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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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.

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.

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.

Cottage Cooking Club – April 2017

Black pepper, rosemary, & smoked paprika cornbread

April was a whirlwind for me, so I’m only just posting my contribution to the Cottage Cooking Club now.

I’ve been trying a lot of cornbread recipes lately, both savoury and sweet, trying to find one that’s a good fit for some of the soups and stews I’ve been making this rainy spring season. The cornbread from River Cottage Everyday bridges the gap between savoury and sweet nicely for me and it just may become the house favourite here.

There’s only a tablespoon of honey in this bread, but it’s enough for me, especially for the variation I improvised with rosemary, black pepper and smoked Paprika. I also substituted some bacon fat for half the butter in this recipe, which made it even smokier. This recipe is infinitely variable, I used yogurt, but buttermilk is also an option. Add-ins include grated cheese or fresh corn, minced jalapeño or green onion, all sorts of spices and herbs – whatever piques your interest or suits your menu.

It paired well with the soup I keep making (and changing) this spring, a smoky turkey and green split pea soup that’s thick and rich, perfect for rainy day eating. I’m going to share the “recipe” with you, but it’s really just a jumping off point. This soup changes based on what’s in my fridge – my latest version included a quick stock made from the leftovers of a rotisserie chicken, some diced turkey, and (brilliantly) some diced leftover roasted sweet potato that had been seasoned with rosemary and chili flakes. The sweet potato would carry a vegan version of this soup very well.

Smoky Turkey and Green Split Pea Soup

Smoky Turkey & Green Split Pea Soup

  • 2 tbsp. butter, oil, and/or bacon fat
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil (or 1 tbsp. fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (or 1-2 tsp. fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups turkey or chicken stock and/or water
  • 2 cups green split peas, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
  • a rind from some smoked Parmesan
  • 1 cup diced cooked turkey
  • a dash of pomegranate molasses or the juice of half a lemon (optional)
  • a few slices of cooked bacon, chopped (optional)
  • grated smoked Parmesan (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the fat in a large soup pot over medium heat, add the onion, then turn heat to low. Add the onions with a little salt. Stir occasionally, until they are starting to brown a little. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes translucent. Turn the heat to medium and add the leek, carrots, and celery, then cook until they begin to soften. Add the herbs and spices, with a few grinds of pepper and a little more salt, then stir them around a little to help release their flavour.

Add the stock and/or water and split peas, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat until the soup is at a simmer. Drop in the smoked Parmesan rind, then cook until the split peas start to become tender. If the soup starts to become too thick at any point, add more water or stock as needed.

Add the diced turkey and continue to simmer the soup until the split peas are soft – usually 30-40 minutes, but it may take longer. Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary.

When ready to serve, stir in a dash of pomegranate molasses or the juice of half a lemon, if desired. Garnish with chopped, cooked bacon and/or grated smoked Parmesan, if desired.

This soup is adaptable to whatever you’ve got on hand, but here are a few ideas:

  • Use diced chicken in place of the turkey
  • Add diced roasted sweet potato with the turkey
  • Use a rind of Gruyère in place of the smoked Parmesan and season with thyme and rosemary
  • Skip the animal products and use a touch more smoked paprika, for a hearty vegan soup

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2017

Ten Minute Chocolate Chip Cookies

This month hasn’t been one for cooking very much from cookbooks for me. There have been a lot of improvised meals and dishes that I cook from memory and adjust to what I have on hand. The list of dishes that I can rely on that way has grown year-by-year and I have my love of cookbooks to thank for that, along with the guidance of many good cooks, starting with my mother.

I include chocolate chip cookies on the list of foods I can make without reference to a recipe, but I’m always interested in trying new recipes for them. I don’t have a Platonic ideal recipe for these cookies – I am happy whether they’re chewy, crispy, cakey, or barely there between chunks of chocolate. I’ve enjoyed them with all sorts of flour combinations, add ins, and variations. So I’m open to any new twist or trick I can add to my chocolate chip cookie repertoire.

This recipe promised a crispy cookie, but I ended up with one that was fluffier, instead. I’m not sure if it was the addition of oats (a variation on the oatmeal raisin variation given in the recipe), if it was my conversion of the recipe from weights to cups, or if it was a misinterpretation of a British ingredient. I suspect it was the conversion. No matter, though, because the cookies were delicious, even if they looked nothing like their inspiration.

I added a little more salt, along with some cardamom and nutmeg, to the recipe, otherwise I think they’d have been under-seasoned. That might be my North American palate speaking, or the garden-variety butter I used.

I expect I’ll cook a little more from cookbooks next month, especially as spring has begun in earnest here and early local produce will soon appear. I’ve got some River Cottage recipes bookmarked for just that reason.

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2017

River Cottage Everyday & Love Your Leftovers

The Cottage Cooking Club is back, for a six-month journey through two more River Cottage cookbooks, River Cottage Everyday and River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers. Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness is taking a more free-wheeling approach to this iteration of the club, asking members to choose whichever recipes strike their fancy and post about them on the 28th of each month.

River Cottage Veg is one of my go to cookbooks for simple weeknight eating, so I was happy to add River Cottage Everyday to my collection. And I fell in love with Love Your Leftovers when I reviewed it just before the holidays.

I hope to cook a little more from both books over the next few months, but for this month, I’m starting with a snack that is cheaper and better for you than its supermarket counterparts.

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

I couldn’t wait until these were cooled completely to cut a couple of tester squares. If I’d waited until they were completely cool, they would have had straighter edges, but it was worth it. These bars are a perfect snack, warm or cold. They have a fair amount of sugar and butter in them, but they’re also full of dried fruit and seeds. I chose dried cranberries, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Along with the chunky peanut butter and oats, I’d say they make these bars a healthy choice.

They’re naturally gluten-free (as long as you use gluten-free safe oats) and they’d be easy to make vegan, with golden syrup in place of honey and a healthy-ish margarine standing in for the butter.

I love this kind of recipe, because the results can be as varied as the contents of your pantry and you can customize them as much as you like. I’ve found this to be a hallmark of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes, one of the many things that brings me back to his cookbooks so frequently. I’m sure I’ll find a host of new favourites while working through this round of the club.

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Dorie’s Cookies – World Peace Cookies

World Peace Cookies

The story of Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies is quite famous in home-baking circles. It may be hard to believe that a little cookie could bring the world together, but eating one makes anything seem plausible. Come to think of it, whenever I’ve brought World Peace Cookies to a meeting, decision-making has been relatively peaceful, too. There may be something to this theory.

Roll and bake sablé cookies create a lot of peace in the kitchen, too. I try and keep a few logs of various kinds in the freezer, so that I can bake on a moment’s notice. To keep your own peace of mind, make sure you treat this dough with patience, leaving it in the mixer until it really comes together, then working it into logs that hold together and are solid throughout. Your efforts will be well-rewarded.

Bonus Bake: Christmas Spice Cookies

Christmas Spice Cookies

These Christmas Spice Cookies were scheduled for December, and I made them in time for Christmas, but I didn’t have much time for posting to the blog last month. So, I’m presenting them now.

They’re one of four variations Dorie provides for her Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Cookie Dough and they live up to their holiday-inspired name. These cookies are delicately spiced, allowing the vanilla dough to shine, and they’re the perfect foil for the deeper flavours of gingerbread and chocolate on the cookie tray. They’re also a great alternative to sugar cookies, with a more complex flavour than the usual cut-out Christmas favourites.

I’m a big fan of both of Dorie’s Do-Almost-Anything Doughs. They’re easy to work with, full of flavour, and batched big enough to make several variations or an office party’s worth of one kind of cookie.

This week’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here, along with posts about the other Tuesdays with Dorie selected recipe for December, Breakfast Biscotti.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers

Ribollita

I received a review copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

And so, it’s time to wrap up this year’s Holiday Book Review Series. It’s been an especially good one, don’t you think? I want to thank Raincoast Books for generously sending me review copies of the six books in this year’s series and especially for giving my Canadian readers the opportunity to win a copy of one of them.

I’m ending with a cookbook that will serve you in good stead come January and resolution season. I’m not big on resolutions, but I do hold some intentions each new year. One that’s always on my list is to reduce the amount of waste in my life and to make the best use of the resources I’m lucky enough to have access to. A big part of this for me is reducing my food waste and that’s where River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers comes in. It’s a cookbook, certainly, but it’s also a handbook for making the most of your food and keeping as much as possible out of the waste stream.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has broadened his definition of leftovers to include more than what’s left in the serving dish after a meal. His recipes tackle the food that often gets discarded in the course of food preparation, like leaves, peels, bones, and rinds. He also includes the results of big batch cooking (or, as he calls them, ‘planned overs’) under the book’s umbrella, so that your fridge and pantry are filled with prepared foods, without the packaging and sometimes dubious quality of the store-bought variety.

The book is organized a little differently than most cookbooks, with chapters built around categories of leftovers, rather than meals or types of recipes. He begins with a discussion of planning for leftovers, with sensible advice from shopping through storage. Before the recipes begin, he shares an infographic of frequently occurring leftovers that serves as an alternate table of contents. His chapter on Launchpads for Leftovers is a condensed version of a conventional cookbook format, running through base recipes for everything from stocks to desserts.

The rest of the book is given over to recipes under categories of the most common leftover foods. He tackles meat, fish, and starches, but also trickier foods like greens, dairy, and eggs. These are the ones that I find most likely to languish in the fridge waiting for inspiration, then ending up in the compost.

Vegetable Peel Crisps

And your compost bin will be nearly empty, if you use the many nose-to-tail recipes Fearnley-Whittingstall includes in this book. Fish skins and trimmings can sub in for bacon, potato peels transform into a comforting, creamy soup, and broccoli stems can take the place of meat or fish in a carpaccio. His Vegetable Peel Crisps are typical of this approach. There’s no reason that root vegetable peelings should have to go into the compost, as long as they’re clean and free from bad spots. He tosses them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasts them in a slow oven. When they come out, you can add a sprinkling of smoked paprika, as I did. I used a mix of potato, parsnip, carrot, and yam peelings. I liked them better than potato chips and they’re definitely healthier.

Many Bean Salad

The crisps made a great lunchtime pairing with his Many Bean Salad, which is almost infinitely variable, depending on what you have on hand. I used a mix of beans, but it would have been equally good with lentils, chickpeas, or just about any other sort of pulse. I threw in some tuna (I liked that he specified sustainably fished tuna), celery, Malossol cornichons, celery, red onion, and grated parmesan. I used his recipe for mustardy vinagrette, with pickle brine in place of the vinegar. It’s the kind of salad you can find in other River Cottage cookbooks, but with an extra emphasis on using what you’ve already got on hand.

The leftover ingredients used in each of the recipes is highlighted, so that when you’re skimming through the book, you can note which work with the leftovers you’ve got on hand. It’s another design feature that is meant to make it easy for you to find ways to use up the contents of your fridge and pantry.

Leftover Ribollita

A time-honoured method of cleaning out the fridge is to make a soup, and Fearnley-Whittingstall includes a number of soups across his leftover categories. His take on Ribollita was especially inviting during the cold snap we’ve been experiencing in Vancouver. We’ve had snow sticking around for over a week, with more on the way. Warm, rich, filling soup is something I’ve been making a lot of lately.

The Love Your Leftovers version can help use up roasted roots, soup stock, Parmesan rind, pulses, and leftover greens. I skipped the rind and chose vegetable stock, as I’m planning to share the soup with a vegan this week. That didn’t stop me from adding a little Parmesan to my serving, and with the garlicky toast in the bottom of the bowl, it was perfectly delicious.

I’ve been trying to stock my fridge with ‘planned overs’ like big containers of roasted roots for a while, but I can be inconsistent. I keep intending to soak batches of beans on a more regular basis, so I can reduce my use of canned goods a bit (I don’t think I’m alone in this one). I can also be a little forgetful when it comes to leftover stock – there’s really no excuse for throwing out stock, but it’s something that’s happened more than I care to admit.

Scheduling recipes like this soup could help me to get a bit more consistent in the batch preparation I’d like to do more often, while keeping me from wasting staples like stock and greens – so many greens.

I don’t have permission to share the recipe with you, but you can find it on the River Cottage website:

Leftover Ribollita

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River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers*

I’ve been a fan of Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes for quite a while, especially after working through his River Cottage Veg with the Cottage Cooking Club. However, it’s his approach to food that’s stuck with me even more than his recipes. He uses what’s fresh and seasonal, certainly, but he also stocks his pantry with good quality canned and dried goods, so that delicious weeknight eating is something that can be accomplished year-round.

In that way, this cookbook is the perfect extension of his food philosophy. Not only are his recipes flavourful and accessible, they’re also making the best of every part of the good food he stocks in his kitchen. As much as I like project cooking and baking, special occasion recipes, and rich comfort foods, Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes are a better representation of how I prefer to eat most of the time. With River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers on my shelf, I’ll be able to do so even more effectively and sustainably. I think I’d even make a resolution to that effect.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the thrifty cook, the environmentalist eater, the seasonal gourmet, and the comfort food connoisseur.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 3 X 64 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – Marbled, Swirled, and Layered

Carrot and Parsnip Layer Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting

I received a review copy of Marbled, Swirled, and Layered from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I discovered Irvin Lin’s blog, Eat the Love, way back in 2010, when he participated in a round up of gluten-free Thanksgiving dishes hosted by Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl. I was struck by the creativity of his recipes, his openness to experimentation, and the visual impact of his blog. I loved the voice in his posts, combining stories and recipes in a smart and engaging way, while also genuinely connecting with his readers. His gorgeous creations should have been intimidating, but the way he wrote his descriptions and instructions had the opposite effect – making the reader feel that his projects were doable and that they’d be rewarded with flavour, even if they didn’t achieve picture-perfect results.

Over the years Lin’s blog has only gotten better, so it’s not surprising that he’s come out with a cookbook. It’s one that showcases what’s best about his approach to baking – inventive, playful, rooted in classics, but unafraid to explore new directions. When I first paged through Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, it was the flavour combinations that I noticed first – throughout his primary recipes and variations, he makes choices that show the title of his book doesn’t just refer to his dishes’ structure – he layers, swirls, and marbles flavour, too.

Lin does so with an attention to detail that I suspect comes from his background in design. His recipe titles reflect this – like his Lemon and Fresh Mint Shaker Tart with Masa Harina Crust or Seville Orange Bars with Salted Shortbread and Gin Meringue – but you can follow this precision right into the ingredients list. He uses alternative flours, browns butter, adds fruit or herbs or extracts, all in service of bringing flavours and textures together in inventive and delightful combinations.

For anyone who has been baking for a decade or three, these innovations are fun to try and the finished products are gratifying to serve. For anyone who is just starting out as a baker, his clear instructions will help you create complex and lovely baked goods that will make people think you’re an old hand.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Butterscotch Layered Cookies

The first recipe I tried, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Butterscotch Layered Cookies, is simple enough to make with kids, but its flavours are complex. The bottom layer combines browned butter and brown sugar to make a soft and chewy base that could pass for a peanut butter cookie. But that flavour is hidden in the top chocolate layer, cleverly signaled by a crosshatch.

I made this cookie as a donation to a bake sale table and they disappeared so quickly, I had to go home and make another batch.

Chocolate-Vanilla Checkerboard Cookies

My next holiday event was a cookie swap, so I stayed in the Cookies chapter and tried my hand at the Chocolate-Vanilla Checkerboard Cookies. These are old-fashioned butter cookies that are updated with vanilla bean and chocolate extract. They look complicated to construct, but Lin’s instructions walked me through the process quickly and perfectly (though I could use a little more symmetry in my execution).

I baked them all, filling my six-bag quota and bringing the rest to the swap for snacking. I had none to take back home with me.

Marbled Round Cookies

Well, that’s not entirely true. The scraps from squaring off the checkerboard cookies are layered and twisted into a log, then sliced and baked. I left this log in the fridge, bringing it out to bake for my parents. They didn’t last long, either.

Blueberry-Lemon Muffins with Cinnamon-Cardamom Swirl

Then, I skipped from the front of the book to the back for Blueberry-Lemon Muffins with Cinnamon-Cardamom Swirl. Whenever I visit my parents, I try to leave them some treats in the freezer to last them until my next visit. These muffins almost didn’t make it there. The spiced swirl through the classic combination of blueberry and lemon makes these muffins pretty irresistible. And the instructions are clear and detailed enough to guide even a beginning baker to muffin success, especially with the helpful end note that explains the muffin method.

Carrot and Parsnip Layer Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting

The last recipe I tested is also the one I’ve kindly been given permission to share with you – Carrot and Parsnip Layer Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting.

It’s a showstopper of a cake, but it’s rooted in the kind of cake that many of us grew up eating at picnics and potlucks. I really appreciate the way that Lin takes these old-fashioned favourites and brings them forward into the 21st Century.

The parsnip is an underloved vegetable that can be terrific in savoury or sweet dishes, but is usually relegated to a mash, soup base, or mixed roasted veg. Here it’s paired with its more popular cousin and allowed to shine in its own right.

Lin layers and contrasts flavours in this cake, while choosing ingredients that increase the complexity of texture and taste. It’s a long way from the potluck carrot cakes I remember, but it’s nearly as simple to create.

I actually made this cake twice. The first time was on Thursday morning (when this post was supposed to go up). I’d decided to make it for my parents, so that they could share it with our family and their friends. But, while the layers were cooling, the weather reports got increasingly hysterical and I ended up leaving before I could make the icing and assemble the cake. The promised Vancouver ‘snowpocalypse’ never really happened, but I didn’t have time to bake again until yesterday.

My pans were a little smaller than called for, but quite deep, so I have a taller cake than the original. It makes it a tiny bit unwieldy, but it is also quite spectacular. The contrast in colour between the outer and inner layers is striking and the spices used in each contrast just as beautifully. Almond flour gives the cake a soft texture and subtle nuttiness, while pineapple complicates the sweetness and makes the cake incredibly moist. The honey in the icing deepens its sweetness and compliments the flavours of the cake. And the coconut flakes that garnish the sides add a welcome crunch and another subtle flavour pairing with the pineapple inside.

I’ve been delivering wedges of this cake to co-op neighbours and friends. I’ll be sharing the rest at a committee meeting tomorrow. As with everything I’ve baked so far from this cookbook, there won’t be any leftovers for long.

CARROT AND PARSNIP LAYER CAKE WITH HONEY-CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Image credit: Linda Xiao. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Image credit: Linda Xiao. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Text excerpted from MARBLED, SWIRLED, AND LAYERED © 2016 by Irvin Lin. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.Makes 1 layer cake; 12 to 16 servings

I’m a creature of habit, so when my friend Annelies invited me to dinner in a neighborhood here in San Francisco that I rarely frequent, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I get to dine at a new restaurant, but I got to hang out with a friend too. After our meal, we agreed to split a dessert and were particularly smitten with the idea of the parsnip cake on the menu. Like carrot, parsnip has a subtle earthy and nutty sweetness when cooked. I’ve taken it even further, though, layering parsnip cake with carrot cake to really up the game. The deeper, almost creamy parsnip makes the common carrot brighter and more vibrant. With honey-sweetened cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of toasted coconut, this dense winter vegetable cake is now one of my favorites.

CAKE BATTER

  • 3 3⁄4 cups (525 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3⁄4 cup (90 g) almond flour or meal
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup (6 ounces or 170 g) finely chopped fresh pineapple (or drained canned crushed pineapple)
  • 1 pound (455 g) carrots, finely grated
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1⁄2 pound (225 g) parsnips, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

HONEY–CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 16 ounces (455 g or 2 bricks) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (225 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup (140 g) honey
  • 1 cup (115 g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

TO ASSEMBLE

  • 2 cups (170 g) unsweetened coconut flakes

MAKE THE CAKE BATTER

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat three 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.

Place the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and stir vigorously with a balloon whisk until the ingredients are evenly distributed and uniform in color. Place the sugar, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together for about 30 seconds on medium speed to incorporate. Add the eggs, one at time, beating until each is
incorporated before adding the next, then add the egg white. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and then add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the pineapple and mix until incorporated.

Scoop about one-third of the batter into a separate bowl. To the remaining larger amount of batter in the mixer bowl, add the carrots, cinnamon, turmeric, and cardamom, and fold to combine. To the second bowl of batter, add the parsnips, ginger, and nutmeg, and fold to combine. Pour the parsnip cake batter into one cake pan and divide the carrot batter between the other two cake pans.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a thin butter knife around the pan and invert the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.

MAKE THE HONEY– CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Combine the cream cheese, butter, honey, powdered sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until the frosting is pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Refrigerate the frosting for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

ASSEMBLE THE CAKE

Toast the coconut in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring gently, until golden brown (some of the coconut will brown faster than the rest; that’s fine). Immediately pour the coconut into a bowl to cool. Take the frosting out of the fridge and beat on medium speed for about 15 seconds to loosen it up. Place one carrot cake layer on a cake platter or stand, flat side up, and spread some frosting over the top of that layer. Place the parsnip layer over the frosting and repeat. Place the final carrot cake layer over the parsnip layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Using your hands, pat the toasted coconut all over the sides of the cake. Brush any stray coconut off the platter before serving.

* Unsweetened coconut flakes can be difficult to find. Some upscale grocery stores carry it, and often you can find it in the bulk section, where you can buy just enough for your recipe. At regular grocery stores, if it isn’t stocked in the baking section next to the sweetened shredded coconut, look for it near the dried fruit like raisins, dried ginger, and dried papaya. If you can’t find it, though, the sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut in the baking section will work. Just toast it over medium-low heat and pay extra attention if you use the sweetened shredded coconut. The sugar in the sweetened coconut will caramelize and burn faster than unsweetened shredded coconut.

I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of this cookbook. There are tarts, bars, and cobblers I can’t wait to try; deceptively humble quick breads alongside project bakes that are beautifully simplified. There are even a few savoury baked goods along the way.

Lin’s regard for his audience and enthusiasm for his art come through in his recipes, his headnotes, and in the helpful guides he provides throughout. He even includes recipes for his favourite gluten-free flour blends, making his baking as accessible as possible. Paired with his terrific instruction and delicious flavours, it’s no wonder this book is making all the year-end ‘best of’ lists.

Marbled, Swirled, and Layered by Irvin Lin

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Marbled, Swirled, and Layered to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of Marbled, Swirled, and Layered*

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the modern baker, the discerning dessert-maker, the best guest, and the playful patissier.

Come back on Saturday for a review of a book that will solve all your holiday postprandial dilemmas.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 16 X 37 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.