Lilac Infused Sugar

 
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Lilac Infused Sugar

  • 1-2 cups Granulated sugar

  • ¾-1 cup Lilac blossoms

Pick the lilac blossoms when they are in their peak. I like to clip off the blossoms along with a little bit of the stems as lilacs need to be pruned once they are finished blooming. Once picked, I find it’s best to leave them outside for 10 minutes or so, just to let some of any unwanted bugs make their escape. Rinse the lilacs in cold water and shake any excess water off. Let dry for 1-2 hours. This will help keep the moisture to a minimum. The moisture will make the sugar hard as a rock as the sugar pulls the moisture from the blossoms as it dries.

Pick the blossoms off the stems of the plant, discarding all the stems and leaves. Place the blossoming in jar or bowl with a layer of sugar started. As you pick the lilacs, alternate with layers of sugar. Give it a good stir. Let the blossoms infuse for a week, stirring every day so the sugar stays loose. You can sifted off the flowers from the sugar if you like, however, I like to leave mine in for added lilac flavour. If the sugar has become too clumpy, I’ll often give it a quick buzz in a spice grinder as well.

How to use lilac sugar

Simply replace in one-for-one in any recipe whose flavour profile would pair well with lilac, such as:

  • Lilac and spruce tip bundt cake

  • Lilac dusted doughnuts filled with pistachio cream

  • Make a simple syrup for cocktails or summer drinks

  • Add to your favourite tea for a little something extra

  • Top a batch of sugar cookies with a little sugar sprinkle/candied flower

  • Lilac jelly

Inspirations are endless!

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Cookbook Review & Matcha Tea Cookies from Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen

 
I recently received a free copy of Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen: Simple Recipes from My Many Mothers from  Appetite by Random House  to review.

I recently received a free copy of Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen: Simple Recipes from My Many Mothers from Appetite by Random House to review.

Ask me what I want to eat when I’m not in the mood to cook and I’ll say ‘pho’.

Vietnamese cuisine holds a soft spot in my heart. Some of my closest friends are Vietnamese, and I’ve enjoyed countless evenings at their dinner table eating their family’s dishes.

I’m drawn to the simple, but complex flavours of Vietnamese cuisines. The sweet, the sour, the salty and a dash of love all come together to make a meal that brings people together.

In her cookbook, Kim Thuy, described how their family uses food as a tool for expressing their emotions. I can definitely relate. Since I can remember, food has been the centre of my family’s gatherings. As an adult, I don’t call my parents or siblings all that often. But give it a couple of weeks, and I’ll have the urge to have everyone over for dinner to share a meal and catch up.

I love how each chapter of this cookbook is dedicated to members of Kim’s family. Recipes are laid out a simply and are easy to follow. Starting with the fundamentals and leading into soups, bowls and stir-fries, vegetables, grilled and fried, slow cooking and desserts and snacks. At the end there’s a Vietnamese food and wine pairing recommendation as well as music pairing! I’ve never seen before in a cookbook and was very intrigued.

The book is beautifully photographed and elegant. As a food photographer, I’m drawn to cookbooks with photography that can tell a story. This cookbook hits that one every note. I can’t wait to cook my way through it.

The first recipe I wanted to try was Nathalie’s Matcha Tea Cookies. I think I was craving something sweet at the time. My go-to cookie is white chocolate & macadamia nuts. These matcha tea cookies are made with toasted pine nuts and white chocolate. I instantly knew I was going to be fan. They did not disappoint. I also love that the recipe can be frozen. I already have half a batch waiting for me when the next sweet craving hits!

Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen: Simple Recipes from My Many Mothers

Matcha Tea Cookies

NATHALIE’S MATCHA TEA COOKIES

Excerpted from Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen: Simple Recipes from My Many Mothers by Kim Thuy. Copyright © 2017 Editions Libre Expression. Translated from the French by Sheila Fischman. Recipes translated by Marie Asselin. Appetite by Random House edition published in 2019. Food Photography by Sarah Scott. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Makes about 48 cookies ~ Prep time 20 minutes + 2 hours resting ~ Cook time 9 to 12 minutes

  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp (5 g) baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp (2 g) baking soda

  • 2 Tbsp (6 g) matcha tea powder

  • 2/3 cup (150 g) salted butter, softened
    1 cup (220 g) brown sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 cup (70 g) toasted pine nuts

  • 7 oz (200 g) white chocolate, chopped

  • Wax paper or plastic wrap

1—Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and matcha tea powder together. Set aside.

2—Cream the butter using a hand mixer or a stand mixer.

3—Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

4—Add the eggs and beat to combine.

5—Mix in the flour mixture in three batches, beating well after each addition.

6—Add the pine nuts and chocolate and stir just to incorporate.

7—Divide the dough into four portions and set each portion on a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap.

8—Shape the dough into 2-inch (5 cm) diameter rolls. Wrap well in the wax paper or plastic wrap, twisting both ends to seal shut.

9—Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

10—Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).

11—Slice each roll into 10 to 12 cookies. Place the cookies on parchment paper–lined baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, depending on whether you like a softer cookie or a crisper one.

Using sushi mats to shape the dough into rolls will enable you to create perfectly round cookies.

 The cookie rolls will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw the rolls in the refrigerator for 24 hours before slicing.

Matcha Tea Cookies
Matcha Tea Cookies
Matcha Tea Cookies
Matcha Tea Cookies
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Matcha Tea Cookies
Matcha Tea Cookies
 

Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake

 
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake

Spring is one of my favourite seasons to forage. There’s something of the change of season and renewed life that I just love immersing myself around. Spruce tips and lilac topping the list on items I love to bake with. Last spring, I made some infused lilac sugar, as well as, some infused spruce tip honey. That is how this cake happened. I went off searching to see if such a cake recipe existed. I’m not a natural baker so pulling together a cake batter from scratch was intimidating. I ended up coming across a lavender honey cake recipe by A Pretty Life in the Suburbs’ Lavender Honey Cake, which inspired me to develop with one.

This cake it ended up being a delicate and delightful celebration of spring. One in which I can’t wait to make again this spring!  

Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake

Cake Batter

  • 2 ½ cups flour

  • 1 cup lilac infused sugar

  • 2 tbs spruce tip honey

  • ¼ cup finely chopped spruce tips

  • ½ cup butter

  • ¾ cup plain yogurt

  • ¼ cup whipping cream

  • 2 eggs

  • ½ tsp vanilla

  • 4 tsp baking powder

  • ½ tsp salt

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 2 tbs finely chopped spruce tips

  • 1 tbs milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a pastry brush, grease a 10-cup Bundt pan with melted butter and dust with flour. Make sure to coat every little crevasse. Tap out any excess flour.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, chopped spruce tips, and salt. In another bowl, use a hand blender (on medium speed) to beat together butter and vanilla until creamy. Add the sugar and honey and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Turn the blender down low and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, beat until combined, followed by the cream, another 1/3 flour, then the yogurt, and the final 1/3 of the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the pan. Tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles and smooth out the top.

Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. After 10 minutes, invert the cake on the rack to cool completely before icing.

To make the glaze, beat the sugar, spruce tips and milk on low speed. Add more sugar or milk to achieve your desired consistency.

Spruce Tips
Spruce tips
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Lilac sugar
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
Lilac and Spruce Tip Honey Infused Vanilla Bundt Cake
 

Candied Chanterelle Mushrooms

 
Candied Chanterelle Mushrooms

I’ve been wanting to do a sweet version of a mushroom for many years now. Finally buckled down to make these candied chanterelle mushrooms. So happy I did! They are sweet, earthy and just plain delicious.

My goal is to try and incorporate them into a sweet cinnamon bun recipe. I’m still working out the final version of those (they lose their candy quality when baked twice). However, they are so good on their own or a topping to a sweet treat. I’ve often seen them on top of panna cottas or cheesecakes. Really you could add these on pancakes, waffles, or even some vanilla ice cream!

I’ve also been using the syrup to sweeten my morning lattes, and want to start testing out a cocktail soon.

In the meantime, here is the recipe to get you started on a sweet mushroom adventure of your own.

Candied Chanterelles

Candied Chanterelle Mushrooms

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 cup sugar, plus another 1/2 to 1 cup

  • 1 tbs vanilla

  • 20 g dried chanterelle mushrooms (Break larger mushrooms into smaller pieces. I find the smaller ones taste better as they get more ‘candied’.)

Bring water and 1 cup sugar to a low simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add mushrooms. Continue to simmer until reduced by approximate half (~10 minutes). Add vanilla and another 1/2 to 1 cup sugar and continue to simmer. Key here is to taste the syrup, for both sugar levels and thickness. If you think the mushrooms require more sugar, add as you need. Simmer until the sugar just start to become bubbly and frothy (~ 10 minutes; total simmer time ~ 20 minutes).

Store in the refrigerator.

 

Cookbook Review & Wine Gums from Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse

 
I recently received a free copy of  Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse: Another Cookbook of Sorts  from    Appetite by Random House  to review.

I recently received a free copy of Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse: Another Cookbook of Sorts from Appetite by Random House to review.

I didn’t think it was possible to top The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, and yet here we are. With more recipes and more off the wall ideas to make you fall madly in love all over again, Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse: Another Cookbook of Sorts nails it. I mean there’s a recipe for soap!

There’s a chapter insert dedicated to the cellar and features recipes for canning and preserving. While the apocalypse is metaphorical, I’m a firm believer in knowing how to cut it on your own sans grocery store (at least for a day or two). The insert had me instantly transported back to my Grandma’s cold room filled with shelves of pickled veg and preserved fruit. Although my Grandma wasn’t making pickled pork butt or deer necks mind you. Other chapters are dedicated to over the top Sunday dinners, PBS cooking shows, Joe Beef and Liverpool House restaurants, as well as the history of Montreal and Quebec’s Christmas in July traditions.

Let’s be clear. The recipes aren’t from your conventional cookbook collection. Some recipes I find more thought provoking than a sense of wanting to run out and cook it tomorrow. While other recipes I want to make ASAP, but it’s not the most practical to attempt financially. I’m probably not going to cook horse, however, I would sell my left foot to be able to make the Gateau Renverse aux Truffes-just once. Yet, there are several I can’t wait to dig into. Chaga ghee has me super curious, and I know I would love to take a stab at making smoked apple cider vinegar for fun. I think that might be the point. Have fun.

This cookbook is so much more than a simple collection of recipes. It’s a humous reflection of our food culture, and nudge to reconnect to the kitchen, our families and things that grow in the backyard. So if you’d like some entertainment and a slap in the face to get off your phone and spend quality time with good people, good food, oh and good wine, this book is for you!

Speaking of wine. I naturally started with the Wine Gums recipe. I was having some issues with my candy molds, and opted to make the recipe into a small wine gum bundt cake. Who wouldn’t love a wine cake?? Promptly served with friends while watching hockey of course.

Wine Gums Joe Beef

Wine Gums

Excerpted from Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan and Meredith Erickson. Copyright © 2018 by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan and Meredith Erickson. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

We grew up on Maynard’s wine gums (favorite flavor: cassis).

Wine gums are on our dessert list, mostly at Vin Papillon but sometimes at Joe Beef: a little plate of six to eight wine gums per table to end the meal. We have experimented with many different wines and all have worked. It seems reducing wine with sugar is fail-proof.

Vanya was once dared by a tedious wine fan to blind taste our wine gums:she nailed three out of five.

You will need: One or more silicone chocolate/jelly/ candy molds

  • 8½ sheets (17 g) leaf gelatin

  • 1 cup (250 ml) wine

  • ⅓ cup (70 g) sugar

  • ⅛ cup (25 ml) liquid pectin

  • Natural food color (optional)

1. Plunge the gelatin sheets into a large bowl of cold water and let sit for 10 minutes until softened.

2. In a small saucepan, combine ½ cup (125 ml) of the wine and the sugar. Warm until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes on medium heat. Do not bring to a boil.

3. Pick up the gelatin and gently squeeze it, removing the excess water. Place the gelatin in the pan, whisking until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the pectin and whisk some more.

4. Pour in the remaining ½ cup (125 ml) wine and stir. Transfer to a small jug or other pouring vessel.

5. Place your wine gum mold(s) on a sheet pan. Carefully pour the wine gum mixture into the individual cavities all the way to the top. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 6 to 8 hours.

6. When ready to serve, take a toothpick and carve around the top edges of each gum, as you would with a knife to unmold a cake, then push the individual cavity inside out to release the gum. This enables you to get that true wine gum form, perfected. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. Best eaten fresh.

Note Tasting jokes aside, we suggest these varietals for your gum-making adventures: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, and Savagnin.

Wine Gums Cake Joe Beef
 

Vanilla Whisky Rice Crispy Squares with Chocolate and Whisky Caramel

 
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Some of the equipment photographed in this post were provided by Paderno. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Your childhood favourite, but fast forward to the 18 year old in you. I’m constantly trying to find ways to add whisky to my cooking. This one was a little too obvious. Sinfully delicious and sinfully easy to make! If you don’t have time to make the whisky caramel from scratch, opt for a high quality store bought caramel instead.

Vanilla Whisky Rice Crispy Squares with Chocolate and Whisky Caramel

  • 12 cups rice crispies

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 3 tbs Canadian whisky

  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

  • 500g, plus 1 cup marshmallows (I like to use the large marshmallow for general melting, followed by a cup of the mini marshmallows at the end to make the squares extra gooey)

  • 4 oz melted chocolate

Whisky Caramel - Adapted from https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/dark-rum-caramel

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup cold water

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tbs Canadian whisky

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter in a large pot. Once the butter has melted, add 500g of marshmallows. Stir constantly until melted. Add the remaining marshmallows, quickly followed by the vanilla and whisky. Stir just until combined (you want some of the last of the marshmallows to still be a little solid). Quickly add your rice crispies. Working fast, pour the mixture into a 13 x 9 parchment lined pan. Let cool.

Drizzle with melted chocolate and whisky caramel sauce.

Whisky Caramel - Mix the sugar and 1/3 cup cold water in a large saucepan. Cook covered until boiling, swirling occasionally until the golden (5-8 minutes). Do not stir. Remove lid and swirl more frequently until the sugar becomes dark amber in colour. Reduce the heat to low and carefully whisk in the butter. Keep whisking until the bubbles settle down, then add the cream, whisking until the caramel is smooth (~2 minutes). Remove from the heat and add in the whisky, salt, and vanilla. Let cool.

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Grandma's Fudge Brownies

 
Fudge Brownies

For the last couple of years I've been tackling a series of my Grandma's handwritten recipes and photographing the results to include in a family cookbook. It's been both fun and challenging. See my Grandma had a sweet tooth, I do not. So I've been putting off making lots of the desserts. It's also challenging in the sense that I constantly think I'm not making the recipes correct, often wishing she was still here to ask for advice or tips to ensure they'll turn out just right.  

That feeling of uneasiness was here as I made these fudge brownies for the first time (yes first). Something felt incorrect as I was mixing them. The ratio of butter and sugar to flour felt off. But I stuck to the recipe. Trusted it will turn out, if not, telling myself I could always make another batch. To my delight, they turned out on the first go! Super chewy, not too heavy on the chocolate side, and a little crunch from the nuts. 

I think the sweets might even be growing on me now. 

Grandma's Fudge Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 x 1oz unsweeted bakers chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325°. Beat together butter, sugar, melted chocolate and vanilla. Add eggs and beat until mixed. Stir in flour. Fold in walnuts. Bake in a greased 8x8 inch pan for 35 min.

Optional, but likely a must for those who love a bit of chocolate drama, I melted an ounce of dark baking chocolate and drizzled on top before serving.

Fudge Brownies
Fudge Brownies
Fudge Brownies
Brownies
Brownies
Brownies
Brownies
 

Cloudberry Salted Caramels with A Canadian Foodie

 

Valerie Lugonja, from  a Canadian Foodie, spent time showing Emily Mardell from Get Joyfull, and myself how to make cloudberry salted caramels. I attempted to make a batch of caramels in the summer, and it was an epic fail. So I was pretty excited to give these a go under the watchful eye of an experienced baker. We made two batches, using three thermometers to keep track of the most accurate temperature. It turns out my thermometer wasn't good at all. Likely the culprit of the first failed attempt. 

The end result of these batches, however, were soft, chew caramels with a subtle cloudberry flavour. A real treat! They were finished with some of Valerie's exquisite Atlantic salt. A perfect pairing for these Eastern Canadian berries.   

For a link to the full recipe, visit Valerie's blog at https://www.acanadianfoodie.com/2018/03/02/cloudberry-caramels/

Cloudberry Salted Caramels
Cloudberry Salted Caramels
Cloudberry Salted Caramels
Cloudberry Salted Caramels
Cloudberry Salted Caramels
Cloudberry Salted Caramels