Chai Spice: Chai spice can be made by grinding the following ingredients: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, all spice and peppercorns. Experiment with different ratios and use sparingly to flavour cookies, cakes, custards and desserts.
Chinese Five Spice: is a distinctive blend of star anise, fennel seeds, cassia, Szechwan pepper and cloves. Ideal for dry marinade for chicken, duck, pork and seafood. Chinese five spice and other unusual blends can also be used in baked goods.
Cinnamon: If you ever come across Cinnamon/Canelle in a specialty store such as Olives & Epices (Epices de Cru) in Montreal, I would recommend picking it up as cinnamon comes in different grades (I recently found this out myself). Anyways, the difference between the higher grade and lower grade is the amount of essential oils that it contains. The good stuff contains more essential oils and has a much stronger and complex flavour.
Cardamom: There is brown cardamom and green cardamom. Dried Brown Cardamom pods are oval and about 1 inch dark brown pods with a rough, ribbed and furry surface. The flavour of Brown cardamom is a woody, smoky, camphorous and eucalyptus flavour, similar but not as intense as green Cardamom. Dried green cardamom pods are oval and about 1 cm. When the husk is broken they contain three to four brown-black oil pungent seeds. The taste of green cardamom is warm, camphorous and eucalypt, which is pleasantly refreshing.
Cocoa Nibs: are fermented, dried, shelled and roasted seeds of the cocoa pod. Cocoa nibs contain about 50% cocoa butter. Cocoa nibs have come into style, commonly being used in cookie and chocolate creations.
Dutch Cocoa Powder: The process of changing the acidity level of cocoa powder is called "dutching”. By adding an alkali, to either shelled cocoa beans or chocolate liquor, dutching changes the acidity and makes cocoa powder more digestible. The process also darkens the color of the cocoa powder and mellows its flavour.
Feuilletine: These delicious crispy wafer flakes taste like crushed ice cream cones. Add them to chocolate for crunchy treats, roll truffles in them or decorate sides of cakes. They are made by the famous French chocolate company Cocao Barry.
Fleur de Sel: Fleur de Sel is harvested by hand off the village of Guerande in Brittany in July and August, when the sea is calm and the weather conditions are just right. It is a lovely salt that is a bit pricey. Most people use it as a condiment and sprinkle a pinch here and there in places where the salt will shine and its distinctive flavor and texture will be appreciated. Fresh bread with unsalted butter and a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel is a favorite use. However, Fleur de Sel is also fantastic lightly sprinkled on a chocolate tart or anything sweet that could use a touch of salt to enhance of flavour of your desserts.
Gianduja: (or, more commonly, gianduia) the name of a sweet chocolate containing about 50% hazelnut and almond paste. Used in cakes, cookies, custards and ice creams. Not commonly available in supermarkets, Nutella is commonly used as a substitute for home cooks.
Lavender: The aroma of Lavender is sweet, fragrant, woody, grassy and floral. Lavender when used sparingly can be delicious in cookies, cakes, custards, ice creams and ganache.
Lemongrass: Lemongrass has a tangy flavour to lemon zest, due to its high presence of citral, the substance found in the outer rind of lemon. Lemongrass can be used in different ways, the most common, being infused in custards and creams to create a rich tangy flavour and in recipes with lemon to create a more complex citrus flavour.
Mahlab: an unusual fragrant spice made from the husked kernels of a small, wild black cherry tree. Kernels of mahlab are light-tan in colour, tear shaped 5mm long and a creamy white inside. It’s familiarity comes from it’s distinct aroma that is a cherry-sweet, almond-like and floral. Mahlab can be used ground and used sparingly in cookies and cakes.
Orange Flower Water: Orange flower water is used in many Mediterranean dessert dishes. The flavour is comprised of an orange and floral note. Orange flower water should be used sparingly as the floral taste can be overpowering. It is often used with oranges or orange flavoured dessert creations.
Pink Peppercorn: Pink peppercorns have a delicate, fragrant, sweet, and spicy flavor. They are reminiscent of a mild citrus zest and sweet berries. Pink peppercorns go especially well in fruit sauces, vinaigrettes, and desserts. These peppercorns have a rich rose color that add an elegant appearance to any cuisine.
Rooibos: Afrikaans for 'red bush', the plant is actually green until it is fermented causing it to become red. Rooibos is a member of the legume family of plants, and is commonly used to make a tisane (herbal tea). Rooibos tea contains no colors, additives or preservatives, making it a natural beverage. It contains no caffeine. Rooibos comes in a host of flavours and has become a popular use in jellies, custards, sorbets or served by itself.
Rose Water: Used widely in the Middle East especially to flavor baklava and sherbets as well as Turkish delight candies. Rose flower water is produced by water distillation from rose flowers. Use sparingly.
Tonka Bean: the use of tonka beans (which was never high) has further decreased since coumarin is suspected to be carcinogenic. It is interesting, as tonka beans make for a surprising, unusual alternative to vanilla in homemade ice cream, custard and soufflé. Tonka can be ground, grated or infused and should be cooked, baked or heated in some manner. Use sparingly as typically a few beans suffice to flavour 1 kg of desserts. Tonka infused ganache for chocolates and truffles seem to be popular at the moment.
Vanilla Bean: The three most common types of vanilla beans are Bourbon-Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian. All having different aromas and flavours: Bourbon-Madagascar (rich, creamy and sweet), Mexican (mellow flavour with a spicy and woody fragrance), and Tahitian (smelling of licorice, cherries and prunes).
Vanilla Extract: If you are buying vanilla extract make sure you are buying pure vanilla extract; Nielsen Massey is a good quality brand. If you decide that you want to attempt to make your own vanilla extract it is very simple. I usually use a small 375 ml miki of good quality vodka or bourbon and 3 long and soft vanilla beans. Split the beans lengthwise, then cut them into small pieces. Put into the vodka and seal well. Let the bottle stand in a dark, cool place for a month and shake the bottle from time to time. After a month or so you can use the vanilla extract.
Vanilla Sugar: Place a split vanilla bean and 1 cup of sugar in a sealed container or jar. Shake it periodically to circulate the sugar and increase the fragrance. After one week the vanilla sugar is ready. Vanilla sugar is wonderful for teas, coffees and can substituted for sugar in cookies and cakes.
Patachou is a wonderful patisserie, which serves classic French pastries. It has moved across the road and is located in a newly renovated space, which has a nice and contemporary atmosphere. My favorites at this Toronto pastry institution include: bostock (a round and flat brioche with a hint of orange flower water), éclairs filled with chocolate pastry cream and their delicious plums tarts.
If you are a pastry lover then I really hope that you make it to Rahier. Rahier has a wonderful range of products from pastries, breads, cakes, tarts and cookies. Their croissants and danishes may be the best in the city (Good butter and the number and quality of folds in the dough are important). I can often be found there once a week eating these yummy pastries. The quality of the desserts here are excellent, and I highly recommend all their tasty petit fours/cookies.
Best Jewish Bakery:
Harbord Bakery, 115 Harbord Street, 416 922 5767
Harbord Bakery is one of the oldest Jewish bakeries in Toronto; it has been open since 1926. When I think of Harbord bakery I think of comfort food and baking. Some of the things that I find particularly tasty include the challas (which I have almost every Friday), rugelach and their sweet cheese buns.
Best Chocolate Shop:
SOMA Chocolatemaker, 55 Mill Street, Suite 102, 416 815 7662
Since it first opened in 2003 SOMA chocolatemaker has been consistently making some of the best chocolates in the city. SOMA is run by David Castellan (pastry chef/ chocolate maker) whose passion and knowledge of chocolate is delightful. If you love good quality chocolate and are adventurous, SOMA will not disappoint. Truffles include: 8yr. aged balsamic, chai spice, douglas fir, as well as, his single origin bean cubes, to name a few. Also notable is the Mayan hot chocolate and his fun and playful use of toasted corn, sunflower seeds, coffee beans and nuts enrobed in chocolate. Website: www.somachocolate.com
Greg’s Ice Cream is a Toronto ice cream institution, which has been open for more than 20 years. The new shop is bright, small and quaint. I would categorize Greg’s ice cream as a “homemade” style ice cream (a sweet cream base). Known throughout the city, Greg’s ice cream can be found in local neighbourhoods and is used in many restaurants in Toronto. The flavours that are available are written on a white erase board daily. Classic flavours include: roasted marshmallow, coffee toffee, cinnamon and ginger.
Best Tea Shop:
House of Tea, 1015-1017 Yonge Street, 416 922 1226
House of tea is a shop with a store with an amazing selection of teas and is my personal favorite tea store in Toronto. The owner and staff are friendly, unpretentious and, oh so, helpful. This shop specializes in loose teas that are imported worldwide. The quality and assortment of classic teas is excellent. However, it is some of the blends of herbal and fruit infusion teas that I find magical. If you can't find the blend you are looking for, the owner will mix your custom blend in front of your eyes for the price of the required ingredients. Highly recommend for all those who love tea.
Bonjour Brioche, 812 Queen St. East, 416 406 1250
A fantastic café with a tasty selection for breakfast, brunch and lunch as evidenced by the wait on weekend mornings. Bonjour Brioche offers various kinds of sweet and savory foods with a French accent. Their quiches, croissants, baguettes and brioche are excellent. The brioche royale is light, buttery and filled with luscious lemon curd and raspberry or pastry cream and blueberry. These small yummy brioches are the reason why I return over and over.
Pain Perdu, 736 St. Clair West, 416 656 7246
Pain Perdu is an excellent little boulangerie/patisserie/café. The viennoiseries (croissant, chocolatine, brioche, pain aux raisin and polonais) are some of the best in town. Cakes, fruit tarts and scrumptious éclairs are also on the menu. On the savoury side, biscuits, breads and sandwiches are also very good. However, the quiches at pain perdu are excellent. Some of the quiches include: leek and roquefort; rappini and goat cheese; mango and gorgonzola; and quiche lorraine). These are some of the best quiches in the city. Website: www.painperdu.com
Lee, 601 King Street West, 416 504 7867
Whether you like him or not Susur Lee can cook. His menu is unique, he puts a twist on classic Asian dishes, the flavours are usually big and bold. The Singapore-slaw is a standout. The Servers are knowledgeable and professional. Lee is a nice dinner out.
Delicious Walnut Shapes Cakes:
Hodo Kwaja, 656 Bloor Street West, 416 538 1208
Hodo Kwaja is a Korean filled sweet that is shaped like a walnut. This store is appropriately named, as Hodo Kwaja is their specialty. This small Korean bakeshop produces these walnut-shaped cakes (which taste similar to a madeleine). They are filled with either a red bean paste or a mixture of mashed potatoes and walnuts or almonds. They are excellent with tea or coffee and definitely better when they are warm. Another reason to drop by is to watch the walnut cake machine in action (usually between 10am-11am and 3pm-4pm) - apparently amazing.
Hello and welcome to sweet pleasure : plaisir sucré – a blog devoted to baking, pastry and all things sweet. My name is Sam and I am just a regular guy who is interested in art and pastry. For me there are many commonalities and connections between these disiciplines: from concepts, forms and colours, through aesthetics/composition and materials/ingredients, to techiniques. I hope to create, examine, explore, document and write about food related topics that I would like to learn about. I welcome any feedback and suggestions you may have.