Inspiration for a sweet table


Remember my fall list? Well, it’s been keeping me pretty busy. Tonight, as we roasted cinnamon marshmallows over the open fire, and the flaming maple leaves fell all around us, I contemplated taking a little hiatus from this space. You know, since fall is such a busy time and all.

But then I realized that we’d be heading into Christmas once I returned, and after Christmas is Blissdom (yes, I’m going) and then in February is that engagement party I’m throwing and Mateo’s birthday and, and…

It’s always a ‘busy time’, so I’m just going to keep posting here and there when I have a few minutes and keeping you up to date with the goodness leaving my kitchen.

Speaking of which, have you seen the Chilled Pumpkin Cheesecake? Just in time for our Thanksgiving? Yep. Don’t miss it, nor the new vlog that I had a ton of fun making. (just ignore the pantyhose comment, OK?)


On to the food! In this case, the sweets. I had the opportunity to bake up a storm for a baby shower for one of my most favorite people ever, Angela. She makes up half of the Tim Chin Photography dynamic duo (check out our last family photo shoot with them) and she’s about eight months pregnant with Tiny Tim, as I like to call him.


I had to go a bit nuts with the food. Ange is such a stylish girl…and loves food almost as much as I do! Here are some of the sweets that the guests feasted on:


Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting. You’ve seen the cake before, now meet the mini-cupcake.


Chai-Scented Creme Brulé, because creme brulé is Ange’s favorite dessert ever. I infused the cream with a little of Philippe de Vienne’s Chai Spice Blend, and it was just enough to give the dessert a hint of something special.


Quebec Pear and Candied Ginger Individual Crisps, served warm with Cinnamon Whipped Cream.


Prosecco-Lime Gelée with Seasonal Fruits, inspired by this post on Desserts for Breakfast. Refreshing, elegant, and low-fat, if you’re concerned about that.


Chocolate Pecan Puddle Cookies are a must at any event, as are Orange Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate Caramel Ganache.

S’mores! Traditional graham crackers, cinnamon marshmallows (blue for ‘boy’) and dark chocolate squares. (I used Lindt). I torched these á la minute for the girls.


Close up of the sandwich cookies. I used Jamie’s Chewy Lemon Cookies, which were fantastic because they can be mixed up, rolled into logs and frozen in advance. I used orange instead of lemon and it paired well with the dark chocolate.
For the filling I prepared Robin’s Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce, and let it firm up before filling. These cookies were pretty, bite-size and perfect for a baby shower, however they had to be refrigerated right up until serving. Not a warm weather cookie!

There were also mini Lemon Poppy-Seed Cupcakes, and these Nutella Brownies. And that was about enough.

Congratulations again to the mother-to-be. I’ll bet the little guy was kicking up a storm after this sugar rush! Way to get him hooked on crême brulé early…

Tasting Summer in Bittman’s Bake


Being the lazy pie maker that I am, I really wanted to love Mark Bittman’s Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake; however it just wasn’t all that it was talked up to be. He can call it what he likes, but it was only reminiscent of pie and I found myself wishing I had turned those gorgeous cherries and peaches into a cobbler with a fluffy cake-like topping.

We still had no problem eating our way through it, however, as the combination of peaches and cherries was irresistible. Seriously summer baked in a dish!


I did like the rustic side of this ‘pie’ and it was a great dessert to make with little helpers, I will say that. You don’t have to worry about stray fingers poking a hole in your pie crust, if fact they can help lay the lattice pieces on top, like so.


Heh, maybe I need to give it a second chance, or maybe next time I’ll try Emily’s classic Stone Fruit Pie. Anyway, this lazy version of pie is easy, pretty quick, and may be just the thing to help you use up those fast-ripening peaches hanging around.

Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake
recipe by Mark Bittman

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces, more for dish
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 pounds peaches, seeded and sliced (about 5 large)
1 cup cherries, stones in or pitted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch or similar-size baking dish; set aside. ( I halved the recipe and made a 8 inch round. It was a little sparse, though.)

For pastry:
In a food processor, combine 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, the salt and 1 tablespoon sugar; pulse once or twice. Add butter and turn on machine; process until butter and flour are blended and mixture looks like coarse cornmeal, about 15 to 20 seconds. Slowly add 1/4 cup ice water through feed tube and process until just combined. Form dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate dough for up to a couple of days, or freeze it, tightly wrapped, for up to a couple of weeks.)

For filling:
Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss fruit with remaining flour, 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice; place in baking dish.

Assembly:
Put dough on a floured board or countertop and sprinkle with more flour. Roll dough into a 12-inch round, adding flour and rotating and turning dough as needed. Cut dough into 3-inch-wide strips, then cut again crosswise into 4-inch-long pieces. Scatter pieces over fruit in an overlapping patchwork pattern.

4. Brush top of dough lightly with water and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Transfer to oven and bake until top is golden brown and juices bubble, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool; serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Quite Possibly the Last Dessert Post You’ll Bookmark this Summer


Writing over at Simple Mom yesterday, I shared my latest sweet tooth trend with Crisp or Crumble? Baked Summer Desserts Defined. There has been an absolute line-up of simple baked fresh fruit desserts coming out of my kitchen since early June and there is no sign of them easing up anytime soon. Thank goodness for that because I think that cobblers, cakes and crisps are about the best way to showcase summer’s bounty with minimal effort.

So jump on over to read the post for yourself and be tempted by the dozen or so recipe links that I highly recommend.

It just may be the last sweet post you’ll need to bookmark for the rest of the summer!

Strawberry-Peach Cobbler and a Father’s Day Gift


Apparently, after a recent cross-Canada poll, it was stated that the majority of dads want a flat screen TV for Father’s Day. I hope that’s not what Danny wanted because I got him something a little different…


See that cute black fellow on the right?
In a few weeks he’s going to be delivered to our place in brown paper packages tied up with string, namely as organic, free-range Angus beef! Yep, I got my hubby a cow for Father’s Day–all the barbecue he could ever want. How’s that for manly?

It’s been in the works for a while to split this locally raised yearling with some friends of ours; their cousin raises them on a gorgeous farm that has been in the family for generations in (very) rural Quebec. We drove out on the weekend to meet the farmer, select our calf and see where it was raised.
Gee, I wish I had this view. It was quite picturesque!


The cows were practically knee-deep in buttercups and clover. I haven’t seen Food, Inc yet, but I’m pretty sure that few beef cows have it as good as these ones.

Our little ones snacked on all the carrots intended for the cows and enjoyed the outing immensely; however, Mateo didn’t like it when they ‘mooed’. Cows can be pretty intimidating up close, especially the bull that stared us down.


We attempted the whole “…this is where hamburger comes from” talk with Noah, but abandoned it pretty fast. He’s extremely sensitive (he wept over the shorn tomato plants that were eaten by unknown creatures in our garden) and is much too young to be troubling his little head over such matters.

Zipping along Quebec’s rural roads, I kept my eyes peeled for a sign announcing ‘Fraises du Quebec‘. It wasn’t long before we found a fruit stand and treated ourselves to a basket of the season’s freshest fruit. We devoured most of them on the spot, but I managed to save a few for later. I stretched them with some fresh peaches I had sitting around and made a few of my favorite simple summer desserts. Perfect for bringing to a pot-luck!


I’m anticipating picking my own strawberries soon and the endless possibilities that await! For now, I’m perfectly content with my cobbler–and have 125 lbs of beef to look forward to in a few weeks.

Happy Summer!

Strawberry-Peach Cobbler
(adapted from Everyday Baking)

For The Filling:
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and cut again in half crosswise

1/2 lb strawberries

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Make the filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Wash and prepare fruit; you should have about 4 cups of strawberries and peaches. Add fruit to cornstarch mixture and add lemon juice; toss to combine. Divide filling evenly among four 8-ounce custard cups (or one 2-quart baking dish); transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Make the topping and bake: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; stir just until a dough forms. Drop dough onto peaches, using about 1/3 cup dough for each custard cup. Sprinkle dough with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake until fruit is bubbling and biscuit topping is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve warm.

Going Crazy for Peach Cobbler

How frustrating is it to be hungry and surfing food blogs? It’s like asking for trouble.

You don’t even have to be that hungry, you can be just peckish, and then start feeling sorry for yourself as you read about all the good stuff that is unavailable, SO unavailable, to you.
It’s cruel, really.

So what are your options should you find yourself with a rumbling stomach and drooling onto your keyboard? Here are two that come to mind.

A) Get out before you are so blinded by hunger you will raid the pantry and eat anything you come across (usually chocolate, marshmallows, dried fruit and more chocolate). Switch sites immediately and start surfing your favorite online retail store for bikinis. That will get your mind off of food and onto exercise faster than anything else.
OR
B) Hit ‘print’, head to the kitchen, tie on an apron, and attempt to recreate what had you salivating moments earlier.

Let’s assume the latter is what most of us do.

Now for a reality check (don’t you hate those?).
Here’s the deal, although you may be a cook, perhaps even a professional chef, that doesn’t always mean you can jump up and turn out exactly what you have seen on a blog.
If only it were that easy, but often you are separated by more than just preheating the oven and stirring ingredients together.
Here are a few roadblocks you may encounter. These are purely from my own experience, feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

1) Product Availability: Who has a stash of blueberry lager in the back of the fridge to make these Brewberry Brownies? Another creation from Sugar Plum, these unique brownies look like the perfect dessert to be whipped up on a weeknight and eaten straight from the pan while -what else?–surfing blogs, but how am I to get my hands on a beer called “Wild Blue”? (Warning: This problem is encountered more frequently if you tend to read blogs from another country where they have many products that are new to us. It works both ways, though, as I have had people ask me what crab apples or rhubarb taste like.)

2) Time Constraints: (this is my current biggest problem) Do you have enough non-interrupted free time to execute the dish correctly? OK, fine then, maybe you do, but then you read the recipe and there is the frustratingly inevitable step in the recipe that says to rest/marinade/chill the dish overnight. Arg! You need to eat it NOW!

3) Just Plain Lack-of-Skill: Ouch. Never fun to admit, but we know our limits, right? We need a few hundred hours of pastry experience under our belts before we can attempt some of this stuff.

For example, recently I was puckering and salivating over Aran’s Delice D’Ete. Everything about it was calling out to me: the tartness of the raspberries, the Bavarian cream with its vanilla seeds, and the stylish way the dessert came together. I could imagine my fork cutting effortlessly through its flawless layering, but deep down I knew: this dessert was about as attainable to me as an Olympic medal. (Not just because I am Canadian, either!) I barely had enough time to read through and visualize the recipe, never mind grab a pen and make a shopping list. Little use that would be anyway, as Oprah probably gets more cooking time in her kitchen than I do. OK, so she probably doesn’t lift a spoon, but you get my drift.


However, my spirits lifted, perhaps even soared when I saw this cobbler! Matt’s gorgeous photo got my attention and his ode to the humble cobbler struck a chord. Here was something I could throw together during the rare occasion of a synchronized nap of my babies, using ingredients that were fast ripening on my counter top. Heck, I thought, if my stars were aligned right, I could probably make a cobbler, bake it and eat half of it before anyone woke up. Perfect!

And that’s what I did. More than once.

In fact, if I counted correctly, I believe I made five peach cobblers in 48 hours, but who is counting anyway?

Let’s see. Well, I started with two–and not little sissy individual ramekins like the one in the photo either, but big, deep dish pyrex cobblers. One I consumed hot out of the oven that afternoon with some help from Danny (this is the recommended way to eat them). The other one I brought to a potluck with friends that evening. The next day I made another one for us (much bigger this time) and two more in aluminum, take-out containers to deliver to friends who just had babies. After that I was out of peaches or I probably would have kept going.


The little ramekins are pretty cute, I guess, good for a photo, but you will never be satisfied with a small portion of this perfect summer-in-a-dish.
How simple is the cobbler? It’s easier than a pie. I always get a mental block with pie dough; it’s so much work to roll out sometimes. No spices or flavorings mask the flavor of the peaches, letting them be the star of the show. The biscuit batter is almost as light as a cake and has a delightful contrast of textures between the fluffy underside and the crusty top.
Enjoy the cobbler warm, with a mound of whipped cream.

Peach Cobbler (original recipe from Everyday Baking) For The Filling:
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and cut again in half crosswise (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juiceFor the Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk1. Make the filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Add peaches and lemon juice; toss to combine. Divide filling evenly among four 8-ounce custard cups (or one 2-quart baking dish); transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. 2. Make the topping and bake: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; stir just until a dough forms. Drop dough onto peaches, using about 1/3 cup dough for each custard cup. Sprinkle dough with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake until fruit is bubbling and biscuit topping is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve warm.