Saturday, October 11, 2014

Glorious Pumpkin Pie






There are two things I like about Thanksgiving. 1) The extra day off work and 2) pumpkin pie. In fact, I think I like the pie more than I like the long weekend. Make that 100 per cent yes I love pumpkin pie more than having a day off work.

If I had to choose between no more weekends EVER and the extinction of pumpkin pie, I would choose no more weekends. Because pumpkin pie is awesome and delicious and OMG PIE.



Pumpkin Pie


Pastry:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and frozen for 15 minutes
1/4 cup cold water

Make sure all the ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, butter and shortening. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together.

Sprinkle with the water, let rest for 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly at room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board, roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut a circle about 1 1/2 inches larger than the pie plate. Transfer the pastry to the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Leav an edge that's about 1/2 inch over the plate. Flute the edges.



Pie:

5 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

Topping:

1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Directions for the pie:

Prepare the crust. Chill for 20 minutes while preparing the filling. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs lightly. Add the remaining pie ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Pour into the prepared crust. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is just set and no longer liquid in the centre. Cool thoroughly before serving.

Directions for the topping:

Using an electric mixer, beat all the ingredients until soft peaks form. Serve with the chilled pie. Store the pie in the fridge for up to three days.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Berry Crumble Muffins







During the summer, I like to have berries with almost everything I eat whether it be a snack (hello, yogurt), my lunch or an after-dinner treat. But really, I love berries most of all in dessert (hence why we are here).

My favourite combination of berries is the trifecta of awesomeness: blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. So, when I opened up Butter's Baked Goods cookbook, a lovely gift from my boyfriend's mom, I knew that their recipe for Berry Crumble Muffins was the answer to life's most important question: what is the perfect summer muffin that won't make you feel guilty about all the butter you're consuming? Ta da! Here we are.



Berry Crumble Muffins (adapted from Butter's Baked Goods)

Makes about 30 muffins.

Ingredients:

- 3/4 cup butter
- 3 cups all-purpose flour  (if you want to be even healthier, use whole wheat flour)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries and blackberries but strawberries are also good)
- 1 cup skim milk (the original recipe calls for whole)
- 1 cup low-fat sour cream (the original recipe calls for regular sour cream)
- 2 large eggs



Crumble topping:

- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt



Preheat oven to 350 Farenheit. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well to combine. Add the berries and mix gently to cat the berries with the flour mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream and eggs.

Add the liquid ingredients and melted butter to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Be gentle with the berries.

Prepare the crumble topping: in a bowl, combine the flour, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Mix with a fork until large, butter crumbs form. Set aside.

Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly between the paper liners. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the top. You will probably have a lot left over so don't feel like you have to use all of it.

Bake in the preheated over for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow the muffins to cool slightly in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.




Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies







My boyfriend thinks there's nothing better than peanut butter and chocolate. I would have to disagree with him on that one (coffee yogurt is the best dessert in the history of desserts) but nevertheless, I have to admit that peanut butter and chocolate does make for a ridiculously good treat.

These cookies are better than your average cookie. It's more like a cookie sandwich: two slabs of peanut butter mix hugging a chocolate interior. It's filling, it's mind-blowingly good and you're going to want to hoard them all for yourself. (So it might be best to make them alone. Or not, if you're afraid of the consequences.)

I always like to make these when I'm invited to a dinner party or just for work, when I've eaten too many and I'm terrified that I've turned into a slobbering fat pug. (No offence to fat pugs, you guys are adorable and cute and I love you.)

Anyway, try them out. You'll love them. I swear.



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

Cookie:

- 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter, at room temperature*
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
-  2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp sea salt

*Note: I've tried it with chunky peanut butter and it's delicious too

Filling:

- 230 grams of coarsely chopped chocolate
- 3 tbsps of smooth peanut butter
- 2 tbsps of unsalted butter
- Pinch of sea salt



In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then add the peanut butter and beat until smoothly combined. Add the sugars and beat until combined. Add the egg and beat until the batter is smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to peanut butter mixture and mix at low speed until just combined. The dough will be thick and a bit crumbly. Divide the dough into two parts, placing each on a piece of plastic wrap. If you'd like to slice the cookies from a log, form each dough half into a 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch log that should be about 12 inches long. Wrap each log and freeze for 30 minutes, until firm. If you'd like to roll out the cookies, flatten the packets a little and place them in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling the cookies out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice each log of frozen cookie dough into just shy of 1/4 inch slices.

Ok, so because the dough is crumbly, warm it up a bit after you take it out of the freezer by letting it lie on the counter for a few minutes and use as little flour as possible. If it crumbles on you, that's ok, just nudge them together until they form a cookie shape. They will hold their shape in the oven, so don't worry!

Roll out one dough disc at a time until it is a little shy of 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Gather your scraps and knead them back into a ball of dough, again, using as little flour as possible. Roll the doll again into the same thickness and cut into cookies.

Transfer the formed cookies to prepared baking sheets with a thin spatula and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. They should be a little puffy and faintly golden around the edges when finished. Transfer cookies to cooling racks and cool completely before filling.

On to the filling!

In the top of a double broiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, butter and a pinch of sea salt, whisking together until they are melted and smooth. Let the mixture cool until it is thick but spreadable.

Dollop half the cookies with about 1 teaspoon of chocolate peanut butter filling each. You can do this with a knife or a pastry bag if you want to be more precise. Place a second cookie over the chocolate mixture and press the cookies gently together so that the filling approaches the edges. Do this for all the cookies. Let the cookies set until the chocolate is mostly firm.

Now, EAT.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart






There's a really good reason why I shouldn't be a professional baker: I don't read the recipe in advance.

Take, for example, the situation I found myself in yesterday. I was invited to my cousin and his wife's home in Oakville for a dinner party so naturally, I volunteered to make the dessert.



I settled on this artery bursting recipe from Chatelaine magazine which featured two ingredients which should never leave each other's sides: chocolate and caramel. In fact, it was a salted caramel and chocolate tart and the photos made me want to lick the magazine. (I didn't, because unlike my dog, I know that paper tastes crappy.)



I decided to make the tart in the early afternoon, figuring that since I didn't have to leave until 4 p.m., there would be plenty of time to bake, take pictures and let it cool. So it was to my surprise and chagrin that when I read the recipe around 12:30 p.m. that I realized I would be on a tight schedule. The recipe called for about an hour's prep time (and if it's your first time with the recipe, the prep usually takes a bit longer) and that after it's done baking, it has to cool in the fridge for at least two hours.



At this point, 12: 30 p.m., I didn't have all my ingredients. The second thing I realized was that I was also missing a vital part of the recipe: a tart pan, which had mysteriously vanished. The last thing I remember about this tart pan, which was actually my boyfriend's, was that I had given it away to someone. Who this person was, I couldn't remember. All I remember saying to said ghost was: "Take it! I don't use it!" And that was that. Tart pan gone into the oblivion. (So, dear reader, if you have my tart plan, could I please have it back? Or at least, borrow it? Thanks!)

In the end, I used a pie pan as a replacement and was only a bit late for the dinner. But dear God the stress is not worth it.



Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart (From Chatelaine magazine)

Ingredients

- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1 egg yolk

Filling:

- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups 35% cream, divided
- 1 1/4 tsp pink salt or sea salt, divided
- 1 /1/4 cups 70% dark chocolate, chopped (170 grams)
- 2 tsp unsalted butter, diced



Position rack in centre of oven. Preheat to 350F. Place a 9-inch tart pan with 1 1/8-inch sides and a removable bottom on a baking sheet. (Note, I used a pie pan because I misplaced my tart pan.)

Combine flour with 2 tbsp sugar in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, mix 1/2 cup butter into flour mixture until crumbly. Stir in egg yolk and mix until the dough comes together into a ball. Transfer dough to centre of prepared tart pan. Press dough from middle of pan to edges. Using fingertips, press dough up edges of pan until even with rim. Prick pastry with a fork, then line with parchment paper or foil. Add pie weights or dry beans. (Note: I used lentils.) Bake in centre of oven for 20 minutes then remove parchment paper and pie weights and continue baking until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, 10 minutes.



Combine 1 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high. Continue boiling just until it turns a light amber, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup cream and 3/4 tsp salt until smooth. Pour into warm pastry and refrigerate until caramel is firm, about 20 minutes.

Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour remaining 1 cup cream into a small saucepan and set over medium. Bring just to a boil. Pour over chocolate and stir until no streaks remain and chocolate is smooth. Stir in 2 tsp butter and 1/4 tsp salt until glossy. Let cool to room temperature, 10 minutes.



Scrape chocolate over caramel and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp salt.

Serves 8 (But I got at least 10 slices out of it.)





Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cinnamon Buns








When my grandpa died five years ago, the day before Remembrance Day, one of the pressing concerns for my family was: Who will make his cinnamon buns for Christmas morning?

My family wasn't being cruel or making light of the fact that Jim (or as we grandkids called him, "Grumpy Gramps") was dead, but we take Christmas baking, and in particular, his incredible cinnamon buns, very seriously.

Gramps was very proud of his buns, and he had every right to be. They weren't drizzled with icing like those heart attacks-at-every-bite Cinnabuns you can get at Union and Eglinton stations. Instead, they were layered with cinnamon and pecans and brown sugar, and when they melted over the buns in the oven, they created an almost caramel-like fort that encased them and made you feel as if you were tasting heaven for the first time.

So when it came time to choose who was going to continue Gramps' legacy, I immediately volunteered. Back then, I was 24 and wasn't into baking as much as I am now, so I'm not sure why I was so keen to take it on, knowing that there were high expectations for these buns. It may have been a way to pay tribute to my Gramps every year, to feel his presence through baking. It may have been guilt that I didn't spend as much time with him as I should have. It may have been that I just really loved cinnamon buns and wanted to make sure that no one else would fuck them up.

Whatever the reason, I was entrusted to making them, and have been doing so every year since. Every Dec. 23, I head to my mom's in Mississauga, bun ingredients and his handwritten recipe stashed in my bag, and spend about five hours making them while I listen to old audio tapes I loved as a kid like The Nylons' Christmas or a Mary Higgins Clark mystery ("Let Me Call You Sweetheart" is my favourite) or Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express."

This past Christmas, my grandma swore that these were the best cinnamon buns yet. I was pleased and I hoped that Gramps, wherever he was, didn't mind too much that my buns were better than his.

Note: Please excuse the crappy photos. I used my cell phone camera as I couldn't fit my regular camera into my luggage.

Cinnamon Buns (Makes about a dozen buns)

Ingredients:

Dough:

- 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 4 cups (approx, sometimes you don't need as much) all-purpose flour

Filling:

- 1 cup butter
- 1-1/2 packed brown sugar
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1 tbsp cinnamon

Step 1.

Dissolve 1 tsp. of the white sugar in warm water, sprinkle in yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until frothy. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat milk, remaining sugar, butter and salt until butter as melted; let cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk mixture and yeast mixture.



Step 2.

Using an electric mixer, gradually beat in 1-1/2 cups of the flour; beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. With a wooden spoon, gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour to make soft, slightly sticky dough that comes away from the side of the bowl (sometimes you don't need to use all the flour, so don't use all of it if you don't have to). On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 7 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.



Step 3.

Place in large greased bowl, turning to grease all over; cover with plastic wrap (or greased waxed paper and tea towel). Let rise in warm place for 1 to 1-1/2 hours (or in fridge for 8 hours overnight) or until doubled in bulk and impression remains when fingertips are pressed into dough. Punch down dough.



Step 4.

Filling: Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt 3/4 cups of the butter with 3/4 cups of the brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Pour into greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the pecans, set aside. Melt remaining butter, set aside. Combine remaining sugar, pecans and cinnamon, set aside.





Step 5.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 18 x 14 inch rectangle. Brush with all but 2 tbsps melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered; sprinkle with sugar mixture. Starting at the long side, tightly roll up, pinching seam to seal. Brush with remaining butter. Cut into 12 to 15 pieces; place cut sides down in pan. Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.





Step 6. Bake in 375 F oven for 25-30 minutes or until crusts are golden and tops sound hollow when tapped. Let stand in pan for 3 minutes. Invert onto serving platter, scraping off any remaining filling in pan to drizzle over buns.