The Sweetest Crumb

Archive of ‘Sweets’ category

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.

    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

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    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

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      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.

        Chocolate Chia Pudding

        Happy Wednesday, everyone!

        This week I’m on vacation and let me tell you, it is glorious! I decided to just stay in Edmonton and use the time to relax and catch up on life. It’s my first stay-cation and I’m loving it! There has been a lot of cooking, gardening and yoga so far.

        I started the week off by making a batch of healthy chia pudding for breakfasts. Yes, that’s right – a pudding made of the same seeds that brought you the Chia Pet! Chia seeds have some great health benefits. I’m not a nutritionalist by any means but have heard that Chia seeds are high in fibre, protein, Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, etc.

        They are easy to sneak into your diet by adding to smoothies, sprinkling on oatmeal or adding to juice or water.

        Or you can make chia pudding!

        When mixed with a liquid, chia seeds expand a lot! They absorb the liquid, swell up and take on a gelatine-like consistency. This quality makes chia pudding possibly the easiest thing to make :)

        To make the pudding, you simply combine the chia seeds with the milk of your choice (I used cow milk but almond or soy would work great too), add sweetener and any flavourings you like such as cocoa and vanilla. Stir well and let sit overnight in the fridge to thicken. I like to use a large mason jar so I can shake it up easily. I served my chia pudding with coconut whipped cream which was both as delicious and easy to make as Angela from Oh She Glows promised. If served for dessert, you can sprinkle with chocolate shavings too.

        The pudding is chocolatey and will satisfy your sweet tooth while still being incredibly healthy. You can tailor the consistency and sweetness to your own tastes by adding more or less milk and sweetener. However, this pudding will not have the consistency of a typical pudding. Some people love the consistency right away and others find it a bit strange and an acquired taste. Either way, I think it’s definitely worth a try!

        Chocolate Chia Pudding

        IMG_2502

        By Genia Rodnyansky Published: May 20, 2013

        • Yield: makes about 4 cups

        Happy Wednesday, everyone! This week I'm on vacation and let me tell you, it is glorious! I decided to just stay in Edmonton and …

        Ingredients

        • 3/4 cup chia seeds
        • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
        • 3 tbsp coconut sugar or other sweetener of your choice
        • 3 cups milk cow, almond or soy
        • 2 tsp vanilla extract

        Instructions

        1. Combine chia seeds, coconut sugar and cocoa in a medium bowl and mix together. Use the back of the spoon to blend, making sure there are no cocoa clumps left.
        2. Combine chia seed mixture with milk in a large bowl or mason jar. Add vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
        3. Cover and allow to sit overnight in the fridge to thicken. Serve with whipped coconut cream, chocolate shavings or fresh fruit.

           

          Shirley Temple Cupcakes

          Hi friends!

          Lately I’ve been feeling that this year has been crazy for big changes. It seems like everyone around me has something big going on in their life – they’re either getting married, buying houses, changing careers or popping out babies. I guess it’s natural since most of the people I know are in their mid twenties. But sometimes I just don’t want to feel like an adult, with adult responsibilities and these expected major life changes. Sometimes all I really want to do is pencil roll down a grassy hill and blow some soap bubbles. And you know what else goes great with being a care-free kid rolling down a hill? These Shirley Temple inspired cupcakes!

          For those who might not know what a Shirley Temple is (I only discovered them as an adult and usually end up adding a little vodka to mine), they are a traditional children’s drink (when made without the vodka of course) made with either ginger ale or a citrusy soda, grenadine and topped with a maraschino cherry.

          These cupcakes are made with two different batters. The yellow batter is flavoured with lemon soda, lemon extract and lime zest to mimick the 7-Up or other citrusy carbonated beverage used in a Shirley Temple. The red batter on the bottom is flavoured with grenadine. While you can easily acquire store bought grenadine, making your own is super easy and results in a much tastier, healthier product – the first two ingredients in your homemade grenadine won’t be high fructose corn syrup and red dye #40! (I’ll post the grenadine recipe I used next time.) The frosting was a swiss meringue buttercream, flavoured with cherry syrup and topped with a cherry of course.

          To be honest, the cupcakes did not taste especially like Shirley Temples. However, they were super cute, would definitely satisfy your sweet tooth and would be great for a birthday party or really anytime you want to feel more like a kid!

          Hope you guys like the cupcakes and if anyone is with me on escaping adulthood once in a while, we should arrange a pencil-rolling play date. I’ll bring the cupcakes!

          Shirley Temple Cupcakes

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          By Genia Rodnyansky Published: May 7, 2013

          • Yield: about 12 cupcakes

          Hi friends! Lately I've been feeling that this year has been crazy for big changes. It seems like everyone around me has something …

          Ingredients

          • 1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tbsp flour
          • 1 tsp baking powder
          • 1/2 tsp salt
          • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) room temperature
          • 1 cup sugar
          • 2 large eggs room temperature
          • 1/2 cup citrusy soda such as limonada or 7-Up
          • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
          • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
          • 1/2 tsp lime zest
          • 2 tbsp grenadine syrup
          • red food colouring
          • 12 maraschino cherries

          Instructions

          1. Preheat your oven to 350F. In a medium bowl combine 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt.
          2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Mix until fluffy on medium high speed.
          3. Add eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, mixing until combined.
          4. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Alternate with the citrus soda, adding one half of soda at a time. End by adding the remaining third of flour and mix until combined.
          5. Add the vanilla, lemon extract and lime zest to the batter. Mix until combined.
          6. Remove about 3/4 cup of the batter and place into a medium bowl. Add the 2 tbsp of grenadine syrup and the remaining flour to this batter, mixing until uniform. Tint with food colouring until the desired shade of red is achieved.
          7. Line your muffin tins with paper liners and spread the red batter on the bottom of each liner. I used a piping bag to make this step easier and less messy.
          8. Top the red batter with the remaining yellow batter - being careful not to mix the two colours.
          9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Once cupcakes are cooled, frost with cherry swiss meringue buttercream and top with a maraschino cherry.

            To make the cherry swiss meringue buttercream, I made the usual swiss meringue buttercream and added about 3 tbsp of cherry syrup along with the vanilla in step 3. I used a Monin cherry syrup but found that the cherry flavour could have been stronger. Next time, I might look for a flavour extract or try reducing the syrup before adding it into the buttercream.

            Perfect Lemon Meringue Tarts from Bouchon

            Happy weekend, friends!

            I’ve been writing a lot lately about recipes I’ve tried from my Bouchon Bakery book. What can I say? – I love this book so much! But as I’ve warned before, the recipes in it are generally not the quickest to whip together. They are recipes which need some preparation (you will often require ingredients which are unlikely to be found in the common kitchen cupboard), patience and a large chunk of time. But, they are recipes which are perfect for special occasions such as Sean’s birthday!

            Since Sean loves citrusy desserts, I thought the perfect choice for his birthday was a batch of lemon meringue tarts. While Bouchon’s recipes may not always be simple, the result is always well worth the effort. These lemon meringue tarts turned out perfect. I would not have changed a single thing! The tart crust was sweet and crunchy and filled with a silky, smooth lemon curd. Next, a very thin round of madeleine cake was placed on top of the curd. This cake is used to absorb any liquid from the meringue as well as provide another layer of surprise texture to the tart. Swiss meringue is then piped on top of the tarts and torched until browned – amazing!

            Step one was making pâte sucrée for the tart shells. Pâte sucrée is a sweet dough which is great to use with fillings that are less sweet, or tart and citrusy. The dough had to be made in advance and chilled thoroughly. Much like most other recipes I’ve tried in the Bouchon book, chilling is essential and I found myself transferring the dough to and from the fridge several times to maintain the right temperature and ensure the dough was easy to work with.

            The lemon curd should also be made in advance. I used half Eureka lemons (the standard, grocery store variety) and half Meyer lemons. The choice to use Meyer lemons came partly because of their slightly different flavour and partly because they were on sale at Costco ;) For a twist on the classic lemon meringue tart, you could also make an orange or grapefruit curd instead. The curd turned out great and I would have gladly eaten it in spoonfuls if there had been any left after filling the tarts. To make it flawlessly smooth, I strained it several times through a fine sieve and blended in my Vitamix. The curd should be cooled before filling tarts (and you should also have your madeline cake ready before filling).

            The madeleine cake has a subtle, sweet flavour. It is made by spreading the batter in a thin layer on a baking sheet and baking until cooked through but not browned. The cake layer is then frozen which makes it easier to cut into rounds. The rounds are placed directly on top of the lemon curd.

            The swiss meringue is probably the easiest part of the tarts to prepare – just two ingredients: sugar and egg whites. Once stiff peaks are formed, pipe the meringue onto the tarts and use an offset spatula to make peaks and shape the meringue as desired.

            Now you can pull out your creme brûlée torch (or if you’re like me, your industrial gas torch from Home Depot) and brown the meringue.

            Overall, the tarts were a huge success! If you don’t have the Bouchon Bakery book, the recipe has been published here for anyone looking to give it a try. I recommend making it over a few days and chilling the dough and curd to make the process go smoothly and stress-free. Enjoy!

             

            Black Sesame Lemon Cupcakes

            Is anyone else bored with cupcakes? Lately I’ve been feeling like cupcakes are just old news. Sure they’re great in their individual paper liners and colourful frosting… but they just seem overdone. There are cupcake shops in every part of town, they’re commonly served at weddings and I’ve made them so many times and for so many occasions that I could probably whip up a batch in my sleep. I was just tired of the same old boring cupcakes… until I discovered the Sprinkle Bakes blog a couple weeks ago! Heather is amazing! Her creations are truly artistic and she will revive your baking if you’re in a cupcake rut like me. She has everything from cupcakes made with wine to cupcakes with a flaming strawberry on top and tonnes of non-cupccake recipes if you just can’t stand cupcakes all together ;)

            So when my turn came around to bring in baking to work (we have a rotating pastry schedule) I decided to make these black sesame lemon cupcakes!

            The thing that really intrigued me about them is the beautiful grey colour (they’d be perfect for a 50 Shades of Grey party). And to make them even more awesome, on the inside, they’re filled with delicious lemon curd. I love the contrasts in colour and flavour.

            A lot of effort went into these guys. First off, I couldn’t find any black sesame paste in any Asian market nearby. I decided to make my own using the Sprinkle Bakes recipe. I liked making it myself since I knew exactly what was in it and could keep out any yucky preservatives. If you’re planning on making it yourself, you should know that the paste will taste somewhat bitter(sweet) when it is done. Don’t panic (like I did). The black sesame seeds naturally have a bitter quality to them but when added to the cupcake batter will taste great. I loved the paste so much that I’m thinking of making ice cream with it when the snow melts and ice cream season finally gets here (it’s April and we have a snow storm warning this weekend).

            My batter was a beautiful grey colour just as promised.

            As were the baked cupcakes…

            After these guys cooled, I filled them with lemon curd.

            For the frosting, I strayed from the recipe Heather suggested. I have a super tasty swiss meringue buttercream recipe that I swear by. I altered this recipe slightly by adding 2 tsp of lemon extract instead of vanilla and 1/4 cup of the lemon curd once all the butter had been added. The result was a fantastic lemon buttercream which paired so well with the sesame cupcakes.

            Sprinkled with some extra sesame seeds, these cupcakes were a hit! I would gladly make these again. The cakes were so moist and the lemon curd did not disappoint. My only complaint has to do with black gel food colouring. I had heard that using black gel food colouring is often ineffective because with a bit of time the colour turns purple. Since I didn’t have any black powdered colour, I decided to risk it. Well, let me tell you that all the things I heard were true. By the morning after I iced the cupcakes, they had turned a lovely shade of purple.

            I’m definitely going to acquire some black powdered colour next time! For anyone looking to whip up a batch, the recipe can be found here. Let me know how they turn out!

            Mountains and Granola

            Happy Tuesday, everyone!

            I spent the weekend in the mountains (which is why there was no usual weekend post). Sean took me to Jasper National Park as a congratulations gift for passing the UFE (giant, horrible accounting exam) in December (we couldn’t get away until now).

            We stayed at the Overlander Mountain Lodge. It was our second time staying at this hotel and we absolutely love it. The view from our hotel room was gorgeous!

            We spent the weekend snow-shoeing, building snowmen and just relaxing.

            Ok now let’s talk food. First of all we had several great dinners (which I will probably blog about later). Second of all… what goes better with snow shoeing and hiking in the mountains than granola!

            This is another recipe from Oh She Glows. I feel like I’ve been obsessed with her blog lately. Everything is easy to make, healthy and delicious… just like this buckwheat granola.

            The granola is made without oats and with buckwheat instead. Ok, right off the bat I have to tell you guys that I used to hate buckwheat as a kid, so I was skeptical. However, I only recently found out that raw buckwheat groats are different from buckwheat kasha (which is toasted and has a strong, nutty taste). I realized that buckwheat kasha is what I really don’t like. The raw groats are actually quite pleasant and made a delicious granola.

            I love that this granola uses almond pulp, leftover from making almond milk. I used home-made applesauce in mine as well as honey to sweeten (instead of coconut nectar). I also used coconut sugar. This was my first time using it and I loved it. It had a great, caramel-like flavour to it and was less sweet than granulated sugar.

            Overall the granola was great and delicious with almond milk or yogurt. Give it a try :)

             

            Home Made Oreo Cookies

            Happy middle of the week!

            I feel like I burnt myself out a little this past weekend. Having been out of town for a while, I felt deprived of home cooked meals and may have overcompensated for it by cooking up a storm this weekend. All in all, I was still trying to finish up in the kitchen at 10:30pm on Sunday night. Some of the things I made: home made butternut squash gnocchi with pork meatballs and kale, 3 batches of almond milk, buckwheat granola (so good!) and these cute little home made Oreo cookies!

            The cookie recipe came from my recently acquired Bouchon Bakery book.

            The cookies are essentially chocolate shortbread with a white chocolate ganache filling. They are a bazillion times better than store bought Oreos (but I may be biased since I don’t like store bought ones to begin with). I think the success of these cookies comes from using really good quality cocoa. I used Valrhona cocoa which I purchased from Provisions by Duchess in Edmonton. The result was a very rich chocolate taste – definitely worth using a fancier cocoa. The recipe talks about using Guittard Cocoa Noir which makes a really dark, almost black cookie. Since I didn’t have this cocoa and wasn’t overly concerned with the colour of my Oreos, I opted out of searching for the Cocoa Noir. Either way, I think my batch turned out dark and pretty.

            Before you guys jump right into making these cookies… a word of warning. This isn’t a recipe where you just combine everything in a bowl and throw it in the oven. I found the dough was very sensitive to temperature changes and I was constantly chilling the dough, having it warm up too much and become too soft, chilling again, etc. etc. So be prepared to spend some time running back and forth from the fridge or freezer. Same thing goes for the ganache filling – I found that it was a bit difficult to work with, would warm up in the piping bag in my hands and become too runny very quickly. I tried to work in small batches and keep the filling from overheating.

            Also, I know that salt brings out the other flavours in baking, but I found the salt content a bit too high for my taste in these cookies so the recipe I’ve posted has been adjusted a bit.

            The ingredients in the recipe are listed in very specific gram amounts… like 161 grams. I really believe that using your kitchen scale to accurately measure ingredients makes a huge difference in your final product. And the Bouchon Bakery book has a whole section on the merits of measuring ingredients – if the professionals say its worthwhile… it must be true :) However, since some kitchen scales (such as my own) can’t accurately measure very small weights, I have provided the approximate volumes for a few of the really small weights below.

            Home Made Oreo Cookies

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            By Genia Rodnyansky Published: March 12, 2013

              Happy middle of the week! I feel like I burnt myself out a little this past weekend. Having been out of town for a while, I felt …

              Ingredients

              • 125 grams white chocolate 35% cocoa, chopped
              • 15 grams butter unsalted
              • 125 grams whipping cream
              • 259 grams flour
              • 87 grams cocoa good quality ie. Valrhona
              • 1.6 grams baking soda (3/8 tsp)
              • 227 grams butter unsalted
              • 1.5 grams salt (1/2 tsp)
              • 161 grams granulated sugar

              Instructions

              1. Begin by making the ganache filling. Melt the white chocolate and 15 grams of butter together over low heat. Meanwhile bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and add the whipping cream. Mix until smooth. If there are any lumps, return to very low heat and mix until smooth. Cover and chill the ganache for a minimum of 4 hours.
              2. Next, start the shortbread. Measure out the flour into a bowl. Sift in the cocoa and baking soda.
              3. Place the 227 grams butter into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add in the salt and mix for a few seconds. Add in granulated sugar and beat until fluffy.
              4. Add the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture in two additions. Mix on low speed after each addition until fully combined.
              5. Once the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer and shape the dough into two square discs. Chill until firm - about 1 hours.
              6. Once the dough is chilled, preheat oven to 325F. Doll out the disc of dough between two sheets of parchment until it is about 1/8" thick. At this point, the dough will likely have softened. Return the rolled dough to fridge.
              7. Once chilled, use a round or fluted cutter of your choice to cut out cookies. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined tray, leaving about 3/4" between cookies. Chill the tray once again before baking for 15 minutes or until cookies are firm. Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the trays midway. The cookies will be done when they are fragrant and small cracks appear on the surface.
              8. Once the cookies are fully cooled, transfer ganache to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix with a paddle attachment until the mixture is smooth and thickens. Transfer ganache to a pastry bag. Pipe filling onto the half the cookies. Use another cookie to place on top of the filling. Press down slightly to create a sandwich.
              9. Enjoy your cookies! They can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge and are delicious dipped in (almond) milk.