Category Archives: dessert

Happy Paczki Day! (2020)

Paczki are the Polish version of filled fried donuts … something to indulge in on the day before the start of Lent.

Much of the world knows today as Fat Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday but locally, it’s “POON-ch-key” Day. These were delivered to my door by my big brother … 4 plum and 2 lemon filled.

Cranberry-Orange Duo

I hadn’t planned on doing any Christmas baking because I still had a mini pumpkin pie in the freezer from Thanksgiving. Then, I changed my mind, because it was Christmas, after all.

So I went rooting around my pantry and freezer to see what I could find.

In the freezer, I found a half package of cranberries, left over from making a half batch of cranberry sauce, so I made a fast and easy cranberry loaf.

Cranberry-Orange Quick Bread – makes 1 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan

Cranberry Preparation

~1 1/2 cups/170 gm frozen cranberries, partially thawed and cut in half
1 tsp flour

Dry Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients

1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, large
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil or butter the loaf pan. (See NOTE below.)

Toss the cranberries with the flour and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.

Stir the web ingredients into the dry ingredients just until mixed. Gently fold in the cranberries. Pour the batter into your loaf pan.

Bake for 45 min to an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out cleanly.

Cool in pan set onto wire cooling rack, to room temperature then slice and serve.

NOTE: My loaf pans are bigger than this so I used a disposable aluminum loaf pan, filled about half way. The excess batter was baked in the wells of a medium sized muffin tin. Both the loaf pan and 3-4 of the muffin tin wells were oiled lightly. The loaf pan took about 55 min to bake while the muffins took 20-25 min.

Cranberry-Orange Muffins

There were dried cranberries in a jar in the pantry so I used them to make cranberry-orange short-bread cookies.

I was going to be fancy and dip part of the short-breads in chocolate but after tasting the short-breads plain, I decided they didn’t need any embellishment.

Cranberry-Orange Short-breads

Cranberry-Orange Short-breads – makes 28 1 inch wide x 2 1/4 inch long x 1/2 inch thick bars.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 cup/ 227 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup icing or powdered sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
castor sugar, optional

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add the chopped cranberries and toss through to coat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, icing sugar, vanilla and almond (if using) extract, and orange zest, with a hand mixer.

Add the flour/cranberry mixture to the butter mixture and beat at a low speed with the hand mixer until well incorporated, 3-5 min, and then give it another minute or two at a higher speed until it holds together into a ball.

Divide the dough into two even parts. Pat each portion into a 7 inch by 4 1/2 inch rectangle. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut each section into 14 x 1 inch wide x 2 1/4 inch long x 1/2 inch thick bars. Alternatively, roll each section of dough into a one inch diameter log, about 7 inch long, wrap with plastic food wrap and refrigerate until firm. Cut into half inch coins.

Bake at 325 deg F/160 deg C for approximately 30 minutes, or until dry and firm but still pale.

Transfer to a wire cooling rack until cool. Serve.

Three Kings Cake … with Repurposed Filling

They know how to party in New Orleans, especially before the forty days of Lent when Christians are supposed to fast or give up something they like. Mardi Gras is the name for the time period before Lent … a joyous carnival like atmosphere of parades and indulgence.

And, in New Orleans, King Cake or Three Kings Cake is the personification of that joyous occasion in pastry form.

There are a number of variations in terms of whether there’s a filling or whether it’s braided, but decorating the finished cake with the colours purple, gold and green is traditional in the southern regions of the United States.

For Christmas I made a sweet Boursin cheese spread flavoured with dried cranberries and orange zest. It was tasty, but other than a single rather skimpy smear on my Christmas bread wreath, it’s been lingering in my fridge. So when I was deciding on a filling for my Mardis Gras style (Three) Kings Cake during the Epiphany, I repurposed my sweet Boursin. I thought it needed some additional texture and substance, so I chopped up about half to three-quarters of a cup of sliced almonds and sprinkled it over the Boursin.

The resulting cake, using this recipe, was tender and delicious, though my decoration fell short of my expectations. It needed a lot more glaze. Double or even quadruple, I think.

The filling was an unqualified success.

Cranberry-Orange Spice Boursin – makes about 3/4 cup of spread

1/2 pkg cream cheese, room temp
1 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1-1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp orange zest

Cream together the cream cheese, butter and salt using a hand blender. Stir in the cranberries, black pepper and orange zest. Pack into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate so that the flavours will marry. Remove from the fridge 1 or 2 hrs before serving so that the Boursin will be soft enough to spread.

Brazilian Bonbons (Coconut Brigadeiros) for Christmas

The gifted chef and baker who runs the food blog, Bewitching Kitchen, which I follow closely, was recently a contestant on The Great American Baking Show. On the dessert show, she decorated her cake with brigadeiros, Brazil’s most popular and well-known bonbons. After having seen them on her blog in the past, I was finally inspired to try making them myself.

The coconut brigadeiros recipe used was chosen because I actually had all the ingredients in my pantry.

I decorated some with shredded sweetened coconut and the rest with some Christmas themed sprinkles or shot.

REVIEW: Simple and tasty recipe. And there are several variations on the blog that you can try out.

Fruity Fruit Adventure … Persimmons

I’ve gotten more adventurous in trying out new fruits as I’ve gotten older.

Not DURIAN level adventurous, but persimmons are pretty adventurous for someone whose teens were limited to eating apples, pears, oranges … and grapes.

Persimmons are fairly innocuous in appearance even though the one I bought, a Fuyu persimmon, bears an uncanny resemblance to my deadly foe, the tomato. An orange tomato, but still, it’s a TOMATO. If you want to know how to process this fruit for eating, check out this Youtube video.

I was going to try and eat it out of hand, after peeling and cutting it in wedges, but the brief taste left me singularly unimpressed. It actually smelled great, very floral, but the taste was kind of … meh! Bland and just barely sweet. Not sour. I wouldn’t have minded a bit of tang. Just boring. I didn’t spend a LOT of money for this pretty sizeable fruit ($1.69 CDN for a 237 gm beauty) but I didn’t want to turn it into as smoothie or just pitch it.

So I did some net-surfing.

And the result was a persimmon puree gelee. I used some of the gelee to top a basic vanilla panna cotta. The rest of the gelee was allowed to set by itself in a pretty glass and garnished with freshly whipped sweetened whipped cream. The gelee was tastier than eating the fruit plain, after adding some sugar and lemon juice to give it a bit more flavour, but as a topping for the panna cotta, it wasn’t bad at all. Would I buy it again? Probably not. There are a lot more fruits out there to try.

PS: I ‘borrowed’ the fruity fruit part of the title of this post from the “emmymadeinjapan” Youtube channel playlist, Fruity Fruits.

Pumpkin Fudge and Pies/Tarts

I haven’t bought a can of pumpkin puree in six to seven years but I decided to make my first ever pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, so I picked up a can. It was even on sale.

But before attempting the pumpkin pie, I made something that I haven’t tasted for even longer … pumpkin fudge. My first taste of that rather unique flavour came from the seasonal fudge that my brother made for my SIL’s chocolate store. It was an unexpectedly tasty candy and I hoped to be able to make something similar. My results weren’t bad but not as amazing as the one I remember. Of course, my cranberry fudge wasn’t as good as his either. Maybe one day.

Pumpkin Tart and Fudge

I made a couple of half batches (400-420 gm) of pumpkin fudge using this recipe. I over-cooked the first batch because I don’t have an accurate candy thermometer, so I had to use the soft ball test. It may have been a bit crumbly but it was tasty and I ate the whole thing in no time at all. For the second batch, I may have under-cooked it JUST a bit but some judicious stirring once I had poured the fudge into the pan and I got it to where it should be.

The half batch of pumpkin pie filling I made used Chef John’s recipe from Food Wishes, and filled a couple of mini pie crust shells (6 inch diameter) and two tart shells made in muffin tins.

And, lest you think that all I made with that pumpkin puree was desserts, I also made a batch of creamy red lentil and pumpkin soup using about a cup of the puree.

Pie Duo … Nectarine and Chess

Once you can make a pie crust/pastry, the possible fillings are endless.

I thought I’d include both a fruit and a custard type pie in this post.

Nectarines are delicious … sweet and juicy and a very good price in season. Instead of making a pastry top crust, I used a crumble. It’s something I’ve got to work on. Delicious but not as pretty as I would have liked. I didn’t bother peeling the nectarines.

  

I have no idea where the name of this pie comes from … there are many explanations for how Chess pie got its name. But however the name came about, the result is tasty. I used the recipe I found here. Half the recipe for the filling was enough for two mini (6 inch diameter) pies. I had some extra filling so I baked the custard in a small oiled ramekin.

  

Flaky, Buttery Pie Crust … Sweet and Savoury Fillings

Because you can never have ENOUGH pie crust recipes, I gave this one a try … half unsalted butter and half lard. The blogger who posted the recipe, used shortening, which I didn’t have, as she claims that using the two different fats takes advantage of the best characteristics of each.

Sweet Pie … apple and quince filling

I haven’t bought quinces in years and at the exorbitant price of the imported ones ($2.49 each), I wasn’t about to make a whole pie out of them. But, I was able to combine one perfectly poached quince (green bumpy looking fruit on the right in the picture below) with three Braeburn apples (on sale at $1.15 a pound) to produce a tasty filling to test out my latest pie crust recipe.

The pie recipe I used was based on this one with some changes. I’ve included it below so it’s all in one place.

Apple-Quince Pie – makes 1 9-inch pie, serves 6 generously or 8 more moderately

pie pastry, enough for a top and bottom crust

Poached Quinces

1-2 lg quinces, peeled and diced *
1 cup water
3-4 tbsp honey
pinch of salt

Rest of Filling

3-4 lg apples, peeled and diced**
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

* 1 quince (~250 gm)
** 3 apples (~675 gm), Braeburns

Poaching the quince/s

Combine the water, sugar, salt and diced quince(s). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the quinces are crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit to a large bowl and let cool. Continue cooking the liquid, uncovered, until it reduces to about 1/4 cup.

Preheat the oven to 500 deg F with a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest shelf level.

Making the filling

In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the chopped apples to the bowl with the cooled quince. Sprinkle the sugar/flour/spice mixture over the fruit and gently stir in the thickened quince liquid. Pour the filling into the pie bottom.

Add the top crust, seal and crimp the edges. Cut slashes in the crust.

Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet, turn the heat down to 425 deg F and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Reduce the heat to 375 deg F and continue cooking until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown, another 45-55 min.

Remove the pie pan to a cooling rack until it’s come to room temperature. Refrigerate for AT LEAST 2 hrs and preferably overnight before cutting into the pie.

Savoury Tart … spinach and paneer (cheese) tart

Because I’m a cheap frugal home cook, I rolled out the trimmings from the apple and quince pie to form a top crust for a spinach and paneer tart. For the base, I used a mini pie shell from the freezer. It was made with the leftover pastry from my PREVIOUS pie bake … a nectarine crumble.

I wasn’t sure how much filling I would need so I threw together something that came out pretty well.

Spinach and Paneer Tart – makes 1 mini pie, enough for 2 generous servings

pie pastry, enough for a bottom crust, divided in half

1/2 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (~64 gm)
140 gm paneer cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs
2 tbsp whipping cream, or regular milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit. Adjust the shelf in the oven so it’s at the lowest position. Place a baking sheet in the oven so that it will preheat as well.

Roll out the dough for the base. Line a disposable aluminum mini pie tin leaving about 1/2 inch of excess pastry. Roll out the top so there’s about an inch of excess pastry.

Assemble the filling ingredients. Fill the base, add the top crust, folding over and crimping closed. Cut several slits for the steam to escape.

Place the tart on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

REVIEW: I found that the pie crust recipe lived up to its name … it IS both flaky and buttery. It’s easy to make, tasty and will remain in my recipe collection. The fillings of both the sweet and savoury variations were delicious as well.

Picspam: Strawberry Dango and Mochi Pt. 2

Sorry for the picture overload but I didn’t want to make multiple posts and used as few pictures as I could to give an accurate representation of each confection.

The recipes I used were found on various blogs and Youtube videos. I scaled down the recipes and didn’t take good notes so until I repeat some of these projects, I’m not going to worry about sharing recipes or links.

An Overview … dango, mochi and daifuku

Strawberry Dango

For these strawberry dango I started by making a strawberry puree and using that as the liquid in making the dango ‘dough’. Then, I shaped the dango, boiled them and threaded them onto skewers. The cold dango were served with the strawberry puree as a sauce.

REVIEW: I was disappointed in the result. They were acceptable freshly made but, after refrigeration, the dango were gummy and kind of gross. I’m willing to blame the failure on my technique but until I can figure out what to do differently, I’m unlikely to try to make them again.

Ice-cream Mochi

Frozen ice cream balls are wrapped in a thin shell of mochi ‘dough’. I started out by spooning slightly softened ice cream (French vanilla ice cream) into an ice cream scoop, packing it down and then froze the balls. I had the choice of cooking the mochi paste/dough in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave. Of course, I chose the faster/easier/lazier method. Unfortunately, microwaves are different and an extra 15 sec more or less DOES make a difference. I THINK I cooked it enough. But I’m not sure.

In any case, I dumped the cooked paste onto a bed of cornstarch, rolled it out using a rolling pin, generously coated with more cornstarch, and divided it into the number of portions needed. And then I ATTEMPTED to roll the paste snuggly around the frozen ice cream ball.

Sorry about the poor pictures. I started making these around 9 or 10 pm and my lighting was poor. I made enough paste to wrap around four ice cream balls.

The cornstarch on the outside of the mochi ball actually makes it look better than brushing it off, for presentation. Unfortunately, it’s tasteless. I suppose that I could have used icing sugar as some recipes recommend. But it’s not traditional … and that’s what I was going for.

Ignore the cut paper muffin paper in the picture below. The mochi shell/wrap was thin and soft as required but the bubbles were unsightly.

REVIEW: Seems simple but the result was just kind of sad … visually. Taste wise, they were fine. I would make them again when I buy more Mochiko flour. And get some more interesting ice cream flavours.

For the next two confections (the second is a variation of the first), I used anko (sweetened red bean paste). I had the choice of either smooth or coarse paste and chose the latter. A strawberry puree was used to flavour/hydrate the mochi dough.

Packages of Smooth and Coarse Anko

Strawberry Mochi

Strawberry Daifuku

These are very perishable confections as the fresh strawberry in the middle seems to ooze out liquid as the confection stands. The anko is wrapped around a whole strawberry and then the strawberry flavoured mochi is wrapped around that. I only made two of the daifuku and two of the plain mochi.

REVIEW: I enjoyed both the plain mochi and the daifuku but if I were to make one of them again, it would be the plain mochi.

Picspam: Mochi Pt. 1

An intriguing Japanese confection that I was introduced to via Youtube videos was mochi … I thought I’d try and make some. So I bought Mochiko flour.

And then I visited an Asian grocery store that’s been around for a number of years, for the first time, back in July. And came home with a few goodies.

So I decided NOT to make mochi.

Soft and squishy and delicious … in so many flavours. Like these strawberry mochi …

or this trio of anko (sweetened red bean paste), peanut butter paste or sesame seed paste filled mochi …

or this classic mochi flavour … matcha (green tea).

OK … I DID make some mochi. I’ll post pictures soon.