Christmas Stollen Madeleines with Preserved Lemon

Here’s a buttery, soft-spiced cake, studded with currants, slivers of almonds and a hint of candied orange peel, that makes a perfectly elegant holiday treat for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert. Chopped preserved lemon adds a wonderfully tart touch to these stollen-inspired madeleines.

For me, Christmas preparations begin in the aisles of a gourmet bulk foods store with a wire basket slung over my arm studying arrays of tantalizing baking supplies.

I might be shopping for rolled oats and walnut halves so that we can make granola to gift to the school teachers. Other times my basket could hold a colourful assortment of candy for our after-school gingerbread project. There are always dried apricots and hazelnuts for my essential holiday fruit and nut crisps and loads of whole cloves so we can spend a snowy afternoon making orange pomander balls.

This year, I found myself stopping in front of a bin of beautiful candied orange peel that was sandwiched between the slightly more garish fruitcake mixed peel and the much-too-sweet candied pineapple chunks. My thoughts traveled back to a December afternoon long ago when Danny and I had worked side-by-side to produce a dozen stollen loaves straight out of the Joy of Cooking. We coated those beauties in powdered sugar, wrapped them in cellophane, and delivered them on Christmas Eve to loved ones. The German fruitcake makes a delicious breakfast, sliced and lightly toasted, with coffee, of course.

On an impulse, I scooped out a small bag of the perfectly cubed orange peel and added it my basket. I sought out dried currants and slivered almonds, too. Perhaps this would be the year I’d revisit a once-beloved holiday loaf.

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Stew and Scones: a St. Patrick’s Day recipe round-up

During my culinary school days, I shared a loft with a girl who was half Irish.

We sipped our first Guinness together, staked out for the front row at a U2 concert, and dyed our hair green on St. Patrick’s Day. We’d show up to the Montreal parade so decked out in shamrocks and flags, it’s no surprise we landed ourselves on the front page of the local paper one year.

As enthusiastic as I was about being Irish for one day, I never delved into cooking a feast inspired by the Emerald Isle. I know Irish cuisine is spectacular (I’m admittedly addicted to the food blog, Farmette), and so this post is an attempt to showcase a handful of recipes suitable for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

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Holiday baking with kids and a gingerbread house recap

Our weekend plans went awry when little Clara fell quite seriously sick and we were back and forth from the emergency room both Saturday and Sunday.

She is on the mend (we hope) and we are catching up on sleep and life. Maybe I’ll finally get to unpack from London and tackle my email inbox.

Not surprisingly, it was baking together as a family over the weekend that offered a respite from the stress. My mind has a tendency to head to a very dark place when these mysterious medical issues show up (it doesn’t help when not one, but four doctors misdiagnose the case) and I need a diversion. Preferably some thing with cinnamon and spice, cookie cutters and sprinkles.

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Secrets to the best mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are premium comfort food, that is a given, but they don’t always get the right treatment to ensure they are fluffy and well seasoned. This post can help.

Back when I put myself through culinary school, money was tight. I frequently relied on samples from class to get me through a day; which was easily feasible. We had opportunity to eat most everything we prepared and you know how I dislike waste! I must have been particularly hungry the morning we were learning how to make the best mashed potatoes (yes, that was actually a topic covered in a class) because I can remember every little detail of the process.

It seemed a torturous wait before we could serve ourselves from the enormous pan of steaming spuds, but the wait was well worth it. Creamy potatoes, skillfully seasoned, without a lump to be seen. It was the dead of winter. I had been up since 5 am in order to make it to class on time. Yet the memory of spooning up mashed potatoes while perched on an overturned milk crate remains one of my happiest ones from culinary school.

Today I’ll share my teacher’s secret to fluffy mashed potatoes.

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Whole-wheat double chocolate mint cookies (food processor)

Last weekend we hung lights on the house, wrapped our twig tree in twinkly lights, and put on a big pot of spiced hot apple cider to welcome a dozen friends for my annual cookie swap.

It’s the event that kicks of the holidays every year, held early enough in December to give us ample time for baking before the Christmas parties and other calendar duties take over our days and nights. The snowstorm held off for us and an afternoon flew by, sweetened by over one thousand home baked cookies. [Read more…]