Monday, February 27, 2012

Daring Bakers - Grape-Almond quick bread

Grapes are not used to their full potential. You see them in tarts,fruit salad and on cheese plates but rarely in other baking. I wasn't sure if there was a reason for this or not but I wanted to find out!

I decided to create a grape quick bread with a lemon glaze (lemons and grapes really compliment each other). Did it work? Definitely! The grapes shrink a little bit which increases their sweetness and the lemon glaze adds a bit of zing.

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

See other recipes here.

Adapted from thekitchn

1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
2 tbsp ground Flax (optional)
2 tbsp hemp hearts (optional)
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1-1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c super fine sugar
1 c grapes, cut in half
1 egg
1 c buttermilk
1/4 c butter, melted
1 tsp almond extract
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice depending on how thick you want it
What to do
  • In a large bowl, whisk together spices, flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, combine melted butter, buttermilk and almond extract.
  • Pour wet ingredients over dry.
  • Stir to combine. Use a light hand and stop as soon as ingredients are mixed. If you over stir, your loaf will be tough.
  • Gently fold in grapes.
  • Scoop batter into 9 x 5 pan.
  • Bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into middle of loaf comes out crumbless.
  • Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile prepare glaze by combining powdered sugar and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth.
  • Poke loaf multiple times with a wooden skewer or toothpick.
  • Pour glaze over warm loaf.
  • Cool and dig in!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crème Brûlée Recipe

Delicious crème brûlée has always seemed very fancy, very expensive and very complicated to me. Crème brûlée is really a multi-faceted sensory experience. The warm amber colours of the carmelized sugar lures your attention, the glass-like snap of the sugar as you break through to the custard below dances in your ears, the sweet yet slightly burnt taste dazzles your taste buds and finally the lingering creamy taste of the egg custard wraps around your tongue....perfection.

Until now, I had only ordered it in a restaurant. But that all changed when Santa left a little kitchen blow torch in my stocking! Last weekend, I finally got up the nerve to try to create my own crème brûlée at home. It was....spectacular! And more importantly...easy! 

It is a great dessert as the custard can be prepared and baked the day before your dinner party leaving you more time and space for creating the rest of your meal. Just before serving you can torch the sugar layer and voila your guests will impressed will your culinary abilities and their tastebuds will forever remember your delicious creation. Whether or not you tell them just how easy it was, I leave up to you.


2 c whipping cream
1/2 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out (or a few drops vanilla extract)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/3 c caster sugar or berry sugar
Raw or turbinado sugar

What to do
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Pour the cream into a heavy-bottomed.
  • Split the vanilla pods down the middle with a sharp knife.
  • Scrape out the seeds with the knife and add the seeds and the pod and the vanilla extract to the cream and milk mixture. Stir well to combine.
  • Bring cream and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat. Don't bring to a full boil. You just want to scald it.
  • Pour the caster sugar into the bowl with the yolks. Gently whisk together the egg yolks and the caster sugar until combined.
  • When the cream and milk mixture  has come up to a simmer, pour it through a seive into a large bowl. Discard the pod.
  • Add 1/4c of the hot cream to the yolk/sugar bowl and mix well. Adding a little bit of the cream will bring up the temperature of the yolks and prevent them from scrambling!
  • Add the rest of the cream and gently stir. (not too hard as you don't want to incorporate a lot of air into the dish).
  • Ladle the brûlée mixture into 4 dishes. There will be air bubbles on top of the ladled egg mixture. Turn on your torch (following all safety rules) and quickly run the flame over the custard dishes. This will instantly remove the bubbles!
  • Place the crème brûlée dishes into a deep baking tray or roasting pan and pour hot water into the tray, until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the dishes. The water bath will help the custard to cook evenly. Do not get water into the dishes!
  • Place the pan into oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until set but still with a little wobble in the middle (like Jell-o).
  • Cool for one hour and then place in fridge. This can be done the day before.
  • When ready to serve, sprinkle raw or turbinado sugar on top of the brûlées. Pour off any extra. Wipe any stuck sugar off the sides of bowls. Heat the surface with a mini-blowtorch until the sugar melts and carmelizes. On a few patches slightly burn the sugar a bit more so extra crunchy bites form.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mom's Banana Bread Recipe

These little loaves even look like bread slices..get it...banana bread!

I grew up with this banana bread. It is especially good with a little slather of butter while it is still warm. I'd like to tell you that this will keep for a few days but the reality is it that it rarely lasts more than a day before it is eaten up!

And now for some banana  humour:

Q:Why do bananas wear suntan lotion?
A: 'Cause they peel!

Q:Why are bananas never lonely?
A:Because they hang around in bunches.

I usually use  a 9x5 loaf pan for this recipe but once in awhile I use a financier pan to make little loaves which are perfect for my kids' lunches. If you use these little pans (1-1/2 x 3 in) baking time is about 20 minutes.

  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 c mini chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 medium and very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)

What to do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium mixing bowl.
  • Cream shortening.
  • Add sugar and beat till light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add dry ingredients alternately with bananas beating until combined after each addition.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Pour into 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
  • Bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Cakes - Princess Doll Cake and Gumball Heart Cake

Happy Valentine's Day!
Just wanted to share a couple cake's I made for the kid's cake raffle today! Both are super easy to make - you just need the right pan and a little imagination. Although I made the icing (vanilla buttercream), I used a couple of doctored up cake mixes. The heart cake is chocolate fudge with added orange flavouring and the Valentine Princess cake is a simple yellow cake with added pudding mix.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Brownie Cake Pops - Valentine Hearts

Cake pops are everywhere these days but let's face it - they are sooo cute! I especially like brownie cake pops because the denser cake makes for a better taste and feel in your mouth. And my biggest tip is to go light on the icing - too much just turns it all to mush - you want it to taste more like a brownie!

1-1/2 c butter, unsalted
2-1/4 c sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 c flour
1 c cocoa
1/2 tsp salt

1-1/2 c prepared icing
1 package candy melts or similar
30, 5 or 6 inch lollipop sticks

What to do
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
  • Over low heat, melt butter in a saucepan.
  • Add sugar and stir until well combined and some sugar dissolves. It will still be thick and 'sugary' looking.
  • Cool the mixture to room temperature.
  • Place in large mixing bowl.
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat until well combined- about 4 minutes.
  • In another bowl, sift together.
  • Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Pour batter into pan and smooth with spatula.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  • Don't over bake!
  • Cool completely before moving on.

  • Once cool, crumble brownie into large chunks and place in food processor. You may want to do this in batches.
  • Pulse brownies until it has consistency of grainy sand.
  • Place in large bowl.
  • Add 3/4 c of icing and mix until well combined. You may have to add a bit more. You need the mixture to hold together when rolled into a ball. But try not to add too much or pops become too sweet.
  • Refrigerate mixture preferably overnight but at least 2 hours.
  • To make a heart shape I used one half of a boiled egg shaper for bento boxes. But you could also use a small cookie cutter or shape them by hand. They shouldn't be more than a couple of inches in size.
  • Place hearts on a cookie sheet and refrigerate again for a few hours or overnight.

  • Melt your candy melts according to directions.
  • Dip one end of lollipop stick into melted candy.
  • Place dipped stick into bottom of heart...about 2 cm deep.
  • Dip heart while holding onto stick into melted candy to cover heart completely.
  • Place cake pop stick end into styrofoam or place in a heavy glass so they can dry.
  • Once candy is dried, use a food writer pen or icing in a decorating bag with a thin tip to write your messages.
  • Dry as in previous method or place on cookie sheets until ready to eat.
Makes approximately 30 cakes pops.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sugar Rimmed Sugar Cookies Recipe

To me, these cookies are in between a sugar and a shortbread cookie - very buttery but a bit chewier than a regular shortbread.

I love this recipe because:
  • few ingredients are needed
  • can make the dough and then refrigerate overnight so time commitment is minimal
  • the decoration is quick and easy
  • no rolling of the dough!
  • taste amazing
  • flavour gets even better if you can let them sit a day or two
  • sanding sugar easily goes with any theme - orange and black for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, pastels for Easter, blue and green for the Canucks!

Adapted from a recipe by the beyond talented Regan Daley

1/2 c unsalted butter
1 c sugar
2 c flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk for adhering sprinkles
various sanding sugars - 1/3 c per colour

What to do
  • Cream butter and sugar for 4 minutes until light, and creamy.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Gently mix in flour. Less is more here - you don't want tough cookies.
  • Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap so they form a long cylinder of dough (like a soup can shape) that is about 2 inches in diameter. 
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.Work quickly with one portion of dough at a time, leaving the other in the refrigerator.
  • Brush the first cylinder with the lightly beaten egg yolk.
  • Roll the dough into rainbow sprinkles. If you want many coloured sprinkles then cut dough in smaller pieces and then roll in chosen colours. Rotate the log every few slices to avoid flattening the roll on any one side.
  • With a sharp knife slice the dough into 3/8-inch wide slices.
  • Place on baking sheets about 3/4 inch apart.
  • Repeat the procedure with second log.
  • Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until the bottoms begin to colour. Watch carefully every oven is different!
  • Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Foods 2012 #2 - Chickpeas and Hummus Recipe

Another superfood of 2012!

I think most people in North America have at least tried a chickpea - hummus, roasted chickpeas, falafels, salads...the nutty and buttery tasting legume is everywhere!

Major chickpea producers include India, Pakistan, Mexico, Turkey, Canada, and Australia. Currently, the United States imports more than 80 percent of its domestic chickpea needs.

Chickpea Facts
  • chickpea seeds contain 20% protein, 5% fat and 55% carbohydrate
  • chickpeas contains complex carbohydrates and fiber
  • they are a good source of vitamin B6, C and zinc
  • they have a low glycemic index value (42 – canned)
  • they are very versatile as they can be stored dry and reconstituted later with liquid; canned in liquid; blended into a spread (as with hummus); roasted and eaten as a snack; or ground into flour.
  • According to the Vancouver Sun one cup of chickpeas provide 270 calories; 71 per cent of an adult’s daily needs for folate; 26 per cent for iron; 20 per cent of magnesium; 17 per cent zinc; 28 per cent phosphorus and 14 per cent potassium.

Classic Hummus
Makes 1-1/2 cups
1 can (540ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4c tahini
2 lemons juiced
1/2 lime juiced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

What to do
1. Add everything into a food processor or blender.
2. Puree until very smooth.

Click here for Super food #1 - Hemp hearts!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chipotle Chocolate Oat Cake

You can see the oaty goodness in every bite. And a hint of chipotle heat sneaks up on your taste buds too.

I love oats. I love chocolate. I love chipotle. I love this cake! It combines all of these things into one delicious, not too sweet dessert that leaves a little heat in your mouth that makes you go back for more.

It's great on its own or with frosting and sprinkles. You can up the chipotle to 1/2 tsp if you can take the heat!

My 7 year old (& future food blogger) getting in on the action! So cute.

1/2 c butter
1 c boiling water
1 c large flake oats

1-1/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 c cocoa powder
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chipotle powder

What to do
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • In large bowl, combine oats, butter and boiling water.
  • Let stand 10 minutes, stirring a few times
  • Stir in eggs, sugar and vanilla.
  • In small bowl, sift flour, cocoa, chipotle, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  • Add to oat mixture and mix to combine.
  • Pour into a greased 8x8 pan.
  • Bake 30-35 minutes until wooden tooth pick comes out clean.
  • Cool completely.
  • Frost anyway you like!

Sprinkles add a dash of happiness to any cake!