So I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect banana recipe – banana bread or banana muffins, I’m not picky. I’m always buying bananas, in an effort to get my 5 a day, but they keep ripening too fast!
Richard thinks I’m crazy, but when a banana has more than a few spots, I sort of lose interest in eating it. I like my bananas more on the green side. Speaking of which, when I was in Nepal, they had the best bananas (and they were always super green)!! As the food in the orphanage I worked in was dal bhat twice a day (gets a bit monotonous) the piece of fruit as dessert each evening was most enjoyable. And one of the best fruits I found, was the humble banana! It might have been the lack of variety in my diet, but those bananas were like the equivalent of candy over there.
I’ll eat the ones on the right, but the other ones are only good for baking IMHO
So in an effort not to waste my spotted bananas, I’ve been baking with them! Unfortunately, lots of the recipes just aren’t quite as good as I’m hoping for. I want something decidedly more-ish, but kept ending up with dry or bland, and certainly not banana-y enough. Like all my made up words there?
After all those failed attempts (okay, two), I decided to rework a banana muffins recipe that I had. I could vaguely remember a good recipe from an old job that I had loved, and used it to alter my current one. I increased the banana amount considerably, added some chopped chocolate, and a bit of cinnamon. It’s still not quite perfect yet, but good enough to share. (more…)
Every pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself
A couple of years ago I found myself working at a little cafe in Victoria. It was a great job, as there were only two of us in the kitchen, and we had plenty of freedom in terms of our hours etc. One of the other great perks of this job was the lunch! Most restaurants etc. have free food as part of the job, but from my experience it’s almost always unhealthy! Pasta, pasta, pasta… pretty much cheap carbs every day. But here we could make our own lunches with salads, sandwiches, and the occasional pizza!
They would make these individual pizzas for lunch each day, with different toppings. And boy, were they good! They would also sell the pizza dough for people to make their own at home.
As the baker, it was my job to make the pizza dough in large batches, and then we would defrost a few each day. These small balls made perfect thin crust personal pizzas – so you can imagine I decided to make them at home! I adjusted the recipe a little bit for myself (I’m not super into whole wheat flour), and then would make a batch and freeze them. Then, all you need to do is pull a couple little pizza dough balls out, and let them prove/defrost for a couple hours. You can even bring them out first thing in the morning, and let them defrost in the fridge. (more…)
Are you lucky enough to find yourself with an excess of lemons and oranges this Easter? Looking for something to make with them all? This was the bounty that I had the other weekend, and I was quite keen to use them all.
The other day I posted about the more unique take on Paska that I made this past weekend, and I promised more. I decided to try making a regular paska recipe that my aunt gave me, as well as using a challah bread recipe to make a paska flavoured challah. I had remembered paska dough as being quite wet, and wanted something I could braid into shapes. However, after making my Aunt’s paska recipe, I realized it wasn’t as wet as I thought. I could have easily braided it into wreaths etc.
But you want to know what this huge amount of paska means, besides being something Richard can take to work? Paska French toast!! Awesome Easter breakfast… if I do say so myself.
The bakery that I work at in London, is quite well known for its doughnuts. When I first tried one without any filling, just the doughnut, I could only think of one thing. PASKA! They use lemon zest in the dough, and the combination of yeast and citrus just brought back memories of paska. It’s not really strong enough to come through when there is a filling in it, but on its own it’s like warm memories of my childhood.
For those of you who don’t know what paska is, it’s a yeasted Ukrainian Easter bread, flavoured with lemon and orange. It’s usually served with sweetened cream cheese – or at least that’s what my grandma always made with it. And if you grew up in a Mennonite family, then you’re probably used to seeing paska with some simple icing on top, sprinkled with rainbow sprinkles… like this!
But I wanted to make something different this year! So with those doughnuts as my inspiration, I decided to make paska flavoured doughnuts! Using a recipe from Justin Gellatly’s cookbook Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding – I adapted it to include the paska flavour. All it took was increasing the amount of citrus zest exponentially, and changing the water to citrus juice. (I also used active dry yeast instead of fresh, as it’s kind of hard to find.)
A couple years back, I was in the cookbook section of my local library, looking for books on making pasta. Unfortunately, I hadn’t done my reconnaissance properly, and didn’t realize the books I was looking for were at other branches. But while I was in there, another book caught my eye – the Bouchon Bakery cookbook.
It was so big that it stuck out from the shelf, and looked like it would contain good recipes. And yes, I definitely pick books based on their covers…
Imagine a photo of this book right here… but it’s currently stuck in a gap beside our upper kitchen cabinets! We need to take stuff apart to get it out…
Bouchon Bakery has become one of my favorite cookbooks, and contains lots of classic recipes – including the pâte sucrée crust for this tart. I pretty much use this recipe for any tart I am making – whether it be for a frangipane and fruit tart, or classic lemon.
Lemon tart is one of Richard’s favorite desserts. So the other day, I decided to surprise him with a lemon tart when he came home!
I had a recipe from the Waitrose magazine that I was thinking of trying, but I was worried that it wouldn’t be good. (Although, I haven’t had a bad one yet…) Instead, I decided to break out my whisk, and make something I knew would work – this lemon sabayon.
Sabayon is simply the name given to cooking eggs over a Bain Marie while whisking. Unlike other tarts, this one mostly cooks the eggs before you bake, which reduces the possibility of cracks.
The original recipe is for an 8″ round tart shell, and the lemon mixture shouldn’t be whisked too much, as you don’t want to incorporate air. Since my only tart shell is 10″ in diameter, I whisked my mixture a bit fuffier so that it would fill the shell. Turns out I should have done the math on the volume of my shell, rather than the surface area.
The original recipe was an 8″ round that was 1.5″ tall, and my 10″ round was only 1″ high. I ended up with too much filling, and it gave it a slightly weird sensation when eating. Almost like those “whipped” yogurts that were popular a few years ago? Very light and airy tasting, but still lemony. Not unpleasant at all, but it made it feel like something other than a lemon tart.
top this with fresh fruit, and even a dusting of icing sugar – the choice is yours!
So depending on the texture you are after, watch how much you whip the lemon over the stove. You’re not trying to increase the air, just keep it moving so that the egg doesn’t cook in big chunks. Unless, of course, you want an airy-whipped-lemon-tart. Maybe that’s your thing?
If, like Richard, you’re a fan of the classic lemon tart – perhaps give this method a try!
For the pâte sucrée, sift together the flour, ground almonds, and 23g icing sugar. Add any of the almond that doesn't pass through the sieve back into the mixture.
Beat the butter and vanilla seeds until light in colour and soft, and then sift in the remaining icing sugar. Whip the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy.
Add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until it resembles a sort of wet sand. Tip the bowl out onto your work surface, and press together.
To make sure all of the vanilla and sugar is evenly mixed, you will use a technique called 'fraiser' or 'fraisage'. Use the heel of your hand to smear the mixture together on the table, then scrape it off the table, fold it over itself, and continue smearing until it's evenly mixed (see image above).
Pat the dough into a disc, and wrap in cling film, Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 325°F (162°C), grease and line a tart pan with a circle of parchment paper.
To roll out the dough, place the disc between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll out until it is large enough to fit your tart pan and lay inside*.
Press the dough into the corners and fluted edges of your tin, then trim the edge either with your fingers, or by rolling over with your rolling pin,
Line the tart with parchment paper, and fill with rice or beans.
Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are starting to turn golden. Remove the beans and paper, and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with some aluminum foil.
Remove tart from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the shell is baking, prepare the lemon sabayon filling.
Place a large heat safe bowl over a boiling bain marie, and whisk together the lemon zest, juice, sugar, and eggs.
Continue to whisk the mixture slowly, trying not to add too much air, until the sabayon is lighter in colour and thick. You should be able to draw a figure 8 on top with the mixture and it'll sink slowly. If the mixture is heating too quickly, don't whisk more, simply take the bowl on and off the heat to prevent it from getting too warm.
Remove from the heat, and whisk in the cubed butter, a little at a time. Preheat oven to 300°F (148°C).
Pour the mixture into your tart shell, and bake in the preheated oven for 10+ minutes, or until the sabayon forms a skin, and the tart is set but jiggles a bit in the middle.
Allow tart to cool before removing from the tin, and decorating with fresh fruit or a dusting of icing sugar, if desired.
*This dough is very forgiving - if it cracks or breaks, simply press pieces together. No need to remove and roll again.
I’m starting to realize that I can’t do everything by hand. And I don’t mean that in the sense of handmade… but that sometimes, you just need machine power when baking. Case in point – these Nanaimo Bars.
When I was studying pastry in Vancouver, our course had us doing almost everything by hand. Whether that was whipping cream, or making meringue, there were few things that we did with our Kitchenaid mixers. One of the few things we did with a machine was an italian meringue – and I resigned myself to not making them while living in this tiny flat. (I also resigned myself to not making marshmallows while here, as it’s pretty much the same process.)
As I couldn’t bring my Kitchenaid mixer from Canada, and had no room to put one here even if I did, I didn’t bother to buy a hand mixer. Maybe it’s because once you go Kitchenaid you never go back? Or perhaps my hand mixing at school had made me cocky? Bah ha ha, you puny machines – look at the strength of my arms!!! Mwah ah ah…
But seriously – if I could whip cream by hand, and make meringues (just not italian), why did I need a hand mixer? Well folks, creaming butter, that’s why! It is easy to do when you’re just softening it for a cookie dough, but trying to incorporate air and make it fluffy?! My upper body strength has its limits. So the next time I need to make a fluffy layer, I may just review my aversion to hand mixers.
For anyone not already aware, Nanaimo bars are something from the West Coast of Canada (named after the city of Nanaimo). They are so ubiquitous that as a child I thought they were as common as chocolate chip cookies. It’s a crust of digestive/coconut/nut/chocolate, covered with a buttery custard layer, and topped with more chocolate. Normally the crust contains graham crackers, but over here I substituted with digestive biscuits.
I personally was never the biggest eater of Nanaimo bars, as I found them too sweet/rich as a child, but homesickness has crept in. Either than or my new Canadian coworker, lamenting the lack of these delectable bars, persuaded me to break out the ol’ wooden spoon.
Maybe you will too? Or do you have one of those fancy hand mixers?
Add the egg, and stir until it has cooked and thickened.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the crumbs, and nuts.
Press firmly and evenly into the pan. Chill in the fridge while making the second layer.
For the custard layer, cream together the butter, custard powder, and icing sugar, until light and fluffy.
Add whipping cream, and whip until light. Spread over first layer, and chill until firm.
For the chocolate topping, melt the butter and chocolate together over a bain marie, being careful not to overheat.
Remove bowl from the heat, and allow to cool. Once cool, but still pourable, spread over the custard layer, and chill to set.
*Bain marie is a fancy way of saying hot water bath. It is used to describe cooking items in the oven surrounded by water (to ensure even cooking), or cooking items in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. In our case, it means the latter.
A while back, while hunting for danish inspiration photos on Pinterest, I stumbled across a beautiful recipe on Hint of Vanilla for a Rhubarb Danish (check out her blog, not only is it amazing, but she’s Canadian!). The shape of the danish was unique, and the piping of the cream with the St. Honoré tip was beautiful. Quite frankly, her danishes (what is the plural of danish?) look so good you might as well stop reading this now, and just head over to her blog – trust me, it’s better!
I’ve been wanting to try her recipe, or at least a variation of it, ever since. As I was buying rhubarb for my skillet cake (as well as to infuse some gin, like our sloe gin) I decided to buy a whole kilo and experiment. Since I was sending these with Richard to his work, I knew I couldn’t pipe cream on top, like the original recipe. So I decided to add creaminess with a pastry cream, piped under the rhubarb, flavored with blood orange and vanilla! After all, orange is a great complement to rhubarb, and I was buying them anyways for other recipes.
As I was making this recipe on my two days off, and was trying to cram like 8 recipes in those days, I tried to go the lazy route. I had seen puff pastry and pie dough in the grocery stores, and assumed that you could probably buy ready to roll croissant or danish dough. Wrong… wrong, wrong, wrong. I had hoped to spend my days off doing so many things, and didn’t want to make danish dough. It’s not hard, just time consuming.
So because I already had my other ingredients, I decided to just suck it up and make the dough. Except I misread my recipe twice, and had to make the dough three times (!!) before I got it right (that is what happens when I rush things). Then, of course I was trying to rush my turns, and was freezing the dough in between to chill it quickly… and forgot about it between the first and second turn. When I tried to roll it out, it was still too cold and I broke the butter sheet… gah! So please, don’t look too closely at the dough in the photos, and do what I say, not what I did.
The layers weren’t very nice in the end, but the flavor is still there. These two days weren’t my best because I was trying to do too much. I ended up not doing everything as well as I should have.
I made a half batch recipe, which makes about 7 proper danish, with scrap left over. The full recipe makes 15 danish, and the excess can be used to make the little mini bite sized ones.
If you find that you have extra pastry cream left over – don’t worry! It tastes amazing and you could pretty much just eat it with a spoon… or dip fruit in it… or pipe it into tart shells and top with fresh fruit! It’s pretty versatile.
Mmmmm… now I want to make these again, but take my time to do the dough properly! If you’re feeling up to it, danish dough isn’t really hard, just takes a good couple hours to make. However, if your shop has it for sale, you might want to take the easy route! This recipe looks long and daunting, but trust me, these aren’t as hard as they look!
For the rhubarb, slice each stalk in half, down the middle, and place in a dish. Zest and squeeze the juice of half the orange, and cut open half the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds. Place the zest, juice, vanilla seeds, and pod in the dish with the 40g sugar and rhubarb. Toss to evenly cover the rhubarb and allow to sit for at least an hour.
For the pastry cream, combine the milk, sugar, zest, from the second half of the orange, and remaining vanilla seeds and pod. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer, and remove from the heat. Cover and allow to seep for at least 30 minutes.
Once the cream has infused long enough, whisk the egg yolk with the cornstarch, and pour in some of the milk mixture to thin it out a little. Bring the milk to a low boil and slowly pour into the cornstarch mixture, while whisking vigorously.
Return the whole mix to the pot and bring to a boil over a medium heat, while whisking the whole time. When you feel the mixture start to thicken, briefly remove from the heat and whisk, to prevent the egg from over cooking. Then return to the heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, continue to cook for 10 seconds to ensure that the corn starch is cooked out.
Remove from the heat, and stir in 2-3 tbsp of the blood orange juice. Pour through a sieve onto a large piece of cling film. Wrap the pastry cream in the cling film to make a little parcel and allow to cool in the fridge. If you have extra juice, pour it over the rhubarb.
To make the danish dough, the method depends on which kind of yeast you are using. If fresh, add it to the cold milk; if active dry, warm the milk to 115°F (45°C) and dissolve the yeast in it first; if instant, mix in with the flour. Depending on your yeast, place the ingredients in the bowl in the following order: milk, egg, sugar, flour, salt, and butter (in small pieces).
Mix the ingredients together until they resemble a shaggy mass, and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough slowly for 2 minutes, just to get the ingredients combined and the butter worked in, then up the speed to fast for 8 minutes. Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
While the dough is resting, make the butter block. Wrap the butter in cling film, and pound with a rolling pin. Continue pounding the butter, and folding the edges over, until you can fold the butter and it doesn't crack. Shape the butter into a 20cm square and set aside at room temperature until the dough is ready.
To encase the butter, roll the dough out to a 20cm rectangle, on a well floured surface. Cut a cross into the dough and pull out the corners. Roll them out while keeping the middle slightly raised. Brush off any extra flour, and place the butter block in the middle.
Cover the butter with the dough flaps, one at a time, brushing off the extra flour, and pinch to completely seal.
To make the first turn, gently press the dough with a rolling pin to merge the layers together, and then roll out in one direction to 45 cm long. Fold the top third of the dough down, brush off the extra flour, and fold the bottom up to cover. You should have a rectangle of dough with three layers. Cover in cling film and allow to rest for 30 minutes. You can speed up the rest time with a brief turn in the fridge, but need to make sure that the butter stays soft.
For the second turn, roll the dough in the opposite direction as before (rolling the open ends out) and complete the turn as the first. Allow to rest for 30 minutes again.
Complete the third turn, same as the second, and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Once the dough is ready, roll it out on a well floured surface to just larger than a 21 cm x 70 cm rectangle and then cut the edges of the dough to 21 cm x 70 cm. Cut the dough into 30 squares, 7 cm x 7 cm. Using a round cookie cutter, cut 15 circles from half the squares.
Remove the rhubarb from the dish and line up the stalks on a cutting board. Using the same circle cutter, cut circles of the rhubarb, using a small sharp knife if necessary. Cut 15 circles of rhubarb and the chop up any remaining rhubarb to top the scrap pieces.
Brush a little water around the edges of the full squares and top with the ones with the circles cut out. Pipe a bit of the cream in the middle and top with the circles of rhubarb.
For the scrap circles, pipe on a small mound of cream, and top with some of the chopped rhubarb.
Place all the danish on parchment lines trays and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar (demererra sugar) if you like. Cover the trays with upside down plastic bins, or loosely with cling film, and allow to proof for 1.5-2 hours, or until well puffed and you can start to see the layers.
While the danish are proving, preheat the oven to 340°F (170°C).
Bake the danish for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. rotating after 10 minutes if necessary.
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on racks. If desired, make a simple glaze with water (or milk) and icing sugar, and drizzle over the top.
When I was originally planning this post, I had intended to do both the squid ink brioche and burger recipes. But see, I’m not convinced that the brioche recipe is a winner yet. I might try doing it again with different ink (I bought one that was more of a paste, and another that was really liquid) and then see if I can make a good enough bun to justify the extra effort of making them. This recipe was a bit difficult to work with, and the resulting burger was a tad crumbly.
For now you can simply enjoy the look of black burger buns, and the recipe for these amazing salmon burgers.
I first had these burgers at a friend’s house, for a potluck BBQ dinner party. The only salmon burgers I had ever had prior to that, were just salmon steaks, not ground salmon. I’ve made these plenty of times now, and never deviate from the original recipe, because it’s just that good!
The sauce really makes it too… something about the combo of basil and lime really works with salmon. It also makes a mean dip for chips/fries! (more…)
Richard’s Aunt gave us this Le Creuset pot as a gift a few weeks back!
Originally, when I decided to make this bread, I wasn’t thinking I would photograph it in any way. After all, the whole no-knead bread thing had been done many times and was all over Pinterest. I didn’t think anyone would care to read another post about it. It’s why I have no pictures of the beginning of the recipe.
But then, I realized that despite the simplicity of this bread, there are still some ways in which people might have trouble; and I could help! Also, I can show you how to take this humble bread recipe, and jazz it up with additions! Like roasted garlic!!
The great thing about this recipe, besides how simple it is to whip up, is that its flavor opportunities are limited only by your imagination. My first bread I did plain, and then experimented with a lemon and rosemary bread, and now roasted garlic. Richard wants me to try caramelized onions next. Mmmm… perhaps one with dried figs and a balsamic reduction? (more…)
In the early months of the year, the produce options can feel a bit limited. Berries are crazy expensive, stone fruits are even worse, and everything feels a bit dull. However, what some people don’t realize is that winter is citrus season!
Now is the time to experiment with blood oranges, grapefruit, bergamot lemons… etc. Not only is citrus in season, but here in England forced rhubarb is upon us! You might not be able to find it at every grocery store (mine didn’t have it), but Borough Market is currently in supply.
I’ve always loved rhubarb, even as a kid. I remember my mom picking my sister Bethany and I big pieces from her plant, and we would dip the ends in sugar and eat them. We were weird.
But I digress… back to the recipe!
I’ve been getting tons of recipes and inspiration from Waitrose’s monthly magazine. It’s free for people who sign up for their Waitrose rewards card, and chock full of great recipes. I’ve made a lot so far, and haven’t had a bad one yet! (more…)