May 27, 2013

A Hint of Strasbourg in Tables

I think you can see a common theme in these pictures.  Just a hint of all the good times had in Strasbourg.  A really beautiful town on the border of France and Germany.  More details and (hopefully) some Alsatian recipes to come! (Picture from Cafe de L’Opera)


La Corde a Linge

Hotel wine and cheese party  (in our room)

Au Petit Bois Vert

Le Pied de Mammouth


Terre a Vins

Taverne Kohler Rehm

May 23, 2013

Herby Almond Pesto Pasta

Things are a bit of a whirlwind lately.  Got back from Boston with just enough time to do laundry and pack again it seems.  I’m not complaining.  This trip to Strasbourg is last minute and exciting.  But making dinner after a full day of traveling when there’s no groceries in the house can be daunting.  Especially when you only have a couple of days at home.  Don’t want to stock up too much fresh food.  But don’t want to eat out after a whole weekend of eating away from home. 

May 20, 2013

Boston Birthday Fun

Landed in Boston for Alex’s birthday trip on Friday evening.  The first thing we needed to do was find somewhere to eat.  Among the crowded, tourist-filled bars of Quincy Market and area we managed to find a small Belgian food restaurant called Saus.  With a long list of craft beers, expertly prepared Belgian frites, and a free waffle with salted caramel sauce for sitting at the “chef’s table”, this was by far the best choice.  

May 16, 2013

Fever-Worthy Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Last Monday I came home feeling a bit under the weather.  But like any adult, I pushed through; I went to work on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday I even went for a last training run before the big 10k race on Sunday.  By Thursday morning I knew something was more seriously wrong, but I took a Tylenol and went to work.  My boss’s birthday was the next day and last year I had made a cake for the lab in celebration.  I couldn’t do any worse this year.

I left work early but still went to the grocery store and bought all the cake-making necessities.  Chocolate is my boss’s favourite, so this cake was going to be intensely chocolaty.  By the time the cake was baked and cooled and the filling was made my fever had sky-rocketed.  Would a normal person have stopped and called someone else from the lab to buy a cake?  I don’t know, because that person is not me.  I am a baker, and I can’t allow store-bought cake for a lab celebration!

I almost gave up when the original frosting recipe I tried turned into a weird gloopy mess.  But I turned to my staple chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and forged on.  The final step: a chocolate fudge layer for the center and to swirl on the outside. 

Oh man, this was good.  This was so worth it.  With the heat radiating off my body and my throat screaming with pain at every swallow, I ate cake scraps with this chocolate fudge topping.  Finally, chocolate curls on top and I was done.  I pulled the covers up to my chin and sweated through the night. 

The next day I somehow carried the cake to lab.  My mission was complete.  I couldn’t even wait until the big unveiling.  I went to the clinic and was diagnosed with strep throat.  Just in time for the weekend, and definitely no racing on Sunday.  But the cake was done and I still had leftover fudge topping at home.  Life was not that bad.

Fever-Worthy Chocolate Fudge Topping
From The Best of Fine Cooking: Chocolate

3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
4 oz unsweetened chocolate

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt over a double boiler or in 30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring after each interval. 

Combine evaporated milk and sugar in a blender and blend until the sugar has dissolved (to check, see that there are no grainy bits when you dip your finger in and rub).  Add the melted chocolate and blend until thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. 

That’s it!  The sauce will thicken a little more upon standing.  Can be used to fill, frost, or ice cakes or cupcakes, can be drizzled over ice cream, or used for dipping fruit or crackers.  Cover with plastic wrap to store.  Will keep for up to two days at room temp or for up to a week or more in the fridge.  Just warm up a little in the microwave and stir well after taking out of the fridge.

May 12, 2013

Cinnamon Swirl Madeleines (For Mother's Day)

On Mother’s Day for as long as I can remember, my brother, sister, and I would wake up early and sneak quietly (not so quietly) into the kitchen to make breakfast for my mom.  It was usually some sort of pastry: sweet crescents, danishes, or cinnamon buns.  I was pretty young at this point, and probably didn’t do very much in the way of helping.  But it was super exciting to be involved in a surprise, and to be included in a secret with my older siblings. 

Based on these breakfasts, cinnamon buns became my mom’s favorite.  Maybe that’s why there are so many cinnamony things on this blog already.  Today we’ll add another to the list.

This time we’re classing up cinnamon buns and making cinnamon swirl madeleines.  Those little French pastries with the crispy edges and moist insides.  I totally fell in love with these after our honeymoon in France and have made them frequently since then (you might remember this French-themed party).  If you don’t have a Madeleine pan though, you can go ahead and use a mini muffin pan.  

These start with a classic madeleine recipe and you can totally stop there and eat the whole pan, no problem.  But we’re gonna add some melted brown sugar and cinnamon and swirl it into each pastry with a toothpick. 

Serve these with some tea as you spend some time with your mom. 

Even though I wasn’t there to make breakfast for my mom this morning, those memories will live on, and these flowers were for her.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Cinnamon Swirl Madeleines

Adapted from Laura Calder

Makes 12 regular, mini-muffin, or 40 mini madeleines

1 cup + 1 tbsp (75 g) all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp (75 g) butter
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (75 g) granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
Freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a madeleine mold or a mini muffin pan.  Place pan in freezer while you prepare the batter.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, whisk eggs lightly.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with sugar and honey until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour slowly into eggs, whisking constantly so that the eggs don’t cook.  Pour into flour and whisk until smooth.

In a small non-stick frying pan or a small saucepan, melt together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using) and water until smooth.  Fill each madeleine or mini muffin  mold with batter until level with the pan.  Drizzle a tiny bit of brown sugar cinnamon mixture on top of each madeleine and quickly swirl through the batter with a toothpick.  Swirl each one individually instead of swirling them all at the end as the brown sugar mixture will want to solidify into a clump upon cooling.  If the brown sugar cinnamon mixture does solidify before you have time to drizzle them all, just reheat slightly to warm and splash in more water if it’s still too thick. 

Bake madeleines in the center of the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes (for large or mini-muffins) or 4-6 minutes for mini.  They should be quite brown around the edges (that’s what makes them amazingly crispy) and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. 

May 10, 2013

Strawberry Rosemary Tea Spritzer

Mother’s day is coming up, and as I sit here, sick on my couch, covered in blankets, I can’t help but think of my mom.  When I got sick when I was younger my mom would blame that colder day when I didn’t wear a hat or something silly like that.  But nevertheless, she would bundle me up in my bed and read me books out loud.  She would comfort me because I was sad that I had to miss school (I know!).  She would bring me meals to bed and always have a warm cup of tea on a bedside table. 

May 06, 2013

Simple Syrup (With Flavour Ideas!)

Cocktails are exciting.  I often see an interesting cocktail list as the mark of a restaurant that I will like.  It has inspired me to try making more cocktails at home, like this rhubarb elderflower champagne cocktail, or this New York sour

But it always seems like every cocktail requires some specialty ingredients that I don’t have.  A weird variety of bitters, a liquor I’ve never heard of and have to look up.  And even though I would love to have all these things on hand, I won’t buy a 750 mL bottle of something to make one drink. 

May 01, 2013

Avocado, Radish, and Sweet Pea Salad

I like salads without lettuce.  Lettuce is just filler that you have to pick around to get to the good stuff.  Chewing through a pile of leaves doesn’t make me excited.  But then I realized that I can control my own salad fate.  Lettuce forget about lettuce (haha).