Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

In my world there are two types of people, those who like sugar cookies and those who like shortbread cookies.  I LOVE shortbread cookies, but could pass most sugar cookies put in front of me.

I have tried tons of shortbread recipes and in most cases I am left disappointed, so I decided to take the successful parts of all these recipes and combine them into one, to make a delicious, moist and rich shortbread cookie.

Just to keep things on the interesting side today I have also decided to try to incorporate the 2nd requested flavour by my mother for Christmas baking….the cranberry.

This recipe did work fantastically and will make it my go-to shortbread recipe, but the one thing I would change is the cranberry.  I bought dried cranberries from the bins you find at grocery stores or bulk barn, so most of the cranberries were dried whole.  What I will be doing next time is taking a knife to the cranberries and dicing them up finer, it is really hard to cut a whole cranberry with a cookie cutter I must admit!

 

Ingredients

 

1 cup cold butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup corn starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup dried cranberries (this can be switched out for anything, such as mini chocolate chips)

 

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2) Cut butter into slices and put into the bowl of mixer that is fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat the butter until smooth, but not creamy.

3) Sift icing sugar into the butter and cream.

4) In a small bowl sift the flour, cornstarch and salt together.

5) With the mixer on speed 2 incorporate the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture.

6) Add the vanilla and cranberries, only mix until ingredients are combined, do not over mix!

7) Scrape down the bowl and with your hands from the batter into a ball of dough.

– This should only take a minute, it will combine fairly easily.

8) Divide dough into 4 pieces.

9) Working with a quarter at a time (while the other quarters are in the fridge) roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface.

10) Using any cookie cutter of your choice, cut out your cookies and place on a 9×13 baking sheet.

11) Freeze baking sheet lined with cut cookies for a few minutes to allow the butter to come back down in temperature.

Do not skip this step!  If you want a nice flakey and buttery cookie you will want to take the extra few minutes and cool down the cookie dough.

12) Bake for 12 minutes.

Here is the final product:

 

Hope you enjoy!

 

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My very first Beavertail experience!

For the very first time in my life I have made it to Ottawa!

Ottawa, I must say, is stunning.  Jeff and I toured the streets and were absolutely impressed with every corner we turned and all the history that was there to be absorbed!

I am almost ashamed to admit that, as a Canadian and on top of not being to our nations capital until now, I have never had a beavertail.  Even Obama has had a beavertail before me!!!

What is a beavertail you ask?

Well you are not alone, I asked the same thing to my very best friend Rachel who was adamant that I eat one of these things…good thing I listened!

A beavertail is a pastry that is shaped like, surprise surprise, a beavers tail.

Beavertails is a small shop found in the heart of the Byward market, but you can smell the sweet smell of frying pastry a mile a way!

note: as you can see Jeff is already starting to eat!

So we walk up to the booth to order our very first beavertail.  We had just eaten breakfast so I order the simplest one, brown sugar and cinnamon, but Jeff very quickly put the kibosh to that!

What we ended up ordering by his doing was the banana and chocolate beavertail….I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!!

A few short minutes later, Jeff and I had tackled our first beavertail and were delighted to find such a delicious treat!

All in all this was a HUGE success and if the only thing I ended up doing in Ottawa was tasting one of these beavertails, I would have been ok with that 🙂

Thank you again Rachel for the suggestion….now I have to figure out how to make these at home! 🙂

Lemon Meringue Bars

So it is November 20th and I have broken one of the rules I live by….absolutely NO Christmas stuff until December 1st.

Not only have I managed to get all of my Christmas shopping done (by some sort of miracle!), Jeff (the husband :)) has put up the Christmas lights and I have officially started my trial runs for Christmas baking!

Every year my mom holds a big gathering for Christmas Eve and with this gathering I am tasked to bake for 30+ people who all seem to like different things, which I sometimes think is them playing a practical joke on me just to see how many things I will bake! My mom will be coming over December 15th for a baking day – aka – mom comes over uses me for my Leroy (since I refuse to let him leave the house and be borrowed…yes I am aware that this is a mixer), makes a HUGE mess with melted chocolate and ends up then cleaning my kitchen out of pity for me, however, I look forward to this time spent with mom every year!

Since I am a bit of a perfectionist and tend to get slightly upset if things do not go my way in the kitchen, I decided that I would do some practice runs of what we are going to bake for Christmas and look like a pro when my mom and I are actually baking for the Christmas Eve extravaganza!

My mom has suggested that we bake something with lemon and something with cranberry which is subject to change of course, based on my practice runs. Tonight I have decided to tackle the lemon portion of her request.

This recipe is a Martha Stewart recipe, the original can be found here, with a few slight changes. I do not enjoy lemon zest in my dessert so I removed that from the recipe and added another 1/8 cup of lemon juice. I have also added the cream of tartar to the recipe for the meringue because I find that this gives the meringue that nice shiny gloss 🙂

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 whole eggs, plus 4 egg whites

2 1/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

 

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) Put butter, flour, confectioners sugar and salt in bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until well blended.

– Just a friendly reminder to sift the dry ingredients, confectioners sugar has tones of little clumps!

3) Transfer mixture to a 9×13 baking sheet. Press batter evenly into baking sheet and chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

– I really didn’t think there would be enough batter to spread across the baking sheet, but I guess Martha really does know what she is doing 🙂

4) Bake until golden, 20-22 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

– Not going to lie, I missed this step so I had to adjust all my baking times, NOT a recommendation I would make!

5) Whisk together whole eggs, 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and lemon juice.

6) Pour over crust. Bake until filling is set, 18-20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

7) Put egg whites, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and cream of tartar in the clean bowl of the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high until stiff peaks form.

8) Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread meringue over filling, swirling to create soft peaks. Bake until meringue begins to brown, 8-10 minutes.

9) Let cool completely. Cut into bars.

Now I am fully aware that meringue does not hold up for much longer than 3 days in the fridge, let alone 2 weeks in a freezer, so I do have a plan to make this recipe work based on the 2 weeks I have between baking and Christmas Eve.

What I’m going to do to make this work is bake the crust and the filling, cut into squares and then freeze. The day before or day of serving, bring the bars up to room temperature, make the meringue, pipe onto squares and bake for the remaining 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Here is the final product:

Hope you enjoy!

Deb Perelman Book Signing!

SO SO SO Excited!

I had the immense pleasure of going to the Deb Perelman book signing last night in Toronto!!

Deb and I!

For those of you who do not know who Deb Perelman is, you should!  I was introduced to the Smitten Kitchen blog, found here, by Jessie a friend of mine and a huge baking enthusiast as well!

Jessie always told me that she felt like Deb was a part of her family and that her and her sister talk about her like she is “Aunt Deb”.  I never quite understood how, without knowing a person, you could feel that way about someone, until I started following the Smitten Kitchen blog!

Not only do I love the fantastic recipes that are posted on the blog, I also love the story that is delivered with the recipes.  Deb will take you on her journey of how she came up with the recipe to attempts taken, to the corrections made and finally to the end product, which is always a stunning dish that is absolutely delicious!  While taking you on this journey she makes you feel like you are right in the kitchen with her!

After following the blog for going on two years now, I was super excited to hear that she was making a cook book and to top off that excitement, she was coming to Toronto for a book signing!!!!

Jessie and I immediately determined that this was an event we were attending and I couldn’t be happier.  We went to the book signing last night where Deb was interviewed and the audience had the chance to ask questions, our question was chosen of course 🙂

We asked her if she preferred to bake or to cook, part of her response, which both Jessie and I can relate to, was that she bakes to receive favours.  This is something that Jessie and I are all too familiar with as we will both bake, bring it into work and then ask for a favour….no shame!

Last night was a great experience.  I was able to meet Deb, the face of Smitten Kitchen, hear her talk about cooking/baking as her passion, receive tips for blogging and finally, to top off this awesome night, I met her in person, took a picture with her and she signed my cook book!!

I strongly recommend you take a look at her blog and try out some of her recipes, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Enjoy!

 

Moms Chocolate Chip Cookies

For as long as I can remember my mom has been baking these chocolate chip cookies!
This was not an easy feat for our family as we all like our cookies a different way, some like a more crispy cookie, while some (ME!) prefer a nice soft and chewy cookie, this recipe gives you both!
I am not sure where my mom got this recipe, but I’m sure it didn’t come out of a book considering when I asked her for this recipe she simply closed her eyes for a second, then looked up and spouted out the recipe…just like that! When I then asked her to confirm the measurements of the ingredients her response was “ya about that, I never really measured, it’s not an exact science you know”.
What I do know is that my mom has the great ability to adapt to what her family likes, being the very loving mom she is, so for that I thank her for this very versatile recipe that’s filled with hundreds of happy memories!

Ingredients

2/3 cup of softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2) Beat the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and egg together in the mixer on speed 4, until smooth and fluffy.

3) Add vanilla and beat in just until mixed.
– I’m not entirely sure why the vanilla gets mixed in last, but this is what my mom did, so I will continue this “tradition” 🙂

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4) Add the flour, baking soda and salt just until combined.

5) Add the chocolate chips and mix only until they are incorporated.

6) Scoop dough onto baking sheets in 1 1/2 inch balls.
– I use an ice cream scoop for this, a very quick way to get the dough onto the sheets!

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7) Bake for 8-10 minutes
– If you like a softer cookie, bake for 8 minutes, for a more crispy cookie bake for 10 minutes.

8) Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.

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This cookie recipe is a great base for other cookies such as oatmeal chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies, which is what makes it so versatile.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Simple White Bread

Sunday has arrived and with that all of the things that need to be done around the house!
I always bake two loaves of bread every Sunday for the week ahead. The reason I bake my bread rather than picking it up at the grocery store is because of the ingredient list…why does a loaf of bread from the store have 20+ ingredients while homemade bread has a total of 9 ingredients (including the topping!)

I started baking bread from the day I got Leroy and have never looked back!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter
2 packages of active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups warm water
5 to 6 cups flour
Milk for brushing top of bread
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (or whatever seed(s) you would like)

1) Place milk, sugar, salt and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.

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2) Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl.
– I fill my sink up with hot water and put the mixing bowl right in. If you choose to skip this step you will most likely end up with clumps of yeast that, from experience, are hard to dissolve!

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3) Add lukewarm milk mixture and 4 1/2 cups flour to yeast mixture.

4) Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 1 minute (until ingredients are combined)

5) Continuing on speed 2 add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans the side of the bowl, about 2 minutes.
– This takes a bit of “intuition” when adding the right amount of flour, but the more you make this dough the easier it becomes, that I can promise 🙂

Here is dough that needs more flour:

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Here is dough that has enough flour:

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6) Kneed dough on speed 2 for another 2 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky.

7) Place dough in a greased bowl, turning over to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place away from draft for an hour, or until dough doubles in size.
– The best place I have found for dough to rise is in the oven with the light on. This is a trick I actually learned from my brother who happens to make fantastic pizza dough!

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8) Punch dough down and divide in half.

Here is the dough after its first rise:

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9) On a floured surface, roll each half into a 9×14 rectangle.

10) Starting at the short end, roll the dough tightly.

11) Pinch the ends and turn them under. Place the dough seam side down, in a loaf pan.

12) Place loaf pans in a warm place (back in the oven with just the light on) and let rise for another hour or until doubled in size.
– I don’t cover the dough this time around because I find that when you take the towel off you may deflate the dough.

13) Brush milk on the top of each loaf and sprinkle with sesame seeds (or any seed of your choice)

14) Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

15) Remove from pans immediately and let cool on wire racks.

Here is the finished product!

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Hope you enjoy!

Chocolate chip marble pound cake

Ok it’s time to get down to the baking!
I have decided that I am going to make a chocolate chip marble pound cake on my Thursday night. How did I come to the conclusion you ask?

Simple….

I promised my husband during our trip to the grocery store that if he forgoes the preservative/additive filled “granola bars” I would bake him a delicious pound cake….I made this promise two weeks ago…so I think it’s time 🙂

After searching a few recipes I have settled on a combination of a few and it’s now time for Leroy (my mixer) and I to get to work!

Before I get into the baking of this pound cake I want to share two rules of baking that I live by:

1) READ the recipe all the way through before you start!
– I have been caught red handed not following this rule while making a dessert the day of a dinner party.. Only to realize that a part had to set in the fridge for 12 hours…. Whoops 😦

2) Set out all of your ingredients before you start!
– when you do this you will be able to tell very quickly if you don’t have an ingredient on hand.

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Ingredients:

Vegetable oil spray to grease pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted and softened butter + 3 tablespoons melted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream OR milk
1/3 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Spray an 8×4 loaf pan with vegetable oil spray, line with parchment paper and spray the paper.

3) In a medium bowl sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.
**note – I always recommend sifting dry ingredients together, it removes clumps and makes a batter smoother! **

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4) In another bowl, combine the melted butter with the cocoa until smooth.

5) In the mixer, combine the softened butter with the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth.

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6) Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

7) Add the cream or milk and mix until smooth. (I prefer milk…why add calories with cream when you can add calories with chocolate chips!)

8) Transfer 1 cup of batter to the bowl with cocoa mix and add chocolate chips. Stir until smooth.

9) Spoon half of the remaining (plain) batter into the pan and smooth out. Spread the chocolate batter in the pan, smooth out, then cover with remaining plain batter.

10) Using a butter knife, cut swirls in the batter.

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Bake the pound cake for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 25 minutes.
Cover loosely with foil and bake for a final 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached (as well as a bit of chocolate from the chocolate chips :))
Let the pound cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Here is the final product:

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Not as marbled as I would like, however my husband is now a happy and fed man 🙂

Hope you enjoy!