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sugar plum

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  1. I made the cocoa buttermilk birthday cake (p.256) this week. It tasted divine...almost like a brownie. The recipe for the chocolate malt buttercream made a generous amount of icing which fully covered the cake and even had a little left over to snack on. Now I love sugar but this--even for me--is a very sweet/rich cake and buttercream recipe. Anyone who can't handle this amount of sugar, beware. I think all total there's about 4-4 1/2 cups of sugar in this cake. This isn't including the sugar that's in the chocolate! Please ignore the wooden squewers poking out of my cake. Along with cling wrap, that's how I cover my cakes for transport. I really should invest in some sort of cake dome, shouldn't I?
  2. I think after reading this thread, I bought the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook off of Amazon. I have the issue with the extra chapter named "most requested recipes" at the end. For the holiday season, I baked their Christmas cookie box (swedish overnights, mexican wedding balls and angel thumbprints). I wasn't overly impressed with any of them except for the thumbprints. I would probably bake them again. Since Christmas, I've made the morning glory muffins, brown sugar and almond coffee cake, chocolate cherry pound cake, chocolate and apricot cookies and the chocolate walnut tart. I absolutely adored the chocolate cherry pound cake! I only have a 8 cup bundt pan so I made two little mini-loaf pans with the extra batter. The chocolate walnut tart also turned out well but it's quite a lot of work. I hadn't made pie pastry in a long time and had forgotten how much time it takes. For this recipe, you have to make the tart dough, put it in the fridge to firm up, then remove it an hour or so later, roll it out and put it in the tart shell, then put it back in the fridge for another hour, then take it out and bake it off, then let it cool...you get the idea. It's a labour of love. The brown sugar and almond coffee cake recipe did not work out for me. It says in the recipe to put it in a 9" square baking tin but when I did this it overflowed all over the bottom of my oven! I managed to salvage the rest of the cake and finished baking it off with a cookie sheet underneath to pick up the drippings. Ugh. What a mess! The morning glory muffins were a bit dense. I don't like recipes that don't list the cup measurements for ingredients such as bananas, carrots or apples. You never know if you've got an overly large carrot or apple or not until you see it takes you forever to bake them off (as your dough is too wet). I also really enjoyed the chocolate and apricot cookies. They were really delicious and so unique! Quite an unexpected combination but tasty.
  3. Sandra, Now, I'm no pastry chef but most recipes I've seen that are 2-9" round cake pans will be easily converted into 1-9"x13" pan. Dorie's carrot cake recipe is 3-9" pans so you'll probably have some extra batter to make a few cupcakes with. I wouldn't try to fit all of the batter into your 9"x13" pan or you'll have a mess on the bottom of your oven!
  4. It's been awhile since I last baked from this book. I decided to start the new year off with Dorie's orange berry muffins (pg. 3). I sifted my flour/baking powder/baking soda mixture to ensure lovely domed muffin tops. It seemed to have worked! My muffins only took about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. I've now tried quite a few of her muffin recipes and these are my favourite.
  5. I also love Parkside but I'm avoiding it during DOV. I have recommended it to co-workers and friends because I know it's a guaranteed hit. For myself however, I see DOV as an opportunity to try something new. I'm willing--at anytime of the year--to shell out the big bucks for restaurants such as West, Aurora Bistro, Il Giardino and Parkside. I know I will get value for my money and a wonderful dining experience. During DOV, it's my chance to give other restaurants a shot without blowing the bank. Maybe I'll return and maybe I won't? Last night, we dined at Raincity Grill. The food and service were excellent. Our meal met all expectations but did not exceed them. I probably will not return to this restaurant again. Next on my list is Savoury Coast...
  6. As a gift, we received a dreaded Rachael Ray cookbook and I "made it disappear". I still don't think my SO has noticed it's not there anymore! Other than that, I really try to use all of the cookbooks I own. If I don't, I give them away to friends or donate them. Before buying yet another cookbook, I usually try to see if I can borrow it first from the library. I trial a few recipes and then decide from there if it's really worth purchasing.
  7. My last bunch of Christmas cookies included Macrina Bakery's Angel Thumbprints and Mexican Wedding Balls. I also made their Swedish Overnights (but I didn't include them in this picture). The thumbprints were a hit in our household so I'll probably add them to my annual list next year. The final cookie on the plate is Martha's dark chocolate cookies with sour cherries from her 2001 Holiday Baking issue. They turned out to be very tasty but didn't freeze very well at all.
  8. As a Christmas treat to ourselves, we decided to head over to West for dinner on Friday night. I had been there once before but it was a first for my significant other. He had been hearing me rave about their food for the past year and was eager to see what the fuss was all about. My boyfriend decided to opt for the early prix fixe menu while I went a la carte. “D” started with the smoked ham and prosciutto terrine. He had never had terrine before (in fact, I was surprised he ordered it) and found it delicious. I started with their salad of wild mushrooms, goats cheese, sun dried organic cherries and 12 year old sherry vinegar. Fantastic contrasts of flavours and textures. “D”’s main was the loin of lamb with handmade gnocchi. I also had the gnocchi (with more wild mushrooms…love those chantrelles!) as my main. Now, as a vegetarian, I’ve sampled quite a few gnocchi and these were the best I’ve ever tasted. They were so light and delicate. Many I’ve tried around town have turned out to be very doughy and dense. We finished with a chocolate cappuccino cake with mocha espuma for me and a banana chocolate cake with pommegranite granite for him. I must admit I much preferred the caramel pot de crème that I had last year at West. I keep eyeing the menu hoping it will make a return appearance. I’m a sugar fanatic, so I remember those desserts that truly knock my socks off like: HSG Gingerbread pudding, Parkside’s coupe glacee, Thomas Haas’ Chocolate Bar at Diva, etc. I can’t say that I was wowed by my cappuccino cake however, I was a little distracted during dessert… The best course of the evening came between our main and dessert. Kate, our lovely server, dropped off a dome-covered plate in front of me and said something like “this is one of our specialities”. She lifted the lid and there laid a Tiffany & Co. engagement ring! The evening was a bit of a blur after that but I must say that West’s service was superb and they made our special night unforgettable. A table adjacent to us sent over a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Complete strangers to us being so generous…it was all really quite heartwarming. Before we left that night, Kate said we should come back next year to celebrate. Now that West holds such a special place in our hearts, I’m sure we’ll be back many, many, many times before then.
  9. KitchenQueen, Here in Canada, Anna Olson is our celebrity pastry chef. I have all of her books and most of her recipes are quite reliable. I haven't tried this cashew cookie recipe but it seems quite simple: http://www.foodtv.ca/recipes/recipedetails.aspx?dishid=3973 Good luck!
  10. This weekend, I baked off my dough for Ling's Chocolate Toffee Butter cookies (from last year) and Ina Garten's Jam Thumbprints. At work, Ling's cookies went over REALLY well. One of the RNs said that all she wanted for Christmas were these cookies! Ling's recipe is wonderful because it makes so many cookies...great for a cookie exchange. I found Ina's recipe a little more fiddly than I can handle. They turn out to look quite lovely and taste delicious but it took a lot of work to get there. On a positive note, it's a great thumbprint recipe because my mother's version doesn't bake the jam. Everytime Mom wants to serve her thumbprints she's got to get the jam jar out and add a dollup to each cookie. I prefer a recipe where the jam is baked and set so it makes for easy presentation and packaging. This year, I'm trying to develop my "cookie repertoire" that so many of you already have. I know that I will always make Martha's chocolate crackle cookies and her carrot cake cookies but now I may add Ling's to the bunch. I would also like to find the ultimate thumbprint recipe. Next, I'm going to give the Macrina Cookbook's Angel Thumbprint recipe a try.
  11. Every year I use the Martha Stewart recipe. It never fails me. It's from her 2001 Holiday Cookies issue. The one on her Everyday Food website is basically the same as the one in her magazine except it's halved: http://www.marthastewart.com/page.jhtml?ty...&catid=cat17924
  12. Over the last week I've made the buttery jam cookies (p.80), linzer sables (p. 134) and the fresh ginger and chocolate gingerbread (p.212). The buttery jam cookies didn't turn out as well as I had expected. Mine were very dry. The linzer sables were fun to make and eat! Quite tasty. I don't usually bake this type of cookie as it's difficult to pack up and give away. The jam gets all over the place. The chocolate gingerbread cake was a huge hit! I just loved the bittersweet chocolate frosting. So easy to prepare and it really "fancied up" this sheet cake. I was expecting over-done edges from Dorie's recipe description but mine were fine. It took much longer in my 350 degree oven to bake. Probably around 1 hour at least.
  13. I've been a vegetarian now for pretty much 14 years and I can say that my absolute favourite cookbook is "Moosewood's Low-Fat Favourites". I've used it over and over and over again. I've tried many different cookbooks over the years but this one never lets me down. I've probably made ~40% of the recipes from it over the past 5 years...which I think is a lot from one book. As for Moosewood, I don't find their recipes bland as someone said above. All of their recipes have a reasonable amount of ingredients that are all fairly easy to find in your local grocery store. I also enjoy how they suggest menus to go with each dish. I feel within the label "vegetarian" there are a number of different types (those that eat fish, the very health conscious, the animal lovers and those that just don't like the taste of meat or any substitute). Each type of vegetarian is looking for a certain kind of cookbook to cater to their needs. I think you have to keep this in mind when buying for someone. I know I've received a lot of vegetarian cookbooks in the past that I have just given away because I knew I would never use them. Personally, if I were your giftee, I would appreciate to be asked what I wanted. If she is a vegetarian who likes to cook, I'm sure she's had her eye on a few at her local cookbook store!
  14. Ever since Patrick S posted his photographs of Dorie's Rum Drenched Vanilla Cakes (p.226) and Black and White Banana Loaf (p.232), I've had a hankering to try both of these recipes. I made my vanilla cakes with a HEALTHY drenching of rummy syrup! It's a wonderful pound cake and I look forward to trying the variations in the future. How great would the lemon version be in the summer with strawberries? My attempt at the Black and White Banana loaf produced a rather dense cake. I'm not sure what went wrong. I definately noticed a huge difference between my two batters (the chocolate batter was much drier). In some areas of the loaf, this chocolate batter sunk right to the bottom. Tonight, I baked off my dough for the Espresso Chocolate Shortbread cookies (p.125). I used a 1.5" square cookie cutter instead of following Dorie's instructions to slice the dough. They came out as pretty as the picture in the book! I cut out all of my "cookie dough squares" and then kept the remainder to be baked off in the freezer while the others went in the oven. I find that's the key to cookies keeping their shape. Keep the dough very cold just prior to putting them in the oven. Can't wait to try the Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread next!
  15. In an effort to use up some whole milk, I baked a few of Dorie's breakfast treats over the weekend. First up were her Allspice Crumb muffins. My only comment about this recipe was that it made too much streusel (for me). I had over half of it left over in the bowl after I generously topped my muffins with it. The flavour of the allspice was more subtle than I was expecting. Next, I made the Oatmeal Breakfast bread (p.44). What a hit! Unfortunately, the muffins were passed over in lieu of this. Very moist and delicious. I baked mine with dried figs. I will be definately making this recipe again and again. Finally, I had my first disappointment from this book. Honestly, I should have stopped at the bread because I blame the mistakes on myself being "baked-out". I made the Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes (p.188). First, I didn't grease my tin enough so when removing the bundts a few of them lost large chunks of their tops. Then, I ran into the same problem that Becca Porter did with the glaze. Once I added the syrup to the chocolate, the whole thing turned into a solid! Instead of re-reading this thread to sort out the problem, I tried twice to no avail. In the end, after running out of bittersweet chocolate, I just melted more milk chocolate in the microwave and drizzled it on top.
  16. Now that it's nearing the end of November, I've been hoping for someone else to revive this thread but I can wait no longer! Inspired by Ling's lime melt aways, I decided to get out my mixing bowls and start baking this weekend. I also whipped up a batch of Martha's carrot cake cookies and her chewy chocolate gingerbread. The latter were VERY well received and I will definately make them again this season. Also on the "to do" list this year, Ina Garten's jam thumbprints and CI's soft & chewy molasses spice cookies. Let the baking begin!
  17. I just picked up this month's Chatelaine magazine and there's a recipe for eggnog trifle by Anna Olson. Looks delicious and nut-free! I found the recipe online here: http://www.foodtv.ca/recipes/recipedetails.aspx?dishid=3715 The version of this recipe that's in the magazine uses cranberries instead. I couldn't find it on the Chatelaine website but if you'd like it, PM me. I'll send it your way.
  18. We hosted a martini party last night and I decided it would be apropos to serve Dorie's tiramisu cake (p.266). A boozy cake to go with our boozy drinks! As for recipe notes, I wish I had been more liberal dousing my cake layers with the espresso syrup. I was concerned it would lead to a mushy cake but instead--as you can see with the picture--the syrup barely permeated. The cake layers are actually quite dry (or at least mine were) and so they could have done with a bit more moisture from the syrup. I didn't use the 1 1/4 cups that she recommended for the filling as I was worried I wouldn't have enough. I probably used about 3/4-1 cup of the frosting between the layers and that gave me exactly enough to cover the rest of the cake. What I enjoyed most about this cake recipe is that it's so unexpected. When biting into it, you expect to taste chocolate but the coffee flavour and tartness from the marscarpone are a wonderful surprise!
  19. I baked the double apple bundt cake (p. 184-185) earlier this week. In Canada, I find it difficult to find apple butter. I ended up buying some organic stuff at our local, overpriced natural foods store. A 17oz jar cost $5.99 (and that's on sale)! I should just make my own. Anybody know of a good recipe? I made my bundt with pecans and without the icing. I froze half of it to nibble on this weekend. It went over very well at work with my collegues. Usually, it takes all morning for my baking to be polished off but I think this went in just over an hour!
  20. My favourite recipe is Ina Garten's banana crunch muffins from her first Barefoot Contessa cookbook. They are absolutely delicious. I've tried many banana muffin recipes and these reign supreme! What I think is key for a good recipe is a lot of bananas and a contrast in textures. Ina's has 2 cups of bananas for 18 muffins and walnuts. I won't go into to details as to obey eGullet posting rules but I can send you the recipe if you wish.
  21. First off, I have to say how thoughtful you are to do this research for your friend! I'm a vegetarian living in Vancouver and the most well-known veggie restaurant has to be The Naam: http://www.thenaam.com/ I haven't been to Crave but I hear it's good: http://www.craveonmain.ca/ Sanafir has vegetarian tapas: http://www.sanafir.ca/ The great thing about Vancouver is that most restaurants have at least one meat-free option on their menu. Have a wonderful visit to Vancouver. Hopefully, it stops raining for you...
  22. I've been on a baking spree lately. I just...can't....stop. For me, it's a stress reliever. I come home from a difficult day at work and bake a bundt cake. Suddenly, all is good again. On Saturday night, I made the Lots-of-Ways Banana cake (p.204). I topped it with Martha Stewart Baking Handbook's dark chocolate frosting as I didn't have the ingredients for Dorie's suggestions. That and I'm a little scared of the marshmallow frosting recipe. I'm a novice baker and anything to do with a candy thermometer is way beyond my abilities! The banana cake was very moist and baked in only about 35 minutes. Today, I made the now infamous chocolate chip cookies and the cocoa-nana bread (p.46). With the cookies, I didn't have the spreading problem but I did what I usually do with all my cookie dough. I make the dough, wrap it in saran wrap and leave it in the fridge to rest for a few hours. Then I bake the cookies off from the chilled dough. Always guaranteed to give me nicely formed cookies. The cocoa-nana bread took a very long time to finally set in the middle. I tented with foil as directed but it still got quite dark on the top. Haven't tasted it yet but it smells delicious.
  23. I realized after I posted about the coconut cream substitution in my coconut tea cake that I made a mistake. I wanted to clarify that I made the cake with cream of coconut not coconut cream. In Dorie's glossary at the end of the book, she actually suggests not to use the coconut cream. Cook's Illustrated "Holiday Baking" recommends cream of coconut over coconut milk when baking. Interestingly enough, when I compared the nutritional analysis (including sugar and fat content) of my coconut milk and my cream of coconut there wasn't much of a difference. I wonder if I'll notice a difference when I make it with the coconut milk this week? The version I made of the tea cake with the cream of coconut was very flavourful. I'm learning so much from baking my way through this book so this is the latest. There is a difference between coconut milk, coconut cream and cream of coconut!
  24. I finally tried the coconut tea cake (p. 194-195) tonight. I made the lime version. Midway through baking, I cracked the oven and a waft of pina colada came bellowing out. It smells delicious! The recipe produced a wonderfully light, moist cake after only about ~50 mins in my oven. After reading the "Holiday Baking" issue by Cook's Illustrated, I decided to try the cake with coconut cream instead of the suggested coconut milk. CI reported the cream to provide a more intense flavour of coconut than the milk. Next week, I'll try it again with the milk and see if there is a difference. I also want to try toasting the coconut next go around. Earlier this week, I whipped up a batch of the great grains muffins (mine had dried figs and cranberries instead of the prunes) and chocolate chunkers (p. 70). A few of my cookies tended to fall apart during the baking process. Luckily, as they cooled, the cookies that "exploded" seemed to meld together. They didn't look pretty but tasted yummy nonetheless.
  25. Kathy, all of your accolades over the coconut tea cake has inspired me to tackle that recipe next. Looking forward to seeing what the fuss is all about. This weekend, I've been baking for my mother who has been visiting. Tonight, I made the chipster-topped brownies (p.94). They were enjoyed still warm from the oven. I think these brownies would have paired well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I found that my cookie layer top to the brownies got a little too brown. I should have tented with some foil as Dorie has suggested with other recipes. Earlier in the week, I made the classic banana bundt cake (p. 190). Very moist and enjoyed by all of my co-workers. My crummy photography doesn't do it justice. I've made the dough for the chocolate chunkers (p.70) and will probably bake them off tonight. Then onto the coconut cake!
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