FEATURED RECIPES
Strawberry Fro-Yo Better Than Ultimate Brownies Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna Quinoa with Oven Roasted Vegetables The Return of the Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pie: Now with Wafer Crust and 60% Cacao Chocolate Lengua Estofada (Braised Beef Tongue) Simple Meal: Tuna Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
 
Strawberry Fro-Yo

Strawberry Fro-Yo

Smooth and creamy strawberry frozen yogurt that's perfect on a summer day. Or winter...I love ice cream in winter.

Better Than Ultimate Brownies

Better Than Ultimate Brownies

Have we found an even better recipe for the "Ultimate Brownies"? You decide! :-) Each square is dense and chocolate-y, and has a nice chewiness to it. It's better than store-bought or just-put-in-the-oven brownies. If you happen to be lucky enough to have some left over after a few days, you'll be fighting over the the last few bites of super-moist and ultimately soft and chewy brownies. A little sacrifice of instant gratification truly pays off for these. ;-)

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

I like a good challenge and whenever I see those lovely food blogs with results from the Daring Bakers Challenge, I'm in awe and envy. I got around to it and I froze when I saw my first challenge, the March 2009 recipe: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (with homemade spinach pasta). I was expecting to make dessert or bake cakes -- something for my insatiable sweet tooth...something easier. But no, it turns out my "initiation" into the Daring Bakers would be a very laborious one. I was as scared as I was decades ago when the swimming instructor asked us to jump into the pool at the 6" feet mark on our first class. Are you serious? What did I get myself into?!

Quinoa with Oven Roasted Vegetables

Quinoa with Oven Roasted Vegetables

I cook quinoa every now and then, 'sneaking' it into our meals to make them healthier. This time, we just had it with veggies. I just roasted vegetables, taking a few things that seem ordinary on their own. They added up to a really nice flavor with every bite.

The Return of the Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pie: Now with Wafer Crust and 60% Cacao Chocolate

The Return of the Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pie: Now with Wafer Crust and 60% Cacao Chocolate

Decadent bittersweet chocolate pudding pie with creme fraiche...what more could a chocolate lover ask for?

Lengua Estofada (Braised Beef Tongue)

Lengua Estofada (Braised Beef Tongue)

I’ve loved Lengua Estofada since I was a child. My grandmother and mother make really good ones. In fact, I called my mom last week to ask her how she makes them. I just smiled and nodded while listening, asking myself — What have I gotten into? Let me explain. When I bought half a […]

Simple Meal: Tuna Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Simple Meal: Tuna Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Baked tuna-stuffed portobello mushrooms that is never short on flavor but packed with everything that's good for you. Dive in!

Late Night Cravings: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I get a lot of random late night cravings, anything from cherry clafoutis and fresh homemade margarita, down to the basics like fudge brownies. Alone in the house one night, going through unanswered emails, I had the strongest need for chocolate chip cookies. I had to stop what I was doing and bake some stat.

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I make different kinds all the time, but I tend to favor this recipe because the resulting cookies remind me of the palm-sized ones you grab from bakeries right before you pay–you just couldn’t resist getting them. Comfort me with big, chewy mouthfuls of chocolate goodness, please.
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Another bonus is that these take less than an hour to make and they don’t require any special equipment. It’s just perfect for those last-minute cravings.
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I had a specific craving for good ol’ chocolate chip cookies and stuck to using just bittersweet chocolate chips that evening. However, the base cookie recipe is excellent for adding whatever your heart and taste buds desire: white chocolate, milk chocolate, butterscotch, almonds, cashews, and dried fruits, but probably not all at the same time. Keep things simple and pick two or three at the most, or you would have to tweak the recipe a bit to compensate for moisture and sweetness.

Consume heartily, but responsibly. Enjoy!

Late Night Cravings: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies
Active prep time: 
Cooking/Baking time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: 18
 
Makes 18 3-inch cookies. These chewy chocolate chip cookies are the quintessential bakery cookies. They are great whether eaten fresh out of the oven (with or without ice cream, just a suggestion) or after cooling. This is a great overall cookie base that can be used as a vessel for other flavored chips, nuts and dried fruits.
Ingredients
  • 2⅛ cups (300 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup or 1½ sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar (light or dark)
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 - 2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet) - I use 1½ cups of bittersweet chips
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F, with the racks in upper- and lower-middle positions. Prepare two 20"x14" baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.
  2. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Stir or whisk butter and sugars in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Add in egg, yolk, and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
  3. Shape scant ¼ cup dough into a ball. Split it in half and stick it together side by side, with both jagged ends facing up. Carefully press to form a cylinder. It would look like sushi roll with a jagged top.
  4. Bake in pre-heated oven for 15-18 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. The cookies are done when the bottom edges of the cookies begin to brown and the tops would still be a little puffy. Cool cookies on cookie sheets propped on cooling racks. [Frozen cookies might take up to 3 minutes extra baking time.]
Notes
Make ahead:
Prepared dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month.

To freeze dough: It's best to pre-shape dough and freeze until they are solid, and transfer into freezer-safe resealable bags or container in a single layer.

Everyone has food cravings.

Posted in baking, cookies, dessert, quick & easy0 Comments

Go-To Light Sesame Ginger Dressing for The Salad Impaired (Like Me)

I’m salad dressing combo-making inept.

I grew up in a culture and age where salads were mostly either made with vinegar + salt + pepper or mayo. I don’t remember salads being a big part of our meals in Manila when I was young. We had our double starches (rice, bread and noodles — any combination of those) to go with the main courses. Fresh or steamed vegetables were dipped in sauces like vinegar with anchovies, soy sauce and calamansi (my favorite), or mayo and ketchup. I have a very good taste memory, but without any childhood recollection of taste combinations, I’m at a loss in a salad-inclusive North America. I even avoided volunteering to bring a salad to potlucks. It stressed me out just to think about it. [It still does.] I would gladly make you pie or cake. You can just see my deer-in-the-headlights look.

One of my cooking-related goals this year is to get in there, try as many dressings/salads (sorry, friends and family), and make some more until I can whip them together with ease. I have a 50% failing rate as far as my own rating system goes–I’m hard on myself, but that helps me keep improving. I still have a lot to learn.

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We’ve been enjoying the summer bounty from our local farmers markets. Here I used shaved carrots, radishes and a variety of tomatoes.

This dressing I’m sharing today is not one of those failures. This is my go-to recipe over the past year, my saving grace when my mind is blank at the end of the day and we have some beautiful vegetables to eat fresh. It’s a light sesame ginger dressing that has been well-received during family dinners. If we can make the kids eat a few bites of veggies, it’s considered a win.

It tastes similar to the light dressing that comes with the house salad at a Japanese restaurant. If you like that, you will love this. There’s just enough boost of flavor, but it lets the vegetables shine. It’s good to start with some lovely produce.

Sesame Ginger Dressing
Author: 
Recipe type: Dressing
Cuisine: Asian
Active prep time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: Makes about ⅔ cup of dressing
 
Easy light dressing for a variety of summer vegetables.
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots or red onion
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (you can also use maple syrup or honey)
  • ⅛ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and drizzle or toss with your salad ingredients. Add salt, pepper and sweetener according to your taste. Just remember that it would usually taste sweeter later on.
Notes
What you can use for the salad:

Vegetables: Works very well with tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, lots of salad greens (lettuce, arugula, etc.), sprouts, etc.

Nuts: Lightly toasted shaved almonds and pecans, pepitas, sesame seeds.

Dried fruits: Cranberries, blueberries, etc.

You can also add some fresh or fried tofu, seared beef or tuna, slices of chicken breast.

 

Posted in appetizer, dressings and sauces, healthier choices, quick & easy, raw, salads, vegetables, vegetarian0 Comments

Filipino Pan De Sal

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There’s nothing more definitive of my childhood breakfast –and I guess, the same goes for many other Filipinos–than pan de sal. The steam escaping out of the brown paper bag from the freshly baked buns, the crumbs getting all over your fingers,  the hot, tongue-numbing first bite…I missed every bit of it when we moved here. We eventually found out about Aling Mary‘s where we could get them fresh from the oven, which I remember doing twice. Twice.

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Pan de sal and coffee is akin to butter and bread. Inseparable, and you couldn’t go wrong with that combination.

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As the years went on, I slowly learned how to cook and bake, and eventually baked my own bread. I yearned to make pan de sal. I tried making my own half a decade ago, but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. At the beginning of this year, I set out to give it another go. After trying many recipes I found, I STILL wasn’t satisfied the least bit. Some tasted like brioche, others were too dry, and they all basically don’t have the right flavor and texture. It was frustrating, there’s no question about that. I experimented a lot. I wasn’t as lucky creating the recipe as I was when I made another Filipino classic, the mocha cake.

It took me more than 20 batches of pan de sal and a lot of eating before I was finally happy with it. [Huge thanks to the beau J and the kids for putting up with all the not-so-perfect pan de sal iterations!] Then I’ve had a lot of people outside of family taste it over the course of more than 6 months — both Filipinos and non-Filipinos love them. And then when I thought I arrived at my final recipe, I baked pan de sal almost every week, sometimes even twice a week, because we went through 2 dozen buns so quickly during the school weeks (they make awesome lunch sandwiches).

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After all that, I think I’m ready (and oh, so pleased!) to share the recipe. Please enjoy and let me know if you’ve made them. I’ve included some photos of the process after the recipe, which I hope will help. If you have questions, just leave a comment below. Cheers.

Addendum: You will notice a not-so-familiar ingredient in my recipe called “Diastatic Malt Powder,” which is used in baking bread — it helps with the bread rise and the crust. You can either:

1. Make them by grinding dried sprouted wheat berries; or

2. Purchase them at a local store or online (Amazon has it). In Vancouver, you can get them from Gourmet Warehouse and Famous Foods.

I’ve made my own diastatic malt powder and they are my preferred one to use. I’ll make another post on how to make them next time.

 

Filipino Pan De Sal
Author: 
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Filipino
Active prep time: 
Cooking/Baking time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) active dry yeast
  • 2¼ cups 2% or whole milk, warm (~80°F)
  • 75 grams plus 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 45 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 900 grams unbleached all-purpose flour OR to make Whole Wheat Pan De Sal: use 600 grams all-purpose flour and 300 grams whole wheat flour
  • 1½ teaspoon (10 grams) table salt
  • 2 tablespoons (12 grams) diastatic malt powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (for coating the dough and bowl)
  • ⅓ cup of plain breadcrumbs, in a small shallow plate
Instructions
  1. Mix active dry yeast, a tablespoon of sugar and warm milk in a medium bowl. Leave it to bloom for 10 minutes. It will get foamy at the top. Whisk in egg and butter, then transfer into a bowl of a stand mixer. Attach a dough hook to your mixer.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, malt powder and sugar in a large bowl. Pour half of the mixture into your stand mixer bowl and mix on the lowest speed for 30 seconds, then increase to the next speed setting and mix for 1 minute. Decrease the mixing speed to the lowest setting again and add the remaining flour mixture. Knead in the mixer between the lowest and medium-low setting (depending on your stand mixer instructions for mixing bread dough) until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl and the bowl is basically clean and free of loose flour or sticky dough. The dough will quickly bounce back if lightly pressed with a finger. Detach the bowl from your stand mixer and give the dough inside a few turns with your clean hands, pulling the sides into the center, creating a ball.
  3. Lift the dough ball and spread the vegetable oil on the bottom and sides of the bowl with a bare hand. Place the dough back inside and turn it in the bowl to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm, draft-free place (an oven that's not turned on would work). Let it rise for 1 hour. The dough will double in size/volume.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F, if baking the buns same day.
  5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each portion into a ball, tucking the sides into the center until taut. Work each ball by flattening it with your fingertips into an 8" x 6" rectangle. Roll the it tightly along its length (i.e. longer side) and pinch the edges to the roll to seal, and pinch both sides of the roll, leaving you with a compact and sealed cylinder. Slice it crosswise into six 1- to 1.5-inch discs. Dip cut sides into the plate of breadcrumbs and pat to remove excess crumbs. Place each bun cut side down on the lined baking sheet, arranging the buns into 6 x 4. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel let them rise for 1 hour. Overnight 2nd rise: If you make this in the evening, you can leave it in the refrigerator overnight for a slow rise, then bake them in the morning. A slow rise gives the dough more time to develop its flavor.]
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops of the buns turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it rest in the baking pan propped on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
  7. Serve warm or transfer and cool completely on the wire rack before storing in airtight containers or resealable bags.
Notes
Storage
Keep in airtight containers/bags. Buns will stay fresh for 5 to 7 days at room temperature; and for up to 2 weeks if frozen after cooling. Best reheated in the oven or oven toaster.

What's Diastatic Malt Powder?: It's a natural bread enhancer that helps the bread rise and develop a nice brown crust. You can either:

1. Make them by grinding dried sprouted wheat berries; or

2. Purchase them at a local store or online (Amazon has it). In Vancouver, you can get them from Gourmet Warehouse and Famous Foods.

 

 

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Pan de sal dough’s first rise — it will double in size.

 

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Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into quarters.

 

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Each quarter will be flattened out.

 

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The flattened dough will then be rolled into a log and pinched to secure the edges.

 

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Each log will be sliced into 6 pieces, with the flat surfaces lightly coated with bread crumbs.

 

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Two dozen rolls are arranged 6 x 4 on the baking sheet and left to rise for another hour.

Posted in bread, Filipino dishes, original Gourmeted recipe0 Comments

Chasing Cheese: A Taste of the Canadian Cheese Rolling Cheddar

You might have heard of the unusual cheese rolling tradition that’s been going on for hundreds of years in Brockworth, Gloucester. Well, we have our very own Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival, too, and it’s coming up (or should I say, rolling down) in Whistler this weekend. Instead of chasing a 9-lb double Gloucester like the one used in England, Canadian Cheese Rolling participants will be chasing a hefty 11-lb Courtenay Cheddar made by Natural Pastures.

Cheese Rolling Race at Whistler, BC

Cheese Rolling Race at Whistler, BC  |  Photo: Dairy Farmers of Canada

What: 7th Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival with lots of fun activities for the whole family:

Cheese rolling races for ages 19+ (7 men’s and 4 women’s events, plus finals)
Costume contest
Uphill races by age (for kids)
Free cheese seminars
Cheese Market with lots of Canadian cheese samples made from 10% Canadian milk

When: Saturday, August 16th 12nn to 4pm (Registration for the cheese rolling is at 11:00am)

Where: Whistler, BC

 

Try different 100% Canadian cheeses at the Cheese Market

Try different 100% Canadian cheeses at the Cheese Market  |  Photo: Dairy Farmers of Canada

 

Winners get to take home the wheel of Canadian Cheddar cheese AND a Whistler season ski pass for two, so try not to break any bones so you can still use the passes. ;-)

I know for sure the cheese is worth chasing, as I’ve tried it myself, thanks to yesterday’s media event hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada at Forage. Doug Smith of Natural Pastures was there to talk cheese, and what makes their delicious Courtenay Cheddary unique — it’s the cheddaring process.

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In the background, Natural Pastures Operations Manager, Doug Smith. Foreground, refreshing Tantalus Wine riesling.

As you can seen, the wheel of Courtenay Cheddar is a big baby. It was passed along from one guest to another so we could have an idea of how heavy it is. I’m not surprised that it can go down the hill with speeds of up to 75 kph.

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Geneviève Latour, from Dairy Farmers of Canada, holding the cheese rolling Courtenay Cheddar

We tried the Courtenay cheddar on its own and in four cheesy preparations created by Bearfoot Bistro‘s (Whistler) pastry chef, Chef Dominic Fortin.

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Creamy chunks of Canadian Cheddar cheese…mmm

Here’s Chef Dominic talking about how he transformed this lovely local cheese into delectable crispy, crunchy and gooey bites.

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Bearfoot Bistro’s pastry Chef Dominic Fortin created four cheesy offerings for the event. at Forage.

The fennel and arugula salad had thinly shaved cheddar, and both the kale and shortbread were baked with grated cheddar. They were all very good. I like the progression of tastes and textures from the salad to the shortbread. I couldn’t get enough of the shortbread. I need to make them soon!

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From L-R: Savour cheddar and hazelnut shortbread; kale chips with smoked paprika; and fennel, arugula, cheddar, and pecan salad

And yes, there’s The Baked Dip. You could hear everybody’s ooh’s and aah’s when little dishes of the baked cheesy dip were placed in front of us. Yes, yes, please.

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Baked Courtenay cheddar, sun dried tomato and artichoke dip

The dip with the freshly baked bread was heaven. Spoiled, we were.

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Freshly baked herb bread

While the festival’s name owes itself to the fun and wacky event of cheese rolling, it’s more than that. It’s a fantastic time to showcase and discover all the lovely cheeses we have here in Canada (not just BC), all made with 100% Canadian milk. If you can make it up to Whistler this weekend, please do so and have some cheesy good time!

If you’re feeling cheese dish envy, don’t fret. The Dairy Farmers of Canada have generously provided the recipes (in PDF) for all four creations by Chef Dominic Fortin:

 

Posted in cheese, events0 Comments

Hiking Like a Rockstar: Eating North Vancouver Edition

How do food-loving friends enjoy the outdoors and get active? I’ll give you a hint: it includes food stops. This shouldn’t be any surprise considering that our nom-noming group plan their travels around food and restaurants. Dining is that big of a deal. I love the outdoors and hiking, and while our two-some hikes are fun, it’s been a while since I’ve gone with friends. So I decided to organize a group hike with a promise of delectable food stops before and after the hike. Calorically, this makes the least sense, but no one is counting.

My email invitation included the following details:

10:30am Brunch at Tour de Feast – 319 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver, BC

Hike at Quarry Rock (we ended up at Lynn Valley Headwaters)

Post-hike treats at Thomas Haas – 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver, BC, V7P 3T2

Due to busy summer schedules, only five of us made it out that day. We met up for brunch, with most of us eating “light” meals. Read: no meat. The wine-braised beef was enticing (and one of our friends ordered it), but I opted for a more sensible grilled cheese. It hit the spot and I like the token fruit (blueberries). Woohoo! J got his salmon, eggs, salad and potatoes. Another friend had the watermelon salad. J and I have been here before and the food has always been good. The feedback on review sites are stellar. I keep the place in my North Van brunch rotation for its fresh and exciting contemporary food that belies its location and building’s facade.

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In anticipation of the challenging parking situation at Deep Cove given the brilliant sunny skies, we consolidated into one car and drove off. Oh, boy, did we ever (or *I*, the planner,  did) underestimate how busy things would get at noon. I completely forgot to take into account that it’s not only the hiking and picnic crowds we were up against, but the sailing and kayaking folks as well. After a frustrating parking spot hunt from one end of the neighborhood to the other, and in between briefly lamenting about getting some Honey’s Donuts, we moved on to another hiking area with a relatively easy trail, the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, which hopefully had parking. We got lucky and then went on the Varley Trail and Lynn Loop Trail for a little over two hours. [Download the Lynn Headwaters Park Map here.]

We finished all the sweaty uphill walk during the first half of our hike and we were welcomed with the crystal clear waters of Lynn Creek after the switchback and descent. That was good planning on J’s part.

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On our way back, we ordered some well-deserved treats at Thomas Haas: sour cherry turnover, vanilla rhubarb tart, macarons (do yourself a favor and get the apple pie one), croissants, and a slew of other pastries with zero calories. I’m sure of it. All in all, it was a good day to be out and be with friends, doing what we love to do together: try to be active and eat. I’m ready to plan the next one. :)

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Posted in dining, travel0 Comments

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycling Weekend in Chilliwack

It’s that time of the year again when bicycles are getting their fair amount of use. For most casual riders, it’s the perfect time to go on leisurely rides after work or during the weekend (farmers market trips, anyone?).

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you would have noticed that I’ve caught the cycling bug, thanks to the beau. He gifted me with a city bike two years ago and then talked me into investing in a good road bike last year.  One of the fun things we did after I picked up my new road bike (yay, much better on hills!) last summer was going on the Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycling Tour.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

It’s a two-day tour around the valley: day one in Agassiz and day two in Chilliwack. It was only a couple of weeks when we found out about it last year, so we only had time to do the latter. Nevertheless, we had a lovely little weekend getaway, visiting and learning about the farms and local producers. Because that’s just the kind of thing we do. This year, we’re looking forward to doing it again! If you’re looking for something to do next weekend, go check it out.

 

Faser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tours

WHAT: Easy, family-friendly, at-your-own pace self-guided 25-kilometer road cycling farm tour around the valley. There are no hills to climb. :-)

WHEN & WHERE:
9:00 am to 4:00 pm for both days
Saturday, August 2nd – Agassiz Summer Cycle Tour $15/person
Sunday, August 3rd – Chilliwack Summer Cycle Tour $15/person
If you’re doing the 2-day tour, it’s $15/person

WHAT YOU NEED: Your bike and helmet (rentals are available), bike kit, cash, snacks, water, and rain gear in case it rains. It is an all-weather event. Having a backpack, bike panier or basket would help in carrying purchases.

WHAT’S PROVIDED: Tour map and a shopping shuttle that will pick up your purchases from participating farms and have them available at the start/end point of the bike tour.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Pick-your-own blueberries.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Tomatoes in one of several greenhouses.

Aside from checking out the accessible areas of farms, you can buy fresh produce right there, as you go from stop to stop.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Most places take cash, but from my recollection some take credit, like Anita’s Organic Mill and Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

A little info session on beekeeping and a taste of fresh honey.

There’s a wide variety of farms in the valley and you’ll find gems like the hazelnut grove.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

We cycled to the hazelnut groves and walked along the bright green rows of walnut trees to check them out and to get some shade.

It’s a tour that’s easy enough for the whole family to do. There are also activities for kids  at several stops, including a bouncy platform (sans castle) and a corn maze.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Play area by the corn fields.

Be sure to bring some water before you enter the maze, especially if it’s a really hot day. If you do get lost, you can wave someone watching from a platform to help you navigate out of the corn field.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Corn field, near the entrance of the maze.

It looked deceivingly small and just between us, we might have gotten lost for a few minutes.

There weren’t any lack of refreshments, in fact there was something to nibble at almost every stop. We had ice cream as soon as we parked our bikes at the entrance of the corn field. We also had a lovely homemade apple pie at another farm. There were also some free food and wine tastings here and there, but do bring your own food and cash to purchase additional nibbles.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Ice cream stop by the corn maze.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Wine tasting and food truck. Their sliders were perfect with wine.

It’s definitely great way to spend a weekend with friends, your spouse, or the entire family if you want a quick drive and trip oustdie of the city. Get the kids away from their devices and hop on the bikes for some cycling and farm tours.

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

It’s just a nice day to hang out with the family, meet new people, learn about the different farms that provide produce for the farmers markets we frequent, and really, just relax.

 

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Some young entrepreneurs set up their own pop-up shops for the day

 

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

Cashmere goats. Yes, they do sell their 100% fine cashmere yarn. Rejoice knitting and crochet enthusiasts.

 

Posted in travel0 Comments

Once Upon a Crabby Feast

The Alaskan King Crab season is over and done with and here I am reminiscing this delicious crustacean. Pardon me while I post this so I’ll remember what to order next time, and be able to compare as well. Due to busy schedules and spring break with the fam, I only attended/organized one king crab feast this year, compared to a whopping three (!!!) in 2013. I saved two crabs this year.

Last month, thirteen friends gathered around the biggest table at Red Star Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver on a Monday, after work. We ordered the heaviest crab available, a modest ten-pounder. [You can call ahead to reserve not only the table, but the crab with specified weight and other dishes, like the  baked tapioca dessert.]

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They even put a pen beside it to give food pornographers some scale. They are used to everyone taking photos.

We met, inspected and took photos of our ocean friend before giving the thumbs up to the server to prepare it four-ways:

  • steamed legs,
  • deep fried knuckles,
  • noodles with juices from the steam legs, and
  • Portuguese curry rice.

It’s common to order the size of the king crab according to how many people would be served, which would be at least a pound per person.  Because we ordered a lot of other dishes, our ten-pounder was more than enough for all of us. Another good reason to bring a troop of eaters, aside from getting a chance to see many friends together for a meal (and meet new ones they bring along to the feast),  it presents a fantastic opportunity to order more dishes than what you would usually order if you’re just a group of four. Everyone just needs uphold their duty to be hungry enough for the meal. I, for one, ate a light lunch. This is serious eating.

The first dish to arrive at our table, on what has to be the biggest lazy susan we’ve ever seen (the table seats 16), is the shiny, crispy, Peking duck skin with piping hot fresh steamed pancakes, green shallots and their special hoisin sauce. You should have heard the Oohs and Aahs. Apparently we made some of our younger guests very happy at that point. Squee! The skins were excellent and  served exactly twelve, which is perfect because J is pescetarian.

Having a big group also ensured we ate each dish in moderation. I could very well have eaten this by myself.

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Crisp Peking duck skins go into the steamed pancakes with slivers of green shallots and hoisin sauce

The next dish to arrive was the minced duck meat and lettuce, eaten together as a wrap, which were very tasty together. Warm sautéed duck meat in a bed a fresh lettuce is just the thing to help transition from the richness of the duck skin to the crab dishes.  The  duck was overshadowed briefly when the first plate of king crab made its entrance a few seconds later.

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Steamed crab legs with fresh minced garlic and to its left is the minced  duck meat with lettuce wrap

And for good reason. These portion-sized and pre-cracked steamed crab legs were succulent with just enough fresh garlic to complement the sweet meat. The flesh was easy to pull out of the shell.

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This makes me happy.

The second crab dish was deep fried crab knuckles, crunchy, salty and peppery–just the way I like it. It could definitely use a bit more kick, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t have that high of a tolerance for spiciness.

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Deep-fried king crab knuckles

All the sauce that was left over from the first plate of steamed crabs were poured into a bowl of noodles. It looks so pale and almost unappetizing, but what it lacks in visual impact, it makes for in flavor. Just think about it: all. that. crab. juice.

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“Long life” (Yi mein) noodles with the garlicky steamed crab sauce

Last, but not the least of the king crab dishes included in  the four-way feast, is the Portuguese curry fried rice. You’d think at this point we’d be rolling off our chairs in gluttony. Nope. There’s always more space for this fluffy rice concoction. I like that their like their curry rice is never heavy, with a light hand on that curry so it doesn’t completely overpower the underlying crab flavor.

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Baked Portuguese curry fried rice with king crab

We went over-the-top crabby by getting a plate of dungeness crab fried rice. While the Portuguese rice was soft and unctuous, this is crunchy and on the dry side. Confession: I love “dry” rice. This just hits the spot.

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Dungeness crab fried rice

I did say we ordered more dishes:  steamed gai lan with oyster sauce, salt and pepper fish, and a whole steamed fish. [No photos, unfortunately. Too busy eating.] We also had two tofu dishes, one steamed and one braised.

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Steamed tofu with scallops in black bean sauce

The steamed tofu and scallops with black bean sauce had a nice balance of flavors. In contrast, the braised bean curd with vegetables had that chewy skin, which I love. We didn’t realize the latter would come with gai lan, too, so we were kind of gai-lan-ed for the night.

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Braised Bean Curd with Vegetables

Oh, and in support of our friend’s quest for the best sweet and boneless pork dish, we got an order of that, too. The outside was crispy and it didn’t swim in excess sauce, which is a plus. It was pretty good, but not the best, a few people concurred.

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Sweet and sour boneless pork

For dessert, I pre-ordered the special baked tapioca for us to share. The meal did include their complementary cookies, but the tapioca is what we look forward to and expect to have after one epic king crab feast. One of our guests is a chef, so he brought some of his current experiments in the kitchen, too.

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Special baked tapioca dessert

All in all we had 14 dishes in total, including dessert. The market price for the crab was CA$28.80 per pound that day, which was the same price at Sun Sui Wah, according to friends of ours who were there for another crab feast. In total, including tip (but minus drinks), it was only $51 per guest. By king crab feast standards, that’s quite reasonable, if not on the cheaper end.

Bye crabs. Next up: spot prawn festival!

Posted in dining, seafood0 Comments

Effortless Anytime Fruit Crumble

I wasn’t the type of person who kept frozen fruits in the freezer. A firm believer of eating everything fresh, I just bought what’s in season at the farmer’s markets. Shakes or smoothies weren’t my ‘thing’ either, preferring to masticate on my fruits and veggies to fill me up because I tend to snack throughout the day. It wasn’t until I lived with a smoothie-loving frozen fruit-stocking partner that I realized what I had been missing.

While I (still) rarely reach for a shock of cold fruit drink, except for two scorching-hot summer days every year, I appreciate those bags of frozen fruits now. They satisfy any last-minute cravings for fruit pies, especially for out-of-season fare. Whenever everyone in our household would have the patience to wait for a couple of hours, I would make pie–double crust and all– or tart, but a quicker substitute for our dessert-/sweets-loving family is this go-to simple crumble. This minimal-effort snack, dessert or breakfast treat requires only these 3 easy steps:

  1. Toss the fruits in sugar and flour. [I add a pinch of ground cinnamon and nutmeg sometimes.]
  2. Top with a layer of easy-mix crumble.
  3. Bake for half an hour or so. Do something else.

Then eat!

We love having this for dessert and I usually prepare this right after dinner. While it’s baking, the girls either do homework and we’ll catch up on some reading (or knitting) or we’ll play board game if it’s a non-school night. Easy peasy.

Berry Crumble

I make this for weekend breakfasts, too. There’s no need to wake up early for this and it’s done before anyone could say, “I’m hungry!”. The aroma of something baking in the oven is almost a welcome “alarm clock”.

Berry Crumble

Frozen four-fruit medley mixed with ground almonds, sugar, and flour.

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Oaty and nutty crumb topping makes a nice texture contrast with the fruit filling.

Pairs nicely with whipped cream.

Pairs nicely with whipped cream.

Berry Crumble

You’ll know it’s done when you see the fruit filling oozing from underneath the crumble.

If you want to make this for breakfast on a busy work morning, don’t fret. Pre-mix the fruit filling  and the crumble the prior evening, transfer the fruits in your baking dish and mix the crumble in a separate container, keeping both in the refrigerator overnight. Bake in the morning while you’re getting ready. All set to go.

Going on a trip to the cabin but don’t want to bring all separate ingredients? This is what I did for our family trip last weekend: pre-mixed the crumble (minus the butter) and the almond mix for the filling and placed them in separate containers. We brought fruits and butter on the island and it took less than five minutes to put together before baking. We had this for dessert with some whipped cream and mango goat milk ice cream while playing an intense round of Ticket To Ride – Europe.

Give it a try. It’s no April Fool’s joke, it really is so easy to make!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Effortless Anytime Fruit Crumble
Author: 
Active prep time: 
Cooking/Baking time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: 6
 
An easy fruit crumble that can be used for any fresh or frozen fruit the whole year round.
Ingredients
For the Crumble
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp Demerara sugar (or any brown sugar)
  • ¾ cup almond slices
  • ⅓ cup cold butter, cut into half-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup quick oats
For the Fruit Filling
  • 2 pints of washed hulled/sliced fresh or frozen fruit
  • ¼ cup to ⅓ cup of sugar (packaged frozen fruit tend to be less sweet, so use more sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with the rack in the middle or upper middle part of the oven.
  2. Mix the filling ingredients (minus the fruit) in a medium bowl, then add the fruits. Toss fruits in the mix.
  3. Combine the crumble ingredients, except for the butter, in a separate bowl. Add butter cubes and rub dry ingredients and butter between your fingers until most of the butter is incorporated and mixture resembles coarse sand.
  4. Pour fruit filling in a glass, ceramic or metal baking pan and level. Distribute the crumble on top. Press it lightly to make it a little more compact.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30minutes, or until top starts to turn brown. You can leave it in the oven for another 5 minutes once it's turned off if you like the top more brown.
  6. Dig in, serve hot with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, or warm with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. You can also enjoy it as is, but make sure to let it cool for at least 20 minutes.

 

Posted in baking, breakfast, brunch, dessert, fruits, original Gourmeted recipe, quick & easy4 Comments

Change, Rituals and a Go-To Recipe for Pate Brisee

Last Monday was Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, according to a publicity campaign from a travel company. This pseudoscience was based on a formula including factors such as weather conditions, debt level (i.e. debt from the holidays, I assume vs ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action. Needless to say this is rubbish. Any day could be really bad for anyone, just as it could go stupendously well for another.

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Ground frost from our New Year’s Day walk in the park.

My Monday was very busy and long, given a rare 16-hour workday, but not depressing in any way. While it has kept me indoors, it didn’t deter me from enjoying and appreciating the generous amount of sunshine we’ve been getting this week.

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Grass and dried winter leaves in the backyard; slithers of sunshine through our fence.

Of course, all this sunshine reminds me of Spring’s not-so-distant arrival. I get a little anxious, I’ll admit. I stop in my tracks to think about what I might have forgotten to schedule or do, or what I should have done or should be doing by now. I ruminate on these things in the morning when everybody’s out the door, and find comfort in a fresh cup of coffee. I never realized how a simple ritual such as this could be so calming. Being the only coffee drinker in the house, it’s one of the few things only I (get to) enjoy. Sure, cleaning that little French press each time could be a drag, but the whole process is pretty grounding. Coffee pun, unintended.

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And then there are the seasonal food-related traditions I look forward to, like making silky smooth Meyer Lemon Curd.  My winter liquid gold. Getting Meyer Lemons from California is not the most 100-Mile diet-friendly choice out there, but this is one of the few guilty pleasures I allow myself. It sure brings a sunny welcome to long cold days.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a New Year Resolution kind of person. Instead, I stick with a word–a mantra, if you will–to guide me through the year. Can you guess what it is this year?

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An effort to simplify and declutter.

We have been doing our own “eating down the fridge” meals to clean up, too. Roasting vegetables and putting them in a sturdy buttery crust elevates their almost-forgotten state. When I have to foresight to do so, I pre-make pate brisee dough for freezing. It lasts for a couple of months frozen and is a lifesaver both for savory and sweet dishes.

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You couldn’t tell, but we also pre-roasted the vegetables a week before we baked this:

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Do enjoy this recipe. Go crazy with it!

Tart Shell (Pâte brisée) recipe and Vegetable Filling "Template"
Author: 
Recipe type: Dough
Active prep time: 
Cooking/Baking time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: 6 to 8
 
A great all-purpose and sturdy tart shell to hold savory and sweet fillings, plus a "template" for creating your own vegetable tarts.
Ingredients
For the Tart Crust
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons ice cold water
For the Tart Filling
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups roasted vegetables, cooled
  • ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons (or 6 tablespoons total) plain or herbed goat cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to taste, depending on how seasoned your cheese and vegetables are
Instructions
Preparing the Dough
  1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 5 times.
  2. Add the butter cubes and mix until the texture of the flour resembles coarse sand, with some pea-sized pieces.
  3. Sprinkle ice cold water a tablespoon at a time on the dough and pulse. Continue to process until it more or less forms one mass and the pieces stick together.
  4. Transfer dough onto a cold work surface or kitchen counter and roughly shape a 6-inch disc. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  5. Unwrap dough and place on your work surface that is lightly dusted with flour.
  6. Roll out the dough using a rolling pin, down to ⅛-inch in thickness thickness, creating a 12" to 13"-diameter disc. If the dough is too cold and stiff to roll out, leave it on the counter for 5 minutes or so, until it becomes more pliable.
  7. Carefully pick up the rolled dough and drape over the 9" x 1" tart pan (with removable bottom), without stretching. Gently pat the bottom, corner and sides to make sure the pan is fully covered. Trim the edges of the dough about ¼" from the top of the pan. Fold the extra dough into the sides touching the pan, top flushed to the top edge of the pan. Gently press the sides into the curves of the tart pan to secure the dough into the fluted sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Partially Bake the Crust
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line the top of the crust with a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill the bottom with pie weights, uncooked beans or rice to keep the crust flat when baking.
  2. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the weights and the aluminum or parchment sheet. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the dough starts to turn light brown ever-so-slightly at the edges. Take out to cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.
Assemble the Tart
  1. Whisk the eggs, heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of goat cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper together. The cheese doesn't have to be fully disintegrated; small pieces can be left in the mixture.
  2. Spread the roasted vegetables on the cooled crust, then pour the custard mixture over the vegetables. Dot the top of the tart with torn pieces of the remaining goat cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the tart is golden. Allow to rest in the tart pan perched on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Notes

Prep Time does not include time for roasting vegetables

Planning Ahead: I must warn you that you cannot start this at 6:00pm and expect to have dinner in an hour. There are many things you can do ahead of time. The tart shell can be prepared and partially baked beforehand, just make sure to cool it before wrapping in plastic film for storing in the fridge (if using the next day) or in the freezer (for up to 2 months). The tart dough can also be pre-made and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Another option would be to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer--just remember to add 5 or so minutes to the baking time.


Roasted Vegetables: You can make your roasted vegetable mix by chopping chunks of vegetables (e.g. zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc. ) and tossing them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and some herbs and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast in an oven preheated at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and store in the fridge (if used within 2 days) or in the freezer. This can be used in your savory tarts, mixed with noodles, or even just with some goat cheese and crackers. When pulsed in the food processor with some caramelized onions, it makes a very hearty vegetable dip.

 

Posted in baking, cheese, Meatless Monday, tarts, vegetables, vegetarian0 Comments

Welcoming the New Year and a Recipe for Banana bread with Pecan Streusel

How is it that we’re more than halfway through January? The three-week stretch before the holidays felt like the longest and slowest marathon of parties, get-togethers, preparation, shopping and errands and then Boom! time moves in lightning speeds.

It was lovely to spend some relaxing time with our loved ones once the flurry of pre-Christmas stuff settled down. The beau’s brother and his girlfriend flew in for the holidays, so it was quite a treat to have the entire family around the table on Christmas Eve. I remember when we were kids, my cousins and I were too eager and impatient for everybody to show up so we could eat then open our gifts. As an adult, one thinks about how to keep the kids preoccupied so we can enjoy each other’s company in peace. On the beau’s side, the girls are old enough that they engage in our conversations–they have very interesting things to say! We don’t have to give them toys and talk over the noise of their toys! Ha. On my side, my nephews are four and five, living and breathing dinosaurs, Transformers and Angry Birds.  They can be really blunt and honest, which make gift-opening around the tree hilarious. You never really know how they’d react or what they would say. Oh, I don’t like that!  [My gifting success average has been great so far when it comes to them. I pick items based on what I would like if I was a kid. Now what does that say about me?] Christmas reminds me of how fun it was to be very young and carefree, but then I’m glad I can sit back and appreciate the comfort of, and being with, family.

Living in a beautiful city–a prime winter destination at that–means getting a chance to repeatedly explore it like tourists whenever friends and family visit. The beau and his brother love skiing so a day trip to Whistler during their short stay was a no-brainer. Vancouver being Vancouver, it did take a bit of wrestling with weather scheduling, but in the end one should just go and prepare for the worst. It wasn’t a great snow day for our skiing companions, but the rest of us who roamed the village and took the leisurely gondola ride between Whistler and Blackcomb didn’t have much to complain about the view and the powder.

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Whistler Mountain, by the Peak To Peak gondola

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View from Blackcomb Mountain

 

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It’s definitely a breathtaking and photo-worthy view.

 

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Peak To Peak gondola that goes between Whistler and Blackcomb mountain.

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Ah, the 2010 Winter Olympics…

 

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There really is no lack of beautiful scenery when you go to Whistler. We were treated with a gorgeous sunset on the drive back to Vancouver.

 

After all the celebrations, we slowly got back into our routines, including baking. It’s one of the things we truly enjoy doing as a couple, plus it warms up the kitchen, fills our bellies, and leaves the whole place smelling like freshly baked bread, cake or pastry. We had a few lonely bananas that we were more than happy to save from their their misery, so it’s banana bread time. We changed things up and used the recipe from the Miette cookbook. My go-to recipe requires sour cream and this one doesn’t, so this saved us an extra trip to the store on the first day of the year. I’m glad Jens picked the recipe because it’s so yummy! Not that I expect anything less from Miette, really, but it’s a good reminder that it doesn’t hurt to try to recipes. I love the delicate crumb, surrounded by the firm and almost-crunchy crust. Essentially, this is a good, solid, banana bread recipe that tastes more sophisticated than most. And that’s all you need to know if you’re looking for something to bake this weekend. :-) If you have the bananas, I’m sure all the other ingredients needed would already be in your pantry.

You’ll also soon find out how baking this Miette bread snowballed into a baking trend for us this January. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you would already know the insane baking that ensued.

 

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Banana bread with Pecan Streusel
Author: 
Recipe type: Bread, Baking, Snacks, Afternoon Cakes
Active prep time: 
Cooking/Baking time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: 12
 
Adapted from Miette: Recipes from San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop
Makes four small 5-inch loaves or two standard 8-inch loaves.
Ingredients
  • Nutty Streusel
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) pecan pieces
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces( firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup (1½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

  • Banana Bread
  • 2¼ cups (11 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 medium soft, but not black, bananas (about 1 pound total), peeled and roughly mashed
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) pecan pieces
Instructions
  1. Butter four 5"x3" loaf pans and dust with sifted flour. Tap out excess flour. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Make the Streusel
  3. Pulse all the streusel ingredients in a food processor until coarsely combined. Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate. If using immediately, just keep in the food processor bowl and refrigerate. The streusel can be kept for up to 5 days.
  4. Make the Banana Bread Batter
  5. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  6. Whisk sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium speed in a bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer. Mix until well combined and lighter in color, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the speed and drizzle the oil until just incorporated, then add the banana mash and mix until combined as well. Add the dry ingredients and pecans into the batter in three additions; each time whisking until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
  7. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Generously sprinkle the tops with streusel. There would be enough for the two big loaves, and more than enough for the three.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes for the smaller loaves and 45 to 50 minutes for the bigger loaves, until the breads have risen nicely and a tester inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean. Place pans onto wire racks and leave for 20 minutes to cool.
  9. Slide an offset spatula along the sides of each pan and invert the cakes onto the racks and allow to cool for another 20 minutes. Serve immediately or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Notes
Bread can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or kept in the freezer for up to 2 months if wrapped in a second layer of plastic and placed in freezer-safe resealable bag. Serve at room temperature.

 

Posted in baking, bread, brunch, cakes, coffee buddy, dessert, quick & easy2 Comments