IN THE NEW KITCHEN and getting stoked and making a big deal about it. Then I realized that without thinking about it, I started making granola because I just can't live without that stuff. So I guess that's my "first bake", and I feel like that is completely appropriate. Also I haven't set up my NEW MIXER yet... I smell a future blog post.
Of course I'm not used to this new oven entirely and I put a little too much faith in it (and, true confession, started doing yoga while it was baking) and I kinda burnt it. Definitely still edible... but a little extra toasty let's just say... whoopsie daisies! A reminder that not all ovens are created equal!
Making this easy recipe (even though I almost burnt it, haha!) brings me much comfort.And much tasty snacking for the week :)
It also helps me and the new kitchen get acquainted with one another, like "Hello, I am Larissa and we are going to make some weird and wonderful stuff together, okay? Let's do this."
So here is to figuring out new ovens and new routines and new bus routes and making the very first batch of good ol' granola in my new home! <3 Happy Days.
Good Ol' Granola
this recipe is extensively adaptable, and you can/are encouraged to use whatever you have on hand or like! here are the basic ratios:
(This recipe is good for one sheet pan, I normally double it and spread it out over two pans. However, this is a good starter amount)
Happy Baking :)
When you want to eat something like chips and dip but you want it to feel super healthy. YOU MAKE THIS!
Also known as: I think I will be a bird in my next life because I really love eating seeds of all kinds. Baking with seeds makes me happy and this recipe makes me especially happy because you can use whatever seeds you have on hand, along with a large helping of super-good-for-you flaxseeds.
Homemade crackers full of crunchy healthy seeds, and a mashed up bean dip topped with feta and cilantro to feed your healthy munchy fix. This is a tasty snack BUT it's also something you can feel good about because:
I like to have both whole flaxseeds and ground flax on hand to use for different purposes. Obviously if you buy whole flaxseeds you can always grind them yourself, but I use both kinds frequently so I buy both... Like I said, I am a bird.
For all seeds (and nuts!), it's a good idea to keep them in the fridge or freezer so they last longer and don't go rancid.
Switch up the seeds in the crackers depending on your preference/what you have on hand, same deal for the beans in the dip!
If you have time and patience you can roll out the crackers and cut them into desired shapes... or you can be "rustic" like moi and just bake one giant sheet of cracker, breaking it up into shards after it's baked and cooled. Rustic it is.
Flax Seed Crackers
Recipe adapted from "Beauty Foods" by Caroline Artiss
Bean + Feta Dip
Recipe adapted from "Beauty Foods" by Caroline Artiss
WARNING these cupcakes are dangerously sweet but sometimes you just need that hard core sugar hit. Brown sugar is the star here and when combined with a healthy amount of butter and cream (and most importantly SALT to balance all that sticky sweetness) we have a tasty treat for you.
These cupcakes came about when I wanted to make a Harry-Potter-Butterbeer-type of cupcake for the cafe where I work (hence the lightning bolt garnish). I made way too much butterscotch sauce the first go-round so I got to make the cupcakes again for halloween, this time with lil ghosts on top! I giggled a lot while decorating each one with tiny edible googly eyes... which I now want to put on everything.
The cupcake recipe makes a delicious brown sugar cupcake all on it's own, if you don't want to go the extra sweet route of filling them with the butterscotch. I've been known to add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter which I think makes them even better!
Brown Sugar Cupcakes:
*I hardly use a recipe for cream cheese frosting these days... rather I tend to use a ratio of approximately 2 parts cream cheese to one part butter, and add powdered sugar to taste. A good pinch of salt helps to balance out the super sweet powdered sugar, and vanilla makes it extra tasty. Follow your heart, but a good starting point is:
Again, this will probably make more than you need for the cupcakes... the leftover can be used in hot drinks, drizzled on cakes or as a tasty ice cream sundae topping!
Tiny Tea Party
It's about celebrating the tiny things.
© 2015 Larissa Costella
All Rights Reserved
(All images and content are my own unless otherwise noted)