Sunday, May 30, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Yesterday on Facebook I asked for recipes to use up some soy milk, not realizing that I had buttermilk left over from lemon scones I needed to use up first.  Tastespotting lead me to this wonderful whole wheat strawberry lemon buttermilk cake.  We added some rhubarb, too.

The texture and flavour are really great-- light, moist, and fluffy, with a perfect hint of lemon.  The boyfriend says it could use more fruit on top, although in my defense it looked like a lot before it was baked.

This cake is great because it's made with whole wheat flour, and a relatively small amount of butter (I suspect you could also use oil).  And it's a bit more interesting than others because it's sweetened with agave syrup.  Agave syrup (or nectar-- same thing) is made from the juice of the agave plant (you may remember agave from tequila), and gained popularity in recent years for being a natural, healthier alternative to more refined sugars. It's lighter than honey, and has a low-glycemic index.  Some people seem to still think it's shit.  I have little opinion about agave syrup, other than it was really expensive, but also pretty fun to try.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Homemade Pop Tarts

There are a lot of foods I miss since becoming allergic to life.  Chocolate bars, granola bars, instant noodles, and overly processed breakfast pastries top the list.  So you can imagine my overexcitement when I started seeing Pop Tart recipes popping up on food blogs lately.  I just had to try making one of my now potentially-fatal childhood favourites.

And holy shit, they are good.  They're just what I remember always wishing Pop Tarts tasted like.  Flakey and sweet, they leave you with that euphoric crack-like feeling that only the most delicious baking can deliver.  

They're also a lot simpler to make than I thought they'd be.  Just roll out some pastry and add some jam!  Next time I'm going to make some chocolate ones.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chocolate Brownies, minus the Fail

Remember a while ago when I made brownies?  Yeah.  Well I can now push that out of my memory because not only do I have a better recipe, but I baked them without injury, tears, or permanent damage to my kitchen.

This wonderful brownie recipe was sent to me by Angela, a fellow chocoholic who clearly has good taste.  They're fudgy, moist, but not too dense (so you can eat lots!), and I love how they're made with real cocoa instead of chocolate chips.  

They're definitely my new favourite.  I didn't have any instant coffee, so I couldn't make the recommended icing, but I just whipped up a simple icing sugar buttercream with some cocoa and it worked great.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gluten-free Strawberry Shortcake

I found solace in a place called Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks yesterday afternoon, over by Granville Island.  It's a dangerous place to be -- so many cookbooks, and only so many hours they are open during the day.  I managed to cap myself off at two books, though: Chocolate & Vanilla by Gale Gand, and Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly.  The latter was purchased because my boyfriend has gluten issues, and it always makes me a bit sad when he doesn't eat some of the baking I make.  Mainly because I'm left to eat it all.  And eat it all, I do.

Admittedly, strawberry shortcake isn't really my type of dessert.  I prefer richer, chocolately fare.  But this was to win him over to that dark side, however gradual the transition will be, so a fresh, fruit-filled shortcake was the first offering.  I took my new book to Choices, armed with a disturbing sense of earnestness, and picked out all the rice/potato/tapioca flours and starches I'd need.  It's a whole new world.  An expensive new world, too.  Anyone know a good place to buy non-gluteny flours in Vancouver?

I was a bit scared of the gluten-freeness, but was happy and only mildly surprised when the recipe actually worked.  In terms of taste, it was good, but it was more of a traditional, heavier biscuit and we were both hoping for something a bit lighter.  But it was still delicious, if only partly because it was something we could both enjoy without one of us suffering.

Expect more gluten-free goodies as I try out other recipes from her book!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's a friend's birthday tonight, which means a super awesome excuse to bake.  And also leave my kitchen afterwards and join humanity at last.  But alas, it was a bit of a challenge because she can't eat dairy, and I can't eat most dairy substitutes (margarine, shortening, etc have palm oil in them).  So I went a googling and found Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies.  No dairy for her, and no allergens for me.  I was a bit hesitant, remembering that god-awful time I made a box mix cake (big mistake number 1) with olive oil instead of canola (big mistake number 2).  It tasted like artificial over-processed ass. But the recipe assured me they're good, so I gave it a go.

Now is my turn to assure you that there is no ass-taste in these cookies.  They're really good!  Soft and chewy with an interesting (in a fantastic way) flavour.  Try them!  Impress your vegan or dairy-free friends with something delicious for once. 
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Windsor Arms' Famous Lemon Scones

The oven is fixed!!!  

Let there be scones.

A lifetime ago, I travelled to Australia in the dead of winter with a friend, and we did our best to avoid the sun and spiders.  One fond afternoon, we made asses of ourselves at the William Rickets Sanctuary, then sat in a little cafe, drank tea, and ate the most incredible scones with clotted cream and jam.  Clotted cream is a lot more delicious than it sounds, I promise.

I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about those scones, and wanting to recreate that afternoon.  So when a friend, Lindsay, sent me a recipe for the Windsor Arms' Famous Lemon Scones I was pretty excited.  But then my oven broke, and I was pretty sad.  

Now that the oven is back up and running, these scones were the first thing I made.  They do not disappoint.  They're soft and lemony on the inside, with just the right crispness and sweetness on the outside.  I added some blueberries to the tops before I put them in the oven, and they turned out fantastic.

In the words of William Rickets:  These scones are the essence of God.  Or good.  We'll never know, really.  Shame.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Glazed and Cinnamon Sugar-Coated Donuts

Tim Horton's is dead to me.  

A few months ago my cousin had a fiesta-themed baby shower, and we got to make some really delicious desserts. One was lime cupcakes, which were great, but the other was churros. I love fried food, and I love churros. They remind me of Disneyland, of the PNE, of fun childhood summers where you get to eat those iconic fair foods in context. And sure, context is everything, but why not bring the fun home? 

So this week I did, and made cinnamon sugar-coated and glazed donuts.

Although the churro-making experience was really fun, and the end result amazing, we didn't properly ventilate the kitchen and the smell haunted me for days. I took that lesson to heart, and this time had my kitchen fan on high, and all the doors and windows open. Big difference. My apartment only smelled like a donut shop for a few hours. Unless it's still there and I've just gotten used to the smell-- in which case, shit.

I was going to tell you how surprisingly easy these are to make, but apparently my definition of "easy to make" is eye-roll inducing, so I'll just tell you they aren't so scary after all, and encourage you to give them a try. 

On that note, thank you everyone for your lovely emails, comments, and recipes. I appreciate all of them, all your love, and will bake as much as I can once my oven is back up and running!

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pretty, Sparkly Sugar Cookies

I used to hate decorating sugar cookies.  I found them annoying, irritating, and finicky.  But I think I'm starting to come around.  Having several dozen in my freezer helps, too.

I experimented making these ones this weekend.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding

I am on day 15 without an oven and I'm getting pissy.  Don't my landlords know this is the seventh level of hell for me?

The only positive I can derive from this is that it's expanding what I normally bake. As in, I'm not technically baking it. So there's lots of no-bake bars, puddings, granitas, etc. I've found that I'm stoked to try out.  One of these is tofu pudding, which I remember eating a lot when I was a kid. I found a few recipes and adapted (winged, really) my own version for Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding.

The best part is you can't even tell it's made with tofu.  It's creamy and rich, with the perfect blend of spice and chocolate. And my son ate it without complaint, which is always the true test. Tofu pudding is also vegan-friendly (okay, not my version -- but it would be easy to adapt with margarine and dairy-free chocolate) so it's fun for everyone!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lemon Granita

What's better than having the perfect summer refreshment ready to go at any time?  

Lots of things, probably.  But this lemon granita is pretty nice, too.  Plus it's really easy to make, and lasts in the freezer for months.  It's basically an adult version of a snow cone.  Cool and refreshing, it has the perfect hint of sweet to balance the tartness of the lemon.  And it could be easily made into an even more adult-friendly treat with the addition of tequila!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Vancouver Canucks Cookies

I made these cookies pre-game Sunday, silently praying the Canucks could pull it together for just one more game so I'd have the chance to make these.  And you know, so they can win the Stanley Cup and all that.

Sure, I don't really watch their games.  And no, I don't know most of their names.  I couldn't pick them out a police line-up.  But people I care about do, and could.  And I want them to be happy.

And I know cookies can work miracles and make great things happen.  So, dear Canucks, this is my contribution.  Please don't f-ck up, because these took me a long-ass time to make.

But if cake is more your style, here's one I made last year...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Perry Bars

It doesn't get much better than this:

You may have noticed, but I do a lot of baking.  Some of it can be pretty elaborate or complicated, so it's a bit surprising that my favourite dessert is only a little more involving than a Rice Krispy square.  It's so simple my son could even do most of it, if he ever stopped playing construction site long enough to care what I'm doing in the kitchen.

I'm not sure what these bars are actually called, so I've affectionately dubbed them "Perry Bars".  All I really know is that I've been eating them for as long as I can remember, and it's hard to top how good they are.  They have a nanaimo bar top, with a peanut butter/rice krispy/corn flake bottom.

If you make any baking this year, you have to make these.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes

What do you do when you have buttermilk that's almost at its expiry date and a busted oven?

Make pancakes, of course.  For dinner!

For a long time I though I'd never find a recipe to replace Country Inn Pancakes.  This made me sad because although CIP provide one hell of a buttervanillanutmeggasm, they are bound to eventually leave their mark in the form of a dimply bum.  Needless to say, I was pretty happy when I stumbled upon this recipe and could use up the buttermilk and consume pancakes with less waistline expansion.  They lack the CIP fluff, but make up for it with being incredibly soft and almost crepe-like.  They're a bit like a pancake-crepe hybrid, actually. The original recipe calls for regular old white flour, but I used whole wheat instead and they still turned out delicious.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How To Eat A Cupcake

Cupcakes are quaint, adorable little creations that are pretty much the bug-eyed kitten of the baked good world.  But sadly, they can be a pain in the ass to eat.

This is especially apparent with all the cupcake stores opening around the city (Big City Cupcakes, Cupcakes, and so on).  I've noticed the struggle to walk down the street, or casually perch outside the store and eat the newly purchased cupcake while trying to uphold the inherent cute factor and not turn into some sort of rabid dingo devouring a baby.

In light of this problem-- and to help all of you, really-- I've taken a closer look at the three most common methods for eating a cupcake and listed their pros and cons.  I have a clear favourite, but I guess I'll let you decide on your own and judge you harshly in the meantime.

Method A:  Given'r

This is by far the most preferred method of cupcake consumption.  When Given'r, the eater eats the cupcake in full with no alterations to its appearance.  The mouth is generally extended as wide as physically possible to ensure complete and even icing and cupcake proportions.

Pros: Requires no alterations to the cupcake's appearance.  It's common, so you'll look relatively normal. Good means of displaying mouth girth.

Cons: Bad for larger cupcakes or cupcakes with excess (adequate? your call) proportions of icing.  High risk of making some seriously unfortunate expressions as you struggle to fit the whole height of the cupcake in your mouth.  Moderate risk of uneven icing distribution.  Moderate risk of crumbles.

Method B: The Hamburger

For The Hamburger, the bottom half of the cupcake is separated from the top and placed firmly atop the icing.  The cupcake then resembles a sandwich and the eater consumes it as such.

Pros:  Less mess.  Ensures even icing and cupcake proportions.  Low risk of before mentioned unfortunate expressions during biting stage.  People will be wowed with your efficiency.

Cons:  Moderate risk of loss to cupcake's cute factor.  Moderate risk of crumbles during initial separation.

Method C: The Cutter

Method C is commonly used for at-home cupcake eating, unless the eater is truly committed (to an asylum) and brings cutlery with them on bakery jaunts.  For The Cutter, the cupcake is sliced into two or more pieces, either intended to be eaten all in one sitting, or in several.  Occasionally, the icing may be relocated to the side of the slice for ease of eating and more even distribution.

Pros:  In a multi-cupcake situation, gives eater(s) the opportunity to sample many flavours without post-treat gut pain.  Allows better control over how much cupcake you eat in one sitting.

Cons:  High risk of still eating the whole damn thing anyway.

Clearly, I favour Method B as it's obviously the smartest, most efficient way to eat a cupcake.  But to be on the safe side I recommend going with the minis.  They're bite sized, possibly cuter, and you get to pretend to be a giant!

How do you eat cupcakes?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This whole not having an oven thing has me re-evaluating how I do dessert.  Cakes, cupcakes, and cookies (the holy trinity!) are out of the question so I'm simplifying, and trying to be a teensy bit healthier in the process.

Luckily, my son is a fruit and veggie addict, so chocolate covered strawberries are the perfect merger of our tastes.  And they're easy, too!  Just melt some chocolate in the microwave (on low, and check it frequently) and dip/roll in some freshly washed and dried strawberries.  I place mine on tin foil to dry.  Then eat them and tell yourself you're still technically eating fruit!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Honda Cupcakes: Because Nothing Says "Thank You" like Copyright Infringement

honda cupcake
A few weeks ago the boyfriend got an awesome deal on a new (to us!) civic over at Carter Honda. Wanting to give them a thank-you gift a bit more personal (and tasty) than flowers or wine, I decided cupcakes with little Honda emblems were perfect. So I started this morning like I often dream of doing: by baking at 8am. It was lovely.

But then the unimaginable struck. Something so horrible it doesn't even grace my nightmares: my oven wouldn't work. For whatever reason, it seems to think the oven door is open so it refuses to heat. Despite all my best efforts (including but not limited to: poking the latch, prodding the latch, staring blankly at the manual, and slamming the door) I was stuck with freshly made batter and was on the verge of tears. What do you do when your stress relief is baking, but you can't bake?! It was like giving a heroin addict a syringe full of drugs, then taking it back seconds before they inject.  I was going to scratch somebody's eyes out.  Fortunately, my mom lives a few minutes away and boyfriend took the batter over there and she baked them for me while I worked on the icing and the gumpaste emblems. The rest of the morning went much more smoothly.

In the end, the cupcakes turned out great despite of my oven's attempts to sabotage them. They're chocolate with a rich buttercream icing, and are moist, flavourful, and delicious. This cupcake recipe is amazing and will seriously turn out no matter what I do, and this buttercream is one of the best of the non-cooked variety. Highly recommend trying both.  Half were decorated with blue icing and the emblems, and the other half with white icing and sprinkles.

honda cupcake

If you could all please pray for my oven I would really appreciate it. It is the only appliance I actually care about. Yes, arguably the fridge is more useful -- but the oven holds my heart and soul.

honda cupcake


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