Sunday, December 31, 2006

Chocolate Candy Brownies

This past week we had some friends over for a "Fondue and Good Caffeine" get-together. We made a few different savoury appetizers and, since one of our guests especially likes chocolate, I made something that packed a super chocolate punch - Chocolate Candy Brownies. With real chocolate in the mix and topped with a chocolate ganache, I knew they would be perfect. They're called 'candy' due to the fact that they are supposed to be sprinkled with chopped chocolate bars such as Rolos or Maltesers. Alas, I didn't have enough for sprinkling so each square got a small chunk of Skor.

The brownie bakes up dark and thick. After 25 minutes you have a moist and chewy slab just waiting to be slathered in rich chocolate. I was pretty happy with how they turned out as I wasn't giving them my 100% attention. The ganache set up nicely and they sliced like a dream. They're perfect for those who like a solid brownie - these are not cakey. If you don't want to do ganache, chocolate frosting would be fine and they would also make an excellent base for a brownie sundae.

So as this year comes to a close, I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year! Thank you for all your support and feedback and I'll see you in 2007!

Recipe: Chocolate Candy Brownies

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holiday Shortbread

One of my favourite holiday cookies is shortbread. I enjoy the simplicity of flavours and the buttery texture these simple to prepare cookies have to offer. The shortbread cookies I made are rolled and flattened. The recipe calls for the dough to be rolled and cut into stars but I didn't have time to do all that. With a sprinkle of coloured sugar they look very festive indeed.

The texture is light, flaky and melt-in-the mouth. The shortbread is not overly sweet and would be a nice foil to more elaborate treats on a cookie tray. So when you're contemplating what cookies to make for your holiday gatherings, don't overlook the humble shortbread - it's a classic!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Recipe: Shortbread Stars

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

Mr. CB is a coffee lover. He recently purchased an espresso maker and grinder and has been making lattes, cappuccinos and espresso shots for our enjoyment. I especially like lattes flavoured with vanilla and have not yet been able to fully appreciate an excellently pulled shot. Espresso is quite beautiful when properly made and Mr. CB is doing a great job at achieving a nice crema. Now all he has to do is work on his latte art...

All this coffee talk made me decide to make an espresso shortbread from Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie. I used Illy espresso powder in the batter and good quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder. The batter was patted into a round cake pan, baked and cut into wedges. This was the first time I used this method for making shortbread and I was anxious to see how it would turn out.

When we tried the shortbread the chocolate flavour was pronounced and the coffee was discernable but not strong. I think next time I will grind fresh beans for a punchier flavour. The texture was not melt-in-the-mouth as some shortbreads are. It was solid and 'sandy' - more cookie than shortbread. Let the shortbread cool completely, otherwise your wedge will fall apart. Overall, we all liked it. It was not bitter and it did go well with coffee. Perhaps I will make it again, though at this moment, I'm undecided.

Recipe: Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu For Hope III

This holiday season marks the third Menu for Hope campaign which is a fundraiser created by food bloggers around the world. This year, Menu for Hope is raising money to support the UN World Food Programme that aims to "put food on the tables of the weakest and poorest". The campaign runs from December 11 to 22 and during that time you are welcome to purchase raffle tickets for some wonderful prizes.

Since this is a global campaign, you can visit Chez Pim to view all the prizes for this event. Our Canadian host is the wonderful Jasmine the Cardamom Addict so please go take a look at all the great offerings from Canadians across the country. Jasmine has also very thoughtfully translated the information into French. If you would like more information on how to purchase tickets and donations please visit First Giving.

For Menu for Hope, I am donating two cookbooks. The first is the Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook written by Jennifer Appel, one of the original founders of the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York. It is a great book to add to any collection and includes some beautiful photographs. The good old-fashioned recipes are not difficult and would be suitable for the the confident baker. The second book is the Philadelpia Cream Cheese Classic Recipes cookbook. Again, this book has a lot of colour pictures for cooking inspiration and has a great range of recipes - all the way from appetizers to special occasions. Oh, and don't forget, there is a whole chapter on the lovely cheesecake!

Tickets cost US $10 and will buy one raffle ticket to your prize of choice. If you are interested in my donation the prize code is CA07. You must specify which prize you're interested in by quoting the prize code in the "personal message" section.

Here are the instructions for the event:

1. Go to the donation page at to make a contribution.
2. Each US $10 donation will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like by entering the prize code in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your contribution. E.G. A US $50 donation may be two tickets for UW99 and three tickets for CA20.*
3. Some companies will match personal charitable donations made by staff. If your company has such a program, please remember to mark the appropriate box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address. We need this so we can contact you in case you win a prize. If you do not do this, we will be unable to contact you. Please be assured that we will not share your email address with anyone.
5. Raffle results will be announced on 15 January on Chez Pim. Draws will be conducted electronically, thanks to Derrick at Obsession with Food for creating the computer application used to magically select names.

*N.B.: Canadian tax laws prohibit charitable donation receipts to be issued by registered Canadian charities for raffle or lottery tickets. The UNWFP is a U.S.-based charity; should any donation receipts be issued, you will need to seek professional advice regarding applying them to your Canadian income tax return.

Again, my prize code is CA07 and I'm donating The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook and Philadelphia Cream Cheese Classic Recipes. Thank you and please give generously!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Chocolate Layer Cake

Ode to Chocolate Cake

A chocolate dessert.
Perfect as a birthday cake.
Makes everyone smile.

Ok, that's my feeble attempt at haiku but the sentiment is true. It's a great cake and a classic flavour. Add some ice cream, and you've got one of the best desserts ever!

Happy Birthday H!

Recipe: Chocolate Layer Cake

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cranberry Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

I really like bread pudding but I don't make it a whole lot due to a lack of stale bread in the kitchen. Usually, when I think to make it, the bread is all fresh and the stores are all closed. Flipping through the December issue of Canadian Living, I came across a recipe for Cranberry Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding. Wow! It used mini croissants, cranberries and chocolate and I knew I had to make it.

The dessert is assembled by laying split croissants in a baking dish and sprinkling with chopped semisweet chocolate and dried cranberries. Poured over top is a mixture of sugar, whipping cream, milk and eggs. Decadent, I know, but if you have company or neighbours who appreciate baked goods it will all get eaten without you feeling guilty.

From the picture it is hard to tell what the texture is like. The croissants are puffed up and when cut it, you could see they were moist and melt-in-the-mouth and they did not taste eggy. (Just make sure the centre is not liquidy.) The melted chocolate chunks taste great with the tart chewy cranberries. The toppings looks like a lot but it was just the perfect amount. It was a surprise hit in my house and would make a great brunch dish.

Oh, and by the way, if you're ever at Epicurious check out the Epi Log. I may have been mentioned there somewhere! Thanks for reading. :)

Recipe: Cranberry Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Brutti Ma Buoni

Translated into English, bruti ma buoni means "ugly but good". These little Italian meringue cookies are fun to make and even more fun to eat.

The method for making these cookies is quite different from drop cookies. The steps aren't hard, but do require some patience as consistency and texture are important in achieving a perfect end result.

First, egg whites are whisked with sugar until opaque and then beaten until cool and glossy. The batter looks really beautiful, like liquid satin. Afterwards, some flour and chocolate are folded in and dropped onto cookie sheets to bake for about 25 minutes.

When the cookies come out of the oven they look like golden puffs. The meringue is crunchy yet soft and the cookies are hollow. They are perfectly sweet and would pair beautifully with a strong espresso or frothy latte.

Recipe: Brutti ma Buoni

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Double Chocolate Dream Cookies

Here's another cookie recipe from the Nestle Best-Loved Cookies cookbook called Double Chocolate Dream Cookies. They are like a regular chocolate chip cookie except that cocoa powder is added to make the dough chocolately brown.

I think the key to making this cookie successfully is to use a good quality cocoa powder. There are many choices of unsweetened cocoa powders including Dutch process and natural cocoa powder.

Dutch process is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids.

Natural cocoa powder tastes very bitter and gives a deep chocolate flavor to baked goods.

Making cocoa powder is a fascinating process. To read more, click here.

If you're using natural cocoa powder, reducing the amount called for may make your cookie less bitter. Just read the ingredients and you'll know what you're using. I used Fry's Premium Cocoa for these cookies and looking at the ingredients, sodium carbonate was added. Knowing what type of cocoa you're using can make quite a lot of difference in the finished product.

These cookies turned out very well. The cocoa powder gave the cookies a deep chocolatey flavour without the bitterness and the chocolate chips added extra sweetness. They were soft and chewy and were much appreciated by the friends I got to share them with.

Recipe: Double Chocolate Dream Cookies

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm always looking for good chocolate chip cookie recipes. They're so popular and finding a good recipe sometimes seems more daunting than it should. Unfortunately, I don't have a 'Grandma's Secret Recipe' that I can always fall back on (I wish I did) so I resort to cookbooks. I've made cookies that were too flat or too cakey. Sure, they're edible but not fantastic.

When I was in Chapters the other day, I picked up a Nestle Favourite Cookies cookbook. It was the small soft-cover type of cookbook that they sell alongside the magazines. I said why not - I can always use another cookie book. The very first recipe is for their famous Toll House chocolate chip cookie. I tried it immediately hoping it would satisfy my cookie craving.

Well, the dough was beautiful. It was like the chunks you find in cookie dough ice cream. I used golden sugar instead of brown so my dough was a little lighter in colour. After a little mixing, they went in the oven and came out all soft and chewy. I was pretty happy since they spread nicely and were not too flat nor too domed. As usual, the longer you bake, the harder they become so watch carefully so you get the cookie consistency you want.

These were a hit and I had to hide the cookies in the picture so that I could photograph them. They lasted two days, even the ones I left in a little too long. They're easy so try them out when you're desiring some melty chocolate goodness and see if they really do live up to their reputation.

Recipe: Original Nestle Toll House Cookies

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

After making pumpkin pie the other day, I still had about a cup of pumpkin leftover. I didn't want to waste it and was looking for a recipe that didn't call for a lot (of pumpkin) and was relatively easy. As luck would have it, Lauren from Stuffed. left a comment about the pie. I visited her great blog and there I found a recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. The cookies were a simple drop cookie that could be mixed up in no time. Perfect!

My reasons for making these cookies were about the same as Lauren's - I had all the ingredients on hand. The pumpkin made the cookies very flavourful - almost like eating pie. They were enjoyed very much in my house and are a fanstastic fall cookie. They bake up rounded and cakey with some chewiness from the raisins and crunchiness from the walnuts. I followed Lauren's suggestion and used large flake oats. This was a good move as smaller oats would have gotten lost in the dough. The large oats asserted themselves and held their own. All in all, they were good cookies and if I ever have leftover pumpkin, I'll make them again.

Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nanaimo Bars

If you're familiar with Canadian desserts then you must certainly have heard of the Nanaimo bar. It is a bar cookie that consists of three layers- a chcocolate-nut-coconut base, creamy filling and chocolate top.

According to Wickipedia, the Nanaimo bar is a "type of chocolate no-bake square, it receives its name from the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, where it first became known in the 1930s. It consists of a crumb-based layer, topped by a light custard which is covered in soft chocolate. " Wickipedia

Some versions, like my own, require that the crust be baked for 10 minutes. I also made one adjustment to the filling and added some custard powder. I find that this gives it a better flavour instead of just tasting like creamed icing sugar. You can also find many variations out there too - mint, orange, peanut butter and even reverse Nanaimo bars.

The recipe makes a lot and is perfect for sharing or taking to your next potluck. If, you're allergic to nuts just omit them - I think they'll still taste divine!

Recipe: Nanaimo Bars

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pumpkin Pie

I love pumpkin pie. I love the custardy texture and the spicy flavour. It reminds me of Thanksgiving and cozy autumn evenings. It is also a relatively easy pie to make even if you do steam your own pumpkin. (I didn't this time but have in the past.)

The first thing you have to remember is to buy pumpkin puree - not pumpkin pie filling. (This stuff is already spiced.) I used a Wanda's recipe for this pie which fits a 10-inch pie plate right to the top. If you use a 9-inch plate, you may have some filling left over. The pumpkin is perfectly cinnamony and nutmegy. Not too overpowering and definitely not bland. Of course, you can play with the spicing to suit your tastes. This pie was also huge - almost like a deep-dish pie. It was delicious and lasted only two days. It tastes nice room temperature but tastes fantastic chilled with some whipped cream dolloped in top. Yum!

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie

Monday, October 16, 2006

Pear Cranberry Crisp

Ok, here's another pear recipe for your reading pleasure. The bag I have seems to bottomless so I made some pear cranberry crumble to try and use them up.

This is a super simple recipe to prepare. Peeling and slicing the pears takes the most work in this classic fall dessert. Topping off the fruity filling is a oat crumble made with melted butter. Pop the dish in the oven and you'll have dessert on the table in about an hour.

Words cannot describe how yummy it is to eat hot crisp with cold vanilla ice cream. It is divine. The tart-sweet and crunchy crisp marries well with the smoothness of ice cream. If you'd prefer, try frozen yogurt or vanilla yogurt, however, I cannot vouch for the yumminess factor. I think I'm going to make this again soon!

Recipe: Pear Cranberry Crisp
(Note: Just replace raspberries in recipe with cranberries.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pear Cream Cheese Squares

The other day my aunt gave me a big bag of pears from the tree in her backyard. I don't know what kind they are but they were a little smaller than grocery store pears and very green. I knew they would go to good use.

As luck would have it, I was invited to dinner and knew there would be a large number of people there. I thought the pears were perfect for an autumn dessert so I replaced them for apples in a Wanda's recipe - Pear Cream Cheese Squares.

These squares have a few steps but the end result is worth it. Soft cooked pears sit atop a sweetened cream cheese layer and is surrounded by a wonderful buttery crust. It's the perfect dessert when you want something cheesecakey or pie-like but don't want to make a whole one. The cream cheese layer is soft and almost custard-like. All the flavours and textures combine well to make a wonderful square. They're tasty warm, room temperature or cold and the longer you let them stand, the cleaner the cuts you'll get. I have made both pear and apple and like them equally. They're great!

Recipe: Pear Cream Cheese Squares

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Last week we were invited over for dinner at a friend's house and I wanted to bring something different. I didn't want it to be over-the-top difficult but it had to have familiar flavours so that it would be eaten. As I looked through Robin Hood's Home Baking I found that the Chocolate Raspberry Torte fit all my criteria.

I made the cake the night before and assembled it right before we went out. The cake was lovely, chocolatey and moist. Cutting was easy to do, though I think that cutting evenly is a bit trickier! (At least it was this time.) The raspberry jam was very subtle which I like but I was told that it would have been fine without it. One big change I made was to the icing. I followed the directions exactly but found that the end product was thick and very tangy. I didn't like it very much so I added icing sugar and cream until I got a flavour and consistency I liked. Unfortunately I didn't measure it out so I can't be specific about amounts.

Overall, I would make this cake again but maybe with a different icing. It was considered 'heavy' by some but, cutting smaller wedges can solve that problem. It is truly a dessert cake and one that would suit almost any occasion.

Recipe: Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Friday, September 29, 2006

Toasted Granola

Making granola is fun, simple and very easy. All you need are some oats and your favourite add-ins and voila - delicious granola.

The recipe for toasted granola calls for oats, wheat germ, almonds and coconut to be tossed and toasted with honey with dried fruit being added in when it is finished. The thing I like about this recipe is that you don't toast the fruit. I've made other recipes where the raisins are put in the oven and come out bloated and burnt. Not yummy. This way you have perfectly chewy fruit and crunch oats.

You can have the granola with some milk or yogurt for breakfast or use it in a recipe that calls for granola. I was going to do this but it all gone so I have to make a new batch. The granola is tasty, sweet and substantial and keeps you going those days you're to busy to eat. Try it, you might like it.

Recipe: Toasted Granola

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lethal Chocolate Cupcakes & Chocolate Buttercream Icing

One of the easiest, kid-friendly desserts to make for a birthday party are cupcakes. My little neighbour, The Princess, just turned six recently and requested two desserts - white chocolate strawberry cake and chocolate cupcakes. Initally her mom was supposed to bake for the occasion but things got changed around and I was given the honour. I love making cupcakes - they're easy and can be dressed up with some well-made icing and sugary star sprinkles.

The cupcakes are not difficult to make and, as a bonus for some, don't require eggs. I think I posted a while back on a mix-in-the-pan cake and these are a variation on that theme. The recipe comes from The Clueless Baker and is super easy and very tasty. They baked up beautiful and airy and thankfully I made them all the same size. Using muffin liners allowed me to bake two batches back-to-back with minimal clean-up.

The icing was also fun to make. The buttercream icing recipe comes from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook and is not the usual type that requires 8 cups of icing sugar. After melting semi-sweet chocolate, you beat it into softened unsalted butter with only a little over a cup of sugar. The end result is heavenly - light and chocolaty. It was smooth and creamy and not too sweet. The kids liked it too - after the party many cupcakes were found with the icing completely licked off.

All in all, they're a good bet for a crowd of sugar seekers and I'm happy everyone enjoyed them.

Recipe: Lethal Chocolate Cupcakes and Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Friday, September 22, 2006

SHF 23 - Chocolate Caramel Cookies

The theme of SHF this month is Surprise Inside hosted by Alanna at A Veggie Adventure.
The guidelines said you could use a surprise ingredient for your treat but I interpreted it quite literally - I wanted to make something with a surprise inside.

I decided to make Chocolate Caramel Cookies, a recipe I first tried years ago. I liked them but they were not my favourite. I gave them another try and made one adjustment by reducing the amount of cocoa powder and what a difference it made!

Before, I thought the cookies were a little bitter but, with only 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, I got a fudgy, brownie-like cookie that surrounds a square of Caramilk bar. Straight from the oven, the caramel if gooey and warm and succeptible to running down your chin. Once firm, as in the picture, the caramel still stays soft and the cookie is delectable as ever. They got the thumbs-up in my house and I would not hesitiate to make them again. Hopefully, I will have more to share next time! Thanks for hosting Alanna - your theme was truly original!

Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Cookies

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Happening Bagel Bakery

While I was in England visiting my sister, she showed me a bakery that was very close to her house. The Happening Bagel Bakery doesn't look like much from the outside but there are many treats to be had once you're inside. I saw mounds of fresh bread, savoury pastries and no shortage of sweets including cakes and tarts. We bought some spinach and cheese turnovers for lunch (which were very tasty) and said we'd return in the evening to pick up something to have with tea. Unfortunately, we never did get a chance to go back so I can't vouch for the for the pastries but I'm sure they were very yummy as well. Until I go back to Finsbury Park, I'll just have to look at my pictures and hope my sister goes there very often!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Peach Cobbler

With all the delicious Ontario peaches in the stores these days, its almost impossible to buy a basket and have any left over to make into something sweet. I really wanted to try them out in a baked good so I found a simple peach cobbler recipe that I could put together quickly before the peaches disappeared.

The recipe is super simple and very basic. The most time consuming part of the process is peeling the peaches which I did by plunging in hot water for 30 seconds. If you take the time to do this, the skin will come off very easily. You can add some flavouring to the peaches or cobbler - cinnamon and ginger may be good flavours to try. You could even throw in some berries for more colour. I didn't add anything to my cobbler and the dessert was yummy. Warm, soft juicy peaches in a not-too-sweet sauce topped with light biscuits. To make it extra special, try topping with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, gelato or frozen yogurt. It was homey and satisfying all at once and tasted great the next day for breakfast.

Recipe: Peach Cobbler

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Italian Sweets

Before I left on my trip, I was excited about all the fanstastic desserts I would see and try. Upon arriving in Alberobello, I soon realized that I might not get to due to its size. It is a very small, rustic city paved with cobblestones and numerous tourist stores selling replica trullis. It was not until my sister-in-law Tanya said, "Did you see the great bakery in town?" that I had a glimmer of hope. I asked her to take me there next time we were in town.

When we got there I was excited - they sold pastries, cookies, chocolate and gelato. Everything (except gelato) was sold by weight so I pulled out 10 euros and said to give me an assortment.

Well, 10 euros bought an entire tray of tarts, cream-filled pastries and cakes. We couldn't believe what she gave us so we bought some gelato and took our treats back home. They all looked very pretty, some more than others. The same went with the flavour - some were very tasty and some tasted like "cake and cream". A few of these same pastries were served at the wedding, along with full slices of cakes and tarts so I think they are pretty common in the region of Italy that we were in. Yum! One of my favourite pastries (not shown) was shaped liked a croissant, glazed and filled with Nutella. Nutella! How fantastic is that?

Our tray of sweets

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back from Puglia

Two weeks sure do go by fast! I'm back from Italy where my family and I spent time in the Puglia region of Italy, specifically Alberobello. This great old city is the home of the trulli, a dwelling with a conical roof as in the picture to the left. We had a great time trying to talk to the locals, who were always ready and willing to help us with pronunciation, ate lots of gelato and had fun in the sun. There were fruit and olive orchards everywhere. You could literally hop the stone fence and grab a fresh plum off the tree. Also, the mozzarella in Italy was to die for and makes the stuff we eat here seem like rubber. It was delicious and soft.

The end of the trip was highlighted with a grand wedding at the Giardino del Mago in Canosa. We were treated to a seven-course meal, dancing and spectacular fireworks. (Pictures of the dessert table at the wedding will come later.) All in all it was a great holiday and I think I now officially have caught the travel bug! Who couldn't love a country that holds official festivals for Nutella?
View of the city

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Italy here I come!

I just wanted to let you all know that tomorrow I'll be off to Italy for a couple weeks to attend a wedding. I'm not sure what kind of Internet access I'll have but I promise pictures of fabulous Italian desserts when I get back.

Have a great few last weeks of summer and if there any suggestions of what I should look for and try to bring back, by all means, please leave a comment. :)

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fruit Filled Oatmeal Bars

When I was looking through my pantry the other day, I saw a big bag of raisins that were just asking to be made into something yummy. I looked at the oats and they were whispering the same thing so I grabbed the Christmas Cookies magazine I've had since 2000 and immediately flipped to the Fruit-Filled Oatmeal Bars recipe. This is the type of recipe where there are 4 different filling variations and one happened to be raisin so I got to work.

The recipe itself if not hard to prepare. First you make a oat crumble and the filling is made on the stove. Two changes that I made was to use orange juice instead of water in the filling and I added a dash of cinnamon to the oat mixture. This added some extra flavour to the finished bar that was very pleasing. The bar was just sweet enough with a good balance of oats to raisins. This is a recipe I'll always have on standby - It's perfect when you want something quick without having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen to prepare it.

Update: The other recipe variations have been added. Just click the recipe link below.

Recipe: Fruit-Filled Oatmeal Bars

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lemon Coconut Crisps

Looking for a simple little tea cookie? Lemon coconut crisps would be welcome on any cookie tray - they're unassuming and simple with the light flavour of lemon. The texture is crispier than most cookies but they are not hard, just flaky. Most adults would like this cookie unless they absolutely abhor lemon and coconut but kids are a toss-up - some liked these cookies and some didn't. You just never know.

One ingredient in these cookies that is not always present is cream of tartar which acts as a stabilizer and adds volume to baked goods. (At least I think so.) It is easily obtained at bulk food stores so you need not buy a lot. It is also used to make icing for cakes and occurs naturally during the fermentation of grape juice into wine and crystallizes in the wine casks.

So with the cooler weather this morning here in Ontario, I think I'll make a cup of tea, grab a cookie and watch as my backyard transforms from a big dirt pile into a green grassy oasis.

Recipe: Lemon Coconut Crisps

Friday, August 04, 2006

Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

After the last week of hot hot heat, it has cooled down enough to actually think of turning on the oven. Today is absolutely beautiful - blue skies, light breeze and sunshine. I had a request for peanut butter cookies and I wanted to try a recipe that was completely new. The ones I've tried before are good enough but not great enough to not have a look around.

Out came Great Canadian Cookies and I flipped and flipped until I ended up at Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies. It was submitted from Kanata, Ontario and the little blurb said, "These are the best cookies anyone has ever tasted." Well that's high praise indeed, so I set out to see if it was true or not.

About an hour later they were done and delicious. I'm not joking - the cookies were substantial and did not flatten out at all. The batter was a dream to work with and they kept their shape and tasted great even though I left out some sugar and used natural peanut butter. MiltonMama said these were probably the best peanut butter cookies ever and she would know, Cookie Queen that she is.

Have a great long weekend!

Recipe: Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Not all banana cakes are made equal. This version from Canadian Living is moist, delicious and could be used for any special occasion. The secret is adding orange rind into the batter. This infuses the cake but does not take away from the banana flavour - it enhances it. Add some chocolate chips to the mix and wow! A great cake for snacking and sharing.

You can add the icing as it says in the recipe or just leave it plain with a light dusting of icing sugar. Of course, you can leave out the rind if you wish or add nuts - most add-ins will work in this cake. The recipe makes a lot of cake and it travels well so why not try it for your next picnic or potluck?

Recipe: Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these cookies for a get together last week with sour cream leftover from an earlier batch of cookies. They're a take on regular chocolate chip cookies with the addition of raisins and walnuts. I opted to leave out the raisins since the no one likes them but I would have liked to leave them in because I think the chewiness would have added another texture dimension that would have complemented the smooth chocolate and crunchy nuts.

These cookies are quite tasty and you get a really nice cookie dough that holds it shape in a scooper. I found that if you flatten them a bit before baking they are more circular but if you leave it as a mound, it stays that way. Either way is fine, it just depends on your preferences. The cookies brown nicely and are a little cakey but not dry. They were all gone by the end of the night so I guess everyone liked them as well. They really are a great Canadian cookie.

Recipe: Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday, July 28, 2006

Key Lime Pie

This isn't a Key lime pie in the truest sense - I made it with Persian limes, the ones most commonly found in the average grocery store. I have never tried a real Key lime but, it seems that you don't really need it to make a nice lime pie.

The recipe comes from Wanda's Pie in the Sky and is very easy to make. It is the first pie I've made that uses uncooked egg yolks. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but it was great. It didn't taste eggy and the filling firmed up nicely and was sliceable. The filling was sweet-tart and the coconut in the crust complemented the lime, making it taste more tropical. Overall, I was happy witht the results and would not hesitate to make it again.

Recipe: Key Lime Pie

Monday, July 24, 2006

Spicy Ginger Crinkle Cookies

After reading about the Cocoa Cappuccino Cookies at Tea and Cookies and seeing their lovely sparkle, I decided to make a favourite cookie that is also rolled in coarse sugar - Spicy Ginger Crinkles.

I've made these cookies for years and they are yummy. They consist of a molasses/ginger dough that is rolled onto balls, rolled in sugar and then baked. The result is a crackled, spicy cookie that is perfect with milk and tea. Kids who like strong flavours will like them too. The longer you bake then the crispier they become.

Another reason that I made these is that my little neighbour, The Princess, asked me to and, as the obedient baker that I am, I quickly set out to to make her happy. Time to make a delivery!

Recipe: Spicy Ginger Crinkle Cookies

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chocolate Lollipops

Make someone happy!

1. Get chocolate, molds, sticks, sprinkles and candy bags. (optional - for wrapping.)
2. Melt chocolate and pour into molds. Add sticks. Decorate if desired.
3. Place in refrigerator until chilled and solid.
4. Pop out and enjoy!

No baking required!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sour Cream Cookies

First off, I'd like to apologize for the poor picture quality. It was dark and gloomy all day and this was the best I could do before the cookies all got eaten. I wouldn't have even bothered to post them but they were so tasty I just had to.

These Sour Cream Cookies are amazing. They are fluffy and cakey with the subtle tang of sour cream. If you have eaten a snickerdoodle, these taste very similar except that they are not rolled in cinnamon sugar - it is just sprinkled on top. The dough is very soft and not easily shaped into a ball for rolling as a snickerdoodle is.

The recipe comes from Great Canadian Cookies by Pamela Steel which is full of cookie and bar recipes sent in from all over Canada. This particular one come from Sherwood Park, Alberta and I'm glad it made it in. They are easy to prepare even for the novice baker and use all the basic baking ingredients. You could even throw in some chocolate chips if you wanted to. The recipe uses a whole cup of sour cream so they're indulgent but worth it if you like this type of cookie texture. Don't be fooled by the picture - yesterday I was told that "These are the best cookies ever!" What could be more satisfying than that? :)

Recipe: Sour Cream Cookies

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hot Chocolate Pudding

Sixty four percent of moms say JELL-O Pudding is a favorite snack for kids. Jello Website

That's a lot of pudding! I can see the appeal (or repulsion) of pudding - smooth creamy custard that just slides down the throat. No chewing required. A healthy alternative to buying premade pudding or powder from the store is to make your own. By doing this, you can avoid the added chemicals and that strange aftertaste that lingers in the mouth.

This hot chocolate pudding is very easy to assemble and uses ingredients found in most kitchens - milk, sugar, cocoa powder, flour and milk. It only takes about 10 minutes to whisk everything together and pour into dishes. The pudding is smooth and chocolately and is best enjoyed thoroughly chilled. Just remember to stay vigilant - if you leave it unattended it will burn quickly.

If you like, throw in a strip of orange rind for flavouring and fish it out before you pour out the pudding. Add a dollop of whipped cream and/or a few fresh berries and you have a quick and yummy dessert that everyone will enjoy.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating." Miguel de Cervantes

Recipe: Hot Chocolate Pudding

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Blueberry Cheese Coffeecake

I love cheesecake coffeecakes. Cream cheese adds an extra dimension to the ever-popular crumb cake - a smooth melt-on-the-tongue creaminess that comes from eating a real cheesecake. Throw in some fresh blueberries and you have a cake worthy of any occasion.

The cake is best served warm or at room temperature. It is moist and flavourful, bursting with juicy blueberries. The crumb topping is very complementary to the cake by adding a little bit of sweet crunch which finishes off the cake perfectly. There are three components to prepare for the cake - topping, cheese filling and cake but, if you give yourself enough time to assemble and bake it, you will be greatly rewarded. There is also a raspberry variation that, no doubt, would taste fantastic as well.

Recipe: Blueberry Cheese Coffeecake

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Simply Lovely Lemon Squares

Making a really good lemon square is tricky business. All the components have to be there - a tender shortbread crust supporting a tart, creamy lemon filling. Some problems that can occur are that your square ends up tasting eggy or that your filling gets overcooked thus becoming a solid mass. They would probaby still be edible but not nearly as pleasurable as a proper lemon bar should be.

I have had my share of hits and misses with the lemon square and I think this attempt falls somewhere in the middle. Though they were enjoyed by Mr. CB, they were not 100% perfect. The shortbread was lovely and buttery but the filling could have used a little work. It was tart and lemony but not quite right somehow. Some of the filling leaked underneath the crust so some bars really had no filling to speak of - just lemon flavour. I am not discouraged though - the perfect lemon bar recipe is out there somewhere and I will find it.

Recipe: Simply Lovely Lemon Squares

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cheddar Apple Bars

I really look forward to the weekends but mine are turning out to be so busy that they fly right by. I did, however, get some time to make Cheddar Apple Bars but had to wait until this morning to post about it.

This is another great recipe for using any apples you have hanging around. The filling consists of simmered apples layered between a cheddar-oat crumble. The cheese adds a subtle tang to the sweet apples and it tastes reminiscent of apple crisp or pie, just in bar form.

I would make these again because I usually have all the ingredients on hand. Also, I would recommend waiting until the bars are completely cooled before cutting. I cut mine when they were still warm so I didn't get clean edges but they do cut cleanly if you wait.

Recipe: Cheddar Apple Bars

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oreo Muffins

I don't usually have Oreos on hand at my house. My mom gave me a package on the weekend and, of course, I couldn't just eat them - that would be too easy so I decided to do something creative with them. I remember seeing a recipe on Bakingsheet for Oreo Cupcakes and with that inspiration I looked around for a similar recipe that didn't require a whole package of cookies. I found an easy recipe for Oreo Muffins on AAA Recipes. It looked reasonable with all the proper ingredients so I decided to go ahead.

The muffins came together nicely and I added an extra smidge of milk to get the batter a little softer. I would recommend leaving the cookie part in big chunks. Crumbs just dissolve and with the big chunks, the muffins stay black and white. The muffins, surprisngly, weren't very sweet (and oddly tasteless) and had a dense crumb. I didn't really detect an overt Oreo flavour but I was happy about how they baked - these are solid muffins. They went over well with the kids and I just added melted white chocolate on top to decorate and give them some extra flavour.

Recipe: Oreo Muffins

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Banana Nut Quick Bread

I hope everyone had a nice long weekend. Mine was fun and busy - one activity after another. Yesterday I found some time to make some banana bread with the three bananas on my counter. I wanted a recipe that would use them all and I found one in the Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook by Jennifer Appel, one of the co-founders of Magnolia Bakery.

I haven't delved into this book enough to say its good or not but, the banana bread was tasty. It was very dense and chewy, not light and airy. If you like this type of texture then you'll like this bread, if not you may have to put those three bananas to another use. The batter was easy to prepare and if you have no nuts, some type of dry add-in would work or you can just leave it plain.

Now that summer vacation is here, I'm hoping to have more time to put into trying out new recipes. I will definitely explore this book some more. Have a great day!

Recipe: Banana Nut Quick Bread