Archive | baking

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 2 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 & easy2 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

Versunkener Apfelkuchen (German Sunken Apple Cake)

The truth is, I’ve had the recipe written for weeks now, but I just never had the chance to take a “proper” photo. In an age when the homemaking and crafts queen gets severely criticized for her bad food photo, dare I post a sub-par representation of this fabulous cake?

Dear readers, I do. I’m channeling Martha. There.

Several people have been waiting for this recipe and all I have is a phone photo taken before the Nth cake was devoured. This is the kind of cake that you bake and it disappears. This shot does not do the grandeur of this stunning cake justice, but this will do for now so people can actually make it.

Sunken Apple Cake

I think this would be wonderful surprise dessert for Thanksgiving. Don’t be deterred by a not-so-great food photo and make sure you give it a try. Happy weekend!

Versunkener Apfelkuchen (German Sunken Apple Cake)
Author: 
Recipe type: Cake, Baking
Cuisine: German
Active prep time: 
Cooking/Baking time: 
Total hands-on & cooking/baking time: 
Serves: 8 to 10
 
Ingredients
  • Double asterisks ** indicate the substituted ingredient in the original German recipe
Apple topping
  • 3 medium apples; peeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of half a lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
Cake batter
Instructions
Apple topping
  1. Take each piece of apple and using a sharp paring knife cut lengthwise slits ¼-inch apart to create a "fan".
  2. Place apples in a small bowl and toss with lemon juice and sugar and set aside.
Cake batter
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with the rack in the lower middle position. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by greasing with butter, lining the bottom and sides with parchment circle and strips, greasing the parchment with butter and lightly dusting with flour. This ensures a cake that is perfectly smooth on the sides and separates from the pan with absolute ease.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Mix together over medium speed in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer) until light and fluffy.
  3. Add vanilla extract and egg yolks. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for another 10 seconds.
  4. Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in ⅓ increments until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl at least once. The batter will be very thick, similar to a cookie dough.
  5. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks and fold a few dollops into the batter to loosen it up, then fold in the rest.
  6. Pour into the springfrom pan and level with a spatula. Carefully place slit apple quarters core side down into the batter, pressing lightly to secure them in place. You can arrange them according to your desired pattern. We place one in the center and have the rest circling it.
  7. Bake in the oven for 55 to 60 minutes, but check the cake after 50 minutes. The cake is done when a cake tester inserted in a non-apple section comes out clean and the top of the cake (not the apples) is lightly browned.
  8. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before unfastening and removing the side of the springform pan. Cool completely before serving.
Notes
This recipe was adapted from the recipe from the German cookbook, "Unser Kochbuch No. 1. Das GU Kochbuch für junge Leute" by Gunhild von der Recke and Annette Wolter

 

Posted in baking, cakes, coffee buddy, dessert3 Comments

My Go-To Pumpkin Pie Recipe

I feel like it’s okay to talk about Pumpkin Pie now. It’s the first of October and Our Canadian Thanksgiving is two weeks away. Pretty soon my inbox would receive a trickle of requests for a “foolproof” pumpkin pie recipe.

Well, this is it. This is what I’ve been making the past 5 years whenever the occasion calls for it. It has received nothing but praises and and an occasional whine when the last wedge has been taken. It has an enormous amount of spices, but you’ll appreciate them once you taste the finished pie. I promise it’s not overwhelming once it’s baked. This Fall favorite goes extra smooth and creamy, and is light. The understated  crust is up to the task of keeping its hefty boss intact and allowing it to shine. It’s flaky without being too buttery.

Make it once and you’ll make it all the time from thereon. I’ve baked one a week ago and I’m craving for more. Oh, dear.

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I wish I could say I concocted this recipe, but all the credit goes to America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated. If you have yet to subscribe to that fine publication, I’m telling you now to do it. It has saved my kitchen dilemmas numerous times. I highly recommend the digital subscription because you’ll have access to their magazines and database of recipes.

Please enjoy the pie!

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Posted in baking, dessert, pies0 Comments

Don’t Waste Those Bananas, Bake Banana Bundt Cake

I have this thing about bananas: I like to buy them. I anticipate that someone else would eat them if it’s available at home, but it’s really just me. I’ve been conservative with my banana purchases lately, but even so, I end up with 4 out of 5 bananas getting too ripe to fast before I can consume them. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m getting pretty tired of banana bread. Last week I looked for something else that’s fairly quick to make on a busy weeknight, because let’s face it–bananas won’t wait for you before they’re ready for the compost bin. And I really feel guilty throwing away food due to bad planning.

I turned to one of my go-to baking books, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, for inspiration. Sure enough, it saved the day (or evening) with an easy recipe for banana Bundt cake. It’s moist and light, almost like a teacake. The only ingredient change I made is with the sugar, decreasing it by a quarter of a cup. It was just the right sweetness for us.

Banana cake

All the ingredients for the recipe are readily available and you should be able to whip this up last minute. I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream (my preference of the two), which we almost always have except for that one evening. Oh, Murphy.

Making banana cake

If you are fast, you can get this in the oven in 15 minutes. I did it in 20, photography included.

Banana cake batter before baking

Once it’s done, the top will be shiny and moist, but a knife inserted in the middle of the cake would come out clean. Really try to control yourself from eating it right out of the oven.

Banana cake fresh out of the oven

We enjoyed this for breakfast, packed it for school and office snacks, nibbled on it while playing a board game and even gave a couple of slices to the out-laws. If you’re unsure of making this because of the size, I assure you, this will be gone in no time. Bring it to a party or to work and you will come home with an empty plate.

If you’re in Vancouver, baking this would be a great way to warm up the house and it’s a simple, yet delicious snack on this rainy weekend. I’d recommend it with a cup of tea and a good book.

Happy weekend!

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Posted in baking, cakes, fruits, quick & easy1 Comment

Flu-cation and Soggy Bottom-Free Blueberry Pie

It’s been an interesting week at home to say the least, with two kids suffering from stomach flu (three if you count the furry and whiskered middle child who had a couple of non-projectile episodes) and two adults fighting off something, including one who’s in varying degrees of undiagnosed pain at any one point (i.e. me). The girls’ virus is contagious and we are officially on flu-cation until we’re all symptom- and germ-free.

It’s a bummer to be stuck at home under these circumstances, but what can you do? I’ll just welcome the indoor time and go through my pile of unread magazines, continue knitting sock #1 of two, bake some bread and pie or tart, write letters with a pen and paper, edit photos from our cycling trips and post here some more.

Here’s another recipe I’d like to share with you and it’s a good one to try before the blueberry season comes to an end. It’s probably the quickest fruit pie I can make because there’s neither a need to peel and/or slice the berries or pre-cook them.

Blueberry Pie

It’s important to pick ripe and sweet blueberries so you don’t need that much sugar. If your berries are a bit tart, simply add more sugar (about 2 to to 4 tablespoons more).

Blueberry pie

Dreading the soggy bottom crust, some cook the berries to reduce the liquid. I prefer baking them fresh and keeping the globules intact, which is why choosing the right ripeness is crucial. I also use equal amounts of flour and cornstarch as thickener and an egg yolk as a binder. Yolk. You read it correctly. It works.

Blueberry pie

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Once cooled for serving, the pie filling stays intact. There’s no excess runny liquid and the fruits stay within the boundaries of the slice when cut.

Blueberry Pie

If you’re like me, sometimes craving overcomes reason. What waiting? I’ll slice the pie before it cools down. It’s great that there’s no excess liquid to soak up the crust. Goodbye soggy bottoms.

Blueberry Pie

I’ll make sure to bake another one or two of these before saying adieu to the blueberries this year. I hope you’ll do, too!

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Posted in baking, dessert, fruits0 Comments

Keep Your Heart In Your Bread

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to make “hearty” food. Last year I made heart-shaped pizzas. This time I tried a heart-embedded loaf:

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I was anxious to slice the bread after I took it out of the oven, but was quite relieved after seeing the cross section. For a first attempt, it’s not bad at all. It served its cute purpose for breakfast toast and the girls’ school lunches. Of course, I always have the most fun making it.

I’ll give this loaf design another try and post a tutorial for next time. It was a fun exercise in “clay” shaping and thinking in 3D.

Posted in baking, bread, experiments0 Comments

Nutella Bomb Brownies

I’m going to try this or this blog will never be updated ever again: tapping away on the iPad (mini, which is perfect for typing with my small hands) at 2am in the morning with what might turn out to be… a post! I already finished drafting the recipe on Evernote earlier, as a gift to myself instead of brownies, after clearing the dining table and cleaning the kitchen. This is the kind of busy I’m in now. I’ve never stopped cooking or baking, but producing content for the site is a different story altogether. And what about photos taken with the DLSR, you ask? I could take one tomorrow IF there’s any left by the time I get around to it. For now, iPhone 4S photos would do. Please bear with me as I return from my writing slumber.

Now these brownies.

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Do we need another one of these recipes, really? For Nutella Day, why not? It is, after all, the sweet and equally evil equivalent of bacon. I picked a drier and fluffier brownie from Alice Medrich’s book as the carrier of the gooey fudge “bombs” of Nutella, making sure to decrease the amount of sugar to accommodate the spread’s sweetness.

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The resulting brownie has pockets of Nutella in every bite.

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While the “Nutella bombs” were just enough for me, my partner still needed an extra kick and he smeared more of it on top before devouring. I could only imagine how sweet that was. But then again, he’s our resident Nutella monster, known to empty a jar if left unsupervised. [Hi, love, I outed you.]

We did agree on one thing the other evening: to top the brownies with amarena cherry and salted caramel gelato from Bella Gelateria (our favorite).

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I’ve included instructions for adjusting the Nutella content, as well as baking instructions when using a turbo broiler. The latter is a recent consideration after discovering that some friends in Manila use it.

Nutella Bomb Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
8 tablespoons / 4 ounces / 1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 2.75 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 cup / 7.5 ounces white granulated sugar **
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup / 4 tablespoons Nutella **

** Guide to adjusting the Nutella and sugar content: you can add more Nutella but make sure to decrease the sugar. I suggest subtracting a tablespoon of sugar for every tablespoon of Nutella added. I wouldn’t add more than 7 tablespoons of Nutella to this recipe, though.

Preparation

Line an 8-inch square metal baking pan with aluminum foil on the bottom and sides (a single sheet cut from a regular sized roll would do).

Preheat oven to 350F, position rack in the lower middle section of the oven. [For convection oven or turbo broiler: preheat to 335F]

Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl set over a pan with simmering water. Stir until smooth and free of clumps. Remove bowl from the water and set on the counter to cool at room temperature.

Whisk flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl using a fork or a whisk.

Beat eggs, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a regular mixing bowl (if using a handheld mixer) on high for 2 minutes (longer with a handheld mixer), or until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and double in volume. Fold in the melted chocolate using a rubber spatula until partially incorporated with the egg mixture. Sift the flour mixture over it and fold until the chocolate and flour are blended together.

Save a scant 1/4 cup of the batter and pour the rest over the lined pan, levelling the top with the spatula.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup batter with Nutella. Notice that the batter will seize up and will look like coarse textured dough (not mushy), firm enough to hold. Using your clean hand, distribute marble-sized Nutella “dough bombs” on top of the batter in the pan. Press lightly into the batter to even out the top.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes [For convection oven or turbo broiler: baking time would be 20 to 25 minutes and you should start checking the brownie for doneness starting at 20 minutes.], until a toothpick or cake tester come out clean when poked in a non-Nutella area; a few crumbs might cling to it, but it shouldn’t be wet. [The Nutella areas will be gooey.]

Set pan on a rack to cool completely. Carefully lift out the foil with the brownie from the pan and place on a cutting board. Use a long metal spatula to separate the brownie from the foil. A straight plastic dough scraper is the best non-sticky tool to use for cutting into them, but any knife would do. For super clean cuts, cool the unsliced brownie in the fridge for 2 hours and slice with a lightly oiled metal dough scraper.

Storage: Brownies will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. If sliced, use parchment paper between layers when stacking.

Posted in baking, cakes, chocolate, dessert, snacks0 Comments

Shaker Lemon Pie for Pi Day

Pi Day. Pie Day. I don’t think there’s a better time to post about this Shaker Lemon Pie that we enjoyed plain and with vanilla ice cream. The pie crust (which I made with a healthy sprinkle of vodka) and the Meyer lemon custard filling were a welcome deviation from our never-ending winter of rain, as it’s always been.

It’s still Meyer lemon season and while my friends in California have had more than enough of it than all their cooking, baking, canning & preserving capacities can use up, here in Vancouver we get them mostly in pre-packaged Dandy-brand bags that remind us it’s the “The Chefs preference for desserts, beverages, main dishes and more!” I treasure every fruit because it’s not local to us. As much as I lean towards supporting local, Meyer lemons are imported treats I give myself permission to enjoy as much as I can.

I’ve made anywhere from lemon curd, lemon rolls, margarita, and putting lemon zest and juice in everything, but this Shaker Lemon Pie is the most special thing I’ve made from it this season. It makes me want winter to stay if only for the Meyer lemons.

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The crust is money: flavorful, flaky and leaves you wanting more.

The lemon curd-like custard filling uses up the whole lemon (minus the seeds) and pleases the use-everything Asian in me. This pie is said to have originated from the Shaker community of Ohio, and because their lemons came from far away, they wanted to make sure they didn’t waste any part of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Armed with a good mandoline, this shaker lemon pie can be yours, easy peasy. If you don’t have one, a little patience and a sharp knife will pull you through.

What you’ll need for the crust: Foolproof Pie Dough (PDF) from a previous post

  • 2 1/2 cups (or 12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup vodka, cold (no substitutes)
  • 1/4 cup water, cold
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (use for double crust pie)
  • egg white of 1 large egg, beaten

And the simplest of recipes for filling:

  • 2 Meyer lemons, very thinly sliced preferably with a mandoline, seeds removed (you can use regular lemons, but they will be tarter)
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • egg wash from a small amount of beaten whole egg with a few drops of water

Preparation:

1. Mix the thinly slices of Meyer lemons with sugar in a small bowl. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours. Ideally you’d want to leave it for 24 hours. I did mine for 36 — heavenly.

2. Follow the instructions for the pie dough in the recipe. Preheat oven to 425°F and place a rimmed baking sheet inside. Oven rack should be in the lower third level.

3. Beat the eggs and sugar, combine with the macerated lemons. Pour into the pie plate with crust and place the other crust from the fridge on top. Flute the edges or seal with the tines of a fork. Brush the top with egg wash and don’t forget to cut vent holes with a sharp knife — whatever pattern you like.

4. Bake the pie on the rimmed baking sheet for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 375°F and bake for another 20-25 minutes (check at 20 minutes for doneness). The pie is ready when an inserted knife comes out clean.

It’s less tart and more custard-y after a day or two and it gets better after a day. Re-heat for a few minutes at 350°F.

Posted in baking, dessert, fruits5 Comments