Cook the Book Fridays – Buckwheat Madeleines

Buckwheat Madeleines

I’ve made madeleines twice in the past week – once for Tuesdays with Dorie and now for Cook the Book Fridays. Both recipes involved browned butter, but they part ways there. The ones I made earlier in the week were not far off traditional, with a rich, buttery vanilla flavour. The ones I made today are mostly buckwheat flour, with egg whites for lightness and cocoa nibs for a subtle, crunchy chocolate surprise. Not at all traditional, but delicious nevertheless.

I used to bring big baskets of snickerdoodles and chocolate crinkles to meetings, partly because I thought the flavours made a nice contrast, but also for the visual impact. I think I might start doing the same with madeleines, too. The nuttiness of the buckwheat and the chocolate crunch of the cocoa nibs would contrast nicely with the traditional cakes.

Ghost Chocolate ice cream at Earnest Ice Cream

I also wish I’d picked up a pint of the ice cream I tried today. Ghost Chocolate, a collaboration between Earnest Ice Cream and East Van Roasters, is made from steeping cocoa shells (that would otherwise be discarded) in cream to make a subtle chocolate ice cream that would complement these buckwheat madeleines perfectly.

I’ll have to make do (happily) with warm madeleines and a cup of tea. C’est la vie.

Buckwheat Madeleines with cocoa nibs

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

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Baking Chez Moi – Apple Matafan

Apple Matafan

There is a store near me that bundles up the produce that’s about to be replaced by the next shipment and puts it on sale. I have to be careful, because those bags of apples, tomatoes, potatoes or bananas always convince me that it’s time for a kitchen project. When it’s a big bag of tomatoes or potatoes, it’s simple – they go into the oven with some seasoning and do their thing. The large quantity of apples and bananas I picked up last week are another matter altogether. I’ve been baking all week.

 Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

So far, my freezer is full of apple cake and I’m going to spend the next day or two dropping off Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins to friends.

The Apple Matafan I made tonight, though, isn’t going anywhere. It’s going to be breakfast for the next several days, accompanied by yogurt and maple syrup, or perhaps a bit of jam. It’s meant to be eaten within a day, but I enjoy using this kind of pancake as a sort of breakfast trifle. It’s stuffed with apples and flavoured with vanilla and brandy (or apple jack or brandy). It will fortify me as I continue to fill my freezer with apple and banana treats.

Which reminds me, it’s finally time to buy a really big bag of rhubarb. I need to buy a bigger freezer…

Apple Matafan with maple syrup

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this month’s recipes from Baking Chez Moi here.

Tuesdays With Dorie – Viennese Shortbread & Some Catching Up

Viennese Sablés

Viennese Sablés

Hot on the heels of my Cook the Book Fridays catch up, here is the Tuesdays with Dorie edition.

Today’s treat is Viennese Sablés from Baking Chez Moi, though I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to guess from my photo above. During some spring cleaning and organizing, I decided to move my box of piping tips from the drawer that they’ve never quite fit into – trouble is, I don’t remember where I decided to move them. So, after a quick attempt at piping them through a snipped zip bag, which did not make for an appetizing presentation, I decided to lightly shape them into rounds. They don’t have quite the lightness that they would if I’d piped them properly, but they still have that Danish cookie-from-the-tin flavour and even that texture, in their pillowy interiors.

Apple Weekend Cake

Apple Weekend Cake

Just before going out to visit family for the Easter weekend, I baked one large loaf and four small loaves of Dorie’s Apple Weekend Cake from Baking Chez Moi. One of the small loaves disappeared before I made it out of town (I had help from friends, I swear), and the rest of the mini-loaves were eaten by ravenous relatives. The large loaf got popped into the freezer, awaiting my mother’s next Board meeting. Along with the carrot cake I told you about on Friday from My Paris Kitchen, and a generous slathering of cream cheese-mascarpone icing on everything, this apple cake may have assured my mother another Presidential term. Apple Weekend Cake is similar to family favourite, Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, but this cake is sturdy enough to bring on a picnic or pack in a lunch box while still being tender and moist.

Crumb-Topped Apple Bars

Crumb-Topped Apple Bars

Thank goodness for citrus season and really good storage apples. They get me through that last little bit of winter/early spring before the rhubarb shows up in the markets. (The rhubarb in my garden takes a bit longer to grow, so it will be some time before I’m picking it.) I picked up a bag of fantastic Pink Lady apples a few weeks ago, when my longing for rhubarb and spring was at its height and the perfect tartness of these apples helped, eaten out of hand and as the star of these bars from Dorie’s Cookies. Of course, they also put me in mind of Hungarian Shortbread with its rhubarb filling, so I’m glad it’s finally rhubarb season now.

Sebastian's Remarkably Wonderful Brownies

Sebastian’s Remarkably Wonderful Brownies

I froze these brownies right after making them, then pulled them out for a game day (board games, not team sports). By the end of our session of all ages Telestrations, the brownies had disappeared. These are fudgey, but they also have a little of the quality of the centre of a pavlova. I think it’s because the eggs are whipped for five minutes with the butter, sugar, and salt. It’s hard to stop at one of these, as my fellow game-players can attest. You can find the recipe here or in your copy of Dorie’s Cookies.

Bee's Sneeze Nuggets

Bee’s Sneeze Nuggets

The TwD group hasn’t delved too deeply into the savoury cookie section of Dorie’s Cookies as yet, but if these biscuit-y cookies are any indication, we should be spending more time there. Based on a cocktail, they make a great accompaniment to one. They’re also a great alternative to a cocktail, if you’re in the mood for the flavour without the buzz (so to speak). They’ve got all the botanical notes of gin, braced with lemon and subtly sweetened with honey. I took Dorie’s suggestion and served them with a bowl of honey for dipping and wouldn’t have them any other way.

It's blossom time in Vancouver

I’ll leave you with a shot of my neighbourhood in its spring finery. Walking the dog is even more of a pleasure than usual these days.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this month’s recipes here.

Cook the Book Fridays – Beet Hummus and Some Catching Up

Beet Hummus

It’s been a while since I’ve posted for Cook the Book Fridays, though I’ve been cooking along as often as I could and posting the results on Instagram. Today, I found myself on schedule and with a little time to put together a post, so here I am! First up is today’s recipe, but I thought I’d add in the rest of the things I’d make since I posted last.

This spread looks like an especially vibrant finger paint, but is actually a delicious take on hummus, with the sweetness of beet, the sharpness of pomegranate molasses, and the spiciness of cayenne amping up the traditional ingredients. I took the time to remove the skins from the chickpeas, so the end result is extra-smooth. This was good with crackers tonight, but I’m planning on trying it with roasted potato wedges and crudites tomorrow.

Carrot Cake

I spent Easter weekend with family and though we had Easter dinner at my brother’s restaurant (it wasn’t just Easter and April Fool’s Day, but also my aunt’s 75th Birthday), I managed to do quite a bit of cooking and baking, as well. My mother had far too many carrots in her refrigerator, so I used that as an excuse to finally make the Carrot Cake that the rest of the group baked in February. It’s a beautiful cake, moist and rich, not too sweet and perfectly spicy. The cream cheese and mascarpone icing is delicious and might eclipse my love for traditional cream cheese icing with carrot cake.

I baked the cake in two 9″ pans and four mini-loaf pans. The double-layer round cake was still quite substantial at that size and the mini-loaves were very popular at my mother’s board meeting, I hear.

Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut & Dried Cherry Fougasse

I brought this bread to a board meeting of my own and it disappeared completely (always my goal). I love this sweet fougasse almost as much as the savoury version and am tempted to make both the next time I go to a potluck.

Panisse Puffs

These chickpea popovers were easy to make in a muffin pan and didn’t last long. I ate them as they were, but some of my tasters added jam. They’re a perfect addition to a brunch buffet.

Naan au Fromage

These are more Naan-ish than Naan, but that won’t stop me from having them again. I especially loved using the herbed variety of Laughing Cow cheese in these, as it saves a step and has just as much flavour.

Buttermilk Ice Cream

Buttermilk ice cream is the perfect way to use up buttermilk that’s left over from baking projects (or am I the only one who has trouble using up a full litre before it goes off?). It’s creamy and delicious and has a tang from the buttermilk that’s just as more-ish as the tang of Snickerdoodles.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Safely Spring

I think we can safely say it’s spring. The snowdrops are still going strong in my garden, but daffodils, crocuses and even cherry blossoms are appearing here and there, too. More importantly, my rhubarb is starting to get going. It won’t be long before I can start using it and picking up more at the market, because I always need more than I produce.

I’m making a list of new rhubarb recipes to try, along with my perennial favourites. I’ve posted about a few on the blog, here are some highlights:

A crumb topping and a cookie crust that hold a rhubarb-lime treasure.

Who needs pineapple when there’s rhubarb around? For another take on this theme, you can try these.

Roasted rhubarb equals rhubarb in/on/instead of everything.

Incredible jam leads to even more incredible jammers.

An epic rhubarb adventure with my nieces.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying peak citrus and even the apples that are still quite good at this time of year. I managed to quell my impatience for spring by catching up on the Crumb-Topped Apple Bars that the Tuesdays with Dorie crew tackled in October. They didn’t last long, so I’m going to make some time for the spring-like meringues everyone (organized) made for this week’s recipe. Then, perhaps, it will be time to start harvesting the first stalks of rhubarb. One can hope.

Dorie’s Cookies – Chunkers

Chunkers from Dorie's CookiesIn some ways, I’ve been old all my life. Physically, I was born with a slight hearing deficit, near-sightedness has been with me since Grade Four, and my hair started turning grey when I was still in high school. My behaviour has often been grannyish, too – tea-drinking since twelve, defiantly knitting in my twenties and thirties, and pushing baked goods on all comers since I was old enough to stir a batter. For most of my life, those aspects of myself were characterized as quirks and sometimes even adorable emblems of my individuality. More recently, they’ve become evidence of my status as an oldster.

Now it’s my politics, my way of life, and many of my experiences that are seen as incongruous. Feminism in those over forty is getting a drubbing this week, in particular, thanks to Caitlin Flanagan and her disavowal of any understanding of how young women date these days.

At least I can take solace in baking, which is where this particular train of thought began. (You were wondering when I’d get to the cookies, weren’t you?) Taking a photo of these proved challenging and I’m once again impressed with the production team behind Dorie’s Cookies – the photo in the book is tantalizing.

However, these cookies are much more than they seem. They’re brownie-like in the centre surrounded by a shatteringly thin, crisp crust. They’re filled with chopped milk and dark chocolate, plump dried cherries, and cashews. Every bite is a tiny bit different, though equally delicious.

All this and more went into the cookies!The worst thing about these cookies is that you have to wait for about 30 minutes for them to set after coming out of the oven. The best thing about them is that the unbaked cookies freeze well, so I’ve got a bag full of them in the freezer awaiting my next chocolate craving.

So, to wrap everything up in a neat bow, don’t reject a cookie because it doesn’t photograph well. Remember that there is a diversity of experience and belief at every age. And looking ahead, don’t dismiss a senior’s quirks and foibles as a symptom of age. It’s pretty likely they’ve been that way all along and that their life experiences might seem as up-to-date as your own, upon closer examination.

January’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

No resolutions, but a promise

Cute little holiday card

I got a little extra cheer today, in the form of a holiday card that had been hiding at the bottom of my mailbox. Thanks, Betsy! I am now resolved to pull my mailbox down every now and again. That’s as close as I get to a New Year’s resolution.

I am not a resolution-maker, but I do like to make myself a promise or two now and again. Right now, in this gloomiest of Januaries, I’m promising to make time for more creative endeavours. My life has been a little too grindstone-centric of late. I’m missing writing for my blog, but even more I’m missing the connections to the people behind the scenes of my favourite blogs.

It’s not just writing and cooking, though, that I want to do more often. I want to get back to exploring community and creativity and I have a few ideas. I’m even considering joining a choir. (Too East Van? Maybe.)

For now though, I’m making a list of things that have the potential of brightening up the last few weeks of rainy, gloomy Vancouver winter. I encourage you to make your own list, wherever you are, then share it with me.

Get Out of the House

It’s nearly time for Dine Out Vancouver, which is a great, affordable way to experience creative set menus at some of Vancouver’s best restaurants. I’ve had some terrific meals and some interesting adventures at my Dine Out choices over the years.

You can also be fed, in a less literal way, with the smorgasbord of offerings from this year’s PuSh Festival.

Scottish Caramel Pu-erh

Or Hunker Down, I’m Not Judging You

There’s a new tea shop on Commercial Drive, Babylon Tea Company. Ye Olde East Van Tea Drinkers (we’re not a club, but we should be) have been speculating on when it would open for months. And now it has, I’m finding myself wanting to stay home and nurse a cup…well, let’s be real…a pot of their Scottish Caramel Pu-erh all evening. I’m actually afraid to go back, because I am susceptible to developing a tea of the week habit.

And speaking of good habits, the lovely folks at Tea Sparrow have a new initiative, the Community Grocer. Healthy, plant-based foods delivered to the door, helping you wait out winter. I’m hoping to tell you a little more about this soon.

The Globe & Mail Holiday Crossword

Be Good to Your Brain

Crave the spotlight? Find out if you’ve got chops at Vancouver Theatre Sports‘ Saturday drop-in.

Or get ready to conquer Paris with conversational aplomb with Alliance Francaise. It’s also a great excuse to go to Salade de Fruits for a long French language lunch.

And if you’re really daring, you can stretch both body and mind in one of Harbour Dance‘s many classes. Just make sure you invite me to opening night.

Okay, it’s back to the grindstone for me. But, I’m back on the regular in 2018 with lots to share with you. So add me to your list of gloom-chasing strategies. Or, maybe just grab a cup of tea and we’ll hang out.

Soup to Heal the Heart – The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook Launch

Making Chicken Tortilla Soup

I received a review copy of The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook from Appetite by Random House at a book launch edition of a Soup Sisters evening. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I firmly believe that cooking for others and with others is one of the surest ways to build and support community. It’s the belief that underpins block parties, cookie swaps, and soup swaps, as well as initiatives like the community kitchens that bring vulnerable people together to cook and connect or Montréal’s Newcomer Kitchen that gives space to newly arrived Syrian women to prepare and sell food, establishing themselves in their new home.

For Sharon Hapton, this motivation blossomed into the Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers, a network across 25 Canadian and U.S. cities that brings groups of people together to cook and eat, all for the benefit of women, children, and youth in crisis. A typical monthly gathering yields 150 – 250 litres of soup, which is brought to local shelter partners the next day. Participants benefit from working with a group of like-minded folks, alongside talented chefs that keep everyone on track in the kitchen. While the soup is simmering, those same chefs feed the night’s volunteers, starting with a hearty bowl of soup. It’s an elegantly crafted concept that’s resulted in waiting lists for these monthly gatherings and a steady stream of healthy, lovingly crafted food for folks who need it.

You can learn more about Soup Sisters directly from Sharon, in this interview:

Sharon Hapton on CBC’s The Homestretch

Last night, I attended a gathering at one of Vancouver’s regular Soup Sisters venues, Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. It was both a soup-making event and a book launch, because the third Soup Sisters cookbook, The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook, arrived on October 17th. Appetite by Random House and Food Bloggers of Canada invited a number of bloggers and foodies to make soup and learn more about Soup Sisters and its newest collection of recipes.

This isn’t my first introduction to Soup Sisters. I’ve been following their work for years and have always wanted to take part in one of their soup-making evenings. I also own a copy of their second cookbook, The Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers Cookbook, which I reviewed in 2015. I turn to it often for recipes and inspiration when I’m in a soup-making mood.

Like their previous cookbooks, the new one features recipes from chefs, bloggers, and Soup Sisters participants, but this time a number of the recipes were contributed by kids and teens. Cooking with young people is the focus of this book, with some tips and advice for getting kids into the kitchen and a host of accessible recipes. Making soup is a great introduction to cooking, especially with kids. It’s a process that can be broken down into many manageable steps, there is always something new happening throughout the process to keep kids interested, and the end result is the kind of meal that people of all ages will enjoy.

5 soups for Sereenas House

Last night’s participants split up into teams, each making one of five soups destined for Sereenas House for Women, a supportive housing program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. All the recipes were from the new cookbook, as was the soup that Chef Tony Minichiello made for our meal. His soup was a recipe from his wife’s family, an Armenian lentil and rice soup that has a deceptively simple list of ingredients for a soup so rich in flavour. My team (which dubbed itself “Team Nourish”) made a Chicken Tortilla Soup that was shared by Earls Restaurants. Other teams tackled Maritime Fish Chowder (Laura Calder), Spaghetti and Mini Meatball Soup (Bonnie Stern), Every Bunny Loves Carrot Soup (Skylar & Chloe Sinow), and Posh-Tasting Red Pepper and Coconut Soup (Taya Groner). Those last two were contributed by young participants and they were in attendance at the event to cook their soups with us.

House-made brioche topped with ricotta, arugula, and roasted tomato.

Our evening started with appetizers made with brioche the cooking school students had made that morning and topped with ricotta, arugula, caramelized onion, and roasted tomato. We were given an introduction to Soup Sisters, a presentation from a representative of Sereenas House, and a talk from Sharon Hapton, introducing the new book and talking about the program’s origins. Then we all went to our stations and started chopping and dicing. In no time at all, it seemed our soups were ready for their long simmer. In part, this was because many hands truly make light work, but it was really the help and guidance of Northwest’s chefs and students that made the work fly. They also kept an eye on our soups while we went off to prepare labels and eat dinner. Our dinner started with Chef Tony’s soup and he talked about the history of the soup in his own family while the bowls were passed down the table. The soup was followed by a salad rich in greens and topped with couscous and our meal finished with slices of light mousse cake that had been prepared for us by the school’s pastry students. After dinner, we ladled soup into containers and each team produced between 25 and 30 litres of soup for donation. I think we all felt a little spoiled and also quite pleased with how much soup we collectively produced.

The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook

We all went home with a copy of the cookbook courtesy of Appetite, but I think many of us will also be buying copies to give as gifts this holiday season, especially because the sale of the books helps to support the program. If you’re curious about any of the Soup Sisters cookbooks, they have some sample recipes from the 2nd volume in the series up on their website. I’m happy to have 100 more great soup recipes at my disposal and I’d especially recommend this book to anyone who cooks with kids.

I’d also suggest, the next time you’re considering a gathering for a celebration or a team-building exercise, find out if there is a branch of Soup Sisters near you and book an evening. The fees go toward purchasing the best seasonal ingredients for the soups and you’ll have a richly rewarding experience and a richly delicious meal, to boot.

Dorie’s Cookies – Crash-O Cookies

Oatmeal raisin milk chocolate Crash-O cookies

This month’s Cookies and Kindness selection from Dorie Greenspan is the very last one of the series, though Dorie hopes that everyone who bakes her recipes will continue making sharing and goodwill part of the mix.

This is a cookie that will be welcomed by just about anyone – even those of us who are usually fussy about raisins (like me) and those who really only care for milk chocolate, like my niece and reportedly, the entire Republic of Ireland.

Which is fitting, in a week when kindness is the very least of what should be expected of us. My suggestion is to take some cookies to one of the anti-racist marches and rallies that are being held all over this weekend, or eat some with your kids while you answer their questions about nuclear proliferation, or bring them to your grandparents (or great-grandparents) who remember the fight against 20th Century fascism.

There is power in sharing food, just as there is power in standing up together, talking about what’s important, and learning how to make a world that truly does move toward justice and love.

August’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Mid-Summer Ambitions

Roxy's summer style

My ambitions this summer are modest: making the best of summer produce, experiencing what the arts and culture scene has to offer in the off-season, and keeping cool (though not as stylishly as Roxy, as you can see in the photo at the top of the post).

Old-fashioned blueberry bars

I feel a little behind on stone fruits this year, but I did a heroic job with berries and rhubarb, with some more blueberries waiting for this weekend’s baking. I got a small harvest of figs from my five-year-old back yard tree this year (beating last year’s inaugural harvest of exactly one) and celebrated with a fig tart and some very tasty jam. There’s also plenty of kale, cucumber, beets, and homegrown lettuce in the refrigerator, which will make for a very healthy weekend of lunches and dinners. I’ve scattered photos of some of my recent kitchen projects through this post – let me know in the comments if you think I’ve been giving summer fruits their due.

<Frangipane fig tart

As for my second summer ambition, there is plenty going on this weekend and for the rest of the summer.

If you can get yourself out to UBC tomorrow night, the Blackout: Night Sky Festival would be a wonderful way to spend the evening. It reminds me of my childhood trips to the lake country around Kamloops, when we would set out lawn chairs in our campsite and stay up late watching the Perseid show.

Fig, balsamic, honey, and vanilla jam

If your idea of making the most of this hot, muggy, smoky summer is finding something to do indoors, you’ve got lots of choices. Movie theatres are great places to hide from high summer and they provide their own kind of visual feast. I’d start with The Cinematheque‘s annual Film Noir program, then move on to the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

Or you can embrace the elements, heading out to sea with Caravan Stage Company’s Nomadic Tempest, then enter a salmon stream in the middle of the city with Uninterrupted: A Cinematic Spectacle.

Chocolate cookies and a whole lot of blueberries

If you want to get out of town, you can head over to the Sunshine Coast for the Rogue Arts Festival or out to the Shuswap for the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival. And if you’d like to skip the organized activities, you can DIY your own Okanagan wine tour, explore the Fraser Valley’s Circle Farm Tour destinations, or spend August the way my family did when I was a kid and find your favourite fishing spots in the Thompson-Nicola region.

I’ll bring the treats.