Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marie-Helene's apple cake

This was the first thing I baked in the oven in my new place. I thought and thought about what I wanted to make first. The more I thought, the harder it was to choose just the right thing. In the end, I had a huge bag of apples and an apple cake recipe on the list for French Fridays with Dorie. This is only my second recipe with the group, as there is no requirement to cook along every week. I am the slacker sort, so I have been picking and choosing to make only what I can eat/have time for. I am so glad I made this recipe, though, as it was delicious. So delicious that I made it twice. This is the second one above, for which I browned the butter and replaced the rum with Amaretto. It was a much nicer colour than the first one, but also significantly sweeter. I used the same apples for both--a mix of Empire and Cortland, so not sure why it was so much sweeter--more than a few tablespoons of Amaretto would account for. Anyway, it was fantastic, and luckily I sent lots of it home with a friend, or I would have eaten the entire thing. Here's a picture of the first one, made before I realized my oven runs 50℉ lower than the temperature gauge indicates:
Check out the 'Leave your Link' feature on the spiffy French Fridays with Dorie site to see how the other bakers fared. Oh, and if you're looking for the recipe, it's in the book. We've been asked not to publish recipes from this book, and you can hardly blame Dorie, with her recipes burning up the blogosphere.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers make doughnuts!

As soon as this challenge, chosen by Lori of Butter Me Up, was announced, many of her fellow Canadian members of the Daring Bakers came out of the woodwork and enthusiastically talked doughnuts. My favourite childhood doughnut memory is of pulling out my mother's deep fryer and making a batch of nutmeg scented cake doughnuts after school with my brother. We would roll and cut out a few, then give up and fling blobs of dough into the fryer. They were usually too big and uncooked in the centre, but we didn't care. We just tried to make and eat as many as possible before my parents got home. I'm sure they had nightmares about us burning the house down.
Ode to Tim Horton's: maple brown butter glazed cruller

Many folks also talked about Tim Horton's, and how they miss it when they're away from Canada. Tim Horton's is ubiquitous here, with outlets from coast to coast (but not coast to coast to coast, like the CBC), selling doughnuts, coffee, soup and sandwiches. You can actually plan your journey across Canada and map out all the Timmy's. Weird. Many people look down on Timmy's, but I have been known to have a cruller and a coffee. In fact, I had done just that the day this challenge was announced. My strangest encounter with this Canadian icon was walking down the road in Belfast a few years ago and seeing a giant Tim Horton's ad. Turns out that some gas stations there sell plastic-wrapped doughnuts and frothy 'cappuccino' out of an automated machine, kind of like what you'd see in a hospital waiting room. Well, not in a Canadian hospital, because they all have Timmy's outlets. :)
That irresistible custardy interior!
I really wanted to make crullers, as they are my favourite kind of doughnut, so I made these on Thanksgiving morning. They are made with the same dough used to make cream puffs, and they came together really quickly and easily. They did not hold their ridged shape when fried, but that was my fault, as I didn't let the dough cool enough. I am famously patient in my family, but not that day! I glazed them with a mixture of brown butter, maple syrup and icing sugar, and they were fantastic. I took a plate to my brother and his family, and my 2-year-old nephew ate 2 and started zooming around, yelling 'YUM!' and rubbing his and everyone else's tummies. Then he refused to have a nap. That's what aunts are for, right? Anyway, the cruller recipe was not one of the challenge ones, so I had another date with the deep fryer.
The amazing spherical doughnut!
I invited a couple of friends over for brunch and made the yeast doughnuts from the challenge. Marcellina had made some gorgeous cardamom doughnuts filled with raspberry jam, and I wanted some, but she lives in Australia, so I made my own half recipe and replaced the nutmeg in the recipe with cardamom. For the filling, I used the plum jam I had made for a Daring Cooks' challenge. Rather than inject the jam in the fried doughnuts, I rolled the dough thinly, cut it with a 2½" cutter, filled with a teaspoon of jam, covered with another round of dough, and cut the filled doughnut with a 2" cutter. I then left them to rise while I prepared the rest of the brunch. They didn't rise that much, but when I put them in the oil they puffed right up, becoming this bobbing ball of energy that was impossible to corral and turn over (kind of like my nephew on doughnuts). Anyway, cooking these was a team effort, and lots of fun. We let them cool while we ate brunch, being a bit wary of eating super-hot jam.
I kept taking bites, looking for the perfect shot. I never got it,
but this one looks kind of happy, and I got to eat 2 more doughnuts.
These were good too! They were a touch warm and not too sweet (mostly because I wasn't running the sugar shaker), and not greasy at all. Being an Ottawan, I really really wanted to make Beavertails, but I just didn't get around to it. I'll try to do one come winter, when I can do a full post on it and show you how to make a perfect Killaloe Sunrise. Check out the Daring Kitchen main page to see a slideshow of everyone's doughnuts. 

Blog-checking lines: The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Recipes and full challenge PDF after the jump

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Apple pie!

Okay, if there were an award for lame posts, I'd surely win it with this one.   Even though apple is my favourite kind of pie, and I could quite easily give up all other pies for apple (if such draconian measures were ever necessary),  I didn't love it as much as my usual apple pie, or as much as mom's apple pie. I made this pie in September, so I can't remember what kind of apples I used, but I piled them high in the crust. Once baked, the crust was still high, but the apples had all shrunk to a thin layer, leaving me with more of an air pie than an apple pie. This was probably my fault, as I hate crunchy apples in pie and tend to make very thin slices. This pie was very lemony, which I liked, but, like the pumpkin pie, it's not going to replace my usual recipe. It's funny that the last two picks have been for pies that I love and I haven't done so well with them. Must try harder. I wanted to make a mini pie with some crust I have left over, but the wacky world of substitute teaching is busy this week. I had an early morning call yesterday, and am booked for today and tomorrow as well. I'll be back on Wednesday with the Daring Bakers' reveal, though. :)
Tall pie, plopped on front step for quick photo.
This week's recipe was chosen by Emily over at Sandmuffin, so click on over to her site for the recipe. As always, visit the TWD page to see the rest of the tasty links.

Monday, October 18, 2010

TWD: Caramel pumpkin pie

This week's recipe came a week after Canadian Thanksgiving so the smart and efficient thing to do would have been to make it a week in advance and serve it at the family dinner. I didn't do that, not only because I rarely choose the efficient way, but because I was worried that it wouldn't be as good as my regular recipe. I make a good pumpkin pie, if I do say so myself (I guess I just did). Anyway, I didn't even get my own pie made this year for the holiday, as it was a busy weekend. Instead, I melted my pumpkin ice cream down and used that as pie filling the next day. It was amazing--custardy and bright orange, just the way I like it! So good, that my mother called to see if I had told my sister-in-law I had also left some behind for her. She wanted to keep it all to herself. Luckily I hadn't said anything and my mother got 2 her pieces of pie. If you want to use that recipe you don't need to freeze it first, obviously. I'm all about efficiency, you know.
What does all that have to do with this week's recipe? Not much. I decided to make this pie in ramekins rather than in a crust for a change. I also decided to switch up the flavouring, as I find pumpkin pie sometimes just tastes of the spices rather than of the pumpkin. So, out came my favourite homemade essence: extrait antillais. I know I have mentioned it a number of times, but it's vanilla beans, tonka beans, sapote and mace marinated in rum. I sometimes use this to replace rum and vanilla and that's what I did here. Forgetting that I wanted to go light on spice, I added small amounts of fresh mace, nutmeg, sapote and tonka bean. Unfortunately, the spices completely overpowered the pumpkin and I found it inedible. I ate 2 to be sure. I guess the extrait has been sitting long enough that it's really powerful. Anyway, they looked pretty enough, but this recipe won't be replacing my regular one, as the texture wasn't as nice. And the colour! The caramel was delicious, but it darkened the filling enough that it looked like canned. Eeek! I know I ranted about this when I made the ice cream, so I won't do it again, but just look at this:

This week's recipe was chosen by Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs. Great pick, and sorry I screwed up! As always, head on over to the TWD site to see what everyone else baked up. Should be good--lots of positive comments this week. Some pumpkin-haters may even have become pumpkin eaters. :)

Update: Hmm, just had a friend over for dinner and I let her try the reject pumpkin pie. She took them all home, so maybe they're not as bad as I thought. She's going to mix them with ice cream to tone down the spice a bit.
Another entry for Torview's Orange recipe month!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vietnamese spicy chicken soup

Well, it's the third week of the new French Fridays with Dorie group and I'm finally joining in. Those of you who know probably aren't surprised that I'm this late. I'm not either, and I'm not going to make yet another excuse because I moved. This soup was wonderful. I now live near a Chinese market, so was able to get what I needed easily. The only changes I made to the soup were to eliminate the star anise (yuck) and to add fresh bird chiles and lots of fresh lime leaves to the simmering stock. I love the fragrance and flavour they offer. Following on an idea from Clivia of Bubie's Little Baker, I used leftover Thanksgiving turkey and turkey stock. I also added lots of fresh chopped herbs--cilantro, basil and mint. Now, go and check out the FFwD site to see what everyone else has come up with. And if you're a member, stop voting to make potatoes next month! Please? Vote for the squash 'n' sprouts, 'kay?
This tasted great last night, but I just got home from a tough day at school and had a bowl, and it was just as good. Not sure it can bring my voice back, but it was restorative nonetheless. No, I was not yelling at the kids to make me lose my voice! I have a cold. Refrigerate the noodles separately to keep them from absorbing all the liquid. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Daring Cooks are on a roll!

Challenges for the Daring Cooks are announced to members on the 17th of every month, and posted publicly on the 14th of the following month. I always eagerly check the forum to find out what the month's challenge is, then leave it till the last day. Why? I have no idea, but I am a bit of a procrastinator. This month was no exception. I checked the forum last night, and realized in a panic that I  only had a day. So, while I should have been doing the last of my unpacking after my move, I made stuffed grape leaves instead. I had purchased the grape leaves last week in a rare show of foresight, but that was all I had. So, I dug through my not-yet stocked fridge and cupboards and this is what I came up with:
I wanted to put some meat in the rolls, as those on the forum preferred the meat version to the vegetarian ones. Now, the only meat I had was a frozen package of ground caribou and I wasn't about to make a trip out. Then I remembered the Thanksgiving leftovers. I had been sent home with the raw turkey liver, as nobody in my family would touch it. I also had 4 litres of turkey stock I had made with the carcass. I added sumac, mace, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, cilantro, onions and garlic to the basmati rice and liver mixture. My jar of grape leaves was unpleasantly briny, so needed lots of blanching, leaving them quite delicate. I actually found the smell of the grape leaves on my hands really unpleasant and hard to remove. Luckily the finished rolls were perfectly seasoned and delicious. I served them with local cherry tomatoes, olive oil, sumac and cilantro. It was a nice lunch, and an even better break from unpacking.
1 jar grape leaves, rinsed and blanched to remove salt
olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup stock or water
3 tablespoons slivered almonds or pine nuts
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground sumac
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 turkey liver, diced (completely optional!)

Rinse rice and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onion is softened but not browned. Add rice and stock. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low, until liquid is absorbed and rice is partially cooked. Cool. Add remaining ingredients and salt lightly (the leaves will add more). Spread leaves vein side up on work surface, trim stem off and roll 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of rice mixture tightly in leaves, folding sides in. You can put a couple of leaves together for larger rolls. Pack tightly in a steamer, in layers if necessary, and place a plate on top. Steam over boiling water in a covered pot for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with tomatoes, olives, and cheese.

Blog-checking lines: Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Find the full challenge PDF here, with recipes, pictures, and more!

Monday, October 11, 2010

TWD: Fold-over pear torte

This week's recipe was chosen by Cakelaw, of Laws of the Kitchen. Um, I don't think that's her real name, but she's a lawyer, from Australia, who likes to cook. Now lest you think I don't know anything other than I could glean from her public profile, I know she's a great cook, and she belongs to TWD and the Daring Bakers. Laws of the Kitchen is always one of the first blogs I visit on posting days, as I'm very curious and impatient, and Cakelaw's Antipodean time zone means I get a sneak peek a good half a day before I have to post. But, that means I can get a bit anxious when my creations look nothing like hers. That's the case this week...
I made this the night before I moved, and didn't have much to choose from in springform pans. I made it in a 9.5" one instead of an 8" one, meaning my crust didn't come very far up the sides. So, I had very little room for the custard filling. I did bake the extra up in 2 small custard cups and it was delicious. I used figs instead of apricots, because that's what I had. The pictures were taken on the back lawn the next morning in a very great hurry, as I knew my brother was arriving to help me move any second. Unfortunately I didn't get to try this the day I baked it, as Dorie recommended, but it was a nice post-move treat. 
I'm mostly unpacked, but STILL haven't baked anything in the oven in my new place, and the longer I wait, the harder it is to decide what to make. Suggestions, please!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin ice cream with maple tuiles

I'm happy to report that I survived my move and am mostly unpacked. Thanks to some lovely friends and my family, it was quite easy and stress-free. I really like my new place, even if the kitchen is tiny and the oven is older than me (and that's no easy feat). I can't decide what I should bake first, though, so any suggestions are more than welcome. I've already done most of my TWD baking for the month, so it needs to be something else. Something special. But maybe not too special in case the oven is demented.
I made this ice cream last week, when it was unseasonably hot. I love pumpkin, and wanted to make something besides pie. Don't worry, I will be making a pie or two for Thanksgiving, which is on Monday. I thought about pumpkin bread, but it was too hot to turn the oven on. Pumpkin creme brulee sounded good too, but all the recipes had so much more cream than pumpkin. So, pumpkin ice cream it was. I adapted the recipe by doubling the pumpkin, as it was still too creamy for me. I hate eating ice cream and getting that greasy layer on the roof of my mouth. Aren't you glad I told you that? I found it a bit disturbing that the spice-infused custard tasted like pumpkin pie all on its own, showing how much it is the spices that tend to take centre stage. Oh, and I know many people swear by canned pumpkin and say it's just as good as fresh, but that's a lie. The colour of fresh pumpkin is a brilliant orange, while what comes out of the can is a muddy colour. It's fine for winter, if you haven't got a freezer full of your own pumpkin puree, but while they are in season I urge you to make your own. You may never go back to canned... I am very lucky that my aunt and uncle grow pumpkins on their farm and I always get at least 6   every fall. Some I use fresh, in pies, cakes, soups and more. Some I puree and freeze.
The tuiles were delicious: buttery, crisp, and full of maple flavour, but they were a giant pain in the ass! The recipe recommended baking them on a bare baking sheet and then removing them while warm to a rolling pin (for curved cookies), or to a rack (for flat cookies). I got lumps when I tried that. So, I put the batter in the fridge and thought I'd try another day. Next, I used a silicone liner and put 6 in the oven. I wandered out to the front porch, and wondered idly if I'd be able to hear the oven timer from there. The answer is no, but the smoke alarm was easily audible! When I pulled them out of the oven, the 6 cookies had gathered in the centre of the mat to form a giant black, lacy disc. Hmpf. Okay, time for one more try. This time I used parchment and stayed in the kitchen. I only baked two, and let them cool on the baking sheet. Perfect!

Pumpkin ice cream
Adapted from Craft of Baking, but found here

1½ cups (375 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) cream (I used whipping cream, but would go lighter next time)
⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons (95 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks
¼ cup packed (60 g) dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum (optional, but keeps the ice cream a bit softer)
1½ cups (350 g) fresh pumpkin puree (instructions follow recipe)

1. In a medium saucepan mix the milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar, ginger, ground cinnamon, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and salt.
2. Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.
3. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually whisk in about half of the warm spiced milk mixture, stirring constantly.
4. Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.
5. Strain into a bowl and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.
6. Whisk in the vanilla, rum, and pumpkin puree. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fresh pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 400℉. Wash and halve or quarter pie pumpkins, depending on size. Scrape out seeds and strings, and make sure you roast the seeds for a snack. Place pumpkin pieces in a large baking dish and add water to a depth of 1cm or ½". Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until pumpkin flesh is tender and easily pierced with a knife. Cool. Scrape flesh from skin and put through the finest blade on a food mill. Drain in a sieve over a bowl to get rid of excess water.

Translucent Maple Tuiles

From Baking from my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, sifted

1. In a small bowl, using a sturdy rubber spatula or a hand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup together until light in color and texture. Gently stir in the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated. Cover the bowl, pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or for up to 1 week.
2. Getting ready to bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have two unlined baking sheets at hand and, if you want to curve the cookies into their traditional tile shape, a rolling pin or a slender bottle.
3. Roll small scoops of dough between your palms to form balls the size of small cherries or hazelnuts, and put the balls 2 inches apart on the unbuttered baking sheets (I recommend parchment). Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the cookies spread and are golden coloured and honeycombed.
4. Immediately remove the baking sheets from the oven, let the cookies rest a few seconds and then, using a wide metal spatula, lift them from the sheets: The best way to do this is to carefully work the spatula under a cookie edge, then push the spatula beneath the cookie with a quick jerk. If the cookie crumples a bit, as it might, don't worry -- it will straighten out on the rolling pin or rack. For curved cookies, moving with alacrity, lay the cookies, a few at a time, over the rolling pin. Transfer the cookies to a rack after they have set -- under a minute -- or, if you want flat cookies, just cool them on a rack. If the cookies cool and stick stubbornly to the baking sheet, slide the sheet into the oven for another minute to warm them. I didn't try curved cookies with the parchment, but I bet laying the whole sheet of parchment could be draped over something curvy. If you want flat tuiles, just let them cool on the sheet and parchment and then peel them off. They are pretty delicate, and don't keep well, especially if it's humid.

Torview Toronto's colour of the month is orange. Wouldn't you know that it's my favourite colour? 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

7 things about Ottawa--Versatile Blogger Award

This lovely award was presented to me by two local bloggers, months ago, and I am finally getting around to posting it. Does that mean I'm not so versatile? Maybe I can only cook. A great big thank you to Eva of Eva's Food World and to Kim of Grow.Chew. I had a hard time deciding on seven more things to share with my readers. 
7 foods I love? Just read my blog. See any rhubarb or cardamom?
7 foods I hate? I could never stop there. 
7 countries I've visited? Maybe, but I haven't got all the pictures on my computer. 
So, I decided to stay local and tell you 7 things I love about Ottawa. I've been back for 2 years now, and I still feel like a bit of a tourist, but I love it here.

1.   The Rideau Canal
One of my favourite things to do in Ottawa is to skate the canal. When I lived in Toronto, I would always time a visit so that I could skate the length of the canal and have a Beavertail as a snack. That's about 16 kilometres of skating (there and back), and a magnificent, deep-fried pastry slathered in sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice.
View of Rideau Canal Skateway, looking towards the Chateau Laurier Hotel

There are volunteers who look after the stray cats on Parliament Hill, and it is a full-time job. The cats have shelter and food and are much more entertaining and honest than the other fat cats on the hill.
Here I am, a few years ago, hanging out with one of the Parliament Hill cats. That's the East Block behind me. Notice that I had to dig the bench out of the snow--we had had a 50-cm snowfall the day before.
3.   National Capital Commission bicycle paths
After years of riding the mean streets of Toronto, I love the feeling of riding on a path beside the river. The paths here actually go where you need to go, which is a bonus, as I tend to commute by bike rather than ride for pleasure. There are over 220 kilometres of paths, and NCC parkways are closed are closed to cars on Sunday mornings so cyclists, walkers, joggers and inline skaters can use them.
The Capital Pathway
Source: National Capital Commission
4.   Ottawa’s Markets
I spent my first two years back in Ottawa living in the Byward Market neighbourhood, full of outdoor market stalls and interesting food stores where I could find just about everything I needed.  I now live closer to Parkdale Market, so am looking forward to doing lots of shopping there and in my new neighbourhood.
Parkdale market produce. Source:
5.   Proximity to rural areas and these two
I am definitely a city girl, but it’s great that you never have to drive very far in Ottawa to see a field and cows. There’s even a farm in the middle of the city: The Experimental Farm, which sounds scary, but isn’t. It’s got animals, crops, and a lovely arboretum. Oh, and my family, including my lovely niece and nephew, live in a small town not too far from Ottawa.
Arboretum. Source:
My niece and nephew. She's a tough chick, and he's not wearing a wig.

6.   Brunch at The French Baker or The Scone Witch
I love brunch, and these are two of my favourites in the city. Benny's Bistro at The French Baker has an interesting menu, and great bread and pastries, of course. The Scone Witch (no website) has a very limited menu, but the scones and accompaniments are worth the trip.

7.   Living in the heart of maple syrup country
Who doesn’t love maple syrup? I once worked in a sugar shack for a few months, making pancakes and other maple sweets. The best part was spending my breaks in the evaporator room. Think maple sauna.
Homemade maple syrup is the perfect topping for pancakes.
Yup, they always serve pancakes. Source:
Now, I am also supposed to pass this award on, but instead, I am going to point you in the direction of a few Ottawa food sites that will really give you a good idea of the food culture in this city. 
The first is the, which posts links to local blogs, and is updated as we publish. Not only can you find blogs from Ottawa here, but also from Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary. I always check here to see what's happening locally.
Next is Apt 613. 613 is the local area code, and this site has food info, but also information about just about everything that's happening in the capital.
Last, but not least, is Ottawa Foodies, with information about restaurants, shops, foods and a discussion forum.