Spiced Plum Crumb Pie

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A couple of weeks ago was the New York Times’s “Pie Edition.” There were gorgeous pictures of different fruit pies and articles about various pie traditions. It was all too much. I felt compelled to make this spiced plum crumb pie. It’s fantastic, and the pie crust was almost like puff pastry. I had to take some pictures because the chutney (first picture), with its little rosemary stem from our garden, just looked so pretty. The pie itself looked amazing too.

I like pies, though I don’t make as many as I would like to: unlike this cake trend we’re seeing, where an overly decorated cake which may look very nice will likely taste terribly, there’s nothing to hide behind with a pie. A pie like this has no decoration, just warm fruit bubbling around crunchy brown sugar crumbs within a crisp butter crust. Can you get anything better than that?

The chutney before cookingFilling mixed together

The final product

“Rehearsal” Dinner

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Last weekend, for my Mark’s sister’s “rehearsal” dinner, I offered to make the desserts.  The couple (with some “influencing” from Mark’s parents) chose a chocolate torte with salted caramel sauce, a black forest boule-de-neige, a strawberry-rose roulade, and olive oil ice cream.  I was able to get locally grown cherries for the boule, which were deliciously tart.  When I looked for my torte recipe (which had been listed at FLavoursmagazine.ca — formerly one of my favourite magazines), the website redirected to flavoursworld.com, which was not helpful at all.  I did find it (or at least a very similar recipe) on the Best of Bridge site, which makes me think that the first one was just a copy.  Although I was trying to make this one dairy free, I love the instruction that, when the torte falls, just fill it with whipped cream.  It’s very good advice for more than just tortes.  Mark took some pictures for me, which are below!

A just-cut-into Boule-de-Neige (which mostly consists of a pound of chocolate, some cherries, and some eggs):

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A Strawberry-Rose Roulade, which, although the eggs fell before I mixed them with the flour, rose perfectly and rolled nearly perfectly.  I grabbed some roses from Mark’s parents’ garden for decoration.  There were two more at the end, but someone removed them to take a piece…:

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The Chocolate Torte, with a bowl of caramel on the side.  I forgot to rotate it in the oven, so one side was a little darker than the other:

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Overall the desserts were very good.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t open our windows while I was cooking (due to the neighbour’s air conditioner being very close to our window) do it was 35C in the kitchen while I was cooking the night before, but everything turned out well.

Vanilla Rhubarb Jam

Recent rainstorms in this area caused some of the leaves of my rhubarb plant to fall off.  Rather than letting them die, I chopped them up to make some Vanilla Rhubarb Jam.  It was my first jam-making attempt, and, in my lack of attention, overcooked it thoroughly.   It ended up being very sweet and caramelized, rather than bright and vibrant.  I’m looking forward to making more when my rhubarb recovers, or if I can grab some from somewhere else…

Rehersal Party Desserts

I’ve offered to do the desserts for Mark’s sister’s “rehersal party” the night before her wedding.  Of the long and delicious list I offered, they chose ones that I’m not crazy about — a chocolate torte with salted caramel, and a strawberry rose roulade.  Since the torte will likely have to be gluten and dairy free, I’m trying to find ways to spice it up while having the glaze (which contains much cream) on the side.  I’m thinking spun sugar on the top as decoration?  We’ll see.  I was hoping for something a bit flashier, but it’s their dinner.  

Strawberry Souffles

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We had several egg whites in the fridge and, in my search for recipes to use them up, I found a strawberry souffle recipe.  We only had frozen strawberries, so I thawed them in sugar (to avoid the separation of fruit and juice), then blended them with the lemon juice and cornstarch.  When I mixed the mixture into the egg whites, though, it was very liquidy and didn’t incorporate well.  When I baked them, only the one with the least amount of sauce turned out.  The rest had collapsed egg white around the tops of the dishes and boiling syrup in the bottom.  It tasted ok, but they didn’t work.  I’ll try them again with less syrup, or with a different recipe.

Mini Lemon Raspberry Cake

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I’ve been looking at mason jar crafts on Pinterest and, though I really don’t fully understand the trend, I was inspired to use some of the jam jars I have to make desserts for supper with Mark’s parents.  While the main dessert was vanilla creme brule, Mark’s dad doesn’t eat creme brule for some reason, so I wanted a different dessert for him.  Because I wanted it to be an individual dessert, I thought I could use some of the creme brule bowls we have, but, in looking for ideas, I started down a rabbit hole…  Some of the mason jar recipes are so cute!  I first thought of something like apple pie in a jar or an individual cheesecake… but then I realized that the left over raspberry curd could be reused in a similar cake!  Thus, the result:

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For the cake, I used the same recipe as yesterday’s lemon layer cake with the leftover raspberry curd.  I used vanilla bean whipped cream rather than the raspberry curd/whipped cream mixture in the big cake for a different flavour and for a bit more contrast in colour.  I also halved the recipe so I had two cake layers instead of four.  Two layers would have been enough for four of these jam jars (we only had enough curd for 3, though).  I was really lucky that one of my biscuit cutters fit the jar perfectly, so I had perfectly round cake pieces that were small enough to get into the jar but big enough to squeegee down the whipped cream that got on the inside sides of the jar.

Another picture:

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And, the nice thing about using jars is that, when there was one left over, we could remove the whipped cream topping and stick the lid on it!  It’s a small footprint in the fridge and one less thing we had to saran wrap tonight:

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Now the only trouble is finding something to do with the 8 egg whites I have in the fridge from the creme brule and two cakes…  and getting more jars…

I’m excited to try this cake again this summer with a fresh blueberry curd instead of raspberries.  I think it would go well with the lemon cake.  It also seems like a good recipe for preparing a day or two ahead, sealing, and then decorating right before a party.  Unlike a cake, there isn’t much chance of these getting damaged in the fridge.

Raspberry Lemon Cake

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We just happened to have a carton of old fashion whipping cream (36%!) in the fridge (goodness knows how that got there!), so I decided to make a raspberry lemon layer cake from Bon Appetit.   I added lemon zest to the curd, which made it more lemony than I expected, but it is certainly bright and springy!  I’d like to use raspberries from our garden sometime, rather than frozen berries.  The curd, though, didn’t set as well as others I’ve made in the past — it might have been not using a double boiler… and the several minutes I forgot about it and left it without stirring.  I also made a lemon syrup and poured it over the cake layers because they didn’t seem lemony enough.  The batter was fairly runny, so it settled on the counter, then expanded in the middle (leaving it 1cm on the side and 3cm in the middle).  I overmixed the batter a little too, in an effort to get it smooth.  I should have just ran it through the stand-mixer.  However, I filled it all with layers of curd and whipped cream and dumped whipped cream all over it.  The cake layers themselves are very tender.  I used 10 eggs and a double-batch of curd for this little project.  I also added some curd (rather than the fresh berries the recipe recommends) and some lemon zest to the top for decoration.  I think it looks pretty good. 😀

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Easter Vigil

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So, for the last two years, I’ve used the Easter Vigil celebration as a way to bake a bunch of stuff for other people.  Since I’ve always wanted to make a tiered cake, I’m going to do it this year.  I am going to make a Battenburg tier (as it is the cake I traditionally bring), a Black Forest tier, and a White Chocolate Lemon tier (I think).  I’ll keep you posted on my progress as the date gets closer!

Croissants

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I made a few croissants for a friend of mine.  Two things I have learned: use three oz dark chocolate per 24 croissants (usually I use one ounce and it isn’t really noticeable) and the stretching of the dough before shaping heavily contributes to the flakey surface when they are baked (this time, I thought, “why would that matter?” and didn’t do it…. I ended up with flakey pastries with hard tops :(.  Not cool.)

Soufflé cakes and renovations

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We are currently in the midst of renovating the kitchen in our 101 year old home. Previous owners had wood panelling over the original plaster walls, and someone had decided to paint over the wood panelling in a light pink shade which clashed with the new oak cabinets and the grey floor. Not cool. However, for some strange reason, only part of the room is done in wood panelling; the rest is drywalled. Anyway, it wouldn’t have been such a problem (we could have just painted over everything that was there already), but one of the panels was bulging (we found out that some plaster had broken off, fallen, and pushed out the panelling). We took off the panelling over all the areas with panelling, removed the plaster from the outside wall, put in insulation, and drywalled. We’re just in the mudding process.

This made it difficult to make souffles yesterday. The oven is pushed out from the wall, which obscures access to the baking supply and ingredients drawers. Also, there was dusty sheets over all of the counters and dust over the stove. It took a little longer, but I was still able to make everything I needed.

I made the cranberry-chocolate soufflé cake from Bon Appetit Desserts (a wonderful book; I highly recommend it). I only had four hours to make a dessert for 16 people, but the poached cranberries needed to sit in their syrup overnight, and the recipe only served 10. To compensate, I cooked the berries longer than the recipe suggested so they would cook a bit and absorb some of the sugar and, near then end, added another cup or so of frozen cranberries and cooked them until they popped. I let it sit while I made the rest of the cake. Although I would let them poach according to the recipe next time, the two cooking times of the cranberries resulted in some that were very sweet and some that were nicely firm and tart, which was nice.

In order to make enough dessert for everyone, I divided the cake batter into cupcake tins. This made about 35 cakes and was easier for people to take home. In terms of the actual cake, room temperature eggs do whip a lot faster than cold eggs (a tip from the book). Also, unless I had chocolate that was soon to expire (like this time), or it was a special occasion, I would consider using cocoa powder instead of the baking chocolate.

With the whipped cream, the chocolate didn’t mix into the whipped cream as much as it should have, so it was a little speckled. Also, I wasn’t paying attention and accidentally over-whipped the cream, so it was in firm, rather than soft, peaks. The cream on the pictures below was the last of the bag, so it was a little more liquid than it should have been due to the heat from my hands. Thus, they don’t look as good as the earlier ones. Sorry about the terrible photos.

Cranberry-Chocolate Soufflé Cakes 1

Cranberry-Chocolate Soufflé Cakes 2