Tag 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.

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: 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.

Craquelin Cream Puffs with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

The basic cream puff may be dressed up in many ways.

In this post, I used Chef John‘s recipe for ‘crack’ cream puffs in which a crunchy sugar cookie type topping is placed on a larger than usual cream puff before baking.  I also made the vanilla bean pastry cream to fill the puffs but skipped the chocolate base for the puffs because, unlike my friend Dolly, from the ‘koolkosherkitchen’, I’m not that big a chocolate fan.

Cream Puff with a Craquelin Topping – Taste tested the freshly baked cream puffs filled with French vanilla ice cream as I hadn’t made the pastry cream ahead of time and it took several hours to chill and set fully.

Vanilla bean pastry cream

Preparation … craquelin topping made and the template drawn on parchment paper as a guide for piping the cream puffs.

Cream puffs with their craquelin topping ‘lids’

Baked cream puffs … I normally make a dozen cream puffs with the same amount of choux pastry.

REVIEW: Well written cream puff recipe with very good results. I did have some size issues with the puffs which were almost twice as large as I usually make. I prefer nibbling on a couple of smaller puffs with some time between rather than having to eat one giant puff at one sitting. Also, the crunchy/cracky topping gets soggy on thawing if you need to freeze any leftover cream puffs.

As to the vanilla bean pastry cream recipe … it was an easy recipe and not overly sweet which was good, but, as with many pastry cream recipes, I didn’t find it firm enough for my taste.

Dorayaki (Japanese “Pancake” Sandwich)

Dorayaki is a delicious Japanese snack or confection which traditionally consists of a sweet red bean paste (anko) sandwiched between two ‘pancakes’. Slightly different versions of the recipe may be found on several blogs but this is the first one I ran across some time ago, on Nami’s “Just One Cookbook” site. It uses the Mochiko (sweet rice flour) that I mentioned in the previous post though I HAVE seen a recipe which used all purpose flour.

I made a half batch of the recipe, and, even though I forgot to add the water, which I figured out after the fourth pancake, I still ended up with some edible, though misshapen early results. The final six pancakes, after I added about half of the amount of water listed into the remaining batter, were perfect.

Dorayaki with Sweet Red Bean Paste

The pancakes are easy to make though you DO have to be careful about the cooking temperature (medium-low is definitely advised) since the sugar and honey can burn quite easily if you exceed the temperature suggested. Moderation in the amount of filling is also necessary. Too much and you won’t be able to shape the pancakes around it and gently ‘pinch’ the edges closed. I used a ‘coarse’ sweet bean paste with some bean pieces left in it to fill the pancakes. Definitely use the plastic wrap to help in the shaping.

  

I used red bean paste (purchased) for the filling, because I like the taste, but if you can’t get it or don’t like it, and want to try something else, a thick pastry cream, crunchy peanut butter and Nutella and very lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit are alternative fillings.

Newfoundland Jam Jams

This jam filled sandwich cookie is a copycat of a commercial cookie produced by the Purity Factories in Newfoundland. The same recipe is found on several web sites. The one I found first and used is here. Even though there’s no ginger used in the cookie dough, the finished cookie tastes similar to gingerbread cookies, probably due to the brown sugar and molasses.

I used some apricot jam inside the first tray I made.

For the second tray, I tried to emboss some cookie balls with a maple leaf. Sadly the design disappeared during the baking. They still tasted delicious.

The maple leaf ’embosser’ was lightly dipped in flour before being used. I found that I needed to refrigerate the dough balls before attempting to emboss because they softened quickly at room temperature and stuck to the embosser. I was quite happy as I placed the baking sheet into the oven.

Disappointing result … no design.

Review: Tasty and easy to make. If you don’t want to fiddle with a filling, you can just roll out and cut out the cookies. Or, shape the dough into one inch cookie balls and flatten with the tines of a fork before baking. You can also roll the cookie balls in sugar and use the base of a glass to flatten them.