Baking Chez Moi – Cornmeal & Berry Cakes

Cornmeal and Berry Cakes

Muffins and cupcakes went through faddish phases and now are disdained by those who fancy themselves food sophisticates. But, little cakes have their place. They can be frozen and enjoyed over time. Their single-serving size might suggest individualism, but nothing speaks of sharing as much as a container full of them. A large cake is impressive, but it can also have a gatekeeper (like the poor host who served 1 centimetre by 1 centimetre pieces of cake to people he wanted to insult). Even mini-cupcakes are inherently polite and egalitarian.

They’re especially convenient for someone like me, who gets the urge to bake whether or not there are people to feed. My freezer is filled with projects savoury and sweet, awaiting occasions for sharing or celebration.

Some of these little cakes are going into the freezer, though fewer than usual. Sweet olive oil and polenta cakes are hard for me to resist. These also include a considerable portion of butter and are flavoured with lemon, blueberries, and a pinch of cardamom. The recipe calls for raspberries, but their season is over, so I used blueberries instead. The cardamom was a last-minute addition.

I over-filled the muffin tins, so they’re not as pretty as they might be. I think when people taste them, they’ll forgive me. I also think that those who turn their noses up at little cakes might find themselves betrayed by their sense of smell – I can’t imagine anyone being able to turn these down just because they’re cupcake-shaped, can you?

You can find the recipe here and if you really can’t stand the idea of a small, round cake, fret not – the recipe is really meant for mini-loaves.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here or here, along with posts about July’s other selected recipe, Summer Market Galette. And here’s the link for any other recipes members chose for this week’s Rewind Post.

Baking Chez Moi – Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake

  
Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! Here’s to continuing the march toward equality for all women, across the world and at home.

Baking may not seem like a good fit on a day that’s dedicated to women’s equality, but all the activist and community groups I’ve been part of have fuelled change with agile minds and satisfied stomachs. Even cookbooks have been wielded as tools for change by feminists – suffragists used them to spread their message, filling them with recipes and resistance.

So in this spirit, I think it’s fitting that I’m writing about a cake that begs to be shared. Any group of people who were lucky enough to find this orange cake on their meeting room table might find the fortitude to change the world.

I have a special fondness for orange cake – my grandmother used to make it and it was a favourite for everyone in the family. Unfortunately her recipe is lost to us, so I’ve tried any that I’ve encountered in an attempt to find one that measures up to my memory of hers.

That’s the problem, of course – what can measure up to a treasured memory? So, I just enjoy the orange cakes as they come along, noting down the ones that come close, along with those I appreciate just for themselves.

Odile’s Orange Cake falls into the second category. Though I think my grandmother would have appreciated the orange-y, buttery flavour very much, it’s a cake that’s different in kind than the one she used to make. Hers was moist, with a fine crumb, but also sturdier than this cake. That’s no surprise, since this one is soaked in the syrup used to poach the oranges that decorate it. It’s not just moist, it’s suffused with moisture in the best possible way.

  
There’s something else that’s different about this cake. I used goat butter to make it. It’s a delicious butter that has a different character than that made from cow’s milk. If you’re interested, Chowhound made a short video on the subject.

This recipe was well worth using my tiny stash of goat butter. And I think that if I bring it to my committee meeting tomorrow night, it might be the perfect way to celebrate solidarity amongst a group of women working to benefit our community.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake.

Tea and Apples

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On Sunday, I had a near-perfect day. I started by baking apple pielettes, this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie selection. Then, I went to Heritage Hall for Tea Sparrow‘s Tea-Off. After tasting (and tasting again) eighteen teas, we walked a block and had dinner at Burgoo, one of my favourite places for comfort food in the city.

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The apple pielettes (or pielets, depending on your spelling preference) are going to become a seasonal feature in my kitchen. They’re made with the galette dough from Dorie’s Baking Chez Moi, which she describes as “both sturdy and supple.” Sturdy enough to hold the saucy apple filling, supple enough to fit into muffin cups easily. But when you bite into it, it’s not tough at all. Instead it’s flaky, tender, and delicious.

For the filling, I decided to keep things simple, opting for apples with apricot jam and a little cardamom and cinnamon. I don’t think I need to tell you the filling was as delicious as the crust. Nearer the holidays, I think a version with dried cranberries might be in the works.

I sent some downstairs to my neighbour for her birthday, then sent some more home with my mother. They were my companions for the tea-tasting and for dinner and I believe they had a great day, too.

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We certainly enjoyed the seemingly endless cups of tea we had at the Tea-Off. I’ve told you about Tea Sparrow before and the process they use to choose the teas that go into their monthly boxes.

This time, we sampled teas that ran from cocoa and chocolate notes to herbaceous tisanes. I enjoyed most of the teas presented, but I had some favourites:

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The last one surprised me, because it doesn’t fit my usual tea preferences, but the flavours were beautifully balanced.

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There’s an endless amount of learning in the world of tea. Even though I’ve been drinking it since adolescence, I feel I’m still a novice in many ways. Visiting the Tea and Coffee Show helped and I’m looking forward to learning more at the Vancouver Tea Festival in November.

But, in some ways, I’ve learned most from those for whom tea has become a passion. At the tea-tasting at Tea Sparrow last week, I picked up a lot of interesting information, including these tidbits:

  • Some big tea companies pre-stale their tea before it hits the shelves to ensure a uniform flavour.
  • There are no real standards for tea, so companies like Tea Sparrow have to do a lot of their own research and testing to determine which teas are free from additives and artificial ingredients.
  • The growing popularity of premium teas is prompting larger tea vendors and corporations to cater to this market, making more clean, quality teas available to everyone.

The next step will be nurturing a tea-serving culture that has the standards of coffee barista service – no more lukewarm brewing or 1/2 cup portions of tea leaves in a cup, please!

I came home with a package of Vanilla Honeybush tea, which I happily enjoyed with my remaining apple pielettes. Since I gave so many away, I think I’m justified in making another batch this weekend, don’t you?

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Apple Pielets.

Buttery Jam Cookies – A Tuesdays with Dorie Catch Up

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I toyed with the idea of blogging for years before I began and one of my regrets was that I didn’t start soon enough to join in with the first round of Tuesdays with Dorie, when they baked their way through Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking From My Home to Yours.

Happily, Laurie Woodward started French Fridays with Dorie right around the time I finally did start blogging, as well as rebooting Tuesdays with Dorie – first, with a bake-a-long through Baking with Julia and most recently, Baking Chez Moi. I worked through a number of the Baking with Julia recipes with my nieces, until their newly adult lives took them in other directions. I join in with the Baking Chez Moi schedule whenever I can.

Today, though, I’m going to sneak in a post about one of my favourite recipes from Baking From My Home to Yours. It’s not the flashiest recipe in the book, but it’s one of the most satisfying ones for me. I love having homemade goodies for guests or to bring as gifts when I visit friends, but I often find myself baking without much time to spare.

As long as you’ve got some room-temperature butter on hand (and if you don’t, The Kitchn‘s got you covered), you can have freshly made cookies on hand at even the shortest of notice. And if you have the sort of friends that drop in, you can invite them into the kitchen while you bake. Kitchen visits are the best, anyway.

Even better, it’s a great way to use up any of the jams you’ve been collecting in your fridge. Toast may have become its own food group, but jam can do so much more. Especially when it’s paired with ginger or another complementary spice.

I’ve used a number of different jams with this recipe and most pair with ginger really well. I’ve added a little black pepper when I’ve used strawberry jam and substituted ground cardamom when I used plum jam. It’s a very forgiving recipe, because the butter cookie base makes just about any flavour combination shine.

This time, I used some ginger peach jam that my neighbour gave me (I gave her some of the jam back in cookie form). I felt the cookies would have benefitted from a little heat – perhaps some black pepper, but maybe the tiniest bit of cayenne. Does that sound too out there? I think it would work.

I still have some of that jam left. These cookies are so easy that they invite experimentation. I may have to stock up on butter.

See what else the Tuesdays with Dorie crew has been catching up on: Rewind!.

Baking Chez Moi – Apple Kuchen

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Working through Around My French Table and now Baking Chez Moi, I’m so often struck by the cultural heterogeneity that is France.

Just as languages bear the traces of migration, conflict, and trade, so too do our recipe boxes. In a country such as France, that’s seen millennia of shifting borders, population, and governance, it’s not surprising that French cuisine is diverse. Of course, the menus of the French restaurants of my youth didn’t reflect that at all.

It took discovering writers like Julia Child, Elizabeth David, and M.F.K. Fisher to show me the breadth of French cuisine. It took joining French Fridays with Dorie to fully explore the reaches of French cooking in my own kitchen.

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie dish is a gift from its neighbour, Germany. Kuchen (which really just means cake) is itself a dish full of diversity – the word has travelled all around the world and depending on your destination, kuchen can be cheesecake-like, strudel-ish, reminiscent of coffee cake, or nearly pie.

It can also be this: a tender tart crust that’s also sturdy enough to hold butter-soaked cookie crumbs, topped with roasted apples and boozy dried fruit, suspended in a rum-flavoured custard. It was just as good as it sounds and don’t be fooled by the toasty bits on top – the last step is slathering the top with sugar and butter and running the cake under the broiler. I had to stop myself from nibbling at these bits of fruit and content myself with those on my own piece.

I was very content, as you might imagine.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Apple Kuchen.

Baking Chez Moi – Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies

  

In my favourite storybooks, when I was small, the bears…or rabbits…or children always seemed to come home for tea. This was probably the beginning of my tea obsession, but there was something else that stuck with me.

The description of jam-filled cookies and the illustration of perfectly round, lightly browned, sturdy cookies – sometimes iced, sometimes plain. Now, I realize that these were probably the easiest things to draw, but they piqued my imagination. I never did find a cookie that measured up precisely, though Dorie’s Palets de Dames came close.

However, these Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies come closest of all. There’s something about the shape of them that’s reminiscent of a vintage drawing. Something about the texture – soft without too much give. And something about the jammy surprise in the centre that’s pure nostalgia. Who can say why these satisfy this particular memory for me? I just know that when I have grand-nieces and nephews, I’ll be baking these cookies for them for storytime.

You can find the recipe here. And for the record, I used peach jam, mixed with a tiny bit of ginger. It was a great choice.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies.

A Lot of Catching Up to Do

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I’ve got a fistful of draft posts awaiting completion, but instead, I’ve been making Periscope videos and commenting on other people’s blogs.

Since French Fridays with Dorie wrapped up, I haven’t been keeping up with my favourite bloggers as well as I’d like. So, I’m going to spend time giving them some comment love this weekend. Would you like to join me?

You can find most of them in this list: French Fridays Folks & Cottage Cooks

If I’m missing someone, let me know in the comments.

I’m going to leave it at that tonight. It’s a long weekend, after all. Have a great Labo(u)r Day!

Cherry Crumb Tart – A Baking Chez Moi Catch Up

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What don’t you have time for? It might seem like it’s quite a long list.

But, a better question might be, what do you have time for?

For me, that includes making things by hand, whether that’s a pair of booties for a friend’s baby or a meal made with the freshest ingredients of the season. I’d much rather spend my down time on those things than in front of the television.

I certainly had time for this tart, even though it takes a little planning and patience. Dorie has streamlined her sweet tart dough so that it does all its resting in the pan, getting it baked and cooled a lot sooner than her earlier versions. Still, you have to factor that time into the equation before you commit to this tart.

The filling needs an hour in the fridge, so start with that and you will be ready to go as soon as the tart crust has cooled. In the meantime, mix the streusel and pit the cherries. (While you pit the cherries, you can even watch television. I’m not a puritan, you know.)

The tart bakes for about forty-five minutes, and then another half-hour or so after you top it with the streusel, which gives you plenty of time to get a summer supper together.

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By the time you’ve finished dinner, it will be cool enough to serve. With a flourish of icing sugar, if you’re so inclined.

Now, who wouldn’t have time for that?

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Cherry Crumb Tart.

Baking Chez Moi – Rhubarb Upside Down Brown Sugar Cake

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Rhubarb is one of my favourite spring treats and it seems that there are an infinite number of ways to use it. Savoury, sweet, roasted, baked, stewed – the only difficulty is keeping a steady enough supply to try them all. Inevitably, though, the recipes I come back to are the ones that treat it simply and let it shine.

This cake belongs on that list. I’ll have made it several times before rhubarb season is through. I made it for the first time in April, in the midst of a sort of Caramel-palooza. Caramelizing the topping before putting it in the oven gives it an extra richness, beyond that achieved by sprinkling brown sugar and pats of butter on the bottom of the pan (as nice as that is). And the cake itself would be good with just about any topping.

Slice of rhubarb

I haven’t found time to drop into this group much since we started Baking Chez Moi, but now that French Fridays with Dorie is wrapping up Around My French Table, I suspect you’ll be seeing a bit more of me. I look forward to baking more often with all of you.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Rhubarb Upside Down Brown Sugar Cake.

Baking Chez Moi – Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

There are many reasons why I love to bake, but eating what I bake isn’t at the top of my list. Don’t misunderstand me, I love baked goods and I think homemade ones are the best. But sharing what I bake rates higher for me, as does the act of baking itself. There’s something calming about the methodical nature of baking and something satisfying about the progression of a baking project. And though tasting is the final step in this progression, it’s the aroma of something delicious in the oven that’s really the sensory payoff for me.

This is especially true of this week’s Baking Chez Moi assignment. From the moment I started scraping the pulp from the vanilla pod, my home smelled wonderful. After the butter browned, the aroma was heady. By the time the loaf came out of the oven, it was intoxicating. I felt it was very unfair that I’d read Dorie’s comment that the loaf improves after a day’s rest, because I really wanted to slice into that cake immediately. Actually, I wanted to set it in front of me on my desk. Who needs a bouquet when you can have the scent of this loaf perfuming your space, instead?

Well, wait I did and the cake rewarded me with a tender, sponge-like crumb and a gentle crispness at the edges. There is no need to spread butter on this loaf cake – browned butter is present in every bite. It would be good used as shortcake might be, covered in macerated berries and cream. Stale, it might be perfect in a parfait. Right now, though, I like it just as it is, eaten out of hand. I’m looking forward to trying it toasted in a day or two, as well. Then, I might break out just a little more butter.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake.