Friends like to ask me about my signature dish and I have a tough time answering because I try so many different recipes. A few of the goodies get repeated, but I also feel that variety is the spice of life and it may be months to years before I retry a recipe. But the truth be told, my favourite repeated dishes are salmon teriyaki and my wheat berry salad with almonds and cranberries in a citrus dressing. They are a bit different and are a treat for guests.
However, I can’t just whip the dishes out of thin air as they aren’t made with pantry staples. I need some advance notice to head to the grocery store before I make them.
But what happens if I have unexpected guests? Well, to be honest, they will likely go hungry if they don’t want leftovers. My grandmother, wise in her years, has staples she can whip up in no time. Cream puffs are her emergency dessert and if pressed, she’ll ask her guests to come with the whipping cream for a stellar dessert.
I never knew cream puffs, light and delicious pastry filled with vanilla whipped cream and smothered with chocolate, could be considered easy. So I put my grandmother’s recipe to the test, to figure out how foolproof it was to make cream puffs.
The cream puff pastry (aka pâte à choux – cabbage paste!) is nice because the ingredients are all pantry staples and you can make it without a machine. You need to whip it really hard and fast until it pulls from the side of the pan, but no problemo! Next you drop them onto a cookie sheet and bake until they are browned and hollow in the middle. The moist dough allows steam to puff the pastry. Cut them in half, remove any soft dough (still tastes yummy!) and let cool. The pastry can easily be frozen at this point, and later reheated in a 350F oven for a few minutes prior to filling and dressing.
Next, once your guests arrive with the whipping cream, and the cream puffs are cool, stuff them with the whipped cream and top with chocolate ganache. Serve to astonished guests because it was actually quite simple to make, just many small steps towards a delicious dessert.
Cream puffs are incredibly versatile, using any combination of fillings and toppings. Filled with ice cream, they are known as profiteroles, but one could equally fill with savoury vegetables for an impressive lunch. What a powerhouse!
This is my submission to this month’s Tea Time Treats for French desserts.
I had wanted to make a citrus salad for a while. I only recently discovered how wonderful navel and Cara Cara oranges taste. You see, I never liked oranges. Clementines, yes. I like orange juice and the orange flavour, but some oranges are just no fun. I just guess I never met the right one. That is until a friend shared a Cara Cara orange with me. Navels and Cara Caras are sweet and light. Granted, I still have to pick a time to get my nails pulpy from peeling the orange, but at least now I enjoy what is inside. So which citrus salad to make? Spoiled by so many choices, I eventually settled on making a citrus salad with Iranian green raisins, pistachios and a cinnamon yogurt dressing adapted from Green Kitchen Stories. It had a Middle Eastern feel to it and featured a sweet yogurt dressing, which I absolutely adored in a previous chickpea and spinach salad. It was a snap to put together and tasted great.
A friend claimed this wasn’t really cooking! Well, technically, no, but it is still a dish to devour! Enjoy all the benefits of citrus with the chewy raisins, crunchy pistachios (next time I will definitely chop them, or smash them with a fry pan into chunks), refreshing mint and the sweet but spicy cinnamon yogurt dressing. I used my China Cassia cinnamon which elevated the heat for my virgin spice palate. Enjoy!
Right now in Toronto, we are experiencing our first real snow storm of the year. We finally have a few centimeters of snow on the ground, which contrasts to our nearly bare ground throughout the majority of the winter. I had to venture outside the city to find snow, especially since one of my new winter activities is snowshoeing.
I remember walking around clumsily in snowshoes when I was in elementary school. We had wooden ones, and more commonly plastic snowshoes that looked identical to the wooden ones. I found it difficult to manoeuvre the snowshoes which substantially widened my gait and there wasn’t much traction on the bottom, either.
Fast forward a decade or two, and I join my friends at their cottage and we decide to go snowshoeing. ‘These snowshoes are more modern,’ they explain, assuring me it isn’t as daunting as I recall. The shape has changed (especially for women’s styles), they are lighter with great grip. It took a bit of use to walking up and down hills initially, but afterwards there was no stopping us. This was fun!
Around an hour north of Toronto, there is a small town called Horseshoe Valley. Because it is in the valley, it receives more snow than Toronto and the valley ridges provide ample trails with some altitude. I have been there twice so far this winter, and both times Horseshoe has not been less than stellar. An early morning snowshoe following fresh snow that fell overnight, or the above freezing temperature with ample sticky snow (great grip for the snowshoes).
After all this exercise, there is nothing better than to huddle back together in the cottage, sipping on some tea and munching on some date squares.
This date square recipe is courtesy of my mom, who is a fabulous cook. The original recipe calls for 250g dried dates, but I like a meaty filling, so you can definitely add more without increasing the rest of the filling. I added cranberries to this batch instead of currants (the more typical ingredient) but found it a bit too sweet for me (my snowshoeing companions had no complaints, though!). The currants have a slightly bitter taste that works well with the natural sweetness from the dates. I wonder whether fresh cranberries could have helped tame the sweetness – a project for next time!
The squares can be eaten warm or cold, but I prefer them warm with a big glass of milk. Enjoy!
This is the finale of my muffin trifecta: Wild Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins (to add to Spiced Yogurt Muffins and Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes). A combination of all great ingredients, spurred by a few lonely bananas that made it to the black, yet super sweet stage on my kitchen counter. While this muffin was incredibly tasty and filled with healthy ingredients, I don’t think I will be making muffins again anytime soon…. so many muffins from one batch lasting me a week or two, I think I am all muffined out for a while.
I debated posting this dessert now. I mean, it is in the middle of winter, and there are no stone fruits to be seen. To be fair, I made this cake in August, but I saw Think Spice was featuring vanilla this month. Vanilla is one of my favourite spices.. but which recipe to post? I had already previously posted about the Cranberry Buckle with a heavenly vanilla crumb, so that was out… but I remembered my fantastic peach tea cake from the same cookbook, Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. And it contains a whole tablespoon of vanilla! With the fresh peaches dancing in the middle, this was one of my best cakes ever. The batter was dense, heavily but wonderfully filled with vanilla essence, but moist, too, especially if you err more on the side of baking just until it is done – do not overbake!
Please save the recipe until the summer, when fresh peaches are overabundant… or if you are from the Southern hemisphere, you can enjoy it now.
An apple cranberry oat crumble photo essay:
Who needs another apple crumble recipe? It is such a simple, wholesome dessert, I am sure everyone has their own family recipe. I tried this one, courtesy of Rustic Fruit Desserts and really enjoyed the combination of tart fresh cranberry with the sweet apple. Enjoy cranberries with your own recipe. If you try this one, beware it makes a ton. As you can see, it was nearly overflowing from my 9×13 pan. Halving the recipe would be reasonable, unless you are feeding a small army.
Over the holidays, we typically eat a lot of indulgent foods. The desserts, cookies, cakes, chocolates and all that.. but also delicious breakfasts. Muffins are relatively easy to make and these are no exception. What use is breakfast if you spend all day making them? Ricotta tends to add a nice light texture to baked goods and these were delicious with a light lemon flavour. I found them a bit on the dry side and I wonder whether that was because I used light ricotta. The recipe was adapted from A Year in the Kitchen, who adapted them from Rosa’s Yummy Yums. A perfect muffin which contrasted and complemented our overindulgences this holiday season.
After figuring out the technical details of a buckle (a cake with fruit in the batter topped with a crisp topping), I learned that I had already made a few, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. I really enjoyed the rhubarb big crumb coffee cake and my dad refused to let me leave with the leftovers (it was that good). I had also made the blueberry crumb bars, liked them enough but found them too heavy with butter. I love fruit dancing in my cakes, and a streusel topping makes everything great, so I was eager to try a Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb, as it was from a wonderful cookbook by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson: Rustic Fruit Desserts.
I absolutely adore cranberries, especially fresh, as you could probably guess by the number of recipes on the blog that include cranberries. I love fresh cranberries as they are slightly tart and match well with sweet desserts. Perfectly in season for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The verdict? It made all my previous baking blunders from the week disappear… we were able to enjoy it still hot from the oven. It was sinfully delicious with fresh cranberries speckled throughout the cake with a lovely, lovely vanilla crumb topping. I think the topping is one of the highlights, especially with the noticeable vanilla (it really isn’t a hint or w whiff of vanilla; I could taste it!). I halved the recipe, as I was going to feed a small number of people.. but I wish I had made more! The photo is from the remaining leftovers… not much left! Thank goodness, I have more crumb topping in reserve for the next buckle. Enjoy!!
This is my submission to Sugar High Fridays for this month.
Now that snow has finally arrived (and then promptly disappeared), it officially feels like winter. I still can’t believe I was still able to bike around Toronto (safely, sans snow, sans grizzly subzero wind) into the first week of December! Now I am on a quest to find a sustainable activity for the winter… preferably of the indoor variety.
I made this pumpkin custard for dessert for Thanksgiving, and it was great. A nice mix of pumpkin with traditional flavours like cinnamon, ginger and cloves. It was very rich with the cream. After a filling meal, we found the ramekin portions to be a bit too big. Very delicious, but better in small quantities. My suggestion would be to use smaller ramekins, which would yield more portions (halving the recipe might be better then).
The recipe was adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. I bought the book after making the most delicious cake, ever (Stone Fruit Tea Cake on gourmet.com), and will likely post that recipe eventually as well. In the meantime, this custard is a good start.
Chocolate truffles are one of those things that looks really hard to make, but in reality, there are some super simple recipes out there that produce wonderful chocolate treats. When you have to temper chocolate, that takes some skill or at least a thermometer, but simple chocolate ganache (chocolate + cream) with assorted flavours and toppings can go a long way.
I picked this recipe because of the dark chocolate and it didn’t disappoint. Easy and tasty. My family adores the dark stuff. The quality of the dark chocolate is important, so pick wisely. I used 70% dark chocolate and it was wonderful with the lemon, which may at first seem unusual but paired well. I loved the grated chocolate topping with the interesting texture. I find truffles coated only in cocoa powder to be too harsh/bitter, so this worked well. My only problem was I transported them in the summer once, and the delicate outer chocolate topping melted during the drive in the car. These definitely need to be stored in the fridge due to the fresh lemon juice.
This recipe was adapted from Truffles: 50 Deliciously Decadent Homemade Chocolate Treats by Dede Wilson.
Can a coffeecake be served as part of breakfast or brunch? Sure! I love how, in theory, most of my dishes for breakfast or brunch also double as desserts. What a sweet breakfast! In actuality, I usually have a pretty standard breakfast of Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli with maybe a fruit thrown in on the side, and the baked goods get added to my lunch as dessert.
I liked the following pumpkin coffeecake from A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash by Lou Seibert Pappas. It wasn’t in-your-face pumpkin flavour, more mellow with a hint of spice, but there was an interesting texture with the cornmeal and nicely moist. The walnut topping added a nice crunch. I doubled the amount of fresh cranberries (to 2 cups) which was good, if not bursting with cranberry. Only 1 cup would have been piddly. I don’t think I have professed my love of fresh cranberries, yet… but I will.. with one of my many cranberry recipes in the draft folder.