Season’s Eatings!

Gingerbread Cookies & Milk 1 arrIt’s the final countdown? Oh yes, Christmas is only five days away and I can’t wait!  With less than a week to go, last-minute shoppers are checking off lists, vacationers are travelling, and families are undoubtedly gathering.  In the meantime, I like to spread holiday cheer with my own baking tradition of:  very good, freshly made ─ with love ─ gingerbread cookies.Gingerbread Cookies & Milk 2 arr

Softer than ginger snaps and slightly chewy to the bite, whipping up a double batch of Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Cookies is one of my favourite “go-to” holiday recipes. I’ve made these cookies so many times, and for good reason:  it never fails!  Gingerbread Cookies & Milk 4 arrAlso inclusive to sugar, butter, and spices ─ ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves ─ use of these scrumptious ingredients will fill your home with the festive aromas of the holidays.  For the creation of your very own homemade cookies and bonus ─ baker’s potpourri ─ here’s a quick sum of Martha’s tips that are worth recounting:  chill the dough prior to handling, roll it out to 1/8 inch and, however obvious, be careful not to over-bake your cookies given that baking time varies dependent on the size of the cookie dough cut-outs.  Ultimately, follow the listed instructions and you’ll have a crowd-pleasing plateful of good eats awaiting family, friends and guests alike.

Gingerbread Cookies & Milk 6 arrIn an ode to joyful baking, I’m more than happy to create desserts from scratch. But if baking is not your ‘forte,’ no worries!  Luckily, these flavourful cookies can be made by one you know and decorated by all.  In essence, everyone’s welcome to embellish gingerbread cookies with gumdrops, candy toppings, sprinkles, and other sweet additions.  Likewise, opting for royal icing and the ‘usual suspects’ are the typical choice.  But, I have another plan for mine.  This year, I decide to treat my gingerbread cookies to three distinct pairings:  I combine dried fruits/nuts ─ cranberries, crystalized ginger, chopped pistachios ─ with milk, dark and white chocolates.  Evidently, the visiting Santa ─ ‘chez-moi’ ─ has a sophisticated palette and why wouldn’t he? He’s a foodie, too!  On that note, I’ll be sure to leave a handful of chocolaty dipped gingerbread biscuits with its classic counterpart ─ cookies and milk, both!

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

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“Food of the gods”

SOMA chocolate 1 arr

Toronto is home to many foodie hotspots, and rightfully so. But, where do chocoholics go?  Having heard many great things of one particular chocolaterie, I thought I’d pay a little visit to a quaint gem in the heart of the Distillery District.  Say it is so ─ SOMA Chocolatemaker.  Catering to fans of all things cacao, enter this one-stop chocolate shop and you will not be disappointed.  A local paradise of sorts, SOMA looks, smells, and embodies the multifaceted tastes of chocolate.

SOMA chocolate 2 arrPleasantly surrounded by one of my favourite things ─ chocolate, of course ─ I take some time to admire the shop’s ambiance and machinery such as the cocoa grinder. Also capturing my attention, I locate an encased chocolate and nut salami that is uniquely made and available by SOMA.  Clarification provided, this show stopping treat contains no meat and can be sliced and served in rounds, making it ideal for individual delighting at any holiday party. SOMA chocolate 3 arr

SOMA chocolate 4 arrNeglecting not the other senses, it’s time to taste test. Patiently waiting in queue, I studiously scan the endless array of handcrafted chocolates, and begin to decide.  Certainly wanting chocolate, which one?  With no shortage of options, I decisively place an order of hot and cold, in addition to both liquid and solid cacao treats:  six truffles and a mug of Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate.

Saving the confections for later, I first sample the ginger and cayenne infused hot chocolate. Clearly combining sweet with heat, this invigorating hot chocolate will leave your taste buds ─ on fire ─ with a chocolaty picante bite.  Needless to say, this spicy hot chocolate lives true to its name.

Another day, another chocolate? Yes, please!  SOMA chocolate 5 arrOpening my wrapped box of handpicked bonbons, I behold these heavenly beauties:  Brown Butter Truffle, 8 year aged Balsamic Vinegar, Roasted Cacao Bean, Magnolia Peach, Australian Ginger and Meyer Lemon, and a “unique origins” truffle.  Though a select few, the aforementioned truffles are all synonymous with pure quality chocolate that is aromatic, refined, and smooth while equally indicative of a myriad of flavours and textures.  Favouring the Peach Magnolia, I recommend it for its delicately perfumed taste and silky ganache interior.  The clean and bright citrus profile of the Australian Ginger and Lemon is pretty good in its own right, as are all the rest.  In all fairness, I haven’t had a bad ─ “Food of the gods” ─ experience at SOMA, and thank goodness.  Happily, my overall first impression is this:  SOMA truffles are more than chocolate ─ they’re chocolate made right!

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

C’est Si Bon

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 2 arrOnce upon a reverie, a dessert table befitting of all celebrations ─ Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa ─ prepared itself.  Wishful thinking, of course, planning for the upcoming holidays need not be stressful.  Joyful, joyful ─ still ─ seasonal eats may require some elbow grease but, are very manageable.  So yes, you can do it all ─ parades, shopping, dinner parties and homemade desserts ─ but, just remember:  pace yourself.

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 1 arrWith the festive spirit in the air, I cast aside wintry blues ─ the best way I know how ─ and get the ball rolling with a recipe fit for success.  Even better, this task involves quality control in the form of taste testing, and includes none other than an all-time favourite ─ cho-co-la-te!  Clearly, happy times call for chocolaty measures.  Making no exceptions, then, here’s my idea of a must-indulge crowd-pleaser that’s easy to create, share and devour:  Bailey’s Chocolate Truffles.

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 3 arrCourtesy of Martha Stewart’s recipe, the making of your very own cocoa rich confections are a few ingredients away.  For this highly achievable chocolate truffle, all you need is:  ½ cup heavy cream, 8 ounces of fine quality semi-sweet chocolate, liqueur, and cocoa.  Equally versatile, chocoholics rejoice!  Personalizing truffles to suit your palette is a cinch.  First follow basic instructions, then swap the Bailey’s Irish Cream for a preferred alternative, and finally enrobe the truffles with melted chocolate in place of cocoa.

Bailey's & Hazelnut Truffles 4 arrFinding this recipe too irresistible not to quantifiably double, two times the ingredients happily yields twice the amount of velvety rich morsels of creamy chocolate.  Just to recap, here’s a second take on what to do:  heat the cream, pour the liquid over the chocolate shavings or chips, add flavouring, mix contents until smooth, and chill the mixture in the fridge.  Once set, use a melon-baller to measure out even-sized rounds of ganache filling, and then work quickly to roll the truffles into your choice of possible coatings:  confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, toasted nuts, shredded coconut or chocolate sprinkles.  For my second batch, I replace Irish Cream with hazelnut syrup in addition to use of filberts for added texture.  Mindful that these decadent bites of heaven can be spoiled by a rancid nut, I recommend purchase of raw hazelnuts that can be pan-toasted or cooked in the oven.  In essence, use of fresh products will ensure premium truffles that will leave guests with a palatably sweet memory.  So good, in fact, these two-bite delights will get everyone caroling, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…” ─ bonbons!

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.