Keep Calm & Panda On

Pandaron 1 arrIt’s panda bear pandemonium! Rightfully so, everyone loves these adorably playful creatures. But if you don’t get why, here are two cute and cuddly reasons to explain: Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. Literally translating to Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy, the aforementioned Canadian born male and female pandas cubs are recent additions to the Toronto Zoo. Beyond endearing – not to mention G.T.A.-close – I, like many other animal lovers, couldn’t miss the chance to gain a glimpse of these cuties while they’re still small-ish and in these part of the woods.

Ooh’s” and “awes” in full effect, lucky visitors get to see not one or two pandas but, the whole family. Sighting mama bear, papa bear and the twins, it’s no wonder why this rare viewing is worth the lineup. Bearing witness to panda-style habits – eating, sleeping, and repeating – I learn the charms of living the simple life. Clearly, as in this case, less is more – more pampering of the senses, that is. Pandaron 6 arr

Similarly catering to one’s desire to see and explore further, other ‘mini’ sights to admire include: the polar bear cub, white lion cubs, a couple of Canadian Lynx kittens, and Nandu the Indian Rhino calf. Observing as much as time allows, I leave this excursion with both appreciation for nature’s four-legged beauties and inspiration to re-create baked replicas of my own.

Pandaron 8 arrDusting off a reliable French Macaron recipe, anyone can make their very own ‘pandaron’ – panda macaron. Irresistibly sweet and soft – to the palette and eyes – these round delights are sure to please any panda or cookie lover. Doubling down, those who like both – fans of pandas and cookies – are definitely in for a twin-of-a-treat.

Getting my hands on the necessary ingredients coupled with elbow grease, there’s no pampering or ‘spaw’ treatment involved for this tedious task. Pandaron 7 arrMeasuring, sieving, whisking, folding, piping, and the list goes on, I feel taking a panda nap – almost, only after the cookies are done. Like the cubs’ namesake, I’m both hoping for a blotch-free outcome and joyful upon glance of completed baking sheets of bashful faces – no hot messes here, thankfully.

Pandaron 10 arrGrateful that my interpretation of the Canadian born panda cubs turned out right, I’m left as elated as the showing of the real cubs. Truly mirroring the characteristics of genuine macarons – round with a smooth domed top, and standing tall on ‘feet’ – these sugary ‘pandaron’ babies don’t fall short nor flat. Ideal in taste, size and texture, it goes to show that a trusted recipe and precision is all you need to render quality macarons. To finish my display, I couldn’t resist but to keep my ‘pandarons’ company with matcha green tea biscuit sticks – the perfect snack to complement this cookie round table.

Pandaron 9 arrFor those who are adventurous, try making other animal-inspired macarons. For the creation of lions, tigers, bears or other, simply use your imagination and follow your preferred recipe. From here, add a few drops of food colouring gels and design your cookies accordingly. Ideally, detailing is best using a contrasting colour to reveal and highlight signature lines, spots or markings of your favourite zoo animal. Though the making of macarons measure higher in difficultly than the average chocolate chip cookie, they are undeniably fun to make- for this baker, at least. All the same, the choice to buy or make is yours. Staying zen about the issue, there’s no debating what everyone will do ‘chez-moi’  all can keep calm and eat ‘pandarons.’

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Instant Happiness

Counting one of the many ways I heart cacao, here’s a simplified response: single origin. That’s why, whilst visiting Jamaica, it was a welcome mission – for this chocoholic – to find the very best bountiful pod offerings that mother nature bears in this part of the West Indies. Needless to say, I wanted the chance to taste 100% real Jamaican – homegrown and manufactured – chocolate.Jamrock Food 6 arr

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to producing chocolate. And to this day, it’s my dream – hopefully realized, one day soon – to visit a cocoa farm, stand next to a cocoa tree, and even witness the full extent of this plant’s cultivation from harvesting of pod to extraction of cocoa beans. Still dreaming – for now – there is one thing I can do, which is to get my hands on ‘instant happy’ – a.k.a. fine quality Jamaican chocolate – or so I thought.

Jamrock Food 5 arrProving to be a more difficult task than first anticipated, locating original Jamaican chocolate – in Jamaica – is not that easy, at least for me. Yes, I did visit a local shop and but only found rows of ‘popular’ sugary milk chocolate bars. Setting my sights on 70% or plus cocoa confections, venturing into a Montego Bay supermarket – Progressive Foods – was worth the trip. First making my way to personal points of interest – coffee and baking aisles – I happily found Blue Mountain coffee and unique baking extracts and essences. Proceeding next to the candy aisle, I came out empty handed as I only saw more ‘familiar’ wrapped sweets from home. As the journey continued, waiting in queue to finalize ‘other’ purchases, I asked neighbouring patrons where to find Jamaican chocolates. Kindly informed of “Charles” chocolate treats, I was elated – if only for a few short-lived seconds – and later enlightened that they’re no longer available. Blessings, persistence always prevails! Remember, I was on a choco-inspired mission. Finally, the moment of discovery came to pass and, with it, an awaited introduction to tasting pure and wonderfully made Jamaican cho-co-la-te – courtesy of, CDJM.

Jamrock Food 7 arrSetting my chocolate standards high, I scanned the package to determine if this ‘treasure’ measured up. The label read: “Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa” and “Original Jamaican Recipe.” So far so good, I was delighted at the sight of this particular bar and – without hesitation – picked it up for closer examination. Upon second glance, I noticed the brand was ‘en français’ – Cacao de Jamaïque – that’s consistent with Cocoa of Jamaica or Jamaican Cocoa. With respect to satisfying a “must,” we have a WINNER! CDJM pleasingly uses – as the package clearly reveals – “Authentic Jamaican Cocoa.”

Equally fortunate nearing departure, I spotted and purchased Black River Single Origin Chocolates. Specifically using 100% Jamaican Trinitario cocoa beans, Black River is similar to CDJM in that both companies keep true to the promise of integrating native Jamaican cocoa beans and on delivery of premium grade edible luxury. Though I have yet to identify a completely Jamaican bean-to-bar item – cocoa entirely grown, processed and transformed into moulded chocolate – on the island, I’m still “feeling alright” with my decided expenditure of CDJM and Black River Jamaican cocoa-rich products. Simply divine, CDJM’s dark chocolate bar is offered in generously proportioned squares and, as such, a little goes a long way. Smooth to the palate, a single piece of CDJM evokes intensely aromatic and robust cocoa flavour – no guilt, it’s my kind of black velvet. Unequivocally keen to “food of the gods,” I’m falling for Black River’s chocolate as well. Catering to a purist’s soul, Black River’s chocolate is: no fuss, no frills, and requires no ‘extra’ spices or add-ins to mask its exquisitely tempered and refined outcome – it’s pure cocoa at its best. Originating from a single island, Jamaican cocoa bean products are a rarity in their own right. Well-deserving of respect, it is with gratitude I profess: “Big up, to CDJM and Black River for encouraging this cocoa-driven endeavour to being – tastefully – accomplished.”

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

So Nice, It’s IRIE

Jamrock Food 3 arr

Yeah, mon! I just came back from Jamrock – Jamaica – and I had the time of my life. Paradise island for more reasons than one – inviting people, lovely weather, sandy beaches, dancehall music, etc. – let’s not forget the desires of our foodie friends. Jamrock Food 2 arrSure to be left speechless by “real-deal” cuisine, be sure to savour authentic jerk hut specialities and accompaniments. Like no other open-air b.b.q., selection of succulent and smokey jerk seasoned chicken, shrimp or pork with a side of rice and beans is plentiful. And if you like things hotter, laden some scotch bonnet sauce to your plateful and be on your merry way – just don’t forget the Red Stripe.

Jamrock Drink arrSo far, there’s no question Jamaican food is pretty ‘irie.’ Also trying and delighting in other popular favourites, I equally attest to the goodness of ackee and salt fish. The embodiment of tradition, this national dish uses regional ingredients like ackee fruit and is a must-indulge item on my list.

Speaking of produce, being conveniently situated in the tropics has its perks. Wanting a taste of homegrown Caribbean citrus and fruits alike, sampling native ‘otaheite’ – a.k.a. Jamaican apple – is a definite treat. After all, why not enjoy exotic gems that would otherwise be difficult to find in colder climates? To me, eating local just makes sense! Jamrock Food 1 arrPassionate about fruit and passion fruit – both – other splendours include: star apple, ‘chiny guinep’ – think lychee – ‘kamranga’ or starfruit, and ugli fruit that is quite contrary to its name.  A beauty both inside and out, this tangelo’s exterior bears a lime green peel and a contrasting vibrant orange interior flesh. While there are more Jamaican fruits to name, I’d like to share my favourite: naseberry. Until recent, I’ve never spotted or tasted naseberry. Fortunately, befriending and talking to locals is always helpful and equally made it easy to locate this particular edible treasure.

Jamrock Food 4 arrTruth be told: it’s the nase to my knees. But, why do l love it so? Good question! The answer is quite simple: this fruit is s-w-e-e-t. Truly toothsome, one bite of naseberry shares the intensity level of a date – for sugar! Oh so sweet in flavour, I would liken it’s delicate texture to that of an extremely ripened pear. All in all, my mini fruit tasting escapade is revealing of many pleasant palatable surprises.

More important than great food finds, encountering the kindness of Jamaican people leaves me with a lasting impression that I’ll never forget. Beyond words, Jamaicans are incredibly fun-loving and embody a sincerely warm and friendly spirit that added to one lively experience worth repeating. Needless to say: I must go back! Until then friends, bless up!

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Something Berry Wonderful

 

Swiss Jelly Roll 5 arrHappy belated! Yesterday, love of country was on display for none other than Canada Day. Marking the nation’s birthday in patriotic fashion, the first of July is nothing short of seeing all things red, white and – especially for foodies – deliciously homegrown.

No exceptions, the baker-in-me equally celebrated the best way I know how – via dessert! Clearly adding caloric ‘fuel’ to complement eventful fireworks, I had one specific treat in mind. Swiss Jelly Roll 4 arrGoing for something ‘berry’ seasonal, I forgo prized sweet sap – pure maple syrup – and highlighted the occasion by following instruction for a raspberry inspired recipe. And so, a day off – for this Canuck – was a day well spent in the kitchen, making homemade Swiss Jelly Roll.

Consistent with layers of tart raspberry fruit preserve and lightly sweetened whipped cream, this sponge sheet cake is generously filled, rolled, and sliced to appease any birthday guest. Swiss Jelly Roll 1 arrEven suitable for afternoon tea, this rolled cake is too irresistible not to remake and share. Kindly note, I used Martha Stewart’s recipe though you can commit to a reliable sponge cake recipe of your own choosing. Likewise, feel free to swap the raspberries for alternate ‘red’ fruit such as strawberries or cherries – as always, cater to ‘your’ preferences and palette.

Party planning still in the works – for some – upcoming national festivities like the Fourth of July and Bastille Day on the fourteenth are more reasons to bake, share and devour this versatile cake. Swiss Jelly Roll 7 arrIn recognition of the allied tricolour flags, I recommend using the exact sheet cake method and simply adding blueberries in combination with your choice of edible ‘rubies’ – fresh fruit and compote alike – to ultimately represent red, white and blue. What’s more, now you have three legitimate grounds – or excuses – to eat cake to your sweet tooth’s content. Baking up more reasons to celebrate with food, Happy International July Days!!

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

French Souvenir

Madeleines 1 arrMad for Madeleine? More than a name, madeleines are synonymous with ‘la nostalgie.’  Remembrance of past moments, this distinctive French cake brings back a flood of memories for me, and perhaps others.  Courtesy of Marcel Proust’s work, Swann’s Way, my first introduction to this light buttery treat is found in the timeless pages of the aforementioned classic.  Clearly reminiscing of days spent reading French literature ─ food scenes, in particular ─ breaking into some “petites madeleines” of my own seems pretty ideal, right about now.  Only dilemma is:  there are no small cakes or a local pâtisserie in sight.  Fortunately, there is a ‘way’ to go from here and that’s to the kitchen ─ where the creation of nouveau memories commence.

Madeleines 3 arrReliving a wrinkle in time ─ à la baking ─ I gather the necessities for the remaking of this molded plump sweet. First thing’s first, you need the right pan ─ molded madeleine cake tin ─ and the right ingredients.  Similar to butter or yellow cake recipes, you’ll need all the basics:  flour, sugar, eggs, butter, baking powder, salt, honey, lemon zest and vanilla extract.  Following Martha Stewart’s instructions specified for ‘madeleines,’ I prepare two separate zesty batches:  one to include grated lemon rind ─ like Martha’s original ─ and a second batter that solely consists of orange citrus.

Madeleines 5 arrWhile I found this madeleine recipe easy to prepare, the process involved is quite time-consuming. In brief, you must chill the batter for an hour prior to pouring it into the hollows of the buttered and floured cake pan.  And, from here, you must set the cake batter-filled pan in the fridge ─ that’s right, there’s a second chilling time ─ and, not straight into a preheated oven just yet.  There are plenty of recipes available, so you can definitely stick with your preferred “go-to” recipe.

On the plus side, I did like the simplicity of the ingredients required, and did not mind the multi-step procedure involved with the making of Martha’s recipe. Madeleines 4 arrThe beauty of this recipe also lies in the delicate yet sponge-like texture of these cakes.  Undeniably fine in quality, I brush the ridged surface of the finished and cooled lemon madeleines with lemon glaze for some added zing.  For an alternate citrus twist, I primarily adhere to the original recipe but replace lemon zest with grated orange peel.  Madeleines 6 arrOnce baked and inverted onto a cooling rack, I lightly dab the little cakes with edible perfume ─ a.k.a. fragrant orange blossom water ─ and, as a last touch, give these perfectly individual tea time indulgences a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  ‘Et voilà,’ resurrecting the senses is as achievable as getting lost in time via the delighting of one’s very own afternoon snack.

© DISHFUL, 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

The Latest Scoop

No-Churn Ice Cream 2 arrAsk any ice cream fan, and I bet they have their ‘favourite.’ While mint chip and rocky road are popular flavours, mocha almond fudge tops my list.  Whatever your preference, most would agree that quality ─ real dairy ─ ice cream can’t be beat.  And much to my delight, “no-churn” recipes are no-fuss and all things decadent, rich, creamy, and simply divine.

Too irresistible not to try, I put a three ingredient “no-churn” ice cream recipe to the test. Happily evading use of an ice cream maker, I only need an electric mixer and these “must-haves”:  2 cups of heavy cream, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and a couple dashes of vanilla essence.  Once the aforementioned ‘magic three’ are whipped and form soft peaks, I pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container, cover it with a lid, and set it into the icebox for at least five hours.

No-Churn Ice Cream 3 arrThat’s it! Truly, your work is done ─ “no-churn” vanilla ice cream 101.  But why stop there, right? ─ Right on!  Getting creative, I double the ‘basic’ vanilla recipe, and divide the ‘very good’ vanilla bean ice cream into four separate loaf pans.  Creating a blank canvas of sorts, you can stick with vanilla-infused ice cream and later incorporate added texture and taste via your imagination.  For instance, consider the following:  chocolate chips, caramel sauce, fresh berries or fruit preserve, nuts, crumbled cookies, liqueurs or even mint extract for a more refreshing taste.

No-Churn Ice Cream 4 arrGoing for delicious scoops of ‘breige,’ my ice cream cloud is made of plentiful shades of wonderful: vanilla bean, espresso, double chocolate and mocha almond fudge.  For the already mastered classic, use of pure vanilla extract is a given.  Catering to purists, I also recommend following suit by integrating the scraped black seeds of an authentic vanilla pod for an elevated flavour profile.  As for a chocolaty spin, whip a few tablespoons of cocoa into the basic mixture until it appears homogenous, and then stir in shavings of dark chocolate.  In similar fashion, treating the basic vanilla mixture to an “afternoon pick me up” is as easy as blending it with chilled brewed espresso or with a few tablespoons of the ‘instant’ alternative.

No-Churn Ice Cream 1 arrReserved for last, but certainly not least, my favourite ─ mocha almond fudge ─ tastes like the real-deal. Best part is:  the only place I need to ‘bask in’ for the making of this confection is the kitchen.  Kid you not, this take on mocha almond fudge is ‘that’ good!  And, here’s how to make your own:  blend the basic vanilla mixture with cocoa powder, espresso powder ‘et voilà,’ you got the mocha part ready.  Half-way done, freeze the mocha ice cream for about an hour while you prepare the fudgy addition.  No-Churn Ice Cream 6 arrFor my interpretation of a DIY nutty ganache filling, I take a dark chocolate almond bar ─ the family-size variety, about 300 grams ─ save some with which to later decorate, and then melt the rest with some heavy cream over a double-boiler.  Once the contents have melted and the ganache has cooled, remove the mocha ice cream from the icebox and spoon in the filling, trying to create chocolaty almond ribbons.  Finally, top off the mocha almond fudge ice cream with a crunchy combo of toasted sliced almonds and chopped chocolate chunks, and really freeze it this time ─ a solid five hours should suffice.  Wait time ‘somehow’ endured, appeasing to one’s appetite for homemade “no-churn” frozen dessert is undeniably a cinch.  As for the question of brain freeze, “no-churn” is still a no-brainer ─ happy ‘paced’ consumption!

© DISHFUL, 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

An Éclairation of Dependence

Persian Profiteroles 1 arrRevelling in the dual arrival of spring and Persian New Year, I must declare: I love ‘choux’ ─ choux pastry, of course.  And given my affinity for all French ‘pâtisseries,’ this blossoming time beckons good eats to fuel an upcoming two week marathon of ancient-rich festivities.  Making an appearance on my Persian dessert table, then, I forecast a sweet year ahead with plentiful ‘choux’-inspired delights.

Baffled, by the correlation? You’re probably wondering how French pastry and Persian ‘shirini’ ─ sweets, desserts ─ relate, and rightfully so.  Persian Profiteroles 5 arrThe answer’s quite simple.  In one word:  PROFITEROLES!  Not news to Persians, we absolutely L-O-V-E heavenly clouds of light and airy cream puffs.  Clearly a highly favoured treat, profiteroles are to be seen in the display case of many Persian bakeries.  This year, however, shortcuts are not the way to go.  Instead, the baker-in-me calls for the making of homemade “Persianified” cream-filled pastries ─ I’ll tell you how ─ that’s easy to make, and even easier to enhance to suit varying tastes.

Praline Paris Crest arrStarting with the basics, I follow Martha Stewart’s dependable recipe for ‘choux’ pastry. Once the ‘choux’ is made, you can pipe classic domed rounds, rings or rectangular strips for the making of éclairs.  You can stick with one shape or the other, or both ─ the beauty with this recipe lies in that it’s your creation, and ultimately your choice.  Once my ‘choux’ pastries are baked, I set them aside to cool and begin with the fillings.

‘Choux’ shopping in mind, appetizing possibilities are endless. Envisioning dessert trays abound, my decision is made:  I must-indulge in a baking session that allows me to experiment and create everything.  Seriously settling on handfuls, I deduce the following selects will ─ for now ─ pleasingly suffice:  individual mini praline Paris-Brest, sea salted dulce de leche éclairs, and a flavourful trio of cream-filled profiteroles.  Dulce de Leche Eclairs arrUnique in both shapes and palatable accompaniments, an array of different sized ‘choux’ pastry shells and a range of luxurious cream fillings ─ almond praline pastry cream, Chantilly, raspberry and “Persianified” whipped creams ─ are a tall order to fill.  But, then again, these hollow pastry shells are designed to be packed with an assortment of divine filling.  Word to the wise:  advanced preparation of Martha’s vanilla pastry cream is recommended that leaves ample time for it to chill in the fridge, and later use either as is or to blend with almond praline.

Persian Profiteroles 3 arrAs for Chantilly cream, what is it exactly? Essentially, it’s heavy cream that is whipped with confectioner’s sugar and pure vanilla essence.  Wanting vanilla-infused Chantilly cream in addition to raspberry whipped cream and a distinct “Persianified” flavour profile, I obviously want it all.  And for this dedicated foodie, the response is clear:  all is possible, and so it shall be done!  Heeding to Martha’s directions, I measure precise amounts of specified icing sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract to ensure consistency, and whip the aforementioned contents using an electric mixer.  Chantilly complete, I remove half of the mixture into a separate clean bowl and blend it with raspberry purée for a berry wonderful alternative.

Persian Profiteroles 6 arrSaving the crowd-pleaser for last, the “Persianified” cream filling is as follows: start with a plain canvas of sweetened whipped cream ─ first whip 1 ½ cups of heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar ─ and then proceed to add ½ teaspoon of rosewater and a generous pinch of ground cardamom.  Being careful not to over mix the whipped cream, delicately blend the perfumed addition and spice into the already whipped mixture.  Purely rich and intoxicating, a little goes a long way with these aromatics that make for a fragrant cream puff.  Also unlike other desserts, taking my sweet time to decorate these time-sensitive cream-filled pastries does not apply.  Persian Profiteroles 7 arrWorking in a meltdown-free zone, I hasten to pipe as many profiteroles as possible and quickly enrobe some with finely chopped pistachios.  Last pastry filled and third tray set into the fridge to chill, the end result is this:  I’m triumphantly tired!  Rejoicing in a successful mission complete, witnessing family and friends delighting in the fruits of a laborious baking endeavour is reward enough.  Starting another Persian New Year with sweet tidings, Happy New Year to all!!  P.S., you don’t have to be Persian to celebrate a new start ─ or to enjoy “Persianified” profiteroles, cheers!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

T.F.’s “Ultimate”

TFU Cheesecake 3 arrSay, “Cheese-cake!” I don’t always make cheesecake but, when I do, it must be in following Tyler Florence’s Ultimate recipe.  Seriously the best homemade cheesecake instruction I have come across ─ to date ─ let it be known:  a piece of this all-American style dessert is not for the faint of heart.  Dense, rich, and reassuringly decadent, Tyler’s take on this classic is full of flavour ─ a.k.a. saturated fatty deliciousness.  Needless to say, the anatomy of this three-part cake is telling of a very good ─ for your taste buds ─ anticipated treat:  tart fruit topping, velvety smooth filling, and a buttery cinnamon-infused graham cracker crust.

TFU Cheesecake 5 arrCare to get your own cheesecake factory up and running? Clearly I do, and you can too!  Simply remember:  all is possible with some precision and elbow grease.  So for the making of your own cheesy round, start by getting your hands on the ‘necessities’ and separately prepare each required layer.   Crackers smashed and blended with melted butter and spice, mould the dry crumbs into a cake pan and set it aside into the fridge.  Now for the filling, here’s what you’ll need:  cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla essence and lemon zest.  Filling made and crust chilled, continue by pouring the abundant batter into the cookie shell and wrap the cake tin’s exterior ─ twice, for safe measure ─ with foil.  While some recipes omit a steam bath ─ ‘bain-marie’ ─ this one calls for it.  TFU Cheesecake 7 arrAnd so, it’s a must to ensure the aluminum package is tightly sealed prior to submerging it into a roasting pan filled with hot water.  Finally ready to bake, carefully place the pan-filled contents into a preheated oven for about 45 minutes, as per Tyler’s directions.  A tad bit extra work ─ I know ─ but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Messing not with this cheesecake recipe, then, I can attest that adhering to Tyler’s steps will yield optimal results: a perfectly smooth moist cake.  And once chilled, this delicately sweet creamy cheesecake can be enjoyed ‘as is’ or made more scrumptious with the addition of a fruit topping.  TFU Cheesecake 9 arrWhile the original recipe proposes a simmering of citrus zest and blueberries, my preference lies with seasonal ‘rouge’ embellishments.  In effect, I replace Tyler’s warm blueberry lemon topping with vibrant red raspberries.  Still refreshing and bursting with bright flavour, I first enrobe the plain cheesecake canvas with a spreading of sieved raspberry preserve, and then decorate the glistening surface with orderly rows of fresh ruby berries.  ‘Et voilà,’ this presentable cake is now ready to slice and share.  Indeed living true to status, this “ultimate” cake boldly delivers in taste, texture, and appeal.  Obviously beyond words, it’s just one of those things ─ ‘c’est du fromage!’

© DISHFUL, 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

Pithiviers aux Amandes

Pithiviers 1 arrWhen I think of aromatic breads, divine pastries and scrumptious cakes, French recipes and masters of the trade definitely come to mind. Truly synonymous with all things deliciously baked, it’s no wonder I celebrate this year’s Epiphany with ‘galette des rois.’  Loosely translated to ‘king cake,’ this regional favourite is made and enjoyed to commemorate the arrival of the Wise Men.

More pleasing for foodies, ‘pithiviers’ generally refers to a filled puff pastry pie that can be either sweet or savoury. For the making of this particular ‘galette,’ I decide to encase two sheets of puff pastry with almond frangipane.  Just like Martha Stewart, I follow her frangipane recipe and baking instructions ‘to a T.’  Keeping things real-ly honest, however, I forgo the making of ‘pâte feuilleté’ from scratch and stand by a very good purchase of pre-made ‘quality’ frozen puff pastry.  Great news is:  “You can too!” Still buttery, flaky and rich, store-bought puffy pastry is my kind of “good thing!”Pithiviers 2 arr

Recipe, now simplified, I expedite the process slightly further by spreading refrigerated ─ not frozen ─ frangipane filling onto one of two cut rounds ─ 9 inches in diameter ─ of puff pastry. Being sure not to spread the almond filling right to the edge of the pastry dough, I continue by brushing egg wash along the circumference of the first disc, then cover it with the second cut sheet, and finally seal the two.  Adhering to the remaining steps, I remove the chilled encased ‘pithiviers’ from the icebox and prepare the final stages.  For its completion, here’s what to do:  brush the domed exterior with the remainder of egg-wash, score the top with a pattern of choice, and finally bake the ‘galette’ into a preheated oven for the specified time.Pithiviers 4 arr

Time-elapsed and house-filled with the scent of victoriously baked sweetness, here’s the end result: it looks, smells, and tastes nothing like “store-bought!”  Golden on the outside and delicately perfumed with a creamy nutty interior, this take on almond ‘pithiviers’ is indicative of ‘kingly’ flavour and desired light crispy texture.  Also saving time and exceeding expectation, celebrations are clearly in order with this share-worthy pastry ─unequivocally, a piece of cake!

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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.