Christmas cookie baking for our family starts around mid November, when the Downtown Toronto Santa Clause Parade all goes down. To me this signifies the start of the Christmas season. I am trying to create memories and traditions for my young family and one of them is baking gingerbread with my 3 year old for the big day with her cousins. We bake and decorate all day and wrap up our tasty treats in plastic and she proudly shares them with her aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I loved reading some of the essays in this book and the memories each unique cookie played in that person’s life. “Holiday Cookies” is filled with a collection of recipes and essays from the history of the Chicago Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest. For the contest, readers submitted a brief essay and a recipe describing what made the cookie special to the writer. The book is divided into the following chapters:
Simple Drop Cookies
Sugar & Spice
Fruit & Nut Treats
Brownies & Bars
Most recipes are accompanied by a picture of the cookie, as well as a photograph of the writer. The recipes are all quite simple to follow and most ingredients are readily available at your local supermarket.
I managed to recreate Dorie’s Dark and Stormies recipe which included chocolate of course. This recipe was used by contest winner Colleen Frankhart to get her through a rough romantic patch..and I can totally see why! Let’s just say they got me through the night with my 3 month old colicky baby! Comment below if you get around to trying the recipe.
Dorie’s Dark and Stormies
Prep time: 25 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour
Bake time: 14 minutes per batch
Yields: 3 dozen cookies
1 ¼ cups flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits.
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together in a small bowl; set aside. Beat the butter until smooth in bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed. Add the sugars, vanilla and salt; beat 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add the flour mixture, mixing until incorporated but still crumbly, and being careful not to overload the dough. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface; squeeze it so that it sticks together in large clumps. (If you need to, it’s OK to lightly flour the work surface.) Gather the dough into a ball; divide in half. Shape each ball into a log 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Gently slice logs into ½-inch rounds using a serrated knife (some will crumble; simply press broken bits back onto cookie). Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
Bake, one sheet at a time, 14 minutes; cookies will not look done or be firm. Cool on pan 5 minutes; transfer to cooling rack. Cool to room temperature.
NOTE: Dough can be made ahead and frozen. Frozen dough doesn’t need to be defrosted before baking: just slice logs and bake one minute longer. Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature up to 3 days or frozen up to a month.
I received a copy of Holiday Cookies from Agate Publishing. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. You can purchase Holiday Cookies from Amazon.ca for the current price of $28.43 CAN.
With tips on entertaining, decorating ideas for the home and tons of super tasty recipes for the holiday season, this book is truly for the Christmas lover.
If your stuck on ideas on how to adorn your home with everything Christmas, this book has you covered. A fireside forest theme for your living room or a woodland mantel for your fireplace, each page is filled with beautiful Christmasy pictures on ideas for your home. Don’t know what to cook for your holiday feast? Full menus complete with recipes and pictures have you all set. My favourite part…the desserts of course! A huge bonus collection of all sorts of truffle recipes. A “Bake-and-Take Cookie Party” is a perfect activity to do with the kids with recipes for pecan linzer cookies, chai-spiced spritz cookies, dark chocolate crinkles and many more! Need some gifting ideas that don’t break the bank? A recipe for homemade all purpose biscuit, pancake, and waffle mix all in this 2016 collection complete with time-saving tips. Love it!
Short Rib and Stout Pies, Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Ricotta-Pecorino Crust,Amaretti-Chocolate Tart…yes this book is awesome! I am also loving the Cinnamon-Apple-Bourbon Bread Pudding that uses a package of frozen cinnamon rolls. I am usually a homemade everything kind of home cook but with a toddler and now a newborn, convenience recipes are becoming increasingly more appealing!
Pick and choose your favourites and make something unique and delicious for the holidays. The recipes included are super easy to follow and if you are familiar with recipes from Southern Living you will be well aware that they are SUPER delicious!
One of my favourite parts of this book is the 2016 Holiday Planner included at the end of the book. How adorable is this; documenting everything you do for the holiday season including a calendar for November and December, a decorating planner, Holiday meal prep planning and tips and so much more. Areas to write your Christmas dinner plan, gifts and greetings checklist and holiday memories, notes for next year, absolutely perfection! I love it!
I managed to recreate the Pear Salad and oh my goodness was it ever a hit with the family! We actually ended up eating this salad as a full meal for dinner one night (hence the picture below of the massive salad!) and it was absolutely to die for. Both my husband and I agree it will become a staple recipe in our cooking. I’ve included the recipe and picture below so you can taste for yourself. I can’t even imagine how tasty the rest of the recipes are!
Baby Kale and Pears with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
Serves:8 Hands-on: 15 minutes Total: 45 minutes
Tender baby kale leaves dressed in a savoury, rich roasted shallot dressing are enhanced by the sweetness of fall pears in this festive first course. Use a vegetable peeler to get pretty curls of cheese to garnish each plate of dressed salad.
4 large shallots, halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large fresh thyme sprig
1/4 cup high quality sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 medium-size, ripe Bosc pears, thinly sliced
2 (5-oz) packages mixed greens with baby kale (*I just used mixed greens as I could not find a mix with baby kale)
4 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the shallots, oil, and thyme sprig in a small baking dish. Cover loosely with aluminium foil. Bake 30 min or until shallots are light golden brown and very tender, Discard thyme sprig.
Pulse roasted shallot mixture, vinegar, chopped thyme, mustard, honey, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper in a blender until shallots are mashed. Process until blended, scraping down sides as needed.
Toss pears with 1/4 cup dressing in a bowl.
Toss mixed greens with 1/4 cup dressing in a large bowl, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer greens to a large platter, top with pears, and sprinkle with pecans and cheese.
NOTE: To make ahead, prepare recipe as directed through Step 3 up to 1 hour ahead. Store pears and dressing in refrigerator. Proceed with recipe as directed in Step 4 when ready to serve.
This 2016 Complete Guide to Holiday Cooking and Decorating is definitely a keeper. I am absolutely thrilled to have discovered this annual book and I now look forward to it picking up a copy each year!
Christmas Cookie Swap! More than 100 Treat to Share this Holiday Season
I’ve never actually organized a cookie swap before but if I do in the future I think I would probably make every single cookie in this book…and eat them all before swapping time!
With over 100 tasty treats packed in this adorable book I don’t even know where to begin! Spritz Cookies, Iced Cookies, Filled Cookies, you name it, it’s in there. The book is divided into the following chapters:
Cookies for Santa
Brownies and Bars
Also included is a small section on Christmas cookie basics, tips on assembling a cookie platter (super cute!) and metric equivalents. The recipes are SUPER easy to follow and directions are short and simple. The ingredients are also very accessible and easy to find at your local superstore. Each recipe begins with a short description of the particular cookie as well as a picture of the cookie (yes! Love it). If you’re a cookie junkie like me, you will love this book to pieces and it’s a must have in your baking library.
Some of my favourite recipes:
Pretzel-Toffee-Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Coconut Macadamia Shortbread
Snickerdoodle Spritz Cookies
Chocolate-Dipped Pecan Shortbread Squares
Hazelnut and Brown Butter Biscotti
Hidden Kiss Cookies
Frosted Mocha Espresso Brownies
German Chocolate Cake Truffles
Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Pretzel Bites
And so many more!!!
I managed to recreate the Pretzel Toffee Blondies and they were deee-licious! Perfectly salty and sweet and they were a huge hit at work. Check out the recipe below and if you make them, let me know how it goes and post below!
PRETZEL-TOFFEE BLONDIES (pic below)
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Makes: 16 Blondies
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
22 small pretzel twists, chopped
12 chocolate-covered small pretzel twists, chopped
4 (1.4oz) bars chocolate-covered English toffee candy, chopped (I used Skor)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Stir together the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl with a spoon until blended. Add the vanilla, salt, and egg; stir with a wire whisk until blended. Stir in the flour until blended. Stir in the pretzels and toffee candy. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 24 to 26 minutes or until set and a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out almost clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store loosely covered.
All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. A huge thank you to Time Inc Books for generously sending over a copy of Christmas Cookie Swap! in exchange for an honest review. Christmas Cookie Swap! is available to Amazon.ca for the current price of $23.68 CAD.
Being of Italian decent, I’ve made it a personal mission recently to make the perfect biscotti. So I went on a hunt to find the best biscotti cookbooks and stumbled upon “Ciao Biscotti” by Domenica Marchetti. This book is filled with a wonderful collection of sweet and savory biscotti recipes. Did I just say savory? I don’t know if I have been in the dark or what but I have never ever heard of savory biscotti before! This to me sounds delicious with a warm plate of brodo (Italian chicken soup)!
This cookbook begins with a section on biscotti basics. I found this section to be very helpful as making biscotti aren’t quite the same as making say, drop cookies or cookies that are rolled out and baked. So if you are truly dedicated to creating the most perfect biscotti, I would recommend reading this section! One thing I would have to disagree with is her storage suggestions. She says that she does not recommend freezing biscotti, as they tend to lose their crunch. My Nonna ALWAYS froze her homemade biscotti and let me tell you…they were definitely crunchy after defrosting! However, this could also be a result of certain ingredients and/or the way it was stored.
Each recipe begins with a little description of the particular biscotti recipe. Every recipe name is an indication as to what is in the biscotti (love that may I add). Ingredients are listed in order of use and directions are quite simple to follow. Ingredient list is not overwhelming and the recipes in general I would say are appropriate for the moderately advanced baker. (may possibly be a bit of a challenge for the beginner baker) Keep in mind that practice makes perfect and reading the biscotti basics in the beginning is essential in creating the most perfect biscotti!
Chapters are divided into the following:
Chocolate and Spice
Biscotti with Fruit
The Savory Side
Some of the tasty recipes that caught my eye: Hazelnut, Chocolate Kisses, Chocolate-Ginger, Chocolate Studded, Chocolate-Dipped Toasted Coconut, Cappuccino Dunkers, Green Tea with White Chocolate Glaze, Spiced and Iced Ginger, Pistachio Amaretti , Cornmeal with Rosemary & Parmigiano, Sun-Dried Tomato & Fennel.
I decided to recreate the Browned Butter & Toblerone Biscotti. These looked absolutely delicious and I really wanted to win my Dad over with these…he LOVES Toblerone! These turned out delicious however I do wish I was able to taste more of the Toblerone. The flavour was very subtle. To compensate for it, I drizzled double the chocolate on top, just cause… well that’s what I do!! Read below to find pictures of my experience making it along with the full recipe! If you get the chance to make them, comment below!
BROWNED BUTTER & TOBLERONE BISCOTTI
Makes about 32 large biscotti
2 ¾ cups/340 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ Tsp baking powder
½ Tsp fine sea salt
8 Tbsp/115g unsalted Butter
¾ cup/150g sugar
1 Tbsp brandy
2 Tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tsp pure almond extract
3 large eggs
One 3.52-oz/100g Toblerone bar, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 oz/115g semisweet chocolate, melted
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Set aside.
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Continue to cook the butter, stirring continuously, until it foams, turns clear, and then turns a deep brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let the butter cool for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is no longer hot.
Pour the sugar, brandy, vanilla, and almond extract into the bowl and beat on low speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Dump in the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a soft, sticky dough has formed (it will be very soft).
Toss in the chopped Toblerone bar and mix on low just until incorporated. Using a spatula, scrape the dough onto a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap. Pat it into a disk, wrap, and set in the refrigerator to chill for 30 to 60 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly coat an 11-by-17-in/ 28-by-43-cm baking sheet with the oil.
Cut the chilled dough in half. Place one portion on one half of the baking sheet and use your hands and fingers to roll, stretch , and pat the dough into a log about 4 in/10cm wide and 10 in/25 cm long. Shape the second piece of dough in the same way. Press down on the logs to flatten them out a bit and make the tops even.
Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until they are just set- they should be springy to the touch and there should be cracks on the surface. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Gently slide an offset spatula under each log to loosen it from the baking sheet. Let the logs cool for 5 minutes, and then transfer them to the rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 F (165 C).
Transfer the cooled logs to a cutting board and, using a Santoku knife or a serrated bread knife, cut them on a diagonal into ½- in-/12-mm-thick slices. Arrange the slices, cut-side up, on the baking sheet (in batches if necessary) and bake for 8 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 8 minutes, until they are crisp and golden brown. Transfer the slices to the rack to cool completely.
Arrange the slices cut-side up on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Dip a fork into the melted chocolate and wave it back and forth over the biscotti to create drizzles and droplets (you may not use all the melted chocolate, depending on how much drizzle you want). *Melissa’s NOTE: I drizzled quite a bit of chocolate and still had lots of chocolate left over. Enough to dip about 10 strawberries…which is exactly what I did! J
Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for the chocolate to set. Let the biscotti return to room temperature before serving. The biscotti will keep for up to 10 days in an airtight container stored at room temperature.
WHAT TO DRINK: Perfect with a shot of espresso on a cold afternoon.
I loved this cookbook on biscotti. There are very few if any out there and this book is most definitely a keeper for me. I really look forward to making some of the other recipes mentioned above!
“Ciao Biscotti: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Celebrating Italy’s Favorite Cookie” by Domenica Marchetti can be purchased on Amazon.ca for the current price of $19.42. Price is subject to change.
For those of your who are unfamiliar with FBC, check out their website at foodbloggersofcanada.com. I have been a proud member for a couple months now. When I first started to blog, I really didn’t know where to start and what to do. I knew I wanted to write about cookbooks and food as it was my passion so I turned to FBC for help. They provide a network of other food writers throughout Canada and much inspiration may I add for creating my own blog. They also have a ton of resources for food bloggers like myself.
A huge thank you to FBC for this wonderful feature!
I was super thrilled when I was asked to participate in the “On The Table” Blog Tour from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen (Simon & Schuster Canada). If you read my blog post on Canadian Living’s “The Ultimate Cookbook”, you know how much of a fan I am of The Canadian Living Magazine!
Canadian Living recently released a series of Cookbooks all highlighting various themes including the following:
Pasta & Noodles
Make it Ahead
400 Calorie Dinners
Sweet & Simple
Fish & Seafood
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Canadian Living recipes, let me tell you they are some of the absolute best! Each recipe is Tested-Till-Perfect, which means little to no errors when you reproduce it in your own kitchen with zero professionals around you. Each recipe is tested using the same ingredients you find in the grocery store yourself and the same household appliances you use at home. This is precisely why I love Canadian Living recipes. The Canadian Living test kitchen puts us readers first and thinks about convenience, availability, and practicality for the average person at home.
I have been fortunate enough to review the “Fish & Seafood” Cookbook, which features 110 of the tastiest recipes in this category. The beginning of the book takes us to some Fish and Seafood Basics then jumps right into to recipes with the following categories:
Sandwiches & Wraps
Pastas & Noodles
Fried & Seared
Broiled & Grilled
Steamed & Boiled
Stews & Curries
Recipes in this book are super easy to follow with most recipes having a decent and doable amount of ingredients. Directions are simple to follow and appropriate for the beginner home cook. Each recipe includes hands-on time, total time, amount the recipe produces, nutritional information, tips from the test kitchen as well as serving recommendations. Recipes in the index at the back of the book are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourite recipe. If you can’t remember the name, just look up a main ingredient. Perfect!
I managed to recreate the Cioppino Soup recipe on page 34. I can’t lie, I called my mother over to help me out a bit with this one as I am 9 months pregnant and was afraid the scent might have bothered me. To my surprise, it smelled AMAZING as it was simmering away on the stove! My husband absolutely went nuts for it and the recipe was ridiculously simple to make. It has already become a staple recipe and thanks to its simplicity, I have made it twice! Scroll below to find the recipe and pictures from my experience recreating it. I think the only tweaks I would have made would be to add a bit more salt and pepper. I ended up using Haddock as my white fish. Be sure not to skip or replace the clam juice. This gives the dish A LOT of flavour.
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings. (or if your husband or yourself or anyone you are making this for is anything like my own husband the serving is probably for 2….or 1)
What you need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic minced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup bottled strained tomatoes (passata)
1 tsp pepper
225 g jumbo shrimp (21 to 24 count), peeled and deveined
225 g skinless firm white fish fillet (such as cod or halibut), cut crosswise in strips
How to make it:
In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Pour in wine; cook, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, oregano, pepper and clam juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in shrimp, scallops and fish; cover and cook over medium heat until shrimp are pink, and fish and scallops are opaque throughout, about 5 minutes.
TIP FROM THE TEST KITCHEN
If your scallops are more than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick, halve them horizontally to ensure they cook in the same amount of time as the shrimp and fish.
Overall this book was fantastic as are the rest of the books in the newly released series mentioned above. You may purchase “Fish & Seafood” By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen at Amazon.ca for the current price of $19.73 CAN (price is subject to change). But better yet, you could win all the books in this series thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada!! Click on the link below to enter!
I absolutely love Anna Olson. I used to watch her religiously prior to Food Network changing the programming. She used to be on regularly in the mornings and I would always be looking up the recipes she recreated on her shows. I also was lucky enough to meet her in person a couple years back at a Food show in Toronto and she is one of the most down to earth, friendly chefs I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
“Sugar” is one of Olson’s older books but I have to say it is definitely a keeper. The beginning of the book takes us to a variety of baking basics including ingredients, tools and techniques. If you’re a frequent baker, stuff you likely already know. Chapters are divided into the following:
Each chapter includes subheadings with various ingredients from that particular chapter making it simple to locate a particular recipe you may be interested in.
The recipes are simple enough for the beginner baker. Ingredients are listed in order of use and are not overly long. Directions are easy to follow and for some recipes, variations are also included. Most recipes include side notes with tips and tricks that I found to be very helpful and super interesting. Also included are storage guidelines for some recipes. The only downside is lack of pictures throughout the book. I love pictures of every recipe. For me, pictures are what inspire me to recreate the recipe. She does include a few but definitely not enough in my opinion.
I managed to recreate the Mocha Bites on page 174. Lets just say I have already made them twice! These cookies are perfect with coffee and are SO EASY to make on a whim. I have a 2 year old at home and currently 9 months pregnant and let me tell you…anyone can quickly whip these up if company is coming last minute! They have a similar texture and taste to shortbread and a good amount of coffee in each bite.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen
1 cup/ 250mL unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup/ 125mL icing sugar, sifted
¼ cup/ 50mL espresso
4 tsp/ 20mL vanilla
2 ¼ cups/ 550mL all purpose flour
¼ cup/ 50 mL cocoa powder
¼ tsp/ 1mL salt
Sugar for coating
Preheat oven to 325 degrees (160 C). Cream together butter and icing sugar until smooth. Stir in espresso and vanilla. Sift in all purpose flour, cocoa and salt and mix until dough comes together. Turn dough onto a board lightly dusted with icing sugar. Divide dough in half and shape into logs. Slice dough on an angle in ½-inch (1-cm) slices. Place cookies upright on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 min.
While warm, toss cookies gently, two at a time, in sugar and allow to cool.
If you don’t have an espresso maker at home, purchase a shot of espresso at your neighbourhood coffee shop.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook and it will definitely be one I go back to often. I do wish there were more pictures but..I guess that means we have to use our imagination!
A big thank you to Whitecap books for generously sending over a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. You can purchase “Sugar” by Anna Olson at Amazon.ca for the current price of $20.86 CAN (Price is subject to change)
When I was asked to participate in the Cooking Around the World Blog Tour, I was absolutely thrilled! I love culture and food and the two together and I love experiencing new and different things. My husband and I used to be avid travelers until we became parents 2 years ago. The most adventure we have now is once a month, heading out to a local Toronto restaurant and experiencing local food. I mean, its not terribly bad but nothing beats getting on a plane of course. Cooking from these wonderful cookbooks gave me the opportunity to bring the countries to us. Read on as I reviewed 3 beautiful cookbooks and traveled to France, The Caribbean and Croatia right from my home and filled my kitchen with the smells of authentic food from these great countries!
“The South of France Cookbook” by Nina Parker
Author Nina Parker takes us to the beautiful beaches of St. Tropez and all the local wonderful food it has to offer. With strong, fresh flavors of Provencal cuisine, Nina shows us her take on classic recipes from the South of France.
The pictures in this cookbook are just beautiful. With a mix of local pictures around St.Tropez and the beautiful food photography by Paul Winch-Furness, I truly felt like I was right there in St. Tropez feeling the warm sun on my back, munching on some tasty food at a local restaurant.
The book is divided into the following chapters:
Drinks & Canapés
Each chapter begins with a chat of Nina’s adventures in St. Tropez and how it relates to the coming chapter. Each recipe also begins with a fun little description of the origins of the particular recipe. Ingredients are listed in order of use and directions are simple to follow. Most ingredients are readily available at your local supermarket.
I recreated the Ramatuelle Bioche and boy was I ever impressed! It was perfectly flakey and oh so buttery and the smell in my house was incredible once I removed it from the oven! This is a perfect recipe to make if you don’t have the time or patience to make homemade croissants with a very similar taste. Find the recipe below along with pictures of my creation. Please don’t let all the proofing times turn you off from trying it out. It takes nothing to leave dough on its own to rise and hands on time was fairly minimal.
Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves
5 tsp whole milk
2 tsp fresh yeast or 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast (* I used instant)
1 1/4 cups (6 1/2 oz/200g) bread flour
2 free-range large eggs, plus 2 yolks, lightly beaten (*I used regular large eggs)
2 tbsp unrefined superfine sugar (*I used regular granulated sugar)
1/2 cup (4oz/125g) soft unsalted butter
Heat the milk until lukewarm and add the yeast and 1 heaped teaspoon of the flour. Set aside for 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat three-quarters of the eggs, the sugar, and a pinch of salt together. Add the yeast mixture, and after a minute, gradually spoon the rest of the flour. Mix until everything is just combined, then cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Now, set the mixer to a slow speed and begin spooning in the soft butter, letting each addition combine with the dough before adding the next. Once everything is incorporated, increase the speed and mix until the dough looks elastic and shiny. Scrape into a clean, dry bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in the fridge overnight.
(* Upon opening my fridge in the morning to check on my lovely dough, I noticed it hardly rised at all. The dough in general seems to be a very heavy, dense dough and not a typical dough I am used to. I am not sure if this is normal or if this was a result of making a couple substitutions. I was ready to start the recipe all over again but then decided to just bake it after the second rising and it came out perfect.)
The next day, line a slightly larger-than-standard loaf pan or two standard 8 x 4 x 2 1/2-inch (17 x 1 1 x 9-cm) pans, with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge and pit it in the pan(s). Cover lightly with plastic wrap and leave to proof for 2-3 hours in a warm, dry place. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Once the dough has doubled in size, brush it with the remaining beaten egg and bake it for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is gorgeous and golden. Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm.
This brioche is at its best in flavour and texture on the same day it is made. It should be moist, flakey and buttery. I did keep it for a couple days and as the days went by it got drier and therefore not as tasty.
Some other recipes you can expect to find: Sticky Buns, Coconut and Wild Honey Bread, Sea-Salted Caramel from Grimaud, La Mole-Inspired Omelet with Chanterelles, Gruyere and Thyme, The Feline Onion Tart, Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Tarragon Pizza, Roasted Butternut Squash with Wild Fennel Seeds, Graniers Spring Rolls, Bun Man Chicken, Vanilla and Orange Blossom Marshmallows, St.Tropez Tart, Buttermilk Scones with Raspberry Jam and Rosewater Cream, Tarragon Chicken with Mushrooms and Chickpeas, Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream and so so many more!!
You may purchase “The South of France Cookbook” By Nina Parker on Amazon.ca for $42.29 CAN or wherever books are sold. Price is subject to change.
“Creole Kitchen: Sunshine Flavors from the Caribbean” by Vanessa Bolosier
With recipes based on classic dishes from Guadeloupe and Martinique, Vanessa Bolosier takes us to the islands with her new cookbook “Creole Kitchen”. Vanessa, a self-taught cook has learned all she knows about island cooking from mother and from her late father who was her food mentor. Food has been and always will be a huge part of her life and you can feel the passion she has as you read each recipe and how it remains special to her. Vanessa goes on to discuss the history of Creole food, what it is and how it came about. She chats about local restaurant and street food and most importantly homemade food.
Included at the beginning of the cookbook is a section on what ingredients you may expect to find in a Creole kitchen. To name a few: coconut vinegar, white vinegar, allspice, cloves, fresh ginger, chilies, mangos, pineapples, a variety of beans, plantains and bananas, breadfruit, cassava, Giraumon (a squash that grows in the Caribbean) and many more. Some ingredients included may not be familiar and may also be difficult to find locally however she give alternatives at the beginning of the book. Also included are some key elements of Creole food and techniques.
Chapters are divided into the following:
Fish & Seafood (Pwasson e fwidme)
Meat & Poultry (Viann e poul)
Sauces & Condiments (Soss e kondiman)
I chose to recreate the Mont Blanc Coconut Cake. A genoise sponge cake with coconut frosting. This cake was supposed to be light and airy that “makes it taste like a coconut cloud”. I am sad to say that mine came out very dense. I am not sure exactly what went wrong but it still tasted great. I loved the flavours of rum and coconut together, it reminded me of something I would eat on vacation.
You may purchase “Creole Kitchen: Sunshine Flavors from the Caribbean” by Vanessa Bolosier on Amazon.ca for $43.65 CAN or wherever books are sold. Price is subject to change.
“Mamushka: A Cookbook” by Olia Hercules
Author Olia Hercules, a native of Ukraine takes us back to her hometown where she grew up eating seasonally. This is a truly authentic Cookbook with a collection of recipes from Ukraine & Eastern Europe. My husband was thrilled when he saw me flipping through this book as his father is from Hungary and many of the recipes he saw took him back to his childhood.
Some useful ingredients are included at the beginning of the book. These include some that may not be familiar to the average home cook. I certainitely did not recognize a few. There are about a handful of ingredients used in the book that would have you traveling to a local Eastern European grocery store (Gherkins, dill heads, sour cherry leaves, Smetana, syr)
If you are looking for a healthy range of recipes, look elsewhere. These recipes are all definitely very indulgent and hearty. Many of the recipes in this book have a lengthy list of ingredients. The directions are not terribly hard but you do need to make sure you have the time to recreate it, as some of the directions are also lengthy. I found the recipes quite unique and in my opinion daring. Many of which I would be a little hesitant to try but perhaps I am not as adventurous as I thought! That being said, the pictures are fantastic and the food does look scrumptious. Each recipe begins with a description and mini history/importance of the forthcoming recipe which I always love reading before deciding to make a particular dish.
Chapters are divided into the following:
Broths & Soups
Breads & Pastries
Vegetables & Salads
Dumplings & Noodles
Meat & Fish
Fermented Pickles & Preserves
I managed to recreate the Zucchini & Potato Stew (Coyc/Sous) I had thought that it would have been super quick and easy but it did take longer than I expected. I was standing at the stove for a good hour or more just frying (not including prep time). The upside: it was super tasty. The downside: time consuming and every single ingredient was fried. I can’t say that it was very picturesque but it sure tasted better than it looked! (promise!)
Some of my favourites that I would love to recreate: Ukrainian Garlic Bread (this recipe looks phenomenal!), Greek breads with green onions, Moldovan giant cheese twist, Stuffed Ukrainian pasta, Ukrainian gnocchi, Garlicky Georgian poussins, Apple sponge, Poppy seed roll.
You may purchase “Mamushka: A Cookbook” by Olia Hercules on Amazon.ca for $39.92 CAN or wherever books are sold. Price is subject to change.
* A big thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending over all three copies of these beautiful cookbooks in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own.
“The Everyday Baker: Recipes & Techniques for Foolproof Baking” By Abigail Dodge Cookbook Review
This is Abby Dodge’s 10th Cookbook, yes 10th! For those of you who are not familiar with her work, Abby is an award winning baking expert and pastry chef. She also has a fantastic blog with the most scrumptious recipes that I frequently retweet. (http://www.abbydodge.com) Flipping through this wonderful cookbook, I recognized some of the recipes right away. I am a huge fan of the Fine Cooking Magazine and Abby is a long time contributer to this awesome magazine. (go figure I like it so much!)
I was delighted to get my hands on her latest book, “The Everyday Baker: Recipes and Techniques for Foolproof Baking”. This book is gigantic and filled with tons of recipes! The first chapter takes us to everyday baking basics discussing everyday baking ingredients and what you should have in your pantry, equipment and tools (with pictures of each tool), as well as some important points to assist with your baking experience. I know many of you skip this section but ever since I started to review cookbooks, I have been reading these sections in each book I review. Despite being an avid baker myself, I have learned a bunch! Don’t skip these valuable sections!
The recipes are divided into the following chapters:
Quick to Make
Pies & Tarts
Puddings & Custards
Included are a variety of sweet and savory recipes. Some recipes include step by step instructions with pictures as well as occasional essential techniques (with pictures) throughout the book. Plenty of pictures of the recipes are included in the book. They aren’t anything fancy but they are still great! Recipe pictures are grouped together in each chapter as opposed to accompanying the corresponding recipe. With each recipe, there are little boxes to the side discussing things you can make ahead, twists on the recipe and other valuable information. Ingredients are listed in order of use and directions are simple enough to follow for the beginner baker. Most ingredients are also easily assessable at your local supermarket. Your favourite recipe is super easy to locate in the index at the back of the book as they are cross-referenced.
Some of my favourites that I have all tabbed up: White & Chocolate Mousse Cake, Salted Caramel-Toffee Icebox Cake, Rustic Country Bread, Double Tomato-Basil Open-Faced Tart, Sweet Potato Bread, Ciabatta Bread, Espresso-Hazlenut Meringue Cake with Espresso Buttercream & Milk Chocolate Ganache..and many more!
I am familiar with a handful of the recipes in this book, as I mentioned previously Abby is a contributer to Fine Cooking magazine and I am a huge fan. During the review of this book, I managed to recreate the Double Tomato-Basil Open-Faced Tart and it was absolutely scrumptious! Find the full recipe and pictures below.
Double Tomato-Basil Open-Faced Tart
For the filling:
¼ cup (2 oz/57g) sun-dried tomato paste. (* I used sun-dried tomato pesto)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 ripe tomatoes (1 lb./454 g total) (multicolored is pretty but not mandatory)
1 large egg at room temperature
1 tsp water
Store bought puff pastry, thawed if frozen (* She gives the option for homemade puff pastry with the full recipe as well but being a busy mom, I opted for store bought and therefore will give the directions for store bought puff pastry)
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling
Table salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. ground Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 Tbs. finely sliced basil leaves
Make the filling:
Put the sun-dried tomato paste and garlic in a small bowl and mix until well blended. Core the tomatoes and cut crosswise into thin slices. Arrange on several layers of paper towels and let drain while the pastry is being prepared.
Assemble and Bake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400 F (200 C/gas 6). Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a nonstick liner. Put the egg and water in a small bowl and, using a fork, mix until well blended.
Unfold store bought puff pastry. Using a sharp chef’s knife and a ruler, trim the edges using short crisp cuts (dragging the blade will pinch the pastry layers together) (*I used two separate puff pastry dough packs that once unrolled were already quite neat and did not need trimming) to get a neat 12-inch (30.5 cm) square. Using your hands or a rolling pin, move the pastry to the prepared pan so that one side is facing you.
Using the back or dull side of the knife, mark a 1-inch (2.5 cm) border around the inside of the square, beginning 1 inch from the the top right corner and ending 1 inch from the bottom left corner, and cut through the dough. (*I used a pizza cutter) This will release the bottom right corner. Repeat with the other two sides of the square, beginning 1 inch from the bottom left and ending 1 inch from the top right. Both the bottom right and top left corners will be released but the 1 inch pastry border will still be attached at the top right and bottom left.
Brush a little of the egg wash around the edge of the center square, being careful not to let any drip off the edge as this will seal the pastry layers. Holding the outer pastry border at the top left corner, lift the border over the centre square and line it up with the bottom right corner of the centre square, making sure the right and bottom edges are also lined up. Repeat with the outer border at the bottom right corner and line it up with the top left corner of the centre square. The two corners (top right and bottom left) will still be attached and overlap each other. Using the tines of the fork, prick (or dock) the centre square all over.
Scrape the tomato paste mixture onto the centre square and spread evenly. Arrange the tomato slices over the paste in one layer, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, the Parmigiano. Brush the top of the raised border with the egg wash (be careful not to let the egg dribble over the edge or the pastry won’t puff).
Bake until the pastry is puffed and deep golden brown and the tomatoes are tender, 39 to 43 minutes. Move the sheet to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using two offset spatulas, carefully move the tart to a cutting board or flat serving plate and sprinkle the basil over the tomatoes. The tart is best when served the same day and can be warmed slightly in a 300 F (150 C/gas 2) oven if desired.
Instead of the sun-dried tomato paste, use one of the following: ¼ cup olive tapenade or ¼ cup basil pesto and omit garlic.
Instead of adding the Parmigiano, after baking, top the tart with one of the following: ¼ cup crumbled feta, ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese or crumbled blue cheese.
Instead of adding the basil, top the tart with one or two of the following: 1 tsp fresh thyme, rosemary, fresh oregano, or 1-2 Tbs, reduced balsamic vinegar.
The dough can be prepared, covered, and refridgerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month.
The dough can be shaped, pricked, covered with plastic, and stored flat in the fridge for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 month. To finish and bake, thaw the pastry, if frozen, spread the filling, and top with the tomatoes.
Overall, I loved this cookbook! Although it will take me a century to get through it entirely (yes it is THAT big and I love it!) It will definitely be used regularly in my family kitchen and become dog-eared over the years! For more information on this cookbook and where to purchase, please see below.
Happy Baking! XO
I received this cookbook from the most generous Taunton Press to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. For more information on this cookbook and to purchase The Everyday Baker head over to The Taunton Press online storehttp://www.tauntonstore.com/the-everyday-baker-071473.html
I’ve had a subscription to The Canadian Living Magazine for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my mother always had a subscription and I would pour over her magazines staring at all the pictures of food, dreaming of the day that I would be able to make them all in my own kitchen. Each month when a new issue arrives at my door, I read every article (yes I’m that dedicated!) and tear out my favourite recipes.
I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly thrilled I was when I started to see advertisements in the magazine that a cookbook filled with the ultimate recipes would be hitting the bookshelves. As I flipped through the book, I started recognizing recipes that I have seen in the magazine that I kept (bye bye tear outs!) all neatly laid out in this perfect cookbook!
For those of you who are not familiar with Canadian Living recipes, let me tell you…they all turn out amazing. The Canadian Living Test Kitchen is composed of industry professionals, food experts, home economists, recipe developers, and food writers. I have been recreating their recipes for years and there is not one recipe that has gone wrong. As a busy mom who cannot afford to lose time, I can trust that each recipe will go right without any errors. Every recipe is tested till perfect, which means they have tested every recipe using the same grocery store ingredients and regular household appliances as we do. No surprises, no strange “where in the world do I find this??” ingredient. Perfect for the everyday cook and busy parent.
The collection of recipes you will find in this cookbook are the ultimates of everything. The ultimate appetizers, the ultimate fish and seafood, the ultimate sauces, seasonings and preserves, and so much more. This means you are getting the best recipes of everything. I have this book tabbed to the max and my dinners planned out for the next couple weeks (no word of a lie!).
I love that this cookbook bypasses most of the usual do’s and don’ts, techniques and ingredients that are typically located in the beginning and cuts right to the recipes. The recipes are so simple you don’t even really need anything else.
The recipes are categorized with symbols above each recipe into the following categories:
30 minutes or less
Complete meal (balanced meals containing protein, starch and vegetables)
Recipes are super easy to follow with ingredients listed in order of use. Directions are also simple and uncomplicated. Each recipe lists hands on time, total time and how much the recipe yields. Also included at the end of most recipes are storage directions, any make-ahead steps that can be done ahead of time (thank you Canadian Living, all busy parents are thanking you!), any variations of the particular recipe and nutritional information per serving. Recipes are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourite. (yes…perfection!)
Chapters are divided into the following:
Appetizers, dips, & spreads
Beef & Lamb
Fish & Seafood
Pasta, Noodles & Dumplings
Eggs & Breakfasts
Sauces, Seasonings & Preserves
Pies & Tarts
I have created several of the recipes in this book thanks to my monthly subscription of The Canadian Living Magazine. For the purpose of this blog post, I recreated my favourite Hazelnut Moose Cake that has become a staple for birthdays in my family. Every one loves it! I get compliments every time I make it and the best part…it contains one of my favourite ingredients, Nutella! This would also be a perfect cake to make for your significant other for Valentine’s Day, I promise you will not be disappointed! (Recipe & pictures below) I also recreated (for the first time) a super tasty and healthy Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup that was a hit in my family as well.
Chocolate Hazelnut Moose Cake (pictures below)
Prep Time: 1 hr Total Time: 4 ½ hr Portion Size: 16 to 18 servings
175 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (175 mL) whipping cream 35%
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) cocoa powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
4 tsp (18 mL) cider vinegar
3 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) ground roasted skinned hazelnuts, (about 1/2 cup whole)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla
1 pkg gelatin
1 cup (250 mL) hazelnut chocolate spread
2 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) whipping cream 35%
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) roasted skinned hazelnuts
Chocolate Cake: Grease 10-inch (3 L) springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Set aside. In bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Whisk in 1 cup water, oil and vanilla; stir in vinegar. Scrape into prepared pan. Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Run sharp knife around edge. Remove from pan; let cool completely on rack. Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 24 hours. Cut cake in half horizontally to make 2 layers.
Hazelnut Meringue: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using 10-inch (3 L) springform pan as guide, trace circle onto paper. Turn paper over. In bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form. Fold in hazelnuts and vanilla. Spoon onto circle, smoothing top. Bake on bottom rack in 225 F (110 C) oven until dry and crisp, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off oven; let cool in oven for 2 hours. Make-ahead: Store in airtight container in cool dry place for up to 5 days.
Mousse: Meanwhile, in small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tbsp water; set aside. In heatproof bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt hazelnut spread with 3 tbsp water until smooth; stir in butter. In microwave, warm gelatin on high until dissolved, about 20 seconds; whisk into hazelnut spread mixture. Set aside and keep warm. (Mixture may separate while standing; whisk to combine.) Whip cream; whisk one-third into hazelnut spread mixture. Fold inremaining whipped cream. Line bottom of 10-inch (3 L) greased springform pan with parchment paper. Place bottom cake layer in pan; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Place meringue layer in pan, trimming to fit if necessary; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Top with remaining cake layer; top with remaining mousse. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and overwrap in foil. Freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw overnight in refrigerator; continue with recipe. Meanwhile, place chocolate in bowl.In small saucepan, bring cream to boil; pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until ganache is thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Run sharp knife around cake; remove from pan and set on rack over parchment paper. Pour ganache over top, smoothing top and sides with palette knife. Refrigerate until almost set and ganache is still shiny yet no longer jiggles, about 30 minutes. Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Candied Hazelnuts: Meanwhile, in shallow saucepan, dissolve sugar and salt in 3 tbsp water over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is light golden, about 8 minutes. Spread nut mixture on parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Let cool. Coarsely chop; sprinkle over top of cake.
The end of the book takes us to the Ultimate Kitchen Reference including a table of equivalents (measurments), cooking equipment, baking equipment, an extensive and most useful list of ingredient substitutions, food safety, meat doneness temperatures & visual cues, and a fruit & vegetable buying guide.
I loved this cookbook and it just might be the cookbook of the year for me. It includes anything and everything and would make the most perfect Valentines gift for your loved one (or for yourself of course) I know that in the next couple of years the pages will get stained with sauce and oil and may get a little dog-earred but I can’t wait to place this ultimate collection on my bookshelf and eventually share these classic recipes with my kids.
** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. I received a copy of Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook from the most generous Simon & Schuster Canada to give an honest review. You may purchase this cookbook through Chapters.Indigo.ca for $40.00. Price is subject to change.
Join myself with Simon & Schuster Canada on Valentine’s Day and cuddle up with your favourite book!