If there’s one dessert I can’t have just one piece of, it’s definitely baklava. Typically, I only indulge in this honey-soaked goodness of a pastry while I’m picking up some late night eats at a shawarma place after the bar. I mean, clearly, six pieces of baklava is definitely the correct thing to eat at 3 a.m. right? Right!
My Start From Scratch program wrapped up for the spring a couple weeks ago and our final class is always, always desserts! After ten weeks of learning in the kitchen, it’s only appropriate to end on a sweet note. Aside from making some chocolate souffles, which kicked ass, I decided to make baklava with my class.
This rendition is by no means traditional, but was a hit with the entire group.
1 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 TSP vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 TBSP earl grey tea (finely crushed)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TSP salt
Well, leave it to me to try putting tea into just about everything…I’ve put it in soup and on fish before, so why not try it in a cake, right? On a mildly unrelated note, my iPhone (4!) took this photo. How crazy is that? Oh technology, you’ll never be as delicious as this pound cake, but you’re pretty damn cool.
I baked several batches of mini pound cakes for the Calgary Food Blogger Bake Sale that just happened this past weekend at Casel Marché. Due to my forceful salesperson technics, I sold them all! Score!
*Note: Since I am not much of a baker, I used this recipe from Canadian Living as a guideline.
Well, it is almost time for this season of Top Chef Canada to come to a close. Tonight, we all will find out if Trevor, Jonathan, or Carl will take home the title of ‘Canada’s Top Chef’. It’s been great watching these three skilled gentlemen show off their chops throughout the past 13 weeks, so, regardless of who wins, it will be well-deserved.
Yet again, I’ve found myself out of town during one of my weekly Top Chef Canada dish recreation challenges. I was lucky enough to head back to Vancouver this week to attend Trevor Bird’s restaurant opening bash for Fable Kitchen. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it was the name of his team’s one-day dining establishment during this season’s ‘Restaurant Wars’ episode.
When I popped by the event, I told Trevor I had to recreate his Apple Bacon Tart from the current episode. Not being much of a dessert-maker himself, he assured me that I would be fine baking his dish this week!
In addition to baking some apple bacon tarts this past weekend, I also signed on to cook a birthday dinner party for my friend Jillian. After coming up with a simple menu for her and some friends to enjoy, we decided that some Top Chef-inspired tarts would be the perfect way to end the evening, on a sweet note.
I’ve cooked many of my Top Chef Canada recreations for friends before, but making a dessert dish at a birthday dinner was definitely upping the ante. Jillian is not an easy lady to impress!
There are few things I hate in life: interpretive jazz music, Jenga and, last but not least, baking. Ok, I don’t actually hate Jenga, I just don’t like losing at Jenga. Today, we need to be most concerned with my dislike of baking. I’m not a patient kind of guy. I don’t like to weigh out ingredients, stir carefully and, above all else, I do not like to use a piping bag.
It’s fairly humorous when the ‘easy’ portion of my assigned Top Chef Canada recreation this week has turned out to be the steak and confit potato dish (pictured). To be honest, I was fairly intimidated by every single option on the Top Chef Canada poll this past week. Between homemade doughnuts, macarons and scallop sausage, I knew I was in for some overtime in the kitchen.
Despite my frequent ‘Don’t vote for the macaron!’ requests, it seemed as though most people were inclined to do the opposite. That’s fine. Karma will find you.
Thankfully, many individuals in Calgary’s culinary community came to my macaron aid. Most notably, pastry chef Kira Desmond, owner of Sweet Provocateur Bakery, lent me an amazing book (Macarons, by Pierre Hermé), which I can only describe as the macaron ‘bible.’ Here I found many helpful tips to ensure the perfect macaron. I was feeling more and more confident by the minute! (Thank you Kira!)
2 cups flour
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts (loosely chopped)
1 TBSP orange zest
2 TSP cinnamon
3 TSP baking powder
1 TSP salt
1/2 cup butter (chilled, 1/2″ cubed)
1 cup milk
2 TSP vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg (for egg wash, optional)
I’m not much of a baker. So, when I ‘bake’, I make biscuits. They’re simple and consistently delicious no matter what you decide to fold into them. Since I’m not much of a baker, I don’t often excel in the dessert category of awesomeness. These orange biscuits are just sweet enough and can pass as a delicious dessert if you slice them in half, add a dollop of whipped cream and some orange slices (from the orange you zested for the recipe, peel to pulp cooking, right?). One day I’ll learn to make a one-of-a-kind cake or something…I promise…Until then, enjoy this biscuit-y goodness I guess?
So, this recipe will be easier to make than your bed. Unless you have a really complicated linens system…Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. Place the first 7 ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the chunks of butter and loosely mix in with your hands.
Next, mix the milk, vanilla and sugar together in a separate bowl, stir until sugar dissolves. Pour the mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix together with a spoon, or by hand, until a dough forms. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and form into a circle-esque shape, 2″ thick. Slice into 12 pieces and place onto a prepared baking sheet. Brush the top of each piece of dough with the egg wash and let bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the biscuits start to brown.
Let cool slightly before eating, however hard that may be…
As previously mentioned, slice in half, add a spoonful of whipped cream, some orange slices, and you have yourself a simple, ‘rustic’ if you will, dessert. Happy eating!
Yields 12 biscuits
Total cook time…20 min
3 apples (thinly sliced, skin on)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/4 cup honey
2 TSP cinnamon
1/4 TSP nutmeg
1/2 TSP chili powder
12 prepared tart shells
Everyone needs a little bit of spice in their lives, and since the Spice Girls have not put out any new tunes for a while, it’s a pretty safe assumption that the only way left to spice things up is with some chili powder. Anyway…I don’t really know how to follow a Spice Girls reference so…Just make these, ok? They’re very tasty.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place the apple, orange juice, and brown sugar in a large pan. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Reduce to medium heat, stir in the honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili powder. Let everything cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 10 minutes, if the mixture has not thickened up, whisk together some corn starch and a small amount of water. Pour into the pan, stir, and you’ll have a better consistency in about a minute. Remove from heat.
Spoon the apple mixture into each one of your prepared tarts and bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry starts to turn golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Tarts and pies are best devoured warm!
Yields 12 tarts
Total cook time…35 minutes
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