Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fresh Fraisiers - Daring Baker's Challenge

Blog-checking Lines: Jana ofCherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

This was a really fun challenge! We had to create a delicious cake where the middle layer had exposed fruits around the outside.  We also had to make each component of the dessert by hand: the chiffon cake, pastry cream mousse, and the simple syrup!

This was my first time making a chiffon cake, and I am hooked! I loved how light this cake was, it was the perfect complement to the pastry cream and fresh fruit. I chose to make a citrus chiffon cake because I love desserts with a twist of citrus to them.

I filled my middle layer with strawberries and blackberries, they were so good in this dessert!  I can't wait to make the pastry cream again, I think it would be amazing with a strawberry shortcake dessert, or as a topping on a bowl of fresh fruit. 

I decided to keep the top of my cake clean and simple so that the amazing centre could shine through.

The recipes for the chiffon cake and the pastry cream mousse were provided by Jana, and they are amazing!

Citrus Chiffon Cake

  • 1 cup and 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cups sugar (remove 3 tbsp and set aside)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup and 1 tbsp orange juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F and line the bottom of an 8" springform pan with parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, all but the removed 3 tbsp sugar, and the salt
  3. In a second bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vegetable oil, orange juice, and orange zest
  4. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients and mix until smooth
  5. In a third bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy
  6. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, and beat them until they hold soft peaks
  7. Slowly add the 3 tbsp of sugar to the egg whites and beat until they hold firm and shiny peaks
  8. Fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined
  9. Fill the springform pan, and smooth the batter
  10. Bake for 45 - 55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle
  11. Allow the cake to cool completely in the springform pan
  12. When cool, run a knife along the edges and remove the cake
Pastry Cream Filling
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 tsp gelatin
  • 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a saucepan over medium-high heat
  2. Scald the mixture (bring it near boiling) while stirring occasionally
  3. While the mixture is heating, in a bowl whisk together the cornstarch and sugar
  4. Add the egg to sugar/cornstarch and whisk until smooth
  5. When the milk mixture is scalded, slowly add it to the egg mixture while whisking
  6. Add the whole mixture back into the pot, and continue to cook it over medium-high until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and pour it into a fine-mesh sieve
  8. Press the custard through to remove any remaining bits
  9. After the custard has cooled for about 10 minutes, add the butter and whisk until smooth
  10. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool for about an hour
  11. After the custard/cream has cooled, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it sit for a couple minutes
  12. Set up a double boiler and add 1/4 cup of the pastry cream 
  13. Heat the cream while stirring until it is 120 F
  14. Add the gelatin to the warmed cream and whisk until completely smooth
  15. Whisk the warmed cream into the remaining cream
  16. Whip the heavy cream until you have medium-stiff peaks, and then fold it into the pastry cream
Simple Syrup
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  1. Add the water and the sugar to a small saucepan
  2. Heat it until it boils and all of the sugar dissolves
  3. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use
To assemble the Fraisier:
  1. Line the inside of your 8" springform with plastic wrap
  2. Cut the cake in half to create two cake rounds
  3. Place one half of the cake in the springform pan and moisten it with the simple syrup
  4. Place the fruit of your choice (I used strawberries cut in half, and blackberries) along the outside of the pan
  5. Pipe the pastry cream around the fruit on the sides of the pan to keep it in place
  6. Fill the middle of the cake with your remaining berries, and then add all of the remaining pastry cream
  7. Smooth the top of the pastry cream, and then place the remaining layer of cake on top
  8. Moisten the top layer with the simple syrup
  9. Decorate the top of the cake as desired
  10. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Green Thumb?

So for a day or two last week, get this, it was SUNNY out! As in, not gloomy and rainy and cold and wet and miserable…. Sorry, I got caught up. It was actually sunny and fairly warm and dry! Amazing

So I took the opportunity to weed my poor flowerbeds and garden which have seen more rain in the past few weeks than our city probably encounters in the average year.  These things were intense! Apparently Alberta weeds love the rainy weather, my flowerbeds have never looked greener.

I should have taken a ‘before’ picture, but when I realized that I couldn’t see any dirt between my plants, I had to attack with a vengeance.

A couple hours and indefinite amount of mosquito bites later, here we are!

Not too shabby eh?

I know my garden is a little sad, but it is my first attempt at growing things that one can actually eat so it’s not that bad (right?).

I am so excited for my peas to be ready for eating. There is nothing better than fresh peas from the garden.

I also planted mixed lettuce (but Chloe ate all of those seeds), regular lettuce, spinach, and carrots. So not a huge variety but a pretty solid effort for a first attempt.

My lettuce is a little squished, Banjo insists on running through my flowerbeds and garden instead of taking the grassy routes, but I’m hoping it will still be tasty!

I have already learned a lot for my garden next year. I can’t wait to plant a larger variety of vegetables, and maybe expand my little herb garden as well. 

Here’s hoping the week is warm and sunny as well!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Noodle Hands! - Daring Cooks July 2011 Challenge

Blog-checking lines: Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for SpƤtzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with.

I decided to make the Spatzle because I had never had it before, and to be honest I had no idea what it was! I do plan on trying to make fettucini or ravioli too, if I have them ready before July 14 I will put them up in this post as well.

It turns out that Spatzle is incredibly easy to make! It requires simple ingredients, and comes together very quickly.

I decided to add dill and parsley to my spatzle and I really liked the flavour of the dill in them.  I topped them with the Butter and Breadcrumb sauce that was provided and it was really tasty.

You can add any herbs or spices that you wish to jazz these up.  I halved the recipe, but if you make the full recipe (listed below) it makes about 4 servings.

German Spatzle
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp dill (I used dried dill)
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  1. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, dill, and parsely
  2. Add the flour about 1/2 cup at a time and mix until smooth after each addition. After the last of the flour is added the dough will become very thick and elastic
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  4. Dip a spoon in the hot water, and then scoop about half a spoonful of the dough
  5. Drop the dough into the boiling water, and repeat with the remaining dough (they will puff up a lot)
  6. Boil for 15 - 20 minutes.  While the spatzles are boiling you can make the sauce
  7. Drain well before serving
  8. Enjoy!
Butter and Breadcrumbs Sauce
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • herbs and spices of your choice (optional)
  1. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl 
  2. Stir in the breadcrumbs (and any herbs or spices you may be using)
  3. Dab onto the drained spatzle
  4. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Egg Salad - Pockets and Sandwiches

If there is one thing that everyone has had at one point or another, it is egg salad sandwiches.  I personally love them, and every time I whip one up I wonder why I don't have them more often.

Here is a quick and easy way to use egg salad as a cute appetizer, and how to use the leftovers as a delicious lunch the next day!

For the Egg Salad Pockets I lined each half of a mini pita with some mixed greens, and then filled them up with the egg salad.  These were great as an appetizer when we had a BBQ the other day, they were nice and cool on a hot day!  The next day we cut up a baguette to make sandwiches, and filled them up with some bacon and egg salad, delicious!

Here is how I whip up my egg salad. I know everyone has their own preferences, but I like to go light on the mayo and mix up the spices to give it different flavours.

Egg Salad

  • 8 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 - 3 tbsp light mayo
  • 1 tsp honey dijon mustard
  • 1 celery stalk, diced thin
  • 2 green onions, diced thin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  1. Peel the hard boiled eggs and give them a quick rinse
  2. Roughly chop up the eggs, and mix them with the celery and green onions
  3. Add the mayo, dijon mustard, vegetables, salt, pepper, and paprika
  4. Mix well, and adjust seasonings or amount of mayo if like
  5. Enjoy alone, or in a pita or sandwich!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vanilla Bean Latte Cake

Here is a wonderful cake that I had made after spotting it on The desserts on her site are truly gorgeous; she has some insane talent!

I had also seen a beautiful cake decorating technique while browsing recently, and I wanted to try it out as well.  The tall (it's three layers!) Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake from Rosie of Sweetapolita seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

I doubled the Vanilla Bean Latte Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe in order to have enough buttercream to fill, frost, and decorate this cake.  (The particular amount I used is listed below, feel free to half it if you only want one batch of frosting).  This particular buttercream just might be my new favourite, I kept finding myself trying to eat the frosting all by itself!  I used Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe since I am comfortable with that particular one, but you could also use your own favourite Buttercream recipe and flavour it as listed below.

This cake is so delicious and is a guaranteed crowd pleaser with the adults.  It is perfect for a girl's night or dinner party!

The Vanilla Bean Cake recipe makes three 8" round cakes. It is a bit of a denser vanilla cake recipe than the one I usually use for my cupcakes and cakes, and it is perfect for stacking and holding it's own with the delicious Vanilla Bean Latte Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  I loved this vanilla cake recipe and will definitely be using it again in the future.

Vanilla Bean Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 9 egg whites, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Butter three 8" round cake pans and preheat the oven to 350 F
  2. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add the egg whites slowly, and mix well
  4. In a second bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt
  5. In a third bowl, mix together the buttermilk, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla
  6. Add 1/3 the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter mixture and mix well
  7. Add 1/2 the buttermilk mixture and mix well
  8. Repeat until all ingredients are added, and mix in the last 1/3 of dry ingredients until the batter just comes together
  9. Pour 1/3 of the batter into each pan and spread the batter evenly in the pans
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre of a cake
  11. Let cool completely before stacking and frosting
  12. Before assembling, level the cakes (if required)
  13. Place the first cake on the plate or cake-stand you are using, and spread about 1 cup of buttercream on top
  14. Place the second layer on top of the first and again spread about 1 cup of buttercream on top
  15. Place the third layer upside down (so the smooth bottom is facing up)
  16. Finish decorating the cake as you like!
  17. Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Latte Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 10 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 pounds butter (unsalted and room temperature)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped 
  • 2 tbsp instant expresso powder disolved in 2 tsp hot water
  1. In a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), constantly whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are smooth and warm to the touch (the temperature should reach 160 F for safety)
  2. Remove the bowl from from the pot and place on the stand mixer with the whisk attachment
  3. Starting on low, slowly increase the speed until you reach high speed, and whisk until stiff peaks form
  4. Let the stand mixer continue until the bottom of the bowl is room temperature (do not add the butter if the meringue is warm!)
  5. While the stand mixer is running, cut the butter up into approximately 1 tbsp pieces
  6. When the bottom of the bowl is room temperature put the mixer on medium and slowly add the butter a few pieces at a time
  7. When the butter has been completely added, switch to the paddle attachment and mix for a few minutes until smooth
  8. Add the dissolved expresso powder, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds and mix well
  9. Fill, frost, and decorate your cake as desired
  10. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

In addition to the Tiffany & Co. cupcakes, I was also asked to make some muffins for the bridal shower as well.  I whipped up some Lemon Blueberry Muffins, and these tasty Double Chocolate Chip Muffins.

I used both semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips for these muffins and I think that using the two different types of chocolate really made them delicious.

The recipe is adapted from the cookbook: Company's Coming Mostly Muffins.  This recipe can be modified to add your favourite chocolate chips, berries, dry fruit, anything!

The recipe makes 2 dozen muffins.

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  1. Line your muffin tins with paper liners (or grease well) and preheat the oven to 375 F
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt
  3. In a second bowl, cream together the butter and sugar
  4. Add the eggs (2 at a time) to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well
  5. Add the yogurt to the wet ingredients and again mix well (if using plain yogurt, add 2 tsp of vanilla at this point)
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients into the well
  7. Add the chocolate chips, and mix until the batter just starts to come together
  8. Fill the prepared muffin tins, and bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into a muffin
  9. Let cool before serving
  10. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lemon Dill Salmon - baked in parchment!

The other night a girlfriend (who just got engaged recently! woohoo!) and I had a hot tub evening to catch up and we decided to do dinner as well.  I grabbed some salmon on my way through the grocery store and had no clue what I was going to do with it until I got home.

I had seen a couple recipes online that had baked salmon in parchment in order to keep it moist, and I thought that would be perfect because then I could top the salmon with some fresh lemon slices and not have to worry about them charring under the broiler.

I placed each piece of salmon on a piece of parchment and then topped them with some salt and pepper, dill, and fresh slices of lemon.  I then wrapped it all up into a little package, baked them for 20 minutes at 425 F (my oven is running excessively hot lately, so 450 F would probably be perfect in a normal oven) and out came delicious and perfectly moist salmon!

So for this meal, the original recipe is from me! Since we were so busy visiting, I only got the two pictures of our main dish before we gobbled it up.

Lemon Dill Salmon - baked in parchment

  • 2 pieces of salmon (individual portions)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tsp fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parchment paper
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 - 450 F and lay out two pieces of parchment (about 16" x 16" each)
  2. Place each piece of salmon on a square of parchment each, and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Evenly sprinkle the dill over each piece, and then top with the lemon slices
  4. Fold over the sides of the parchment over each piece of salmon, and then close it up tight
  5. Place on a baking sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes or until salmon flakes when pulled by a fork
  6. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tiffany & Co. Cupcakes

A few weeks ago I made muffins and cupcakes for a Tiffany & Co. bridal shower.  These were so much fun to make! I surfed around and used both a Tiffany's bag and the website for the teal colour and I think I got pretty close!

1/3 of the cupcakes were decorated with fondant rounds, swirls, and pearl edible beads.

1/3 were decorated with teal swirls made with a Wilton 1M tip and the pearl edible beads.

The remaining 1/3 were decorated with teal swirls, also made with a Wilton 1M tip, and topped with white fondant bows.

I think I hit the 'Tiffany blue, bows, and pearls' requirement!

These were an absolute blast to make, and I am still so excited with how they came out! Most of these pictures were provided by the lady who organized the bridal shower, thank you so much for providing these pictures!

Here are the cupcakes (above) with the Double Chocolate Muffins (recipe to come!) and the Lemon Blueberry Muffins I had also made for the shower.