Cook the Book Fridays – Spiced Speculoos Flan

Spiced Speculoos Flan

I was missing an essential ingredient for this week’s recipe right up until this evening, finally finding speculoos butter at a grocery store on Commercial Drive, a few blocks from my house. I ran home and started making this even before considering what to have for dinner.

Speculoos Butter

Even so, I just managed to taste one of the flans a few minutes ago, after they first cooled to room temperature and then chilled in the refrigerator.

I’ve made and eaten many varieties of speculoos, but this was my first taste of cookie butter. It’s good, but I don’t think I’ll be spreading it on toast or eating it with a spoon. As an ingredient in these flans, though, it’s definitely moreish. I enjoyed it with the 5-Spice Caramel that tops it. The caramel is quite strong on its own, but the flan tempers it beautifully.

There will be more flan tomorrow, to eat and to share. It’s a good start to the weekend.

The flans, cooling.

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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Dorie’s Cookies – Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

I baked up a storm the last two weekends, helping stock the bake sale table at the craft fair my mother organizes every year. I made three selections from Dorie’s Cookies this year, including the Cranberry Spice Cookies that were one of this month’s selections. I took out some squash that I’d frozen to make the variation of the Sweet Potato Pie Bars, but my mother got hold of it and turned it into several delicious creations of her own, instead. Luckily, I’ve got a really big squash ready to roast, so I’ll make those bars some time before the holidays.

Peanut Brownie Sablés

I also made the Peanut Brownie Sablés and the Melody Cookies (in snowflake form!), along with several batches of cookies from other cookbooks and recipe cards. I managed to taste a couple of cookies along the way (thank goodness for broken cookies!), but I was in production mode, so didn’t take great photos of any of them.

Melody Cookies, masquerading as snowflakes

I am going to have to make all of these again, at a time when they’re not earmarked for sale – they were all so delicious that I was sorry all I got was a share of the very few broken bits when they were unpacked. The Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies were especially lovely, because they’re not sweet – amongst all the sugar bombs on the table, they made a nice contrast. I loved the way the butter and cranberries played against the spices. It’s a perfect cookie for a grown up dessert tray or a grown up cocktail nibble.

Cookie Mix and Match Bake Sale Table

I may not have gotten to eat many cookies this weekend, but I’m going to steal one of their ideas for my next cookie swap – the mix and match table was a huge hit!

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Bay Leaf Pound Cake

Bay Leaf Pound Cake

I love the French name for pound cake – weekend cake. The English name is so prosaic, a sort of short-hand recipe. The French name is functional in the best way, evoking family meals, snacks for adventures, and impromptu gatherings with friends. It’s a simple, sturdy cake that’s welcome at almost any occasion.

Its simplicity is also what makes it so open to variation. This week’s cake has elements of a standard orange pound cake, but the flavour is deepened by the addition of bay leaves and it’s finished with an orangey, boozy glaze.

I skipped a couple of steps, based on the pre-post comments at Cook the Book Fridays, leaving off the extra bay leaves at the bottom of the pan and not piping the extra tablespoon of butter down the centre of the loaf before baking. I think it’s a lovely cake, but I’d like to know if anyone knows:

  • Which side was meant to be the top of the cake? (Bay leaf pattern on top?)
  • What function the piped butter serves?

I’m still munching away on this cake and I’ve shared over half of it, so it’s a substantial loaf that will get you through the weekend and give you a head start on your work week, too.

Bay Leaf Pound Cake

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 – Bettelman

Homemade Brioche

The hardest part about this recipe for me was refraining from eating half the loaf of brioche I’d baked with this week’s recipe in mind. I used Dorie’s recipe from the back of Baking Chez Moi for the bread, which always works perfectly. I enjoyed several mornings (and evenings, if I’m being honest) of toast and jam before reserving the rest for this bread pudding.

The Bettelman itself is a breeze to make. My favourite part was pouring the hot milk over the bits of brioche in the bowl. The kitchen filled with the most amazing aroma – think freshly baked brioche mingled with custard. This is further enriched with vanilla, cinnamon, apples, and rum. I skipped the raisins, being me. When it’s baked, just as Dorie said, the Bettelman is more cake-like than conventional bread pudding, but it still retains the comforting softness and richness of its plainer cousin.

Bettelman out of the oven.

Bettelman was once thought of as economical food, saving scraps and turning them into something new. These days, it comes across more as a decadent treat. For me, it was a wonderful way to kick off a holiday long weekend with family, providing us with a comforting treat before the serious feasting began.

Bettelman (bread pudding)

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Madeleines

Madeleines

Last weekend was a feast of butter. I made Chicken Pot Parmentier (which I’ll tell you about on the next Cook the Book Friday), brioche, and these madeleines. I’ve had pretty good luck whenever I’ve made madeleines, even getting humps most of the time. This time around, there was something a little off with the texture, with large cracks in the top that I’m not used to seeing and the batter didn’t conform to the molds the way it usually does. Perhaps it was because the batter’s second rest was a bit longer than an hour, or perhaps I overworked the it a bit when incorporating the egg whites. This version shouldn’t be attempted on a day full of errands and projects, I think.

In this case, looks don’t matter because the flavour was perfect and the cakes were light. Madeleines are one of my favourite treats to bake for people, so I’m always glad to try another version.

I’m curious to know how many madeleines the average pan holds. This recipe called for two eight-madeleine molds and mine holds twelve, so I used one of my grandmother’s vintage tea cake pans for the balance of the batter. They turned out to be prettier than the ones in the madeleine pan. C’est la vie.

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.

Tuesdays with Dorie – September Omnibus Edition

The fading flowers of September

Summer is fading quickly, but I’m trying to enjoy the last of the flowers before turning my attention to the changing leaves.

For the first time in forever, it seems, I’ve managed to bake all the selections for this month’s Tuesdays with Dorie. Strange that it happened in a month in I was too busy to blog. So, I’m treating (?) you to an omnibus post of all September’s Baking Chez Moi and Dorie’s Cookies treats.

Smoothest, Silkiest, Creamiest, Tartest Lime Tart

Smoothest, Silkiest, Creamiest, Tartest Lime Tart

I made a full-sized version of this tart for my parents to take to one of their semi-annual get-togethers with some of their oldest friends. I held aside a bit of dough and a bit of filling to make a cook’s treat version for myself and it’s almost prettier than the larger version. To be fair, the one my parents got was whisked off before I could get a very good photo of it, but you can get a sense of how pretty it was even from this shot:

Lime tart ready for its final chill.

There isn’t much to say about this tart that isn’t expressed in its name, but I’ll add that it was a hit with my parents and their friends. I was left wishing I’d made a full-sized tart to keep on hand for myself. 😉

Basque Macarons

Basque Macarons

These are delicious in an entirely different way than their more famous (here, at least) cousins. They are crispy around the edges and chewy in the centre, with a caramel note that I can’t resist. Mine aren’t quite what they should be. I got carried away when spooning them out (they’re huge!) and I think I overworked the batter a touch (a byproduct of feeling a little overworked myself, perhaps). They were still delicious, just lacking the shape and crackled texture they should have had.

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

Double-Buckwheat Double-Chocolate Cookies

Double-Buckwheat Double-Chocolate Cookies

I split this dough into two logs, leaving one in my mother’s freezer with baking directions attached. I’m now sorry I did, because I baked these before a meeting and almost missed my chance to try them. My very generous meeting mates saved two for me, though, so I can attest these are delicious. I snuck a spoonful of cocoa nibs into the batter, after A Whisk & A Spoon‘s example, and they added yet another delicious element. Buckwheat on buckwheat with chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, topped with a little sugar and Maldon salt – don’t you wish you had a plateful of that? I do.

Devil’s Food Wafflets with Chocolate Sauce

Devil's Food Wafflets with Chocolate Sauce

These are just made for a Sunday brunch potluck. They’d disappear as soon as they came off the iron and the only danger would be streaks of chocolate across your counter as your guests dipped them into the chocolate sauce. I made a half-portion of the chocolate sauce, as I froze most of these, half for my parents and half for my uncle (there are perks to being seniors now, they’ve told me). There was sauce left over after we snacked on about a quarter of the batch, which I’m told made a nice accompaniment for my parents’ ice cream dessert. The waffles are light, rich, and not too sweet – a perfect foil for the chocolate sauce, but I suspect they’d be just as welcome with a dusting of icing sugar.

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

A whirlwind round up of a month of baking. I may not have had the time to post about them, but I’m glad I made the time to make these recipes. Baking is my most reliable salve for hectic times.

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

I stopped by Companion Books last week, a lovely used bookstore in Burnaby Heights. As much as I love new bookstores, I’m glad that there are still a number of well-curated used bookstores around. They carry titles that have disappeared from the shelves at new bookstores and even libraries, because they’re out of print or out of fashion. There’s a little triumph in finding a title that I’ve been desultorily seeking for years. I know I can find most things online, but the tactile pleasure of browsing through books is something I’d rather not give up. It’s also a great way to find new favourites that you might have overlooked if you’d only been looking online. The landscape of online reviews can be disappointingly homogenous, unless you already know what you’re looking for.

The Silver Palate Cookbook

I picked up a well-loved copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook, one that I was a little too young to be aware of when it came out. It’s like a handbook of ’80s food, both the celebrated and (often unfairly) maligned. I was surprised at how many now-familiar dishes it contains – ones that seemed exciting and new to my family in the restaurants we visited when I was young. It also serves as a cheat sheet for the entertaining that my parents and their friends did through my teen years. The Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken that I learned from the Urban Peasant was in this book first, along with all the tarragon, raspberry, quiche, and mousse recipes that first became ’80s cliché and now have been reclaimed.

What surprised me even more was how in tune it is with how I cook today, French-inflected, grounded in the mostly English traditions that pass for “Canadian” or “American” cooking, incorporating elements from across the globe. What’s changed today, of course, is that the European elements of cooking and eating in Canada and the States aren’t dampening the presence of all the other cuisines that are present here (including indigenous ones).

Its influence could also be seen in the magazines that came to our house, like Chatelaine and Canadian Living. I learned a lot about cooking from them, probably even more than I did from the cookbooks on my mother’s shelf. Cookbooks have a much larger presence in my cooking life today, as anyone who has read my blog probably knows. But, there are still terrific magazines like Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Ricardo that distill the influences of today’s cooking landscape for home cooks. Along with a host of blogs and cooking websites that can teach you anything you can think of.

It seems as though we’re more in tune with the influences that are rippling through the cultural landscape these days, mostly because there’s a legion of commentators and aficionados ready to break down the latest trends as soon as they become apparent.

All of which leaves me curious: What were your favourite cookbooks or magazines when you were young? Are there classics like The Silver Palate Cookbook that influenced you, though you discovered them much later? Where do you look for inspiration and edification today? Also, do you do all your book shopping online or are you a brick and mortar fan?

I’ll leave you with a recipe that’s very much in the spirit of how I cook today, but harks back to flavours popular in my early childhood (not with me, though – don’t worry!).

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

There are so many wonderful ways to eat peaches and I’m happy to try them all – grilled, in a pie or tart, in cakes, in chutneys and salsas, or just eaten out of hand. But, my favourite is peach crisp. If I don’t make at least one peach crisp each summer, I feel like I’ve missed the whole season.

Ginger and peaches are a classic combination, one I’ve posted about before. Canadian whiskey, generally called rye, is also another good companion for peaches. Together, they’re an improvement upon a ’70s standard drink that I can remember my grandparent, great-aunts and great-uncles drinking at barbecues when I was very small. Personally, I’d take this crisp over one of those any day, though if you’ve got a lot of liquid in the bowl after macerating the peaches, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strain some of the juice into a glass, topping it up with soda and a little more rye. Now, that’s a cook’s treat to keep to yourself.

1 8X5X2 baking dish

6 – 8 ripe, juicy peaches
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/8 cup Canadian rye whisky
1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet your peaches happen to be)

Topping

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Peel and chop the peaches into bite-sized chunks. Stir in the fresh ginger, rye, and brown sugar and leave the peaches to marinate for ten minutes or so.

To make the topping: Whisk together the brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, spices, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly texture.

Put the peaches into the baking dish, then cover them with the oat topping.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes.

Cook the Book Fridays – Stuffed Vegetables & Babas with Pineapple

Duck Fat Potatoes

I have an ice cream problem, and not the one you’d think. I’ve stuffed the freezer with homemade tomato sauce, berries, rhubarb,and all the other summery goods that I’ll be grateful for in winter. But, I’ve left no room for the bowl of my ice cream maker. So, instead of apricot kernel ice cream, I’m catching up on the other two recipes for August’s Cook the Book Fridays, which I made on time and then neglected to post about.

Stuffed Vegetables (Légumes Farcis)

Stuffed Vegetables

I made these at the beginning of the month, but I was just so busy that I didn’t have an opportunity to post about it. I made the full amount of these, sending some home with my mother so that she could have an easy dinner component while my Dad was away. I was grateful for the same with the ones I kept.

I used eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and tomato as the vessels for this dish and I used ground moose in the filling. I changed the seasonings a little, adding some smoked paprika and mixing it with fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe, finishing the dish with Italian parsley and basil from my garden.

I enjoyed these, but they were a little drier than my usual recipe, which incorporates rice. They made for a good meal, though, with duck fat potatoes. (Hey, that makes three catch up recipes this week!) You can see the potatoes at the top of this post.

Kirsch Babas with Pineapple

Babas with Pineapple

These were fun to make. They’re a little like popovers, but they seem so brittle when they come out of oven. I thought they’d disintegrate when I gave them their syrup bath, but they plumped and shone, becoming miraculously resilient. The pineapple is a terrific accompaniment for these, and so easily made, once the messiness of breaking it down is through. I stuck with rum for these, simply because I couldn’t find kirsch at the closest liquor store.

I’ll leave you with a photo of a dish only tangentially related to the group – a tomato and goat cheese tart that I made to test-drive Mardi’s pâte brisée from In the French Kitchen with Kids. It was so easy to work with and baked up beautifully!

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

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.

Tuesdays With Dorie – Cold Chocolate Crémeux, Wine-Poached Cherries and Lots of Crumbs & Rosemary-Parm Cookies

It’s one of those rare months when I’ve had the opportunity to make everything on the schedule for this month’s Tuesdays with Dorie picks. I even managed to post about them, twice!

Cold Chocolate Crémeux, Wine-Poached Cherries and Lots of Crumbs

Cold Chocolate Crémeux, Wine-Poached Cherries and Lots of Crumbs

The first dessert is one I’ve been meaning to try since I got the book. Cherry season is fleeting, though, and I’ve never managed to get ’round to this one until I had the extra prompting of having it on the Baking Chez Moi schedule. I’ve been missing out. All the components of this dessert are delicious in their own right and together they make a beautiful and delicious treat. I made this dessert on the same day as I made the Babas with Pineapple for Cook the Book Fridays. I gave some of each to my parents, with the following instructions:

Baba + pineapple + whipped cream.

Crémeux + cherries + cocoa crumbs.

They quite happily followed (then flouted) my instructions and loved every bit of them.

As did I. The crémeux was a joy to make and managed to be perfectly smooth and creamy without straining. I love the texture that gelatin gave the pudding, which was so rich and chocolatey that it could pass for ganache. The cherries were wonderful poached in wine and I made extra, which gave my morning yogurt a little sophistication once the crémeux was gone.

The crumbs, though. I’m not sure how happy I am to know how easy it is to make them. They were incredible in the dessert and could easily be added to, well, almost everything. It reminds me of whenever I’ve made the caramelized Rice Krispies for Dorie’s Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars. Everyone wants them in everything.

The best part of this week’s dessert is how easy it was to schedule and make an impressive multi-part dessert. I’m considering organizing a neighbourhood dessert party this winter, mostly because it helps me distribute my baked goods. I’d love to have a dessert bar loaded with components of desserts that people can mix and match, as my parents did with the desserts I left for them.

Rosemary-Parm Cookies

Making the Rosemary-Parm Cookies

I’ve been procrastinating about this one, even though I was the one who suggested it for the schedule. My rosemary plant is prolific, I’ve got all the ingredients on hand, and I can’t wait to try them. What I haven’t had is a good occasion for them. These are cookies I want to pass around, seeing what everyone thinks. So, I’m making them as I write this post – something I do quite a lot, come to think of it. My compromise was to divide the dough into three, one small one to bake off tonight and two larger disks for when the occasion calls for some adventurous cookies.

The dough itself comes together beautifully and my hands and my kitchen are still fragrant with rosemary-sugar. I love Dorie’s trick of rubbing aromatics into sugar more than just for its effectiveness at distributing flavour. It’s a soothing process that engages the senses, making me more attuned to the texture and fragrance of the dough as I work it in turn. The perfume it leaves behind makes its hour-long rest in the refrigerator seem longer, though.

My impatience was warranted, by the way. These cookies are sandy in the best sablé cookie manner, they’re flavour is both delicate and earthy, barely sweet and just a touch salty. The rosemary and Parmesan don’t overwhelm, while the pecans give a nutty undertone rather than taking centre stage.

It’s a balanced, pretty, delicious little cookie and I’m looking forward to taking out the remaining discs of dough when it’s time to share.

Rosemary-Parm Cookies

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

AND

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

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.