Sunday, December 31, 2006

happy new year !

Since I have been busy, I haven’t had much time to bake or blog. Still I am slowly continuing to make things that intrigue me. So I decided to make Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake, which I have had bookmarked since I saw the recipe in 2004. it only took me two years to get to, oh well! The cake was lovely and moist and best of all simple to make. The version I have made is from the Green and Black’s chocolate book where, Nigella advises to grate 100g of Maya Gold Green and Black chocolate over the cake once it has come out of the oven. Let the chocolate completely cool before you cut. To make mine a little more festive, I dusted it with gold dust. Wishing you all a wonderful 2007!

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

chocolate pot de crème

I didn’t have very much time to make a dessert for Christmas dinner, so I decided to make chocolate pot de crème by Michel Bras. I had some praline left over so, I decided to flavour the cream with it. Make sure to strain the praline out before combining the chocolate and butter into cream.

chocolate pot de crème

7 oz (200g) bitter chocolate
1 3/4 cups (400g) heavy cream
3 Tbsp (50g) unsalted butter


Boil the cream. Melt broken chocolate pieces with butter. Beat thoroughly with a whisk. Pour into ramekins and keep cold until ready to serve.
* Flavour the cream with coffee or praline, if you wish.

From, The Notebooks of Michel Bras Desserts

I found these cute shot sized ceramic cups at this years One of a Kind exhibition in Toronto. When I bought these, I had pot de crème exactly in mind.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

happy holidays!

I would like to wish everyone a wonderful winter holiday, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


xoxo Sam

Sunday, December 24, 2006

ottawa: eating our nations capital

I started my holiday vacation with a few days in Ottawa. It was my first time in Ottawa and I had a great time visiting the parliament buildings, the National gallery, friends and of course eating my way around the city! I would like to thank Emily and a lovely woman I met named Lisa, who made a fantastic list of places for me to frequent. Here is a list of my favourite places.

The Scone Witch

This small café makes some of the best scones I have ever tasted. There scones include: cranberry-orange, current-ginger, vanilla cream, lemon poppy seed and during December gingerbread. The scones are served with an array of condiments, some include: devon cream, lemon curd and strawberry rhubarb jam. The scones here have a wonderful crumb, they are light, moist and buttery. The Scone Witch also does sandwiches, which are held together by savoury square scones. The two sconewitches we tried included smoked salmon with a lovely mushroom soup and a pesto, goat cheese, tomato and olive with a nice side of greens. Wash down all the wonderful baked goods here with a coffee or a house blend of their tea. They have a small selection of food, but they do it well. If I had to pick one place in Ottawa to eat again, it would be The Scone Witch!

The Scone Witch
388 Albert Street
613 232 2173

3 Tarts

If you are looking for cakes or cookies in Ottawa, the place to go would be 3 Tarts. 3 Tarts was recommended to me by a couple of lovely women in Ottawa who work in the industry. Although not what I would describe as a fancy bakery by its décor, 3 Tarts does make a good selection of cakes and tarts. The only sad thing is that they don’t seem to sell them by the slice. Since I wasn’t in the mood to buy a whole cake or tart, I decided to try an assortment of some of their cookies, which were all quite delightful. The best of the lot however was a wonderful Hungarian shortbread cookie, which was eaten quickly and is absent in the photo. So if you are ever in the neighbourhood, I suggest you try it. The Hungarian shortbread consisted of a firm layer of shortbread, rhubarb in the middle and a crumbly shortbread topping… mmm!

3 Tarts
1320 Wellington Street
613 729 9832

Le Boulanger Francais / The French Baker

Hailed as the bakery with the best croissants in the city. They may be the best in the Ottawa, but as a fussy croissant eater myself. I can’t say they are the best croissants I have ever eaten. The croissants here are good and buttery, but I found that they were a bit too bread-like for me. They didn’t seem to have the layers, textures and complexity that I look for in a croissant. Nevertheless, The French Baker is a wonderful bakery filled with quality breads, cakes and an assortment of goodies. Attached to the bakery is Benny’s Bistro, which is a lovely restaurant. I had breakfast there, which was a simple but very satisfying meal. I have heard that their lunches and dinner are also wonderful.

Le Boulanger Francais / The French Baker
119 rue Murray Street
613 789 7941

La Brioche

I don’t know much Middle Eastern baking and pastries, but I do know that I am always open to trying things. I did a lot of sampling at this store. I probably bought three times the amount of pastries as shown in the photograph. If you ever are in this neighbourhood, I would suggest at least going into this simple and modest bakery. The shop is filled with huge heaping piles of sweets, which is quite impressive. My favourite of all the bite sized morsels that I ate was the cashew baklava which was fantastic, I could have eaten a dozen of these yummy pastries.

La Brioche
866 Bank Street
613 565 0002

Thyme & Again

With a lovely storefront, Thyme & Again is one of Ottawa most well known catering companies and a favorite lunch spot. For lunch Thyme & Again has a lovely selection of sandwiches, salads and soups. The shop offers a good range of breads, pastries and baked goods. Thyme & Again also carries the bread of pastry chef Kevin Mathieson who runs Art-is-in Breads. Above is a photo of Mathieson’s twelve grain fennel bread, which was delicious. Art-is-in Bread is definitely raising the standard of bread making in the city and it can be found at local outlets and some of Ottawa’s fine dining establishments.

Thyme & Again
1255 Wellington Street West
613 722 0093

The Wild Oat

Wild Oats Bakery and Restaurant is a wonderful place to get a selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes and wheat-free desserts. With a simple, healthy and tasty menu the Wild Oat is one of those laidback vegetarian hangouts. The desserts here are again simple and tasty, I have been told that the brownies and carrot cake are good. I tried a raw fruit tart, which consisted of raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, mango, carob and an oat crust - it didn’t taste half bad. The bread here looks and tastes great.

The Wild Oat
817 Bank Street
613 232 6232

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

carrot cake

A couple of weeks ago, I found some heirloom carrots at the St. Lawrence Market. These carrots were purple on the outside, orange on the inside and very sweet. I thought that I would make a carrot cake and knew exactly which recipe I would use - one from Baking Illustrated. I like this recipe because the emphasis is on the carrot. I find that I am often a purist. This cake has no walnuts, raisins, pineapple, coconut or any of the usual pairings. It is simply carrots with a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Served with cream cheese frosting, this cake is a winner.

* Note: If you decide to use purple heirloom carrots, as I did, the batter of your carrot cake will be purple. However, once it bakes no one will ever know they are eating purple carrot cake!

Carrot Cake

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound carrots, peeled (6-7 medium carrots)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups safflower, canola or vegetable oil

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 Tbsp sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

1. For the Cake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 13 by 9 - inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. In a food processor fitted with the large shredding disk, shred the carrots (you should have about 3 cups); add the carrots to the bowl with the dry ingredients and set aside. Wipe out the food processor and fit with the metal blade. Process both sugars with the eggs until frothy and throughly combined, about 20 seconds. With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process until the mixture is light in colour and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the carrots and the dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the cake to room temperature in the pan or on a wire rack, about 2 hours.
4. For the Frosting: When the cake is cool, process the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla in a clean food processor until combined, about 5 seconds, scraping down the work bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the confectioner’s sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
5. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, then invert it again onto a serving platter. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the surface of the cake. Cut into squares and serve.

From, Baking Illustrated, Edited by Christopher Kimball

Sunday, December 10, 2006

cookie-making workshop

Last Sunday I taught a cookie-making workshop. Debra initiated the workshop as a get-together idea with friends. During the three-hour event, we talked about cookie methods, ingredients, techniques and tips to make, shape and store cookies. My goal was to keep the group interested and entertained by explaining baking process, answering questions, and getting them involved as much as possible. I enjoyed having the group roll, scoop and assemble cookies. We made gingersnaps, rugelach, chai butterballs, korova cookies, and orange almond biscotti. I supplied everyone with a small booklet/collection of cookie recipes. I think that we had a good time, and everyone left with cookies. All in all, it was a fun day of baking and eating.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

new york : post 10

Two weeks ago I was in New York, where I had a small whirlwind of eating, drinking and shopping. In this post I describe some of the places that I visited.

If you love desserts and are heading to New York, check out some of my other posts.
post 1 : Jean George
post 2 : Chickalious & Room 4 Dessert
post 3 : Cream Puffs in New York
post 4 : Bouchon, Fauchon, Minamoto Kitchoan, Wichcraft
post 5 : Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Rice to Riches, Fluff
post 6 : Serendipity 3
post 7 : Blue Ribbon Bakery, Nougatine
post 8 : Buttercup Bakeshop, Amy's Bread
post 9 : Kee's, La Maison Du Chocolat, Michel Cluizel, Richart, Vosges Haut-Chocolat
post 10 : Doughnut Plant NYC, Lady M Cake Boutique, Tavalon Tea Bar

See a slide show of my New York 2006 Dessert Adventures!

Doughnut Plant New York City

I think the Doughnut Plant served the best donuts I have ever eaten. The storefront for this shop is simple and utilitarian. Their focus is to make the finest doughnuts they can with the highest quality ingredients. Based on my sample, their doughnuts are light, moist and extremely flavourful. Their selection included: Valrhona chocolate, banana pecan, grapefruit, chocolate crumble, cranberry, pannetone, tres de leche and vanilla bean. Being overwhelmed by the choice, I asked for help from my friendly server, who suggested the cranberry doughnut. Based on appearance, I was skeptical of this choice because the donut was glazed in pink and covered in tiny red specks. Nonetheless I bravely took his advice. It was so delicious that I immediately had to try another. I chose the tres de leche. I had one bite and was in heaven. I found it even better than the first. That was it: I had fallen in love with the Doughnut Plant. If you like doughnuts, or just have a sweet tooth, the Doughnut Plant will probably win your heart too.

379 Grand Street
New York
212 505 3700

Lady M Cake Boutique

Lady M is a classy salon on the Upper East Side that has a lovely selection of desserts. Their display case is filled with classic cakes that sound, look and taste exactly as you would imagine. Their cakes include: Lady M Mille Crepes, Miroir Caramel, Gateaux aux Marrons, Gateaux aux Chocolate, Gateaux aux Fromage Blanc, Mille Feuille, Gateaux Citron, Montague de Fraise, Tarte aux Fruits and Le Gateaux New Yorkais. I tried their Lady M Mille Crepes Cake, which I was told was a favourite. It is composed of perfectly shaped, light-as-air, crepes that are sandwiched between thin layers of cream custard. The cake has a hint of cherry liquor and a caramelized top. It was amazing. Although you’ll pay a bit more, I suggest you go to Lady M for a slice of high quality cake. Desserts this satisfying can be hard to come by.

41 east 78th Street (between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue)
New York
212 452 2222

Tavalon Tea Bar

Tavalon Tea Bar is a fairly new teashop near Union and 14th Street that offers a variety of premium loose leaf teas, including green, white, black and chai. They also sell a selection of teapots, tea gift sets and tea accessories. Tavalon offers hip and stylish hot and cool drinks, like the Healthy Buzz, Detox, Chai Seduction, Genius, Herbal Oasis, Tropical Peony, and After Dark. During my visit I sampled a number of flavours and bought a canister of After Dark, which is a blend of herbs, such as chamomile, and tangy exotic fruits that smells absolutely spectacular. I also purchased green tea cookies that Tavalon sources from Amai Tea and Bake House. Some of you might be familiar with Amai Tea and Bake House: It’s run by the lovely Kelli of the blog Lovescool. I have made green tea cookies, but they we certainly not as good as Kelli’s. Tavalon is a cute and stylish tea store and worth a visit if you are interested in quality teas.

22 East 14th Street (between University and 5th)
New York

Here are two other dessert venues that I visited and want to mention:

Balthazar Bakery

Balthazar Bakery is a small and busy shop that you can count on for a small and lovely selection of baked goods. Many loyal New Yorkers frequent Balthazar for their morning coffee and snack. Their display cases are filled with croissants, Danishes, scones, cookies, breads, tarts and miscellaneous small snacks. I had a wonderful pear tart, which had pears poached in red wine arranged on light puff pastry. It was one of the finest pear tarts that I have had in a while. Balthazar has delicious and reliable baked goods.

80 Spring Street
New York
212 965 1785

Francois Payard

It would be wrong to write about desserts in New York without mentioning Francois Payard . If you have never visited Payard’s Patisserie and Bistro, I suggest you go. Payard is undoubtedly one of New York’s most well known pastry chefs. His pastries and desserts are beautiful, elegant and delicious. Upon entering Payard’s, you will see marvelous display cases lined with tarts, cakes, mousse cakes, petit fours, cookies and chocolates. If you have a sweet tooth, are a pastry chef or just love beautiful desserts, I recommend dropping by and picking up some lovely pastries to go.

1032 Lexington Avenue (between 73rd and 74th Streets)
New York
212 717 5252

Since I will not have a chance to head back to New York this year, I have decided to end my series of posts on sweets in New York. I have had a wonderful time discovering, eating, drinking and sharing my experiences. Thank you to all the sweet friends who accompanied me on these excursions, as well as to all the amazing people on-line who recommended places to try. Also, a big thanks to everyone who has continued to read and support my blog. Cheers, Sam!

Friday, November 24, 2006

black sesame truffles

This month’s Sugar High Friday #25 is hosted by the lovely and talented Johanna of the passionate cook. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love good quality chocolate. Since Johanna’s idea for SHF was brilliant, I knew that I needed to participate. My quick and simple recipe for black sesame truffles is inspired by my recent trip to New York where I had some amazing black sesame truffles from Kee’s chocolates. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

18 ounces of good quality dark chocolate
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
toasted black and white sesame seeds

*I suggest using chocolate like Valrhona, Scharfenberg, Callebaut or Lindt, somewhere around 60% cocoa content. If you use a chocolate with high cocoa content, it will compete with the flavour of the sesame seeds.

*Toast sesame seeds at 325ºF for approximately 10-15 minutes.

Black Sesame Truffles

1. ) Always use the best chocolate you can
2. Chop chocolate into small chunks or bits. I like to chop my chocolate or use chocolate chips and put them in the food processor to create a fine powder.
3. Heat whipping cream on the stove to a boil or in the microwave to a boil.
4. Pour hot cream onto the small chocolate pieces or powder.
5. Stir until it is well blended and incorporated.
6. Let it cool in a bowl or tray in the refrigerator until it becomes firm ,like the consistency of fudge.
7. Take out of the refrigerator and pipe or scoop into small balls, makes approximately 75 truffles.
8. Roll into the toasted sesame seeds.
9. You can refrigerate them, till them become totally firm and then you can keep them out at room temperature.
10. I suggest eating them within a week.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

new york : post 9

Chocolate on my mind…
A chocolate tasting of five different chocolate purveyors in New York City.

Kee’s Chocolate

Since 2002, Kee Ling Tong has been creating a lovely following for her chocolates. I met Kee at her small chocolate shop in Soho. She was friendly and informative and told me that she makes all her chocolates daily for the freshest quality. Wow. To tell the truth, I didn't know much about Kee’s Chocolate before entering the shop–just that they have a cute website. I highly recommend these chocolates with their fresh ingredients, melt-in-your-mouth ganache and absolutely no pretension. I enjoyed all the chocolates I sampled, but Black Sesame particularly knocked my socks off.

Black Sesame: dark chocolate truffles coated with white and black sesame seeds
Kaffir Lime: dark chocolate ganache with Kaffir lime coated in dark chocolate
Pignoli: dark chocolate truffle coated with pine nuts
Pistachio: white chocolate truffles coated with pistachios

La Maison Du Chocolat

Chantal Coady of Rococo Chocolates has called Robert Linxe the high priest of chocolatiers, I now understand why. If you are a chocolate lover. an aficionado or just a plain chocolate snob, I dare you not to like theses chocolates. The chocolates at La Maison Du Chocolat are, well, just plain awesome. Refined chocolates with classic flavours, subtlety infused in the smoothest, creamiest, ganache: what is there not to like? I enjoyed all of my sampled chocolates tremendously, but the Maïko and Cannelle put me into a chocolate coma. Mr. Linxe is clearly a master at creating some of the best chocolate I have ever eaten.

Maïko: ganache infused with fresh grated ginger
Cannelle: ganache infuse with cinnamon sticks
Yoko: a tea flavoured ganache
Figaro: hazelnut and almond praline wrapped in dark chocolate

Michel Cluizel

The Michel Cluizel shop in New York is actually hidden inside ABC Carpet & Home. If you venture in, you will find lovely cases filled with chocolates displayed like fine jewelry. There is also a small bar, where for a fixed price you can try one of their chocolate tastings. Remember to make a reservation, as they are very particular. I have tried Michel Cluizel chocolates in the past and thought they were good; however, I have always felt unsure whether they were exceptional. After trying these new flavours, I can definitely say that I am a fan. The Mirabelle truffle and the Chestnut Honey were both delightful.

Côte-d’Or: a dark chocolate truffle with gold leaf
Mirabelle: a dark chocolate truffle with ganache and Mirabelle plum gelée
Almond and Orange Peel: almond paste mixed with orange peel coated in dark chocolate
Chestnut Honey: chestnut honey ganache coated in dark chocolate


The first time I tried chocolate from Richart was when my friend Dawne came back from a trip to Paris. Fortunately, she brought back and shared some of her chocolates with me. Thanks Dawne! The chocolates at Richart are well, beautiful. I don’t think anyone would contest that. Richart chocolates have a long history in Lyon, France. Two generations on, Michel Richart continues to create chocolates that are designed to develop and pursue the “Art of Tasting”. Most of the chocolates here are silk-screened with cool and colourful designs–sometimes almost too pretty to eat. They are of a high standard; however, I thought that the emphasis should have been placed a little more on the taste rather than the appearance. Do not get me wrong; these are good chocolates. The Apricot Coulis was lovely, and the Roasted Almond was very tasty. The other two chocolates I tried were, however, a bit too strong in liqueur for me. The petit Richart chocolates line is an excellent idea: these bite size chocolates are the perfect size for one small intense shot of chocolate.

Raisins soaked in Grand Cru Champagne: dark ganache with raisins soaked in Champagne coated in dark chocolate
Apricot Coulis: apricot coulis coated in white chocolate
Roasted Almond: milk chocolate ganache with roasted almonds coated in dark chocolate
Malt Ganache: dark ganache with Malt whiskey coated in dark chocolate

Vosges Haut-Chocolat

To say that the chocolates here are worldly is an understatement. Ever since Katrina Markoff opened Vosges, she has created quite a stir in terms of her approach to chocolate making. The chocolates here are globally inspired pairing exotic spices and flowers with high quality chocolate and craftsmanship. Vosges is chocolate for the new international palate. If you are open to new and unusual flavours not commonly found with most chocolatiers, give these chocolates a chance. Although I wasn’t crazy about all the flavours I tried, I especially liked Naga which was delicious.

: Chinese star anise, fennel, pastis, dark chocolate and cocoa powder
Black Pearl
: ginger, wasabi, dark chocolate and black sesame seeds
Naga: sweet Indian curry powder, coconut and milk chocolate
: guajillo and pasilla chilies with dark 75% Tanzanie chocolate and organic pumpkinseeds

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

canadian parcels

Last week I came home to find two packages waiting for me. The first package I received was from Paige of If you haven’t seen Paige’s blog, check it out, it is filled with cool recipes and fantastic photos. The CBBP #2: Our Season’s Bounty care package I received was filled with some cool treats from Halifax. I received a post card with a note from Paige, a bookmark, a nice blended tea called Celtic Colours, maple and wild blueberry truffles and a package of mulling spices. A thoughtful package with an East coast theme. Thanks Paige!

The second package I received was from Kelli Ann of avoir une famille n’est pas comme un téléroman, who sent me a little gift for organizing CBBP#1: Chocolate. Kelli Ann sent me a lovely knitted designer dishcloth. I actually love these dishcloths, and I don’t knit, so a big Thank-you goes out to Kelli Ann.

If you missed Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict's CBBP#2 round-up check out the wonderful dishes and recipes that Canadian food bloggers shared.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

wild cranberries

Last week I went to St. Lawrence market where I found some wild cranberries. They looked so fresh and amazing that I decided to buy some. I thought about all the wonderful and experimental things I could do with cranberries. Then I picked up my copy of Chez Panisse Fruit and looked up cranberries. In the book I found a simple cranberry upside-down cake, I haven’t made an upside-down cake in ages! Although I really enjoy playing with flavours and all my cool gadgets in the kitchen, I also enjoy the art of simple baking. Use fresh seasonal fruit and the best ingredients to make delicious quality desserts.

The vibrant red jewel like cranberries makes this cake look absolutely stunning. The texture of the cake is moist and the flavour of this cake shines with the tart cranberries complimented by the sweet brown sugar and orange glaze. I served the cranberry upside-down cake with whipped cream flavoured with Cointreau, make sure you add enough liqueur to get the full effect! I definitely recommend serving the cake with whipped cream. Yum!

a little wild cranberry

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar packed
2 3/4 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 lbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Use a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan with 3-inch sides.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

1. To make the topping, place butter and brown sugar in the cake pan. Place the pan on a stovetop burner over low heat and melt, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the mixture starts to caramelize, turning a slightly darker shade of brown, remove from heat and let cool. Scatter the cranberries evenly in the bottom of the pan and drizzle in the orange juice. Set aside.
2. To make the cake batter, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Add the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each to make sure it is thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add the dry ingredients and the milk in stages: mix in about a third of the flour mixture, followed by about half the milk, mix in another third of the flour, then the rest of the milk; finally, add the last third of the dry ingredients.
3. In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat the whites until they form firm peaks. Fold the whites into the batter in two batches. Pour the batter over the topping in the prepared pan and bake until the top is slightly brown and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 50 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream flavoured with a little orange liqueur. Serves 8.

From Chez Panisse Fruit, Alice Waters

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

indian sweets : part 3

During October my goal was to learn about Indian sweets and desserts. Although I didn’t have the time or experience to make all the wonderful things on my list, I am glad that I took time out to learn. I looked through many books and magazines for Indian dessert recipes and ideas, but the most useful tool in my research was the Internet. Here are a list of wonderful sites where I found lots of inspiration and many of the recipes that I made. If anyone knows of any good sites or books on Indian sweets and desserts, please let me know, I would greatly appreciate it.

This week I made gulab jamuns and malai peda. Gulab jamun is the first Indian dessert I tried and I still love it as much as the first time. If you haven’t tried it, think of round cakey dumplings fried and soaked in sugar syrup lightly flavoured with orange blossom water. I made the peda, because I was interested in using khoya (concentrated milk solids). The malai peda has a smooth fudge like texture, which is flavoured with cardamom and decorated with pistachios.

Gulab jamun made with flour, milk powder, sugar, almonds, cardamom and ghee.

Malai peda made with khoya, sugar, cardamom and pistachios.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

pâtes de fruits

apple, raspberry and pear pâtes de fruits

Lately I have been busy with life and work, so unfortunately I haven’t had much time to blog. I did however make time to research and make one of my favourite confections, pâtes de fruits (fruit jellies).

My post this week is my entry for two different blogging events. First, Canadian Blogging By Post #2 hosted by the lovely and wonderful Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict. The theme for this second installment of CBBP is “Our Seasons Bounty”, which is where I got the inspiration for making pâtes de fruits in the first place. I started with apples because they are in season, inexpensive and contain lots of pectin.

The other blogging event I am participating in is Sugar High Friday
#24, hosted by Jeanne of Cook Sister!. This month’s theme is Little Bites of Delight (petit fours, mignardises, friandises). Since I was making the pâtes de fruits, I thought that it was a great fit as a mignardises. I remember it being served to me as a mignardises when I had a spectacular dessert tasting at Les Chèvres when I was in Montréal earlier this year.

I tried a few different recipes for pâtes de fruits. This recipe is relatively simple and gave good results. The recipe is from Lenotre's Ice Creams and Candies. In this book, there is more specfic information regarding different flavours of pâtes de fruits and cooking times. These homemade fruit jellies are softer than commercial ones but taste just as good. If you are wanting to make the ones exactly like what you find in the stores, use apple pectin. Apple pectin is however quite difficult to find, but if you are able to find it, I suggest using it for a firmer jelly.

Pâtes de Fruits (Basic Fruit Jelly Recipe)

500 g fruit pulp/puree
600g sugar
15g butter
170ml liquid, pectin based, jelling agent (Certo)
For coating (optional)
Coarse, granulated sugar

Preparing the fruit: wash, peel, and seed the fruit as necessary. Most fruits are then pureed. Some fruits are used as they are and others are mixed with syrup from canned fruit. Because of their relatively neutral taste, pear, peach or apricot syrups are the best; they can even be mixed together.

Preparing the Mold and Jelling Agent: On a baking sheet or other surface that can stand high temperatures without cracking or warping, place a sheet of nonstick parchment paper and set the metal frame, flan ring, or metal rulers on it; or simply line a small brownie pan with parchment paper.

Cooking the Fruit Jelly: In a large saucepan, place the fruit pulp or fruit pulp-syrup mixture and the sugar. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat, stirring constantly with a spatula. Once a full, rolling boil is reached, start the cooking time; this will be from 4 to 9 minutes, always at a rapid boil and stirring constantly, depending on fruit used. Add the butter halfway through the cooking time. When it is time, remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add the liquid jelling agent; stir vigorously for a few seconds to be sure that is completely mixed into the jelly mixture.

To Mold, Cut, and Serve the Fruit Jellies: As soon as the jelling agent has been stirred in, pour the boiling hot fruit jelly into the frame or brownie pan. Allow to set and cool completely, which will take at least 2-3 hours. When the jelly is completely cold, run the blade of a knife all around the edge to detach it from the frame or paper; then cut it into squares about 1 inch. Lift off the frame; then roll the squares one at a time in granulated sugar (preferably large grained). This step is not absolutely necessary; it does, however, keep the jellies from sticking to each other if piled on top of each other when served and makes them more attractive.

To Store: The uncut jellies will keep for 2 months wrapped in the non-stick parchment paper it is molded on. Placed in a box, and kept in a cool cellar or the refrigerator. If kept in the refrigerator, the jelly picks up a little moisture but it keeps its shine better. Once cut and rolled in sugar, the jellies will keep for a week in a closed container in the refrigerator; it is preferable to place them in individual paper cases if they are to be stored in this way to keep them from sticking together; these homemade fruit jellies are softer than commercial ones.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

indian sweets : part 2

My exploration with Indian desserts continues. Excluding the mango lassi that I made, the desserts this week are a bit more technical than last week. They are more technical because they require you to understand the temperature, consistency and viscosity of your ingredients. Making these sweets are much like making candies and confections. I want to stress that I am an amateur when it comes to making Indian sweets. I did make mistakes, I overcooked my Mysore pak the first time, but I persevered and tried it again. My one key advice when making any of these or any other Indian desserts is to use the best ingredients possible. These desserts contain very few ingredients, so the quality of what you put in makes all the difference. I have also found it helpful to make my own ghee, that way you know the quality and freshness of the butter that is going into your dessert. Here are the four Indian desserts I tried my hand at this week:

A simple and yummy mango lassi. If you have never tried a lassi, it is a simple a yogurt and milk based drink it can be either sweet or salty. I prefer the sweet kind and with the addition of mango it is just plain good.

Mysore pak is a traditional sweet, which originates from… you guessed it, Mysore, India. It is made from besan (chick pea flour), sugar, ghee and cardamom. I found that the most helpful tips for making this from the knowledgeable Indira of Mahanandi, who has a wonderful blog and is clearly an expert at Indian cuisine.

Coconut burfi made with fresh shredded coconut, sugar, ghee and cardamom. Coconut burfi should be flavourful with a soft and chewy consistency.

Almond burfi is a common type of burfi, other common nut burfi’s include: cashew and pistachio. Almond burfi is made from ground almonds, sugar, ghee, and cardamom. It holds together and has the same weight as fudge, but it has a different texture and mouth feel.

My two favourites this week are the mango lassi and the almond burfi. If you try out either of these recipes, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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Monday, October 16, 2006


The International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners (UIB) declared the 16th of October as World Bread Day.

So Zorra from Kochtopf is hosting a “World Bread Day” blogging event.

Although, I didn’t bake a loaf of bread for this event. I wanted to share the challah bread that I have been enjoying almost every Friday since I moved to Toronto. Challah is a braided egg bread which is soft, moist and flavourful. I think that the best challah in Toronto is from Harbord bakery. Harbord Bakery is one of the oldest Jewish bakeries in Toronto; it has been open since 1926. Other tasty treats on my list from Harbord bakery include their sweet cheese buns and rugelach.

Harbord Bakery
115 Harbord Street
416 922 5767

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Monday, October 09, 2006

indian sweets: part one

This month, I decided that I would learn about Indian sweets and desserts. I have always enjoyed seeing and eating these sweets, but I never entertained the idea of making them because I always imagined them to be time consuming and laborious to produce. Last week, after eating at some lovely Indian restaurants and talking to people who knew about Indian desserts, I decided I wanted to learn more. So, I did some research and made a list of some of the sweets that I wanted to make. If you are interested in knowing more about your favourite Indian desserts, check out this nifty information from Wikipedia.

I made four desserts this week: first, a
kulfi, which is a dense frozen dessert made with condensed or evaporated milk, sugar, pistachio, cardamom and saffron;

second, a
sooji halwa (a semolina pudding) that consisted of semolina, milk, sugar, water, ghee, cardamom and raisins;

third, a
mango kulfi, which contained evaporated milk, cardamon, sugar and mango puree;

and last, a
kheer, which is a rich rice pudding often made with white basmati rice, milk, sugar, cardamom and chopped nuts.

All four of these desserts were surprisingly simple to prepare.

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

poached pears and chocolate rice pudding

I like when desserts pairings seem to naturally fall into place. I purchased some small Barlett pears the other day from Kensington Market, so I decided to poach them with half a bottle of Riesling that I had left over from the night before. I have been wanting to make Pierre Hermé's chocolate rice pudding with caramelized rice crispies for some time now, and since I had a bunch of left over chocolate from my chocolate ginger brownies and chocolate pudding, I thought that it might be a good opportunity. I like when I have everything on hand at home. Here is the recipe for the poached pears. The chocolate rice pudding recipe can be found in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé. Pierre's chocolate rice pudding definitely did not disappoint. It was chocolatey, creamy, sweet - without being too sweet and comforting.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

canadian blogging by post #2 : our season’s bounty

The lovely and generous Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict will be hosting Canadian Blogging By Post #2 : Our Season's Bounty. Check out Jasmine’s wonderful blog for more details. It would be fantastic to have more bloggers participate, as it is a great way to create and get to know the Canadian food blogging community. Here is more information if you are curious about Canadian Blogging By Post #1 : Chocolate, the recipe round-up or the package round-up.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

cardamom apple cake

This apple cake is one that I have been making for years. It has a wonderful moist crumb texture, it contains apples and cardamom and it is incredibly easy to make. The recipe is from a cookbook titled The Girls Who Dish! Seconds Anyone?, a compilation of recipes from top women chefs in Vancouver. This fabulous cake recipe was created by Margaret Chisholm.

cardamom apple cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp orange zest
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 McIntosh apples
icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Grease and flour a 10-inch 925cm) springform pan or 9 x 5-inch (23 x12-cm) loaf pan.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and light. Add the eggs and continue beating until well combined. Stir in the vanilla, orange juice and orange zest. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Core the apples, but leave the peel on. Chop the apples into coarse chunks. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture, folding it together until it’s just mixed. Fold in the apples. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested in the centre of the cake. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool it on a rack. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

From Margaret Chisholm, The Girls Who Dish! Seconds Anyone?

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

apple desserts

Last Sunday I went apple picking. These are the desserts that I made with my Spartan, McIntosh, Gala and Wealthy apples.

Apple, Ginger and Raisin Crumble

Apple Cranberry Cobbler

Apple Dumpling aka Mele In Crosta

The recipe for this can be found in the classic Italian cookbook,
The Silver Spoon.

Apple Galette

Apple Strudel with Walnuts and Raisins

Cardamom Apple Cake

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Friday, September 22, 2006

chocolate tarts

This month’s Sugar High Friday is hosted by the lovely and prolific Alanna of A Veggie Venture. The theme for September’s SHF is a “Surprise Inside”. I had many ideas of what I could make, but in the end I left it to the last minute and I decided to make a simple and straightforward chocolate tart. The surprise or the twist of the tart is that there are two layers. The tart is filled with a milk chocolate ganache and is then topped with a dark chocolate ganache. A simple and elegant chocolate tart with a tender chocolate pastry and two layers of delicious ganache.

I have made this tart many times before. I have experimented with it by adding instant coffee to create an espresso tart and I have added caramel to create a chocolate bar tart. This time I experimented by adding a layer of caramelized rice crispies. Sadly it wasn't as crispy as I would have liked, so I don't recommend adding in rice crispies. This is one of the reasons why I find Sugar High Friday's valuable, it provides me with an excuse to play, experiment and share what I do and learn in the kitchen. I also enjoy seeing the wonderful array of things food bloggers create, it is tremendously interesting and inspiring.

chocolate tart dough

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup 35% cream
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder

1. Cream butter and confectioner’s sugar.
2. Add in egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
3. Add in cream and mix until combined.
4. Sift in flour and cocoa and beat on low speed until just combined.
5. Wrap and chill dough until firm in the refrigerator, approximately 1 hour.
6. This dough is soft, so you need to work quickly when rolling out the dough and pressing into tart pans. Prick the dough all over with a fork and chill tart shells for 10 minutes before placing into the oven. For more perfect shells you can line the tarts with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights,
7. Bake at 325ºF for approximately 15 minutes.
8. Let the tarts cool before adding in the layers of ganache.

The amounts for the ganache will fill approximately 8-10 small tarts

milk chocolate ganache

200g. milk chocolate
150ml 35% cream

1. To make a ganache, chop your chocolate into small pieces.
2. Bring the cream to a boil, on either the stove or the microwave.
3. Transfer your cream to a small bowl and add in your chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before stirring. Once the chocolate is fully incorporated your ganache is done.
4. Fill the tarts half way with the milk chocolate ganache and level it as evenly as possible.
5. Once all your tarts are half filled, place them in the refrigerator or freezer until the chocolate has set up. Once the chocolate has firmed up, you can then make the dark chocolate ganache and pour it over top.

dark chocolate ganache

200g. dark chocolate
160ml 35% cream

1. To make a ganache, chop your chocolate into small pieces.
2. Bring the cream to a boil, on either the stove or the microwave.
3. Transfer your cream to a small bowl and add in your chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before stirring. Once the chocolate is fully incorporated your ganache is done.
4. Pour the dark chocolate ganache on top of the milk chocolate layer and place in the refrigerator so that chocolate sets up.
5. Once the chocolate has firmed up, serve with a quenelle or whipped cream or a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

korova cookie aka world peace cookie

I only heard about the Korova cookie last week from the sweet and fabulous Anita of Dessert First. Anita’s title was “My Favorite Cookie Ever”. If you have ever read Anita’s blog, you’ll know that she is serious about pastry; so, when she said it was her favourite, I knew I needed to make them. I recommend reading Anita’s post as it is crafted with genuine excitement, knowledge and passion – plus, she has the recipe written with wonderfully detailed directions. The original recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book Paris Sweets. The Korova cookie, which is also known as the World Peace Cookie, is the creation of famed French pastry chef Pierre Herme.

The cookie was delicious, and best of all it was simple to make. It has a well-balanced flavour and texture. The flavour is intense and rich with chocolate; the sweetness is counterbalanced by fleur de sel. The texture is dense, crumbly, moist and melt-in-your-mouth good. This recipe is a keeper. Once again, I would like to thank Anita, Dorie and Pierre.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

apple picking

My Apple Picking Montage

This weekend I went apple picking at Chudleigh’s, an apple farm in Milton, just west of Toronto. I only moved to Toronto two years ago; however, I have the impression that picking apples at Chudleigh’s is a bit of a tradition for many people who grew up here. The farm is over 100 acres and has approximately 28,000 apple trees. Apple picking usually begins in mid-August and usually winds down in late October. This year I decided to go early and a bunch of my favourite apples were ready to be picked. The variety of apples that I picked this weekend were McIntosh, Royal Gala and Spartan. Last year, I went in mid-October and I picked Jonagold and Russet’s. With a wide selection of apples which include: Tydemans, Wealthy, Ginger Gold, McIntosh, Spartan, Gala, Cortland, Empire, Red Delicious, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Northern Spy, Jonagold, Russet, Mutsu and Fuji, Chudleigh’s is definitely the place to go apple picking. I had a great time walking around the farm choosing, picking and eating apples and enjoying the fresh air. With three large bags of apples in my apartment, I am positive you will be seeing an apple dessert post sometime soon.

Royal Gala

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