Monthly Archives: June 2016

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

Served with a nice crisp green salad!

Served 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!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!  (And again!)

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!

Of Comfort Food & Waistlines: Rice Pudding & Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

Luscious creaminess or creamy lusciousness, either or.

Luscious creaminess or creamy lusciousness. Whichever way you describe it, it’s pretty darn good!

This week, my online bake-a-long group is making the Rice Pudding with Spiced Hibiscus Syrup from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook. I have a lot meals out and celebrations planned this week, so I didn’t want to make a full batch of rice pudding (I mean, I did, but I thought of my waistline and prudence won over gluttony indulgence). I asked the DH if he liked rice pudding. No, he said. So I made half the recipe.

I had to make a couple of substitutions, though. I didn’t have full-fat milk, so I used 1% (lactose-free, shout-out to all the lactose-intolerant peeps in the house!) and added in a tablespoon of butter to make up for the lack of creamy milk fat. I also didn’t have half of a vanilla bean pod, so I used a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Eh, close enough.

FYI, I don’t like rice. I just don’t like it. However, I happened to have some Arborio rice in the cupboard from the last time I made a risotto for the DH so lucky me, no having to buy special ingredients! I did however, not buy the hibiscus tea that was called for in the syrup recipe, instead using a fruit tea from David’s Tea that I happened to have lying around the house. Not entirely sure which blend it was — something fruity, at any rate!

I also didn’t have cardamom pods, so I sprinkled in some powdered cardamom when making the syrup. And I didn’t have whole black peppercorns, so I sprinkled in some ground black pepper. I’m sure the foodies and purists out there are shuddering in horror, but I strained the resultant syrup and it worked out anyway. Good enough, says I!

I admit to taking the first bite.

I admit to taking the first bite.

When cooking the rice pudding, Dorie says to watch the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over, which, too late, already happened. But after that, I did sit in the kitchen working on some paperwork and getting up to stir it every few minutes. Paperwork, wow, I feel like that almost dates me! Everything is online these days (bills, banking, even bloodwork results). One of these days paperwork will go the way of the cassette player and cursive handwriting and we’ll all be reminiscing about the paper tigers of yesteryear.

The DH poked his nose out of the man-cave and saw the bowl of rice pudding cooling on the counter prior to my placing it in the fridge (which, spoiler alert, it never actually got to). He scurried over and ate a couple of spoons.  Apparently he does like rice pudding, at least this recipe!

Enter the DH!

Enter the DH!

I also liked this recipe! Was creamy and yummy and full of flavour. We ate the whole bowl while it was still warm, along with most of the spiced hibiscus syrup, aka spiced fruity syrup. The leftover fruity syrup I add to a pitcher of homemade iced tea. Now it’s fruity iced tea! Delicious! Also full of caffeine so I limited myself to a taste and then put it in the fridge to drink tomorrow. Wish I had some of the rice pudding left too! I’d totally make this recipe again, and leave off the syrup. The rice pudding is super delicious all on its own!

Next Post: Dinner Roll Odyssey. No, really! I’ve been working on adapting a recipe that I found, but there are still a few tweaks that I want to make, so I’ll do that and then post it in the next week or so. Will be worth it!  

Enter the Unexpected: Life, Health, and Chocolate Cake

Gleaming lusciously, just waiting for a fork.

Gleaming lusciously, just waiting for a fork.

I’ve missed a few posts lately for my online bake-a-long group. Why? Life, really. A change of weather brought a never-ending headache with it, and when that finally went away (after a week!), my insomnia went rampant and left me completely sleepless for a night. After 36 hours without a wink of sleep during the busiest time of year for my work, I crashed hard the next night…followed by a headache for a couple of days. Anyway, what with one thing and another, I missed posting. So this is a make-up post!

A make-up post about what? “Betty’s Chocoholic Cake“, from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi. I looked at the picture that Dorie has in her cookbook and it looked a tad dry to me, but also super-duper chocolately and yummy! In order to eat a slice and not feel horribly unhealthy, my dinner tonight was made up of a kale smoothie. My lunch tomorrow? Kale salad.

Me being me, I used chocolate chips from my local Bulk Barn as opposed to 65 % Valhrona chocolate, because my grocery bill is big enough without buying (admittedly delicious) high-end chocolate.

Divots waiting to be filled with ganache.

Divots waiting to be filled with ganache.

Also, I don’t have three cake pans (I have two), so I just baked all the batter in two pans. Not a good idea, as you can see. When I took the cakes out, let them cool, and turned them out, there were little divots in my layers! Nooo! It looked like someone put their fingers in it very ham-fistedly. (“I’ll stick my thumb here, and here, and here, and oh look, here too!”)

Eh, I thought, the ganache will cover that up! And indeed, it did. I topped the cake with shavings/curls from a bar of chocolate that I took a vegetable peeler to, and let it sit for about 30 seconds before taking a knife to it. But before that….

When I finished the cake, I proudly brought it to the DH’s man-cave, where he was working away on his computer.

Me: Look, sweetheart! I made a fancy cake!

DH: Who is that for?

Me: Me!!!

DH *blows me a raspberry*

Ah, love’s young dream, n’est pas? *grin*

But enough witty banter (ha! ha! Banter! ha! *blows raspberry herself*), what was the verdict on the cake, you say?

Oozing chocolate ganache. Actually, this is a desirable thing, wouldn't you say?

Oozing chocolate ganache. Actually, this is a desirable thing, wouldn’t you say?

Not my fave. I’m very disappointed. Too dense, too much like a flourless chocolate cake (avec divots) and super-duper rich and (I hardly knew this was possible) too sweet. Just overall too much. I plan to stick it in the freezer and sloooooowly eat it over the next year. Yes, it’s that intense that a teeny, tiny slice will do ya. And this is me we’re talking about! Chocolate Queen herself! So sadly, whether it’s my substitutions or just my taste, I wouldn’t recommend it.

What I’m actually craving? A kale smoothie. Mmm…I think I’ll have one for breakfast tomorrow!

Next Post: Bread! Buns! Le pain! An odyssey.