Saturday, March 29, 2014

Peanut Butter Sandies

If you asked my boyfriend, Jacques what his favourite cookies were, he’d say “Peanut Butter Cookies!” with the enthusiasm of a six year old. He’s very good at dropping hints for what I should make for my next baking project. It was his birthday last week so instead of making them alone, I thought it would be more fun to boss him around make it together.

Most of the peanut butter cookies I've had are crisp and dry, not that it’s a bad thing, but they’re predictable. These cookies on the other hand, will blow your mind. Dense and buttery, they are reminiscent of shortbread. The marriage of brown and granulated sugars gives it a sandy texture and the peanut butter adds a wallop of flavour. Not to mention the sprinkle of salt on top makes them freakingly irresistible. For those who live for sweet and salty desserts, these are for you.

Recipe here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Coconut Bread

I feel guilty for how much I've ignored my blog. My dad came to visit from overseas so I was busy spending time with him. My parents taught Jacques, my boyfriend, how to play mahjong (not the computer game) the real deal, using tiles engraved with various shapes and colours. A week later, I went to see Kings of Leon in concert with my girlfriends (featuring Gary Clark Jr., who is frequently on repeat on my Ipod) and spent the following days belting out this song.

I haven’t baked much lately, but I did cook for my family. I made lasagna and layered fresh pasta sheets with white sauce and meat sauce simmered with plenty of wine and topped with mozzarella so that after 30 minutes of oven time, the edges were crispy and just a couple of minutes away from being burnt. It was perfect. The insides were squidgy and the flavours melded together. What a difference fresh pasta makes! Lasagna-epiphany never felt so good!

On another night, I made pavlovas, something I've been meaning to make for a year or so. I folded in dark chocolate chunks into whipped egg whites and sugar and before serving, laid slices of fresh pears and generous scoops of ice cream. We all dived into them, quiet and eager to stuff our faces with crisp and pillowy goodness.

I also went to a Fabulicious lunch. It’s an event where wineries in the Niagara area get to show off their culinary talents with meals at a set price. My mom and Jacques arrived at Peller Estates an hour late but they were thankfully accommodating. 

There was arugula salad with quail, pan-fried salmon with curried butternut squash, wild boar panini, duck confit with truffled fettuccine carbonara and of course, the best part was when we shared our desserts: sticky toffee pudding with oatmeal ice cream, cranberry and apple crumble, and the best one of all: chocolate cream pie with macerated cherries. I wish I had worn my stretchy pants.

As if all that food wasn't enough, I still felt like eating something sweet. I wanted to make something simple, with the preparation done in less than 20 minutes. I had my eye on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen in a while and it looked doable for my lazy mood. You really can't go wrong with the mixture of toasted coconut, sugar, browned butter, just thinking about it makes my mouth water. This bread can be mixed by hand and comes together easily, I reduced the amount of sugar a little and it turned out fine. Like Deb describes, it has a drier crumb than banana bread and is just as good. You can add nuts, grate citrus fruit into the batter, add chocolate chips, whatever suits your fancy. I like it plain, toasted with Speculoos. 

Recipe here!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chocolate Pecan Torte (again)

I made a mistake. I baked something, took pictures of it while standing over the table and getting really really excited to share it with you, only to realize days later when I was getting ready to blog it, that I had already done it in 2012It's no big deal, besides, it's a delicious idea for Valentine's Day if you're into that sort of thing. If not, it's still a fabulous cake to share with your friends and family, it's full of chocolate and still delicately sweet. My parents loved it, we each had a slice with a scoop of cookies and cream ice cream while watching tv. 

Recipe here!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Alice Medrich's Ginger Cookies

I’ve been ignoring my blog. I’ve been procrastinating this post for the longest time. I’ve typed up many drafts, then stoped mid-sentence and decided what I’m typing is stupid and no one is remotely interested in my shopping adventures in New York City or the fact that I failed as a food blogger and only went to two (!!!) bakeries in one of the greatest cities of the world (though I did have an amazzzing ogre-sized chocolate chip cookie and a salted pecan butter cookie). 

I haven’t been motivated to do anything. I even have pictures from an ice cream circa November 2013 that I haven’t bothered with. I blame work, it’s exhausting mentally and physically. I can barely keeping my eyes open Monday to Friday (sometimes Saturdays too), when I finally come home after my 90 minute commute, I just want to pass out in my bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep till the next day.

Thank god for cookies. There's no going wrong with butter and sugar, and the magic that happens when you blend them together with some flour with fresh ginger and add a large pinch of cinnamon. These cookies are soft and chewy on the inside, without the crystallized ginger, they are mildly spicy and go well with a glass of milk in one hand. My friend had a birthday party and as usual, I baked. I gave her a batch of these cookies wrapped in tissue paper with a homemade card tucked into it. I saved a few for myself to get through the cold winter days. I’m advocating cookies increase work morale and productivity. 

Recipe here!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

I made these cheesecake squares for a birthday party a few weeks ago. I don’t like showing up to a party empty-handed. Cake makes perfect conversation-starters, especially if you're shy around a new group of people and love being showered with compliments. Besides, who doesn’t like to celebrate their birthday with a little sweet treat? 

These bars are delicately sweet, the filling is velvety smooth and rich, it sits on top a thick graham cracker crust flavoured with a hint of cinnamon. I prefer cheesecake with a thicker crust for some textural contract to the cream cheese and these seal the deal. Also, you might have noticed the flaky sea salt, everyone at the party loved it. The combination of salty and sweet never gets old. Happy December!

Recipe here!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Neiman Marcus $250 Cookies

I had a craving for chocolate chip cookies. I knew exactly what kind I wanted: thick, chunky, cookies riddled with generous pieces of dark chocolate and a little sea salt on top to off set the sweetness. The kind that of cookies that makes you lick your lips right before biting into them, the kind that is so full of chocolate, it melts between your fingers. Finally, I made these and viola, my cravings were settled.

I picked up work at another nursing home a few months ago. The staff are great, I'm finally starting to learn people's names (though my eyes still linger over their name tags when in doubt) and the best part, the commute is the shortest compared to my other nursing homes. I brought a box of these cookies to work and everyone loved them. I offered them bright and early at 7am to my coworkers, word spread like wild fire and they came barging into the office for more. Are these the legendary cookies with the legendary hyperbolic title? My coworkers certain think so. 

These cookies are similar to the NY Times version I blogged about here and the whole wheat version here, the main difference is the use of oat flour in this recipe, which gives it an extra textural mouthfeel. There's also grated chocolate, for extra chocolatelyness, which is never a bad thing. I used the NY times tip in leaving the dough overnight in the fridge which improves the flavour and is highly recommended.

Recipe here!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Eggplant Tarte Tatin with Black Pepper Caramel

Eggplants were one of those foods I despised as a child. My face twisted in disgust when I saw that my parents had ordered them at a restaurant, they looked like fat worms slouched over each other, lurking in a dish smothered in some sort of gooey sauce. I hated their weird silky texture and imagined how easily they could slip down my throat, latch onto my esophagus and multiply by the dozens. Ugh. I begged my parents not to scoop any for me (along with onions and cooked carrots, my other childhood food aversions).

Then as I grew older, I started to enjoy the purple vegetable. I don’t exactly remember the turning point, but suddenly stopped dreading the sight of them when we dined out. I actually liked their slipperiness, how they slithered in my mouth bursting with a salty, chili sauce riddled with ground pork. That’s still my favourite way to eat them, especially with a bowl of rice soak up all the garlicky sauce. 

I’ve never had them in a sweet dish and I think we can agree, eggplant rarely comes in a dessert form, but thanks to my friend Claudia who sent me this recipe, here we are with eggplant tarte tatin. Does that sound heavenly? It tastes awesome by the way. 

The vegetable is shredded then sliced into thick matchsticks, boiled with butter and sugar until golden. The eggplant turns into luxurious pieces, reminding me of ripe pears but still retaining that familiar peppery bite. Blackened bits of eggplant clung to edges of the tart, which I picked at uncontrollably. The puff pastry is a superb vehicle for holding the eggplant candy (Ha! Never thought I’d use those words together) and besides, everyone loves flaky crusts.

Who would have thought caramelizing vegetables, let alone the humble eggplant, would transform it into a toffee-like substance? These could totally count as your serving of daily vegetables. 

Recipe here!