The Sweetest Crumb

A Crooked Croque-en-Bouche

The croque-en-bouche (croquembouche) is a traditional French dessert which consists of a conical tower of cream puffs. The puffs are filled with pastry cream and attached with cooked sugar. It’s common to see the croquembouche served at weddings, birthdays and other special occasions in France. So of course, we made one at FERRANDI.

In order to make the croquembouche, we first needed to create a base for our piece. The base was made of nougatine, a mixture of nuts and sugar. Nougatine needs to be at precisely the right temperature – it must be warm enough to be workable, not so hot that it melts into a puddle and not so cold that it hardens and breaks into brittle pieces. This proved difficult for us beginners. However, we eventually, after some burnt hands, got the hang of it.

We decorated the base with thin strands of royal icing…

Then we began assembling the cream puffs onto the base, glueing them one at a time with sugar.

This was my first ever attempt at making the croquembouche and I must admit that stacking the cream puffs evenly was way more difficult that I expected. We worked on our croquembouche for three full days in the lab. And in the end, what I had created was a leaning tower of cream puffs. I kept trying to rotate my creation to find its best side only to conclude that it was crooked and wavy from all sides (although that’s probably the perfectionist in me talking… as well as the chef laughing at my final creation). I couldn’t help but giggle too when I looked at it. I decided to embrace its “abstract” appearance by topping it off with some curved, crooked sugar pieces and gaudy pink roses – might as well go all out!

Ta-da!

I used my leftover nougatine pieces to practice piping. I made the bunnies and my partner made them a carrot.

The best part of making the croquembouche, though, was probably when our chef used the leftover sugar to make himself these awesome sugar glasses – never a dull moment with Chef Didier!

Entremets and Confectionary at Ferrandi (Month 3)

Time at school is flying by. When I stop to think about how few weeks we have left, I get a little bit sad. We’ve learned so much in the last few months but yet we are still complete newbies in the field of pastry. During our FERRANDI orientation, we were told that to become a good pastry chef, we would need 10 years of professional experience. If we happen to be exceptionally gifted, we might be able to shave off a few years. Despite the fact that I’ve been baking at home for years, making pastry professionally is entirely different and most days I feel like a complete beginner. Plus, Paris is a city filled with unbelievable culinary and pastry talent. There are famous pastry chefs whose names are on magazine covers, who have decades of experience and whose beautiful shops are scattered throughout the city. Their work is half art, half pastry. It is inspiring, constantly reminding me of how much I have yet to learn and getting me excited for what is to come.

Now, onto what we learned in the third month at FERRANDI!

We started by working on entremets.

entremets – a dessert which consists largely of components which are soft, such as cream, mousse, custard, etc. It can be presented in the form of a cake, such as one made up of layers of creams with different flavours or textures (ie. Black Forrest cake) or can be an entirely flourless dessert such as a crème brûlée.

Here is a selection of some of the entremets we made:

Mogador

(chocolate and raspberry)

(more…)

Viennoiserie, Pâte à Choux and More at Ferrandi (Month 2)

Time at FERRANDI is flying by. Tomorrow I am returning to school after a week of Easter vacation. After not being in school for a whole week, FERRANDI actually started to seem like some distant dream where I was able to do something fun every day. I am so excited to return to the pastry kitchen tomorrow!

By the second month at FERRANDI, we were all getting a bit more used to being in the kitchen. Part of working in the pastry kitchen is sharing in the cleaning duties. At the beginning of each week, our chef posts the weekly schedules for us. These schedules let us know what we’ll be making each day as well as who is responsible for which duty that week. The tasks include: washing the tables and floors, washing dishes, taking out garbages, operating the ovens and being the chef of the week. Washing dishes is definitely my least favourite task – no one loves scrubbing pots with burnt on pastry cream. Plus, you have to be quick at baking AND scrubbing pots, otherwise you fall behind and the dishes just pile up! Being in charge of ovens is also not too fun. You are in charge of taking things out when they are baked which seems easy but can be quite stressful. We’ve already had numerous incidents involving burnt cakes as well as several cakes being accidentally dropped and destroyed while being removed from the oven. Chef of the week is surprisingly a really easy duty. You just need to check that everything got cleaned at the end of lab and check the temperature of the fridges and freezers to make sure they are working properly and within the food safety standards.

Another regular part of being in pastry school is constantly having your work critiqued and graded. Every week or two we have to prepare something for grading. We generally get a chance to practice the item once or twice before grading. Usually our baking is also lined up from best to worst. Before getting to FERRANDI, I heard that’s how things were done and found it really intimidating. Now, I think its the best way to go. Having all the baking lined up really helps to identify the differences in the products and better understand what the chef is looking for in a professional product. Plus I think it leads to the most fair grades. I can’t lie and say that grading days aren’t a bit stressful – I seem to always be less happy with how my products turn out on grading days than regular lab days. But overall, the grading and feedback is really useful. For example, I thought that my chaussons aux pommes turned out great but the chef docked me marks, saying the leaves looked “dead” because I scored the dough with straight instead of angled lines. However, the brioche I thought turned out ugly, got the top mark in the class for being extra airy and light.

The “Dead” Chaussons aux Pommes // Top Mark Brioche 

So here are some of the other things we made in our second month at FERRANDI:

We finished off working on mille-feuille with a few more recipes including a chocolate praline and raspberry-anise mille-feuille. Mille-feuille is best eaten the same day as it is made. Some of the mille-feuille we made was used for restaurant service but I still had way more than I could eat. I spent my Friday night after school searching for a homeless person to give my remaining mille-feuille to – I couldn’t have them eating day old mille-feuille!

Next, we had a day scheduled for the French macaron. We were only supposed to spend one day on macarons but after convincing (annoying) our Chef, he agreed to let us have two days to work on them! The first day we each made our own batch, using FERRANDI recipes. The second day, we paired up and were allowed to make whatever type of macaron we wanted to.

Matcha Chestnut Macarons // Passionfruit Chocolate Macarons // A Collection of Everyone’s Macarons

We worked our way through viennoiserie. Viennoiserie is pastry made from yeasted doughs.

Kougloff // Brioche Suisse // Criossant // Croissant Cross Section // Pain au Chocolat // Pains aux raisins (minus the raisins and plus pistachios and almonds)

Next we tackled pâte à choux.

Chocolate Eclairs // Coffee Religieuse // Paris Brest 

While I am taking the Intensive Professional Program in French Pastry at FERRANDI, we still get an introduction to bread baking as well. We have a total of 5 half day classes in the bakery. During our first class at the bakery we learned about different methods to make bread (i.e. with yeast, poolish, fermented dough, etc.), different loaf shaping techniques and other bread making basics. Time in the bakery is very relaxed compared to the pastry kitchen. Sometimes you just wait for the bread to rise and enjoy the smell of yeast and fresh bread – very different from the pastry kitchen!

During the second month of classes, we also had our first art class. We were given watercolours and other art supplies, but also a lot of homework :( (More on the art classes in a future post).

I’ll do my best to continue sharing my next batch of culinary adventures in a timely manner! First though, I have a pile of chocolate egg concept sketches to finish and an apartment move ahead of me :)

Dining in Paris – Shu, Les Cocottes, Le Trumilou

Since we moved to Paris at the end of January, we have loved discovering the city and all the delicious dining options. For anyone who is wondering where we’ve been eating, here are a few of our most memorable dinners from the past 6 weeks.

Shu

One of the first things we did after the big move to Paris is go for dinner at Shu. We saw this cute Japanese restaurant on our last visit to Paris and were immediately drawn to it because of the tiny door you need to go through to get inside. I really wanted to try it last year but unfortunately we found it towards the end of our trip and were unable to secure a reservation. I was so disappointed last year that Sean tried to cheer me up, saying that when we move to Paris Shu would be the first place we go for dinner. I brushed off his promises, thinking that we would never seriously move to Paris. However, a year and a half later we are here and this is indeed the first place we went for dinner – as promised.

Shu has three set menus to choose from, which all include kushiague – different types of meat, seafood and vegetables deep fried on skewers.

Overall,  while the meal was good, I would have liked to see a few more fresh options included in the set menus to balance out the deep fried foods – I found the meal a bit too heavy and salty. However, the staff was very friendly and since the dinner was more symbolic for us than anything else, I loved it.


8, rue Suger 75006 Paris
+33 (0)1 46 34 25 88
Monday – Saturday
18h30 – 23n30

 

Les Cocottes

Our second dining experience in Paris was at Les Cocottes. We read about the restaurant on David Lebovitz’s list of Paris restaurant recommendations. To be honest we’ve been relying quite heavily on all of David Lebovitz‘s articles on living and eating in Paris. He has articles on everything from tipping in France, to public transport to where to find groceries. They are so helpful for anyone who is visiting or moving to Paris and I can’t recommend them enough. And after spending so much time on his site, I was stoked to meet him at a book signing last month!

Ok now back to Les Cocottes. This restaurant is in the 7th arrondissement, about 5 minutes walking from the Eiffel Tower. We had great service here and were pleased to see that the prices were actually really reasonable for a restaurant in such a popular tourist area. I found the food fantastic and this is probably my favourite dinner to date in Paris.

Since they don’t take reservations and the small space can get crowded, we sat at the bar and started with a few glasses of wine.

Based on the name of the restaurant, you may have guessed that it is known for dishes served in cocottes, fireproof dishes in which individual sized meals are cooked and served. We decided to share the potatoes farcie (stuffed) with pied de porc (pig’s feet) cocotte. I’d never had this type of meat before but our waitress assured us that it was delicious, tender and not fatty. The potatoes were cooked perfectly, caramelized on top. The meat was as delicious as she had promised and I would have gladly eaten the entire cocotte myself. We also decided to share “La vraie salade César Ritz”. This is the restaurant’s take on the traditional César salad and while it photographed terribly, it tasted fantastic. The salad had a generous amount of chicken, hard boiled eggs and croutons. The dressing was perfectly rich and creamy. This salad was really memorable and I would gladly return to order it again. Overall, the dining experience here was excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Les Cocottes!


135, rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris
from 12h00 to 15h30, from 18h30 to 22h30 (23h fridays and saturdays)

 

Le Trumilou

Le Trumilou is a small bistro which serves classic French dishes. The restaurant is fairly casual and dishes are simple and unpretentious yet the meals are comforting and satisfying. The menu is very meat-focused with several wild game options.


We went with the fixed menu of the day. I started with the shrimp and avocado cream. This was a very refreshing choice, but I would have liked to see a bit more strong flavours used in the dish.

Sean went with the charcuterie plate. I am usually a bit hesitant of various jellified meats but I must say I thought the three choices served as part of the appetizer were really delicious. Again, the plate was very simple, but the quality of the meat was evident, making for a tasty appetizer.

For the entree, I went with the guinea fowl. The meat was stewed with potatoes and a flavourful broth. It was perfectly tender, aromatic and falling off the bones. Sean went with the goat (sorry no photos) which was well-prepared in a simple sauce to highlight the flavours of the meat itself.

Overall, we enjoyed Le Trumilou. It is a welcoming French bistro that serves up well-prepared classics at reasonable prices. This is not the type of place where you are likely to see the chefs experimenting with new flavours or modern dishes. However, when you have a hankering for a traditionally prepared cut of good quality meat, this is the place to go.


84 Quai de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris
00 33 (0)1 42 77 63 98

The Beginning at Ferrandi

Thursday marked one month since we got off the plane in France. It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to everyone I love back home, but at the same time it is exciting to start a new adventure in an incredible city.

Eiffel Tower as seen during an evening stroll

Less than a week after arriving in Paris, I started pastry school. The first few days in class were spent with orientations, kitchen tours, getting our tools and uniforms (which include a stylish hair net/bonnet as well as shoes which look like they’re from the 80′s).

This year there are 27 international students in the Anglophone pastry program (and about the same number in the cuisine program). Each of the programs were split into two groups (Pastry Anglo A for me, with 13 other students). My classmates come from a variety of countries: the US, Canada, Taiwan, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Brazil, Kuwait and Thailand. Since the program doesn’t require any prior industry experience, I was surprised to find that a lot of the students have previous experience working in bakeries, restaurants or have previous culinary or pastry schooling – a little intimidating from someone who hasn’t really baked anywhere outside their own kitchen. Our chef is amazing – he has so much experience and knowledge, is so helpful and hilarious. I constantly find myself cracking up at his jokes.

Our days consist mostly of time in the kitchen, with hands on experience. However, we also have classes covering theory, French language, wine (with tastings and dessert pairings to come) and art classes. Our schedule varies on a daily and weekly basis. We alternate having kitchen time in the mornings at 8:00am or in the afternoons starting at 2:00pm. The other half of the day is usually filled with theory classes, French, etc. Sometimes we have half days. Lunch is served for free at the school, but is really disappointing. At first I found it really surprising that the food served at a culinary school is so terrible, but I later learned that the lunch services are subcontracted out to a third party (no Ferrandi student would make vegetables so mushy and tasteless!). Other than these subpar lunches, everything at school has been fantastic so far. I have been fascinated by everything we’ve learned and can’t remember the last time I took notes so eagerly on a topic I am so passionate about.

Sample weekly schedule:

The program is called the Intensive Professional Program in French Pastry and it definitely seems intensive thus far. Most days are hectic and busy, with us often leaving the kitchens an hour later than scheduled and making it to the cafeteria with only minutes before they close. The standards for our work are high. Our work is constantly criticized and sometimes (part-seriously, part-jokingly) called “disgusting” – there is no sugar coating here, so to speak. But we’re told not to take the criticisms personally, learn from them and improve our work. It is clear why this program yields such well-trained professionals, and why the employment rate for graduates of Ferrandi is so high (97%). Despite classes being occasionally overwhelming, I absolutely love every part of it so far. I don’t remember the last time I was able to wake up each morning and go do something I’m passionate about for the entire day… over and over again. There have been a few times when I was standing in the lab, rolling out dough and I was struck with the realization of how lucky I am to be in pastry school. It’s hard to believe that had I not found the courage to take this leap, I would been dragging myself through yet another stressful, unfullfilling busy season of auditing right now. Hopefully that’s a sign that I made the right decision in coming here!

So you’re probably wondering what we’ve learned in the first few weeks of class. We started with tarts, working with pâte sucrée and pâte à foncer.

pâte à foncer - a basic shortcrust dough which has a sturdy texture, retains its shape well when baked

pâte sucrée – a sweet dough, more crumbly and soft than pâte à fonder, puffs out when baked

We worked with some traditional French recipes as well as some contemporary ones, such as the famous vanilla bean and coffee tart recipes developed by Pierre Hermé. We learned proper techniques for rolling the dough, lining the tart ring and pinching the edges. When I realized on the first day in the kitchen that all the tarts would be baked not in a tart pan but in a ring (with no bottom!) I was sure that the dough would just fall right out through the bottom. However, no major tart casualties ensued.

Tarte aux Pommes // Flan Parisienne // Tarte au Citron, Tarte Orange // Tarte au Chocolate // Tarte Dacquoise // Coffee Tart

We then moved on to working with puff pastry dough. I had never made my own puff pastry before, so I found the process really interesting. We made both traditional and inverse puff pastry dough, with the butter either on the inside our outside of your dough respectively. We learned the techniques for folding, turning and relaxing the puff pastry dough and came away with these delicious treats:

Tart Bands // Pithivier // Palmiers // Mille-feuille Traditionnel

The above photos are just a sample of all the things we’ve made at pastry school so far. Essentially, I come home each day with boxes filled with baking. My biggest concern so far is finding people to give away all these sweets too. Everyone from our neighbours, the owners of the small restaurant we live above and homeless people in our neighbourhood have all been helping us polish off the past month’s baking. So… if you’re in the Paris area, you should definitely say hi and take some sweets off my hands!

 

My Long Absence and Big News

For a long time I dreamed about going to pastry school in France, but this far-fetched dream was always buried in the back of my mind by far more rational, responsible thoughts. Finishing my practical Bachelor of Commerce degree and going on to obtain my Chartered Accountant designation has occupied my mind for the last 5 years or so. These goals have since become accomplishments and while I am proud of these achievements, I was exhausted from a job that I found unfulfilling. I was left feeling unsatisfied both personally and professionally. I was over worked and so stressed that my career started taking a toll on both my health and relationships. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point I decided that I should no longer be at a job where each day I struggled to force myself to get out of bed. While it became clear that this type of work was just not right for me at this point in my life, I left my firm with the utmost respect for my peers and mentors, and haven’t closed the door on returning to professional accounting later in life.

I simply decided that I needed a change for my own well-being, if nothing else. I was terrified to make a huge, potentially life-altering change. But one day, perhaps during a bout of insanity, I decided to apply to FERRANDI l’École Française de Gastronomie for their Intensive Professional Program in French Pastry. FERRANDI is one of the leading pâtisserie schools in France with a reputation that makes it more than a little intimidating. Also, did I mention it is situated right in the middle of Paris? The professional French pastry program involves pastry schooling for 5 months, followed by a 3-6 month internship in Paris. I applied not knowing whether or not I would get in, nor knowing if I was brave enough to actually go if I was in fact accepted.

A few months after applying, I received confirmation of my enrolment. After talking it over with those closest to me, I decided to take the plunge. Sean was able to join me for my year in Paris, working in a field where working remotely is often possible. Slowly we started checking off to do’s: applying for visas, booking our apartment and buying our flights. By Christmas I had left my job and by the end of January we were officially living in Paris. The craziness of relocating halfway across the world left me too busy to post, but I am hoping to have more regular blog posts from here on out (including more updates on the challenges of moving and how our first weeks in Paris have been.)

Before I get into talking about my first few magical weeks at FERRANDI, I just wanted to quickly recap some projects from my last few months in Canada. The annual cookie baking tradition with my bestie went off without a hitch once again. Here are some of the cookies our week-long baking spree yielded:

Also, for Christmas my nephew asked for a lollipop. Refusing to purchase some store-bought, preservative-filled candy, I decided to make my own. We’re all pretty focused on natural foods in my household, so I wanted to make my lollipops as natural as possible. I knew that this could be a challenge. I didn’t want to use corn syrup and I wanted natural flavouring. I used agave syrup and raw cane sugar as sweeteners and organic grape juice for flavouring. Sadly, my first shot didn’t go so well. While the lollipops looked and tasted great once they were removed from the moulds, overnight they became gummy and this is what happened:

I quickly learned that agave is mostly fructose, which absorbs moisture quickly (hygroscopic). This makes your lollipops gummy and saggy as opposed to hard and shiny. To achieve the perfect lollipops, a mixture of fructose and glucose should be used. For my second attempt, I scrapped the agave and cane sugar, and instead used a mixture of granulated sugar and glucose purchased from a local specialty baking supply shop. These lollipops turned out perfect and were a hit with the kids.

Having finally figured out the right sugars to use, I decided to play around with a few “adult” flavours. Inspired by Sprinkle Bakes, I made red wine lollipops and sriracha lollipops. I substituted the glucose I already on hand for the corn syrup. I thought both flavours were fantastic, but, be warned, the sriracha candy is definitely something you either love or hate ;)

Have a good week, guys! And stay tuned for a post on my first weeks at FERRANDI.

Sour Cherry Pie and a Canadian Recipe

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a cherry craze.

I’ve been buying cherries (along with almost every other kind of fruit available) at our local farmers’ market to fully take advantage of the last few, dwindling weeks of summer produce.

I have helped my parents pick their overflowing Evans cherry tree, essentially stuffing my freezer full of cherries afterwards. I may have even announced afterwards that we need to buy another freezer (don’t worry – Sean stopped me from making that impulse buy).

And, I’m currently drinking a chocolate cherry latte courtesy of Roast… mmmm.

So overall – cherry overload.

Also, since today is the 7th, it is once again time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those of you who are new to the Canadian Food Experience Project, the series began on June 7, 2013 and involves a collection of monthly articles written by food bloggers, writers and enthusiasts on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project aims to help us explore and share our Canadian food identity.

As today’s challenge was to share a cherished Canadian recipe, I thought it would be a perfect time to share what I did with all my Evans cherries. As some of you will know, the Evans cherry is a sour cherry variety which grows on a hardy tree, perfect for withstanding our harsh Alberta climate, making it a very popular regional fruit. It might not have the same look or flavour as the better known Bing cherry, but it is still delicious, tart and perfect for desserts – especially pie.

This pie was great – I’ve been having a slice with my lunch everyday since I made it and it never fails to hit the spot. The tart filling goes well with the buttery crust and it would be fantastic with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Now I need to admit that I am very picky about pie crusts – full disclosure! I need the crust to be flaky and sprinkled with sugar. But I refuse to use shortening in my crust to get the flaky effect. First of all, the extreme white colour of shortening creeps me out a little. Second, hydrogenated oils and trans fats are yukky – I want to feel good about what I’m putting in my body regardless of if its a quinoa salad or a slice of pie. And third, nothing beats butter, in my opinion :) Needless to say, I am a butter purist when it comes to baking. So… I use this wonderful recipe from Smitten Kitchen for pie crusts. Deb also provides some great tips on making pie dough for those who may be attempting their first pie here and here.

For the filling, I used the recipe below. It is really easy to throw together and has few ingredients since the cherry flavour stands out well all on its own.

So, if you have a cherry surplus in your freezer too, make a pie. You won’t be disappointed.

Enjoy.

Sour Cherry Pie Filling

By Genia Rodnyansky Published: September 7, 2013

  • Yield: enough for one 9

Recently, I've been on a bit of a cherry craze. I've been buying cherries (along with almost every other kind of fruit available) …

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 lb sour cherries such as Evans, pitted
  • 1 tsp lemon juice freshly squeeze
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in cherries, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir carefully until evenly mixed.
  3. Use mixture to fill prepared pie crust.

    Canadian Food Heroes

    Happy Wednesday, friends!

    Sorry for the long absence, guys. Life got busy and my blog posts became less frequent. However, since today is the 7th, it is once again time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those of you who are new to the Canadian Food Experience Project, the series began on June 7, 2013 and involves a collection of monthly articles written by food bloggers, writers and enthusiasts on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project aims to help us explore and share our Canadian food identity.

    The challenge for August is to write about our local Canadian food hero. As I started to think about this topic, I found myself in a bit of a panic. I am not closely acquainted with any local farmers, producers, chefs or bakers – what would I write about? In fact, I am a chartered accountant who spends Monday through Friday working in a tall downtown office tower, as far away from anyone involved in the production of local food as possible. However, this somehow doesn’t stop me from being hugely passionate about eating healthy, local foods. In fact, I’ve always had a weird fascination with anything rural (when I was young, while other girls dreamed of marrying movie stars, I dreamed of marrying a farmer ;) ). And now, as an adult, I find it extremely important to cook meals from scratch, know exactly what I am eating and where the ingredients came from. So while I can’t say I am closely  acquainted with any local farmer/producer/chef/baker, I can safely say that I am truly grateful for all the talented individuals in the Edmonton area who help us city dwellers develop a deeper understanding of where our food comes from. These are the my “food heroes.”

    There are local farmers and gardeners like those at Happy Acres U-Pick and Billyco Junction. They value chemical-free growing and welcome anyone to stop by for an afternoon of picking strawberries, saskatoons and honeyberries. This not only allows people like me to fill their pails (and freezers) with berries that are bursting in flavour and nutrients, but allows families to bring their children along to learn about local agriculture.

    There are producers which reliably bring their produce to local farmer’s markets so us city dwellers, who often have little opportunity to plant and harvest our own gardens, can take advantage of the season’s bounty. Their market stands become a regular stop for many. I can personally attest that we’ve been getting our weekly haul of fruits and vegetables from producers like Steve and Dan’s and Gull Valley Greenhouses all summer, using their produce in everything from weekday lunches to dessert creations.

    There are also organizations like Taste Alberta that put on wonderful events like Farm to Fork. The event, held this July, allowed regular city folks like us to meet regional producers like Patrick and Cherylynn Bos of Rock Ridge organic dairy. We toured their farm and learned about the processing of goat and cow milk and cheese. We were able to put a face behind the milk carton we may have already been buying at Blush Lane. Plus we got to pet the cute goats!

    While on the Farm to Fork tour, we also had a chance to stop at Brown Eggs and Lamb, a local farm near Lacombe. Cal and Laura welcomed us into their farm even though we arrived after official tour hours. They treated us to some homemade saskatoon tarts and openly told us all about their experience with hens and sheep – they even let us hold their chickens. Brown Eggs and Lamb also has a small shop on site where anyone can purchase their eggs and lamb. They also carry ground flours, local dairy and pasture-fed meats from other nearby producers.

    These experiences are so valuable. Being able to visit the farm where you obtain your food from allows you to build a relationship with the producer, feel confident in the quality of food you are purchasing and solidify a clear connection between farm and food. Thank you to everyone who let us into their farms that day!

    Lastly, there are our friends and family, who support us in our pursuits of healthy, local food. Friends who are willing to share their knowledge on where to find wild blueberries or how to identify edible mushrooms.

    Family members like my mom, who has the biggest green thumb and so much generosity that she won’t let us leave her home without filling our car with her own amazing, local harvest.

    And significant others like my own urban farmer, who puts up with me while I insist on spending countless hours of our preciously limited free time washing, sorting and freezing local summer produce so we can enjoy it when the summer is long gone.

    So thank you to all of my local food heroes – my pursuits at eating healthy and local would definitely not be the same without people like you!

    A Regional Canadian Food: Saskatoon Berry Ice Cream

    Happy Sunday, friends!

    As today is the 7th, its time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those of you who read last month’s topic… you will recall it was all about the past with recollections of first authentic Canadian food memories. The challenge for July was to explore a regional Canadian food.

    For those of you who are new to the Canadian Food Experience Project, the project began on June 7, 2013 and involves a collection of monthly articles written by food bloggers, writers and enthusiasts on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project aims to help us explore and share our Canadian food identity.

    When I was thinking about what regional foods or ingredients I would work with for the challenge, the Saskatoon berry just seemed like an obvious choice. These sweet berries are native to the prairies (along with British Columbia and some of the Northern United States), having been used by Native Americans for food and medicinal purposes centuries ago. While they can be easily mistaken for blueberries in appearance, Saskatoon berries have a fairly different flavour – still sweet like the blueberry, they also have a bit of tartness and a drier, less juicy feel. We can’t generally buy these berries at nearby grocery stores, but they are locally available in the wild or can be harvested at local U-Picks. It is definitely not uncommon to see Saskatoon berries used in pies or tarts in Alberta and, to me, they are a perfect representation of regional cuisine.

    While Saskatoon pie is delicious, and I would never turn down a slice, I wanted to make something a bit different to showcase the flavour of this regional berry. I pulled out the ice cream machine and a few hours later we had Saskatoon berry ice cream!

    The ice cream recipe was inspired by a few of the recipes in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz – this man in amazing and I love to live vicariously through his food adventures.

    Also, I know that not everyone has an ice cream maker just sitting around at home, but to be honest, a simple, quality machine can be purchased at a reasonable price and is a great investment if you’re looking to make frozen desserts at home. Ours is by no means fancy, but it does the job, churns the ice cream and yields delicious creamy desserts. (I dream of one day upgrading to a professional machine.) The recipe for the ice cream itself was quite simple. The most frustrating and time consuming part was straining the berry puree through a fine sieve to make sure our ice cream was as smooth as possible. While this is by no means necessary, you won’t regret spending the extra time straining the puree when you’re enjoying flawlessly smooth and creamy scoops of ice cream. In terms of taste, I couldn’t have been happier with this ice cream. The Saskatoon berry flavour came through really well and the bright, natural colour was a plus.

    Some additional tips to keep in mind:

    • If you haven’t made ice cream before, make sure to read through the steps carefully. It may help to have your ice bath ready when you are making the ice cream.
    • Make sure to chill your cream mixture in the refrigerator thoroughly before churning. This will help create the creamy taste we love so much in ice cream.
    • As with most homemade ice creams, this dessert was very rich and you really need only a small scoop or two to be satisfied – so good.
    • The dimensions below will yield more berry puree than you will require for the ice cream. You can use the remaining puree in smoothies or add to pancake batter for a regionally-inspired breakfast. Enjoy!

    Saskatoon Berry Ice Cream

    IMG_2502

    By Genia Rodnyansky Published: July 7, 2013

    • Yield: 1.5 quart

    Happy Sunday, friends! As today is the 7th, its time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those …

    Ingredients

    • 6 cups Saskatoon berries fresh or frozen
    • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
    • 1 1/2 cups half and half
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 5 egg yolks large
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed

    Instructions

    1. Combine the Saskatoon berries and 3/4 cups sugar in a large saucepan. Add a splash of water and cook over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes or until berries are breaking up and soft. You can assist the process by stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up the berries against the side of the saucepan. If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add a bit more water but be careful not to dilute the flavourful puree too much.
    2. Once cooked, transfer the puree to a blender and blend until smooth. Then strain the mixture through a fine, mesh strainer. Reserve 1.5 cups of the strained puree. The rest can be set aside for other uses.
    3. Pour the whipping cream into a large bowl and place a strainer over top. Set aside.
    4. Warm the half and half and the 1/2 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan.
    5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly add the warmed half and half mixture to the egg yolks, adding a little at a time and whisking constantly until fully incorporated. This will allow the eggs to temper and not cook. Return this mixture back to the saucepan.
    6. Cook the mixture over low-medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan as you cook. Cook the mixture until it thickens to a custard consistency and coats the back of your spoon.
    7. Pour the thickened mixture through the sieve, into the prepared whipping cream. Add in the Saskatoon berry puree and the lemon juice. Stir to combine and transfer to an ice bath to chill, stirring occasionally.
    8. Once chilled in the ice bath, refrigerate the mixture for at least 4 hours or overnight before churning in your ice cream machine. Churn the mixture according to your ice cream machine instructions. Enjoy after churning or package for a bit of time in the freezer before enjoying.

      Strawberry Soup with Basil Caviar

      Hi friends!

      I don’t know about you guys but I love making unusual desserts. I’m not saying I have anything against the classics… but sometimes I just get the urge to try something new. Strawberry soup with dessert caviar seemed the like the perfect, unique creation to try out.

      This strawberry soup recipe is from Sprinkle Bakes. Heather’s blog constantly inspires me and I find myself with an ever-growing list of her recipes that I can’t wait to try. They are not only delicious but also artistic and creative. If you love baking with an artistic flare, check out her site.

      Anyways, back to the soup! It’s an excellent dessert for summer when you’re not thrilled at the prospects of spending a day slaving away in an overheated kitchen. The soup is very easy to put together and can be made ahead of time. I used farm-grown strawberries in my soup which were so sweet and flavourful (not like those tasteless grocery store berries we’re used to seeing throughout the winter – bleh!). Since the strawberries were so sweet, I cut the sugar in half which resulted in a more refreshing summer dessert. Feel free to add the full amount of sugar or add sugar to taste.

      Ok so another reason why I was so keen to try this recipe is because of the dessert caviar garnish. I’ve been meaning to play around with dessert caviar for a while now but was a little intimidated by the process. However, my dessert caviar was a total success!

      Dessert caviar is made by first creating a very flavourful liquid, combining it with gelatin and slowly adding drops of this liquid into a very cold volume of chilled oil. As the gelatinous mixture makes contact with the cold oil, it forms perfect spheres. You can find a fantastic step-by-step tutorial on Sprinkle Bakes on how to make dessert caviar. Surprisingly, the process was quite simple.

      I love the idea of using dessert caviar as a garnish since your flavour possibilities are endless. For the strawberry soup, I decided to go with a basil dessert caviar. I picked up some amazing Thai basil from Gull Valley Greenhouses at my local farmer’s market – it made for a very tasty and fresh dessert caviar. To make the liquid for the basil caviar see below.

      Along with the caviar, you can garnish your soup with whipped cream or fresh basil.

      Basil Dessert Caviar

      IMG_2748

      By Genia Rodnyansky Published: June 24, 2013

      • Yield: about 1 cup of liquid

      Hi friends! I don't know about you guys but I love making unusual desserts. I'm not saying I have anything against the classics... …

      Ingredients

      • 1/2 cup filtered water
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves

      Instructions

      1. Bring water and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, mixing to dissolve sugar.
      2. Remove from heat and add in basil leaves. Mix to combine.
      3. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Use the strained basil syrup and proceed using the Sprinkle Bakes tutorial.