Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Baking with Julia: Sesame Bagels

This will have to be quick... I am in the middle of making a Halloween costume for my little niece. Her big brother will be a fireman and she's going to be a Dalmatian :) It will be cute, but I've had to make the fabric from plain white fleece and I'm up to my eyeballs in black felt spots!

So, this week we made bagels. Now, I love bagels but I've never made them. Then again, I live in Montreal where we have world-famous bagels, so I've really never had to make them. But, I figured it was worth a try...

These were pretty simple to make, though the rising time was a bit long. Then again, no longer than my no-knead pizza dough, and my stand mixer did all of the kneading for me, so I didn't mind. I chose to stick with traditional sesame seeds for a topping.

They came together well enough, though my bagel-forming technique leaves a bit to be desired ;) They poofed up quite a bit in the oven, giving a pillowy, dense finished product. Not at all like Montreal bagels, but tasty just the same! I had one with dinner and put a few away in the freezer for later enjoyment.

If you'd like to try your hand at making them yourself, you can find the original recipe here... now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my sewing! :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baking with Julia: Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year, and Halloween my favorite holiday. I fully embrace the omnipresence of pumpkin in everything this time of year, from donuts to soups and pasta sauces to coffee drinks. So of course this bread was right up my alley... brioche-like pumpkin bread with walnuts, cranberries and golden raisins. I've been having it toasted with my morning coffee and just the smell of it toasting is heaven. I found out that it also lends itself to another, rather unexpected, application, as well...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Baking with Julia: Nectarine Upside-down Chiffon (cup)Cake

The Labor Day weekend has come and gone... how did this summer go by so fast?!? *sigh* Since we are temporarily car-less, we didn't plan much this weekend and mainly puttered around at home. Knowing the stores would be closed on Monday for the holiday, I checked the recipe (here and here) to make sure I had everything I needed for this recipe as I didn't want to find myself missing anything when it came time to bake.

So, after a nice, leisurely weekend of watching tv, going for a nice long walk with B and working on a quilt project, I gathered everything to make Pasta Carbonara for dinner and the upside down cake for dessert. Pulled everything out on the counter to get my mise en place together and discovered.... I only had 4 eggs left. Wait... when I had checked the other day I had 7 eggs, which should have been plenty for the two recipes! Then I realized, B had kindly made me french toast for breakfast... that explained the missing eggs. What to do... I couldn't run out and get more, and I couldn't make Carbonara without them, and I wasn't about to start tweaking the cake recipe, never having made the thing before. B suggested making a half-recipe for the cake, but it was baked in a pan with two layers... I only have one size of cake pan, and surely halving the recipe for a full-size pan would result in skimpy layers, and that just wouldn't do. Then it hit me.... cupcakes! Since it's just B and I, having a few individual-sized servings is better anyway and it would certainly make up for the fact that I'd only have half the batter! So, cupcakes it was...

Nectarine Upside-down Chiffon Cupcakes

Monday, August 20, 2012

Baking with Julia: Popovers

There's not a heck of a lot to say about these popovers... they were both crispy and custardy, light and airy and ridiculously easy to make. Before today, I had never had popovers... I'd heard of them, but always imagined they were something you would be served when having Sunday dinner at someone's grandmother's house. ;)

Popovers with butter and marmalade

However, while I say they were ridiculously easy to make, they didn't come out perfectly the first time around...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy birthday, Julia Child: Sole Meunière

I know it seems like All Julia All the Time around here lately... I admit, the only thing really keeping me motivated to post on a regular basis at the moment is the Baking with Julia challenge I'm taking part in. And don't worry, it's not that I'm making fantastic meals and just not sharing them... last night I had a deviled egg and a peanut butter and jelly* sandwich for dinner. Seriously. No one wants to read about that train wreck of a meal, trust me. *For what it's worth, the jelly _was_ freshly homemade Concord grape jelly, so at least there's that! ;) 

But today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, and I felt it only fitting that this week we have a meal that celebrated her in some way. I chose to make Classic Sole Meunière; a dish I had often heard of but had yet to make, or even try. B is not a huge fan of fish, so I try not to force it on him too often; this time however, he'd just have to deal, I wanted sole, damnit! ;) Julia Child states that her first taste of Sole Meunière upon her arrival in Paris was "an epiphany"... heck, if it blew Julia's culinary socks off, it was worth a try, no?

Sole Meuniere

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baking with Julia: Fig Galette

I had an "Ah hah!" moment while making this galette. Last year about this time, I attempted to make a fresh fig galette after being inspired by a recipe for the same over at Simply Recipes. Let's just say, it didn't come out quite like I'd hoped. So when I saw that we had a fresh fruit galette to make this week, I thought here's my chance to try and redeem myself! And here is what I came up with:

(not too shabby, if I do say so m'self!)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Baking with Julia: White Peach Blueberry Pie

The weather is still sultry here in Montreal and I am avoiding the oven/stove as much as possible. However one taste of the filling for this pie made me want to bake a dozen more summer fruit pies, heat be damned. And then eat them all. *blush*

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summery green things

So the past week has been crazy hot and humid here and the thought of firing up the oven to bake this week's Baking with Julia challenge recipe of Semolina Bread was just too much to bear. I *will* bake this bread, I already bought the ingredients, but it will simply have to wait until things cool down a bit. I'll post the results when I do.... some time in November, from the looks of things :P

In the mean time, we have been taking advantage of the summery weather and doing our groceries at the Jean Talon Market, which is always a treat. Keeping an eye out for seasonal delights (and deals), I've made two things that have come out especially nice. The first is a large batch of garlic scape pesto:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Baking with Julia: Almond Biscotti

Biscotti are cookies that I think most people have tried, but very few have made at home. Believe you me, those overpriced biscotti in the jar at your local Starbucks can't hold a candle to a fresh homemade one. General consensus seems to be that they're too fussy to make... cookies you have to bake twice?!? Too much work! But honestly, I find that chocolate chip cookies are far more fussy to make than biscotti. No waiting for butter to soften, no getting halfway through to realize you're missing an ingredient, and unlike those chewy chocolate chip cookies, biscotti really never go stale. Plus, biscotti are so versatile! You can throw just about anything into a biscotti... nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, candied ginger/citrus peel, spices, tea, etc. And they give you a great excuse to have a nice big cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate, or milk, or wine... ok, I'm starting to sound like some weird biscotti lobbyist. ;) Point being, if you haven't tried making your own biscotti, you should.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Baking with Julia: French Strawberry Cake (and a delinquent Oasis Naan Bread)

Ok, so I've been playing hookey the last few weeks ;) I baked both my Oasis Naan bread and French Strawberry Cake on time... life just got in the way of posting about them!  Summer is in full swing here, we took a trip down to New York City (that turned out to be more of an adventure than we expected) and have a new niece expected any day now, so I've been keeping busy.

This past weekend was B's dad's birthday and Father's Day so I volunteered to make dessert. I have never, in my life, made a Genoise before (come to think of it, I'm not sure I've _eaten_ one before, either), so I read through the P & Q post for some pointers and dug right in.

It didn't *seem* difficult... until I got to the point where all the ingredients were added and I was folding gently to combine... and folding... and folding... and folding some more. Every time I though it was my last fold, another pocket of flour would appear, and I'd have to keep going, until I basically beat all the bubbles out of the damn thing. So frustrating!

I tried baking it anyway, and got a depressingly flat (and dense) cake as a result. That was the night before, so the next morning I was up early and tried again... this time being _super_ careful with the folding. I still ran into the same problem with the pockets of flour (what gives?!) but this attempt seemed to come out a little fluffier, at least, and I was able to get three thin layers out of it.

It is strawberry season here in Montreal, so I snagged some local Quebec berries at the market (they are smaller and sweeter than the usual grocery store variety) and let them soak with a bit of sugar and brandy over night. The juices added a welcome moistness to the cake layers and it all came together fairly easily, though I realized I need to consider getting a cake plate (if not a cake stand) for future attempts at all things cake-y... my dinner plates are the perfect size, but they are slightly concave which made frosting rather difficult :P

So here is the finished product, all ready for the candles to be blown out:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baking with Julia: Brioche Pecan Sticky Buns

Well I should have posted this last week, but I only just woke up from the butter coma this morning :P First the Hungarian Shortbread and the pound of butter involved in that, now this recipe which called for almost a pound and a half of butter. For the love of all that's artery clogging... it has been a seriously caloric couple of weeks...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Not edible: Mother's Day gift

Ok, so this isn't something I cooked, exactly, but I thought it was cute and wanted to share :) For Mother's Day this year I got some cute and quirky tea cups and saucers at the thrift store and then planted a small Hen and Chicks succulent in each one to give as a gift. 

The succulents are super easy to take care of and each hen will produce little chicks (you can see some in the picture below) that will eventually grow and produce their own chicks, etc. They don't mind tight spaces (like tea cups) and can be kept as houseplants or transplanted outdoors, and they're even hardy for Canadian winters! (assuming you don't live in Iqaluit)

I kept a few for myself, as well, though thanks to our two plant-nomming cats, I will have to find more creative (read: inaccessible) places to keep them.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What's on your toast?

There is an Asian market near where we live that I will often wander through on my way home. It can be dangerous for my budget (especially when I'm hungry), but it has also yielded some interesting finds, the most recent of which has become my weekday breakfast of choice:

Black Sesame Butter

Monday, April 30, 2012

Baking with Julia: Hungarian Shortbread

Was this a good recipe? Well, it called for a pound of butter, so let's just say the odds were stacked in it's favor. ;) After all, something this pretty wouldn't be possible without butter:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Ah Ha! Moment: Turning failure into ice cream

So I couldn't bring myself to throw out the failed chocolate mousse mentioned in my last post, but the only way I could serve it as is would be with a straw. So... what to do? Hmm, what about ice cream? It had cream, chocolate and sugar in it already... as well as a little bit of brandy ;) Eh, it was worth a try... it's not like I could ruin it more :P

So I tried this method to make ice cream without an ice cream maker. I threw the failed mousse in a medium freezer bag and chucked that into a large freezer bag filled with ice cubes and salt, closed everything tightly and wrapped it in a towel and agitated it gently for about 10 minutes. The end result? Some seriously tasty chocolate soft serve ice cream! It was so good, B finished it off in one sitting, and I didn't manage to grab a picture of it ;)

If you want to try making your own ice cream, a few tips:

  • While certainly not required, adding a bit of alcohol will help keep your ice cream soft and smooth. You can use something flavorless like vodka purely for it's ability to keep the ice cream scoopable, or you can use it as a flavoring, like Irish cream or a fruit liqueur. You can also rely on vanilla extract, which is usually alcohol-based. 
  • You can also make ice cream that is lactose-free by using lactose-free cream/milk or even soy milk. Things like the Vanilla Chai Tea protein shake from Bolthouse Farms can be turned into dairy-free ice cream right out of the bottle, as it contains sugar and flavoring already. I have not yet tried almond milk, but it's also worth a try. 
  • Experiment with flavors. Since this technique allows you to make a small batch, you can experiment without fear of being stuck with a gallon of licorice-tomato ice cream that turns out wasn't such a good idea after all. ;) So don't be afraid to play around... fresh fruit, candy, tea, jam, yogurt, cookies, chocolate, etc.
You can serve it directly out of the bag, or you can scoop it into an air-tight container and store in the freezer, which will allow it to firm up a bit more. And that's it! With summer around the corner, this is a great little trick to keep in your back pocket for cooling off on those warm summer evenings!