Thursday, June 18, 2009

Granola Making Day

This is one of Clara from 2 years ago...she's always loved the granola process.

This is today.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Granola Making

Breakfast is one of my favourite meals of the day. A common breakfast for me is granola and yogurt. Clara has come to love granola too and always tops hers with another drizzle of honey.

My mum-in-law got me hooked on making my own granola. Using her basic recipe, I have adapted and created my own mixture that Clara and I eat just about every day. We have been known to eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack topped with yogurt and stewed fruit, sprinkled on muffins, in parfaits and added to cookies.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Brownies Boast Best-Ever

After the challenge of last week, these brownies seemed to make themselves.  A sweet frothy egg mixture is gently folded into the rich melted chocolate mixture and then carefully mixed with the flour.  A very simple recipe.  
Dense and rich , these have just the right amount of damp fudge in the centre and a slightly crispy layer on the top.   
Jimmy's chocolate-orange puddings were so delicious that instead of using vanilla in the brownies, I used grand marnier.   
To borrow another Jimmy-ism "we couldn't stay out of them."  Clara told me I would be permitted to make these on a daily basis and I'm sure we could eat them just about that fast.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Perfect Meal

Jim made me a surprise meal last night to celebrate our 6th anniversary.  He included some of my very favourite foods and flavours.  The menu included: pasta primavera with zucchini, asparagus peas and mushrooms; salad with greens, toasted walnuts, pear and blue cheese; sweet toasts of almond infused soft cheese, toasted almonds and blackberries; and a luscious pudding for dessert with dark chocolate, orange peel and grand marnier.   As we ate, we listened to my new Ella album Jimmy bought me

After dinner we read from the journals we kept last year while on a road trip to Savannah, Georgia.  

It was not only delicious to taste but so thoughtfully and carefully planned.  I love seeing Jimmy so ably working the kitchen.

Thanks Love!  It was a perfect evening.

Can I even call them Croissants?

I should have know something was off when the dough wouldn't come together.  Instead of forming a nice ball it stayed in walnut size lumps.  I should have started over at that point, I think, but I didn't.   I let the dough rise for a half hour and then chilled it as directed. 

I proceeded to roll the dough out with the heaping pound of butter in it, folding, chilling and rolling, folding chilling and rolling.  All 3 times.  I had Jim help me a bit with the rolling.  It takes some serious forearm strength.  (Perhaps that was my second indication that something was wrong.)  
Everything seemed to be going fine until I tried to "stretch" the dough triangles in preparation for the stuffing and rolling.  The dough did not stretch at all, It crumbled.  But by that time I was committed to finishing them.  The hours and hours of work needed some form of completion. So I rolled the triangles out to the required size.

I made the almond paste earlier that day to stuff half of the croissants with and it turned out wonderfully.  (If anyone has any suggestions of how to use almond paste other than in a croissant I would much appreciate it.)  So I went ahead and rolled the triangles of "croissant" dough up with the luscious paste nestled inside and waited to see if they would rise.  

They didn't.  

The recipe said the dough should feel hollow and rise significantly.  Mine stayed it's original size and felt like a firm piece of fruit when I poked it.  But again, not wanting to give up, I baked them.   While they did taste deliciously like croissants, the consistency was, sadly, more like a pie crust.

I am happy that I gave it a try, but I think I will leave croissant making to the experts.   
Where did you say you bought your lovely croissants Tina?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Near miss, Crispy Cocoa Cookies

These are some of the most fragrant cookies I have baked.  At about 5 minutes in the oven, the house filled with a sweet, rich cocoa scent.  Moments earlier I was ready to give up on them but I'm glad I persisted.  

The dough was really quick to make and included the most basic ingredients of mainly flour, sugar, cocoa, and butter mixed together and then chilled in bricks.  I refrigerated half and froze half as the recipe estimated 5.5 dozen...more cookies than my family of 3 (4) could eat.  I did the prep a day earlier and decided to roll and bake the cookies the next day.   When I took the dough out of the fridge and tried to roll it out it cracked and crumbled into 4 large pieces and about 15 little shards and bits.  Oh dear, I thought, this is not going to end well.  However, I persisted and worked the dough a little and finally got it rolled out the the required 1/16 of an inch, cut in lovely 3 inch circles and onto parchment laden cookie sheets.  

Ahhh.  It was a delightful sight. 

The cookies look really pretty all lined up in their thin, chocolaty perfection.  
Clara happily ate two when I turned my head for a moment, and a third shortly there after.  Perfectly paired with a glass of milk, a book and a sunny corner of the house.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Scone Love

Friday morning just before 8am the phone rang. "So, are you still making those scones?" my dad asks. "Yes..." I say. "Great, Mum and I will be over in a little while!" I opened the book, ground some coffee, rolled up my sleeves and began.

The name buttermilk scones is quite a humble title for these beauties. It is a very basic and classic recipe for scones which allows for imagination and creative little twists. They're a blank canvas, really, just waiting to be transformed into genius.

I love cutting the butter into the flour mixture, it's very relaxing and enjoyable. To that the buttermilk is gradually added and worked into a very soft dough.

Because I always make triangular scones, I opted to make the rolled variety instead. Each half of the dough gets rolled into a long, thickish strip- it gets brushed with butter and then spread with fruit, nuts and/or preserves. Jim and Clara love strawberry jam, so one of the rolls was thus spread. My mum and I love marmalade, so the other was filled with orange peel and jelly. Both were then rolled up into a long log, brushed with butter and sprinkled with a little coarse sugar.

With little else than a cup of coffee, these scones did not disappoint. It could have been a dessert if topped with ice cream. Alone and flakey, hot from the oven is how we enjoyed them...all. A perfect easter friday breakfast.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pretty Blueberry Muffins

I hated blueberries as a kid. Fresh blueberries were the worst, but followed closely by blueberry pies, muffins and tarts. It was not for lack of desire. I always wanted the idyllic experience of picking and savouring fresh blueberries from the rocky hills at our cottage, but it was not to be. Yet my distaste for the dainty little berry dissolved and was replaced by a love of all things blueberry.

These light, airy, slightly sweet muffins studded with blue jewels were a perfect addition to our sunny Saturday morning. My grocery store sold blueberries for a premium today and yet they were very sad looking, so I opted to buy mine frozen. I defrosted them a little and sprinkled them with flour before I put them in the batter but their purple colour still swirled through the muffins giving them a very nice marbled top. There is a lot of sifting involved in this recipe but my beloved old sifter that
I inherited from my great aunt made the job quite nostalgic and enoyable.
I just barely managed to get a picture of them before they vanished but I have a feeling it won't be long until I make these again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What is a nightcap?

1. a drink taken just before bedtime
2. a soft cap formerly worn in bed

Yah, I googled nightcap...and found these cookies fit both definitions. (sort of) The little swirls of chocolate icing on top of the spongy cookie should look a bit like the old fashioned night cap and, I suppose, it would be quite deleciously indulgant to 'take' one cookie just before bed each eve. (Who me?)

The batter for these cookies was quite simple to whip up but different than any I remember working with. It's wet, almost like a thick icing rather than a cookie dough. I ran out of parchment paper, so I scooped my teaspoons of deliciousness onto well greased cookie sheets. The cookies did slide around on the sheet a bit as they cooked, leaving a little tail of cookie behind a few of them, but I trimmed them off and ate there is no evidence of that anymore. (Perhaps the parchment would have remedied that, Tina?)

Of course Clara got in on the making of these. (She simply cannot resist a good cookie baking challenge. And, I might add, did a better job than I at making perfectly round cookies mounds.)

I accidentally used all my heavy cream in a soup the day before I made these so I do not have a fully assembled cookie picture to show you - yet. Hopefully I will post one later today after I sneak out to the store for some more cream. The pretty little chocolate pillows were quite nice on their own, however, I cannot wait to try one oozing with chocolaty goodness.

***Oops, We ate them up too fast to get a picture of them...but oh my were they ever delicious!***

Thursday, March 12, 2009

X Cookies - Better late than never...

The week of X cookies flew past and left me with nothing but good intentions. The week after, however, proved to be much more productive. A pile of figs, raisins, candied peel, chocolate and almonds kept taunting me with their lack of order, so I rolled up my sleeves and got out the food processor. The dough was easy to make. I didn't find it quite as easy to work with as Tina but it really was not too bad. The filling was another story.

I can think of a few reasons why my deliciously fragrant, luscious looking filling was gooey and not at all roll-able. (The recipe simply says roll 1/12th of the filling into a long tube to place on the long thin bit of dough and roll into a tube....sure.

So, a few potential reasons why my filling would not roll. First, because I did my cookies a week late and read the abundance of cookies the full recipe made, I halved my recipe. I think that sometimes while I'm halving a recipe things go wrong. Second, I think my heavy handed pour of rum..."a little more wont hurt" attitude may have been another good reason.

Regardless of my struggle, the cookies turned out beautifully and were completely delicious Clara did not care for them. "I don't like figs!" she declared. Jim loved the cookies once I told him they were indeed fig cookies and not "some weird chocolate", his assumption on first consumption. Personally, I could not get enough of them and happily pigged out with my friend Becky's daughter Brennah (my food pal).

I will make these again someday...maybe next year.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Gallant Galette

This weeks challenge was a perfect delight to make and especially to eat! I must admit that when I read through the list of recipes for this month, this one seemed particularly scary. What a pleasant surprise to have it come together so quickly and beautifully. The dough was a breeze to work with and altogether not intimidating at all. For the topping I used Pepper Jack cheese (Jim's favourite) and the mozzarella along with tomato and basil. We ate the whole thing in about 5 minutes...(managing to only save a small slice for my Mum).

Because the dough was enough for two galettes, I made a sweet one the next day for dessert, adding pear and raspberries to a sugar and cinnamon mixture dotted with butter. It was, again, perfectly delicious, and devoured instantly with ice cream.

The Gallant Galette has become a new family favourite! I am eager to make it again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vanilla Pound Cake

Pound cake has never been something that I love or relish making. This recipe changed my view. I have to admit I love a good bit of fuss when making a cake. It's good to have a few standby, throw everything in a bowl and mix recipes, but this one was just enough fuss to still be fun. The result was a light and mildly sweet yellow cake with a slightly sweeter golden crust. I enjoyed it best plain in a thin slice. Clara liked it with ice cream and strawberry jam melted on top....and also with vanilla yogurt and raspberries.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Julia's the Leader

I have never baked a loaf of bread successfully! I have tried using bread machines and doing it by hand, yet I have always had meager results. One loaf was thrown out to the birds...and even they wouldn't go near it... Baking is an art and I know I have a lot to learn.
So when I saw the Baking Beauties Challenge, it seemed like a good way to broaden my baking horizons. I took the first step and requested Baking with Julia from my library and I am pretty excited to dive in. Lead on Julia!