Saturday, October 10, 2015

Maple Pumpkin Pies with Pecan & Cranberry Praline

Fact: before this here pumpkin pie I had only ever enjoyed it once.

Fact: this here pumpkin pie is the first I have ever made.

Fact: I had never tried real maple syrup until this year.

Fact: I really am Canadian.

There are not many Canadians around who haven't tried real maple syrup until adulthood (and I mean pretty well into adulthood). I am the minority, and probably not a very good Canadian for it. You can blame my mom for always buying Aunt Jemima, or you can blame me for not really being a huge fan of pancakes... that sort of leaves fewer opportunities to use maple syrup.

And what's with this maple snow candy business? This was not a part of my childhood. You can blame that on my hometown - I guess Windsor wasn't Canadian enough for our schools to take us on field trips to maple syrup factories. I'm suffering from a severe cases of FOMO after hearing how incredible this maple snow cone stuff is.

These photos represent the first pumpkin pie that I have ever made. You can blame that on my Italian background. Pumpkin for dessert is really strange to Italians...Before this particularly decadent caramel covered pie, I only ever tried it once and it was in Ireland, and it was made for me by a girl from Alaska living in Dublin. She baked a simple plain pumpkin pie to celebrate American Thanksgiving. That's the fun thing about being Canadian - we often have many American friends so we can celebrate two Thanksgivings. That means two reasons for stuffing, pie and leftover turkey sandwiches month after month!

Although this is the first time in my life making this dessert, it isn't the only one I made because I tested it until it was just right for me.

These are my tricks:

Let the cooked pumpkin dry out and cool completely before blending. Leave boiled pumpkin in the hot dry pan or leave roasted pumpkin in the oven uncovered for a few minutes after you turn the oven off. Drier pumpkin will make a filling with a more velvety texture and the pastry crust will remain crispier for longer.

An extra yolk for richness and reinforcement. It helps set the filling without diluting the flavour.

A touch of flour to bind moisture and keep things in order.

Whipping cream and only 35% whipping cream. We need the richness that it brings. We are making a vegetable pie afterall. Or is it a fruit? You get me...

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! I hope this makes up for the Aunt Jemima confession.

Maple Pumpkin Pies with Pecan & Cranberry Praline

For the filling:
300g peeled and cooked pumpkin (12 oz) (boiled in chunks for 15 minutes or roasted in foil for 40 minutes)
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 ground cloves
1large egg
1 large egg yolk
pinch salt
¼ cup 35% whipping cream
½ tsp all-purpose flour

For the pecan praline:
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp glucose
¼ tsp salt
A handful of pecans
A hamdful of dried cranberries

Have ready six pre-baked 4-inch round tart shells using your favourite pastry recipe. I used this one, rolled it out, cut out large rounds and fit them into mini 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms. I baked them at 375 degrees F until golden, about 12-15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Place pre-baked pastry shells on a baking tray.

To make pumpkin filling, place cooled cooked pumpkin in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Mix in brown sugar. Add maple syrup and process until smooth and glossy. Add spices and whole egg and process. Mix in egg yolk and salt. With motor running, slowly pour in cream and then finally mix in flour. Spoon into pre-baked tart shells and bake for 20-25 minutes or until filling is just set.

To make the topping, combine all ingredients except the pecans and cranberries in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer while stirring constantly and then boil gently for about 2 minutes until thickened. Stir in pecans and cranberries. Let cool and spoon over tarts before serving.
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Monday, October 5, 2015

Custard Tart Cookies

Sometimes good ideas just require a lot of butter. I can't help it.

These cookies are appropriately named after Portuguese egg custard tarts which are unorthodoxly rich in egg yolks. And, at its core, this recipe is very much like the classic French sable cookie which is extravagantly rich in butter. 

They express a buttery, French Vanilla-esque flavour and a crumbly tender texture. I promise they will melt in your mouth.

When fresh, they will be crunchy around the edges and that's when I think they are at their best, although they will keep for several days in an airtight container.
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Monday, September 28, 2015

Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Coffee Cake

Something totally guilt-worthy: I put chocolate chip cookie dough on top of chocolate cake and I don't feel the least bit bad about it. I can't help to think about how it is a tad incestual... yet still a delicious relationship that I approve of.

The chocolate chip cookie is something so famed yet so simple. Its distinctive flavour comes from brown sugar, good quality butter and pure vanilla. Butter and brown sugar contribute a comforting butterscotchy flavour that benefits from caramelization around the crispy edges of the cookies.

The crumble on this cake delivers just that. All of the important components of classic CCC dough go in a bowl - flour, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt (don't skimp on salt!) and baking soda - before cold butter and vanilla gets rubbed right in. It is a cookie dough crumble.

You could probably guess that there is a good amount of sweetness going on here, but that's why salt is so important. We're talking about cookie on cake business so we need a salty kick to round things out. Salt + chocolate is perfect math anyways.

The cake base is a simple butter cake make extra moist with sour cream and extra chocolaty with a double dose of chocolate - cocoa plus dark chocolate chunks. Too much? Nah.

You can make it all with a spatula and your favourite mixing bowl. You can leave the mixer aside this time around.

Once your thick and luscious chocolate cake batter is ready and you've spread whatever you haven't already consumed into the pan, you can crumble the prepared cookie dough topping right over it.

It all gets baked together, which presents an advantage - the crumble protects the chocolate cake from drying out, thus keeping it that much softer.

This cake is all out there. It's fully loaded. It leaves not much to be desired. What you see is what you get so if you love chocolate, if you love the classic cookie, if you love alliteration, and my goodness IF YOU LOVE CHOCOLATE, you should make it.


Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Coffee Cake

For the chocolate chip cookie crumble:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
pinch of baking soda
¼ tsp vanilla
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
70g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
100g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

For the crumble, combine flour, both sugars, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together in clumps. Work in the chocolate until evenly distributed. Set aside. (You can form little clumps of dough and refrigerate before use.)

For the cake, sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, which will be added in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Fold through the chocolate.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Crumble the cookie mixture over the cake and press it down ever so gently. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crumble is evenly browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, despite any melted chocolate.
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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Classic Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Happy Anniversary to me and the man I married!

We studied together, live together, worked together and travel together. The fact that we are not completely sick of each other is a miracle. The glue that keeps us together? It's food! We share the same obsession. And true love too - I guess that's pretty important.

Although he won me over with homemade ice cream (remember he has a Master's degree in the field of ice cream, so my husband is an Ice Cream Master!), today I am sharing a classic recipe. True love is nothing but class and giggles anyway. I am a big fan of oatmeal cookies and this is a no brainer recipe. You can easily memorize it since most measurements are 1/2 cup or 1 cup.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Glazed Chocolate Honey Cakes

A super simple chocolate cupcake recipe starring honey.

Chocolate wears honey very well. It's that acidic tang of honey that complements the bitter sweetness of dark chocolate. The same reason why chocolate pairs well with tart fruit like raspberries. If you like chocolate and fruit combinations, then you will like these!

This is another one-bowl recipe. You can do this any weekday. Even if you spent the whole day in the kitchen, you won't mind putting in the extra 10 minutes to whip these up! It's a no brainer.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Butter Bars with Toasted Coconut & Dark Chocolate

Butter doesn't make things moist.

I said it.

Moisture is the presence of available water. Fat and water do not mix, actually fat is a barrier for moisture. Having said this, butter does contain about 14-16% water.. (confused?), but this water is trapped in an emulsion. Once butter melts, that emulsion is broken and water separates out.

In an attempt to make your favourite cookie, cake or brownie recipe more moist, re-consider pulling a Martha Stewart move by increasing the fat content. Fat is great for flavour but in excess it can actually have a negative impact.
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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Milk Chocolate Fudge Hazelnut Cookies

The most unappealing thing about getting older is worry.

Not wrinkles, not weight gain, not balding or losing control of your bowels.... it's worry.

It's the one important thing that people neglect to mention. As we grow and age we become more aware and more wise (in some cases), but this awareness makes me itch sometimes. Knowing too much can be a curse.

Children are ignorant and free - it is beautiful. But money, work and all sorts of responsibility makes us so serious and contemplative and full of stress. If someone finds the magic equation for a balance of child-like freedom with worry-free addulthood, sign me up for those math classes!
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Light & Luscious Lemon Cake

I'll come off my chocolate horse for a moment and deliver a recipe completely un-chocolatey. That's against the grain on Scientifically Sweet, but sometimes necessary. 

I love this cake. It has zero chocolate in it, but still... I love this cake!

There's nothing more appropriate for a Summer dessert than lemon and berries. This cake is light on the palate and light literally. It is so fluffy and soft that it would easily go unnoticed if one ate the entire thing.
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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Easiest Ever Sour Cherry Fudge Brownies

Sometimes you just really need a freakin' brownie and there's nothing else that will suffice.

A craving for brownies is something I am all too familiar with. It's a desire for more than just something sweet. It is more than just a bite of chocolate. Brownies offer an entire sensorial experience for the chocolate lover.

When I crave brownies, it means I want creamy, chewy, fudgy, sweet, chocolatey, caramely and a bit of salty.

It also means I want them now!

No fret. These are easy as! And they come with the whole package - smooth and creamy, fudgy and salty sweet. Dried sour cherries add tang and another element of chew.

Once you've got the chocolate and butter melted all together, you can go in with the rest of the ingredients. That's all.

I used both dark chocolate and cocoa here. Why not just choose one mode of chocolate? Because I'm very indecisive,  and because of Science.

Dark chocolate with its cocoa butter content gives chewiness since it is solid at room temperature. On the other hand, cocoa powder supplemented with butter adds softness and smoothness for that creamy texture since butter is soft at room temperature.

Don't let a craving get the best of you. Don't let time be your enemy. This recipe is your secret weapon. Brownies forevermore. 


Easiest-Ever Sour Cherry Fudge Brownies
Makes 16 squares

7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter, melted
3 oz/85 g dark chocolate (min. 60% cocoa)
2 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/3 cup (28 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp vanilla extract
heaped ¼ tsp salt
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (80 g) all purpose flour
½ cup dried tart cherries, plus extra for topping

Preheat oven to 350°F and line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving 2-inch overhang at each end.

Combine butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Add eggs, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and salt and whisk vigorously until smooth. Sprinkle over flour and fold it in until combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Raspberry Sachertorte

This is one of those things that seems so challenging but is actually very simple. Most sophisticated things in life are very basic when you really think about it. Like red wine, caviar and mustaches. It's just grapes, eggs and hair.

This classic Viennese cake can be found behind glass cabinets in pastry shops all around Europe. It is nothing more than a nut-based chocolate sponge sandwiching a layer of fruit jam and glazed with chocolate.

Tradition calls for apricot jam but I have used raspberry jam as I feel the combo of raspberry in chocolate is a sure winner.

The cake base is a cross between a butter cake and a sponge cake. It starts off with creaming butter and sugar until really light and pale, but then only the egg yolks are beaten in before beaten egg whites are folded into the mixture. These whipped egg whites are the only leavening for this cake so take care at this stage. The result is a moist and seemingly dense cake with a surprisingly light texture.
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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Boozey Truffled Frappuccino Cupcakes

You will never drink more Baileys in your life until you have to move. True story.

Moving between countries means a lot of things. It means paperwork, lots of phone calls, trips too the post office, garbage bags (!), stresssss, selling stuff and sleeping on the floor.

The not so bad part about moving is eating all your food. This could be a bad thing depending on how you look at it (like being forced into weird food combinations - limes, cheese and ice cream anyone?).

I think it is exciting, and most importantly it is a chance to empty out the bar! I love Baileys, and my love for it was tested after having to drink two bottles in only a few days. I drank a lot of it. Plus I had a surplus of fresh cream and so I made several batches of ice cream. Let's just say my gastrointestinal strength was also tested.
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chocolate Matcha Sable Cookies

I'm eating my way through Japan and really testing my appreciation of the utmost subtleties of flavour.

Japanese cuisine can almost be likened to Italian cuisine in the way of its simplicity and use of few high quality ingredients. They do have cinnamon and clove-infused curries that pack a punch, and then there's all different kinds of miso that tackle your taste buds at every angle of salty and sour. But, the art of sushi is defined by the texture and perfectly balanced subtle flavours of the rice almost more than the freshness of the fish.

Eating soba noodles is best done cold in order to prolong the enjoyment of the soft and slightly chewy texture of the noodles and mild tang of buckwheat. It is traditional to eat plain cold soba with nothing more than some dashi or light soy mixed with green onions and a touch of wasabi. You dip the noodles in - do not pour it on top - that way you control how much you need.

Probably my most favourite Japanese ingredient is Matcha. Matcha is a special grade of green tea of which the leaves are ground to a very fine powder so that in can be blended into a whole heap of things. You can find Matcha anything here in Kyoto and I am in heaven!
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nutty Butter Whole Grain Cookies

If anything comes close to a good-for-you cookie, this would be it.

Let's look at the facts:

Whole wheat flour,

a laughable 3 tablespoons of butter,

honey, and only 1/4 cup of it,

peanut butter (almond butter would make a great substitution),

rolled oats,

more nuts,

...and cocoa powder.

To summarize, that's more than half the butter than a regular cookie, more than half the sugar and a whole lot of fibre. We get fibre from the bran in the whole wheat flour, from peanut butter, from almonds and oats. Did you know that cocoa powder is an excellent source of fiber too? That's a fact.

To stay on track (and because its awesome) make sure to use bittersweet chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids. Anything less than 60% is just sweet. For some it is an acquired taste, but you'll find that the more you eat it, the more you will like it. Plus, if you like coffee, there is no reason why you wouldn't fall in love with bittersweet chocolate - cocoa and coffee share many of the same flavour characteristics.

These are not the chewy gooey type - that would require a whole lot more sugar! These are more of a drier cookie, but not crispy. They are solid. Once you take a bite, they begin to feel moist thanks to oats which contain beneficial soluble fiber that activates as soon as it comes in contact with liquid. Then the honey helps to retain moisture despite their dry appearance. 

These get stashed in my purse on my way out the door so that I can have a quick breakfast on the run. This is best for everyone - me and anyanyone around me. When I am fed I am happy and not hangry. If I am hangry, I will just be difficult. I'm not ashamed. Just keep me eating.

Nutty Butter Whole Grain Cookies
Makes 12 cookies

¼ cup (60ml) honey
3 tbsp (42g) unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp (30ml) smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup (75g) rolled oats
2 tbsp (12g) cocoa powder, sifted
2/3 cup (95g) whole wheat flour
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
70g bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp sliced almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, melted butter, peanut butter and vanilla.

Add the oats, cocoa powder, whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold in the chocolate chunks and almonds.

Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll into balls. Flatten into a circle on the baking tray, spreading them an inch apart — they will not spread in the oven.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops feel dry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Toasted Almond Pralines

I was never one for goodbyes. It just feels so definite. It makes me think of... the End. I don't like the idea of good things ending. I prefer to think of it as moving forward. Focus on the newness.

The idea of never seeing someone again - someone who I connect with - makes me sad, frankly. People and relationships are what make us human. But honestly, if we really get each other, we will see each other again. Period. I have friends all over the world - friends I've made through academia, work and travel - and I am happy to say we've managed to reconnect on many occasions. It's up to y-o-u to make it happen.

Sometimes I'm just no good at saying goodbye, but I am good at making chocolate. So, I give chocolate.

Making chocolates requires patience and a delicate touch. It says "I think you're alright". There are different components, different textures, different heating and cooling stages and precision. It requires time. And what better gift to give to someone than your time.

The kicker is the dipping and setting. You need to temper chocolate (GAH!). Tempering is called just that because it can test your temper. Be patient, take time. It is essentially a controlled method of cocoa butter crystallization (super scientific, but super achievable).
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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Berry & Lime Crumble Tarts

If you are not neck-deep in fresh berries right now, then where the heck are you!?

Summer is like an antique jewellery box - full of rubies, sapphires and amethyst. There are so many gems to behold and devour.

I'm a nut in the summer time. I must go picking for all of these jewels - strawberry picking in June, cherry picking in July, then raspberry and blueberry picking in August. My tongue is consistently stained either red or purple. I save a lot of money on lipstick.
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