Thursday, December 22, 2011

Biscotti for My First Potluck

        I have good news and bad news. First, the good news: I finally get off school for Christmas break tomorrow. What a relief -- I could really use a holiday right about now. Now, the bad news… I can't find the snow. It's hiding somewhere. I don't know about you, but it just doesn't feel like Christmas without that beautiful blanket of pure white covering the roads and sidewalks outside. Those beautiful snowflakes -- where have they gone? Geez, come on, weather. You have only a few days to redeem yourself.
        My most recent baking venture was for a potluck my math class is holding tomorrow. "Potluck" is a word I have seen over and over again for the past few years, but I only just learned its meaning a couple of days ago. It's a party where each of the guests contribute by bringing food. 
Oreo Biscotti

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Best Combo Since PB & Chocolate

        My life has been nothing short of hectic lately. School's a killer, I tell you. I've been working on three major end-of-the-semester assignments, each due one after the other. They keep telling us students that we're supposed to have a maximum of one per week for the next few weeks, yet here I am somehow with three in one week. This kind of stress makes me want to scream into a pillow.
        Thankfully, I now have one of those three assignments out of the way… which means more time for a personal assignment. My own two-part assignment was as follows. Part 1: make cookies. Part 2: eat the cookies.
Malted Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Cookbook for the Avid Baker

       I have at least five gift cards to Chapters bookstore in my wallet at the moment. Bookstore gift cards are one of my two favorite things to receive as gifts for the holidays, the other being baking tools and equipment (yes you, beloved Kitchenaid mixer).
        What do I do with these gift cards? I buy books, of course -- especially baking cookbooks. I read regular books too, but I have one of those nifty Kindle e-readers for my regular reads… meaning I have lots of room left to spend money on cookbooks, which I absolutely insist be printed in full-color, large-photo brilliance. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dearest Pumpkin

        Fall is my #1 favorite season. I love everything about it -- the gorgeous colors, the little trick-or-treaters showing up at my door on Halloween, the distinctive tastes and smells of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg… and pumpkin. Dearest pumpkin.
        I have made new best buddies this year: pumpkins and scones. I was very eager to hop on the bandwagon and eat 'em as one. Pumpkin Scones... my weakness. 
Pumpkin Scones

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spelt, the Ancient Grain

         The days have just been whipping by for me lately. I get home from school and a few hours later the sky outside is pitch black. It will definitely take me a while to get used to this. How did this happen? When did this happen? Where have the days gone? Madness, I tell you.
        I decided to make something quick and simple that would be ready before night hits, but something that I could eat on a regular basis. So, I made a wholesome, hearty loaf of bread -- no yeast, no kneading, and no rising time involved. It's the perfect bread for busybodies such as myself. Here it is: Spelt Sesame Bread.
Spelt Sesame Bread

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Like a Big Pizza Pie

        That's amore...
        Pizza. While dessert is often incredibly hard to pass up for most people (deep down, we all know we should), there are still delicious savory foods that succeed in having the same effect on us. For me, one of these foods is pizza. Particularly homemade pizza. Even more particularly, my Mom's homemade pizza. Pair that with a from-scratch pizza dough made with love, and you've earned my heart.
        During the summer I went to Italy with my family -- an experience I had anticipated for years. Italy was too beautiful to be described in words and every meal was incredible. By the end of the trip, I thought I had eaten enough pizza (plus gelato every day) to last me a lifetime. As it turns out, I didn't, because here I am again in the same position… eating pizza.
Spinach Goat Cheese Pizza

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Pear Frenzy: Part II

        Pears. We poached them, we stuffed them, we ate them, we loved them. There was a time not long ago when I was unable to say I'd eaten poached pears, but now that time has come and passed. I just had my first encounter with a poached pear. It ended with a prediction of events to come, and what does my future hold? More poached pears, of course.
        Earlier this week, I shared with you a batch of pear crisp minis, and today: wine-poached pears.
Chocolate-Stuffed Poached Pears

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Pear Frenzy: Part I

        When I was younger, pears were my favorite fruit. I ate them all the time and especially when I was over my Nonna's, as she would always cut the pears into slices for me. It was my favorite way to eat them. Even better, she'd hand me a juice box filled with my favorite drink--pear juice. That stuff was my reason for living.
        After all these years, I'm still very fond of pears. The difference between then and now is the fact that pears share my heart with apples, which I've admittedly come to love just as much. One thing hasn't changed, though: sometimes all I want to do is bite into a good, juicy pear.
Pear Crisp Minis

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Cake You'll Dream About

        I love eating food, looking at food, and taking pictures of food. I just purchased a new lens for my camera and I'm completely ecstatic. I chose the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Here's my first impression: it takes beautiful shots. Everything is sharp and stunning, with great focus-- I know this lens will make my food photography experience even more enjoyable. I practically did a happy dance after seeing my first shots with it.
         I didn't waste any time-- the moment I returned home I opened up the package, screwed the lens onto my Canon Rebel XT, and started snapping away like mad. The first food subject I introduced to my new lens was a cake. The Whiteout Cake. 
The Whiteout Cake

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Thanksgiving Feast

        I went up to my cottage last weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving with my Dad's side of the family. Thanksgiving Day arrives a bit earlier here in Canada than in the United States, which is fine by me (I'm terrible at waiting). Unsurprisingly, I ate a mountain of food. Perhaps I have mentioned this before, but nearly all of my relatives on my Dad's side--and myself, of course--are big eaters. We love food. We live to eat. It's only natural that we had a large menu planned for Thanksgiving.
        I, my friends, was in charge of the dessert. Determined to make my favorite, I knew one single pie wouldn't be enough to feed so many of us. We eventually decided on three pies. I set to work with my cousins as helpers and together we tripled my favorite pecan pie recipe.
Classic Pecan Pie

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pecan Priority Mode

        I tend to surprise myself on a regular basis. For example, I cannot believe that in all this time since I started posting I've never even alluded to one of my favorite desserts (possibly THE number one) of all time--pecan pie. While I love all pies, there's something about a nice, warm pecan pie, its sweet and gooey filling topped with toasted, russet-colored pecans... It can't be beat. Luckily the beloved dessert often goes hand-in-hand with the Fall season, meaning I have even more reason to bake one in the very near future. 
        I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving at my cottage this weekend and, of course, a pecan pie is present in my menu plan. Here's the thing… I couldn't wait that long. I needed something to carry me through to the weekend. Alas, I found my solution in the form of an individual, bite-sized pecan pie. Meet the Pecan Tassie.
Pecan Tassies

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Finding Time for Cupcakes

        Homework, tests, assignments, responsibility, procrastination… all words commonly associated with school. I've had a lot on my plate recently and I don't mean food. Every one of us can say we've had those times when we've been overwhelmed about meeting deadlines and, unfortunately, I am no exception. It's really tough for me to get work done when quite frankly I'd rather be baking. Or taking pictures. Or blogging. Or doing anything but what I should be.
        I always find time for things I want to do, though. I find time for cupcakes.
Marshmallow Cream Cupcakes

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Like the Pillow You Wish You Had

        I have been so very sleepy lately. I want nothing more than to crawl into bed, close my eyes, and sleep the day away. Hour after hour of long, undisturbed and peaceful rest, the incessant beeping of my alarm clock for once silenced. Not that the silly clock has ever been particularly useful to me, as I always manage to wake up before the darn thing. You wouldn't believe how many times I open my eyes to "6:59", just one minute before my alarm's cue. It's almost like I have a sixth sense for these things, but, eh… it would be cooler to see ghosts.
        You're probably wondering what I decided to bake for this occasion. I'll tell you--I baked a bunch of pillows. Soft and oh-so-fluffy pillows. Okay, so they were dinner rolls, but with their unbelievable softness and fluffiness I couldn't resist giving the rolls a more fitting name.
Soft and Fluffy Pillow Rolls

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Breathe In the Butterscotch

        I woke up with a strong desire for butterscotch, and when I get a craving for butterscotch I don't let anything stand in my way. It's one of my favorite flavors, as its sweetness is offset by a hint of saltiness that I love. It didn't take me long to determine I was in the mood for something thick, chewy, and with a truckload of concentrated butterscotch flavor. 
        Believe it or not, sweet-and-salty treats are a major competitor for my love for chocolate and in some cases even beat chocolate completely (gasp!). While I can somehow manage to hold myself back from sneaking a few chocolate chips during baking… I can't say the same for their butterscotch counterpart. I certainly could have practiced a little more restraint as I baked these Butterscotch Blondie Cupcakes.
Butterscotch Blondie Cupcakes

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Let's Call It "Breakfast"

        Scones. What are scones? Just a few days ago I hardly knew the answer to that question. For years I had very little motivation to try one, as the mistaken idea of a rock-solid and crumbly scone had planted itself in my mind.
        Then, I saw the light. I tried my very first scone and realized they weren't at all as I imagined. The notion in my head of a dry hockey puck diminished the moment I took the first bite… the interiors were soft and moist, apparently just as a good scone should be.
Nutella Scones

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beating the Soufflé Clock

        One day I want to be able to say I've baked everything, so since I had (emphasis on the past-tense) never attempted to make a soufflé... I went and made a soufflé. Rather, I made a bunch of cute, itty-bitty chocolate soufflés in my new mini ramekins, the ones I bought just recently as a spur-of-the-moment type thing. 
        I was quite the sight running through my kitchen with my camera after taking these chocolate soufflés from the oven, desperately trying to snap some good shots before the beautifully risen puff could begin to settle. This photo was as fast as I could manage, though I'm pleased to say they rose well past this point!
Mini Chocolate Soufflés

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Becoming Acquainted with Pumpkin

        I must admit that there are few pumpkins in my baking past. None actually. As to why, I'm not exactly sure, but it most likely has something to do with my childhood aversion to pumpkin pie. To me, it was that strange orange dessert I was offered only once a year during the Fall season. Or Autumn season. Whichever you prefer. The pumpkin pie offering was one I so rarely accepted, as it was usually served beside a safe and familiar apple pie. 
        I'm sure if I had agreed to try it more times than I did, I'd have taken a liking a lot sooner. No worries, pumpkin pie lovers--over the years I grew to like all things pumpkin quite a lot. Now, for the first time in my life, I ventured into the world of baking with pumpkin.
Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes

Monday, September 12, 2011

Whoopie Pies of the Red Velvet Variety

       Until just last year I was unfamiliar with the concept of "red velvet". I had seen red cakes before and I had heard the name on rare occasions, but I'd always taken them simply to be white cakes with red food coloring. Unfortunately this is sometimes the case--when sneaky bakeries attempt to pass off their faux red velvet goodies as authentic. But hey, like me, when you've tried a real red velvet cake… you'll know right then and there that it's no white cake. 
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Mississippi Mud Challenge

        I've always enjoyed a challenge, and you know what? I just took on a super, super big challenge. 
        Okay, so maybe this challenge wasn't all that big. Maybe this challenge can't be classified as big at all, or even a challenge for that matter. Maybe you should completely disregard the second sentence of this post, as it will probably hurt my brain a little less.
        I call it a challenge in the sense that this little baking project of mine was fairly time-consuming. Yes, it was pretty lengthy, but a very, very excellent investment of my time indeed.
Mississippi Mud Pie

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Brownies Knock My Socks Off

        I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like brownies. After all, what's not to love? They're rich, they're decadent, and there's a brownie to suit everyone's tastes. The brownie purists can eat them unadorned, the frosting fanatics can enjoy them frosted, the nut nuts (as I like to call them) can gobble them chock full of goodies… the possibilities are endless. If the day ever comes when I do meet someone who claims distaste, I'll be ready. I'll look that person straight in the eye and say, "You, poor soul, still haven't found your brownie."        
Nutty Peanut Caramel Brownies

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Sweet Life Has a Savory Side

        There's a time and a place for everything. No matter how much I love sugar and its sweetness, the two of us go our separate ways come dinner time. When I'm hungry, my tummy cries for nourishment in the form of a hearty meal and it's a need that no slice of cake (no matter how good) can satisfy. So, at around 6:30 P.M.--standard dinner time in my house--I yank out the sweet tooth, set it aside for later, have a seat at the table with my family, and consume the delicious savory dish that is my meal on that particular day.
        I often like to prepare dinner, not because I have to but because I want to. It isn't unusual for there to also be some sort of dessert made that same day we sit down to eat (I like to go all out), waiting somewhere very nearby for mealtime to end and transition into dessert time. That's when I pop the sweet tooth back in. Until then, though, I focus on what's in front of me. 
        During my last meal, I was faced with a pie. It wasn't a sweet pie (though I am certainly very familiar with those), but a savory pie. The ultimate savory pie... Chicken Pot Pie.
The Ultimate Chicken Pot Pie

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Bumper Crop of Zucchini Makes Mean Cake

I have news of an accomplishment. Delicious news. Zucchini news. 
        I love zucchini (that isn't the news). However, the strange word doesn't always bring pleasant thoughts. That's because I don't immediately associate zucchini with food and eating; I instead get the familiar image in my mind of my grandparents shoving bags at me stuffed full of the fresh vegetables they grew in their gardens. Sounds great, right? Sort of. Let me get one thing straight--my grandparents' garden-grown vegetables taste fantastic and better than any from the grocery store. For that reason, I love the veggies and am delighted to take a few bags off their hands. One problem, though. When the veggies are in-season... the bags pile up until our fridge is overflowing. We end up with vegetables coming out the wazoo: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, and the most popular of them all… zucchini. 
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cocoa Meringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When Life Gives You Chocolate, Make Crackle Cookies

        The other day, I spent the night at my cousin Leah's. She's the greatest for many reasons, one of them being the fact that Leah is the only other baker my age I know. Consequently, she's the only person with whom I can discuss one of my life's greatest joys. We spent most of our time that night talking, laughing, and (of course!) baking. It was wonderful to have a baking partner for a change… I almost always have no choice but to fly solo. Even on those rare occasions when I'm able to force some unwilling individual to bake with me, it just isn't the same as having another baker by my side who revels in it every bit as much as I do.
        Now, before we did anything else the pair of us had to choose what to make. We took our time rifling through a few of her baking cookbooks… and finally settled on these teeny and delightful cookies.
Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Banana Bread (But Moist Only, Please)

        I have a strange relationship with banana bread. I go completely nuts for it, but only sometimes. In order for me to really, really love banana bread, it must meet certain criteria: 

1) It needs to be packed with fabulous banana flavor. I mean, it's banana bread, so that's really not asking for much, is it? 


2) It needs to be moist. I can often find a great-tasting banana bread that is completely ruined by its lack of moisture.

        When I made my very first banana bread as a little girl, I had high expectations and the recipe tasted good. It failed for a different reason: it came out dry. I took one bite, tried to swallow, nearly failed, and wrinkled my face in disgust. The thing was... that bread I made definitely wasn't the banana bread I had grown to love. It wasn't the extra moist, soft, delectable banana treat that on rare occasions I could find at some excellent bakery. So the story goes, on that day I made a promise to myself that I would go on a quest. I would try as many recipes as need be, scrutinizing and tweaking as I needed, until I found the perfect banana bread.
        Finally, after a long and perilous journey full of failures and almost-theres, I'm proud to say that I have done just that.
    The Perfect Moist Banana Bread

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    A Truly Serious Addiction to Butterscotch Cookies

    I'm the kind of person who, if you ask me nicely to make you cookies sometime, will remember and get on it. The way I see it, it's a win-win situation. I'm content to spend my time baking up a storm and you get to eat the fruits... er, cookies... of my labor.  I also receive another bonus: feedback. I'm always hungry for reviews. Hence, the moment my lifeguard older brother David asked me the other day to bake him a batch for a competition at work, I made up my mind to do exactly that.
            At the community centre where he works, they hold a "food day" once a week. I don't know who came up with that idea and I can't fathom its connection in any way to water sports, but I'm really glad they did. The goal is simple: bring in the best food and you win. The challenge sounded to me like a great way to get some honest feedback from a large group of people.
    Chewy Butterscotch Oat Cookies

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Coconut Cream Pie Sent From Heaven

    I love being a baker. I get the most wonderful satisfaction from mixing and stirring and watching my creations transform in the oven... and tasting, of course; tasting is one of the best parts. What I love the most, though, is being able to share my love for baking through other people tasting the treats I labor to create.
    Divine Coconut Cream Pie

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Eat This Chocolate Cake... I Dare You

    The fifth of July was my Mom's birthday. I did something special, of course. Something deliciously special. Something called chocolate cake. Oh, yes. My Mom's favorite. My younger brother Robert's favorite, too, but on July 5th, this baby was all Mom's.
    When I say it's her favourite, I mean she loves, loves, LOVES it. While my Dad raves to people about the coconut cream pie I make, my Mom raves about this chocolate cake. She's a chocoholic to the extreme... and this just so happens to be the most extreme chocolate cake in existence. I wholeheartedly believe that you could scour the entire universe in search and never find a better one. Hence, this was my cake of choice for my Mom's 48th.
    Daredevil's Chocolate Cake