Back to blogging! The school year is winding down which is kind of crazy and kind of sad. While I’m super excited for my summer gig it will definitely be a bit of an adjustment getting back into working mode. It will NOT be an adjustment having no homework though. Hollllerrr!
Spring quarter is basically the fun quarter since you’re already into your routine, recruiting is behind you AND the weather is nice. To say I’ve been having a blast this quarter is an understatement.
So a few weeks back I got a last minute invite to a Cinco de Mayo potluck/party. Problem was people had already signed up for mains and apps and I didn’t want to just contribute booze so I started looking for Mexican-ish dessert ideas. This lead me to the Alfajor. Apparently they originate in Spain and Latin America which totally works with the Cinco De Mayo theme. For the uninitiated the alfajor is a somewhat crumbly cookie that is often filled with dulce de leche or jam and can be dipped in chocolate or dusted with powdered sugar. In my opinion they are just crack.
It’s moments like this that I wonder if I’m a masochist. Here I was going to a dinner party with people I don’t know in about 2 hours and here I was about to attempt something I’ve never ever made before. Isn’t the number one rule of dinner parties to make something familiar? Not if you’re me. I guess I like to live dangerously.
I did a lot of digging and settled on this recipe from CHOW as my source recipe for the alfajores. Perhaps the coolest thing about this recipe is that it calls for 1 cup of cornstarch and only 3/4 cups of flour. This makes for a super crumbly cookie. I substituted rum for the pisco or brandy in the recipe since it’s what I had on hand. The dough is also a bit of a bitch to work with. It’s hard to get it to stay together BUT it is forgiving in that you can re-roll is a bunch of times and not really mess it up too bad.
These cookies are honestly my new favourite thing to make. Since that Cinco de Mayo party I’ve made them two more times and I kind of want to make another batch right now. It’s hard to resist buttery goodness with a layer of dulce de leche.
1 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pisco or brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Dulce de Leche, at room temperature
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Place the cornstarch, measured flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk briefly to combine; set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, pisco or brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). Stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is gone.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. (The cookies will remain pale on top.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Flip half of the cookies upside down and gently spread about 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche on each. Place a second cookie on top and gently press to create a sandwich. Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.
Recipe via CHOW
Man oh man! Where does time go? My last post was January 30th and here we are sitting at the end of March. Needless to say the past few months have been kind of crazy… “kind of” being a serious understatement. I’m actually writing this as I listen to Justin Timberlake’s new CD while sitting in a hotel room in Muscat, Oman. Yup, I’m in the Middle East for two weeks over spring break for a class. There will likely be a post on this at some point.
So, what made the past few months so crazy? Going into business school everyone warned that winter quarter (January to March) is basically the worst because it’s recruiting season. To summarize, every first year gets worked up into a tizzy trying to find a 10-week internship for the summer. Into. A. Tizzy. Me included. I did a lot of consulting recruiting which means a lot of case prep which in layman’s terms means meeting classmates for over an hour everyday to practice cracking business cases in preparation for interviews. Then (if you’re lucky – i was) you get the chance to interview with the big companies and hope you get passed onto the second round and ultimately get that job. Second rounds are generally in the city where you would be working so you’re likely missing class for classes that you haven’t been paying attention in because you’ve been so focused on recruiting. Then, heaven forbid you don’t get one of those jobs upfront (I didn’t) and you have to do an off-campus job search which means there’s no clear ending in sight as to when you will secure your 10-week summer gig. So I dubbed February the month of rejection and decided to go out on a limb and take chances on a few things because in February, rejection was the name of the game. It was actually more fun than it sounds because when you expect rejection and it happens it’s less awful and if you don’t get rejection then things are that much more fun. Unless it makes things more confusing (it did…twice) and then you are like WTF!?!?!
With the month of rejection behind me I dubbed March the month of tying up loose ends. The best loose end is that I found a summer gig. Luckily right before spring break in the craziest of crazy twists of fate I got an offer from a major global food manufacturer (that I had actually included in my first draft of essays in my application to Kellogg) to do brand management for the summer. I’m still not sure how all of the stars in the universe lined up just so to make it happen but needless to say I am thrilled AND will be in Chicago for the summer. Other loose ends were tied up (I got Beyonce tickets!) with various degrees of hilarity and others are totally NOT tied up. Which leaves me needing a theme for April…
That was a lot of personal ish. Let me just write about making beef patties.
I grew up eating Jamaican beef patties. Not just because I’m Jamaican (which didn’t help) but because in Toronto (at least back in the day) every corner store and some subway stations would sell beef patties. When I was little I was partial to the patties at Bathurst Station or Patty King. As I grew up I realized that Randy’s on Eglinton is where it’s at (beef, chicken, veggie… doesn’t matter) but I also appreciate Allen’s in Peanut Plaza particularly for their goat patty. With such an abundant supply of patties we never made patties at home (kind of like how the French don’t make croissants at home). Over the summer I was talking to someone about food (shocking) and I realized that it had never occurred to me to make patties before. So in a fit of February procrastination I decided to make me some patties.
I would say my primary source recipe was this recipe from the New York Times. I of course consulted some of my Jamaican cookbooks for validation and from a spice perspective things seemed pretty spot on so I was confident. Unsurprisingly, making Jamaican beef patties is quite a bit of work. You have to make the filling. Let it cool. Make the dough. Roll out the dough. Make the patties. It’s definitely a process. BUT at the end I ended up with a lot of patties in my freezer which have come in so handy under so many circumstances so I’m not even complaining.
The patties turned out pretty fantastic. The filling was pretty spot on in terms of flavouring and would’ve been even better if I could find the proper Jamaican scallion and thyme. My crust was a bit too thick and not as flaky as I would’ve liked. Ideally I would love to secure some beef suet and see how that stacks up compared to vegetable shortening. Definitely a success.
Jamaican Beef Patties
For the crust:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder, preferably West Indian
1½ cups cold vegetable shortening or chopped beef suet (about 12 ounces)
For the filling:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 scallions, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Scotch bonnet chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 pound ground beef, about 80 percent lean
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Coco bread, hamburger buns or soft potato buns, for serving (optional).
1. Mix flour, salt, turmeric and curry powder in a large bowl. Add shortening or suet and use your fingertips to rub it together with flour. When shortening is in small pieces and covered with flour, pour in ½ cup ice water and mix with your hands. Keep adding ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, until mixture forms a dough. It may be slightly sticky. Knead dough for two minutes, form into two disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you make filling.
2. Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat and add scallions, onion, garlic and half the chili pepper. Cook, stirring, until softened but not browned. Add paprika and allspice and stir to coat. Add beef and thyme and stir, breaking up any clumps. Add water just to cover meat. Mix in salt, pepper and sugar and bring to a simmer. Taste for seasonings, adding salt, pepper and chili pepper, if necessary; mixture should be quite spicy. Simmer about 30 minutes, until meat is soft and water is reduced to a sauce. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove one disk of dough from refrigerator and divide it in half. Roll out one half on a lightly floured surface until large enough to cut three circles, each about 6 inches across. (Use the rim of a bowl turned upside down as a guide.) Repeat with remaining dough, setting aside the circles. Use scraps to make additional small patties, if you like.
4. When ready to fill, have ready a fork for crimping and a bowl of water. Place two tablespoons of filling on lower half of one circle. Dip a finger into water and moisten the edge of the dough. Fold the top half over, pulling dough gently over filling and making a thick edge all around. Crimp edge with a fork and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, preferably nonstick. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Bake about 25 minutes, until top crust is firm and golden. Serve hot as is or inside buns.
Yield: 12 patties.
via The New York Times
One of my goals this year was to make food a priority. For me that doesn’t just mean eating proper meals (I’m EXCELLENT at that) but reminded myself to explore my love of experimenting with food. To kick off this year of experimentation I decided to make bagels.
Yes, I made bagels.
I’ve basically grown up loving bagels. As a kid it was often supermarket bagels but as I grew up we upgraded to bakery bagels and life got so much better. I grew up with a lot of Jewish friends so bagel brunches with all of the fixings were pretty much always on my radar (yay lox!). Now let’s throw in a stint living in NYC and visits to Montreal and my bagel game was definitely kicked up a notch.
Living in Evanston I have been uninspired by the bagel scene (although I recently learned that there IS a place that makes great bagels). Local bakeries don’t really make bagels, I don’t love supermarket bagels and I pretty much refuse to get bagels from Panera or Einstein Bros. And don’t even get me started on the lack of great cream cheese. Life. Is. Rough. So since I was craving bagels I decided to make them myself.
Here’s the funny thing about making bagels, it somehow sounds intimidating but they are actually SHOCKINGLY simple to make. If you’re open to making bread you should be open to make bagels. The process basically involves making a sponge the night before (flour, water, yeast) and letting that do it’s thing. The next day you add flour and a few other things to the sponge and mix it in your stand mixer (if you have it). There’s some rising and shaping in there as well and then you boil and then bake the bagels. That’s it! I promise, it isn’t difficult.
The bagels turned out shockingly well. And since they were easy to make a part of me thinks I will never buy bagels again. What was also great is that I could customize the size of my bagels. It seems that many bagels are in the 4 oz range but since I like them a bit smaller I made my bagels 3 oz. Plus you can do all sorts of customization. I went for sesame seeds but you could do different coloured seeds or a combination. I could even do cinnamon cranberry instead of the dreaded raisin bagel. Possibilities are endless on this one kids.
Go make bagels. And use this recipe from Ruhlman.
Sponge (4 to 12 hours before baking; I did this overnight)
500 grams flour/18 ounces/ 3.5 cups
500 grams water/18 ounces/ 2 1/4 cups
3 grams active dry yeast/3/4 teaspoon
Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside for at least 4 hours (I did this overnight).
To Make the Bagels
18 grams kosher salt/.6 ounces/1 tablespoon
18 grams honey/1 scant tablespoon
18 grams malt syrup/1 tablespoon (you can substitute molasses or brown sugar)
446 grams flour/16 ounces/ 3 cups
Baking Soda (1/2 tablespoon for every 2 liters/1/2 gallon water)
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt or other garnish (optional but recommended
Add salt, honey, malt syrup, and flour to the sponge, and then add the flour. Using a dough hook on your stand mixer, mix for 8-10 minutes.
Once the dough is mixed, move it to your counter, cover it with a cloth and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. While this is happening, fill a deep pot with water and begin to heat it on the stove. Measure how much water you’ve used so that you know how much baking soda to add. When the water starts to simmer add the baking soda and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Divide the dough into 3-4 oz pieces (depending on preference). Make each piece into a ball and allow them to rest for a few minutes, covered. After allowing the balls to rest, flatten them into disks slightly (you want them about 3-4 inches wide) and make a whole in the centre using your thumb. Place on the counter, covered, and allow to rise.
After about 10 minutes, flip the bagels over and allow to rise a bit more until the side facing up is slightly puffy. When this happens (about 5 minutes) it’s time to boil! Ensure the water is at a simmer drop in 3-4 bagels at a time and let them simmer for one minute on each side.
Remove the bagels from the water with a large spoon and sprinkle with any toppings (you can even brush with a bit of egg white and water to help the seeds stick). Bake for 12-13 or until golden brown.
The thing about being away from home is that every once in a while I start missing me some Canadian stuff. The other week I posted on Facebook that I was craving poutine, tourtiere, coffee crisps and butter tarts. And boy was I ever! I pretty much wanted to eat all four things at once. Sure there are a few places in Chicago to get poutine (which I have yet to try) but I’d be shocked if I could get my hands on a decent tourtiere. And coffee crisps? I doubt I’d be able to find them since no one really imports random Canadian chocolate bars. My friend Joel suggested that I just make butter tarts and it was totally one of those “I should’ve had a V8″ moments. Why DON’T I make butter tarts!
And so I did.
A few years ago I made butter tarts using this Canadian Living recipe that turned out pretty good but I wanted to try something different. A bit of googling turned up this recipe from Saveur, which happens to be one of my fave food magazines, so I went for it… at around 10 p.m. I swear, I’m forever starting baking projects around bedtime that stretch past midnight. I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s that point in the day when I’ve gotten through most of my to-do list or maybe I get my second wind? Not sure. But it’s probably not the best idea to bake so late and then consume treats at 1 a.m.
Butter tarts are shockingly simple to put together… if you don’t have an aversion to making pie crust. The original recipe says to make the pie crust by hand, but I’m a cheater and love making pie crust in the food processor. It makes life so much easier and you still end up with a flaky, delicious crust. I would love to hear a good argument against making pie crust in the food processor. Seriously.
I also switched things up by NOT using raisins and using walnuts instead. If you’ve spent any time with me talking about food with me then you probably know that I have a SERIOUS aversion to raisins. Waste. Of. Grapes. That’s one of my biggest beefs with butter tarts, they are often corrupted by those yucky little critters. I would normally include pecans but didn’t have any but DID have a big bag of walnuts so they found their way into the mix.
The rest of the prep basically involves mixing the filling ingredients and filling the shells and that’s it. Super easy.
While I don’t have a great memory of the last time I made butter tarts, I have to see these were probably better. As in, I would make these every week if that wasn’t such an obscene idea. They were sufficiently buttery and the maple syrup rounded out the flavours nicely by adding a bit of a twang to things. Well-played Saveur. Well. Played.
(makes 2-3 dozen)
For the tart shells:
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1 tbsp. white vinegar
For the filling:
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 cups walnuts, chopped
1. For the tart shells: Combine flour, and salt in bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add shortening and pulse a few times until the mixture forms very coarse crumbs. Whisk together egg, vinegar, and 1 cup cold water in a measuring cup and with the motor running add to the mixture in food processor. Continue to process until mixture forms a ball (doesn’t take long, a few seconds). Remove dough from food processor and press dough into a rough ball, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Give dough several quick kneads with the heel of your hand to form a smooth dough, then shape into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
2. For the filling: Combine butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and corn syrup in a saucepan over low heat; stir until butter melts and mixture is well combined. Set aside to cool for 3-4 minutes. Beat 1 of the eggs in a small bowl, then add to filling and mix well. Repeat with remaining eggs. Stir in vanilla and set aside.
3. Heat oven to 425°. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4” thickness. Use a 4” round cookie cutter to cut out 24-36 rounds, gathering dough scraps into a ball and re-rolling as needed. Fit rounds into standard-size muffin tins, then fill each with a sprinkling of walnuts and about three-quarters full with filling. Bake until crusts are lightly golden and filling is barely set, 10-14 minutes. Cool tarts, then lift out of tins with a knife.
For the uninitiated, this summer was dubbed my “summer of funemployment”. As you may recall I started at Kellogg for my MBA this fall but officially stopped working on June 14th to be able to enjoy my summer. It occurred to me that this is probably the first summer that I hadn’t worked in some capacity since maybe middle school. I used to volunteer at summer camps, babysit, and of course work retail (Gap Kids #9155… among others).
Truth be told, summers off are wasted on the young. I’m sure my days off as a teen were spent at the mall, at the movies or maybe seeing a certain musical one too many times. Actually, quite certainly seeing one musical far too many times.
But now I’m 30 and pretty awesome with fun hobbies and interests. This means that there really wasn’t a dull moment in this summer of funemployment. It was filled with travel (Chicago, North Carolina, NYC, Chicago), cottage hangs, Toronto eating and a day-trip to Niagara.
Niagara is one of my favourite day-trips from Toronto. It’s under 2 hrs away and you can go wine tasting, visit farms, eat at lovely restaurants, see a play if the season is right, go to the casino (blech) and of course visit the falls. This time around we planned a lovely girls excursion that included the following:
- Peach picking
- Lunch at Ravine vineyard (+ tasting)
- Wine tasting at Southbrook
- Ice cream at Avondale Dairy Bar
- Wine tasting and honey purchasing at Rosewood Estates
We had a lovely day that may or may not have included a photo shoot amongst the peaches…
Armed with about 12 lbs of peaches I had to figure out a gameplan… fast! The peaches this year were AMAZING. Probably the sweetest, peachiest peaches I have ever had. So needless to say, a number of peaches were eaten out of hand. Another chunk were preserved in a simple light syrup and others still were turned into a peach jam with pinot noir and cinnamon. I couldn’t have a ton of peaches and not bake something. A while back I had made this fabulous peach pie with caramel sauce. While delicious, I wanted to step things up a notch so I decided to make Peach Frangipane Tartlets using Tartine’s recipe.
Peaches + almond-based filling + sweet pastry + baked in tartlet pans from France = amazing.
These tarts were quite possibly one of the best things to come out of my kitchen ever. And that’s a bold statement. What’s even more awesome is that you don’t have to use peaches, you can easily use plums, berries, apples, plums etc.
The recipe has multiple parts so rather than post below I’ll direct you to this link from the folks at Tartine: check out the recipe here.
Remember when I used to make macarons? I haven’t made them in AGES. In fact, the last batch that I made were the ones pictured above and that was literally a year ago. I’ve spent the past year with the intention of writing a post about these macarons but I never got around to it which drove me crazy since I totally love this photo. This year has been pretty crazy. From finishing up business school applications, weekends in Evanston for school-related things, quitting my job, my super busy summer of fun-employment to starting school, there hasn’t always been time for macaron-making or blogging. Scratch that, I haven’t really made that much time for macaron-making or blogging.
These macarons are easily my favourite. Pierre Herme has this flavour he calls Ispahan. It’s a combination of lychee, rose, and raspberry – it is divine. The cool thing is that he uses the same flavour profile across many different desserts so in addition to having Ispahan macarons you can usually find various cakes, croissants and dessert concoctions. I’ll include the recipe at the end of this post. It’s labour-intensive but really fabulous.
If the way the past year (or the past 5 months) has unfolded, next year promises to be great. Like capital G and T GreaT. There may not be a lot of time to make macarons; but it will be great. I’ve already had my planning meeting with the accountability team (yes, I have one) and have come up with next year’s theme: The Year of More. Interpret it as you may but it’s not really about self-indulgence.
Every year on this blog I set food-related goals. This year was so busy I recently realized that I hadn’t even thought about my food goals. Here’s a quick summary of how last year shaped up:
Capture my own food – I had visions of going fishing/hunting this summer but that didn’t materialize. Still on my list of things to do in life.
Find new ways to combine food and travel – I actually did this! While in Paris I took a cooking class where I made croissants, brioche and a few other gems.
Play with food styling – I’ve definitely dabbled in styling a bit but because I haven’t been blogging as much it hasn’t been that consistent. I actually have yet to setup my “photo studio” in Evanston.
Experiment with seafood – Mussels are definitely a part of my cooking routine but I haven’t branched out much more. I actually need to find a good (and not crazy expensive) fishmonger in Evanston/Chicago.
Can more – So I didn’t buy a pressure canner but I did do quite a bit of preserving this summer.
Butcher a thing or two – Didn’t happen. But it will.
As for this year, I’ll keep my goals modest and achievable. Here are a few:
Butcher something – Yup, this one is going back on the list. Will have to see what classes are available in Chicago.
Eat out more – Living in Evanston and being in an academically and socially intense program makes it hard to prioritize just going out in the city and having grown up civilized dinners at cool spots. Going to make that happen at least once a month.
Explore the Midwest – There are a lot of interesting things happening food-wise in the midwest and I’d like to take a closer look. Definitely need to have a roadtrip or two to some of the neighbouring states.
Make food a priority – I still cook a lot but I’ve also been finding myself getting take out a fair bit too. Plus with my schedule (and not always knowing where to go for certain ingredients) means that I’ve slacked off in terms of doing more elaborate cooking projects like making charcuterie. Let me get back on that for 2013.
Explore more cuisines – I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a rut in terms of cooking mostly familiar things. This means that I rarely crack open some of my more interesting cookbooks. I would love to explore a bit more with some of my Thai and Moroccan cookbooks.
Re-build my home “studio” – When I lived in Toronto I managed to create a pretty sweet indoor lighting setup to simulate daylight. I didn’t bring it with me to Evanston which is also a reason why I haven’t been doing that much food photography these days. My goal is to get a new and even better setup going within a few weeks.
I feel like these goals are pretty achievable and should be fun to work towards! As a parting gift, here’s the recipe for the macarons mentioned above.
Happy New Year!
Ispahan Macaron (from “Macarons” by Pierre Hermé)
makes about 72 macarons
For the raspberry jelly:
35g caster sugar
2 leaves of gelatine (2g each)
For the macaron shells:
300g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
110g ‘liquefied’ egg whites
4g strawberry food coloring
4g carmine red food coloring
300g caster sugar
75g mineral water
110g ‘liquefied’ egg whites
For the lychee and rose ganache:
410g Valrhona Ivoire couverture or white chocolate
400g lychees (preserved in syrup)
60g liquid crème fraîche or whipping cream (35% fat)
3g rose essence
Edible ruby glitter
Start by preparing the raspberry jelly. Soak the gelatine leaves for 15 minutes in cold water to soften.
Using a hand blender, blend the raspberries and sugar to a purée. Strain the purée to remove the pips. Heat a quarter of the purée to 45°C. Drain and dry the gelatine and add to the hot purée. Stir and add the rest of the raspberry purée.
Pour it into a gratin dish lined with clingfilm up to a depth of 4mm. Allow to cool for 1 hour at room temperature then put the dish in the freezer for 2 hours. Turn out the jelly and cut it into 1.5cm squares. Return the jelly squares to the freezer.
For the shells. Sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds. Stir the food coloring into the first portion of liquefied egg whites and pour them over the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.
Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118°C. When the syrup reaches 115°C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquefied egg whites to soft peaks.
When the sugar reaches 118°C, pour it over the egg whites (while continuously beating on low speed).
Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50°C, then fold it into the almond-icing sugar mixture. (The batter is ready when it becomes glossy and start to resemble a thick pancake batter.) Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5 cm in diameter, spacing them 2 cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment. Rap the baking trays on the work surface covered with a kitchen cloth. Sprinkle every other row with pinches of color sugar or ruby glitter. Leave the shells to stand for at least 30 minutes until they form a skin.
Preheat the fan oven to 180°C then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes quickly opening and shutting the oven door twice during the cooking time. (Once at the 8 minute mark and once at the 10 minute mark.) Out of the oven, slide the shells on to the work surface.
For the lychee and rose ganache. Drain the lychees. Blend then strain them to obtain a fine purée. You will need 240g purée. Chop up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
Bring the cream and lychee purée to the boil. Pour it over the melted chocolate a third at a time. Add the rose essence and stir.
Pour the ganache into a gratin dish and press clingfilm over the surface of the ganache. Set aside in the fridge for the ganache to thicken.
Spoon the ganache into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Pipe a mound of ganache on to half the shells. Lightly press a square of frozen jelly into the center and finish with a dot of ganache. Top with the remaining shells.
Allow the macarons 24 hours in the fridge for the flavors to meld and bring back out at the point of serving.
After a looooong quarter of Kellogg fun followed by a jam-packed snowy week of Kellogg fun aka ski trip my body is like “girl, please” and has decided to shut down. This means that for the past two days I have basically done nothing but napped, watched all of this season’s episodes of 30 Rock and all of season 1 of Scandal. Yes, this is my life. Nevermind that I just realized that Christmas is right around the corner. I tell you, these days if it isn’t in an Outlook invite it doesn’t exist. Damn. Shame. Plus I’m basically ready to bypass Christmas and just usher in the new year already. Out with the old…
Anyhoo, my fever recently broke, my chills went away which gave me clearance to hit the mean streets of E-town (Evanston) in search of joie. My first excursion involved getting a tub stopper (bubble bath time!), a doughnut and hitting my guilty pleasure World Market. It wasn’t until I got BACK home that I decided that what was missing in my life were two things: guacamole and a newly dreamed up popcorn confection. So I hit the streets again to venture out to downtown Evanston’s only grocery story aka Whole
Paycheque (but what if you don’t have a paycheque?) Foods.
I’m forever wanting to make caramel corn and with the holidays fast approaching I got the crazy idea in my head to make a candy cane, chocolate and nut concoction. Pretty brilliant, right? I searched the interwebs for inspiration but couldn’t really find anything that fit the bill which meant… experiment time!
I started off with my favourite caramel corn recipe (what, you don’t have one? Shame.) and went H.A.M. from there. Originally I was just going to do candy canes and chocolate chips but then spied some walnuts in my cupboard that wanted to play too… so in they went.
The results while not attractive are delicious. The candy canes melted just enough throughout the mixture that every bite is filled with minty goodness (but not in an overpowering way). The chocolate (not surprisingly) melted where I was hoping it would maintain some of its chippy integrity. Then there were the nuts… perfectly toasted and full of win. Love. Obviously health food.
On my next batch I would definitely play around with adding my chocolate chips later in the game to ensure maximum solid chocolate chunks.
Festive Caramel Corn
190 g granulated white sugar
115 g brown sugar
75 g corn syrup
90 g water
pinch kosher salt
60 g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140 g walnut pieces
60 g popped popcorn
150 g chocolate chips
100 g chopped candy canes (I used the food processor)
Combine the water, salt, sugars and corn syrup in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling and the butter and vanilla extract and stir constantly using a figure eight motion.
When the mixture reaches 260°F add the walnuts and continue stirring. When the mixture reaches 300°F add the popcorn, chocolate chips and candy cane pieces. Remove from heat and pour evenly onto silpat or greased cookie sheet.
Allow the popcorn to cool and then seperate into chunks and store in plastic container or ziploc bag.
It may not come as a surprise that chicken isn’t my favourite meat. Sure, I love it when it’s breaded and deep fried or when I see a whole roasted chicken, but on a typical night I’m not consuming chicken. And I pretty much NEVER order it when I go out. It’s not that I don’t like chicken but it always seems like the boring and safe choice. And don’t even get me started on this country’s predisposition for consuming dry, flavourless boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If I do eat chicken it’s usually the dark meat, it has so much more flavour and is always juicy. People stay sleeping on the dark meat… oh well, more for me.
Growing up our takeout choices usually consisted of the usual suspects: pizza, chinese, McDonalds and KFC. But one of the more interesting options (and one of the joys of growing up in a partially Portuguese neighbourhood) was Churrasco of St. Clair known for the Portuguese grilled piri piri chicken. The chicken is usually spit roasted or spatchcocked (my fave word) and grilled until pretty charred. The chicken has been marinated in a spicy marinade made with piri piri peppers (not always necessarily piri piri peppers) and then you get this spicy dipping sauce to go with it. If you’re lucky the place also serves roasted Parisian potatoes and Portugese rice with green peas. Most Canadian kids love eating Swiss Chalet but I could never stand that stuff and would always opt for Churrasco instead.
Since moving away from the old hood I don’t eat churrasco nearly as much as I’d like to. My current hood (in Toronto) has Churrasco Villa which is good but I much prefer the sauce at Churrasco of St. Clair. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I had the BRILLIANT idea of making churrasco/piri piri chicken at home. Why it took me so long I’ll never know.
After a pretty thorough search on the interwebs I settled on this recipe from Epicurious. I marinated the chicken overnight in flavourful mix of cilantro, garlic, ginger, piri piri sauce, lemon juice, oil and garlic. It was at this point that I knew that this chicken would be amazing since I pretty much wanted to drink and dip stuff in the marinade. From there the recipe says to grill the chicken but since I don’t have a grill I chose to broil the chicken to get some of that crusty goodness action going.
As anticipated the chicken turned out wonderfully. The acid in the marinade helps to soften the chicken which I also think allows the flavour to penetrate even further meaning that every bite is awesome. I served the chicken with this yellow rice that I like and some kale. This chicken has easily become a staple in my house and next I want to try using it in other applications like to top a salad.
Piri Piri Chicken
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons piri-piri sauce or other hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, peeled, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup piri-piri sauce or other hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, backbone removed, opened flat
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cilantro and garlic; cook until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add piri-piri sauce and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 2 minutes.
Finely chop cilantro, ginger, shallot, and garlic in processor. Add piri-piri sauce, 1/4 cup oil, lemon juice, coarse salt, and pepper; process marinade to blend.
Place chicken, skin side up, on work surface. Using palm of hand, press on breastbone to flatten chicken. Tuck wing tips under. Pour half of marinade into 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Open chicken like book; place skin side down in single layer in dish. Pour remaining marinade over. Cover; chill at least 4 hours or overnight, turning chicken occasionally.
Preheat oven to 450F. Cover baking pan with aluminum foil. Remove chicken from marinade. Arrange skin side up and cook for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and pour warm glaze over.
So this poor little blog has been a bit abandoned as of late. Why? Because B-School is crazy. And by crazy I mean super busy, super fun and A LOT of work. I’ve learned so much over the past three months both in the class room and outside of the classroom. I came into business school with the mindset that for the next two years I’d push boundaries both personally and professionally. We’re talking everything from travels, to activities, to how I socialize to the classes that I take etc. In the past three months I’ve been to Thailand and Indiana, ziplined, danced many a night away and I know that they are just core courses but I’m taking all sorts of quant courses. Oh, and it seems that in the spring I’m going to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Oman. On top of that recruiting started a mere few weeks after the start of classes. Recruiting alone is a courseload of work. Looking at my calendar for next week I pretty much have a dinner even booked with a firm each night (and one night I have two!). I also find it fascinating to speak to so many people about their unique experiences at these different firms. Needless to say business school is amazing.
And now back to the regularly scheduled blog post…
Now, you all know I’m pretty crafty but even sometimes I surprise myself. One of my fave Toronto food blogs (that really doesn’t focus on Toronto) is Le Sauce by Yasmin. While she’s vegetarian I don’t hold that against her and totally love everything about her blog (and I imagine she’s pretty awesome in person too). Imagine my surprise when visiting her blog a few weeks ago that I saw a menu for a Lebanese lunch that included homemade pita bread.
Yes, pita bread.
For some reason it had NEVER occurred to me to make pita bread from scratch. It’s not like the ones I get from the supermarket are that great or anything but I guess I kind of assumed that they required some special equipment or something to make the pocket. Shockingly, no special equipment is required and they are actually super easy to make.
When I was coming off my juice cleanse this summer I wanted to have a vegetarian feast so I made all sorts of goodness including tabbouleh and hummus and thought that homemade pita was a great accompaniment. The ingredient list is simple and you likely have everything in your pantry already to make this happen. From a time perspective there isn’t a ton of hands on time. Sure, there’s kneading (I use my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer for that) but the remaining time is mostly rising and resting. Not bad. Even cooking them takes under 5 minutes.
While my pitas didn’t turn out that pocket-y they did turn out super delicious. Sure I’m a sucker for any type of bread straight out of the oven but there’s something about homemade pitas that have won me over. I can definitely see myself making these again and assuming I figure out the secret to making them more pocket-y (if desired) I probably won’t buy pita anymore. But I get intense about things like that.
Recipe via Le Sauce
1¼ cups warm water (about 110⁰F)
¼ ounce active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus about ½ cup for dusting
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Activate the yeast: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the yeast into the warm water and add the sugar at the same time. Let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes; after a couple minutes, you should start to see some foam rising to the top. (If there’s no foam at all, especially if the water isn’t warm, wait a few minutes longer; if there’s really nothing, you may have to start over with another packet of yeast.)
Combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the yeast mixture. Top it off with the two tablespoons of olive oil. With a big spoon, stir the ingredients until almost all of the flour has been absorbed, and it looks shaggy, but mostly together. Dump it onto a floured surface and begin kneading the dough. It should stick a little, but if it’s way too sticky, give the dough ball and your board a dusting of flour here and there. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. You can also mix and knead the dough in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, until it’s smooth and taut. If you poke your finger into it, should bounce back at you.
Spray a clean, large bowl with non-stick spray or wipe it with olive oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. You can either let the dough rise overnight in the fridge covered in plastic (for up to 12 hours) or, let it rise at room temperature for one hour.
After the rise, give the center of the dough a punch with your fist and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll it into a thick log. Cut it in half, and then cut each half into five equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Cover the balls with a damp towel and let the dough rest once more for about 20 minutes. If you’re planning on freezing the dough, arrange the balls in a freezer bag so that they’re touching as little as possible. Lay the bag flat in the freezer so that each dough ball freezes individually. The day you’re ready make the pitas, thaw the dough balls in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Using a floured rolling pin on a floured surface, roll each ball into a round, flat disk, about 1/8” thick. If you roll the pitas thicker, about ¼”, they might not puff as much, but they’ll turn out softer and deliciously chewy.
Cook them at high heat, since it’s the moisture in the dough turning to steam that makes them bubble up:
To cook the pitas on a sheet: Preheat oven to 450° F but first, put a pizza stone or another flat surface that conducts heat well (like a baking sheet turned upside down) on the rack. You want the pita to touch a hot surface as soon as it goes into the oven. Once preheated, open the oven and quickly place the flattened dough discs, as many as will fit with a good 1” all around for clearance, on the hot surface and close the oven door. Cook the pita for 3-4 minutes if you’re aiming for soft and chewy; or another minute or two longer for a crisper, light brown crust.
To cook the pitas on the stove: Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat until very hot; it should be hot enough to make the dough sizzle for a moment as soon as it touches the pan. Lay a dough disc in the skillet – no oil necessary. Watch it puff up! After about 2-3 minutes, flip the pita and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
Makes 8-10 pitas.
So the other day I was featured on View the Vibe as their Friday Foodie (even though they spelled my name wrong). Between this and interviews I realized that I’ve had this blog for 5 years! Let’s file that under “ish that is cray”. Five years ago I had recently moved back to Toronto after 6 years in NYC and I was bored out of my gotdamn mind working on an entertainment “news” program and a legal show. I started the blog as a little something to do and a way to track all of the amazing things I was cooking. Five years later the number of people that I have met through the blog, interwebs, food events etc. has been huge and the experiences that have come as a result of blogging have been enriching and wonderful. No complaints.
So I figured I’d take a break from finance, accounting, and stats homework (wait… did you know I was a journalism major in undergrad? Right.) and actually post a lil somethin’ somethin’.
I’m slowly getting settled into life in Evanston which means figuring out where to secure some of my favourite food items. In Toronto I know exactly where to go for all of my random food needs, but in Evanston/Chicago? No idea. Luckily I have a few people resources to help but sometimes there just aren’t enough options. In Toronto I love Love LOVE to shop at Bulk Barn. They have great prices, great selection and pretty good quality for bulk items. But get this, there’s no good bulk stores in the Chicago-area (well at least that I’ve heard of). Apparently Whole Foods is the best option but of course is not the cheapest option.
I’ve also had a hard time figuring out an affordable but decent fishmonger and a good and affordable butcher. For me, I used to love to shop at European Meats in Kensington and of course Sanagan’s. There are a few Sanagan-type butchers in Chicago but I’ll have to investigate pricing.
Perhaps what’s been the most disappointing is being able to get some of my fave West Indian foods. Evanston shockingly has a big Jamaican population so I’ve managed to find a West Indian grocer and there are plenty of Jamaican restaurants. BUT apparently the Trinidadian food scene has slim pickings. There’s one restaurant on the south side but I’ve heard it’s okay AND they don’t have doubles. That is a problem. Furthermore, no one in Chicago has doubles. Now, doubles are one of my favourite foods so I realized that this would be a problem unless…
I decided to make them!
And that’s what I did. For the uninitiated, a doubles (it’s always plural, it’s never a double) is a chickpea sandwich with the “bread” being barra which is fried dough. It’s a Trinidadian street food that is often eaten in the morning. I had made a chickpea curry earlier in the week using this recipe so all I had to do was figure out how to make barra. Luckily the internet was ripe with recipes that were all very similar but just had variations on which spices to include.
Making the barra was surprisingly easy. You just make a wettish dough, let it rice, make some balls and shallow fry them things. They puff up and get pliable and are amazing. I swear, the are fewer things more satisfying than hot doubles. My hot sauce game wasn’t up to par and I didn’t make a tamarind chutney (next time) but this was probably one of my fave things that I’ve made in a while. And for the record I ate them with some fried plantains and a bottle of ting. Boom.
For the chickpea filling use this recipe
Barra (adapted from Trini Gourmet)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 teaspoon yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 tsp sugar
Oil for frying
Combine the flour, salt, curry powder and cumin in a large bowl.
In another bowl mix the water, sugar and yeast and allow to foam up for about 5 minutes (you want to make sure your yeast is active). Once active mix with the flour mixture and add enough water to make a slightly firm dough. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rise for an hour and a half. After this time punch down the dough and let rise for another 10-15 minutes.
To form the barra grab a ball of dough (approx. 1 tablespoon) and flatten into a disc about 4-5 inches in diameter. If needed, oil your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick to your hands.
Heat oil in a frying pan and allow the barra to fry about 15 seconds per side until golden and puffy. Allow to drain on a paper towel.
To serve, spoon some chickpeas onto one piece of dough, sprinkle your hot sauce or other condiments and top with another piece of barra.
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