The Sweetest Crumb

Archive of ‘Sweets’ category

Healthy Raw Cookies – Yay or Nay?

It’s time to confess…. up until now I have been a raw cookie virgin! While I never made them myself, I have seen more and more of them around – “raw” cookies… healthy cookies… gluten free and vegan cookies. I am generally of the standpoint that if you eat a healthy diet and make time for exercise, you shouldn’t have to feel guilty when you have the occasional cookie, cupcake or pie (well maybe if you eat the whole pie you can feel a bit guilty). I think everything should be enjoyed in moderation and that cookies don’t need to be healthified in order to be enjoyed guilt-free. Having said that, I am completely for incorporating healthy choices into my daily life, especially when they are delicious, which bring me to my first batch of raw cookies!

When I saw this recipe on Sprouted Kitchen I couldn’t help but think all the ingredients sounded delicious and these cookies would make a great, healthy snack. There is no flour, eggs, butter or sugar in these guys and no baking is required! They are gluten free and vegan-friendly.

First you get your ingredients assembled:

I made sure to add 1/4 cup of cocoa nibs (which can be purchased from Duchess Provisions in Edmonton) to make the cookies chocolatey and delicious. If you don’t have cocoa nibs available, you can use finely chopped, good quality chocolate.

Then you use a food processor to grind your almonds.

Combine the rest of your ingredients and food process until an even consistency and colour.

I found that my batter was very dry so it’s a good idea to add a bit more peanut butter or even some water to make the batter easy to work with. Your dough should be of a consistency that sticks between your fingers and can be rolled into balls. Scoop batter one tablespoon at a time, roll into a smooth ball and flatten with a fork.

So I’m sure you’re wondering what I think after making my first batch of raw cookies. Well what I did like was that they were so simple to put together and obviously full of healthy goodness. What I didn’t like is that they were surprisingly overly sweet for my tastes (I would add less honey next time). Also, for anyone who hasn’t tired raw cookies before, be warned, the texture is obviously going to be a bit different from what you’re used to with typical, “from-your-oven” cookies.

Overall, I don’t by any means intend for these cookies to replace the spot I have reserved in my heart (and stomach)  for good old buttery, sugary baking. However, I love the idea of making raw cookies as a healthy snack. I am definitely going to keep an eye out for more raw cookie recipes to try. Does anyone have any they love and want to share? I’d love to try them out!

Basic Buttermilk Cupcakes

Hello hello!

Did you guys have a good weekend? Mine was great and filled with a lot of baking. It was my nephew’s birthday, so to celebrate, I made cupcakes!

I’m basically a cupcake fiend – I’ve made cupcakes for all occasions: birthdays, pastry day at work, watching Bachelor with my friends on Monday nights… I’ve had a lot of people ask me for the cupcake recipes I use and have even had a few friends over for cupcake teaching sessions. I figured today was a perfect time to share my basic cupcake batter with you guys! Once you get the hang of a basic batter recipe and have a reliable buttercream frosting up your sleeve, you’ll be unstoppable in the cupcake department!

So my advice is to start with the buttermilk cupcake recipe below and the swiss meringue buttercream (both from Martha Stewart). Then you can play with different batters – devil’s food cake, red velvet, etc. And different frostings or even flavouring your buttercream with delicious things like homemade caramel, ripe strawberries or rich chocolate… MMmmmm!

To give you guys some ideas, here’s a few photos of cupcakes I’ve made in the past:

buttermilk cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream grass and marzipan ladybugs:

fruitcake cupcakes with seven minute frosting and meringue mushrooms:

banana (robot) cupcakes with honey buttercream frosting:

buttermilk cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream and marzipan bumble bees:

billiard ball cupcakes, decorated using buttercream and coloured sanding sugars:

devil’s food chocolate cupcakes, with chocolate butterflies:

cookie monster cupcakes, decorated with buttercream and Scotch mints for eyes:

Ok so to get you guys started… here’s my buttermilk cupcake recipe! And here is the swiss buttercream frosting. Enjoy! (more…)

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Many people are intimidated to attempt a buttercream frosting. I know it may seem tricky – it is after all known to separate if made incorrectly. But I promise, it is not difficult to master and once you have it perfected, it is great for frosting cupcakes and spreading over cakes. It makes a really flawless finish and tastes amazing.

So when you’re trying this recipe just keep in mind the following tips:

  • When adding your butter to the egg white mixture, the mixture may start to look like it is separating or clumping – don’t worry! Just keep mixing until it comes together into a smooth frosting. If your mixture is still not coming together, try increasing the mixer speed for a few minutes.
  • All your ingredients should be at the same temperature (room temperature), otherwise your buttercream will separate. If this happens, you can salvage your buttercream by altering the temperature (if your mixture feels warm, place it over an ice bath and if the mixture feels cold, wrap a hot towel around your bowl)

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

By Genia Rodnyansky Published: February 10, 2013

    frosts about 15-20 cupcakes

    Ingredients

    • 5 large egg whites
    • 1 cup and 2 tbsp sugar
    • pinch salt
    • 4 sticks unsalted butter room temperature
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

    Instructions

    1. Combine egg whites, sugar and salt in a medium bowl which is set above a pan of just simmering water. Whisk the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and it is warm and smooth to touch.
    2. Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk the mixture, starting on low speed and increasing slowly to medium-high speed. Whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue whisking until the mixture is fluffy and glossy (about 10 minutes) and the mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl).
    3. Decrease mixer speed to medium-low and begin adding butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla. The mixture may look like it is separating but continue beating until it comes together and becomes smooth. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat to remove any air bubbles.
    4. If you are using food colouring, tint by folding in gel colours until fully combined. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag with a tip of your choice and frost cupcakes!

      Eclairs with Bouchon

      Hi friends!

      A couple weeks ago I got the Bouchon Bakery book. I kept seeing it everywhere and was drawn to it (possibly because it was covered in plastic and I was oh so curious about what magical baking photos and recipes were inside). So I decided to just go ahead and order it through Amazon and boy was I excited when it arrived!

      The first night I literally could not put the book down. I even read through all the beginning sections about how to measure ingredients and calibrate your oven (just in case).

      For anyone not familiar with the book, it is a collaboration of several chefs and bakers who run the Bouchon bakeries in the US. Keller apprenticed in France so I think it’s fair to say a lot of the recipes have both a French and American influence. I love that the recipes they share are the same recipes they use in the bakeries. They also list exactly what brands of products they use so you can recreate the professional product at home. Having said that, a lot of the ingredients are fairly specialized, making them somewhat difficult to track down for the at-home baker.

      Feeling ambitious, I had planned to make my first recipe from the Bouchon book on Sunday (this was before I realized how much wine would be consumed at the CA ball on Saturday night and how less than ideal I would feel on Sunday morning). But, since I spent a lot of time the week before tracking down exactly the right ingredients (70% cocoa Valrhona chocolate, neutral glaze…), I figured there was no sense in postponing the baking! So on Sunday, I made my first ever batch of eclairs!

      Eclairs are made of pâte à choux (choux pastry) which is a high-moisture dough that releases steam when it bakes which makes the dough rise and puff out. Essentially, the inside should be mostly hollow, allowing you to fill them with cream (or other filling of your choice). I followed the Bouchon recipe to a T and filled mine with chocolate pastry cream and topped with shiny chocolate glaze.

      For a first attempt at choux pastry, I think I did pretty good! In the end, the eclairs tasted great – a perfect, decadent chocolate flavour. However, I did run into a few difficulties along the way. To be honest, the first batch was somewhat disastrous. Despite adding exactly the right amount of egg (measured to the gram!), the batter was way too runny and the baked pastries were a flat failure. I immediately tried a second batch, adding less egg. This time the consistency of the batter was much thicker and held its shape when piped.

      The pastry rose quite a bit this time.

      However, I would still have liked the pastry to puff out more, leaving more hollow space inside for filling it with delicious chocolately goodness! I also noticed that some eclairs on each tray rose more than others so maybe the issue had to do with uneven heating in my oven. Since making the eclairs, I’ve gotten some tips that I wanted to pass along to you guys:

      • removing the eclairs from the oven early will cause them to collapse, ruining the hollowed out portion inside
      • the amount of egg to be added will vary depending on many factors (type of flour used, how long the dough is cooked before adding the eggs, etc.) so it is essential to add eggs based on the consistency of the dough and not purely based on the volume of eggs called for

      The glaze and the pastry cream were flawless though. To make the glaze extra shiny, I followed Keller’s suggestion of using neutral glaze. Sadly, I could not find the neutral glaze in a volume smaller than 5kg, so I basically have a lifetime supply of glaze in my basement now. I’m willing to share should anyone want some :P

      Overall, for a first attempt, I was very pleased with the outcome and can’t wait to try it again. I will share the recipe once it’s been perfected. Have you guys tried making choux pastry or are you thinking of trying it? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

      Linzer Cookies

      Good morning!

      Hope everyone’s weekend is off to a good start! Today is actually a big day for me – it’s the CA ball. This past September I wrote and passed the UFE – an exhausting and difficult 3 day exam which you need to pass to become a Chartered Accountant. Not to mention that before you can even reach the point where you write the exam you need to pass 6 other modules (each of which is 8 weeks long followed by a 4 hour exam) and spend a summer studying full time to be prepared for the UFE. So today is our graduation. During the morning, there is a formal ceremony where you are introduced as a CA and in the evening we attend a black tie gala. Its very exciting to finally have that part of my life behind me and know that I won’t need to write another exam for a while (or forever?).

      So in the spirit of keeping things short, I will share a nice, easy recipe I’ve made countless times – Linzer Cookies! My sister had actually requested the recipe recently since we made linzer cookies as part of our annual Christmas cookie tradition this year and she really liked them. I figured maybe a few of you might also want to try the recipe.

      Linzer cookies are a variation from the traditional Linzer torte which originated in Austria. The linzer cookie is made using cookie cutters and a dough made with ground nuts (traditionally almonds). The cookies are sandwiched together, with the centre of the top layer cut out and with jam or preserves in the middle (traditionally black current jam). Today, there are countless variations of the classic dessert and my favourite is a combination of hazelnuts and raspberry preserves – yum!

      Linzer Cookies

      By Genia Rodnyansky Published: February 2, 2013

      • Yield: 40 cookies

      adapted from Canadian Living

      Ingredients

      • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts see Tips below
      • 2 cups flour
      • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
      • 1 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp lemon rind
      • 1/4 tsp cloves
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter room temperature
      • 3/4 cups sugar
      • 1 egg
      • 1 yolk
      • 1 tsp vanilla extract
      • 1 cup raspberry preserves
      • powdered sugar optional

      Instructions

      1. Use a food processor to grind the toasted hazelnuts. In a medium bowl, combine the ground nuts with the remaining dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, lemon rind, cloves and salt.
      2. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Then add the yolk and beat until combined again. Lastly incorporate vanilla and mix until smooth.
      3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two separate additions. Mix until a smooth dough forms. Divide the dough into two discs, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm.
      4. Preheat oven to 350F. Doll out the dough between two pieces of parchment until about 3mm thick. Cut out using a cookie cutter of your choice. Use a small cutter to make centre holes in one half of the cookies.
      5. Bake the cookies about 2cm apart on parchment-lined baking sheets for about 11 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom.
      6. Once the cookies are cooled, spread raspberry preserves on half of the cookies, topping each with a second cookie with the centre cut out. Dust cookies with powdered sugar.

        Tips

        • This recipe calls for toasted hazelnuts. I know what you’re thinking… it’s such a hassle to toast the nuts. Do I really have to? Well… yes. It really makes a big difference in taste to use toasted, skinned hazelnuts. The most efficient way to toast the nuts is to place them in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for about 8 minutes or until the nuts become fragrant and are toasted but not burned. Remove the nuts from the oven and place onto a towel, covering them up with the towel completely. Wait a few minutes for the nuts to cool slightly and proceed to rub the towel over the nuts which will help the skins to come off. It’s not necessary to get all the skins off but most of them should be off.
        • Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days or frozen for longer storage.

        Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée

        So we’ve been having -40C (with windchill) weather in Edmonton this week. I’m pretty sure my cell phone turned off today just from being too cold. All of this cold weather just makes me want to stay inside and bake all day instead of going to work. Unfortunately, I won’t get a chance to bake anything until this weekend, but today I’ll share a favourite dessert of mine.

        Creme brûlée is one of my signature desserts (and also happens to be my dad’s top pick out of all the desserts I make) so it gets made a lot at my place. While it may seem complicated and daunting… it’s really not! I mean how difficult could something with only 4 ingredients be?

        For anyone not familiar with it, creme brûlée is a custard-based dessert. The custard is then topped with sugar which gets torched and burned, leaving a thin crunchy layer on top – so delicious and impressive! The contrast of the crunchy, bittersweet top layer and the perfectly smooth vanilla cream makes for a perfect dessert.

        So here are some things to keep in mind when making creme brûlée…

        Most important is to temper the eggs – don’t add in the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks all at once. That would cook your eggs. Instead, slowly add a small amount of mixture (1-2 oz) to the yolks while whisking the mixture quickly. This will raise the temperature of the yolks and then the remainder of the mixture can be added freely.

        The creme brûlée should be cooked in a water bath. Essentially, you place the ramekin dishes in a large glass tray and surround the dishes of creme brûlée with boiling water before baking. This makes sure the creme brûlée cooks quickly and evenly. To prevent your ramekins from sliding around in the tray, you can line the bottom of the tray with a cloth.

        To torch your creme brûlée, I recommend a propane gas torch which you can get at a hardware store. These work great and you may already have one in the garage. You can also buy specialty torches for creme brûlée in culinary stores but these are definitely not necessary.

        Cooked, un-torched creme brûlée will last about 2 days in the fridge. Torch it right before serving. It also freezes quite well if wrapped in an airtight container.

        Enjoy the creme brûlée, guys, and let me know if you have any questions.

        Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée

        By Genia Rodnyansky Published: January 30, 2013

          So we've been having -40C (with windchill) weather in Edmonton this week. I'm pretty sure my cell phone turned off today just from …

          Ingredients

          • 1/3 cup sugar
          • 4 egg yolks
          • 2 cups whipping cream
          • 1/2 vanilla bean

          Instructions

          1. Combine sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl. Mix until evenly combined.
          2. Use a knife to scrape out the vanilla bean seeds. Combine the bean, seeds and whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Simmer for several minutes to allow the vanilla flavour to infuse into the cream.
          3. Remove the cream from the heat and add a small amount of the hot cream mixture (about 1-2 oz) to the yolks, whisking it in quickly. Once the egg mixture temperature has been raised, you can freely add the rest of the cream mixture.
          4. Pass the mixture through a strainer to remove the vanilla bean and ensure an absolutely smooth creme brûlée.
          5. Ladle the mixture into ceramic ramekins, filling each almost to the top. Use the back of a spoon to pop any air bubbles which may have formed on the surface.
          6. Place the ramekins in a large glass tray and fill the tray with boiling water about halfway up the ramekins . Bake at 325F for about 35 minutes. You can tell they are done when the surface jiggles like jello.
          7. Once the creme brûlée is baked, chill for at least 4 hours. Once fully chilled, sprinkle the top of the creme brûlée with enough granulated sugar to coat the surface. Tap off any excess sugar. Use a blow torch at about 2 inches away to torch the top of the creme brûlée. Begin by torching the sides and working your way towards the centre. The surface will bubble and turns a golden brown colour with a few burn marks. Serve immediately.

             

            Healthy Morning Glory Muffins

            How’s everyone’s week going? Hope you guys survived Blue Monday ok!

            Last week a coworker asked me if I had a good morning glory muffin recipe… which I did not. I asked some family and friends for recipes and no one seemed to have one they loved. After all this talk of muffins, I started to really crave morning glory muffins myself so I decided to whip up a batch. I ended up making my own variation of a recipe (after looking through tonnes of recipes online and not being satisfied with any of them). A lot of them seemed to call for tonnes of oil which I didn’t want to use. To make mine healthy, I limited the oil to only a quarter cup and substituted plain yogurt instead.

             

            The result was great – super soft, moist muffins that are healthy too! I’ve been bringing these to work all week now and really enjoying them. While the recipe looks like it has a lot of ingredients, they are all easy to find and the recipe is super simple. You basically just mix it all together. So if you have a bit of spare time this week, make a batch of morning glory muffins – you won’t regret it!

            Morning Glory Muffins

            By Genia Rodnyansky Published: January 21, 2013

            • Yield: 22 muffins

            How's everyone's week going? Hope you guys survived Blue Monday ok! Last week a coworker asked me if I had a good morning glory …

            Ingredients

            • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
            • 3/4 cup brown sugar packed
            • 1/2 cup sugar
            • 1 tbsp cinnamon
            • 2 tsp baking soda
            • 1/2 tsp salt
            • 1 can crushed pineapple about 8 oz
            • 2 cups carrots finely grated
            • 1 large apple grated
            • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
            • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
            • 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
            • 3 eggs
            • 3/4 cups plain yogurt
            • 1/4 cup oil corn or canola
            • 2 tsp vanilla extract
            • butter to grease the muffin tin

            Instructions

            1. Preheat oven to 350F and generously grease your muffin tins.
            2. Combine flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix to combine.
            3. Add the pineapple, carrots, apple, coconut, cranberries and walnuts. Mix until combined.
            4. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, oil and vanilla. Add this to the flour mixture and mix just until the batter is combined.
            5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tray, filling each cup almost to the top - leave about 1/4" of space at the top.
            6. Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes, rotating trays halfway. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick and ensuring that it comes out clean.

              Tips

              • I recommend not using paper liners with this recipe but baking the muffins right in the tray. Since this recipe is pretty healthy – with no butter and limited oil – a lot of the muffin ends up getting stuck to your paper liner when you’re trying to eat it (and obviously no one would want to waste even a crumb of this muffin!). To bake right in the tray, ensure that the tray is well-greased. Once the muffins are baked, let cool a few minutes and use your fingers to release the edges of the muffin and remove it gently from the pan. If you don’t have a non-stick tray or are worried the muffins will stick to the pan, you can still use the paper liners – just make sure you eat up all the crumbs stuck to the paper.
              • Muffins will store for about 3 days in a sealed container at room temperature, about 5 days in the fridge and several months in the freezer.

              Red Wine Poached Pears

              I had an interesting day today…

              Last night I had a meeting for a green initiative volunteer group I am part of and somewhere midst leaving work, going to the meeting and getting home I realized I lost my keys. To make things worse, amongst those keys was one for my locker at work which is where I left my work laptop safely locked up last night. And to top it all off, my locker happened to be the only one out of about 70 that the office just didn’t have a spare key for. Of course this happens during our busy season and not on a day when I can afford to take the morning off from work. So embarrassingly enough, we had to have a locksmith come in and rescue my laptop so I could keep working. Great morning…

              However, by evening things had improved. I went absolutely EVERYWHERE I could have possibly left my keys and ended up finding them – in a snowbank outside the house we had our meeting at last night (they must have fallen out as I got out of the car). After being reunited with my keys, I still had time to squeeze in a Moksha yoga class and then got home to a delicious meal of Slow Cooker Pork and Apples from Eat Live Run. So the day really turned around in the end.

              Now that I am very content after dinner and yoga, with my keys in sight, I want to share these delicious red wine poached pears I made over the Christmas holidays. I got the recipe from my Home Made cookbook by Yvette van Boven. This book is one of my favourites right now and has recipes for everything from preserving vegetables to making your own ketchup!

              But back to the pears….They are made by cooking ripe pears in red wine and delicious spices over low heat.

              (more…)

              Rum and Coke Cupcakes

              How’s everyone’s weekend so far? Even though I only had a 3 day week at work, I was so exhausted by Friday. My biggest wish was just to get an early bedtime after watching an episode of Dr. Who (which has become my guilty pleasure lately). But now that I’m rejuvenated after sufficient sleep… I’m ready to share the rum and coke cupcake recipe I made for New Years!

              Cupcakes! Yum!

              I used a recipe I found for Jack and Coke cupcakes and altered it a bit, using rum instead (since I’m not a huge fan of Jack nor did I have any on hand). I also used a different icing recipe since I have a buttercream frosting recipe I have made dozens of times and know it makes perfect frosting.

              The cupcakes were absolutely delicious! They are chocolatey cake (with the cola in it), filled with ganache (which is a creamy, smooth mixture of chocolate and cream, but this ganache also had rum in it) and topped with buttercream frosting (with more rum). However, despite being possibly the most delicious cupcakes I have made to date, I found they didn’t taste like cola and even the rum flavour wasn’t that strong. I think next time I would try using a rum extract as well as actual rum to increase the flavour. Either way these were decadent cupcakes which I will be making again. My favourite part was filling them with ganache inside which made me question why I don’t fill cupcakes with delicious fillings more often?! I will definitely need to start doing that more!

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              Decorating with Royal Icing

              Today I wanted to share my love of royal icing! It can be used to transform otherwise plain-looking cookies into those that are personalized, intricate and impressive.

              Royal icing is so easy to make and can be tinted using food colouring. Decorating cookies with icing is a great activity for kids too – just put the icing in squeeze bottles (available at baking supply stores) instead of a standard piping bag to make it easier to handle and less messy for kids. Most often, I bake up a batch of sugar cookies for decorating, but you can use other recipes too.

              Here are some step-by-step views of the Christmas cookies we decorated this year and the recipe is below:

              Snow Globes

              Cover the base of the snow globe with red royal icing, sprinkle with red sanding sugar and tap off the excess.
              Cover about 1/3 of the bottom of the globe with white royal icing and sprinkle with white nonpareils to look like snow. Shake off any excess.
              Flood the remaining top section of the cookie with blue royal icing.
              Carefully attach edible decorations of your choice to the icing while still not dry. We used gingerbread men as well as snowflake and heart-shaped sprinkles.

              (more…)