Yeah, I bake in the summer. I’m in the kitchen, takin’ the heat!
Fresh baked Ginger Molasses and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.
Oh, you better believe I was skeptical about this one. I never pass on chocolate, but c’mon… chocolate tofu? Ew, I dunno. I’ve never been a big fan of tofu or soy products, but exploring Eastern cuisines helped me to accept it and occasionally enjoy it. Now, I’m learning to cook with it. Welcome to my kitchen, tofu.
There are no eggs, cream, or butter in this dessert, yet it is fluffy, creamy, and quite pleasant on the palate. Maple syrup is the primary sweetener (use the real thing), along with raspberry jam and some melted chocolate to make it extra rich. Seriously, if you don’t tellem it’s tofu no one will guess.
Let the tofu come to room temperature. Gently melt the chocolate chips (use very low heat or microwave) then blend in the olive oil and cocoa powder. Set aside to cool.
Whip the tofu, raspberry jam, almond extract, and maple syrup until smooth and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate mixture and a big handful of fresh raspberries. Chill thoroughly before serving.
*NOTE: This makes yummy frozen popcicles!
Once upon a time, I tried really really hard to make a special cake for a special person. This is pretty much how it went down.
Company has arrived and it’s time to bring out the glorious cake!
What are you gonna do?
A. Serve it with pride and a stiff cocktail.
B. Dump it in the trash, then hide and have a nice long cry.
C: Frame the dog.
NOTE: This option seldom works with cats, but might work with a small child or husband if a dog is unavailable.
Clafoutis ~ I’ve heard the name tossed about on food TV frequently the past few days, and today it was all I could think about when I saw a stack of beautiful, blushy Rainer cherries at a Granville Island produce stand. This French dessert can be made with any stone fruit (think peaches, plums, apricots) or even with berries, but the classic version from the Limosin region of France uses black cherries.
Technically, a clafoutis using anything other than black cherries is a flaugnarde, so says the intertoobs, and in traditional recipies, cherry pits are not removed before baking. Leaving the pits is said to enhance flavour, but I didn’t want to have to pick around them, so I pitted my cherries.
Ingredients are simple: egg, milk, flour, flavour, a little butter or oil. Clafoutis batter is rather thin, like crepe batter, and is usually flavoured with almond or vanilla. It puffs up during baking and cuddles around the fruit as it sets. In fact, it’s very much like making a Dutch Baby pancake.
This was my first attempt at clafoutis, and it turned out quite well. Gingerman liked it, and we had the leftover portion for breakfast the next day. I half made up a recipe on the fly because I had only 2 eggs and a strangely shaped dish. A few more experiments, and I’ll come up with a reliable version of my own. Meanwhile, I found some inspiring recipes online and gathered a bit of clafoutis wisdom to share.
Baking Tips for Clafoutis:
Recipes for Clafoutis:
Leaving a comment? I’m curious . . . how do you like to eat cherries?
The moment I found out Vancouver was having a cupcake bakeoff, I looked at GingerMan and said, “We’re going. They’ll have free samples.” He smiled at me and said, “You had me at Free Cupcake.”
It was an overcast Vancouver morning, but it was all sweet frosted happiness at Yaletown Roundhouse. Throughout the day, 1110 people came by to taste the wares of top-notch local bakers and cupcakeries. My only suggestions for improvement: a slightly larger room and a free glass of milk. 8)
Vancouver Cupcake Challenge organizers Nicole Marie Events and Follow Me Foodie invited the public to sample delicious treats and help select the People’s Choice cupcake, while a panel of judges (including a few local foodies) put in their votes for the Judges’ Choice and Blogger’s Choice.
Congrats to Frosting Cupcakery and Big City Cupcakes! You guys take the cake. As a cupcake connoisseur, I appreciated the unique flavour combinations presented by all the contestants. Several memorable participating bakers (including the challenge winners) are profiled below.
Frosting Cupcakery ~ Winner of Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice
Cake and ice cream is a birthday party classic. Frosting Cupcakery immediately won me over with their Neopolitan cupcake: a vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry combination that really tastes like ice cream! Their exotic Love Potion cupcake marries flavours of mango and passion fruit, and the Caramel Crunch is a divine confection of buttery caramel and madagascar vanilla with bits of Skor Bar.
Based in Langley, I’d say this cupcake shop is definitely worth a trip! They have a fantastic assortment of delicious treats and wonderfully creative recipes for holidays or any days, plus they host birthday parties for kids and offer custom cupcakes for special events and weddings. Take a peek at their cupcake menu!
Big City Cupcakes ~ Winner of Blogger’s Choice Award
When they say “big” the’re talking about the cupcakes, too. Way more than a mouthful and loaded with yummy frosting. No skimping on the good stuff. Many of their cupcakes also have fillings! The best of the bunch is the Lemon Drop: Vanilla cupcake with tangy lemon filling and lemony buttercream frosting. They also offered samples of the Strawberry Cheesecake (yes it has cheesecake filling) and the Truffle, which has a ganache truffle filling.
Big City Cupcakes has three Vancouver locations: Downtown (1015 Howe St.) ~ Kitsilano (2206 West 4th) ~ Point Grey (4481 West 10th). See their website at bigcitycupcakes.com for a complete list of locations and menu of yummy flavours, including gluten free or egg & dairy free options.
Pastry chef Clare Thomas offered three luscious little cakes including Pistachio Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Tangy Lemon Buttercream, and a perfectly delectable Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Sweet Caramel Buttercream. The texture of the cake was divine (moist and not too dense) and it had a lovely deep chocolate flavour. I loved that some of their baby cupcakes were topped with candy flowers and tiny little ladybugs. So cute!
Really creative and artistic bakers in North Vancouver with excellent taste. Their unique Oreo Cookie cupcake even had cookie crumbles in the cake! NOM! Not only does Cake Tease make yummy cupcakes, they also do fabulous structured and sculpted cakes, too. Have a look at their photo gallery.
Fresh ingredients, small batches, and no dairy or eggs! Pink Sugar calls their sustainable goodies “eco-chic party treats” and offered three fantastic little cupcakes to sample. The toasty coconut cupcake was a huge hit with Gingerman, and the Peanut Butter filled Chocolate cupcake was moist and delicious. An excellent flavour combo! The Chocolate Strawberry cupcake was also supertasty, with real strawberry puree in the frosting. People in Victoria are lucky to have Pink Sugar in their neighbourhood. Check out their inspiring menu of designer cupcakes.
A while back, I joined up with Iron Cupcake Earth in the interest of stimulating my baking muse. Each month they challenge bakers to come up with creative ways to use a particular ingredient and make nommy cupcakes. Of course, there are PRIZES, too! I love prizes.
The Milwaukee Cupcake Queen’s decree for June: SUMMER BERRIES.
So many possibilities! Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, snozzberries . . . and so many ways to use them. This weekend, the farmers market was full of fresh organic strawberries, and it was high time I took up the Queen’s challenge. This is my first attempt at an Iron Cupcake, and I’m pretty well satisfied with the results. Ginger Man ate three right off the bat! It was a tasty adventure, plus I got to use some of my favourite things:
The addition of a little cornmeal to the batter enhances this cupcake’s texture without making it taste like cornbread. It’s a sweet cake, not savoury, and the baked tops have a pleasant toothsomeness.
Note: Mix the batter with a regular ol’ wooden spoon so the ingredients don’t get overmixed. For the frosting, use an electric mixer for best results.
In small saucepan, combine 1 pint fresh strawberries (quartered), 2 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, and a few grinds of Citrus Salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened and reduced by about half. Set aside to cool.
*At the last minute, I decided to add a little surprise when the cupcakes came out of the oven. While the cakes were still warm, I scooped out the center of six cupcakes and filled them with a few mini chocolate chips. Strawberries love chocolate, and so do I. Covered with frosting, they all looked the same. The little extra chocolate boost was fun to find!
Thanks for your votes! This month’s winning cup cake was:
I can hear it now: “You can’t eat cobbler for breakfast!”
Oh yeah? Watch me.
Mangoes are bountiful and ripe in the local produce markets, and these are one of my favourite tropical treats. June is Mango Month, and there are tons of ways to play with this delicious and sexy fruit in your kitchen. The flesh is firm and juicy, with a subtle flavour and an aroma that has hints of nutmeg. Mangoes come in several varieties and are available year-round. If the mangoes at the store are rock hard, pop them in a paper bag and let them rest on the counter for a day or two. Ripe ones smell like. . . well, mangoes, and are very slightly soft.
The tropical and subtropical climates of the world are the best places to grow mangoes. India produces more than half of the world’s crop, but mangos found in most North American markets come from Mexico and South America. I purchased Atulfo mangoes: cute and yellow, a bit smaller than their cousins, but just as delicious. They’re also loaded with nutrients (lots of fiber and over 20 vitamins and minerals). Mangoes can be pickled, dried, pureed, juiced, canned, or frozen. Keep mango chunks in your freezer (up to 6 months) to use in smoothies—they compliment just about any kind of fruit.
In the center of the mango is a long flat hard seed covered in coarse fuzz (seen at left above). Stand the mango on its fat end and you’ll see it tapers toward the top on either side. Place the blade of your knife a bit off center and slice off one side, then the other. You can feel a bit of resistance when you get too close to the seed. I use the tip of a knife to cut diagonal slashes in the flesh, then turn the mangoes out so the cubes of fruit stick up. It looks cool, and you get lovely chunks of mango easily. There’s more than one way to peel a mango. Watch this video from the National Mango Board to learn more.
I use chunky mango in salads, salsa, and stir-fry as well as desserts (or in this case, breakfast). Usually I make cobbler with berries, but I had this can of peaches layin’ around and figured maybe the peaches and mangoes might enjoy each other’s company.
Cobbler is an extremely versatile recipe, and so easy to throw together with just about any kind of fruit. This is a rustic and homey dessert. The topping falls somewhere between “cakey” and “cookie.” I like mine a bit coarse and packed with a lot of flavour. Depending on the fruit I’m using, I’ll vary the ingredients a bit. You can find over 100 ways to use mangoes in recipes from the National Mango Board.
Using fresh fruit is the best option, but frozen mango or peach is fine, and canned peaches will do well enough in a pinch. Unless you’re a purist (or lactose intolerant), please do enjoy a bit of milk, fresh cream, or ice cream with your dessert.
Mix with a fork until combined. Sprinkle over fruit in a 9×9 pan.
Bake at 375° for about 35 minutes until topping is golden. Serve with ice cream or a glass of cold milk.
Today, I did a brave and stupid thing. I stopped in our friendly neighbourhood candy store (which was sadly all out of TimTams) and decided to have a bit of a spree for the sake of a good blog. This place carries all kinds of interesting sweets from over the border and across the pond, and their selection varies slightly from time to time. You never know what you’ll come across.
I made a beeline for the American imports right away and picked up the following:
When I decided to purchase the box of Crick-ettes, it was all I could do to hold them in my hand. At one point I forgot what I was carrying, and when I looked down and saw their dead buggy faces staring back at me from behind the cellophane, I nearly threw them down and ran screaming out the door. But, I didn’t want to make a scene in the candy shop, so I composed myself. “Stay strong . . . they’re just for pictures. You don’t have to eat them.” Or so I told myself at the moment.
Really, what kind of foodie would I be if I didn’t at least have a wee nibble? Just to educate my taste buds . . . clearly I had lost my mind. Ginger Man pretty much agreed, but I got him to try a hind leg with me. Perhaps if I had just popped one in whole and crunched it up like a brave girl, the experience might have been more informative, but no, it wasn’t worth it to me. I had a cricket in my hand and a steak in my freezer; the choice was clear. Still, a taste test was in order.
There was sufficient fake bacony cheese dust to impart a flavour of some kind, but the texture completely turned me off. It was like I had just bitten into food and my tongue found an inedible particle, a thing that didn’t belong, and was trying in vain to evict it from my palate. Ptooey sums it up best. I must say, however, the crows were very pleased with the Crick-ettes.
I was quite happy to move on to the badass banana scorpion sucker. There was a whole lotta sugar between me and that critter, so I was game for a lick or two. Examining the little scorpion, delicately preserved in the center of a golden confectionary window made me feel like a paleontologist. At the same time, whatever morbid human curiosity the goodie satisfied, I couldn’t help thinking how many of those little animals had gotten their stingers ripped off and died in a suffocating yellow goo so that geeks like me could throw down some money for a laugh. Curiosity satisfied, that’s the last one I’ll ever buy.
The duck and hoisin chips weren’t half bad. The taste reminded me of brown gravy. The Walkers Crisps company in the UK recently held a contest with 6 new flavours including Crispy Duck & Hoisin, Fish & Chips, Chili & Chocolate, Onion Bhaji, Builder’s Breakfast, and the one I really wish I could have tried: Cajun Squirrel. I don’t usually like weird flavours on chips, but Canadian dill pickle flavoured chips are rather addictive. Salty, vinegary, herby. Ketchup chips aren’t as interesting, but they are kinda tasty. What I really miss are authentic Moore’s Cheesies, which are no longer produced. There is no substitute. I’ve searched everywhere and have yet to find any cheesy poof that comes close. I’m sure they were made out of crap and plastic, but darnit they were yummy! I occasionally miss those phantom childhood tastes. Those things that I haven’t had in forever and I remember them being incredibly delicious beyond imagination, like HoHos and Moon Pies and those six packs of sugary doughunts and YooHoo! Then when I actually get one, it’s inevitably disappointing. Sometimes the nostalgia factor is enough to make it alright, even if it’s stale and plasticky tasting and nothing like what I remember.
I handed over all the jelly belly sours—Ginger Man’s reward for trying the cricket, and because I love him. He wants me to eat the orange ones, but I like the red ones, and I’m cute, so I get my way. He got the pop rocks, but we split the Kinder egg (he gets the chocolatey outside; I get the toy inside). This time it was a real cutie: a fuzzy green ape! So much better than a dumb robot with weird chicken arms.
The dreamy London Mints are for after dinner for the next couple days, and the “candy sticks” are for whenever I feel like putting my feet up and having a fake smoke, cuz we all know those are candy cigarettes. In order not to start smoking rebelliously the last time I was home for a visit, me and my sisters stopped at every convenience store in the county looking for candy cigs. I went through about a pack of Round Ups a day.
The CupOGold, that’s for a special afternoon with a big ol’ cuppa coffee. Marshmallow and chocolate. Save the best for last.
On an early April foodie safari along Granville Street, I came upon a little chocolate shop, just in time to add a few goodies to my Easter basket. Daniel Le Chocolat Belge had plenty of goodies to choose from. In addition to their regular supply of truffles and molded belgian chocolates in the candy case, there were shelves and displays filled with adoreable bunnies, chickens, and delicious praliné eggs. It was hard to decide what to pick!
I didn’t want to blow my basket budget, so I went with a small box of peanut butter bunnies, four exotic truffles, and a few praliné eggs. I’ve waited ages to break into them, but now I can tell you all about how delicious they are. These are some of the creamiest chocolates I’ve ever had, with gorgeous mouth-feel and flavour. Not grainy in the slightest, not too sweet, and the exotic truffle flavours were fun.
Here’s a rundown of my sampling:
Dark Advocaat Brandy
Lush and velvety smooth
Good. Super creamy, not peppery.
Flavour is a little hidden.
Excellent! Creamy chocolate with
a fresh hint of mint and lime.
Creamy, crunchy, sweet, delicious.
Milk or dark chocolate with a creamy chocolate filling made with ground caramelized almonds or hazelnuts.
Peanut Butter Bunnies
Daniel Poncelet (Chocolatier) was born and raised in Belgium, where he says “chocolate was an inseparable part of my daily diet. I still remember how good it was to let it melt in my mouth and try to make the piece last as long as possible in order to be the last one in the family still enjoying it.”
He learned his craft from Clovis Harmegnie, “an exceptionally passionate Belgian master chocolatier,” and grew to appreciate not only the art of making chocolates but also fine quality ingredients. According to Daniel, this inspired his determination to create chocolates “without compromise, with zealous adherence to purity.”
Daniel uses only 100% natural ingredients to make chocolates that are preservative free with no artificial colorings and flavors and no hydrogenated oils or tropical fats.Daniel sources premium chocolate from world renowned chocolate manufacturer, Barry Callebaut. Callebaut’s chocolate heritage spans more than 120 years, and the company actively supports cocoa farmers and communities as part of its commitment to maintaining a sustainable cocoa industry.
Daniel’s Belgian Chocolates is located at 2820 Granville St. Vancouver, BC with additional locations in Metro Vancouver and Toronto as well as an online shop.