Thursday, March 26, 2009

: get fruity :

I've never really considered myself much of a baker. As much as I love cakes, pastries and sweets, I've always been more of an eater, and less the maker. So it's a bit surprising to myself that most of my posts thus far have been about desserts.

I think the one thing I've discovered since creating this blog is that desserts are one of the most fun foods to jazz up! It's so easy to make a simple dessert look completely elegant, or oh so cute. (Okay, maybe those ducks actually did take quite some time to make! But you get the idea). As such, I've currently been mostly experimenting with desserts and how to make them look delicious and attractive (on camera and off!).

I made this fruit flan in my Culinary Desserts class, and it looked so good that I just had to share. The recipe is also dead simple, and straight from our class workbook. And it's actually quite good! Measurements are all in grams/ml, and some adaptations apply.

Fruit Flan (makes one flan)

100g Sugar
170g Shortening
3g Salt
1/4 t Vanilla extract
1 Eggs
25ml Milk
300g Pastry flour

375ml Whole milk
75g Sugar
30g Cornstarch
1 Eggs
1/2 t Vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Melted chocolate (about 1/4 cup, enough to cover your pastry crust bottom.
Fruits (of your choice)
Apricot jam, heated up with a little bit of water to a glazing consistency

1. To prepare pastry crust, cream together sugar, shortening and vanilla until light and fluffy.
2. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl. Add milk and just disperse.
3. Sift and add flour. Blend until incorporated - DO NOT OVERMIX.
4. Work dough on floured table. Chill until needed.
5. For the custard filling: In a saucepan, combine milk, cornstarch and 1/2 the sugar and bring to a boil.
6. In a bowl, whisk eggs with the remaining sugar until pale and slightly thickened
7. Temper the egg mixture and add to saucepan.
8. Whisk until mixture thickens, ensuring it is smooth and lump-free, then remove from heat and add vanilla and mix through.
9. Pour pudding onto a clean sheet of plastic on a tray (to prevent skin from forming) and refrigerate and let cool.
10. Roll out pastry crust to 1/4 inch thickness and line flan or tart pans. Poke holes with a fork in the dough. Bake shell in 350F oven until golden brown (15-30 min).
11. When pastry shell is ready, let cool slightly and 'paint' on melted chocolate to prevent soggy bottoms.
12. When chocolate has cooled completely, add custard and smooth out.
13. Arrange a variety of fruits in an artistic design covering all cream (I used strawberry, tangerines and kiwis).
14. Glaze fruits with melted apricot jam.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

: the mommy diaries :

I'm sure many chefs and home cooks alike will agree that their love of food stemmed from their parents' home cooking. I'm no different. Growing up, the best cook I knew was definitely my mother, and I draw many of my inspirations from her home cooking. I remember when I was a young'un, I wanted to be just like her and would pretend to cook "carrots" (cut-up pieces of orange construction paper), "onions" (cut-up pieces of white construction paper), and "celery" (you get the idea) in my "saucepan" (old cookie tins).

Of course, back in those days, all I did was just make a mess of confetti. These days, I try to re-create my mom's cooking whenever I'm craving comfort food, and this simple Thai-Style Fried Rice with Chinese Sausages is one of my favourite adaptations. And I hope it can be yours too! And mom, you're still my favourite chef!! :)

Thai-Style Fried Rice (makes approx. 7 cups)

4 cups cooked rice (rice stored overnight in the fridge works best)
2 x Chinese sausages (laap cheong), small dice (or you can use chicken, etc.)
1 x Tomato, small dice (flesh only)
1 medium onion, small dice (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup Green peas
3/4 cup Corn kernels
2 x Eggs, cracked into a bowl and whisked with 2 T of water
2 x Garlic cloves, minced
2 t canola oil
1-2 Birds Eye Chili, sliced thin (optional)
1 x Green onion, sliced thin (optional)
3 T Fish Sauce
Juice from 1/2 lime

1. Heat wok, and add 1 teaspoon of oil. Saute onions on medium heat.
2. Add garlic, making sure not to burn! Add tomatoes.
3. Stir fry until tomato juices have evaporated, and then add peas, corn and chinese sausages. Fry until everything is heated through.
4. Remove from wok and set aside.
5. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to wok, and add egg mixture. Cook until you have a fluffy omelette. Break up omelette into small pieces (uniform with diced sausages, peas, corn, etc.)
6. Add vegetable mixture and rice into the wok and combine.
7. Add fish sauce and lime juice and combine.
8. Add sliced chilis and green onions (if adding).
9. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

: i'm not irish, but kiss me anyway :

Every year comes a holiday that celebrates red and green*. And a holiday that celebrates pink, yellow and green**. And then there's that holiday that celebrates all things green***.

But why does it always have to be about green? What makes green so special? Why do colours like brown and black always get overlooked?

Well, I'm about turn this holiday upside down. Brown is back.

A very dark brown, to be specific.

I was asked to make some cupcakes for a St. Patrick's Day breakfast event last Friday, and I had been seeing lots of "stout cupcakes" around the blog-o-sphere. Nigella Lawson (my idol) has a fantastic recipe for a Guinness Chocolate Cake that I decided to adapt to make Guinness mini cupcakes.

I love Guinness.

I love cupcakes.

It's genius!

To make it even more celebratory, I decided to make the mini cupcakes in little cups and pipe my frosting to make it look like mini pints of Guinness.

They may not have gotten anyone drunk, but they sure did get everyone in the St. Patrick's Day spirit!


Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake (makes approx. 30 mini cupcakes)

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Guinness (or other stouts)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups plain flour (*I used cake flour)
2 cups sugar (*I used one cup of white sugar, one cup of brown sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

1. Combine melted butter, stout and cocoa powder in a large bowl.
2. Add the eggs and sour cream and mix thoroughly.
3. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into the wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
4. Pour batter into oven-proof paper cups (I line mine with parchment paper for easy removal).
5. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean (around 15-25 minutes depending on your oven).

Chocolate Fluffy Frosting

1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1-2 T Chocolate syrup, or to taste (ie. Nestle Quik)


1. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and cream of tartar. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and vanilla to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar mixture while whipping constantly until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes.
3. Add chocolate syrup to taste.

***If you don't know this by now, you don't deserve to

Sunday, March 15, 2009

: rubber duckie, you're the one :

I was commissioned to bake two dozen mini cupcakes this weekend for a baby shower, and rather than the standard piped frosting, I decided to get a little creative with the cupcake embellishments.

I've never used fondant before, so naturally, I decided to forgo buying ready-made fondant and tried to make my own instead. I found a rather interesting recipe online that uses jello powder, but it didn't quite work out. I played around with the ingredients, and finally found a combination that formed something pliable. I'll post the adapted recipe sometime in the future when I have a chance to experiment again.

I decided to use the fondant to make little rubber ducks on a bed of piped blue Swiss Meringue Buttercream on Vanilla cupcakes.

Here are my ducks on the lookout:

Here are my ducks forming an army:

And here's their final resting place:

My last duckie didn't have a cupcake to sit on:

Vanilla Cupcake recipe from Joy of Baking.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe from Martha Stewart.

Monday, March 9, 2009

: breakfast of champions :

Since I'm in school for culinary arts & nutrition, it's only fitting that I post a nutritious recipe once in while (amidst all the cupcakes!). Two years ago, I was browsing through the cookbook section of a bookstore and came across a whole-wheat oatmeal pancake recipe along with what I'm assuming was a really great photo. It looked very simple to make, so I decided to give it a try and noted the recipe on my cell phone.

The pancakes turned out to be one of those really dense yet fluffy hotcakes, with lots of meaty texture. None of that wimpy flat pancake business! Because the addition of the oatmeal, the pancakes are a little bit dryer than most, but nothing that syrup can't fix :) And lots of fibre and good carbohydrates too.

To this day, this is my go-to recipe for pancakes. I've never written down the recipe, and still consult my cell phone whenever I make it! Unfortunately, it's been years, so I can't remember the book from which this recipe is from!

Oh, and I like these with a bit of Lyle's Golden Syrup too :)

Okay, maybe a little bit more...

Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (makes about 5 medium sized cakes)

1 cup Whole-Wheat flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/8 teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons Sugar
1/3 cup Oats (quick cooking, rolled)
2/3 cup Milk
2 Eggs
1-2 tablespoons Canola oil or Butter

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Add eggs and 2/3 cup milk. It will make a thick batter.
3. Let sit for about 15 minutes for the the oatmeal to absorb the liquid.
4. Heat up a flat bottomed pan on medium heat, and add a bit of oil or butter to grease up the pan.
5. Add pancake batter in dollops (I personally use my 1/3 cup measure to make 5 uniform sized medium pancakes. If you're making canape sized, just use a spoon).
6. The batter is very thick, so use a spoon or other tool to flatten it out to the thickness you want. (I like mine thick and meaty). The batter will rise a fair amount as well.
7. After about 2 minutes, check underside. When browned to your desire, flip over.
8. Enjoy with a bountiful amount of your syrup of choice :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

: good things come in extra small packages :

I've been a food blog lurker for years, but only recently started checking out baking sites and happened to stumble across Bakerella, the baking genius behind "cake pops"! I clicked through every page of her blog, growing more impressed by each culinary dessert creation. Her creativity was infectious. I too wanted to re-invent desserts into cute new packages!

I decided to start slow. I am, after all, only a novice baker!

I had some leftover cupcakes from the baby shower, so I decided to turn them into cupcake lollipops (sans the lollipop stick). So really... just extra-small chocolate covered cupcake-shaped cakes. I crumbled them up and mixed them in with my deflated frosting (it came in handy after all!).


I think I need more practice :) But hey, it's only my first time! And they're taaasty.... :)

Visit Bakerella's post for step-by-step instructions and photos! She even appeared on the Martha Stewart show last year during Cupcake Week, showcasing her "good things" :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

: gourmet ham and cheese :

Sometimes I don't leave class until well into the evening and by the time I get home, I'm starving. Tonight was no different and the first thing I did when I arrived home was to peruse my fridge contents. What's quick, easy to assemble, and delicious? I decided to try a new version of ham and cheese - gourmet style!

For the cheese, I mixed together equal parts light cream cheese and goat cheese, and threw in some chopped green onions as well.

For the ham, I decided on some deliciously pungent and salty prosciutto.


Gourmet Ham and Cheese

1 T goat cheese
1 T light cream cheese
1 t green onion, chopped fine
2 slices of prosciutto
1 bagel, sliced in half, toasted

1. Mix goat cheese, cream cheese and green onions together.
2. Assemble on bagel with prosciutto.
3. Eat! :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

: baby cakes :

If you know me personally, you'll know that I am an avid cupcake supporter. I love cupcakes, possibly more than life itself! But seriously. Upon my invitation to my good friend Marta's baby shower, I decided straight away that I would bring mini cupcakes to celebrate Little Walnut's impending birth. Baby shower + baby cupcakes = cute!

I debated between making a chocolate cake and banana cake, subsequently finding out that the baby mama is allergic to bananas. Chocolate it is. I decided to try out a Devil's Food Cake recipe with fluffy marshmallow-like frosting. I adapted the cake recipe from Taste and Tell with the recipe below, and the fluffy frosting from All Recipes.

The chocolate cake turned out very light, moist and not overly sweet, so it made it very easy to eat more than a few in one sitting ;) The frosting was dynamite - really light and so yummy. I attempted to use a shortcut to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream and add unsalted butter after the frosting had been whipped, but the addition of the butter completely deflated my fluffy frosting.

While still delicious, it kind of defeated my purpose of making chocolate cupcakes with "fluffy" frosting.

On another note, I found the sweetest baby shower gift - organic teething toys in the shapes of fruit! I bought these from Grassroots in Toronto.

Cute, non?

Devil's Food Mini Cupcakes (makes approx 84)

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1.5 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 cups cold water

1. Line cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high for 30 seconds. Add sugar, melted chocolate and vanilla; beat until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Add flour mixture and water alternately to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
4. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.