Monday, November 29, 2010

Osmanthus Cookies


My dad was baking on the weekend and I couldn't tell from the aroma what was in the oven. He told me that he was using Osmanthus flowers to make cookies. Apparently, he saw this on YouTube and wanted to give it a try. It's in Mandarin, so if you understand it (I don't), have a look.

Well, the reasons I am posting these cookies are, first they tasted pretty good (crunchy) and second, I am so proud of my dad for knowing how to use YouTube (where does he find these things?)! I have underestimated his computer skills...


Osmanthus flowers are more commonly used for Chinese tea, but apparently have lots of health benefits as well. My dad bought some during his trip to Vietnam and Hong Kong last month. Osmanthus flowers aren't easy to come by (in Toronto at least), so my dad was pretty proud of his find. Here's the translated recipe, if you spot an error, please let me know!

Osmanthus Cookies
(Makes about a dozen)

15 grams of dried Osmanthus flowers (you can also use fresh ones, like in the video)
70 grams of sugar
150 grams of all-purpose flour
100 grams of unsalted butter
10 grams of egg whites
10 grams of almond flour
  1. Preheat your oven for 180°C (350°F). Have all your ingredients at room temperature and ready. Use a cookie sheet or tray lined with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the all-purpose flour and almond flour together and then add in your unsalted butter.
  3. Gently mix with your hands to keep the batter light and fluffy. Watch the video for her technique.
  4. Add in the sugar, egg whites, and Osmanthus flowers. Use a spatula to mix until well combined.
  5. Gather the cookie dough together. Using your hands, create little dough balls of about 1.5-2 inches wide. Place it on your tray and gently and evenly press the dough balls down a bit.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Bobbette & Belle


Bobbette & Belle
1121 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON M4M 1K9
(416) 446-8800

They are on facebook and twitter too!

I hope you're ready for some eye candy. Allyson Meredith (Bobbitt) and Sarah Bell opened up their first storefront recently and it is a beautiful space!


They have displays of their gorgeous cake designs.


A wall of goodies for you to pick up and look at those cake stands!


Don't worry, there's more goodies waiting on the baking racks.


We love how spacious it is, hardwood floors and high ceilings. =)


Their macaron towers, notice that they also do monograms.


The cupcake tower. Let's stare in awe. Red velvet, cookies and cream, mocha, chocolate, hazelnut, and salted caramel too.


Their pretty macarons. Note the whoopie pies in the back.


They have other baked goods too if you're not looking for desserts.


We tried their passion fruit and mango cupcake, this isn't a flavour that we see often at other bakeries.


If you're wondering what the topping is (as we did), it is a passion fruit marshmallow! The frosting is mango.


Their Gianduja cupcake, we loved the hazelnuts in the frosting.


Howard and I first tried Bobbette & Belle's macarons at McEwan (Shops at Don Mills), so we were pretty happy to pick up some more.


Here we have the passion fruit and pistachio macaron.


And of course, the whoopie pies! The chocolate one is filled with peanut butter frosting.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Clone Wars Cupcakes

So, I learned something new this week. We were asked to make some Clone Wars cupcakes and really, this is what I knew about Star Wars beforehand:
  • There is a dark side and a not so dark side.
  • Having the force be with you is a good thing.
  • I knew that Luke's father is Darth Vader, psht! Come on!
  • Yoda kicks ass and is a wise green little fellow.
  • I like saying the word Padawan. Padawan! Padawan!
  • Storm Troopers are bad!
  • Light Sabers look cool.
  • All of this happens in a galaxy far, far away.
*Smiles*

You can tell I pay a lot of attention when Howard talks about Star Wars. Which he tried to explain to me all over again when I was doing the dishes (I'm trapped!). Well, luckily he does know a thing or two about Star Wars and was a tremendous help on making these Clone Wars cupcakes with me.


This is Anakin Skywalker who later succumbs to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader. In the Clone Wars, he is an apprenticed to Obi-Wan Kenobi. See? He even looks a bit mean in fondant.


Obi-Wan Kenobi is a Jedi Knight who takes Anakin as a Padawan on the path to Jedi Knighthood.


Yoda is an ancient and revered Jedi Master. Yoda assigns Anakin Skywalker a young Padawan - the brash 14-year old Togruta named Ahsoka Tano.


Ahsoka Tano was Anakin Skywalker's Padawan!


That's a clone up there. So that's why it's called Clone Wars!


Yikes, now there's a troop of them!


Here's some light foreshadowing for you. Howard totally disregarded my joke and simply commented on my bad lighting. Hmph!

Happy 5th birthday Leo!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Brookies


Two little brookies sitting on a plate...

First and foremost, thank you to Anna Balasi from Hachette Book Group for sending us a review copy of Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook! For those of you who are already drooling over the cover photo, the cookbook is available today in stores and online.

Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook
Written by DeDe Lahman and Neil Kleinberg
Photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell

ISBN 13: 978-0316083379
ISBN 10: 0316083372
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Hardcover: 224 pages

While I am very sad that we didn't visit Clinton St. Baking Company the last time we were in New York, we have made it a priority for our next trip. However, if you would like to see some more fabulous photos of their food, here is une-deux senses' breakfast visit during her trip. Scrumptious! And from the look of her photos, it isn't a greasy breakfast joint (yes I'm thinking of Denny's) with oily puddles on the plate.

It was quite the coincidence as I had just gotten the book in the mail when I saw Michelle's blog post appear! Now I really can't wait to try the place out. Howard's also agreed (and he's a meat and potato kind of guy) after looking through the cookbook. Yes!! Just look at some of their acclaims:



This is a beautifully designed book, yes I noticed the copyright and dedication page photos and love them. The introduction begins with "Love & Butter" and if that's not enough, there's a photo of a big pot of melting butter beside it. Here, DeDe chronicles how she met Neil and how their mom-and-pop shop came to be and grew to something bigger.

The cookbook covers biscuits, muffins, scones, eggs, pancakes, soups, sandwiches, fried chicken, sides, condiments, desserts, and drinks. A pretty thorough selection from their restaurant. For those who wonder how I can "read" a cookbook, you just can. Good cookbooks don't just list recipe after recipe. They share stories with the recipes. They include notes and tricks to help you recreate their food. They offer suggestions in which you can make variations of their food that are simple enough that you don't need a new recipe written out for you.

So yes, I read the stories and the sidebars because I like the insight to how their restaurant does things. I like knowing which recipe is a customer's favourite. You can read this cookbook as if you are reading your favourite food blog. Each recipe starts with an introduction before you go into the step-by-steps.

The gorgeous photos by Michael Turkell make breakfast food look appealing for all three meals of the day.

Clinton St. Baking Company is known for their delicious brunch, a cross between breakfast and lunch. Since a "brookie" is a cross between a brownie and a cookie. Is it not fitting that I test this recipe first? I know that the restaurant is more well known for their pancakes, biscuits, and delicious brunch items, but the brookie really stood out to me. I mean, just look at that page:



These brookies come from Ernie Rich (formally at Clinton St. Baking Company and is now an executive pastry chef in his own right). You will have a hard time eating just one!

Brookies
From Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook
(Makes about 18-20)

1 tablespoon of canola oil
1 teaspoon of unsalted butter
2 cups of semisweet chocolate chunks (52-62% cacao)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
  1. Have all your ingredients ready! I found that having prepared three bowls of ingredients made this all very manageable.

  2. Melt the oil, butter, and 2 cups of the chocolate together in a stainless-steel bowl of a double boiler. The cookbook also suggests that you can use a microwave for 2.5 to 3 minutes (at 1 minute intervals) to melt the mixture. I used the double boiler method - it is such a satisfying feeling of accomplishment when your chocolate is evenly melted! I felt very chef like at the stove. Let the mixture cool.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla together until combined.

  4. Fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until combined. Please note that I opted out of using my stand mixer for this recipe. I did it all using a rubber spatula to avoid over beating the batter. I've learned that if the batter is over mixed, you still get a cake-like result instead of a brownie texture. Your batter should look like this:

  6. Freeze the batter in a shallow pan (for example, a pie plate) for 6 to 8 minutes until the batter sets and hardens slightly. I left it in for 15 minutes as I washed all the bowls and tools. Here is the chilled batter when I took it out of the freezer:

  7. I would recommend that you stick to their recommended freezer time. The batter became quite frozen near the edges of the bowl and made it harder to scoop. Also, you can preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) at this time.

  8. Coat 2 cookie sheets with nonstick cookie spray or line your tray with parchment paper. I used two ice cream scoop sizes. I had eight 2 tablespoon brookies on one tray and twelve 1 tablespoon brookies on the other.

  9. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes until the tops look dry and cracked. I found them still quite soft so I baked it for a longer time. I found that you can't really over bake these brookies, they remained very soft and moist inside!

  10. Cool completely for a soft and chewy Brookie. Absolute heaven when they're fresh out of the oven and still great the day after (and that was it, they were all gobbled up).

Looks exactly like the photo in the cookbook. =)


An oh-my-gosh melt-in-your mouth rich and decadent chocolate experience. I love the dry flaky exterior combined with the soft and chewy interior. This brookie encompasses the best textures of brownies and cookies.


PS: Remember in a few posts back I asked about finding better ice-cream scoops? Well, the plastic one I picked up was NO good at all and didn't release the batter. My darling Howard surprised me with metal one. This one did the trick. Not only will it not crack or break when scooping frozen batter, it also did a great job releasing the batter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baked with Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

During the last week of October, I found out that Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (from Baked) were coming to Toronto for their book tour! Whoopie! I was pretty ecstatic because it was a close enough location (Yorkdale Shopping Centre) for us to get to, but I was a little sad that it started at 5:00pm on Thursday. At that time... I would be just leaving from work... downtown!

Now, because I have the best partner in the world, Howard agreed to go at 5:00pm and fill me in on what I missed as I took the subway to get to Williams-Sonoma as soon as possible. He snapped photos for me, took notes during their demonstration, and lined-up to have my two cookbooks signed. Sigh, he's a keeper! Here, he'll fill you in on the event:



Howard: I got there a little before 5pm and they were in the middle of being interviewed. Not too long after I showed up, a small crowd began to gather with their new book (Baked Explorations) in hand. At about a quarter after five Matt and Renato started their demonstration on how to make their famous sweet and salty brownies - the old school way - the same way they still do in their bakeries.

As they started baking, they chatted briefly about how they became known nationwide via Oprah's "O List" in an issue of the O Magazine. Hearing their funny take on how it all began for them was a lot more interesting than just knowing they were featured in the O Magazine.


Fun fact: Matt doesn't like brownie corners while Renato likes them.

During the Q&A, someone asked about their experience on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where they battled for the best peanut butter banana cream pie. Consensus say they were robbed and Bobby Flay look out, they want a rematch.



It was clear to see that both Matt and Renato love what they do. Their friendly and humorous nature made them easy to like and I must say it helped make this event into one of the better promotional experiences I've attended. I had a good time. It was nice meeting you guys.


Good news: Williams-Sonoma will soon be carrying their brownie mix.

Oh and here are the samples of their famous sweet and salty brownies (above). I wanted to take more than one, but I decided I should behave. Sylvia arrived around 6pm and didn't miss out on meeting them (or the samples). Back over to Sylvia...



Sylvia: I gave Howard a call once I was off the subway and he told me to run. Hmph! They weren't even leaving yet! They were signing extra books for the store and chatting with a few people there. I spotted someone wearing their Baked hoodie too (dedicated fan!).

Well, I went up to finally meet them and they are two seriously nice and funny guys. Of course we're gushing about them and they're asking us about our blog and what camera we were using (showed them our trusty point-and-shoot - disbelief ensued). We talked about visiting Baked during our trip to New York in the summer and really, we can't wait to visit them again some day.

Other people came up to have their books signed, so we backed off and I found brownie samples left! Yum!

I usually never do this, but I became a dork and had my photo taken with them (thanks for being an awesome cameraman Howard). So many thanks again to Matt and Renato for visiting Toronto for their book tour and we hope to see you again!




My signed copies of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. Thanks guys! =)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton Cookies

First of all, apologies for the lack of posts these days. I have been ill for quite some weeks and you can rightfully call me "weak sauce" now. Thank you to those that offered me remedies on twitter. You just never know what you'll contract commuting via transit (yes, thank you for coughing on my hair lady)!

But some good can come out of it. We discovered a cookie place! Howard and I was over at my friend's house and there was a box of cookies in her kitchen. We began snacking on them and after our conversation, we had finished the whole box. We were really horrified to realize that we ate a whole box of cookies! But they were so good!

I did some research online and found that the original cookie shop started in Montreal. They're very popular in Quebec and they even have a mobile bakery!

Then I got sick. Two weeks later when I was feeling better, we ventured out to the shop for more!


Markham Town Square
8601 Warden Ave, Unit #16
Markham, ON L3R 0B5

They're on facebook and twitter too!

Guess what we discovered when we went? They sell cupcakes!!! Please ignore the fuzzy spider web that is going over Monsieur Félix in the photo, they were showing their Halloween spirit! =)


As a reminder, this location sells cupcakes on Fridays and Saturdays only. Love the chalk sign because the asterisks make the cupcakes more exciting!


Pretty mini cupcakes that are $1.25 each or $6.00 for 6. It isn't hard to guess what we're going to do here is it? 6 for 6 please!


We took the cupcakes back to my friend's place so that the cupcakes could be divided and conquered. Check out the Halloween cupcake liners and sprinkles! Love the festivity for the Belgian chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream.


Here we have the cinnamon chai cupcake with cinnamon buttercream.


Double chocolate cupcake with Belgian chocolate buttercream topped with a chocolate candy.


Limited time only, the pumpkin spice cupcake with cinnamon buttercream.


The vanilla chocolate cupcake with vanilla chocolate buttercream topped with a white chocolate candy. For some reason I really liked this one, I guess I've been missing marble cupcakes!


PS: We won't leave without tell you our favourite cookies too. Howard's favourite flavour is the Lemon Delight (pictured above). Mine is also the Lemon Delight and the Caramelt. We love that you can taste the lemon in the cookies, they're wonderfully citrus.
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