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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Sunday, September 17, 2006

chocolate for your inner child

The other day while I was shopping, I saw the September issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. On the cover is a beautiful photo of Martha’s new kitchen. I gave in, bought the magazine and lusted over Martha’s: marble countertops, pots, knives, convection oven, stainless steel appliances and tableware. I then flipped through the magazine to see if there were any recipes I wanted to try. I found two chocolate recipes. The first was a chocolate ginger brownie, which is one of those mix everything in one-bowl recipes and the second was a simple chocolate pudding. The memories I associate with both these desserts are of childhood – when things were simple and carefree. So I dedicate these desserts to the child in all of us.

When making chocolate desserts, I usually go by the following guideline: use good chocolate! The types of chocolate that I prefer to use are Valrhona, Scharfenberg, Callebaut or Lindt. The quality of your chocolate will affect the quality of your desserts and baked goods - try not to compromise. For the brownies I used a dark bittersweet Callebaut and for the pudding, I used a dark semisweet Callebaut. The ginger in the brownies was a nice touch, it gave the brownies a rich and complex flavour, that was familiar and comforting, without being too sweet or intense. The chocolate pudding was tasty, simple and satisfying. The flavour and consistency is exactly what a chocolate pudding should be. Both recipes are incredibly simple and comforting.

chocolate ginger brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp course salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves

1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter an 8” square baking dish. Line bottom with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over 2 sides. Butter parchment; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in remaining ingredients.
2. Pour batter into prepared dish. Smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out with moist crumbs, 30- 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Brownies can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

chocolate pudding with whipped cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar

1. Whisk granulated sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt in a medium pan. Whisk in milk and yolks. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until thickened, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and butter; whisk until melted.
2. Pour pudding through a sieve into a heatproof bowl and set in an ice-water bath. To prevent a skin from forming, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until cold and set, about 40 minutes (up to 2 days).
3. Whip cream and confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Divide cold pudding among 4 bowls, and serve with whipped cream.

Both recipes are from Martha Stewart Living, September 2006

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

peaches peaches peaches

This Sunday I had eight guests over for dessert after seeing a movie in the Toronto International Film Festival. I had three hours available to make dessert before heading to the movie; so I knew I had to make something simple. I had a large basket of peaches and decided that I would make use of them. Eighteen peaches later, I had made a trio of desserts.

a vanilla bean panna cotta on shortbread with a peach compote

slices of fresh peach on shortbread with an ice wine sabayon

a frozen peach and ginger parfait on shortbread with diced peaches and ground pepper

For the vanilla bean panna cotta recipe, check out my post on the panna cotta trials.

For a soft and delicate shortbread that you can easily cut through with a fork, try using a recipe with icing sugar, cornstarch and a high butter content. Usually, the softer the dough the softer the cookie will be once it’s baked.

Lastly, here is the recipe for the frozen peach and ginger parfait:

1 1/2 Tbsp ginger root, peeled and sliced
6 peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
3 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cup 35% cream, whipped

1. Blanche the peeled and sliced ginger root in hot water for a minute. Transfer to a food processor and process for a minute. Then add the peeled and pitted peach halves and process it till pureed. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste. Place this mixture aside or in the fridge.
2. Whip your 35% cream to a stiff peak, but avoid turning your cream into butter. Place the whipped cream in a container and put it in the fridge until needed.
3. In a heatproof bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with the confectioners’ sugar; then, still beating, place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water to create a bain-marie. Keep beating the mixture; when the mixture is lukewarm, remove the bowl from the pan and go on beating until the mixture is cool. If you are lazy like me, I just use my KitchenAid bowl over the pot and then transfer the bowl back to the mixer so that it can do all the work.
4. Once the mixture is cool, fold in the peach and ginger puree. Once combined, fold in the whip cream. Pour the parfait mixture into a 6-cup mold, or into a pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Freeze for approximately 4-6 hours.

* I would also recommend serving the parfait with small pieces of diced candied ginger.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

can you can? : nope

I have some understanding of the basic principles and techniques of canning but have never gotten into it. I missed the elusive 22nd Sugar High Friday event in August titled “Can you can”, an event on canning jams and preserves. It looked like fun and would have been a good excuse to practice canning…oh well! The jams and preserves that 52 food bloggers made look absolutely wonderful. Check them out at Nicky and Oliver's beautiful blog Delicious Days.

Although I don’t can, I eat. Here are a couple of preserves I purchased at Fauchon while I was in New York. The first is Strawberry with Rose Petals and the second Corsican Clementine Sweet Orange. You can see by the picture that I have been eating my way steadily through the Clementine. At US $11 per jar, these preserves can sure add up. I ended up spending US $36 on preserves. Yes, I know it sounds silly, but they are sooo good. I should probably practice canning, ‘cause if I keep buying preserves and jams at this cost I will go broke. They were amazing on the soft buttery brioche that I devoured in two minutes after taking the photo. Yum.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

italian plum torte

When I received an email that Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina were putting together a blogging event, I knew that I had to participate. To show up to this glorious summer feast titled “La Fiesta al Fresco”, make anything you want as long as it features one fresh ingredient. This virtual feast seems like a wonderful way to celebrate the end of summer.

This weekend I found some lovely Italian plums at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.
Since plums are in season and at their peek, I decided to make a simple Italian plum torte. I hope you all enjoy. This recipe also goes out to my friends in Vancouver who are lucky enough to have a plum tree and have so many plums they are not sure what to do with them.

This recipe is from the December 2002 issue of
Chocolatier Magazine.

Italian Plum Torte

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs
8-10 Italian plums, halved and pitted or 5 large red or black plums, cut in quarters and pitted
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Position rack in centre of oven and preheat 350ºF. Butter and flour 8” springform pan; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together, baking powder and salt.
3. In a 5-quart bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, using a paddle attachment, cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed for one minute, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Arrange plum quarters and halves on top. Combining remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife, around edge of torte. Remove side of springform pan and serve torte warm or cool.
5. You can serve torte with heavy cream, vanilla ice cream or just on its own.

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