Monday, 24 December 2012

Mexican Chocolate Bars

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and cheers! Can you believe it's already Christmas tomorrow? I feel like this month just flew by, though that could be because of studying, exams and essays. I don't know about you guys, but I'm more than ready for the holidays.

My mom and I have a tradition where we go to Toronto and see the Nutcracker at the National Ballet. We've been going for over 13 years now and every time we go have high tea (usually at the Royal York) before seeing the show. The only difference now is that mom and I return to our hotel room after and drink some wine! The show was great (once again) this year. Our Nutcracker was the same as last year and, man, he was even better. He could practically fly (and, phew, the legs (and ass) on him!).

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

These Mexican chocolate bars are adapted from a recipe found in the Holiday 2012 Food and Drink. They are absolutely delicious! Smooth, rich and with just enough spice to give you a kick that leaves you drooling for more. Decadence and spice- what more can you ask for in a Christmas treat?

My gluttony aside, I hope everyone has an amazing holiday, filled with good food, tasty drinks, and awesome company.

Mexican Chocolate Bars
Adapted from: Holiday 2012 Food and Drink
makes 32 squares

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 cup dark hot chocolate powder
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp grated orange rind
1 egg
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp chili flakes (feel free to put in less if you're sensitive to spice!)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips)
1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

To make the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, cocoa powder, hot chocolate powder, sugar, salt and orange rind in a bowl. Add egg and melted butter and stir until combined. Put mix into the prepared pan and use your hands to press it down evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust looks matte and is dry to the touch. Set aside.

To make filling, Pour whipping cream into a small heavy pot. Add cinnamon, allspice, cloves and chili flakes to the cream. Bring the mixture to just a boil over medium-low heat. Remove and let stand for about 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 325F. Place the 1 cup of chocolate into a bowl. Return the cream to medium heat and bring it to just a boil again. Immediately pour into the chocolate and let it stand 30 seconds, before stirring it until it's melted and smooth. Stir in the egg and pour the chocolate mix onto the prepared crust. Bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes or until set with a slight wiggle in the centre. Cool and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

To make the topping, combine the chocolate and butter in a small heavy pot over low heat. Melt, stirring, until the chocolate and butter are smooth. Use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate in an even layer over the spiced filling. Chill for 30 minutes or until the topping has set. Pull up on the parchment paper to lift the bars from the pan and cut into small squares. Enjoy!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us. 

Can you guys believe it's almost December? Holy crap, this semester has gone fast. It feels like I only just started my fourth year and now I'm already halfway done. In another 6 months I'm going to be graduating. What happened to the past four years? They've been a blur of lectures, exams, bars, alcohol and good friends. I couldn't really ask for more, huh?

Speaking of friends, this past weekend my two friends from elementary school came up for a visit. I've known my friend Emily for about 17 years. That's almost all my life. How awesome is that?

So I'm trying to get back on track with the Daring Kitchen and this month we're celebrating Christmas! We had the choice of 12 Christmas dessert recipes to try and I chose crinkle cookies, since they're a classic I've never done before. I used the recipe from Epicurious, with the only tweak that instead of chocolate I used 1/2 cup of Nutella.

These cookies were pillow-soft and went down almost too easily. They weren't too sweet; just sweet enough. We literally ate them off in one day.

So have some fun this month and celebrate! Make sure you all start baking some delicious eats. I definitely will, so expect some more posts soon!

Recipe for the Crinkle Cookies can be found by clicking here. As I said before: instead of bittersweet chocolate I used 1/2 cup of Nutella. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Daring Cooks: Brined Roast Chicken

Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

So I've been pretty busy these last few months. I feel guilty. I haven't updated in ages, but in my excuse, I just started my fourth year of university. My undergrad has just flown by. I'm also doing a thesis project at the St. Joseph's Lawson Health Research Institute (what a mouthful). I'm working with Dr. O'Gorman and his two PHD students Christina and Justin. The focus of the lab is Dupuytren's Disease. I won't bore you with the scientific details, just know that it's a lot of work!

Anyway, this month's Daring Cooks challenge was one that was perfect for the cool fall weather. My mom swears by brining her turkey. It makes the meat succulent, moist and tasteful. I did my first solo brine over the summer using Anthony Sedlak's recipe and it was so good my roommate asked me to make it for her this month.

Brining may seem like a lot of work, but it's really simple. You just have to make what is, essentially, salty water and soak the meat in it. Not too hard, right? And the payoff is huge!

As I said before, I used Anthony Sedlak's brined chicken recipe from his book, the Main. I modified it a bit, but it's a great recipe for anyone willing to try this awesome technique out!

Anthony Sedlak's Brined Roast Chicken
Adapted from The Main, by Anthony Sedlak
•3 cups water
•3 cups white wine
•1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
•1/2 onion, roughly chopped
•10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
•2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
•3 bay leaves
•3 springs of rosemary
•2 sprigs of thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme)
•1/4 cup salt
•1/4 cup sugar
•1 3-3.5 lb chicken
•2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
•2 sprigs rosemary
•4 sprigs thyme
•1/4 cup softened butter
•1 onion sliced into 1/4 in rings
•2 large carrots, chopped into 1" pieces
•2 bulbs garlic, tops cut off lengthways
•3 medium potatoes (white or sweet), chopped into 1" cubes
•1/4 cup olive oil
•salt and pepper

For the brine: combine all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Let cool to room temperature. Place chicken in a pot or roasting pan big enough to hold the chicken and the brine. Cover the chicken with the brine, weighing it down if you need to. Place in the fridge overnight.

Roast chicken: Preheat oven to 400C. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Strain brine, reserving solids. Smear half the butter and the sliced garlic under the breast skin. Tuck fresh herbs and brine solids (onion, celery garlic cloves, etc) inside before trussing chicken.

Rub remaining butter into skin and season generously all over with salt and pepper. Arrange onion slices, carrots, garlic and potatoes on a lightly oiled roasting pan. Place chicken on top. Roast in the oven for about 1 hour or until juices run clear. Rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Daring Cooks: Cornmeal

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we'd never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

Now that the Olympics (and my MCAT) is done my life felt a bit empty- until I realized I have to get started on my med-school applications. Damn it. Talk about stressful! I want to just close my laptop and hope it sorts itself out. Can't you hire people to do this for you? I wish.

The best way to ease stress? Cooking. And this month's Daring Cook's challenge provided the best distraction. I love cornmeal- so many good things come from it, like cornbread, Jamaican patties, Jamaican festivals, Chicago pizza.... Etcetc. It's such an awesome ingredient- I was totally excited to use it in this month's Daring Cook's challenge.

At first I wanted to do a twist on cornbread, but then decided to do something more along the lines of Jamaican cuisine. At first I wanted to try making Jamaican festivals- deep fried fritter thing. Absolutely delicious. We had them last time I was in Jamaica and my friend and I became totally obsessed. However, when I tried to make them it didn't come out so well so I decided to try something a bit less tricky (for now).

So my mom and I settled on doing a corn fritter- stuffed full of jerk chicken. Hells. Yeah. Stupidly easy to make, tasty and filling- a great Sunday brunch with just enough spice. For something thrown together willy-nilly it came out pretty great, if I do say so myself.

Jerk Chicken Cornbread Fritters
Makes 6 fritters
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp jerk seasoning
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp salt & pepper
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup jerk chicken (I used this recipe)
1 bunch green onions
2 tbsp oil for frying

Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, jerk seasoning, pepper and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, butter, and buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the jerk chicken and green onions. Divide into 6 patties.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Fry each patty until golden brown- about 3-4 minutes a side. Drain on a paper towel. Serve hot with your favourite topping (I suggest mayo + hot sauce). Enjoy!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Graham Cracker Cake with Chocolate Covered Banana Chips

Hooooo-leeeee cow. What a couple of months it's been. July didn't even exist for me. It was just a blur of hot weather, humidity, studying and Supernatural. I had my MCAT last Friday, which was, honestly, the hardest exam I have ever taken in my life. Halfway through (it was a 4 hour exam) by eyes were blood shot. I got home and nearly collapsed on the couch. But! It's over and now I can finally relax and enjoy the summer fully! All there is left now is to wait for my mark and pray that it was enough!

So, I decided that, with the MCAT finally over, I deserved a cake. Hell, I deserved a cake and a whole lot of booze, but I figured I'd start out with the cake. I've had this recipe in my binder for a couple years now, but have never had the chance to try it until now. I absolutely love graham crackers- don't ask me why, I just do. Sometimes, when we make s'mores I just use it as an excuse to eat the graham crackers. Yes, I know, I'm weird, but I'm okay with it.

This cake is some sort of amazing. There's no flour in it- just the crushed graham crackers. How cool is that?? The original recipe, from Style at Home, had a whipped cream frosting- but you guys know me and my cream cheese frosting, so I had to use that instead. That, and I tweaked it one other way: I added chocolate covered banana chips. Holy crap, it was a stroke of genius, I tell you. The crunch from the banana gives the cake another layer of textural awesome, plus the hint of chocolate and banana is just addictive. I put the chips in the cake and in the cream cheese. Fantastic.

The cake is almost gone, but not because I ate it all alone (thankfully). Even my brother thought it was amazing, which is saying something since it has a minimal amount of chocolate in it! Though, we all agreed in saying the taste reminds us of a carrot cake for some reason, even though there's no carrot in it at all. I think it's from the molasses in the graham crackers plus the cream cheese frosting. Honestly though, I dunno why but it does taste like a carrot cake. Which means it tastes freaking delicious. All the awesome of graham crackers in a super mouthwatering, moist cake. Perfect for the summer. I challenge you not to finish in three days.

As a side note: for any equestrian watchers out there, is anyone else out there following the story about the Canadian jumping team and Tiffany Foster's disqualification? Absolutely heartbreaking and totally uncalled for. Seriously.

To help ease my anger I eat cake. So here's the recipe!

Graham Cracker Cake
Adapted from Style at Home
Makes one 8" two layer cake

• 25-30 graham crackers, crumbled (about 3 cups)
• 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 stick (1⁄2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 4 eggs, separated
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup milk
• 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 2/3 cup chocolate covered banana chips, chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting
• 8 ounces butter, at room temperature
• 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 2½ cups powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1/3 cup chocolate covered banana chips, crushed
• 1/2 tsp banana extract

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 8" circle cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In the food processor, pulse the graham cracker crumbs and coconut until very fine. Add the baking powder and pulse until combined. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

With the mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.Add the egg yolks, two at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. Beat until blended. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add 1 cup of the crumb mixture along with 1/3 cup of milk and mix to blend in. Repeat until all the crumb mixture and milk are blended in.

Set up the mixer with a clean, dry mixing bowl and whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cram of tartar and kick the mixer up to medium-high. Beat until the egg whites form soft peaks.

Fold half of the egg whites into the graham cracker batter, folding. Add the rest and fold until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, and smooth the surface with a spatula or wooden spoon. Top each with the chopped banana chips and bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the cake layers begin to come away from the sides of the pan and are spingy to the touch.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto the cake rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add in the powdered sugar until blended. Add the vanilla and banana chips and fold until mixed.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a plate. Spread half of the frosting on top, making sure it's level. Top with the other cake layer. Cover the whole cake with the cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Cheeseburger Casserole

This weekend, three of my friends from elementary school came down for a visit. I've known these girls since before I even knew myself, if that makes any sense. My friend, Emily, has been with me since junior kindergarden. We counted- that's 18 years this September. It's a bit hilarious when you consider knowing someone that long- someone that's not related to you. Though after that long, they may as well be related to you.

It was an epic weekend. We saw Magic Mike yesterday, which was pretty damn good. Everything that you would expect it to be and a little bit more. I like how it was shot too (not just because of all the naked men, either). But mostly the weekend was full of acting like kids, drinking, and eating. One of the things we stuffed ourselves with was this cheeseburger casserole.

Now, this casserole was the first dish I ever made by myself. It's super simple, quick to make and cheap to buy (everyone has their own version of it, and this is hardly original, but when is there ever too much fo a good thing?). This cheeseburger casserole was an instant hit with my brother. He would tell all his friends about it, until they came over and I ended up making it for them too. Now it is sort of famous with our group of friends, which is amusing, since it really isn't that special. Or maybe it is, because of how genius it is in its simplicity. It's basically homemade Hamburger Helper. But 100000x10^10000 better. And very easy to personalize and tweak. You could probably make it taste a bit different each time you make it. Which I do, whether by accident or on purpose.

This recipe is what I use for the backbone of the casserole. However, feel free to add any of your favourite spices or condiments to it- because that's where this recipe really shines. I love adding Chinese five spice and BBQ sauce, but really, any combination would probably turn out to be amazing. I also picked shell pasta because I love how everything gets stuck inside them. Really, you could use any short pasta, but I highly recommend either shell or cavatappi. I like it spicy, but feel free to leave out the cayenne/hot sauce/jalapeño if you enjoy a milder spice.

All of my friends thought that this should have been the first post on my blog. I really have no reason as to why it wasn't other than the fact that I had no reason to make it at the time. Which is kind of silly, when I think about it. When is it ever a bad time to make CBC?

Cheeseburger Casserole (aka: CBC)
Serves 6
• 6 cups uncooked shell pasta
• 6 strips bacon, cut into cubes
• 1 lb ground beef
• 1 Italian sausage, casing removed
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 can condensed tomato soup
• 1 green onion, chopped
• 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
• 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
• 1 tsp cayenne pepper
• 3 cups shredded cheese (use a strong cheese, like cheddar or Monterey Jack)
• Hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste

Grease a 9x13" casserole dish and set aside.

Boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside

Meanwhile, in a medium pan over medium heat, cook bacon pieces until crispy. Set aside on a paper towel and drain the pan. Cook the garlic, sausage and beef in the same pan, breaking the sausage up into smaller pieces until all of the meat is browned. Add in the green onion, spices, Italian seasoning and pepper and stir to combine.

Set your oven to broil. Combine the pasta, beef and bacon in a large bowl (the bowl you cooked the pasta in, if it's big enough). Add the tomato soup and 1 cup of cheese. Stir to combine. Add hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the prepared pan and top with the rest of the cheese.

Broil on high for 3-5 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from the oven and enjoy.

P.S. This can easily be prepared ahead of time and set in the fridge even a day before. Just cook it in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes, then broil on high for 3-5 minutes.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Baker's Apprentice: Potato Rosemary Bread

Oh man, I thought that with summer I'd have more time to post things here and more chances to practice taking pictures. So much for that! I can't entirely blame MCAT studying, because though it does take up a hell of a lot of time, I think it just comes down to summer laziness. Which is fine, right? I mean, it is summer (finally. The heat has set in. In true London style, it's been sunny, hot and humid for the last week, with random days after storms when its cool. Gotta love it!).

I meant to bring my camera with me last weekend down to Victoria Park- it was the first food festival of the summer. So many good eats and I wanted to share it, but, unfortunately, I'm forgetful. I didn't remember until I was at the fest. But fear not! Since there is practically a food fest every other weekend during the summer, I'm sure I'll have another chance to grab some pictures.

It was a pretty awesome festival though, I must say. With food ranging from American pizza, to Jamaican ox-tail and everything in between. There were lots of Korean and Vietnamese vendors, as well as a few Caribbean ones as well. I had to go for curry goat with rice a peas. It was just pure Jamaican deliciousness. Made me wish I was in Jamaica still (where it probably would have been cooler).

A few of my old elementary school friends are coming up for a visit this weekend and I am ready for a huge foofaraw! We're having a slumber party Sunday. Which is basically just a cute way of saying we're going to get wasted. Still, there will be lots of eating involved as well. The point is, Monday I wanted to do a breakfast bake, since I could just prepare it the day before and leave it overnight. Which brought me to baking bread, since this is my last week not cramming MCAT into my head. And of course, when going for bread, I turned to my Baker's Apprentice cookbook, since I am determined to try every recipe he has, and chose his potato rosemary bread simply because I had Ontario potatoes lying around.

I even made my own mashed potatoes. Seriously guys, the better your mashed potatoes taste, the better this bread will taste. Mine was full of garlic, green onions, butter and parmesan cheese and the bread tasted awesome. I had to make sure not to eat half the loaf off (like I usually do).

The recipe makes enough for two regular sized loaves, so you could definitely do what I did and use half for a casserole, or even freeze it for later! It does take some preparation, what with having to make the biga (a starter) the night before, as well as letting it rise for a total of 4 hours. But dude, it is very much worth it. Especially if you make it on a day when you're just lazing around the house anyway (though I did do some cleaning while I let it rise, so it wasn't so much as lazing as procrastinating studying).

I used the recipe straight from the cookbook, so if you have a copy, this is me highly suggesting you try the potato rosemary bread next time you open it up. If you don't have The Baker's Apprentice, you can go buy it (here, or here, for Canadians)- which I highly suggest you do. So far, it's been one of the best purchases I've made this summer!- or you can find the recipe online. I love Brown Eyed Baker, so I'd suggest checking out her version here.

Either way, I hope you guys go for it and enjoy it as much as I did! Make it for your family, friends, loved ones or just for your awesome, gluttonous self. NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE A LOAF OF FRESHLY BAKED BREAD.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Daring Cooks: Salmon Cannelloni

Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

Oh hells yeah, we're doing cannelloni this month! I love pasta and cannelloni is an awesomely satisfying dish that looks impressive but really isn't all that difficult to make. I've been bad these past couple months and haven't had time to do the Daring Cooks challenge, so I made sure to get my butt in gear this month. And, come on, it's cannelloni. No complaints here.

I wanted to do something healthy and low in fat and calories, since it is summer and everyone is trying to lose weight and get into that beach-ready state. I should probably join them in their endeavors, and what better way than making a delicious pasta casserole that's actually good for you?

So this is my cannelloni contribution. I used low fat ricotta in the filling and mixed it with canned salmon and local spinach and peppers (I even resisted topping it with 10000 cups of cheese). Yeah, it was as delicious as it sounds. Though it being low calorie and all, you have to restrain yourself from arguing that that means you can eat half of it.

Salmon Cannelloni
• 2 cans of salmon, drained
• 1/2 cup of low fat ricotta
• 1 red pepper, chopped
• 1 cup spinach, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 18 tubes of cannelloni (depending on the size of cannelloni. I used small tubes)
• 2 cups of your favourite tomato sauce
• 6 slices provolone cheese (about 1/2 cup shredded)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Flake salmon into a medium sized bowl. Add ricotta, red pepper and spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you find it's too dry, add more ricotta (or, if you want, you can use 1 egg).

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9x13" casserole dish. Using a small spoon (or a piping bag, if you've got the skills), fill the cannelloni tubes, placing them in rows on top of the tomato sauce. Once all of the tubes are filled, top with the remaining tomato sauce. Spread cheese slices on top.

Bake, at 350F, for 20 minutes. Then, turn on your broiler to high and broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Enjoy!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Papaya Chutney Grilled Cheese

I think I'm a little late jumping onto the whole grilled cheese bandwagon- especially since its national month has already come and gone. Still, better late than never, right? Especially when you have homemade bread to submerge in cheese.

Is it just me or has grilled cheese become even more amazing over the past year? The different combinations of ingredients and flavours I've seen the food community chug out make my mouth water. I want to try all of them! I mean, just think back to when you were a kid and grilled cheese meant just two slices of white bread with kraft cheese. Not like there's anything wrong with that (best hangover cure, if you ask me). But now, I'm seeing sloppy joe grilled cheese, guacamole grilled cheese, even chocolate parmesan grilled cheese (now that I have to try).

I guess that just goes to show how even the simplest, most nostalgic dishes can be made into an explosion of culinary creativity. And that's just poetic. So here's my contribution: a mouthwatering, savoury combination of Caribbean chutney, sharp cheddar and caramelized onions, all on homemade bread. I came upon papaya chutney on my last day in Jamaica. My mom wanted to get rid of her last few hundred Jamaican dollars and told me to pick something to bring home. I spotted the papaya chutney and thought: 'now that sounds good'. I was wondering what it would taste like- whether it would be sweet or tangy- when I first did try it I was surprised. It has the almost same sort of taste as caramelized onions, but it's more savoury than sweet. The sweetness kicks in just a bit to give it a unique, addictive taste. This is the first time I've used it in a recipe, but, man, did it deliver! If you can find papaya chutney, buy it! It's the kind of ingredient that makes you want to experiment.

Papaya Chutney Grilled Cheese
Serves 2
• 4 slices of your favourite bread
• 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
• 2 tbsp papaya chutney (can be found at your local Caribbean store or Asian market. If you can't find it, I suggest using tomato chutney or any other savoury spread)
• 6 slices old cheddar
• 1 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
• 1 tbsp mayonnaise

Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let caramelize for 5-10 minutes, or until a deep golden. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix together the butter and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Set aside.

Spread 1 tbsp of papaya chutney on 1 slice of bread. Top with half of the caramelized onions and 3 slices of cheese. Close the sandwich with another slice of bread. Repeat with the second sandwich.

Heat a skillet at medium heat. Spread the butter/mayo mixture on the outside of each sandwich. Pan-fry on each side until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is gooey and amazing, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and enjoy.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Daring Baker's Challah Bread

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Oh man, to say I was pumped we were doing bread this month may be an understatement. I absolutely love bread, as I may have mentioned before. That, and I just got my very own copy of The Baker's Apprentice. Many other food blogs have worked their way through the book and I was itching to get my hands on it. Once I did, I decided that I was going to follow in my peers' footsteps and complete all the recipes. Hilariously enough, my friend got the same cookbook from her boyfriend, so turns out we're doing it together. We've already done the English muffins, which were mouthwatering, and when I saw that this month's Daring Baker's challenge was challah, I knew I had to try out the recipe from the Baker's Apprentice. 

Coincidentally, I made the loaf on the Saturday of Victoria Day weekend. I started out fine... But as the dough rose and the day wore on, my roommate and I decided to mix some cool drinks and sit outside in the backyard. Admittedly, my memory of finishing the bread is a bit fuzzy. I don't even remember braiding it, but apparently I did (and it didn't look half bad!). Though, by the time I got to take a picture of the finished loaf.... we had eaten half of it already:

Either way, by some miracle the bread was finished with no casualties. And, damn, did it taste delicious. I love the softness of the inside of the loaf, contrast to the crunchy crust. Just. Heavenly. I'll refrain from writing an ode about bread and my minor obsession with it. Just get in there and try it for yourself! It's really not that difficult; all you gotta do is follow the recipe. 

Challah, from the Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart 
Makes 1 large braided loaf, 2 smaller loaves

4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 tablespoons  granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 teaspoons  instant yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp to 1-1/8 cups  water, at room temperature
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and yolks, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon (or on low speed with the paddle attachment) until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add the remaining water, if needed.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead for about 10 minutes (or mix at medium-low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should register approximately 80°F (27°C).

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a boule and transfer into the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment for 1 hour at room temperature. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to degas. Re-form it into a ball, return the ball to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1-1/2 times its original size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 3 equal pieces for 1 large loaf, or 6 pieces for 2 loaves. (Or, for a celebration challah, divide it into 3 equal pieces and combine 2 of those pieces and form them into 1 large dough. Take this larger piece and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take the smaller dough and divide it into 3 pieces as well; in the end, you will have 3 large pieces and 3 small pieces.) Regardless of the size of the loaves you decide to make, form each of the pieces into a boule, cover them with a towel, and let them rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pieces into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid them using the 3-braid method. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and transfer the loaf or loaves to the pan. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan in a food-grade plastic bag.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the dough has grown to 1-1/2 times its original size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) (325°F (160°C) for the celebration challah) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. The bread should be a rich golden brown and register 190°F (88°C) in the center. When done, transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving (or, if you're impatient like me, wait 10 minutes and slice it, shape be damned).

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Costello's Famous Sour Cream Pound Cake

It's Mother's Day! What's everyone doing for their moms today? My day has been pretty full so far. Got up this morning and started on an epic lunch for mom. We made oxtail with peanut sauce, stir fry eggplant and bok choy, Jamaican festivals and rice. And also a calzone for my brother, who doesn't eat anything remotely interesting unless you have the patience to push it on him for years until he gives in.

And for dessert? Well, mom loves her pound cake. We have an old recipe from a family friend that is our absolute favourite way to make pound cake. Seriously. Whenever we make pound cake, it's a crime to use any other recipe that's not this one. Just look at it:

Stains = proof of deliciousness, if you ask me. If a recipe is dyed a different colour with food and time, that is a recipe to keep. It uses sour cream instead of milk, which makes it so very moist. It also gives it a nice tart taste that cuts through the richness. Also: cream cheese frosting = always. Any cake (or anything) I can get cream cheese icing on gets cream cheese icing. Pound cake is no exception. I may even be starting to convert mom from buttercream, which is saying a lot.

This cake is so easy to make. It's literally just mixing wet and dry ingredients together. But, man, does it taste amazing! If you guys ever need a simple, quick cake to make someone that tastes like all the love and appreciation you have for that special person, make this.

To all the mothers out there and to all of their dutiful kids who worked hard today to show their love for said moms: HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! Eat awesome food and go to sleep stuffed to the gill!

Costello's Famous Sour Cream Pound Cake
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
• 1 heaping tbsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 3 eggs
• 1 cup sour cream
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 2 tsp lemon extract
• 1 tsp orange extract
• 1/4 cup poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 325F and grease a bundt pan (mine was the standard 10"). In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a medium sized bowl) cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add 1 cup of the flour mix, 1/3 cup of sour cream and 1 egg to the butter and sugar.

Mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla, lemon extract, orange extract and poppy seeds. Mix until uniform.

Add 1 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of sour cream and 1 egg. Mix. Add the rest of the flour, sour cream and the remaining egg. Mix until everything is smooth and uniform and you're left with a creamy batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smoothing out the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a cooling rack. Top with cream cheese icing (recipe follows) and let it melt down the sides. Cool until you can slice it (15-30 minutes) and enjoy!

Cream Cheese Icing
• 3 tbsp butter, room temperature
• 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
• 2/3 cup icing sugar
• 1 tbsp rum
Beat all the ingredients together until it's a smooth, thick icing.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Doritos and Hummus

Today was my first day of summer vacation. I think I'm in shock. I woke up and thought 'okay, breakfast, then study'- I had to pause and remind myself that I have nothing left to study for! Gotta love vacation~ Though I do start MCAT studying in a week.... Still, studying for one thing is much easier than studying for five exams.

I made cassoulet last week on a whim. I'd been dying to try out such a classic recipe for a while. It was pretty awesome, but that's not what this post is about. It's about the leftover beans I had. Today, they were staring at me, so I decided to put them out of their misery and made 'em into a hummus!
I started out using a recipe from a cookbook, but ended up ignoring it and just going with what I had on hand. Turned out pretty delicious, if I do say so myself! Even better: I had just bought those new BBQ Chipotle Doritos. Now, I didn't really think it through when I grabbed the bag in order to use some chips for the pictures... Then I was cleaning up and tried the chips with the hummus...

OH MAN. It was so good. The spiciness of the chips was cooled by the hummus, which I left a bit chunky so it gave it some texture with the crunch of the chip. It was awesome. If you can't find the BBQ Chipotle Doritos, the Jalapeño Cheddar Doritos would work great as well. Either way, try to stick with a spicy chip- trust me, it's awesome.

Phenomenom Hummus
Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups
• 1 cup canned white kidney beans
• 1 cup canned chickpeas
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 1/3 cup of water
• 1 tbsp lemon juice 
 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp hot sauce
• 2 tbsp tahini 
• salt to taste

Drain and rinse the canned beans, shaking off excess water. Place in a food processor with the garlic, water, salt, lemon juice and hot sauce. Blend until just shy of smooth; leave it a tiny bit chunky.

Add tahini and blend once more to incorporate. Add salt (and lemon juice or hot sauce) to taste. If it's too thick, add more water. If it's too thin, add more beans (you'll probably have some leftover from the cans) or tahini. 

Serve with BBQ 
Chipotle Doritos and enjoy~

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Daring Bakers: Armenian Nutmeg Cake

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.
Holy cow, what a month. I feel like I haven't posted anything in ages! I have finals to thank for that. 5 exams are never a cakewalk and I am proud to say that I actually spent most of my last month studying for them. Today may be an exception, but not only is it my last exam this afternoon, it's also my elective (which shouldn't really be an excuse, since the exam is worth an odd 59%, but tell that to my laziness). Either way: summer is nearly upon us!!!

This Daring Baker's challenge was to make either nazook or an Armenian nutmeg cake (or both). I was tempted to try the nazook, but my mother intervened and requested the nutmeg cake. Either way, I knew this challenge would turn out delicious. I had leftover Easter chocolate laying around- I'm talking really good quality dark chocolate from a local store just down the street. I saw it on the counter and thought: 'why not?'. When is chocolate ever a bad thing to include in a dessert anyway? It gave the cake a deep, rich colour and a slight bitterness to counter the sweetness of the cake. I also went almonds instead of walnuts, mostly because I was watching Sugar at the gym and she made an almond cake a bit similar to this one, so I had a hankering. 

This recipe was really neat. I liked how they first used the batter to make a crust before adding the wet ingredients for the cake part. Really cool way to do it and the added crunch at the bottom gave it texture (I admit that I may have enjoyed the crust more than the actual cake... but I'm backwards like that) and a nutty taste.

Make sure to be careful with that nutmeg. This is a nutmeg cake, but when the recipe says 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons, don't go generous with 2. Nutmeg is really potent and can go wild if you put just a bit too much in. 

I really enjoyed this challenge- I had a lot of fun making the cake and I always am excited to try out different cultural dishes. It makes me feel like I've expanded by baking repertoire! My mother absolutely loved the cake (she ate two slices the day I made it) and suggests having it with a cup of tea. 

Armenian Nutmeg Cake
Makes one 9”/23cm cake which yields 12 servings
  •   1 cup milk (I used 2% but any kind of milk would work)
  •   1 teaspoon baking soda
  •   2 cups all-purpose flour
  •   2 teaspoons baking powder
  •   2 cups  brown sugar, firmly packed
  •   3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  •   2/3 cup almond pieces (or any one of your favourite nuts)
  •   1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  •   1 egg 
  •  2/3 cup dark chocolate
  1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F.
  2. Mix the baking soda into the milk. Set it aside.
  3. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. One sift is fine.
  4. Add the brown sugar and stir.
  5. Toss in the cubed butter and mash the butter with a fork or use your fingers to incorporate it into the dry ingredients. You want to get a more-or-less uniform, tan-coloured crumbly mixture. 
  6. Take HALF of this resulting crumbly mixture into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. 
  7. Melt your chocolate- I always use a double broiler to do this: place a small pot on the stove on medium heat, filled with about an inch of water. Fit a glass bowl on top of the pot so that it sits in the pot, but doesn't touch the water. Add your chocolate to the glass pot and let it melt, stirring with a spatula every so often. Once the chocolate is almost melted (just a few chunks left), take it off the heat and stir until it's smooth.
  8. Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl. Add the nutmeg and start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed (you can also mix by hand).
  9. Once it's mixed well and frothy (about 1 minute using a standing mixer, or about 2-3 minutes of vigorous beating with a whisk), pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform. Add in the melted chocolate. 
  10. Pour in the leftover crumbly mixture. Mix well, with either a paddle attachment or by hand with a spatula or whisk. The resulting mixture is thick, but still liquidy
  11. Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan. Sprinkle with the almond pieces. 
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan, and then release. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Daring Bakers Dutch Crunch 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!

My first post as a Daring Baker! And it couldn't have been a better challenge. This month we got to pick any bread recipe and top it with this awesome Dutch crunch topping. I love bread (or any carb, really). I love baking fresh bread and using it to make a huge sandwich. Anything I can really sink my teeth into.

I chose to top Kneedlessly Simple's English Muffin Bread with the crunch topping, mostly because I'd been itching to try out the bread recipe for a while. This was also my first time using the no knead method. I was a bit suspicious of it at first, but it turned out great! And the Dutch topping... Well, I love anything with a lot of texture, and it was definitely crunchy. Such a great idea to top a bread with. It gives that crunchy tooth action just before you sink into the pillowy bread. 

I used the Dutch crunch topped English muffin bread (what a mouthful!) to make a frittata avocado sandwich. When I was considering what kind of sandwich to make, I started to think about English muffins, which are usually used (here in North America) in McMuffins or breakfast sandwiches. So I decided to do something with eggs. Then I remembered that I'd been wanting to make a frittata sandwich for a while and the rest is history!

Now, this is a kneadless dough, so make sure to start it at least a day before you want to eat it! It's hard enough to wait to stuff your face full of it without forgetting that it takes a day to prepare!

Kneadlessly Simple's English Muffin Bread
Taken from Keadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett
Makes 2 medium loaves
  • 5 cups (25 ounces) unbleached all purpose white flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant, fast-rising, or bread machine yeast
  • 2 1⁄2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 2 2⁄3 cups ice water, plus more if needed
  • 1⁄3 cup top-quality instant nonfat powdered milk
First rise: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In a second bowl, whisk the oil and ice water together. Add the ice/oil mixture to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix until completely blended. If too dry, add more ice water but don't over moisten! Dough will be pretty stiff. Add more flour if it becomes too wet. Brush the top of the dough with oil and tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. 
       Put in the fridge for 3 hours. After, let rise at a cool room temperature for 12-18 hours, stirring vigorously halfway through.

Second rise: Vigorously stir the powdered milk into the dough. Add more flour, if needed, to make the dough very stiff. Grease two 8x4" loaf pans very well. Cut the dough in half with a sharp serrated knife and place one half in each loaf pan. Brush the tops with oil and tightly cover with plastic wrap.  
Let rise either at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours; or refrigerate for 4-24 hours, then set out at room temperature. Let rise until the dough nears the plastic, then remove the plastic and rise until the dough reaches the rim of the pans. 

Baking: 15 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 400F and place a small oven-safe pan filled with an inch of water on the floor of the oven. Make the Dutch crunch topping (recipe follows) and top both loaves.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is cracked and a nice golden brown. Cover with foil and bake for another 10-20 minutes,  or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. Remove from oven and cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pan and cool completely. 

Can be kept at room temperature for 3 days, fridge for a week, or frozen for up to 2 months. Use it in a sandwich, like my Spinach Frittata Avocado Sandwich below!

Dutch Crunch Topping
From Daring Bakers, March 2012
  • 2 tbsp (2 packets, 30ml) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rice flour (white or brown. Not glutinous rice flour)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with a whisk hard to combine. Consistency should be like a stiff icing: spreadable, but not runny. It should drip off slowly from your whisk. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Spinach Avocado Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches
  • 3 cups of spinach (about a small bunch), stems removed and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 of a red onion, chopped
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper each (and to taste)
  • 4 slices of English Muffin Bread
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • 1 tbsp mayonaise 
  • 1 tsp mustard
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and finely chop. 

Combine the rest of the ingredients with the chopped spinach and mix well to combine. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a sauté pan. When hot, add your egg mixture and cook until the bottom is nice and golden, about 5 minutes. Hold a plate flat over the pan, invert the frittata onto the plate, then slide it back into the pan to cook on the other side until golden and set, about 3-5 minutes. Cut in half.

Assemble: For the first sandwich, spread half mayonaise and mustard on two slices of bread. Take one slice and arrange half of the avocado on top of it. Top the avocado with half of the frittata, season with salt and pepper, then top with another slice of bread. Repeat for the second sandwich. Enjoy~

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Daring Cooks: Braised Chicken in Tomato Sauce

The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”. 

This is my first post as a Daring Cook! I was so excited to finally be able to join the Daring Kitchen now that I have a blog. Hilariously enough, I'd never done a braise before this, so it was educational and delicious! I wasn't quite sure what to do at first, but in the end Loblaws decided for me. Chicken thighs were on sale at the same time as Ragu tomato sauce. How could I resist? 

This recipe is probably as simple as a braise can get. The braise itself only takes about 45 minutes, but man does it taste good. The chicken just oozes its goodness into the sauce and the sauce evolves into something epic. Man I'm being poetic, but as you can see, it surprised me how good it tasted! And, sure enough, it got better with age.

This recipe is perfect for those who don't like fussy recipes with a lot of ingredients or steps involved. The recipe I'm giving you is a great starting point for epic personalization. Potatoes would be a great addition to this and can be cut into cubes and added with the tomato sauce. Carrots would be great too, but go even further with the root vegetables! Add parsnips or rutabaga. I used BBQ spice, but really any set of spices and herbs would work great. Also, feel free to make your own tomato sauce, but as I said above, if you don't have the time nor energy, a good store-bought tomato sauce can be just as good. 

I served it with brown rice one day, then ladled it onto pasta another. Any starch would work great. Foccacia (or any bread) would be the best, I think, because you'll want to sop up all that awesome sauce!

Braised Chicken in Tomato Sauce
Serves 4-6
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in (skin-on is optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 can (16 oz) of good tomato sauce (or homemade)
  • 1 tbsp your favourite BBQ seasoning
  • 1 chili pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 cup of your favourite root vegetables (potato, carrot, parsnip, etc), chopped into cubes
Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. When the pan is hot, add the chicken skin side down. Work in batches if they don't all fit and make sure not to overcrowd the pan. 

Sear the chicken on both sides until a nice golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. When all the chicken is browned, set them aside on a tray.

In the same skillet, add the onions, chili pepper, ginger and garlic. Saute until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add BBQ seasoning and season with salt, to taste.

Return the chicken to the pan. Add tomato sauce and potatoes and stir. Turn down the heat low, cover (leaving a bit of room to let steam out) and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked through, taste for seasoning and serve over pasta or rice, or with bread or foccacia. 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Bon Appetit Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm such a good daughter, really. My mother was craving some sweets but didn't have time to make them, since she's busy with her Master's degree. So, being the awesome kid I am, I offered to make her some.

She had all the ingredients already, anyway. And the recipe. We bought the March 2012 Bon Appetit magazine when we were at the airport leaving for Jamaica, and I was dying to try out one of the recipes. These babies are thin and chewy, but crispy on the outside. I upped the chocolate chips because you can never have enough chocolate, am I right? I also snuck in some skor bits, just enough to give in that caramel taste. Feel free to leave these out if you want to go classic with your cookie.

Just be careful when you take them out of the oven. Let them cool for at least 20 minutes until you transfer them off the baking sheet and onto a rack. I made the mistake of trying to move some before they were cool enough. I'd even suggest putting them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Makes them extra crispy, actually.

They make for an awesome break from studying and lab report writing. Not like I've been doing much of either today, but that's beside the point. Have fun and have some cookies, I say!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from March 2012 Bon Appetit, pg. 48
Makes about 20 cookies
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup skor bits (optional)
Preheat oven to 425F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Stir together flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until combined, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again at medium-high for another 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

Add in the dry ingredients and blend at low speed. Fold in the chocolate chips (and skor bits, if using).

Spoon heaping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2" apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the edges are golden brown, about 6-10 minutes. Watch carefully, because they finish fast.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let cool completely and enjoy.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lolivya Banana Cake

My Histology professor called Reading Week 'Slack Week'. I admit I chuckled at that when he first wished us a good vacation... Turns out I did much more slacking than reading.

But really, can you blame me? I was down in Port Antonio, Jamaica, with my best friend and family. It's where my mom grew up and I hadn't been there for 8 years. That and, coming from a Canadian winter, it was a paradise. I think my favourite things I ate down there were the fruit. You just don't get them so fresh up in Canada. The bananas literally blew my mind.

Every morning we'd have a plate of fruit (bananas, pineapple, mango, watermelon, jackfruit... all amazing), Blue Mountain Coffee, hardough bread and Guava jelly.... Plus something hot, like scrambled eggs (or even pancakes! My uncle did it for us Canadians). 

One morning, my Uncle Jim even went to a Belgium bakery and delivered these too all the villas:

The one on the right is a croissant filled with chocolate and the left is custard. The custard was so, so good. Mostly because their eggs are fresh and organic (no preservatives down there!). And they were baked fresh that morning, still warm. This is why I gained weight, haha. And also, probably most likely, because we had amazing meals the whole week. We got jerk three times. Jerk chicken, pork, and sausage. With festivals.

Oh man, festivals. They were the best thing I was introduced to down there. They're like fritters almost, just they're made into logs. A dough with cornmeal that's deep fried into amazing goodness. The best we had were from Mr. Glasses. They were thick and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. One batch we tried at Frenchman's Cove had cinnamon in it, which was a nice touch. 

Those glasses are filled with delicious Jamaican rum, pineapple juice and Ting. The plate in the center has festivals. Far corner is jerk chicken and the closest plate is jerk pork.

Now, I couldn't leave Jamaica without baking something with those amazing bananas. And what better to make than a banana cake with cream cheese frosting? Well, a banana cake made with Jamaican bananas and Canadian maple syrup, actually. 

It. Was. Amazing. If I do say so myself. Everyone had seconds. The cake is very moist from the maple syrup. Absolutely addictive. I named it after my uncle's first villa, Lolivya (which translates to: 'Lowes Live Here', my mother's maiden name being Lowe) since I have so many amazing memories there and because it is my home away from Canada. It's really a beautiful cake and if, like me, you live in North America and can't necessarily get fresh Jamaican bananas, just do your best to find the most delicious, ripe bananas you can. I promise it'll still taste amazing.

Lolivya Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
For the cake:
  • 6 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup 100% pure maple syrup 
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 sliced banana for topping

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease two 8" cake pans.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or in a stand mixer) beat the maple syrup, icing sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients in batches, alternating with the milk until it's a silky, delicious batter. Add the bananas. Divide the batter into the two cake pans. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the cake is an awesome golden colour. 

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes and let cool completely before icing.

For the cream cheese icing:
  • 3 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp rum
Beat all the ingredients together until it's a smooth, thick icing. 

To assemble:
Place one layer of cake on a serving tray. Top with half the cream cheese icing. Place the second layer on top and cover the top with the rest of the icing. 

Right before serving, decorate with the sliced bananas (if you do this too early, the bananas may oxidize and become brown. If you want, you could mix the banana slices with lime juice to preserve their colour).