Bobbette & Belle Cookbook Review

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I am absolutely dessert obsessed. When this gorgeous cookbook arrived at my doorstep, (Thank you Penguin Random House for generously sending it over in exchange for a review!) I was absolutely thrilled! Needless to say I had it all tabbed up with my favourites within minutes.

French-inspired pastry shop Bobbette & Belle based in Toronto, Ontario released this beauty late last year. This cookbook features a collection of over 100 recipes and variations of desserts all of which they sell in their pastry shop. While I have not had the opportunity to visit the shop (new mom problems), they have a line of treats they sell at The Bay Eaton Centre. Whenever I feel sorry for myself I will purchase a pack of their Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. They definitely aren’t cheap so I consider it an absolute treat and let me tell you….they are soooo worth the price. I was head over heels when I discovered this cookie recipe was revealed in the cookbook and yes they do taste almost the same!

The beginning of the book takes us to the Bobbette & Belle Story, essential tools and ingredients, general baking tips, tips for specific pastries and alternative baking & dietary restrictions. The sections are brief and not overwhelming (thank you!)

Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Classic Cookies and Bars
  • Cupcakes
  • Layer Cakes
  • Loaves, Scones, Bundts and Tortes
  • Crumbles, Tarts and Pies
  • French Macarons
  • Chilled Crème Desserts
  • Confections and Sweets
  • Buttercreams, Frostings, and Fillings

Also included at the end: A source guide, conversion chart and a cross-referenced index.

The Recipes

Recipes are fairly easy to follow. Ingredients are listed in order of use and each recipe begins with a story, which I love. Ingredients are basic and most can be found at your local grocery store. All recipes have little tips at the bottom to help you through your baking. Hands on and total time are not included in the recipes however you will find the amount each recipe yields. The photography is GORGEOUS and each recipe has a picture.

Some of the recipes I have tabbed up:

  • Double Chocolate Fleur De Sel Cookies
  • Shortbread Cookies
  • Amaretti Cookies
  • Death by Chocolate Brownies
  • Pecan Caramel Churchill Squares
  • Cinnamon Pinwheels
  • Double Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Dark Chocolate Brownie Fudge Cake
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Gianduja Cake
  • “No Raisin” Carrot Cake (and may I add no pineapple too! Yay!)
  • Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake
  • Blueberry Scones
  • Sharp Cheddar and Chive Scones
  • Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
  • Apple Crumble
  • Apple Galettes
  • Salted Caramel Tart with Dark Chocolate Glaze

I managed to recreate the Amaretti Cookies as well as the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I didn’t have much success with the Amaretti and I am reluctant to blame the recipe for being poorly written until I reattempt it. I would like to give it the benefit of the doubt and hope that I made an error somewhere along the way! The Chocolate Chip Cookies are amazing and I have made 3 batches of them with pure success every time! Find the recipe and pictures below.

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Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24 Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature but not soft
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups large-flake rolled oats
  • ¾ cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Put oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat just to combine.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture, mixing until just combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once. Add the oats and chocolate chips and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Spoon 12 heaping tablespoons of cookie dough onto each lined baking sheet, leaving ample space between them.
  6. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown on the bottom. For even baking, rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Bobbette & Belle Tip: This recipe is particularly sensitive to the temperature of the butter. It needs to be room temperature but not too soft. If your kitchen is warm, use the butter before it reaches room temperature.

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Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Overall I am in love with this cookbook and it is most definitely one that I will be baking from often!

A big thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me this cookbook in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are 100% my own.

“Sugar” By Anna Olson Cookbook Review

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:

  • Fruit
  • Citrus
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Other Flavours

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

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.

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Mocha Bites

Makes 2 to 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. While warm, toss cookies gently, two at a time, in sugar and allow to cool.

NOTES:

  • 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)

“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” Review

I am a lover of all things Disney. I have a massive cabinet filled with Disney snow globes of all characters and every Disney DVD that has ever been released. When I noticed this adorable cookbook combined with the classic literature of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland I knew I had to get my hands on it!

In “Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook”, Julie Van Rosendaal creates the most sumptuous Wonderland delicacies based on the storyline. Pierre Lamielle creates modern, whimsical and beautiful illustrations that are unlike any other interpretation of Alice that I have ever seen (and probably one of my favourite parts of the book, other than the recipes themselves!)

It never occurred to me how many references there are to food items throughout the story, despite reading and watching the movies several times. What a brilliant idea to create this most adorable keepsake book. Something that I look forward to passing on to my daughter once she’s old enough (and passes the “ripping pages out of books” stage)

With recipes like Alice’s “Eat Me” Cakes with Blackcurrant Icing, The Queen of Hearts’ Red Velvet Cupcakes with Regal Cream-Cheese Frosting, and the Milky Mystic Matcha we can bring ourselves and our imaginations deep into Alice’s Wonderland and feel like we are there right beside her sharing the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Speaking of which, there is an adorable Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Section that outlines each of the following 4 characters: the Dormouse, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and Alice and their own versions of a scone, a savory, a sweet and a unique tea concoction. How sweet!

Included is a section on brewing a proper pot of tea; assembling your cups and saucers, stirring your tea “never clanging the sides of the cup or spilling over the sides”. Another cute little section on tea sandwiches including a visual guide of different kinds.

Another notable (and adorable may I add) 2 pages on Tasseography. I actually had to Google this when I was reading it as I wasn’t sure if it was made up or actually real! For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tasseography is the ancient art of reading your fortune in tea leaves. “The finer the tea, the more detail you will find in the images.” Instructions on how exactly to do it are included along with the creative illustrations with Alice characters on interpreting your fortune wherever the tea leaves may land. Loved it and it is something I would definitely incorporate at my next tea party/brunch with the girls!

It was nice for a change to open a cookbook and not have a thousand pages on equipment and ingredients, etc. Not that I don’t appreciate what authors write (I actually do learn a lot despite being an avid cook and baker myself) but just nice to cut to the chase and see simple recipes that anyone can recreate without a boat load of Do’s and Don’ts.

The Recipes

Each recipe begins with an adorable little “Alice in Wonderland” description of what is to come. The recipes range from savory to sweet including specialty drinks. They are easy to follow and are appropriate for the beginner cook/baker. Ingredients are listed in order of use and instructions are simple, organized and well laid out.

The book is divided into the same chapters you will see in the classic story as told by Carol Lewis. Under each chapter you will find a collection ranging from 1-5 recipes that reflect that particular chapter. Here is an example:

Chapter 4: Rabbit sends in a Little Bill

White Rabbits Cucumber Frames with Three Fillings

Bill’s Brandy Snap-to-Its

Alice’s Little Cake Pebbles

I managed to recreate the Mock Turtles Chocolates, which consisted of pecan halves topped with square caramels and a piece of dark chocolate. They were ridiculously easy to make despite the fact that I left them in the oven too long (opps!) This is a perfect quick dessert to make if you have last minute guests coming over. I didn’t have pecan halves at home but rather pecan pieces that were already chopped so I tried my best to recreate what I saw in the picture.  My picture below isn’t the greatest but hey..they tasted awesome regardless and I can’t complain. For presentation purposes, buy pecan halves!

Mock Turtle’s Mock Turtle Chocolates

Makes about 2 dozen tasty turtles

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (250 mL) pecan halves
  • 24 individually wrapped square caramels
  • 1 bar (3 oz/90g) dark chocolate, broken into about 24 pieces

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees (180 C).
  • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the pecan halves in groups of four, all pointing away from eachother, like the legs of a turtle. Unwrap the caramels and place one on top of each cluster, right in the middle.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the caramel softens and starts to melt. Remove from the oven and place a square of chocolate on top of each caramel, pressing lightly so that the caramel oozes out a bit on the sides. If the turtles have spread out too much, you can push the pecans back together while the caramel is still soft.
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Topping the pecans with carmel squares. Please don’t mind my not-so pecan halves!

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This picture doesn’t do justice! They were so so good! This picture comes from the second batch I made. Can you tell I was running out of good looking pecans? Ha!

Tips from Melissa’s Kitchen:

Use the cooking times above as simply a guideline and not an exact duration to bake/melt. Each oven varies in temperature so it is best to keep your eye on these turtles very often as the carmel melts. I had expected that the carmel was supposed to be oozing in the oven prior to taking them out but I was wrong! I ended up making 2 batches of these because I I had waited for the oozing and by then it was too late…they had started to burn. They only need to be slightly softened when you top them with the chocolate, otherwise the carmel will harden too much causing a much difficult dessert to eat and possibly some broken teeth!

Comment below if you try these out, I would love to know!

** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. A big thank you to White Cap Books for sending over this gorgeous cookbook!

“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” may be purchased at http://www.whitecap.ca for $34.95. For more information on this cookbook, click on the following link: http://www.whitecap.ca/Detail/1770501916

Social Media-White Cap Books:

Social Media-Julie Van Rosendaal:

Social Media-Pierre A. Lamielle:

 

 

 

“Per la famiglia” Cookbook Review

 

“The recipes in this book represent a love of food and family”, author Emily Richards writes in her new cookbook “Per la famiglia” and I couldn’t agree more. In this cookbook, Emily lets us into her heart and her home and shares with us her most treasured family recipes. I come from a Southern Italian family myself and as I was reading through the recipes and short stories, it brought back so many memories of my own life growing up in an Italian-Canadian family. I’ll admit I shed a tear or two looking at the food pictures. Yes…food pictures! Food is more than just food. Food represents memories, good times and big celebrations shared with family. As I read the recipe for Cudduri, I thought of my Zia Rina. I would walk into her home at Christmas Eve and the smell of fried goodness would fill our noses (and our clothes) and all the good times that came along with sharing this food. Beautiful! I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the food photography that accompanied almost every recipe in this cookbook. As I’ve said in other blog posts, I’m a huge fan of great food pics! Pictures are what entice me to recreate a recipe. This cookbook is not short on pictures and I think it’s great that Emily styled her own. It shows how talented she is in addition to creating this beautiful book.

In the beginning of this book you will find a food glossary that includes bread, cheese, cured Italian deli meats, peppers and more. This is a great guide for those who are not of Italian decent, not familiar with Italian culture, and who would like to pick up a few Italian staples. She also has a section on kitchen staples. Foods you should have stocked away, ready to eat at any given time. This section is particularly helpful for the busy Mama or Papa. If your ever in a pinch and need a quick meal, you have a perfect tasty homemade meal ready at your fingertips. These meals are easy to make and can be made in large quantites to freeze or jar for a later date.

Another notable section in this cookbook is the outlined menus for Italian celebrations. Here she goes over some popular celebrations for Italians including St. Joseph’s Feast, Easter, Baptism/First Communion/Confirmation, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day and sample menus you might have on each of these occasions. The rest of the book is divided into the following chapters with recipes included in each: Easter, Christmas, Antipasti, Pizza e Pane, First Courses and Light Meals, Main Courses, Vegetables and Salads, Desserts, and Cookies. Everything you need to know food-wise if you want to celebrate Italian-style.

The first recipe I was inspired to make was the brodo (chicken soup). No pictures beside this one but it didn’t need any. I know exactly what brodo looks and tastes like. This was something I ate at least a couple times a week growing up as I was a super picky eater and my poor mother struggled to find a meal I would like every day. When I first got married, as good Italian mothers do, my mother would pack us frozen homemade brodo for myself and my husband. I don’t know why but I never asked her for the recipe. I remember attempting a Martha Stewart vegetable broth in the early years of marriage that turned out absolutely tasteless. Since then, I had no motivation to make brodo until now. This recipe was ridiculously easy and I am so happy that I made it….well I should actually credit the husband for this one. Sadly as I was cutting a leek, my knife slipped and I sliced 3 fingers. As I was at the hospital, my hubby gladly finished the rest of the soup for me and he did a fine job! When I walked back into my condo, the smell of brodo filled my home and a flood of memories went through my head. I was thrilled that it smelled EXACTLY like my mamas and almost (almost) shed another tear!

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Homemade Chicken Soup (Brodo)

The second recipe I was inspired to recreate were the arancini (rice balls). It is something I’ve also never attempted to make but absolutely love eating. These were also very easy and completely doable for the beginner cook. I found the arancini must tastier in a homemade tomato sauce but completely up to you how you would like to eat them. Here’s the recipe:

Arancini (Cheese-Filled Rice Balls)

Filling

2 ½ cups water

1 tsp saffron threads

1 ½ cups Arboro rice

½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

2 tbsp butter

1 egg

 

Coating

6 oz Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago or Havarti cheese

2 eggs

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs

4-6 cups canola oil for deep frying

Filling: In a large saucepan, bring water and saffron to boil. Add rice; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add cheese and butter. Let cool completely.

Coating: Meanwhile, cut cheese into 16-18 cubes; set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk eggs; set aside. Divide rice mixture into 16-18 balls. With fingers make indentation into each ball and fill with a cheese cube. Seal indentation. Roll balls in flour; then egg; then in breadcrumbs. Set aside on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a large deep saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. Fry balls, in batches, about 2-3 minutes or until golden crispy. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Makes 16-18 balls.

Make ahead: You can make the arancini up to the point of frying them; cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Let come to room temperature before frying in oil.

A couple notes on my experience making these: 

I did not have saffron so I obmitted it completely. I couldn’t find any at my local Longos grocery store and I don’t keep it at home as it is quite expensive.

I made the mistake of not boiling the rice at a lower heat setting for a longer time. The problem with this is that the rice had too much moisture in it therefore making it difficult to roll the rice into balls. I countered this problem by adding a little extra flour to my hands when rolling in order for the balls to stay in place and it worked out perfectly. I also made the mistake of putting the balls in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap prior to rolling them in the coating. This did something to my mozzarella cheese filling…it stayed quite solid even after frying. Note: I have a toddler running around me during the day and for those who do not have children, this translates to unfinished work all the time! Things that are completely out of my control. I also did not have 4-6 cups of canola oil. I had maybe 2 cups or so and used this amount to fry the balls. This required turning them once throughout the frying time. I would recommend either making or buying a tasty tomato sauce to accompany the arancini. All in all, these were amazing! They will definitely become a regular recipe in my family and my toddler and husband loved them!

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Arboro rice after adding cheese & butter.
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Cutting the Mozzarella in cubes..It was a challenge to cut them evenly into 16-18 cubes. I realized I didn’t cut them big enough when I had a lot left over! (Thus doubling up!)
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Flour, eggs, breadcrumbs. My little coating assembly line. These onion soup bowls were perfect for dipping the arancini in to coat.
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Ta-da! The tastiest arancini you will ever have over a homemade tomato sauce.
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Pardon the quality of this picture. These are the eggplant meatballs that were super delicious. I also put these in my homemade tomato sauce as I would regular meatballs.

 

I really wish I could have tried the super tasty looking Nutella Pizzelles! I have yet to purchase a pizzelle maker…it’s on my Christmas wish list this year.

Some other great recipes you will find in this cookbook: Homemade Tomato Sauce, Fresh Creamy Ricotta Cheese, Ricotta Ball Soup, Cream-Filled Doughnuts, Cheese-Filled Sicilian Cake, Genetti Cookies, Mussel Soup, Fried Mixed Fish, Tiramisu Trifle,  Panettone Bread Pudding, Christmas Cookies, Balsamic Glaze, Grilled Sausage Pizza, Fried Calzones, Olive and Rosemary Bread, Roasted Squash Agnolotti,  Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi, Spaggetti Carbonara, Easy Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni, Slow Cooker Lasagne, Nonna’s Meat Sauce with Polenta, Fresh Pork Sausages, Roast Pork, Pickled Hot Peppers, Garlicky Green Beans, Tomato Cucumber Salad, Ice Cream Roll Cake, Celebration Custard Cake, Amaretti Cookies, Nutella Tie Plates (Pizzelle), almond biscotti and many, many more!!

The only thing I would have liked to see that wasn’t there were subtitles under the family pictures! I would look at them and smile and think to myself “wow this is such a great picture, this reminds me of so and so..I wonder who this is!” It was truly heartwarming to see Emily’s family pictures throughout the book and made it all that more personal.

Reading this beautiful cookbook reminds me of how important it is to keep culture and family traditions and pass them on to my children. Italian or not, traditions help to keep certain things that are important to you, in your family. Every family has their own and will create new ones as the years go by. A big thanks to Emily for reigniting the passion in me to recreate, keep, and pass on some recipes that are familiar to my upbringing. The recipes that remind me of big family get-togethers, intimate weeknight dinners, warmth, love, and compassion.

**I received this book from the generous Whitecap Books to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts on this blog post are 100% my own. You may purchase “Per la famiglia” from chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca for $18.77 (price subject to change)