DIY: Panettone

I probably should be doing something else right now like packing a healthy snack for tomorrow’s little ring bearer, or ironing his baby brother’s wedding pants. The clock is ticking toward midnight and I’m going to have bags under my eyes and ugly fingernails at tomorrow’s family wedding, because instead of being responsible, I am bringing you this panettone.

I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe; it was so much fun to make, every step of the way! Translated from Italian and meaning ‘big bread’, this panettone was a thrill to make at home. Once I had found the right baking mould (thanks to Ares Cuisine $.99 each), I was set. While there’s nothing particularly exotic about the ingredients, the process of bringing them together–the lemon zest, the rum-soaked raisins, and all those eggs–was an intoxicating rush for a home baker like me. (and it wasn’t because I was sampling the rum, either)

Turns out it was a bit of a photographers dream too…It posed so prettily, even when sliced open to reveal it’s creamy interior. This wedge disappeared pretty fast with my cup of tea. Luckily the recipe makes a big batch, so there’s some in the freezer for Christmas morning.


Adapted from Canadian Living
Servings: 2 large loaves, 24 slices each

1/4 cup (50 ml) brandy or rum
3/4 cup (175 mL) golden raisins
1/2 cup (125 mL) candied mixed peel

1/2 cup (125 mL) candied citron

8-3/4 cups (2.175 L) all-purpose flour (approx)

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (175 mL) warm milk

2 pkg active dry yeast (or 2 tbsp/25 mL)

6 eggs 6 egg yolks
1 tbsp (15 mL) each grated orange and lemon rind

1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt

1-1/2 cups (375 mL) unsalted butter, softened

In a glass measuring cup, microwave rum at high for about 20 seconds. Add raisins and let stand until plump, about one hour. Drain and reserve raisins.
In small bowl, combine raisins, candied peel and citron. Add 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the flour; toss to coat. Set aside.
In separate bowl, dissolve 1 tsp (5 mL) of the sugar in warm milk. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand for 10 minutes or until frothy.
Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, orange and lemon rinds and vanilla until combined; stir into milk mixture.
In large bowl, stir together 4 cups (1 L) of the flour, remaining sugar and salt. With wooden spoon, stir in egg mixture all at once. Add butter all at once; stir until blended. Gradually stir in remaining flour to make soft somewhat lumpy dough.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface; knead for about 8 minutes or until soft, smooth and elastic, adding up to 1/3 cup (75 mL) more flour if needed. Lightly dust with flour; cover with tea towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
Flatten dough into 15-inch (38 cm) circle; top with raisin mixture. Fold dough over mixture; pinch to seal. Knead for 2 to 3 minutes or until raisin mixture is evenly distributed. Place in large greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Grease two 2 lb (1 kg) coffee cans or panettone moulds. If using cans, line bottoms and sides with parchment paper to extend 1 inch (2.5 cm) above top; wrap outsides and bottoms with double thickness of foil. Punch down dough; turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide in half; roll each into ball. Place, seam side down, in can. Cover and let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

With serrated knife, cut X on top of each loaf. Bake on baking sheet on lowest rack of 350ºF (180ºC) oven for about 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean, covering tops lightly with foil if browning too quickly.
Let cool in cans on rack for 1 hour. Remove from cans by gently pulling paper; let cool completely on rack.

Tip: Baking panettone in a variety of can sizes is not traditional but does allow you to share some of this splendid treat with those at the top of your gift list. For small panettone, use 10 to 28 oz (284 to 796 mL) cans. Make ball of dough small enough to fill can just under halfway. Let rise as in recipe; bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Playing with Pumpkin: Pumpkin Muffins with Golden Raisins

I never really liked muffins until just a few years ago. Every one I encountered was dry, tasteless, crumbly and completely devoid of any personality. I have finally experimented with enough recipes to have a few types in my repertoire that are always fantastic…but even they get a little boring.
I was skeptical of this recipe from as I was sure the addition of whole wheat flour would make them heavy, just like the muffins we ate when I was growing up–healthy, oh you bet, but they were like little hockey pucks with flavor!

I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by this recipe! They were tender, oh-so-moist, and had just enough of that spiced pumpkin flavor to feel like a true autumn muffin.
I ate at least three during the little coffee percolator photo shoot.
I am thrilled to have another moist and memorable muffin recipe under my belt and an eager to try some variations. With dark chocolate chunks, maybe? Dried apples?
It’s going to be a great winter after all!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Golden Raisins

adapted from ‘Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 24 medium muffins.

3/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, spooned and leveled

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

3 large eggs

1 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons more for sprinkling

1/2 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush muffin tins with oil; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, spices, and baking soda; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk oil, pumpkin puree, yogurt, eggs, and 1 cup sugar to combine; add raisins and reserved dry ingredients. Mix just until moistened (do not overmix).

4. Divide evenly and spoon batter into muffin tins; sprinkle tops with remaining sugar (I skipped this part) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in pan.

Rise and Shine

I’m not a person who obsesses over weight. I hate diets and diet talk, am not up to date on the latest weight-loss novelties, and most health-related jargon goes in one ear and out the other. My sister insists it’s because I don’t have to worry about my weight, but I insist right back that’s not true. Even if I hadn’t inherited my mother’s metabolism–she’s about 105 soaking wet–I would still eat whatever I wanted. Anyone who knows me can attest to my ‘cherry on top’ approach to eating. Yes, I want whipping cream on my Cafe Mocha, butter and cream cheese on my bagel, and bacon with everything.

However, as gluttonous as that sounds, I do watch what I eat, but not in a calorie-counting way. I’m not indifferent to the importance of a balanced diet. I could name you off ten ‘power foods’ in a flash (blueberries, avocado, pomegranate, tomatoes, kale…) I almost never eat fast food, stay far away from overly-processed foods and eat balanced meals prepared from scratch.

Still, I always get The Question. Sometimes it’s asked in an accusing way, sometimes wistful, sometimes puzzled, but there it is:

“Why don’t you weigh like two hundred pounds?”

People know how many sweets I consume, that I am a former chef and, yep, my world pretty much revolves around food, and they assume I should weight at least 50 lbs more than I do. How do you answer that? I never know. Sometimes I even feel apologetic, especially if the question is tinged with accusation.
“I’m sorry?”
Maybe I will say that sometime.

You know, I realize that weight is a huge (sorry, terrible pun, but I use that word for everything) issue for many people, and I don’t mean to make light of it (someone stop me already!). It’s just no fun to always have people telling you how unfair it is that you are not fat.

Now, I don’t want to offend anyone and so I will stop while I am ahead and tell you what got me going on all of this in the first place.

This month’s Saveur is entirely devoted to breakfast! Awesome.
Thumbing through it I was skeptical at first, a write up about the southern U.S. chain Waffle House? An article on McDonald’s Egg McMuffin? But I picked up a copy anyway, huge breakfast lover that I am, and was glad I did, for it transported me for a breakfast tour around the world that was most enjoyable, and supplied me with so many breakfast recipes that I wished it was Saturday every day so I could try them out.

Inspired by the issue, I decided to show you what I have for breakfast every morning. Perhaps THIS healthy start to my day has helped to keep my weight down, perhaps not.

Nope, not sugary cold cereal, not buttery Danishes, and no greasy fry-up, but oatmeal porridge is my standard breakfast five days a week. It’s not always with roasted peaches and cinnamon sugar, as pictured, but with a variety of seasonal toppings. My dining room table perpetually has a tray with plenty more add-ons for the hot cereal: wheat germ, coconut, honey, craisins, granola and whatever else suits my fancy.
The weekends are for the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and the Raspberry Chocolate Muffins, but during the week the babies and I wake up together over stone-cut oats.

Seriously though, I grew up eating hot cereal and vowed to keep it up so that my children would also. My husband was raised on cold cereal and our pantry is stocked to meet his needs, however this is about to change. Noah is plenty old enough to realize Daddy’s Honey Nut Cheerios are more fun than his oatmeal. On the rare occasion he is up before Danny has to leave for work, one can usually find him sleepily trying to climb up on his dad’s lap for of bite of ‘cheewios’.

Ah, this is fascinating, stuff isn’t it?

OK, so if anyone is still reading, tell me, what do you eat for breakfast?

Chocolate-Raspberry Oat Muffins

I am not generally accustomed to letting Noah eat in front of the TV, in fact, our soon-to-be three-year-old isn’t really allowed to watch television; however, the Bejing Olympics have caused us to bend the rules a bit these last several days.

Is anyone as enraptured by the games as I am? These athletes (or ‘af-leaps’ as my son calls them) are so hard core! They are all normal people like you and I, but their endurance, strength, focus and drive is stunning to watch.

The morning Alexandre Despatie of Montreal won his silver medal in diving was so exciting, I couldn’t turn off the TV. For the first time in my history as a mother, I dragged the high chair into our office/TV room and served Noah his oatmeal poolside–er, television-side.
His brain can’t rot during six rounds of dives now, can it?

The silver medal performance inspired the afternoon’s game for Noah, as a row of surprisingly buoyant pillows laid in a row across the floor made up a diving board onto the sofa.

These muffins are another great way to get your morning oats without the mess of a bib, bowl and spoon for the little ones. Plenty of butter keep them moist and the oatmeal add a delightful texture. As you can see, I am carrying my much-loved combination of raspberries and chocolate a step further than dessert and bringing it into my breakfast menu. These feel almost like dessert for breakfast, what could be better than that?

Feel free to change up the add-ins of these buttermilk oatmeal muffins to suit your taste. Prefer blueberries to raspberries? No chocolate for you? Try adding some dried fruit or nuts instead.

Chocolate-Raspberry Oat Muffins
Makes 12

1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
½ cup melted butter, cooled
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

In a large bowl, combine oats and buttermilk and let stand one hour. Preheat oven to 400F and prepare muffin tins.
Stir the egg and the sugar into the oat mixture, followed by the melted butter. Pile all the ingredients together over the oat mixture, leaving out the berries, and stir the batter until just combined.
Fold in berries carefully without over mixing.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins and place in oven. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about ten minutes.

More Chocolate and Raspberry recipes:

Chocolate and Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Summer Inspiration

Potato, Sage and Pancetta Gratin with Fresh Garlic

Consider this post my own little TasteSpotting.

I’ve got several dishes- from breakfast to dinner and dessert-that I have been wanting to post about for a while, but because of time constraints they will never boast their own individual posts. So here they are in picture form with a few recipes to boot.

Perhaps you can glean a little inspiration for your lunch today, or maybe you’ll just scroll through and say “Had it. Had it. Made it. Over it.” Whatever you choose to do is fine with me, what do I care? Hey, I’m off to do some cooking over an open fire, have tickle fights in the family tent, build some sand castles and enjoy getting back to nature without a battery operated toy for miles around.
Ta Ta!

Breakfast: Blueberry Baked French Toast

I haven’t showcased many berry recipes yet this summer, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been scarfing them down by the bucket fulls. We’ve enjoyed them many ways like Mango-Blueberry Lassies and Chocolate-Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches (recipe coming soon!) I loved this breakfast dish because it is made up the night before and all you have to do in the morning is bake it off and whip some cream. Don’t leave your mixer beating the cream and go check your email, like I did, or your whipped cream will more resemble butter than a creamy topping. Tisk-Tisk.

Baked Blueberry French Toast
Adapted from
Fabulous Fairholme: Breakfasts & Brunches Serves 2

4 slices day old Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh blueberries (or raspberries)

2 oz cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3 eggs

1 cup milk

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

The night before: Grease two 8 oz ramekins. Line bottom half with bread cubes. Cover with blueberries and cream cheese cubes and top with remaining bread. Mix eggs, milk and syrup together and pour over bread. Cover and let soak overnight in refrigerator.

In the morning: Preheat oven to 350F. (Make your coffee and wake yourself up) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffy and golden. Remove from ramekins and serve with your topping of choice and plenty more of that coffee.

Lunch: Smoked salmon and fixings

If you are lucky enough to get to one of Montreal’s fine bagel shops, those bagels are all you really need to enjoy your smoked salmon and cream cheese, but all the other fixings are pretty sweet to spoil yourself and your surprise lunch guests with, too.

Lunch Side Dish: Tempura Zucchini Blossoms

I know, I know, I couldn’t let these beauties from my own garden go to waste, so I overcame my fear of ingesting bugs and slugs (happened to me IN a restaurant), gave the blossoms a good clean and was so happy I did. They were amazing, as was the sherry mayo I made to go with them. Heavenly.

Dinner Appetizer: Slow Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

Everyone’s favorite snack, these ones are my Aunt Jenny’s specialty: crusty rounds of baguette, oven-roasted, über-ripe sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with fresh herbs and drizzled with olive oil and salt. Serve warm and make lots.

Appy Number Two: Pancetta-Wrapped Grilled Asparagus

For the bacon-lovers in your family. Toss asparagus in olive oil and season, then wrap with panchetta. Group into rows of about 5 spears each and run a skewer through them to bunch together for easier grilling. Grill over a low flame and serve warm.

Dinner: Grilled Lamb Chops with Salmoriglio, Young Courgettes and Purple Carrots

Thanks to copious amounts of oregano in my garden, Salmoriglio is a fresh herb sauce I whip up all the time to accompany grilled meats, especially lamb. These chops benefited from an overnight marinade of olive oil, tons of oregano, a touch of rosemary, some lemon zest and plenty of black pepper. The vegetables are picked from my little kitchen garden.

Salmoriglio Oregano Sauce

Recipe comes from the fabulous River Cafe Cookbook

4 level tablespoons fresh oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

8 tablespoons olive oil

fresh pepper

In a mortar and pestle pound the herb leaves and salt until completely crushed. Add the lemon juice. Pour the oil slowly into the mixture. Add a little pepper. Drizzle over grilled meats such as lamb or beef.
Variation: Marjoram, thyme or lemon-thyme can be substituted for oregano.

Dinner Side Dish: New Potato, Sage and Pancetta Gratin with Young Garlic

I’m enjoying immensely the crop of garlic I planted last fall. If you’ve never tried growing garlic, you are missing out on one of the easiest and rewarding gardening experiences to be had. I forget exactly which month I planted the little cloves (guessing late October) but they were the first thing to poke up out of the ground this spring and now there are hardly any left because I can’t stop pulling them up and adding them to everything! You can see the tight, juicy bulb sliced in half in the photo above. It’s hard to buy garlic this fresh.

OK, this potato dish really deserves it’s own post, but lucky you are getting it now.
Seriously, don’t you feel like this post is a virtual Christmas stocking of great recipe ideas?? And there’s still more to come!

Every once in a while I come across a potato recipe that stops me in my tracks–the last one being Tartiflette–and this dish is a favorite in my repertoire. I’ve been making it for ages and meaning to share it…but you know how it goes, it usually gets gobbled up before I can snap a photo.
Oh, and would you believe it? This recipe is also from the River Cafe Cookbook. If you don’t own it already, put it on your Christmas List. The garlic and fresh sage is from my garden, the potatoes are not as I am patiently waiting for the plants to flower before I drop on all fours and furrow into the earth to collect my bounty.

Potato and Pancetta Gratin
The recipe suggests Roseval or similar yellow waxy potatoes, but I have made it with pretty much every kind of potato. Of course, new potatoes are ideal.

Serves 6

100g pancetta, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

20 sage leaves

850 g Roseval potatoes

225 ml double cream

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Parmesan, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 375F. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the pancetta over a medium heat. Stir in the garlic, add the sage, cook for a minute and remove from heat. Slice each potato lengthwise (or in 1/2 inch wedges if you are using large potatoes). Place in a large bowl and add the pancetta and oil mixture and the cream. Season with salt and pepper and toss together. Put in a baking dish, making sure that the potato, pancetta and sage are evenly distributed, cover with foil and cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

About 20 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil so that the surface of the potatoes become brown. Add a little Parmesan 5 minutes before the end. Enjoy!

Dessert:Vanilla-Bean Panacotta with Quebec Strawberries

We haven’t been eating a lot of sweets around here (shocking, I know) but I am showcasing two of my favorite summer desserts from previous posts.
Picking a favorite recipe is like asking which of your children you love more, but these two recipes sprang to mind when I was thinking about fresh summer flavors in desserts. The best part is that they are both minimal effort as well as gorgeous!

So the first dessert is this pretty panacotta with strawberry coulis and fresh strawberries. In the original post I didn’t gush overly about my love of panacotta, but it’s a love affair that hasn’t wavered in many, many years. Originally created by the pastry chefs at Restaurant Toque! many years ago, this cute cone-shaped panacotta was my dinner party dessert of choice for some time. The tops bow and jiggle when you bring them to the table in a comical and inviting way. So cute! Of course any fresh berries would be lovely with this dish and I remember a cherry compote I once made that was a hit, too.

Dessert Number 2: Rustic Peach Galette

It is nice to have options and here is the second dessert that sums up the lazy days of summer. I created this peach galette to round out a fabulous dessert table for a party my siblings and I threw for my parents last summer. (Read all about it, see the sweet table and get the galette recipe) This rustic dessert was up against some big names in dessert show-biz like Dark Chocolate and Wild Strawberry Cupcakes and Citrus and Cointreau Cheesecake, but at the end of the evening was declared the favorite by many.
Of course, the accompanying whipped cream was in perfect peaks, so that helped!

So there you have it. Now go get cooking and if your tummy isn’t rumbling yet, you need help!