Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Double, double toil and trouble...


  This decadent recipe is a sublime combination of two of my favourite things; coffee and chocolate.  That said, it also happens to be the perfect recipe for Halloween ~ minus the eye of newt and the other disagreeable ingredients of course!

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,"
     ~William Shakespeare; Macbeth
     Double chocolate, double layers of cake and a cup of Tim Horton's double-double coffee; this recipe combines it all to make one delicious cake!  Not familiar with a double double? It's Canada's most popular Tim Horton's coffee with double the cream and double the sugar. Double your pleasure!

Double-Double Chocolate Cake

You will need:

2 oz  bittersweet Baker's chocolate
2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups  granulated sugar
½ cup  cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp  baking powder
1 tsp  salt
1 cup  buttermilk (*see recipe below)
½ cup  vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp  pure vanilla extract
1 cup  double-double coffee from Tim's

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave according to package directions.  Stir until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°f (180°c). Butter and flour two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans.
  • *To make  buttermilk ~ place a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.  Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line.  Let stand for five minutes.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl until well combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low speed. Add the melted chocolate and the double-double coffee and mix just until combined.
  •  Pour the batter into the pans, spreading evenly.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean. *Cool the cakes in the pans until they are easy to handle, then move them to a wire baking rack.

 For the chocolate icing:

2 oz  bittersweet Baker's chocolate
1 cup  unsalted butter, softened
2 cups  icing sugar
¼ cup  whipping cream

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave according to package directions. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  • Whip the butter in the bowl with a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the melted and cooled chocolate and mix until combined.
  • Slowly add the icing sugar to the chocolate mixture.
  •  Add the whipping cream.
  •  Continue mixing until the icing is smooth and thoroughly combined.
  • Whisk on high for 1 minute more or until the icing is smooth and spreadable.

When cakes are cooled, invert one layer onto a cake platter. Spread the top with chocolate icing. Place the second cake on top of the icing. Spread the remaining icing evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

*Recipe from The Harrow Fair Cookbook: Prize-Winning Recipes Inspired by Canada’s Favourite Country Fair by Moira Sanders and Lori Elstone with Beth Goslin Maloney (Whitecap 2010).




Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keep calm and have a cookie...


      Read, review, reflect, discuss, study... can't I just bake instead? Seriously, because sometimes all you can do is bake.  Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.  We all know this, yet we still allow stress to creep in and take over our lives.

     I've been really stressed lately ~ just ask my family!  Not only do I have my own classes to attend, homework to do, papers to write and assignments to complete; but as a wife and mom of three I also get to come home to making lunches, dinner, doing laundry, going to sporting events, extracurricular activities and helping the kids with their homework.  It's never ending!

     As stressed as I feel, a phone call earlier today allowed me to put things into perspective.  My stresses are just ordinary ~ they aren't life threatening.  I wish I could say the same thing for my brother's stresses.  He's battling cancer and he's giving it everything he's got.  I am amazed and in awe of his positive outlook.  He's not wallowing in all he has to deal with, instead, he wants to know how I'm doing.  Suddenly all of my complaints seem inconsequential.  

      After talking with him I felt foolish for letting my trivial worries consume me.  He inspired me to put aside my 'to do' list and spend some time doing what gives me pleasure and calms my soul ~ baking.

      This is my go to cookie recipe. It combines a profusion of delectable ingredients and bakes up wonderfully.


Me And My Cookies Are Not Stressed Out

You will need:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee baking bits

1 cup almonds, chopped
*put almonds in a plastic freezer bag and gently smash with the back of a large spoon.
If you are really stressed you can use a hammer ~ this is a great way to work out your frustration!

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a large bowl combine sugars and butter and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add vanilla and eggs and blend well.
  • Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Stir in chocolate chips, almonds and toffee baking bits.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoons on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes  until golden brown.
  • Cool on wire baking racks.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Pinterest & Pumpkin Pie...

      Pinterest ~ that wonderful website where you can lose yourself for an hour in the blink of an eye and become inspired to be a craftier, more organized, stylish baker who drinks wine just so that she can make a wreath out of the corks.

     While perusing through the plethora of pins, I came across this fabulous recipe.  Pumpkin pie in a cupcake?  Yes please! Top them with decadent whipped cream frosting and you have one delectable dessert.  This is the perfect fall recipe. The ingredients come together beautifully and will fill your kitchen with the fabulous scents of fall. 
     Autumn just so happens to be my favourite season; cool, crisp air, warm, cozy sweaters and leaves in fiery bursts of colour.  Put the kettle on, grab a good book and curl up next to the fire with one of these cupcakes and you have my version of a perfect fall afternoon.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes With Whipped Cream Frosting

24 Golden Oreo Cookies
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
15oz pumpkin puree
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line muffin tin with paper liners (24)
  • Split Oreos and drop them cream side up at the bottom of each liner.
  • Gently combine eggs, oil, applesauce & vanilla.
  • Stir in sugar and brown sugar and mix well for several minutes.
  • Stir in pumpkin.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt.
  • Add dry ingredients to oil & sugar mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full and bake for 17-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Whipped Cream Topping

500ml heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
cinnamon & pumpkin pie spice to decorate

  • Using a whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  • Add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's The Simple Things In Life...


     With all that has been going on in my life lately, my baking ~ even the emotional kind ~ has taken a back seat to chaos. It is a known fact that I love to bake, not for myself, but for others. It makes me intrinsically happy to bring others joy from my kitchen.  But I find myself as of late, unable to find the time to enjoy all that comes with tying my apron strings.

     A good friend of mine just had a birthday and for as long as I can remember I have baked him a pumpkin pie to mark his special day.  In years past when I couldn't find the time to get it to him I had my husband play delivery driver.  This year, I almost didn't find the time to bake the pie. He'd understand, I thought, I'll just let it go this year.  Thankfully, my conscience got the best of me and I made some time to whip up my friend's belated birthday pie.  Before long, my kitchen smelled like fall, and the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg lifted my spirits.

     While the very act of baking the pie made me happy, I had no idea what else that pie would do to elevate my mood. When I arrived at my friend's house to deliver the fresh baked birthday gift I was rewarded beyond belief by the excitement on the faces of his three boys.  They were literally jumping for joy!  Apparently their dad isn't the only one who enjoys eating my pumpkin pies.

      My friend told me that he was very surprised to see me. He honestly thought that this was the year that our tradition would end.  His appreciation was more than I could have hoped for. He told me that people sometimes take things for granted  and don't really realize that the simplest things mean the most. Truer words were never spoken. I am so lucky to have wonderful people in my life; they truly lift me up.  For that, I am emphatically grateful.  I now realize that this is one tradition that is worth every effort to continue.  Next year, however, I think my friend and his family deserve two pies.

The Pumpkin Pie That Keeps On Giving:


1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup nutmeg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup cream

~ Combine pumpkin, sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice & nutmeg in a large bowl.
~ Mix together evaporated milk and cream and gradually stir into pumpkin mixture.
~ Mix well.

Graham Pie Crust:

6 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham crumbs
1/4 cup sugar

~ Mix and press into pie plate.
~ Bake @ 350 degrees for 8~10min, let cool before filling.

 * When you are short on time (as I was in this case) a store bought graham pie shell works just as well.

~ Pour filling into pie crust.
~ Bake @ 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.
~ Let cool.

Whipped Cream Topping:

~  Whip 500ml heavy whipping cream in a glass bowl with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.

~ Once pie has cooled, spread whipped topping to cover pie and dust with cinnamon.
~ Top with chopped walnuts.

And after...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Slice Of Life...

  This week is one that I cannot wait to forget.  It has been full of worry, trepidation and quiet elation.  As my older brother started his first round of cancer treatment, I awaited the results of my own brush with the horrible disease. I, unlike my brother, and my sister before him, was lucky. My tests came back negative. While I am so very happy with my results, it saddens me to think that I escaped what my brother now has to go through alone. My joy may be bittersweet, but I am so very relieved.
     What this stressful week has reminded me is that I am so thankful for all of my wonderful friends and family. They have all been such a tremendous support system. In spite of everything, I am truly blessed.
     To show my gratitude I wish I could bake for everyone who sent me a positive email, gave me a reassuring smile, a confident hug, a glass of wine or a much needed distraction (like Chinese food and a DVD).  Seeing as my list is blessedly long, to do so would have me in the kitchen for weeks.  In lieu of all of that baking, I will instead express my thanks and gratitude by sharing my mother's tried and true recipe for her beloved apple pie. This recipe is a bit labour intensive, but I assure you that the end result is more than worth the effort. Ironically, the same can be said about life.  I certainly have a new perspective in that regard.

Apple Pie & Appreciation 


Pastry Recipe (makes enough for 3 pies)

  • 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 lb lard
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • cold water
~ In a large bowl blend flour & lard with pastry cutter or using two forks.
~ In a glass measuring cup mix egg, salt, sugar and vinegar.
~ Add enough cold water to egg mixture to make 1 cup.
~ Add this slowly to flour mix and mix/knead well.
~ Divide dough and roll into 6 balls.
~ Leave at room temperature for 1 hour.

* Note: Dough may be frozen.  I usually place two balls in a freezer bag and freeze for later use. Simply thaw overnight in refrigerator  and then allow dough to come to room temperature before using.

When ready to roll out the dough, first wet your counter slightly and place a sheet of wax paper down. The water will help the wax paper to stay in place while you roll out your dough. Sprinkle the wax paper with some flour and roll out pastry using a heavy rolling pin. You may also flour your rolling pin if you find the dough sticking to it.

Lift the wax paper with the rolled out dough on it and place it dough side down in your pie plate.  Peel paper off and leave overhanging sides to trim later.

Sprinkle some sugar across the bottom of the dough in your pie plate and put aside until ready to fill.

Roll out your top layer of dough in the same way as described above and put aside until ready to use.

Filling: (enough for one large pie)

  • 6-7 large Mutsu apples ~ peeled, cored and sliced.
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp cream
~ Combine brown sugar, sugar, flour, cinnamon & salt in a large bowl.
~ Add apples to above mixture and stir until combined.
~ Spread apple mixture into unbaked pastry shell.
~ Dot with butter and pour cream over top.
~ Cover with top pie crust.

*Hint: slightly wet rim of bottom pastry in pie plate with water to create a better seal before placing the other pastry on top.

~ Press down all around the edge of the pie plate with your thumb or a fork to create a fancy edge and seal the top and bottom pastry together. Cut a few slots in the top, middle of your pie to allow steam to escape.
~ Brush the top of your pie with a tbsp of milk and sprinkle it with sugar. This will give it a golden brown and flaky finish.

Bake @ 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until apple mixture is bubbly.

*Note: To prevent your pie from making a mess in your oven place pie on a baking sheet to catch any spillage if the apple mixture bubbles over.

Comfort food at its best...  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just Another Muffin Monday...

Monday: is it just me or do they seem to come around all too soon? On a Friday afternoon it seems like the weekend is full of potential. The next thing I know I'm standing in my kitchen cleaning up our Sunday supper dishes and making lunches for yet another Monday.   I can't help but muse over the great intentions I had in mind for my two days off from school. None the less, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in my kitchen doing some much loved fall baking.

With Monday in mind I made a batch of pumpkin spice muffins.  Mondays are very long days for me and my colleagues at school. We have classes from 9am until 8pm with a long 5 hour break in the afternoon.  These muffins will be the perfect accompaniment to all of the coffee we'll be drinking as we attempt to make it through our seemingly never ending Monday.

These Are The Days That You Wish Your Bed Was Already Made Pumpkin Spice Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

~ Whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice & nutmeg.
~ Mix in 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts.
~ In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, oil and vanilla.
~ Pour wet ingredients over dry and stir until moistened and combined.
~ Using an ice cream scoop, spoon mixture into muffin tin lined with paper liners.
~ Sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Bake @ 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.