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    Halifax/Toronto/Kingston Canada
  1. I am planning a group business trip to Oakland for my employer for mid-January. Their main meeting venue is in the Grand Lake district (near the theatre) and they will probably be staying in the City Centre area (Marriot). They need restaurant/meeting options in or between those areas. The group will consist of approx 10 people (mostly or all women) who work in not-for-profit and education fields. We're looking for lunch and dinner places that are mid-range in price, not super trendy. Atmosphere is more important than food. Clean & comfortable without being ostentatious or loud. ("No noisy bars" was the main requirement). I would prefer to recommend places that serve good food, but this is not a group of foodies and the other factors are more important. Any ideas? Thanks so much, Khadija
  2. I’m looking for some make-ahead strategies for a four person volunteer baking team. We make and sell treats at a weekly market that is run out of a food-themed community centre. The bake-table is meant to create atmosphere, and the treats are sold at purely nominal prices. The baking begins two hours before the market, and the market lasts two hours. We aim for about 60 pieces. Although we certainly have enough labor power, the time window before the market seems to restrict us to muffins and (often unfrosted) muffin-like cupcakes. Two hours doesn’t allow time for softening butter, chilling dough, or baking whole cakes. Also, we are at the low end of the totem pole when it comes to access to equipment and space. And muffins seem an obvious canvas for our themes of all things “fresh,” “healthy,” “seasonal,” and “local.” However, it would be good to diversify a bit, and to try to offer a genuine treat—some of the muffins have been a bit too “healthy.” The centre has a namesake cookie, and we try to keep a batch of dough in the fridge for emergencies. These are always a big hit. I’m trying to generate more reliable crowd-pleasing recipes that can be prepared (even partially) ahead of time. (This work could be done while the market is operating, since there are more than enough people to man the table.) Other cookies would be good, as would bars. I’ve also thought about doing some frozen tart shells. Incorporating whole-grains and fruit or even vegetables would be good, but not at the cost of taste. I am hoping that you knowledgeable folks will have some more suggestions.
  3. We're going to Ottawa (from Toronto) for a quick date weekend. Will arrive Saturday afternoon and leave early Monday morning. Here's what we're looking for: 1. A memorable/special dinner; this could be "fine dining," but interesting, thoughtful, well prepared food is most important. I have a slight preference for casual dress, mostly because it's so cold. So far, the options are: -Murray St. -Sweetgrass -Domus -Beckta 2. A very casual dinner in a comfortable atmosphere, with great food. The options are: -Chez Lucien -Wellington Gastropub -Sweet Basil 3. The best gelato we can find. We'll try to visit 2-4 places. (I'm on an ongoing informal gelato "tour" of everywhere I go). I'll also consider really great ice cream. Options: -Pure -Piccolo Grande -Maison Chalouin 4. Light breakfast/lunch/snack places. We both love food and will eat anything, but we're not heavy eaters. We need to supplement the dinners and gelato with light fare. Options: -French Baker (for croissants) -Benny's Bistro (breakfast) 5. Good Coffee (espresso). I'm not having much luck with this. 6. Nice, casual pubs and bars.
  4. I'm happy to report that I made the milk oolong gelato and madeleines, and both were a hit at my friends party. I managed to make gelato, as opposed to ice cream! And I now have skim milk powder and dextrose in my cupboard! Thanks so much to everyone for the input and encouragement. I feel very inspired. KarenDW: the party was at my friend J's place. I made the gelato and madeleines at my house, and then took them over to J's. paulraphael: your post drove me to google "Twinkie gelato." Nothing surprises me anymore. I'm not going to google margarine gelato -- I just don't want to know. Full report, with photos, to come.
  5. Thanks so much for highlighting the difficulty of categorizing ingredients as "natural" or "processed." We might also look at the situation by saying that every one of the ingredients mentioned is processed, in the sense that every one of the ingredients has been "worked" by humans. I think the word "processed" undeservedly gets a bad reputation. Homemade ice cream (or cake or whatever) made from "local" and/or "organic" ingredients is processed: it's a bunch of stuff that's been made into something else. I don't think it's possible or really sensical completely to embrace or to avoid either so-called processed or so-called natural foods. But I think it's very important to try to understand where food comes from and how various materials get processed into food. I'm really happy that to hear what you have to say about the milk powder. I'm looking forward to playing with it!
  6. Thanks so much paulraphael! I'm pretty sure I can make the gelato for J's party the day it's served. My guess is that there will be 15-20 people at most at this party, and servings will be small. My machine can churn/freeze 1 qt in approximately 1/2 hour. Without having given the matter a lot of thought, my guess is that I should aim to make 4 quarts. Does that sound right? Since I haven't tried, I don't know if there will be any problems with trying to turn out that many batches of ice cream back to back. Decisions about fat and stabilizers seem to be the main challenge in gelato making, as far as I can tell. I guess I can't procrastinate on experimenting much longer. For me there are a few kinds of things to make decisions about: "Natural" Stabilizers (milk fat, cream fat, egg fat) In principle, I'm not against any of these. The only reason I want to minimize fat content is to maximize the capacity of the milk to deliver flavour to the tongue. But I know I need to strike a balance here. Some fat is desirable, because a creamy texture is desirable. I've been using full fat milk from an Ontario organic dairy (Harmony) that I really like, and cream from the same dairy. I find the flavour of the cream really strong, so I don't think I want a lot of it. As for custard bases, I think I need to play with them. Eggs will impart extra flavour, especially if I use my regular source of eggs. Also, I associate custard bases with chewy ice cream, and I always assume I dislike chewy ice cream. But I've heard that some people value a degree of chew, so maybe I just don't adequately appreciate this characteristic. Processed Stabilizers (dried milk, cornstarch, gelatin, xanthan gum, etc.) I think there are probably degrees of processed-ness in these things. I'm not in principle against most of them, but I want to understand what they do before I use them. I don't want to use pre-packaged mixes, because it would defeat some of my purposes, as a home gelato maker. Alternative Sugars I suppose this is a sub-category of stabilizer. I have a preferred brand of organic cane sugar that I use for baking. I like to think I'm not dogmatically committed to it, but I admit that I avoid using more refined sugars. (I'm fascinated by sugar, both by its aesthetic properties and its chemical properties. Part of what's exciting about this gelato project is that it will motivate me to learn more about sugar.) Not surprisingly, I feel most comfortable with natural stabilizers. I feel less comfortable with the other two categories, and so, as is becoming increasingly apparent, I guess I just need to experiment. I'm thinking of beginning with dried milk and maybe cornstarch.
  7. I have an update on the plan for J's birthday dessert. My current idea is to make Milk Oolong infused madeleines and milk oolong ice cream/gelato. I'll serve the ice cream and cookies with little cups of the milk oolong tea. I could use some advice on the following: 1. I haven't made madeleines, much less tea infused ones. The party is on Saturday, and I'll have (make) time to experiment tomorrow night, Thursday night, and Friday. If I can't get the madelines right, I can make a very good white butter "birthday" cake, which could be infused with tea. But I like the madeleines concept. So, does anyone have any input on the learning curve for mastering madeleines? What resources are must reads? (I'm working on the requisite egullet thread research, and I've started looking at a Cook's Illustrated recipe, and I'll read through the section in my copy of the CIA baking book.) 2. My inclination is to emphasize a pure milk oolong flavour, unadulterated by little else. The gelato will involve milk (and maybe a bit of cream) and a minimal amount of sugar. And the madelines (or cake) will include the usual suspects: flour, eggs, butter, sugar, salt, extra leavening agent. I am leaning against the addition of any extra flavour, like vanilla or citrus zest. Do others agree? Should I be more open to try to enhance or complement the flavour of the tea, with additions? Any input at all will be very much appreciated!
  8. Thanks, Lisa. I've read through that thread, as well as all the other gelato and ice cream making threads I could find on egullet. It's always possible that I missed some, though. I should probably say something about what I mean by "gelato." I think of it as ice cream that has a low fat to milk ratio, contains a minimal amount of air and ice crystals, and is served and held at a higher temperature than North American ice creams. It's an extremely good vehicle for very intensely concentrated flavours: the flavour is infused into the milk, and other things that might interfere with the flavour (fat, air, ice) are minimized. I want to learn how to make this kind of thing, at home. And I want to start by mastering plain milk flavoured gelato (fior di latte?). In fact, the next thing I plan to do, after J's party, is have a "milk flavour" gelato tasting, featuring different milks. So, I should say in advance that, although I like reading recipes, and I think I have a lot to learn from them, I'm not especially interested in collecting a lot of gelato recipes. I want to understand how the process of gelato making works. That said, I am interested in trying very good "formulas" for minimalist flavoured (or plain milk flavoured) gelatos. One of the obstacles I've found is that, while there are a reasonable number of resources available about home ice cream making, there's far less information about home gelato making. I'm in the process of making decisions about which books I should buy, to start with. There is a really useful annotated bibliography of frozen dessert books somewhere here on egullet, and I'm using it. Until I get the books, I've found the internet has some recipes, usually for very specific flavours, but, like I said, that's not what I'm after. I've also tripped into ongoing discussions between experienced gelato makers and/or professionals. I'll continue to pay attention to these. But advice geared toward someone in my modest shoes is much appreciated. I know that I'm going to have to experiment, too. I've done a bit, and so far come up with some very delicious ice cream. No gelato yet.
  9. In my decade or so of adult life, I've developed into a fairly serious hobby home cook and occasional bread baker. But I've mostly avoided making sweets. However, in the past year, I've become obsessed with them: I made fruit pies like crazy in the summer, and the holidays involved a cookie extravaganza. In the fall, I began baking "personalized" cakes, as gifts for friends on their birthdays. The cakes were meant to express what I think is interesting and beautiful about the person in question. For one friend, who had a local micro brew tasting party, I made a bitter caramel cake, to pay homage to his layered, round, warm masculinity, and also to complement his favourite milk stout. Throughout my experiments, what I've wanted most is to make gelato. I'm absolutely obsessed with the stuff: it's such an ingenious platform for exploring flavour, in a really pure, unadulterated way! My main obstacle was lack of (expensive) equipment. But, now, thanks to my wonderful and amazingly indulgent boyfriend, I am the proud owner of the "Gelato" by Lello ice cream maker. As a New Year's resolution of sorts, I've decided to combine my gelato making education with my personalized cake making. As I learn to make gelato, I am going to try to develop flavours dedicated to my loved ones. Sometimes, I will make other things, like cakes, to accompany the gelato. This weekend, my dear friend" J" is celebrating her 30th birthday. I am pretty sure that I want to use a really wonderful Milk Oolong as the star. In a way, it resembles a no-nonsense black tea. But it also has an unmistakably direct, assertive, ultra natural nutty sweetness. It's so interesting, because it isn't actually sweet -- it doesn't taste like it has a drop of sugar in it -- but it still manages to say something about the natural sweetness of its flavours. It just screams "J" to me. I'd like to document the process here on egullet, and, for the first time in my seven or so years on egullet, actually post photos. This project is all about celebrating the way my love and respect for flavours and people collide. The people in question include not only my friends and family, but also the people who produce the ingredients that go into the things I make, and all the food obsessed people (you!) who I'm lucky to have share their wisdom with me. Would anyone care to join me?
  10. Success! I made the cake, with the experimental brown butter caramel meringue buttercream. Following advice outlined in the caramel buttercream thread, I made an IMBC and subbed caramel syrup for the regular sugar syrup and brown butter for the butter. The caramel syrup was very, very dark -- almost but not quite burnt. The brown butter was made with half salted and half unsalted butter, both from an Ontario dairy that I like for butter, Organic Meadows. The frosting was absolutely delicious, and I highly recommend it. On the cake, which was also flavoured with a dark caramel syrup, it was divine. Somebody told me that it captured the very essence of caramel. I could go on and on about making both this frosting and the cake. I thought the process was so interesting! Thanks so much for the help.
  11. Thanks so much for the comments. JAZ, I'll go forward with the browned butter buttercream, and add the caramel syrup. Canadianbakin, I did see the caramel buttercream topic. I probably should have posted in that thread. In the thread, the main suggestion for making a caramel meringue butter cream use Italian meringue buttercream as a base recipe. The sugar syrup is replaced with caramel syrup. I've only ever made Swiss meringue buttercream. But I can try my hand at the Italian. The worst case scenario is that the Italian doesn't work and I have to start over. Last night, I was panicking a bit about this. The cake is for a party tonight, but I have not been able to practice or prepare much, aside from studying possible troubleshooting tips. I am using a borrowed stand mixer for the project, and won't have access to it until mid morning today. And thanks, Canadianbakin, for the marmalade tip. I went to Loblaws last night to see if I could find decent looking marmalade, but wasn't sure. I'm still thinking about it.
  12. I want to make a brown butter caramel meringue buttercream. Two questions: 1. Can I straightforwardly sub brown butter for regular butter in my favourite meringue buttercream frosting formula? 2. In the past, I've used lemon oil and zest and vanilla extract to flavour the buttercream. This time I want dark, dark caramel flavour. Should I just use homemade caramel syrup? The frosting is for a caramel cake, which will accompany a milk stout at a friend's birthday. The party has a beer tasting theme, featuring brews from local breweries. My goal is to make a cake that will nicely complement the milk stout. For the cake, I plan to use Shuna Fish Lydon's formula, which was much discussed in a past Daring Bakers challenge. The cake is basically a butter-cake flavoured with very caramel. Lydon's frosting is a browned butter caramel frosting, described by many DBs as overly sweet -- it uses a full pound of icing sugar. I'm afraid that if I use it it will interfere with the beer, and I hate icing sugar, so I'm almost positive I'll go the swiss meringue buttercream route. I've also thought about covering the cake with a grapefruit flavoured meringue buttercream, or filling layers with something to cut the sweetness of the caramel. I know that it's possible to use chocolate to balance the caramel, but I'd rather not.
  13. My SO loves the "barnyardy" flavour of goat cheeses. He also really likes pastry. I want to develop a goat shortbread/cracker for him, perhaps to pair with fruit compote or jam. I've also thought about making shortbread rounds, and then filling them "oreo-style," with either a fruit based filling or a creamy goat cheese based filling. I've made goat-butter pie-crust, with good success. I've made both Stilton and Parmesan shortbreads, though not for awhile. Any ideas and suggestions on how to proceed would be much appreciated. I'm going to experiment over the next week. My SO recently made a blueberry pie, and the crust used cow butter, leaf lard, and soft goat cheese (as the only liquid). The crust was ethereally light -- beautifully delicate. However, it did not taste very goaty. My goat butter pie crust, which he did not taste, was subtle, but goaty if you were looking for it, IMO. I am thinking of using a hardish, strong goat cheese in my shortbread, probably Chevre Noir, a Quebec aged goat cheddar. I also thought I'd use at least some goat butter, and maybe even some of the soft goat cheese for liquid. Is this overkill? At this point, I'm thinking of maximizing goat flavour, but I need to think of the textural qualities of the shortbread, too. Ideas please!
  14. Has anyone tried the Blumenthal method, but used a blowtorch for the skin, instead of his frying in the pan method?
  15. I've been wondering if it's possible somehow to combine this method with the Blumenthal method.
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