February 29, 2008

julia child's french bread

yup, it's that time again. february was a pretty crazy month for me here in the land of undies. so much working, playing and laundry! oh, the laundry!!! so much laundry and other household stuffs in fact i almost missed this month's daring baker challenge- julia child's french bread. mmm, i love good bread. not so much making it, although derek and the kids love it when i make it for them. i just don't have the patience for the rising times and i hate getting my hands all gooey. thank goodness breadchick mary gave instructions for the mixer.
it's totally amazing that there's only 4 ingredients in this... flour, water, salt and yeast. it's also amazing that just 3 1/2 cups of flour can produce such a huge amount of bread dough!
i did end up kneading it a few times by hand just to make sure it was nice and smooth, as recommended. i was pleasantly surprised that it was so soft and springy and not sticky.
i thought i'd try to make really small batards, and a round loaf. the forming was very easy to do, and i loved the little pop of the yeast gas bubbles when i squeezed the seams closed. hehehe

i didn't have a "canvas" so used a clean tea towel dusted with flour. seemed to work fine as the dough didnt' stick to it. i also didn't have any cardboard (it was recycling day) or plywood, so i just used an extra cookie sheet to flip them over.

thanks to breadchick mary for this month's daring baker's challenge.


we didn't wait the 2 hours for the cooling time. like i said, i'm no good with waiting times! it tasted great with my turkey chilli!
sorry for the short post, but i'm sleepy and full of bread and chilli... check out what other daring bakers have done via the blogroll, and the full recipe can be found here.

February 18, 2008

chuck norris

my sister and hubby came over on saturday and got our wii to connect to the internet and subscribed us to the mii channel. wow! who knew you could make so many different miis with it! i picked out a zombie boy and girl, chuckie, george costanza, napoleon and kip dynamite, jimi hendrix, and a personal fave, chuck norris.

now, you've got to do this... type "find chuck norris" into google and click i'm feeling lucky. HILARIOUS!

and for more chuck norris hilarity, click here for chuck norris facts and custom tees. my favourite is, "chuck norris destroyed the periodic table because he only recognizes the element of surprise."

February 13, 2008

it's over!

anyone that knows me, knows i love the beatles, baking, and television. my faves range from dexter to survivor, iron chef america to my name is earl, and you can't miss flight of the conchords and LOST! and OH the cartoons! now, don't get me wrong, i don't spend every second of the day in front of the tele, no, but with 2 kids and a night out costing over $100, and sewing and crafts to get ready for the kids and baking cookies, cakes, and cupcakes, reno projects that i can actually do... you get the idea.
the writer's strike is over. a total of 3,492 cast "yes" ballots, and only 283 voted against ending the strike. impressive.

SNL will be back probably saturday february 23, and with any luck we won't have to wait too long inbetween the 6th and 7th episode of lost. i'm viewing lost like how i read harry potter- current episodes make much more sense after a review of past seasons, and you're more likely to see their little easter eggs! i think i'm equally obscessed with lost as i was with harry potter... which is quite a lot.
you can read all about the vote here at the hollywood reporter.

February 10, 2008

sticky chewy messy gooey

i bought this book a few months ago, "sticky, chewy, messy, gooey" by jill o'connor. to be honest, i totally bought it because it's a beautiful book, the bonus is, all the recipies are written well, are simple, and almost all chocolate! i think i've read it about 10 times, drooling over the photos. last night i finally made my first dessert from it- chocolate mascarpone cheesecake pots with shortbread spoons (page 27-28, and the cover photo!).

it was so easy to follow, and had my oven not been in a bad mood, it would have turned out perfect. my oven you see, is rather small, and doesn't maintain a constant temperature and usually it takes at least 3 times making a recipe to determine the exact baking times. as it was, my chocolate cheesecakes were only near perfect. if anyone knows me, that's not quite good enough when it comes to desserts. my shortbread spoons were perfect... the second time i made them- the first time i put too many on the sheet and they all melded together whilst baking and broke when i tried to seperate them.
the recipe calls for ramekins or oven safe coffee cups or bowls. i went out to canadian tire in search of classic white ramekins with fluted edges and found these great mini pots. i'd seen them before at the gourmet warehouse but never had a need for them before, as much as i had liked them then. now, i couldn't resist!
chocolate mascarpone cheesecake pots

1 cup heavy cream
4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eegs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch o' salt
1tbsp dark rum, brandy or grand marnier (optional (i chose brandy as i don't like rum and didn't have any GM))
boiling water as needed
vanilla ice cream
shortbread spoons for serving (recipe follows)


position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325F

in a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. remove the pan from the heat before the cream starts to boil oand add the chocolate, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. set aside and let cool to room temperature.

in a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and sugar until smooth add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition utnil the mixdture is smooth. add the vanilla, salt, and rum (if using) and whisk to combine.

pout the cooled chocolate mixture into the mascarpone cheese mixture and whisk gently until smooth.

put eight 4oz custard cups, ramekins, or small oven proof coffee cups in an empty 9x13" baking pan. divide the chocolate-cheesecake mixture among the cups.

put the baking dish in the oven and then carefully pour boiling water into the pan, adding just enough water to reach halfway up the sides o fthe custard cups. cover with aluminum foil.

bake until the tops of the cheesecakes appear solid but jiggle slightly when shaken, 30-40 minutes. the perfect consistency is a little soft, but not liquid. the cheesecake pots will firm up as they cool. transfter the pots from the baking pan to a wire rack and ledt cool to room temperature. cover each pot with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight before serivng. the cheesecake pots can be prepared up to 2 days before serving.

top each cheesecake pot with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle with chocolate and caramel sauces.


shortbread spoons

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour1/4 tsp salt
in a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. stir in the vanilla. add the flour and salt and stir together until the mixture forms a soft dough.
pat the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. refridgerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.
on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out 1/4" thick and cute into 4 inch spoons (trace a small desert spoon onto some cardstock). place the shortbread spoons on a parchment lined baking sheet and refridgerate until cold and very firm, 45-60 minutes.
position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300F. remove the shortbread spoons from the refridgerator and immediatly place in the oven. bake until the edges of the cookies are a pale, golden brown but the centres are still bery pale, 25-30 minutes. transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool slightly. using a large metal spatula, transfter the cookies from the baking sheets to the wire racks
and let cool to room temperature. store the cookies, tightly covered at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

February 08, 2008

pavlova

my sister said in a comment on another post that she was thinking of making pavlova. last saturday i bought blackberries and a big jug of whipping cream to make just that. muaHaaahaHa! i beat her to it, not intentionally...

pavlova is named so after the famed russian dancer, anna pavlova- light and sweet, crispy on the outside and soft and chewy in the centre. aparently there is much controversy over this dessert as to it's origins- australia and new zealand both vying for ownership (much like anzac cookies aparnetly).
pavlova (serves 4)
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup superfine sugar (if unavailable, put granulated sugar in your blender and wrrrr!)
blackberries, washed and resting in the fridge overnight with sugar
whipping cream
preheat your oven to 200F and line a cookie sheet with parchment (to make perfect pavlovas, trace out 4 circles with pencil on the parchment and flip over).
fit your mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla on medium to soft peaks. add the superfine sugar 2 tablespoons at a time until you have stiff glossy peaks.
put the meringue in a piping bag fitted with a coupler, but no tip, and pipe the meringue onto the parchment starting in the centre of your circle and swirl to your marked size. pipe a second layer just on the outside of the mound making a bowl. another option is you can just plop 4 equal amounts onto the parchment and with an offset spatula make the bowls.
bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on how thick your bowls are. let cool completely on cookie sheet on a wired rack.
put the cooled pavlova on serving plate, dollop with whipped cream, layer on some blackberries and top with more whipped cream. oh, so good!

February 07, 2008

welcome the rat

gung hay fat choy!

it's chinese new year, this year it's the rat (that's me!). according to wikipedia, rats are described as meticulous, intelligent, shrewd (i'm not sure i'd describe myself as shrewd), compassionate, charismatic, charming, ambitious, practical, industrious, honest, eloquent, versatile, familial, creative, hard-working, neat, organized, lovers of music, loving.


(also from wikipedia...)


Being the first sign of the Chinese zodiacs, rats are leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. Rat people are endowed with great leadership skills and are the most highly organized, meticulous, and systematic of the twelve signs. Intelligent and cunning at the same time, rats are highly ambitious and strong-willed people who are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which often include money and power. They are energetic and versatile and can usually find their way around obstacles, and adapt to various environments easily. A rat's natural charm and sharp demeanor make it an appealing friend for almost anyone, but rats are usually highly exclusive and selective when choosing friends and so often have only a few very close friends whom they trust.
Behind the smiles and charm, rats can be terribly obstinate and controlling, insisting on having things their way no matter what the cost. These people tend to have immense control of their emotions, which they may use as a tool to manipulate and exploit others, both emotionally and mentally. Rats are masters of mind games and can be very dangerous, calculative and downright cruel if the need arises. Quick-tempered and aggressive, they will not think twice about exacting revenge on those that hurt them in any way. Rats need to learn to relax sometimes, as they can be quite obsessed with detail, intolerant and strict, demanding order, obedience, and perfection.
Rats consider others before themselves, at least sometimes, and avoid forcing their ideas onto others. Rats are fair in their dealings and expect the same from others in return, and can be deeply affronted if they feel they have been deceived or that their trust has been abused. Sometimes they set their targets too high, whether in relation to their friends or in their career. But as the years pass, they will become more idealistic and tolerant. If they can develop their sense of self and realize it leaves room for others in their life as well, Rats can find true happiness.
According to tradition, Rats often carry heavy karma and at some point in life may face an identity crisis or some kind of feeling of guilt. Rats are said to often have to work very long and hard for everything they may earn or have in life. However, a Rat born during the day is said to have things a bit easier than those who are born at night. Traditionally, Rats born during the night may face extreme hardships and suffering throughout life. Rats in general should guard themselves against hedonism, as it may lead to self-destruction. Gambling, alcohol and drugs tend to be great temptations to Rat natives.

now, probably the worst come-on line, what's your sign?

February 05, 2008

just bragging

just wanted to show the world how gorgeous my kids are ;)


seth loves his flash suit, wears it all the time, and on this particular snow day, decided to wear it to keep his ears warm. hehehe

ella with her mashimaro scarf that was a gift when she was wee.

no, this one's not mine (she's my niece, violett, and you can see more of her here), but gorgeous none the less... look at that dimple!

February 04, 2008

turn yourself around


the other day i saw my very first episode of nigella express. i've read many times on how good she is, etc. personally, i didn't like the style in which the show was filmed; candle lit rooms and vasilene lenses, and darling glances to the audience. she was making some roasted chicken legs, s'mores, coleslaw, and and the end she made what she called hokey-pokeys. growing up i remember going to the corner store and getting what we called honeycomb candy, or sponge candy all the time. i couldn't remember what the portions were in her recipe so google it was. the first recipe i came across didn't have honey- i thought that was weird for a honeycomb candy. the one i actally made today was from recipezaar. it's a bit chewy on the edges, but maybe i didn't maintain the temperature consistently enough, or maybe just needs more time to cure. either way, what a science experiment! wow! when that baking soda hit the hot sugar mixture... if it were red, you'd think there was a volcano near by (sorry no pics of the expansion)!
hokey pokey (honeycomb candy)

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda, finely sifted
chocolate, for coating (optional)

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and water, and using a wooden spoon, stir constantly over low heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. (in my previous candy making days, every recipe says to not stir with a spoon/spatula, but to swirl the pot- which is what i did)
Put candy thermometer into the mixture to monitor temperature, increase the heat and boil mixture to exactly 270 degrees F (132C).
Reduce heat to as low as possible and maintain the temperature 270F for exactly 15 minutes.
It is very important that the temperature of the mixture does not fluctuate; if the temperature begins to rise, remove the pan from heat occasionally to reduce the heat.
After the temperature has been maintained for 15 minutes, remove the pan from heat, take out the thermometer, and allow the bubbles to subside.
Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in finely sifted baking soda. (i used a whisk)
Immediately and quickly pour the mixture into a large oiled baking dish.
(Please note, important: the pouring step requires strength and you'll be handling extremely hot liquids; if you're not strong and agile enough you might want to leave that step to a strong and able assistant.)
candy has completely cooled, remove from pan and break into pieces.
Many lovers of honeycomb candy like to coat the pieces in chocolate- it's like a crunchie bar!