Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Caramelized White Chocolate

There was this one time in South Korea. My husband and I were waiting for the train to the airport. I waited in line to exchange money at the bank in the train station while he kept watch of our bags. I was waiting for 1.5 hours. After all that time I get told they don't carry the currency I needed - so it was a totally unproductive wait on my part. However, in that time my husband had very precisely hand-sown a pocket into his cloth carry-bag to perfectly hold our tablet. This was the third sewing stint he performed in 3 weeks, including sewing a borrowed zipper onto that same bag and fabricating a protector for my tablet from a laptop cover that we no longer needed. I quickly realized his hidden talent and I looked at him in a whole new light. He is damn good with a needle and thread (and maybe a bit obsessed with organization/electronic protection?), and I no longer need to hem my own pants.

That's how I feel about white chocolate. 

This stuff right here is white chocolate like you've never known it. It has a secret identity.

It's not just white chocolate anymore. It is toffee, caramel, nutty, rich, buttery and beautiful. It can't sew, but I promise you will never look at it the same way. You will not be able to stop eating this and you will put it on everything.

Introducing, caramelized white chocolate

Technically, TECHNICALLY, it is Maillard browning reactions - not caramelization - that transforms this milky white confection into golden brown creaminess. It's the protein from the milk solids that react with sugars in a series of complex reactions to produce a heap of delicious flavours - flavours that are roasty, nutty and caramel-like. These reactions also form brown colour compounds.

You can caramelize any pure white chocolate - pure meaning that it contains only cocoa butter as its source of fat. No vegetable oil! But, for best results I recommend using a very high quality white chocolate with a high cocoa butter content of at least 30%. That will give you ultra smooth caramelized white chocolate. A cheap and cheerful (but still real) block from the candy isle in the supermarket will still caramelize, but it will tend to stiffen up more readily and be more difficult to spread. You just need to be more patient with it and keep an eye on it.

I'm sorry (not that sorry) for telling you all this, because it will consume you. This stuff is gold.


Caramelized White Chocolate
Makes about 1 ½ cups

350g pure, high quality white chocolate callets or block, chopped (minimum 30% cocoa butter)

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F.

Place chopped white chocolate or callets into an 8x8-inch glass baking dish and spread it out in an even layer. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir the chocolate, moving it back and forth, and swirling it around. At this point it shouldn’t have changed colour at all – it should still be creamy-coloured and just melted so that when you spread it, it smooths out nicely.

Now place it back in the oven for a total of 40-50 additional minutes, stirring thoroughly every 10 minutes. After the first 20 minutes it will start to caramelize and turn a golden honey brown colour and it will stiffen up. Just continue spreading it, forcing it to smooth out until it looks shiny and glossy again. It will smooth out. Note – do not touch or taste the chocolate when it is baking – it is very, very hot!

After 40 or 50 minutes it should look like peanut butter, and that is when it is done. If your oven is too hot, or you forget to stir it, it might burn and completely seize up stiff, making it impossible to spread. If this happens, don’t throw it out! It still tastes excellent and you can crumble it over tarts or bake it into cookies and brownies. 
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

3-ingredient PB Banana Ice Cream Dessert

Short and sweet - that's how this recipe goes.

There is one piece of equipment you don't need - an ice cream maker. But there is one you do need - a food processor or very powerful blender.

Short is the ingredients:
1. bananas
2. peanut butter
3. Greek yogurt

Sweet is the craving conquered with bananas and only bananas.

Slicing the bananas before freezing them accomplishes a few things. The smaller size means it will freeze faster. Faster freezing means less ice crystals, smoother texture and it gets this dessert to my mouth sooner. When thoroughly frozen, the banana will be rock hard and impossible to slice anyways. Also, peeling the banana immediately stops the ripening process so you can catch it when its at that sweet spot, which is speckled but not black.
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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Flourless Honey Walnut Brownies

With all the baking and sugar-inhaling that I do week-daily, you might think I couldn't stand the thought of eating any more sweet stuff on the weekend.

When baking becomes your job, maybe it gets redundant and mandatory and sugar becomes the enemy? No. Negative. That never happened. It's like that time my parents introduced my 9-year-old self to the all-you-can-eat ice cream sundae buffet at The Olive Garden. I swore I would "never eat ice cream again". That lasted one day.

I do, however, enjoy treats that are not soooooo sweet once in a while. I still get cravings on Saturday nights and I still love to bake in my free time, but I don't mind something a little softer and subtle.

Right now I'm really into frozen treats and I'll post some of that for you later...
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Monday, May 30, 2016

Buttery Pecan Press-in Shortbread

There are four things about this recipe that you should get really excited about:
1. Buttery - oh yes it is.
2. Pecan - a hell of a nut.
3. Press-in - this means easy!
4. Shortbread.

You need less than 10 minutes prep before this gets in the oven.

You need only one mixing bowl.

You need just 5 ingredients.

You need your hands, but a food processor will work too if you don't mind a bit more clean-up.
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Monday, May 23, 2016

Flourless Crustless Chocolate & Apricot Fudge Tart

Oh man. Long weekends just make me realize how much more fun life is when you're not working.

Long bike rides, a mild sun burn, wind in my hair, late nights, friends, fizzy drinks, lots of ice cubes, movie reviewing (do not EVER watch The Human Centipede - ew), foodie conversations, slow cooking and fast baking. Brunch! I love when there's time for brunch...

How. HOW are we all supposed to go back to work after a long weekend? Chocolate. That's how.

Totally flourless and totally fudgy - this dessert is one meant to be served at the table and on a board. Plates are optional.
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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Peanut Chocolate Mud Cake

Mud cakes are not something we're so familiar with over on this continent. Us North Americans love our layer cakes, mostly because it gives room for more frosting. Amen to that!

Something I learned about while living in Australia was the popularity of really simple, one-bowl, one-bake desserts.

Cookies aren't so popular because they need to be portioned, but slices that can be spread as a sheet or a slab and baked in one go are a hoot!

Layer cakes are considered too fussy, but big tall single layer cakes are what's in style there. They rarely frost the sides too. A missed opportunity? Maybe.

A lot has to do with the sort-of slack baking culture due to the hot climate. Who wants to run the oven for hours when it's smokin' hot outside, humid as whaaaaaat and air conditioning comes at a premium? Plus there's way better things to do than washing dishes, like going to the beach or having a picnic.
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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Stracciatella Cheesecake Brownie Cups

One of the first recipes I got stuck on when I discovered my passion for baking many years ago was a cheesecake brownie. I couldn't get enough. Two of the most delicious and decadent things mashed into one bite.

I still love this combo to this day and today I took it to the extreme in terms of fudginess. This is practically candy.

I'm sticking to my stracciatella theme from last week, putting chocolate chips through the cheesecake batter. It's chocolate everything in Christina's world right now (and always) since I'm wrapping up recipes for a second cookbook dedicated to everything chocolatey and sweet and salty.
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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Strawberry Apple Stracciatella Pie

 I refuse to wait for you, Spring. Fine. You can rain all you want and barely push 12 degrees C. Go ahead.

My strawberries are coming from USA and Mexico and I just don't care. I can't stand it any longer and I want my berries now! But I promise when June finally comes around and Spring weather finally sticks, then I'll be all up in those farmlands picking more berries than my soon-to-be stained fingers can handle. 

For now, my imported strawberries find their way into a beautiful seasonal (sort of) tart that satisfies my cravings for creamy and fruity and flaky.
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Peanut Butter Cream Cranberry Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

I sometimes have trouble sleeping and it's usually caused by one of three things:

1) I ate a giant bowl of Moosetracks ice cream at 10:38pm,
2) I'm planning my grocery list for what I want to bake tomorrow and can't decide if it should involve chocolate or fruit (probably chocolate), or 3) I'm completely restless because I've convinced myself that sleeping is a waste of time.

Most people love sleeping for reasons which I completely understand. It rests the mind, rests your joints, helps to prevent nasty eye bags and makes you look a little more put together throughout the day. Because of my habit of feeling guilty for sleeping and not working on the second cookbook, e-mailing my friends overseas or ironing the pile of wrinkled everything at the foot of my bed, I end up tired, sore and with what looks like I put purple eye shadow on the wrong side of my eye.
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

How to make Marzipan

Last week I showed you how to avoid paying a premium for someone to take skins off your almonds. That is, do it yourself easily at home! Blanched almonds are useful for many things in baking, especially for decorating cakes, cookies and candy around the holidays.

One of their most useful uses is making almond meal for macarons and almond paste (also called marzipan) for making chocolate-covered confections, pastry fillings and even cakes.
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Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to make Blanched Almonds

Thank you for being patient. 

I know I haven't been posting as punctually or as interestingly as usual. There's been a lot going on around here and I'm just trying to get used to it all. Everything is new right now - new city, new home, new job and new recipes!

After three years living abroad, I'm back reunited with my baking equipment. I missed my coloured plates, my tart pans and my favourite spatula. I'm learning how the afternoon light comes through my windows and what angles make my cookies look their best. I'm also learning that I can still eat four cookies in one sitting. That kind of skill never wears off.

Now that all of my cupboards are full, my cake pans are stacked and the empty boxes are gone, I can settle back into comfort baking! I'm still working on stocking my pantry but I'm nearly there. One thing I do have is a giant bag of almonds not just because I love eating them, but because I love to bake with them too.
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Saturday, April 2, 2016

3-Layer Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Bars

Because you haven't had enough shuga after Easter...

Because you might need a solution to your overstock of chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs...

Because you've run out of candy dishes to fit all of that Easter candy in...

You can make these sweet AND salty layered peanut butter chocolate fudge bars.

Bars are easy to make. They are fast, satisfying and interesting because they can feature different layers with contrasting flavours and textures. They are not as Science-y as cake or pastry. They're more casual but still worthy.

The base for these irresistible bars is best described as a peanut butter shortbread cookie. Crispy, crunchy and not too sweet.

The middle layer is where your Easter chocolate gets reborn. If you are loved enough for people to know you like dark over milk (right!?) then you should have plenty of dark chocolate bunnies and eggs. You need 3 ounces of it to make a brownie-like fudgy filling. A bit of honey creates a more gooey texture but still firm enough to hold a slice.
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Coconut-Nut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Monday is a better day than any to get organized. It starts with coffee and some cookies... and then definitely some will power.

It's that time again for me. I'm moving, again! That's about the fourth move in 6 years and it really doesn't get any less exhausting. You'd think that moving a lot would make you better at de-cluttering. Like, "Is this empty spice tin useful for anything? It looks like it would be good to hold more stuff in?" NO! It's garbage. Stop collecting small containers because they hold things. I think that counts as hoarding.

What I have realized is that my life fits into 23 boxes of stuff marked "Kitchen". It looks like I live in a kitchen. Nothing much for the living area, and the bedroom is pretty scarce... I proudly own plenty of cooking and baking tools and a ton of servingware. I might not be able to provide you with a plush hotel-style sleep if you stay the night, but I can certainly bake you a badass cake and cook you a brunch you won't forget. There might even be homemade chocolates on your mediocre pillow.
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

I'm not sure how wrong it is to be obsessed with food.

Is it any better than being an addicted to drugs, or alcohol, or hoarding? The answer is Yes, probably. BUT, I feel like I really could eat forever. There's no actual time where I could refuse an offer of food, unless it is a) after a hotel breakfast buffet, or b) if that food is the national dish of Iceland, Hakarl (once was enough).

When I am not at a luxurious breakfast buffet which is 99.8% of the time, I find I have an unlimited appetite mostly because I like to snack. I enjoy eating small portions many times a day, not because some celebrity nutritionist says it's healthier or whatever, but because it is fun for me and I like variety.

People say they have a "sweet tooth", but my teeth care for nothing. I have a sweet tongue and tummy - I love the taste of a touch of sweetness in my snacking and it really makes my stomach happy. If there are no cookies or bars in the house, I am just not myself.
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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Old School Walnut Brownies

Why another brownie recipe? Well why watch another sunset? Because it's a beautiful thing and a different experience every time.

I hope your weekend was blissfull. I hope you had a nice break from the morning commute. I hope you slept in and then scored every green light on your way to spin class. I hope you didn't have to wait in any painful cashier lines at the grocery store and you found a two for one deal on Ben & Jerry's. Because ice cream would really be great with these brownies...

I make brownies so often that I like knowing lots of ways to do them. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all moist and fudgy.
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