Look, ma! I’m fancy! Or at least my Meringues are.

Oh, sweet pile of sugar!

Oh, sweet pile of sugar!

In the baking world, as with most things in life, there are trends. The latest baking trend is fancy-pants meringues! Seriously fancy-pants, like plaid or Moroccan or cartoon hearts fancy-pants. Ok, so maybe cartoon hearts aren’t that fancy, but I think some of the designs are really…groovy! (I couldn’t resist. And here’s a meme just because that’s what’s going on in my brain right now. You’re welcome.)

groovy baby

What are they really? They’re edible transferable images for meringues.

How to use them?

  • You place the pretty coloured sheets on a baking tray
  • pipe the meringues onto the sheets
  • bake as usual
  • and then peel the meringues of the sheets.

And voila, your meringues are extra-fancy! It really is that easy.

I saw these debuting on some blogs last year and bought some for myself as soon as I could. The company I bought them from is overseas (this one), but I just found out that there is a Canadian one now (this one), so I plan to order from there next time.

Baaaby meringues! (sung to the tune of 'Baby Beluga', because I'm cool like that.)

Baaaaby meringues! (sung to the tune of ‘Baby Beluga’, because I’m cool like that.)

I think these are an easy way to make an event a bit fancy, say for a baby shower or a wedding dessert table, or just a holiday gathering. The meringues look extra pretty and hey, it’s a conversation piece too!

Would I buy some more? Probably, just because it’s fun and adds a nice touch. There isn’t any taste or change in texture, although the DH wasn’t particularly fond of them (he prefers my usual meringue recipe, instead of the one I used this time).

Do you have a favourite meringue recipe? Would you use these sugar sheets for your meringues? Let me know in the comments!

Next Post: Maybe about the AH-MAZE-ING bread recipe that I came across recently and made several times already, maybe about the myriad of canning that I did this week, maybe something else entirely. So many delicious things to write about!  

Linking to:

Think Tank Thursday

Meal Plan Monday

No-Churn Strawberry Ice Cream and Why I Love A/C

Strawberries all mixed in, and waiting to be frozen! And then eaten, because...it's the best part.

Strawberries all mixed in, and waiting to be frozen! And then eaten, because…it’s the best part.

The summer has arrived in Toronto, and with it, the humidity. Whenever I step outside of my air-conditioned workplace, I’m hit with a wall of humid heat. Same goes for stepping outside of my condo; even going out into the hallway to do some recycling, the temperature is tangibly humid.

Which is when the DH and I beat a hasty retreat to our air-conditioned refuge! Even those we’re both campers, and even though I was out camping at Georgian Bay for the Canada Day long weekend, where I managed to get scrapes, bruises, and waaaay too many mosquito bites in delicate areas (still an AWESOME weekend!), I’m so happy to come home to my air-conditioned condo.

This is where I was camping. Worth the bug bites, wouldn't you agree? Also, the canoeing I did burned off enough calories that I can eat ice cream guilt-free. Bring on the creamy confection, yo'!

This is where I was camping. Worth the bug bites, wouldn’t you agree? Also, the canoeing burned off enough calories that I can eat ice cream guilt-free. Bring on the creamy confection, yo’!

And luckily for me, the DH is the same! I always joke that he chose the best country to emigrate to: we have WINTER! So nice and chilly for so many months!

And speaking of nice and chilly…how ’bout some no-churn strawberry ice cream?

I had some whipping cream leftover from my Rose Frasier cake, and some strawberries leftover from my recent dehydrating experiments, so I decided to whip up some ice cream! I mean, is there really any better way to beat the heat? Besides a/c? (Actually, the two together really work for me!)

This ice cream uses the same base as my Brownie Chunk Ice Cream (Gluten-Free) that I made last summer (visions of brownies dance in my head!), mixed with a quickie version of homemade strawberry jam. Easy-peasy, and so, SO creamy and full of strawberry goodness!

Which yummy thing do I nom on? Both are delicious choices!

Which yummy thing do I nom on? Both are delicious choices!

NO-CHURN STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

Strawberry Mix-In

  • 2 cups halved strawberries
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. pectin powder

Mash strawberries and mix with water and sugar. Boil until reduced to a chunky syrup and starting to stick to the pot sides. Add in pectin and stir every minutes until it looks like runny jam and is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour into bowl and let cool.

Vanilla Ice Cream Base

  • 1 c. whipping cream
  • 1/2 can condensed milk
  • 1 tbsp. rum
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat whipping cream in a cold bowl with a cold beater until stiff. Stir in condensed milk, vanilla extract, and rum. Scoop into bread pan and stick in freezer until semi-firm, or until the strawberry mix-in is cool.

Poke holes in ice cream, and pour 1/4 of strawberry mix-in into those holes. Then pour 1/4 of strawberry mix-in over ice cream, and use knife to create marbled streaks.

Freeze for 4-8 hours until frozen through. Scoop, serve, and enjoy!

You’ll end up with maybe 1/2 c. of strawberry sauce leftover, but really, do you think that’s going to last long? (It certainly wouldn’t around me and the DH.) Serve it with French toast, over other ice cream, mixed into homemade ice cream floats, pour it over cobblers…or just eat with a spoon!

No churn strawberry ice cream! So creamy, so yummy, so want some right now!

No churn strawberry ice cream! So creamy, so yummy, so want some right now!

What I love about this ice cream is that it has the consistency of store-bought ice cream, the really good stuff. It’s eminently scoopable; you don’t have to drag your spoon across the top only to end up with a scraping. This will give you luscious scoops each time! (I just mis-typed and wrote “eat time”. I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Which I am so down for. Up for? At any rate, am for!)

This recipe is also easily customizable! Mix in a different fruity jam, or add in some crumbled graham crackers or lady fingers for a strawberry shortcake ice cream. I can totally see this with a fresh peach jam mixed in. *drools while gazing off into the distance* If you make this recipe, tell us which mix-ins you made!

Next Post: Hmm…which delicious thing shall I make next? Any requests? Oooh, shall I tell you about the deeeelicious (and easy!) sandwich bread recipe that I came across? Yes, I think I shall. Stay tuned!

Post-Pub Edit: I’m still working on my plan for foodie world domination (“What are we going to do today, Margaret?” “What we do every day…plot to take the foodie world by storm!”), and part of that plan is taking part in the lovely Christie Jordan’s Meal Plan Monday link-up. Lots of bloggers, lots of yummy recipes. Check it out here and here!

Rose Frasier & the Case of the Missing Garnish

Who has seen the garnish? Neither you, nor I....

Who has seen the garnish? Neither you, nor I….

I’ll start at the end of the story: It was delicious. I regret nothing.

But perhaps I should start at the beginning?

It was a dark and stormy night (ok, it was just dark and night, no storms to be seen) and I was cooking up a storm in my cozy kitchen. Minestrone soup was bubbling on the stove, the DH was tucked away in his man-cave, and all was well with the world.

Or was it?

Who knows what darkness lurks in the heart of men, and when that darkness leads to the filching and consumption of…garnishes, well, the bell tolls for thee, my friend, the bell tolls for thee.

Ah, but stay with me, and I will tell you a story of hunger, of cravings, of…substitutions? (SUBSITUTIONS IN THE HOUSE, YO’!)

So. My online baking group is baking a Rose Frasier cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook this week. It’s a fluffy yoghurt cake, flavoured with rose extract, filled with strawberries and a mixture of whipping cream and pastry cream. The strawberries are sliced so that you can see the layers of strawberry and cream in a pretty design on the sides of the cake.

In process. Good enough to eat as is, really!

In process. Good enough to eat as is, really!

Things I switched up, because you know I did:

  • I halved the recipe.
  • I didn’t have gelatin and also, it’s not vegetarian, so I added agar-agar while making the pastry cream, a big, heaping tablespoon full, and then crossed my fingers that it would work.
  • I had two egg whites left after making the pastry cream, and needed 1 1/2 eggs for the cake, so I used 1 egg and the two egg whites.
  • I didn’t have plain Greek yoghurt, so I used lactose-free probiotic strawberry yoghurt in the cake.
  • I didn’t use rose extract in the cake because yuck. (I know, it’s very fancy and elegant. But my senses insist that there is something inherently wrong with eating a rose. Roses are for smelling and looking at, not for chomping on, says my olfactory & gustatory systems. So, out with the rose extract and in with the vanilla extract.)
  • I made two small loaf pan cakes, and 1 mini cake, instead of the regular sized cake Dorie made.
  • I used a parchment paper wrap to hold the filling in place while it set, because when I tried it without, it was a (tasty) mess.
  • I didn’t use red currant jelly for the glaze; I used some red wine jelly I had leftover from goodness knows when that I found in the back of my fridge.
  • I didn’t use whipping cream for the topping, I used leftover filling. And I drizzled the afore-mentioned red currant jelly over that.

I assembled the two loaf cakes (so fluffy! so perfectly golden!) and the DH and I each ate one with gusto. Delish! Then I assembled the one that I wanted to photograph. But I wanted the filling to set before I garnished it. I sliced the very last of the strawberries and sprinkled sugar on them. And then I went to do some errands/chores/busywork/what-have-you. When I came back…oh, the horror! The garnish was gone! All that was left was the empty bowl, with some syrupy red remnants of what it once held.

*shakes fist in air in the direction of DH’s man-cave*

Pre-garnish. Looking oh, so lonesome.

Pre-garnish. Looking oh, so lonesome.

So, improvisation. Wine jelly streaks as garnish instead of artfully arranged sugared strawberries.

The DH popped his head in the kitchen, looking for a midnight snack. I told the DH the cake wasn’t ready. He went to bed.

And then I ate it all.

Like I said, I regret nothing!

(My arteries probably disagree, considering all the whipping cream, but they’re not the boss of me! Also, I plan to be suitably penitent and add in dehydrated broccoli powder to my kale smoothie tomorrow. Wild and crazy times in this here home, I tell you.)

TLDR; the DH ate my garnish. But I ate the cake! BWA-HA-HA!

Next Post: Skor Cupcakes! Yum-city!

Memories of Meals Past: Dumplings Two Ways

Panfried dumplings with a nice crisp green salad!

Panfried dumplings with a nice crisp green salad!

Last year I decided to start a Cookbook Supperclub with some friends, and hold dinner parties where we all cooked a dish from the cookbook-du-jour, ending up with a number of appetizers, mains, sides, and of course dessert. We cooked our way through a number of cookbooks before the group dissolved due to well, life and other schedules.

One of the cookbooks was Martha Stewart’s Appetizers book, and one of the appetizers I made was a soup dumpling (albeit veggi-fied, because that’s how I roll). It turned out slightly differently from how it was supposed to, likely because I used agar-agar for the first time instead of gelatin and made it way too weak to be gelatinous. I tramped around the city looking for dumpling wrappers and agar-agar, and while I found the agar-agar in a crunchy-hippie type store (a very cool store, btw) I couldn’t find the dumpling “skins”, and didn’t want to go to literally across the city to a genuine Chinese store to get some.

So I made some. From scratch. *blows on nails and buffs nails on shirt*

I should have started there, because it was sooooo easy! Would have saved me hours. And it’s only a few ingredients! Here’s the recipe I used, albeit just for the dumpling wrappers.

As for the filling, here’s my own creation:

Quick n’ Easy Dumpling Filling

  • 2/3 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pkg veggie ground round
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c. chopped dried mushrooms, rehydrated with 1/2 c. boiling water

Mix all ingredients together. Use 2 tsps. of filling in each dumpling (the dumpling dough recipe makes 34 dumplings, or at least my batch did).

Feel free to add in additional ingredients to make it extra savoury, although I think using actual meat would make it savoury enough for the meat-eaters.

You can freeze the dumplings in single layers for later use, or you can use them right away. I’ve done both and they’re both delicious!

Plate o' dumplings. Excuse me, I'm off to nom.

Plate o’ dumplings. Excuse me, I’m off to nom.

As for the dumpling dip, I came across a recipe in a Buzzfeed article (also where I got my new favourite smoothie recipe, but that’s a post for another time!) and used that. Basically, it’s 2 parts vinegar to one part soy sauce, with grated ginger added in. It’s salty and sweet with a little kick. Puckerlicious!

Ok, so far we have the dumpling skins, the dumpling filling, and the dumpling dip. But…how to actually cook the dumplings? Well, here are three ways:

  1. steam the dumplings – put a tsp. of oil in a frying pan, dab the bottom of the dumplings in the oil and fry until slightly brownish on the bottom. Add in enough oil to just cover the edges of the dumplings, and put a lid on the pan. Steam until thoroughly cooked (i.e. the top of the dumpling is no longer doughy). This is my version of steaming, though. True steaming is when you place the dumplings on a steamer over boiling water. Meh, to each her own!
  2. boil the dumplings – pretty self-explanatory (I made some like this but didn’t photograph it, so you’re out of luck if you wanted to see them!)
  3. fry the dumplings - also pretty self-explanatory. Fry the dumplings in oil on the stove-top until the bottom and sides are crispy and golden brown. Crunchy and yummy!

The verdict? I’d totally make these dumplings again! I might change up the filling to use up whatever I have in the fridge, but the basic filling I outline above would be my starting point. These dumplings are great to serve fried with a green salad, or steamed/boiled for an appetizer or a side dish. If you make some yourself, let me know what filling you use!

Next Post: Either a fancy-pants strawberry cake, or a post about how to make mini Skor cupcakes! Mmm…I do love dessert!

Dinner Roll Odyssey: Soft & Tender Dinner Rolls

Fluffeh-licious and you know it!

Fluffeh-licious and you know it!

Finally my long-awaited post is here! I’ve been promising Part II of my latest Food Odyssey (Dinner Roll Odyssey) for a while now, and at last the time has arrived!

I love bread and I love buns and homemade bread is the best there is, I think. I like knowing that there are no preservatives or unwanted additives, and the smell of bread baking in my condo just fills me with a sense of satisfaction!

The first recipe in my Dinner Roll Odyssey was Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls. They were quite nice. But I’m in search of GREAT! So I did some googling and came across a recipe from The Kitchn, called Soft and Tender Dinner Rolls. I made them. They were also quite nice! But they didn’t have the flavour that I was looking for. So I decided to play around with the recipe a bit.

I reduced the sugar by a tablespoon, and eliminated the milk. I added in another half cup of water along with a heaping tablespoon of milk powder. I’ve found that in other recipes, using milk powder instead of milk gives a nice caramel undertone, so I thought I’d try it in this recipe too!

And oh, the fluffiness of these rolls! IT’S. SO. FLUFFEH!!!! They’re pillowy soft and very airy, almost Kaiser bun-like in texture. They’re definitely the most like store-bought buns in terms of texture. The flavour still isn’t what I wanted, but these buns are PERFECT for “sopping up the last bits of sauce”, as the article in The Kitchn notes.

The winner-winner-veggie-chicken-dinner for this particular Food Odyssey? Well…it’s a split. The Copycat buns win for flavour, but the Soft and Tender rolls win for texture. Frankly, they’re both homemade bread, and fresh bread is just the best. But why don’t you try it out and let me know what you think? Here’s the recipe! And I can just say one last time…IT’S SO FLUFFEH!!!

FLUFFEH Dinner Rolls (adapted from The Kitchn)

  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. milk powder mixed with 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 tbsp. butter, melted

Mix the yeast and the warm water until the yeast is dissolved and let sit until the mixture is slightly foamy. Mix the milk powder and the water together, and add to the yeast mixture, along with the oil, sugar, salt, and the egg (beaten). Mix resultant mixture lightly. Add in the flour and mix (so much mixing, I know, but you’re almost done!) until a dough forms. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm area until roughly doubled in size, about an hour.

Line a lasagna tray (roughly 9 by 13 inches) with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 24 pieces, roll into balls and place in the prepared tray. Put back in the warm area until the dough is doubled in size, about an hour.

Brush melted butter over the top of the dough, and bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven, until the tops of the buns are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let sit in the tray briefly to cool, and then remove the parchment paper from the lasagna tray, and break apart the buns to serve warm. If you want o serve the buns cold, you can let the rolls cool in the tray, and only break them apart once you’re ready to eat them. That way the sides remain nice and soft!

Fluff balls in training.

Fluff balls in training.

Kitchen Hack: For a “warm area”, I just preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit when I start mixing the yeast and water, and then turn it off as soon as it preheats, and open the door for about 30 seconds to let some of the hot air escape. The resultant temperature is just right for the “let sit in a warm area” that bread recipes are always talking about.

These are great buns to freeze, and I’ve made several batches and stuck them in the freezer for lunch sandwiches, to serve with soup at dinner, or just for a midnight snack, warmed up in the microwave with some butter. Mmm….bread!

Next Post: Skor Mini Cupcakes! Mini chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream, toffee bits, and a piece of Skor bar! So pretty, and more importantly, so yum!