Friday, August 10, 2007

zucchini cake

This month I am attempting to make desserts inspired from ingredients out of my garden. Truth be told, this is the first year that I have ever really planted vegetables and herbs and actually looked after them. So for the last two months I have been tending to the garden, by watering, pulling out weeds and maintenance. With my busy, crazy and sometimes stressful jobs ( I have five at the moment), I actually find gardening very peaceful and relaxing. Anyways, Since the zucchini was the first vegetable to really be ready for the picking, I decided to make a simple, yet comforting zucchini cake.

Zucchini Cake

1/2 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup shredded raw zucchini
1/2 cup peeled and shredded raw apple
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Grease (or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray) a 9 x 9 inch pan. Set aside.
2. Toast the pecans for about 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.
3. Grate the zucchini, using a medium grater, and then peel and grate the apple. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
5. In a large bowl beat the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended. Beat in the grated zucchini and apple. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the nuts and coconut. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
3 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. In a food processor, process the butter and cream cheese until very smooth with no lumps. Gradually add in the powdered sugar until fully incorporated and smooth. Add in the vanilla extract. Spread over the top of the cooled zucchini cake. Add toasted coconut and toasted pecans for a more finished look.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This summer I decided that I would learn how to can. I love the idea of being able to preserve fruits and vegetables at their peak and open them up on rainy days. Canning is something that I have always been intrigued by and this year seemed as good as any year to learn how. Armed with the Joy of Canning and a binder full of research and recipes, I began a process of processing.

The idea of canning first came when my friend Elana invited me to go strawberry picking with a group of friends. We ended up picking so many strawberries, the obvious thing to do, was to make jam. The very next day, Elana and I decided to make a variety of strawberry jams. We made straight-up strawberry, strawberry-lavender, strawberry-mint & black pepper and strawberry-rhubarb-ginger. Our first attempt at making the jam was not the success either of us had anticipated, the jam was a little too sweet and did not set properly. Our second attempt resulted in a much more palatable array of jams.

My second canning experience came after a weekend camping trip with my good friend Mie. During our camping trip Mie and I came across a bunch of salmonberry bushes. We picked the berries, having in my mind that I might be able to make salmonberry jelly. On our way back to the city, we also picked up a large basket of gooseberries from a roadside fruit stand. Not knowing what to do with the gooseberries, I decided to make jelly out of that too.

My third experience with canning came when I came across some fresh rhubarb and ginger at the Trout Lake Farmers Market in Vancouver. Rhubarb and ginger are actually two of my favourite flavours so it made perfect sense that I make preserves and marmalade out of these as well. I think by my third experience with canning, I definitely feel more comfortable with the process. I am definitely still a beginner with this, but I look forward to more seasonal fruits and vegetables to can and preserve this summer. I also want to thank, all the individuals who have sampled my jams, gave me their feedback and for taking some of it off my hands. As you can imagine, one person can’t eat that amount of jam that I produced in a two-week span, no matter how good it is!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

tonka bean panna cotta with vanilla crumble and mandarin orange sorbet

This month's Sugar High Friday is hosted by the lovely and talented Tara of Seven Spoons. For this month's SHF #31 Tara asked food bloggers to meditate on the idea of using "Shades of White". As Tara writes "Participation is simple; make a dessert featuring your chosen hue of white. Anything from the palest of champagne ices to frothy zabaglione to the barest tan of hazelnut cookies. Or let the character of form inspire; are you drawn to the simple elegance of blancmange, or the childhood taste of marshmallow, or the towering excess of a meringue crowned pie? The possibilities are endless."

tonka bean panna cotta:

2 Tbsp cold water
1 3/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup homogenized milk
4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp of grated tonka bean

Pour 2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let it stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Combine heavy cream, milk, sugar and the grated tonka bean in a saucepan, and place over medium heat. Let the grated tonka bean infuse in the cream for at least 5 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil and then take it off the heat. Add the softened gelatin and mix until the gelatin has dissolved. Strain through a fine chinios/strainer into a new bowl and discard the grated tonka. Chill over an ice bath just until cool. Pour into small moulds, bowls, glasses or ramekins and chill for at least 3 hours. Makes approximately 8, 1/2 cup servings. It is probably a good idea to make this a day ahead as gelatin never sets as quickly as we might wish.

5 tips on making panna cotta:

1. Purchase good quality ingredients, as there are usually only 3-5 of them in a panna cotta.
2. The exact amount of gelatin is crucial! If you add too much, you will have the consistency of jello, and if you add too little, you will have a limp liquid cream. The consistency should be a soft, silky cream that is slightly set, almost too delicate to handle.
3. If you are de-moulding the panna cotta, dip the mould in warm water to release it. If the water is too hot, the panna cotta will melt. When de-moulding, take your time, be gentle, and carefully loosen the edges with slightly wet fingers so that you can wiggle it out.
4. If you are de-moulding your panna cotta, make some tuile cookies in the shape of the base of your pannacotta (e.g. if you are making a round panna cotta, make circle tuile cookies). Place the cookie on the bottom of your panna cotta so that, when you invert the mold, the panna cotta rests on the cookie. This will help you transfer the panna cotta onto the plate without denting or destroying the delicate and silky cream. The cookie will also give you a nice crunch, which will provide contrast to the softness of your panna cotta.
5. If you are wanting to pair a jelly or fruit with your panna cotta, pick a flavour that will compliment, stand up to or help cut the intensity of this creamy dessert.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

missing in action

Lychee Soup with Coloured Tapioca Pearls or Abstract Painting?

I have been missing blogging for some time now, as I have been busy with Life. During this last month I made a move from Toronto, where I have been living for the last three years, back to Vancouver. I have gone back to teaching art to university students, I am starting a small company and most suprisingly... I will be working in pastry again, who would have thought? Oh wait, I'm also single again. So like I have mentioned, lots of changes. I look forward to blogging now that I have started settling back in and interweaving art, pastry and everyday life a little more fluidly. Cheers, xo Sam

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

eating in montréal

Breakfast at Reservoir

Chocolate Creameux at Cluny Art Bar

Mac and Cheese at Montée de Lait

Hot chocolate from Les Chocolates de Cholé

Last year I visited Montréal for the first time and ate some fabulous and delicious food. This year I had the opportunity to visit two more times and wanted to share some of my favourite spots. Here is a slide show of my Montréal eating adventure.

Cluny Art Bar – Fantastic lunch spot, yummy desserts

Pintxo – Spanish tapas

Montée de Lait – Lovely restaurant specializing in delicious milk and cheese inspired dishes

Trois Petits Bouchons – Nice wine and supper spot

Reservoir – Good reliable breakfast and brunch

Schwartz’s – The one and only deli to get smoked meat sandwiches

Le Club Chasse et Peche – Possibly my favourite restaurant in Montréal serving top quality French food

Au Pied De Cochon – Everything Foie Gras you could ever want

Laloux – A lovely bistro with great desserts

Les Chocolates de Cholé – The best chocolate in Montréal

Santropol – Healthy and hardy sandwiches - homestyle

Patati Patata – Yummy mini burgers and poutine

If you are doing research on where to go to eat in Montréal check out the March 2006 issue of Gourmet Magazine and” the one and only Montréal Food Guide “ written by the lovely and knowledgeable Michelle and AJ of the blog An Endless Banquet.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

a trio of mini parfaits

Last week I experimented by making a trio of parfaits in mini shot glasses.
from left to right:

1. Vanilla bean panna cotta with fig balsamic and diced strawberries.
2. White chocolate creme brulee, a layer of orange creme brulee and a pecan praline topping.
3. Chocolate pots de creme with crushed chocolate wafers and a layer of carmel mousse.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

sweet seduction

It starts with a glance…
…or perhaps a touch.
It could be a sound…
…or a scent.
Sometimes it begins with a taste.
It entices and sometimes teases. It can be a glimpse of joys yet to come. It can be spicy, it can be hot, but most importantly (at least this time) seduction must be sweet.

- Jasmine of
Confessions of a Cardamom Addict

The theme for this months Sugar High Friday, SHF 28 is Sweet Seduction. This month, I decided to make two desserts. The first, being a dessert to seduce me and the second, to seduce someone else. Both desserts are incredibly easy. The first dessert is an orange salad made up of blood oranges, cara cara oranges and navel oranges. Pick good quality oranges and segment them. This second picture shows their individual colours which are intense and amazing. Oranges are currently at their peak. Apparently it is easy to seduce me, just give me a fresh simple orange salad.

The second dessert is a chocolate creameaux. Chocolate creameaux has a wonderful silky mouth feel much like pots de crème, but there is no baking involved. Simply make a cup of crème anglaise and pour it over 100 g. of chopped up dark chocolate. For easier mixing, place the chocolate in a food processor and pour the hot crème anglaise on top. Let the custard melt the chocolate for a few minutes before turning on the food processor. Process or mix the chocolate mixture until it is smooth. Pour into small cups or ramekins and let it set in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. This can be made a day in advance and is incredibly easy. Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate or raspeberries. It is one of those desserts that will impress and seduce just about any chocolate lover. Sadly, this would probably seduce me as well.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

tonka pots de crème

I learned about tonka beans last year during my first trip to Montrèal. I bought some from Olives et Épices, a fantastic specialty store selling spices, oils, vinegars and a host of other wonderful ingredients. The store, and pastry friends, instructed me that tonka must be heated (eg. through infusion in a cream or baked in a cake). I experimented with tonka crème brulèe and tonka ice cream, and although good, neither product stood out for me. During the past few years, I have seen tonka used in the desserts of several fine restaurants, both in Toronto and during my travels: I started to believe tonka had become trendy. I hadn't appreciated the flavour of tonka until I returned to Montrèal in January. On the trip, I had an amazing tonka pot de crème (served with an orange salad and cocoa nibs) at la Montèe de Lait. I liked the dessert so much that I thought I would recreate it at home. The result turned out very well, and I am enthusiastic to share the recipe. Instead of garnishing the pots de crème with cocoa nibs, I used a 70% dark chocolate, which also worked well. If you want to try the recipe with cocoa nibs, check out Whole Foods Market: they sell small bags of it.

Tonka Pots de Crème

2 cups 10% cream (light cream or half and half)
1 tsp grated tonka bean
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 3/4 cups of the light cream with the grated tonka bean until cream is scalding. Do not boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Beat egg yolks until they are pale in colour. Beat in the sugar, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of the light cream.
3. Gradually beat the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly.
4. Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup for easier pouring
5. Place pots de crème cups in a large pan with sides high enough to create a water-bath. Divide the mixture evenly into the cups. Pour hot water in the pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Cover the pan with aluminum foil or cover with the pot lids. Place in oven and bake at 350°F (180°C) until the custard is just set around the edges, approximately 30-35 minutes.
6. Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Leave pots de crème in pan in water bath, and allow them to cool to room temperature. Remove the pots de crème from water bath; cover them with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
7. Serve chilled pots de crème with segmented oranges and cocoa nibs or 70% chocolate.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

chocolate heaven

I love chocolate, so when I heard that David Lebovitz was hosting this month’s Sugar High Friday #27: Chocolate by Brand, I was excited. Because I have been busy lately, the deadline for the post slipped right past me. To see the amazing chocolate goodies that bloggers from around the world created for this event check out David’s chocolate round up!

I prepared a chocolate trio, which consisted of a chocolate ice cream cake, a chocolate crème brûlée tart and a chocolate mousse sandwiched between thin layers of chocolate, with a little too much gold dust. The individual pictures are the actual size of the desserts. Below is a recipe for the chocolate crème brûlée tarts.

chocolate crème brûlée tarts

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 pouring in the chocolate crème brûlée

chocolate crème brûlée

500ml 35% cream
5 egg yolks
75 g. sugar
75 g. good quality dark chocolate (chopped)

1. Scald cream in a pot and add 75g. of dark chocolate.
2. In a seperate bowl mix yolks and sugar.
3. Temper yolk/sugar mix with some of the hot cream mix. Add to the rest of the cream mixture. Take it off the heat.
4. Pour the brûlée through a sieve to remove any small traces of egg.
5. Pour brûlée mixture into tarts shells.
6. Place the tart shells in the oven.
7. Bake at 300°F, between 20-25 minutes, or until custard is set.
8. Top the crème brûlée with a small coating of sugar and caramelize with blowtorch.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

food that really schmecks (tastes good)

I first discovered Edna Staebler when Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict mailed me a package for Canadian Blogging by Post #1. The package included: maple syrup, apple butter, cherry jam, wildflower honey, a small cookbook by Edna Staebler Soups and Salads with Schmecks Appeal, a trio of lovely photographs taken by Jasmine and, last but not least, small bags of black peppercorn, cardamom and homemade candied ginger. A few months later I was in an old bookstore when I came across and bought Edna Staebler’s Desserts with Schmecks Appeal. The appeal of these cookbooks for me is the simplicity in which the recipes are presented, written and made – to me it embodies comfort food. As Edna says, they are “ not elaborate, or exotic, with rare ingredients and mystifying flavours; traditional local cooking is practical: designed to fill up small boys and big men and it is mouth wateringly good.”

Food That Really Schmecks along with the other books Edna has written is a record. It is history of notes and recipes passed on from family and friends in the Mennonite community as well as Edna’s larger community of Waterloo. It is a history that has been preserved and shared thanks to Edna.

“And you will pass on these recipes, not hand written in a little black book, but in a timeless Canadian cookbook.” – Rose Murray

When Jasmine contacted me to make and blog about something from Edna’s book, Food That Really Schmecks, I immediately said yes. After flipping through the book several times, I decided to make a maple syrup cake. There are a few reasons for this. First, I thought what could be more Canadian than maple syrup. Second, I thought I would make use of Jasmine’s maple syrup she bought for me and lastly because Edna represents a part of Canadian food history and culture.

Maple Syrup Cake

Two layers of sweetness and light!

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup maple sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butternuts or walnuts or pecans

Blend the shortening, sugar, syrup, eggs and vanilla. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder, stir in the nuts and add all to the blended mixture. Pour into greased, floured layer pans and bake at 375ºF for 20 minutes. Cool a few minutes, then carefully turn cakes onto racks to become cold. Put together with soft Maple Icing and ice all over.

Soft Maple Icing

1/4 cup soft butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups icing sugar

Blend butter, syrup and vanilla till smooth, then add gradually and blend in the icing sugar. Delicious, easy to spread – and it stays soft.

Both recipes were simple and straight-forward. The cake was a little drier than I expected so I decided to make some whipped cream. Since I had left over pecans I also made some pecan brittle for another texture. The Maple cake is a simple cake, and is definitely not as sweet as it sounds. The cake would go nicely paired with a cup of tea.

Recipes from Food That Really Schmecks, Edna Staebler

Edna Staebler, who in 2006 passed away in her 100th year, was an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Maclean’s, Chatelaine and many other magazines. She is the author of Cape Breton Harbour, Places I’ve Been and People I’ve Known and the Schmecks cookbook series.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

new cookies

Making cookies during the holiday season is something that I have done since I was ten years old; so, it’s like a tradition. Yet, I have noticed that year after year I have tended to make the same standard fare: chocolate chip, peanut butter, shortbread, gingerbread, gingersnaps, sugar cookies, etc. This year, just before the Christmas holidays, I decided to test out some new cookie recipes to broaden my repertoire.

This small project quickly transformed into something much larger than planned. A colleague offered to purchase some of these cookies for the holidays. This rapidly snowballed into a modest, but concentrated, cookie-making venture. During the week leading up to Christmas, I made and sold approximately one hundred dozen cookies. It was a bit insane. Yet, I did in fact test out some new recipes, and I had a number of taste testers to help me critique them. I asked a group of ten testers to rank the cookies on a scale of 1- 5 for taste, appearance and texture. My wonderful testers ranged from seven to seventy years old and, as expected, had varied palates. I thank Hannah, Benjamin, Josh, Debra, Doug, Michael, Karen, Sid, David and Alisa for their valuable input.

I made nine new recipes:

1. Cranberry Orange Cornmeal – Martha Stewart

2. Fig Pinwheels – Martha Stewart

3. Lemon Scented Almond Crisps – Martha Stewart

4. Cinnamon Walnut – Nancy Silverton

5. Brown Sugar Sesame Shortbread – Barbara Tropp

6. Pinenut Biscotti – Karen DeMasco

7. Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries – Claudia Fleming

8. Chocolate Brownie Cookies – Claudia Fleming

9. Butterscotch Cookie – Sherry Yard

The cookie that seemed to stand out was Claudia Fleming’s Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries. I will go out on a limb and say it is the best biscotti that I have made. Since it is so good, I want to share it.

Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries

1 cup dried sour cherries
2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 large eggs
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp coffee extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
7 1/2 oz extra-bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks

1. Place the cherries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn off the heat and let cool. Drain the cherries (this can be done up to 1 week ahead; store the cherries in the refrigerator).

2. Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the pistachio nuts out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they are golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool (keep the oven on).

3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and set on low speed, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the butter and extracts and mix to combine. Stir in the pistachios, chocolate and cherries. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

4. With wet hands, divide the dough and form it into 2 logs, each 2 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment-lined baking tray and bake until firm, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely on rack.

5. Lower the oven temperature to 200F. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti on 3 parchment-lined baking sheets and dry them in the oven until firm and crisp, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack.

Makes approximately 4 1/2 to 5 dozen biscotti

From The Last Course, Claudia Fleming

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