Saturday, March 31, 2012

Extreme Caffeine-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

These are, without a word of a lie, my favorite cookies ever! Buttery, chocolatey, and a double hit of coffee flavour makes this shortbread recipe a must have in any baker's repertoire. Every time I share these cookies, someone asks for the recipe. I wish I could take credit for the idea but Dorie Greenspan is the original baker and Smitten Kitchen thankfully featured it for my eyes and taste buds to discover.

I've made them with just chocolate chips, a combo of chocolate chips and skor bits and now this version with cappuccino chips and mini chocolate chips. All of them will make your taste buds stand up and cheer!

I also like the use of a Ziploc bake to roll out the dough - it makes kitchen life super easy.

Let me know what you think of these little pieces of caffeine heaven!

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Baking: From My Home to Yours

Makes about 35 cookies


1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ or powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 c cappuccino flavoured chips, chopped or whirred in a food processor a few times (I use Guittard brand chips)
1/2 c mini chocolate chips

What to do
  • Dissolve the espresso powder in very hot water, let cool to room temperature.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 4 minutes. You want the mixture to be light in colour and completely smooth.
  • Add the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low.
  • On your lowest setting, add the flour. To prevent your cookies from being to brittle and dry mix in the flour just until it is combined. Don't over do it!
  • Gently stir in the chips.
  • Spoon the dough into a large Ziploc bag .
  • Gently roll the dough so it becomes the size of the bag and is about 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm thick.
  • Close the bag and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Line a large cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
  • Cut or slice the bag open so that the top side of the bag is removed.
  • Using a knife or a pizza cutter cut the dough into 1-1/2 - 2 inch squares.
  • 13. Move the cookies onto the sheet. They don't spread much so you don't need too much space between them.
  • Bake for 15- 20 minutes (depends on your oven - Mine take 18 minutes.)
  • Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
  • I recommend baking them 24 hours ahead of time - their flavour improves.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Daring Baker's Challenge - Dutch Crunch or Tiger Bread

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread! Here is a pdf of the recipes given to us this month. I made the soft white rolls.

Bread making scares people....including my seven year - probably had something to do with me telling her yeast were living organisms which made her ask if they bite. lol. Anyways, bread is easy to master..really. Sure you "knead" to follow directions but how hard is that? And the kneading part is kinda relaxing in a weird way.

It takes a couple of hours of your life but the aroma that fills your home makes it worth it and then when you take your first bite and you realize that you made this with your own, you will think you are a genious and first class baker!! Try it, you'll like it.

The other part of our challenge was to create a sandwich with our "tiger" bread. I made Montreal smoked beef sandwiches with smoked gouda cheese, cheddar, avocado, horseradish and mayo. They were a hit with the whole family.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

The two vegetables my kids will never turn down are broccoli and cauliflower. In fact one of them is sure to be on our dinner plates every night of the week (well, maybe not pizza nights!).

Usually, we just steam cauliflower or occassionally roast it. Until I tried this recipe I had not made cauliflower soup. But I will be putting this on our menu more often! I even liked it before added the bechamel sauce so you could leave it out if you want to make it even healthier! Personally, I like the creaminess that the sauce adds.

When you buy cauliflower, make sure you pick one that is creamy white, whose head is tight and one in which the bud clusters are not separated. Cauliflower with dark spots should be passed by, as well as those in which small flowers appear.

Store uncooked cauliflower in the refrigerator preferably in a paper plastic bag. It should remain fresh for to a week.

Did you know?
Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable which means it is in the same plant family as broccoli, kale, cabbage and collards.

Cauliflower is an excellent source of:
  • vitamin C,
  • vitamin K, and
  • folate.
It is also a very good source of vitamin B5, potassium, and fiber. Additionally, it is a good source of protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and iron.

It is definitely a nutritional power house!

2 tbsp oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1 small carrot, grated
1 head cauliflower, 1.5-2 lbs, separate into small florets or chop
6 c vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 c unsalted butter
2/3 c flour
3 c 2% milk, hot
1 tsp salt

What to do
  • On low, heat oil in a large pot.
  • Add onions and cook until transparent. You do not want to brown them!
  • Add celery, carrots, and cauliflower.
  • Stirring frequently, cook 15 minutes.
  • Add stock, tarragon, thyme, garlic, bay leaf and pepper.
  • Season to taste with salt.

Prepare béchamel sauce.
  • On low heat, melt butter in saucepan.
  • Add flour, stir and cook until a froth forms. Cook 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, and add the hot milk.
  • Whisk to blend.
  • Put back on moderately high heat and whisk until sauce comes to a boil.
  • Whisk for another minute.
  • Remove from heat and add salt.
  • Add béchamel sauce to soup.
  • Cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaves.
  • You can serve as is or use a hand blender to puree some of it for a smoother consistency.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to make pickled onions

I first tasted pickled onions when they were offered as a condiment at my favorite taco place. They were divine and I set out to make my own. As it turns out, it is super simple to whip a batch. I use balsalmic vinegars but red wine vinegar will also work. And if you don't have chili sauce don't worry about it -the addition of the sauce just add a bit of kick to it. 
Cut onions as thinly as possible.
These will be fine in your fridge for a couple of weeks but I doubt they will last that long!

So many uses:
  • tacos
  • sandwiches
  • salads
  • out of the container
  • as a condiment with meat

2 medium to large red onions
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup white basalmic vinegar
1/4 cup red basalmic vinegar
1 tsp sriracha sauce or other hot sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 fresh ground pepper

What to do
  • Cut onions in half and slice as thinly as possible.
  • Over medium heat, stir vinegars, sugar, hot sauce, salt, and pepper until sugar is dissolved.
  • Bring to a simmer and add onions.
  • Bring back to simmer and immediately remove from heat.
  • Cool.
  • Place in container and refrigerate overnight.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cookbook Review - Whitewater Cooks with Friends by Shelley Adams

I love cookbooks! I've lost count on just how many I own. My favorite ones are dogged-eared, written in (I like to add in my own little changes, when I made the recipe, for who etc), and stained with various ingredients (a cookbook protector is on my wish list). But what does it take to earn favorite status? Well, obviously the recipe has to peak my interest, be easy to follow, not too time consuming (with 2 young kids interruptions are guaranteed), and I prefer cookbooks with mouthwatering photos to MAKE me want to recreate the dish. The other thing that I love are cookbooks with little stories or why the recipes are important to the author.

Shelley Adams is a Canadian cookbook author and former owner of a successful cafe in Nelson, B.C. known as the Fresh Tracks Café at the Whitewater Ski Resort. She has written three "Whitewater Cooks" cook books. The third book in this wildly successful series is titled Whitewater Cooks With Friends and features recipes to share with friends and family. It's first run sold out and a new production run has just been released.

To be honest, I somehow missed the first two books, but am beyond happy that the latest book was brought to my attention! The first thing that caught my attention was the opening sentence - "Food is all about sharing." I am in complete agreement! There are few things more fun than sharing good food with good friends! But in order to do this, I need easy recipes like these that allow me to cook, talk and hold a glass of wine at the same time.

The second thing that drew me to this book is the photography. David Gluns took the photos for Shelley's book and knows how to work a camera. Every image brings the food to delicious, mouth-watering life.

The cookbook itself is a compilation of recipes from Shelley and her friends which I find really appealing - recipes that have been shared amongst friends and family are usually the best ones since they have been tried and tested again and again. I think the book offers a small town feel with a big world appeal. The recipes look and taste quite sophisticated but are explained in simple terms and offer easy to follow instructions.

I also like the little tips and notes provided with each recipe - where to find ingredients, food prep tips etc they add to the fun and relaxing feel of the book.

I have a list of recipes I will be trying including:
  • pacific sashimi towers
  • paella chowder
  • tuscan bread salad
  • asian spiced braised short ribs
My sweet tooth dictated that the first recipes to try were two desserts: "fabulous molasses and 3 ginger cookies" and" lisa p's orange sour cream bundt cake".

The cookies were the best tasting ginger cookies I've ever had (this was seconded by my husband!). The dried, fresh, and candied ginger provided a sensory explosion of taste and smell. The recipe was easy to follow and almost healthy thanks to the addition of oats (yes, oats). The only negative thing I could say about it is mine came out much flatter than the ones shown in the book and they were crispier than expected so dipping in tea or milk is almost mandatory. I will be making them again.

The bundt cake was also a winner. So moist and delicious. And the glaze produces something akin to a sugary crust that makes that gives this bundt cake another layer of flavour. My five-year old son asked me to make 10 more and he isn't normally a big cake-eater! It's a recipe your friends will be asking you to share. It's one of the few recipes without a picture but as you can see from mine, it's truly yummy. I asked if I could reproduce the recipe and was kindly given the go ahead. 

This week I have a prosciutto wrapped pork loin and a spinach gomae recipe from the book on my list for dinner. I'll let you know how they turn out too.

I definitely recommend adding this book to your cookbook fact I will be picking up the first two in the series soon too! Check out Whitewater's website here.

lisa p's orange sour cream bundt cake
from Whitewater Cooks with Friends by Shelley Adams

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 orange, zest of
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 oranges, juice of
3/4 cup sugar
1 lemon, zest of

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add sour cream and orange zest and combine.
Sift together four, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add dry ingredients to the creamed butter and beat until well mixed.
Spoon into well-greased bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Combine orange juice, sugar and lemon zest in small saucepan.
Heat to a low boil, allow liquid to reduce by one third, about 10 minutes and keep warm.
Remove cake from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
Invert cake onto serving plate.
Poke lots of holes into cake with a skewer and pour glaze over cake while both are still warm.

My notes: I added a white pre-made cookie icing as an extra drizzle for the photo but absolutely not necessary.

Also, in the interests of full disclosure please note that I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own.