Fa-la-loving the Holidays!

Xmas Chocolate Bark 2 arr

Christmas and dessert – need I say more? Didn’t think so!

Made for ‘happier holidays,’ a dessert’s table is what I have in mind to fuel a festive evening get-together and one tastier way to end a fab meal. Being sure to create something for everyone, here’s what I include: artisan-inspired chocolate bark, coconut macaroons, buttery shortbread and gingerbread cookies, and orange-raspberry trifle. Clearly baking up plentiful of all that is flavourful and delectable, nothing spells out “holly” and “jolly” more than a sweet buffet of treats. And, if getting on Santa’s ‘nice list’ is your aim, I got you covered!

Xmas Chocolate Bark 1 arrLet’s bake! Starting with a trusted basic shortbread recipe, I double up the ‘necessities’ – flour, salt, sugar, butter and vanilla – and divide the cookie dough. Humble as-is in its original form, the possibilities are endless when it comes to enhancing shortbread. Letting your imagination run wild, simply take any shortbread instruction and add dried fruits and/or nuts of choice. As for my interpretation on a classic, I prepare the following: crystallized ginger stars, pistachio and dried cranberries, nutty almond rounds, fragrant earl grey discs, and lemon and lavender.

Xmas Shortbread Cookies 1 arrPursuing a bright Christmas, the citrus and perfumed profiles found in the lemon and lavender duo remains a surprisingly good pairing. Vibrant and earthy, this combination was so tempting that they didn’t last to see the day – “picture day,” that is!

Sorry, but not sorry?! Really, I wish I saved at least one example of this ‘beauty’ to display, but lesson learned: cookie monsters exist, and doubling up batches are a must. Ultimately falling short of quantity, there’s no doubt there’s something good to be said about melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies enhanced by tea or flowers. Definitely worth remaking, just be mindful that a little goes a long way when using matcha, finely processed hibiscus tea or other varied floral blends.

Xmas Coconut Macaroons 1 arrMoving on to the next, gingerbread is an all-time wintry favourite. Preferring a naked cookie over a decorated one – no icing, sprinkles or dragées – simplicity found in an undressed molasses and spice cookie is truly my kind of wonderful. Appreciating the nuanced taste of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, this cookie dough is a breeze to make and just as easy to roll out. Better yet, my “go-to” recipe – courtesy of Martha Stewart – yields delightfully soft gingerbread cookies that will remain such even post baking and cooling periods.

Warm spiced cookies and classic shortbread complete, I pay homage to a white Christmas with the making coconut macaroons. Love it or not, luckily I do! So much so, in fact, that I take a plain recipe and transform these snowy mounds with chocolate. Using milk, dark or white chocolate, melt premium quality of your preferred cocoa over a double-boiler and let magic happen: drizzle, coat, dip and set. This two-bite cookie is so simple to make, and easier to alter that if you only have time to make one cookie, I recommend coconut macaroons.

Xmas Orange Raspberry Trifle arrSaving the best for last, homemade trifle is the proper way to end a triumphant meal. F.Y.I.: you can bake two loaves of orange pound cake in advance and assemble this showstopping dessert the day of – ‘et voilà,’ you’re well on your way to a stress-free holiday dessert. Adhering to Ina Garten’s recipe for this indulgence, I get my ingredients and layer flavours via raspberry jam, orange custard, fresh berries, and sweetened whipped cream. Well worth the time and effort, sharing good food with good company goes hand in hand. On that note, Happy Christmas to you and yours – and to all good eats, cheers!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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Three Times a ‘Bain-Marie’

chocolate-mint-pots-de-creme-1-arrChristmas is coming, and for pastry novices – like ‘moi’ – a dessert brainstorm session is a must. Contemplating recipes, I see delicious everywhere! Between cakes, cookies and candy confections – you name it – choices are plentiful and they’re all happily sweet!

Joyful indeed, “This ain’t my first rodeo!” Embracing the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, I’ve learned a thing or two during these festive times: prepare in advance, and don’t leave your baking until last minute. Options narrowed, I decide on a holiday treat that steadily wins over both crowds and one’s blood pressure. Seriously, baking over the busiest time of year need not be stressful. As such, my finalized select for a ‘sweet ending’ to a grand meal can be made up to two days prior to serving, gets a little spa treatment – in a ‘bain-marie’ a.k.a. hot water bath – and can be burnt. You read right! eggnog-creme-brulee-1arr

Explanation provided, if you haven’t guessed it by now, the French classic known as ‘crème brûlée’ is to be made and devoured. Containing a velvety rich and silken cream interior, this divine custard bears its burning trademark – ‘brûlée’ – thanks to a caramelized ‘burnt’ sugar crust topping. Simplicity promised, preparation of this custard only requires five primary ingredients: egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar, a pinch of salt and vanilla. Adhering to Martha Stewart’s instructions, I gladly follow the listed steps. At the same time, however, I’m thinking it’s the holidays and this classic needs to be revamped. Say it is so, eggnog ‘crème brûlée!’

eggnog-creme-brulee-2-arrStill very good, the basic custard recipe can be made ‘as-is’ – following tradition – or enhanced with orange zest or other additions for varying flavours. In the spirit of the season, I keep with putting an eggnog twist on my take. It’s quite simple, all I do is add a pinch of ground cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as the tiniest hint of ground cloves to the mix. Depending on taste, you can equally spike your custard with a splash – about a tablespoon – of your preferred rum or brandy.

Oh, what fun…” and the burner’s still on, so why not make more dessert? My thoughts exactly! Two more delectable recipes – white chocolate crème brûlée and peppermint dark chocolate ‘pots de crème’  are too tempting not to try. Welcoming more work, the aforementioned appetizing paired recipes require the main ‘five’ ingredients plus: premium quality white and dark chocolates – Lindt or Ghirardelli are ideal – and a quarter teaspoon of pure peppermint extract. Successfully breaking with a stress-free baking endeavour, setting my mind to prepare a dessert trio is now on the new menu. Feeling adventurous, this extended baking task is a sought-after challenge worth accepting. After all, all three desserts are made in similar fashion – just times three! And, in case you opt to pursue this route, you’ll equally need thrice of everything: bowls, ingredients, ramekins, and patience. On the bright side, the fruits of your labour will surely yield you three times the company – people or food. Clearly, the more the merrier! chocolate-mint-pots-de-creme-2-arr

Without further ado, here’s how to start: in a bowl, mix the egg yolks with sugar and a pinch of salt. In a saucepan, bring the combined dairy contents and the seeds from a split and scraped vanilla bean to a gentle simmer. No vanilla bean, no problem?! As a substitute, pure vanilla essence works fine though I would add the extract to the egg mixture versus the liquid. Either way, heat the cream but be cautious not to let it boil. Once a simmer is reached, pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture while whisking nonstop, and keep whisking or else – sweetened scrambled eggs, anyone? Whisking complete – or until your arm feels tired – pour the combined mixture over a sieve and into another clean bowl or very large heat-proof glass measuring cup. Oven already preheated and a hot kettle of water awaiting to be used, place ramekins onto a deep roasting pan and then pour equal amounts of custard into each dish. From here, place the pan into the oven and now pour boiled water into the pan, almost reaching half-way up to the ramekin dish. Bake at 300°F for about 30 minutes or until the custard wobbles, and cool at room temperature for another half an hour before refrigerating for at least two more hours.

lindt-white-chococlate-creme-brulee-arrIt’s all in the way it’s – supposed to be – made, and these very good custards are no exception. Missing no step, ‘crème brûlée’ is merely custard without its signature amber gold topping. Going for the ‘pièce de résistance,’ then, the burnt sugar crusted finale needs two things: a tablespoon or so of castor sugar for each baked and chilled custard and – most importantly – a torch. If you don’t have a torch, use your oven’s broiler setting but be sure to keep a watchful eye on your ‘beauties.’ Remember: ‘burnt’ cream is the aim, not scorched. As for the peppermint dark chocolate ‘pots de crème,’ food of the gods truly need no masking. Embellishment via more dark chocolate, on the other hand, sounds like my kind of fancy finish to a highly pure cocoa indulgence. So, there you have it! Once, twice, three times a Merry Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebration, and holiday eats! Blessings to all, and BON APPÉTIT!! :)

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Legends of a Fall Haul

cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-5-arrFall harvests are in, and I’m going for the season’s best – C-R-A-N-B-E-R-R-I-E-S! Between beverages, sauces or jarred condiments, this fruit – when available – is conveniently within reach at the local grocers. So, why all the excitement? Clearly, resisting not – to test a new recipe – a baker’s gonna bake! And this time, use of these fresh and vibrant ruby red crops call for the making of a zingy orange and cranberry walnut-crusted tart.

Like most pie and tart recipes, you can pair various fillings with your preferred crust recipe.  Choice is yours, and for this baking endeavour I – somewhat – follow Martha Stewart’s instructions. Similar to the original, my take on the filling uses fresh cranberries, sugar, water, and gelatin. Also calling for a cup of currant jelly and two tablespoons of cognac, I decide to do things differently and cater to my palette – I swap the currant jelly for cranberry jelly to maintain consistency, and incorporate the zest of one orange plus its juice in place of liqueur.

Yay or nay, to making changes? Well, I usually don’t like to mess with a “good thing.” cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-2-arrBut, as in this case, orange citrus is the right substitution to elevate the sharpness of cranberries and to yield an ultimate jamming filling. Being sure to use precise measurements of juice in combination with fruit peel, you can even try making a zesty lemon cranberry version like the orange variation for an ultra-tart take on this delicious recipe. Definitely worth re-making, I also recommend simmering another batch to preserve in a mason jar. Versatile in its uses, this alcohol-free orange cranberry filling is not just a filling anymore. Think of it this way: it’s a cross between fruit compote and jam that can be topped on your breakfast ‘favourite’ – toast, waffles, pancakes, yoghurt/yogurt – or as an appetizing accompaniment to Brie, Camembert or other soft cheeses. Needless to say, the enhanced cranberry filling recipe is a winning YAY!

As for the nutty crust counterpart, Martha Stewart’s listed ingredients include: finely chopped walnuts, unsalted butter, flour, salt, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla essence and ice water. cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-3-arrFrom here, and using Martha’s recipe or your own, evenly spread out the dough mixture onto the tart dish and freeze it for thirty minutes. Now ready for the oven, bake the crust at 375°F for about 40 minutes or until the shell is revealing of a golden brown colour. Wishing fellow bakers optimal results – and happy baking – here’s a helpful hint: keep a watchful eye on the cooking time for both the crust and filling or otherwise risk yielding a burnt crust, and watery – ocean spray – content of burst cranberries. Being careful – myself – this rewarding cranberry orange walnut-crusted tart wins crowds on texture and appeal. It look goods, tastes good, and remains a seasonal fruit dessert befitting of the fall season.

cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-7-arrPucker your lips sour, this cranberry-based recipe is obviously not as sweet as many other treats. With that in mind, you may choose to add more sugar to the filling mixture as you see fit. Equally packed with a load of acidity, I initially wasn’t sure if I would win-over family members with this slightly acidic ‘after,’ especially as an end to a hearty Thanksgiving meal. But, truth be told: they loved it! Serving a humble portioned square pleasantly complemented an otherwise bountiful plate. Word to the wise, then, the following might be worth remembering: heavy meals pair well with lighter desserts, and lighter meals allow room for more rich and dense cakes or pastries. With one notable day of thanks past, and another upcoming in November – American Thanksgiving – this delectable tart is not overbearing and one possible dessert route to pursue as a finale to an epic holiday meal. Above all else, those who love cranberries need not wait for a calendar event to enjoy a piece of cranberry tart – afternoon snack times are occasion enough!

© 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.

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.

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.

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.

“Same, Same, but Different – but, Still the Same”

Pear Cake 2 arrIt’s as easy as, “A piece of cake!” Honest to goodness, there are so many reasons why I enjoy baking and yielding successful results is definitely one of them. While I’m no Martha Stewart, it’s no surprise that I do favour her tried and tested recipes.  After all, if she can do it so can I ─ right? Well, there’s one way to find out ─ let’s get baking!  With the right recipe and attitude, I approach Martha’s take on the familiar classic ─ upside-down pineapple cake ─ but, like her, use an alternative fruit for this fall-esque treat:  “Pear Upside-down Cake.”Pineapple Cake arr

Still pear-trending, I use green d’Anjou pears though I find this versatile recipe can be altered by using apples.   Continuing with instructions, I prep the pears ─ wash, peel, core and slice the fruit ─ and separately create the topping and batter.  Once the three parts are ready for assemblage, it’s time to layer:  topping first, pour the sweet butter and brown sugar mixture into a cake pan; proceed by carefully arranging the pear crescents; and finally, pour the cake batter onto the pears and use an off-set spatula to evenly spread it out to the pan’s edge.Pear Cake 1 arr

Following this recipe’s rules is, indeed, “a good thing.” But for extra flavour and warmth, I added a touch of fragrant cinnamon spice to the batter.  While you may omit spices altogether, be mindful that a hint will suffice as introduction of bold tastes may overpower the mild profile of this pear cake.  Once ready for pre-heated treatment, I set this cake off into the oven and bake it accordingly ─ as per Martha’s suggestions ─ at 350F and for 45 minutes.  Pear Cake 4 arrPleasing to the eye and palette, the end result is delicious:  a glistening burst of caramelized softened pears that are neatly embedded into moist ─ almost pudding-like ─ yellow cake.  Undeniably achievable, this ringed pear cake recipe is befitting of baking aficionados and dessert-lovers alike.  A same-old-different take on a homemade treat that is both enjoyable to prepare and share by the piece, slice or plate ─ happy eating!

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.