Monday, October 20, 2014

Life Happens

Clearly, I've been absent here for a bit now although I've still been cooking and baking a bit here and there. Unfortunately life has gotten in the way of regular updates for now. Because of this, my camera is currently packed away in a box somewhere in my parents' garage and to be honest I really just haven't been feeling very motivated. I haven't forgotten about my little blog but for now I have to take a break. Hopefully a short one.

At the risk of sounding a bit dramatic, I have to say that this year has probably been one of the worst I've been through. And this month unfortunately hasn't made this statement any less true. So... I'm currently back with my parents, living outside of the city and commuting to and from work everyday. All of my things are in boxes and to be honest I'm feeling very discouraged. I was supposed to be living in my very own grown up apartment but I've ended up going in the other direction. HOWEVER things can only get better from here. I will find a new place and it will be wonderful. Right? Right?!

Until then I'm afraid I'm not going to be making many new posts. I do have some things that I'm working on and am looking forward to shooting when I get my life back in order. Till then...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Simple Apple Tart with a Hazelnut Crust

It's feeling more and more like fall. The temperatures are dropping, the air is feeling a little more crisp and the leaves are just beginning to change. The perfect time for a simple apple tart. I had more than fall as reason to bake this because it was my bf's birthday recently. To celebrate I not only made him dessert but a dinner as well, of slowly braised lamb shanks and creamy mashed potatoes. Of course we gobbled dinner up pretty quick and I didn't want to make him wait while I took pictures and his dinner got cold. It was truly delicious though and something I'd definitely like make again. Next time though... there will be pictures! 

For dessert I wanted to keep it simple. I'd received some beautiful Ontario apples in my Mama Earth basket this week and, given the change in weather, I thought an apple tart would be perfect. I think with something as classic as an apple pie or tart, keeping it simple is the way to go. You really want to highlight those deliciously sweet apples and flaky pastry. However I've been making a lot of pastry lately so I wanted to switch it up a bit by adding in some ground hazelnuts. Still keeping it simple with the same classic flavours, this slight variation was a nice nutty touch. It worked out pretty well, the crust was still flakey and buttery with just a hint of toasty hazelnuts. I also found it kept the sweetness from the apples and brown sugar in balance. 

I think the next time I make this I will try pan frying the apples before throwing it all in the oven. Although it still tasted great,  I didn't get that caramel sauciness I was hoping for. Pan frying works wonders for an easy caramel sauce. 
I also need to invest in a pastry brush. I mean really... how do I not have one of these yet?! These photos are missing that shimmery gleam that I light brushing of butter would add I think. 

Simple Apple Tart with Hazelnut Crust
2 cups flour
1 cup ground hazelnuts
1 cup butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 shortening, chilled and cubed
6-9 tbsp ice water

5 small apples, halved and sliced thinly
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
1/4 brown sugar
a few knobs butter

For the crust you'll want to make sure that all of your ingredients are as cold as possible while still being workable. Some people even throw their flour in the fridge for a bit when working with pastry. Start off by measuring out your flour and hazelnuts into a large mixing bowl. Add in your cold butter and shortening and combine with the dry ingredients. You want to rub the fats into the flour, breaking the cubes up into smaller pea sized pieces. Once this is achieved I'd recommend putting your dough in the fridge for at least 10 minutes for the fats to firm up again. You can throw it in the freezer too if you're short on time. I wouldn't leave it for more than 5 minutes as you don't want it to freeze on you.

Once your dough is cooled you can proceed by adding in your ice water, one tablespoon at a time. Bringing everything together with your hands. You want to add just enough water that your dough comes together to form a ball but not so much that it gets sticky. It takes a bit of practice to find the right texture but even if it does get a little sticky you can always add a little but of extra flour when rolling it out. Throw the dough back in the fridge.

Cut up your apples and toss them in a bowl with the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Let them sit while you preheat the oven to 425 F and roll out your dough.

After letting your dough chill for about 10-20 minutes again, lightly flour the surface you intent to roll it out on, as well as your rolling pin and hands. Gently work from the middle out, rolling out the dough into a circular form. You want it to be bigger than the pie pan you're working with so you have enough room for the crust to go up the edges. When you're done rolling the dough out lay it over your rolling pin and transfer it to the pie pan. Press the dough into all the edges and cut off any remaining bits.

You can chill your dough again here if it's gotten a bit warm again. Once your dough is ready fill it with your apples and a few dots of butter on top.

Place your uncooked pie in the oven for about 20 -30 minutes. Until the apples are soft and browned.

Let cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice-cream.

As always, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Peanut Butter, Pretzel, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Who doesn't love a giant peanut butter cookie? Add in some chocolate chunks and a bit of salty pretzel and you've got yourself a winner! Seriously, all I want to eat right now is cookies. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I want cookies! 

I nabbed this recipe from The Sugar Hit, (one of my favourite blogs to follow) and added in some pretzel for a bit of saltiness. Sea salt would be good too. 

Peanut Butter, Pretzel, Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 sticks butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup chopped pretzel

Start of by browning the butter in a saucepan. Heat is for about 5-7 minutes or until it starts to smell nutty and look caramel in colour. It will foam up a bit so use a deeper set pan. Set this aside to completely cool. You can put it in the fridge or freezer to speed this up if needed. 

When the butter is cool, place the eggs and white sugar into a mixing bowl (or stand mixer, fitted with a whisk) and whisk until the mixture is light and pale in colour. 

Add the cooled butter, brown sugar and peanut butter to the egg mixture and mix until incorporated. (switch to a paddle attachment if using a mixer.)

Continue to add the salt and baking powder. Then slowly mix in the flour, making sure not to let it fly everywhere. Once the flour is almost completely mixed in, add your chocolate chips for a final mix, until everything is well incorporated. 

Once your dough is finished you can either bake your cookies right away or let the dough chill for a a few hours/ overnight. Once you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 F and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Scoop out your dough out and evenly distribute them onto your baking sheet, making sure to leave plenty of room for them to spread out. You can flatten each cookie out as well, making sure they're just under an inch thick. Then bake for 15-17 minutes or until they're golden along the edges and just cooked through in the middle. 

Try not to eat them all in one go :)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tomato Galette for One

I had a pretty big moment this week. A taste of my very first homegrown tomato. It felt like forever since I planted that little seed but finally, after all that waiting and babying it was time! After deciding that it was ripe enough to finally pick, I bit into it, still warm from the sun and man did it taste good! I mean, to be honest it wasn't the best looking tomato, kind of mutated and a bit cracked but... I grew it! That fact alone made it taste way better than any other tomato I've ever had before. I feel a bit like a proud mum. I also feel like I now need to buy a farm, move to the country and eat only the things I grow with my own two hands! 
Yeah, I'll keep dreaming here in my little Toronto apartment while the street cars rumble on by. I'll stick to little balcony gardens for now. 

So, in honour of my tasty, ugly tomato I've made a very simple galette, just for me.  Using up the half  of my tomato that I didn't eat right away and a few other things I had kicking around the fridge, this little guy came together very easily. I'm happy with this because there aren't a lot of recipes that work for just one and I'm all too often only cooking for myself. Which usually results in leftovers, which are cool but not always as exciting the next day. So after a bit of research I found out that making crust is really very simple and if you follow the ratio of 3 parts flour to 2 parts fat and 1 part liquid you'll be set to make however big or small a crust you need. However, the important thing to remember when making a pie crust like this is to keep you ingredients as cold as possible throughout the entire process. This helps to ensure a flaky crust that isn't too dense or too chewy.  

Tomato Galette with Goat Cheese, Pancetta, and Onion

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup chilled butter, cubed
5-6 tbsp ice water 
Pinch of salt

1/2 large tomato, sliced
2 tbsp goat cheese
a bit of pancetta, chopped
a few slices of white or red onion
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar 

Preheat your oven to 425 F
For the crust, in a small mixing bowl combine the flour, salt and cold butter. With your hands coat the butter with the flour and continue to rub the butter into the flour between your hands, creating smaller and smaller chunks. Continue until the chunks look roughly the size of peas. I recommend chilling the dough for a few minutes here, especially if you're working in a hot kitchen. You want the butter in the dough to remain fairly cold so that it won't melt when you put it into your hot oven. Instead, you want to create a bit of steam which will create a beautifully flakey crust. 
After chilling the dough for a few minutes, create a little well in the middle of your mixture and start adding your ice water. Add it by the tablespoon to ensure your don't add too much water. Combine the mixture as you do this and stop working when the dough starts to come together. You don't want it to be sticky so just enough water until you can form a ball but it's not sticking to your hand. Again, chill that dough.
After chilling for a few minutes until it feels cool to the touch but isn't so stiff you can't roll it out. Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin gently roll it out into roughly a roundish shape, about a 1/4 inch thick or so.
In the centre of your dough, crumble the goat cheese and place your slices of tomato on top. Top this with a bit of sliced onion and a handful of chopped pancetta. 
Fold the edges of the dough onto of your filling and drizzle with olive oil and a touch of balsamic. 
Place your galette on a parchment lined baking tray and pop in your preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is golden. 
You can top this with a bit of freshly grated parmesan. Some fresh herbs like basil or thyme would be nice too. 
Grab a glass of wine and enjoy! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

White Chocolate, Cherry, Basil Scones and a Word on Cold Brewing

I tried cold brewing for the first time recently and now I totally get what all the hype is about. It's more than just cold coffee, to my surprise! Somehow that long and slow brewing method brings out all the little intricate flavours your favourite coffee has to to offer so I'd recommend that you don't skimp out on your beans. (Honestly I would have recommended that cold brew or no cold brew but I guess that's what makes me a coffee snob.) I've mentioned a local coffee shop here before, Sam James Coffee Bar and I have no problem mentioning them again. The best coffee and they do their own roasting which is something that seems to be picking up here in Toronto YAY! Support your local independents and grab some fresh beans.
This method is so simple it's stupid! It just takes some time overnight to steep.

All I did was grind my beans up for a few seconds to achieve a coarse grind. Then add those grinds to your handy dandy french press, using the same amount you would if you were making a hot cup o joe, fill her up with some cold water, put the top on and place in the fridge to sit over night. Make sure you don't press the plunger down as that will prevent it from steeping. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
I've read some other methods, a lot of which suggest just leaving it out on your counter top but I wanted it nice a cold so I could drink it right away. I'll try this method next time and see what happens.

With all that coffee talk over with, now a new recipe brought to you by the fabulous Marta Greber over at What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today who made a delicious looking variation on the original recipe from Monet Moutrie. I've switched it up again with some cherries, white chocolate greek yogurt and a bit of basil. It's funny how one simple recipe can go through such transformations depending on who's hands it's in. Please let me know if you try it too and what flavours you decide to use.

I followed Marta's directions very closely so the only changes are in flavours really and I only made those changes because that's what I had in my fridge at the time. Each variation sounds just as tasty though and I'd love to make them, the original way, with blueberries! 

White Chocolate, Cherry, Basil Scones
Makes 6

2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chilled butter, cubed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate greek yogurt
3/4 cup fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
1 egg whisked
* for extra white chocolate goodness, add in some white chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 400 F
In a large bowl place flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk these ingredients to combine then add your butter in small cubes. Rub it into the flour mixture, leaving it chunky. Add yogurt, sugar, cherries, and basil and combine with a wooden spoon.
If you're not in too much of a hurry, I'd suggest cooling your dough in the fridge a bit before rolling it out. This is especially a good idea if the butter in the dough has gotten too soft and warm from your toasty paws.
However, I didn't do this and they still turned out great. Cooling the dough would have made them a bit flakier though. I'll try it next time and report back.
Dump this mixture onto the surface you plan on rolling the final dough out onto and knead until everything is combined and the mixture forms a ball. Roll this ball out, forming a round shape, about 2 cm high. With a cup or round cutter, cut out 6 scones and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. With a pastry brush gently brush the egg mixture over each scone. 
Place in the oven at 400 F for 15 minutes.

Enjoy with a cup of your refreshing cold brew!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Lentil Tacos with Arugula, Beets, and Goat Cheese

Who needs meat?
Actually I do but you gotta keep yourself in balance, right? To be honest I don't really eat a lot of it. It's expensive and I'm into the idea of cutting down. I don't think we really need to eat it everyday especially with all of the amazing veggie options out there.
Anyway, I just whipped these bad boys up after work. Super quick and infinitely better than those taco kits you buy at the grocery store. I thought I'd amp up the regular old taco not only with a veggie version but with a little switch up in flavour. To do this, I've used arugula, beets and a little goats cheese and I think it tastes great! Beets are one of my all time favourite veggies for their earthy, sweet flavour and the beautiful colours they come in. I've just shredded them up raw here and thrown them on top... making a mess... a tasty mess. Isn't that what tacos are all about anyway?

Lentil Tacos with Beet, Arugula, and Goat Cheese
Makes about 6 tacos. I used the smaller, whole wheat shells. 

2 cups water
1 cup rinsed lentils
pinch of salt

1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp red chilli flakes
1/4 cup strained tomatoes
3 tbsp water
1/2 small onion
1 glove garlic

1 small beet shredded 
1 lime 
goat cheese
anything else you'd like as a topping

Bring your lentils to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, leaving a little bit of bite. You're going to be cooking them further in your sauce so you don't want them to be too soft. 
Strain and set aside.

Cook the onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil. When onions start looking soft and transparent add all your spices and stir for a few seconds to bring out the flavour. Add the strained tomato, water and lentils. Cook until the lentils are to the texture you like them, about 5 minutes or so. 

Build your tacos with the arugula, shredded beet, goat cheese and whatever other toppings you like. Top with a bit of cilantro and a squeeze of lime. 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Panna Cotta and The Great Outdoors

In lieu of my recent camping trip to Alqonquin Park I wanted to make something with blueberries. Why? Because they were everywhere! We were lucky enough to have a campsite by the water where they grow so for breakfast it was such a treat to sit by the the very peaceful lake and munch away on fresh wild blueberries. Does it get any better? 
So as an ode to those lovely Ontario berries I've put together a simple panna cotta with fresh blueberries and a spicy, sweet ginger syrup. Topped off with a little bit of crushed graham cracker. 

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Blueberries and Spicy, Sweet Ginger Syrup
(serves about 3)

Panna Cotta:

1 cup milk (any milk but whole is best)
1 cup cream
2 tsp powdered gelatin, unflavoured*
1/4 cup sugar (I used brown for extra flavour)
Half a vanilla bean

Spicy, Sweet Ginger Syrup:

3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 inches ginger, roughly chopped
pinch of salt

Prepare your ramekins by lightly oiling them with cooking spray or a little bit of butter on a piece of parchment paper. 

Pour the milk into a small pot but don't turn the burner on. Sprinkle your gelatin evenly over the milk and let it sit for about 5 minutes or until you can see it starting to dissolve. 
Turn the heat on medium-low and whisk the mixture often, making sure that the milk doesn't boil. You just want to heat the milk up to dissolve the gelatin completely. Keep whisking until the milk is hot but not too hot that you can't keep your finger submerged for a few second. You will be able to tell when the gelatin is completely dissolved by dipping a spoon in and seeing if there are any bits on the back of the spoon when you take it out. 
Once the mixture is hot and gelatin dissolved, whisk in the cream, sugar and the vanilla pod. Make sure to scrape the caviar from the inside of your vanilla pod and add that too. 
Whisk for another minute or so, until the sugar is completely dissolved. 
Take the mixture off the heat and remove your vanilla beans. Pour into prepared ramekins.
Cover with a bit of plastic wrap and store in fridge for at least 6 hours if you're going to unmold them. About 2 hours if you're not.

For the syrup simply boil all ingredients together until the mixture reduces by about a third. You can start this before the panna cotta and let it reduce while you're doing everything else. It's very simple and you can switch up the ingredients as you like. If you don't want it to be very spicy use less ginger. 

This is a really nice recipe for summer because it's very light and simple. It's great too because you can do so much with it. Espresso is a wonderful flavour to add or something more citrusy for a brighter, more refreshing dessert. Play around with it, the possibilities are endless!

  • You can up the amounts for this recipe easily. Use 1 tsp of gelatin per cup of liquid.
  • Also, make sure you bloom the gelatin before using it (letting it sit in cold liquid for at least five minutes). This ensures that it will dissolve properly and mix evenly into the liquids. 

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