Baking



TB’s friend is getting married in two weeks. The boys wanted to plan a weekend in Vegas, but the groom was in a car accident and long flights just weren’t an option. So they did Vegas in Van-city.  Friday night was boys night out… suits, cigars, scotch and other things…. tonight is a poker tournament and a big BBQ.  I offered to make a cake in the theme.

This friend is pretty picky when it comes to flavours. He doesn’t like creams, custards etc. Normally if I was to make a cake, I would want to add flavour through the filling. His preferred filling was chocolate chip mint.  Mint as a filling reminds me of the 80’s – probably because as a kid I LOVED it and always wanted icing to be flavoured with it… and now, no interest. So the cake itself is not too interesting. The decorating worked out ok. I used chocolate fondant dyed black, and then regular fondant in green for the felt. All the pieces are edible (except for the playing cards).  The picture is a little fuzzy, but I didn’t think to bring a camera, only had my phone. Still, for something whipped together Friday night for Saturday, I was pretty happy with it.   Congrats to J & T. Hoping they have a long happy life together.


A few weeks back I had a friend over for dinner. I always love the smell of freshly baked bread when having company…so homey.  I had seen  a recipe on The Knead for Bread that I thought was pretty cool. It was a basic white bread, but rolled out like a jelly role, spread with pesto, rolled then sliced, finally twisted to ensure the pesto is spread throughout.  The technique is something I will bring to other “swirl breads”, it was beautiful!

I had an abundance of garlic scapes in the fridge that desperately needed to be used. No pine nuts and a guest who didn’t like Parmesan cheese.  So I worked with what I had. The result was a very tasty sun-dried tomato pesto.  I followed the bread recipe exactly.  It was a little dense, not as light of a crumb as I would have liked, but dunked in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it was still very tasty.  And for a few days to keep it fresh and as a great snack, I found throwing it in the toaster for a light toast was perfect.

I won’t re-write the recipe for the bread on my site, as you could follow the very clear steps laid out on the original recipe’s site. However, I was happy with the “pesto” that was infused throughout, so instead, that is what you will find here.

Ingredients:

4 garlic scapes roughly chopped
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
6 sun-dried tomatoes softened (either soaked in hot water, or packed in olive oil)
1/4 cup black olives
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Shred mozza and set aside
  2. Combine garlic scapes, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and black olives  in food processor, puree.
  3. Add olive oil until everything comes together and makes a thick paste, probably about 1/3 of a cup
  4. Mix pureed mixture with mozzarella, season with salt and pepper.

A note that the garlic scapes will be very powering raw, but as they bake in the bread they totally mellow out.


Friends got married last weekend.  They are a fantastic match and I am so happy for them!  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, but it wasn’t so hot that the men sweating in the sun, or the women had make up melting off their faces.

In February I was asked by the couple to make their wedding cake. I asked what they were thinking about. They wanted simple.  Good, because who are we kidding, while I enjoy baking I am no pastry chef!  I have made small cakes that serve 20-40 at most, not 150.  So I said yes, and offered the cake as my wedding present to them.

The cake was simple. Three tiers, three layers of cake in each tier. The bottom tier was chocolate brownie cake with a vanilla cream icing, and raspberry filling.  The middle tier was simple vanilla cake with a chocolate/Baileys (yes, can you say yum!) icing and the raspberry filling again.  And the top tier was chocolate/vanilla cake combo with the various fillings as well, kind of the uber tier.  The whole thing was covered in a vanilla buttercream with fondant.  Brushed with pearl dust to give it an iridescence that you can’t really see in the photos and finished off with ribbons in their wedding colours.  The cake topper was made by the bride’s mom – a personal touch to the couple.

3 tier wedding cake with ribbon

wedding cake cutting

sliced vanilla wedding cake

So congratulations to Robbie and Cate!

May their years together be long and plentiful, full of love, laughter, and of course…good food!

Months have gone by.  To list all that has happened in that time doesn’t make sense here. So instead, we will discuss food.  And for me, food is often associated with memories.  Is there anything more comforting than the smell of muffins wafting from the oven on a weekend morning? I had a bunch of nearly over-ripe bananas that desperately needed to be used up.  Whipping up some fresh muffins meant a grab and go breakfast for the week ahead, and a relaxing start to a bright and sun filled Saturday morning.

The twist to these muffins was a little sweetened coconut.  I used a recipe found on Simply Recipes and just slightly modified.  In less time than it took the oven to pre-heat to 350F the batter was ready.  So if you find yourself with 3-4 ripe bananas I recommend trying these.

Ingredients
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or raw)
1/4 cup sweetened coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the sugar, egg, coffee and vanilla.
  3. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
  4. Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts and sweetened coconut.
  5. Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Cool on a rack.

makes 6 jumbo muffins (seen in the picture above) or 12 regular muffins

adapted from Simply Recipes


It’s cookie season.  It’s cookie exchange time. I love seeing what everyone makes.  I love that there are twelve days of cookies on Foodtv.com.  Ironically I don’t even love cookies.  I just love the opportunity to get into the kitchen.  I love trying something new.

My mom and my brother’s girlfriend get together every year around this time to spend a whole day in the kitchen and make winter goodies.  It’s the winter equivalent of “putting up” the harvest by canning in the fall/summer I suppose.   This is one of the recipes they had tried together.  My mom was telling me that I “had to try” to make them.  That they would be so easy and you just couldn’t go wrong with them.  Perhaps she was right…but it took me way longer to make these than it would have taken me to make regular cookies, and in my oh, so humble opinion they were waaaaaaaaay more labour intensive than drop cookies.

That being said, they aren’t really cookies.  They are more of candies.  Almonst a chewy Almond Roca.  I thought my mom had created these, but upon some internet searching, I believe it was Giada De Laurentis’ recipe.  As usual, I reviewed and looked at ways to put my own spin on them.  I opted to roll them in chopped up toasted almonds.  Building on the almondy goodness.

As I munched on my one tester.  I think I would do them differently next time.  I think the idea is right, but the texture needs a little work.  The caramel centre is a little confused.  It is kind of chewy, and kind of brittle.  I feel like it needs to be one or the other…otherwise my jaw might need strengthening if I was to eat these on a more regular basis…come to think about it, perhaps it is a good idea that you can only eat one or two at the most at a time.  IF I was to make these again, I think I would make my own caramel.  I would add the almonds to the silicone liners and then ladle in the almond roca caramel mixture into the cups, cool and set, and then dip in the choclate and roll in the crushed almonds.  Basically creating little Almond Roca bites, rather than the bark I made a few years ago.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) toasted slivered almonds
24 individually wrapped caramel candies (about 6 ounces)
1 cup (about 6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
4 to 6 tablespoons cream, room temperature, divided
1 cup (about 6 ounces) white chocolate chips

1 cup toasted chopped slivered almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease the mini-muffin tins with vegetable oil spray. If you have silicone mini muffin liners or the pan, use that instead and you won’t need the oil.
  3. Place 1 teaspoon of slivered nuts in each of the muffin cups. Unwrap the caramel candies, cut each candy into quarters and place 2 quarters (1/2 candy) in each of the muffin cups, in the bottom, add the nuts and then add the other 2 quarters on top of the nuts in a single layer. Bake in the oven until the caramel is just melted and beginning to spread, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to over melt the caramel or it will bubble, burn, and become too hard. Place the mini muffin tins in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to cool. Remove the nut clusters from the tins and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Whisk 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream into the chocolate to slightly thin the chocolate for coating the clusters. Dip half of the nut clusters in the bittersweet chocolate , remove exand place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Return the clusters to the refrigerator to harden, about 30 minutes.
  5. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Wisk 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream into the chocolate to slightly thin the chocolate for coating the clusters. Dip remaining half of the nut clusters in the white chocolate and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet with the other chocolate-covered clusters. Return the clusters to the refrigerator to harden, about 30 minutes.


Cookies, cookies, cookies! A few weeks back, I attended a cookie exchange, hosted by non-other than the lovely Ms. Jackie Connelly. A sunny (albeit, blustery) Sunday afternoon, armed with two dozen cookies, and a bottle of wine, I spent the afternoon with some fantastic foodies.

Cookie exchanges are a fantastic way to expand your horizons. Sometimes we, and by we, I really should really say, I get into ruts in the kitchen. I tend to default to the tried and true. As a kid, my mom made THE best chocolate chip cookies. Undoubtedly there was always cookie dough in the freezer to thaw and have cookies at your finger tips. That tends to be my go-to cookie.

A cookie exchange means you can stay within your comfort zone, if you really want, but sample the wonderful selection brought to the table from all the other participants. You could always make your usual, but why not try something new? There are so many options out there, it can almost become overwhelming. Narrow it down, do you want chocolate? Chewy? Traditional? Maybe you don’t even want a cookie, but perhaps a truffle…be daring!  For a handful of great recipes from this cookie exchange, you can find them on Jackie’s site.

In my adult life, access to cookies was/is not as important. I prefer savoury to sweet. But, it is the holidays, there are guests, and little home-baked packages to be dropped off…and so, into the kitchen we all head.

As usual, I started with a base recipe, tweaked it, and made it my own. I was inspired to put a little wasabi salt on the chocolate as it set to counter the sweetness of the chocolate, and compliment the buttery-ness of the shortbread. It’s all about exploration right? And in this case, I thought it paid off!


Ingredients

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp instant coffee
1 Tbsp hot water
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
500 grams bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Wasabi salt to top, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the instant coffee and water, combine until all crystals are dissolved. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and roll shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 2-inch snowflake-shaped cutter. Place the snowflakes on an ungreased sheet pan – place in fridge to chill – this will help the cookie retain its crisp edges.. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Melt chopped chocolate over a water bath. Once nice and smooth (achieved with a whisk), dip each cookie into the melted chocolate, place on a cookie rack to set. Once the chocolate has cooled, but not fully set, add a small sprinkle of wasabi salt.

However you choose to celebrate, may you enjoy the beauty, warmth and tradition of this holiday season…hopefully with a little sweetness in hand! ~ bakergirl

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Shortbread Hearts Recipe.


I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I spent the first 20 years of my life on Vancouver Island, and also that I’ve never lived outside of British Columbia, but I love our weather (which is often criticized for including too much rain and not enough sunshine) and I especially love the Fall season. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if Summer lasted a few extra weeks (after all who doesn’t enjoy the sunshine?) but there’s something about cozying up with a warm sweater or blanket, a good book (or a favourite blog) and that perfect comfort food meal that rejuvenates me inside and out.

Fall

I recently had the opportunity to browse through a copy of Michael Smith’s The Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipes for Today’s Kitchen sent to me and I must say that the general feel of the book, it’s recipes, and the photos fits my mood and our Fall season perfectly. To tie it into the general baking theme here at Bakergirl Creations, I’m going to focus on Chef Michael’s ‘Treats & Baked Goods’ chapter, and because when I first opened the book to thumb through it, the Old Fashioned Apple Pie on page 235 was where I started. Oh how I love home made apple pie!

©jackieconnelly_apples

Here is Michael’s recipe:

Pastry
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of white sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of frozen butter
12 tablespoons of ice water

Filling
6 or 8 large Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.

Using a standard box or potato grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour and toss lightly with your fingers until it’s thoroughly combined. Sprinkle in the ice water and stir wit your fingers, mixing and firmly kneading until the dough comes together in a ball.

Divide dough into 2 pieces; making sure that the one half is slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten and chill for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight. Resting tenderizes the pastry, making it easier to roll.

Remove the pasty from the fridge and allow it to warm slight, just until it’s pliable. Lightly flour your hands, the rolling pin, your work surface and the dough.

Roll our the larger pastry piece into a circle large enough to slightly overlap the edges of a 9-inch glass deep-dish pie dish. As you roll, for ease of handling lightly flour the dough every time it’s diameter doubles, then flip it over and continue tolling. Transfer the dough to the pie dish by folding it into quarters, then unfolding it in the dish.

Preheat your over to 375degreed Fahrenheit (190degrees Celsius).

Toss the apple slices with the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add the apple mixture to the bottom crust. Roll our the remaining smaller piece and carefully place it over the top of the piece.

Roll and crimp the edges of the dough together tightly sealing them. Poke a few vent holes into the top of the pie and place on the bottom rack of your over.

Bake for an hour or so, until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling.

Click here to buy Chef Michael’s book from Amazon.

~ Guest post for Bakergirl Creations by Jackie Connelly

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