Last Christmas, my dear mother gifted me a set of mini tart tins with removable bottoms, an item on my baking wish-list!! I'm embarrased to say that it's taken me over six months to finally take them for a test drive... but better late than never! Their first use features a basic sweet-dough tart shell and one of my personal favourite fillings... pecan pie! These are somewhere in between personal sized pecan pies, or giant pecan tarts... call them what you will. But we can all call them DELICIOUS.
Recipe adapted from my experience at The Butchart Gardens
About 20-30 minutes before you want to use it, take the dough out of the fridge to thaw a little bit so that it's easier to roll. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Place a tart tin on the dough and use a paring knife to cut a circle of dough out that is just slightly larger than the tart tin. Place the circle of dough into the tart tin and press into the bottoms and up the sides, pressing well into the edges to form a neat wall that won't slump while baking. Dock the bottom of the tart with a fork. Repeat with remaining tins. Place the tins in the fridge or freezer and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375. Place a piece of parchment into the dough shells and fill with dried baking beans or pie weights to blind bake the tart shells. Bake for about 15 minutes until just starting to turn golden around the edges. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Remove the beans and parchment. Return the shells to the oven and continue baking until lightly golden and baked through, don't worry too much as these tarts will be going back into the oven later. Let them cool before adding the pecans and filling...
Pecan Tart Filling:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place the pre-baked tart shells onto a rimmed baking sheet.
Fill the tart shells with toasted pecans, not too many, but just enough to cover the bottom of the shell and allow for a pecan piece in every bite. Pour the filling over the pecans to fill the tart shells. Bake for about 25 minutes until the filling has slightly souffléd and does not jiggle too much when you shake the pan. Let cool completely before enjoying :)
I am happy to have another addition to my muffin repertoire. I absolutely love the flavour of cornmeal in both sweet or savoury adaptations... this particular quick-bread is more on the sweet side, making it a lovely breakfast option. You can add anything you like to the batter to mix things up... in the photo below I added local saskatoon berries and fresh thyme from my backyard which gives the muffins a splendid scent. Cheddar cheese and chives add savoury notes, which makes for a nice lunch alongside a soup or salad. Any kind of frozen berries, chopped fruit, sundried tomatoes, cheese, olives etc would also be welcome additions. Use your creativity/imagination/pantry!
Recipe adapted from my experience at The Butchart Gardens
I like to measure by weight, however I have tried to also give cup measurements on the side. I cannot guarantee their accuracy, but it would be my best approximation!
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. If desired, add any fruit, herbs, cheese etc to the batter and fold in gently, being careful not to over-mix.
Scoop into lined muffin tins and bake at 350 (325 convection) for about 20 minutes depending on the size of your muffin tins, until just lightly golden around the edges and the tops spring back when pressed with your finger. Let cool slightly, serve warm or at room temperature.
This January in Baking School my class was "Pastry Fundamentals 1". There is no coincidence that the word "fun" is in the title. But also, pastry is in the title, and what does pastry make you think of?
PIE PIE PIE!
We got to learn all about PIE for a whole week! Yup, that whole week I lived, breathed, baked, ate, and dreamt pie. It was a pretty good week!
Growing up, I never liked pie. I don't really know why, but anytime I found out "pie" was for dessert, I was generally disappointed. Where's the chocolate cake? Didn't even matter what kind of pie it was, if it had pie in the title, I was out. I was a strange child.
Thank goodness I have grown up to realize that actually, pie is delicious. And also, that PIE can really mean and be so many many things. The crazy thing is, now I like allll kinds of pie! Give me all the pie! More correctly, let me bake all the pies! I'll need your help eating them.
The foundation of any good pie begins with the pie pastry. The crust. The dough. Many people judge the quality of a pie only on the pastry. The filling could be aces, but if the pastry is bad, then all seems to be lost! No pressure. So, this is where we begin our Pie Journey.
Despite it being notoriously difficult, pie dough is terribly simple at the same time. It only has 4 ingredients! Maybe 5 if you want to add the "optional" sugar. I generally always want to add sugar :)
PIE DOUGH: a mixture of FLOUR (pastry flour please), FAT (butter is best), LIQUID (water, usually but sometimes milk), and SALT (for flavo-flave!)
I suppose I was kind of under the impression that there is only one kind of pie dough. And everyone strives for THE perfect pie dough. This is sort of true... however the ideal pie dough really depends on what kind of pie you are making and what you are going to use it for.
For pie purposes, we can separate the pastry into two categories: Flaky and Mealy.
Sounds appetizing doesn't it?
But hang in there, pie is the prize!
Flaky pie dough is the dough that I always thought was what people are always trying to achieve. In my opinion, it is more pleasing to eat. Simply put, the butter is left in pretty large chunks, which create big pockets of steam in the hot oven, resulting in a flaky, melt in your mouth pastry. It is the pie dough you want on top of your pies, and the pie dough that you use if you want to pre-bake a pie shell.
The other pie dough is Mealy, which is very very similar, only the butter is brokedn down into smaller pieces, like the size of coarse cornmeal (name makes more sense now, right?). There is also a little bit less water in the dough, because more of the flour is coated by the fat, meaning the flour will absorb less water. Mealy dough is good for bottom crusts, when you have a liquid type filling that gets baked along with the shell. This is because the dough is less likely to absorb too much moisture, like a flakey pie shell would. No soggy crusts here!
At school we would use butter for flaky dough, and shortening for mealy dough. The shortening helps to make a mealy dough because it is easier to breakdown, and doesn't melt as quickly as butter. However BUTTER IS BETTER for flavour and hands down the number one choice for flaky pie dough. I'll give in and use shortening at school, but I think at home, I will always use butter, even for mealy dough. As my Chef at school (very often) says, "Butter good."
Flakey Pie Dough
Use this method for your top crusts, or for crusts that you need to pre-bake before adding filling!
Mealy Pie Dough
Use this method for your bottom shells, and pies that have a liquidy/fruity/custardy filling that gets baked with the shell!
Directions: (the procedure is the same for both recipes, except for step 2)
Pie till I die <3
This is my chocolate bundt cake redemption.
The last time I made a chocolate bundt cake (my first ever bundt cake), it looked a treat, and tasted okay... but it was very very very dry. Just a big, dense, chunk of cake that was not nearly moist enough to be eaten without lots of frosting or ice cream to hide its serious flaw. I needed to redeem myself, and prove to myself that a moist bundt cake is a thing that exists! Not sure what it is about January and chocolate bundt cakes, but almost exactly one year later I attempted the choco-bundt once again.
I succeeded! This cake received rave reviews from everyone I fed it to... the best part is that everyone said, "it's so moist". BAM. Mission accomplished.
It doesn't hurt that I brushed it with a rum-favoured simple syrup before I glazed it... an optional step, but like really, why not?
The 2nd annual chocolate bundt! Will this become a yearly tradition? I am not sure, but I'm certainly not complaining if it does.
Chocolate Bundt cake with Rum Glaze
Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine
ENJOY! You don't even need ice cream! But I wouldn't turn it away if it were offered... :)
Ahh a cake that looks like a log. What a strange but fabulous and whimsical Christmas tradition! I love this cake because it looks darn impressive but it is actually incredibly easy to make. Turns out that chocolate frosting is a great medium for making tree bark, and a bit of merigues and chocolate make for some pretty convincing mushrooms. The best part though? Although it is terribly cute to look at, it also happens to be ridiculously delicious! We have pumpkin spice, brown butter, and dark chocolate to thank for that I believe...
One of my Christmas gifts this year was a jar of Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Spice seasoning. So obviously I had to give it a test run immediately. I thought making a pumpkin spice roulade cake would make pretty grand Yule Log. Spoiler Alert I was totally right.
And because I felt like being fancy, I browned the butter before adding it to my cream cheese filling. I have never made a brown butter cream cheese frosting before... turns out its awesome. The benefit of a roulade is that the frosting is spiraled through the entire cake, meaning you get cake and frosting IN EVERY BITE! And trust me with this one, you want that. Pumpkin Spice and Brown Butter are the best of friends. This cake is kind of a mash up of various recipes that I put together along the way, but I would totally make this exact cake again. Everything just worked so well together! And, it looks like a log!! Mission Accomplished.
Pumpkin Spice Yule Log
Recipes adapted from Katie Lee, Nigella Lawson and Martha Stewart
Pumpkin Spice Roulade: (recipe barely adapted from Katie Lee)
Chocolate Frosting: (recipe slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson)
I'm going back to school... and I couldn't be more excited!
Back in the spring of 2011 when I graduated high school, I applied for two programs, the programs that were my top passions and interests. These were: Fine Arts, and Baking. To apply for any other program just didn't make sense to me. I had the time to dream about each program and build up a great desire for BOTH of them. Of course I could only do one, and I was lucky that my first choice of going to art school welcomed me with open arms. I saw that I was more suited for pursuing that goal at the time. But there was always part of me that wondered about going to baking school... what would it be like? What if? Very long story short: I rocked it out at art school, loving nearly every minute of it! I learned so much about myself as an artist and as a person, made so many life long connections and friendships, and would never change that experience. I am so proud of myself for graduating from art school, a life dream of mine completed. I took the next year off to live a life without school, and just reflect. As I spent this year reflecting, I kept noticing a buzzing in the back of my head. That buzz was baking schooooool...
I remember one evening I was chatting with my mother and rambling on about some kind of baking related thing when she politely let me finish before she said, "Larissa I think you should go to baking school". I felt an odd sense of relief to hear that, and somehow something clicked in my head... Why not? Why not go to baking school? Just because I pursued my one post secondary dream does not mean that I cannot pursue another one!
I believe that fine art and baking have so many similarities and cross-overs, and they compliment each other beautifully. The program is called "Baking and Pastry Arts", so really I am just pursuing another art form, my studio is simply moving to the kitchen. Before I had even fully decided if it was where my life was going, I had applied the night before the deadline, gotten one of the last interview slots, and then to my amazement, I was given the final spot in the program.
It's never to late to be who you might have been.
I'm already in my second week of school, and things are already incredibly busy. I'm trying to fit a lot into every day because I have a lot of things I am passionate about and want to do! Although this is something I have always wanted and I think/know I will have so much fun doing it, it is still school, and school is a lot of hard work and commitment. I want to soak up as much as possible because I know two years is gonna fly by. Hopefully I can document some of my experiences here, not only to share, but to enrich my own experience and reflect on what I am doing and learning.
Probably one of the best parts about being a baking student is instead of paying for expensive text books that you might only look at during school, we get a whole tool kit full of professional grade baking and cooking equipment :D That's my kind of school supplies.
The first of these tools I got to test out was my RIDICULOUSLY SHARP chefs knife! After many classroom theory sessions, I was very excited to step foot in the Kitchen shop for the first time. I've never been more stoked to cut an apple.
Our chef had us practice our knife skills and taught us four techniques: Slicing, dicing, julienne, and brunoise. (apparently my julienne needs a little work, chef says.)
I can't wait until we actually start baking! Until then, I will continue to nerd out about flour properties and ingredient functions and baking calculations. It doesn't really feel like school at all...
Stay tuned for more fun facts, techniques and delicious recipes!!!
Today Julia Child turns 104. Happy Birthday Julia!
I have a bit of a tradition in that I always celebrate Julia Child's birthday. I happen to think she was rather a cool lady, and she is somebody who inspires me, so in order to pay my thanks, I like to pull out her gloriously thick and heavy hardcover book (a gracious gift from my aunt, you know me too well), and bake something for her. Past years have included a cheese soufflé, quiche lorraine, and well, now I am shocked at the fact that none of them seem to be cake, or dessert like at all for that matter, and no chocolate? Who am I?
For reasons I cannot explain, my celebratory offerings have always been savoury. Mostly revolving around cheese. I've got my eye on the dessert section don't get me wrong, (I'm looking at you chocolate mousse), but I don't think anyone is disappointed when I offer them a fresh cheese puff.
My other incentive for making these goes way back. For years I have been meaning to attempt making the classic French dough known as "pâte à choux". Pâte à choux, also referred to as choux pastry is what is used in the making of such delicious creations as profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs, French crullers, beignets, St. Honoré cake, quenelles, Parisian gnocchi, dumplings, gougères, chouquettes and craquelins basically a lot of fancy French pastries and sweet or savoury bites. I imagine that every good baker should know how to make pâte à choux, so I made it my personal mission to try it at home. I don't have the slightest idea why I thought it was such a daunting task and why I waited so very long to try, because it was remarkably easy and took hardly any time at all. It's like a Parisian one-bowl-wonder, and indeed a trick any baker or chef should have in their apron pocket.
Wanting to keep things simple to start, I just made these into cheese puffs. This simply requires adding grated cheese to the dough, and that's it. They don't even really need a filling, but I'm sure they would be delicious with one too. I just kept popping them into my mouth au naturel. And by popping, I mean tearing them apart first to admire their vastly hollow centres... Now I can't wait to make a sweet version and fill them with decadent creams or even ice cream. And chocolate sauce. Absolutement!
But these cheese puffs! Would be super fancy impressive served as hors d'oeuvres at your next cocktail party. You know I have so many of those. (NOT) but now I want to and should...
Pate a Choux Cheese Puffs
Recipe from Julia Child
makes about 20 small puffs
Next stop, croquembouche? OUI.
Sometimes you just want a cookie. A scrumptious, chewy, chunky hunk of love to nibble on with your tea or coffee, or to savour with hot cocoa before bed.
Sometimes, you just want a piece(or, let's be honest, pieces) of chocolate. A silky, melt-in-your-mouth, decadent hunk of love to nibble on when you need that hit, or to savour after a meal.
Sometimes, gosh darn it, you want both. At the SAME TIME.
This cookie is two hunks of love delivered to you in one beautiful chunky, chewy package.
Oats, a pinch of cinnamon, and milk chocolate go into this cozy cookie which is topped off with that lovely triangle of swiss goodness studded with nougat and almonds.
Now you just have to decide, do you pick off the Toblerone and eat it first? Or do you eat the cookie surrounding it, saving Toblerone Island for last? Or do you just munch all the way through in a linear fashion? You may want to try all three methods to find the one that suits you best ;)
Chunky Milk Chocolate TOblerone Cookies
Recipe adapted from Trey Winkle of R Bar & Grill
Consider this the Ice Cream of the Month for JUNE! And forgive me for the lack of photos of my own ice cream, I will instead spam this recipe with photos of the inspiration of this ice cream. Enter, Village Ice Cream. My favourite local ice cream establishment.
The Salted Caramel ice cream at Village is famous, almost everybody knows about it, and I would like to assume that nearly everybody says it's their favourite flavour on the menu! It is definitely mine at least... All of their flavours are kind of mind blowingly delicious, however there is just something about that salty-caramel that I can just not ignore, ever. It's ridiculously rich, creamy and sweet, with just enough salty tang to make you want more more more! I always think about trying a different flavour, but after a few samples, I head straight back to Salted Caramel. If I have to pay $5 for only one flavour, it better be the best.
After learning how to make ice cream at home and having some decent results, the thought suddenly occurred to me that I could try to replicate this winning flavour AT HOME and have a (almost) never ending supply! Then I would be doing life right. This recipe that I found from none other than Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (of course) is pretty darn close. It absolutely fills the gaps for when I can't get down to Village to treat myself. Also, it means I can do whatever I want with it, such as turn it into ice cream pie, and sandwich it between slices of banana bread, and eat it straight out of the bin from the freezer in my pyjamas late at night. Let the record show that I have done all three of these things, with outrageous success.
My mother and I, post bike ride, enjoying our scoops of creamy ethereal goodness. Let the Salty-Sweet combo reign queen of the flavour world FOREVER!
Salty-Caramel Ice Cream
Recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
Many recipes will instruct you to add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, but here we skip the water. This method means that the sugar will caramelize more quickly and speed up the whole process, however it also burns much more easily. You must keep a careful eye on the sugar and be ready with your cream. The sugar can go from white to BURNT in a second. But do not fear! As long as you are careful and pay attention, you can totally do this! And you will feel like a wizard when you do.
And it's MAY! That's right folks, let's pretend it's still springtime when the grocery stores are bursting with big juicy ruby-ripe strawberries and everybody is talking about the rhubarb in their garden. But you don't mind, no not at all.
Our garden always EXPLODES with rhubarb each spring and it always seems to be so much that one cannot possibly use it all. This is why I love to find new and delicious ways to get it out of the garden and onto my plate/bowl/spoon/glass etc.
Good thing I finally started liking the stuff a few years ago. It makes this adventure all the more enjoyable!
A fun fact I learned while making this ice cream: if you stew/boil rhubarb on the stove in a pot as many of us do, it is delicious. However, it will loose it's beautiful pink hue and turn into a sort of greeny-brown stringy mush. The way to keep its pretty-pinkness is to roast it! Yes, I'm still not sure why exactly this happens, but baking or roasting rhubarb (with lots of sugar, of course) in the oven keeps it's colour. Also, any chance for alliteration is nice.
This is really nice on its own, or even mixed with chocolate :) But what isn't?
Cheers to springtime and MAY! (even if I'm a little late)
Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt
Recipe slightly adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
For the Fro-Yo Base:
Prep the Yogurt: