Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Squares

I'm back! It's good to be home. I missed my computer and bed a lot. Typical for an internet dwelling person like me.
I recently took a trip out west to Calgary, to visit my friend who had just moved there. I must say it was so different there compared to Toronto, I didn't feel like I was in Canada! First of all the streets were numbered which really screwed me up. You would think that numbers would be easier, but not for me. Also, they had a surprisingly different amount of wildlife, like magpies and giant hares (they were bigger than cats), as well as in the country; grizzly bears and elk.


Needless to say, it was an amazing trip and I'm glad I could spend it with one of my best friends. I hope I can go back soon to visit, it's probably one of my favorite places now. My friend's Mom was kind enough to give me some items for photography like the plate you see before you. :)

While I was there I was able to whip up a batch or two of these squares for my friend's family. They were a success with them, so I figured I would smuggle a few through the airport to take them home to photograph for the blog. And here they are! Might I mention they were a great snack on the plane ride back!

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Squares

Makes one, 9x11" pan

Crust

1/2 cup                           butter, softened
1/4 cup                           sugar
1 cup                              a.p flour
1/8 tsp                            salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Combine until mixture just begins to stick together to form a coarse crumble. Dump out into a greased 9x11" pan and press into the bottom to form an even layer. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Filling

3 eggs
1 1/4 cup                        sugar
1/2 cup                           peanut butter
1/2 cup                           a.p flour
1/4 tsp                            vanilla extract
1/3 cup                           mini chocolate chips

Combine all the ingredients for the filling except the chocolate chips in a large bowl and beat until incorporated. Add the chocolate chips last and mix into the batter with a spoon. Once the crust has baked, pour the filling over it and spread it out to form an even layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top has just puffed an settled. Don't bake for too long! Let cool then cut into squares, enjoy!


If you ever get the chance to visit Calgary, or even Canada in general, I would go for it. I find it amazing. I might be bragging because it's my home but, I'm sure anyone would agree that it's a beautiful place with so much greenery and wildlife to offer, that it is a must see.

Elanne Boake

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

S'more Brownies

Last week it was cold. I'm not talking a two degree difference, they were calling it a polar vortex, in the summer. It would drop to almost 10 degrees every night! It really started to feel like fall, I even wore sweaters for a few days. I wasn't in the summer "mood" at all.


Suddenly bam, it's summer again. I'm sweltering over here. And we don't have the air conditioning on just to add to the heat.
I guess this is what it feels like to be made into a brownie. For example, you are a pound of butter, you're chilling in the fridge then bam, you feel the heat. I mean technically when us humans are being being baked we won't exactly taste great after, sweaty and all... and probably dead.

S'mores Brownies

Makes one 8"x8" pan

2 1/2 cups                                 a.p flour
1/3 cup                                      cocoa 
1 cup                                         butter
3/4 cup                                      sugar
3/4 cup                                      brown sugar
1 tsp                                          baking soda
1 tsp                                          vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup                                         chocolate chips
1/3 cup                                      graham cracker crumbs, coarse
1 cup                                         marshmallow fluff

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 8"x8" pan. In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl beat the butter, vanilla and sugars. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the flour bit by bit. Stir in the last of it by hand and add the chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbs. Spread about 2/3 of the batter into the bottom of the pan. Spread the marshmallow fluff on top. Now use the rest of the batter and pat it down on top of the marshmallow fluff. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool and then cut into squares. Enjoy!


Hopefully it's not too hot where you are or not too cold. In any case I hope you are handling your strange weather. Oh, and make these brownies, because s'mores.

Elanne Boake

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Tutorial)

Are you thinking of something sweet at the moment? If you weren't, bet you are now. I mean why else would you be here? Probably to get your sugar fix. Just imagine.... a chewy, soft, chocolate filled confection. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?


Chocolate Chunk Cookies. What's not to like? They are the simplest of cookies. They are the base of all sweets, the basic cookie. There are so many variations, yet so little time to experiment with them. And in reality, even if you only use one recipe there are many different outcomes. Say what? Yes, it all comes down to how you make them which will decide if they are your perfect chocolate chip cookie.
I depends on the way you prepare your butter, how much you beat your eggs, and even what happens in the oven. Wow. Who knew the "basic" cookie would be so complicated! I'm even going to use a bigger sized font to explain this, so you know you are getting into the informative stuff.

Butter:

You all know it's a key ingredient in cookies. But, I'm guessing you didn't know it was that important, right? How you prepare it will make a huge difference in the softness and appearance of your cookie.
Soften the butter so that it's almost melting. This will make your cookies thick but not rock hard. If you melt the butter too much, they will flatten out extensively in the oven and become a crispy puddle. Oh and another thing. Use salted butter! There is nothing worse than a sickeningly sweet cookie. Sure, you can add salt later but it definitely won't be the same taste wise. Also, make sure you add salt even if you are using salted butter, but cut the measurement in half.

Eggs:

These are another vital ingredient in cookies. What you don't know is that these are what can make or break (egg pun) your cookies. Just barely beat the egg. Beating the egg for too long makes your cookies hard, I don't know about you but I don't like cookies that are going to break my teeth thank you very much. If you want more crispy cookies, you can bake them for an extra minute or even melt your butter more.

Oven:

Ah, yes, here come the infamous oven tips. Just in case you want to be even more informed, here they are. Switch the trays half way. This provides even baking throughout your cookies. Simple as that. Adjust the oven racks. I have noticed when switching the cookies, the top ones (after switching) are more brown, even though both of the trays had the same amount of time on each rack. Strange, right? That's because the ones on the top are exposed to the coils when they are setting and finishing baking. Which means they have more time to brown, rather than the ones that were put on the top rack first which only baked faster and didn't receive that "browning" effect.


Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 3 dozen

2 1/4 cups                          a.p flour
1 tsp                                   baking soda
1/2 tsp                                 salt
1 cup                                  butter
1/2 cup                               sugar
1 cup                                  brown sugar
1 tsp                                   vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup                                  chocolate, chopped

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time barely mixing in between each. Beat in flour mixture. Add the chocolate chips and stir. Use a cookie scoop and place on your baking sheets. About one tablespoon of batter will take 10 minutes. Allowing the cookies to rest on the sheet will make them chewier, resting them on wire racks will make them crispier, you decide. Enjoy!


I hope these will satisfy your sweet craving. And hey, you learned a thing or two about making cookies! Now I hope you take these methods and apply them to how you want your cookies to turn out. Happy cookie making!

Elanne Boake


Monday, July 7, 2014

Creamy Rhubarb Tart

Last year, my Dad planted rows and rows of rhubarb.  He planted almost 200 plants! We are swimming in the stuff at our house, and we don't have enough things to do with it! Sure there's rhubarb pie and muffins, but you can only have so much of it at a time. This week I decided to spice things up a bit by making a tart.


To distract from the rhubarb's tendency to have a sour flavour, I added lots of vanilla, just the right amount actually, to make a delicious and creamy rhubarb tart. There are three simple layers (not including the crust) which all include vanilla.  There's the rhubarb purée, the silky creme pâtisserie, and the light whipped cream. Wow. Get your sleeves rolled up and put on an apron because it's baking time.

Creamy Rhubarb Tart

Makes one, 14 x 3" tart

Rhubarb Purée

1 1/2 cups                                 chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup                                      lemon juice
50g                                           sugar
1 vanilla bean (pod)

In a  medium saucepan combine the sugar, lemon juice and vanilla pod. Stif until sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool in the syrup for up to 1 hour. Once cooled, strain the rhubarb from the syrup (save the syrup) and place in a blender.  Add 2 tbsp of the syrup to rhubarb and blend until smooth. Set aside.


Pastry

225g                                         a.p flour
25g                                           ground almonds
2 tbsp                                        icing sugar
1-2 tbsp                                     cold water
140g                                          butter, cold & cubed
1 egg yolk

Put the flour, sugar, almonds and icing sugar in a blender, pulse until it resembles fine crumbs. While the motor is running add 1-2 tbsp of cold water and the egg yolk. Once combined place onto a working surface and knead to bring the dough together. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once chilled roll out onto floured surface to 1mm thick. Carefully transfer into the tart tin. Chill for another 30 minutes or until firm. Blind bake the tart for 12 minutes by placing parchment (or wax) paper over the tart and filling it up with rice or beans. Once blind baked, remove the parchment or wax paper and bake for another 8 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool in the tart tin.


Creme Pâtisserie

250ml                                       milk
1 vanilla bean (seeds)
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp                                        sugar
1 tbsp                                        cornflour
1 tbsp                                        a.p flour
300ml                                       heavy cream
1 tsp                                          vanilla extract

In a small saucepan heat the milk and vanilla bean seeds. Bring to a simmer. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks, sugar and flours together until pale in colour. While whisking continuously, pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour through a sieve back into the saucepan and whisk continuously until it becomes thick and creamy, like custard. Pour into a medium heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap so that it touches the custard so it doesn't form a skin. Chill for an hour. Once chilled start whipping the heavy cream. Beat until it forms soft peaks. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the custard.  Add the vanilla extract to the remaining whipped cream and set aside.

To assemble, pour the rhubarb purée into the tart shell first and spread out evenly. Next add the creme patisserie proceeding with the left over whipped cream. Spread out evenly on your tart making sure you've covered the whole thing. For decoration, use a vegetable peeler and peel a few stalks of rhubarb, they will curl naturally so you can place them as you wish on top. Store the tart in the fridge, in an airtight container. Enjoy!


This tart has four very easy components to it that anyone is able to do. So if you are looking for a way to use up some rhubarb, or maybe you're just looking for another recipe to try out, this one has got you covered.

Elanne Boake

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Chocolate and Pistachio Layer Cake

Hey all! It's summer! Well, almost. I'm out of school which means more time to bake, and experiment in the kitchen. Today I tried making a layer cake for the first time. Yep, there are none on this blog yet. Hard to believe right? It's only been full of tarts, cupcakes, macarons and the other occasional sweet, but no layer cakes.



Well, I'm here to see to your demands. Introducing my first ever layer cake! It's a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, ganache, and of course, pistachio whipped cream. Not too shabby. I still have to work on my piping technique; I had never done "shells" before today, so I might need to work on that quite a bit. Which probably means more cake in the future... *hint hint*

Chocolate and Pistachio Layer Cake

Makes one, 9" (four layer) cake

Cake

3/4 cup                     cocoa
3/4 cup                     hot water
3 cups                       a.p flour
1 tsp                          baking soda
1 tsp                          baking powder
1 tsp                          salt
1 1/2 cups                 butter
2 1/4 cups                 sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp                        vanilla
1 cup                         sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9" pans with butter. Trace the bottoms of the pans onto parchment paper and cut out two circles to line the bottom of the tins with. Grease the parchment paper as well, and flour both the pans. Combine the cocoa and hot water in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium sauce pan melt the sugar and the butter together. Once the butter has melted pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl. With beaters whip until the mixture has cooled slightly, about 4-6 minutes. Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time. Add the chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly. On a low setting beat the flour mixture into the butter and chocolate mixture, alternating with the sour cream in two halves. Divide the batter among the two pans. Bake the cakes for 30-40 minutes. Let the cake cool before turning out into wire racks (take the parchment off the bottoms!) Evenly cut the domed tops off the cakes and cut each of them in half to make four layers. Set aside.

Pistachio Whipped Cream

125g                         blanched, toasted pistachios
30g                           almond flour
60g                           sugar
20g                           water
1-2 tbsp                    sunflour oil
1 cup                        whipping cream

In a food processor, blend the pistachios until course. In a small sauce pan bring the water and sugar to a simmer. Cook until they reach 120 degrees. Pour the sugar into the food processor and blend. Add the almond flour as well as the oil. Blend until it turns into a thick paste. In a medium bowl, whip the whipped cream until it holds light peaks. Add the pistachio paste and beat until smooth. Set aside.


Chocolate Buttercream

2 cups                       butter, softened
5 cups                        icing sugar
3/4 cup                      cocoa
2 tsp                           vanilla
5 tbsp                         milk

In a large bowl beat the butter. Add the icing sugar one cup at a time beating until fully incorporated. Add the cocoa, milk and vanilla. Beat together.

Place your first layer of cake on your plate. Add two scoops of chocolate buttercream and spread out until even. Add the next layer, spread the pistachio whipped cream out until even. Add the next layer of cake to put a final layer of buttercream before placing the last piece of cake on top.
Put a very thin layer of buttercream around the whole cake. This is called the "crumb coat" this makes sure the crumbs don't pop up onto the final layer of icing.
Now, add more buttercream onto the cake (make sure you don't use it all), evening it out throughout the whole thing. Once you are happy with how the icing looks, place it in the fridge to chill for an hour.

Ganache

8 ounces                     semi sweet chocolate
1 cup                           whipping cream

Chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan let the whipping cream sit on medium heat, whisking it to make sure it doesn't burn. Bring it to a boil before pouring over your chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 5 minutes before whisking it all together to form a smooth, glossy ganache. Pour into a measuring cup so you can easily pour it.

Take your cake out of the fridge and pour the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Finish the cake off by piping a border around the top and bottom of the cake with your leftover icing and adding a few chopped pistachios on the top of the cake. Voila, enjoy!



This cake was a lot of work, but practice makes perfect! The more you do it the better you get, which in time will make this recipe seem easy.
I must admit that cakes are actually pretty fun, *gasp* I find them a lot more enjoyable now then I used to. I guess it just goes to show you that you never learn if you don't try. :)

Elanne Boake

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chai Spiced Macarons

At my house we have a fondness for tea. So much so, that we have a cupboard or two filled with just tea. Bagged, flowered, loose leaves, you name it, we've got it.


Although tea has never been my favorite. I always preferred soda for a beverage, I never really got into tea. Meanwhile, my mother and sister have some five cups a day. That's some serious tea addiction. I wanted to figure out a way so that they could enjoy the tea flavour, only a different way, a way that I too would enjoy. I decided to make Chai Spiced Macarons.
Macarons are certainly not the easiest of confections, but they are one of my personal favorites. I do face some struggles (I had to try at these twice) from time to time while making them, but when I get a good batch, I feel a sense of accomplishment! For the shells I added ground chai tea, and for the filling, I used many interesting ingredients that you would not normally find in a buttercream. My secret ingredient? Cayenne pepper!


Chai Spiced Macarons

Shells

100g                         ground almonds
200g                         icing sugar
100g                         egg whites
4 tbsp                        sugar
3 tsp                          ground chai tea
1 tsp                          brown food coloring (optional)

Grind the almonds in a food processor, sift the almonds and dispose of any large lumps. Using a food processor or a mortal and pestle, grind the chai tea. Sift into the almond mixture along with the icing sugar. Set aside. Ina  large bowl whip the egg whites until they form bubbles. Add the sugar a little at a time until the egg whites hold stiff peaks, about 5-8 minutes. Make sure not to over whip or your shells will be hollow. Add the dry ingredients into the egg whites, three parts at a time, folding them into one another until fully incorporated. Be careful not to overmix! The mixture should form ribbons but when dropped from a spoon won't spread out really far. Fit a piping bag with a round tip (smaller is easier to control) and fill with mixture. Pipe 1" rounds onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Let your cookies sit out,  anywhere from 30 minutes to a hour, or until it forms a dry skin. Bake cookies on the middle rack of your oven for about 8-10 minutes. Let the shells cool completely before removing from the sheet. Using a clean brush, take your food coloring and paint on half of your cooled shells.


Spiced Buttercream

1/2 cup                     butter
3/4 cup                     icing sugar
1/2 cup                     ground almonds
1/4 cup                     corn starch
2 tbsp                       ground chai tea
1/2 tsp                      vanilla
2 tsp                         cinnamon
1/4 tsp                      nutmeg
1 pinch                     cayenne pepper

Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the icing sugar, beat until incorporated. One ingredient at a time, add the ground almonds, corn starch and ground chai. After each addition, scrape down the sides and mix thoroughly. Lastly, add the spices and vanilla. Mix. Transfer into a small pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe a dollop onto half of the macaron shells. Sandwich two of the shells together and slightly squeeze. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!


Macarons can be really hard to make correctly, even these have a few flaws. The only way to get better is if you practice! If you make them more often you can learn what is the best method for yourself, what worked, and what didn't. When you know these things, it's easier to make better batches in the end.
Good luck!

Elanne Boake