05/12/15

Lunch and Dynamics

It’s the wee hours of the morning, and already I’m sitting here thinking about eating lunch.

I packed a pretty awesome lunch today. Want to see?

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What have we got? A mini bagel and lox, broccoli and grape tomatoes, tiny potato salad, pistachios, muscat grapes (Superstore has them right now and they are positively addictive!), raspberries, and some chocolate chips. It’s a pretty darn cute lunch to boot!

I’ve been having a lot of fun packing bento lunches lately. For the most part, there won’t really be recipes to include, but I thought it might be fun to share. It’s too easy to fall into a rut and eat the same thing for lunch at work every day. You may not become a full out bento geek, but maybe you’ll see a fun idea or two you may want to include in your lunch repertoire. At the same time, I feel like maybe those of you who are out there in the binary ether of the internet are here for recipes, not pictures of how cute my lunch is. (Even though it is really cute.) Any thoughts?

And now, on to a recipe!

Raspberry Buttermilk Muffins

(recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

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1 Cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 Cup of softened butter

2/3 Cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

2/3 Cup fresh raspberries

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

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  • Beat the butter and 2/3 Cup sugar together until fluffy.

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  • Blend in the vanilla and then the egg, mixing until uniform after each addition.

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  • Mix in the dry ingredients and buttermilk, adding them in batches alternately until everything is just combined.

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  • Butter your muffin tray so that the muffins won’t stick!
  • Tear the raspberries in halves (the trick to a good muffin is to not over stir, so we don’t want to break up the berries by adding them to the batter and then stirring) and then fold into the muffin batter.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin moulds. Then sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp of sugar over top of the muffins.

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  • Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean (∼18-20 minutes).
  • Enjoy!

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These muffins are tasty little buggers. The sprinkling of sugar over the top just before baking gives the muffin top the sweet crunchy crust that one often finds in muffins bought at the coffee shop, yum! I’m definitely going to have to remember this for other recipes.

As you may have noticed in the pictures I had reserved a few of the raspberries to top the muffins with, thinking that they might look pretty nice, perched atop my muffins. It didn’t quite work out, it seems as though the batter doesn’t case harden particularly quickly, alas the raspberries sank into the batter instead.

That small disappointment aside, the best thing here is that the muffins were restrained but not bland. Not every item we eat needs to be intense or attention grabbing flavour, it can be very welcoming and comforting to sink your teeth into something comforting and undemanding to eat. This is not to say it shouldn’t taste good, just that in terms of dynamics these muffins are at more of a piano than a fortissimo.  With buttermilk and raspberries (and a delicious crunchy sugar crust atop) these little beauties hit all the right notes.

02/19/15

The Most Layered Cake

Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake

(A recipe from Sprinkle Bakes with very minor changes made!)

 

For the crepes:

(*Note* – The original recipe calls for you to make the crepes in a 9 inch pan. My crepe pan is larger than this, so I doubled the following recipe so that my larger cake would still achieve a desirable height. If you are using a large pan, I would strongly suggest using this recipe doubled. If you are using a small pan, a single iteration of the recipe should be enough.)

6 eggs

1 Cup milk

1/2 cup table cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Cup flour

1/4 Cup icing sugar

a pinch of salt

melted butter for brushing

  • In a mixing bowl, combine together your wet ingredients: the eggs, milk, table cream and vanilla.
  • While stirring with a whisk, sieve the flour and icing sugar into the wet mixture, discarding any clumps left in the sieve. Then, stir in the salt.  (A whisk is made for the purpose of aeration while stirring, yes, and while a crepe is not in need of aeration, I find that crepe batter comes out less clumpily for me if I use a whisk.)
  • Voila! Crepe batter! It should be the texture of heavy cream. The superstitious cook would tell you to leave the batter overnight so that all of the flour particles become properly hydrated. A certain crepe making friend who hails from Quebec says that the waiting period is unnecessary. How superstitious you are feeling is up to you, of course!
  • Set a shallow skillet or crepe pan over medium low heat. And brush with some melted butter.
  • When the butter just starts to smoke, lift the pan a few inches from the burner.
  • Ladle a scoop of crepe batter into the centre of the pan, swirling the pan so that the bottom is coated with a thin layer.
  • Return the pan to the burner and cook until the edges of the crepe start to look dry.
  • Flip the crepe in the pan, allowing it to cook for a few seconds on the second side so that it sets.
  • Slide the crepe onto a plate to cool, and repeat the process until you run out of crepe batter.

Your first few crepes are probably going to come out a little questionable looking. That’s kind of just how it goes with crepe making. To be completely honest, mine tend not really ever get picture perfect. Mr. is some kind of crepe whisperer. His always come out nice and round and pretty. That stinker. :) I guess I just need more practise.

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For the chocolate amaretto filling:

1 1/3 Cups whipping cream

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

3 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp amaretto

  • Start to whip the cream, manually or by machine. As the liquid starts to stiffen, gradually add in the sugar and the cocoa powder.
  • Once the mixture is nearing soft peak stage, drizzle in the vanilla and amaretto. Continue to whip until the filling will hold stiff peaks.

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For the ganache:

5 oz dark chocolate

4 oz milk chocolate

1 Cup whipping cream

2 Tbsp amaretto

  • Break the chocolate into smallish pieces and place it in a mixing bowl.
  • Heat the cream until just boiling, and then pour the hot cream over the chocolate.
  • Stir until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
  • Then add in the amaretto, stirring until once again smooth.
  • Allow to start to cool to a spreadable but not super drippy consistency.
To assemble:
  • Layer this cake on the plate or pedestal you plan to use for serving. It will not transfer easily after being built.
  • Select two presentable crepes, one for the top and one for the bottom. Not so prime crepes can go in the centre of the cake unnoticed.
  • Centre your first crepe on your serving plate. Very lightly coat the crepe with the ganache. A pastry brush is an excellent tool for this step!
  • Scoop a heaping spoonful of the whipped filling over the ganache, and spread it out into a thin layer. A palette knife is an excellent tool for this step!

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  • Repeat these steps: stack a crepe, brush on ganache, spread out filling, until you have only your second presentable crepe remaining. Use it to top the cake.
  • During this stacking process, the ganache will be cooling and becoming more solid. If you work at a similar speed to me, when you are done stacking up all the layers of the cake, the ganache will be at a spreadable almost icing like consistency. Use it to ice the cake! I selected to ice only the top, as I liked the somewhat wild edges, but if you make this tasty cake you could ice all of the way around too!

Mr, who was kind enough to let me make use of his superior crepe making skills, says: Despite the effort required to make so many crepes, it is well worth it for the ridiculously awesome flavour of this cake.

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A cake with so many layers does require more time and energy than a standard layer cake, but it really is quite impressive once executed. It is rich, and dense too (crepes aren’t leavened like cake is), so you can cut it into lots of skinny wedges and everyone at your gathering can have a slice!

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So many layers!

This time last year: Adventures in Sausage Making

2 years ago: Converting Powdered Pectin to Liquid Pectin

3 years ago: Black Pepper Cookies

4 years ago: Gingerbeer

12/17/14

Countdown: 10, 9, 8…

I was going to call this post On the 8th day of Christmas, but, fact of the day: the twelve days of Christmas start on Christmas end end on the 5th on January. You learn something every day, or at least I do.

Nevertheless, 8 more days until Christmas! Is anyone else super excited for Santa season?

We’ve got our Christmas tree up and festooned with cheer. I’ve been baking like mad (what else is new?).

This year is a special year because Mr and myself are hosting a Christmas dinner for the first time this year. It’s a big mix of excitement and fear for me; I’m really hoping it doesn’t turn into one of those urban legends that gets told and retold about turkeys that won’t fit into the oven, or everyone getting food poisoning. On one hand, part of me feels like it’s good to go into a big project like this with a healthy sense of the things that could go wrong. On the other hand, though, it’s not as though making this dinner is all that much more complicated than making any other dinner. I can make a dinner for 14. It’s going to be fine.

I hope.

I just don’t want for this Christmas to be the Christmas dinner that the family brings up for years after as the one that was a total disaster.

A 22 pound turkey will fit into a standard size oven, right?

If I’m getting wrapped up in Christmas worries, some of you out there probably are too. So just remember what these seasonal holidays are all about: coming in from the dark outside, into the warm and welcoming homes of your nearest and dearest, to enjoy togetherness and expressions of love.

If you find yourself without near or dear to gather with, come on down. The more the merrier, and I intend on having a very merry Christmas.

It’s going to be awesome!

Apple Butter

(A recipe for your slow cooker! Though I’m sure it could be adapted for the stove top set very low.)
(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

3 kilograms of apples

1 1/2 Cups brown sugar

1/2 Cup sugar

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vanilla

Directions

  • Wash all of your apples. Then peel, core, and slice the whole works.

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  • Plunk them into the slow cooker. They will fill your slow cooker very full, but do not fear, they mush down quite a bit in the cooking. If you need to, press down on the apples to pack them down enough so that the lid of the crock pot will properly close.
  • Sprinkle over top of the apples all of the dry ingredients, that is: the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, and salt.

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  • Place the lid on the slow cooker, plug the appliance in, and cook on the low setting for 10 hours.
  • Rejoice at how lovely your house smells.
  • When the cooking time has elapsed, purée the apple butter until smooth using a stick blender (or in a regular blender, working in batches) and then stir in the vanilla.
  • Continue to cook on the slow cooker’s low setting, with the lid ajar to allow for more evaporation, until the apple butter is thickened to your desired consistency.  I cooked mine for an extra two hours.
  • Slather apple butter on toast or a biscuit, top some baked brie with it, use it as a condiment with pork chops, or add it to your morning oatmeal. Delicious!

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Mr says: “Apple butter is like delicious apple jam.” And he’s right. :)

Happy holidays everybody! xo