But First, Kahve Turk

Turkish Coffee 4 arrCoffee lovers love coffee. Obviously, it’s a no-brainer. But all the same, true coffee lovers enjoy more than a ‘cup of joe.’ Equally keen on java, my morning ritual consists of freshly brewed Arabica beans. And as for the weekends, afternoon pick-me-ups are synonymous with none other than an intensely robust shot of ‘kahve turk.’

Talking about Turkish coffee, this coffee beverage is the common favourite both near – ‘chez-moi’ – and as far as Europe and the Middle East. Somewhat like Italian espresso, Turkish coffee is a staple in many coffee houses abroad and homes alike. Delighted for its strong and sweet flavours, Turkish coffee is bold and not for the faint of heart.

Turkish Coffee 2 arrFortunately, I’ve gained an early introduction on the how to’s of all things ‘cezve’ – a Turkish coffee pot – and my acquired Turkish coffee education is in great part thanks to my Persian heritage. Easy as 1-2-3, coffee aficionados everywhere can also make Turksh coffee with ease. Simple in technique as in contents, all you truly require is a ‘cezve’ and these following ingredients: ground Turkish coffee, sugar, and water. That’s – almost – all! As a rule of thumb, here are a few helpful hints: I use a heaping teaspoon of coffee per person as well as equal parts sugar – about a teaspoon – and an espresso cup worth of water per drink. Likewise, albeit a standard method in coffee making, I always try to use filtered water whenever possible.

Turkish Coffee 1 arrMeasurements aside, here’s how to make a fresh pot of Turkish coffee: fill the ‘cezve’ with exact portions of water per person, and place it on the stovetop over medium heat. Once the water has heated, add the spoonful(s) of coffee but be careful not to stir. Then, add the sugar and omit from stirring. Keeping a watchful eye, begin to stir the coffee and sugar as soon as they have seemingly dissolved or have sunk to the bottom of the pot. At this point, continue to stir until the liquid coffee mixture is well-combined and appears frothy and thicker in consistency. Upon ample stirring, leave the coffee on the stovetop but turn the tempertature to ‘low’, and allow the coffee to continue heating up until it’s ready. As for when it’s coffee time, it’s safe to remove the coffee upon noticing a ring of bubbles form around the edges of the pot. At this point in time, the coffee has sufficiently heated and you want to avoid boiling the coffee at all costs. If you didn’t know beforehand now you know: boiling Turkish coffee is a “no-no” – don’t let it happen to yours!

Tavazo Pastries 1 arrFinally ready to enjoy, I love Turkish coffee on its own for its rich and intoxicating flavour, and even more so when accompanied with pastry. Finding both ground Turkish coffee and Persian desserts at Tavazo, you don’t have to ask me twice to make a pot of ‘kahve turk.’ Afternoon well spent and recharged, you can do the same by visiting a local Persian grocer or by grinding your own preferred medium roast beans – just be sure to use the Turkish/’finest’ setting. Leaving you to it, then, “no ‘more’ talkie before coffee!”

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

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.

Macaron Republic

Mac5 arr“Liberté.  Égalité.  Fraternité.”  Born from ‘the Revolution,’ the national motto may be parallel to another brother/sisterhood – courageous foodies.  Attempts made – successful or not – everyone undeniably hopes to create their very own palatable edifice ‘de Triomphe.’  Mac11 arrAnd when it comes to sweet or savoury recipes, conquering French cuisine seems quite daunting.  Still, I’m up for the challenge.  Taking a stepping stone toward skillfully practised masters of the trade – Pierre Hermé, comes to mind – perfecting pastry arts is possible, with time.    Fortunately, there’s no better time than the present to launch an initial trial of almond-meringue cookies – “Vive le macaron!”

First thing’s first, familiarization of necessary steps and procedures.  ‘Macaronage’ – what does that even mean?  For the making of these rounds, it refers to the French technique of combining the separately mixed ‘dry’ ingredients – almond meal and confectioner’s sugar – to the ‘wet’ – egg whites, beaten stiff, with granulated sugar.  Mac6 arrSimple enough, right? Not so fast!  Reputably finicky, it’s all in how you fold them and – taking no gamble – know when to walk away.  Careful not to under mix or over mix, the right number of folds will ensure your batch of macarons do not crack, and do stand on ‘feet.’  Honestly, the marker of a true macaron lies in a division found between a smooth and shiny domed top that stands on a clearly outlined rim – again, the ‘feet.’

Mac9 arrSo what’s the magic number?  Browsing through several recipes, the number of folds and measurements for the required ingredients are varied.  It’s no surprise I depend on Martha Stewart’s recipes and, in this case, 37 folds are appropriate.  Mac10 arrTo make life easier, follow and adhere to any trusted recipe you wish – with precision – to yield the desired consistency.

Even in my experience, several efforts resulted in mixed results of both ‘presentable’ displays as well as some not-so-secretly consumed ‘crackled’ tops.  Without a doubt, trial and error is in effect.  But, here’s a quick-list of do’s and don’ts:  do follow exact instructions, scale and weigh listed ingredients, use edible coloured gel paste – not liquid food colour – pipe the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, tap the tray – thrice – to eliminate air bubbles, air dry the rounds for about 30 minutes or until a skin forms on the surface, and bake rotating half-way using a timer; finally, please don’t mess with a good recipe.  Mac13 arr

That’s just the half of it!  P.S., don’t get overwhelmed and do breathe throughout the baking process.  Mac7 arrOverall, pay attention to detail – from the start – and it will pay dividends in impressive delicate cookies.   Now for the creative part, liberate masses – of cooled macarons – with a generous selection of buttercream, ganache or fruit preserve and spreads.  With a shared interest to personalize macarons, my homemade array of filled sandwich cookies include:  PB & grape jelly, dulce de leche salted butter, coconut cream, peaches ‘n’ whipped white chocolate ganache, piña colada, Boston Cream Pie, dark chocolate mint, zesty lemon poppy seed, lemon blueberry cream cheese, hazelnut chocolate and, last but not least, vanilla.  Happy to say, practise does make perfect.   Mac8 arr

At the end of the day, my enjoyment of baking inspired me to make one of the most noticeably stared at desserts in France – seriously, window shoppers stop to admire displayed topiaries of sweet delights.  Mac12 arrHaving ventured to the other side – ocean and shop – for a taste of an authentic Ladurée macaron, the investment is worthwhile whilst on vacation.  As handsome a cost for an equally attractive treat, there’s good reason.  When you factor the time and totaled purchase of staples put forth, you’re left with the realization that plenty of work goes into the creation of these high quality alluring cookies.  So whether you’re looking to expand your confectionary talents or are simply in the mood to devour a light indulgence, know – either route – they’re worth it.

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Eat Your Heart Out!

“Hearts, hearts everywhere – I’m seeing red!”  Fuchsia pink, sultry crimson and every lipstick rouge shade imaginable, it’s abundantly clear 2.14 – V-Day – is upon us.  Aiming to please, hopeless romantics will likely splurge on the – obvious-to-me – “works”:  handwritten poem-inscribed cards, long-stem Ecuadorian roses, and Godiva chocolate truffles.  Arrow-stricken or not, give the little cherub – that could/would/should – a break!  Valentine’s still remains a day – like any other – for all to love, be loved, and most definitely to love what you do.  And for foodies, this calendar day is reason enough to celebrate fabulous eats – cheers to delicious!

VDay Molten Lava arrLove-struck, I require no unofficial holiday reminders for a match-made pairing.  Simply stated, “I can’t help falling in love with you…” – dessert recipes.  ‘LOL’ indeed!  Revamping a passion for baking, I rightfully designate the “Look of Love” at two enticing treats:  decadent molten chocolate lava cake, and strawberry-filled thumbprint cookies.  In the spirit of Saint Valentine, then, preheat the oven and keep – stove – flames burning with the creation of tantalizingly sweets.

VDay Cookies arr“So happy together?” – always!  In suit of a delectable chocolate cake, these ingredients get along best when mixed in a bowl:  melted dark chocolate, caster sugar, eggs, butter, flour, and a pinch of salt.  Once prepared, evenly distribute the batter into a greased and cocoa-dusted muffin tin, and bake.  In the meantime, the lure of motifs leads me to prepare decorative stencils.  Easy to make and highly transferable, love – of parchment – is truly all you need.  To create heart-shaped cut-outs, simply:  tear a piece of paper, draw onto the sheet, and use scissors to cut around markings.  When ready for use, place the template on top of the cooled cakes, and finish with a generous dusting of icing sugar.  Love-stamped, be certain not to miss any marks in aesthetic appeal and intoxicating aroma with this ‘heart-felt’ cake.  Equally impressive, a properly-timed – not overdone – cakelette is moist, can be cut with a fork and, in doing so, will release a rich semi-liquid chocolatey interior.  Sinfully irresistible, breaking this ache-free ‘heart’ is easy to do and destined for repeat devouring – seconds, please!

VDay PB&J Cookies arrAs for the cookies, adhere to a trusted shortbread-like or peanut butter thumbprint recipe.  Contents mixed and dough made, bake the cookies half-way through.  At this point, remove the tray and using the back of a wooden spoon make impressions of choice – hearts, x’s or o’s.  Designs made, return the ‘blushing dozens’ back to the oven for the remaining bake time.  Cooled and ready for a reunion, no ‘hug’ or ‘kiss’ would be complete without an added touch of sweetness – spoonful of fruit preserve.  Just add desired jam filling into the indentations, and allow the cookies to set prior to enjoyment.  Saving ribbons and bows for another occasion, offerings of your darling’s ‘love’ – baked indulgences – need not be masked or hidden in fancy packaging.  Ultimately expressive of thought and care, a baker’s dozen comes with more than an extra surprise – ‘homemade’ genuinely is where the heart is.

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

A Lesson in Palmistry

“Tell me your name, and I will tell of your fortune.”  Believer or not, I’m a clairvoyant of sorts.  After a mere glance, the reading of one subject resulted in a predictable fate.

Palmier arrLooks demystified, I found complex lines to be revealing; they run close, tight, and high in number.  As for origin, it beckons French.  Capricious in nature, it can be described as both delicate yet malleable, and must not be overworked.  Foreseeing a luxuriously rich outcome, I proceed to handle ‘pâte feuilletée’ with care.  As seen in Napoleon – the dessert – the same multi-layered butter and flour pastry correlates well with its translation, ‘thousand leaves.’  Talking about dough, one glimpse of ‘puff’ is enough to anticipate a promisingly delicious near future – let’s make ‘n bake!

PuffLog arrEvading flouring messes and time constraints, I conveniently use pre-made overlapped pastry sheets as my “go-to” for the creation of sweet and savoury flakey morsels.  Easily enhanced with fruit or vegetable fillings, ‘buttered bundles’ are equally versatile in shape and can be folded into triangles, crescents or pinwheels.  Tearing a page out of past travels, however – Barcelona, Las Vegas and San Diego – I feel inspired to transport the tropics into a present-day baking session of ‘palmiers’ (palm leaves) – the other sugar cookie.  Sometimes taking the appearance and title of “elephant ears,” reincarnated sugar-coated rolled pastry stands tall among nature’s finest offerings – delectable edible flora. PuffSlices arr

California-palm-dreaming, I shape the fate of my foreseen golden leaves by taking a hiatus from strenuous scratch-work, and use the ‘essentials’ – a pack of frozen ‘puff’ and sugar.  Simple and sweet, the plain ‘palm’ calls for a generous sprinkling of caster sugar over a partially defrosted pastry sheet; ideal blends of sugar and spicy cinnamon or aromatic vanilla-infused sugar can be used as alternative additions.  Intensified or not, fold opposing ends of the flavour-coated pastry inward until they meet at the center; and freeze the roll for twenty minutes.  Time-elapsed, evenly spread cut pieces of the log over a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then bake for (unknown time) and at (unknown temperature).  What?  Quite the psychic, right?!  Seriously, brands vary and so, too, will their instructions.  Flipping ‘palms’ half-way through, my magic numbers  included a baking temperature of 375 F for about 10-12 minutes.  Fingers-crossed, quick consumption of your short-lived ‘palmiers’ will echo a victorious finale – sumptuous bites of crisp success!

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

‘Atelier’ – Simply the Best!

Boulangerie Patisserie Shop arr One of the many things I love about Paris is the fact that you can find traces of the old world in modern times. To this very day, the Île-de Paris maintains cultural integrity by offering clients an extensive selection of singularly-themed specialty food shops. Whatever your guilty pleasure – cheese, chocolate, bread, pastry, pâté or wine – brace yourself when entering stores that purely dedicate their products and services to artisan standard merchandise. Truly a gourmand’s paradise!Parisian Chocolate Shop arr

A chocolate connoisseur, of sorts – knowledgeable in tasting – this indulgence never disappoints. As such, the sight of any premise devoting every square inch to display high-grade cocoa-inspired handmade creations is thrilling. Parisian Chocolate Bins arrSuffice it to say, I knew I was in for a treat upon sighting the term ‘chocolat’ – translation not required. Scene it: bins of chocolate, ranging in shape, textures and ingredients, ribbons and fancy packaging – ‘ooh, la, la,’ is right– I couldn’t wait! Having watched Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, of course, I understood perfectly the purpose of incorporating a line of stringed dehydrated capsicums in a chocolate boutique. In the presence of red hot chili peppers – ‘pas’ the band – good chocolatiers know how to spice things up, by delivering variety. Anything but an odd pairing, sweet heat is bound to tantalize anyone’s taste buds.

Parisian Chocolates arrLeaving “trick or treating” days behind, I have, too, left any desire for candy bars. Complex flavour compounds cited in dark chocolate – where cocoa surpasses sugar – is much preferred, and where better to expect refined chocolate in all its splendour than at ‘l’Atelier du Chocolat.’ Why come here, for chocolate? In French, ‘atelier’ signifies a workshop where designer quality products are made by field experts. Being witness to shelves of cocoa products, superior in quality and unique in flavour combinations, it was only a matter of time before receiving my own pièce de résistance – a pistachio encrusted chocolate cluster.

Paris Desserts arr“Pourquoi pas,” I’d say, when it comes to sampling masterly produced chocolate. After all, high-end ‘chocolat’ is bon appétit-pleasing! Parisian ateliers abound, there’s more to discover. Catering to various palettes, I spotted workshops dedicating time, precision and skill in generating all kinds of edible goods. Among the terrine shops, most-loved boulangeries (bread stores), and farmer’s fresh cheese vendors, I had to convenient a ‘pâtisserie’ (pastry shop).

Parisian Patisserie arrHandcrafted and soft on the eyes, the glistening sheen on the sighted luxurious cakelettes and tarts was enough to lure me in one particular bakery. I can only imagine the arduous process involved in the manufacturing and assembly of these pastries. If anything, the overall detail evident in the final presentation is revealing of the level of talent, and attention put forth in making these desserts. To me, food succeeds when it’s a complete package; it looks attractive, smells appealing, and tastes just as enticing. Always exceeding expectations, ‘ateliers’ are leading artisan shops that consistently exhibit the finest chef d’oeuvres – food art!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.