Friday, October 30, 2009

Cranberry Clafoutis with Creme Anglaise


I learned about clafoutis through the internet and and wondered what it would taste like. I have to admit that the funny sounding name was another factor in my interest. They just look so simple and yet so impossibly elegant, homey and yet European, and very French.

This version combines the techniques of France with the ingredients of Canada. Rather than traditional cherries (though I supposes you could put anything in a clafoutis) I used fresh cranberries for a tart wintry flavour, as opposed to the summery cherry original.

This recipe comes from Canada’s Best Chef’s Flavour Series: Cranberries part of a series of cookbooks sold in souvenir stores all over the maritimes. I’ve found that these books have remarkably reliable recipes, considering they come from chefs whiose recipes are often fiddly or require a professional kitchen.

Clafoutis is something like a dense yorkshire pudding/ pancake studded with fruit. Clafoutis type batters such as crepes amaze me because although they are not heavily sweetened but when they are fresh from the oven they have a sweetness and faint caramelized flavour that is almost magical. Really that’s what I love about baking, that such simple nondescript ingredients can become so much more than the sum of their parts.

The juicy cranberries provide a playful contrast to the smooth texture of the clafoutis batter. When you take a bite The cranberries offer a tart burst of sweetness that is particularly suited to a rich dessert like this.

I just wish I had one of those fluted white tart tins rather than my plain old pie plate because I just think their stunning minimalism would make for a much prettier presentation. (yes I am picky about such things.)

This crème anglaise is a basic recipe that everyone should know how to make in a pinch. I’ve made this using one less egg yolk and it still turns out well. It is a custard that is meant to be runny and tastes like unchurned vanilla ice cream, which is essentially what it is. My basic recipe is a great complement to fruits, soufflés etc.

In particular I think the creaminess and vanilla flavour are a nice counterpoint to the tart cranberries and adds depth to the “plain” clafoutis batter.

Cranberry Clafoutis

Serves 6
Time: about 40 minutes

• 2large eggs
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 6 tablespoons heavy cream (35% M.F./ whipping cream)
• 6 tablespoons milk (1 % is ok)
• ¾ cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
• icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using an electric beater, beat the eggs and sugar until frothy. Whisk in cream and milk. Add flour and mix until batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, roll cranberries in 2 tbsp sugar.
2. Spray a 10-inch pie plate or gratin dish with vegetable spray or grease with butter. Pour batter into the pan, then sprinkle with sugared cranberries. Bake until golden brown, about 30 -35 minutes. Cool in pan and dust with icing sugar. Serve warm with creme anglaise or vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

From: Cranberries:Recipes from Canada’s Best Chefs by Elaine Elliot

Classic Crème Anglaise

  • ½ cup whipping cream or 18% cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 or 3 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp vanilla

    1. In a small saucepan, heat together the cream, milk and 1 tbsp of the sugar over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge.
    2. In bowl, whisk the egg yolks with remaining sugar; whisk in hot cream mixture in thin stream. Stir back into pan; cook stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2-3 minutes.
    3. Strain into clean bowl; stir in vanilla. Lace plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate in airtight container until cold, at least 1 hour. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

To make ahead: refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days.

From: Canadian Living Magazine June 2008

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Lieu of Pie.....

So thanksgiving has come and gone and I didn’t get pie… but I got my pumpkin fix anyhow (and really, my mom is better at pie making anyways, hi mom!). Instead, This recipe from the Autumn 2009 LCBO Food and Drink intrigued me. As luck would have it I had all of the ingredients in my pantry to make this pumpkin butter shortbread torte. Think of it as a sexed up version of pumpkin pie. Tender shortbread flavoured with orange zest and Chinese five spice powder, gets sandwiched with a sweet and spicy pumpkin butter full of fresh ginger. The shortbread gets baked into disks and layered with the pumpkin butter then left to chill so that the cookies soften into a cake-like texture, and the orange and spice flavours meld together into something far tastier than the sum of its parts.

But lets talk about its parts anyways.

The cookie layers: The orange five spice shortbread, was a simple shortbread that came together easily. My only change to the recipe was to substitute milk for the cream. The dough tasted really good, with the bright orange zest being a good counterbalance to the warm spices and slight fennel aftertatse. The cookies had a good texture and I would love to make these on their own as individual cookies. The only issue is that the original recipe said the dough would make 7 layers for the torte and I only got 6 layers, which were quite thin. Not that I am complaining, 6 layers is a lot of cookie. I don’t own a 8 inch tart pan, mine is 9 -inches so I did not get pretty fluted edges for my layers because I had to trace around a circle to get my cookie layers even. I think that next time I make this, I might try making mini tortes using my 3-ich tart rings or even pumpkin butter sandwich cookies. The baking time was originally 12 minutes, I had to reduce to 10 minutes because the cookies were quite thin and my oven is crazy hot. Some of my layers got a bit browned on the edges. Of course, those layers ended up being placed on the bottom when I assembled the torte, but that is our secret.

The pumpkin butter:

Pumpkin butter tastes like a cross between pumpkin pie and a spicy jam. It is sweet and thick and spicy, liberally flavoured with fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange juice.

The recipe called for 4 cups canned pumpkin. I suppose fresh would work, but canned is more convenient, and I find has less liquid in it and I decided that it might be better for the torte to have a firmer filling. The pumpkin and spices get cooked together for 40 minutes to intensify their flavour.

3 cups of pumpkin butter gets used for the torte, which means you will have extra. That’s ok because this stuff is also great on my cranberry scones or, you know, by the spoonful.

When it comes together, this torte is tall, sleek and modern and if you make this spread out over a couple of days, takes very little effort. I threw together the pumpkin butter and shortbread dough the night before, baked the cookies in the morning, assembled the torte before running off to class, and it was ready for that evening.

The layers softened up nicely, the torte easily sliced open to reveal sexy pin-striped insides. It has the nostalgic flavour of pumpkin pie, but the exotic hint of citrus and anise, made it much more mysterious and elegant than mere pie, the ingénue of pumpkin desserts.


Pumpkin Butter Shortbread Torte

Makes about 5 cups pumpkin butter (3 cups get used for the torte the rest is great on scones)

Makes 6-7 shortbread discs (you could probably make smaller cookies out of these)

Serves 12


Pumpkin butter:

  • 1 (796 ml) tin pure pumpkin puree or 4 cups
  • ¾ cup orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Shortbread layer

  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons half and half cream or milk (I used 1% milk)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • icing sugar for dusting

    1. For pumpkin butter: stir all ingredients together in a heavy bottom saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature before chilling completely. Makes about 5 cups of which 3 cups will be used for the torte.
    2. For the shortbread layers: beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, orange zest and cream. In a separate bowl, sift flour, 5 spice powder, baking powder, and salt and add to butter mixture, stirring until, combined. Shape dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    4. Cut dough into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 piece of dough to just over 1/8th inch thick. Use the fluted edge of an 8-inch remove-able bottom tart pan to cut out a large disc, reserving scrap pieces of dough. Transfer the disc to a parchment lined baking tray (you can use the flat bottom portion of the tart pan to lift the disc. Repeat with remaining discs of dough , rolling a seventh disc with the scraps (for some reason I didn’t have enough left over for a seventh cookie layer I only got 6 really thin ones). Bake for 10-12 minutes (fitting up to 2 cookies per baking sheet) until just the edges brown. Let cool before assembling.
    5. To assemble torte, lay one shortbread disc onto a plate. Spread about ½ cup pumpkin butter evenly over disc and top with another shortbread disc. Repeat until all layers are assembled. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight before slicing, so that the layers will soften and slice evenly. To serve, dust top of torte with icing sugar.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cinnamon Chocolate Cigarettes

I made these cigarette cookies to go with my coffee ice cream. I wanted a delicate light cookie that would complement the flavour of the coffee without being too heavy. These also use up the egg whites that were leftover from the ice cream.
These cookies are a but tricky:
When mixed the batter is very thin, but it thickens up a bit as it sits at room temperature. I found that the batter was easiest to handle when it started to thicken up. these are essentially tuile cookies that you roll around a chopstick or dowel to create the distinctive cigarette shape.
Making these cookies was somewhat like making crepes, you need to do a few before you get the hang of it.
These use almost no ingredients and the batter only requires a whisk, but the shaping and rolling is fussy and time consuming and will burn your fingertips. Seriously. These roll best when hot. I found after a few batches you establish a rhythm for making these: dollop, spread, bake, remove from oven, roll, ow.ow.ow.ow. fingertips burn, place on baking sheet to cool. Baking these cookies is all about playing through the pain.
If you persevere, the end result will be elegant little cookies to pretty up some ice cream , or a cookie tray.
Some of these didn't quite crisp up as much as I thought they would. They were more like oven baked crepes, but after I dipped the tips of the cookies in chocolate I put them in the fridge and they did harden somewhat to the crispness I expected.
I wasn't sure how these would turn out, but was pleasantly surprised by the subtleness of the cinnamon. The cookies themselves had that sugary slightly caramelized taste like crepes and pizzelles and the mild dark chocolate was just enough to balance the flavour of the cookies with the coffee ice cream and give just that hit of chocolate to pull everything together.

Cinnamon Chocolate Cigarettes
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Time: about 1-1/4 hours
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5-1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  1. Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick liner (now's the time to break out the silpat), or butter a baking sheet.
  2. Whisk together egg whites, confectioner's sugar, flour, butter, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl until well combined. Working in batches of 4, drop level teaspoons of batter about 3 inches apart onto lined baking sheet, then spread each dollop of batter into a 3-inch round with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
  3. Bake the cookies until edges are golden, 6-8 minutes. work quickly when forming cookies; they must be piping hot. Lift one cookie off sheet with a long flexible spatula, then roll it around a pencil or chopstick to for a narrow cylinder. press pencil or chopstick against work surface, seam side down, for a few seconds to seal seam. Immediately slide cookie off pencil or chopstick onto a rack to cool. (If cookies become too brittle to roll, return to oven for 1 minute to soften.) Make more cigarettes with remaining batter in same manner. Cool completely.
  4. Line baking sheet with parchment or wax-paper. Melt chocolate in a meta bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove bowl from heat. One at a time, dip 1/4 inch of each cookie into melted chocolate, letting the excess drip off. Place cookies on lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets. these cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
adapted from: The Gourmet Cookbook

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coffee Ice Cream

I was left with some fresh coffee beans that I wasn't really going to use up because I don't drink coffee. I think I am the only fine arts student who isn't a caffeine fiend. I know people who take their coffee so seriously they even bring french presses to the studio!

In any case, I just don't like to drink coffee. Strangely enough though, I don't mind coffee flavoured desserts as long as they are fairly mild. Coffee goes well with chocolate,vanilla and even spices such as cinnamon and those flavours mellow the bitterness of the coffee somewhat when combined in dessert recipes.

I made this coffee ice cream to use up those coffee beans. The whole beans are infused with milk and cream for an hour, then mixed into a custard as for any ice cream and then given a small dose of vanilla to round out the flavour.

This ice cream tastes vaguely like Tim Horton's Ice Caps (go Canada!) only creamier and with a slightly stronger coffee taste.

I ran out of eggs so while the original recipe uses 5 yolks I only used 4. I think that was enough because the ice cream is very rich as it is. My apartment smelled like a Starbucks, while I let the beans infuse. Even unchurned, the custard tasted like a very sweet and rich latte.

I made cinnamon chocolate cigarette cookies (pictured) to go with the ice cream because I thought the flavour and light cookie would be a good contrast to the rich coffee ice cream, but more on that later. For now just enjoy ogling the caffeinated creamy goodness that is coffee ice cream.

Coffee Ice Cream


Time: about 1-1/2 hours plus churning in the ice cream maker

Makes about 1 quart of coffee ice cream

  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups whole coffee beans
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon instant coffee (optional)

    1. Warm the milk, sugar, whole coffee beans, salt, and ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. Once the mixture is warm, cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
    2. Rewarm the infused-coffee milk mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm coffee mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
    3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Press on the coffee beans in the strainer to extract as much of the coffee flavour as possible, then discard the beans. Mix in the vanilla and finely ground or instant coffee and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Leibowitz (which I don't own yet but is definitely on my wish list!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Potato Bread with Golden Raisins

I had an overabundance of sweet potatoes sitting on my counter that I had neglected to use up. I originally intended to roast them but they were starting to get sprouty and impatient. Ugh I hate when vegetables sprout weird looking bits. Shudder. Anyways with my excess of sweet potato I decided I was going to try making a sweet potato yeast bread. Potatoes are often added to yeast breads because of the way the starch interacts with the yeast to create a very tender end result. But pureed sweet potatoes are another possible addition to yeast doughs, although I’m not sure they have quite the same effect on the texture of the bread. I haven’t made a yeast bread in a long time although they are one of my favourite things to bake, so I pulled out this recipe that’s been languishing in my untried recipe folder for a while. (yes, folders as in physical folders with real pockets. I’m old school )

This is a nice rustic feeling bread. It combines all of the very autumn flavours of sweet potatoes, brown sugar, cornmeal, raisins and citrus.

This bread is so beautiful and festive. It is a dark orange colour on the outside, but when sliced, reveals a golden yellow interior dotted with plumped golden raisins. It’s beautiful gold on gold.

The bread is slightly sweet, but with enough character to stand up to a savoury meal. It has a subtle sweet potato flavour that is brightened by the sharp taste of the raisins and the scent of citrus zest. This bread has a nubbly texture from the cornmeal in the batter. The cornmeal contributes to its rustic character and lends some yellow colour to augment the colour of the sweet potato puree. It is rich because of the addition of eggs to the batter (although there is no fat per se added to the batter) and the brown sugar used in the batter complements and brings out the caramel notes of the sweet potato.

The raw dough is slightly sticky but as long as you keep your hands liberally floured it doesn’t take much work as far as yeast raised breads go.

When baked, the bread smells like a cross between baked sweet potatoes and cornbread. This very rustic harvest bread has a tender close-crumb, and is crusty and chewy on the outside. This would be great for a thanksgiving type meal.

This tastes good with goat cheese, and I’ve also served it to sop up the gravy from a meat meal. It is good for breakfast toasted with honey and butter. But I really think this would be great with some melted brie and cranberry chutney as a Thanksgiving themed panini.

Sweet Potato Bread with Golden Raisins

Makes 2 loaves, about 2 8-inch rounds

No dairy involved!

Time: 4-5 hours including resting time

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree (homemade or canned)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 5-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • grated zest of 2 lemons

    1. Place the raisins in a small bowl. Add ½ cup of the warm water and let stand until ready to use.
    2. Sprinkle yeast in a large bowl. Add a pinch of the brown sugar and add remaining 1-1/2 cups of warm water. Stir just to mix. Then let stand 10 minutes or until bubbly.
    3. Whisk eggs and sweet potato puree in a large bowl until smooth. Add it to the yeast mixture and whisk just until blended. Add remaining brown sugar, salt, cornmeal, 2 cups of the flour and lemon zest. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add flour ½ cup at a time while beating with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. ( You may not need the entire amount of flour. The amount of flour needed will depend on the weather and the type of flour you use. Do not add too much flour or the bread may become tough and dry. You can incorporate more flour as you need the dough if necessary.)
    4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl turning to coat and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
    5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Drain raisins, discard any remaining liquid, and pat dry with paper towels. Toss with 2 tablespoons flour to coat. Set aside.
    6. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or oil and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal, parchment is easier) Gently deflate dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the raisins into the dough just enough to distribute throughout. (I like to flatten the dough a bit, press the raisins evenly over the surface and then roll it like a jelly roll and knead normally, but this is just an idiosyncratic technique I’ve made up)
    7. Form dough into 2 rounds, each about 5 inches in diameter. Place loaves 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover with tea towel and let rise in a warm draft free place about 30 minutes. Use a sharp knife or razor blade to cut 3 or 4 3-inch slashes in the bread so that it can expand and rise as it bakes.
    8. Place in centre of oven. Immediately lower oven temperature to 375 and bake 40-50 minutes or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. (Note: Do not overbake or the bread will be dry. if you plan to freeze the bread underbake by about 5 minutes.) Remove from pan, place on wire racks. Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing. Or, wrap in plastic wrap, place in Ziploc bag; freeze for up to 3 months.

Mary Egelbreit’s Home Companion Dec 2004/Jan 2005

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pear Butter

I found this pear butter recipe in a Canadian Living magazine and decided to make ot because it was a small batch and the concept of fruit "butter" intrigues me.
This simple spread is the essence of pear. all of the additions to the butter the ginger, orange, the browned butter, all add to the complex, floral, caramel flavour of the pears. it takes a while to make but is rather hands off, and a great recipe for those who like pears.

Pear Butter

Dairy makes about 1 cup Time: 1-1/2 hours

Notes: brown butter gives this spread both caramel and nutty flavours, which pair exceptionally well with the bright pear flavour.

If using salted butter omit the salt.

  • 2 lbs Bartlett pears (about 5), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup apple juice or apple cider
  • 2 strips orange rind
  • 1 tsp grated gingerroot
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • pinch salt

    1. In a large saucepan, bring pears, apple juice, orange rind and ginger to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, pears break down and almost no liquid remains, 45-60 minutes. Discard orange rind. Let cool.
    2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat; reduce heat and simmer until foaming and browned, 8-10 minutes. Let cool slightly, strain through a fine sieve into bolw to make 3 tbsp. let cool.
    3. In a food processor, puree pear mixtureuntil smooth. Add browned butter, honet and salt: pulse to combine. Make ahead, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

From: Canadian Living Magazine September 2008