Yeah, I bake in the summer. I’m in the kitchen, takin’ the heat!
Fresh baked Ginger Molasses and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.
You never know what you’re going to see when a community gathers. As I walked into the Farmers Market, a man was rowing his bike out of the parking lot. Yes, rowing. The seat was on a track, and the handlebars moved like a rowing machine. About a dozen people stopped and watched him go, with a “well whaddaya know” look on their faces, self included. I don’t know how well it corners, but it’s certainly a unique form of transportation. (Watch a Row Bike video at the end of this post)
The markets seem to have an infinite supply of tomatoes right now, many of them heirloom varieties, which makes me extremely happy. I never imagined I could get West Virginia tomatoes all the way in the Pacific Northwest; they’re red, meaty, and delicious, but not always easy to find. Today I picked up some pretty Amish Gold hybrid tomatoes and a simillar roma-stlye red tomato for saucemaking, as well as two squat yellow-flecked tomatoes whose name escapes me. They’re so pretty, and the sign said “perfect for stuffing.” I’ll probably lunch on them in a day or two.
Remember the crabapples I mentioned a trip or two ago? They were two bucks a basket, so I brought them home. I’m thinkin’ pastry or pie. I also went back to the tomato/melon guy for another french melon. He had a golden watermelon today (free samples, YAY) that was absolutely succulent and perfectly sweet. Next week, if he has more, I’m definitely springing for one and heading to the beach. I also got some basil for more pesto. Next year I really want to have a little herb garden of my own. Somehow, I’ll make that happen.
Last but not least, I found a delightful thing today: Jelly Grapes! There were a few piles of plump little purple grapes in several stalls, so be on the lookout. These are Coronation Grapes, but they look a lot like Concord Grapes. Soon, they’ll be spreading out with some all-natural peanut butter on my morning toast. (P.S. See if your grocer has fresh ground nut butters. I saved $3 vs. name brand in jars, and it’s 100% peanuts with no sugar! )
And now for something completely different. I give you, the Row Bike:
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.
Easter is hopping right around the corner, and marshmallow Peeps are popping up on store shelves everywhere. They are certainly an essential part of my annual Easter basket.
I love Peeps. All the fun of a marshmallow with a vibrant sugar coating. I bite their heads off . . . so they don’t suffer. Okay, really so I don’t have to look them in their little candy eyes. Exactly the opposite of how I consume a chocolate bunny. I don’t know why that is.
Peeps are best fresh out of a brand new package, but don’t think I won’t eat them a little stale and chewy. It also didn’t take long for me to figure out what would happen if you put one in the microwave. Try that on some ice cream or a brownie . . . or both. Have mercy!
Then one day, Easter came around and Peeps were once again plentiful. The weather was becoming fine and clear where I lived at the time, and I was buying groceries for a lovely weekend for camping. Of course, where there’s a campfire, there must be marshmallows, and where there are marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers cannot be far away. I thought to myself, “Self, what do you reckon would happen if we stuck one of them there Peeps on a stick and roasted him over the fire?” *DING-DING-DING*
I had to run a few tests right away. Microwave heat is very different that fire heat (which is much less predictable, to boot). I no longer had a gas stove (sigh), so I fired up the electric burner and contemplated the possible outcomes as I poked a long-handled fork into a marshmallow chicken. What would happen to that sugar coating? I silently prayed for carmelization.
Carefully, I positioned my peep for maximal even heat, rotating it slowly and watching for the slightest change in color or shape. The chick began to expand. It rapidly became lopsided, threatening to droop off my fork, but years of marshmallow toasting had provided enough skill to regain control just as the yellow sugar coating began to brown. Oh here we go . . . carmelize, you beautiful marshmallow. A bit of color here, a bit of color there, and away you go. Once off the heat, the sugar coating began to harden slightly . . . like the top of a creme brulee.
I have to say, this is one of my most favouritest ways to eat a Peep. The outside is crispy, the inside is melty, and it takes on a whole new flavour.
CAUTION: Count to 10 before you try to eat the Peep or you will burn your mouth. Caramelized sugar is VERY HOT but will cool off quickly.
You can make a s’more with these guys, just as you would with a regular marshmallow: sandwich the toasted Peep between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate. However, I often prefer to toast them under the oven broiler to and serve them open-faced. They are also exquisite with a little peanut butter.
For each serving, place a graham cracker on a cookie sheet.
I’ve been on a sugar kick lately, and for whatever reason these nostalgic treats kept popping into my mind. They were extremely popular where I grew up and often graced the child’s-eye-level shelf at our local store bakeries. One version of the recipe uses cold mashed potatoes in the sugar dough, and at first, I was bent on making potato candy . . . then my sister talked some sense into me. You can indeed use plain leftover potatoes, but according to Sissy, the result can be unpleasantly grainy and not as tasty.
Half a batch provided plenty of candy for our house. If you’re having a bake sale or a party, simply double the ingredients for a super-size batch. The dough comes together very easily in a stand mixer, but a wooden spoon and a bowl will work just fine (be sure to knead the dough).
The dough is quite easy to handle. It also has plenty of sugar, so I reccommend using a fresh ground nut butter or a natural variety like Adams. The distinct lack of sugar in the nut butter provides a welcome contrast to the creamy, sweet dough. I initially used 1 cup of creamy cashew-peanut butter (so yummy) with no sugar added, but I think that wasn’t quite enough, so I suggest at least 1 1/2 cups in the recipe.
Mix sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add cream slowly (1 Tbs at a time) until a dough forms.
Knead on board covered with powdered sugar at least 5 minutes. It should be nice and smooth. Divide in half. Roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Remove top sheet of plastic. Spread dough with Peanut Butter. Roll up jelly-roll style.
Cover with plastic wrap. Chill until firm.
Use a sharp, clean knife to cut 1/4″ slices.
Keep this candy refrigerated . . . I keep it wrapped and just cut off a slice when I want a fix. I don’t know how well it freezes because it never stays around that long.