Baking Chez Moi – Almond, Ginger, and Olive Oil Cake

Almond, Ginger, and Olive Oil Cake

People are hard, including me. Even the simplest interactions can so easily go awry and the work that it takes to negotiate one another is life-long. I mean, it’s worth it when we forge friendships that can withstand misunderstandings and differences, when we accomplish things despite the obstacles that are so often one another, when we love the imperfection in ourselves and others.

And on those days when those things are hard to envision, I will show you I care by baking way too much, way too often. It’s also how I show a little care for myself, because the challenges of the kitchen may also be life-long, but they are manageable, predictable, and measurable mostly against my last effort. I am kind to myself in the kitchen, in a way that I am not often in other spheres of endeavour. I’ll never win any prizes for icing work, but you’ll enjoy every last bite and that’s enough for me.

So, in the middle of a difficult day, in the middle of a difficult week, I took the time to bake these cakes. I made them in mini-loaf pans so that I can freeze some to share later, in gestures that are equally for my own pleasure and that of the recipients. I also made them to share with you, in a probably mostly selfish act of connection which may (I hope) bring some pleasure to you, too.

Almond, Ginger, and Olive Oil Cake

Especially if you go ahead and make some for yourselves. I used almond flour in place of hazelnut, because it’s not the sort of week that I’m looking for any ingredients I don’t already have on hand. But ginger and olive oil taste just as good against a background of almond and polenta, I suspect. These cakes are moist and dense in the best possible way and I’m almost sad to put the rest away in the freezer. I won’t be any longer, though, when I have the opportunity to share them.

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

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Dorie’s Cookies – Chocolate-Raspberry Thumbprints

Chocolate-Raspberry Thumbprints

I’ve been working a lot in the vegetable garden lately: moving my decade-old thyme from a pot that it literally burst out of to a bed near my fig tree; repotting the miraculously long-lived oregano that was the thyme’s companion; training my squash and mouse melon vines along their trellises; harvesting whatever’s been ripening along the way (quite a lot of kale this year). But, I’ve also been planting more pollinator-friendly perennials and leaving a lot of my plants to the bees this year. I’m grateful for all the goodness pollinators give us and I want to nourish them as long as I can before this neighbourhood is converted to a tower-filled concrete heat island.

I’ve not harvested many squash blossoms this year and I’ve let more of my herbs go to seed than is prudent for human purposes. In return, my fruits and vegetables have been plentiful (though I didn’t plant as much as I would have liked this year). I’ve also worked my way through loads of berries, cherries (sour and sweet), figs (from my own tree), and am deep into stone fruit now. I just picked a tromboncino squash that barely fits into my refrigerator and I have almost more green beans than I know what to do with. That’s a lie, there are never enough freshly picked green beans.

Some of the things I've baked and grown this summer

I’ve managed to do a bit of baking, too. This week’s cookie might not include anything from my own garden, but its ingredients are pollinators’ gifts that I’m grateful for. The combination of raspberry and chocolate is a classic and irresistible one and these cookies showcase that beautifully.

Dorie’s Do-Almost-Anything doughs are ones to keep in mind any time you’ve got a lot of cookie-baking in mind. Both the vanilla and chocolate produce quadruple batches of cookie dough and Dorie provides four recipes for each in Dorie’s Cookies.

At this time of year, my freezer is a little full, so I only made a half batch of the chocolate dough. I only baked 15 cookies, though, so I still have a bag bursting full of the prepared balls for future cookies. I’ll make more of these, for certain, but I may also experiment with fillings and toppings, too.

I sent a dozen of the cookies home with my parents, who have reported that they love them, and kept three for myself to enjoy. Normally, I would not be so abstemious, but I have at least a pound of cherries in the fridge, a fig version of Feast’s lunar cake just baked, and a tiny apple pie, too. So, I’m going to wait to bake more of these cookies, even though I wish I hadn’t sent so many of them out of the house!

I’ve made rolled out cookies with this dough in the past and have found it very easy to work with. It’s even easier to form into balls and press the indentation for the jam with a knuckle. I used a raspberry jam that only ran a little, firming up nicely once the cookies had cooled. After drizzling a bit of melted chocolate on each, they were done and delicious.

I can’t promise I’ll make it all the way to fall without making some more of these, even if it’s high stone fruit season and I really should be making some pies…

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

Cook the Book Fridays- Duck Fat Cookies

Duck fat

I think many of us grew up in homes where there was a jar of bacon or chicken fat in the fridge, ready to be used whenever a dish needed a boost of fatty flavour. I now have a jar of duck fat in my refrigerator and I think it’s going to be rapidly and well-used. I’ve just made one thing with it so far, and it’s not what you’d expect.

Duck fat is the secret ingredient in the sablé-like cookies I made this afternoon. The cookies manage to be crisp and melt-in-your-mouth all at once, with salt playing against the caramelly sweetness and vanilla and cognac adding a little depth to the flavour, as well. The cookies are studded with currants, which are due for a resurgence in popularity, I’d say. They’re perfect in these cookies, tart, sweet and soaked in cognac.

Duck Fat Cookie mise en place

I had a bit of fun with these on Instagram over the past couple of days, first posting the photo of the jar of duck fat, then posting the mise en place for the cookies as an extra hint. No one guessed, but I got some great suggestions for what to do with the leftovers. First, I’m going to catch up on the duck fat potatoes that everyone from Cook the Book Fridays has already made and raved about. Then, I’m going to try duck fat popcorn, which another commenter suggested. I looked for a recipe, and found a great one from one of our own, Trevor of Sis Boom Blog, along with some advice on how duck fat can improve your life (or at least your dinner parties).

Duck Fat Cookies

I only baked half of the cookies today and froze the other half. I don’t expect this batch to last past tomorrow. Next time I’m in need of goodwill, I’ll bake the rest of them.

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.

Dorie’s Cookies – Cast-Iron Pan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Cast-Iron Pan Chocolate Cookie Bars

My plan for today was to come home, bake the Pistachio-Berry Slims and do a two-in-one Dorie’s Cookies post for today’s Tuesdays with Dorie. Instead, I hopped on the 99 bus, switched to the Number 15, and climbed the hill at Queen Elizabeth Park to Bloedel Conservatory. A once-in-a-decade event is happening right now and I decided to do a little bandwagoneering.

The corpse flower only blooms for a day or two, so it’s not something that can wait until the weekend. I managed to get there during a lull in the line up and was able to spend some time with the (surprisingly not smelly) bloom, along with the plants and birds that inhabit the conservatory. It’s quite a beautiful flower, even when not completely open as I saw it, the fabled scent associated with it gives its viewers an air of bravado, and its size is impressive. It’s also a rare flower, both in timing and number. But, I don’t think that’s the whole of its appeal. Its ephemerality ties the rest of these qualities together, making it irresistible to news outlets and spectators alike. There’s a powerful metaphorical appeal when something this singular takes so long to come to fruition, then withers in so short a span.

QE Park and Seasons in the Park

Or at least, that’s where my thoughts turned afterward, over an Aperol Spritz and artichoke leaves at Seasons in the Park. I went there to escape from the heat and fortify myself for a stroll through the quarry gardens and then the trek back to my side of town. Thank goodness for the lounges of fine dining restaurants. You can come in as you are (in my case, post-corpse flower viewing) and have access to the full menu. It was a good afternoon, but by the time I got home, I had just enough left in me to water the garden and have a proper bit of dinner. Baking was not in the cards.

Luckily, I’d made the cast-iron pan chocolate chip bars a few weeks ago, which put me in the (rare for me) position of being ready for the week’s post. Just like today’s activities, my version of these bars was a deviation from plan. I have a very small cast-iron pan, so I already knew I’d be making them in a springform. What I sacrificed in caramelly browning, I gained in cakey moistness. I was also low on shredded coconut, so rather than go to the store, I threw in some cocoa nibs. The squares still had a pleasing coconut taste, but the nibs amped up the chocolate flavour and added a bit of crunch, too.

I sliced these up in thin wedges and can attest that they’re equally good served with berries and whipped cream or unadorned. I gave three large portions away and still had more than a few days’ worth of dessert for myself. Another example of a successful detour, I’d say.

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Baba Ganoush & Tourteau Fromager

Baba ganoush

I’ve got a pretty straightforward post today, featuring two recipes that I’ll revisit.

This week’s recipe is baba ganoush, one of those spreads with seemingly endless variations. David Lebovitz’ take on this is particularly good. A little heat, just enough garlic and lemon, fresh parsley and a nice ratio between the eggplant and tahini. I used parsley from my balcony garden, which this year is all flowers and herbs and topped the finished dish with olive oil and za’atar. Tonight I scooped it up with some seedy crackers and tomorrow I’m looking forward to using it in a veggie sandwich. I’ll also be packing up some to share, as this recipe makes a generous amount.

Tourteau fromager

I also managed to make the Tourteau Fromager last weekend. I shared it with my parents and they had it with fresh berry compote several days in a row (as did I). My father can’t stand American-style cheesecake, but he loved this. (I’m going to have to bring him to Uncle Tetsu to see if he likes that style of cheesecake, too.) I’ve made Dorie’s version of this before and this recipe is just as good. I really enjoyed working with the tart dough, it was supple and easy to coax into the pan. This batch had a gorgeous yellow colour from the farm-fresh egg that I used, too.

Here’s hoping for a quiet summer full of good food. Do you think that’s a realistic wish, these days?

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

Dorie’s Cookies – Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch

Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch

We’re in the midst of a heatwave, so I baked these cookies quite late this evening and I only baked three of them. Luckily, they all turned out beautifully, because I wouldn’t have had much leeway for outtakes. And even more luckily, this cookie dough holds well in the refrigerator, so I can wait a day or two for the temperature to drop before baking off the rest. I left them in the oven just long enough to become slightly crunchy around the edges, which is a wonderful thing in a cookie.

These almost didn’t get made, because the sesame crunch reminded me so much of one of my favourite supermarket treats, Sesame Snaps. (In fact, those who are intimidated by caramel-making might pick up a pack of Sesame Snaps to use in place of the homemade crunch. But, you shouldn’t be intimidated – hot sugar is easier to work with than people realize.) I kept my baser instincts in check and saved the crunch for baking. It adds so much to the texture of this cookie and plays so well against the give of the chopped chocolate.

I’ll make these again, perhaps for this year’s cookie swap season. I suspect they’ll be popular.

Swedish Visiting Cake Bars

I’ve been pretty behind with blogging and I have been wondering when I’d make the Swedish Visiting Cake Bars this month. But then, I realized I already have (and loved them) way back in November of 2016. I’m not sure why I haven’t made them again, except that there are so many recipes to try and so few treat-eaters in my life. So, I’ve actually completed both Dorie’s Cookies recipe selections for this month! Here’s what I said about it on Instagram at the time, “It’s a thin layer of butter-rich cake flavoured with vanilla and almond topped by a meringue of egg white, powdered sugar, and sliced almonds – so good!”

Just a short post tonight, as I have been feeling a bit sapped of energy and optimism this week, the former lapped up by the heat and the latter ground out by the news. Cookies help.

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

Healthy-ish

Mock Orange

A neighbour told me today that mock orange only blooms every three years and I should enjoy the fragrant blossoms while I can. It’s not true, but it’s a pretty story and their season is so short that I think I’ll spend as much time lingering near them as I can in the next little while.

Everything, lately, seems especially ephemeral and I’m trying to take as much notice of my surroundings and its inhabitants as I can. That means walking Roxy a little farther than my tiredness would rather, so that she can make the most of a summer’s evening sniff, then talking softly to the skunk we encountered (while rapidly backing away). It means setting up a long-distance telephone visit with a friend, instead of putting it off for a few more weeks. And planting squash in the garden rather than working down the list of tasks waiting for me at my desk.

It also means doing a little baking, which I’ve not had much time for, so that I can drop off a banana blueberry oat loaf for a neighbour who isn’t well.

I think when someone is recovering from an illness or an injury, there is a lot of love and friendship that can be offered through helping with chores and errands, spending time watching a movie or playing a game, and bringing over food so that there’s always a meal at hand. I also believe in the healing power of treats, especially if they’re packing a nutritional punch.

If I had a recipe box, I’d have a section labelled ‘Almost Health Food’ because I think a little indulgence while one’s on the mend can speed a recovery up, or at least make it feel like it’s dragging on a little less. I think a loaf like this is especially good for seniors, because it’s full of nutrients, with some fat and protein along for the ride to keep them going.

It’s also one of those infinitely variable recipes that can accommodate almost anything you’ve got in your pantry. Soak some dried cherries and replace the blueberries, skip the oats and add bran or wheat germ instead, play around with the flours or sweeteners, go for chocolate and coffee instead of fruit.

In this version, I added a little yogurt, because I thought whole wheat flour and rolled oats might be too much for even the moistest of bananas. They came out perfectly.

Banana Blueberry Oat Loaf

BANANA BLUEBERRY OAT LOAVES

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup mashed banana (about 3 medium)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°. Butter four 5¾” × 3½” × 2¼” mini-loaf pans and set aside. (You can flour or sugar them afterward, but I find these loaves come out of the pan quite easily.)

Toss the blueberries in half a tablespoon of flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, making a well in the centre. Then, in a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, then stir in the blueberries.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and then place them in the oven for 35 minutes. (Start checking at 20 minutes.) I like mine to be a slightly toasty brown around the edges, but you might like yours a little less done.

Let the pans rest on baking racks for five minutes, then turn them out, turn them over, and let them cool completely. Once they’re cool, you can wrap a couple well for the freezer, wrap another in brown paper to bring to a friend, and slice into the one you’ve saved for yourself. I find they keep quite well in a parchment-lined cookie tin, if you’re not into sharing, but why wouldn’t you? These are too good to keep to yourself.

Banana Blueberry Oat Loaf

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.

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.