A lot of things are taken for granted in life. Sometimes it is usually the smallest things that can make you happy, but we often forget about them, or don't appreciate how wonderful they can be.
A smile, a kiss, a hug. These are all wonderful things. Spending time with amazing friends and family, even if you're not doing anything special, are moments to be treasured. Especially when you haven't seen them in a while. After a second stage and constant working, I forgot how much I missed my friends.
Just finally seeing their faces put a smile on mine. It was a birthday celebration on a Halloween night. A night out that was much deserved, full of laughter, singing and obligatory 3 am poutine. And then the relaxing doing-absolutely-nothing-all-day brunch the next morning/afternoon. I love those days because of their simplicity. It requires no planning, just enjoying the moment. Not to mention throwing any sort of diet out the window (poutine, grilled cheese bacon sandwich followed by even more bacon in the morning and delicious St-Viateur bagels and scrambled eggs). How can anyone ever be sad after so much greasiness?!
Sometimes we forget to enjoy the little things, but they are what make life so enjoyable. It goes to show how important it is to never look passed those moments and know that no matter what, the littlest happy moments can make your day that much better. The smell of new books, sleeping in newly washed sheets, sun shining down, stepping on crunchy leaves and the smell of warm brown sugar apple cake.
Those are my things right now. What are yours?
Brown Sugar Apple Cake
This is no glamorous cake. It's a simple and quick cake made with basic ingredients but it is elegant. Do not confuse it's simplicity with a less than fantastic taste. It's warm and delicious and perfect for apple lovers. Serve at tea time and your guests will love you. And no, there aren't any ground cherries in it, I just thought they looked cute for the picture. You can certainly add some or substitute with any stone fruit or berries if you wish. I love how versatile this cake can be.
Granulated sugar, for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz (6 tbsp or 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
4 McIntosh apples (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 oz (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar. (This seems like a small step, but if you are planning on making this, do not skip the sugar in the pan. I can assure you that it will add a wonderful taste and texture to your cake).
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together the melted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, the milk, and eggs in another bowl. Whisk the flour mixture into the eggs.
Pour batter evenly into prepared pan. Place sliced apples over the batter in a decorative pattern and gently press slightly into the batter. Combine the remaining 2 tbsp brown sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle over apples. Dot with remaining 2 tbsp butter. Bake until apples are tender and dark gold, and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Leave to cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from springform pan to cool completely.
The days are getting shorter and all the more colder. It's tough getting out from underneath my super warm comforter to a cold room. It's even tougher doing that in the middle of the night in order to be at work at 4 am. Sigh....but that's the life of a baker!
My second stage will be ending in a couple of days and I have to admit that I'm kind of glad. Not only is it hard to wake up at an ungodly hour (which requires going to bed at an hour reserved only for babies and seniors) but it hasn't exactly been the best time. I mean, I've been learning a lot of new things, but I haven't really enjoyed it that much. It's a lot of production that requires repetitive work for most of the day. Not exactly my cup of tea. At least I'm discovering what I like and what I don't like to do.
I know the place just isn't for me. The atmosphere isn't the most fun environment. But the people are really nice and couldn't be more welcoming. I'm really glad to have met a lot of them, so I guess it isn't so bad afterall.
These brownies however, are better than " not so bad". The mix of chocolate, pumpkin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper really give an interesting flavour combination. I think I might prefer plain chocolate brownies, but my cow-workers and friends definitely thought otherwise considering there are none left!
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used chips)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan or dish (I don't have a 9" square pan so I used a 10" circle spring-form pan). Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water stirring occasionally. Sift the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture slowly. Do not overmix.
Divide batter equally between two medium bowls. Stir in the chocolate into one bowl and stir in the pumpkin, vegetable oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the other bowl. Transfer half of the chocolate batter to the prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula or offset spatula. Alternate with half of the pumpkin batter. Repeat with the last layer of each the chocolate batter and the pumpkin batter. Work quickly so batters don't set. With a small knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect.
Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Leave to cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut with a large hot knife into squares.
After an unsuccessful and disappointing attempt at figuring out why my oven likes to burn a lot of my baked goods (exhibit A: pumpkin pecan bundt cake), I decided to use some of my pumpkin puree for supper so I could at least say that I made something with it. The cake still tasted really good on the inside but I was thoroughly disappointed that my (expensive) pecans went to waste. (I got the recipe from the October 2010 Canadian Living magazine if you want to try it).
So I then said to myself, it's time to get an oven thermometer woman! And I did just that , which made me realize that my oven was even stronger than I thought. So hopefully there shouldn't be any more burnt baking fiascos in the near future.
For now, I hope you enjoy a little variation on the classic macaroni au gratin that I usually like to make with bechamel sauce. I replaced the sauce with pumpkin puree and added some crusty bread and Parmesan cheese to the top. It's an autumnal twist on a classic dish.
Macaroni au Gratin a la Citrouille
Serves 6-8 Inspired by Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp rosemary
12 ounces macaroni (or any other kind of pasta)
12 ounces pumpkin puree
salt and pepper to taste
slices of crusty bread cut into small cubes
Parmesan cheese (quantity depending on how much of a cheese lover you are)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9 x 13" baking dish. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat and cook the onions until soft and starting to turn brown. Add salt, pepper and rosemary.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions. Before draining, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water. Return pasta to pot.
Stir in pumpkin puree and the reserved water with the onions cooking at a simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Toss puree mixture with pasta and pour into prepared dish.
Mix bread cubes with some rosemary, salt pepper and a bit of oil. Spread on top of pasta and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven until top is golden brown and slightly crusty, about 15-20 minutes.
Sometimes things just come to you without even trying or searching. New opportunities, new friends, old friends or new things to discover. This past year has been one big learning experience for me and I couldn't be happier.
Today is Thanksgiving and even though I don't really celebrate it, I have many things to be thankful for. In fact, I try to be thankful everyday for everything that I have in my life.
I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without the constant support of my family and friends. They encourage me to take risks and live my life without any regrets. It's not always easy but it's better than the alternative of giving up.
And that just isn't an appealing option to me. Sometimes I'm not sure if I can do it, but I know that even if I don't get something right away, eventually I'll get it with practice.
So I'm thankful for lots of things. One of which is these cookies, which, by the way are probably one of the best cookies I have ever tasted. I'm calling them almost vegan because the butterscotch chips that I got contain dry milk but you can easily put raisins or nuts instead. But I personally think that butterscotch makes them extra tasty.
I'm not vegan but I thought these cookies were really interesting and easy to make. And they are gooooood. Really. Really good. In fact, they're already finished because no one could resist them, so I guess I'll just have to make more! That doesn't seem like a problem to me.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lay parchment or a Silpat mat on two cookie sheets.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In a seperate bowl, beat the sugar, oil, molasses, pumpkin and vanilla until very well combined. Add dry ingredients to oil in 2 batches, mixing just until combined. Fold in butterscotch chips.
Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheets. Don't worry about placing them too close to each other because they don't spread very much. Bake for about 15 minutes until edges are starting to turn golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Oh hello, is it autumn already? That means it's my favorite time of the year. Time for jackets and pretty scarves, for hot chocolate and cuddling, oh and of course, everything pumpkin. I have gone through yet again another year where I wasn't able to go apple picking, but I told myself that I would at least go to a farmer's market to buy some pumpkins. And I did just that. So this is my first attempt ever at home-made pumpkin puree and I have to say that the experience was quite enjoyable.
In fact, I've been experiencing a couple of new things lately in school. Yesterday, a couple of my fellow classmates and I and some of our chefs catered the desserts for a benefit gala in the Old Port. We learnt how to set up our table, arrange the plates and decorate each one by carefully arranging the fruit coulis, the cake and the fruits. It was a fantastic experience and I loved spending time with my friends and chefs outside of school. It's a great way to get to know each other in a different environment; not to mention sample some delicious creations! It's great to get to have all these opportunities and see different aspects of the pastry industry.
It really opens up your eyes to all the possibilities there are available for us beginners and I'm grateful for all our chefs' support. It's always good to know that there is someone who will support and encourage you to try new things. So it's on to new things! Just like this pumpkin puree. Be patient because I plan on actually using the puree to make things with it!
Directions: October 2010 Canadian Living Magazine
The best pumpkins for purees are sugar pumpkins. These are smaller than the big mama pumpkins that are grown for jack-o-lanterns, but not the teeny tiny ones for decorations. Be sure to pick ones that are as clean as possible and that don't have a rough gray skin. The only thing I forgot to do was weigh the pumpkins before cutting to give you an approximate idea as to how much puree it yields depending on weight. I used two average sized sugar pumpkins and got about 6 cups. Remove the stems of the pumpkins with a large, sharp knife. Be sure to buy a set of muscles too because you're going to need them! My suggestion is to take your time and cut slowly with the knife away from you. Pumpkins aren't flat, therefore they have a tendency to move around, so be careful and don't cut yourself! Halve and remove the inside of the pumpkins with a spoon or your hands (don't forget to keep the seeds! - see note below). Place halves with their cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a 350 F oven until flesh is brown and tender, about 60-75 minutes. Prick with a fork to check tenderness. Leave to cool. Remove the soft flesh with a spoon to puree in a food processor. I used my hand-held blender because I don't have a big processor. Now I used a trick I saw on Annie's Eats: place puree in a paper towel-lined sieve on top of a bowl to strain out all the liquid. Let in strain for a good hour, you'll see how much liquid comes out (I got almost 1 1/2 cups!). Refrigerate in an air tight container for up to 4 days or freeze up to one month. There you go, easy home-made pumpkin puree!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Don't even think about throwing out those seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds make a great snack and you can season them any way you wish. I found a recipe online that said to add vegetable oil and spices, but I think next time I might put a little less oil than I did because they were a little too slippery and well...oily. Preheat oven to 275 F and place seeds on a baking sheet. Season with a little bit of vegetable oil or melted butter and salt. (I only wanted salt but you could season with any kind of spice, such as paprika, lemon and thyme, garlic or even cinnamon and nutmeg). Roast for about 10-20 minutes. Check every 5 minutes - they burn quickly! Om nom nom!
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but a carrot cupcake with any other topping just wouldn’t be the same. Whoever thought of combining cream cheese with carrot cupcakes was a genius. An undeniable genius. Carrot cake shouldn’t even exist without the smooth texture and delicious taste of cream cheese and sugar. It just doesn’t make any sense to have it any other way.
I keep going back to simple recipes lately. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a lot of time for overly complex recipes right now or maybe because I prefer to spend more time eating and enjoying the results rather than creating it for hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love to try out new flavours and techniques, but sometimes it’s nice to go back to what I know best.
School has been going well (have passed all my exams so far), but lately it’s been a bit frustrating. We’re working with chocolate you see. I love chocolate. I love all sorts of chocolate. I love chocolate candies, cookies, cakes….but I don’t like working with chocolate. In fact, chocolate tempering is probably my most hated thing right now. It’s messy, it’s a long process and I just can’t seem to get it right!
I know it’s supposed to be one of our most difficult modules and it’s normal to not get it on the first shot. But I’ve tried a couple of times now and even though I’ve slightly improved, I still can’t get it! That just means I have to practice heaps more. I just have to get it right. But I’m telling you now, I probably don’t see myself as a chocolatier in the future. Especially after yesterday. It was one of those “I want to die right now” days. But today is another day and I will move on to something else. For now, here’s something that doesn’t take long at all to make and is always a favorite.
Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
Ingredients(for the cupcakes)
¼ cup + ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
¾ cup + 2 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
½tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups shredded carrots
Preheat oven to 350oF. Grease a standard 12 cup muffin tin.
Spread about ¼ cup of coconut onto a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to leave them in the oven for too long – they burn quickly! Leave to cool.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, oil, orange juice, vanilla and eggs. Add the flour mixture slowly and stir until flour is just combined. Stir in the shredded carrots and the untoasted ½ cup of coconut. Pour the batter evenly among the cups and bake about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Ingredients(for the icing)
8 oz (1 pkg) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until nice and smooth. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes and sprinkle with reserved toasted coconut.
*Note: The original recipe called for allspice instead of cinnamon. I’m not a big fan of allspice so I replaced it, but you can try either or both. You can even put ½ cup of chopped walnuts with the carrots. Also, the original called for 1 ¼ cups of shredded coconut (1 cup to be toasted and ¼ cup in the cupcakes), but I found that ¼ toasted was more than enough for 12 cupcakes and preferred to put more in the cupcakes themselves.
Summer is a time to be carefree, relaxed and not worry about the little things. It’s not about fussing in the kitchen over the stove. It’s about spending more time outdoors with friends and family than indoors. That’s why simple and quick recipes are my favourite for summertime. You don’t have to spend hours preparing a desert for it to be good. I just love mixing a few ingredients together in a bowl and letting the oven do its work while I sit outside and enjoy the breeze. And I’m sure you do too. A custard pie requires no crust and basic ingredients already found at home. The original recipe called for pears but peaches were so abundant and delicious when I made this that I chose to use those instead. But in fact, any stone fruit like apricots, nectarines, plums or even apples would work. Actually almost any fruit would be delectable. The point is to just use what you have at home and not waste too much time prepping. It only takes a few minutes to prepare so get on it!
Peach Custard Pie Serves 6-8 Adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast Ingredients
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted3 ripe but firm peaches, sliced ¼ inch thick lengthwise1/3 cup granulated sugar 1/3 cup all purpose flour 2 tsp vanilla extract3 large eggs ¾ cup milk¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350oF and butter a 9-inch pie dish. Arrange peach slices in the dish, overlapping slightly. Mix together, either in a bowl with a whisk or in a blender, the melted butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs, milk and salt until smooth. Pour the batter over the peaches and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch (the batter shouldn’t be liquidy anymore but make sure it’s not overcooked so the eggs don’t cook too much). Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.
There are some things that can always put a smile on my face no matter what. It doesn’t matter what my day was like because a few simple pleasures can erase all the bad. Even if it's just temporarily, it’s still a form of relief. A handwritten letter, phone calls from amazing friends, a day at the beach, a classic novel, fresh peaches with the juice running all down my hands, picnics, flower crowns from like when I was 14 years old, old bikes, my adorable little niece and so much more.
Even something as simple and as wonderful as Polaroids. The vintage style of the photos is just pure delight. I’m not sure why, but photographs have the power to not only capture time but also make it beautiful and engaging. I have been interested in photography for a very long time. I love the simplicity of black and white photos, but there’s something about vivid colours that are so attractive to me. Colour, texture, different exposure…
I especially love the way photos make food look like a piece of art. An amazing photograph will give you the urge to reach through your screen and eat whatever food is pictured. Warning, do you not look at food photography when you are starving. Consequences include increased starvation and heartbeat, delusion, and the intense desire to eat something like this ridiculously delicious melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake. Now I am definitely not saying that my photographs are amazing (there are some pretty spectacular food stylist out there like some of my favorite bloggers) but even I start watering at the mouth when I see this cake.
200g dark chocolate
2 sticks butter (1 cup or 240g) 8 eggs(400g)
2 cups sugar (400g) 1 cup flour (130g)
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and generously butter a 9-in springform pan.
In a heat-proof bowl, melt the chocolate and butter either in the microwave or over the stove. In another heatproof bowl set over a simmering pot of water (bain-marie), whisk the eggs and sugar until just warm (but not hot!). Basically just until room temperature. Pour the melted chocolate over the egg mixture slowly and mix well. Mix in the flour with the whisk until smooth (don’t worry if there are still be a few lumps).
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes until just set. A cake tester will come out very wet in the middle but more like fudge towards the edges. It will set more as it cools down.
Ok ok, so I know I posted something very similar a couple of months ago, but I just couldn't resist making these too. Strawberries and lemons are probably one of my favorite summer flavour combinations. The sweetness of the strawberries mixed with the tangy taste of the lemons is just so refreshing and delicious. And since there's a massive heat wave going on right now, I'll take anything that'll freshen me up!
It's been really tough to stay cool when you don't have air conditioning at home and at school in the lab with hot ovens right next to us. But I have to say that I am really enjoying what we've been doing in the lab lately. Cookies, cookies and more cookies! And our first intro to modern entremets! I can't wait to learn more delicious and classic recipes, but I am definitely looking forward to summer break too. Hopefully I'll get to bake all sorts of things I've been itching to make. Or at least manage to go to the beach at least once!
For the lemonade syrup:
3/4 cup lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
(You can add more of less sugar depending on the level of sweetness you want. I wanted mine to have more of a lemon taste so I put more lemonade.)
For the frosting:
1/4 cup strawberry puree (depending on how strong a flavour you want)
8 oz. (250g) package cream cheese, softened
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vanilla
For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350o F (the original recipe said 325oF but part of my batch didn’t rise properly and did all sorts of weird bubbly things). Line muffin pans with paper liners or grease. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the lemon zest. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add in the milk and mix until smooth. Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Do not overmix. (If you want to add chunks of strawberries, now would be the time to fold them in).
Divide the batter evenly between the paper liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the lemonade syrup:
Once the cupcakes have cooled, whisk together the lemonade and icing sugar in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Poke several holes in the top of each cupcake with a toothpick and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in. (If you don’t want to waste your syrup on the counter top, simply hold the cupcake and pour the syrup over the bowl so the syrup drips back in it to reuse).
For the frosting:
Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender and strain through a mesh sieve into a bowl. You’re going to have to use a rubber spatula or rubber pastry brush to mix the puree and push down otherwise the liquid won’t go through since it’s so thick. Keep going until there are only seeds left (have patience – do a little bit at a time!). Cream the butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer with the paddle on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, then the lemon juice, vanilla and strawberry puree. If you find that you want more strawberries, just make some more puree and add it to the frosting.
Decorate the cupcake with the frosting (I used my new Ateco 846 tip) and garnish with fresh strawberries and a slice of lemon!
If you like apples, cinnamon and bread, then you will like all of these things combined to form one fabulously simple and delicious dessert. A couple of weeks ago I was making dinner for my family, but being so busy with the last-minute preparations, I didn’t even have time to make dessert before hand. I looked in the fridge. Apples. I looked on the counter. Bread. Cinnamon. In the pantry; brown sugar. Toast, mix, bake. Done. Serve with some ice cream and of course make them wait with anticipation while I take photos. I swear they almost threw a chair at me because I wouldn’t let them eat it before I was done. Oh but it was so worth the wait. Just make it and let it bake while you're having dinner. Perfect for an outdoor dinner on a lazy summer day! Now go make it!
Apple Brown Betty
Adapted from Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by Martha Stewart
Serves 6 to 8
4 to 5 slices white sandwich bread, torn into large pieces
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
5 to 6 slightly tart apples (like Gala or Granny Smith or any other you prefer), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (I omitted this)
Preheat oven to 350oF. In food processor, pulse bread into coarse crumbs and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden, tossing occasionally. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. Mix and toss with melted butter until evenly coated and set aside.
Place apples in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and half the bread crumbs. Transfer to a shallow 2-quart (8-cup) baking dish and sprinkle with other half of bread crumbs. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake about 40 minutes until mixture is bubbling. Remove foil and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes until crumbs are brown and apples are tender. Cool about 15 minutes and serve with ice cream and sprinkle with cinnamon. Voila, super easy dessert!