Thursday, December 31, 2015

Shortbread Cookies AKA my new diet


Let me tell you a story: a few weeks ago, my cousin James (although he goes by Jay now, but who in their right mind calls themselves Jay in 2015/2016?? Love you, Cuiz) invited me over to his place so he could make shortbread and I could drink his booze. (Life, right?) 

Swearing that he'd made the cookies several times in the past and that he was using his mom's great recipe, I had no doubt that I would be feasting on delicious cookies while getting drunk for the rest of the afternoon.


And then he pulled out a gigantic soup pot because he had no mixing bowls/only one tiny bowl that was basically for eating yogurt out of. And then he pulled out a soup mixer because he had no hand mixer. 

Yep, it didn't get much better from there but damn I had a good time laughing at my cousin desperately trying to make shortbread cookies with a friggen SOUP MIXER in a SOUP BOWL. 

Here he is, mixing his little heart out:


Needless to say, we threw out the first batch because I nearly choked to death on one cookie that got stuck in my throat.

These shortbread cookies are better than his, I promise.

I got this recipe from a great cookbook called The Cook and Baker, which I bought in the cutest, most wonderful cookbook bookstore, just off Portobello Road during my trip to London in October. 

This was my first time making shortbread cookies and I was surprised at how easy they were to make, although I had a bit of trouble making sure they were all the same size. 

I still have a few left over from Christmas and they are now basically a new staple in my diet #2016resolutioneatmorecookies.

 


Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from The Cook and Baker

Makes 24-30 cookies

Ingredients:

- 3 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 1/2 cups icing (confectioners') sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 12 oz butter, cold and diced


Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (315 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

3. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until it all comes together.

4. Shape into two logs, approximately 4 cm (1 1/2 inches) in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes to firm up before slicing into 8 mm (1 1/4 inches) thick slices.

5. Place onto the prepared tray 3 cm apart, prick them with a fork and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes until slightly golden. Allow to cool on the tray until firm.

Notes: the dough can be made ahead and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. The shortbread can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Cookies



I'm horrible at decorating. Whether it's my home, myself or my baked goods, I'm just no good at making my treats look pretty and presentable. Which is why, when I decided to make these vanilla sugar cookies, I was a bit nervous about how I would decorate them because who am I kidding? I'm the person who quit George Brown's baking decorating course one class in because the teacher got mad at me when I got chocolate all over myself. (I'm messy that way and proud of it and who the hell was she to make me feel bad over a bit of chocolate on my uniform and hands and maybe my mouth?)

Anyway, I, like many other sane, hungry people, love looking at photos of perfectly decorated desserts on Instagram. It really makes me wonder how long it takes them not only to decorate their wares but to set up the shot so that the photo turns out so impeccably perfect that it makes me want to hit myself with a whisk. Or a wooden spoon.



True, I could practice. And believe me, I've tried. I tried and tried and tried when I took (AND COMPLETED, GOD DAMNIT) the baking arts 101 class at George Brown. My cakes looked as if three-year-olds decorated them. Actually, three-year-olds would probably do a better job and they have that whole youth and cuteness thing going for them, so what's my excuse?

Before my wedding, I decided to make not one but three wedding cakes and made them I did (#fuckyes #iamaqueen) but on the morning of our wedding I handed off all decorating and icing duties to my soon-to-be-husband/cake decorator because I knew he would do a better job. And he did, bless him and his cute little baker's hands.

Back to the cookies at hand. I knew I wouldn't have Instagram-perfect cookies, but that vain part of me did want them to look kind of decent for all 200 (HAHA!) of my followers, so off to the Dollar Store I went, where I purchased Christmas-coloured sprinkles and other toppings, so that if my icing turned out to shit, I would just cover that shit up with tons of CANDY.



Cookies turned out great, icing was standard and I had the best time pouring sprinkles on top of the icing while listening to Adele on maximum volume.

Needless to say, I jacked up the Instagram filter to make them look #onpoint.

Onwards, we go!

P.S. Is anyone as obsessed with/horrified about "Making a Murderer"? Turn on Netflix now while you give this recipe a try.



Christmas Cookies

Adapted from the Butter Baked Goods book

Ingredients:

- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cups icing sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp pure vanilla

Icing:

- 1 cup icing sugar
- 2/3 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- food colouring (optional)

You will need: 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, cookie cutters

Makes about 24 cookies



Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Onto a large piece of parchment paper, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside. (Note: I sifted these into a small bowl because I was too scared I would dump it all on the ground if I put it on paper. That's my problem; you'll probably do just fine.)

3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on medium to high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

4. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined.

5. Shape the dough into a large disk about 1 inch thick and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

6. Divide the disk into two and place half the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. (Note: my dough cracked a bit during this process, but I let it warm up a bit and kept rolling it and kneading it a bit until it stuck together.)

7. Use the cookie cutter to cut out about 12 cookies. Carefully transfer to the prepared cookie sheets and place about 1/2 inch apart. You'll probably have extra scraps so feel free to use them again (mush together and roll out) and make more cookies.

8. Use a rolling pin to roll out the second disk of dough and repeat step 7.

9. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges.

10. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for about 10 minutes on the sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

11. After the cookies have completely cooled, get to the icing. Throw all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine.

12. Spread icing on the cookies using a knife or small spatula.

13. Add whatever decorations you want!

Eat them, you hungry beasts!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Nanaimo Bars aka I'M BACK Y'ALL





'Tis the season!!

So yes, it's been more than a year since I've posted on this blog but if you know the kind of year I've had, you would understand. And then you would kick me in the butt and ask me why I didn't just sit down and WRITE ON THE BLOG already (because that's what I was asking myself, too.)

Well, I'm BACK! What has brought me back, you ask? Because it's not like I stopped baking (I didn't) or writing (I mean, I started writing again, ok?). Part of it is because I have a lot more free time now. Yes folks, for those who don't know, I quit my job a month ago and now I find myself a lady of leisure (kindanotreally) with more time to bake, write and watch Homeland and Grey's Anatomy re-runs. It's pretty great. #GodBlessNetflix.



Good timing too, because it's the holidays (Santa exists) and because I'm trying to save what little money I have, I decided to bake goodies instead of buy presents. And if you really know me, you know that that's a hard thing to do - not buy Christmas presents. Because I LOVE Christmas and I LOVE buying people presents. I would spend obscene amounts of money on presents because I love making my family and friends happy AND I want Christmas to last as long as possible, so the more gifts I have to give, the longer it lasts, right?? (Yes, I know, I should stop spending so much money on presents.)

But this year, I have no choice, so that brings me back to baking. I decided to make five different kinds of holiday goodies, starting with Nanaimo Bars. I've never made them before, but they always remind me of my Grandpa, Jim, who hands down made the best Nanaimo Bars in the country/world. (Miss you, Gramps!) Now, my aunt (Hi, Ruthie!) makes the most decadent Nanaimo Bars every Christmas and there is no way I could even possibly begin to make bars as good as hers.

So I guess I gained some newfound confidence or something because I MADE THEM and HOLY SHIT they are AMAZING.



I got the recipe from the Butter Baked Goods book (which I highly recommend and thank you Mike's mom for getting this for me last Christmas. See? Christmas presents are the best!) and while this recipe makes delicious bars, the book did forget one important thing: the ingredients for the top layer of the bar. So, I had to make it up, which was really easy and anyone could have done it but it makes me feel good that I got to MAKE UP a part of Butter's recipe. Hello, CONFIDENCE, where have you been all my life?



Ok, here's the recipe, you ravenous people you:

Nanaimo Bars

Base:

- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup dark cocoa (I don't know what "dark" cocoa is so I just used regular cocoa that you can find at any grocery store)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla (I'm sure artificial vanilla extract is fine but I splurged on pure vanilla at No Frills, which made me feel like a boss)

Filling:

- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 1 tbsp custard powder
- 2 tbsp hot water

Top: (I MADE THIS UP AND IT WORKS)

- 1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp butter

Makes: 12-16 bars

Pan: 9x9 inch pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper


1. In a large bowl, combine the graham crumbs, coconut, walnuts and chocolate chips.

2. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, warm the 1/2 cup of butter with the sugar and cocoa until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then add the egg and vanilla and whisk to combine.

3. Pour the melted mixture over the graham crumb mixture and stir until well combined. Press into the prepared pan firmly and evenly. Set aside.



4. Prepare the filling: in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, icing sugar and custard powder on medium to high speed until pale in colour. (I always start on the low setting so the flour doesn't spill over the bowl.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the hot water. Turn the mixer to medium and continue to beat until the filling is light and fluffy.

5. Use a small offset spatula (I used a regular sized one) to spread the filling across the top of the graham crumb base smoothly and evenly. Set aside.



6. In a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (I just used a regular pot), melt the chocolate chips and remaining 1 tbsp of butter. Pour over the filling and spread evenly with a spatula. (I found that after you pour all the chocolate on the filling, you can just tilt the pan until the chocolate spreads evenly over the filling. That way, you don't need to use a spatula and there's less a chance for the filling to mix with the chocolate, so it's all one pretty chocolate layer.)



7. Place the pan in the fridge for at least one hour or until the chocolate top has set.

8. Run a small knife along the pan. Carefully remove the slab from the pan and cut into 2x2 inch bars.





NOW GO EAT, YOU SCOUNDRELS.