Sunday, February 27, 2011

lemon cranberry loaf

I saw this loaf on technicolor kitchen while I was in the midst of planning the menu for the tea party.  At the coffee/bike shop that I work at part-time, the woman tthat does the baking makes the most amazing lemon poppy seed loaf.  My combined need for more lemon loaf in my life and the pops of red with the cranberries made me instantly attracted to this recipe and I decided to give it a go.  I altered the recipe a bit, doing half milk and half sour cream.  It was quite yummy, but didn't seem to popular at the party.  I suppose people are more attracted to the decadent goods at these types of events.

Either way, I will definitely keep this in mind as a quick and yummy snack to whip up for tea!

Cranberry Lemon Loaf

2/3 cup (150g) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups (300g) caster (superfine) sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
4 eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla
3 cups (420g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup (240ml) milk
1 1/2 cups (220g) dried cranberries

½ cup (70g) icing sugar, sifted
½ cup (60ml) lemon juice

Directions1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the lemon juice, zest, eggs and vanilla until well combined.
4. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the egg mixture, beating until just combined.
5. Fold in the cranberries and pour into prepared pans.
6.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
7. Make the glaze: in a small bowl combine the sugar and the lemon juice. Pour over the hot loaves and allow to cool completely before carefully removing from pans. Wrap tightly to store.

Monday, February 21, 2011

linzer hearts

My friend Melissa - who is leaving to go back to Utah soon : ( - makes the most amazing linzer cookies.  Seriously so good!  I thought it would be super cute to do linzer hearts with little flower windows for valentine's so I decided to give Melissa's recipe a go.  Although mine didn't turn out quite as awesome as hers, they were still yummy and I was very happy with the way they looked.  My mom said they looked like something you'd see at Second Cup...

"Ugh...gee, thanks Mom, that's what I aspire to....Second Cup".
"They don't TASTE like Second Cup, I just meant they looked nice". 

Dear Mom, I love you, but I think it's time to move away from Brampton, to a real city, with real bakeries.  Second Cup should not be the standard to which baked goods are held.

Back to the linzers, Melissa has a recipe up on her site for a pistachio rhubarb variety (also seriously good).  I just swapped out the pistachios for hazlenuts and used raspberry jam.  I'm going to miss Melissa and all of her baking inspiration so much when she leaves.  Hopefully she'll be blogging more so I can keep up to date with her latest creations.  It has been so nice getting to know her and hanging with her awesome husband and the best baby in the world.  I hope our paths will cross again very soon!

Friday, February 18, 2011

every good tea party needs a centrepiece

A few weeks ago when I was taking my cake decorating course, each of us were given a gingerbread house because they had some kicking around after Christmas that expire in June.  Kate and Will had planned on making a gingerbread house in December and never got around to it, so I suggested that the three of us make a Valentine's day house. 

Kate and I went to Bulk Barn (love) and grabbed some v-day candies and the three of us got to work.

This is the nicest gingerbread house I've ever made, and I was super excited about how cute it was.  Kate's fondant bay window really makes the whole thing that much better. 

Plus, I got to put some of my newly acquired decorating skills to good use.  It made a beautiful centrepiece at the v-day tea and everyone was quite impressed!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

cherry almond tea cookies

Now on Sweets for Saturday over at Sweet as Sugar!

As promised, here is the first of the recipes to come from my valentine's day tea, but first, something a little different.  I took today off work as it is my birthday, and I'm hanging out with my friend Margot who came to visit from Peterborough - she was updating her blog and I felt guilty for still not posting any valentine's recipes.  Last night we had an amazing meal cooked by my roomate Kate and her boy, Will.  For dessert we had chocolate pasta with ice cream, strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  The picture is not great because it was too dark in the dining room.  I'd normally make myself a birthday cake, but just didn't have the time this year.  I was happy to have something different and the chocolate pasta was soo yummy!

These cookies popped out at me as something a bit different when I first made them a year ago.  When I was planning my tea party menu, I knew I had to make them because of their lovely pink and red colouring, and delicious light, crisp taste.  If you're a fan of the cherry almond flavour combination, these cookies are a winner!  

 Cherry Almond Tea Cookies
adapted from the Cooking Photographer
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoon maraschino cherry liquid
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour 
¼ cup ground almonds
½ cup drained maraschino cherries, chopped well
½ cup roasted slivered almonds

1. With an electric mixer beat together the sugar, butter, salt, maraschino cherry liquid, and almond extract. Once combined, add the flour and ground almonds and mix until just incorporated. Add the chopped maraschino cherries and almonds and mix together. Roll the dough into two logs and refrigerate for two hours.
2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on the counter for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3. Cut the log into 1/4 inch thick cookies. Place on cookie sheets and bake one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes or until very lightly brown on the bottom. Let rest on the cookie sheets for a few minutes and move to a cooling rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container to cure overnight before serving.

Monday, February 14, 2011

valentine's day tea!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  I know a lot of people out there aren't really into this particular holiday but I've always been a big fan.  A day where you can do a little extra to show those around you how you feel is important, even if you (theoretically) do it every day. 

I showed all the ladies (plus one lucky guy!) I love just how much by throwing a little Valentine's tea party on Sunday.  I'll be sharing my menu over the coming weeks, so prepare for an overload of yummy posts to come.  Hopefully I'll make up for my lack of posts in the last week.

photo credit: the lovely Gigi
How do you celebrate Valentine's day?

Friday, February 4, 2011

chocolate chubbies (brownie cookies)

I made these cookies to go play bananagrams with a friend on Sunday night.  I got a bunch of new recipe books for Christmas.  At the recommendation of Dorie Greenspan, I asked for Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours.  It's a beautifully photographed book with tons of recipes that are both complex and simple.

I decided it was high time I tried out a recipe, and chose these cookies mostly because I had all the ingredients in my house but also because they feature chocolate and nuts - always a winning combo.  They are so chewy, rich and delicious.  I love the shiny, crckly top.  These are a total chocolate overload in the best way possible.  Glass of milk required!

Chocolate Chubbies
From Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours
recipe hosted on

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (no more than 62% cacao), finely chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups (5 ½ ounces) coarsely chopped pecans
1 ¼ cups (4 ½ ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

2. Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put the butter in a wide, heatproof bowl, and melt the butter over the hot water in the saucepan. Add the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate, stirring often, until melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cooled slightly but still warm, about 5 minutes.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Whip the eggs in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until the eggs are foamy and lightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar, then the vanilla. Whip until the eggs are very thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the tepid chocolate, making sure it is completely incorporated. Change to the paddle attachment and reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips, pecans, and walnuts, making sure the chunky ingredients are evenly distributed at the bottom of the bowl.The dough will be somewhat soft.

4.  Using a 2-inch ice-cream scoop, portion the batter onto the prepared pans, placing the cookies about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake the cookies immediately—if you wait, they won’t be shiny after baking. Bake, switching the position of the pans from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking, until the cookies are set around the edges (if you lift a cookie from the pan, the edges should release easily, even if the center of the cookie seems underdone), 17 to 20 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool completely on the baking pans. (The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, with the layers separated by parchment paper, for up to 3 days.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

cake deco II

I can't believe it's February already.  January flew by and I don't have much to show for it in the baking department, but I am making my new year's resolution starting in February to blog at least twice a week. This week, I'll be able to do it because I made two things on the weekend.  Apparently this is the week of chocolate and nut combinations.  It isn't really surprising if you know my love of chocolate, and the fact that I'm the daughter of the world's number one fan of nuts (love you, mom!). 

I had to make a cake for my cake decorating class on the weekend and when I put the question out to my friends who would be eating it, I got such helpful responses as, "something wintery".  So, I googled, "winter cake flavours" and came across this recipe.  I decided to go for that general idea but was rushed so altered a boxed cake by adding pecan butter, spices, milk and extra eggs.  I left out the rum because I'm not huge on alcohol in desserts. I also made pralines (had to attempt these twice - oh candy, you will never be my friend) and chocolate icing to go in the centre, which was quite yummy indeed.  It was just the wintery cake we needed to warm us up after skating on the Rideau canal.

As for the cake decorating class, it was very informative.  I learned A TON, and will have to make an effort over the coming months to put some of it into practice so I don't forget it all.  Here is just a bit of what we learned and the final product, my cake.  I wasn't totally happy with it because I was kind of tired and rushed by the end of the day, but it was still not bad.