When I was around 12 or 13 the father of my friend Jodi took both of us to visit his Aunt Cavelle, my friend's great-aunt. Jodi talked-up Aunt Cavelle quite high and told me there would be doughnuts for us when we got there. At that point in time, I could never remember having a homemade doughnut before. I was just happy to be invited somewhere that the idea of doughnuts would simply be a bonus, if they were to appear.
When we arrived there weren't any stale doughnuts in a box to be seen. Instead, Aunt Cavelle said her hello's then went into the kitchen to fry up the doughnuts right there! We could here the sizzling of hot oil as yeasted dough was dropped into the pot and before you knew it, Aunt Cavelle re-appeared with a plateful of cinnamon and sugar coated doughnuts and oh-my-gawd they were still hot! They exterior of the pastry was slightly crispy and the sugar mixture coated our lips as it gave away to a soft and pillowy interior.
I can't tell you how many I ate that day but it wouldn't surprise me if it had been 3 since that is how many I ate yesterday when I fried up these Valentine-worthy versions. How sweet it is.
Cinnamon-Sugar Heart-shaped Doughnuts - Recipe
Cinnamon Hearts are little red, heart-shaped, hard candies spiked with a hot and spicy cinnamon flavour. Typically they are only available around Valentine's Day but in this world where stores advertise for the next spending occasion before the current one has arrived you can find them for several months of the year.
I like to play around with Valentine treat ideas simply because all us single gals know February 14th is not just for couples. At least that's what I'm telling myself. We don't need a significant other to have a good time! With a little sugar cookie dough, a simple ice cream base, Alton Brown's doughnut recipe, and a bag of cinnamon hearts, Cupid can take the day off.
Grind Cinnamon Hearts to Make a Powder
Instead of using a bottle of food-dye and extracts to flavour and colour your Valentine treats, grind cinnamon hearts to make a powder. With a coffee grinder (wiped clean before and after each use!), cinnamon hearts can be easily pulverized into a pink powder. Use the powder like you would icing sugar to infuse frostings, fondants, ice creams, or dust pastries with that unforgettable spicy cinnamon aroma and colour.
Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies
I think I might be late to the sweater cookie party on the intertubes but in my world they are a brand new idea. Several weeks ago a post showed up on my facebook feed about hosting an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, complete with Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies.
I shared it with a friend whom had mentioned how she had been baking up holiday treats with her kids and she picked up a whole buncha' fun sprinkles for decorating and we both agreed it looked like fun.
After that post I searched online to source a couple of sweater cutters but everywhere was either sold out or backordered (and in the US) so I gave up. Fast forward to last Wednesday and lo and behold - what is this in the bargain bin at the grocery store? Dozens of sweater cookie cutters, and only $1!
So with a budget of $5 I splurged on some holiday sprinkles to go with my decade old food dyes and whipped up a batch of sugar cookie dough and royal icing.
Now, I have no desire to eat these cookies. I avoid the additives in artificial food dyes as much as possible but for once or twice a year (Easter being the other), it's fun to play with the stuff. Maybe I can put a hole in the top and hang them from the tree?
Sugar Cookies - Recipe
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup fine white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups pastry flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Makes approx. 36 sweater size cookies
Royal Icing - Recipe
1 lb icing sugar
5 tbsps meringue powder or 2 large egg whites
2-5 tbsp water (as needed)
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a night and put up a few jars of jam. It was at the crossroads during summer where so many local fruits are ripe and just begging to be preserved. Some are enjoyed fresh, of course (usually with cream and in a variety of pastries), but the abundance all at once means some have to be put away to be enjoyed later. Strawberries, black currants, blueberries, raspberries, black caps, and sour cherries made an appearance and now that we're into August the peaches, apricots, and elderberries are ripening on the trees. It's sort of a blessing in disguise the tomatoes are slow to ripen this year (same with the corn) as the beans, beets, cucumbers, and everbearing fruits are keeping me busy enough.
When people see my selection of preserves they usually comment on the 'different' flavour combinations I have available. They way I see it, so many other people have 'regular' jam available for sale. Sometimes they make it themselves but more often than not they have someone else do it for them and slap their label on it. That being said, many of the businesses that do this give their own produce to the canner to use. With so much competition on the market for selling jams and preserves, I have to be different. Jars aren't cheap and neither are kitchen rental rates. Combine those expenses with the actual cost of the food such as premium produce (frequently hand-picked), exclusively locally sourced, often organically grown and you can see why it's much more economical for folks to make it themselves.
For those who are DIY'ers, here is the recipe for Raspberry Anise Jam. It's a combination of sweet and tart with a hint of liquorice flavour that comes from crushed anise seeds. For those who appreciate the craft and taste of small-batch preserves but don't have the time to put up their own, send me an email for prices and shipping rates.
I frequently wear an Ontario handmade and dyed headband when I'm cooking which has the phrase, "Stay mindful" imprinted on it. It's a reminder to stay in the moment and live life day-to-day, celebrating what is as it happens. I think about that phrase as the flour sticks to my forehead, dough pastes itself to my cuticles, two timers beep simultaneously, croissants all of a sudden speed up proofing, the dishwasher finishes a cycle, I remember that I forgot paper bags on the counter at home, I curse out loud because I ran out of baking powder, and a Dandy Warhol's song begins playing on the radio.
I can't help but live in the moment or else something will burn. And sometimes it does.
My last post was a month ago! Oops. Winter got a hold of me and I'm just now beginning to thaw out.
It hasn't all been icicles and bitterness. Much of the past month has been spent the same way the two previous to it were: baking breads using locally milled whole grain flours and a whole lot of reading. Kamut, spelt, whole wheats, rye, amaranth, corn, porridges, sourdoughs, croissants, English muffins, sourdoughs, flat breads, bricks, and even my most perfect loaf to date. All this baking has thickened my waistline but expanded my bread powers. I'm looking forward to working off the dough and spreading the good word on whole grains with the sun on my shoulders throughout the coming seasons.
We can all use a little inspiration and a reminder that sun will once again bring the bountiful harvests to our gardens, markets, tables, and souls. Spring is just starting, but the next three months after which strawberry season arrives will be here before we know it.
What is Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fettisdagen - they are all the same day recognizing the 40 days of fasting preceding Easter known as Lent. (Easter is 47 days after Shrove Tuesday; Lent lasts the first 40 leading to Palm Sunday.)
During Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday following Shrove Tuesday, many Christian denominations sacrifice foods that give pleasure and take time to reflect on the absolution and confession of sins. Rich or luxurious foods such as meats, sugar, dairy, and eggs are frequently the foods abstained from during Lent, so the day(s) before the Lenten fast are used as a way to consume those foods hanging around the pantry - basically fattening up before the fast and eating as many 'forbidden' foods as possible.
I've been asked again to provide the sweet endings to a meal taking place next month celebrating multiculturalism. It's a fantastic opportunity in my eyes as the international options available are both astounding and mouthwatering. Last year for the event I prepared Alfajores (Peru), Linzer Cookies (Austria), and Baklava (Turkey) which were well received. Besides those three desserts, the sky is the limit for this years selections.
The menu has yet to be finalized but today seemed like a good day to do a little recipe testing for one of the treats I have in mind. Seeming as Valentine's Day is tomorrow, a little chocolate seemed appropriate. I present to you: The Brigadeiro.
Inspiration pops her beautiful face up just about everywhere you go. In my case it's usually sparked from a craving, a glass serving dish, a pot, a recipe, a food item, or in this case, a tweet. Each Monday, the L.A. Times Food section asks followers of their Twitter feed to tweet pictures of their #weekendeats. Be it pork belly sandwiches, Star Wars cookies, or cascading beers, followers use the hashtag to share their tasty treat pics and if the L.A.Times is diggin' what you shared, they will retweet the pic and idea to their 344 000 + followers.
One of the retweets this morning was a pic of Pineapple Upside-Down Pancakes posted by the blogger from Edible Life in YYC. I thought the idea was fantastic and well deserving of an homage. Plus I love pancakes.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.