Holiday Ginger Crinkle Cookies

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Every time I smell the sweet scent of baking cookies it brings back wonderful memories. The rich aroma of ginger cookies reminds me of holidays past.

When I was a child my mother would bake cookies for the holidays. We would carefully cut each one out with the same old set of cookie cutters every year; carefully creating trees, bells, and candy cane shaped treats. Each cookie was decorated with sprinkles and sparkling sugar candy. It was one of my favourite childhood memories.

When my children were young I tried to create similar traditions so their memories would be as sweet as mine. They still ask for us to celebrate some of those traditions even though they are grown up. I am happy that they still cherish those magic moments.

These Ginger Crinkle Cookies are so good you will want to add them to your holiday baking list.

Make some magic memories of your own. Happy Holidays!

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Holiday Ginger Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. turbinando sugar

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Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves.

Add the shortening, butter and the brown and granulated sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slip in the molasses and egg and beat until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture by scoopfuls and beat until combined.

Add the turbinado sugar to a small plate or bowl. Roll the dough into balls that are 1 inch in diameter, then roll in the sugar. Place balls on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies 9 to 11 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Cool on the baking sheets for 4 minutes, then continue cooling on wire racks. Repeat with the second batch.

Recipe from the Foodnetwork.com courtesy of Jamie Deen

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Raspberry and White Chocolate Scones

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Life has been pretty hectic, lately. So hectic, that I had to schedule an hour this weekend to take some quiet comfort with a cup of tea and a scone.

During these rare moments of reflection I start to feel myself relax and even smile a little. You see, I have been spending one evening a week babysitting my grandchildren. Even though this adds to my already crazy life it has become one of the highlights of my week.

I have two wonderful grandchildren , Aiobheann (pronounced Even) who is 2, and Kieran who is 4. They are equally as cute and cuddly, as they are mischievous and challenging. What one thinks up, the other follows.

One of the evenings that I was babysitting I put the two of them in the bathtub for a bath. Kieran spent most of the time pretending to swim and playing with toys, while Aiobheann spent her time squirting foamy children’s soap and washing herself as well as a two-year old can. Just when we were almost done, Aiobheann asked if it was okay if she were to pee in the bathtub. I said that she had to use the potty and not pee in the tub. Then she looked down and then looked at me with big eyes and said “Uh Oh!”

I scrambled to pull them both out, as quickly as I could.

Another time, Aiobheann did not want to go to bed so Kieran tried to convince her to be a Big Boy and go to bed. That is what he understands about his bedtime and how he should behave. Well this just started a half hour debate between the two of them about why it did not apply to Aiobheann because she is not a Big Boy; she is a Little Girl. I know, at times like these, parents get frustrated because this is holding up the schedule, but as a grandmother I found it amusing.

Being a grandmother is a whole new adventure. I get to do it all over again without the day-to-day responsibilities and with the wisdom that I have developed through raising my own daughters. I am really enjoying it!

So here I am, at the end of a long work week, sipping my tea and savouring my scone and I am still smiling about my grand babies and their innocent view of life.

I am looking forward to my next visit.

raspberry-scone-with-book--5955Raspberry and White Chocolate Scones

Makes 12 scones

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into small pieces
1 cup miniature white chocolate chips
1 cup frozen raspberries, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg, separated
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sugar. Add the chopped cold butter and rub with your fingers into the flour until the bits of butter are roughly the size of peas. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Separate the egg; reserve the white for an egg wash before baking. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream, egg yolk, and vanilla extract.

Add the frozen raspberries to the flour mixture. Pour in the cream, and stir lightly with a fork until just moistened.

Gather the dough into a ball with your hands and knead it lightly a few times, just to roll it together. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide into two balls. Gently roll out each ball into a 1-inch high disk, and cut each disk into 6 wedges.

Place wedges on the baking sheet and brush the tops with the reserved egg white. Sprinkle each with sugar.
raspberry-scones-on-baking-sheet

Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and scones are cooked through.

The scones are best eaten the day they are baked, but will keep in an air tight container for 2 days. For the best results do not thaw the berries before using them.

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Putting on the dog with Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies

My life lately, has been going to the dogs….. and cats…and bunnies!

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I spent much of the fall launching my new pet photography business Pawsome Pix. www.pawsomepix.com

The interesting thing about shooting pet portraits is having fun with the pets and owners while you shoot. Sometime is feels like chaos while you are getting great shots in the field. In the studio it is much more controlled and calm.

My plan is to run the food and lifestyle photography and the pet photography as separate businesses. That way I can really focus on each and market each in a different way.

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No matter what I am shooting, it is a great way to spend a day. They say you should work at something you love so it never feels like work. I am so fortunate that I feel that way about photographing food, people and now, pets.

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I love getting to know each animal so I can help them to relax. This allows me to capture their unique personalities. That is the great thing about photographing pets and children; they all are so interesting and fun to hang out with.

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Now that my website and Facebook pages are launched I can get back to preparing for the coming holiday season.

I know the holidays are coming soon when I start to get that itch to bake holiday cookies. Each year, I pour over my cookbooks to find something new and interesting to bake for my family. I found this recipe in a Martha Stewart Cookies magazine that I bought in 2011.

The cookies have a nice blend of flavours with the sweetness of the honey and the freshness of the lemon. They are definitely worth trying.

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Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies

Makes 6 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Salt
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger
1 large egg
2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. honey
1/3 cup water

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Directions:

Sift flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Add flour mixture, and then beat on medium-low speed until dough just comes together.

Shape dough into two 1-inch-thick disks. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out 1 disk on a lightly floured surface to inch thickness, and cut out 2-inch circles. Place the rounds 1/2 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Roll out and cut scraps. Refrigerate rounds for 10 minutes.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are set and edges are light gold, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer parchment with cookies to wire racks. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. (Cookies can be stored for up to 3 days.)

Whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and juice, honey, water, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cookies. Let stand until glaze is set, at least 20 minutes. (Glazed cookies can be stored overnight.)

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Recipe from Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies- 2011

 

Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Icing

 

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“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”-George Eliot

It’s that time of year again; time for pumpkin patches, enjoying the rich fall colours, planning for Halloween and celebrating Thanksgiving.

Autumn is my favourite time of year! I love the rich hues that paint the trees across the city and parks. I love the crisp breeze that rushes through my hair as a walk about the city. I love the beautiful sweaters and scarves that grace the shop windows. I love the excitement of children as they play among the fallen leaves.

Most of all I love the warm feeling of snuggling up with some warm apple cider and a good book.

Fall Colours-Algonquin Park

We celebrated our Canadian Thanksgiving over 2 weekends so that more people were able to come. It is difficult to get everyone together at one time since many of our friends and family members live out of town.

When preparing a Thanksgiving meal, I tend to break with the usual tradition of roasting a turkey with all of the trimmings by tasting new recipes with my family. This year we enjoyed pork tenderloins with a white wine tarragon sauce for the first celebration and a leg of lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic for the second. Everyone pitched in a brought something toward the meal so it was a true group effort. I love spending time with family over the holidays.

Instead of baking the traditional pumpkin or sweet potato pie I baked a pumpkin cake with brown butter icing sprinkled with candied pecans. The cake is packed with flavour and the icing is rich and buttery; a perfect match to the sweetness of the candied pecans.

It could be baked for any occasion, but I thought pumpkin was an nice autumn treat for us to enjoy.

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“When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.”
Jens Stoltenberg

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Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Makes 12 to 16 servings

Pumpkin Pecan Cake

Ingredients:

½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups (310 mL) packed, light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or canned pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1½ cups (375 mL) unbleached cake and pastry flour
½ cup (125 mL) ground toasted pecans
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
¼ tsp (1 mL) baking powder
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2 mL) each ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice
1 tsp (5 mL) orange zest
½ cup (125 mL) buttermilk
2 cups (500 mL) chopped candied pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Grease sides of two 9-inch (1.5-L) round metal cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk fl our, ground pecans, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest. Stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of wet. Scrape into pans; smooth.

Bake in the centre of oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off paper. Invert; let cool.

To assemble the cake, brush any crumbs from cake layers. Cut each in half horizontally. Place 1 layer, cut-side up on cake plate. Spread with about ¾ cup (175 mL) of the icing. Sprinkle evenly with ½ cup (125 mL) of the candied pecans. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining layer, cut-side down. Spread entire cake with a scant cup of the icing to mask. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes. Spread cake with remaining icing and decorate with remaining pecans.

Brown Butter Icing

Ingredients:

½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter
8 oz (250 g) cream cheese, softened
¼ cup (60 mL) brown sugar
1¼ cup (310 mL) confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

For icing, in a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let stand until the little bits sink to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer to freezer and chill until firm, about 15 minutes. Scrape the top of the butter from the bits at the bottom; discard bits.

Transfer brown butter to bowl with the cream cheese and brown sugar. With an electric mixer beat until the brown sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until incorporated and fluff y, 1 to 2 minutes.

Recipe from Food and Drink Magazine-Autumn 2011 by Nicole Youngpumpkin-6332

Ricotta Cheesecake with Late-Summer Fruit in Niagara Ice Wine

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“Summer always ends with good memories”- anonymous

Can you feel it slipping away? Another summer is ending with the cool, crisp promise of autumn.

I had an unusual summer this year. What is typically the time of year to take things a little slower, ended up being the busiest it has been in a long time. I had so many unique projects on the go that filled me with anticipation and excitement.

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The most interesting project of them all was shooting a wedding for a dear friend of mine. I never realized how much responsibility one takes on when agreeing to shoot a wedding. The thought of missing the special moments or having equipment glitches was enough to make me even more obsessive about planning than usual. Thankfully, the day went off without a hitch and the bride is very pleased with her photos; all 1475 of them.

Since I decided to add more lifestyle photos to my portfolio, I have been on a constant cycle of learning and planning and shooting and editing. It has really been wonderful and has helped me to feed my passion for photography.

Ricotta-Summer-Cheesecake

I made this cake for a pre-wedding party by adapting two very different recipes from two different magazines. The cake is adapted from Bon Appetit and the Late-summer Fruit is adapted from Gourmet Traveller. I decided to use Niagara Ice wine instead of the Marsala wine in the original recipe. It was an easy decision because I had some on hand and I knew it would be a perfect pairing with the fresh Ontario stone fruit that was from the same region.

Ricotta Cheesecake with Late-Summer Fruit in Niagara Ice Wine

Makes 8-10 servings

Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 900g (15 oz.) containers fresh ricotta
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. plus 1 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unseasoned dry bead crumbs
2 450g (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into cubes
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. ground almonds
2½ tsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
icing sugar for dusting

Directions:

Place ricotta in a large fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Drain for 30 minutes
Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8 inch springform pan with butter.

Mix 1 tbsp. sugar and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over buttered pan. Tap out the excess crumbs.

Puree the ricotta in a food processor for 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides, puree until smooth. Add cream cheeses and puree until smooth. Add remaining sugar and all other ingredients, puree, scraping down the sides until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape batter into the springform pan.

Bake until golden brown and just set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool in the pan. The cake will fall slightly.

Refrigerate uncovered until cool, about 3 hours. Then cover and chill overnight.

To serve, remove from pan by releasing sides and dust with powdered sugar.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit- May 2011

Late-Summer Fruit in Ice Wine

Ingredients:

250 ml white ice wine
100 g fine sugar
60 ml (1/4 cup) orange juice
6 (mixed) plums, peaches and nectarines cut into wedges

Directions:

Combine ice wine, sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer until it thickens to a syrup, 15-20 minutes and set aside to cool.
In a medium sized bowl pour the cooled syrup over the fruit wedges and mix gently.
Set aside to macerate for 30 minutes.

Serve a slice of ricotta cheesecake topped with some late-summer fruit and syrup.

Recipe for Late-Summer fruit adapted from Gourmet Traveller-March 2014

Celebrating a 2 year old milestone with Gluten-free Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

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I have a beautiful granddaughter named Aiobhann who just celebrated her second birthday. Aiobhann has some pretty severe allergies like eggs, dairy and gluten so finding treats for her party is not always that easy.

The good news is that we have an amazing gluten-free, vegan bakery in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood called Bunner’s Bake Shop. I have tried many of their baked treats over the past 2 years and I am so surprised at how delicious they are. They make a cinnamon bun that is the best I have tried anywhere. Imagine my delight when I was wandering around my local bookstore and found out that they had produced a cookbook filled with all of the wonderful Bunner’s treats that we love.

When it was time to choose a dessert for Aiobhann’s party I decided to be adventurous and to bake some cupcakes from the book.

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I found reading the recipe a little daunting, at first. I ran around to some local health food stores to find the exact ingredients as I did not want to take any chances on having them turn out well. Fortunately, I was not the first person to ask for these ingredients and the sales people were very helpful.

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The most important thing was that Aiobhann got to have some yummy treats that she could eat and share with the entire family. She is not the only one with food allergies but the cupcakes were a hit with everyone. They have a rich moist flavour and denser texture than a cake mix but I think it makes them taste better.

I made this batch with the Bunner’s Frosting recipe. If you are not concerned about them being vegan you could substitute cream cheese or traditional vanilla buttercream frosting. I do plan to try more recipes from this book and share them with my grandchildren. After all, isn’t that what Grandmothers are supposed to do?

vanilla-cupcakes-with-rosebuds

Gluten-Free Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 18 cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo and fava flour
¾ cup potato starch
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. arrowroot starch
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. gluten-free baking powder
1 ½ tsp. sea salt
¾ tsp. xanthum gum
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup agave nectar
¾ cup rice milk
½ cup + 1 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 batch vanilla buttercream frosting (see recipe below)

(You will need 2 batches of frosting if you are piping it on in big swirls)

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Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 18 muffin cup with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, both starches, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, xanthum gum, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the agave nectar, milk, applesauce, oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Using a spatula, thoroughly mix the batter, then let it sit for about 10 minutes to rise.

Pour the batter into each muffin liner and fill to 2/3 full. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted to the centre comes out clean.

The cupcakes will be lightly golden on top.

Cool completely at room temperature before frosting with vanilla buttercream.

Cook’s note:

These cupcakes are best eaten the same day or the following day. If you are not concerned about the vegan icing, you can substitute for a vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting from your own recipe.

Recipe from Bunner’s Simple & Delicious Gluten-Free Vegan Treats by Ashley Wittig & Kevin Macallister

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Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

½ cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (I stick) at room temperature
½ cup Earth Balance Shortening Sticks (1 stick), at room temperature
3½ cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 to 5 tbsp. canned coconut milk or soy creamer

Directions:

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and shortening until completely smooth and fluffy.

Slowly add the sugar, mixing well. Stir in the vanilla and then 3 tbsp. coconut milk, adding the milk as needed to achieve a nice, spreadable consistency.

Whip the frosting for several minutes, until fluffy. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

If refrigerated, bring to room temperature and give it a good stir with a frosting spatula or butter knife before spreading.

Cook’s note:

The frosting is very dense and a little tricky to spread but it tastes very much like regular buttercream without butter.

Recipe from Bunner’s Simple & Delicious Gluten-Free Vegan Treats by Ashley Wittig & Kevin Macallister

Tomato, Ricotta and Lemon Tarts

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I walked home from work tonight. It is about 5 km from my office to my apartment so I frequently walk home to get exercise. I love the feeling of solitude that walking gives me. I have time to sort out my thoughts, to make plans and to work through creative ideas. I also have time to get in touch with nature as I walk through parks.

Tonight, as I walked I could not help but feel the splendor of the summer’s evening. There was a slight breeze blowing and the air smelled so sweet. Even though there was traffic and cyclists and runners passing by, I still felt a calmness in the air. I thought about how long we waited for this summer to come. I wanted to grab hold of that feeling and that moment and not let it go. But we cannot capture those precious moments in time. We can only try to record them in our memories and hope they will come again.

That is one of the reasons that I love photography. Every shot records a moment, a feeling, a person, a place, an event or even a sensation or taste. When I look back at photos of trips or events I remember what that day felt like. I recall what was happening and who was there and what we did. It is like the photo triggers the place in my memory where I stored that moment.

I hope that when we share our photographs with others, they are able to feel some of those moments with us.

I also hope that when we share recipes that we love, others will try them and enjoy the flavours that we enjoyed. I am a huge fan of tomatoes and ricotta cheese so when I saw this recipe in the Donna Hay Magazine, I had to make it. The recipe is quite simple and made a delicious lunch for my daughter and I. The ricotta and lemon filling offer a great balance to the fresh cherry tomatoes. The tarts are great served with a side salad or on their own.

Bowl-of-mixed-tomatoes

Tomato, Ricotta and Lemon Tarts

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

500 g ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon rind
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp. finely chopped chives
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 sheets filo (phyllo) pastry
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the ricotta, lemon, parsley, chive, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine.

Place 1 sheet of pastry on a board, brush with olive oil and top with a second sheet pf pastry. Repeat with remaining pastry sheets.

Lightly grease an 8 x 11 inch baking dish.

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Cut the stack of filo pastry in half lengthways and into thirds crossways to make 6 squares. Divide the ricotta mixture by spooning 1/6 into each of the pastry squares. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Place the tarts in the baking dish, lifting the edges to fit snugly. Brush the pastry with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serve each tart with tomatoes and a sprig of parsley.

Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine- Issue 73 Feb/Mar 2014

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Celebrate the Strawberry Season with Strawberry Charlotte

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Have you ever had a day when technology was not your friend?

This morning I was reading one of my favourite blogs on my ipad, while eating breakfast. I tried to comment on the blog using the WordPress App and instead of posting the comment on their blog it created a post for my blog including only my comment. If that is not bad enough it posted it to Twitter and emailed it to all of my email followers.

When I realized what had happened, I ran into the other room to fix my mistake on my computer, vowing to never post anything before having my morning coffee again.

To all who received this poor excuse for a blog post I hope to redeem myself by sharing this wonderful recipe with you. Now you might ask, “How that is going to earn redemption?”

It will, because it is one of the best looking and best tasting cakes I have ever made and you don’t even have to bake it! That is correct; no baking.

Strawberry-charlotte-styled

I found the recipe online at the website of a popular French Canadian chef, Ricardo. I was looking for a way to use up some wonderful fresh Ontario strawberries from my local market. We are only able to enjoy the local strawberries for a few weeks each year, but the wait is worth every bite. You can taste the difference between the locally grown berries and the ones that have come from other countries. The flavour is more intense.

This Strawberry Charlotte is like a cross between Tiaramisu and Strawberry Mousse Cake. The mousse-like centre is creamy and light and the lady fingers create an interesting crust that looks like a fence post circling around a pool of strawberry heaven. Then you top it all off with fresh strawberries and tie it up with a pretty bow. So simple!

I think it would be a great dessert to serve at a Canada Day or the fourth of July BarBQ wrapped in a red or blue ribbon.

Strawberry Charlotte

Ingredients:

Lemon Syrup
1 cup (250 ml) water
1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) lemon juice

Filling
4 tsp. (20 ml) gelatin
6 tbsp. (90 ml) cold water
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) strawberry sauce (see note)
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
1 1/2 cup (375 ml) 35% cream
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) vanilla extract
2 cups (500 ml) hulled fresh strawberries
22 store-bought ladyfinger cookies

Directions:
Lemon Syrup
In a saucepan, bring 60 ml (1/4 cup) of water with the sugar and lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the remaining water.

Filling
In a saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let bloom for 5 minutes. Add 125 ml (1/2 cup) of strawberry sauce, 180 ml (3/4 cup) of sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until the gelatin has dissolved. Let cool and stir in the remaining sauce. In a bowl, whip the cream with the remaining sugar and the vanilla until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the strawberry mixture, using a spatula. Set aside.

Assembly
Line the bottom of a 20-cm (8-inch) springform pan with parchment paper. Line the edge with a strip of parchment paper.
Cut each cookie into 7-cm (2 ¾-inch) long pieces. The smaller pieces will be used to line the bottom of the pan. Quickly dip the smaller cookie pieces in the syrup and cover the bottom of the pan. Repeat the soaking with the long cookie pieces and place them upright, flat side inward, along the inner walls of the pan. Fill with the strawberry mixture and garnish with the strawberries, pressing them lightly in the filling. Gently cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Cook’s Note:
For about 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) of strawberry sauce, just puree about 1-litre (4 cups) of strawberries in the food processor until smooth and strain through a sieve.

Recipe from http://RicardoCuisine.com

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Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce

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 How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?- Satchel Paige

I spent this past week celebrating the birthdays of my mother, myself and my grand daughter. We have 3 generations born within 5 days of one another in the month of June.

I really don’t like acknowledging my birthday any more, having just entered a pre-milestone year. I plan to hang on to this decade with all of my might.

You know we cannot stop getting older in years but we can always stay young in our hearts and minds. I plan to be the hippest, most active lady at the nursing home, when I get old. Attitude is everything!

I do plan on making the most of my life. My bucket list is constantly refilling with new places to see, things to learn, people to meet, and new experiences to try. Life is for living and enjoying each day as if it were our last.

One of the things that I have tried over the past 3 years was to become a better baker. I have tried a number of recipes while writing this blog that featured cakes, tarts and even pies. This pear and caramel tart is one of my favourites, so far.

 

Pear-tart-the-pour

When I was in Seattle last year I was lucky to stay at a hotel that was across the street from Tom Douglas’ famous Dahlia Bakery. The cookies and pastries were so decadent and delicious at the bakery I had to buy the cookbook so I could bake them out at home.

The cookbook offers 125 of the best loved recipes from the bakery complete with loads of helpful baking hints. The book offers wonderful instructions on making a Dahlia style breakfast of English muffins and breakfast sandwiches, or granola, or egg strata. There are chapters on baking doughnuts, on pastries, on a variety of cookies, making tomato soup and gourmet grilled cheese, ice cream and ice cream sandwiches,and preserving jam and jellies. For a bakery cookbook it has a nice variety of recipes, each complete with photos and step by step instructions.

If you are really adventurous the book also includes instructions on how to make your puff pastry and caramel sauce from scratch. For my tarts I used frozen puff pastry and a good quality store bought caramel sauce. The tarts were wonderful with the warm pears and almond cream. I added a dollop of ice cream to offset the sweet caramel drizzle. They were so decadent.

 

pear-tart-after-the-pour

Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

3 small to medium pears, ripe but firm

4 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

Six 4 1/2 inch squares of store bought frozen puff pastry, very cold or frozen

3 tbsp. almond paste

2 tbsp. sugar

1 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into ½ inch dice

1 large egg yolk

Caramel sauce for drizzling

Whipped cream or Ice cream for garnish

Directions:

To poach the pears, peel the pears and cut them in half lengthwise. Trim out the stem and blossom end and remove the core using a melon baller or paring knife. Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan. Add the vanilla bean and pears. To keep the pears submerged while they poach, put a piece of parchment or wax paper on the surface and weigh it with a plate or small lid. Place the saucepan over high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. As soon as the pears are tender, but not mushy, approximately 15-20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Allow pears to cool in the liquid.

Place the puff pastry squares on a parchment lined baking sheet and set in freezer. Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the puff pastry package, depending on the brand 375-400 degrees F.

To make the almond cream, mix the almond paste and sugar  using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer. The mixture will look crumbly. Beat in the butter, bit by bit. Add the egg yolk and mix until creamy and smooth, set aside.

Remove the baking sheet of pastry squares from the freezer. Place about 2 teaspoons of almond cream in the centre of each square and spread gently using a small spatula.

Remove the pears from the liquid. Dry them on a clean kitchen towel. Slice each half into ¼ inch lengthwise slices. Lift the pear half with a spatula and place it on the almond cream on each pastry square. Gently fan the slices, leaving a ½ inch border of pastry around the pears.

Bake until the tarts are puffed and evenly golden brown, approximately 50-55 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.

Remove from the oven. Serve one tart per plate. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with whipped cream or ice cream. Serve warm.

pear-tart-with-ice-cream

Recipe adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook-Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas and Shelly Lance.

I bought my copy here:

http://www.amazon.ca/Dahlia-Bakery-Cookbook-Sweetness-Seattle/dp/B00BXU9R50/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1403050153&sr=8-2&keywords=the+dahlia+bakery+cookbook