Bicerin



Or should I aptly rename it: An Introduction to My New Best Friend Michelle.
Michelle hosts the blog Sugar and Spice and sent me the most wonderful package.

You see, there’s this lovely event that takes place amongst some bloggers, so nicely organized by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness. “Blogging By Mail” matches bloggers from around the globe to send a little something about where they’re from, their common culinary ingredients and their most favourite things. As my package was en route to Amrita in Singapore, Michelle was busy travelling from home to home town to jam pack the parcel she was preparing for lucky, little ol’ me.

Inside there were stuffed olives, beautiful fabric for me use in pictures, gouda, fruit snacks, ginger chews, note cards, Jordan Almonds and the cutest Heinz ketchup bottle, that I’ve always wanted but never had the courage to steal while on vacation in the States.:)

…And the chocolate, chocolate chocolate! As I pulled the items from what seemed to be my bottomless box of complete generosity, I found bars, sauce, biscotti, chocolate pretzels and it perfect breakfast match, coffee!!

As I drank my freshly ground Joe, I flipped through The Chocolate Deck, which Michelle also included!
It’s a deck of chocolate recipes so fantastically photographed by William Meppem and written by a former editor of Gourmet, Lori Longbotham. I was truly inspired by some of the recipes. Some for their beauty, others for their simplicity. Like this one; Bicerin.

Bicerin is described to have been a cafe favourite in Turin, Italy during the nineteenth century. Still enjoyed, it looked good and sounded better, plus with the help of Michelle, I had pretty much all the best ingredients to give my inspiration a go.

BICERIN
(as Adapted From Lori Longbotham)

2 Cups Plain Soy Milk
2 Cups Strongly Brewed, Hot Coffee
3 Ounces Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons Sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Orange Flower Water, optional
or
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional

Over a medium heat, warm the soy milk to a low simmer and remove just before it begins to boil.
Meanwhile, in a heatproof pitcher, pour the hot coffee over the chopped chocolate and sugar, whisking until smooth.
Whisk the milk and Grand Marnier or orange blossom water, if using.
Taste and adjust sweetness, adding more if necessary.

Serves 4 – 6

Montréal, March Break, Maple Syrup & Madeleines.


Mmmm.

Hopefully this is the post worth waiting for. Since being whisked off for a quick French get away, I ate my way through all of Montréal’s renown food samples.


Squeaking a flight through a crazy snowstorm, even for Québec standards, safe at home I brought out my sack of goodness from a small approvisionnement de cuisine shop, still wet from the cookie sized snowflakes that were tumbling down around me. In it, my newly treasured Madeleine pan…

Madeleines are one of my most favourite things. Yes, Proust would be proud. I love these delightful tea cakes so much I named my first born after them. Really.

I couldn’t have been more excited while tredging my better half through this snowstorm to make it back to a little shop I’d originally peered through the window of as this recipe serendipitously came together.

You see, most of Northeastern Canada and U.S.A produces everyone’s supply of maple syrup, and it’s at this time of year, when the temperatures are at their crazy best that the maple sap begins flowing. Thankfully for where I’m at, Québec is one of the number one producers of the stuff – so imagine my pure delight, as I was picking up a few morning groceries, to discover Maple Flakes, even being Canadian I haven’t seen this stuff in the flesh and it hits me that these are where the French Petite Madeleine meets French Canadian. I have certainly found what I have been trying my hand at veganizing these “invasions of the senses” for.

MAPLE MADELIENES

1/4 Cup butter (or to make it vegan, lactose free margarine), melted
1/2 Frozen banana, thawed and pushed through a sieve to puree.
1/3 Cup Soy milk
3 Tablespoons Orange Juice
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
1 Cup All Purpose Flour, sifted
1/4 Cup cornstarch, sifted
1/4 Cup Sugar,
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Sift dry ingredients together.
Add juice to the soy milk and let rest.
Melt butter/margarine and let cool.
Beat banana and sugar together until very smooth.
Add the soy milk and maple syrup and zest to the banana mixture and combine well.
Whisk in the melted butter then, gradually whisk in dry ingredients with the wet until combined.
Allow the batter to set for about an 1/2 hour in the fridge while you
evenly grease and lightly flour your Madeleine pan.
While the oven preheats to 375ºF, fill each shell 3/4 full with batter and let the batter rest in the pan, popping any bubbles that rise to the surface.
Bake until centers have puffed and the edges are crisp and browned; about 15 minutes.
Cool completely before drizzling over the glaze and sprinkling with maple flakes.

MAPLE GLAZE

1 Tablespoon Margarine
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar

Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan.
Add the maple syrup and continue to heat until bubbling.
Whisk in the confectioners sugar until smooth.
Reduce heat but continue to simmer until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and dip, dunk or drizzle, since the glaze will begin to harden and crystallize as it cools.

Cranberry Shortbread


Getting into the last week before Christmas, the excitement builds and the rush heightens. I can’t help but get those butterflies like I had when I was a kid. A staple at our Christmas sweets table, this version of shortbread is certainly a family tradition just as Santa and snowflakes. Soft and tender, they simply melt in your mouth. Wonderful all alone, but for the Hoildays the addition of toffee or dried cranberries is an extra special treat.

I had originally made give aways of this cookie mix for the Holidays, just needing to add the margarine but the simple layer of sugared cranberries seemed lost in the sifted white ingredients, so I opted to just spare recipients the time of baking and bring them the finished products instead, minus the ones I had to test for doneness, of course.


Continue reading Cranberry Shortbread

Satsuma Almond Sammich Cookies


It was amazing I had a chance to fill these cookies. Fresh and plain, the almond biscuits coming straight from the oven proved pretty popular. I almost would have thought to leave them just for snacking although it is Christmas cookie season, so I figured a little extra sparkle was in order.

Setting off with an original idea to use up the finally ripe hachiya persimmon sinking into my window sill, I was thinking of a swankier jelly thumb print. All I needed was the cookie to dab my thumb downward.

Looking for a cookie base to stuff, ice or otherwise decorate wasn’t too tough. I wanted versatility and these cookies have it. Delicately flavoured with almonds these cookies are also nice and crisp, able to hold up a sweet orangy center.

This, I guess is where inspiration meets evolution; or laziness meets versatility – can’t decide.
No matter which, the cookie base is a great canvas and here are two works for it.
Let me know what you come up with.


Continue reading Satsuma Almond Sammich Cookies

Chocolate Chestnut Biscotti with Candied Clementine


Not that I’m the authority but I think that it’s safe to say that Holiday baking is may “officially” begin, now that it’s actually December.

Be it that we took our kids to the community Santa Claus parade or that was today was the first of December, Holidays get me to hum classic carols and remember highlights of Christmas Past. With my brain swirling of roasting chestnuts and the clementine I almost mistook as a lump of coal down in the depths of my stocking toe, I decided the first cookie of the year should be able to last as long as that heart wrenching childhood memory.

Memory aside, it’s always a thrill to bring home the first box of “Christmas Oranges”, as my daughter refers to them. Cracking into them fills a room with a special kind of happiness only little orange packages can bring.

With clementines and cookies on my mind, it wasn’t too tough a decision to get that this biscotti would be the first cookie of the season.

Biscotti is a double baked, super crunchy cookie, perfect for packing in just about any flavour combination and, of course, dipping into mulled wine, coffee or nog.


Continue reading Chocolate Chestnut Biscotti with Candied Clementine

Ghoulish Goodies



Before leaving for vacation, my daughter was very concerned about the notion of being away for Halloween. Never one to pass on a party myself, we decided to throw a little pre-dinner soirée for our little fairly princess and her guests.

With thirteen members of the 4 and 5 year old set, I knew I’d need extra hands and entertainment but as far as the food went, I figured I had it covered.
Between the green goo and witches brew, there were ghost pops, goblin cakes and these Casper cookies.

The cookies are great for cutting out cats, witches, pumpkins and ghosts alike. Pretty quick and easy to make, just err on the underdone as the edges can brown fairy quickly.
Continue reading Ghoulish Goodies