May 31, 2008

mama's li'l baby

it's that time of year again... strawberry season! yumm! there's nothing better than strawberries on, well, on just about anything. i don't know anyone that doesn't like these tasty little ground berries. today i bought 2 extra pints of beautiful organic red berries. we already had one at home and i was thinking, "strawberry shortcake". so that's what i made. so simple and so easy. i have a recipe that i've had since the days of no printer, so i don't remember the source. i think it's from, but don't quote me on that!strawberry shortcake

3 pints fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter (or shortening)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup whole milk
2 cups whipping cream

wash and slice the strawberries and toss with the 1/2 cup of sugar. preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. butter an 8" cake pan, add a parchment circle and butter again. dust with flour.
in a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 2 tbsp of sugar. cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles small peas. make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk. stir until just combined.
spread the batter into your prepared cake pan. bake 15-20 minutes or until golden. let cool partially on a wire rack. slice it while the shortbread is still warm, making 2 layers. place half the strawberries on the bottom layer, top with whipped cream, replace top half and cover with remaining berries and whipped cream.

May 28, 2008

what's opera, doc?

when i think of opera, i think of bugs bunny in drag and elmer fudd in a magic golden helmet with horns. for as long as i can remember, "what's opera, doc?" (circa 1957) was always one of my favourite cartoons. another favourite of mine is "the rabbit of seville".

i love chuck jones. there's more bugs opera here. check out this creepy stop motion jim henson version of "carmen" from sesame street. i saw this as a little girl and to this day i cannot hear the main theme without seeing that creepy orange in my mind. but you didn't come here for an animation history lesson...
no, luckily this month's daring baker challenge i didn't have to recreate a cartoon opera, but make an opera cake.i had never heard of an opera cake before and was quite frightened! but, after reading the recipe i noticed that the cake itself was very much like my dad's traditional german black forest cake i made for his last 2 birthdays. the main difference was the almond meal in place of cocoa. it baked very fast, in only 7 minutes (man, i love my new oven), and had a very nice crumb to it. the simple syrup i infused with strawberry liqueur. after it cooled i put it into a measuring cup so i could make sure that each jaconde layer had equal parts of the syrup.i wanted to keep the flavours simple, and not over-power the white chocolate, and we were required to keep the colours "light". i love white chocolate. i also love strawberries. on my second trip to the liquor store looking for a strawberry liqueur, i had the tough decicion between a strawberry liqueur or a tequila-strawberry cream liquer. i didn't have any limes at home, so marie brizard it was. i macerated some sliced strawberries in sugar overnight and pureed them with the juice of one lemon the next morning. after straining the puree, i added it to the buttercream. i had a bit of trouble really understanding the recipe for the buttercream (i've never made an italian buttercream before), and, since it was allowed, i used the buttercream from the perfect party cake challenge. mmmmm!
the assembly was very straight forward and simple- once i found a ruler long enough to measure where to cut! i did decide to do the "mousse" layer: callebeut white chocolate and whipped cream. i added a touch of pink gel paste food colouring to the glaze layer to make it pink, and i sprinkled pretty pastel dragees.
*the only thing that i didn't really like was the ganache-type glaze on top. now, i don't know if it was because the cake was just out of the fridge, or because of the amount of white chocolate in it, but it was a bit gummy and smushed the mousse layer when we dove into it.
i'm not sure i'll make this again, even though it was very fun to make. who knows... maybe i'll try it in chocolate and mint! a big thank you to this month's hosts, ivonne and lis, and fran and shea for a great challenge, and don't forget to check out the other daring bakers! the recipe is quite long so if you're interested, it can be found on one of the hosts' sites.

May 23, 2008

volunteer tea

i have been feeling pretty awful this week, some type of flu. and it figures because the weather was finally great, there was a holiday on monday (victoria day), and at the end of the week was the annual "volunteer tea" at our daughter's school. the tea is to thank the parents who volunteer throughout the school year for everything they've done to make the kids' schooling richer. we've played music, baked pumpkin pies, one to one reading, scholastic book fair, made applesauce from the apples in the school garden, had a cookie factory, created art, made fossils (which was the coolest idea and one day i'll blog about that event), taken the time to plant flowers and veggies in the garden with them, sports day... the list goes on and on. the best thing is the assembly when the kids themselves say thank you to the various parents and teachers and why volunteers are so important. needless to say i was a bucket of tears this year (again actually).
every year mrs. patty wong arranges the best spread you can imagine: spiral sammies and olives, savory pastries, cheese and crackers! fresh fruit and tonnes of strawberries: mmm! oh and the sweets! don't even get me started! mrs. wong makes these raspberry lemoncream tarts that are just so wonderful and i'm going to ask her for the recipe. now, the highlight of the feast is always mrs. wong's coffee punch. you can never have just one cupfull and come to think of it, could liken a starbucks frappuccino to tasteless mush, it's so good. i asked her if it would be okay to share with the world and she looked at me and said, "why of course, dear."
mrs patty wong's coffee punch
*this needs to be made and frozen at least one day ahead
3 cups extra strong coffee (make it 3x as strong as you normally would)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 quart half and half
1 pint whipping cream
brew your extra strong coffee as per your coffee maker. while hot, dissolve 2 cups sugar. add in the vanilla and cool to room temperature. stir in the half and half and cream. pour the coffee mixture into a freezer safe container until you're ready to serve it. the best way to serve is in a punch bowl, still mostly frozen- don't forget it will thaw and still be oh so yummy!

May 16, 2008

birthday time!

i have always wanted to make one of those cakes that are gooey in the middle but never knew how. for christmas derek got me the williams-sonoma "cakes" book and i found what seemed like a pretty decent recipe for it: individual molten chocolate cakes (pg 131). Derek loves chocolate. i mean he really loves chocolate.indeed it was quite gooey in the middle, and a little cakey towards the edges. very lovely and warm.
happy birthday derek!

individual molten chocolate cakes

unsalted butter for preparing the ramekins
10 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 equal pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee powder dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
1 tbsp confectioners' sugar for dusting

position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. butter the bottom and sides of 6 3/4cup ovenproof ramekins, and put them on a rimmed baking sheet.
combine the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl and place over barely simmering water. stir occasionally until smooth and all of the chocolate has melted. remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.
sift the flour through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a small bowl. set aside. in the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and salt. fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer with the twin beaters. beat the mixture on medium-high speed until it thickens and the colour lightens slightly, about 4 minutes. stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. reduce the speed to low, add the vanilla extract and dissolved coffee, and beat until combined. with the mixer running, add the flour 1 tbsp at a time. using a large rubber spatula, stir about one-third of the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture to lighten it. scrape the remaining chocolate on top of the batter and, using the spatula, fold the mixtures together just until no streaks of the chocolate mixture are visible.
pour the batter into a 4cup glass measuring cup, using the spatula to scrape out every last bit from the bowl. pour about 1/2 cup batter into each prepared ramekin. bake until the edges look firm and dull on top and the centre looks shiny and slightly wet, 16-18 minutes. you may see a few tiny holes on top. these cakes should be under baked, so do not bake longer than 18 minutes.
let the cakes cool in the ramekins on wore racks for 10 minutes. put the confectioners' sugar in a fine-mesh sieve and sift an equal amount over the top of each cake. using pot holders, transfer each ramekin to an individual serving plate. serve right away.

May 14, 2008

hip to be square

i don't know what's gotten into me as of late... i mean, i love to bake, but this week is getting crazy. cookies. db challenge completed (check back on the 28th!). ice cream. and now lemon squares. i had some lemons left over in the fridge that needed to be used up so as i was moving my books around i found one of my martha stewart kids magasines. on the cover: lucious lemon squares. mmm sounds good. i rushed to get it completed for when the kids where home from school, and the procrastinator in me left it to the last possible second- i pulled them out of the oven and we left to get ella from school.
i only had 3 lemons and it was definetly enough juice, i'm just feeling like i should have added the zest from one of those lovely organic lemons to give the squares that extra kick it needed. still very good.
lemon squares

martha stewart kids magasine 2004

Makes about two dozen 2-inch squares
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, (about 4 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish; line dish with waxed paper.
Make crust: An adult should grate butter on a cheese grater with large holes. In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt. Add butter; stir with a wooden spoon until combined and mixture looks crumbly.
Transfer mixture to baking dish; press evenly onto bottom with your hands. Chill crust in freezer 15 minutes. Bake until slightly golden, 16 to 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, make filling: In a large (1 quart) liquid measuring cup, whisk together eggs, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and milk.
An adult should remove crust from the oven and pour filling mixture over hot crust. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until filling is set and edges are slightly golden brown, about 18 minutes. An adult should remove dish from the oven. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Grip paper; lift out dessert, and set on cutting board. With a sieve, dust with confectioners' sugar. Cut into squares.

May 13, 2008

you say vanilla...

i recently bought the ice cream attachment for my kitchen aid stand mixer. yay! i first saw one about 2 summers ago at canadian tire and the guy who was buying one in front of me in the line said that their price was the best at $99. i looked around and sure enough it was the best price. by the time i did enough research, no canadian tire carried it anymore and sears and the bay were selling them for $130! so online it was. i found one at and with shipping was just over a hundred bucks. not too bad.
seth was super excited when the doorbell rang and it was the mailman. it was unpacked immediately and washed and put into the freezer. today i got around to making my very first batch of ice cream.
now, i have had my KA stand mixer for about 5 years now and have had no problems what-so-ever. that is until i couldn't put the drive assembly onto the driveshaft (i'm totally singing "we are everybody!"). i noticed that there was a little pin sticking out preventing the drive assembly from fitting properly. not knowing if it was supposed to be like that i went online to the KA website to see if anyone else had any similar problems... nothing in their faq's... oh, look! they have online help and you can chat with a real person! cool!
yeah, not so cool.
the attendant on the other end was one of the slowest typers i have ever come in contact with, and typed in circles. not literal circles, but conversational circles. i told her exactly where the pin was (in the left illustration on page seven, direction three, right beside where it says "no step" and looks like a dark dot...) and was not so promply said that there is no pin. and then she said that the pin isn't supposed to move and that it's on the shaft to lock in the whisk, etc. no honey, not on the shaft, in the left illustration on page seven, direction three... omg! "okay, let me check the manual." that's when i said nevermind and went down to the basement and got a hammer.
now that that was taken care of i could get down to the business of makin' me some ice cream. i found a recipe in the back of dorie's baking book. everyone seems to like dorie, and that perfect party cake was, well, perfect, so i figured why not give it a go.
the ingredient list was short and simple, and i loved the smell of that vanilla bean when i split it open! mmmm! very easy to follow. i was probably a little too impatient to wait for the custard to fully cool, which was most likely the reason the ice cream didn't get any thicker after a certain point- it did double in size though. i believe the stuff that freezes inside the bowl came to room temperature. damn! i never can wait long enough. ah well, into a container and into the freezer until it's hard enough to give it a taste.
tastes pretty good.

vanilla ice cream
adapted from dorie greenspan's baking: from my home to yours

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 moist, plump vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 tbsp vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

bring the milk and cream to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. if you are using a vanilla bean, put the seeds and pod into the pan, cover and set aside for 30 minutes, then bring the milk and cream back to a boil before continuing. if you are using vanilla extract, wait until later to add it.
meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until very well blended and just slightly thickened. still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid- this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon; if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard should not run into the track. the custard should reach at least 170 degrees F, but no more than 180F, on an instant-read thermometer. immediately remove the pan from the heat and strain the custard into a 2-quart liquid measuring cup or clean heatproof bowl. discard the vanilla pod or if you are using vanilla extract, stir it in now.
refrigerate the custard until chilled before churning it into ice cream.
scrape the chilled custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. pack the ice cream into a container and freeze it for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.

May 12, 2008

from the garden

this was one of the prettiest tulips in my garden this year
i bought a whole bunch (like 2 dozen) of queen of the night tulip bulbs, but only came up with about 10 :(
love the smell of lilacs! i am going to move this one closer to the bedroom window so the sweet scent drifts in on those warm spring nights.
okay so this last one isn't from the garden, but i wanted to share them anyway. just my regular sugar cookie recipe with plain ole royal icing and dragees.

May 11, 2008

happy mother's day to all the great mums out there like mine!

May 06, 2008

no help

the kids were bugging to help make something after school today and when it came down to it, if it wasn't cupcakes, they weren't as interested. so they made mini marshmallow and toothpick structures and i made "grammy's chocolate cookies". i first made these cookies a couple christmases ago and made the "wild" addition of peppermint extract to it. some people don't like the combo, but me- i love the combination of chocolate and mint, and these cookies are beautifully dark chocolate and chewy... as long as you don't leave them in the oven too long. like i did. oops. the second batch turned out great though! grammy's chocolate cookies

adapted from martha stewart's cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 sticks plus 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar, plus more for dipping
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, 2 cups sugar, and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix to combine. Gradually add dry ingredients, and combine with mixer on low speed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and chill until dough is firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dip top of each ball into sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until set, about 8 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

of course, they were more than happy to eat the cookies...

May 04, 2008

welcome home cupcake!

our 8 year old daughter, ella, went away this weekend to girl guide camp. she's a first year brownie. she'd been on many weekend trips to my parents' but never so far away, and never without talking to her at least once each day, if only to say goodnight. i think the whole weekend was harder on me letting her go than her actually going.
while she was away i got to thinking it'd be nice for her to come home and there'd be a special treat for her. i'm always calling her sweet pea or honey buns, but i didn't really feel like making anything that was decorated with sweet peas or made with honey. and then i saw a new favourite blog of mine, bakerella. she made these awesome cupcakes with candy melt flowers on top. brownies are orange and brown. i had orange and brown candy melts. i was too lazy to make the pattern for the flowers so i just free handed them and they're definitely not as pretty as bakerella's but still...the recipe i used was from one of my newish books, "cupcakes!" by elinor klivans. it was very straightforward and very easy to follow. i didn't use her recipe for the sticky fudge frosting, i just felt like making a whipped ganache frosting instead. i think the cake itself could definitely use a little more something... i'm just not sure what, i mean, it is a butter cake. maybe some lemon zest. the frosting i just kinda winged it- and it wasn't perfect, but sure was tasty.
butter cake cupcakes with whipped ganache frosting
by elinor kilvans
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
position a rack in the middle of the oven. preheat the oven to 350F. line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.
sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. stop the mixer and scrape the side of the bowl as needed during the mixing. add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter. add the vanilla and beat for 2 more minutes. on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing just until the flour is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.
fill each paper liner with 1/4 cup of batter, to about 1/2" below the top of the liner. bake until just the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 22 minutes. cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. turn out the cupcakes and cool completely before frosting.
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream
(i think you're supposed to add 1 tbsp of butter but i didn't)
place the chocolate chips in the bowl of your mixer and scald the whipping cream in a small saucepan on the stove. pour over chocolate and rest for 5 minutes. whisk until blended. (this is probably where you'd add the butter) cool in the fridge for about an hour before beating the mixture to the desired consistancy, shove it into your piping bag and go to town!. top with candy flower.
i picked up these awesome cupcake carriers from my maiden trip to williams-sonoma on south granville. one for my brownie for her school lunch and one for my handyman!

freakin brilliant idea