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Archive for the ‘cake’ Category

The produce at our local markets has grown and multiplied from a few sparse punnet baskets and bunches of herbs to tables creaking and groaning under the plenitude and abundance of Summer Harvest; farmers groggy and bewildered by the weeks of harvesting, packing, selling, counting and chatting with the locals.  Speaking of local, have you seen this? It’s a message I wish more people would take to heart and it comes from an unusual source; more proof that the message is sinking in to a larger audience and being picked up as a marketing tool by larger corporations.  Nothing wrong with that, if you ask me. Let’s get this voice out there a bit, yes?

I’ve taken a little hiatus, so to speak, from the blogosphere to concentrate on various little projects that have kept me out of trouble over the warmer months.  The last week, however, I’ve been a captive to my kitchen, a large quantity of jamming jars and boxes and bags of fresh produce that I’ve been slowly turning into the most delicious, tempting, multi-coloured jars of preserves, pickles, chutneys and jams.  I’ve gone through all my aprons, tea towels, wooden spoons and dish soap in an attempt to keep up with the seemingly never ending supply of this wonderful season’s fruits and vegetables.  I’ve stirred bubbling pots of sticky, syrupy jams until my arms have gone into spasm.  I’ve washed utensils and sieves and strainers until my fingernails have become soft as jelly.  And I’ve loved every hot, sweaty, sticky minute of it.  I look at the mountain of red and purple and green jars growing larger and larger on the counter and think forward to the cold months coming too soon to meet us, and the joy we’ll all get opening up those jars, Summer springing forth again like a surprise visit from an old family friend as we dip into the sticky, sweet, sour or bitter preserves inside. But more about that later.  It’s time for a little catch up.

While I have been absent in the digital sense, I’ve been far from quiet in the kitchen.  In fact, as absent from or tired of I get of one thing or another, somehow I always have time for the kitchen.  I find that the act of cooking in the kitchen metomorphosizes  to suite my mood: from a comforting hug for a bruised or bitter soul to an outward expression of joy and happy energy, the kitchen shapes itself around my current mood, filling in the gaps, holding me upright, much in the same way as that personification of love, the ever supportive Mr P.  And Stirring and seasoning and sieving my way through the last few months, I’ve made a couple share-worthy things:

strawbrhubmix

Like a trio of Strawberry and Rhubarb concoctions not tried before in the Lick Your Own Bowl Kitchen:

Firstly, a Strawberry Rhubarb bread pudding made with an unopened, left over Panettoni from Christmas.

Strawbrhubpud1Strawbrhubpud2

Then came a Strawberry Rhubarb Cookie Sandwich, using up a half batch of sugar cookie dough left in the fridge from a previous endeavor.

strawbrhubiscuitStrawbrhubbisc4

Finally, for a picnic with friends on the banks of Lake Ontario, celebrating Canada’s Birthday, tartlets of Strawberry Rhubarb Mousse with a minted Strawberry Rhubarb Salsa.

StrawbrhubmousseStrawbrhubmousse1Strawbrhubmousse2

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Passionfruit

I feel as if I’m back from a trip to a world of cakes and pastry delights.  The last month has been filled, chock-o-block, from the beginning of Toronto’s fabulous Spring to the beginning of what is turning out to be a mild, soft, gentle Summer, with parties and cakes.  The air has sparkled with the sounds of popping champagne corks, clinking glasses and merry, laughing people congratulating each other for various accomplishments.  Birthdays, Weddings, Feasting, Fancying and Foot-Loosing turned our ordinarily calm lives in to a train-station platform for the travelling spirits of love, happiness and joie-de-vivre.

Raspberry Coulis

Now, on a day when the soft rain falling from a Summer-grey sky cools my temperament from feverish to fathomable, I thought I’d take a moment and share just some of the fun with you.  I’m going to make, for your reading pleasure, a sandwich of sorts.  A dense yet frothy layer of Birthdays makes the perfect base for a filling of petit Wedding don’t you think?

Rasp White Choc Charlotte Comb

A little after my own birthday celebration, appropriately consummated with a glorious Raspberry White Chocolate Charlotte and Smitten’s Pistachio Petit Four, a couple Wondrous Friends, the maverick Mr D and his wonderful J, decided, impromptly and in a fuzz of love, to get married.  Being unfortunately, as they both were, so far from all family and loved ones, we organised, in the limited time we had, a delightful petite reception de l’amour chez nous, complete with un petit gateux de marriage. It was my first attempt at a real French Butter Cream frosting, and not without it’s little , ahem, learning curve shall we call it.  But a gorgeous evening was had by all and the happy couple left beaming and cuddling and well set for a long and joyous journey through life together.  How could love go wrong when sent off on it’s voyage with a petite tarte a la pomme d’amour, a Monk Fish a la Gazpacho on a bed of Sicilian Buckwheat and a four layer passion fruit cake with mango curd filling?

Wedding GJ1

Wedding GJ Comb

And then, just to test my abilities and patience to the brink of my own sanity, My handsome, enthusing, devestating Mr P turned a year older and required a cake worthy of his own standing in my life.  What could it be?  I scoured my books and bookmarks.  I looked under the couch, in the sock drawer and behind the French Puy lentils for inspiration.  I had to find a cake to match his countless qualities: there had to be something out there.  After days of thinking and sketching cross-sections of cake slices and jotting down notes I came up with the following:

A dark chocolate and whisky cake; something dense and dark and smokey, just like someone else I know.  A cake almost, though not quite, like a brownie.

A sour cherry filling, slightly sweet and slightly tart and altogether moreish

A cream cheese frosting to complicate the palate a little and smooth out any sharpness in the whisky.

And despite the fact that the cherry conserve I used leaked sticky, pink syrup all over the plate (and a guest who helped me transport the thing, sorry Ms R); and depite the fact that the cream cheese frosting slowly melted in the heat of the night and started a steady migration down the side of the cake, and despite finding out that cream cheese frosting does not like to stick well to cherry conserve (note: spread the cream cheese frosting first, then top with cherry) It turned out to be a very handsome, tasty and slightly confusingly, undefinably good cake.  Just like someone else I know.

Choc Whisky Cherry Cake2

Choc Whisky Cherry Cake Comb2

Choc-whisky

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Okay. I’m sorry for the awful pun. Although, I know that once you taste this scrumptious little mound of deliciousness you’ll forgive me in an instant. I’ve been holding on to this little gem for a while now, not because I didn’t want to share, but because it somehow, as things occasionally do in the manic digital mayhem that can be our lives, got lost in the ether, so to speak. Having finally surfaced from wherever it is that pear puddings go to holiday, I’m finally getting around to sharing it. This pudding seemed to be thwarted at so many points in it’s short life at it’s time in the lime light. Having been originally made to appear as a piece de resistance at the end of one of more decadent dinners the ever fabulous Mr P and I hosted, it was politely refused it’s place of glory when a second dessert appeared, as if by magic, in the hands of one of our guests. Not having been the first time a guest has brought a dessert to the table (and let me tell you, what a dessert it was! A pear pudding knows when to gracefully bow out to superior forces) I was well versed at organising a suitable Sunday Tea for the consumption of said pudding. However, a pear pudding’s prime not being as long as Madonna’s, a new set of Tea Guests were sadly disappointed with a somewhat dry, if tasty, bit of pud. Not to be out done, Pear Pudding was dutifully recreated to it’s original glory and enjoyed by all. I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Having the visual idea in my head of what I wanted my pear pudding to look like, but no recipe to follow or adapt, I did the next best thing and combined a couple of different recipe’s. I used the basics from a Women’s Weekly Pear Tart Tatin (from their New French Food cookbook) to caramelise the pears and a basic pudding recipe for the rest (thanks grandma). Best served with clotted cream.

Caramelised Pear Pudding

for the caramel pears
3 large Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
90g butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup cream

for the pudding batter
½ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon

– slice the pears length ways into 1cm (½”) wide slices, keeping their peary shape. Keep the middle, pear shaped slices whole and chop the remaining bits into cubes. You need about 10 of the pear shaped slices for the sides of the pudding basin.

– heat the butter, sugar and cream slowly in a large, heavy based saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pear slices and chopped bits to the caramel and bring to the boil.

– simmer over a low heat, turning the pears every so often, for about 25 minutes, until the pears are tender. Remove from heat, drain pears from caramel, reserving sauce.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 500ml pudding basin

– for the batter, beat the butter and sugar until creamy.

– beat in the eggs, one at a time.

– sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to the egg mixture and mix until just incorporated.

– stir in small, chopped pear pieces

– line your greased pudding bowl with the pear shaped slices, alternating head to toe. Us two slices to line the bottom of the basin. (chop up any remaining pieces and add to pudding batter.)

– coat the pears in half the reserved caramel.

– fill the basin with pudding mixture and top with the rest of the caramel sauce.

– bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes (checking often after 25 mins) until set in the middle.

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You know the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemon aide”, well my philosophy in life runs in the same vein: When the banana’s of your life turn black, make banana bread.” Which is my way of saying, when life’s being a little rough with you, eat cake. Also, it ties in rather neatly with my Waste-not-want-not upbringing. For a change, however, it being The Season of Great Changes and all, I eschewed all things expected and made something a little crazier. When asked to provide, and I quote, A Simple, No Fuss (with a pointed raised eyebrow, Ms Vickers) Dessert for an evening of screaming and gasping over the new series of Battlestar Galactica, what better remedy to such an unnatural request than brownies; and with those last two, very black banana’s staring at me from the bottom of the dusty fruit bowl, what else could I do but provide Banana Chocolate Brownies? These turned out to be a bit drier than my normal brownie recipe, which I usually diligently obey Nigella’s instruction on, but that made them just perfect with a big, yummy scoop of banana ice-cream.

*note: I put a cup of walnuts on top of the mixture before baking to make a walnut-like crust, but go ahead and mix them into the batter before baking. Ditto with the white choc chips, or go super wild and use dark choc chips for extra punch.

Banana Chocolate Brownies

adapted from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

80 ml butter (⅓ cup)
185g dark chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of 60 and 70%)
150ml sugar (⅔ cup)
2 eggs
Heaping, oozing ½ cup mashed, ripe banana (the blacker the better)
2 tsp Vanilla
150ml flour (⅔ cup)
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, broken up

– pre-heat oven to 350˚F

– line an 8″ square baking tin (or equivalent)

-in a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt chocolate and butter. Let cool a bit, then whisk in the sugar.

– in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the banana and vanilla. Add to the chocolate mix.

– whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, sift into chocolate and mix well.

– scraped into baking tin, top with nuts.

– bake for about 30 mins until set in the middle. Remove from oven, top with white chocolate chips and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

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Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 1

Somehow, after all’s been said and done, after all the post-fest pickings and snackings and nibblings, there remains a large piece of Fruit Cake from the Christmas feasting, sitting sleepily on the counter. Now, I realise that fruit cake and Christmas Pud will keep until the next Snowy Season (indeed, traditionally, the top tier of a wedding cake is kept safe and sound for the celebration of the Christening of the first chile) but in all honesty, who would want to eat last year’s fruit cake, thrifty though it may be? One, surely, wants to experience the joy of Christmas baking afresh every year, non? Besides, isn’t it enough already? Out with the old to make way for the new, is my motto this week. My cupboard is starting to feel like that one house on the corner which keeps it’s Christmas lights up until the middle of February. I have a bit here and a bob there left over (still!) from the revelries of the fattening season and they must go, people! Fruit Cake, piles of odds and ends in the dried fruit ‘n nuts department and a quarter jar of boozy fruit mincemeat, as well as one last little Christmas Pud, which somehow escaped being given away or eaten at home. It’s time for the Christmas Spring clean.

Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 2

Christmas Fruit Cake Bread and Butter Pudding

4 – 6 slices fruit cake (or any other robust left over cakeiness)
4 Tbsp fruit mincemeat
Butter, about 2 Tbsp
1 egg
1 cup milk
nutmeg

-Preheat the oven to 325˚F and butter a 500ml pudding bowl (or a casserole if you prefer)

– beat the egg with the milk in a small bowl

– arrange slices of fruit cake in the dish, then dollop teaspoons of mincemeat around the slices.

– dot with butter and pour over the eggy milk mixture. Sprinkle with Nutmeg

– let the pudding sit for about 3 minutes before baking in the oven for 40 mins

– enjoy with cream or custard, preferable in front of a happy little fire with your feet on the coffee table. Mmmm. Leftovers.

Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 3

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French Lentils

We haven’t had a housewarming, per se yet. But we decided last week that something was needed to make our house feel like home. And I also needed something to kick start the kitchen a little. A Winter Dinner was quickly put together, some friends asked around and the fire was lit in the hearth. With Winter having arrived a little earlier than I think we were expecting, the meal was warm and comforting, with loads of winter veg and a little bit of chocolatey goodness to help it all along the way. We started off with a Chestnut and Onion Soup, which is a traditional French soup and neither too hearty not too brothy; followed by a main course of Filo baskets filled with Beetroot, Butternut and Onion, topped with a Broccoli and Pepita pesto and accompanied with a variation of the divine Deb’s Curried Lentils and Sweet potatoes and some fresh Cherry Tomatoes. But my favourite bit was, of-course, dessert, as it so very often is. Le Dessert was a miniaturised variation of Nigella’s Nutella cake, topped with a precious marron glacè and swathed in a white chocolate and saffron ganache. Oh, yum. The little cakes were warm from the oven and slightly sticky on the inside. Chocolate heaven. Mmmmm.

An no, I’m afraid I’m not going to give you the recipe’s this time. I have Christmas Stuff to do! My, it’s busy this time of year. Instead, here are some temptingly yummy pictures to water your mouth over a little.

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 3

 

 

 

 

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Spiced Maple cup cakes w cream cheese

Isn’t there something magical about a cupcake? Stupid easy to make, requiring, in general, no special ingredients that you don’t normally have in the pantry and taking just about no time at all to whip up, yet they illicit a disproportional amount of joy and happiness in the recipient. Everybody, surely, loves a cup cake. What’s not to love, I ask you with icing sugar in my eyes? It’s the one time you get to eat the whole cake from start to end and it’s socially okay to do so. No sharing, no fighting over who’s slice is bigger, no dainty little forks, no politely leaving the last slice on the platter. Just you and the cake, head to head. Winner takes all. And then, of-course, there is the cute factor. Mini-cakes!? Yes, please. Sign me up.

So when you’re invited, back to back, to mid-week social events, in between a schedule involving working for a living and a long list of errands, can you honestly tell me you can think of a better take-along than a little plate of cup-cakes? I think not. These babies took 45 mins from tying on the apron to cinnamon-sugar dusted end and I can honestly say, they went down a treat. They were perfect, in their Mapley, cinnamony, cream-cheesy goodness, for the chilly weather. In fact, they were eaten on the day of the first snowfall of the season. Oh my, what brilliant timing.

*note: I used a generic cupcake recipe I’ve always had around and substituted maple syrup for the sugar, then left out any milk at the end. You might find you need to add a bit more flour at the end to form a suitable Cake consistency.

Spiced Maple cup cakes w cream cheese 2

Maple Spiced Cup Cakes with Cream Cheese Centers

For the cakes:
1 stick (125g) butter, softened
½ cup maple syrup
2 eggs
½ tsp maple essence
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground nutmeg
cream cheese (about ⅓ cup, maybe a little more)

For the Icing:
½ stick (60ml) butter, very soft
about 1 cup sieved icing sugar
1 tsp maple essence
pinch cinnamon
2 tbsp cream cheese

– preheat the oven to 400˚F and line 12 muffin/cup cake tins

– in a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

– in a different bowl cream the butter until very soft, then add the syrup and beat until combined. Add the eggs and essence and 2 Tbsp of the flour.

– then add the rest of the flour mix in two goes and mix well

– divide cake mix between 12 muffin tins. Place a blob of cream cheese in the middle of each (about ½ Tbsp each)

– bake for around 15 mins until cooked and golden. Cool well before icing.

– to make the icing, first beat the icing sugar into the butter, then add essence, cinnamon and cream cheese. Mix well and taste: you might want a little more cinnamon.

– ice the cakes and sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar to decorate

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