2011

Tons has happened. And I can’t believe it’s almost February! I’m halfway through an Art of Pastry course, and just had my first winterlicious dinner of the year! It’s cold and snowy, but my apartment is being redecorated and reenergized. I’ve been doing plenty and baking lots! And most recently, I got an iPhone, so there are so many unnecessary photos being taken. Rather than splurge a whole whack of life deet’s, I’d rather share via foto. Here we go:

On my most recent visits home I had to take this photo – this is one of the busiest channels in Georgian Bay, so cool to see it frozen!

Another one of my favourite reasons to visit home: my dad’s breakfast – french toast with fresh strawberries is my new Sunday favourite

In my pastry class we made puff pastry from scratch. It was a lot of fun – we made tons, and used it for turnovers, apple strudel, palm leaves, and my personal favourite: Strawberry Napoleons. These were amazing – fresh strawberries and homemade pastry cream was used to sandwich these together.

Thanks to my friend Adelle, I have a new favourite snack. Heat your oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit, line a baking tray with parchment or silpat – evenly arrange salted pretzels, until sheet is covered. Place either a rolo or slice of snickers bar on the top of each pretzel, bake for 4 minutes. Remove from oven – press a pecan into each rolo, use another pretzel (or just leave as is) on top the snickers bar. Let cool, and enjoy or store in air tight container.

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Guess What!?

Can I be completely honest here? I suck at owning electronics. You may be wondering why I haven’t updated ye ol’ blog in awhile… really it has little to do with my lack of baking… or even being a busy bee, I don’t own a digital camera… that works. Pathetic I know, how does one capture life moments without an image capturing device? Every camera I own becomes a victim of my stupidity – camera 1 got stolen on New Years, camera 2 was dropped because someone threw a real-live crab at me (chyeah) and well camera 3 got filled with hot sauce (it exploded in my bag, long story short, I carry hot sauce around with me and um, it got inside the actual camera) So I guess this means I get to use photobooth to document my baking essperiments. This isn’t why I really wanted to share though – I am going to be an AUNT! That’s right! ME! Auntie Vanny! That means I get to bake with and for a little munchkin. This baby better be a baker!

Last night I made these awesome truffle brownies – check out the recipe here and make ‘em for your awesome friends sometime – they’ll love you for it: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/truffle-brownies

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Tangerine Dream

Well, it’s been awhile and I hate that. Lots has happened though – went on vacation to Cuba, hurt my heel (seriously though…) been working my butt off AND only 3 classes left until I’ve completed my first baking course. What’s next? More baking classes, that’s for sure – the Art of Pastry, which seems like a pretty cool way to start 2011. My favourite holiday is fast approaching and that means TONS more baking and lots of festive moments to be had. So let I’m going to finish this class of wine, listen to some 90’s dance music and share a whack of photos. My life as of late:

Red Velvet Cupcakes for Mandy’s birthday!

 

The best Watermelon slushie of LIFE (no one told me my button was open…) Another interesting thing to note about this photo is the gentleman in the background beating the shit out of an electrical box with a stick, for no reason… Kensginton Market rules)

We also went to this cool little restaurant that specializes in grilled cheese (or girled cheese, or gorilla cheese, as some of you may refer to) I got a mozza-pesto-arugula one… are you ready?

 

I tried it with ketchup, I tried it with Frank’s… to be entirely honest it would be good any which way, just look at that stunner.

 

I made meatloaf cupcakes. They were incredibly tasty… turkey meatloaf baked with tons of fresh diced veggies, spread with a thin layer of BBQ sauce- topped with yukon gold and black pepper mashed potato icing. Decorated these bad boys with Sriracha chili sauce, shredded marble cheese and fresh chives. SUPER FUN!

 

… And then Cuba happened!

 

We definitely shot a music video, and I might’ve worn my luchador mask for the remainder of the day.

 

I really miss this place, but how could you not? The concept of vacation is my favourite. I think we’ll go to Jamaica next year.

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Donuts Make Van Go Nuts


Once upon a time I thought it was a brilliant idea to make donuts. And it was pretty awesome, because they were yummy, but donut making is a process that’s best left for a day with plenty of free time. It all began with one cookbook that I HAD to have – ‘Donuts’ from William Sonoma. How can one not love the concept of sugary fried dough? So anyways, my lovely boyfriend bought me the book and the next day I got down to business and made some yeast donuts! At first all seemed well – I made the dough, let it rise… I even bought a shiny new thermometer. Finally I got to cut the donut shapes, and let ‘em rise again. While all of this is happening, I tried to decide what flavours I wanted – cinnamon sugar (obviously, favouritist) and well, a chocolate ganache for dipping couldn’t hurt. So I hauled out my dutch oven and started getting the oil nice and hot for fry time. This is where things became chaotic.

It was late, I was tired from mixing and kneading and waiting and prepping. I didn’t have the most efficient workspace. My thermometer was a big fat liar – I heated the oil up to the suggested temperature, but my stupid ‘shiny’ thermometer wasn’t reading correctly. I could tell the oil was hot – I tested a few donut holes before taking the plunge and they got pretty crispy, pretty fast. It took (what felt like) eons for the oil to cool down to a workable temp. Shortly after I was submerging my dough disks and really getting into the groove of things. At this point my belly was aching from eating way too many donut holes, sooo good.

In the end, the results were tasty, but I wouldn’t suggest making donuts unless you have a bunch of people ready to eat ‘em while they’re fresh and still warm. The next day they just don’t compare. But if you wanna give it a try, here’s the recipe. They’re cute, they’re versatile, they’re doughy-fried goodness:

Yeast Donuts

3/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) quick-rise yeast
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter and heat, stirring until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Remove from heat. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Combine 2 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast and beat on low speed to mix. Add the hot milk mixture, raise the speed to medium and beat until well blended. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and beat until the dough is well blended and smooth, about 1 minute longer. The dough will be sticky. Scrape the dough into a large bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm place until well risen, and doubled in size (about 45 minutes)
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and brush with oil. Line a second baking sheet with paper towel. Generously flour a surface and begin rolling the dough until it is about 1/2 an inch thick. Cut out as many donuts as possible (about 3 inches) save the holes for frying! Cover the cut out donuts with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
In a dutch oven or deep fryer, heat oil until 360 degrees ferenheit. Lower a few donut holes into the oil and let cook for about 1.5 minutes, and then turn over on the other side to cook for another minute. Repeat this process with the donuts until complete. While still warm, cover the donuts in a blend of icing sugar and cinnamon. You can prepare a simple ganache for dipping, but the possibilities are endless! Enjoy! This recipe is from the ‘Donut’s’ cookbook – get your copy at William Sonoma!

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Piefection


My blogging hiatus has come to an end. It’s been awhile, and I don’t really have a solid excuse other than the fact that I’ve been pretty busy. All that really matters is that I’m back on track. And since my last ‘confession’ I’ve made plenty of delicious things, which I can’t wait to share. Soon enough I’ll make a photo essay but in the meantime we’ll discuss something relevant to the current season: apple pie. I’ve made 3 of them in the past couple weeks, so I feel a little more comfortable with the process. It all started in baking class – we attempted pastry which would be used the following week for an apple pie. It turned out magnificent – I’ve always been one for using lard in my pastry, for both flavour and well, it’s what my nan did and when it comes to baking I listen to the woman. For this particular recipe, we used shortening. It came together nicely, but in my attempt to make it at home, for some reason the consistency was too crumbly, perhaps I over mixed?  Regardless, I now know that using spy apples yields a wonderful pie AND after you mix your cut up apples with your sugar(s) and spices (we also added some melted butter) let the mixture sit for 20 minutes so the apples can render some of their juice – this will result in a firmer and flakier bottom crust… you learn something new everyday! If you want to try out the recipe I used, let me know, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the recipe that makes the pie, it’s the patience and practice. If you’re feeling extra crafty add 1/2 cup of sour cream to your filling, or 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, tres manifique! It’s gonna be a good thanksgiving!
Other than my recent and unshared baking adventures, I leave for a weeklong Cuba vacation in less than 20 days (it really couldn’t come fast enough) Did I mention that 13 of my friends are coming too? Crazy things are going to happen and I can barely wait!



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Forgive Me

Now and again (but actually quite often) I cook. Baking is my favourite and my passion, but close runner-up is cooking. I love the freedom and creativity, but mostly the savoury goodness of an awesome meal. There’s nothing better than grocery shopping during harvest because nothing beats Ontario or local grown produce. With all this vegspiration I instantly thought of stir fry and next thing you know I’m staring at a pack of chow mein noodles. Duh, I need to make an epic asian inspired dinner! even better, I have leftover roast beef. So that’s what I did tonight… after work my first thought was, “must… have… wine” so I picked up a bottle of my cheap and favourite pinot grigio and headed home for dins. I love walking in my door everyday after work – a yappy, adorable, smushy-faced kitteh greets me with big eyes and even bigger meows… like me, she also wants dinner and I even let her pick: beef, chicken or turkey. I pretend she answers, and well, if I’m making chicken for dinner it’s only fair she gets it too. Anyways, after I fed the creature, I started dinner.

Before I even chopped the veggies, I poured a glass of wine, ahh, perfect, let’s get this show on the road. I proceeded to chop, chop, chop, which strangely enough, I find rather enjoyable. Soon enough my workspace was filled with aplethora of veg, after a nibble of carrot, I am reminded of why local produce rules, this tastes like candy. I sautéed some carrots, celery, onions and red peppers in olive oil, salt and pepper until soft, added a clove of garlic (chopped) then I tossed in 3 heads of baby bok choy. Last but not least, I threw in a handful of cubed roast beef – so good. I added some sweet chili and soya sauce, and some ginger. I prepared the chow mein noodles, as per package instructions (with chicken broth). Atop my bed of noodly goodness I added the veg/beef mixture and an extremely generous helping of sriracha chili sauce (kills me) It was incredibly tasty and satisfying. Maybe not the healthiest of suppers, but a sensible portion makes for a happy gal. I can’t decide if I like the wine or the supper more or the fact that there’s homemade chocolate chip cookies in the freezer.

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Edible Love


I have been MIA – but for good reason. This past week has been a doozy – one of those kinds where everything in your life seems to go wrong. But it’s okay, because during all of these not-so-happy moments, I did a lot of baking to distract myself. I made a lot of soul food because if life isn’t treating you right, you can always depend on good food. It can fill a belly, warm a heart, and satisfy a craving. So luckily, my baking cupboards were stocked, and I took care of bidneh (business, as if spoken by a toothless old man)

Firstly, I made some macaroons for Josh. I had to make him some – he needed TLC (treats, love and care) all of which I provided. I made him his favourite dinners and rubbed his back and gave him hugs. We held each other really close this week – I needed him and he needed me. It’s times like this when I feel loved, like everything in the world is okay as long as I have my lover close by (even better if I can be in his arms or in that general area)

Next on my list were some birthday cupcakes. It’s become a work tradition that if a teammate has a birthday, they can request a treat (if a treat is not requested within 24 hours of asking time, I default to preparing whatever I please) and it didn’t take long for this one… lemon filled cupcakes with cream cheese icing and fresh strawberries on top. These are so simple and that’s because I use cake mix – GASP!?!?!? I know, I said cake mix… I’m a baker who thrives on ‘from scratch’ goods, but as my Nan says “you baked it, you take the credit!” But the cake isn’t the special part here – the special part lies in the garnishes and additives: lemon pie filling (also store bought – who has time to make this from scratch) homemade cream cheese icing, flecked with vanilla beans and fresh strawberries cut up on top! So refreshing, also tart and sweet at the same time – a perfect balance of deliciousness that reminds you a perfect summer day. And if you have the time, by all means, make the cake and lemon filling from scratch! In the end sometimes your roster of recipes has some no-fails that have a few shortcuts, perfectly fine by me!

And then last but not least, a treat to bring home to my family, once again comfort food – not too unhealthy but yummy. Since fall is fast approaching I’ve become inspired by spices – I mixed together cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and made a batch of oatmeal cookies with cranberries and dark chocolate. These are easily my favouritist cookie on planet earth – I dare you to try them. They’re awesome and chewy and freeze well (if for some stupid reason they last long enough to consider freezing) and who doesn’t like oatmeal cookies? I’ve tried many variations: pecans, raisins, just chocolate chips… and either way, they always come out perfect. Try ‘em out! You can find the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipes/Dessert/Rice-Grain/recipe.html?dishid=4018

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